Gardening in Glen Allen

It all started quite innocently with a run to a local nursery that was clearing out begonias and geraniums for $1 each. We’ve spent several days fighting the grass that had taken over the planting beds, and I wanted to celebrate by planting something cheerful.

Begonias Geraniums

When I went to the outside spigot to fill the watering can, I got annoyed by having to push through the overgrown bushes. So I started trimming the azaleas, at which point I got really aggravated at the vine that had overgrown everything and was killing off the azaleas.

Bush and vine trimmings More vine trimmings

From there I moved on to the sad-looking butterfly bush that doesn’t appear to have been cut back in years.

Butterfly bush and trimmings

Two hours later, I still haven’t gotten the parsley and thyme planted. Of course, part of the reason for that is because the planting bed where they are going first will be the site of another battle with grass.

Grassy planting bed

And now it’s time to figure out how the county yard waste drop off works.

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Yes, I Am Still Quilting

Progress Sept 15And now for a long-overdue update on the status of Dan’s quilt! The pieced border is finished and attached. All that is left to complete the top is the final, blue border. Of course, I’m having my usual self-doubts at this point. Is the blue I have the right shade? Or is it too light? How wide should the border be? I’ve gone through this sort of doubt at each stage of this quilt. But I’ve learned to recognize it as just part of my personality. If I am perfectly honest, I am thrilled with how the quilt looks so far. Laying it out on the floor was a real “Wow!” moment. I’m sure that it will still be amazing with the final border added. Then I can move on to agonizing over the quilting patterns.

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So Many Changes!

My Quilt 7It’s been a summer of change and upheaval for me and that has meant not much quilting got done. (Since I can’t bear to post without a picture, here’s an old photo.) I started a new job in a city two and a half hours away. Until my husband finds a job in the area, he is staying in our house. Luckily my job is only 30 hours a week and I can come home Thursday nights for long weekends together. But I’m still settling in to a new job as Teen Librarian and a new, small apartment. I’m slowly finding my feet and am finding that I can actually think about starting to sew again. Hmmm, maybe I need to design and create a wall hanging for my Teen Area in the library. . . .

The one constant this summer has been the garden. It never got too hot or too dry. So we are getting bumper crops of Swiss chard, carrots, green beans, and, of course, tomatoes. My weekends home seem to be spent in the kitchen dealing with nature’s bounty. But the freezer is filling up nicely, and I know I will really enjoy having all of those wonderful veggies available through the winter!

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Nickel Quilt Progress

Blocks and partially completed blocks for nickel quiltI didn’t get as much done on this quilt in the last week as I could have. But it was for the best of reasons, a visit from my parents. Still, given my usual slow progress, this is pretty impressive. The larger half square triangles need to be cut into the smaller pieces that actually make up the block. I also have a good stack of 5 inch squares waiting to be sewn together and cut down.

It’s an interesting process, quite different from my usual approach of cut the actual pieces individually. Once the larger half square triangle pieces are cut down, all of the smaller triangle segments are already sewn leaving just 16 square pieces to sew together. On the lower left you can see the rows of squares waiting for pressing before being joined into the finished block. Above are some of the stacks of squares, lined up and ready to be chain sewn. Yes, that means I am using my machine and not piecing this one by hand! For those who know me, that is truly shocking news.

I might make even faster progress, but I keep getting distracted writing book reviews, early literacy blog posts and creating a wiki of S.T.E.M. programs for libraries. Add in keeping up with the garden (there are already baby tomatoes on the plants!) and cooking and I am pretty busy!

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Finding The Joy Again

Partially completed quilt blockIt’s always a sad thing when an activity you normally love stops giving you pleasure. But I had become so harried and distracted with a pretty crazy schedule that the joy had largely gone out of my quilting. I have been sewing, though sometimes infrequently. But an unexpected change in my employment status has allowed me the opportunity to step back and re-evaluate things with some very positive results.

I have actually been making progress on Dan’s quilt. It’s gotten large enough that photographing it is becoming a challenge. I am nearly finished the 4th side of a pieced border. So I’m going to wait until I’ve added that to post a progress update. If you’re curious, the center in previous pictures is completed and has had a solid border added in a greenish print. After the pieced border, it just needs another solid border and the top will be finished. My husband has talked me into designing a quilt based on Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s stained glass windows. That has really sparked my creativity and I am pouring over books and pictures and beginning to sketch.

In tCover of Nickel Quilts: Great Designs from 5-Inch Scrapshe meantime, I decided to pursue a project I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I have amassed a pretty decent collection of fat quarters and scraps for such a casual quilter. So I thought it would be fun to do a nickel quilt. I’ve had a copy of Nickel Quilts: Great Designs from 5-Inch Scraps by Pat Speth and Charlene Thode for quite a while. But I never seem to get around to making one. Well, I finally chose a pattern, Tillie’s Treasure, and started digging through my fabric stash. That was what really brought back the joy. Before I knew it, I was pressing and cutting, reveling in smell of fabric and the beautiful patterns I’d forgotten I had. The picture at the top of this post is the first, partially completed block. I’m so excited to have time and energy to quilt again and, especially, that I have rediscovered the joy in my hobby.

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Another Year Gone

Wow! It’s hard to believe another year has gone. Looking back, I didn’t even do a New Year’s quilting post last year. Two years ago I wrote a post about UFO’s. I’m rather horrified to look at that and realize that most of the projects are still unfinished. I knew I wasn’t quilting as much as I would have like, but I hadn’t realized how much I had slipped.

Obviously I need to get more disciplined about my quilting if I am going to ever complete anything. Actually, I probably just need to get more disciplined about life in general. Time for a bit more structure. I haven’t settled on the details yet, but I need to set aside a certain amount of time, scheduling the myriad things that I want to get done (including both quilting and writing). The one good thing that I can say I have accomplished is keeping up reasonably well with the gardening. I’m not an expert, by any means. But everything I harvest is a direct benefit – and very satisfying. Expect to see more on that subject as well as, hopefully, more news of progress on the quilting projects!

Happy New Year!

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I’ve actually made some progress!

I’ve been waiting for some real progress before posting about this quilt again. Then I needed decent weather to be able to spread it out and get a photo. It seemed like the perfect day this morning. No sooner did I get everything laid out and the wind started to pick up. This picture isn’t the best. But immediately after I snapped it, the wind blew everything apart, and I had to give up.

All of the star-burst blocks are pieced and I’ve moved on to the center side blocks. The half circles are appliqued. The two blocks on the sides are complete, and I have just about a third of the innermost circle to finish on the top side. The space on the bottom is for the fourth applique block, which I haven’t started yet. It’s hard to see in the picture, but the sides are actually sewn together and attached to the center. As soon as I finish appliqueing the top half circle block, I’ll sew those blocks together and attach the row.

I was frustrated when choosing a background fabric for the half circle blocks. I didn’t have quite enough of the fabric I had planned to use. I wasn’t sure that this lighter fabric was going to work. The color is a lot less intense than the rest of the quilt. But looking at this laid out, I think it actually is going to work out OK. With a dark border they should really pop. Once this much is completed, I will have to decide if it will be big enough with just two borders or if I want to piece a border as well. I’m leaning towards adding a pieced border just for the design. But I’ll need to see it with a solid border first to decide. This really is a project that is being designed as I go. It’s been a real leap of faith for me to sew without having it all planned out ahead of time.

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A Productive Day in the Kitchen

It’s shaping up to be a productive day in the kitchen for me – amazing what can happen when you actually have two days off in a row. I’m finally starting to make a dent in all of those tomatoes. Tuesday I was able to oven roast two trays of cherry tomatoes. Today I am preparing plum tomatoes for freezing. This is a four quart pot. I don’t take the time to skin the tomatoes, but I do remove the seeds. Even so, it took me over an hour to prep this many tomatoes. I don’t add much in the way of seasonings at this point – just some finely chopped onion and minced garlic that I softened in olive oil. That way the tomatoes can be a base for almost anything from a cream of tomato soup to pasta sauce.

Before starting on the plum tomatoes, I did get a loaf of bread started in the bread machine. I let the machine make the dough. Then I dump it out for a final kneading and shaping. The loaf is now sitting on the counter to rise one last time before I bake it.

Still on my agenda for today: I need to sort through all of the remaining cherry tomatoes for newly ripened ones and roast them. My fish order is waiting at the grocer in town. Dinner will be grilled red snapper that I’ll marinate in lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs from the garden. We’ll accompany that with spaghetti squash and the rest of the roasted tomatoes from earlier this week, and, of course, the freshly baked bread. The tomatoes I roast today are destined for the freezer. Maybe I’ll find some time along the way to actually work on a quilt and write some book reviews.

  • Saving your small Tomatoes (foodsaving.wordpress.com) – This is the wonderful blog where I found the directions for oven-roasting the cherry tomatoes!
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Where Did the Summer Go?

I’m seriously trying to figure out how it got to be the day before October. Summer flew by way too quickly, and I feel like I didn’t get nearly enough done. I guess that’s what happens when you work a lot. I did take a lot of sub hours from June through September. In fact, at one point I was regularly working six days a week. But I was going on the principle that I needed to grab the chance to work when it was offered because I don’t know when the opportunities will come again. As things stand now, October looks to be a much more reasonable month in terms of work hours. So maybe I’ll actually be able to find time to catch up on my To Do List.

What free time I did have this summer was spent mostly working in the garden rather than writing about the garden or quilting. We were actually a bit disappointed with our tomato plants this year. They were very late to ripen this year. We didn’t start to get reliable quantities of tomatoes until September. But as you can see from this picture, they were just saving it up for the very end of the season.

The plants had started to look quite sad, though they still had plenty of tomatoes on them. We decided it was time to call an end to the season and pull up the plants. There were a total of 8 plants: 4 assorted cherry tomatoes and 4 plum tomatoes. The picture above does not include the large box of green plum tomatoes that we also harvested. There just wasn’t room in the picture!

It’s a good thing I’m not working as much this week. I will be busy prepping the excess of tomatoes for freezing. Here’s a picture of a batch of stewed tomatoes I made earlier in the summer when we still had some yellow tomatoes. I soften a little bit of onion, add the chopped tomatoes, and stew them for a short while. Then I put the partially cooked tomatoes into freezer bags and pop them into the freezer in the garage. Just think how a meal made with these tomatoes will brighten up a dreary winter day in February! The plum tomatoes this year are making amazing tomato sauce, too. I’ve still not ventured into canning or pickling. But since we finally found a decent-sized upright freezer this summer, space for frozen vegetables is no longer problem. And with the upright, things are much less likely to get lost only to be rediscovered after many months, completely freezer-burned and unappealing.

Now it’s time for me to go scrape the corn off some ears of corn I boiled earlier. That will also go into a bag and into the freezer. It makes amazing creamed corn, something else I can look forward to having brighten up a mid-winter meal.

 

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Vacation, Sweet Vacation

Sometimes you just need to get away and we were definitely at that point. After a week away, it’s both easier and harder to pick up the old routines.

We had a wonderful couple of days in San Francisco reconnecting with one of my husband’s friends followed by several days of wine tasting in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County. We had no intentions of purchasing anything, assuming there was no good way to get it home. Oh, were we ever mistaken. Of course they have figured out how to get it back to the East Coast, or anywhere in between. So we flew back with an extra piece of luggage – a shipper’s box filled with 12 bottles of amazing wine and websites with ordering information to get more shipped direct from the wineries in the future.

 

The trip proved revitalizing with plenty of wonderful scenery and amazing food. We used The Lonely Planet guidebook to find restaurants and, yet again, they did not steer us wrong. From this amazing pizza at Oenotri in downtown Napa to fabulous Mexican food at Juanita, Juanita in Sonoma, we ate well! In fact, it will be quite a while before I order pizza again anywhere because I know I will be disappointed. There is no way it will live up to the wood-fired deliciousness of this one.

Of course, taking a vacation had implications for all of my little seedlings and the garden. The results were mixed and are a subject for another post. Meanwhile, I’ll try to get back into my routines of reading, writing and quilting. Clearly eating has not suffered and I’ve had no trouble getting back into the routine of cooking good food with our amazing local ingredients. What does that say about my priorities?

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