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