“Eye Candy No. 5” Quilt

I really love this quilt. It is the last of my Churn Dash block series–with fabrics made from the Cotton+Steel/Ruby Star Society stash I had collected and which I cut into strips about three years back so as to USE these fabrics. This is my 211th quilt.

I love this backing–bought with birthday money last year from Bryan and Corinne. It’s a current Sarah Watts fabric called “Firefly Nature Forest Owls on Ash.” It’s from Ruby Star Society, the new group created by this group of designers who once went under the “Cotton+Steel” name.

The pantograph is “Whirlwind” (Urban Elements)–and its swirls are so lovely on this quilt. The quilting here is awesome, if I do say so myself, as the Innova stitch is just perfect all the way over the quilt. That’s probably due to Innova’s visit with Rob Engime at Olde City Quilts, Burlington, New Jersey, while I moved. I know he worked on Innova while she was there–just making sure all was tip-top with her. I quilted with a light and soft sea green/blue thread from Signature cotton threads. That color choice worked well too.

Most of the blocks are just color combinations I thought pretty–gleaned from the last of these fabrics which I had cut into strips. A few centers are fussy cut, but not many. And I love, love, love the black and white striped binding–always a favorite of mine for quilts that will support it. This quilt does.

Here’s another corner.

And a picture from the middle of the quilt. I’ll use this picture for the cards I make using inserted pictures of my quilts into a photo card.


My friend Betsy is traveling in Europe. While in Prague, capitol of the Czech Republic, she visited the Prague zoo and took this video. Betsy has a grown son in Florida and has visited the Everglades, but has never seen flamingos. And here they were in the Prague zoo.

I’ve never seen flamingos either, so loved seeing this video.

The Placemat Project is Done

And I so enjoyed making these placemats–which used up the blueberry fabrics in my stash, along with A LOT of the solid fabrics–AND the project let me experiment with different placemat methods of construction. It is nice to have some small projects to make that finish quickly…depending upon how MANY one decides to make.

There are 27 blueberry placemats–and there are homes for a chunk of them already. Two of these are going to Bryan’s family–to go with the 6 funky placemats which started this whole project.

So, altogether there are 33 finished placemats. All the backs are different. And I always stitched some lines in each one when I sewed around the edges–to keep the backing fabric well connected to its front. Each placemat is quilted with improv wavy lines.

I did put some of the striped fabric I had kept with the blueberry fabrics on a few of these placemats, and those are handsome, but WAY more work.

To remind, here are the six funky placemats where I experimented with different construction methods. Each method has its strong points, for sure.

ALL of these placemats and their napkins will wash and wear for DECADES. I know because I sent old placemats I made 30 years or so ago to Good Will when I left Maine. They were soft and comforting, but not worn enough to throw away. I did bring one set to see me through until I had time to make some new placemats here.

Now, the Traverse BOM (block of the month) quilt is waiting for me on the design wall. To remind, this quilt is designed by Tara Faughnan and my project is hosted by Sewtopia. (I just downloaded a hand quilting online on-demand class Tara Faughnan is running on her web site–as I want to hand quilt Traverse and the quilt from hell when it is ready. I’ve done a lot of hand quilting over the years, but it will be good to see what Tara Faughnan does.)

And I only have about two more nights to go before I finish the binding on the last of the Churn Dash quilts from the Cotton+Steel/Ruby Star Society project. I do have other scraps that are cut into useable pieces that will make up into…something…down the road. But for now, I’m moving on to other projects.

Sounds like a plan.

Megladon Sharks

What a fun day DIL Corinne and her two youngest girls had yesterday.

They went with a local scientist to expert to look for fossils on the river sandbars at low tide.

This area was once the home to the huge dinosaur-era Megladon shark. Megladons raised their pups in this area, which was once all under water.


They did find a shark tooth–a very big one. Turns out it was from an Augustiden shark, the great grandfather to the Megladon shark. The very big tooth looks just like the one pictured here.


Pictures show they came home dirty and happy.

A Baked Fish Chowder

This experiment went well.

And so I will share it.

I have to be careful with fish with my Histamine Intolerance issue. Fish has to be VERY fresh, which I could get in Maine with freshly caught haddock or cod coming pretty much daily into the local markets. Here in SC, I’ve been buying freshly caught frozen cold-water white fish. That’s working out very well.

***Read labels though. If the salmon says “Atlantic” anywhere, it is farmed, or so I’m reading. The labels on the white fish should say it is wild caught and frozen on the boat. Farmed fish COULD be ok, if the fish are in a clean environment, are not overly crowded, and are fed healthy foods. All three of those conditions are currently poorly met by the fish farmers. For salmon, you want wild-caught and Alaska, probably, on the label. Yes, the fish situation is a problem as we’ve fished out the oceans now, and fish is a great protein.

The other day I defrosted two haddock filets, and something came up where I didn’t want to bake them alone or spend time making a chowder. So, I thought I’d try a “baked chowder” instead.

I layered some frozen peas and corn in a baking pan and added some fresh sweet onion and dried spices. Then I laid in the fillets, salted the mixture, and poured a mixture of cream and milk (raw for me) over the top. I may have dotted the fish with butter too.

And wow! It was delicious with a yummy sauce.

While the fish baked (30 minutes given the frozen veggies), I cooked some mixed brown rice to add to my dish. Actually I started it first as it takes about 40-45 minutes on very low heat to cook until tender. I am loving the smaller two burners on my gas oven that allow for this very slow cooking of rice and my espresso coffee pot.

This meal was delicious and dead easy to make.

If you wanted to peel and THINLY slice some potatoes as the base veggie (russets hold up best with a scalloped method)–you could put those in the bottom, salt them, and cover them with some whole milk/cream (and maybe cheese for you), and let them bake about 20 minutes before adding other ingredients (more milk/cream I’m sure) or the fish. I might be tempted to keep the corn and peas too. YOU could top everything with some grated Swiss cheese too.

Here was my dinner yesterday–a roasted lamb rack, baked sweet potato (a half) with raw butter, roasted zucchini rounds, and some fresh veggies.

I started to cut off a chop before taking a picture.

Yes, I like my meat rare, and I like the fat and save it from the roasting pan. I cut off the meat from the bone, but chew the bones clean–that’s where the glycine is, for one thing. I should have put some fresh dill on the fresh veggies.

Then there was fresh fruit with a drizzle of maple syrup and bits of mint leaves from the herb garden, which is thriving.

You know, I thought I was buying organic fruit at Whole Foods, but I wasn’t. Note to self: check the actual package and not the signs above the fruit.

And today, there are leftovers–so no cooking.

There will be sewing today.

Garden Update

I’ve been busy these past few days–part of which involved buying and planting more plants. And more amendments, some of which like sand and compost are HEAVY. And I left the wheelbarrow in Maine and don’t want to buy another one as the planting here is almost done now.

First, here’s a beautiful street island covered by the Asiatic Jasmine ground cover I’ve planted here. Those trees are live oaks, and you can see this ground cover thrives in their shade. And my AJ is spreading now in good form. It seems to be happy.

The plants I added to this sunny bed are all perennials or shrubs that thrive here–and they all bloom–so my garden will draw in pollinators. And for the past few days, I’ve seen a butterfly on the butterfly bush I planted last week.

Yes, I was very inspired by watching the live documentary in which DIL Tami Enright, director of The Bee Cause Project, participated this past week. I learned a lot, actually. And I decided I wanted everything I planted here to bloom and not just be plants that “hold down” places in the beds that surround the house.

I added Russian Sage, a Mexican sage (new to me), some pink dianthus nestled along the pine straw border, and a perennial lantana that is such a pretty color. (There are two forms of lantana here: annual and perennial. The annual plants I’ve seen here are either white or a vivid yellow. I have enough white and there is already yellow with the Stella D’Ora day-lilies. Besides, I lucked into finding this lantana which is exactly what I wanted. I trimmed it back a bit after I took this picture to encourage it to be less “leggy.”)

Last week, I planted in this long sunny bed a white Encore Azalea, Autumn Joy, that is some kind of Rhododendron Hybrid that will bloom spring through fall. How cool is that? It comes in other colors too.


At the far end of the bed is a “Flip-It” Chaste Tree/shrub that will get tall, die back in winter, and come back in the following spring. One keeps it as tall or short as one wants by trimming, depending on where it lives.

It is called a Chaste Tree as it has herbal properties that some claim can cause a loss of libido. It’s called Flip It because the underside of the leaves are the most beautiful soft lavender.

This vitex plant blooms with long purple spikes, so thrives in dry conditions. I didn’t add any compost to its planting hole, but did add a lot of sand for drainage and some fertilizer to give it a good start. This plant hates having wet roots–so time will tell if it can manage the clay here, augmented by sand for drainage.

And on the far side of the house–the shade side–I planted a fragrant white “Frost Proof Gardenia” that will bloom spring and summer. I wanted a plant that would get big enough to form a kind of visual barrier to the equipment on that side of the house.

Here’s the long view. It’s hard to know yet how much these holly bushes will fill in at this corner. This gardenia will get about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. I’ll have to figure out something attractive on both sides of the house for the hoses. (A gas line runs along this bed to that piece of equipment, so I’m not comfortable doing more digging in this area.)

Digging all those holes–was made much easier by the purchase of this very heavy Maddox. I left a totally good Maddox in Maine. I had no idea I’d be digging holes in clay in SC!!! Or, trying to.

The roses do seem to be thriving. They have a lot of new growth and are starting to spread sideways. I’ve lightly trimmed the tops off and on so they will spread sideways. They are about to put out a new flush of flowers.

The grass is doing well mostly and is a healthy deep green color. There are some bald spots where the grass is just sitting down on clay. I’ve added some manure compost to some of those spots in the hope it will give them something to feed on in the sterile clay. There are pieces of the grass in those spots; it just needs a bit of help with the clay. And, apparently, lots of water.

Centipede grass is tricky, as I’ve said. But I’m hoping I’m learning to understand it better. It does not like competition, for one thing, so I’ve spent many hours after a heavy rain hand-pulling weeds in the early morning or late afternoon. I don’t mind that work; it gets me outside in the sun. I’ve filled several big grocery plastic bags with weeds–and the grass is showing the results now. Clearly, this grass LOVES water.

I’m taking a rest day today, for the most part. I’ll sew placemats after my dinner. The finished placemat pile is growing–I think I have six more to make. Each has its own napkin and most napkins are solids. The napkin to the side of the pile in an extra and is smaller–maybe it would be nice in a bread basket?

Dinner in a bit is lamb rack, baked sweet potato, roasted zucchini, some cut fresh veggies from yesterday, fruit for dessert (cantaloupe, raspberries, blackberries with a hint of maple syrup and mint from the garden), and an espresso with raw honey and raw cream–and time on the porch to read.

Have a great weekend! And thanks for reading this far, if you did!

The Green Cropped Pants

Last night we had the most spectacular thunderstorm I’ve seen in the last two decades. We are talking LOTS of lightening and thunder, lashing rain, and high winds. These storms are heat-produced, I think–and Maine didn’t have summer storms like this one. Our temps went over 90 degrees yesterday, but today is cool and lovely. The porch is soaked, but the grass is happy. And in a bit I’ll go out and weed more in the grass as the clay layer will be soft and weed roots will come out easily.

Sunday morning I finally sat down to alter a pair of pants I rather like and have had for years and…years. I can date them to when Mike and Tami moved to the Charleston, SC, after Mina was born. Mina will be 16 this fall.

I never really wore these cropped pants in Maine. I don’t know why not. Perhaps it was a weight thing? But now I’ve lost 50+ pounds. And these rarely worn pants are PERFECT for beach walking and shell collecting here in SC. They are, actually, perfect for lots of activities. They are a pale mint green. They have these really neat pockets. The fabric is soft cotton with some lycra, so a bit stretchy—and definitely needs poly thread during.

I had started to rip out part of the elastic on the waistband where it was just way, way too big, but kept putting the pants aside.  For several months, it seems. And a few weeks back, I put the pants on the back seat of the car in case I passed one of the rehoming clothing bins I know I’ve seen—but couldn’t remember where. And, deep inside, I just could not let go of these pants, so they went back up to the sewing room.  

On Sunday, though, I finished ripping out what needed to be ripped out on the waistband. I took SIX INCHES out of the waist and using knit stitches and zig-zags on the big Janome, I tapered down the side seams—then put the waistband back together.  I should have used the serger, but didn’t have a good thread match and one needs 3 spools for the serger.

The pants look and fit AWESOMELY!!

I am so happy I fixed them!

And now I need a beach walk so they can shine.

Pine Straw Gardening

***Today at 10 am is DIL’s Tami’s live bee interview in Athens, Georgia. Now, 330,000 educators have signed up to view it live, along with school children and some adults. Details are on yesterday’s post. It can be viewed taped later, which I will do as I have a dentist appointment this morning.


I grew up with pine straw being used in my Georgia grandmother’s magnificent gardens and on her open back yard areas.

I remember that in the shady back yard areas, people visited together in a ring of metal garden chairs, or worked in the summer kitchen to can tomatoes, or ate some wonderful and special food at the long wooden outdoor table. This backyard area got new pine straw a couple of times a year.

New pine straw is prickly on children’s bare feet, which was our condition most of the time in our summer visits, unless we were made to put on shoes to run up the block to the local grocery store to get something someone needed immediately, like, for instance, cold coca-colas for a morning backyard chit-chat break. But no weeds came up under the pine straw, which offered a pretty way to cover a shady back yard space that would not have supported grass.

This use of pine straw would have predated the current market for wood chips and/or mulch made of composted wood pieces mixed with composted dirt which now is used to cover garden beds. But here in the Deep South, pine trees are abundant and are sources of…pine straw. And pine straw, unlike mulch, covers dirt and keeps one’s feet clean.

The builder of my house and neighborhood used pine straw around the new houses. And that triggered memories for me. Honestly, I don’t remember what grandmother had in her formal flower beds, but I don’t remember weeding being a huge issue either.

As an aside, look what I saw in my front garden bed the other day. One of the little lizards so common in the South. Hello, my friend.

I’m seeing, also, tiny little black rain frogs in the pine straw when I have an occasion to disturb it. So the pine straw is doing a good job holding in moisture. And these tiny frogs will consume smaller insects I think. Pine straw, thus, is a natural part of the habitat here. And it is inexpensive and not heavy to transport.

After years and years of mulching in both Virginia and Maine, I’m enjoying this reunion with pine straw being used in one’s garden. I’ve been in my new home since early January, and I’ve only had a few sprigs of grass or weeds spring up in my pine straw beds, so I am kind of amazed, actually. That is so not true of other forms of mulch I’ve used over so many years. I had to do a lot of weeding in both Virginia and Maine.

Pine straw is high in acid and is a boon to acid-loving southern plants like azaleas, camellias, rhododendrums, tea olives, and many more southern plants.

It’s really easy to lift the edge of a pine straw mat and fold it back to weed beneath, which I had to do along some of the beds’ edges where the pine straw covered the centipede sod mats that come with a grid of plastic to hold them together. It’s a bit like folding back the covers on a bed one is making up. Then, when the sodded grass and its plastic grid is cut and removed, one just refolds the turned back pine straw edge.

Many of my neighbors are taking out the pine straw and putting in types of wood-chip mulch. Heavy wood chip mulch without added compost will retard weed growth, but it also pulls nitrogen out of the soil for a year or two while it degrades, which is not so good for the plants. Or so I read many years ago. And heavy compost mixed with wood chips feeds weeds as well as plants.

One neighbor told me she thought the pine straw harbored insects, which I took to maybe mean the dreaded palmetto bugs. But I’ve been outside a lot working in my beds, and I have not seen more than a spider or two. And, yes, a few of the tiny rain frogs. And that beautiful lizard, which also eats bugs.

The folks coming around to spray garden insecticides help foment this dread of “insects,” of course. Inside and outside. Can I just say data today clearly shows that herbicides and insecticides are WAY more dangerous than any insect–especially for children, which are happily abundant here in this neighborhood. (I love living where there is a healthy mix of human ages.)

One DOES have to treat for termites here. They are a menace. And once in Maine, carpenter ants got into one of my dry storage spaces upstairs, and I had to spray for those. And, then there was the time when we brought home bedbugs in, probably, our suitcases after traveling. That was a terrible spraying event. Terrible. So, yes, there is sometimes a need to stop a particular kind of destructive insect. But there are always health costs involved as well. Face it, we live in ways that encroach on the balance of the natural world all the time. But I hope that I’m making the point that insects are also part of the natural world and each has their place in it.

THUS, it makes no sense to me to spray to kill ALL insects (and creatures) in your lawn and on the whole of your house when many are needed in gardens and are doing no harm. My little lizard friend is here to EAT some of my insects, as are those tiny frogs, as are the spiders–insects and frogs and spiders that may have moved to my lawn and beds to escape death, as one sprayer predicted while standing on my front porch.

I can live with my insects for now. I baited some for roaches inside and in the garage where the big garbage cans live. And the house was treated for termites. But for me, that’s it for now.

And Alex, who mows for me, put down more pine straw Monday.

Look at how fluffy and pretty it looks:

Those azaleas and hollies are HAPPY.

I’m really liking recalling my Georgia pine straw memories–which are supporting what I think is the best thing to do in my own southern garden now.

The Bee Cause Live Interview Is Tomorrow

My DIL Tami Enright is the director of The Bee Cause Project–initially funded in South Carolina by Georgia’s Ted Dennard of the Savannah Bee Company.

Ted Dennard and Tami Enright partnered to create and facilitate The Bee Cause Project, and Tami has grown the program nationally and internationally as “bee grants” have gone to over 500 schools and organizations. There are now Bee Cause hives in all 50 states. And, The Bee Cause also creates inspirational and educational programs that support protecting bees. The Bee Cause work is impacting hundreds of children and adults across the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

There will be a live interview about bees tomorrow in Athens, Georgia, with Tami as the guest expert. Some 40 thousand school children and many adults are signed up to watch live.

The Bee Cause Project’s web site follows if you are interested in more information:


A Cooking Day

Yesterday, Friday, was a cooking day–after a morning trip to Whole Foods for ingredients I cannot get closer to home. And, Whole Foods is not really all that far away–maybe 15 minutes, depending on traffic.

The saved chicken bones were taking over my little freezer, so it was time to make a bone broth–which I froze as I’ll have a granddaughter here for a weekend in early June–and she wants to make soup.

The broth turned out to be lovely and dark–and rich with fat, some collagen, and, hopefully, some glycine. Note the skin left on the onions–which I do if the onions have no mold anywhere. The skins add lovely color.

I found some recommended beef gelatin at Whole Foods that I had been seeking. And a nice rice mixture, though I prefer sprouted, organic rice, which I think Trader Jo’s carries.

Gelatin contains vital ingredients for human health: good fats, glycine (an essential amino acid), and collagen.

Check your fingernails–if they are soft and flexible or peel easily, you are lacking these essential health foods. And that’s because people today are not eating meat products where the connective tissues and fat have been left intact. People are eating neat butchered parts. In other words, boneless, skinless chicken breasts will not float your health boat. Nor will lean steaks or hamburger. And, no one eats organ meats much anymore. I could go on about eating nose to tail, but I do the best I can with what I can find in the market.

But, adding some good quality gelatin, I think, is a good idea. I can, actually, add a bit to my coffee each morning. Or some other warm drink. And I will add some to the future soup. I’ll figure out a daily plan.

My nails are really strong. So no worries there. And I don’t snack between my two daily meals and my breakfast of coffee, raw local honey, and lots of raw heavy cream. And I have super high energy levels from the daily fats I consume, energy that is steady and long-lasting. But it doesn’t hurt to make sure I’m getting enough collagen and glycine.

I made a delicious raw kale massaged salad–and added in some onion, grated carrot, and herbs–mint and basil from the herb garden. I didn’t add an acid or the normally-used Parmesan cheese, but you could add fresh lemon juice and the cheese–the acid and salt helps break down the kale as you massage it after adding olive oil.

Later I added a teaspoon of white vinegar–and that helped with both flavor and breaking down the leaves. The tiny experimental amount seemed to be ok in terms of being a histamine trigger.

While the cooking was going on, I roasted a sweet potato in the oven and grilled some lamb chops when the sweet potato was almost done. You can just see the raw butter melting over the sweet potato half I ate–the other half is now an asset in the refrigerator.

Dessert was the after-dinner espresso while reading my current book.

In the late afternoon I watched a granddaughter win that day’s tennis match in a local tournament. And in the early evening, there was time for sewing.

Supper involved some sliced cucumber, a glass of milk, some leftover grilled chicken, a bit of sliced sweet onion (contains needed sulfur), and tv.

It was a good day.