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Category Archives: Dogs

King Sized Dilemma

I am never, ever quilting a king size ever again! Here’s what I’ve been working on while I’ve been in the blogging black hole:

It’s what I’ve been calling “The Practice Quilt.” Here’s the story:

A few weeks back I thought I was ready to start quilting the infamous purple quilt, and I started about 5 straight lines going the length of the quilt. I hated it. It showcased how un-straight everything was. So I ripped it out and knew I wanted to do something besides straight lines. Which meant- gasp!- FREE MOTION! I’ve never done any free motion quilting before so I practiced some stippling on a few big scraps. Well, even after I got the hang of it, I wasn’t convinced I was ready- I mean, I spent a lot of money on that purple quilt- I didn’t want to ruin it! So I decided I needed to practice on something more to scale so I could get the real feel of stippling with the weight of a full sized quilt behind it. Except by full-size I mean king-sized.

We had his huge green fleece blanket that we’ve been using for a few years as our in-between winter and summer blanket. Only, it was fraying at the edges, it collected lots of dog hair, and it wasn’t very pretty. So I decided I needed to cover it, and now I had the perfect idea- not only would I cover it, I’d quilt it and practice stippling on it! So I got to work sewing 16 yards of fabric into a front and back.

I had to spread this thing out in our empty dining room- and it filled the room!!! I basted it and got quilting.

This thing was a beast to quilt! Not only did I have to battle the sheer size of it, the blanket was a very dense fleece– not the fluffy light kind– so it was extremely heavy, too. It made my back hurt and my arms sore pushing and pulling this thing around. Quilting the middle was the worst. After about a week I finished. And vowed to never ever free motion quilt a king size quilt ever again. Ever. Never. Never ever. No way.

BUT- I did kill two birds with one stone. I finally covered this monster blanket after putting it off for a long time (16 yards of fabric sitting on two bolts isn’t the biggest motivator in the world), and I got a ton of practice stippling. So now I think I’m ready to move on to the purple quilt. Soon.

Of course after I finished binding the practice quilt (I feel a little funny calling it a quilt, since it’s not pieced), I washed it and put it on the bed to take some pictures. It didn’t take long for these two bears to join me:

I have to admit, they make it look even snuggly-er.

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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Dogs, Quilting

 

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Spring is on it’s way!

Finnegan has been giving us a bit of trouble lately. Last year we nicknamed him “Houdini”- he’s our little escape artist and loves to put on a show. This dog is really really smart- I’ve seen him testing the fence line to find weak spots and he’s developed a pretty effective strategy for getting out. He digs a shallow hole and then uses his teeth to PRY the chain link fence up. He’s even UNlinked the fence before.

The worst two parts about it are: 1) He prefers to get out after dark, which makes it 1,000 times more scary for me 2) He usually comes back full of mud and in need of a bath.

He doesn’t go far when he escapes- he just sprints and sniffs around a territory of about 5 neighbor’s yards. And he always comes back, but it’s still pretty scary. We’ve tried to reinforce the chain-link by staking it down and putting big rocks down, but nothing works to keep Finn in and our backyard is starting to look like a junk yard.  So Brian and I decided that we’re going to use our tax return money to get an electric fence. Hopefully that will do the trick- I’ll keep you updated.

In other news, this is the first official GARDENING post of 2012!!! Woo Hoo! Spring is just around the corner! The trees and bushes put out buds weeks ago- they are just as confused by all the mild weather as we’ve been. I have some bulbs sprouting in the front yard that I’ve started to check every few days. All this means that it’s about time to get started on my vegetable garden!

I ordered seeds from the same company as last year. You can read last year’s seed post to hear why I chose this company in particular. I didn’t have the best luck with the garden last year: squash bugs and the curly top virus were particularly damaging. I’m going to give heirloom seeds another shot before I give up and go back to Burpee. This year I decided to shop a bit smarter, so I went through the seed catalog and only selected seed that included the phrase “disease resistant” in the description. Hopefully that will make things easier for me this year. I was really disappointed by the ineffective organic pesticides I tried last year, so my goal is to not need them.

Here’s what I purchased: 4 new tomato varieties

2 beans, 1 eggplant and a yellow squash:

I also got this packet of peppers, but plan to use them mostly for decoration rather than eating. These will go on the side of the house, outside of our fence line, so the dogs have 0% chance of eating them.

I also got some flower seeds this year! I’m going to try to make my landscape beds feel fuller by adding some annuals grown from seed. I’m especially excited about those sunflower seeds!

Lastly, I got some different basil seed that promised a bushier plant, with more leaves per stalk.

Now I just have to get a move on starting some of these seeds! Some will eventually get direct-sowed into the ground, but some need to be started indoors to get a head start and produce fruit in time for harvest. Yay for the growing season starting!

Of course I’ve also been doing some quilting. I’ve mostly been working on that secret surprise project that I mentioned, so there’s not a whole lot I can share with you on that. Good news is that it’s a pretty simple project, so I should be able to reveal the secret sooner rather than later.

Since I finished the front of the purple quilt, I moved on to planning the back. One trend I love in modern quilting is the pieced backs, so I decided to give it a try on this quilt. Here’s what I planned out:

As you can see, it’s going to require a good amount of fabric, so I went ahead and ordered some more. I also needed to get some for the border I’m adding to the front. (This is going to be one expensive quilt! Don’t tell Brian.) I got started on the back by piecing together those two strips of blocks you can see in my plan.

I’m pretty excited about this back coming together. My mom told me it’s always a good idea to try something new in each quilt you make. So this time it’s going to be the pieced back and I am going to make my own binding. I am itching for my fabric to arrive in the mail so I have more to work on!

The 1,000 mile challenge is still going, slowly but surely. It was a low mileage week because I had a race yesterday! I ran in the Indianapolis Polar Bear race. It had two races, a 3 mile and a 5 mile, and it had the option to double up and do both. I decided to be a little crazy and do both. So, I “raced” the 3 mile, and ran about 8:20 pace. My friend Sarah ran too and finished about 30 seconds ahead of me. It’s one of my goals to be able to finish a race with her rather than behind her!!! Then, I ran the 5 mile. My 1st mile was ridiculously slow- about 10:10 or so. I hadn’t felt well (nauseous) running the 3 mile, so I started out REALLY conservative. I’d also had about 20 minutes between races, so I was starting out cold again. Since I’d felt so bad during the 3 mile I decided my only goal for the 5 mile was to run at a pace that felt good. Eventually that meant picking up the pace, so each mile I ran got a little faster, and I finished in 47:17. Not my best time for 5 miles, by far, but not bad following up a fast (for me) 3 miles. So here’s where I’m at:


Last, but not least, I might have a new job! It’s not in place of teaching, but in addition. I don’t have all the details yet, so I can’t say too much about it. All I can really say is that I’m excited about it and I’ll know more after Tuesday. To be continued…

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Dogs, Garden, Quilting, Running

 

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Even Cold November Rain

I’ve got a couple of quotes floating around in my head as of late, and most of them are pretty cliche. It seems like this year Eliot, Dickens AND Guns ‘N Roses had it right: “April is the cruelest month”; “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”; and, of course, “Nothin lasts forever, even cold Novemeber rain.” Cliche or not, these pretty much sum up how my last month and a half has gone, there have been ups and there have been downs. My nephew Joey was born and I got to see him THREE TIMES in April. Then my family had an expected death throw us in a loop, and finally the school referendum that we needed to pass to save Brian’s job did NOT pass. Throw in a big Polish Easter celebration, lots of rain, rain, rain, rain and the end of the school year and you’ll start to see the kind of roller coaster I’ve been on. So, even though I felt like a quitter, the blog was the first thing to go on the back burner. Sorry folks! But, hopefully now that I’m officially on summer break I’ll be posting more often. I should- I’ve not got much else to do!

However… just because I haven’t been posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking pictures for the blog! Because I have! On the few sunny days we’ve had here and there I’ve been out in the yard and garden every chance I can get. I think my last “Garden Update” post was a little premature…. there really wasn’t a whole lot going on in the garden for anyone but me to be very interested in. I think it was just the blooming trees that got me excited about spring. But now the gardens are really starting to green up and I even got my vegetable starts planted!

Everything looks a little sorry right now. I think I may have tried to harden my starts off a little too quickly. I guess I was getting impatient to get them in. Before I planted the tomatoes in the bed I amended the soil with some peat moss and mushroom compost. It was a labor of LOVE, let me tell you. I felt like I was on Survivor competing for immunity because I woke up one morning and checked the weather to see I had three hours before it started raining. So I decided to get it all done in three hours. Sounds like plenty of time, but I was finishing up with a drizzle coming down on my back. The thing that made it so hard was that I don’t have a tiller, so it was just me and my good pal the shovel. I dug up 6″ worth of dirt (I hesitate to call it that, because our yard is mostly clay) and shoveled it into the wheelbarrow where I mixed it with the amendments and then shoveled it all back in. I was able to do about a 1’x1′ area at a time because that’s all the wheelbarrow would hold. So, it took me the whole three hours and I was laughing at myself the whole time. Hopefully it will be worth all the effort when the tomatoes and cucumber seeds I planted explode into a jungle of ripe veggies.Too bad I’ll have to wait until at least July for that!

The raised bed has eggplants, yellow squash and two kinds of beans planted. The squash and beans I direct sowed into the dirt, so I’ll be anxiously waiting to see those sprouts come up in the next couple of weeks.

I also planted my basil starts in some pots. Last year I had oregano, thyme and mint growing in these pots with my basil and all three came back! I didn’t expect any of them to make it. So all I need now is rosemary (which I’ll go out and buy at some point) and my potted herb garden will be all set.

Brian and I also finally got rid of that dead spruce and replaced it with a river birch. It’s hard to know what to plant in our yard– last year we had a severe drought which is what killed the spruce, but this year we’ve only had a handful of days without rain, so our yard has been a marshy mess in the back. We’ve seen lots of our neighbors with river birch in their yards so we figured it must be a pretty low-maintenance tree. Plus, they are nowhere near as expensive as Blue Spruce!

We added a few other things as well. I planted FOUR more lilac bushes near the house. I hope we get to stay in this house long enough for me to see them start to mature. I love lilacs and I wanted to put them in a grouping close to my kitchen window so their pretty scent would waft in. Below is a picture of one with some ornamental grass that should grow up to cover whatever ugly yard thing that is.

And we also planted a pussy willow bush in another particularly wet spot. I really like the way this looks, and the other day we noticed a neighbor that planted three of these on the north side of their house as well, so I think this will do much better here than the Mountainfire Spiria that I replaced it with.

I don’t think I’ll add any new plants to the front garden this year… I’m just waiting to see how everything I planted last year turns out. One thing I do know is that this fall I need to get some early spring bulbs to plant because I was so envious of everyone’s tulips and daffodils! I didn’t realize that most of my flowers (besides the lilacs) won’t be blooming until summer!

Speaking of lilacs, the one up front is finally blooming. It’s much later than the ones I have in back.

I also need to put up some pictures of my alliums. Last post I kind of neglected them, and when I went home my aunt Lilly’s alliums looked very different than mine,. I had a hard time explaining mine, so I really want to show her how they look. I can’t wait to post pictures of these when they finally bloom in June!

I am also thrilled with how well my bleeding heart bush is doing! I thought it was dead, dead, dead last year. My Aunt Barb told me it’d come back and I didn’t believe her, but I’m so happy she was right!

Whenever I go out taking pictures of the garden I always try to snap a few shots of the dogs as well. This is pretty easy to do with Truman– he’s patient with me, good at posing, and is very photogenic:

Just like with everything else, though, Finnegan has to be completely opposite of his brother. Although he’s a very handsome boy, he hates the sounds the camera makes and is very camera shy. So it’s hard to get a good shot of him when he’s always running off. Most of them end up looking something like this:

But, after chasing him around the yard and taking about 1,000 shots, I think I got my favorite portrait of him ever!

What a sweetheart, right? When he puts on that happy face it’s hard not to smile myself.

I’ve been taking some pics of meals I’ve been making lately, too. Those should go up soon!

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Dogs, Garden

 

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Garden Update

Thank G-d spring is here! After the week I’ve had, I need some of the symbolism of spring to keep me going. It’s nice to be able to look outside your window and see things greening up and pushing through– even nicer to be able to go out with a camera when the sun is setting and catch some good light. I’m one of those people who get so anxious for the growing season that when things start to sprout I go out and check on their progress almost every day. Last summer and fall we did a lot of planting, but because of the awful drought we had I wasn’t sure what was going to come back this year. Here’s this year’s roll call!

I did the most planting in this bed, which is right in the front of the house, so I am really impatient for everything to bloom here so I can see the effect of all my choices and work.

I was especially happy when I saw this plant coming up because I’d completely forgotten that I’d planted lily bulbs last year when I got some in an Easter planter. I don’t remember what color these were, so it will be a nice surprise when they bloom.

Here’s a plant that my aunt gave me last year. It’s supposed to be drought resistant (so it was one of the few that did well last year) and it gets yellow flowers. I don’t know what it’s called (maybe my aunt does?), but I know that she had to divide her plants up last year and gave some to me and my younger sister, so hopefully that means it’s also a fast grower!

I wasn’t sure what to do with this plant, lavender, because it’s new from last year too and I wasn’t sure how it was going to grow back… do I cut it back or leave it alone? Looks like the old growth is greening up from the ground, so I’m glad I didn’t cut anything back. Lavender smells great, so of course I planted three of these!

I’ve got three of these ornamental grasses planted, and I’m trying to remember what kind I bought… I think it was called “Heavy Metal.” I wanted these to act as a kind of curtain that will set the stage for all the flowers in front of them, so I hope they get taller and wider than last year. I think they will, since they’re in the ground instead of root bound in a pot.

And THIS is one of my very very very favorites: a lilac bush. It’s going to bloom soon, as you can see. We’ve got this one in front and another in back, both different varieties. I absolutely love the smell of lilacs, so I plan on planting many more of these in the back yard.

Here’s another new plant that I put in this fall when everything was half off at the nursery. It’s a Russian Sage and I love the purple blooms it gets.

And here’s the crowning glory, my beautiful flowering tree. We believe all the trees in our yard are all flowering ornamental cherries. Whatever they are, I wish they looked like this all year!

Here’s the other flower bed in the front of the house.

It’s got a nest evergreen up front and two other kinds of bushes that were here when we moved in. Luckily, we thought they looked great, so we kept them. In the back you can see three smaller plants- these will be awesome come June. They are giant aliums, a part of the onion family, that have huge round flowering heads that stand on extremely long stems. I think they’re supposed to get at least 2 feet tall. I can’t wait to see these.

I also found these coming up just today:

Just kidding, I put these in today after waiting all winter with them in the closet. I love these mushrooms! I got them last year at a big craft show, Fall Diddley, that my family in Illinois goes to every year.

Here’s the bed on the side of the house. This bed is the most reliable and never needs any watering. I didn’t plant any of these, but this bed needed a lot of love when we moved in. All the beds were filled with ROCKS. I can never understand why anyone would ever put ROCKS in a flower bed!!! Beside the fact that they are ugly, they keep your plants from thriving! Since the rocks came out (after a whole summer of me digging them up), these plants have really started to shine. The bushes on either end are burning bushes that will turn bright red in the fall.

Here’s a flower bed in the backyard. It’s got two kinds of daisies and Black Eyed Susans. AND it’s got some new visitors!

There’s one flower that blooms year round! I love these recycled material garden decorations. They are also from the craft show, fall diddley, and are one-of-a-kind. When I bought them it probably took me 20 minutes to pick out just the right ones. I think I did pretty well, if I do say so myself. I especially love the light bulb bug. I’m hoping he and his buddy will help keep Truman and Finnegan out of the way and keep them from trampling my flowers.

Speaking of, here’s what those guys were up to while I was snapping shots of my garden:

Those clowns. They are so fast my camera can’t keep up with them. Only until they settled down, that is:

I spent a lot of time outside today. Before I took all these pictures I mowed the lawn and raked up some old leaves from last fall. I love working outside, but I am not excited about this looming project:

We got this blue spruce last summer for $10. It wasn’t looking good, but we thought if it got in the ground, got watered and fertilized regularly that it would make it. Well, it was a nice try I guess, but no luck. This thing is deader than dead and needs to come up because it’s quite an eye-sore. Ugggh. It will probably have to wait until I can rope Brian into helping me.

Obviously, my seedlings are doing much better than the spruce. They’re about 3-5″ tall now and all we’re waiting for is the threat of frost to pass and then I’ll get these out in the sun. Hopefully that’s sooner rather than later because my Aerogarden’s lamp is as up as high as it goes and I don’t want these growing up into the lamp and burning. It should only be a couple of weeks at the most- I’ll update when these go in… which means I’ll be direct sowing my beans, cuckes and squash at the same time. Can’t wait!

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2011 in Dogs, Garden

 

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Running in a Circle

I’m still here! I’m still alive!

I still have to get used to this blogging thing; there are two things that are keeping me from posting every day. The first is that (surprise, surprise) I have a hard time deciding what to post about. Because I don’t have theme, I could write about anything, but I want to keep this blog from becoming too much like a diary. The other thing is that I’m a perfectionist, so every time I get the inkling to write, I convince myself I don’t have anything interesting or lengthy enough to say.Today I just have to work on defeating my inner critic and get something going.

My husband, Brian, is a cross country and track coach. He ran competitively in high school and in college. He’s fast. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is something that we have in common.

Brian running for Butler

When Brian and i started dating I liked to repeat a line from a cheesy teen sci-fi/suspense movie “The Faculty”: “I only run if I’m being chased.” Good one, right? Well, since I’d made it through most of my life without being chased by anyone other than my sisters around the dining room table in a tickle fight, I hadn’t run at all. Except maybe in gym class, when we were required to run a mile, and even then I’m sure I walked most of it. So when Brian and I were in grad school he finally convinced me to start running. The first day I couldn’t run for more than about 30 seconds at a go.

Since then I’ve come a long way! Today I ran 8 miles at our local park. And I think I could have gone longer. To some people, like most of my family, this probably sounds pretty incredible. But, don’t be too fooled. I’m not fast and I don’t run every day. I’m really a seasonal runner; every year start a new running push in the spring. We live in Indiana, so I think our winters are too cold and snowy to run in. But by the time spring comes around I’m itching to be outside and my waistline is telling me it’s time to get running again.I get going and keep it up for a while, but eventually it gets hot outside, I get bored and lonely on my runs, and worst of all, I get discouraged that I’m simply NOT FAST. That’s the toughest part about being married to a runner, for me at least. No matter how many personal goals and records I achieve, nothing feels all that impressive. I’m also insanely jealous that he has a whole mob of people to run with every day.

This year I want it to be different. Because of a thyroid problem I struggled with the last two years, I found myself weighing in at 20 lbs. more than what I’d weighed when Brian married me. I bought my first pair of jeans in a size 8 and that was a reality check. So this year, I’m gonna run. Maybe not every day, but more often than before. So, this year I decided that I needed a running partner to keep me in check. Luckily, I live with not just one runner, but three.

These are my dogs, Finnegan and Truman. For the last two weeks, I’ve taken them running with me and I have to say it is much better than running alone. They give me something else to think about besides how tired my legs are or how close I am to getting a stitch in my side. I have also started to judge my pace based on Truman’s gait; if he’s just trotting along I’m likely going at a slow 10+min/mile pace, but if he’s got a little gallop in his step then I’m at least running around 9 min/mile. I have to keep these guys on a leash (Truman is part beagle and is known to run away), which is a little annoying because they pull for most of the run (after 6 miles Truman starts to get tired, but it seems like Finnegan NEVER gets tired) and they really tug when they see a squirrel. So far we’ve done pretty well as a team. They keep me going, even if at homeTruman and Finnegan usually look something like this:

Today was an especially nice run, even though it was only 34° outside!  Because it was so cold and windy I felt like I was breathing easier and was able to go a little further. It was also really quiet at the park at 9:00 this morning. My favorite part of our loop is where the trail follows along the edge of the woods and I can hear the empty trees creaking against each other. It might sound creepy, but I think it’s really peaceful.

So I’ll end with part of a poem that I wrote in grad school that was inspired by exactly that sound:

The trees creak, bending
against each other,
like
a child leaning her weight
back and forth
on a loose floorboard,
her bobbed hair swinging
against her chin,
like some other bell
with a heart that dangles
and tolls.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2011 in Dogs, Poetry, Running

 

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