Three Corner Cats

It was an early start to the day. I was awake somewhere in the 3:00 a.m. range, and couldn't get back to sleep. It seems I have about one day out of the week like this. There's usually something to blame. For now, I'm blaming our dark days. The sky is only just now becoming light and it's nearly 8:00 a.m. We're fairly high up on the planet, latitude-wise, and since we're still on daylight saving time, our mornings are dark. I pulled this chart off the internet just now showing our sunrise and sunset hours at this time of year.

You can see that we're getting less than 10 1/2 hours of daylight right now, and it will be down to 10 hours in about a week. That means we spend nearly 14 hours in darkness. Then, by day, we're shrouded in thick cloud cover, and so there is never much light. It might be time to break out the light therapy box. It will help when we go back to standard time, but that won't improve the cloud cover. These early starts usually mean a morning nap, and I think Sadie has the right idea.

Like all the cats I've ever known, she loves the quilts. She's looking pretty cozy there. I'll probably join her in a few minutes.

But let's back up to yesterday, shall we? Right after writing to you, I was excited to do the next part on the Sunflower Sampler that I'm stitching along with Lori Kennedy. The second part was to add the petals around the flower center.

Maybe I shouldn't have stitched it so fast because now I have to wait a whole week for the next part. Presumably, we'll start filling in the empty sections around the flower.

After that, I finished off the fourth corner of the 88 nine-patch blocks. (This seems to be my week for corners.)

And then, I was ready to start sewing the quilt top together. Here's the first block.

It didn't take long before I had the top row finished.

Hopefully, I'll finish the second and third rows today. When those are done, the rows will be sewn together with a horizontal strip of  13 nine-patches each...one between each row and another at the top and bottom. After that, it'll just be borders. It's getting close.

So what did I do in those predawn hours this morning? I stitched and stitched and stitched around the third corner of the binding for the cats. I'm a little more than halfway around, but I'd like to point out that 75% of the corners are finished.

And there you have it. (Yawn.) Think I'll join Sadie on the couch now for an epilogue to last night's sleep.


Sew Exciting!

Well it's been one exciting thing after another here at the Three Cats Ranch. First, the binding is machine sewn onto the Cats of a Different Color. Wahoo! (There will be a lot of cheering in this post. I'll wait here while you get some ear protection.)

There was some polka dot fabric left from the Vintage Tin quilt, and that seemed as good a choice as any. I like a fun binding, don't you?

With the machine sewing finished there, I got back to work on the 88 nine-patches and sewed the second corner onto those. 

For now, I've learned the lesson of my aching shoulder, and so I took a break there. But there was still plenty of sewing time left in my NBS day, and so I got a start on the third corner.

And I was getting kind of tired of sewing after a while, so I decided to get a start on dinner. Here's a riddle: How many nine-patches sewn into a chain would it take to reach all the way around the world?

Well, I don't actually know the answer, but I think I'm off to a good start. Probably I could reach across the Pacific Ocean by now.

And I thought I was finished sewing for the day, but then Mike was late getting home. So, I finished the third corner.

There should be plenty of sewing time today, and so it should be easy to finish the fourth corner, and then I'll be ready to start sewing the Gingerbread Square quilt into a flimsy. Yahoo!

Prepare for segue. 


Do you remember when I first started talking about the He Man Woman Hater's Clubhouse? It's the tiny space between the basement and the main floor of the house. Since our house is a daylight basement style, that means the house is sort of wedged into the hillside on one side, and we have a problem with mice getting into that small space. It used to mean that Mike had to set traps in that tiny area, and it meant removing an access panel barely large enough for him to fit his head, and then setting a mouse trap whenever we'd hear the furry critters start scurrying around. Enter the Smit-head.

Smitty figured out fairly early on that it was possible for him to get into that space via the furnace room downstairs.

It used to be the purrsonal purrovince of Himself...until Sadie came to call. I wasn't long before she discovered it too.

Hey Smitty! What do you call this place? The He Man Woman Hater's Clubhouse? That's purrposterous!

So, all of that to say that the kitties have kept the mousies out of the clubhouse, but on occasion, they bring one out to party. Oy. That was possibly the most sew exciting thing so far today.

Smitty sat back and cheared his furriend: Keep and eye on it, Sadie...those things are quicker than lightening. Don't paws fur even a second!

And Smitty thinks it's great having a furriend to chase the critters down. He can spend his time grooming while she does all the work.

I'm right behind you, Sadie...just keep after it!

It was a little shrew, and as I've said before, they are so fast, it doesn't even make sense for Mike or me to try to catch them. Give the kitties some space, and they'll, um, tire it out enough that one of the two-legged inhabitants can usher it out the door.

Smitty, this is the best cat toy ever!!!

Oh, mousie...I just love you.

Yeah, Sadie...I don't think mousie is feeling the love right now.

When it was finally completely worn out, mom stepped in and helped it out the door.

Sadie couldn't quite let go of the idea that it might still be hiding somewhere.

Is it under here?

And while that was going on, I was peacefully turning the first corner hand-sewing the binding on the quilt.

Admit it...you think I'm the cutest thing ever, don't you?

Today is a CSA pick-up day and there is just a little housework to do. Then I'm hoping I'll have plenty of time to start sewing the Gingerbread Square quilt together, although I'm not sure I can take any more excitement for today.


Peeling, Chopping, Roasting, Eating

There's nothing to show you aside from food today. We had a nice family dinner last night, and it was great to get together. The last time we were all together was for the 4th of July. Everyone is so busy now, and it's hard to carve out a time when everyone is free.

The day started with our usual ritual...me stitching, and Sadie watching my floss bobbing up and down with great interest.

All lap cats have to learn that floss is off limits to teeth and claws. It doesn't stop them from watching and yearning.

After that I peeled apples for apple crisp, 

and pears for a salad. The pears are poached in port wine and sprinkled with a little sugar. After they're poached, you use some of the poaching liquid to make a dressing for the salad. The salad is spinach and Belgian endive, layered with the poached pears, blue cheese, and toasted walnuts. It's good for a big dinner because you can make all the components in advance, and then assemble it just before serving. Mae assembled the salads. It was fun having her in the kitchen with me.

Also, I roasted sweet potatoes and red onions. Those are finished with a sprinkling of fresh rosemary and parmesan cheese. Here's the recipe for Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions with Rosemary and Parmesan. This is a good dish for Thanksgiving because it can be made ahead and then reheated at the last minute.

And remember the Romanesco broccoli? It was roasted at 450° and then sprinkled with parmesan. (I don't think it's possible to have too much parmesan cheese, do you?) Here's the recipe I used. Very simple.

It seemed like we should have something potato-like, and so I made this Multigrain Pilaf. It has brown rice, barley, bulgur, golden raisins, leeks, and parsley. At the end, toasted sunflower seeds are added. Here, I scooped off a portion for Mike, who can't eat the seeds.

The original recipe uses dried currants, but my grocery store no longer sells them. Golden raisins were a good substitute, but really, you could substitute any dried fruit. Dried cranberries would be perfect.

The main course was these Roasted Cornish Hens with Cherry-Port Glaze. This is a really terrible picture of the ones I made last night.

The recipe I've linked to there is different from the one I used in that they've left the hens whole. I don't know if that was a change they made, or if I made it somewhere along the way. Mine were butterflied and then cut them in half just before serving them up. Butterflying these little birds is pretty simple, especially if you have a good pair of kitchen sheers. Just use the sheers to cut down each side of the spine from tail to neck. Then you can save the spine to make stock. Also, I cut off the wings at the last joint. Those little bits of wing tip just burn up when they're roasted, and there's almost no meat on them. Those will go into the stock too.

The only other thing I wanted to tell you about last night's dinner is these shishito peppers. We get them in our CSA share, and they are so good. I've also seen them at farmer's markets. They are about the size of a jalapeno pepper, but wrinkly, and they are mild and smoky flavored...not much heat to them at all. I love them.

Our farmers recommended "blistering" them in a hot skillet with a little olive oil. When they're softened, and spotty black, sprinkle them with a little salt and a squeeze of lime juice. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. Eat the whole thing, except for the stem.

We've been getting these through the summer, and I'd collected a bagful. All gone now. It's good to have family up if for no other reason that to help you win the war against the vegetables.

So that was dinner. It was great to see everybody and catch up. Erik starts a new job today, and he was in high spirits. Fingers crossed for him to have a good first day.

Today is an NBS day (Nothing But Sewing). I figure I've earned it after spending the entire day on my feet yesterday. For sure I'll get the binding sewn on the Cats of a Different Color, and I'm hoping to get well along with the nine-patches for Gingerbread square. The end of October is approaching, and there is still much sewing to be done.


Cue Rocky Theme

After all the whining and complaining about my shoulder yesterday, I still managed to finish the final two blocks for the Cats of a Different Color yesterday. There was only a little housework to do to get ready for today's visit from the kids, and so I had almost the whole day to sew. I took advantage of it by sewing in 30-minute stints, and my shoulder settled into it with no problems. I've been sitting on the heating pad this morning, just to be sure, but I think I've tamed the angry shoulder problem.

So, do you wanna see the quilt? First, I quilted the left corner...

And then the right corner...

And then it was finished. Here's the final row.

And here's the whole quilt!

This is how it looks from the back.

Sadie wanted you to see how well her furs blend in with the colors. She thinks this quilt could go a long way toward ameliorating the problem of store-bought blankets in the trailer. (Ew.)

It was a lovely day here yesterday, and so I used my break times to get outside and walk. It was helpful just to stand up straight and tall, and my shoulder and neck were thanking me for it. The pink echinacea is fully opened now. You can see that there is another bud coming on the right there.

In spite of the howling winds and driving rain we've had, the Cheyenne Spirit is still blooming away. You can see that it has a bud that is going to open within the next few days.

And I wanted to show you how beautiful our red-leaf maple trees are looking right now. Their leaves are red all the time, but they turn a bright iridescent red in the fall.

And I was so excited to get started on the Sunflower Sampler free motion quilting project that Lori Kennedy is doing right now, so I got to work on that too.

As I've mentioned before, I'm trying to branch out a little with the threads I'm using for quilting. This time I'm using a polyester variegated thread on top, and a Bottom Line thread in the bobbin. Before stitching the flower, I worked with getting the tension correct. Since I'd been using a 100 weight silk on top and a monofilament in the bobbin, it was a trick getting it right. Here's where I started. This is the back, and the top thread is too loose.

Also, I was getting birds nests...

Here's another one...I was starting to wonder if I could pull this off.

Then, I took a look at my top thread and realized I had the machine threaded wrong. Duh. I rethreaded it the right way, and there was a major improvement. Go figure!!! So this is the quilt top now. And there was something not right. Top thread too loose???

Top thread too tight...a little bit, I think.

And ahhhhhh...it took a bit, but I got it dialed in. 

I can't say enough good things about my TOWA bobbin tension gauge. It has made all the difference. If, like me, you're wondering how it can help, it's this: If I set the bobbin tension so that it is consistently in the "200" range (don't ask me what the numbers mean), then I know I'm only needing to work with the top thread tension. The bobbin remains consistent from quilt to quilt and thread to thread. When I switch to a new thread in the bobbin (or rewind it, or whatever change I make), I check the tension in the bobbin, and adjust it if necessary. Then, if the tension is still off, I know it's my top thread causing the problem. I hope I'm explaining that well enough.

So anyway...happy with my tension, I stitched the center of the flower (this week's assignment). Because the flower is an oval, I realized about halfway that I was going to run out of room on the sides before I filled in the top and bottom, and so I started squishing the rows together more on the sides and spreading them out on the top and bottom. In the end, it all worked out.

Next week, we'll start adding the flower petals. 

So it's an all-day cooking extravaganza today, although I'm hoping I'll have enough time to machine sew the binding on the Cats. For now, it's spread out on the table downstairs. Smitty likes it.

Kind of looks like he's claimed it, doesn't it?