Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Project of the Week

Need I say more?

If you happen to be in Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend,
stop by the Crestwood neighborhood for some good bargains!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A line through a list

A college friend once gave me a needlepoint kit with a canvas that read PROGRESS: a line through a list. This is certainly true for the way I operate even though the list isn't actually written down all the time. The perpetual list is stored in the back of my head.

In sorting through my sewing room in preparation for the yard sale, I ran across unfinished pillows for some outdoor chairs. The tops were made over a year ago using the Jan Mullen wacky half-square triangle technique. They're supposed to coordinate with my porch swing cushions which have long since faded with the sun.

Completion of these pillows marks them off my mental list and frees up just a little more space in my studio. It feels good and they look good, too!

Closets are easily neglected when stuff is piled in front of closed doors. But this one was overdue for an inspection.

I'm so pleased with the way it's organized now. Would you believe there are four sewing machines in there? If you look hard you can spot three of them at/near the bottom. Stuff will still get piled in front of the door but will be much easier to move since there will be less of it.

Somebody came out to the porch with me this morning to take pictures of the new chair cushions. Hair is starting to come back in over her left eye and she no longer needs the collar.

A quick glance my way...

and then back to looking for squirrels.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back in Session

We started the new guild year on Monday. It was good to see everyone after being off for August. One of the highlights of each meeting is Show and Tell. It's one of the reasons we endure enjoy the business portion of the meeting.

One of my favorite things was this pair of bags made from recycled grocery bags and packaging plastic. Gerda found the directions in a book copy of Green Craft magazine and was brave enough to try it. Apparently you take a piece of parchment paper, put three layers of plastic on top (after trimming to lay flat,) and then another layer of parchment paper.
Using the wool setting on the iron, press until the layers fuse together. They will shrink some. She said different types of plastic shrink at different rates. Then cut and sew as you would fabric.
This is a dramatic one-block-wonder quilt by friend Elayne.
And this is a great little piece by Nancy. She's in another art quilt group and they experimented with glue resist dyeing.
Our guest speaker was Sally Schneider. She had some wonderful scrap quilts. I really like this one made with Civil War repros.
And this one is called "Skyrocket." I believe I might have to make this one with my 30's stash. She borrows from the Burgoyne Surrounded pattern (one of my favorites) for the sashing. Great idea.
Yesterday I went to my art quilt group meeting. Sally showed these fun and fanciful monster blocks that she is doing. I believe they are part of a BOM series.

I'm still working on pulling out yard sale stuff. Maybe I'll have a chance to get back to the sewing this weekend.

I switched to the new version of blogger editor and it messed up all my spacing, so I went back to the old editor. Anyone have any suggestions? I surely was looking forward to placing pictures in where I wanted them rather than at the top of the post.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


My little patient is doing well. Had a bit of a scare Thursday night. I'll spare you the details, but a follow-up visit to the vet Friday morning reassured me that everything was o.k. and healing continues.

I know she looks awkward in her little blue collar, but she is quite used to it. And she's so cute when she waddles down the hallway and it rocks from side to side.

Great progress is being made on the APQ stars. Backgrounds have now been added to three blocks. Am having to set them aside for a bit while I get ready for a yard sale in a few weeks.

I've already unpacked the sewing room closet hoping to unload some things. But it is hard to part with treasures that I thought I was saving for just the right project. I think those projects will never happen though. I really just want to do the quilting. No more painting or making stuffed toys or counted cross-stitch. Well, maybe a little thread count, but it's low on the priority list.

A handful of spider lilies have cropped up in the backyard. I love these flowers with their delicate petals and parts. In fact, I see them dotting yards all over my part of town. You never know where they will pop up and I like that about them. Random acts of beauty.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

September Bee Block and the Patient

Our bee scrap challenge is due to finish in November when we retrieve our own bag of blocks. This is, or rather these are, Ruth Ann's bee block(s). They are paper-pieced birdhouses that she requested in brights.

Hula babies! Aren't they cute.

The pattern shows placement for holes for these birdhouses. I intend to stick a bag of big buttons in with my blocks so she can sew them on when she's ready.

Normally these would be sewn together to create a 12 inch finished block, but Ruth Ann wants to keep them separate until they come back to her so she can mix them all up to suit her final design. However she lays them out, it will be a fun quilt. I think she plans to include her cat in the middle!

The dog baby had to go to the vet today for a little surgery. Her doctor is the sweetest man, just who you would want for a vet. Kind, down-to-earth, practical, and knowledgeable. She had a couple of cysts show up last year, one on each eyelid. This summer one returned on her left eyelid. Unfortunately it did not remain intact over the weekend and today she had it removed.

When I picked her up she was so glad to see me and to get out of "that place." Upon arriving home and after visiting with our 7-year-old neighbor who came to check on her, we went in for a series of small dinner servings and sips of water. Can't give her either too quickly after such an ordeal.

A pain pill and her favorite little pillow seemed to be what the patient required for the rest of the evening. Bless her heart.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

This past Friday my friend Lydia came up from Jackson, Mississippi, to visit. We've know each other since college and for about seven years awhile ago, we lived in apartments that were one above the other. I've been away from Jackson for almost eleven years now and I still miss hanging out with Lydia.

It doesn't take much to entertain us when we get together. We ate Mexican the evening she got here and went to Wal-Mart and wandered around per usual.

On Saturday we did lunch and went to see Julie & Julia.

I won't give a big review here although I definitely enjoyed the parts about Julia and Paul Child the best. I suppose it took a premise like the Julie/Julia Project to bring Julia's story to the big screen. Who would make a movie about her without a hook like Julie Powell's blog. But they should've/could've made a movie just about Julia Child. Definitely an interesting and worthy subject. And with Meryl Streep in the lead-well, no disrespect to Julie Powell, but I would have loved to have seen more of the woman who taught America to cook and in turn launched the careers of scores of celebrity chefs.

After the movie, Lydia and I hit a few more stops before heading home. The grocery had steaks on sale and we grilled out and had great baked potatoes with lots of butter and haricots verts with lemon and sliced almonds.

I have been wanting to make a clafouti ever since Posie Gets Cozy shared pictures of hers made with yummy blackberries. I found a recipe in the classic The Joy of Cooking and added a little cream per Martha Stewart's version. The classic is made with cherries, but we found some organic raspberries and I thought the tartness would contrast nicely with the firm custardy base.

I don't own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so I don't know if there is a clafouti recipe inside or not. But nonetheless, I made a French dessert in honor of an American treasure and to celebrate friendships that stand the test of time.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hummingbird update

This morning I am happy to say that my visitor from the day before had regained his strength and flown away from his overnight guest quarters on the deck.

If ever you have one of these lovely creatures in your home, I would recommend you make the room secure and dark and place a perch of some sort up high for it to find. It could be a fake or real plant as long as it is manageable to move once the bird slips into slumber. Also, don't upset it. Try to leave it alone while it is still active.

I was not able to close the doors to my kitchen as I have none, so I just had to count on the height of my ceiling to keep him contained. The hutch is taller than the top of the doors.

And I think I'm going to change the tablecloth in the kitchen before I keep the back door open again. Maybe a nice green for now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How do you remove a hummingbird from your house?

As I was getting ready to head off to work today, Maisy ran into the bathroom all animated indicating there was something exciting I should come investigate. (Picture Lassie and Timmy without the well.)

The back door was open and she had been barking at squirrels on the deck, but she wasn't barking anymore, just wagging her tail and motioning for me to follow. Back in the kitchen I heard a squeaky chirping sound which I thought at first might be a mouse, but then realized it was coming from overhead.

Looking up I spotted a hummingbird frantically bouncing its head on the ceiling repeatedly making this distressing noise. Oh, dear. What do I do? With eleven foot ceilings, I could barely touch the the ceiling with a broom raised over my head. And as soon as I would get close with the broom to direct it toward the door, it would back up like a little helicopter!

It was chirping wildly and I was afraid I would cause the poor thing to have a heart attack and die right there over my head. It did however manage to find the cords to the light fixtures and hang on to rest now and then.

It couldn't seem to figure out that it should go down first to go through the door. Maisy and I retired to the other room thinking that a little quiet and an open door might be enough for it to find it's way out. But it didn't, so I had to head on to work leaving Maisy in charge just hoping the bird would stay in the kitchen while I was gone.

I returned home at 7:45 p.m. and cautiously made my way to the kitchen. I was a bit afraid of what I might find. I knew Maisy wouldn't harm the poor thing. After all, it wasn't a squirrel. I looked all around the room and in the corners of the counters. Nothing.

I got the ladder out and moved it around the room. And I was startled to spot the little bird atop the hutch less than two feet away from my face!

It was perched on the edge of a silk plant high up out of harm's way. And it wasn't moving! I thought the thing probably landed there and died from exhaustion. It was motionless, even when the camera flash went off.

So this is when I turned the lights off in the kitchen and went to the internet to look up pictures of sleeping hummingbirds. And I learned some very fascinating things.
  • Hummingbirds are only found in the Americas.
  • Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism of any animal on earth.
  • An average size hummer will have about 940 feathers.
  • They are continuously hours away from starving to death, and are able to store just enough energy to survive overnight.
  • They typically eat two to three times their own body weight in nectar and insects every day.
  • They can reach speeds of 50 mph when in escape mode.
  • They are the only birds who can fly backwards.
  • When hummingbirds sleep they go into a state known as torpor where they can lower their metabolism by as much at 95%.
  • During this time their body temperature can lower by anywhere from 20-50 degrees.
  • Their heart rate ranges from 1200 beats per minute down to 50 beats per minute depending on activity.
  • Their breathing may actually stop briefly during sleep.
  • As they awaken, they vibrate their wing muscles and shiver, generating heat to warm their blood and allowing them to make it to their first meal.
  • It can take as long as an hour for the bird to come back into an active state, so a torpid hummer cannot respond to emergencies.
It is this last fact that I was counting on as I planned our little feathered friend's exit strategy.

I called on neighbor Peggy to come help as I needed to hand off stuff from the hutch until I could access the silk plant. I only had one shot at this and we had to get it right. The ladder was in position. The opposite French door was open to make for an easy exit once off the ladder. I slowly lifted the fake foliage and the little fella stayed put all the way down and then out the door!

I placed him on the patio table and he stayed asleep. Amazing! I have the camera only about a foot from his pretty green head.

At this point, I am rattling off the fact that these little birds are quite vulnerable in this state and Peggy inquires about neighborhood cats. Hmmm. Gotta move him now.

My hand shakier than before, I lifted the branch again and moved it to the top shelf of a rusting etegere in the corner of the deck. And just as I get it in a secure position, he starts to rustle his wings. But he doesn't fly away, so we leave him.

I went back later to check on his status and did not find him on the branch anymore. So I removed it to put it back in the house. But he was still there, this time resting on the shelf itself. Returning the foliage to the shelf for cover, I took a few last pictures.

After consulting Stokes, Peterson, and the Audubon Society, I've concluded that my visitor is a juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird. You can see the first of his brilliant red feathers starting to appear on his throat.

So the answer to "How do you remove a hummingbird from your house?" is "You wait until he goes to sleep."

I hope going all afternoon without nourishment won't adversely affect him. This probably sent him into torpor earlier than usual as a means of protection. We'll see if he has recovered sufficiently in the morning to be on his merry way. I surely hope so.

I suppose, as Peggy suggested, it was the allure of the red checked cloth on the kitchen table that first attracted the hungry little bird to venture through the open door. Once inside, the dog running back into the house may have sent it to the ceiling where it got stuck. Whatever it was, it was a rare privilege to see one of God's most amazing creatures up close for such an extended period of time.