Sunday, June 22, 2008

Useful FOs...

It was a sad day today. Nikki died just before we woke up (Michael estimates at about 5:00 this morning) and apparently it happened peacefully. We did not hear anything. She had seemed exceptionally tired the evening before and we were not at all surprised.

I got my work done this morning and felt lazy, so I took a rest day from working out. I decided to make the other beds for the two littlest dogz, Sadie and Jerry. I made these in sizes that can be used when they are actually in the crates (when we have company), but yanked out and tossed on the floor for the rest of the time. They knew what they were and pounced on them fairly enthusiastically. I guess our wood floors are kinda hard! But I would rather make dog beds than have carpet that I can't get clean, or has recurring spots!

Sadie got a "girly" ladybug print and seems quite happy with it, both in and out of her crate.

And Tuff Boy? He got a nice dignified dark blue plaid flannel....

I'm hoping it will encourage dignified behavior. He's been practicing his Tuff Boy moves in the middle of the night, and the racket can be fairly not conducive to sleep.....which was what prompted me to make his little bed/crate pad, to begin with! Now he can wrestle with his toys and practice his Mad Defense Skilz......without waking us up!

The beds are just foam from the "J" store that I trimmed to size with an electric turkey carver(!) and covered with a sheet of old vinyl table cloth. Then I made a "quilted pillow case" to slip on....thinking they'd be very washable in case of any mishaps). While digging in the sewing stash for material to use, I found two old pieces of material that I thought had pot holders printed on them. I put one together with batting, backing, and a middle sheet of teflon-coated material, bound it, and called it a pot holder, til I saw how big it is. I guess it could be a pot holder, but maybe it will also serve as a hot pad.

I have several more of these preprinted squares, so will finish them as soon as I get more Teflon. Our pot holders are old/disgusting, so when the new ones are done, I can toss a few old relics!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

She wants pictures....

Sheesh.....I happened to mention to a certain someone that I was pretty much caught up with work and looking at two afternoons in a row to spend in my quilting room. She said, "I WANT PICTURES!"

Apparently she thought blog-worthy events would take place.

Well, I do have one FO (Finished Object) to report. The quilt for the wife of one of Michael's fellow couriers at Fed Ex is all done! It was just a simple rail fence, but it gave me some attitude while it was on the frame being quilted. However, after frogging one row of meandering and restitching it, I felt much better about it.

I think I'm really liking the machine stitched bindings more and more. I figured out how to mirror-image my blanket stitch so it was pointing the way I wanted it, and I was pleased with the even stitches of the binding.

I decided to further reacquaint myself with "Emma", my embroidery machine.

I made a label for the quilt, experimenting with various embroidered hats and wording, until I found a combination I liked, that we can use for all the chemo quilts we make in the Red Hot Sew 'n Sews.

I wasn't entirely pleased with this font, however, because it almost looks like Red HAT Sew 'n Sews.....we're the Red Hot Sew 'n Sews.....

I mean, after all, it was 104 degrees today. We're definitely hot!

Tomorrow, after some typing early in the morning, and a work out (before The Heat returns to bake SoCal for another day), I plan to cut out one of these. I love this pattern so much I got enough to make at least three......but with the left overs that Karene and Yvette passed along to me (Thank you!!) I just might be able to make four! Especially since I saw this variation! Scroll down the page to see a better view. Sew Cute!

Have a great weekend!

104 degrees, at 1 pm!


Friday, June 20, 2008

No Wonder I Like Frogs!

The Muppet Personality Test for Muppet-Fanatics
created with
You scored as Kermit the Frog

You're most like Kermit. A born leader, talented, and well-grounded, all you need now is to get your tongue fixed and you could makes millions of people happy.

Kermit the Frog


Gonzo the Great




Fozzy Bear




Miss Piggy


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Catching Up, Part 4

I set out to make my weekly batch of yogurt today.....

And then when I was finished, I was faced with a half gallon of whole milk I did not need. I decided to try a recipe I had found on-line to make my own ricotta cheese.

First, I sterilized my big dutch oven by boiling water in it (with the lid on, actually!) for five minutes.

Then I dumped out the water and heated that half gallon of milk until it reached 180 degrees. At that point, I stirred in 1/8th cup of white vinegar. Wow!

The whey separated and the clumps of cheese formed.

I ladeled the clumps of cheese onto several layers of sterilized cheesecloth I had placed over a sterilized can. The remaining liquid drained away, and I was left with the fresh cheese.

Never one to leave well enough alone, to that, I added garlic and Italian sausage spices, salt, and parsley for color. I tasted it and even before it cooled, I knew I had a winner!

I stored it in a sterilized container that once held ricotta (easy on my elderly brain later when I need to find it!!) That half gallon of milk made almost a half of a 3 pound container full.

So, I figure a whole gallon of milk, next time, would net me about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds of ricotta. I just priced 15 ounces of Precious Whole Milk Ricotta at my grocery store for $3.99. A gallon of the house brand milk is currently $3.59 at the same store. Even if I get just two pounds of ricotta from a gallon of milk, I've saved more than half! Whoo hoo!

And I'm already planning a vegetable lasagne! Yum!


Catching Up, Part 3

Michael's heart is breaking, there's no two ways about it. His pal Monique is pretty sick.

"Nikki" came to us about ten years ago, as the result of me trying to "do the right thing." Laurie was recovering from knee surgery, and we went down to the grocery store to pick up some ice cream or some such treat for her. She was on crutches, or limping.....can't recall which. In front of the store stood a woman who was holding a sign about a puppy needing a home. In the box....a little, tiny puppy.....solid black, and very skinny. She had found it out behind her home. The kicker was that she was moving the next day, and needed to find a home for it before the moving van came. Nearby, some teenaged boys were begging her to let them have it, and giggling amongst themselves. I didn't like the look of that, for some reason....and I impulsively told her, "I have a crate that is not being used at home. I'll take her, keep her overnight, and when the pet store opens tomorrow, I'll try to get her into the adoption program." (Naively, I thought they took any abandoned dog....I've learned a lot since then.)

The lady gave the dog to me and we trundled on back home. Can't recall if we even got the ice cream for Laurie. We called Mr. B. outside to meet the puppy, and I started to go inside and set up the crate....

I turned around in time to see him walk down the sidewalk, and Laurie limped around the corner of the house and in her best "wrap-Daddy-around-my-little-finger voice" she exclaimed....."look at my new puppy, Daddy!"

I hastened to explain to him that I had only brought her home to "keep her safe overnight....teenaged boys....visions of puppy torture....blah, blah, blah." It was a lost cause. It was the first of many such incidents over the years that have taught us, there is not a dog on the planet that this man would not love.

Well, Nikki went on to be a fine dog. She was joined by another, and another, get the picture. I don't entirely share Mr. B's infatuation with the furbabies.....but they have certainly provided us all with some laughs, and have enriched his life tremendously.

Nikki is not a spring chicken. For a big dog (60+ pounds), ten years is getting up there. But not old. And in the heat, we didn't really pay much attention to her panting. The enlarging belly? I honestly thought that perhaps she was sneaking food somehow, because Nikki would rather eat than breathe. Her weight has always been an issue and she had lost weight with Mr. B's frequent walks with her....but she seemed to be regaining.

The panting was excessive one morning and it dawned on me that it was not hot yet that day. I suddenly was looking at her with a different set of eyes....Congestive heart failure sprang to mind. Karen had noticed the belly too, and suddenly my brain was in overdrive....tumor? causing fluid in belly, crowding lungs, crowding heart? Michael decided to take her in to the vet, and frankly was prepared to be told it was serious.

Just not prepared to be told it was lymphoma.

So, Michael's heart is breaking.

This is what I hate about dog ownership. The little things, though sometimes annoying, are just that: Little Things. Dogs bark and ruin good naps, dogs sniff inappropriately, dogs have accidents, dogs are hair factories...... all Little Things. For me, those Little Things are partly offset by the absolute hilarity that ensues when they play and I enjoy sitting in the back yard watching them interact and romp in the evenings. (I never thought we'd have so many, but some day I'll even the score a bit, when we retire.....with some chickens, maybe a goat!, a few barn kitties!!)

Obviously the dogs bring Mr. B. joy and companionship, but oh! the agony for him to watch them fade.....the brightness gone from the eyes, the struggle to manage the stairs, and the loss of appetite. For Nikki, that is so unusual.

She has been a trooper for him. He's been advised by the vets at the hospital we go to, that she stands a decent chance at remission. Apparently they have put 90% of the dogs they've treated there in the last year, into remission. So he has opted to try treatment, especially when they told him that unlike humans, dogs do not have the same reactions to is easier for them. Not easy, but easier.

He's not sure if he's doing the right thing. He goes round and round, wrestling with the decisions. If he doesn't see major improvement in three or four weeks, the decision will make itself. He won't let her suffer, or struggle to breathe. Thus far, she is not sick to her stomach, and she is eating when he tempts her with bits of chicken, and even a bite of hot dog from me (with her pills inside!) last night!

(taken the day after treatment)

So he will wait, and watch.....and he will hope against hope. He sure would like some more time with her.

Catching up, Part 2

We had a great celebration for Father's Day/Second Saturday..... Karen, Laurie, Billy, Patrick, TiJae, Sam, Paul, Jason..... and Mr. B and I. We had a good group and lots of fun! We even had cuteness.....mostly on the part of Bella, as you can see from the previous slideshow....but at one point, Jerry displayed his patriotism (it was Flag Day, after all!) and pranced around with a flag he stole from one of my flower pots. Of course, my lens was too slow to catch him at the height of prancing cuteness, but he was definitely parade-ready for a few moments!

I tried to see just how frugal I could be at feeding the masses! Michael picked up whole chickens on sale and I rotisseried five of them (average cost $2.75, saving $4.00 on each one!). I was going to track the whole meal, cos I enjoy that in an obsessive way...but I lost a receipt and that ended that. Suffice it to say, I fed a LOT of people for way less than taking them out....

Rotisserieing Rotisserying Cooking five chickens made for lots of left overs which certainly didn't break the hearts of Patrick, and Billy, who happily left with sacks! I stashed the backs and carcasses in the freezer and the day after, cooked them down and got about 2 quarts of rich broth and left over chicken meat. The broth was paired with veggies, chicken breasts and spices and became my Mexican chicken soup......the chicken carcass meat was carefully checked for bones and used to spice up the dogs' kibbles for a few days.....Not sure who was happier, the Mexican soup fans, or the dogs!

Anyway, we had a pasta salad, some sauteed greenbeans/red 'n yellow peppers, some mashed potatos and gravy for Mr.B., rice/tofu pilaf for the vegetarians, sourdough rolls that Karen got from the Farmers' Market, and the Strawberry Dessert Mr. B. has fallen in love with.....Recipe here.

I interrupt this post to point out that while I was in the backyard taking pictures from the last post? I recorded for posterity the fact that after one week......

My flower bed still lives.

And my tomato? It is growing! (there are only two so far....but I am ever the optimist!)

Back to the evening's festivities. There was a rousing game of Yahtzee......

Won by Ms. TiJae!! A good night with lots of laughs and memories made.

And one last totally unrelated picture.....This is my hooded oriole, a skittish fellow I can rarely capture on film....back again this year....

With the Missus.....


Catching up, Part 1, Father's Day

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Tuesday

Whole lotta nuthin' going on.....

Happy Tuesday from the yard.....

I'm pushing hard to try to stay caught up this week. I want to sew this weekend! I'm feeling somewhat intimidated at the moment, as two of my fellow Saturday Sampler amigos have completed this month's block (a mere day after receiving it)....

And for some real intimidation, a "quilt porn" fix.......take a gander at the Compulsive Quilter, Ms. Block of the Month Queen, Yvette's blog. Sew pretty!

And as promised....some pix of my gardening efforts. This will be the Great Garden Slope Experiment. Please keep your snickers to a delicate psyche will be forever harmed if you break into loud guffaws over my current definition of "gardening".

We have a slope which is at best, a pain in the butt to walk around on, and for which I have no real landscaping ideas (other than to plant iceplant at the top and let it filter down and cover the entire thing). Mr. B envisions covering the nasty fence with some shrubbery so that said fence is never seen again.....but that's the extent of his ideas. Karen has been wanting to garden and I certainly can't argue with the possible frugal benefits of harvesting my own vegetables for a month or so.

First, we'd have to remove the family junkyard that you see in the distance....The pick-up by garbage truck has been scheduled....

Next, there were some ivy geraniums that would not die.....(already removed in picture above) Those had to be wrestled from the granite-like soil and removed. After that, we planted six (6) vegetables. (stop laughing!)

We have cantalope, pumpkin, two hills of zucchini (because we love them and I hear they could easily take over the backyard and feed the neighborhood), watermelon, and cucumber.

I know you can't see them. Take my word for it. They're there.

For each one, Mr. B dug a nice deep hole, and I combined the granite-like soil with some Amend (a fragrant mixture of earth enriching agents and cow manure), and then I refilled the hole, sprinkled in fairy dust (time released fertilizer a la "miracle grow" type stuff). And then I planted the little cups of starter veggies that we paid a non-frugal price for, at Home Depot. Now, if they grow, we'll obviously net back way more than we spent. If not - oh well, we blew a ten-dollar entertainment (and sore muscles, blisters and sunburned scalps!).

And my gardner informed me today that he could indeed do safe (i.e. would not destroy underground sprinkler) tilling of the area next year so that we can grow MORE. We will prep the soil this fall, and grow from seed next year!

If anything grows this year, that is.....

Oh, and the little border I tried to make pretty under the kitchen window a few weeks ago? (sound of "Taps" playing in the distance.....)

Everything died except....

The two tomatoes and one little flower....

(Keeping it real here - my successes and my murdered plants obvious failures.

So, hey, being the gluttons for punishment that we are, Karen and I decided to "Amend" the soil in that patch.....We dug out two wheelbarrows' worth, and put "Amend" in, replaced most of the original soil, and mixed it up.

And planted more flowers.....

And also, I got carried away and planted flowers in pots around the back yard borders that we've never landscaped. Most said they needed well-drained soil....and clay is not well-drained, so I put the pots in saucers full of gravel. I figure the pots will drain, and the gravel in the saucers will have water in them from the sprinklers, so if the roots want more water, it could be there in the saucer....if they don't want so much water, hopefully they will not grow down that far. If that made sense, congratulations!

If this is not going to work, don't tell me until I've enjoyed these for a few days. Then prepare me gently. (Having the flowers in pots also elevates them, making it harder for the dogz to decide to pee on them or trample them in the middle of chasing each other!)

And here's my illustration of the concept of "great expectations"....

We're thinking positively! Huge new tomatoe cages and Yay! I found cherry tomatos for Mr. B. (click to enlarge)

And lookie what is on my regular tomato plant! (excuse the wet-behind-the-ears Newbie Gardner WannaBee enthusiasm)

A tomato! Now, I have to figure out how to prevent the Hornworm Invasion! Any hints??? Please??

Sunday, June 08, 2008

More of the frugal.....

From Jackie, in SC....

It seems that a certain young lady was ever more distressed by a certain brother (who shall remain nameless) who continually made “nasty messes, Mom” in the bathroom. One of his everyday faux pas was to step out of the shower without drying off first, which led to puddles in the floor and a really (REALLY) stinky rug in front of the tub/shower. So, I had a towel that had some stains I could not remove....I folded it in thirds, effectively hiding said stains, and stitched it on all four sides, and then made “stripes” of stitching up and down the length of it. VOILA!! A mat that can be thrown each week in the wash, and (grin) it didn’t cost me anything!!!
Have a fun day,

(I love it!)

And from me, myself and I....

Nothing earthshattering on the frugal front this week, although I did take the previously frozen carcass of Big Bird #5 and cook it down, obtaining a rich broth. Then I made Mr. B. his favorite cream of turkey soup, using a $1.00 manager special of lean turkey breast fajita strips as the turkey meat in the soup.

No picture of the soup....but that deep, rumbling, satisfied belch from the Peanut Gallery? Yes, that was Mr. B. expressing his appreciation for my frugal soup, which he has thoroughly enjoyed, three times. And two packages of it were frozen for the Great Kitchen Counter Projekt (coming soon to my kitchen, we hope) in which the counters will be replaced and appliances installed. Working appliances. A stove that lights when you turn the knob, without a separate lighter. Good times!

I'm going to try to have enough food on hand in the freezer that we can get through the entire project without having to eat out. My microwave, located on the dining room table, with the food from the freezer, should make that possible....we'll see!

Pictures later, of our experiment in gardening....when I can muster the strength to go take said pictures. I am pooped.

Redefining Projekt from Hades....

May I present, for your reading pleasure, a guest blog post from my sister, Jackie (a.k.a. "Esteemed Sister of the Queen" in our Red Hot Sew 'n Sew chapter)! She lives with hubby Tim in Pickens, South Carolina. They have a beautiful home on several acres of property with trees, pasture, and lots of "critters" that visit the pasture that they enjoy watching. She homeschooled three fantastic kids all the way through high school, gardens, takes car engines apart and puts them back together, cans prolifically, sews beautifully, knits when she can find the time, and works full time with hubby Tim in their own business! My hat has been off to her so long my head is sunburned!

However beautiful and peaceful it is, that pasture has to be kept mowed, or as she says, bush-hogged, (otherwise, apparently, the wildlife population gets out of control) and keeping it cut necessitates a bit more of a solution than a normal mower. Here's Jackie to describe her own personal Projekt from Hades! (I sent her a package with an E. Burns book and some fabric I had left over that she had a great use for! Yay, using stash!)

Hello, hello and thank you, thank you!!

What a wonderful day brightener!! A package in the mail box from LA, with lots of interesting goodies!! I fell asleep last night reading the “Quilt in a Day” book – not because I was bored, but because I was pretty tired!!

You have your Projekt from Hades: your cabinets. We have our Projekt from Hades: the farm tractor. Not a little yard tractor, don’t ya know, but a very large go-out-in-the-pasture-and-spend-the-afternoon-bushhogging tractor. (I have attached a picture for your viewing pleasure, and so that you can breathe a sigh of relief that this is not your projekt.)

Said tractor was not running well, and Dr. Tim began an intensive examination. He found that the patient had blown a hole in the manifold gasket. For you lay people, just think, “this is not good” and nod knowingly. :D

First order of business was to remove the huge hunk of cast iron that is the manifold....The doctor and his assistant found that the previous mechanic –uh, doctor – had broken off one of the studs that held it on. (Please, ladies, a “stud” is another word for a bolt, except it has no head on it. You install a nut on it and tighten it down to hold something still.)

Nevertheless, Dr. Tim persevered, and was able to remove it. Now out of a total of seven bolts, there was one broken off, and three that would not come out. Many days went by, while various extraction techniques were tried: oil, heat, oil and heat, oil and heat and get the picture. (You may nod knowingly again, and make “tsk,tsk” noises in sympathy with our plight.)

When the doctor decided to call in an expert, all agreed it was the right move. The plan was now to remove the “head” from the engine, and take it to said expert (a local machine shop) to have them remove the bolts. The only problem with this plan was that it required WAY more work:

Remove the sheet metal from the tractor
Remove the gas tank
Remove the valve cover and admire the rocker arms/tappets
Remove the carburetor
Remove the radiator and sigh at the placement of the petcock, which made the antifreeze dribble all over the shed floor
Remove the generator/starter
Remove the coil
Remove the rocker arm assembly, push rods, etc
Finally (drum roll, please) remove the head


To make this long and probably boring story shorter, we now took the head to the surgeon, who extracted the studs and handed it back to be reinstalled on the patient. We have now got most of the tractor put back together now, and are looking forward to running it long enough to heat the head, and then torque the bolts down again and finish reassembling the thing.

Yesterday we had worked in 100 degree heat to get the aforementioned radiator on, and were headed back from the shed/barn to the house. Dr. Tim was walking, and I was driving the pickup full of tools and supplies, so I magnanimously offered to detour up the hill to check the mail. HURRAY!! I got my package!! I could barely contain my excitement as I parked the truck and dashed inside to clean my oil and dirt encrusted fingernails, and see what it contained! I really appreciate the fabric, and the pattern, too. And I LOVE the book on the Irish Chain pattern. There is one in there that is exactly what I envision for Tyler and Libby (and I have over a year to find the perfect fabrics!!) I figure I will give it to them on their first anniversary, like I did for Preston and Heather.

Anyway, thank you SO much!!

Love you lots, Jackie

I love you too Jackie!! Thanks for the story!


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Farmer's Market Fun

I met Karen at her office after work, and we drove from there to the Fullerton Farmer's Market. We met up with Paul, and wandered the stalls, sampling fresh produce and purchasing the upcoming week's veggies and fruits.....

We were joined by Carol, TiJae and young Master Cage.....

who was quick to inform me that I was mistaken, and in fact.....

He was Superman! (Well duh! I should have read the shirt!)

A band was setting up to play, and spent the better part of an hour doing sound figures.....when I left, I could hear in the distance as they started playing some decent music! If you look to the right of the band, there is a market stall that sells skateboards.....Paul was checking out the funny figure-eight shaped ones that you can see down by his feet. (Click pic) What caught my eye was the tall surf board to his left, at the corner of the stall - with WHEELS. Like a surf/skate board! I would love to see someone on one of those!

I loved the sights and smells of the market, but one of my favorite parts was the center of the courtyard where they had one of those fountains that shoot water up from random spots, in random the delight of those standing in the midst of it. Tell me these pix, particularly those of the cute little one in the yellow shirt, doesn't make you want to be a kid again, for just a moment.......with not a care in the world beyond "where's that next spurt of water coming from?!!"

I mosied on home and unloaded our treasures.....

And fixed myself the Best Dessert Ever!