Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Down in the Valley

This is another one of my winter projects. This tablerunner is made by a method called, "Paper Piecing". What that means is that by sewing fabric onto a piece of paper that has a pattern printed on it, you can use very small pieces of fabric and make some very tiny and intricate designs. I love designs with houses and trees so when I saw this pattern that combined so many of the things I love, I knew it would be a project I'd enjoy making.This pattern is called "Down in the Valley", and each side of the tablerunner represents a different little group of buildings to make up a village. First there's a home and barn surrounded by trees --does that sound familiar?

Next is the little white church . . . again surrounded by trees.Then all the different colored storesfronts and buildings that make up a little village.

Next, the little red school with a flagpole and white picket fence. All of the houses are separated by a field of freshly plowed soil . . . after all, this is a little farming community.

Put it all together with some wonky stars in the corners, a few more trees, and you have a cute little village set "Down in the Valley". I really do love paper piecing. I can use up some tiny pieces of fabric and make a unique, one of a kind tablerunner.
I like the challenge of learning new techniques and combining colors to make something that really appeals to me. It may take a while to complete because I'm not really in a hurry to finish any one project. I try to enjoy the whole process, it's not so much about hurrying to complete something as it is to enjoy each phase of the project--deciding on the pattern, selecting the fabric, piecing and then finishing the item. Then whenever one of my quilting projects is complete, I can look back on the whole thing as a enjoyable experience. That's part of my "Enjoy the Journey" mindset.

Country Roads

Everyone knows that I'm a country girl through and through. I grew up in the country and I just love it! I love everything about country living - - enough space to spread out a little, the animals, the yard and gardens, even the yardwork. I love it all! In fact, I'm not sure if I could ever be a city girl again. The country lifestyle suits me just fine. Several years ago, my sister Mary and I were shopping for fabric and I saw a pattern for a wall quilt called, "County Roads". Of course, I had to buy the pattern, even though I was just learning about quilting--I knew I would make it someday. So this winter was the "someday" --the time when I began sewing my country roads wall hanging.

I loved that the quilt was a series of sweet country scenes. The pig pulling a little hay cart on his way to the mill and a rooster that's hitched a ride on his back . . .

. . . the covered bridge crossing a winding stream . . . .

. . . a black carriage being pulled by a spotted pony . . . crows on the fences . . .

. . . . a couple of houses nestled close enough together to share a clothes line so a quilt could be hung out to dry . . .

. . . and of course, a load of hay ready to be loaded into a big red barn. And every barnyard needs a rooster to get you going in the morning.

And then finally, fences and gates surrounding the whole scene to finish it off!
I worked on this quilt over a period of several months throughout the winter and finally finished it mid-March. I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to follow some pretty detailed instructions, as well as doing a lot of piecing and applique, but little by little it came together. It was kind of like putting a puzzle together and so it was very rewarding to have all the pieces fit together just like they're supposed to.
It was such a fun project and fits just perfect into my country home and lifestyle.

Someone's in the kitchen . . .

Every potential chef needs the right clothes so he'll look good on the job. Since little Mitch has shown a real interest not only in his own "little kitchen" but also in helping his mom and dad in their kitchen, I thought he should look like a real chef.

For his March 15th birthday I made Mitch his very own chef hat, jacket and pants. I don't think you'll ever find a cuter chef. Now he's all set to start whipping up qourmet meals . He's going to win you over with those eyes. . .and his original recipes.

Mitch is going to give everyone a run for their money. Before you know it he'll be submitting his recipes to TRC - - then challenging Bobby Flay and giving Emeril some stiff competition. Watch out FOOD Network--he just might be the next Food Network Star!
Watch out world. . . .here he comes!

Pretty in Pink

Here's another example of some of the things I've been doing during our long winter months. I actually don't mind winter so much any more because I have such a long list of projects I enjoy working on and a have a warm cozy sewing room to work in. I can look out my window and see the snow and it doesn't matter--I've got plenty to do to keep me busy. I'm listening to good music, NPR or whatever, while I sew away the day. When Randy comes home he always knows right where I'll be--I don't go too far, maybe just a trip to the fabric store ocassionally.

I knew Lani loved pinks and browns for Payton's room, so when we picked those colors for our block exchange, I knew who I was making the quilt for. It had to be for Lani and Payton! I worked on the quilt and finished it just in time for a February birthday. I love making things for my family. All the time I'm working on a project for someone I'm thinking about them and hoping they'll be able to feel all the love I put into it. I hope that comes through when they wrap themselves up in the quilts, or any of the other things I make.

This pink and brown quilt is the results of a block exchange we did for several months in my quilt quild. For 6 months we exchanged pink and white 9-patch blocks with a brown center. Each month each person made 10 blocks in those colors, then we would keep one for ourselves, take the other 9 and exchange them for 9 different blocks that each quilt quild members had made. After 6 months of collecting blocks, I cut up my assortment of blocks into fourths, turned them in a different direction. Then I sewed the 4 blocks back together again. It was amazing how many possibilities there was and each time you turned the block it gave the quilt a different look.

This pattern is called "Disappearing 9-Patch" because you cut up the 9 patch block and give it a whole new appearance. I also quilted it on my sewing maching and learned a new free motion design that looked like daisies.

It was a fun project to work on--especially when I had someone special in mind for it who was "So pretty in pink"!

All wrapped up

As you may know, I've kind of got into quiliting over the past couple years. I like to learn new techniques so that my quilting skills improve, but the only way to learn is by doing. I wanted to learn how to do "stippling" -- that's a method of free motion sewing that looks like little worm tracks. Anyway, I'd been practicing on a few smaller items like table runners and felt like I was ready to move on to something bigger. I'd shown Kristi some of the things I'd been making and she said she'd like a quilt with stippling. So she bought a twin sheet set that she liked, gave it to me and this quilt is the results of that project. I got it finished in time to send it her for her birthday . . . and now she's all wrapped up in a warm and cozy quilt. Just the perfect thing after a day of skiing or any other time you need to feel a little extra warmth from a mother's love.


Here's the evidence of what happens after a whole summer of taking all our yard and garden debris to the bottom of the pasture. You have to wait until the huge pile consisting of a cut down pine tree, limbs from pruned trees in the yard (pickup loads), all the fallen leaves--more pickup loads, and all the garden and yard debris. You have to let the pile totally dried out and that takes a while because all summer and fall we are always adding to the pile. (I don't know what we'd do with all our yard debris if we didn't make a pile in the bottom of the pasture. I suppose we'd be making weekly trips to the landfill.)

Next thing you do is wait for a clear day with just a little breeze. It can't be too windy--'cause then you might have problems with the flames spreading and getting away from you. But a little breeze is perfect to keep the fire going. We tried to wait have our bonfire when some of the family was around to appreciate it, but that didn't work out. It really was a good fire--and soooo hot!

If you're lucky, you might have access to a propane burner so you can really get the fire going and keep it going.

And then you just stand and tend the fire to make sure it stays where you want it.

And finally, after several hours, this is all that's left of the huge pile. The hot coals at this point would have been perfect to cook something in, but by then we were tired and ready to be done with the job and ready for a hot shower.
I'm sure not everyone might appreciate what a good fire is, but when you collect such a huge pile of debris all growning season, it sure feels good to get it all cleaned up. And a good fire (that's kept until control) really does clean things up. It leaves nothing but a small pile of ashes--and then we're ready to start another pile in the spring when the yard work starts all over again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Late last fall we heard about a cowboy poetry gathering in Utah. We've always enjoyed cowboy poetry because it's humorous, pretty down to earth and the kind of thing that most country folk can relate to. . . and we are country folk after all! And besides, we love doing something a little unusual and a cowboy poetry gathering in a rural Utah community seemed like the perfect makings for a fun weekend.

Heber City's Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair just celebrated it's 14th year. It all started with a conversation between some local ranchers and cowboys who admitted they knew a few good stories and poems. They decided to pool their talents, invite a few local musicians and poets and have a "Cowboy Poetry Gathering." So the first weekend in November--after most of the ranch work was done--they reserved the town hall, cooked up some dutch oven chili and stuck up some posters around town advertising the event. They didn't know whether 15 or 50 would show up, but when 250 people came they knew they were on to something good. From those humble beginnings, Heber's Cowboy Poetry Gathering is now attracting people from all across the country who come to enjoy a weekend of great western music, stories and good clean fun. This year nearly 10,000 people came to enjoy the three day event.

We arrived Friday morning at the train depot of the "Heber Creeper"--Heber City's famous old train. It was a cool, crisp autumn morning and while we were waiting to board the train we were served an assortment of bagels, muffins and hot chocolate. And as we ate, we were entertained by some local musicians and poets who were standing in front of the depot. What a fun way to start the day!

Once we boarded the train, a group of two or three musicians came to each of the cars on the train and entertained us. It was like going back in time to sit there on those old bench seats and listen to the sounds of the train as it rolled down the track.
The train cars really did sway alot. The musicians had to do a good balancing act just to stay upright because there was so much motion. But all that just added to the atmosphere and the fun of the event.

After each group played a few songs, then they followed by a cowboy poet. The poets and many of the musicians were real working cowboys. . .not just cowboy wanabes. You could tell by their hands (as well as their hats and boots) that they were "The Real Deal". This cowboy poet, Stan Tixier, from Eden Utah was a real character.

Not only was he a great entertainer, he has written a western novel, writes his own poems, raises and trains horses and has pretty much made a life long career on all things western. His trademark "hip flask" (a tabasco bottle) gives you a little insight into his general attitude towards life. He believes in adding a little spice to everything in his life and there's the evidence!

Throughout the train ride every half hour or so, another group of entertainers would come to our car and sing some good ole western songs. Each group had it's own style--and all of them were very entertaining. The poets were so funny. Their poems were about the things they knew like working with horses and cattle, raising families, ranch life--just whatever their view of life or where their experiences took them. They were all so good. The great western music, poetry and the old train ride made for a great combination. We were making some great memories!

This is a view from the window as the train made its way back to Heber. We were in the first car next to the engine going out of Heber, and on the way back, we were the last car because the engine switched places on the train. On the return trip our car really swayed because we were now in the last car. One of the poets said," It's so rough because we were riding in the big ruts we'd made on the way out! "

Throughout the year, the Heber Creeper does several fun sounding events. They do a Christmas train ride, a murder mystery-who done it type ride, and lots of other fun sounding events. It would be a fun family event for anyone looking for a little different experience to do with your families.

After our train ride, we went to Wasatch High School in Heber where the rest of the weekends events were being held. We had tickets to see Wylie and the Wild West in the afternoon and then just catch as many of the other entertainers as we could throughout the rest of the day. We had seen Wylie before so we knew what a good performer he was. He has some great songs and we loved his show again. Before Wylie performed, we watched an act called "Sourdough Slim". He was kind of a goofy looking guy, but boy was he funny!
With a line up of performers like Michael Martin Murphey, Wylie and the Wild West, The Bar J Wranglers, Poet Waddie Mitchell, and groups with names like Prickly Pair, Saddle Strings, Red Dessert Ramblers, Open Range, Root Beer Reunion, and Stampede, if you weren't into cowboy songs and stories you were in the wrong place.
Besides all the poets and musicians the Gathering also featured a Mountain Man Traders Camp. All the traders were dressed in period correct clothing and showing things like pottery, frontier clothing, blacksmithing, dutch oven cooking, and other interesting things connected with mountain men and their way of life. Tents were arranged like they would have been for a mountain men rendezvous. It was like going back in time. . .and having someone who could give you a little history about that period of time. Seeing those things reminded me how hard life would have been on the frontier--it required tough people. I'm sure glad I don't have to work that hard now.
We closed out a great day by dancing to the music of Wylie and the Wild West. We danced until midnight to some great music and then drove back to Lani's. We had such a wonderful time spending the day together seeing interesting things, enjoying good music and being entertained by some great poets. I'm sure it won't be the last time we attend the Cowboy Poetry Gathering!

It's catch up time!

Hey everyone--I'm back! Try not to keel over and go into shock just because I'm finally getting back to blogging.

OK, I'll have to admit it's been a long time since I've posted a blog. . .what can I say. I love to see what's going on with everyone else but my life doesn't seem too exciting. I got really behind going into the holiday season. Then the longer I let it go -- it seemed like it would be impossible to catch up. But with many family members buggin' me and saying "Mom, I keep watching for you to update your blog--when are you going to do it?" And then for a while I was without a computer--our old one finally crashed--and it took a while to recover all the photos and everything else worth saving.

So I guess now is as good a time as any to try bring you up to date on some of the things that I've been doing during the winter months. I won't try to do a total catch up--just hit a few of the highlights of some of the things that's been going on and some of the ways I've been spending my long winter months. The events may be totally random--and not necessarily in sequence--I didn't say it was going to be perfect--just a little more current.