Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad news/good news

The Bad News:

We are going to Minnesota in August. No, that's not the bad news. It's actually really good news because we get to see our friends, go to Mark's class reunion, and I get to meet in person someone I've been getting to know via email and I'm really excited about that.

No, the BAD news is this: What is up with the air miles you earn on your credit card and seat availability? We have lots of air miles. We wanted to cash them in to make our flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul. We wanted to fly for FREE. That's why we HAVE a card that earns air miles. So when I tried to make the reservation the other night, there were no seats available. Correction: there were no air mile seats available for the days were wanted to travel, nor the day before or the day after. There were first class seats available on a flight coming back, but not at a time we wanted to fly, and we were not about to bankrupt our air mile account anyway by using it to fly home first class. There were a lot of seats available on the flights we needed, just no air mile seats. When I asked about this, the reservation person said, "Well, it IS summer, and it IS Minneapolis." Don't get me wrong. Minnesota is a beautiful state and I love going there. But August in Minnesota? Hot, humid, mosquito-swatting August in Minnesota? A popular destination in August? Really?? So we had to fork over hard cold cash, ahem, credit card, which will earn us more air miles...that we probably can't use when we need 'em.

Now the GOOD news:

While we are there, we get to go to the Fairmont County Fair and see these guys! Phenomenal musicians! Never thought we would get to see them in person. And the price for this stellar entertainment? Free with paid admission to the fair...a whopping $6/person! Woo hoo! Almost makes up for having to pay for our plane tickets. Almost. Not quite.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Our boots went boot-scootin'...

...but with someone else's feet in them.

The Clovis Rodeo is always the last weekend in April, and for the last couple of years, Valerie has borrowed my beloved red cowboy boots. I love these boots. Love.Them. I may never wear them again, and while I am the first person in this household to donate/throw out things that will never be used again, such will never be the fate of these boots. boots...on Valerie's feet and off to the Clovis Rodeo.

And then our next day neighbor, Kyle, knocked on the door and wondered if Mark had any cowboy boots he could borrow to wear to the Clovis Rodeo. What size? 10 1/2? Bingo.

So...Mark's boots...on Kyle's feet and off to the Clovis Rodeo.

Turns out Valerie and Kyle have friends in common, so they met at the rodeo to take this picture.... our boots. Having a good time. With someone else. I'm afraid that now our boots are gonna want to keep on walkin' and not come back.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I've Been Bitten--The Party Edition

First let me make it perfectly clear. I am not a party planner. While I admire those people who can come up with an idea and then carry out the whole creative invitation/decorating/menu planning scheme, I am not one of those people. But here's a secret I learned this week--sometimes all you need to do is offer your place as party headquarters to one of those people and you can get in on all the excitement yourself, with just a fraction of the work. Party on!

Jessica decided to have a "Twilight" party and invite people who had read at least two of the four books in the series. She did all the planning and we had it at my house because there was a bit more room.

I can tell you right now, this girl needs to seriously think about party planning as a career option. For all you Twilight lovers, she made amazing invitations and then sent them to Forks, Washington, to have the stamp canceled there so that it actually said "Forks, Washington" on the envelope. Talk about attention to detail.

The book covers themselves are just beautiful. Jessie had gotten some great ideas from different places and put them all together with her own special touch.

All party-goers were instructed to wear black and red, and we took individual pictures of each of them, with an apple, of course! Here are just a couple of them (Jessie has them all posted on her blog):

Jessica, the party planner:

My beautiful daughter-in-law, Christa (who also knows how to give an L of a party):
My friend, Sue (and mother of the party planner):

All the food in the carefully planned menu was red and black. Jessica found black squid ink pasta and red chianti pasta. And while the whole squid ink thing really doesn't sound that appetizing, at least to me, once you saute the pasta in olive oil and add some sundried tomatoes, it's really yummy.

Cherry tomatoes with kalamata olive spread, black and red corn chips with salsa, and black bean spread, red licorice "bites," red velvet cake, chocolate-covered strawberries, strawberry ice cream with chocolate chunks...mmmmmm.

And the drink selection--all you had to do was pick a "type"...

...and pour it into one of these glasses dripping with "blood."

You gotta love Jessie's red stilettos:

And our finale: a group photo.

I'll be happy to co-host a party at my house with you any time, Jessica!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Color Therapy Thursday: Earth Week Green


Solar panels--gotta love anything that reduces our energy bill, especially during our long, hot summers.
While purchasing this fabric did not reduce my stash, it did reduce the seller's inventory, so I think I'll just leave the explanation at that.


Awesome fabric that will be turned into reusable shopping bags.


Ready for some unique spoon rests or serving trays? Watch for them in our etsy shop.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My favorite quilt

Amy at Park City Girl has organized an online quilt festival, complete writh prizes. Woo hoo!!

At the time of this writing, there are 398 participants! Besides posting a picture of a favorite quilt, she wants a story about the quilt.

Picking my "favorite" quilt is nearly impossible. Lots of times it is the one I am currently working on, or the one living in my head just waiting for the time to make its appearance.

They don't all have interesting stories, but if you ask Mark about this quilt, he will probably say he thought he might lose his life over this one. Of course that wouldn't have happened. I'm sure it didn't even cross my mind at the time. Not really ...
This is actually one of my first quilts. I saw a tiny 3x3 inch picture in a magazine and fell in love with it. The block is a classic kaleidoscope block. The thing that so intrigued me was that the original quilt was made in quadrants, each quadrant mirroring the other three, but in a different color. I became obsessed with this quilt. I spent hours searching for the perfect fabric for each piece. Sometimes I would buy 1/8 yard (the small amount most stores are willing to cut for you) in order to cut just one triangle out of it.

We have a really long hallway right outside our bedroom, with enough wall space to give me a large design wall. I spent hours putting each triangle on that design wall, moving things around, studying it to make sure the colors were progressing properly, that each quadrant was an exact mirror image of the other three. Nothing was pinned onto the design wall, mind you. I would just pat them on and they would stay there...under normal conditions.

One day I was nearing completion of getting it all on the design wall just the way I wanted so I could start sewing. It was also laundry day and I had piles of laundry all sorted on the floor in our bedroom. Mark had taken off a shirt and decided, from the opposite end of the hallway, to try to throw his shirt onto the pile in the bedroom. He wound up that throw like a major league pitcher and let go of the shirt. As it flew down the hallway, it created a little wind current....and what followed was the most colorful display of little fabric triangles, floating and fluttering like leaves, around and around....and down to the floor.

We were both speechless....for different reasons, of course. All those hours I had spent arranging and rearranging. We looked at each other and he said in a panicked voice, "Um, I think I will leave the house for awhile."

I don't think I was ever actually mad at him, just shocked as I saw all those pieces floating to the
ground. And while I have named most of my other quilts, I haven't been able to pick out a good name for this one. "Near Death Experience" sounds so dramatic, in a negative way. Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lines are open and operators are standing by

To be more accurate, Paypal is standing by. After a lot of work, and a LOT more work to do, our website has been reworked and our etsy store is officially open for business. Granted there are only three tiny (literally) things in the etsy store, but it's a start, and now that I've gotten my feet wet it will be a lot easier to add more categories and a lot more items for sale.

In this era of web-based sales, we realized that just having a website was no longer sufficient. Etsy sellers and sales have risen exponentially in just the last year and we knew we had to jump on that bandwagon as well.

So we hope you will take a few minutes to check them both out. As more items are added to etsy, we'll keep you posted.

Website, check. Blog, check. Etsy, check. Facebook, check. Is Twitter coming next??

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Color Therapy Thursday: Mellow Yellow

Jessica has written so much about color therapy that I thought it would be fun to start sharing some of the colors that inspire me or just make me happy. You may see fabric, nature, decor. Who knows? You may see a stack of my Fiestaware dishes if they happen to come out of the dishwasher in a particularly pleasing array. So here we go with Color Therapy Thursday. Maybe every Thursday, maybe not. We'll see how the inspiration hits.

Why start with yellow, you ask? It's such a sunny cheery color. But basically I picked it because of a certain purchase we made last night. So now, in no particular order, I introduce yellow.
What could be cuter than a yellow VW with daisy wheels? Probably not everyone would want one of these. Mark always said he would never drive a car that comes equipped with a flower vase. But for Jessica, it is the perfect vehicle.
One of the first yellow roses to bloom this year in our rose garden, Midas Gold.

Want a cheery way to start your day? Just set your coffee cup on one of these.

And here it is. The purchase you have been waiting to see, right? The Cindy Lou, the newest member of our nonmotorized fleet at Lakeview Cottages. It's probably worth mentioning that this is the first time I have ever been in a kayak and I feel pretty safe maneuvering on the grass. The big appeal was really to have something in our fleet with my name on it. Hmmm. I guess I just was feeling a wee bit envious when Sue got the cutest red kayak named it the Susie Q. We'll see how I feel about it when I am out on the open sea, or the lake as the case may be. So come up to Lakeview Cottages and take her for a spin.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tequila Mockingbird

I'll admit right up front that there is only one reason for this blog post: I saw "Tequila Mockingbird" on a drink menu. And I keep saying it's all about the blog title so of course it required that I work it in to some kind of post topic. It is a clever take on one of my all-time favorite books but a book review isn't really in order. And, well, I couldn't really come up with much else. But to add a little substance, I am including something a little (gasp) X-rated!

Around the Block Designs has big plans for these babies so stay tuned.

Monday, April 13, 2009

You get what you pay for...or when Murphy's Law takes control

I'm pretty sure when my niece Becky sent me a quilt top she had been working on for her mother-in-law she wasn't expecting my procrastinating tendencies to flare up. Just ask my daughter-in-law--who wondered why it would take me months to make a simple valance for Charlotte's room. Yeah, well that's a post for another day...

I'm usually a really good listmaker because it is so satisfying to cross things off of said list. However, sometimes that just isn't sufficient motivation for me if it's something I'm not sure how to do, maybe not such a fun thing to do, whatever. Then it can sit around, staring me in the face, never letting me forget it's there, basically saying "just do it and get it over with." But I ignore it and do something else.

So back to Becky's quilt top. And if you aren't a quilter, just move on because this will be boring. If you are a quilter, it will probably still be boring but maybe you have also become close friends with your seam ripper over some other project. This quilt will indeed be a treasure when it is completed. Becky had carefully made blocks using vintage hankies and had actually even put two borders on the quilt top. I think the problem may have been that it was set on point, which means you are working with fabric on the bias, which makes it really stretchy, with a tendency to ripple instead of lying nice and flat. She sent me the quilt top months ago, maybe even over a year ago, to see if there was something I could do with the borders to make it lie flat. This is the "you get what you pay for" part.
I opened the box and carefully went through everything she had included (although apparently not carefully enough, because I sure forgot what all was in there), then put it back in the box telling myself I would work on it "soon."

"Soon" turned out to be months later. In the meantime, I needed some white fabric for something. Looking around my sewing room I saw some white fabric that looked just perfect so I cut a big chunk out of it, although at the time I remember thinking, "Hmmm...what is this fabric doing here?" I should have investigated that thought a little more closely. The fact that it was sitting on top of the box from Becky never crossed my mind.

More months passed by. Becky inquired whether it would be done in time for Mother's Day. Mother's Day? You mean this Mother's Day?

Here's the thing: it wasn't even a hard "fix." It just involved taking both borders off, trimming some of the quilt top to get rid of the ripples, measuring and sewing the borders back on.

Enter Murphy's Law. If anything could go wrong, it did go wrong every step of the way.

First of all, our local quilt shop always has a New Year's Day Sale. Everything in the store 25% off. Remember that white fabric that I cut up? In retrospect I thought that was probably what Becky had intended for the back of the quilt. I didn't really investigate the contents of the box before deciding that I would just buy more white fabric for the back and use the cut-up stuff myself for something else. So that's what I did on January 1. Bought yards of white fabric for the back.

Fast forward to March.

I think Becky had already taken both borders off, a floral outer border and a white inner border. See--it's been so long that I don't remember if she took them off and put them in the box, or if I took them off.

Measured the center of the quilt. Cut the side floral borders the correct length. Sewed them on. Decided it was too "busy" and needed a thin plain white border separating the quilt top from the floral fabric. So the floral borders came off...again.

Duh. That's what that white fabric was for, the white that I had cut the chunk out of. Fortunately found more scraps. Measured white border fabric, sewed it on sides. Then realized once I put the white border fabric on all four sides, it messed up the measurements for all the floral borders. They were now all too short. Fortunately I found some scraps and was able to add more fabric to make them the right length, discretely of course. You can hardly even tell...

Took everything out of the shipping box and found.....yards of white fabric for the back. How could I have missed that in the first place?

Called my friend, Liana, who will be machine quilting it. Begged and pleaded with her to please let me bring it to her ASAP for safe keeping. It is now in the hands of a true professional. And she promises it will be done by Mother's Day. However, it does have to come back to me for binding. I hope Murphy and his Law will have moved on to someone else by then.

Monday, April 6, 2009


If you are a quilter, quilt lover, food lover, social interaction lover, used book lover, antique lover, shopper, charitable giver, 2K or 10K runner, where can you find the perfect place to get a little of each, and feel good about spending some of your hard-earned money? Without a doubt, the answer would be the West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale held on the campus of Fresno Pacific University the first weekend in April. All the labor is donated, all the quilts are donated, food, antiques, pretty much everything there is donated. The money raised all goes to Mennonite Central Committee, a highly ranked charitable organization dedicated to helping Third World Countries.

And it definitely ranks as one of my favorite weekends of the whole year. It starts late Friday afternoon and runs through late Saturday afternoon. During that 24-hour period of time, you can eat some of the best food there is, visit with friends you maybe haven't seen since the previous year, bid on quilts and antiques, run or walk the 2 or 10K. When you see the following pictures, you will definitely know what captures my heart. But I ate lots of really great food, too, and now wonder why I didn't take a picture of any of it. Soooo yummy.

Friday night is set aside mostly for the antique auction and then bright and early Saturday morning the quilt auction gets going. For the past five or six years, my friends and I have sat in the same section of the special events center where the auction is held. I stay in my seat all day Saturday, and I do mean all day, only leaving for bathroom breaks. Really. Mark even delivers lunch to me. Listening to the auctioneers, gazing at each quilt, being with my friends, I just love everything about it.

There were well over 200 quilts, comforters and afghans up for auction this year. Oh so much to choose from.
Beautifully hand quilted.

This one was made by friends, Maggie and Sue, and I have watched them working on it for over a year. The picture really doesn't show what a gorgeous quilt this turned out to be.

Loved the colors in this one.

And did I buy anything? Well, let's just say I was completely focused, with one goal in mind.

This quilt was started by my friend, Jennifer, several years ago, each block completely original. I have been wanting this quilt ever since I saw the first block. How happy was I when she said she was donating it. My chance to own it! I was so nervous when it came up for auction because there could be someone else who wants it just as much. I had to give my bidding number to my friend, Tanya, told her my dollar limit, and turned the whole buying process over to her. It's a weird thing when you are bidding on something you really, really want, at least it is for me. My stomach starts turning flipflops, I get all shaky, cold and clammy. It's hard to even concentrate enough to know whether you are the current top bidder or not. So thanks, Tanya!

Isn't this too cute?

And close-ups of some of my favorites, although it is really hard to determine which are actually my favorites. Right now it is on the floor in my family room and I keep looking at it and trying to decide. This is what I came up with: I love them all !

And who is this adorable child? She came to say hi to her quilt-lovin' Grandma. And no, she's not up for auction. No one could afford to bid that high anyway, because she is completely priceless. Sold!

Friday, April 3, 2009


Yesterday my spring cleaning mode started to rev up into high gear. I called Stanley Steamer and had my carpets cleaned. And I decided it was time to wash all the winter grime off my car. You people from the Midwest and East Coast, back off. I know you don't think we have any "real" weather out here in California. I'm not talking about all that build-up in the wheel wells from slushy or muddy roads, dirty snow, etc. I've lived in the Midwest so I know what you guys go through. Really, I do. So mainly I'm talking about a lot of dirt, mushed bugs, etc. Anyway, I got it nice and clean, inside and out.

This morning, I made a brief tour of my house, admiring my clean carpets. Went outside and got in my car. Less than 24 hours and it is already completely covered with a film of yellow pollen. Ahh....choo!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Caution: Curves ahead

A couple of weeks ago we received a custom order from the Jacquie, the owner of Alden Lane. She was having an appreciation dinner and was interested in sending us some photos of the nursery and having them fused to glass. It is a simple process for anyone who wants to have us do this. You just need a computer and know how to email pictures. Easy, right? So here we go with pretty much the whole procedure.

1. We need a high-quality picture sent to us via email, preferably a picture with good light-dark contrast. This is one of the pictures that Jacquie sent us. It can be color, black and white, whatever. Doesn't matter. It will always end up being sepia tone, which gives the pictures a great vintage look.

2. It gets printed on a laser printer in black and white (it has to be black and white and on a laser printer because of the iron in the black ink--so at this point color printing is not an option).

3. We make two-layer fused "blanks." (I know, this is a completely fascinating picture, huh?)

4. After the blanks have been fired and cooled down, the photocopied picture is attached to a blank. In Jacquie's case, she had three pictures she wanted to showcase, so they were placed side to side.
5. The pictures and glass are fused together in the kiln.

6. Because Jacquie was using these as part of her table decorations and the pictures look so much better with a little light behind them, Mark fired them again to "slump" them into an S-shaped curve on one of our fusing molds. That also allows them to be freestanding on a desk or shelf.

7. And here they are as part of a beautiful table, after which they were given to the volunteers who had helped her at the nursery.

So if you are looking for a new and creative way to showcase your own photos, for you or as a gift, get in touch with us.