Friday, July 31, 2009

From Across the Pond!

Just a quick update ~ Maia is here! I only have a little bit of her time, but of course we spent at least a wee bit of our precious moments going through the stack of quilts she finished this year in London...

And trying on her blanket, just for size.

She assured me that she loves it just the way it is, and though it was a little warm (even for our blustery summer that we're experiencing), it will be perfect in wet and cold London. She said she's always, always, always cold there, so much so that she takes baths now (instead of showers) so she can warm up! I sympathize, as I have actually chosen to skip the dishwasher and hand wash the dishes so my hands can be in warm water.

And, if you don't have a friend like Maia in your life, you need to run out and find one, asap. Because everybody needs somebody who will pretend to sleep so you can see what you're work will look like in action.

Swoon. I love her!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


7 pounds of blackberries
3 pounds of tomatoes
2 pounds of plums

All picked fresh from dear Monica's backyard!

And just a few hours later....

8 pints of jam

1 and 1/2 quarts of tomato sauce

blackberry crumble

With double the blackberries, frozen blueberries, and no raspberries. Double the whipping cream.

And now that these plums have been cleaned and sliced...are you thinking what I'm thinking? Because if you are, there's a plum pie in our future!

A few we little insights on my first attempt to use water bath preserving! I was in Oakland this afternoon, and went to DisneyLand the Longs up on Pleasant Valley. It's like stepping back in time! I just needed the pectin (I used the Ball low-sugar pectin, though I was looking for Sure-Jell. It worked great! Last time I made strawberry jam I used one from Whole Foods and it way over set. Yuck.) but while I was there I found a water bath pot. I've never used one before, and I thought it was awesome.

Also, I didn't have a big-mouth funnel or the jar lifter. Instead of the funnel, I cleaned up an individual-sized yogurt container, cut out the bottom, and slipped into the top of a pint jar. It worked splendidly!

For the jar lifter, I think I might eventually splurge and get one. I started trying to use metal tongs, but no that didn't work. Then I switched to the silicone tipped tongs and they worked like a charm! Everything I've read says to not bump, tip, or otherwise jostle the jars as you are putting them in or taking them out of the water bath. No pressure, or anything. I dropped one jar using the metal tongs, so I took that jar out, used a fresh jar that I had put in boiling water to warm up, and started over with it.

I used the general directions from pick-you-own, and anywhere those directions differed from the insert that came with the water bath, I just sort of split the difference and called it a day.

The only other thing that was interesting was the 'clicking' and 'popping' of the jars. I could hear some popping sounds when I was pulling out the jars and placing them on the towel on the counter. I thought it meant that the seal wasn't set. Oh well, if a few didn't seal I could just put them in the refrigerator and eat those first. I'm pretty sure we could plow through a couple of pints of fresh berry jam before any spoilage could occur!

I carefully pressed on the lids of the jars, and 7 of the 8 didn't pop up and down, meaning they had sealed! Success! Oh well, one that did pop up and down wouldn't hurt! As I turned to finish up preparing the tomato sauce and the cobbler, I heard another popping sound. Oh no! I thought, now they are all unsealing! But when I went over to check, it turns out that all 8 were now sealed, with no popping lids at all when I gently pressed the tops. I guess that popping noise was a good thing!

I learn something new every day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stitch and Pitch ~ Light

The Giants made it home to AT&T Park on Monday night just in time, as their on-the-road win-lose ratio has been nothing short of depressing. Bring on that big bat, Garko!

But always, it's Lincecum (whom I cannot discuss without yelling "Timmmmmm-eeeeeee", so you've been warned) who makes me smile. He's just so original. Not many pitchers in this day-and-age who can (or will) go 9 innings. 15 strikeouts in a full game. Be still my heart! I read somewhere, when he first came on, that he doesn't even ice after games. His dad is an engineer, and has always been his pitching coach. Even through college, which is unheard of! That kid's going to be pitching when he's fifty! Awesome.

Monday night's game was also the Stitch and Pitch game. I wanted to go! But, as it does, life got in the way, and I had a house full of kids at the first pitch. So, after I got everybody to their respective homes/beds, I made my own Stitch and Pitch.

I worked on some crochet and some applique, watched the game in high def, and I didn't have to take the train into the city, pack my work basket and a blanket, or eat my weight in red rope licorice and cotton candy. I also didn't get see Lincecum (Timmmmm-eeeeeeeee!) on the mound, watch our win (finally!) or sit with all the other nerds.

That's it! Next year, I'm going for sure!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Born Under a Lucky Star

A couple of weeks ago, Kim over at Daisy Cottage had an amazing giveaway. I have read her blog for over two years, and I've commented, um....twice? I'm a lazy blog reader! On my old blog, if 100 people visited on a day, like, 50 left a comment. I'm serious, it was one chatty group! I liked it though, it encouraged me to visit and connect with them at their blogs, and I loved the community feeling.

So, I threw my hat in the ring over at Kim's, but really wasn't expecting anything to happen. Here, check it out, because her pictures are amazing and I can't do any of it justice.

Oh, and while you're at, I defy you to ignore her blog! Pure eye candy, and she is such a gentle, sweethearted woman. I know not everybody has a doll house (but I do!), and I just love the way she essentially plays 'dress up' with her house! I just don't have the raw materials or energy, but I admire her commitment and love her style.
Well, can you guess? I can't believe it, but I won! Isn't that so funny?!? She did a random number generator, and I was that commenter!

These are the things I've already found new homes for ~ those places of honor that mean that each thing is in the perfect place where I can enjoy it and love it and be completely charmed by it all day, every day.

Each and every thing brings me so much joy! These are the checkered napkins, the yellow-checked apron (which makes me feel sooooo girly!), the sweet beaded-heart, and the adorable Anthropologie tea cup (and the handle actually fits on the rack I bought found for my grandma's tea cups!). Edited to add: Oh my gosh, and the dish towel! The dish towel! It's also hanging there, with the blue polka dot edging and 'milk' themed stamps? It's just about my favorite thing in the box!

I still haven't found just the right special place for the bird plate, the gorgeous blue plate, or the two other hearts. But I'm not worried! I don't want to just 'put them away', which would be easy, I want them to find their 'new homes'. I also want to find a way to get my hands on some of my mom's carnival glass, which totally matches the blue plate. hmmmmm.....

I made this to send back to her. It perfectly matches her Daisy Cottage (where, oh where, is my craftsman cottage? is it sitting on a farm, waiting for me?). I used my favorite pattern, from Alice, the Starling Handbag.

There are two more drawings I will enter this week. I know, I feel so greedy and grubby! I've already been so lucky! Which, guarantees, I can't possibly win. But YOU can! You should totally enter! Because somebody has to win, and it might as well be you.

The first one is at Wee Folk Art.

Like Alice's Starling Handbag, the applique and open sewing patterns at Wee Folks are free. I made my niece this adorable little scarf, and I love it so much I'm making one for her sister and, um, three for me. Ahem.

One quarter flat, a few inches of elastic, and literally, 15 minutes later, this is the cuteness that bombards you. I am forever humbled by the generosity of people who share on the internet. Their time, energy, ideas, and inspiration. So I'll enter the give away to let them know I'm listening and learning and oh-so-grateful. But you should totally enter to win! :)

The second give away I'm entering is for Rae Gun Ramblings. Look at this cute fabric! Oh, and it's already cut. Using a rotary cutter is like an IQ test for really highlights how incredibly challenged I am. So these are perfect for a patchwork pillow or bag, all ready to go! You NEED them!

And right here is where we bring it all home...because up there, when this all started, I was thinking about how when somebody leaves a comment, it's only natural to go see what they're up to...and that's how I 'met' Rae's blog! She came through and left a note about Scotty's cast. I've been keeping up with her ever since, as she's truly creative and quite clever, and so I'll enter her give away too. I won't win, but YOU could! :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009


My friend Maia was asking me about my blog. We were talking on the phone; she was in London and I was in my garage moving clothes from the washer to the dryer. She said she feels so connected to me, even though she's so far away, and so she decided to start her own blog so her family and other friends can feel the same way while she's gone. (She's living there for a couple of years.) She asked how I manage to keep up the posts, because she's really having a hard time.

As we were talking I realized, and I shared with her, that I try to write every week day. Sometimes I write on the weekend, but not regularly. I don't always feel like writing, or uploading the pictures. If I start tired or cranky, though, I usually feel happier after sorting through pictures of my kids, and writing about them in some small way.

It's funny, because the blog I kept for four years before starting this blog was a running blog. I used to write about running every day! And I would not always feel like running, believe that. In fact, there were days I would almost cry when I thought about getting those shoes on. And I know for a fact that I would not have run on those days if I hadn't needed something to write about! I was keeping a running journal. If I didn't run, I'd have nothing to 'report'. I can't tell you how many times that got me out the door and running!

This blog is sort of the same way, but with my kids at the center. There are times I don't feel patient, loving, or kind towards my kids. I always love them, but I don't always love being around them. There are days that the squabbling and sassing and complaining, and frankly, the sheer amount of work, just put me right over the edge! Keeping this blog helps me to slow down, to look for and appreciate small moments in our lives. Even the worst, most challenging mama-days have a sweetness. It's a sweetness I might have missed though, if I hadn't been looking for it. And if I wasn't committed to writing it down here, I may not have been looking for it.

Yesterday was an example of just the situation I was describing above. I got about 15 ears of corn from my mom's garden! Oh, happiness! I love corn, I love fresh corn, and I love free corn! It was a good day. And I'm such a go-getter, get-it-done kind of person, that I easily could have husked and blanched the corn and had it in the freezer before anybody else in the house even knew we had received such a gift.

But I started thinking about how, when you start keeping a garden and trading/exchanging harvests with other gardeners, that you commit yourself to not just breezing into a grocery store and buying whatever you want, whenever you want it. It's not always the most convenient time to deal with 15 ears of corn, or a kilo of fresh tomatoes. But, when you want to eat as locally and fresh as possible, you have to deal with it as it comes up.

I also started thinking about how, for some of us, that means that we have to learn new skills, like preserving or preparing for freezing, drying or dehydrating, etc. I think I used to feel like all that was just work ~ too too too much work. Who has time to learn such things, when I can just buy a jar sauce any time I'd like to? But doing those things makes me feel more connected; to my home, my family, even my food.

And if I want my kids to learn to love those feelings as much as I do; if I want to be there when Scotty first meets the silky threads under those green husks; if I want Tommy to eat that corn when I cook it; if I want them to know that real food is imperfect...If I want those things, then I have to slow down, and get down on the floor and show them how to husk a cob.

And, because this draws me deeper into the work of parenting, I don't feel aggravated when the corn husking ~ like everything else in our lives right now ~ turns into a sword fight. Here's where I find the space where this is cute, instead of annoying. Where it's funny, instead of exhausting. And writing it here keeps that memory safe, and keeps it where I'll be able to take it out again (no doubt when I'm feeling less expansive) and every time I do, the bond between us grows stronger and more complex.

It was a good day.

I get lots of information about canning and freezing food from, and here is a great resource for how to blanch and freeze corn, specifically.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All Better!

After just four weeks, Scotty had his cast removed yesterday! He was a total champ at Children's Hospital, where that cast saw is quite loud, and the vibrations can be quite upsetting. There were a couple of older children who were wigging out, but he just sat there.

I have had two experiences with Children's Hospital, and I've been completely overwhelmed both times. They are so gentle and in touch with the kids. I always leave so grateful that they are there, and even more grateful that I've only ever needed them temporarily. Because watching the parents with the truly sick kids? It wrecks me.

Every doctor, nurse, receptionist, security guard, night custodian, it doesn't matter who you are on staff, you were apparently hired because of your great affection for, and tolerance of, all things "child". They also manage to staff amazing pediatric specialists, which does not hurt when you are there to see an orthopedics surgeon. Twice. For two different kids.

But the Cast Room has been quite an interesting place. When Tommy went, a fellow so gruff and so uninterested in Tommy's angst, went to work on his cast without so much as a "Hey Big Fella!" It was so out of character with the DisneyLand quality of the rest of the experience that I actually speculated to Erik, after the fact, that he may have been on loan from a "regular" hospital. But then yesterday, it was sort of the same deal. Not Scotty's guy, who was young and sweet-natured, and not the quiet older gentleman who was on the phone in the corner, but the other guy, who was my age, well, he was another story. As I concentrated on the tribal tattoo peaking out from our nurse's scrubs just above his wrist, I listened to the other nurse telling a six year old boy, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you come over here and sit down and the hard way is we bring in lots of people to force you over here and hold you down." While the parents pushed him by the shoulder toward this brute, I snuck a peak at the guy in the corner, on the phone. He seemed non-plussed as he watched the scene. My guy raised an eyebrow, but that was it. I think he must have started out nice, but it only lasts about a minute. Maybe it's the nature of the Cast Room, where kids are completely freaked out, and you could easily spend all day trying to coax them and that never does work anyway? Maybe the more you coax the more they hunker down? Maybe firm threatening is the only way that really works, in the end?

But back to the arm! He's so proud of his arm! And he was very upset with the dry skin that we found underneath the cast. He did not like it. He did not like it one bit. Fortunately, I have a magic potion called Curel and so the bulk of the whining was short-lived.

They gave him a removable cast-splint. He is such a Hendrix though, that he wore it for about two hours before announcing that he doesn't like it, and then he took it off and never looked back. He hit a toy truck with it once, but other then that he hasn't given it a second glance. My dad has set his own broken nose on the course of a motorcycle race, removed his own foot case after three weeks because it was 'hard to work with it on', and took a mere two days off work when he cracked his ribs.

Erik and I come from two different worlds! In my world, you broke bones, tore ligaments, and had multiple injuries and stitches from climbing trees, riding motorcycles, or getting run through barbed wired fences from by particularly stubborn ponies. I take the same approach with our own kids...I see them doing things that make me feel anxious all the time, but it's an adventure, life's an adventure, and sometimes you get hurt. Of course you try to minimize that, but you can't live in a bubble!

In Erik's world, you don't get hurt. Period. I think his dad broke an arm bone, once, and everybody in the family still talks about it like it was The Day The Earth Stood Still. It's not like Erik is a whimp, I mean the guy had a knee surgery that would have put me over the edge, but he sees the world as a dangerous, foreboding place and it is his job to make sure that his children are safe, at all times. Bring on the bubble! Except it would be easier to just medicate Erik, because both of our kids have had stitches, broken bones, and more cuts and bruises then I could catalogue.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From the Garden

This little fellow was so pretty, perched on some water plants in the pond! I practically fell in trying to get close enough to snap his photo. There was a second dragonfly that was decidedly more...creepy. He was HUGE and bright orange and he was on a reed in the pond not more than a couple of feet from me. He kept...looking at me, I swear, he had these eyes and they were all...shudder. I just don't want to talk about him. Plus, I took about half a dozen pictures of him, and even though he was not moving (not even a little) they all came out completely blurry. Not the whole picture, just him, as though he were flying. But he was really just sitting there. Staring at me. Did you have an uncle who told you that dragonflies would sew your ears shut? I did, and that orange one kind of made me think that maybe he wasn't just a crank.

Other horrors from the strawberry plants. I know the signs. See the 'sticks' that are just poking up, where there used to be leaves and berries? Looks like the deer have been feasting. On Sunday my brother and his kids came over for a bbq and to do some swimming, so we were in the backyard for several hours. During that time, I got some clues as to why my tomatoes aren't currently thriving. Everything else in the main bed is humming and thriving. The eggplants, cucumbers, pumpkin, and watermelon are all chugging along. Even the yellow squash is perking up, after having mixed feelings about being transplanted. But my tomatoes were showing some of the same stumpy signs as my strawberries.

And, although I place the blame for the berry situation squarely at the feet of the dear, I think the tomato situation has a lot to do with the birds. I go to great lengths to try and convince birds to come into my yard. I have several feeders for seed and nectar, and they love the waterfall. It's like a wee bird spa, and I love watching the wild finches, sparrows, wild doves, and blue birds bathing and frolicking in the water. Between them and the fish (we have four koi in our pond) the little ecosystem has provided hours of staring entertainment for me.

And so I have mixed feelings. I love the birds. I love the deer. I love tomatoes. So I went to a local hardware store, thinking maybe some netting would do the trick? And, as happens so often, I bumped into a generous gardener who shared that he just ties strips of mylar around. Oh, yes, of course! I see this all the time in the vineyards. Duh. So yesterday I had a couple of hours in the afternoon and I worked on a sewing project and did some gardening. I put in stakes and posted terracotta pots all around, and added mylar strips. The mylar came as 'tissue paper' in the wrapping section of a local party supply store. I cut and tied strips to the the little posts, and directly to several tomato plants. I also tarted up the strawberries, though on further advice I'm drawing a big ol' scary eye onto a couple of paper plates. I'll place those in the garden today.

Apparently, the deer (as well as other pest-like animals) are not the sharpest tools in the shed. They see that eye and think somebody is staring at them and they won't come in. I feel bad for the deer because they are everywhere these days, along the hills surrounding the freeway and in all of our yards up here on the hill where there is still some open land. I am sure they're getting squeezed out by 'progress', and their food sources are getting scarcer. I'll plant something along the fence that they enjoy eating, so they can snack without coming down into the gardens, but I draw the line at sacrificing my strawberries!

Monday, July 20, 2009

How to Crochet a 'Rag Rug'

March 6, 2011:  I've been wanting to add some "quick" videos to show the process for using flat and fitted sheets to make continuous balls of materials to crochet rag rugs, and show some basic techniques around increasing, decreasing, and changing colors, too.  I finally did the "first draft" of these videos.  I had hoped they would be just 2 or 3 minutes each (I have the attention span of a gnat!) so if you watch the videos (found here) please do let me know in the comments if it was worthwhile, too much, too little, etc. as I would like to make another more 'polished' round of videos, or eliminate anything that doesn't work.  Making crocheted rag rugs is SO FUN!!! Enjoy...

The original post I wrote about crocheting rag rugs can be found in its entirety, below. 

Edited to add: Quite a few people have found this page searching for 'how to crochet a rag rug', so I went back and saw that I could add a few clarifying things that I hope make it helpful to use. If you're considering making a rag rug this way, I highly recommend it! They are beautiful, homey, and so practical. I make mine out of repurposed bed sheets, and so they easily just pop into the washer and dryer for speedy clean up! Here is my favorite one that I've ever made; I made it for my friend, and, I should add here, they make great 'race tracks' for little boys to play cars on! :) If there are any questions/clarifications that would be helpful, let me know!

Another round rag rug I made as a rocking chair pad here.

I mentioned last week that I had crocheted a bath mat for our bathroom (tiny, tiny little bathroom!) and even though I had to take it apart twice, it was still finished by the next day. I made it too big twice, but third time was a charm. Here it is in action.

At the time that I had crocheted my very first rag rug, I had written about how to do it using repurposed sheets, so I thought I'd include that here too. Here it is, from my old blog:

I made it over three days, and it's actually almost four feet in diameter, though I think in the picture it could be misconstrued as a placemat. It's big and thick and so homely. It's exactly what it's supposed to be.

It started out as a bunch of thrifted sheets. I think I used 6 sheets, that cost anywhere from 2 to 4 dollars each. It was probably about $15 worth of material. (Though there was lots left over! I've actually made 3 rugs using this material.) Grams's favorite color is blue. She loves it. She hates yellow.

I was way not looking forward to cutting all these sheets up into long strips (you can see how I had to roll the strips up into balls in the photo above. hehe I said "balls" hehe). You have to cut almost all the way to the end, move over an inch or more, then cut almost all the way back to the other end, over and over. Ugh. But, like paper, material has directionality, and it turned out, with maximum annoyance to my husband but minimum output by me, that I could cut a starter and then just RIP the sheet all the way to the other end. Awesome. Edited to add: Two things:

First: See in the picture, how at this end I tore all the way to wear the fold/hem is? That's great! Sometimes on the other end, where there is no thick hem like that, you fly right off the edge with overzealous tearing. That's okay, you'll just have to 'reattach' all the bits before you roll them into a ball. By 'reattach' I mean 'tie together'. Some people might sew them together, but I like the rustic look, and when you're crocheting it all just gets wrapped in together anyway so you don't even know. Sometimes, the hem is so deep that stopping there leaves a way too big 'flap' at the end. I just keep scissors handy when I'm crocheting it together, and when I get to a spot that's way too thick, I just trim it down as I go along.

Second: Flat sheets are best, but you can use fitted sheets. The biggest problem I've had with fitted sheets, is that the weave is 'unpredictable'. This means that the 'directionality' I mentioned above is sometimes hard to find, or changes in the middle of the action. If you have a great pattern or color on a fitted sheet (or, for example, are already using the matching flat sheet) I would still say it's fine to use them. I cut away the elastic parts and then pretend like I can figure out which direction to start by scrutinizing the weave pattern. I cannot. Eventually, I just start a cut and tear as far as I can (stop one inch from the end, if you get that far!). If I get to the other end, I move over about an inch and start a new cut then tear back, leave about an inch at the end, move over about an inch, start a cut and tear back (stop at within 1 inch of the end), etc. If the tear goes wonky (veers off or dead ends) then I just pick a new spot and make a small cut and tear again. There's a little bit of material waste this way (sometimes I've ended up with scraps that just aren't worth tearing further), but it's quick and easy, so that's your trade off.

Then I just used those strips ~ along with this ENORMOUS crochet hook (Edited to add: S Hook) ~ and used a simple increasing-rounds pattern and a simple double-crochet stitch, around and around and around, changing colors as I ran out, mostly, but for asthetic, occasionally. I later found out through some research that "traditional" crochet rag rugs mostly use a single crochet, but really, I love it just the way it is. Edited to add: To 'change' colors, I just tie the new end to the old end and keep crocheting! So simple.

I left all the stringy-parts and rough edges and tied pieces (which you can only see on the back side) because I thought it was all part of its charm.

Adding the Technical Part, assumes basic crochet ability

Basic increasing round pattern: I just started with a chain 4, and slip stitch to make a ring. Then, either sc, hdc, or dc (pick your poison) 8 stitches into the ring. Always slip-stitch the last one to the first one that started that round (do not count this slip stitch in any stitch counts), then chain 1 (for sc) or 2 (for hdc or dc) and start the next round, without turning. Increases are made: 2 stitches in each of the 8 stitches. Next round increases are made: two stitches in one, one in the next one, two stitches in one, one in the next one, all the way around. Don’t forget the slip stitch (and don't count it as a stitch)! Make your chain (for sc) or two chains (for double or half double crochet) and do not turn. Next round increases made: two stitches in one, one in each of the next two, two stitches in one, one in each of the next two, all the way around (sl st to end and don't count it as a stitch). Make your chain (for sc) or two chains (for double or half double crochet) and do not turn. Next round increases made: two stitches in one, one in each of the next three. Etc. The pattern grows just like that, until you’re at the size you prefer. Can of corn!
For the shape of the rug in our bathroom: I sort of wing it on this one, so you’re better off searching for one online. You can also usually use any rug pattern in an oval shape, just use the fabric strips and the huge hook, but the pattern will usually be the same. Edited to add: I think you could use Futuregirl's Starling Handbag pattern, just the part for the bottom of the purse, to make a rug roughly this shape. Isn't that funny? But it's basically what I did, except I'm sure with mistakes, since I was just fooling with it. But that's good, because you can see that even with mistakes, it's a smashing little rug! The only problem is that you have to experiment with the number of chains you start with. For example, in the rug in my bathroom (picture at the top) I wanted it to be about 24" long by 18" wide. When I first did it, I made 30 chains to start. Wayyyyyy wrong! (It made a huge rug.) Tore it out. Then I made 22 chains to start. Still sooooo wrong. Tore it out. I think I ended up with about 14 or 15 chains to start, and it was just right. The good news? The crocheting goes incredibly fast on these things, so tearing out a few rounds or starting over is not the same drama as when you are using a size D with cotton thread.

Any rug pattern can be followed ~ just use the S Hook and the materials you prepared. Here are a bunch of free rug patterns. I got started with an old rug pattern book my aunt had, and I just used my material instead of yarn. All good!
Best advice: Don’t be a stickler! If the rug is not laying flat, or not shaping properly, do not be afraid to break from the pattern and put in extra stitches (or take out others by stitching two together as one (known as a ‘decrease’)) and you’ll be very happy indeed with your finished rug!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Round Robin ~ Brit

I finished Brit's block. It's actually been done for awhile now (I finished it on Monday) but I had to sit with it before I realized it really is done. It's not exactly how I pictured it in my head; my skillz aren't that closely aligned with my imagination! I just have to put my hands up and say it's done, otherwise I'll worry it and stress over it until I literally make myself sick! (Have I mentioned how fun a round robin is? Because it is! It's fun! Just. It's stressful too!)

When Pippa and I were working on our swap project, she mentioned that it is a tradition, when swapping, to use the opportunity to try something new. I really took that to heart; in this case, I've always wanted to applique. It appeals to me, as I like to do hand-work, and I like to worry about little details. My friend Monica showed me how, and she's a great teacher so I was off and at it in no time at all.

I was inspired by the center block that showed her whole family running (via the magic of embroidery!) across the landscape. I knew I wanted to add turtles, because of The Turtledash Half Marathon that they host every year, and my original idea was to also applique leaves of some sort, since The Turtledash happens in the fall.

I fooled around quite a bit with pattern, fabric, and placement. Making these two turtles (they are Brit, and her husband, Scott) was a no-brainer.

And these wee little turtles were uncontroversial, as well. They are Moo and Wah, their adorable boys.

Everything else was pure drama. I decided at some point that appliqueing the leaves would be way too busy. Just too much. So I picked up on the embroidery from the center block by mimicking the trees in three of the border squares, and embroidering a heart in each of the corner squares.

Just today I decided to use french knots to put an eye on each turtle. But I think that's it. Unless she hates it. In which case, I'm prepared to take the whole thing apart and start over. Because did I mention it's not 'due' until August 1st? Yeah, I'm a badass.

Summer and Surprises!

What did happen here? No, it's not a crime scene, it's my kitchen. Yesterday. I can tell by the yellow dustpan on the counter that I had probably thought I would start cleaning it up.

Except there was watermelon to be eaten. And apples to core and peel. Dough to be rolled.

Maybe I thought I would unload the dishwasher? Or do more than toss those dish towels and kid clothes into the corner? I don't know, maybe I thought I would move that pile to the washer?

But then that picnic basket was there...calling us.

Surely, the only reasonable response, was to load up the bikes and head to the lake for some lunch and some hanging out on the dock?

It's not like the dishes are going anywhere. We can do them... later? Do you see there, how I can't be bothered to shut cabinets when I'm rushing about the kitchen? Do you also see how dang cute my valance is? It still makes me so so so happy! Even dangling above the disaster that is my sink, after a mere 24 hours of letting dishes slide, it makes me happy.

I thought I'd get started on the clean up while I was making the apple pie, but it turned out that I had helpers. Oh, summer bedtime, you just don't exist, do you?

Holes needed to be made. In the extra dough. With a screwdriver. These things can't be rushed.

But, eventually, the pie was in the oven, the boys were settled in for a movie, and Erik was out from under my feet with his own project. So, around 9 pm, it's time to roll up the sleeves and get it done.

I was finishing the cleaning just as the pie came out of the oven. I wonder....can you live on pie? And watermelon? Let's find out, shall we?

There is a clue in this picture as to how I was able to turn that mess into this haven, in less than an hour (and that includes washing the windows and mopping the floors!). Do you see them there? In the basket in front of the window?

See, here's where I'm going to get all exclamation-pointy. Because for no reason whatsoever, this plain (nearly! cute stickers!) brown package showed up in our mailbox. I'm pretty sure I didn't order porn. The return address, though prominently displayed with a cute little sticker, offered no clues. I'm sorry, I do not know this gentleman. Though, curiously, he does share the last name of a dear friend. Is he related? Should I know you, sir?

And what's this? No, seriously, what is this? I slid them out of the end of the package that I had cut open, and these are SO SOFT and so lovely. Like the softest, loveliest wash clothes you can ever imagine. Did I...did I order soft, lovely wash clothes? I sat and petted them for a few moments. Surely, there is some other clue as to what these are?

Something still in the package, perhaps? Yes, here we go!

Microfiber cleaning wipes. Oh! Oh-oh-oh!!! Microfiber cleaning wipes! Microfiber cleaning wipes! I know what these are!

And a sweet note from Sister Carol puts an end to the mystery!

Why are people so wonderful? So, since I've always fancied myself a bit of an amateur sleuth, I will now fill you in. Carol is Kelly's mom. Kelly is married to my cousin, Moose. Well, you'd probably call him Robert, but I cannot bring myself to do so. Anyway, that's why I didn't recognize the name! It's Kelly's family name, whereas I know her as sharing the last name of Uncle Whitey (What can I say? We're very big on nicknames) and Aunt Patti.

And there are 8 of these beautiful cloths, 4 white and 4 blue. I used them in the kitchen last night, and also to clean the front living room window. I cannot describe what these are like. Like buttah, I'm not even kidding! I just used a damp one and a dry one, and it was one pass cleaning ~ just hot water with dish soap cleaned everything ~ and I mean it, in one pass! The sink, the stainless steel appliances (which get water spots and are impossible to keep clean) and the windows. Oh my. The windows! I could swoon, really! Our living room window looks out over the neighborhood and the bay/peninsula. It's the running joke among our neighbors that our window is permanently smudged from Little Boy noses and hands being constantly pushed up against them. A damp cloth wiped it down, a dry cloth finished it off. Two minutes, I kid you not. The bright light, unfiltered through the cruft of my kids, is dazzling this morning!

I used 3 towels to clean last night. (One, I used in an area where I was killing ants, so I had to put that one in early retirement until I run it through the wash.) At first I thought maybe I had enough to share a couple with my mom, but, um, I might not be a good enough person. I'll probably want to keep 1 to 2 in each bathroom, plus 3 in the kitchen, just in case, plus if I haven't run the wash I'll need an extra no. I can't spare a square.

I've just spent the last few minutes trying to search online for a mop made out of this same material. From what I can see online, do try to get the Hometex brand of microfiber towels, and they are used a lot for auto detailing, so be sure and check those aisles of your variety store of choice. You can bet I'll be keeping my eye out for them, too, inspired by Carol's generosity to pay it forward when I can!

I cannot thank you enough, Carol, for such sweetness! A proper thank you goes out in the mail today, but thank you thank you thank you!!!! still. :)