Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blooming Artichoke

We grew an artichoke! A feat of patience, taking three years for the plant to establish itself in our chilly climate. Its companion plants, all but one, failed to last the first year.
The other survivor is still a scrawny thing, but at least its still alive. Perhaps next year we'll have enough for a romantic interlude with melted butter.
For now, we do as we're told, and let this one live out its natural life without harvesting. To help the plant grow stronger, you see.
I have no regrets about letting it put up its purple spikey crown, and neither does that honey bee feasting on its nectar. My only regret is not being able to follow that bee back to his honey comb!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Green Things

 Last week, my cucumber row started out like this:
By the end of the week, I was up to my elbows in these:
Do not be deceived, that bowl isn't small. That's my camping dishpan/BBQ ash bowl/pick-a-bushel-of-cukes-and-carry-it-out-of-the-garden-on-my-hip bowl.

So I made my house smell like pickles a few days in a row.
This week, the green beans started to produce, so the other night I made up my first canner full. The Farmboy came home, and said, "Mmmm... its been a long time since the house smelled like green beans". Yes, it has. We've had a run of bad bean years, with not much to show on the pantry shelves. I'm hoping to make up for it this year.
Today, while the other green things continue to grow like crazy, I'll be dealing with these:
That was Friday's harvest. I'm a bit scared about what I'm going to find out there today.

Monday, August 27, 2012

End of Summer Tag Sale

I've been sorting and weeding through things that I no longer need to keep in my house. Most of it went to our church's garage sale, donated to a great cause. But I held back the items that I thought would be specially interesting to my blog readers. Go check out my End of Summer Tag Sale page to see if there's anything you can't live without!

I have a few more things to list today, so keep checking back, but remember, first come first served, and feel free to make offers... this is a tag sale, after all!

Friday, August 24, 2012

*NEW* French Harvest Basket (an Antique Reproduction)

When I spotted a matched pair of framed needlepoint baskets in a French etsy shop, it was love at first sight. I considered only buying one, but in the end, just couldn’t break the pair up. Besides, I justified to myself, what if one of them is in bad shape and I need both to complete the chart? Well, their trip from France was thankfully short, and I only needed to un-frame one to complete the chart, so the story has a very happy ending.

I did take liberties by calling for linen fabric, cotton floss, and cross-stitches rather than needlepoint. In all other ways it is a match to the originals, pulling elements from each (they have slight differences), the colors being very similar, and all stitches being charted as accurately as could be. Some of the original colors are so faded that a claim to exact reproduction would be false, as I had to make up fill stitches in a few areas. And I did add the words to the bottom, as well as a place to the side where you can add your initials and date.  If you prefer to keep it as close to the original as possible, simply leave off all lettering.

I chose to add words because I wanted to impart a certain French-ness to the design, so the casual viewer would realize its origins. I played around with an online translator until I found the words La Récolte, which translate, “harvesting; collecting; gathering”.

When I put out a call for help from my model stitchers, the words “antique needlepoint reproduction” must have sounded scary, because not one volunteered to stitch it. With a little arm twisting, I convinced Donna Gabbard to take it on, and she did a lovely job, despite the many color changes and very different style from my usual. Thank you, my dear, I appreciate you and your skilled fingers and the time you invested in this project!

The entire model is worked with cross stitches, using one thread worked over-two.

Stitch Count: 81 x 80
Model stitched on Picture This Plus 28ct. Legacy

Using flosses from The Gentle Art: 0350 Mulberry0530 Pumpkin Patch,0540 Brandy, 0560 Nutmeg, 7005 Old Red Paint, 7007 Cidermill Brown, 7049 Lambswool, 7057 Roasted Marshmallow,7072 Raspberry Frost

And flosses from Weeks Dye Works: 1230 Havana, 1273 Grape Vine, 2241 Chrysanthemum, 3910 Mascara

This design is now available in my etsy shop, and will be going out to my distributors and the shops on my automatic shipments list soon. If you prefer to bypass etsy and order directly through me, you can send me an email: 

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I'll be making pickles today. Bread and Butters. Yum. Love those pickles.
I don't buy relish anymore. I either use Yellish (I see I haven't shared the recipe yet. I'll have to remedy that situation soon), or if I want more of a sweet taste, I pull out my handy little Pampered Chef chopper and chop up a scoop of Bread and Butters, and presto! Fresh relish,  made to order, minus the nasty commercial additives, and minus hours spent making my own.
I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with the gorgeous sunset pictures, but I thought you might like to know that I'll be slaving in the kitchen today. As I also plan to make up a bunch of Zucchini Bread, and some Breakfast Egg Cups for freezing. Since the girls are in top production mode and we have fresh eggs filling an entire section of my refrigerator.
I've never tried freezing the Breakfast Egg Cups before, but many online sources claim it can be done, so by golly, I'm going to give it a try. I'll be the tester of this theory, and then pass the recipe along to you once I've decided whether or not its a good idea.
As for the sunset, we typically go all Summer long without much spectacular-ness in the evening sky.
But once the sun starts to move Southward, and the evening clouds gather... oh my... we get some amazing sky shows on our horizon. October is the very best, as far as mind-blowing skies go, so it was a treat to be greeted with a row of neon floating jellyfish out my kitchen window.
Thank you Jesus, for making Art for me last night.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hope Tree

"Lord save us all from... 
a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms."
- Mark Twain

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In the Garden

Every year, I forget how long it takes for our vegetables to be ready for eating.
I forget that its often late August before we start to see green beans and cucumbers, September before the corn is ready, October before the tomatoes are in full swing, and peppers ready to eat. Not to mention the various squashes, gourds and pumpkins.
It seems so strange to be living in a place where school starts before the canning season has fully begun.
I spend the days between June and August picking berries... Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Marionberries, Blackberries... for that's all that is ripe around here. The jams have been made, including a batch of Rhubarb freezer jam... cobblers and pies and shortcakes have been eaten, much to the delight of everyone present.
Meanwhile, the garden grows at a turtle's pace. 
If it was up to me, school wouldn't let out for "Summer" until the last threat of cold and damp was over, and it would start up again, after the harvest was brought in, or at least most of it, and the weather once again turning to damp.
Don't you think? Instead, we spent the first full month of Summer break huddled in the house with the woodstove blazing, waiting for the chance to even plant the garden.
How's a girl supposed to teach her kids the value and joy of preserving our own foods for winter if they've already been taken back to classrooms and schoolbooks?
I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie books and thinking it was so sad for the big boys that they had to miss out on the first part of the school year because they were helping with the harvest. But now... I'm thinking us folk in rural communities need to set our school calendar by the crops, not by what other districts and states are doing.
But I'm not much of one for soapbox-standing and marching in front of the Capitol, so I imagine I'll just keep rolling up my sleeves and living my life as best I can, away from the push and pull of the political landscape. In the true spirit of the Pioneers and all that.
I much prefer my own landscape... Its way more peaceful and scenic, don't you think?

Monday, August 20, 2012


Once upon a time, I was a high school student. For a brief few months, my life paralleled the life of a girl who I believed was a true kindred spirit. We passed notes in class and made popcorn balls and talked about boys and teachers and the drama of being trapped in a teenage world. Then her life path headed off in a different direction and we lost touch.

Fast forward twenty years or so to a world which has been changed by Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins. Yes... Facebook has certain benefits, one being the ability to find those random people from your past that you always wondered about.

Well, this time she found me. And we both write blogs and keep shop on etsy and live in the country and grow gardens and tend animals and love old things and make art.

And now we have matching Farmgirl mugs. That we drink our morning coffee out of (mine black, hers mostly cream) while we read each others' blog posts.

I like being in full circle stories.

Making Exceptions

Some of you may know that I used to decorate wedding cakes. Yes, I know... the key words are used to. A skill I'm proud to own, but a task that I never fully enjoyed. So much stress in weddings! I managed just fine pre-kids, but having little ones in the house while I'm trying to focus on a cake is just too much. So I have set my tools aside.

But... every so often, someone close enough to me or my family has need of a cake and I just have to say Yes! So this is what I made on Saturday (and totally had fun doing so, I might add)...
And then I went on to take well over 500 photos of the fabulously joyful celebration. If I ever throw another big party, I want all of her people to help me decorate. It was perfection, I tell you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hot August Nights

Its been cooking around here lately. These are the days of Summer that I dislike the very most. Hot, hot days and nights too warm to cool the house down before the next day's onslaught. Not that I want to be a complainer, mind you. I'm fully aware that for many of you this Summer has been deadly hot and too dry. Its just that up here in the mountains of Oregon, there's generally no need for air conditioning, so we live without. But those few weeks each year, when its all we can do to keep the house under 83 degrees... yuck.
About the only thing that makes up for it is that moment when the balance of outdoor and indoor temps is close enough that I can pull the blankets and quilts down (my old-fashioned window insulators!), open the house up, and set the windows full of box fans. The fresh air flowing through soothes.
And then there's those fleeting sunset moments, when the edges glow golden-red and romantic, and even the dry warmth of the air isn't enough to make you want to stop wishing the world would freeze, right there, for another hour.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

About Me

Just a little forewarning... this is going to be a very long, very word-y post. In answer to a couple of similar, or at least related questions about me as a cross-stitch designer...

Do you have an art background?
No, I do not have an art background. I have never taken an art class; no opportunities for even a basic drawing course were ever presented to me in my small-town upbringing. An oversight that I plan to take care of in a few years, when my babies are both in school full time.

I didn't know that there was an artist in my heart when I was a kid, teenager, college student.
I was always told that I was creative, but I had no frame of reference or opportunity to develop what that meant. I grew up surrounded by people who knew how to do/make the necessary things in life, but had virtually no exposure to anyone making art, just to make art. Therefore, my ability to make useful things from a very limited amount of materials was well-honed, and I naturally gravitated toward figuring out how to do/make all by myself rather than following a pattern or formula.
Fast-forward to when I was a single girl, fresh out of college, and I met my future husband.
His sister introduced me to early American samplers. As I fell madly in love with my Farmboy, I also fell in love with samplers, which then led to a general fascination with many of the old arts, such as Scherenschnitte, rug hooking, wool applique, and Fraktur painting.

If you want to read even more, including the body of my interview with The Gift of Stitching magazine and the answers to the questions...

How did you get into designing cross stitch?
What were your first needlework projects, and how has your style changed since then?

then hop on over to my new About Me page (you can also get there by clicking the tab at the top of this page).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wildflower Meadows, Paella, and the Farmboy

Sorry for the late post today. A morning playdate and afternoon chores have turned my regular schedule on its head. No matter... its good to be upside-down every so often. Good for the circulation.

In answer to some of your easier questions...

How did you develop that beautiful wildflower meadow?
Sadly for you, (since it means I have no tried and true tips to give you) but gladly for us, we have done absolutely nothing other than a couple of mow jobs each year to maintain/develop our meadow. The flowers (Oxeye Daisies, Red Clover, and Catsear) are all invasive species originating in other countries, but are now wide-spread weeds in our area. Not that I'm complaining too much, since I adore that field, but I wonder what native flowers would be growing in our meadow if the intruders hadn't been introduced to American soil?

My best advice for developing your own meadow, based on reading I've done in the past, is to gather or purchase seed from native wildflowers to sow in the Fall or Spring. You could also have the soil tested to see if it is lacking in any vital nutrients and check with your local community college to see if they have an expert on local native plants; we've found that our community college is a great resource when it comes to valuable information for taking care of our bit of forest.
 (Another wildflower meadow wallpaper for you... click, save, and enjoy!)

When do you expect to release "Baby, its Cold Outside"?
Beginning of September! I'm hoping to have an additional Christmas-y design ready to release at the same time, so stay tuned, and get those red and green threads ready!

Is cooking Paella over coals important? 
And have you tweaked your recipe now that you've tried it a few times?
No... cooking the Paella over coals is only important if you're using a giant pan that is way too big to fit on your stove top. I purchased a pan specifically sized to fit on my round grill, because we wanted Paella night to be an event, rather than just regular old dinner cooked in the kitchen. There are a bajillion variations of traditional Paella, and plenty of recipes online that are specifically geared for smaller batch cooking in the kitchen.

The only tweaking I've done to the version posted here is the addition of Paprika, which is a perfect flavor compliment to the Saffron, in my opinion. I don't generally measure spices, but a generous sprinkling over the surface, when adding the salt and pepper seems to be just right.

The last time I prepared Paella was just a few weeks ago, and one of our dinner guests eats a Kosher diet, so I left the sausages out, and it was still fabulous. Wanna see?
Which also covers the request to see more photos of me with my hunky husband. (wink) Generally speaking, he is not a fan of getting his picture taken, and since I'm usually behind the camera, you won't often see us together and smiling at the same time. But I'll do my level best to showcase our faces a little more often. Perhaps some self-portraits or the First-Grader's camera will do.