Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Getting Cozy With a Few Mysteries (Conroe, TX)

I switched my blog's profile to the Gmail account last month so that I could leave comments on my friends' blogs.  With Yahoo, my comments were being rejected through emails, but they were showing up in the blogs.  I just thought it would be easier for my friends.  Bad move on my part because now my blog's post notifications are being rejected by my friends' email systems.  I received an email from one friend saying she had not heard from me for a month and yet, I had posted a couple of days before her email.  Now, I know why she did not receive her notice.  I am switching back to Yahoo and will just have to deal with my own email rejects.  Oh well...

So, what have I been doing recently....not a whole lot.  A little reading, walking, too much eating, and of course, walking cats.  Except for some shopping and running other errands, we have been contend to stay in the park then to go out exploring the area.  The weather has been warm and sunny so I have been sitting outside sewing while Dusty naps nearby.  He loves being outdoors.
For the past couple of months, I have been plowing through some uninteresting and disappointing books.  Most I started a while back and stopped due to a lack of interest.  Like my projects, I suddenly feel a need to finish them.  I did, but they were not very satisfying to read.  The stories did not carry me away.  I did not fall in love with the characters or worry about them or the ending was disappointing.  Finally, I decided it was time to fall back on some of my favorite subjects - a cozy mystery or two or three.....

Shear Trouble by Elizabeth Craig

As soon as I started this one, I knew I was going to have a hard time putting the book down.  This is Elizabeth's third book in the series:  A Southern Quilting Mystery.  The main character Beatrice is starting to sound more like Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote.  Asking questions, looking for clues, and actually solving who-done-it before the killer reveals him or herself.

I like Beatrice and her sense of style, not to mention the description of her little southern style cottage, her garden, and her little corgi.  She is a novice quilter with a quiet observation of those around her.  I also like the fact that she is one of the few female 'investigators' not involved with a law enforcer love interest.  It seems like lately most of the cozy mysteries' main female characters are always involved with the Sheriff/Deputy/Detective/Lawyer which I find a little irritating that they need a man around to constantly warn them that they are walking on thin ice when it comes to "snooping" yet they are the ones that solve the case.  Well, okay, her neighbor and quilting friend, Meadow is married to the Sheriff, but that isn't the same.  Plus, half the time he has no idea what those two are up to!

Anyway, I enjoyed reading Shear Trouble.  I'm starting to enjoy Beatrice's crazy neighbor - Meadow.  She is a little scattered in thought but she has a a big heart.   I enjoy the rest of the quilting group as well especially Miss Sissy.  What a character!  Plus it was a joy to read about a quilt retreat, descriptions of Posy's quilt shop, as well as a stray kitten that sounded soooo adorable that I wanted to adopt her.  I know, I don't need another cat..   In the end, I was sad to see the story end, but very happy for a good getaway read.  Of course, it helps to know there is a new Southern Quilting Mystery coming soon - Tying the Knot

Last Wool and Testament by Molly MacRae
The Haunted Yarn Shop series was a recommendation from Amazon.  I wasn't so sure about it after the first couple of chapters.  First of all, the main character, Kath seems to be cursed by Murphy's Law...anything that can go wrong certainly does go wrong for her.  She gets a speeding ticket on the way to her grandma's funeral.  Then she is locked out of her grandma's house and the cat is missing.  And that's just the beginning...her dead grandma is also suspected of murder.  Having no home or job doesn't keep her down though.  Kath keeps plugging away at the clues to prove her grandma is innocent.

So many elements were being introduced in such a short time that I thought the story would end up a jumbled mess.   There's a ghost, hints of a witch with powers, blackmailing, and so much more going on...and yet, I was enjoying the story. There were some funny moments and the characters are well done.  Some are a little strange or a little wacky, but that just made me turn the pages faster.  I loved hating the boorish condescending oaf of a deputy.  I bet those two will never become a couple.  Kath would rather punch him in the nose than kiss him!  LOL!  I plan to read more from this series.

Look!  The waiting is over!  I have been waiting months for Marie Bostwick's new book "The Second Sister" and it is available today.  I just bought it through Audible.com.  I can't wait to listen to this one.  The cats will be going for a lot of walks!

Amazon Author's Fan Page
Want to know when an author has a new book?  If you are like me, you probably have several favorite authors that you like to keep track of their latest writings.  I use to keep a list of my favorites, but I always forgot someone.  Later, I used my Kindle to see if anyone had a new book being published soon. Now, Amazon will send you an email.  All you have to do is follow your favorite author on their Amazon fan page. Under their photo, you can click Follow and Amazon will let you know when your favorite author's latest book will be published.

On The Cutting Board
 I have also been getting in a little sewing done here and there.  A couple of the Happy Campers are getting a second look before I sew them together.  I feel a little tweaking needs to be done....
It seems to me that there is too much white for this Class-C mug rug.  I thought I would add the window frames and doors for more coloring before layering the white top to the blue background.
I'm going to add a few more flowers too....depending on how that looks, I might add more.  I plan to trim the bottom part off so some more of the blue background will show.
I added a lace stitch to the scalloped edging to match the curtains on this one.
I added two more snowmen to the collection for a better variety of colored scarfs.  Love the green polka-dotted fabric!
I finished transferring the A to Zzz Snowman patterns to the muslin blocks and I could not wait to start embroidering.  Actually, looking at the large pile of blocks, I realized that this project is going to take a year or two to finish.  No better time to start than right now!
Good Tip
Oh!  Before I go back to sewing...I learned a tip from Elizabeth Craig:  "Running your needle and thread through a folded dryer sheet before hand-piecing helps prevent knots." Craig, Elizabeth (2014-08-05). Shear Trouble: A Southern Quilting Mystery (p. 276). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.   
I wanted to see how well this would work so I waited until my embroidery thread became a tangled mess.  With some of the stitches I do, the thread is almost beyond repair once it starts knotting.  I rubbed the sheet on my DMC thread after it started to knot and it worked very well.  Plus, I found that the sheet cleans sticky needles after I have been sewing through fusible webbing.  
What an excellent tip!  My hand sewing has become even more relaxing and I am not losing as much thread now.  I plan to use a dryer sheet on my sewing machine's needle the next time it ends up sticky while sewing through fusible webbing.  

Well, I hear the projects calling to me.  I have my dryer sheet, the needles are threaded and ready to sew.
Happy Quilting!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Snowman Invasion (Conroe, TX)

We have been busy running errands, walking, and making this year's travel plans, but not a whole lot going on to post about lately.  We moved to the Conroe/Willis campground on Conroe Lake about two weeks ago.  It is only a short walk to the lake from our site.  We opted for a site with a field behind us for the cats.  Being springtime, the cats are not getting out as much as they would like due to rain and mud.  
Lake Conroe from the campground's beach area
Here are a few more photos of birds I took while we were staying in Columbus.  The pecan trees were too tall for me to get as many shots that I would like of the different birds.  We saw a few woodpeckers and some birds we could not identify. The Meadowlarks ran around the motorhome searching for food which caused our cats to go spastic. 
 I saw a few bluebirds and large flocks of Cardinals - sorry no photos of them....
 And of course, plenty of sparrows.

On The Cutting Board
A repeat customer said she was interested in buying 10 snowmen towards the end of summer.  I got excited at the challenge to come up with 10 original looking snowmen.  I pulled out all kinds of scraps, dug through my tubs for different textures...and somehow most of them ended up with blue scarfs.  Now, how did I do that? Hmmm?
Looks like a friendly invasion of snowmen!
"We want your hot cups of coffee, tea, and chocolate!"
Oh, and you are not miscounting.  I made 12 instead of 10 so I could add the extras to my shop.  I might add a couple of more so I can have a better variety of scarf colors.  At least, one with a red scarf and another green scarf.

I have also been working on some more Happy Campers.  In the past, customers have asked for a class-c shape, so I thought I might add one or two to the shop along with a motorhome shape.  It'll depend on how well they sell if I will make more for the shop. 
When I am not in the mood to work on the mug rugs, I have been hand-quilting this wall hanging.  I'm trying to keep my multi-tasking/short-attention span under control by allowing myself to only work on only a few projects per week until they are done and not start new ones.
It hasn't been easy since I have so many ideas bouncing around.  I started writing them down since I am afraid I will forget before I have a chance to start the new project.  Now, if I can just remember where I put the list...I know it is here somewhere....
Happy Quilting!

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Buzzard's Day on the River (Columbus, TX)

The weather hasn't been the best since we arrived in Columbus.  I would say we have had maybe five good days for walks and cat outings.  
 The rest of the time, it has been very cold, heavy mist, or raining, so we have been stuck indoors except for trips to the grocery store and the Post Office.
We keep sending Dusty outside so he can see or feel for himself how bad the weather really is at the time.  He thinks we are doing it on purpose.  I wish we could switch the weather on and off.  Wouldn't that be nice?  ;)
  Dusty is driving us crazy!
During one of the few partly sunny days, the buzzards were taking advantage of the better weather across the river from us.  There must have been around 30 of them enjoying a day on the river.  Some were splashing in the water,
but most were just sitting on the sand bar.  Whenever the sun peeked out from the clouds, the buzzards would spread their wings facing towards the sun.  As soon as the sun disappeared, they would close their wings and wait for the next sunbeam.
Today, we are under Flash Flood Watch until 1 am Tuesday......and watch I am.  Having a river view is great during nice sunny weather.  Not so good when it has been raining all night.  Plus, we were hearing an air boat going up and down the river.  We were wondering at the time if they were checking the river's condition since they were going slow and seemed to be stopping a lot along the way.

We woke to heavy rain this morning and we have been watching the Colorado river rising slowly throughout the day.  This was the first photo I took this morning around 10 am when I can still see the sand bar at the point (just above & to the left of the sign).....
Around 1 pm, the rain is still coming down and the sand bar is gone...
 and the low land is slowly disappearing...
Still rising at 3 pm...
The campground office is keeping an eye on the river and they are in contact with the reservoir upriver from us.  We are about 20 feet above the river and they will let us know if we need to move.   Odd, we were dealing with heavy rains and flooding last year in Seaside, OR.  Maybe we should think about adding pontoons to the sides of our motorhome.  How do you think that would look?

On The Cutting Board
One good thing that has happened since we arrived here - I have made several trips to the Post Office to mail out orders.  The most recent order was very interesting for me.  The customer wanted a similar Happy Camper for her husband without the hearts and flowers.  We had some great conversations about our interests in camping as well.
After our conversations, I came up with this design with a cardinal and swirls of wind for hubby. 
 I love this design so much that I think I will do it again in different colors.
In the meantime, I have figured out a way to add dogs inside the doors of the next two trailers.
The dogs are designed by Laurel Furnell and I have been trying for sometime to add the begging dog
and the Dachshund.
I thought adding the bird looking down would make more sense of why the dog was wagging his tail and what he was look up to.
Well, I spent most of the day on the computer and watching the river rise.  Time to relax with a little sewing.
Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On The Colorado River (Columbus, TX)

We left Rockport last week and settled into our new campground near Columbus, TX.  
We were sad to leave the coastal area until we arrived and saw the view from our site in among tall pecan trees on the Colorado River.  Every once in awhile, cattle show up on the other side and there are plenty of birds to view....hopefully, I will get a few in some photos too.
View from our new site
This morning, I woke up to what felt like a 20 lb furball with an icy cold nose on my chest relentlessly nudging my chin and hand.  What?  I didn't give you enough attention yesterday?  It might be dark outside, but Max was ready for today to begin.  The cats haven't been outside for two days because of the cold front that came through Texas and they are getting very restless.  They certainly love their new location with lots of grass to chew, tall trees to sniff around and plenty of wildlife to watch.  We will probably take them out today.
Colorado River
Since I haven't taken many photos of our new location, here are a few more from Rockport of the birds having a lazy afternoon...
well, most of them were relaxing.... 
i'm not squawking!!! you are!
Just before we left Rockport, we saw a big White Pelican near the shore.  We are familiar with the small Brown Pelicans, but wow! the White Pelicans are huge!  Okay, granted, I have seen many big birds like the Herons, Egrets, and Cranes, but to see a male White Pelican up close and near people for a comparison was quite a surprise.     

 I had to look up their facts and found out that the male can weigh up to 30 lbs and can be as tall as 70 inches which means he is taller than me.  His wing span can be up to 120 inches....or for me..being a fabric fan ~ over 3 yards!
Too bad the Great Blue Heron wasn't closer
I never got around to posting photos on my blog of the Whooping Cranes that we saw in a farmer's field, so here's a couple of them...

On The Cutting Board
I have been having a blast working on my scrappy quilts.  I have been adding applique to each top.  Special quilts to keep the owners warm and hopefully, make them smile.

For the Christmas Winter theme top, I added a snowman and a pair of mittens.  I got the cute designs from Colleen Parry's Christmas Goodies clipart.
I picked bright colors for a cheerful snowman.
 I had fun embroidering his scarf and face.

Once I finished the snowman, I started working on a teddy bear theme top.  I found this teddy bear online.  Isn't he adorable? 
I anchored all the balloon strings with closely stitched couching.  There's no way a little finger is going to get under the balloon strings or pick one out.
 I used the crayon technique to add a little dimension to teddy's face and belly.  I'm using the freezer paper method for applique.  So, after ironing the freezer paper to the backside of the fabric, I colored in the spots with a regular Crayola crayon.  I melted the crayon into the fabric by putting a piece of muslin over the area and set a hot iron on top until I smelled the melting wax from the crayon.  According to the online instructions, the crayon will not wash out.
Well, I have one more finished top - the transportation theme to applique.  I have already decided to add a train with a few colorful cars.  I have more cut-up quilt kits to sew as well.  I should also start working on some more Happy Campers soon.  Spring is around the corner and many people are starting to plan their warm weather camping trips, so I better get busy and restock!
Happy Quilting!

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Trip to Port Aransas Birding Center (Rockport, TX)

We took the ferry to Port Aransas last week.  The ferry is free and such a short ride that it isn't worth while to get out of the car.
Port Aransas attracts the sun & sand crowd so there wasn't a whole lot for us to find interesting.  Lots of shops for beach wear and fishing gear.  There's even an entrance to one shop that you need to walk through the mouth of a huge shark.  No shopping for us today.  We wanted to enjoy the sunshine.  We wandered around the harbor near the ferry landing for a short walk.  Of course, I found the Pirate ship the most interesting attraction.  We could have signed up for a Pirate Cruise.....hmmm
Instead, we watched the ferries crossing through the busy waterway for awhile.  Spotting dolphins every once in awhile.
We did not go to the beach because of parking fees.  It wasn't worthwhile for us since we would only be on the beach this one time to walk for less than two hours.

After lunch, we visited the Birding Center and hit the jackpot!  There were so many species of birds.  Ducks were quacking and splashing while other birds were hunting through the marsh for food.

There were Roseate Spoonbills and..........

turtles and.....

Little Blue Herons and....
ducks and.....
more ducks......
And this guy that I have never seen before, but I have heard of them - river rats.  This is not how I pictured a river rat.  The Center's sign says they are Nutrias or river rats and they are considered a pest because they can eat up all the vegetation.
marsh grass! yummy....nom! nom! nom!
They try to keep them under control.
yawn!  check out the big teeth
Controlling them doesn't seem to be working too well since we saw two nests of little ones sleeping with the turtles and there were several larger ones moving around the marsh.  We weren't the only ones that found them entertaining to watch.  Many of the visitors were getting photos and watching the river rats through their binoculars.
baby Nutrias
So, we were not disappointed after all.  Our day trip turned into a wonderful visit thanks to the Birding Center.

On The Cutting Board
I have been working on my quilt kits with the Crazy 8 design.  I plan to donate these scrappy quilts.  We plan to return to Patagonia, AZ for next winter to work at the Preserve.  Which means we will be passing through Albuquerque.  Hopefully, I will be there for a Saturday meeting with my quilting friends from Project Linus with a few finished quilts.
This one's theme is bees in the garden so I appliqued a big yellow flower.  Now, I wish I had made it large enough to cover from top to bottom.  Next time..
Recently, I have discovered Leanne Beasley's website.  She is a unique quilter that incorporates quilting and embroidery in a different way.  She has some great photos of her quilts here.  I would like to get one or two of her magazines, but they are only sold in a dozen quilt shops across the US.  I am in love with her designs, but I want to come up with my own.  It is going to take some practice.  I use a lot of dark fabrics while Leanne uses pastels or blocks of white making it easier to embroider.
I decided to practice this new idea by finding some bees and garden clipart to embroider into some of the lighter colored blocks.  I did not embroider a lot to the top this time since I am crunched for time and I have so many more that I would like to finish.
I have three more tops ready for applique or embroidery and at least three more quilts to sew together before we arrive in Albuquerque. 
Christmas, Travel, and Baby Bears quilt tops
I promised a full view of Laurel Burch's cat quilt a couple of posts ago.  Now that I am seeing the whole top, I am thinking there should be more cats or bigger cats on this top.  The four cats seem to be lost on the big blue top.  When it is done, I'm not sure what I will do with this one.  I love this fabric so much that I might keep it for myself instead of selling it on Etsy.
Decisions!  Decisions!  Right now, I believe I am ready for less thinking and more sewing.  Yea, that sounds like a good plan.
Happy Quilting!

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