Friday, January 31, 2020

Is It Spring Yet?

My brain is already slipping into spring. Yesterday, I was in my sewing room and I looked out my window and saw sun so I dropped everything and went outside. I am already finding myself looking at plant websites rather than writing.
Since the color scheme of the hidden garden is the yellow to burgundy color wheel, I was pretty excited yesterday to find yellow bleeding hearts. I saw them last year for a truly astonishing price at Breck's, but they were already sold out so even if I had been willing to pay their price, they were not available. This year, I found them at Easy to Grow Bulbs for $17/each. This is still more than I like to spend on mail order plants since they so frequently die, but I really want them for the hidden garden, so I just ordered two of them.
Last summer, I ordered a bunch of bareroot hosta from Easy to Grow Bulbs and that went well, so I am hopeful this order will also go well. You can be sure I will report back if it doesn't. They gave me a $5/off referral code if anyone else is interested in ordering from them.

Because you can never have enough purple plants in your garden, I chose a color scheme of purple and white for under the black walnut. There are already some orange daylilies over there, so I won't be strict about it, but I'd like the new plants to be in the purple range. I may eventually replace the orange daylilies with purple, but right now I'm focusing on filling the empty dirt before I start digging up established plants.

I've been studying lists of plants that survive under black walnuts and tolerate shade, but I've found quite a few conflicts, so I'll just have to try some plants and see which make it. I ordered some blue blanda anemones which are new plants to me, but they're supposed to survive under black walnuts so I'm giving them a try.
I also ordered a white bleeding heart and a white astilbe (also new to me).

I'm seriously considering ordering more irises from Schreiner's. Irises are another flower that can grow under black walnuts, but I'm not sure they'll get enough sun. I should probably wait until plants reemerge in spring and see how much space we have left before I order any more. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

January Yard

We have had a really mild winter this year and our yard is already waking up. As I recall, we really only had one day with snow and it didn't even last through the day. I fear what this will mean for our summer weather. We really should have gotten in some rain barrels to save some of the rain.

I have been paying close attention to the yard this year. I've been outside taking photos every few days. I'm curious to know what survived our neglect and destruction and I'm hoping I'll be able to use the photos to locate bulbs next fall so we can dig them up and spread them out. There are quite a few bulbs popping up in places where we didn't plant them so it appears we didn't manage to kill everything.
This is the planter next to the patio. There is a lenton rose (hellebore) from our neighbor, donaleen. She gave us two plants a couple years ago and they are both in flower this year. The bulbs next to it we may have planted in 2017. I think I ordered them for the front yard parking strip but when we didn't prep it in time, I just put them in the backyard instead.
This is the other lenton rose in the planter next to the back patio.  There's lots of columbine coming back too.
This is under the black walnut. I actually planted the mini irises (Botanical Iris Reticulata) last fall, but the other bulbs are likely bluebells leftover from a prior resident. There used to be tons of them, but now they're just in a few spots. If we're here long enough, I'm going to try and dig them and spread them out again.
Not everything survived in the parking strip, but the plants that lived look quite nice.
This is a lenton rose of unknown variety in the front yard that was planted by a prior resident. It's very pretty. I need to watch and see if it makes seeds/seedlings.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Time Consuming

I can't believe how long this little tote bag is taking. I really thought I could finish it in a day, but I've already spent two days (more than eight hours) on it and it's still not finished. I still need to add a handle, and I think I'll line it to add some strength. I doubt I'll be making any more of this particular design.
I will still make the denim lap quilt. I've already cut out the denim circles.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

More Progress

I'm trying to have a healthier life balance this year so my quilting projects take me longer these days. Rather than losing an entire day in my sewing room, I have been trying to spend at least half my day doing cleaning, writing and exercise.

I finished assembling the Fire Dance quilt.
I have the border left to do, but I need Jeff's help to lay it out and measure it accurately. Sadly, it is now too big to do a fancy border so I'm just going to put a plain border on it. I could have finished it today, but I got distracted by a little tote bag project.

I found this project when I was googling how to make the denim circle quilt and I decided it would be good to make a little project first so I could get some practice on the technique.
This is what I got finished today before I had to go downstairs and work on my daily task list. It is made with little 4" denim circles cut from the scraps of denim I had leftover after I finished cutting out the 6" circles for the larger lap quilt. I had actually thrown all this away before I decided to do a second pass and cut the smaller circles. The cotton print fabrics are from my scrap bin.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Quilt Work Resumed

I tried a new company, Quilting Delights in Milwaukie, to get my sewing machine repaired and I got it back in record time so I resumed work on my quilt blocks today. I've finished all of the half blocks.
I just need to make 4 more corner blocks and I'll be able to assemble the rest of this quilt.
Hopefully, I'll finish tomorrow.

Next up is a denim quilt, like this one, made from cut up old jeans.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Weight Loss Success

Last April, Jeff and I found ourselves at our highest weights ever. We had spent years sitting around playing video games and eating terrible food. I was struggling to get around and with knee troubles, having a hard time getting up and down the stairs. That is, in part, what prompted us to start looking for a one-story house in Prineville.

Jeff does all the food shopping and I asked him to please stop bringing home cookies and sodas. Back then, I had very little willpower to avoid them even when I should. He was also uneasy about his weight, having just gone for a visit where family members told him he looked fat and having gotten exhausted on a hike with a friend.

Together we decided we were ready to tackle a new project: Our health.

That day Jeff joined Noom. He really benefitted from the lessons and constant reminders throughout the day to log his food. He learned a lot about nutrition, and though I never paid the subscription, much of what he learned rubbed off on me. I decided one subscription in the house was enough, but I eventually installed the free app to track my food and weight.

I will admit the beginning was difficult; I had severe sugar withdrawal. I had dizzy spells and struggled with sugar cravings. And, having so many problems physically, I struggled to exercise. We bought a stationary bike and the first day I rode it for 30 minutes. The ride strained my knee and I could barely get up the stairs for the next few days. So, I throttled back and focused on my eating and doing chair exercises.

Jeff zipped through losing 60 pounds. He lost about 3 pounds a week. He walked everywhere and exercised relentlessly. He reached his goal weight last fall and is now in maintenance. (He's written a bunch of blog posts about his journey if anyone is interested.)

Mostly, Jeff prepared all the food we ate. He did an amazing job. We eat a ton of fruit and vegetables now. It’s nice on Noom that nothing is off limits, but you learn about serving size. For dessert, we might have a big bowl of fruit with a tablespoon of ice cream. Ultimately, we cut out lots of food we used to eat because the calories just aren't worth it. And we've discovered lots of healthy alternatives that fulfill our cravings.

Sometime last fall I tried tasting a Coke, my former addiction. It tasted gross; like chemicals. We poured it out and recently I gave away all the coke we had squirreled away in the pantry.

On average, I have lost about 1.3 pounds a week for a total of more than 50 pounds and it has made a huge difference in my ability to exercise. Stairs are no longer a chore. I ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes daily, as well as walking around the neighborhood when the weather is nice. I spend a lot more time cleaning.

I am still hoping to lose another 50 pounds, but I am feeling proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last year.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Measure Twice, Cut Once

I thought I was almost finished with the Fire Dance quilt.
I finished all the blocks and sewed them together yesterday. I thought I only had to add the border. But then I measured it and it wasn't wide enough. Oops. I couldn't figure out what I did wrong. I thought when I designed it, I'd double-checked the measurements on the quilt's size and it would be large enough to back the other batik quilt.

It took me a few minutes, but I finally figured it out. This quilt was meant to have blocks that were 12.5-inches square but when I printed out the block instructions I had accidentally made them 10-inches. Obviously, there's no fixing that mistake.

Jeff suggested I finish the central lines into the border, so I decided to do that. I designed some half-blocks to finish the edges and once I make those it should be wide enough to back the batik flower quilt.
I had expected to finish the quilt today, but now it will be at least another week or two.

Update on Sunday: Making some progress.
I had planned to take my sewing machine in for service right after finishing this quilt, and I would have made it if I didn't have to make additional blocks. But no. My machine has decided it is done. The tension is all messed up and nothing I can do will fix it, so this project is put on hold temporarily while the machine goes in.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Trying to Write

I am trying to not spend all my time sewing right now. I am splitting my time between reading/writing and sewing, so the Fire Dance quilt is taking a bit longer than usual. I have 17 blocks left to make.
We are really enjoying Habitica. It has been fantastic for getting us to do daily/weekly tasks that we should do but often didn't (things like change the bird cage, scrub the bathroom).

And we have turned more of our attention to reading and writing. I finally got my library access restored (my sign-in stopped working last year) and I have started downloading audiobooks/ebooks again.

I am currently trying to slog my way through Moby Dick. It's a book I've heard about so many times throughout my life, it seemed like I should have read it. I am trying, but it is written in 1850s English. We shall see if I make it.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Better Colors

My batik fabric finally arrived! I made a new test block and I like it much better.
I've already made all 24 of the easy block (on the right), now I just need to finish 23 more of the block on the left.
This design is based on Fire Dance from Batik Beauties by Laurie J. Shifrin. 
This is my plan for the finished quilt. Now that I have the fabric I need, I hope to finish it this coming week.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Rag Quilts Finished

I finally dragged myself into a laundromat and washed the rag quilts to fray up the seams. I quite like how they turned out. I am definitely going to make a couple more to toss down into the basement family room.
It was a fairly significant investment of time to snip all those seams, but it paired nicely with our new subscription to Disney+.
Once it's washed, I think I prefer the 3/8" seam over the 1/2" seam; it just looks a little tidier.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Trying Something New

As our long-time readers probably know, since 2012 we've been having an ongoing issue with spending too much time playing video games. We wasted about five years of our lives playing a variety of RPGs and though we finally gave up those, we still play too much Forge of Empires (FoE). In an effort to try and find something that can compete for our eyeballs, we're trying a new website that will help our gamify our life priorities: Habitica.

We started yesterday, not specifically because it was a New Years' resolution, but because we revisited our goals for 2019 and confirmed that we didn't do too well on our writing-related goals so we went looking for a way to stay on track better. When I found Habitica, we installed the apps and spent several hours yesterday entering all kinds of tasks. So far, our results look promising. I barely looked at FoE yesterday and spent a lot more time working on cleaning and writing tasks.

We shall see how this goes, but early results look promising.