Sunday, July 31, 2011

Who let the dogs down….who….who….who????

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I have always been told that you MUST drop the feed dogs when you are doing Free Motion Quilting.

BUT, the other day I quilted an ENTIRE piece before I realized that I had forgotten to drop the dogs.  AND, I had already noticed that my tension and stitches looked better than normal.

Then, while reading my blog-roll I came across a post by Leah Day about just this subject…..read it here.

She mirrors my thinking …..maybe you dont HAVE to drop them to achieve good FMQ……

What do you think?????

Friday, July 29, 2011

A great purchase

A good while ago, I was reading a blog post by Mary Ann M. (check out her blog here) and she was displaying some wonderful felted and embroidered pieces.  One of these caught my eye and I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase it from her.

I used my easy  framing technique  and it now hangs proudly in my studio.

 

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Mary Ann also teaches classes for this process and I hope to be able to take one in the future!!!!

I am VERY proud to own an original MAM!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

What’s In Your Box

When Michael and I returned from China, we wanted to try to improve our diet by eating more fresh vegetables and fruits.  The problem that we had was two fold….firstly, it is not very easy to get good fresh vegetables here and secondly, we didn’t grow up eating lots of fresh vegetables and simply didn’t know how to cook them.

Enter Michael’s colleague Daniel!!!   He is part of a local produce co-op where you get a box of miscellaneous fresh “stuff” each Tuesday.  And, as fate would have it, he was going to be gone on the day that it was to be picked up, so he offered it to us. 

We were SO excited to see all of the goodies for the week…..

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Doesn’t this look wonderful.  We had a Cantaloupe, blueberries, potatoes, garlic, lettuce, Baby Bok Choy, sweet pepper, mixed green beans, heirloom tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes and cherry tomatoes!!!!

Now what should we cook!!!

For our first meal we decided to use the potatoes and green beans in a stir fry, starting first with a bit of chopped red pepper in the vegetable oil.  We decided to julienne the potatoes and then add the beans…..

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It had a light, slightly spicy flavor and was the perfect accompanying to a grilled chicken breast.

I also made a Blueberry Crumble (with double the amount of crumble)…..

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Now for the second day we wanted to use a couple of pork chops that we had, along with the  Baby Bok Choy.   We started out by stir-frying the pork chop slivers.  Next we  added the chopped Bok Choy….starting with the thicker portions and then added the shredded leaves._7145498

The final touch was to add a splash of Teriyaki sauce.  It was excellent….

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The salad was made using the fresh lettuce and the heirloom tomatoes.  Don’t these two look great….

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A splash of olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar finished the side dish….._7145503

We enjoyed these vegetables so much that we have now bought into the co-op and will start receiving our new box each Tuesday……CANT WAIT!!!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Look what I found….

A couple of months ago  I was shopping at Sams Club and, from a distance, spied this book cover…..

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And look at some of the fun designs inside…..

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I DEFINITELY feel an applique or quilting project coming on…..

 

NOW…..fast forward to yesterday…….

The first project that I wanted to work on was to quilt this top…..

_3314970 Click here if you want to read the post about the making of this quilt….

As I sat and looked at this quilt and tried desperately to figure out how to quilt it, my eyes wandered to the book shelf and the Mandala coloring book, and fireworks went off!!!

I am quilting every other block using the Mandala’s from the book!   I LOVE it when I actually use something that was a spur-of-the-moment purchase.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Back Yard Inspiration…..

A few weeks ago we had dinner at some friend’s house and they had a wonderful Clematis bush in their back yard.   The flowers had already bloomed and in it’s place were these exciting structures…..

IMG_0172 IMG_0173 My Hubby, the Botanist, tells me that these are actually the fruit of the flower.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Where did you find the value guide?

My friend Francyne asked about the “shade guide” that I showed in the previous post and I realized that I had intended to give you the link…..

I would encourage you to check out the website  www.toadhollowstudio.com which is run by Carol Rosinski who describes herself as a teaching artist. Her website is full of drawing tips and techniques and  I have intentions to spend quite a bit of time on this site when I get a few minutes .

The value/shade guide is found at ….

  http://www.toadhollowstudio.com/value_scale.html

 

Go by and check out all of her information….

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lines should be straight

This is a post that I wrote before we left for our China trip, but I didn’t want to interrupt the travel journal to post it……so here goes……

In June our quilt guild presented their “Zoo Challenges”, so, I can now show you what I made before I left.

The Challenge was in two parts…..first was to focus on the word “Zoo”.   Secondly, we were to incorporate something that our last show judge said about one of your quilts. 

Now, this judge had one BIG bugaboo that went something like this…."long lines should be straight and corners square".   I REALLY got tired of hearing her say this during our judging days.

So here is my interpretation of the challenge….entitled “Lines should be Straight”….

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As with many of my quilts, it started with a web search for photos of a zebra.  When I found this one, I knew that it would fit my plans perfectly….ANIMAL_Zebra_SMPC_08.tif

I printed it out on paper, and then traced it onto an overhead transparency.  In all honesty, since the photo was so simple, I probably could have just enlarged the photo and cut out this step…..

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I used by photocopier to enlarge the drawing to the size that I wanted. 

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Now it was time to pick the fabrics….black and white, right!!!   Not so easy!!!  As I was tracing the outline, I began to realize that there were several different shades of black, grey and white in the piece.

 

I had found a “shade analyzer” on this great blog and used it to determine how many different shades of black and grey I would need.  (In the final analysis, I cut out a couple of these shades)

Here is the photo with the shading strip at the bottom…..

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Here are my selected fabrics, with the shade guide on top._5142492

 

The zebra face was worked on white fabric, with the black pieces being drawn onto Steam-A-Seam, fused to the black fabric and and then cut out and fused to the white.   Much of this part was fused in one large piece.

For the body, I chose to use another black fabric as the base and to fuse the lighter grey shapes on top.

I decided to carefully topstitch the shapes in place using a matching thread.

Final step was to pick a border.  While staring a the boxes and boxes of fabrics, this one caught my attention…..

_5172512  ….and of course it is PERFECT for the theme of the piece.  

I love my Zebra and my husband has already claimed it for his office so that makes it just perfect!!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Upgrades are GOOD things….

On Monday morning, we headed to the airport to catch our flight from Beijing to Seattle.  While we waited at the gate, we got to wondering about our seats for the Seattle to Atlanta flight, so Michael fired up his computer to have a look.

We were surprised when we got onto our itinerary because it showed us sitting in seats 4E & 4F on the overseas flight, but we were holding boarding passes for 20A and 20B!!!   The  mystery was solved when we checked in and started to board the plane.  A woman came running after us and told us that we were being given a complimentary upgrade to Business Elite…..if we wanted it!!!!   And, boy did we want it…..

When we were first flying, I looked out the window and couldn’t figure out what this was and finally decided that the small patches were small villages.  They were so evenly spaced…. IMG_0543

The flight was wonderful and we greatly enjoyed…

….real Diet Coke served in a glass……

IMG_0530  ….complimentary wine…..IMG_0535

….dishes of honeyed nuts….

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Appetizers of grilled shrimp served with mustard sauce and couscous……IMG_0536

…..loved these cute salt and pepper shakers…..IMG_0538
For dinner, I chose steak with oven fries and asparagus….  IMG_0541

while Michael had chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and spinach…..

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but when the dessert cart arrived, we knew that we were onto a good thing….

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We did find a few things that we might want to complain about….

First of all, the seat in front was SO far away that it was hard to reach your complimentary water bottles or your food and drink menu!!!!IMG_0532

Secondly, there were just TOO many buttons to control the seat positions…..it was confusing!!!!!IMG_0540   The ice cream was so hard in the chocolate sundae that we had to wait for a full 10 minutes before we could eat it!!!! IMG_0548 

There was almost too much of the deliciously sweet port wine.  Don’t they know that it is better to leave the table a little bit hungry!!!!IMG_0551The complimentary shoes were too soft….IMG_0555And finally, there was no silver teapot for my cuppa….the attendant actually did apologize for this!!!! IMG_0552

Even with all of the “problems” the flight was memorable…..

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  ….at least for Michael….I remember very little!!!!

It was fun to see Mount Rainier in the distance as we landed…….

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It was also fun to see Michael spend a few special moments with his I-Phone that had been out of service for the past 5 weeks!!!!IMG_0573

The good things continued when we arrived in Seattle and found out that we could hang out in the “Sky Club” which served complimentary drinks and food and had internet access!!!!

The final flight was comfortable and fast.  We traveled thru some amazing thunderstorms and the cloud formations were beautiful….

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We landed in Atlanta and were met by Brian and Amber.  The drive home was uneventful and we were soon happily ensconced on our comfortable couch and recliner!!!

The best part of the day was waking up that night and wondering where I was and then the bliss of realizing that I am at home in my OWN bed!!!!

“Welcome to Chinese”

On Sunday, our final day in China, we set out early to visit the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

There were reminders everywhere that this was a special weekend for China…._7035234 

Our first stop was Tiananmen Square and it was that…..a big open area with TONS of people…..  _7035248 There was a huge video screen that was showing Nationalistic images….._7035247  Our first stop was to get a bottle of water and were thrilled when it was almost frozen solid….._7035242

The only area of the square that was not crowded was this monument, but unfortunately I never found out what it was a monument to……_7035251 The color red is very important to the Chinese people, as evidenced by this photo….red flags AND red hats…..

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It was even crowded to get OUT of the square….._7035257We crossed the street and, accompanied by many other people, and watched by all of the video cameras on the light poles, we walked to the Forbidden City. _7035260

The entrance to the city is dwarfed by the huge photo of Mao Zedong, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party.  _7035265

Now, let me stop here and say that were not that impressed with the Forbidden City, but that may be partly because it was so crowded…. _7035286 and partly because of what it stands for.

The city was made up of several gates and halls……

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Each area had a special name, including……

- Gate of Supreme Harmony

- Hall of Preserved Harmony

- Gate of Heavenly Purity

- Hall of Union and Peace

- Hill of Accumulated Elegance

There were a few photo opportunities that we liked…..

_7035290 _7035294   _7035315_7035310There were lots of school groups visiting and one young boy (maybe 10 years old) said hello to me and told me “Welcome to Chinese”!!   It was my favorite part of the day!!!

I laughed at this police officer stationed under the umbrella.  He had LOTS of company as everybody tried to find a bit of shade….

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Speaking of shade, the weather was gorgeous and the smog miraculously disappeared for the day!!

We continued to walk thru the gates and past the halls and found our favorite part of the city….the garden at the back….. _7035326

As we exited the city, there were a huge number of vendors selling slices of melon (similar to a cantaloupe) on a stick.  They looked really good…..

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We hailed a taxi and headed for the Lama Temple (Yonghegong) which is the largest temple in Beijing.

I laughed as we stood in line to get our tickets.  The ticket window next to us was closed and the sign indicated that they were at “Rest”….._7035353

As we walked in the gate, this huge bell was just to our right.  People were paying to be able to go into the enclosure and ring the bell….._7035366

There were also many prayer wheels around the compound and most were being spun by the passersby._7035371The complex is about 1/2 kilometer in length and is made up of 5 main halls that are separated by courtyards.

Each courtyard has pits for burning incense and areas for prayer.  People would first use a small pit to light the incense.…._7035392 

They then  waited patiently in line to step up and present their incense and prayers.    Most people used three sticks of incense at each of the altars……_7035395_7035376The incense pieces were then put into the big pit to burn out….._7035409

These scenes were repeated in front of each of the halls.

I loved the sign that reminded you that you couldn’t take photos inside the halls…._7035370

…although you could take photos from the door…..

_7035384Each hall contained one or more Buddha statues.  The most interesting one was housed in the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses and was 26 meters (about 80 feet) tall.  The coolest thing about this Buddha is that it was carved from a SINGLE piece of White Sandalwood.  It has actually been included in the Guinness Book of Records!!!!

This hall was filled with benches for the monks to sit and pray and chant….

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I always like the colors that are seen in these temples…..

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And it is good to know that monks are living in the modern world too….._7035412          

We left the temple and took another taxi back to the hotel.  After cooling off and relaxing for a bit we asked the concierge to help us get to a music instrument shop.   When the taxi driver stopped, he pointed vaguely in one directly and we started walking that way.

Our first stop was into a fun music store and we ended up buying Brian a Ruan (Chinese guitar) which we then had to carry around for the rest of our shopping trip. 

After we left the instrument shop, we walked down a street that was nothing but art shops and calligraphy shops and book shops!!!  We spent about two hours exploring the artistic side of China!!!

 

For dinner, we had made reservations at the hotel restaurant and had reserved a Peking Duck (well, actually 1/2 of a Peking Duck).   Because it takes about 45 minutes to prepare a duck, you have to order them in advance!!!

This time we were seated by  the dessert and chocolate station!!!   This woman was making the banana dessert that I had enjoyed on Friday…..

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The duck was brought to our table by an  “aproned” and  “hatted” chef and he began to cut the wonderful, crunchy  skin off of the duck and bring it to our table.  The second and third platters contained more of the duck meat as well, but the skin was the best….  _7035423

It was served with small tortilla-like round on which you would put some duck, a couple of onion and/or cucumber slices, some garlic, sugar and/or chili sauce.  Then, roll it up and pop it into your mouth….

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We added a vegetable…..slivered potatoes, chilis and onions!!!!_7035425

At the very end of our dinner, we were served this duck soup.  The soup was fine, but I  really liked the wooden container that it was served in…._7035426

The evening ended with dessert and wine up on the 17th floor and then to our room for our last night in China!!!!

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