Fleeing The Country….Or Our Most Excellent Adventure in Altata Bay

 

My husband, Rich, is as avid a fisherman as I am a quilter.  Every Sunday morning, he listens to a fishing radio show called “Let’s Talk Hook-up”  on “The Mighty 1090” station.  Rich listens every Saturday and Sunday morning live streaming on our computer.  As well as having guests on the show talking about fishing, listeners are encouraged to call in and ask questions.  Frequently the show gives away prizes to one or two callers.  Rich has won things like packages of fishing lures or hooks, and even some half-day ocean fishing trips.  A few weeks ago, he was stunned to be the winner of an all-expenses paid 4 day 3 night trip for two to the Altata Bay Resort, which is located about 100 miles north of Mazatlan, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez.  This area of Mexico is totally undiscovered by American tourists/fishermen, and the owner of the resort as well as the Sportfishing Association of California, co-sponsor of the trip, is hoping to get the word out about what a fabulous, unspoiled tourist destination it is.  I cannot express how wonderful everyone involved was in helping us make this trip happen.

First, we had to get our passports since we hadn’t traveled internationally for decades.  Then Ken Franke, President of SAC, told us exactly which flights to purchase, and we got a reimbursement check for our tickets even before we left on the trip.  We drove to the San Jose, CA airport the night before our early morning flight (we live about 2 1/2 hours south) and stayed at a hotel.  From San Jose, we flew to San Diego, where we were met personally by Ken, who then drove us to the new Cross-Border Express pedestrian tunnel that lets you out right in the Tijuana, Mexico airport.  This is the easy way to get across the border, and we would never have known about it without Ken’s help.  He helped us fill out our visa paperwork and purchased round trip tickets for us to cross the border through the tunnel, told us exactly where to go and how to get through Mexican customs going into the country.

We then got on our flight from Tijuana to Culican, Mexico, where we were met by Neza, one of the interpreters provided for us, and Sandra, a videographer who documented our adventure in Mexico.  Neza immediately took our bags, then drove us to the hotel at Altata Bay, where we were greeted by many wonderful staff people from the hotel, including our other interpreter, Elsa, who hung out with me while Rich went fishing.  From the very beginning we were treated as honored VIPs.  We were taken to our room in the top notch Altata Bay Hotel.  The photo at the beginning of this post is the view from the balcony of our room.  The room was beautifully decorated, and was topped off by a welcoming fruit basket.  Here is a photo of the inside of our room.

room

After we freshened up, we were escorted across the street to the restaurant which is part of the hotel resort.  It is built right over the water and is covered with palm frond palapas.  There we were greeting by this appetizer platter.  No, this wasn’t our dinner, but just the appetizer.

appetizer

I forgot to mention that, along with Mazatlan, Altata Bay is the shrimp capitol of the world.  So this platter contained shrimp of every description as well as calamari and Red Snapper, which is type of locally caught fish.  Everything was incredibly delicious. Here is a photo from the water side of the restaurant.  Some of the palm fronds were in the process of having new ones placed, which is why you can see the framework of some of the palapas roofs.

waterfront rest and dock

You can see a bit of the hotel in the background.

We were then taken on a cruise of Altata Bay on what I call a party boat, which is covered and with benches all the way around, a dance floor in the middle and a bar and restrooms on one end.  The bay is incredible.  I don’t know the actual statistics, but it seemed like it was about 20 miles long.  It is wrapped on the ocean side by mangroves and has mangrove islands dotted here and there.  These mangroves make excellent inshore fishing.  Here is a sunset view from the party boat.

boat cruise sunset

After our sunset cruise, we were brought back to the restaurant where we were introduced to what seemed like every dignitary in the town, who joined us for a wonderful dinner.  We also met the owner of the resort and his lovely family.  Fausto loves to fish as much as Rich does, and he and Rich went fishing together every day we were there.  I dubbed them Hermanos de Pescadero, which if I have my Spanish right, means Fishing Brothers.  Here is a photo and from the left are Neza, Fausto and Rich.

Hermanos de pescadore

The first full day, Rich and I, along with Sandra and her camera, Neza and Elsa, joined the boat crew to go fishing off shore in the Sea of Cortez.  We were trolling for Dorado, which is also known as Mahi-Mahi.   Daniel, the crew member, who you see in the photo below, was wonderful in making sure all the fishing rods were baited and positioned correctly in holders.   He even took the fish off the hook for you.  Rich caught several small ones that he threw back to grow up and two really nice ones that we brought home frozen and vacuum sealed.  Here is one of the smaller Dorados he caught.

dorado

Aren’t they beautiful fish?  Tasty too.  Here is the largest one Rich caught.

big dorado

I didn’t want to fish, so I just kicked back and enjoyed the day.  In the early afternoon, we went back to shore, ate more wonderful shrimp, and went back to the hotel and took a nap.  Then it was time for our massage, my first ever professional massage.  It was wonderful.  Rich decided he didn’t want a massage, so he just hung out with Elsa in the small restaurant in the hotel where we were served breakfast every morning before fishing.  Rich didn’t know what he was missing passing on his massage.

Then of course, it was time to eat again.  I swore, I would never to eat again after this trip was over.  We lingered over dinner every evening visiting with Miguel, the restaurant manager, Jesus, the hotel manager, Elsa, Neza, Fausto and his family, enjoying fine wine and beer, depending on our preference.

The next day, Rich, Fausto and Neza went in-shore fishing among the mangroves in the next bay north, Dautillos Bay. There they caught Pargo and Snook, two types of fish that we don’t have  in California.  This is one of his Pargo.

Pargo

I chose to hang out with Elsa, who took me on a driving tour of some of the local areas, including a lovely marina area north of the Altata Bay resort that is called Nuevo Altata.  Here is a photo of the marina and the marina restaurant taken from the water.  This restaurant is where we met the fishermen for lunch that day and we were served another outstanding meal.

marina area

We then went back to the hotel where this time both Rich and I had a massage.  After a nap, we took another boat Eco-cruise, this time to the south end of the bay where there is a mangrove island that is a favorite nesting site for many varieties of exotic birds.

bird island

The types of birds on this island include albatross,  frigates, cormorants, snowy egrets, and what looked like a cross between a flamingo and an egret resulting in a dark pink bird.  If you click on the photo below to enlarge it, you can see one of these birds below the three flying birds towards the right that look like they are stacked one on top of another.

pink egret

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a photo of one of these pink birds flying.  They hid in the foliage.  We were then cruised to a dock on the south side of the bay, where we took one of those surrey topped multi-person bicycles and pedaled our way back to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner, and then off to bed.

On our last day, Rich and the guys went off-shore deep water fishing, where a tank full of live shrimp were provided for bait.  They caught Red Snapper and Triggerfish.  I spent the morning kicked back in our room with a good book, enjoying the view.  Then in the afternoon, Elsa, Fausto’s wife and daughter, and another friend and her son joined me on a boat to head out to a sandspit located where the bay meets the ocean.  There is a little beach cottage there where some of the cooks from the resort had gone out earlier to make a bar-be-que lunch for all of us.

Sandspit

We met the fishermen out there where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch of shrimp and one of the Snook that Rich had caught the day before.

Sandspit lunch

Afterwards, we came back to the hotel and freshened up.  Then we went to the restaurant where, to our surprise, the resort had arranged for two wonderful singers to entertain us during dinner.  They were really fabulous entertainers.  Miguel, the restaurant manager, had asked a few days before in casual conversation what kind of music we liked, so they serenaded us with many of our favorites.  After a couple of beers for Rich and a glass of wine for me, we were talked into going up and doing some karaoke.  I think we should keep our day jobs.  Some of the staff got up and sang as well.  It was really a lot of fun. And once again, we were served a beautifully presented and delicious dinner of grilled fresh tuna and roasted vegetables.   It was definitely photo-worthy.

dinner

We had an early flight the next morning, so returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest.  The next morning, Neza drove us to the airport and was instrumental in getting us properly checked in, including our small shrink wrapped ice chest of vacuum packed frozen fish.  We were actually able to take it as a carry on because of Neza smoothing the way by talking to the right people in Spanish.  We had a great flight back, breezed through customs, returned through the Cross Border Express tunnel and were met on the other end again by Ken Franke, who treated us to a wonderful lunch at the San Diego marina.  We had a long layover in San Diego.

After the long drive home from the San Jose airport, we walked into our house at 11:30 P.M. and discovered it was 86 degrees inside and the power had been off since 10 P.M. Oh, my!  It didn’t come back on until 6 A.M.  We wanted to go back to Altata Bay, where, even though it was warm, there was always a nice breeze that kept us comfortable.

We had a wonderful time on our trip, and as I said, were treated like royalty.  I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to flee the country for a great vacation, give Altata Bay Resort a try.  The people are wonderful, the food outstanding, the accommodations top-notch, the scenery beautiful, and the fishing abundant and diverse.  The resort also offers a deep sea tournament the first weekend in July for fishing enthusiasts.  And for families, they are hoping to add whale watching excursions to their activities.  Even some of the locals haven’t yet discovered Altata Bay, which was made clear to us on our flight from Culican to Tijuana.  One of our fellow passengers happened to see the photos I had on my phone that I was showing to Rich.  After admiring Rich’s catch, he said he was eager to make it a destination for his next vacation.

Hasta La Vista, Altata Bay!

Hasta La Vista

 

Gnorman the Gnaughty Gnome

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Late last summer, Gnorman came to live in my garden.  At first I was happy that he had chosen my garden to inhabit, hoping he would chase away the resident rodents who were being so destructive to the vegetable crops not to mention flower bulbs.  Gnorman even brought his own little shovel to dig out the rodent holes and evict them.  After awhile, though, strange events began to occur.  We put in a “beach” area next to our pond, just because we could and because it gave a nice spot where you could walk right up to the edge of the pond to view the goldfish hiding under the waterlilies.  I thought it would be a nice to touch to sprinkle some of those sparkly flat marbles among the gravel just because I’m one of those “oh, look! Something shiny!” kind of people.  Here is how our little beach path looks.

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As you can see, we also have quite a collection of large seashells around the sides of the pathways, not to mention quite a few stray plants growing in the middle.  Ack!  More weeding to do.  My wonderful husband and his grandmother have always collected shells and pretty rocks, and the smaller items I display in a vintage glass cover for a ceiling light fixture which is placed just out of sight of this photo.  This is where one of the strange events started occurring. I kept finding small shells scattered along the pathways of the garden in danger of being stepped on and broken.  I would always place them back in their proper place, and the next day they would be running amok again.  Then my husband would come into my quilting room and hand me a handful of the shiny flat marbles stating he had found them two or three hundred feet out in the pasture.  I even found some near the trees in our orchard, a hundred feet from the garden area.  Then this morning, I went outside to pull weeds, and found proof of who was moving things about in the dead of night.

Naughty lbl

The evidence is clearly sitting on the raised bed timber for all to see.  You can see Gnorman in the background pretending he knows nothing about it, but I think we all can see, he’s been caught!

Believe it or not, I haven’t spent all my time lately playing in the garden.  I have been quilting away like a madwoman as well, but spring fever has definitely set in here on California’s Central Coast.  Things haven’t looked this lovely for years, thanks to the ton of rainfall that we’ve been blessed with this last season, continuing up to this past week when we got almost two tenths of an inch.  I know it doesn’t sound like much to most folks, but when your rainfall average for an entire season is only 16 inches, every drop makes a difference.  So far this season, we have received  21.09 inches.  Two seasons ago, it was less than 3 inches for the entire season.  Some of our neighbors who live in the more hilly areas have nearly 30 inches.  As a result of all the rain, our wisteria and lilacs have never looked better.  Here is a quick sampling of the eye candy.

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Wisteria.  Can’t you just smell the fragrance?

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Lilacs

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Rosa banksia (Lady Banks Rose) which blooms only once a year but is spectacular for a few weeks in the spring.

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This photo was taken from the farthest Southwest corner of the garden looking towards the orchard which is the tree in the background that has yellowish green foilage.  As you can see, all of our 60 something roses are about to explode into full bloom, the smoky orange on the right is my Laura Bush bush.  You can also see a little peak of purple wildflowers left on the hill on the far side of the road.  Sadly, the hills and wildflowers are just starting to dry up now that the weather is hitting the mid-80s during the day.  One last photo of a red-tailed hawk I caught soaring in the skies above our home.hawk cropped lbl

As far as quilting, I have been working on a quilt for the person who won the custom made quilt that I raffle off every December to benefit the youth group at our church.  This December’s winner is a lady who belongs to my quilter’s anonymous group (quilt guild), so I feel pressured to get it perfect.  She provided the pattern and most of the fabric.  I added some fabric from my own collection because I just couldn’t resist going with the theme, which is fall leaves sewn into a very interesting Log Cabin quilt pattern.  It required me to figure out how to make trapezoids, a totally new skill for me.  In addition, the pattern made the quilt 58 inches square, and she wants it to be a 40 inch long by 70 inch wide wall hanging.  This required a bit of a redesign once the center of the quilt was done, but I think I have met the challenge.  I don’t want to post any photos just yet because she does read my blog on occasion.  I probably will have to break down and send her a photo later today to see if she approves of what I’m planning to do for the last border, though I usually try to save the finished result as a surprise for the recipient.  Oh, well, sometimes you can’t have it all.  I guess I better get back to finishing up that border.

An Ode to Buttercup

Farewell, Dear Buttercup

I say a sad good-bye

As you fly on up

To the pressing station in the sky.

 

You have been an iron faithful and true

Doing pushups many and strong

Each time I let go of you

For these many years, oh so long.

 

But alas, you have grown weary

And weak in the knees.

You’ve pressed till you’re bleary

Always eager to please.

 

Without you, I tried to get along

But old-fashioned iron would not suffice

Demanding to on her heel be like she belonged

She did burn my board once or twice.

(Oh, that just wasn’t nice)

 

So at last your replacement is here!

Still nameless, she is pretty in pink,

Bringing to a quilter’s heart good cheer.

As she does pushups and to her knees doth sink.

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Okay, maybe I should stick to quilting instead of poetifying.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Oliso irons, they are meant to be left horizontal on the ironing surface when not actually in use, pushing themselves up with little feet when you let go of the handle, and the feet folding up flush to the bottom when you pick up the iron to press.   I have really become spoiled in the 5 or 6 years that I have had Buttercup.  I love not having to worry about whether I remembered to put the iron up on its heel, the cord is extra long, and the iron doesn’t turn itself off until it hasn’t been used for 30 minutes, which is a far cry from the usual 10 minutes and is ideal for a quilter.  I don’t tend to iron at all once, but intermittently throughout the quilting day.  So the only debate about whether or not to replace Buttercup was because these irons are very expensive.  I tried using my previous iron, which still works just fine, for about a week, and indeed I left it down in the horizontal position a couple of times.  Keep in mind, I just put a brand new cover on my oversized ironing station, which is a major undertaking because both the old and the new have adhesive to hold them in place, and can be ordered to fit large ironing stations.  My husband built this one for me, and as you can see, it doesn’t have a point like most ironing boards do.After the second incident, which was the worst, I immediately went on the Internet and ordered a new Oliso, trying to ignore the expense.  What is pressing bliss worth anyway?   Besides I use my iron heavily because I spend hours quilting nearly every day.  I was amazed to see that they had available a limited edition pink iron, so decided why not.  I was thrilled when the new iron came an entire week before it was due to arrive and I had it plugged in and was putting it through its paces immediately.

Now the only challenge is to name her.   Just so you know my best quilting friend got me started naming my tools and came up with the name Buttercup.  So my longarm machine is Rosie, my Baby Lock Jane is Plain Jane and my fancy Janome is Lady J.   My friend who came up with Buttercup’s name happened to be over to quilt on Thursday afternoon when the new one came, and we debated about a name, coming up with Petal, Raspberry, Shortcake, Lily, Barbie, and then getting really silly, Pepto Bismol.  So if anyone has any brilliant ideas, I am eager to hear your suggestions.  Rose or Rosie is out because I’ve already named my longarm that for very convoluted reasons.

Happy quilting!

 

 

 

At Home Along The San Antonio

At Home

This is a photo of the quilt that I posted photos of my fabric choices and a story about a few weeks ago called “Heading West Once Again.”  This is another quilt that I’m donating to a fundraiser for our local museum.  The blocks on the top and bottom of the quilt are all embroidered blocks that I did on my Janome embroidery machine and depict icons that fit into the history as well as the present here in our rural community.  Yes, we have a large herd of elk (the bottom block, second from the left) that can be seen hanging around frequently. The title of this post is also the title of the quilt in a nod to the river that runs through our community.

I really had a great time searching out appropriate embroidery patterns to use, selecting the right colors and stitching them out.  We have a covey of quail that has made our property their home and they conveniently showed up outside my quilting room window so that I could study their coloration when I was selecting thread colors.  It’s really funny, but the fabric I used for the embroidered blocks’ background actually says it’s “Beach Grass”, but it gives the flavor of gently rolling hills with scrubby brush which is typical of the valley we live in that runs along the river.

The fundraising dance will be held this coming Saturday, and I hope that this quilt raises a lot of money.  Right now the museum only has one metal building, but the hope is to have a small “town” of various buildings complete with Western facades to recreate the original town.

Heading West Once Again

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In January I made a western themed quilt to auction off at a fundraiser  for our rural museum that the community here has been working on for many years.   See my last post, “Playing with Potholders” to view that quilt.  The quilt was so popular that there was quite the bidding war, so the powers that be asked if I could make another one to auction off at their next fundraiser on March 11th.  This time the fundraiser will be dinner and a dance and they are calling the event “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”.  The request was to include a covered wagon in the design, so I set out to search for covered wagon fabric.  It was nearly impossible to find.  I was only able to find one piece of antique fabric, and it just wasn’t what I wanted.  So I decided I would try an embroidered design as the centerpiece since I have an embroidery machine and  digitizing software on my computer.  Everything I tried came out too small.  I guess I could have done applique, but I am too lazy to take that on.  So I searched and searched, and I finally found the panel in the photo above at Ebay.  I just love the old west look of the panel and the composition is simply charming.  It came complete with the printed “border” of triangle squares and the wood look border.  I don’t know the manufacturer since the selvedge only has the title “Point of View” on it.

I plan on adding some sort of additional pieced border at the top and bottom and then adding blocks that I will embroider with a covered wagon, a stagecoach, a ranch scene, a town scene that I purchased and perhaps some cattle and/or horses, then some additional borders..  I haven’t decided exactly what will look right yet, but I need to get a move on since March 11 is right around the corner.

This next photo is the fabric choices that I have to use in the rest of the quilt.  You can see the covered wagon embroidery that I experimented with lying on top of the fabric I intended to use as the backdrop for the embroidery.  I thought it had a nice prairie look to it.  I might also design some additional detail to go into the embroidery design like mountains or something.  Anyway, I was really excited to find the wagon wheel fabric right in front on our trip to town yesterday.

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Time to get my creative juices flowing and get this quilt done.

Playing with potholders

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Sadly, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to quilt lately because I have a lot of end of/beginning of the year responsibilities, including duties as the volunteer bookkeeper for my church, personal income tax stuff to gather for our accountant, 24 fruit trees and around 60 rosebushes to prune!  I have no idea why I decided to plant so many rose bushes, but they are certainly lovely when they are in bloom.  Besides, I have really been at one of those seasons that I’m sure most quilters have where you just feel dry and uninspired. So, I have tackled only a few small projects in the last couple of months.

I found the pattern and instructions for these really cute butterfly potholders above in one of my favorite quilt stores.  The pattern is “Flutterby Pot Holders” by Valori Wells.  Since I needed some items to add to my quilt guild’s monthly raffle basket, I decided these would be a nice addition.  Besides, it gave me another opportunity to use up  a few scraps out of the ever overflowing scrap bins.  They were really fun and pretty easy to make.  I most enjoyed the design opportunities of picking just the right fabrics.  And of course, as always I learned something in the process.  This time I learned the reason to clip you curves before you turn something right side out through a very small opening.  I totally forgot to do that on the purple and orange butterfly, and you can see that the tail and the top of the “head” aren’t nearly as nicely defined as on the peacock butterfly.  But it was so difficult to turn these right side out, that I wasn’t about to fix the mistake.  We’ll just call this, not a mistake, but a variation.

The next set of potholders I decided to make were inspired by a saying I spotted in a magazine.  This Sunday, our pastor is away with the youth group up at a Christian snow camp in the High Sierras, so one of our Elders will be in charge of the service.  He has decided he wants to do an old fashioned Bible quiz, and asked me to figure out small prizes to give out.  Why does everyone seem to think that I am the answerer of all questions?   I don’t know, but I put my thinking cap on, and came up with these potholders.

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Again, using scraps out of the overflowing bins, the one on the left is a raw edge applique technique that I’ve used a couple of times to make entire quilts.  It’s a lot of fun to make and pretty easy.  As a matter of fact, I was asked to teach the technique to the kids during our summer learn to quilt classes at our little rural Hall.  At that time, instead of making an entire quilt, we thought it would be fun for the kids to make them into potholders and did it as a quilt as you go project since the applique technique really lends itself to doing that.

The things I learned doing this project is how to use my digitizing software to make the lettering curve around the design on the blue potholder.  I’ve had my digitizing software for around 17 years, and I am really just now learning how to do more than simple lettering.  The other thing I learned is the tool I use for joining the ends of my binding, The Binding Tool by TQM Products, doesn’t work very well on such small projects since you have to leave a 12 inch opening to manipulate your binding and trim it just the right way.  The largest side of the potholder on the right was only 11 1/2 inches, so that idea was out.  I used my old, far inferior way of joining binding, which involved tucking the last end into the first end which is ironed at the correct angle….very bulky, and it shows at the top right.  But it looked okay, so I let it go.  On the blue potholder, I learned how to adjust the tool, and got it to line up really closely.  The binding, once joined, was about a 16th of an inch too long, so I took up the excess by reworking the nearest corner.  I think it came out much better.

The last project I’ve gotten done recently was this quilt that I made specifically to donate for the silent auction to benefit the rural museum that some of the local residents have been working on getting up and running for many years to preserve the history of our area.  So far they have one building up filled with items on display as well as a couple dozen vintage farm apparatus.  When driving by quickly, the outdoor display kind of reminds me of scenes from Star Wars so bizarre looking is some of the equipment.

Anyway, here is the quilt, which I named “Riding Till the Cows Come Home” since the back it a print of cattle milling about, doing what cows do.

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The learning experience on this one was adapting a pattern that I’ve used before, Labyrinth by Calico Carriage Quilt Designs, Debbie Maddy designer.  I absolutely love the interwoven effect. Here is how the original pattern looks:

Safe Harbor

The bidding was hot and heavy and the quilt was the most popular item donated.  Now they’ve asked me to make a quilt for the next fundraiser in March.  I think I’ve created a monster.  But I don’t mind because I really do love quilting.  The biggest challenge is they hoped I would do one with a covered wagon somewhere on it.  I looked on line and the only fabric I could find was an expensive piece of vintage fabric.  I think they are just going to have to take what they get.  I’m sure as soon as I’m done, a lot of fabric lines will come out with covered wagons.  It always happens.

The Cow Whisperer

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Well, we have had quite the adventure over the weekend.  Kind of a long story, but here it is.  We live in a very rural area on what some people might call a “Gentleman’s Ranch”.  In other words, we have 17 acres to give us a buffer between the neighbors, who we love for the most part, but don’t want to live in their pocket and to know every time they have a marital spat.  We also enjoy the country lifestyle, but that comes with its own set of challenges.  For instance, our only choice for things like Internet service or television is to choose a satellite-based company.  A couple of months ago, my wonderful husband was accosted by a TV satellite provider while we were shopping at Costco (another challenge…the nearest Costco being a 60-mile one way trip).  He succumbed to their sales pitch, and shortly thereafter we had changed over from our previous provider, who we were really pretty happy with, but we had older equipment that didn’t have the latest bells and whistles.  Just a week or so before the final NFL playoff games that occurred on, Sunday, we lost the channel that the playoffs were going to be shown on due to negotiation issues with our provider and the channel.  This really upset dear hubby because he is a big football fan.  So we shopped around among our local friends to see who had our old TV provider, and turns out our pastor did.  So we invited ourselves over for football Sunday afternoon and evening.  Since I am not interested at all in football, the pastor’s wife invited me to bring my sewing machine.  She and her daughters have learned to quilt in the last few years, so we were going to quilt while the guys watched football.  Of course we never actually did, because we didn’t want to clear the vast array of yummy snacks off the dining room/quilting table.  Hey, some things DO take priority over quilting occasionally.  Now the pastor and his family live at the back of beyond that makes our rural area look like a big city by comparison.  One has to drive several miles up a couple of dirt “roads”, which were a bit rough, to say the least, since our normally dry area has had nearly 8 inches of rain in January, and they have had over 13 inches being up in the hills, and of course the heaviest rain day this last week happened on Sunday.  Our average annual rainfall is in the 16 inch area, but we have had much less in the last few years because of the much-talked about California drought that has occurred. Since they are so far back, there is absolutely no cell phone service at their house, so we just turn our phones off to save the batteries.

Now another little detail you need to know is we raise a couple of steers every few years to provide our own organically grown, grass fed beef as well as brush control for our pasture since we live in danger of wildfires.  We buy our young steers from a nearby friend named Lester who is a memer of one of the founding families of this area and grew up on and now runs the family’s cattle ranch.  In fact, since he lives less than a mile away, we consider him one of our next door neighbors since that’s the way we measure these things out in the country.  We’ve had these steers for less than a year, and it takes 18 months to two years to bring them up to “harvest” weight ( okay, I grew up as a city girl and can’t bring myself to talk about what really happens.   I call it going to the big freezer in the sky).  We always name our steers Yummy and Delicious.  We are on Yummy and Delicious No. 4 at the present time.  The photo below is one of our previous Yummys and is taken looking to the East towards our neighbor’s fall-painted vineyard.

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We enjoyed our visit with the pastor and his family, even though evidently the wrong teams won, and headed home in the pouring rain around 7 P.M.  When we got back to the valley we live in, I turned my cell phone back on and found I had two voice mails.  Both of them were from a friend and neighbor that lives on the road behind us and down a mile or so.  Directly behind us is an abandoned 20 acre parcel that divides our property from that road and runs all along the south side of our pasture.  The first message was that she was driving East and had seen that what she thought was our pasture fence was down in the corner and our steers were standing just inside.  The second message was that she was headed back home and that the steers were now on the road.  Both messages were left between 4:30 and 5, so by the time we got it, it had been nearly 3 hours.  It was really kind of terrifying because the road to the north of our property is a very busy highway that is separated from our property by a 7 acre empty parcel and we were very concerned that our cattle would get out on that road and someone could get killed if they ran into a 900 pound black cow on a dark, rainy night.  So I immediately called in prayer support, and called over to Lester’s house to see if they would help us look for the cattle.  Lester was already sound asleep, but his wife said she would go out and look around to see if she could find anything near their property, but didn’t sound encouraging, saying that they had probably bedded down somewhere for the night and it would be impossible to see them in the dark.  But she said that we would probably find them nearby in the morning because they don’t tend to wander too far from their home territory.  In the meantime I was in contact with the neighbor that had seen them to get more details, and she and her husband then joined us in the search.  They showed us where the fence was down, which was really the fence for the property behind ours, and my husband had checked our fence and only found an area where the wire was loose, but not really down.  And then we found more hoof prints across the road in the mud and then lost all track of prints or clues to where they might have gone, driving up and down and checking every property that had an open gate and a driveway that wasn’t paved.  Keep in mind that it is still raining and my husband is just recovering from pneumonia.  After about an hour and a half, we had to give up for the night.

After a nearly sleepless night imagining all the awful things that could happen, we were up before dawn, and hit the road again. I called the pastor and woke him up at 6 AM since he’d offered to come help.  (He is still taking my calls after that, by the way, modeling forgiveness.) Lester and his wife were also out in their truck looking, and when I ran into them they said they thought they had spotted the runaways up a dirt road that leads to our immediate neighbor to the west. They were going to the main busy road  to see if they could see better from that angle.  I was in my passenger car and didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, so I called hubby with his 4-wheel drive truck to come drive up the muddy dirt road and check it out, and sure enough, they were in our neighbor’s pasture.  There is a vacant 20 acre parcel between us and that neighbor plus some large trees, so we can’t see his pasture from our property. We didn’t actually know the neighbors over that way, so there was no one we could call on the phone to check with.  Well, we know them now. The relief and thankfulness to God we felt was indescribable.

Lester went to get one of his cattle trailers, but said he had no idea how we were going to herd them into it.  But we had a surprise for Lester.  We have always spoiled our “boys” by offering them stale bread and excess, not quite human consumption worthy produce from our garden.  And we have trained them to come get these goodies by calling, “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.”  Even if they are at the far side of the pasture, they will come running to see who can get there first.  They will even let us scratch their foreheads a little (but they won’t let us give them belly rubs like we used to do to our dogs). Lester absolutely scoffed at the notion, but hubby came prepared with a bucket of stale bread.  He went into the pasture with it, and started offering it to the boys, calling like we always do, trying to coax them into the lane leading to the trailer.  We had four people besides my husband standing by and our truck blocking one end of the lane with the trailer parked and ready at the other end.  Sure enough, and to Lester’s amazement, hubby coaxed the boys out into the lane.  The hardest part was getting them to go past the huge puddle in the middle of the lane, but once he accomplished that, it was a clear shot into the back of the trailer.  He backed right up into the trailer and first Yummy and then Delicious followed him in.  And we slammed the trailer door shut behind them. The rest of us had been following behind carrying a large beam that was laying around so that if they turned around, there was no where to go.  Lester let hubby out the small walk-through door at the front side of the trailer and then the life-long cattleman said, “I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

Here’s a photo I captured with my phone while they were following hubby like the pied piper towards the trailer.  The neighbor’s horse to the right seemed very interested in the proceedings. cow-whisperer-cropped-close

So now my husband is not only my Quilter’s Support Staff, he is also the Cow Whisperer.  After we got them safely delivered back into their home pasture, hubby, the pastor and myself went to check out the section of fencing where it was suspected they had escaped through.  They had indeed pushed the staples holding the lower hog wire part of the fence (the upper portion being barbed wire) out. They had evidently been pushing it for some time, nibbling at a buckwheat bush growing on the other side, and it finally let loose enough for them to just step through.  I guess the bush on the other side of the fence is always greener, to paraphrase the old adage.  The fence is now repaired and strengthened and the bush totally removed to avoid further temptation.  Of course, it started raining lightly and continued until the repairs were complete, and then it broke out in blue skies.  Timing is everything, which was proven by the weather first thing this morning.  If this all had happened starting on Monday instead of Sunday, we would have woken up socked in by the thick fog this morning which would have prevented us from spotting our runaways from a distance like we were able to do yesterday.  If it had to happen, I am grateful to God that it happened when it did instead of a day later, plus, now we know another neighbor.

 

Self-imposed Challenge

I have been MIA from my blog for several months now, not because I have lost interest in quilting or blogging, but because I’ve been too busy quilting and living life.  I had a serious bout of illness in late November where I was laid low for about three weeks, and the illness included some sort of horrible virus that morphed into a bacterial infection, the double whammy of pink eye in both eyes, and a torn retina that needed to be repaired by laser surgery during the peak of my illness including a horrible cough that I had to try to control during the laser surgery so that I didn’t move my eye the wrong way.  I describe the procedure as “spot welding” my retina. It was one of those “Lord, just take me home now” periods of life.   In early November, I also took off for 5 days to my quilt guild’s annual retreat, which was a wonderful time.  I have also had three root canal procedures done in the last six weeks, one of which resulted in a pulled tooth, so now I “get” to go for an implant. In the meantime, I soldier on making quilts.

I have challenged myself to use up as much as my stash as I can in order to make room for some new fabrics.  Some of the fabrics in my stash cupboard are ten years old.  With that in mind, for the retreat, I decided to embark on a complicated bargello style quilt.  I had taken a class in how to make a bargello several years ago and ended up with a lovely, but simple quilt with all the columns being a uniform size.  I have always wanted to make a more complicated one, so I dug through my stash and cut 180 strips of fabric.  I used the book by Ruth Ann Berry, Bargello Quilts In Motion.  She includes in her book easy to use charts on how to make each column.  Here is the quilt that I made.

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I wish I had a little larger sewing room so that I could take complete photos of floor to ceiling quilts like this one is.  I only got about half of the columns assembled during the retreat and then I sewed them into pairs to make it easier to cart home.  This was a mistake.  When I got the next few columns up on the design wall at home, I noticed that I had put a couple of columns together with some sections inserted upside down, so the design didn’t flow like it was supposed to and had to get out my trusty seam ripper.  So if you embark on a project like this, be sure to have all your columns complete and up on the design wall before you start attaching them to one another.  Because this quilt has columns ranging from 1 inch cut size to 2 3/4 inch cut size, another thing that I learned is that it is essential that you iron meticulously before you try to quilt on a longarm machine.  The quilt just kind of folded up on itself like an accordian when I pinned the bottom to the longarm leader and I had to remove it, iron and start all over.  I also liberally used Best Press to get everything to lay down properly.  I prefer Best Press to starch because it doesn’t make the quilt stiff and I don’t like to wash my quilts unless absolutely necessary. My friend who longarms professionally belatedly suggested that you can stay stitch the top and bottom of the quilt if you don’t have a border.  This is the only quilt I have ever made without a border.

The last lesson is when you are ironing your seams, start in the middle and iron the left side to the left and the right side to the right so that when you smooth the top while rolling it on the frame, you don’t have flipped seams all over the place.  One of the great tips that Ruth Ann includes in her book is to pencil in the column number on the top piece of the column to help keep everything in order.  This worked better than pinning a number on, which tends to fall off at the most inopportune times.

Well, it’s done now and I am thrilled with the result.  It was just what I wanted and I only bought a yard each of two different fabrics to get the color gradient that I was looking for.  I even used a  couple of large yardage pieces out of my stash to make the back!  Someone at the quilt retreat thought the beginnings of the quilt looked like the Richter scale that measures earthquakes (you can tell we are in California) so I named it 7.2.

During the last few months, there has also been a flurry of grandbabies born and to be born in my circle of friends, so I have been working on baby quilts.  Both of these two were made entirely from my stash once again.  I utilized a couple of adorable panels that I had purchased some time ago because I just can’t resist a cute piece of fabric.

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I called this one Fairy Sweet.

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This one is called How Much is That Doggie In The Window.  Here is a close up.021

The grandparents are crazy about dogs just as I am.

Ten days or so before Christmas, I received a frantic phone call from a friend who wanted to know if I had a quilt I was willing to sell her for a gift for her mother-in-law.  I told her I didn’t, but that I could make her a really simple one in time for Christmas and emailed her photos of a couple of others I had made in the lasanga or noodle method, which goes really fast.  She loved them, picked out her colors, and in about 5 days, I had this one completed, also using nothing but stash fabrics.  Fortunately, she wanted florals which I always have tons of because I love flowers. 009

This one is named Rows Garden. The only reason I was able to get it bound in that time frame is I used the binding technique that my sister-in-law, stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com turned me onto.  It’s totally done by machine, and you end up with a little flange of accent color on the front of the quilt.  If you look closely at the close-up of Doggie In The Window, you can see the beige accent separating the wood grain binding from the edge of the quilt.   This quilt has a yellow accent separating the border from the same color binding. Here is a link where you can find a tutorial on how it is done. http://www.freequiltpatterns.info/free-tutorial—susies-magic-binding.htm  .  I have started using this method for all my quilts because arthritis in my fingers makes it difficult to do handwork.  Besides the accent just brightens up the whole quilt and makes it a much quicker process.

Last, but not least, I made this little quilt to donate to my quilt guild who provides comfort quilts to social services in our county which gives the quilts to children who have been traumatized in some way.  Once again, this is all fabric strictly from my stash.

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And a close-up photo of the feature fabric and you can see the gold accent separating the brown binding and border.  Just love the look.

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Thank you for taking your time to read my blog ramblings.  I hope you find something in my blog useful or entertaining and I wish you all a wonderfully blessed and prosperous New Year!

 

 

The Old Domino Game

You know how it is, you start out to do one thing, then you find you have to do three other things before you can do what you intended to do.  I had planned on getting some quilting done this afternoon, but I thought I should dig out the pattern that I promised to my friend before I totally forgot about it.   I’m sure I’m the only one that has a stack of miscellaneous paperwork in my sewing room that needs to be organized into my binders, shredded, or just tossed because they are no longer relevant.  I thought for sure that this was where the said pattern was “filed”, so I started going through it and then I thought that I should just go ahead and organize so that I don’t have to go through it again next time.  So I spent the last two hours going through, punching holes into what I wanted to keep and placing that stuff into binders.  Here is my stack after it had been sorted into categories.

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And this is the end result.

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I ended up having to add one more binder to my organizing system and I relabeled my pattern binders with the specific categories filed inside instead of just having them labeled “Patterns”.  Hopefully, that will make specific patterns easier to find.  The only problem is the pattern I wanted wasn’t in my stack!  I finally found it already filed in its own small folder placed with my quilting books.  But I am really glad to have this project done.  Some of the things in the stack were receipts from 2014.