Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Da Bears!

Continuing the 'bear cracker' saga of the other day, despite repeated launderings--even with baking soda and white vinegar--the clothes continued to smell delightfully fishy. Oh joy! Especially exciting given that we were headed right into bear country in Yellowstone! In fact, just minutes before we checked into the Madison Campgrounds in Yellowstone, the rangers had chased off a black bear who had come wandering into camp. Yikes! Nevertheless, I kept reminding myself of how FEW people actually get eaten by bears on an annual basis, so what are the odds that it would be little ole me (even if I did reek of salmon)?

We did get our own chance at a bear sighting yesterday, although happily it was not in our campsite. We spied two cubs on the side of a hill and took our photos (and quickly made our getaway). Lacking the fancy gigantic lenses of some of the photo-tourists, our bears are a bit blurry but were nonetheless quite clear and close!

We also saw elk, bison, pronghorn deer, moose, and even a coyote stalking its breakfast! The pups were watching the coyote with keen interest from the car, and were whimpering a bit with excitement (the way they often do when they see a pup they want to play with), but they kept it fairly subdued, apparently having a sense that this coyote was not the usual sort of pup!

Having only my knitting with me, I didn't make any progress on my sewing projects, but I did succumb to the smallest of fabric purchases . . . this fat quarter from Selvedge Studio in Missoula, MT.

They had such a gorgeous selection of fabrics, I just wanted to buy up the whole store! I restrained myself, however, and only left with this one fat quarter (and their business card so that I can go back to them in the future!).

In the meantime, I just keep knitting away at my socks and I am now nearing the toe of Sock #1. I did briefly lose my mind and skip a step, so I had to go back and rip out my stitches and then turn the heel. I use the same pattern time and time again, and so I should know by now how to make a sock, but it has been a while! In addition, a few socks ago, I jumped to the gusset before turning the heel, and ever since then I keep making that mistake--as if I've created a groove in my brain that remembers the mistake and not the correct step! Linking up with Lee for my Wednesday WIPs!

In addition to my yummy fat quarter, I also brought home these fabulous old Ball jars. We found them in a little antique store in Ennis, MT on our way to Yellowstone. I was so impressed by their great condition, particularly the zinc and porcelain lids, and I so so love the aged blue color of these jars! I plan to replace some of my newer jars with these, and to fill these with buttons, zippers, selvages, and such.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bear Crackers

So friends, as you know, I've been in the wilds of Montana camping. Actually, because it's so cold we're staying at a campground where there is a Payless Shoes disturbingly close by, so I guess we're not exactly roughing it!! But I digress from my story!

A day and a half ago we did laundry and around that time I started to smell fish. Now we had fish in our cooler so I didn't think so much about it, and it was a subtle enough aroma . . . at first. But we are in Grizzly country and I must admit I was just a wee bit worried about a possible encounter in the wild with these gorgeous but deadly critters (as some of you may know, I spent a summer in the Arctic years ago and saw polar bears from far, far away -- and that was just close enough!). I've been trying to be an intrepid camper, put off by nothing, but the thought of a bear nosing its way into our campground and bothering our pups has been worrying me a bit. So when I began to think I was smelling fish, well, it didn't ease my anxiety any!

And the smell didn't seem to get any better! Karen didn't seem to notice the smell, but I felt as if I were swimming in fish!! We finally decided to throw away the salmon just in case it had gone bad. Too bad, as it looked like it would have been mighty tasty, but the car seemed kind of stinky! Even out of the car, however, as we sat in a local diner, all I could smell was FISH! I put the sleeve of my polar fleece shirt up to my nose and, sure enough . . . FISH! I smelled like FISH!

"I'm a BEAR CRACKER!" I cried. "Bears will take one whiff and they'll come a running for their little salmon snack!" It was only a little while later that Karen realized why exactly it was that I, in my newly laundered clothes, smelled so much like FISH. It seems that SOMEONE forgot to take her fish oil pill out of her pants pocket when she put said pair of pants into the laundry with the rest of the clothes. And so it was not the poor salmon fillet that was causing the stink, but instead a tiny little fish oil capsule that violated an entire load of laundry and made me smell like a tasty bear treat.

And can I tell you, my friends, just how much fun it is to get fish oil aroma out of polar fleece?! We are about to approach our third attempt at washing, this time with baking soda and a 2 cups of white vinegar. Fingers crossed everyone! Otherwise, we're not going anywhere beyond the town limits in these clothes!

And yes, I realize the photo above is of Nutter Butters, but you have to be resourceful when out in in the great wild woods of Montana!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Frosty Toes?

Yup, it's Memorial Day weekend, and I'm sitting here by a space heater in my thermal underwear plus several other layers! I must admit, this is not my usual Memorial Day weekend spent in shorts by the pool or on the beach! We are continuing our camping escapades and decided to head up to Missoula, MT and Glacier National Park. We stopped last night near Butte, MT in the midst of a thunderstorm . .  . of snow! It was in the 30s! Intrepid campers that we may be, we opted for a nice cozy cabin last night instead of our slightly chillier 3-season tent (I had spent the previous night wearing just about every layer of clothes I own and was still a bit less than toasty).

So, what's a crafty girl to do in weather like this, but knit? I do sometimes bring my sewing machine along on my travels, but although it did come up in discussion as a possibility, I really was not going to bring along my machine on a tent-camping trip! So, instead I brought along knitting. I usually don't pull out my knitting in the warmer months, but now I'm sure glad I did! It's so cold outside I might finish these socks and put them right to work rather them put them aside as a gift for the holidays!!

The colors don't come out perfectly with the cabin lighting, but the yarn is a yummy variegated lilac, peridot green, and cornflower blue. I don't have the tag with me with the brand name, but I'll share it when I get back because it's my favorite sock yarn--always knits up perfect socks every time!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Update: Camping Edition

Hi y'all! It's your erstwhile blogger here! I know I keep apologizing for my absence from blogging, but what can I say? I've been far from the madding crowd . . .  and internet connectivity! I'm on the internet briefly so trying to make up for lost time!

I've lived in Utah for almost two years now, and have barely crept beyond my county. As fine a county as it is, Utah is a gorgeous state with some mighty fine rocks and trees and lakes, and it's just a mite embarrassing that I haven't seen much of them before now! So two weeks ago we packed up the car and hit the road and headed south into some of the most amazing and beautiful country I have ever seen. We started out in Moab and Arches National Park. We then went to Zion and the nearby Bryce National Parks. Each were stunningly beautiful and even though within hundreds of miles of each other, drastically different in geology. The most amazing thing was traveling from Zion: we passed through a mile-long tunnel built right through the mountain during the depression. On one side of the mountain were the majestic cathedral like tower red sandstones of Zion. On the other side of the tunnel were massive white and pink swirling sand dunes that had solidified into solid rock. It was like we had landed on another planet. Completely overwhelmingly incredible.  As many pictures as we took (more than 500!), we didn't get any of the dunes coming out of the tunnel because we had emerged right at sunset and the sun was blinding. However, go check out this site for this gorgeous picture to get a sense of how completely gorgeous and incredible the natural geology of the area is! I found it on the internets on someone's travel blog.

Now for some of my own photos. Now, no worries!! I'm not pulling out the film projector to bore you with all 500 images from my trip! Just a few beauties! Here's one from our first night in Moab at our campsite right on the Colorado River. This was taken after sunset:

It's dark, but that's what it looked like with only the moon shining overhead. It was so beautiful! Not bad for an $8 camping site! It was so nice to be able dip our feet in the Colorado River too! 

The next day, we headed over to Arches National Park and did the sightseeing and hiking thing. How can you not?! This is the obligatory photo of Delicate Arch. We also got a funny shot of a man taking a photo of it with his iPad. We saw several folks taking photos with those, actually, during our treks. It was "only" a 1.5 mile hike up to the arch, but felt a bit more arduous to get there. It was a bit humbling that so many families with kids were just scrambling right up there! And it was a bit scary watching one little guy, Zander, almost tumble to his death several times trying to wrassle his way out his mother's grip and right over the ledge! Yikes!! Good save Mom!

After Arches, Karen ran the Thelma & Louise half marathon because what else is a gal to do in the desert?! I mean really! Go girl! The marathon began at almost 6,000 feet and descended about 1,000 feet in 13.1 miles although had some hills in between. I think I was the smart one as I did the cheering on of runners :-). Just about everyone crossing the finish line looked a bit in pain and quite happy to be finished.  Who can blame them? I love that distance, but that's compared to a full marathon, and I did my half marathon in La Jolla, CA where it was 74 degrees with ocean breezes at my back! Who can't love that?! Anyway, Karen was a rock star and did great.

After Moab, we went on to dear friends' wedding in Southern Utah. It was very special. So great to reconnect with old friends, and so wonderful to meet Bill and Amy's special friends and family! Best wishes to a continued life together of love, laughter, happiness, joy, and much adventure! Thanks for including us in the celebration!

We left the wedding weekend and then decided to extend the national park adventures by seeing both Zion and Bryce. Both were so amazing and so utterly different from each other even though they're so close to each other! Zion is sort of like a cathedral, with high red walls towering high overhead. Bryce, in stark contrast, lies in the canyons below and is of a lighter sandstone. Where Zion has both towers and sheer walls, Bryce is known for its "hoodoos," narrow spindles that the wind has whittled down.

Not quite willing to pack it in just yet, after Bryce we went to Kodachrome Basin State Park where we saw Chimney Rock and the gorgeous paint-like striped sandstone rocks named for the Kodak company that did a 1949 photo shoot with its sadly now defunct Kodachrome film. We then went to Capitol Reef. We saw just a bit of this large national park, but were in awe of what little we did see, including this shot below--I forget whether this is the Egyptian Temple or the Golden Throne (great scribe I am, eh?!).

Having hit 4 national parks and one state park in one trip--not to mention attended a fabulous wedding--you might have thought we called it a trip, but wait! There's more! On our way home, we stopped at Fish Lake National Forest and camped at Fish Lake. Way up at 9,100 feet, Fish Lake is a glacial lake surrounded by aspens and deer. With cabins and campsites and even a fair-sized general store, I'm sure it bustles during the summer months, but in mid-May it was almost entirely deserted! Happily, there was a multi-generational family with the requisite yellow lab camping in their RV to make us feel safe and settled in our nearby campsite.

As I write this, we are embarked on our next camping trip . . .  but this time, with pups in tow. Their very first camping trip ever! We are so proud of how well they are doing with all the new, strange experiences! Their first night in a tent, the strange creaks and groans of the wind through the tent, nearby campers, new potty spots (sorry for too much detail!), etc. Our intrepid travelers! Onward ho!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May Update: Quilting Edition

Joining in on Lee's Wednesday WIP! Happy Day Everyone!

I've done it! My very first official quilt! Now, I've made quilts before, but not quite official quilts. The difference being in the quilting. I've done tied quilts before, but never a fully quilted patchwork quilt. I pulled up my BGP (Big Girl Panties), took a few deep breaths, relied heavily on the kindness and continued encouragement of my sewing ladies, and I did it! And here, without further ado, here she is, my Rainbow Sprout quilt:

First of all, let me acknowledge officially how cool it is to have the friendship and support of a very cool bunch of sewing ladies, especially when you're starting out in the sewing/quilting world. Ella hosted an amazing retreat last weekend, and it helped push me over the edge into finishing this quilt. All I had to do was finish the binding over the weekend! The combined humor, advice, wisdom, friendship and encouragement from April, Ella, Jenny (needs a blog!), Marion, Pamela, and Sue (get a blog!! :-)) has been such a true godsend! Thank you! There's so much more to report on the retreat, but stay tuned for that in another post . . .  I'm on the road and couldn't take photos of all the goodies that came out of the retreat!

I discovered the marvelous tutorial for this quilt from Hooked on Needles. And when I say it's an entirely manageable tutorial, BELIEVE IT! It's a great first-timers' quilt. I think it's a great go-to quilt for a baby gift. I'm kind of all raring to go to make another. I made this for our nephew, Cameron Derek, and I was a bit teary packing it up and sending it off yesterday, as joyful as I am to have this wrap him in love and blessings! Most of the charm squares come from Emily's swap I did earlier this year, but I did throw in a few I Spy squares. I even cut into my beloved Heather Ross Munki Munki--both the gnomes and the VW vans (Cameron's dad is a VW fan)!

For the quilting I did what I'm calling a wonky geometric design, essentially square-ish, but deliberately not perfect squares. I guess we officially call those rectangles (from what I recall of Geometry?). I was originally going to just do straight line quilting, but I wanted to do something with a bit more movement in it.

So this, is my proud photo of work accomplished! I also, with TONS of guidance and inspired help from my dear friend Sue over our fabulous retreat weekend finally finished my pincushion/scrapbag (photos to come).

As for works in progress, Oy! So much in the WIP line! I still have miles to go on:
- My messenger bag
- The valance for my mother's house
- Dare try to make a scrapbag/pincushion for my mother-in-law
- Finish the baby quilt for our friend's almost year-old baby (should I just scrap it and do another Rainbow Sprout quilt?)
- There's so much more I can't even remember anymore!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Loving Them Robots!

I know Caleb Grey's robot factory fabric isn't exactly the new kid on the block, I just got my hands on the orange colorway and have been having some fun with it. I so love it! I had gotten a charm square from Annabella as one of the marvelous scraps along with the delicious zippy pouch she sent me a while back, and it sent me over the edge in finally deciding to make the plunge in buying some of the fabric. Now, who can resist a good robot?! I had made a laptop case for me (in hot pink, of course), and I had wanted to make one for Karen, but hot pink was clearly not going to work. I knew orange was going to be the right color, so when I saw the robots in orange, I realized they'd be just perfect for her laptop case. So I got busy last weekend and whipped up a robotic laptop case! Actually, it's a bit more difficult to "whip" something up with a busted rib (torn cartilage and muscles, if you want to go and be all precise). The pressing is actually much more difficult than the sewing itself--who'd a thunk?! Anyway, here's the finished product:

My FMQ skills are a bit rusty, and last time I had used them it was on polyester batting, so I had forgotten to adjust the tension on the machine. Oops! Anyway, it was fun to get back to quilting! I think for the rainbow quilt I'm just going to do straight lines with my walking foot, but I do want to keep working on my FMQing anyway, so I think I need to find myself a good quilting project.

I've been waiting on the rainbow quilt for the retreat so that I can spread out. I have the room, now that the house is spotless and spacious for the potential buyers, but the dog hair is still a bit of a problem, and I don't want to get any dog hair on the batting. And any of you who have a pup can appreciate that no matter how much vacuuming or dusting you might do, once you have a dog, the hair is still just everywhere!

On one of my recent DI (Deseret Industries, a.k.a., thrift shop) incursions I found this great Denyse Schmidt Quilt-it Kit for $.75!

It was brand new, unused and unopened. It contains instructions for 15 patchwork projects, 2 pattern sheets, and Denyse Schmidt fabric for one pillow. How cool is that?! DI has become my new retail therapy outlet. Whenever I'm feeling a little low (thankfully not all that often!), I can simply drop by DI and for no more than $4.25 I can fill the ever so small void in my life--usually with mason jars for my sewing room (pictured on the shelves in my last post), wool or other good fabric finds, or clothes (including a discovery of a $200 Lilly Pulitzer dress for $10!). Who needs the fancy City Creek mall or New York City when I have my local thrift store?! Yes, it's come to this! At least my addiction is a cheap one!

Speaking of Denyse Schmidt, I have fallen pretty hard for her fabric of late. I don't adore all of her stuff, but in general, I love the vintage-y feel of her fabrics. I don't like calicos and that sort of fabric in general, but I like the flour sack style of her fabrics. Very cool. I've piled tons of her fabrics time and time again into my Etsy shopping carts, only to not press the check out button (as I do with lots of other fabrics). I do try to show some restraint on my shopping, people! I probably have around 85 items in my shopping cart at any given time, kind of like a Christmas wish list! Anyway, I finally decided to give in, at least a little bit, by joining the Made with Moxie Denyse Schmidt charm swap. So I bought a yard or so of DS Flea Market Fancy Flower and Dot in Turqouise, and then will get 56 fabulous DS charm squares in return.

Now, isn't that just delicious?! I love these charm square swaps. I did Emily's rainbow swap a few months ago, and it gave me all these yummy squares I'm using for Cameron's quilt now. One of these days, I make actually get up my gumption and do a swap myself. Perhaps once my ribs stop screaming bloody murder at me! Okay, that's all folks!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Twist and Shout??

May 4, 2012

Happy Friday! And not a moment too soon! What a week! I know, I know, it's been ages since I've last posted--sorry friends! I started off the week by badly bruising my rib. How, you might ask? Did I tackle a robber? Fall during some active contact sport? Sadly, I apparently tore the cartilage by twisting too far in the car. I was sitting in the front driver's seat of the car, and I twisted around to talk to the dogs, who were in the way back of the car, and POP! something gave rather unpleasantly in my ribcage. I don't recommend it. There's apparently nothing you can do for an injured rib, other than rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories . . . . oh, and much shouting out when I use my abdominal muscles for random things like sneezing, coughing, laughing, and reaching for toilet paper. Ah, now where did my pride go?!

Anyway, in other news, we had recently a conference in Vancouver, B.C., so rather than fly, we decided to drive. What a gorgeous trip through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon! We took the the pups, and they were great travelers. They had their very first swim in the Pacific Ocean! We showed up in our shorts and flip flops, only to find the locals wrapped up in winter coats! We survived, but it was a bit brisk!

In addition to the trip, things have been fairly busy. Our landlord is selling our marvelous house, so we've been in the throes of getting the house ready to show. What an ordeal to get it ready and keep it spotless all the time! Keeping it free from dog hair alone is a huge challenge! [By the way, I have just noticed how many exclamation points I use in my writing. Zoinks!]. Anyway, it has been a great excuse for us to downsize and simplify our lives. We went through the house and identified tons of things to give away to charity, including a lot of clothes in great shape that just didn't fit anymore but which would be great for women needing professional attire (there are a number of charities helping women start out in new jobs, so professional clothes are really great to donate. We gave ours to a charity helping women escaping domestic violence and polygamy. Yup, life in Utah!).

With the rest of things that we didn't want to give away, we had a yard sale last weekend. How exhausting!! I had never done one of those before and am not sure I have one in my future! We were up at 5 a.m. getting ready, and we finished up by 5 p.m. Saturday evening. We hit our two key goals: got rid of most of our stuff and made a good deal of money, but I got a major sunburn in the process! Oops! Forgot the sunblock! We met a lot of great neighbors, but also a few creepy folks looking to buy things to resell. I can't blame people looking to make a buck, but I was surprised by the attitude of the few people who felt that I was selling things at too high a price for them to make a profit for their resale. One guy even told me that he couldn't make a profit off of what I was charging! Like that was my problem?!

Anyway, back to the creative world of textiles! I did actually bring my sewing machine with me to Canada, so I did sew along the way. I had made little clutch purses using Keyka Lou's pattern, planning on trying to sell some at the yard sale. I had an interesting response from people. First of all, a lot of people thought they were pot holders -- I guess they were too close to the kitchen wares! Second, I got a lot of really positive feedback from people, including several suggestions that I should try to sell them at the local farmer's market (where crafts are sold). Despite that, no one bought a single one. As I think about it, I think that people had their yard sale wallets out (meaning that they were looking for bargains); these same people would have bought the clutches at a craft sale or farmer's market because they would have gone with a different financial mindset. It was a good lesson. And now I have about 30 clutches made and ready for the farmer's market!

I'm now working on my first machine quilt for my new nephew Cameron. I've made a few quilts by hand ages ago, long before I really had any clue what I was doing (as if I do now!). I found a rainbow pattern I adore on Hooked on Needles, so have started in on the top using charm squares I got from Emily's swap earlier this year. I love the idea of an I Spy quilt, so I threw in a few extra squares for that peek-a-boo quality. I especially love the Timeless space aliens! I have an upcoming retreat in two weeks, so I'm planning to have the top done in time to quilt it at the retreat and then have it ready for the blessing, which is Memorial Day weekend.

I'm also working on cleaning up my sewing room (part of the getting the house ready to show). I have these fabulous built-in bookshelves, which had previously been filled with books. I gave away a lot of my books, since I'm not really going to read them again and I have way too many books. I then decided that I wanted to make my sewing room more sewing-oriented, so filled the shelves with jars and baskets filled with fabric and buttons and zippers and things. 

I love the way it looks it now! I got most of the jars at DI (Deseret Industries, the local Utah version of the thrift shop). Amazing what you can do for $.75!I'll add photos of the rest of the room later . . .  we're working on painting my sewing table right now. It's an old table we found at a rummage sale for $5.