Getting Ready for Dia de los Muertos

Dia FSL  Skeleton

I’ve mentioned Dia de los Muertos is kinda a big thing here in Murphys California.  Well, for you non-stitchers, there’s a whole world of sewing machines that embroider and one of the things they do is embroider lace onto a water-soluble backing.  Things like lace skeletons you can make into earrings.

FSL Skeletons

Upon spying the designs at Sonia Showalter, Dia de los Muertos was the first thing I thought of. But, there’s usually some color on those items and I got stuck in the plain white you see everywhere. My first thought was adding a design (like a small rose) or bling (was still looking at them as “white”). I’d edited to put a bunch on one hooping and set the entire design to white and started stitching (the little hoops stitch first) when the thought “variegated thread” finally hit me. I did have to stay by the machine to catch and stop it to change colors since I hadn’t set that up ahead of time, and I decided white bobbin thread on the backs was fine for this application. But, overall I’m thrilled. That one with a purple head and blue body is just a screw up. That particular purple  thread was having problems and I decided it would be easier to just change out the thread color and toss it (or stitch a new head to glue on later).

FSL Angel Complete

You can also change out your whole “skeleton stitching” thing and stitch up some lace angels (also from Sonia here).

FSL Angel on Vilene

I’d received a question about stabilizers and decided to try something. So, know Sonia’s designs stitch beautifully – I push ‘how many items can you stitch in one hoop’ limits and play around with old stabilizers.

The first angel and the skeleton sheet were stitched on two layers of Vilene.

FSL Angel Stabilizer

For the second angel’s hooping, I took two scraps of Vilene and basted them over the hole made when I cut out the first (just placed them on top and let the machine baste as a first step). This one also came out perfectly.

I use Solvy a lot but know some folks have trouble with it. There are two kinds of water soluble stabilizer (WSS). A plastic-y kind like Solvy and a more fabric like one like Vilene (Pellon also makes one that I use as do others).

For the third angel I grabbed two older scraps of Solvy (they get crinkly sounding as they dry out if not kept in a plastic bag or covered) .  I was able to smooth them out – so thought “good enough”.  Not so. Below you can see that the stitching is perforating the stabilizer on the lower right – it did it in  few places – and pulling back. For dense Free Standing Lace designs (FSL), I’d recommend sticking to a fabric like water soluble stabilizer (WSS). I do successfully use “fresh” Solvy more than many stitchers and have used it on smaller Free Standing Lace (FSL) items.

FSL Stabilizer tearing

For the finished angel, you can see the blank spot by her hem, an open space by her right elbow and that the upper left of the wing isn’t formed perfectly. She still looks nice enough – once I saw the tear, I floated a piece of Vilene on the hoop and that helped – but folks who do this would spot those bits in a heartbeat. And, if I’d kept trying to use the dried out Solvy, it would have been a complete mess.

FSL not aligned

I’m an “unaffiliated” fan of for pre-wound bobbins (the Topaz uses FilTec Clear Glide Class L) and the stabilizers I can’t easily pick up locally.

For my Sundays in My City friends – I have been continuing to garden and gift veggies to my neighbors, but with our early heat wave the garden looks like hell. It’s just too sad to capture photos.   This post is participating in Sundays in My City over at Unknown Mami (and, sorry about the hairs in the shots, between me and the cats – oh well. Lucky to have the time to get the post up without re-shooting it).


sunset 24Ju13

Luscious clouds bring intermittent relief from the merciless glare of our scorching sun. They’re an unfamiliar site for inland NorCal summers. We treasure their infrequent appearance and revel in the magical hues they bestow upon sunset. Enjoy.

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This post is participating in Unknown Mami’s Sundays in My City.

Is it March already?

February was a whirlwind that has come and gone in the blink of an eye. Hosting skiing guests, blizzards with no power, the weekend hosting the college kids (BFF’s daughter, roomie and boyfriend), planting, baking, sewing – oh, and then there’s work. March is looking to shape up the same. Once this is posted, I’m off to brunch with another set of skiers and next weekend the college gang is returning for the Sonora Celtic fair (really – it’s a free tourist town place to stay and they get fed – even dropped off and then picked up in town if they’re wine tasting – what more could a college kid want?).

So, to catch you all up with my lack of posting, a photo journey – warm sunsets, bone-chilling damp fog, baking more of the garden’s bounty, big huge fluffy snowflakes, the new kitten being entertained by the printer (actually deciding whether to rip it to shreds ..) and a fun sewing project (to go to slideshow or larger view, just click on any photo):

We’ll see if I can squeeze in a moment to add more on my winter planting and some other nifty craft projects.  Until then, be sure to pop by the other blogs participating in Unknownmami’s Sundays in My City .

Milfiori Historic Garden Home

Milfiori is a lovely restored farmhouse that was built in 1861. The historic country retreat is now available as a vacation rental and was the site of our luncheon after the Outer Aisle food garden tour.

The gardens surrounding the home are beautifully designed to display a different vista around every corner.

A wrap-around porch is chock full of comfy seating.

Recycled  art sculpture provides a focal point in the garden.

Fresh water in the handcrafted birdbath assures a steady stream of avian visitors.

Some of the art is hidden way in the back of the property.

The old barn is truly picturesque.

My favorite thing about this garden is that weathered Adirondacks seating is popped into a shady spot every which way you turn. In the shade of the beautiful tree,

under a grape arbor,

in the shade of another majestic tree,

or, an alternative of the garden swing with a magnificent view back into the property. Perfect for curling up with a good book, making progress with a knitting project or browsing on your iPad.

This arbor must be a knockout when the wisteria is blooming in spring. There’s so much to do here between town and the mountains – Milfiori offers the perfect place for a vacation stay.

My Garden Update – harvest time is on a roll:

Heirloom tomatoes, Anaheim peppers, Raveena eggplant, Japanese cucumber.

Tromboncino Rampicante on a 20 inch napkin.

Summer squash, Sunburst scallop, Tromboncino Rampicante and Zapallo Italian pattypan.

This post is participating in UnknownMami’s Sundays in My City

Warm and Wonderful

Like many others, we’ve been having unseasonably warm weather. Although below snow level, I’ve usually had at least three or four snowstorms by now – but not a one. We’ll be worried about the snow pack and spring water levels if the pattern doesn’t change very soon. Ever the optimist, I have to appreciate gifts of the warm weather. I’m still enjoying my sweet Pak Choi discussed in my pre-germinating seed post (and there’s more on winter sowing in that post as well). The daffodils are well on their way to blooming soon.

This mountain area is USDA gardening zone 7, and look at my lush Echeveria glauca. Spring and even warmer weather will be the perfect time to create more plants from all these lovely little rosettes.

I’ve been waiting on the cold before going gung-ho into winter sowing. For winter sowing, you use containers like milk jugs, put in dirt and seed, water and place somewhere that they will experience the cold and snow. This mimics the natural season while protecting the seeds from birds or being washed away. It also creates a mini green house environment where the seed will sprout and grow earlier than usual in your zone. The same system works for spring sowing, you just wait to put out your warm season seeds until later in the season. The Winter Solstice is the usual start for the cold season sowing. Yet here I am mid February deciding to “just do it”. The seed may germinate too early without the proper cold and late in the season cold spell could kill them. Taking my chances – have 24 jugs of flowers planted, just need to move them to a colder spot in the garden today.


All those pots are my spring bulbs.

The other unusual bit is that the cuttings I started in early fall are alive and growing on their protected shelf (they should be dormant).


I’ve even been able to harvest my garlic chives continuously all season.

The weather folks haven’t yet begun their doom and gloom predictions a.k.a. not enough snow pack  = drought, so for now I’ll remain optimistic and enjoy the gifts of the season.

This post is participating in Sundays in My City at Stop in and see what others around the globe are up to.

Murphys Dia de los Muertos 2011

This week I have so many beautiful images to share that I’ve created a gallery: Murphys Dia de los Muertos 2011. Please take a look. I’ll update this gallery again Monday with my final set of photos. This gallery is participating in Unknown Mami’s Sunday’s in my City.

Murphys California, My Fave Destination

The eves have been cooling down with October is just a hop, skip and a jump away. We have more heat on the horizon, but notice has been given. Summer is over. And, I’ve been off-line hastily trying to complete all those tasks I planned to get done before the cool weather and rains arrive. I’ve remembered to snap a few shots, so composing blog posts is one of the items on the endless to do list.

My friend Kim came out for the weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed touring about town. Newsome Harlow opened a restaurant called The Kitchen adjourning their tasting bar. I knew it was wonderful as I’d already hit it once before. I also knew their desserts are simply not to be missed and their sandwich portions are quite large. We split their marvelous organic Diestel Farms Turkey  barbecue sandwich with potato salad (that’s HALF in the photo folks) then topped the meal with a truly unforgettable Kahlúa crème brûlée. Our waiter, Travis, is also the dessert chef and he graciously jotted down this fabulous recipe for us. I forgot to ask him for permission to post it, so you just have to wait till I bake it up a few times and check-in with the restaurant.

I love the three-dimensional primitives by Nancy Klann that decorate the space. Word on the street is she’s related (remember, small family owned artisan shops and wineries here) and this is her gallery.

Side note, I must get this grass. I have one pot of Japanese blood grass, but it doesn’t make the lovely plumes. This is the tasting room – we stopped in to say hi to Barbara and for Kim to nab a bottle of one of their marvelous reds.

Then we were off to Allegorie. It’s a craft art gallery plus tasting room. The Allegorie labeled wines are supplied by the fantastic Val du Vino.

The tasting bar is a work of art with the stream down the center that empties into the tiny pond with fish.

Elie Frey of was our proprietor. She and husband Florent Guillon craft the artisan jewelry displayed here. They’re planning an All Hallows Eve party and masquerade ball on October 29th, complete with child, and separate adult, art crafted marionette puppet shows.

It’s a great weekend to plan to be in Murphys as the shops here will also be having a Dia de los Muertos celebration. Here are shots from Tanner last year. The local business association has already held a workshop for making paper picados to help get folks in the mood (thanks to Facebook’s new news feed, I didn’t know about it until after the fact, rrrrgggghh).

Then home in time to catch another spectacular sunset off the back deck.

This weekend (Oct 1st) is our fantastic, not to be missed Grape Stomp with stomping contests and packed street fair. The day can end with Don Henley performing at the last summer concert at Ironstone Amphitheatre – and our weather forecast is looking fabulous. Love this town :-)

This post is participating in Sundays in My City.

Fragmented thoughts Friday (on Saturday again…

I’m resurrecting this post for two “favorites” parties. It’s now August and we’ve just passed the harvest festival of Lughnasadh (Aug 1st) – the time of first harvest and celebrations of gratitude to ensure the impending harvest is plentiful and safely reaped before winter sets in. Those of us blogging no longer consider late rains, issues of mildew or early frosts. But here in wine country we’re still connected to the seasons for the continued health of the local economy; I know the vintners breathe a deep sigh of relief after their successful “no rain” “no mildew” harvests and each winery hosts their own parties to celebrate. Wikipedia tells us that in Europe and Ireland people continue to celebrate the holiday with bonfires and dancing and that the Christian church chose the day as ritual of blessing the fields. As bannock is traditional for this harvest as well, thought I’d pull up its post and bake one myself (better late than never). To see other bloggers favorite posts, check out Half Past Kissin Time’s Saturday Sampling or the Gallery of favorites at 21st Century Housewife.

Those enjoying hummer posts and feeding their own hummingbirds – I’ve had mobs at the feeders again. After my scary turkey vulture migration post did the forehead slap – oh yea – they’re getting ready to migrate. If you have feeders out, you might start adding more sugar to your nectar (say normal recipe ¼ cup sugar to 1 cup water – go to ¾ cup sugar to 2 cups water) and help your little buddies “beef up” for their long journey. PBS tells us they live many years in their fantastic special: Magic in the Air | Nature | PBS Video. Their biggest issue is food as they burn so many calories with their flight. Also, they remember where food is, so attract a few migrating hummers this year and you’ll have more next year and more the next. I know some folks give up if they don’t get many the first season they put out a feeder – just keep doing it and keep the nectar fresh and you’ll get more birds each year. Below, “Faceoff”.

This blog is supposed to be mainly about creating (all sorts of crafts or food), my marvelous neck of the woods and, on occasion, books. Haven’t posted a new recipe in eons. Warm weather, so I cook early or late and the kitchen is pretty shaded – photos have a limpid look to them. In the fall and winter, I cook and bake later in the day and can gleam more “blog worthy” postings on food. With fall just around the corner, more food postings should be coming soon.

Time for a fundraiser in Murphys Park with music, auctions and shrimp feed in our oh so gorgeous late afternoon, sunset time. Heading down with a few neighbors – should be a fun, sippin wine, munching, watching the trees sway, a bit o gossip. Will try to remember the camera.

How rude! Don’t you hate it when something says “download the latest version” (media player, Adobe, your automatic updates…) and the next time you log in you have McAfee security on your desktop and it’s trying to run even though you never chose to install it? Ggrrrr.  Where’s that control program delete applications … thought it was under admin tools … mwahh ha ha.. done! Watch it pop up like a weed again soon L.

WordPress continually sends the latest themes to your inbox. I’m still enjoying this one, but do hate that the side column isn’t perfectly aligned and I have some issues with fonts (resetting hyperlinks to open in a new window usually makes them appear Times in a way that’s not always easy to undo). Some of them are so tempting – but I could probably actually get a few posts (or many) up in the time I might allow myself to fuss about with themes – choices, choices.

Egads, have only been logging in to Twitter every now and again (I’m @ceodraiocht). Some folks are prolific (to put it mildly). I’ve actually unfollowed most of the Foodnetwork chefs – who wants a gazillion posts about one tv show? I’d thought they’d tweet about recipes and food, sadly, not so.

This post is also participating in Half Past Kissin Time’s Friday Fragments and Mellow Yellow Monday.