Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Holiday Aspiration

How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How do you measure the love of a mother?
Or how can you write down a baby's first cry?

These are the opening lines of my favorite holiday song, Candlelight Carol. This carol, written by London composer and conductor, John Rutter, has been sung by choirs and individual singers. I first heard this song while listening to a holiday CD by my favorite singer, Neil Diamond. While the entire carol is beautiful, it was the first few lines that captured my attention and my heart. 

Each year now, I try to simplify throughout the holiday season. Trying to honor family traditions during this time of year while not getting so caught up in having all the preparations take over one's life can be challenging sometimes. The message of our culture's focus on the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating, and preparing for a "perfect" holiday season surrounds us during the last two months of each year. 

The first lines of Candlelight Carol remind me that the most important parts of this season, and of life in general, are those things that cannot be measured. The words of the carol are also helpful to me on days when the turbulence of the world seems overwhelming. May each of us be able to focus on the mystery and the immeasurable parts of life throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Latest Trend

Butterflies Galore

As I visited fabric stores and viewed fabric online recently, I noticed what must be a trend. Many fabrics now feature butterflies. I even decided to use butterfly fabric to make a fabric bowl.

A while back I bought a fabric jelly roll, which consists of color coordinated precut 2 1/2 inch strips of fabric ready to use in a quilt or project. I had fun looking at different patterns trying to decide how to use my jelly roll. Then I watched a YouTube video by Jenny Doan of  Missouri Star Quilt Company as she described a new butterfly quilt pattern.

When I found that the butterfly pattern uses a fabric jelly roll, my decision was made. At some point in 2018, I hope to made a butterfly quilt out of my jelly roll of purples and teals.

Galaxy Pixie Strips jelly roll by RJR Fabrics

Fascination with butterflies goes back as far as ancient Greek culture. In our culture, butterflies are often symbolic of transformation, life's transitions, hope, freedom, or beauty. Butterflies have a way of bringing both children and adults to a standstill. When coming upon a butterfly in nature, a sense of delight prevails. It's easy to become silent and wonder-filled when observing butterflies in a butterfly house or an active butterfly garden. 

Our fascination with butterflies extends to literature as well. Eric Carle's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, is a classic book popular with preschool and elementary school teachers as well as parents of young children. Its vivid colors and engaging text introduce children to the life stages of a butterfly. This lovely book has inspired fabric designers so that many fabric stores now carry a line of The Very Hungry Caterpiller fabric by Andover Fabrics. 
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Andover Fabrics

While speaking of butterflies and literature, I would recommend the novel, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. This book extends the enjoyment and knowledge of butterflies through an intriguing story.

Many of us may associate butterflies with spring and summer when we are aware of their presence and beauty as they flutter from blossom to blossom. However, fall is an important time as adults of the eastern population of monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico, flying up to 3,000 miles. In the western U.S., monarchs migrate to groves along the coast of California. 

Monarch butterflies overwintering in California
Monarch butterflies overwintering in California, Source: Science Photo Library

According to BBC news, in 2004 an estimated 550 million monarch butterflies arrived at their usual wintering ground. But 10 years later, in 2014, there were just 50 million - a decline of about 90%. Some scientists believe that these sensitive butterflies are victims of climate change, and these same scientists are watching the plight of the butterflies as an indicator of a warming earth. I know local environmentalists who are encouraging the planting of milkweed, the monarch larvae's food source, in backyards and community gardens. This is one strategy thought to help increase the population of these beautiful creatures.

Purple Milkweed

I have found plenty of inspiration for quilts and other fabric projects featuring butterflies. On a recent trip to the North Carolina Arboretum, my husband and I visited a small butterfly house. We watched a few varieties of butterflies, including monarchs, as they flew through the enclosure, stopping momentarily to sip nectar from the abundance of butterfly friendly plants. 

The Arboretum's quilt garden is one of my favorite places. Colorful plants are arranged in such a way as to mimic quilt blocks. There are steps nearby which allow visitors to look down upon the quilt blocks to see the entire quilt garden display. Much to my delight on this particular visit, the quilt garden was full of butterfly quilt blocks. It truly must be the year of the butterfly!

Are you a fan of butterflies? What do butterflies symbolize for you? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

I have received no compensation for the mention of books, fabric, or companies in this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Linked with: Over the Moon, Freemotion by the River

Monday, November 6, 2017

It's Almost Time!

It's almost time for the OLLI art bazaar/craft show! In a previous post, I highlighted some of the fabric items, that as a vendor, I will be selling at the show. If you live in western North Carolina, I would like to encourage you to attend the craft show on Friday, November 10 and Saturday, November 11. Please encourage your friends to attend as well. There will be something for everyone, and it's a great time to do some holiday shopping. Here is some detailed information:

OLLI Art Bazaar 

  • The dates are Friday, November 10 and Saturday, November 11 
  • The bazaar will be held in the Reuter Center at the University of North Carolina at Asheville 
  • Friday hours will be from 11 AM-4PM; Saturday hours are from 11 AM-3 PM. 
  • There will be 42 vendors selling a variety of handcrafted items. Each vendor has donated an item for drawings throughout the two day show, so by just attending you have a chance to win a unique handmade item. 
  • There is free parking.
  • Some of the proceeds from the art bazaar will be donated to a scholarship program at UNC Asheville. 
See you there!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ways To Be Creative

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
                                                                      ― Maya Angelou

Some would argue that any part of life can be a foundation for creative energies. In my experience, however, I must find chunks of time to plan, imagine, and create. Without this reserved time, my life does not feel as complete or fulfilled. Not only do I need time to pursue my own creative interests, I also find enjoyment in learning about how others fulfill their creative needs. 

I spent some time recently with my sister-in-law, Lynn. With our husbands, we traveled together to a couple of national parks. However, we also had some extra time after our trip to discuss our individual creative pursuits. Lynn enjoys making art using the medium of paper. Her artisitc ability is evident with her delicate and intricate origami. At first viewing, I found myself wondering, "Is that really made from paper?" Here are a few of her origami creations.

Lynn also has found a way to craft paper into beautiful flowers. Her flower arrangements are so realistic they could pass for real flowers. Can you spot the dollar bill flower within the arrangement?

More recently, Lynn has pursued a craft called quilling. Quilling is an art form that involves the use of strips of paper that are rolled, shaped, and glued to create decorative designs. After seeing some of Lynn's finished creations, I was very interested in learning more about how she creates these absolutely beautiful pieces of art. She starts with cutting tiny strips of paper using a paper cutter. 

Lynn then uses special quilling tools to roll and shape the paper. You can see some of her lovely creations here. Take special note of the tiny bee among the variety of flowers. The intricacy of Lynn's work amazes me.

Finally, Lynn puts together her individual quilled items as a type of collage and frames them. You can see here some work by Lynn that my husband and I treasure as it hangs in a special place in our home. 

Other friends and family members enjoy creative activities as well. My friend, Debbie, uses her creative energies in a variety of ways as she creates beautiful tablescapes and seasonal decor in her home. Recently, she made a seasonal craft that she can use during the upcoming holiday season. Debbie is also a writer and a blogger, further reinforcing her broad abilities as a creative person. Click on the links above to visit her blog and view some products of her creativity.

My friend, Judy, is a fellow quilter. We enjoy sharing our creative passion as we visit quilt shops and quilt shows together. We share ideas and show each other our current projects. Beginning in January, we will be taking a seven month course to learn a new quilting technique. Our finished product will be this quilt called "Glacier Star" which is an original design by quilt designer Judy Niemeyer.

Related image
Glacier Star designed by Judy Niemeyer, Quiltworx

My daughters also enjoy creative pursuits from photography to woodworking to cake decorating and more. As you can see, I am surrounded by friends and family who enjoy creative pursuits just as I do. 

What creative endeavors do you pursue? Please leave a comment and share.

Linked with: Wonderful Wednesdays

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Visit to National Parks

Kaweah River, Sequoia National Park

My husband and I recently traveled to Nevada where my brother-in-law and sister-in-law live. The four of us then traveled together to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park near Fresno, California. These parks are located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and at 6,000-7,000 feet in elevation are home to huge sequoia trees. Sequoia trees are some of the largest and oldest organisms on earth. The largest of the sequoias are as tall as a 26 story building, and many of these trees have a diameter of at least 20 feet. Sequoia bark can be 3 feet thick and is resistant to fire, insects, and disease. These trees can live up to 3,500 years, and they continue to grow throughout their life span. 

After traveling on narrow, winding roads for several miles within Sequoia National Park, we finally reached an elevation where sequoia trees grow. There was a collective gasp in the car as we first viewed these dramatic trees mixed with smaller trees rich with autumn color. We decided to travel on through the park to the famous General Sherman tree. We parked and walked for a while to reach the tree that is noted as the largest living tree on the planet.  At 2,100 years old, it weighs 2.7 million pounds, is 275 feet tall and has a 102-foot circumference at the ground. It has branches that are almost 7 feet in diameter. 

General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Par

A couple of days later we traveled about two hours north to Kings Canyon National Park. Here we viewed more of these majestic trees in their mountainous setting. The General Grant tree is a tourist draw in this park and is the second largest tree by volume on earth. Notice the vivid blue sky on our lovely autumn day in this park.

General Grant Tree, Kings Canyon National Park
Even though these parks are connected, Kings Canyon National Park is my favorite of the two. We took a 1 1/2 mile hike in this national park that was incredibly tranquil and beautiful.  The natural setting around the trees is magnificent, and there are other amazing sites such as this fallen sequoia which visitors can walk through. 

Fallen Monarch Tree, Kings Canyon National Park

I don't always return from our trips with souvenirs, but at the visitor center in Sequoia National Park, I couldn't resist when I found a special quilting treasure. These small fabric panels will be perfect when stitched into a quilted tote bag or two and will be special reminders of a special trip.

Design by American Quilt Blocks
Our travels often take us into different national parks, but I'll have to say that these particular parks do not disappoint with their majestic trees and lovely vistas. At the same time, I find myself wondering where our next national park trip will take us.

Do you have a favorite national park or natural setting that you enjoy visiting? Where do your travels take you? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Linked with: Marilyn's Treats

Monday, October 2, 2017

Making and Canning Applesauce

Fall in the mountains of western North Carolina always means a trip to a nearby apple orchard. My husband and I travel to our favorite orchard in a nearby county where we view and sample the varieties offered. 

We almost always drift back to our favorites--Mutsu for cooking and Pink Ladies for eating. The Pink Lady variety is not quite ready yet, but the Mutsu apples are abundant. 

After visiting the orchard, we set aside a day each fall to make and can applesauce. Our first step is to wash the apples. Then we core, peel, and cut the apples into pieces that will help the cooking process go more quickly.

Adding a small amount of water, we cook and stir for a while until the apples break down, soon resembling applesauce. We could stop the cooking at this point if we wanted chunky applesauce, but we usually cook it down until we have a smoother texture.

Normally, after taking the applesauce off the stove, we spend some time using a potato masher, continuing to break up the last bits of apple. However, this year my husband had an idea. He said, "Why not use the immersion blender to break up the apples and get the desired texture?" What a great idea! And it worked perfectly!! In only a few seconds using the immersion blender, we had exactly the texture we prefer. It does pay to be careful when using the immersion blender, however, since just a few seconds too long might result in the texture of baby food.

Now that the applesauce is finished, it's time to begin the canning process. With clean and sterilized jars, lids, and rings, we use a funnel to fill the jars. It's important to keep the edges of the jars free of any drips of applesauce and to tighten the lids and rings as much as possible.

Our pressure canner will hold seven pint jars at a time, so we fill the canner with the jars and begin the process of canning. It only takes a few minutes in the canner to seal those lids.

We repeat this canning process several times until we have 28 pints of applesauce! It has taken a bushel of those Mutsu apples and a whole day, but it is rewarding to look at all those jars of applesauce cooling on our kitchen counter. Applesauce, anyone?

Linked with: Marilyn's Treats

Friday, September 22, 2017

Preparing for a Fall Craft Show

My news for the fall is an upcoming local craft show in which I will be a vendor, selling handcrafted fabric items. I have spent time in the last few weeks planning, choosing fabric, and sewing small items to sell. 

The fabric bowls that I learned to make recently are favorites of mine. The sample fabric bowl shown in these two photos is reversible. They are great as small holiday gifts or hostess gifts. Used alone as a table accent or filled with candy, nuts, dips, or even paper clips, these bowls may appeal to those who prefer practical gifts. 

There is a Scandinavian legend that if one sprinkles bird seed by the front door on Christmas morning, it will bring good luck. I made these tiny tote bags to honor that tradition. I will be filling each bag with a packet of bird seed and a card that explains the legend.

A bottle of wine is a typical hostess gift any time of year. My colorful fabric wine totes will allow a gift of wine to be a little more special.

I had fun deciding how to incorporate some inspirational fabric quotes into a small project. After thinking about it for a while, I had a "lightbulb" moment one evening, and the next day I set out to craft the three inspirational pillows that you see here as well as several others.

Although most of my items to sell are small gift items, I can't resist including a small quilt or two. I used some red, blue, and yellow paisley as the focus fabric for this table runner that has a French country feel.

In the craft fair, I am also including this small tea themed quilt which can be used as a table topper or a small wall hanging. In a previous post, I explained both the inspiration and the technique for making this quilt.

So if you live in western North Carolina, please save the date for the OLLI Art Bazaar on Friday, November 10 and Saturday, November 11 in the Reuter Center at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Friday hours will be from 11 AM-4PM; Saturday hours are from 11 AM-3 PM. There will be 42 vendors selling a variety of handcrafted items. Each vendor has donated an item for drawings throughout the two day show, so by just attending you have a chance to win a unique handmade item. There is free parking, and some of the proceeds from the art bazaar will be donated to a scholarship program at UNC Asheville. 

Stay tuned as the date gets closer when I will share more details of my preparations for this craft show as well as a few more items to be featured on my craft show tables.

Linked with: Marilyn's Treats , Wonderful WednesdaysLinky Tuesday Freemotion by the River, and Needles and Thread Thursday