Sunday, August 30, 2009

Iron Man (and Iron Woman) race

On this absolutely gorgeous clear August day, we drove to LaGrange to watch the bicycling portion of the Iron Man race.

In case you are not familiar with the challenge, the participants start with a 2-mile swim in the Ohio River, and follow that with a 112 mile bicycle ride which includes a big loop around LaGrange Ky. After that, they run a full 26.2 mile marathon, and end up back in downtown Louisville.

(I watched the race from a chair on the CourtHouse square, due to my sore foot.)

This is the second year that we have known someone in the race. It is a mind boggling challenge, and it was really fun to see the families and friends out to support their loved ones. 

There were many women in the race, and actually as they rode past, they seemed to be enjoying it more than the men. We didn't get to see our friend as she rode by, but we will find out about her performance tomorrow.

The skies the past few weeks have been so beautiful, and today was no exception.  The small town of LaGrange was very picturesque, and very hospitable to all the visitors from all over the world.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nature's Surprises

When we were in North Carolina, we were on a branch of the South Toe River, one of those beautifully clear icy mountain streams.

Alongside the water, there were all sorts of brightly colored mushrooms, including several of this pink and coral variety.

Anyone know what it is???

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A quilty mini-vacation

We just returned from a delightful mini-vacation in North Carolina, at the foot of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. (That surprises me - I would have thought that would be in New Hampshire, or somewhere up east.)

It was absolutely beautiful, serene, and  isolated. Our house was in the middle of a "bear sanctuary, " but we only saw one bear up close, from the car.

Like many mountain communities in Tennessee and North Carolina, this area was loaded with artists' studios and galleries. It was very near the well-known Penland Art School, and a visit to their gallery was a highlight of the trip.

We visited many galleries, and did some Christmas shopping. This year, the people on my list will really get "one-of-a kind" gifts.

Also like many rural areas, this area had dozens of quilts painted on barns. Some were traditional, and some were just good graphics. There was even one on the Methodist church!

Another advantage was that we were just a scenic drive from Asheville. So while the men took a satisfying 5-mile hike in the mountains, we girls went in to Asheville for a nice visit to Waechter's silk shop. Also had lunch at the nearby Corner Kitchen, a delicious lunch spot that is a lot more sophisticated than the name sounds.

All in all, a very refreshing break, and my head is still spinning with all the images of quilts, pottery, glass, paintings, and regional art.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Zucchini Basil Soup

My purple basil plant has more than doubled in size since this photo was taken. It was definitely time for my favorite soup, Zucchini Basil Soup.

I use a recipe I got from Gourmet Magazine in 1987,  and it has been my favorite summer soup to make ever since; it can be served hot or cool.

Zucchini Basil Soup

1 C. chopped onion
2 Tb olive oil
1 lb zucchini, cut in slices
3 C. chicken broth (I use low-fat low-sodium)

2 C. firmly packed basil leaves
1 Tb minced garlic
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Cook onion in oil, low heat, til softened. Add garlic.

Add zucchini and salt and pepper to taste. Cook covered about 4 minutes.

Add broth and about 1 C water, bring to a boil, and simmer , covered, about 10 minutes.

Add basil, and simmer about 1 minute

Let cool, puree, and stir in vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Can serve hot or cool.  Add a basil leaf for garnish. 

Most of my old recipes from Gourmet from 20 years ago are too creamy or buttery for these days of being more health conscious. But this one is healthy, and absolutely easy and delicious!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Starting new projects

I have not been posting blog very often lately. I am starting several new projects, and will talk about them when I have something to show and more to say.

One, the "Welcome Home" is a small piece (8 1/2 x 11) for a friend.

The second,  the colorful house fronts, is a large project for a Christmas gift for a friend living in  Prague. It is a walk near the Castle in Prague, and contains several elements that I have wanted to tackle, including  perspective.

The third is a photo of a barn that we are using in my Monday night quilt group for a "fractured" quilt. I have had the photo for years, and have wanted to turn it into a quilt, but now I have three friends to help. We have enlarged the photo and sliced in into four vertical slices, and I will talk about it as I tackle my slice. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Early Morning Bicycling

We got out early this morning for a bicycle ride by the river.  There was still shade, and riding was very pleasant. Later in the day the temperature was over 90, so I was glad we had enjoyed it early.

I got to see lots of ironweed; it is really plentiful this  year. I also saw fields of sunflowers and other hearty looking August wildflowers.

My Cardinal Creeper is finally getting the red blooms I have been waiting for. The vines are all over the place, and I'm hoping that it will attract some hummingbirds. Haven't seen very many this summer.

I plan to get back to my sewing tomorrow. I have several projects with deadlines, and I need to get busy on them!

Also, my quilt group meets tomorrow night. We are starting some group projects, fractured quilts, and I'm looking forward to starting on that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A hot Saturday

No photo today, because I left the camera home again! Missed some good Kodak moments.

After finishing our Saturday errands, Bob and I went out to Anchorage again to enjoy the  bicycle & walking loop. I was on my bicycle, and Bob was on roller blades.

Although it was very hot and sunny by the time we started, it was breezy when I was moving, and there were lots of wildflowers and some wildlife to enjoy. 

My favorite wildflower, the purple ironweed, is in abundance all around the path, and there is also Queen Anne's lace, and other late summer flowering weeds. The path also goes through a field of soybeans, and a pumpkin patch with some plump pumpkins peeking out.

Just about the time I was regretting leaving my camera at home, I saw a beautiful indigo bunting perched on a fence. Darn! Maybe when we go tomorrow with my camera, I'll see him again...

Then tonight, we went to see the movie "Julie and Julia." It was really delightful. Of course, when I got home, I pulled my well-worn copy of  Mastering the Art of French Cooking off the shelf, and reminisced about  the days when I cooked a lot more and enjoyed it. Maybe I'll try her Boeuf Bourgignon again. But first, I'll learn how to spell it!  Anyway, it was a great movie, and I recommend it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Land between the Lakes (Canada)

We just returned from a delightful trip to Ontario, Canada. We went for the Canadian Henley boat races (sculling) and were lucky enough to land in a bed and breakfast right on the water where the races were held. 

This is the view from the balcony.

We were in St. Catharines, which is on the land between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Our B & B
was within walking distance of Lake Ontario.

The countryside was absolutely beautiful. Lots of orchards, vineyards and farms.

There were wonderful restaurants that specialized in very fresh and delicious "Farm-to-Table" foods. We also had very fresh local fish, and sampled the local wines, too.

This barn was the most beautiful I've ever seen. It reminded me of the architecture on Prince Edward Island, where I bicycled about 10 years ago; virtually all the buildings on PEI are of
 wood, and that is true of many in the countryside we visited on this trip as well.

There were fruit markets everywhere, and the variety and quality of fruit served at our B & B were outstanding!

Because of the moderate climate in the land between the two lakes, there were flowers everywhere. The picturesque little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake had hanging baskets that were the biggest and fullest I've ever seen.

These coneflowers (echinacea) were everywhere. This photo, along with Bob's  photo of the wooden barn, are what I call "quilts waiting to happen."  They may have to wait a while, but they're going into my "to-do file." 

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Closeups of Flower quilt

After I posted my earlier blog about my flower quilt, I had a request for some closeups. So here they are:

One of the things I learned while experimenting with raw edge fusing is that batiks and hand-dyed fabrics work really really well, and you don't get that tell-tale white edge that sometimes shows with printed fabric. This was definitely a learning experience,and I look forward to doing more quilts from photos.

Quilt from a photo

I started this little quilt (24" W x 36"H) over a year ago from a photo that showcased this flower really well.

It's probably the first quilt I've done literally from a photo, and I wanted every leaf to be right, and every detail on the petals.

It is raw edge fusing, and there are dozens of different purple fabrics in the petals, and several different greens in the leaves.

I wanted the background to have a gray-green cast, as it is in the photo, and my pieced/fused background is a combination of hand-dyed and batik. I really love the background.

I don't know the botanical name for the three "thingies" at the center of the flower, but mine are hand-dyed, and I like the way they resemble those in the photo.

I machine quilted the background heavily, and also quilted the pieces on the petals. In some cases I used decorative stitches for added dimension.

The leaves have machine embroidery on them, too. After I did all the quilting, I put purple tulle over the flower, and green tulle over the background and leaves.

Of course, I had to add a few hundred beads, too, for a little sparkle. They were a little difficult to sew on because of the heavy machine quilting, but I think they add to the overall effect.

Here's the photo, blown up to the size I wanted the quilt to be.

I drew the outlines on one-sided fusible, put the background and leaves down first, and then started  laying scraps and narrow strips of purple for the flower. 

It took a long time, but I am happy with the result.