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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday-Beaver Island Quilt Retreat Photo Goodness

Here are a few pics of the projects we worked on at the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat. It was hard to choose because so many were interesting and inspiring, but we are camping and the internet is slow here so I need to limit what I upload or I'd be sitting at this dinette table in the Airstream until Iron River, Michigan freezes over. Or something could happen if you forced a hyperactive person to sit and wait for a zillion photos to upload. It's better and safer to have just a few gems.

This is the wall displaying Gwen Marston's 37 Sketches. They were lovely to look at but their importance as a teaching tool was key to the success of the retreat. Gwen was usually up there with a retreater, pointing out elements, discussing her thinking while she was making a piece, all in her "It's here if you want to use it" way. No pressure to do it her way, but there it was if someone wanted to get inspired. They look like jewels on this black background, don't they?

Throughout the retreat, as participants finished a project they pinned it to the wall. On the last day Gwen had us point out which ones we had made and offer some comments. Gwen gets dressed up for this portion of the retreat; she uses only the finest Michigan clothing designers.

Here's the board displaying the student projects:

And just a few projects that caught my eye:

I like how the birch fabric is used sparingly at the top with a "reveal" at the bottom.

Making long curves was a group favorite. There's something satisfying about sewing those strips together. The birch fabric Pattie and I found at a local quilt shop became a group favorite.

This piece used the birch fabric in a more obvious way, also with good results.

 This one above reminds me of a small city in the shadow of tall mountains. Note the liberated log cabins.

I call this one the liberated Amish quilt and it had some interesting techniques which made it unique: check out the prairie points at the bottom and the teensy floating squares on the bottom right. I am inspired times ten! Turn my volume up to 11! (Do you think I like it?)

Gwen's book 37 Sketches is definitely a gem. No patterns, just a great and inspiring jumping off point for your own little sketches. Go ahead, try one. It's addictive!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
 Tom and Bill visited this while Pattie and I were creating interesting little fabric quilts. After the arty intensity at Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, I see some interesting artquilt possibilities in Tom's photo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Growing Dome Doom

News from the Nickel and Dime Ranch was not good today. Ernest called:

"Well, I have bad news."

The first thing I thought was Bonniecat was dead. It was a dreadful feeling.

"What happened?" I asked, expecting the worst.

"Those little shitheads! They got into your dome and trashed the place!" When the steers are behaving badly that is what Ernest calls them.

What happened was Ernest came by to check on the place and only saw three steers. So he started looking for them. The door to the dome was open and all three cows were in the Growing Dome, having a major nosh. A cattle cafeteria! A bovine bonanza! A shithead spectacular!

So everything is gone: giant, still ripening yellow tomatoes, chiles and sweet peppers, baby lettuce and cold weather tomato seedlings, green beans, the whole enchilada.

Just a few weeks ago I was admiring the garden and congratulating myself. I guess I shouldn't have crowed too soon. When we get back I will get everything started again.

Shitheads happen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday-Beaver Island Quilt Retreat 1

I'm a newbie to the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, Gwen Marston's yearly series of classes, each year fashioned around a particular theme. This time the theme is small studies in solids, which Gwen calls, Small Sketches. We aren't sketching with pens or pencils, but with leetle bits of fabric, piecing improvisationally, muddling through, learning as we go.

Gwen's new book, 37 Sketches, is our text for the retreat, a classy, gorgeous full color hardback, lovingly crafted by a small press, 37 small quilts beautifully photographed along with Gwen's commentary about her ideas and inspiration for making small quilts about 12 inches square. Check out her website for more info about the book.

Gwen is friends with Jean Wells whose newest book is called Intuitive Color and Design. This all started when Gwen had a few days free to stay with Jean in Sisters, Oregon, where she began experimenting with some of Jean's techniques, thus beginning a new quilting adventure and the new book.

Here's Gwen explaining a motif in one of her 37 sketches.

Today we worked on curves, among other techniques, at our own pace on our own first "sketch." I'm just going to give you a taste of what people are working on, so the rest of the photos can speak for themselves. Later I will show some of the finished products.

The first two photos are pieces from Gwen's 37 Sketches collection.

Each "sketch" is just 12 inches square
The variations are intriguing

These other photos are works in progress by some of the students. I am amazed at how quickly the time goes when a quiltmaker is "in the zone."





Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Honor System

I love small farmers because they may end up being the most important key to safe, sustainable food sources in our United States.

What I love even more is happening upon a farm stand where no one is there to take your money, just a jar with a note, "Money Jar."

Here's Pattie and her tomato purchase. Note the nifty tablecloth.
Pattie showed restraint and just bought tomatoes; I did better than that, seeing her tomatoes, raising her some peaches, cherry jam, mittens, and a Pyrex dish.

All told, an excellent outing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On the Road Edition

Tom has taken me to Salisbury, England, to eat Salisbury steak.

He's taken me to Kentucky to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken.

We've had New England Clam Chowder in New England and Manhattan Clam Chowder in Manhattan.

And now he has taken me to Gas City, Indiana

to get gas!

Will the excitement never end?

Tom wisely says, "It's better to get gas in Gas City than to have gas!" (I wonder if he was talking about me?)

PS-Quilty Buddies: On my way to the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yak Roundup

Our closest neighbor to the north, David, has a herd of yaks, interesting, shaggy creatures with scary, curvy, pointy horns. Their soft cashmere-like yarn is $27 a skein and their meat is about $30 a pound. They are valuable creatures.

David's yaks went AWOL a month and a half ago.  His place is like ours, with a steep cliff to the east, and that's how those Tibetan bovines traveled, straight up. It took a month to find them, but he and Ernest (everyone's helper around here) rounded them up with difficulty and they were back at David's ranch. Bonus: 2 new yak babies were born while the herd was on the run. They were home for 5 days and disappeared again.

Some wood cutters on a nearby ranch spotted the yaks here and there and gave David a call. With their black humpy stature, the yaks looked kind of like bears when they were in the pines, making the wood cutters a little jumpy. David asked us if we wanted to help find the escapees, so this is where the photo essay starts.

We started at the ranch where the yaks were spotted, about 1500 acres of beautiful meadows, steep canyons, pine forests, and lakes. Benjamin, the ranch manager and a beekeeping friend of mine, let us in and the guys morphed into bloodhounds.

They were tracking for yak poop and hoofprints. Sometimes they worked as a crew and other times they separated. We walked down canyons and up canyons, through pine forests and amazingly, cactus patches interspersed with ferns. What a place!

The guys saw yak sign, but no yaks. Small yak hoofprints were all over the place, but that was about it, so we got into the truck and took a drive around more of the ranch, but no luck.

Mole (pronounced MOLE-ay) is David's Labrador retriever who came along to help. The weather was drizzly, so wet Mole ran alongside the truck, happy to be outside and hunting.

No luck with finding the yaks at this place, so we said goodbye and thanks to Benjamin and piled into David's truck for a ride to the other side of the mountains to the east, near the community of Ojo Feliz (Happy Eye?) That's where the yaks were found the last time, so it was worth a try.

The guys broke out the binoculars and took turns glassing the hillsides to see if they could see, to see if they could see... Since the ranch was 20 square miles, that was a lot of looking.
Tom, David and Ernest

Way off in the distance first Tom and then Ernest spotted the yaks almost to the base of those far trees on the hillside.

Without binoculars they looked like little black and white dots.

So David got on the phone to call Jimmy, the ranch manager, to ask if he would let us in the locked gate to round up the yaks.

 Small world department: Jimmy's mother taught my Corona, California teacher friend, Shela. Shela grew up in Cimarron, NM.

Jimmy offered to help, so we drove as far as we could go and the guys got out.  I drove David's truck down to a corral we had passed on the way up.

I moseyed around and poked into some abandoned, mouse dropping strewn ranch houses, but not for long. The radio crackled and I heard Ernest say, "Bridget, close that gate so they don't get out!" I already had closed the gate, so there, Ernest.

And sure enough, the yaks were getting close, fast, the guys running behind them.  I parked the truck to partially block off any escape from the corral gate. Tom had the camera, and in between running to keep up with the yaks, he took some photos. Click on the photos for a closer look.

This one is of the herd, with Lily, a hand raised, domesticated yak, bringing up the rear.

Here are Ernest and Lily:

Jimmy used his truck to help move the yaks down to the corral.

I positioned myself to the side of the gate so the yaks would go in. I held my arms out and moved back and forth like a basketball guard so the yaks would rethink coming my way. David, Tom and Ernest took up strategic posts to move the yaks toward the corral. Lots of running was involved.

You can't see him, but there was one new yak baby, a white one with black spots. I think he was between the two on the right.

Lily stepped outside the corral for a minute and then wanted back inside.
 So all went well and the yaks were trailered back home again. For how long, we don't know. I suspect they like having their babies up in the pines where they feel safe from predators. Who knows? They're yaks!  If it happens again, the yakboys are on it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The World Trade Center and September 11 Memorial

NYC says it's not Ground Zero anymore.

It's  'The World Trade Center and September 11 Memorial.' 

Whatever name it is, we will never forget 9/11/01.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Coyote Creek Roast Beef Sandwich

Carl's Jr. had an excellent sandwich in the late 1970's, possibly the early '80's called a California Roast Beef Sandwich. It was a hot sandwich on a bun with roast beef, green chiles, swiss (or maybe Jack?) cheese, tomato and some kind of mayonnaise-based spicy secret sauce. I think the Santa Fe chicken sandwich, which is still available, has that same sauce. The California Roast Beef came back for a limited run in 2008, but it's not a regular item any more.

This sandwich doesn't come even close to the soft bun, spicy, cheesybeefy nirvana that the California Roast Beef was, but it was still pretty good. I set out to make the Carl's version, but when I realized the only two basics I had that were true to Carl Karcher's beefy sandwich were the deli beef and the green chiles, I had to improvise.  This sandwich is great, with just the right ratio of juiciness to meatiness. Grilling melted the cheese a bit and warmed the roast beef, moving this sandwich into comfort food territory. A juicy tomato dictates you will need to eat this over your plate!

Coyote Creek Roast Beef Sandwich

2 slices bread-I used pumpernickel rye, but sourdough would be good, too
1 T mayonnaise
1-2 roasted green chiles, chopped, or 2 T canned or frozen green chile
2 oz sliced cheese, cheddar, American, or Monterey Jack
2 slices deli roast beef
sliced tomato(if you can't see the tomato in my photo, it's because it's a yellow one)
butter or margarine

Spread mayo on each bread slice. Layer in this order: cheese, chile, tomato, roast beef, cheese. You want cheese next to the bread because you are going to grill it.

Spread butter on the outside of your sandwich. Grill low and slow in a nonstick pan, checking for browning bread and melting cheese. Carefully flip your sandwich over when the cheese is melted on the pan side. Grill the next side, watching to be sure you don't burn your bread like I almost did with the pumpernickel in the photo.

When everything looks melty and browned to your liking, it's done.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday-An Interesting Toile and Last Look at the Christmas Tree Skirt

It's a cool, gloomy day at the Nickel and Dime Ranch, but we were outside this morning setting a couple fence posts in concrete. The fence around the Growing Dome is finally getting started.

But today is Quilty Pleasures Wednesday, so I wanted to show you some fabric I bought--twice. Do you do this? You just loved it and had to buy it? And when you get it home you find the exact same fabric in one of your stash places? I do it with books, too, but not as often.

I love this toile because it is sneaky. On the bolt, a shopper could just pass it by and say, "Oh, boring toile again," (unless they love toile).

But at second glance you see these nifty little vignettes:

I have this fabric in mind for a very dear person's quilt. But I have to think about other fabrics to go with it. Because it's toile and so traditional, I am thinking about a traditional block style. If you have any ideas regarding colors or block pattern, let me know because I have Bubkis.  For folks interested in who makes this fabric, here you go:

And one more look at the Christmas tree skirt I made as a sample for a class to be held at Thread Bear in Las Vegas, NM. I quilted it in the ditch, but don't tell anyone that after I was all finished quilting it, I realized that the little lever on the walking foot wasn't hooked onto that screw dealie that holds in the needle. So it really wasn't walking!

Color on these last two photos is odd because I used the camera phone. Here's a look at the binding. I procrastinated like mad because I didn't know what to use. A scrappy binding wouldn't have looked good since it was already segmented on the edges, so I went with this brownish fabric with red, green, and tan stripes. While I sewed on the binding I watched a BBC telly show on called Misfits. Loved it, but I'm warning you it's not for the proper person  unused to gross teenaged-boy humor and there's lots of shagging and wanking. (Sorry....just using their terms.)

That's it for Quilty Pleasures Wednesday. I'm excited because in a couple weeks I will be learning from Gwen Marston at her Beaver Island Quilt Retreat. Now that will be cool.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Mom and Dad: A Letter From Camp

Dear Mom and Dad-

I remember writing letters to you guys from Girl Scout camp, letting you know about all our activities and reassuring you that all was well. I remember one letter you sent telling me that Stubby, our dog, was now the official dishwasher since I was gone.  I miss shopping with Mom,  choosing weird or ugly items and waiting for the sales people to tell us how great we would look wearing them. And thanks for going to Back to School Night and apologizing to my teachers--in advance!

Anyway, it's been a year since the two of you decided to give K and me the old one-two punch and die within two months of each other, your lungs finally giving in to the cancer lurking for so many years. At the end, I watched Dad's spirit flutter in his breast for a few seconds before taking flight. It was amazing. I wasn't there to see your spirit take off, Mom, but I know you were looking forward to the trip. Before you died you had some interesting visions, including people all dressed up as if for a party. When I asked who they were, you didn't know, but the folks looked friendly and acted as if you should join them.

Dad, every time I go outside and see the pines and the rim rock, see a trout in the creek, or putter around in the Growing Dome, I say, "Dad would love it here!" Today Tom said as we were measuring for a fence to go around the Dome, "I miss your Dad!" We could always use your guidance when it came to building stuff.

I wish you guys could have come to visit, to see why we chose this place to live. Dad would have made a circuit of the yard and the dome, just looking, wanting to see how it all worked. Mom, you would have emerged from the car like you always did, brave smile in place, not happy in the wild country, but glad to visit just the same. Mom, you would wonder about our sanity choosing to be so far from everything. Dad, you would want to stay.

Mom and Dad, I'm doing okay although I still get the blues and wish you were around. Mom, I know you were worried I wouldn't have a social life out here, and I can assure you that I am meeting new friends and keeping in contact with my old ones, too. I know, also, you were concerned that I would gain a ton of weight here because I love to cook and there would be nothing else to do but cook and eat. Actually, I have lost 12 pounds this year, probably because there are no Chili's, Macaroni Grill, Miguels, or fast food restaurants within 50 miles. I still love to cook, but it's fairly healthy stuff so we're okay in the food department.

Dad, when I'm working in the Growing Dome I feel you  there, coaching me to become a great gardener, a voice in my head, saying, "Bridge, do you think you might need to make a bigger trellis for those cucumbers? How about a little compost for those peppers?" And so I make the trellis taller and sprinkle the compost, a gardener like you, my dad. You would be amazed at the red peppers. They look like they're on steroids!

I know you are both doing well, whether we call your place Heaven or just The Party. Dad is at The Party tending bar and Mom, you're working the room, chatting up everyone and making sure they have a good time. All your friends, relatives, neighbors and pets are there, too, and it's an awesome sight, everyone having fun and laughing at us hapless mortals still there on Earth.

So anyway, I just wanted you to know we are okay, missing you, but happy you can be at The Party. So sit back, enjoy the show, and raise your glasses in a toast. We'll do the same right here.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gazpacho Santa Fe Style

Yesterday we were in the big city, Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. Albuquerque is larger, but who wants to drive another hour just to roast in the desert heat?  Most of my favorite stores are in Santa Fe and it's less hectic, unless you make a wrong turn and end up driving/trapped in the plaza along with all the other hapless chumps stuck in their cars. I envied the tourists on the portal (that's a covered porch) of the Hotel Saint Francis, reclining, having afternoon drinks and watching the people and the cars creep around the plaza.

All of the above has nothing to do with this recipe, except while stuck in the plaza traffic I imagined myself under that portal with a cup of gazpacho at my elbow, it's tomato-ness cooling me, reminding me that I was a classy lady of leisure. There was a glass of cold white wine there, too, somewhere.

I know some of you have tomatoes coming out your ears right now, and I hear that Trudy Boyle, my amazing mom-in-law, has been whirring up fresh tomato juice each morning in the blender for husband Pat and their house guest who will remain unnamed because he doesn't want to be in this blog. She peels the tomatoes before she blends them and they are cherry tomatoes!

When Trude mentioned that the juice was pretty thick, I started thinking about gazpacho, something I haven't eaten for several years.

It's a chilled tomato soup, originally from Spain, but don't be afraid to try a cold soup. I was, but it was a weird idea that all soups must be hot. They don't!

This gazpacho is perfect for lunch, a cool dinner with grilled cheese sandwiches, or just when you are on the veranda or portal whiling away an afternoon, watching the world go by.

Gazpacho, Santa Fe Style

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, or 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 green or sweet red pepper
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 c olive oil
1 T vinegar (balsamic is nice, but any kind will do)
1 c tomato juice
Salt to taste
1 4 oz can diced green chiles or 1/2 cup if you have some of your own (for lightweights, use mild chiles or substitute 1/4 c chopped basil)
Ice cubes (optional)

Dice half of the tomatoes, holding tomatoes over a large bowl to capture all the juice. Also dice half the cucumber, half the pepper, and half the onion.  Set aside.

Put the rest of the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and pepper into a blender along with the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, tomato juice, salt to taste and green chile. Blend for a few seconds. Pour into the bowl holding the chopped vegetables and mix well. Cover and chill for about an hour. Serve with 2 or 3 ice cubes if it's a little thick. Top with croutons and a spring of cilantro if you've been watching too much MasterChef. Serves 6 to 8

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bear With Me

I couldn't resist the title since we are talking about bears here in Northern New Mexico. This year has been a tough year for bears, with berries and acorns less plentiful due to the drought. Bear cubs are in even more danger because they normally have a 50% chance of surviving their first year and the added stressors of not enough water or food is causing local scientists to predict a "lost generation" of bears. Because many of the bears have become "nuisance" bears, which means they are not afraid of humans, more are being shot or euthanized than ever before.

Because there is no natural food, they are looking elsewhere, where people have food, water,  farm animals, bees, and other goodies, like picnic baskets. (I made up the last part.)

Here's a headline in the local paper. It was the big news item for the week: bears have been spotted all over the place, even strolling the river walk in Las Vegas, NM, causing it to be shut down to humans.

Not only have bears been spotted strolling in romantic places, a lady near us shot and killed a bear she caught attacking her goats. Another bear was spotted in a Santa Fe neighborhood and relocated.  I like this photo. The animal control officer and the bear seem to be enjoying a communal moment before the bear has to go.

Beekeepers have also been hit. It's not just in cartoons that bears love honey, a perfect food for all of us. A neighbor's bees were raided so often she had to move them miles away, kind of like a witness relocation program for bees.

Last night I was dumb and left a rotting pear on the porch. The pear was gone and the container holding birdseed was tipped over. Ms. Pearl barked up a ruckus, so that's all that happened. We don't know if it was a bear or a raccoon.

A couple nights ago something snagged an almost empty bag of cat food and pulled it outside through the cat door. The next night I was waiting and found a big old fat raccoon on the porch. He squeezed himself back outside through the little cat door and I allowed Ms. Pearl to make a barking, back-fur raising circuit of the yard. We call it "mohawking" because of the ridge of fur she raises when she's in predator mode.  Mr. Raccoon hasn't been back.

Are there bears here? Yep, but so far all Tom has seen is fresh bear poop. Tom carries a rifle or pistol when he goes wood gathering or hiking and I have a big stick. I guess we'll just have to see what happens.