Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Where's a manhole when you need one?

When we bought our house ten years ago, the backyard, as you can see, was a mess of evil foliage.

One day a group of men in orange vests, holding maps and cutting tools came to our door looking for a lost manhole. Hmm..."I haven't seen it, but you can look around." I said. They brought larger cutting tools, with my permission, of course, and trimmed the overgrown pyracantha tree, and sure enough, they found the missing manhole. It was way at the bottom of our sloping yard, just out of view in the picture above and leads to a storm drain. The men in the orange vests don't come very often to the manhole at the bottom of our yard, but I try to keep it free of dirt and invading plants.

A couple of years ago I added the bricks and decided that this could be a nice sitting area with a nice manhole floor,( when men are not climbing in and out of it. ) I recently cleared away a mass of ivy and am building a little retaining wall from rocks and concrete chunks found in the yard. You wouldn't believe some of the things we find in this yard, but that's for another post on another day.

Here is a picture of the upper part of the yard today. Not perfect, but much, much, much better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Confessions of a Collector

I must confess that I am a collector. I promise that I'm not a "stuff piled to the ceiling, can't walk through the room" kind of collector, but if you look closely, you will see a collection of some kind in just about every room. I tried to do a little research on why some people have a tendency to collect things, but it seem that no one really knows for sure. A couple of articles I saw attribute it to the "hunting and gathering" instinct. I do like to hunt and gather. I probably would have been an awesome cavewoman.

Some of my collections are spread out or partially put away, so I thought I would have little collection reunions and post them once a week until I have run out.

This is sort of an accidental collection. I didn't set out to collect tracing wheels, but whenever I see old sewing boxes, or plastic bags of thread, needles, etc. at yard sales, I grab them and sometimes they contain a tracing wheel. I haven't actually used one since high school, but I've been amazed at how many different syles there are.

Now that I have gotten them out and looked at them, I may have to think of a use for them. Got any ideas?

Monday, May 28, 2007


Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America in 1918, but revised it and published it as a Peace song in 1938. You can read more about it here.

Did anyone watch 60 Minutes last night? It was about the Iowa National Guard. My husband watches 60 minutes every Sunday. I was on my way outside to do some yard work, but when I saw what was going to be featured on the show, I changed my mind and sat down to watch. It was very good.

I just wanted to observe Memorial Day in my own small way.

God bless you, America!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hard to swallow.

Every spring the swallows return. I have never made note of the date. I should have. Supposedly the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano each year on March 19th and leave on October 23rd. Our swallows, a male and female show up in May. At least it was May this year, and I have no idea if it was near the same day as other years. They make a nest in a hole in our eaves where a down spout used to go. We never closed up the hole because the swallows like to make a nest there, and we like to watch the swallows swooping in our back yard, catching the bugs. I read that swallows are monogamous and that they both sit on the eggs. The male starts the building of the nest, and then the female joins him. I don't remember seeing two birds this year yet, but there was definitely some activity going on. And there was also a big black Grackle looking bird hanging around. If we had known it would harm our little swallow we would have done SOMETHING to chase it away. Like I said, I don't know if there were eggs in the nest yet, but my husband saw the black bird sticking his head in the hole,which is at second story height, and we later found the swallow dead on the ground below the hole. I was so sad about that. I'm not even sure how the black bird managed to get to the hole. It's amazing to watch the swallows circle a few times and then just fly right in without stopping.

I'm wondering if that is what happened to Vallen's nest.

It seems like there are a lot of things going on in the lives of people I know, and in the world in general, that give me that same sad feeling. I am praying for them and hope they will all be okay.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Congratulations, it's a slipcover.

Since I wasn't able to use my camera today, I thought I would post some pictures I took a few weeks ago of the development of a slipcover. It all starts with a longing to have a slipcover of your own, a slipcover to love and be close to.
After conception, it begins to take form deep inside the pages of a notebook.

It is nourished by inspiring magazine pictures and an occasional home-decorating book.

Before long there are recognizable slipcover features. Will it have gathers? Will it have cute little pleats? Will all it's seams be strong and it's hem straight?

When it's time in the workwoom is complete, it is delivered with joy.

It was worth every minute of labor!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tea and hybrid tea

My high school senior and I went to a graduation tea on Saturday for a friend of hers. It was at a home up in the redwoods. It was so relaxing and beautiful.

The home sits on a slope, and there are numerous levels with decks, patios and sitting spots.

Potted plants were used in the deck and patio areas.

My front yard is a driveway with no area for planting, so I use potted plants. The backyard is a different story. I love my yard, but I'm really not much of a gardener. It seems like I am more of a" jungle" fighter, trying to keep the weeds and ivy at bay. You could say that I have a "survival of the fittest" garden. If it is hardy and can survive my plant-killing instincts, it can dwell in my garden. I am trying though, really. I have a few roses in the front in pots. I love hybrid tea roses because, unlike some hybrids, they have a beautiful fragrance and hybrids are hardier than non hybrids. They are supposed to smell like tea, but I don't quite smell the connection.

This is my Diana, Princess of Wales hybrid tea rose. I didn't realize it when I bought it, but 10% of profits from the sale of this rose go to humanitarian causes. I just bought it because it's pretty and smells so sweet.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Who needs glue?

I am always reading in magazines and books about no-sew decorating. Well, since I spend most of my time at the sewing machine, it just seems natural to use sewing as a means to join all sorts of things. I will be perfecting the no-glue method, but for now, here are some cards I made.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today is my mom's birthday. This picture was taken a few years ago, or maybe a couple of fews. That is Raya with the bow and missing front teeth. My mom and dad have been married for over 60 years. I am so proud of them!

Survive and Conquer...

I made it out of the crevasse!

Here I am celebrating at "Cut It Out" summit.

I didn't see any pumas or St. Bernards, only fuzzy red flowers and ferns and other odd looking plants. Most of the cutting is done. Today I will start putting the slipcovers together. I mentioned in a previous post, about leftovers, that I don't like to throw scraps away, but I do make exceptions.

Two of my favorite tools, my Omnigrid ruler and my lightweight Wiss scissors from a yard sale. I haven't been able to find another pair like them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mountain climbing.

HELP! I am lost in a mountain of fabric. I am making slipcovers for two sofas, one large chair and an ottoman, all out of this same fabric. I am cutting them all out at the same time, because, it's, well, it's easier that way. I hesitate because easy doesn't seem to be an appropriate modifier. So I have several piles of pieces and my head is spinning.

This is how I feel today.

Here is a close-up of me falling into a crevasse.....

If I am not heard from in 48 hours, send help.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'ts Monday

Here is a glimpse of some of the fun stuff my thoughtful family gave me for Mother's Day.

We finished the day off with a walk on the beach. Can you tell that this dog LIVES to spend time at the beach???

I'm dragging a little today. Mondays seem even harder after such a nice day.

I guess a late start is better than No start...........Looks like Max feels the same way...

Friday, May 11, 2007

To ALL the mothers

My daughter sent me this beautiful canister for Mother's Day. It has something inside, but I am waiting till Sunday to look.

Having raised a few children, I am more appreciative of all that my own mother did for me, and the struggles she experienced. I am also thinking about all the women who have been like mothers to me, in showing me the way through this life, or by loving me. Some of those women have either never had children of their own, or have experienced enormous heartbreak in motherhood, or have even tragically lost their children. We are all mothers, because God put hearts in us that long to nurture. Thanks to ALL the mothers out there, and have a wonderful Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Hurray for the plaid, white and blue.

Hurray for it being finished, that is. I thought the fabric was going to be a stripe, which would have been slightly easier. This slipcover was pretty tricky, with the way the fabric has to make way for the arms, and all. So much for work......

I am having way too much fun blogging..... here is a picture of my thimble collection. I keep them in a box in my living room because I LOVE to watch kids put them on their fingers. ( It gives them something to do too, since there are not too many "kid" items in our home right now.)

Here is another use for thimbles:

Tom, if you are reading this, I am going down to the "workroom" to get busy right now!

Two for One

On my way to make patterns for three pieces of furniture, I stopped by my most favorite thrift shop to look for pattern material (old solid colored sheets). I love this place because of who runs it and what they do. I used to think that the California Grey Bears was a state wide organization, but found out that it only serves our county. (The bear is the state animal. ) They have a recycling center and recycle everything from paper to computers and other electronics. With the money they bring in and food gleaned from local businesses they feed the elderly who need a little help. And, oh yes, it is also run by the elderly.

I found the needed sheets and there was a basket full of these adorable new pin cushions. I liked them so much I bought six. I also found a bag of vintage lace.

When I know the money is going to such a worthy and local cause, I feel like I am giving and receiving in a single transaction. It's like a two-for-one coupon.... buy a bag full of fun stuff and get a good feeling for free.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Will work for home accessories

When I delivered the pillow covers I made the other day for Saffron and Genevieve, (see my last post) I couldn't help but look around the store. You know how looking leads to wanting, and well, I WAS getting paid for my labors, so why not take some of it in trade. I found these great wire baskets and this beautiful old framed crewel embroidery sampler, and stocked up on my favorite soaps (handmade in Amarillo, Texas, a place dear to my heart). It's a good thing that I work for a variety of people, most of whom, don't own beautiful stores, or I would be eating less and walking more (no money for food and gas). Hmmm.............. I could be on to a new weight loss method.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Keeping the pins flying.... in juggling. Having a blog is definitely improving my computer skills and I am also finally learning how to use my camera. I've always heard that learning new skills can help with memory issues as one gets older. So, since I am trying to learn Spanish, learning how to add things to my blog ,and encountering mental challenges in my job, I have nothing to worry about, right? I was discouraged to read the other day that chronic multi-tasking can contribute to forgetfulness. Apparently, it only works if you just learn one new skill at a time.

Yesterday I worked on these pillow covers for Saffron and Genevieve, a beautiful store.

Sewed three rows of my quilt together. (the blocks were already sewn into single rows)

and I worked on a slipcover pattern. Am I FORGETTING anything?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I can finish it, really, I can.

I really admire people who don't have partially finished crafts laying around, or more likely, tucked into baskets, hidden under the twin sized sheets in the linen closet, or maybe even in a plastic storage bin under the couch. Unfortunately, I can't claim to be a member of that group, because I do have ADHDP ( Almost Done or Half Done Projects) around that should either be set free, or finished. I don't feel too guilty about not finishing every single undertaking. Sometimes, it just isn't how I thought it would be. I made no vow to continue the relationship, so there is no real urgency to work through the uncomfortable feelings. For instance...I LOVE the way hooked wool rugs look. I found a pattern for one in a book I bought at a yard sale, collected used wool clothing, washed it, cut it into strips, put my design on a piece of burlap, drove across town to buy a hooking tool, and happily started my project. That's when I realized, after finishing about a fourth of it, that it is a very itchy craft. Wool and I have never really gotten along, and I guess I was just blinded by love.

There is one project on my list of ADHDPs that I do want to finish, so I am trying to make time for it. It is a hatbox quilt from Kaffe Fassett's book "Passionate Patchwork". I love his colorful designs and his fearless creativity.

This quilt design is a perfect use for some of my leftovers.

Of course, some of these fabrics came from my " can't walk past a pretty piece of fabric" collection.

It will be fun to look at this quilt when it is finished, (and it WILL be finished) and say, oh yes, that is the fabric that is in Mrs. Abernathy's bedroom, or on Mrs. Whites sofa, etc.

I have a quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was a teenager in the 60's. It was made from fabrics left over from my "I want to make my own clothes phase". It's fun to look at it and say, "Oh yeah, I made some shorts from that fabric to wear to summer camp back in the mid century era."

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What kind of a life would it be without buttonholes?

I love buttons, just ask my family. Everywhere you look in our house there is a jar, or a can, or a vintage coffee carafe filled with buttons of all kinds.

But....a button usually needs a buttonhole in order to do its job. I have the need to make buttonholes occasionally, on pillows or duvet covers. And slipcovers look nice sometimes with buttons on the back. I recently saw a professional buttonhole-making machine for sale for $6000. Boy, would that be nice to have. It was big though, and well, besides not having room for it, I really couldn't justify the cost. I like the one I have, even though it's not as beautiful and grand looking as the afore mentioned machine.

I found this old White brand sewing machine and cabinet at the flea market several years ago for $20. The drawers were filled with all kinds of useful vintage tools, including a buttonhole maker. I'm sure they stopped making them because they are a hassle to use. You have to put a special plate down, then get out a screwdriver to put the thing on the machine, and you have to change the cam to the appropriate size, which means using your screwdriver again.

BUT... since I only use this machine for making buttonholes, it's not so bad. It makes pretty good buttonholes too. And I love vintage things. Useful vintage things are even better.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bring on the May flowers!

Happy May 1st.

I wish I had time to make something out of some of these pretty fabrics today on this first day of May, but there are buttonholes to be made in drapery panels, wing chairs to be slipcovered and a couple of important errands to run.

Since I was talking about repairable jewelry yesterday, and it has flowers... I found this at a yard sale with a few of the rhinestones missing. I went to a jewelry supply store where they had replacement stones and some really strong glue. Now it is my favorite!