gardening

So I decided this year to get back to my garden. It needed some work – the side boards had sort of caved under the pressure and weight of the soil (not dirt, it’s soil), and bowed out. It was also a bit difficult to reach the back of the bed, because of it’s depth and the backside is close to the brick wall.

I began the overhaul earlier this spring, deciding to break the one long box up into smaller boxes. If and when I need, I can add additional boxes in front of these, as I do not plan to fill in the spaces between the boxes with grass. I’d rather put mulch or stones in there, and eventually end up with a backyard oasis rather than a grass field that we don’t use.

Not sure what I would use for the box edging, I went to Lowe’s to look at my options. I decided that moment on some inexpensive decorative cement blocks. So I bought a bunch and hauled them to the backyard.

I basically lined the beds just outside the boards with the blocks, and knocked off the top two boards. It doesn’t look perfect, but seriously, this is a garden = I’m not trying to make it perfect, just functional. I need to buy more blocks to finish the last box, or boxes; not sure yet if I am going to break it up into two or leave it one long and use that to plant viney things, like squash.

garden boxes, part complete

Despite the transformation being incomplete, I believe the results are fabulous. I moved the extra soil to some pots on the patio and filled the boxes a bit higher than they were.

My asparagus is thriving, and I’ve picked it for longer than I could have imagined it would keep producing. I picked the last spears this morning and am now going to let all remaining spears frond out to feed the corms and make them even stronger than this year.

some asparagus I picked

I didn’t actually pick al these in one day. I usually get two to eight spears each morning. I wrap the cut end in a wet paper towel and it keeps them fresh. I gather until I have as much as I want to cook and then start again.

asparagus plants, allowed to frond

I also planted two varieties of cherry tomato in the patio pots,

black cherry variety

golden cherry variety

(you can see the kale on the left peeking out of the other pot) and radish and carrot seeds in the empty box (see below).

carrot and radish shoots

I have a variety of seeds planted in these little pots, almost ready to transplant outside.

indoor planting, almost ready to move!

I also have this strange plant in the inbetween… I think it’s a bean plant. A second one has sprouted up since I took this photo two days ago!

a bean plant maybe, from last years seed?

 

I bought my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. I chose organic heriloom seeds, to ensure everything I grow for my family has not been tampered with in ANY way.

I love to garden. It does get really hot in the Texas summer, but the fact that I can feed my family from what I grow is a great feeling. Weeding, as long as you keep it under control, can be therapeutic. And it’s a fun challenge to try to get these little dried out seeds to grow into delicious edibles, keeping the pests at bay. ALL while keeping it organic. It CAN be done!

 

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healthy eating – easy quinoa

I have a good friend in MN that blogs daily about food, wine, tea, music, life. Lots of things, and she is truly a professional writer. Author of a few books, including Chin Deep in Bubbles, Melissa has the corner covered on all things delicious and pampering. And beautiful. She’s a peach – visit her blog: http://www.chindeep.com/.

She could probably give you a thousand recipes on quinoa, or point you to her many friends in the culinary world that have their versions, but I’ll keep it simple and give you my little quick take.

I will admit right now that I do avoid carbs, and that’s not good. I know I need to consume more, especially with my workout schedule now. So I’m getting back to incorporating them, but focusing on the HEALTHY ones. Healthy, as in, less processed, not fried or packaged. Love me some tortilla chips and multi-grain crackers, but quinoa is a great source of protein as well, and pretty simple to prepare.

ingredients

This morning, I added one cup organic quinoa to a small saucepan and put the heat on high.

before toasting

I stirred my little pearls til they popped and crackled and turned a bit darker colored. If you like, you can add a little oil to the pan for this stage. Toasting the quinoa helps bring out the nutty flavor. If you are unsure, you CAN skip this step!

after toasting

After about 5 minutes of dry toasting, I added 1.5 cups low sodium vegetable broth and stirred.

adding broth

Then I turned the heat to medium-low and put the lid on. I simmered the quinoa for 10 minutes, gave it another stir, replaced the lid and turned the heat off, leaving the pan in place. I had to take my daughter to school :).

put the lid on and leave it alone

When I came home, about 10 minutes later, it was done. Nice and fluffy, although admittedly needing salt.

done - so fluffy!

Quinoa can be used in place of rice or couscous. You can use it with stir fry or fajita vegetables, and it’s great with fish (if you eat fish). Squeeze a little lemon over it. Add different herbs. Be creative and try a different flavor profile, or add veggies to make a pilaf.

If you make it with water instead of broth, you can also make this into sweet applications. Add raisins and apples, cinnamon and treat it like a hot morning cereal. Or almonds, blueberries and maple syrup. It’s quite versatile. And tasty. 🙂 enjoy!

business planning

I find it sort of funny, when I deal with people in my business (I mean people in the quilting world, in general) only want to know about your quilting history. I am NEVER asked about my former career. I guess it’s funny to me because my “before” and “after” lives are SO dichotomous. Not sure about that word? Look it up :).

At the end of my corporate reign, I was managing a 1.5 million square foot building. To put this in perspective, imagine your bedroom, which might be 15 foot square. 15×15 = 225 square feet. Or your house size = 3-4000 square feet? It was a REALLY big building; actually it was a warehouse, holding home improvement type goods imported from overseas.

If I remember correctly, my budget for the operation was about $43 million. Yes MILLIONS of DOLLARS. Sounds like I’m loony? I don’t remember all the specifics anymore, but I solidly remember that my transportation budget alone was $17 million. We shipped to over 300 stores in 11 states on at least a weekly basis. So to pay for the use of the trailers, the fuel, etc. that was my budget. Add in rent, labor, supplies, utilities and corporate BS and boom – BIG money!

I’m not bragging. I could probably figure out the words to describe how overjoyed I am to be out of that business, but I’m not going to bother. Suffice it to say, to me, now, that is just background.

It is good background tho. I helped a Canadian lady I met on Etsy to build a business plan so she could get a loan for her natural soap company. And now that I have my feet planted on the ground with my business, and have some history tracked down, I am ready to make myself a firm business plan.

I started by making some goals for this year. They were measurable, but not super specific. It is hard to be specific when your business is driven by clients you don’t even know you have yet, and others that call you when they have something for you. There is no guarantees of business, no steady income. But there are expenses driven by workload, and some not…

Not? How do you have to spend money without having a workload? It’s that pesky fabric hoarding addiction thing. My husband and I had a business dinner (beer, queso, the good kind of dinner) to discuss some plans and actions I could take to increase my net income. The first question out of his mouth: Can you decrease expenses? That is the easiest way to increase income without having to increase gross income. Well, if I stop buying fabric… Then he asks the dreaded… “Well how much fabric do you have in inventory?”

I’m not answering that.

Honestly I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know. I’m kind of scared to do that math. So I won’t. Ahhh, the perks of being the business manager.

What I did take from this conversation is that I have a problem, a wound, if you will. And the best course of action for my business is to stop the bleeding. I have plenty of fabric (no I don’t / YES YOU DO / no I don’t / YES YOU DO – this is going on in my head at the moment). I have plenty of fabric and unless I need to buy it to complete a customer’s project, I need to NOT buy it. This truly stopped me from buying this beautiful panel at the store yesterday. It was really hard – I looked at it, and fondled the soft cotton, and then remembered my promise to myself and put it down and walked away.

Step one, day 20 accomplished. Now to just make it through the next 345 days…

This is a pretty significant decision. But truly, I have decided to work on these projects and make quilts for charity – I have a set of 3 quilts on my table in progress and that didn’t even make a 1″ dent in my stack of fabric!

My current charity project

sigh. stack of fabric? it’s actually not a stack, per se. see below…

those bins are all full of fabric

I had to buy more bins because I had so much fabric

Those bins are all full of fabric.

Oh, and then there’s “the table”. It’s actually bags of fabric I brought to a retreat thinking I would get 100 projects done (well, those are the ones under the table), some fabric from mom, 2 repair jobs (yellow and cream pile to the left) and some fabric for those, and some other ‘stuff’, including more fabric (the yellow and blue with duckies is another charity project in the queue). Oh and that blue tub on the left? Full of quilt tops that need to be quilted, most of them with the backs already prepared. HELLO! I could get those done and up on Etsy or given to charity. oi woman! Oh and the basket? Full of beads. So glad I have time for playing with those…

the dreaded table

This is a good thing. I just have to keep repeating that to myself. I have enough. Ya, enough to make quilts for the next 10 years. So as a prudent business owner, I need to use my planning skills and business smarts to know that I am not allowed to buy fabric just because I want to.

That was the biggest realization. Next I’m going to tackle a specific budget. I.e. at the end of each month, I will put the sales tax $ into another account. I will also figure out what % I think I should pay myself and what % to put into my expense account, for purchase of REQUIRED supplies.

I think this is a pretty strong start. Now – on to some quilting!

charity work thursday

i decided that the best way to attack my very important decision to do charity work weekly, was to actually assign a day to do it. i wasn’t sure this week if that would be thursday or friday, but thought the best plan would be thursday in case friday got crazy busy. i was thinking going forward that planning on thursday’s would be my best bet.

last week when i looked at some of my favorite fabric, i decided on the size of the main panel, and cut three, as well as figuring the inner and middle border sizes i wanted to have for the quilts.

today i scouted out the bricks for the middle border, some from my scrap pile and some from my fabric bins, as well as choosing and cutting my inner border. so i cut my border bricks into strips and am now ready to assemble them into the border bricks.

this is what the quilts will look like when finished (for the most part. they will be larger than this, square rather than rectangular).

noahs ark ez breezy

this one above i had quilted with baptist fans, so it looks like rainbows, which i think really is appropriate either way.

i feel so blessed to have the ability to make quilts like this, to do charity work like this. and THAT is why i feel it is SO important to give back to my community.

i didn’t get a charity quilt completed today, but that’s not what i promised myself i would do, so i’m not upset. i’m actually working on 3 at once, so i know it will take some time to get them all done. i did submit significant throught and time to these quilts, so i know i’ve made progress.

and that’s what counts.

Resolutions vs. Goals

I’m an avid listmaker. Always have been. Before I had things I actually needed to make lists to keep track of (like my daily to-do’s), I made lists of things, words that rhymed, types of animals, whatever entertained my childish mind. But as an adult, it’s no surprise to me that I continue to rely on, and actually enjoy making, my variety of lists.

One of those lists revolves around 2013, and quilting. By default, I decided not to make any resolutions this year. Actually I didn’t even think about making any, I just plumb forgot. So I guess it’s not that important to me.

What I decided WAS important to me was making some goals, personal and professional. I haven’t delved into personal aspirations yet, but have made my list of professional goals for 2013. They’re pretty basic, but I think making them will keep them in the forefront of my mind, and help me keep focused every week/month/quarter to ensure I’m doing the best I can to grow my business in the direction that I want it to go.

Some are more specific than others, but all are measurable. For example, I have decided that I need to spend time every week on a charity project. Even if that means working for an hour piecing a top to donate, then I have satisfied my self-imposed requirement. I like this goal, because I know how important that work is to me and how good I feel about doing it, so it isn’t a chore, but this goal is a good reminder to do a little bit every week; make time for it.

I (of course) want to generate more income on a monthly and annual basis than in previous years (which would indicate a successful business from the standpoint of most people, I think), but this year I want to ensure I am putting aside funds for taxes on a regular basis, so it doesn’t feel so painful when Uncle Sam comes a’knocking.

I have a few goals with respect to my guild involvement and marketing, fabric buying (this might be tough, because I want to cut back), updating the pictures on my website and blogging regularly. All in all, I think this list is functional, rather than a string of pipedreams or unattainable measurements. Just enough to keep me focused for the year.

Happy quilting!

Quilter’s Block

A new block, you ask? Not really. This is more the type of block that stops progress and less the type that builds a quilt. Kinda like writer’s block.

So I put together this top, which is a variation of Jacob’s Ladder, and I was SO pleased with how it turned out. Corners came together correctly, color placement was nice and the overall appearance was just how I had envisioned it would turn out. It measures just at 100″ square.

hanging over the balcony from upstairs, I just love the way this quilt looks when you take a step back. I also love the border, which was the inspiration for the quilt in the first place.

I had it hanging over the banister upstairs for a month or so, which really gave view to anyone who could see in our ginormous back window (the spot where it hung can be seen from the main street that runs along our backyard). I finally decided to quilt it, and thought I should make my first try at entering a show.

I chose poly cotton batting because I didn’t want it to be too warm or flat, since it will ultimately end up on my bed. I cut the wide back and strung it up on my machine. I tacked down the top edge of the quilt and then paused, for about an hour. This is when my Quilter’s Block began.

I knew I wanted to customize the quilting, and my first thought was to make a curly feather in the large border. Before I did so, I stitched in the ditch along the bottom of the border to ensure it stayed straight. Then I sewed the line that would have been the feather backbone, and starting at the upper right corner, began to swirl my feathers out. It got ugly. I stopped for the day.

Next day: back at it. I pulled out the ugly stitches and tried to get back on track. Then my thread kept breaking, like immediately after I began to sew. I changed from variegated thread on top to straight red, but the problem persisted. I had just changed my needle, so that wasn’t it. There she sat for 2 more days.

I woke up feeling guilty and realizing I had to make another attempt. I thought maybe my thread was serger and too thick, so I changed it. But by this time I was just not convinced feathers were the way to go. I mean, the border is all FLOWERS! The entire color arrangement for this quilt was based on the border fabric – it was my inspiration. I turned around to get a bobbin or something and saw a book I have in a cubby that showed a whole cloth quilt on the front cover. It was quilted in such a way as to create flowers where there was nothing but solid fabric. BING!!!

Light bulb finally having gone off, I began to pull out all those stitches. Now if you have ever sewed anything, and had to rip out stitches, you will understand how much fun this isn’t. And I had a long way to go. Another day and a half wasted. But at least now I felt as if I might be moving in the right direction.

SIDE NOTE: I can tell you with no exception, that this is why I get nervous with every customer quilt and do a lot of prep before beginning. I think on it, draw it out, think some more, and when I am positively sure, THEN I begin. I guess because this quilt is mine, I just figured I’d be happy with my results regardless, so I invested less advance work.

I got through outlining three red flowers when I realized that I wasn’t getting the look I wanted. I figured I needed to pull out the stitches and insert another layer of batting. So I pulled out the stitches around one of the flowers and realized, yes, I could take out all those stitches I could barely see (the thread matched the red flowers really well), and try to get batting between the top line and the ditched line at the bottom of the border, but then I would also be adding to the weight of this quilt that I ultimately wanted to use! sigh. I took the rest of the night off.

So the next day I restitched this flower, and did the rest of the red flowers. The next day I stitched the blue flowers. I decided to keep it at that because I favor those colors in this quilt, so I wanted them to stand out more than the browns, yellows or green leaves. Now… what to do in the background of the flowers? I decided to let that marinate for a few days.

When I forced myself back to it, I thought if I stitched something small it would make the flowers stand out more. But I really didn’t want to echo or do a stipple. So I flipped through the pages of the aforementioned book and decided on a densely leafed vine. OK, what thread color. I had been thinking about this already, wavering between green, cream maybe brown, maybe variegated green… Walk away for an hour, come back. Repeat. Repeat. Choose creamy white thread, and on we go.

As I started to stitch, I thought I was pretty pleased with it. That’s when I stitched OVER one of the red flowers. sigh. Pull out stitches, turn machine off. You can see how this is going so far.

Now, I’m almost across the top border, and I think it’s ok. I don’t think it’s show-worthy, but it will definitely be cherished on my bed, unless I come to hate it before I get it done. For all the mental anguish this quilt has cost me, I’m really worried about getting it done and off my machine within the next century. I haven’t even decided what to do within the center yet. Which is why I am writing instead of quilting right now. 🙂 

Here are some photos:

I like it, I just think it looks, fuddled. Is that a real word? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

Can you see my stitch in the ditch?

it’s pretty deep in the ditch…

But it does look REALLY COOL from the backside!

the flowers really stand out!

the light above causes all the colors to show through. once I take the quilt off the machine that won’t be the case

So the moral of the story is that prep work makes the job MUCH easier, and yes, even quilters get artistically blocked. So I guess it’s not just for writer’s anymore.

I hope y’all have better luck than me this month (so far). Happy quilting!

 

trucking along

Not sure why I haven’t written, since I have been feeling quite creative lately. Seems like I want to put all of my creative energy into making quilt tops, which makes sense I suppose, since I have to quilt out of my normal environment for a bit.

I do have my stash of projects (see previous post on that…), so I’ve felt inclined to work through them, and told myself when I get through those then I can make up some new ones. Well, I did start three new projects, but one I am finished with and a second one I am fervently making progress. It’s a small wall hanging, but here is the finished top:

So let’s see… I don’t think I had this one finished last time I posted, but essentially it’s still not finished. It’s really bright, much more so than I anticipated, but I think once I get more fabric for the border it will be more appealing.

Then I finished up with my Halloween squares. I actually have more of this center panel fabric, but I need a break from it for a bit. So I made these tops in a simple manner, but varying from each other slightly.

Then I had squares left over (before I realized I had more of the center panels…) so I took this magenta bat fabric that I was going to use with the center panels, but decided it didn’t coordinate, and stripped it with the remaining squares I had already sewn together in a long strip. I ended up using almost every square, and each strip I’d cut from the batty fabric. Just need more of the border fabric to complete it (it will be black with stars on it).

I know I had finished this one, a simple but beautiful top.

That put me in the mood to make more sophisticated and less playful quilts, and to use the colors of fall. The problem is that the two quilts I decided to make I actually have patterns for, and I don’t usually use patterns, so this was sort of hard for me to have directions I was supposed to follow. The result was that I got partway through cutting for one of the quilts and set it aside.

But the Jacob’s Ladder is coming along nicely. I have my 4blocks finished and my border blocks and triangles all cut.

I’m not sure if this one is next (haven’t quite decided which of this pile of fabrics to use yet),

or a simple pattern I got from a sewing group that I will use batiks with. Not sure the colors I want to use so this one is still marinating in my brain.

And then I want to do this one, which is interesting because I’m really not a big triangle girl…

Oh and I got this panel just before it ran out at the quilt shop! So many ideas of what to do with this!

And then… more triangles on the bench… but it looks SOOO cool!!

Now of course the trouble is that those projects from my previous post??? well, most of them are still on my shelf awaiting my attention. I got through the HW quilts, and that moda diamond quilt with the great corners, and cleared out a Quilt of Valor and customer work, so…

I guess all that matters is that I’m productive and making things. That makes me happy, especially knowing that some of these will go to charity. 🙂 And maybe by the time it gets cold again here in Texas, I’ll have some of these quilted so someone can enjoy the warmth and beauty of them!

Happy quilt making my friends! I’m getting back to it!