Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Year in Quilts - 2012

An Old Tyme Quilt Barn by Cheryl Bartley

As I take stock of the completed quilts I made during 2012, I am quite pleased with my little ol' self.  I completed nine quilts and two quilt tops.  That's pretty darn good for me! 

To make these quilts, I enlisted the help of two special characters - Thor and Big Red.  I started the year off quilting by hand, but made a decision during the year to take the plunge, buying two new machines.  I wanted to speed up the process of quilting, so I could get more quilts done.

Thor, my Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 850, is a wonderful machine that I bought used from a friend. (Thank you, Dolly!) I used Thor for a number of months as I learned how to free-motion quilt.

As my skill level increased, though, I realized that I needed a few more bells and whistles not offered on the Viking, like the thread cutter and automatic tension.  So, I purchased Big Red, a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 7700 QCP (used less than one year by the original owner). He came to me already donned "Big Red".  This puppy can purr!

Here's a review of the nine quilts I finished in 2012.

Scrappy Bear Claw Quilt

This quilt was machine pieced and hand quilted.  This double-size quilt sits on our guest bed upstairs. Here's a picture of the Scrappy Bear Claw back, showing the quilting detail.

Cassie's Nine Patch Quilt

This quilt for my niece, Cassie, is machine pieced and hand quilted.  I used this quilt to teach a beginner's quilting class. The frog print is called Lily Pond, designed by Wendy Slotboom for In The Beginning fabrics.  The majority of the remaining hot pink fabrics are from the Whimsey line by Pillow & Maxfield for Michael Miller fabrics.

 Callie's Butterfly Quilt

Machine pieced and free motion quilted (stippling pattern), Callie's Butterfly Quilt in teal and brown was the first quilt I made with my Viking machine.  Stippling is a continuous squiggly line pattern very popular for machine quilting. Below is a close up view.

Sable's Disappearing Nine Patch Quilt

This version of the Disappearing Nine Patch pattern (and there are several) is very appealing to me.  This one was made using Kate Spain's Fandango line for Moda fabrics. This was machine pieced and free motion quilted on my Viking machine.

The Book of Mormon Sampler Quilt

The Book of Mormon Sampler Quilt was inspired by our study of the Book of Mormon in 2012 at church.  The block patterns came from the book, More Biblical Quilt Blocks by Rosemary Makhan. The center star came from Lisa Cogar's book, Quilted Devotions.  Each block has unique meaning to me and is associated with a scripture passage from The Book of Mormon

This red, gold and brown quilt, which lays across the back of my sofa, was machine pieced and machine quilted, using various techniques.  Below is a close up of the center star quilting design.

Give a Hoot Quilt

This whimsical appliqued quilt I designed was fun to make as a baby quilt for a friend! The lap-sized quilt was machine pieced and machine quilted.  The appliqued letters were attached using a needle-turned technique, while the owls were appliqued by machine.

Joyous Sunrise

The young husband of a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly, and I felt an immediate need to make her a special quilt.  This paper-pieced star design was based on the Montana Star from Carol Doak's book, 50 Fabulous Paper-Pieced Stars.  Although each quilt is special and made with love, Joyous Sunrise is one of my all-time favorite quilts. Below is a close up of the quilting detail.

Skeletons in the Closet

Trevor, my husband's great-nephew, became a senior in high school in 2012.  So, for his birthday, I created this modern design, full of skeletons! I've been collecting skeleton fabric for quite some time, but had no idea what I would use it on until this inspiration hit me.  

As you can see in this close up, I used a black and cream pastoral toile with skeletons, which I adore! And, the picture below shows the fun skull and crossbones quilting design I used.

Wren's Disappearing Nine Patch

Lastly, I wrapped up 2012 with another lap-sized baby quilt using the Disappearing Nine Patch design.  Machine pieced and machine quilted, I used another colorway of the Pillow & Maxfield's Whimsey line.  

"May your sorrows be patched and your joys quilted."--Unknown

"When life throws you scraps, make a quilt."--Unknown

Quilt until You Wilt, Y'all!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Holiday Hibernation Hangover

"Exhaustion" by Rafi Talby

The holidays just about did me in this year.  Like a large looming elephant, the Christmas tree is still standing in the living room and the indoor decorations are all sitting on the dining room table.  Santas and nutcrackers stare at one another on the table, comparing beards.  Meanwhile, the ornaments are beginning to murmur, demanding the stage lights be plugged back into the wall for an encore.  The unplugged Christmas lights that I strung upstairs for the grandkids are quickly becoming part of the regular décor, yet offer no illumination to the solution for my malady.  My zip and zing, so vibrant and cheery before and during Christmas, has morphed into lengthy slumber and snores. 

Oh, I’m not the only one – Miss Nanna the Dawg can be found in her dog bed next to the heater at most any hour of the day.

I suppose the reason for my lethargy is the cold, wet weather.  It feels more like a holiday hibernation hangover.  After Gene gets up out of bed to work, I snuggle even deeper under the covers and quilt.  When I finally will myself awake, I make a cup of delicious hot chocolate (our own special mixture) and crawl back into bed, sipping cocoa and reading my email and Facebook on my iPhone.
Let me share with you a few pictures of the delightful causes for my holiday hangover.

Jace, Jake Joey, AJ, Alexis and Gene (Grandpa)
Gene put the grandkids to work as soon as they arrived, having them rake leaves and smash all the aluminum cans we had collected.  They redeemed the cans for approximately $16.00 and then headed to the Big Top Candy Shop on South Congress for a treat.

The Big Top Candy Shop is definitely an experience not to be missed while in Austin.  Each time I enter, I feel as though I’m reverting back into that little girl with wide eyes and cavities, excited about the enormous selection of sweets before me.  There are nostalgic candies, handmade chocolates and novelty items.  Our favorite was the Box of Boogers!  All in all, I think Gene spent about $63.00 on our confectionary purchases.  Those kids sure love their Grandpa!

And, if that wasn’t enough sugar to create a whirling on this side of the planet strong enough to cause a monstrous sandstorm in Dubai, I took them there a second time during their visit! What was I thinking?!!  I know what it was.  I didn’t want my two nieces, Corinne and Cassie to feel left out of the fun.  After all, I’m vying for Best Aunt on The Planet award.
Jace, Corinne, Cassie, Alexis and AJ at Big Top Candy Shop
With visions of all those sugar plums dancing in their heads, I don’t know how the kids fell asleep on Christmas Eve. 
During their stay, we drove down to Wimberley, Texas to meet up with my sister, Cameron, for the Trail of Lights.  It is so much fun and much less crowded than Austin’s Trail of Lights.  Great jumping court jesters, the Princess’ carriage is under attack!
For the Trail of Lights, various Wimberley community groups, churches and local businesses create individual light and interactive displays at the EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens, and the people there are some of the friendliest Texans you’ll ever meet!

One of the many perks is free hot chocolate with jumbo marshmallows, and $1.00 will buy you all the fixin’s to make your own S’more (roasted marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate bar mashed between two graham crackers), along with the use of a long skewer over at the fire pit.  Here’s a picture of Aunt Cam showing the kids how to expertly roast a marshmallow over the fire.

The day after Christmas, we journeyed 90 miles to the Double M Ranch, near Fort Hood, to see Granny and Grandad (great-grandparents).  I made enough enchiladas to feed a third world country, while my brother, Craig, and his wife, Cely, made all the delicious side dishes. 
This was the first time my parents had the opportunity to meet Jon, Gene’s son, and his family – Jon’s wife Kazuko and his children, Olivia, Jake and Joey.  That gave Grandad a new audience for all his safari hunting stories.  Here’s a picture of my beautiful granddaughters and nieces at the Ranch.
Olivia, Alexis, Cassie and Corinne
We made wonderful, heaping mounds of memories together this Christmas.  Maybe I’m not really hungover or exhausted. Maybe I’m just missin’ those precious grandchildren of mine!
"Grandchildren are God's way of compensating us for growing old.”—Mary H. Waldrip

“Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends - and hardly ever our own grown children.”—Ruth Goode
 Love those Littles, Y’all!! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Somethin's Fishy Here!

I have discovered yet another blog-worthy chow house in Austin…Wahoo’s Fish Taco on South Congress.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m probably the last person in town to finally experience Wahoo’s, but “fish tacos” just didn’t seem to cause my gluttonous glands to salivate.  Boy, am I glad for the return of my adventurous, open-minded taste buds!
Wahoo’s serves much more than fish tacos. They have enchiladas, quesadillas, salads, sandwiches, rice bowls and more.  In fact, they serve more than just fish or shrimp as a filling – beef, chicken and pork, oh my!  

Wanting to try the dish that made this California-based chain famous, I ordered up a #2 Combo with grilled fish – one taco and one enchilada with red sauce along with a side of black beans and white rice.  Gene ordered the #8 Wahoo Bowl (rice bowl) with blackened fish.   We also got Chips with Guacamole and Salsa.
The atmosphere at Wahoo’s is very casual.  Although the music was playing a bit loud, we found a booth in the very back that was more secluded where we could hear each other talk.  The stickers on the wall provided nearly as much entertainment as Gene.   

Almost before we could say “lickety-split”, our chips with guacamole and salsa were served.  Now, hold onto your seats…the chips were warm!  Can I get an “Ooh!....Ahh!”?!  And, I do believe this is the best salsa I’ve had in Austin so far….I kid you not. These folks aren’t afraid to use cilantro, which I love!  And, the guacamole was exactly the way I like it – fresh and flavorful, made with real avocados.  I could’ve made an entire meal on this appetizer alone.  But, alas, I had to share some with Mr. Love Potion No. 9 (pictured above).

My dinner was outstanding!  I wish I could show you a better picture, but I began to scarf it down as soon the plate hit the table.  Only halfway through eating, which was about 1.5 minutes later, did I realize I had not yet captured a picture of this delectable dish.  So, please take my word for it that the presentation of my meal looked quite lovely and appetizing when it first arrived.
The taco was served with two soft corn tortillas filled with delicious grilled fish, shredded cabbage and seasoned tomatoes.  I doused my taco and rice with the scrumptious creamy cilantro lime sauce, served on the side.  The rice and black beans were cooked perfectly and could also have been eaten as an entire meal.  The enchilada was a delectable meld of tortilla, cheese, grilled fish and red sauce.  Everything tasted so fresh and yummy!
Gene was not quite as keen on the blackened fish in his Wahoo’s Bowl, commenting it was too spicy, but after tasting my enchilada, he’s game to try Wahoo’s again sometime soon.  With a menu like Wahoo’s, there’s something for everyone.
Whether you’re hungry for fish or Mexican food, or just want to keep Austin weird, stop in at Wahoo’s Fish Taco on South Congress for a culinary treat your tummy will definitely appreciate!  Oh, and so will your pocketbook!
Take all your Yahoos to Wahoo’s, Y’all!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friends, Farewells & Fabulous Food

Port Cafe Friends by Patricia Govezensky

My life has been blessed and enriched by the friends I’ve met as I've skipped along the Yellow Brick Road to Happy Destiny. The older I get, the more joy I receive from sharing experiences, events, hobbies and stories with the beautiful women I am grateful to know.

Two of my newest friends from church, Kathleen (pictured 2nd from the right in the photo above) and Bonnie (far left) are moving away from Austin….reluctantly. Rather than wallow in their departure at my own personal pity party, I organized a small group of us to celebrate our friendship by feasting together one last time.

Joanne (above far right) suggested we gather at the Eastside Café, located at 2113 Manor Road, and what a wonderful idea it was, too! I’ve heard about the Eastside Café for years, but had never eaten there. The restaurant was rather nondescript, situated in a simple, but nice Craftsman style house. Our party of six met for an early lunch, and we were seated immediately.
Making a decision about what to order was nearly as tough as saying goodbye to my two beautiful friends! I started off my lunch with a cup of Chicken Artichoke Heart Soup (not pictured), which I wolfed down so fast there was no time for a picture, along with a yummy Jalapeño cornbread muffin. As an entrée, I selected the Sesame Catfish, consisting of a fresh, baked Texas catfish fillet breaded with sesame seeds, parsley, and bread crumbs. It was served with garlic aioli, and the flavor was delicious. For a side, I ordered the squash, which deserves its own merit. Baked to perfection, the butternut squash was an unexpected treat, covered with a sauce that is hard for me to describe - an Asian flavor, perhaps sesame ginger – that complemented the natural sweetness of the squash.

One of our guests of honor, Bonnie, ordered the Grilled Tuna Steak Sandwich. Marinated in orange juice and fresh ginger, the tuna steak would normally sit on a white or whole wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onions, and soy ginger mayonnaise, but Bonnie opted for no bun in lieu of homemade French fries.

Bonnie’s employment with Freebird’s Corporate Office is the reason we were graced with Bonnie’s presence in Austin, but it is also the reason she’s now leaving us after only a few short months.  In honor of the wonderful service and friendship Bonnie offered us while here, I’ve decided to boycott Freebird’s for not properly acknowledging the gifts and talents of this vibrant, funny and intelligent woman and keeping her in Austin! I'm sure they'll go bankrupt shortly....HA!

Our ambitiously awesome Ambre, (yes, I spelled that right), who had to get back to work for a meeting before our group pictures were taken, had the Smoked Salmon and Shrimp Cake Salad tossed with lemon remoulade dressing, which looked scrumptious. We are...(cough)...sooooo glad...(cough, cough)...that she was able to share with us her stories of the odd foods she’s seen on Austin menus lately, such as frog legs, alligator and...(cough)...Rocky Mountain Oysters. (Adventurous eater that I am, I have eaten two out of those three “delicacies”, but I do have my limits.)

And, let us not forget supremely sweet Cindy, who appeared to be having an intimate relationship with her plate. She raved about the flavors of the Artichoke Manicotti. Her dish consisted of carrot pasta filled with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pistachios, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese. It was topped with sun-dried tomato cream sauce and parmesan cheese. At one point, after swallowing a bite, Cindy announced with an expression of exquisite satisfaction, “I am soooooo happy!” Take a peek at the dish that titillated Cindy’s taste buds.

Our other dear, departing sister (oh, that doesn’t sound quite right), Kathleen the Cake Queen, who is moving within the next week or so, ordered the Chicken Artichoke Heart Soup and the Butternut Squash. Kathleen, who has been one of the nursery leaders at church, watching over all those precious little bitty children of God, will sorely be missed! I understand her need to move closer to her aging mother, but I selfishly wish I could keep this sweet, lovely sister here. Kathleen is a certified Wilton Cake Decorating Instructor, ergo the title, The Cake Queen.

Last, but not least, our joyfully jaunty Joanne, the only one of us who had eaten before at Eastside Café and dares to wear the most gorgeous 4-inch heels I've ever seen, selected the pulled pork enchiladas for her entree, which looked divine! Those enchiladas must’ve been really good, too, because there was not a crumb left behind. Nummy!

After lunch, we hugged and hugged each other, knowing that those dear friends, who are leaving, remain in our hearts and we, who are left, are forever changed for the better.

A man's growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

7 …peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
9 Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Three Friends by Rolana Ceckauskaite
Build Your Choir of Friends, Y'all!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bubba Love

Bubba....say the name out loud. C'mon, humor me! Wonderful, isn't it? When I was single, my son and I would joke about my imaginary boyfriend, Bubba. He was a good ol’ boy, a man who believed gravy is a beverage. I envisioned Bubba as a very large man, whose belly eclipsed his feet, a connoisseur of Road Kill Stew.

After marrying Gene, he shared with me his Bubba Keg. I knew it was true love. The Bubba Keg is an ideal travel mug for real “drinkers” like me.  As with my imaginary Bubba, the Bubba Keg is a big boy, larger at the top than the base, able to carry 32 ounces of my favorite beverage – hot or cold. This mega-mug accommodates plenty of soda, water or hot chocolate, keeping the cold drinks colder and my hot chocolate hotter longer! And, the base fits comfortably in my vehicle's drink holder.

Consider then the great deluge of disappointment when the lid to my Bubba Keg went missing last year. I searched and searched to no avail. Rendered lidless and ineffective, my defective Bubba Keg turned road trips into a sloppy, sloshy, sticky mess. I finally gave up and packed away the blemished Bubba Keg.

While my husband held out hope for the return of my missing Bubba Keg lid, I knew better. The unseen black hole of our house had certainly swallowed up another victim. I felt strongly that the Bubba Keg lid had joined the company of the mountains of misfit socks, my husband’s wedding ring, his Social Security Card, along with pairs of my glasses, rogue Scrabble pieces and all my favorite pens.

And speaking of missing socks, it appears Science is still working on that problem:

For the past year, Gene and I have searched unsuccessfully for a replacement Bubba Keg travel mug. On occasion, we have mistakenly thought other look-a-like mugs would work just as good. We were wrong.

I had totally given up hope, resorting instead to (lowering my voice to just a whisper, so all my “green” neighbors won’t hear) the large Styrofoam cups at the local convenience store. (Ssshhh! I heard your gasp!)

Then, yesterday while in Target, I made the most unexpected discovery on the automotive aisle – Bubba Kegs! Jalepeño!! I bought one in chrome and in plum – His and Hers Bubba Kegs!

Ah yes, Life feels complete again. Can you say, “Road Trip?!”

Bubba's Back, Y'all!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hill Country Hideaway

"Old Friends" - William Martin

About an hour and a half west of Austin is one of our favorite weekend getaways – Fredericksburg, Texas.   This year for Christmas, we rented the Adams Travis House.  Built in the late 1800s and originally located on the San Antonio River Walk, the structure was taken apart stone by stone and relocated to Fredericksburg in 1985 when in danger of being demolished.

This lovely stone cottage was very charming indeed.  With 16” stone walls throughout, the rustic home made me feel like I had taken a step back in time. 

View into the living room

View toward back of living room

Yet, we had all the modern amenities. Arriving on Christmas Eve, the cottage was decorated inside and out with multi-colored Christmas lights, creating a warm, festive environment to celebrate the holiday.

To our surprise there was a fully stocked kitchen.  Had we known, we would've brought groceries with us to cook a Christmas meal. 

After unpacking, we made our first planned stop at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm.  As you might imagine, The Fredericksburg Herb Farm grows its own herbs.  But, they have so much more.

The compound includes a restaurant, day spa, cabins, gift shop, garden and farm. 

The gift shop had a wonderful array of homemade herbal body lotions, bath gels and more.  The scent as we entered inside the shop was simply divine! Christmas ornaments, garden art and essential oils were also featured. 

I found a Santa by Nobility to add to my Christmas collection, which had a secret compartment.

We toured the garden and decided a return trip in the Spring would be a must to see everything blooming.

I found the perfect tree for the Texas drought, one that needs no watering, of the iron variety.

We opted for an early dinner at the Herb Farm's restaurant called the Farm Haus Bistro. 

We knew we were in for some tasty treats when we sampled the homemade focaccia bread and herb butter. The delicious bread was extra crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Gene is still talking about that bread!

We chowed down on our entrees so fast, that there was no time for picture taking.  Gene had the bacon-wrapped meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes and a fresh spinach and mushroom medley, which was very tasty. 
I selected the cheeseburger, topped with fresh greens, and French fries.  As hamburger connoisseurs, Gene and I both agreed that the cheeseburger's high quality beef had an excellent flavor and was out-of-sight good!

After our meal, we drove into town to tour the art galleries.  Our first stop was Whistle Pik Gallery, and although it was closed for the holidays, Gene managed to introduce himself to the one and only President Ronald Reagan.  He really is larger than life!


The Fredericksburg Good Art Company featured work by a Texas artist, Judy Gelfert, whose hill country impressionist landscapes I liked very much.  
"Creekside" - Judy Gelfert

At Galeria 19, a new art gallery on Main Street, Gene’s attention was captured by the work of William Martin from San Miguel de Allende, who painted “Old Friends” (at the top of this blog).  Gene also really liked William Martin’s “Still Life”. 
"Still Life" - William Martin

The piece I was most captivated by at Galeria 19 was “San Miguel Series #093” by Rhea Gary.  I was immediately drawn to the entire series, but this work stood out as my favorite.

"San Miguel Series #093" - Rhea Gary

Art is so subjective, and we had a great time expressing our tastes and preferences, as well as drinking in the warm hospitality of the gallery owners and employees.  With our creative appetite sated, we headed back to our home away from home. 
As the fire blazed in the fireplace, Gene read his book and I quilted.   Together we enjoyed the peaceful stillness and joy of Christmas in the Hill Country.

Luke 2:10-14
10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, saying,
14  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Peace on Earth, Y'all!