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Monday, December 28, 2009

Newsletter from Shades of Green in San Antonio, Texas

January, 2010



http://www.shadesofgreensa.com/







RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR










If you are looking for new year’s resolutions, we have a few suggestions that will improve


the environment in the decade to come and make our world a safer, healthier place to live.






Resolution No. 1: Discontinue use of all toxic products in your home and your landscape.


It is not that hard. Natural products for the landscape are readily available and work better


than chemicals. In your home, learn to use vinegar, baking soda, and orange oil as cleaners.


You will be amazed at how effective they are.






Resolution No. 2: Use less water. This is critical especially with the dry years we have been


having. In the landscape you can replace expansive turf areas with hardscape and beds filled


with low-water-use plants. Keep beds mulched and apply compost to the lawn twice a year. In


the home, be more conscious of the water you use and find ways to lower the amount. Also,


catch and use rainwater and condensate from your air conditioner.






Resolution No. 3: Garden more. Working in the garden is one of the healthiest forms of


exercise both mentally and physically. Gardens in general add beauty to the environment.






Resolution No. 4: Plant an organic vegetable garden. The produce you harvest will be safer


and more nutritious than any you purchase. Plus, vegetable gardening is very satisfying.






Resolution No. 5: Recycle all that you can. Take advantage of the opportunity to recycle


glass, paper, plastic, aluminum, and more through your municipal recycling program. If you


do not already have a compost pile, create one and turn yard and kitchen waste into a valuable


resource to improve your garden.






Warm your evenings and winter celebrations with Aspen Mulling Spice. Mix it with wine,


tea, cider, or use it in your baking. This tasty treat will exceed your expectations!






GOT EMPTY SPACES?










For most of us, the hard freezes in December took out most warm weather annuals and


perennials, leaving empty places and in some cases, entire beds without color. Winter without


color IS NOT FUN!






You can easily remedy this situation by planting an abundance of annuals that will perform


well in the cold, providing you with new and exciting sources of color. In sunny areas, plant


pansies with wild abandon and in the shade go crazy with cyclamen and primrose. These


plants will bloom through the winter, and everytime you see them you will smile and be glad


that you filled your beds with happiness!






We wish all of our wonderful customers and greatfriends a healthy and happy New Year filled withfruitful gardening adventures!






ENRICH YOUR HOME










Few additions to your home can create the warmth and beauty provided by plants. Yes, there


are fabulous fabrics, gorgeous furnishings, and amazing art, but plants are unique because they


add life to your surroundings.






On a scientific level plants filter toxins making the air you breathe more healthful, but on a


more mindful level, plants make you feel better––more relaxed and serene.






There are houseplants that will enhance any decor, but to be successful it is important to match


the light you have available with the light requirements of the plants. (We have new SunSticks to


measure your indoor light.) Properly placed, houseplants require little maintenance. When you


come in we would love to help you select just the right plants to complement your indoor decor.


We also have an extensive selection of containers to accentuate your plants.






Note: To keep your houseplants healthy and vigorous, feed monthly with Natural Solutions


Liquid Fertilizer.






THE TRUTH ABOUT WEEDS










Many people are very aware of weeds this winter. They are prominent for several reasons.


The past couple of years have been so dry that many lawns have thinned considerably, and weeds


have filled the empty spaces. Good rains after a long dry spell enable many different weeds to


sprout at the same time. Finally, we have had enough cold weather to turn lots of grass brown,


making the bright green weeds more obvious.






The presence of weeds does not mean you need to run for the herbicide. Actually weeds are


beneficial. Some help prevent loss of soil, others build the soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in


nodules on their roots. Most all weeds tell you something about the condition of your soil. Grassy


weeds with little root systems indicate that your soil is very deficient in nutrients and fertilizer is


needed. Clover and oxalis only occur in soils that are badly compacted indicating that compost,


compost tea, molasses, and Medina Plus would be helpful.






In all cases, take steps to improve your existing turf. Feed regularly, apply a thin layer of compost


twice a year, mow to keep weeds from producing seed for next year’s crop, and avoid toxic


herbicides. In most cases, healthy grass will effectively choke out the weeds in the spring.






BEWARE OF THE INTERNET










The internet is a truly incredible tool and an important part of life for most people. For


gardeners it is both a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing because it allows one to research


new plants and products. It is a curse if you assume everything you read is factual, practical,


and beneficial in our area. The simple fact is that gardening is regional, and plants that grow


in one area may not grow in another. People posting information on the internet may or may


not be knowledgeable. Products and practices may not perform the same in all areas. For


example, milky spore fungus may be a great way to control Midwest grubworms but is a waste






of time in our area––it simply does not work on the type of


grubs that damage our lawns. ‘De-thatching’ may revitalize


a northern lawn but will absolutely ruin a southern one. The


list goes on. Even East Texas products such as bark mulch


are not useful in our area.






Enjoy the internet, but remember that local information


such as that found in The Garden Gazette and from the staff


of Shades of Green is your most reliable source of gardening


information for our area.






Start 2010 out right, switch yourvGarden Gazette


to the e-mail format. Tell us next time you are in, call


us, or e-mail us at gardengazette@sbcglobal.net (this


address is only available for subscription purposes).


Please include the address where you are currently


receiving your newsletter so we can match the names


correctly.






It Is


Market Month


We will be going toseveral gift markets insearch of unique giftsand accessories for yourhome and garden. We


will give you a morecomplete report nextmonth, but the new


merchandise will beginarriving by the end ofJanuary.






HELP FOR


THE BIRDS










Winter is a time of year


when the weather creates stress


for many creatures, especially


birds. Food and water may be


scarce, and they need protection


from the elements.






You can help by providing


nutritious food in the form of


seeds, suet, nuts, and peanut


butter. Offering a variety will


attract the greatest diversity of


birds. Provide protection from


predators and the weather by


putting up birdhouses and


planting dense shrubs in the


landscape.






The Very Best


Pruners










Fiskars pruners are our


first choice for quality tools


for many reasons.






n They have received many


awards for their exceptional


designs including the ‘Ease-


of-Use Commendation’ by


the Arthritis Foundation. Ergonomics


are considered in


the design process leading to


products that are comfortable


and require less muscle power


to use. They are designed to


reduce effort, increase power,


and minimize weight.









The reinforced fiberglass


composite handles are lightweight


and durable, and the


corrosion resistant, non-stick


blades reduce friction and stay


sharp.





Fiskars’ Project Orange


Thumb reaches out to


communities by supporting


neighborhood gardens with


donations of plants, tools, and


materials.


Basically Fiskars is a great






JANUARY


Gardening Calendar


aSet out lots of colorful annuals to brighten your


landscape


aApply beneficial nematodes to control thrips and


ticks


aPlant woody trees and shrubs


aPrepare soil for your spring vegetable garden


aApply compost to turf areas


aScatter rye seed for a green winter lawn and to


reduce mud and erosion in grassless areas


aContinue feeding houseplants and all plants that


have been brought indoors for the winter


aCreate an herb garden


aLiven up indoor spaces with lush, green


houseplants


a Mulch tender tropicals and perennials, particularly


those that have frozen and been cut back


aKeep fresh water and food out for songbirds


aPlant wildflower seed


aRelocate any woody trees and shrubs (including


roses)


a Plant onions and snow peas


aResolve to help make our world a kinder, gentler


place to live.


‘BUY LOCAL’










This is a phrase you are probably hearing more and more as


we move toward buying things that are made or grown close


to home. Buying local is good for the environment because


items are not shipped as far, using less energy and creating


less pollution. When buying plants, it is good for you because


plants spend less time in cold (or hot), dark trucks and are


already adapted to our local soils, water, and climate. Buying


local is good for our community because your money stays


closer to home supporting our economy, creating jobs and


supporting the local government and charitable causes.






At Shades of Green, more than 60% of our plants are


grown within 30 miles of San Antonio and over 75% within


150 miles. All of our fertilizers, compost, mulches, and soil


mixes are made in Texas. Many of our gift items are manufactured


locally––windchimes (Austin), Celtic crosses (Kerrville),


wonderful skincare products (Elmendorf and Fredericksburg),


and CD’s by George Gaytan (San Antonio).






We believe in ‘buying local’ and are constantly searching


for additional sources that are close to home.






company which manufactures


comfortable, long lasting tools


that make your gardening jobs


easier.






We value your opinion. Next time you are in the store,


please ask to fill out one of our evaluation forms and


let us know honestly how we are doing.










Presort StandardU. S. PostagePaidSan Antonio, Texas 78209Permit No. 548


Address Service Requested






Business Hours


334 West Sunset Road


San Antonio, Texas 78209


210-824-3772


www.shadesofgreensa.com


Mon. - Sat. 9:00 to 5:00


Sun. 10:00 to 4:00


SaturdaySeminarswillbestartingupagaininFebruary.


Watchyournextnewsletterforthescheduleofthesefunandinformativeevents.


BE PROACTIVE WITH TICKS AND THRIPS










We usually recommend applying beneficial nematodes when you have problems––an outbreak


of fleas, an invasion of grubs or chinch bugs, or the appearance of fireants or termites. At this time


of year, however, we recommend an application to help prevent problems, specifically ticks and


thrips. This is the only time of year that ticks are actually down in the soil where the nematodes


can parasitize and kill them. It is also the time when the thrips insect is in its larval stage in the


soil. Applying beneficial nematodes now can diminish problems later in spring and summer when


control is much more difficult.






JANUARY IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN










Even though this is typically our coldest month of the year, there are still things to do in the


garden. You can set out onion plants both for green onions and for bulbs that will mature next


summer. Snow peas, either bush or vining varieties, and leafy greens can be planted at this time.


Be sure to inoculate the pea seed if you are planting them in an area for the first time. (Unused


tomato cages make great trellises for peas.) Also, you can prepare the soil for your spring garden


by putting down organic fertilizer and a thick layer of compost wherever you are going to plant.


By allowing these products to remain on the soil for the next few weeks or months, you will see a


marked improvement in soil texture and increased production.






ADD PLANTS TO YOUR LANDSCAPE










The fall and winter months are ideal times to plant new trees, shrubs, roses, groundcovers, and


other woody plants. In South Texas plants do not go fully dormant, so although there may be no


foliage production, roots will be actively growing. By summer the plants will be well established


and better able to tolerate hot, dry weather.






When setting out new plants, avoid planting too deeply, add generous amounts of compost to


the soil, water plants in with Super Thrive, and apply 2” to 3” of mulch around the root zones.






This is a great time to upgrade your landscape and to replace those plants that did not survive


the heat and drought of last summer. Note: When selecting new plants consider natives and other


well-adapted varieties over exotic selections. copyright Shades of Green, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Landscape and Beauty

Hi Boys and Girls!

Well, the day after Christmas and back to reality. I tackled a job that should have been done in November. This is only one of many that should have been done prior to our first freeze.

Our blueberry trees are still in large pots. For our area, the Tifblue works well.  http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/fruit/blueberry/blueberries.html Last week I found full-size wine barrels at a crafts show and the vender cut them in half and delivered them. What a deal! They are about 50 gallon size. So, today sweet hubby Roberto drilled a drainage hole on the side of each barrel.

Why isn't he using an electric drill? Well, one reason is that it is broken; another reason is that we like using my dad's old drill. It works.


We then found a sunny location not too far from the hose bib. We put 3 bricks under the barrel to facillitate air circulation. We placed the existing pot into the barrel. We know at some time we will transplate the tree into the barrel with more soil but that will be when all danger of frost is over. Our soil is not acidic enough for blueberries. So we used soil preparation recommended by Texas A&M. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/
We planted the blueberries 3:1 peat moss and horticultural perlight. http://www.homeharvest.com/soilamendmentsperlitevermiculite.htm
We topped each plant with pine needles and always put our coffee grounds in the plant each time we water. We had quite a bit of berries before the birds got them last summer! So, here they are in the wine barrels. I plan on purchasing another variety that works well here so pollination will ensure nice big fat berries.




I know sometimes a winter garden can be depressing. After a freeze, everything looks so sad. There are some items that still bring a smile to my face even though the majority of the yard is in "down time."



We have had this "nicho" for many years. A nich is a decorative recess for holding a statue. They are usually associated with Greek or Roman architecture. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414014/niche
We are in Texas. We decorate rustic so this Niche or Nicho is made of old barn wood and the roof is tin. It fits, don't you think?

Another thing about a winter yard is the wildlife that seek shelter. If you are interested in having a habitat for birds and other small critters, you might consider creating a wildscape. That is what we have. There are certain requirements that are very easy to fulfill. Check out this site to see how easy it is to make your yard into a wildscape.
It is easy for us to have a brush pile in which birds can nest and hide. It is way back in the yard so it does not look so ugly. Actually, when I took this picture, there were about 25 birds in there doing their thing. They are so cute!
Another major requirement is water. I don't want my bird baths to crack when we have a freeze so I keep this large shell full of water. It belonged to my mother but makes a wonderful little water source for the birds and whatever else comes around when I am not looking. I still have my hummingbird feeder up and keep it full with fresh sugar water (4 cups water to 1 cup sugar. Boil. Cool.) We have a hummer visit it daily.
I know these birdhouses are whimsical but they really do offer protection from cold and snakes. Roberto made these many year's ago but they are in constant use. We do have to clean them out every now and then.

So, I just gave you a small glimpse of our wildscape. You can create a variation of this even on a patio if you live in an apartment. Your brush pile could be a hanging plant in which a bird can seek refuge or build a nest. If the plant dies even better. A fern is really great because when it dies and turns brown it still retains stiff fronds in which birds can build a nest. I speak from experience!
A small birdbath or tray of water fits easily on a patio. An outdoor minerature potted tree will attract birds. So, check out the wildlife site and find some joy that will carry you through the dark days of winter.
Play outside, turn the soil, watch birds puttering around, search the sky for migrating geese. Have fun!
Let me know what you find interesting in your winter garden.
Now, I better get my block cut out for Pieceful Journey.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas Day!! Frost Warning...

Hi Boys and Girls!

Did your Santa bring you everything you wished for? If not, did you get a sweet gift you had not even thought to wish for? I did!! My sweet hubby bought me a gift certificate to Oak Leaf Quilts. http://www.oakleafquilts.com/ Wow! Fifty bucks! I never dreamed my main squeeze would think to give me fabric....after all, I can barely walk into my quilting room for all the fabric! Sorry, you will not get a picture of this!

We are most likely going to have another freeze. Check the weather at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
and put in you zip code. If we are going to be 32 degrees or lower, your plants will be hit with frost. Here is a web site to help you prepare your plants for a freeze. http://www.thegardenhelper.com/frost.html

I have a tub full of old sheets, mattress pad covers and towels to cover my more delicate plants. You can get all this stuff at Hospice resale shops. Here in New Braunfels go to:
Hope Hospice Thrift Avenue
613 North Walnut Avenue

New Braunfels, TX 78130-7925
(830) 625-4746
Just about every city has a Hospice resale shop. I found a brand new pair of Levi jeans for $1.50 two weeks ago!

If you are planting Texas natives or natives to your state, the plants will probably come back in the spring.

Move potted plants under protective porches or in the garage. Do not water them before a freeze if you keep them outside. The pot will expand and crack. Resist the urge to trim unsightly frozen plants. I know they look yucky, but even the damaged limbs will protect the roots during another freeze. Remember: when you trim you are telling your plant to put out new growth. If there is a freeze after you have trimmed your plant, you can kiss that plant good-bye.


Have a wonderful day and keep that fire going! Even kitties love to sit by the fire.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Traditional Christmas Dinner

Hello Boys and Girls!

Merry Christmas!! I hope you all are having a great time. We had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner at our house. Tradition? Is that still popular? Well, it is with food and for me!

We lived many years in New Mexico. http://www.landofenchantment.com/
The traditions there date back hundreds of year's and are based on foods, celebrations and family. We soon fell in love with the tradition of luminarias at Christmas. These are generally brown paper bags partially filled with sand in which a candle can be placed. Christmas Eve these lights line driveways, roof tops, churches and any available wall. http://www.itsatrip.org/albuquerque/culture-heritage/hispanic/luminarias.aspx This tradition started 300 year's ago. Originally, little bonfires of pinon would be set to welcome the Christ child.

Another tradition we adopted for Christmas Eve was the making of a traditonal meal. Posole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozole, tamales, hot chocolate, churros or buenelos has become our traditional meal the eve of Christmas. Posole  is made with fresh, uncooked corn. When it is cooked it is called hominy. Believe me, there is nothing like fresh posole. It is so easy to make! Yes it is...First you buy frozen posole. Many Mexican markets carry it. When Wal-Mart here stopped selling it, I called a grocer in Espinola, New Mexico and he shipped me some. This time I had some that was purchased in Las Cruces, New Mexico last June.

OK, put the posole in a large pot and soak overnight to remove the lime. Next day, drain and put in fresh pot of water. Cook until the corn "pops." At that time put in cut up pork, fresh or canned green chiles (I only use New Mexico chiles), about 2 tablespoons chile power (yes, I only use New Mexico chile from Hatch.) http://www.hatchchilefest.com/
one cut up onion, about 4 chopped garlic, a tablespoon of oregano, salt and cook for about another hour. I put in some organic chicken broth also. Oh man, is this good!
Then we also had calabaza. That is Mexican squash cooked with corn, tomatoes, onions and cheese.
Tamales of course, can be bought just about any where. They are so-so. They are very labor intensive so I did not make them. I also did not eat them. However, the rest of the family loved them. We had both pork and beef.
The meal was topped off with wine and beer.
After we settled a bit we had dessert. I made Mexican hot chocholate and buenelos. http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/mexicanchocolate.htm I used the traditional molinillo to make the chocolate frothy. Along with the chocolate, we had buenelos. http://www.mex-recipes.com/mexican-dessert-recipe.html I chose the easy way and used flour tortillas rather than make them from scratch.
The whole meal was fantastic.

Midnight Mass is coming up soon so I will end this by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas again! I hope my meals give you inspiration to start tradtions based around family meals. What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you make a favorite recipe handed down from Mom? Please share some of your favorite things to do or cook for Christmas.

See you next time!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Busy December Traveling, Drinking, Eating and Quilting

Hi Boys and Girls!
I am sure your December is as busy as mine. It started with a bang. Have you ever been so cold that your lips do not move when you talk? I have. Hubby and I visited my most dear Aunt Cay in Spokane, WA the first week in December.
Spokane is home to Gonzaga University. What a fantastic place. http://www.gonzaga.edu/ It is a Jesuit university steeped in tradition. And they have a great basketball team!


Isn't my aunt sweet to find a quilt shop for me in Spokane? I found Moda's pattern Close to My Heart. The fabric line is gorgeous. I know you will fall in love with it. The pattern is from Laundry Basket Quilts http://www.laundrybasketquilts.com/ but for the life of me I could not find the pattern there nor the fabric. However, I did find some of the fabric at http://www.fabricdepot.com/
so I can at least start on the quilt, which measures 72" by 72" which is a good bed size. Anyway, my Aunt Cay is the sweetest person in the world. Back to Spokane.



I knew it would be a challenge but the gods were with us. What a beautiful place! Spokane is high desert and near the Idaho border. http://www.spokane.com/ It is in a valley but the mountains, Cascades, I think are very close. Well, believe me...it is cold there in December. My cousin Mary and husband Lemont live in Colbert, just a few miles from Spokane. They are very active outdoor sports people along with their two daughters. So, this area is perfect for them.
Do they look cold in this picture? It was 4 degrees! Yes, and they are used to this cold weather.

We were at Lake Coeur D'Alene (Idado)http://www.coeurdalene.org/ watching the eagles swooping down to catch fish for dinner. It is an awesome sight. I have never seen such a big lake. Well, let's get back to the 4 degrees! Do Roberto and I look cold? My teeth are clenched and I am trying to say, "Take the picture now!"
When we got back to the house, Lemont started his famous clam chowder....which was a great idea to thaw us out. Actually, he started a fire first and then headed to the kitchen. You didn't think I was going to leave out food in this post, did you? You know me better than that! Anyway, the clam chowder recipe was made up while he was camping and needed something fast and easy. It was a hassle to take fresh potatoes so he used Campbell's potato soup. Of course, the clams were canned but oh so good. No MSG.
Here are some of Lemont's ingredients.


The canned soup was very good too. To finish it off we had sourdough bread.Well, that took care of us just nicely!
You think I got away without making Mexican food? Nice try. They wanted tamales, but hey...I was only there for 3 days! So, I made shredded beef soft tacos with homemade tortillas, of course. The beef was spiced up with chile powder, black olives and garlic. We had Mexican rice and fresh beans. All the trimmings for the soft tacos included avocado, tomatoes and lettuce. Lemont made a real hit with me by bringing a sauce called El Pato. It is so good. The first ingredient is jalapenos but there is also vinegar. That sour with hot is great! I have not found it yet at my local store but it is made in Mexico so being in Texas, I should find it here.

Next, we went to Bothell, WA and had a ball there. My bro is the supreme good cook and his appetizers are very special.  Have you ever served pickles with Brie and grapes? Well, you should try it! The wine was a big hit too. I will not bore you with the Mexican dinner I made for them but let me give you a hint. Quesadillas made with butternut squash are to die for! Butternut squash?? Yes!! Cut the squash in half and poke holes in it. Place it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and keep testing it with a fork to see that it does not fully cook. When still firm, take it out and peel it. Chop the squash in bite-size pieces and saute them in butter, garlic and a dash of chile powder until cooked. Then make the quesadillas with a little butter in the pan. Place the tortilla in the pan and put some squash in the center of the tortilla along with sharp cheddar or Mexican cheese. Fold over and cook both sides. Serve with tomatillo sauce. Now, you tell me if this does not make your mouth water. It is a keeper in this house!

The highlight of Seattle was Canlis Restarant in Seattle. http://www.canlis.com/ The view is so beautiful. The service (at least 4 wait staff treated us like royalty). This is a very elegant place to dine. It is not just eating to fill your tummy. It is an experience that I highly recommend. Bill and Marsha treated us which made it even more special. They were celebrating their anniversary!

And then there was the International Motorcycle Show in downtown Seattle! All our dreams were coming true! Well, not quite, but we could pretend right? Doesn't Roberto look like a natural on this bike? He had one when we were dating and the bug has never left him....I keep bugging him for a bike!It could happen!

Well, this just about wraps up our quick trip to WA state. Christmas is Friday and the gift cakes are made. Now, I have to finish making my presents for a few special people. I cannot mention what they are because they may be reading this! I can tell you that they are homemade and taste good. Of course, the sewing machine has been busy too! Until next time, cook something interesting, make something from scratch and share your fun with me! Let me know how you like those butternut quesadillas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fabric and More Fabric!


There are quilt shops and then there are quilt shops! Washington state has some serious quilters and very impressive quilt shops. There is no denying that Texas is the Mother of Quilt Shops, but I am impressed with the quality of fabric available and the impressive array of choices. For instance, Gathering Fabrics in Woodinville gatheringfabrics.com, near Bothell, WA has so much to choose from in a very small space. Of course, they are moving into a larger building right next door. Right now, I am working on a BOM (block of the month) illustrating WA state's wildflowers. Keepsake Cottage Fabrics http://www.keepsakecottagefabrics.com/ in Bothell, WA. What a dream place with lots of samples on the walls and lots of Moda Fabrics. They have a great selection of sale fabric on their front porch. $5 a yard and an extra 10% off if you finish the bolt. Check out their next BOM...it will be wonderful! This shop is where I met my quilting friend, Pam. She does AWESOME applique. Today Pam took me up to Mt. Vernon, WA. http://www.ci.mount-vernon.wa.us/ It is an old town with historic buildings and it really has small town feel.



 And there are 2 great quilt shops. There is a fabric outlet. It is in the outlet mall. Sewer's Dream Fabric Outlet http://www.sewandquilt.com/




and that name is so appropriate! Check out this wall of beads! The prices will knock your socks off! I bought name-brand fabrics for $1 a yard and $4 a yard. They have regular priced fabrics too along with tons of notions!
Another cool thing are the classes offered. If you are up in this area, you gotta check out this fabric outlet.
Of course, you can always check them out online!




Sunday, November 29, 2009

Crazy for Pink Quilt Made from a Panel

Hi Boys and Girls!

I hope you all had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. Now to lose those extra pounds! Oh no...

I finished a quilt! It is amazing what one can do with fabric! I had this really shocking pink fabric panel. I wasn't really sure what to do with it. It is a little crazy as you will see. You may be familiar with the saying, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear." That is sort of how I felt about this panel. Things changed after I took a T-Shirt class from Brenda Goggins at Oak Leaf Quilts. http://www.oakleafquilts.com/ I learned how to make T-shirt quilts but I also learned how to border fussy cut blocks. What is fussy cutting you ask? http://quilting.about.com/od/quiltingglossaryf/g/fussy_cut.htm You cut around the specific picture or figure you want on your quilt, towel, handbag, pillowcase, or whatever, and use that in your project. Sometimes you need a border around it. If you are using the figure for appliqué, you do not need a border. You simply stitch around the piece with a decorative stitch or a blind stitch. Some quilters like to use invisible thread to stitch because it will end up looking like hand-appliqué. Here is a video to give you a better idea of fussy cutting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUF2UYOqHx0
So, I had this weird panel and I fussy cut around the figures I wanted. Then I bordered each block.

I had some material left over to make a pillow. I used a 12" pillow form and made an envelope pillow case so if it gets dirty, the pillow form can be taken out before laundering. Here is a link to making an envelope pillow case. http://sewing.about.com/od/freeprojects/ss/envelopepillow.htm  I had to adjust the back pieces and cut them larger because the top was larger. But the directions give you a general idea of how easy it is.

Back






I had enough fabric left over from the border fabric to piece the back of the quilt. Piecing the back makes a quilt very interesting and sometimes hides irregular quilting. Since this is made for a little girl and may be washed frequently, I had the quilt professionally quilted by a long-arm quilter. The quilting design is of hearts and loops. Sometimes, paying the extra money for professional long-arm quilting is preferable to quilting on a home machine. Long-arm quilting has consistant stitches and the overall construction is stronger.

Pillow

As you may know, I never throw away scraps of fabric! I still have some fabric left over. Any suggestions as to what I can do with this wild fabric? Let me know.

Always label your quilts. Give the quilt a title. I titled the quilt "Crazy for Pink" because there is so much pink in the fabric and the little Princess receiving this is Crazy for Pink!

Quilt labels should have:
  • Title of quilt
  • Recipient's full name, city and state
  • Quilter's full name, city and state
  • Date
I also label washing instructions such as: "Machine wash on gentle cycle. No dryer." Most quilts never need washing, just airing out on a yearly basis. Most stains can be spot cleaned. Detergent fades fabric and a dryer will shrink the quilt. It is best to air dry a quilt.

So, try making a quilt with an ordinary panel. Panels are cheap and usually cost about $6. You can just border the panel if you prefer or you can fussy cut the panel and make the quilt a little more interesting.

Enjoy! And, quilt something!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Easy Homemade Christmas Gift---And it Won't Stick You!

If you are in the same situation as I am, you are rushed and stressed that Christmas is right around the corner! Well, this craft lesson may help you. We live in an area with an abundance of Cactus...Prickly Pear, commonly known as Nopal Cactus. These do have thorns but there is a variety around here that is considered "spineless." Read on to learn how to make a Nopales Christmas Cactus Wreath.

Commonly called Prickly Pear, the Nopal Cactus is scientifically categorized as Opuntia Spp, a generic name referring to over 200 species of the Opuntia cacti family. This has been used as a medicinal plant and food for 12,000 years. But we are going to learn how to make a Cactus Christmas Wreath using the nopales or pads. If you do not have cactus, ask a neighbor if they mind giving you some. I guarantee they will say, “Take all you want!” One of the best things about making a Christmas gift from your garden is that most of the supplies are free. For the purposes of this project, I chose to use Opuntia ficus-indica‘Burbank Spineless’(Nopal).




Supply list: leather gloves, tongs, floral wire (optional), floral pins, glue gun, raffia, straw wreath, small brush, dried chiles either fresh or artificial, acrylic spray, 8-10 cactus pads in uniform size.



Cover your work area with newspaper or plastic table cloth and assemble your supplies. Wear leather gloves and use metal tongs when selecting the cactus pads. Use the tongs to pull the pad from the plant. Pads break off easily.



Using floral wire, make a hanger by wrapping wire around wreath making it long enough to hook on a nail.



Gently clean debris off one side of pads with small brush. Choose to clean the side of the pad that does not lay flat on your wreath. As you are cleaning the pads, randomly place them around the wreath to give you an idea of placement. You want pads that will nestle against the wreath at least in two places. This is where you will apply the glue.




Using glue gun, secure first pad in place in two places that touch the wreath. Wearing leather gloves or using tongs, lightly press until glue dries. Secure the narrow end with one floral pin. Continue with next pad, covering the previous narrow end, thus hiding the floral pin. Continue this technique until you cover the wreath. It would be ideal to end with about 2” between the last pad and the first, but if they does not happen, no problem. You will cover this area with raffia and chiles.



When the wreath is covered with nopales, spray all the pads with acrylic spray. Let dry.




Using a good amount of raffia, lay it on the table lengthwise and tie one piece of raffia or floral wire in the middle to secure. Free form a bow letting loose ends hang about to the middle of the wreath. If raffia ends are too long, randomly rough cut some from the bottom.



At the center of your Cactus Wreath, hot glue the raffia bow. You can hide floral pins to further secure the bow. Arrange 3 chiles and secure stems with floral wire. Attach chile stems to bow with floral pin or hot glue.
Keep your wreath from rain. The covered porch will be fine but out in the ope, the cactus will become mushy and not last for next year. Like it? If you have any problems, just let me know. You can combine the spiney cactus with the spineless...that would be cool. Also you can use a different kind of wreath...what about barb wire? Grapevine? How about foam?
Have fun!!
If you need more ideas, I have a ton of them...how about herbal vinegar? Homemade soap? Bath salts? Meat rubs?
Most people LOVE to receive homemade gifts. Believe me. In today's economy, it not only makes good sense to make your gifts but it also teaches your children and recipients about gift-giving. It comes from the heart, not the pocketbook.
See you next time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wine Tasting Party

Hi Boys and Girls!

Tonight I had a wine tasting party hosted by Traveling Vineyards. http://www.thetravelingvineyards.com/

Holly did a great job describing each of the six wines we tasted. I made foods that go along with those wines. It is a "girls night out" type of event and always a lot of fun. The wall and front steps were decorated with luminarias courtesy of my hubby, Roberto. It was pretty and it gave people a good vantage point to our house.

The hit of the night was the chorizo sausage balls with chipolte raspberry sauce...or maybe it was the truffles from France...no wait...everyone seemed to love the artisan bread with brie...oh never mind. All the food was good!


Bonnie, Debbie and Patsy look like they have empty glasses.





If you want to have a fun evening with your gal pals,
give a wine tasting party with The Traveling Vineyard.

Have a great weekend. Quilt something! I know that I am!