Update on No Paper-piecing Mariner’s Compass

compass labeled

In my previous post, “I Have a Tool For That!”, found here: https://oneblockwonderwoman.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/i-have-a-tool-for-that/ I promised that I would update you on how well, or badly, things went.  And the report is that it went well.  The only problems I had in making my Mariner’s Compass prototype block were all due to operator error, the major one being that at the very beginning, I tried to skip from Step 1 to Step 3, so the Step 3 directions simply didn’t make sense.  It always pays to read carefully, but I tend to skim.  I don’t know why I do that, especially when learning a totally new tool.  Once I went back and read all the directions, everything went together fairly smoothly.  I had a bit of a challenge getting everything lined up perfectly when sewing components together, but after ripping and resewing one set of components (The developer of the tool calls them pies and kites, because those are the shapes they end up being) four times, I finally figured out how much of the little extra tips to leave on the top and bottom of the seams joining them together.  If you don’t get this step right, the edges are uneven and everything ends up looking tweaked.  Here is the resulting “base” unit that I made.

Mariner's Compass base

As you can see from the photo, when this base is assembled, it leaves a hole in the center, the idea being you either applique or reverse applique a circle on that spot, then you applique or reverse applique your finished piece onto a square piece of fabric.  The tool and instruction booklet come with handy template guides for both of these steps.

The next step was to figure out what I wanted to put in the center.  I auditioned several different fabrics that would look good fussy cut, but nothing seemed just right.  So I went to the internet and searched photos of Mariner’s Compasses for ideas.  I saw several that had a smaller Mariner’s Compass in the center that I thought was very attractive.  But if I did that, I would end up with the same hole in the middle, only smaller.  Then inspiration struck!  I have a tool for that!  I have an embroidery machine and a computer program to customize embroidery to size or whatever else I desire.  So I went back to the internet and purchased a Mariner’s Compass digitized design from embroiderydesigns.com.  Then I experimented with resizing on the computer and stitched out a test piece.  The colors and size on the first one came out all wrong, so I resized again and tried different thread colors, and the second one came out perfectly.  Here is a photo of the center piece readied for applique.

Center

And this is a photo of the two pieces pinned together.

Nearly complete

I think this is going to be a lot of fun.  My goal this year has been to add more machine embroidery to some of my quilts.  I have the tools, which weren’t inexpensive, and I should try to get maximum use out of them.  In the past, I’ve pretty much only used my embroidery tools to do labels.

I think this first attempt is going to make a lovely pillow.  Or maybe I’ll save it and do some more compasses and make a quilt out of it.  The website to get the Mariner’s Compass ruler and to watch Robin’s tutorial is http://robinruthdesign.com/

Speaking of embroidery, that is the theme of this year’s quilt show next Friday at the Hall, so there will be all types of embroidery on display along with quilts, and embroidered quilts.  At the beginning of the year, our Guild was blessed to have a speaker/instructor, Leora Raikin, come and teach a class on African Folklore Embroidery.  Her website is: http://www.aflembroidery.com/

It was a lot of fun learning her method of hand embroidery, and her kits have hand-dyed embroidery floss made in South Africa by women who make their living by making the floss.  It is beautiful stuff.  So one of the things that is going to be on display at the Hall quilt show is some of the embroidery work done by women who took the class.

Here is the pillow I made from one of Leora’s kits.

Elephant Pillow

That’s all the news from the Central Coast of California for now.  Praying for all the people that are battling wildfires as well as those who are having to deal with Hurricane Irma and are trying to recover from Harvey.

 

 

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Learning to say no….or maybe not.

For the first six months of this year, I didn’t spend more than a handful of hours working on any quilts that I wanted to make for my own selfish reasons.  Instead, I made quilts for fundraisers or for other people.  This, along with my usual life responsibilities, has kept me so busy, I haven’t even had much time to blog, which I really have missed.  So alert the presses…this is my second blog in less than a week’s time.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the major joys in my life is making quilts to minister to other people by sharing the gifts God has blessed me with, but I do tend to get in over my head.  I guess balance is something I need to continue to work on.  To paraphrase, sometimes you just need to stop and pet the fabric.  I have a lot of blogging catch up to do.  Here goes…deep breath.

The quilt at the beginning of this post was for the winner of last year’s custom quilt raffle that I do every year to support my church’s youth group going to snow camp.  We don’t want any child to not be able to go due to lack of finances.  Usually the raffle brings in around $2,000 and the lucky winner gets to pick any style, size, and general colors that they want, (assuming it’s within my skill level).  The winner of this quilt,  which I named Dancing Leaves, is a good friend and a member of my quilt guild, Valley Heritage Quilt Guild, which I affectionately call Quilter’s Anonymous.  Instead of having me start a quilt from scratch, she asked me if I would be willing to do a log cabin quilt for her, so of course, I said, “I can do that.  Log cabins are a breeze.  I’ll whip it out in no time.”  Silly me.  She then handed me a pack of fabric, and a pattern (Fall Foliage Spectacular by Judy Martin).  The pattern stitched out into a square, but did she want a square?  Of course not!  She wanted it to be a wall hanging to go in a specific spot and wanted it to be about 70 by 42 as I recall.  Then I noticed that instead of just being simple half-square triangles, the leaves were made from different length and width trapezoids, which I had never done before.  Of course, there were directions on how to make the trapezoids in the pattern book, but I couldn’t make them come out right after a dozen tries with scrap fabric, so being a puzzle-solver, I developed my own technique, which I’m sure someone else had already thought of, but was new to me.  Once that puzzle was solved, I got the blocks made, adding many of my own fabrics to give a better variety to the overall look.  I got a little carried away, putting in multiple shades of white and light yellow background fabric, realizing belatedly that Debbie had included a large piece of white that she had intended for me to use for all the background pieces.  Oops.

The next issue that I ran into was the two rows of leaves on the sides of the center medallion were supposed to be repeated on the top and the bottom as well, but then I would have to make the quilt way bigger than she had requested in order to make it the rectangular shape she wanted.  So I pulled out a bunch of quilt pattern books that I have, and I saw a border on one of the quilts that was very similar to the chevron shape I ended up using.  I thought to myself, “I have a tool for that!”  I got out my Strip Tube ruler and went to town, taking a lot of time figuring out the puzzle of how to transition around the corners.  It was rewarding to finally come up with the solution to the puzzle.  I would definitely make this pattern again.  It is really an unusual take on the log cabin.

Continuing on the theme of the yearly custom quilt raffle for my church’s youth group, I got a phone call from a lady that lives about 60 miles north of me who had somehow come across a flyer advertising the raffle.  She had started a log cabin quilt for her son’s dorm room just before he entered college, but she was really unhappy with the way it was coming out.  She wondered if I would be willing to fix and finish it for her…and, by the way…increase it from the twin size that she already had the blocks mostly done for to a queen size and she would pay me.  I told her I wouldn’t accept payment for myself, but she could make a donation to our church’s youth group, and I would help her out.  I now think I should have told her I would advise her on how to improve the quilt, but I wouldn’t finish it for her, but….So we met at the town half-way between where we both live, and I came home with her blocks and a lot of fabric and permission to do what I thought best to breathe some life into it and to take my time.  Which is a good thing.  That was in February, and I just finished the quilt this past Sunday afternoon.  The basic problem is she had almost no wow factor in her block and there wasn’t really a dark and a light side.  Looking at it, I decided it needed a little pop of color because it was sort of blah.  Here is a photo of her block on the left, and how I changed it on the right.

I only changed out two fabrics, but got the color that it needed.  I’ve found the hardest part when working on someone else’s quilt, is that not everyone is very accurate with the quarter inch seam, and most of hers were 3/8ths.   So I ended up having to adjust mine to match rather than taking all the blocks totally.  The photo doesn’t do justice to the color, even in a close up.  I entitled it “Sunshine and Shadows”

And the close up.

I found a receipt in the bag of batting she gave me to use which was dated 1998.  I confirmed that that was when she had started it!  No wonder she wasn’t in a hurry.  I will deliver it to her on Monday of next week.  Sure hope she approves.

Somewhere in between completing these two quilts, my friend Delani and I also made this comfort quilt for one of the elders of our church who nearly died because he lives on a remote ranch, and the ambulance couldn’t reach him and they couldn’t get a helicopter in, so he had to walk out to meet them.  Turns out he needed triple bypass and his gallbladder removed on top of a lung condition that he suffers from.  It’s a miracle he’s up and on the mend.  By the time we got the quilt made for him, he was able to come back to church.

He always wears cowboy boots, so we thought the boot border was appropriate. The pattern is Labyrinth by Calico Carriage Quilts.  I entitled this one “It’s a Bootiful Life”.

Back in May, it was time again for the Dutch Oven Cookoff, which raises money for a rural living and history museum just down the road a piece from us which is still in the development stage with one building up.  The movers and shakers want to put facades on the buildings to replicate the original little country town that used to be here in pioneer days.  For the second year, they asked if I would be willing to host a quilting demonstration set up, and of course, I said yes.

With my friends Delani and Grace helping do sewing demos on machines and Kate doing hand quilting, I got the “brilliant” notion to prepare some strip sets to make nine patches, and let people sit at one of the machines, with supervision if needed, and sew a nine patch or two.  For every block they sewed, they got a chance to win the quilt that I would finish after the Dutch Oven was over.  It was a real hit.

You can see the beginnings of the quilt on the design wall.

Grace, who had brought a hand operated Featherweight machine, was running back and forth between our set up and her husband’s blacksmith demonstration, so Delani and I were kept so busy helping folks make their blocks that we barely had time to run to the restroom and get something to eat when the wonderful Dutch Oven cooked food was ready.   That night, I had my husband draw a name to win the quilt.  The winner was our pastor’s mother who is a fine quilter and told me to give the quilt to someone else because she really didn’t need another quilt and would rather someone who really wanted it to have it.  Very generous of her.  So Delani and I picked a young girl about 12 years old who had come back to our booth over and over again because she loved making blocks.  She had wanted to learn to quilt so badly and didn’t have a machine at home that she taught herself to handpiece from watching YouTube videos.  Here is the quilt she was thrilled to win.

As you can see, I used the same “Strip Tube” border on this one, which is named “Everything But the Kitchen Sink.”  The pattern is Confused Nine Patch from the Big Book of Scrappy Quilts. When I took this to show and tell at Quilter’s Anonymous and told the story of the winner, one of our members, who it turned out only lived a couple miles away from the girl’s family, volunteered to give the young girl an older machine that she no longer needed.  Aren’t quilters wonderful people?

Then, of course, the ladies at the Hall, including myself, taught the kids’ summer quilting class again this year.  We want to make sure the younger generation has exposure to quilting and we have both boys and girls attending, ages 9 to 18.  We had a lot of new kids this year, and a fairly large total number with 9 students and 4 teachers.  Fortunately, because we prefer a one-on-one ratio, a couple of the ladies who have joined our group within the last year and are new quilters themselves, stepped in and helped with some of the returning, more advanced students.  The kids make a communal quilt that is then donated to a charity.  This year’s will go to a kid’s cancer camp.  This is my favorite quilt of all the ones that have been done in the 11 years I’ve been participating as a teacher.

The kids learned not only how to sew together fabric and make half square triangles for the ears, but how to sew on buttons for the eyes, noses, and tags for the collars and to hand embroider the mouths.  By the way, I wonder if any of you know the answer to the question I asked all the students during the button sewing portion of the class.  Why do we sew the buttons on before we embroider the mouth?  The answer:  If the mouth was embroidered first, the animals would bite you when you stuck the needle in to sew on the eyes or the nose. One of our advanced students did machine applique around all the balls and birds that were fused onto the background fabric.  She did it under my supervision, which wasn’t much supervision after I showed her how to do the first one.  She did a beautiful job.  I brought the quilt home to do the quilting on my long arm and did the binding as well.  I  am obsessed with the fabric we used for the back.

The cat fabric was donated to our group.  The dog fabric was left over from the back of the dog quilt I made last year, (see my post “It’s Ruff Making a Dog from Scratch”), and the paw print fabric surrounding them was purchased.

The August meeting of Quilter’s Anonymous was the deadline for finishing the yearly quilting challenge.  This year’s challenge was to make a quilted project with as many fabrics as you could, using at least two of the 5 scraps given to you earlier in the year, which were hidden in brown paper bags.  As an ironic aside, one of the “scraps” I got in my bag was a completed hexagon for a one block wonder.  Made me laugh, but I didn’t use it.  There were two prizes, one for people’s choice and the other for the most scraps used.  As serendipity would have it, in July I took a class to make a “Color Dance” wonky log cabin sponsored by the guild.  It was great.  We each brought piles of pieces of fabric and got to go around shopping in everyone else’s piles.  A really fun exchange.  Anyway, I decided this would be the perfect challenge quilt for me since I didn’t have anything else even started, and this one was small enough I thought I could finish it by the August meeting.  I was able to, by the skin of my teeth, hand sewing the label on 20 minutes before I left home for the meeting.  Here is a photo of my efforts.

I call it “Quirky, Quakey Cabin” the quakey because I live in California about 40 miles from the earthquake capital of the world.  Well, I won hands down for most fabric used, 337 unique pieces counting the border and the two piece Suzy’s Magic Binding, but not including the back.  You could say I had the competition sewn up.  Another funny thing about this quilt is I thought, “Oh, good.  I can use up a lot of my scraps.”  But in my zeal to maximize the number of fabrics used, plus wanting to have the perfect fabrics to transition between the color changes, I ended up buying about 40 fat quarters, so now I have more scraps than I started with.  The best laid plans….

The Hall Quilt Show is coming up on the 15th of September, with all quilts that are being displayed being gathered this Wednesday.  Normally, I have at least six or seven quilts in the show, but this year, the only quilt that I had kept that was finished was the wonky log cabin I just talked about.  So, I scrambled around looking for things that I hadn’t put in the show previously, and found one lap quilt that I had planned to give to the guild as a comfort quilt.  Then I remembered that I had gotten some of the components made for a mystery quilt sponsored by Carole at https://frommycarolinahome.wordpress.com/ called Scrap Dance Two Step.  So I decided I could get on the ball and finish it in a couple of weeks and luckily the mystery reveal had happened in July.   Here is the result called “Super Nova”:

Once again, the colors don’t come out well with my camera lately, so here is a better photo with the quilt on my longarm machine, Rosie.  

Carole comes up with the coolest designs and she says she will be starting another mystery quilt in her Scrap Dance Series soon, so if you’ve never been to her blog, I highly recommend it.  She gives one clue a month, so you can work on it a little at a time, or wait till the end like I did and rush.   I was also able to borrow back one of the quilts that had been auctioned off for a fundraiser, so there will be 4 of my quilts in the quilt show.

So now that most of the rush is over and deadlines passed, I’ve started playing with my Mariner’s Compass ruler that I talked about in my last post.  It is going really well, and will post more about it later.  Also, it is almost time to get raffle tickets and flyers ready for sales for the custom quilt raffle.   So many quilts I want to make, so little time in a day.

Do you have a hard time saying no?

I Have A Tool For That!

003

People who know me well are used to hearing this from me on a frequent basis. And as it turns out I usually do have a tool for almost anything I want to do.  My favorite thing to do is to visit the vendors at any quilt shows I go to in order to see what these clever people have come up with to make my quilting easier and more productive.  Another thing that anyone who knows me well will tell you is that I detest paper piecing and will do almost anything to avoid it.  I absolutely love the Mariner’s Compass pattern, and have always longed to make one, but alas, it is paper pieced.  But wait…in the August edition of American Quilter, I saw an ad for a Mariner’s Compass tool that avoids paper piecing.  Of course, I immediately went to the website of the inventor and watched her tutorial to find out if it was for real.  Then I purchased the tool, the companion booklet, and another tool that looks very handy for cutting angles.  Here is a photo of the package I promptly received.

compass labeled

The tool was developed by Robin Ruth Design, found at robinruthdesign.com.  I have been chomping at the bit to try it out, but have been sewing my fingers to the bone trying to get ready for our local quilt show at the Hall where I quilt with a great bunch of ladies on a bi-monthly basis.  We also just finished our summer quilting class for the local young people.  But I will address those things in another post.  There is a lot of blogging that hasn’t been getting done.  I will let you know once I have a chance to try out the tool how it all come out.

Speaking of tools, I also found a handy tool to make it easy to change out the needle on my longarm machine, which has been a dreaded task for the last three years since I got my longarm.  For those of you unfamiliar with longarms, the needles don’t have a flat spot on the shaft like regular machine needles do, and of course it is critical to get it inserted properly, which is very difficult when you really are using the Braille method.  So I avoid changing my needle very often, which has caused problems when it gets dull or slightly bent from deflection caused by the speed of the machine.  Here is a photo of the tool.

needle inserter labeled

As you can see, you just insert the needle into the hole going in the direction that you want it inserted into the machine.  The needle stops at the bottom of the shaft, then you can just push it up into the hole in the machine, and it pushes the shaft all the way up so that it is fully inserted.  Then tightened the set screw on the machine.  There is also a slot in the opposite end of the tool that can be used to make adjustments to the needle so that it is in straight if you aren’t happy with the position once it’s inserted.  What used to take me at least 20 or 30 frustrating minutes took me about 2 minutes yesterday the first time I used it.  Since it is recommended by many expert longarmers that you change out the needle after every one or two projects, this is going to be a tremendous time saver.  I also discovered it works for regular machine needles.  It is manufactured by Creative Notions and I found it at Nancy’s Notions.

Since we are on the subject of tools, I am going to share a few more of my favorite “I have a tool for that” tools.  The first one, or two, are the Tucker Trimmer and Tucker Trimmer II by Deb Tucker at studio180design.net.

trimmer labeled

These tools make squaring up half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles especially a breeze.  Just slap your tool on top of the component you want to square up with the tool’s diagonal line lined up on the diagonal on the component, making sure you have room to trim to size all the way around, trim, turn component 180 degrees and line up the bottom left corner of the size you want to trim to along the corner of the component and trim.  The Tucker Trimmer shown on the half-square triangle is even inch and half inch increments and the Tucker Trimmer II is in quarter and three-quarter inch increments.  These two tools allow me to trim up piles of components without really having to think about it.  They are also great for cutting out squares of fabric from corners of yardage or fat quarters.

These next two are also from Deb Tucker.  This first one is the V-Block Trimmer (also known as a triangle in a square), which is the first of Deb’s tools that I purchased.  Many people feel they need to paper piece these components, but not using Deb’s method.

V block labled

The tool and the instruction book are very easy to use, with all the measurements you will need written right on the tool.  Everything is cut from strips and is slightly oversized so that there is room to trim down with the markings on the tool.  I made this queen sized quilt with dozens of these components in nothing flat using this tool.

The last tool I’m going to talk about is the Corner Beam tool.

corner beam labled

Just like all the other Deb Tucker specialty rulers, the booklet and ruler are easy to use, with everything made from basic strips and squares.  I’ve found these components are great to use in the corners of borders to make a nice transition around the corner.

I want to make it clear that I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in any of these tools or companies.  Just wanted to share some of the things that make life easier for me and hope you find them helpful as well.

Happy Stitching!

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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.