Coffee Fabric

It's here!
I received the rest of the Cafe Americano fabric at Thanksgiving and immediately started designing, cutting and piecing to make this 5' square quilt...
Cafe Americano quilt
I'm thrilled that this is my first line of fabric for Wilmington Prints. I like the rich barn red, espresso browns and creamy tans.

I decided to use it as a table topper. It took me about 3 days from the start of the design to the last stitch on the binding. If you are interested, here is a link to a place where you can purchase the fabric online. The Cafe Americano fabric collection is also carried in many quilt shops across the country and Canada.
The fabric, which is 100% cotton for quilting, has a beautiful finish and feel to it. It was a dream to quilt. Speaking of which, I free-motion quilted the entire top, following the steamy swirls and curls, along with stippling and feather designs for the borders.
Happy Quilting!

Who Cares?

How many times have you asked yourself this question? Sometimes it's easy to get the blues and wonder if anyone really cares while everyone around you is caught up in the madness of the season. Why make homemade cookies instead of store bought? Why decorate when nobody seems to notice?

I could go on because that is how I was feeling this season. Blame it on many things, I didn't have the usual holiday exuberance this year. That is, until yesterday.

It started when I walked up the steps of the hair salon to a waft of warm air filled with the scent of Christmas. There was happy chatter among ladies getting their hair done for the holidays. As busy as she was, my stylist greeted me with a hug and smile. A genuine smile, too, if you know what I mean!

As I sat in the chair, Lauren gave me a festive blue package. "You can open it now or later."

In it was a candle (she knows me!) and three pretty little bags that were all Christmasy filled with yummy homemade cookies and candies.  It was obvious that she had thought of me along with other friends as she bought the pretty little bags, made the goodies and festively wrapped them.

I left with a fresh new hairdo and spirit. Lighting the candle as soon as I got home, I finished decorating the house, put out the welcome flag and hung the wreath.

After all...why is Christmas?

The wise men brought Jesus gifts that had meaning. They must have thought of the significance of the Christ child to bring...
  • gold - symbolic of Christ's deity
  • incense - symbolizing purity
  • myrrh - symbolizing his future death to give us eternal life (myrrh was used in embalming)
The angels sang to him. Shepherd's worshiped him.

I have seen how precious something made from the heart and hands is to receive. I might be a bit late this year, but watch out people...I now have a full year to start "making!" is a great blog that gives ideas for celebrating with more meaning. Grinchmas: Top 10 Ways to De-emphasize Gifts and Reclaim your Christmas Spirit  Thanks, Marianne!

I Love Christmas Cards

With mixed emotions (excitement, cheers, joy and a bit of angst,) we received our first Christmas card the day after Thanksgiving. I propped it against a pumpkin.

Each year actual Christmas cards mean a little bit more. Not only does the cost of the card and postage rise each year, but the time spent to think of friends and family and to write a special hello seems to be less available. Speaking of postage, it must be that a lot of you agree with sending actual cards. The demand has risen enough now for the USPS to collect cards the two Sundays before Christmas!

I enjoy form letters and emails from casual acquaintances, but I am so happy to see more cards delivered in the mailbox each year. Nothing beats the traditional greeting from someone that took the time to wish you a personal "Merry Christmas."

Here are some nifty ideas on card displays...

Martha Stewart's idea...attach to branches

Ribbon & clothespins
from Little Birdie Secrets

Old shutters and clothespins

More ribbon & clothespins (from Budget Wise Home)

On a hoop with clothespins
By now you are probably saying, "I must buy some clothespins!" You can buy colored plastic ones, miniature ones and old fashion pins, but the traditional wood pins are what I use. Just attach them to the edge of a cardboard box or a sturdy piece of paper and spray paint. Ta-da!
Attach clothespins on cardboard box to paint

Quick 'n Cute Coffee Fabric Gift Box

Uncles, co-workers,'s hard to find, much less make, gifts for men. I made two of these baskets in one afternoon. I think any coffee drinker, whether man or woman, would like this collapsible fabric basket filled with coffees, mugs and sweets that is homemade especially for them by you!

Approx. 6"x6"x5" high fabric coffee basket.
One side says, "Espresso and chocolates. Say no more!"
It's collapsible & washable.

The fabric is from the "Cafe Americano" (yes, my artwork/ fabric collection!) manufactured by Wilmington Prints, which can be purchased at many nice quilt shops around the US and Canada or online. The fabric collection has delicious organic hues of espresso brown, luscious swirled cream, ripe coffee bean red and a touch of leaf green.

Click on this link for the free pattern and instructions to this cute little box.

  • 3 Fat Quarters of various fabric patterns (I "fussy cut" out of 1/2 yd. of the border fabric for the sides, a fat quarter of the all-over coffee beans for the inside lining and a fat quarter of the brown stripe for the bottom/side)
  • 1/4 yd (or 1 package) of single-side fusible firm stabilizer
  • lightweight Velcro dots or cut strips
  • 2 large buttons for decoration

Click here to order fabric online at the Fat Quarter Shop.
There is also a matching apron that you can sew. Combine this with the fabric box for an extra special homemade gift. The fabric panel has everything, including the directions to make this apron, the coffee cup pockets and ties.
Apron made from one "Cafe Americano" panel.

Walking Among the Geese

Canadian Geese at the Tualatin River Ntl. Wildlife Refuge
Thanksgiving weekend turned out to be gorgeous. Not only did we have have our feast, but we also were able to get outside to enjoy mostly sunny and warmish days. To walk off a bit of the mincemeat pie, we took a short drive to the recently built Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge.

Tualatin River Ntl. Wildlife Refuge

This refuge was completed only a few years ago. It is in the center of a 712 square mile watershed, with over 200 species of birds, 50 species of mammals and 25 species of amphibians.

Osprey flying over the refuge (photo by Rick Leinen)
Bald Eagle (photo by Susan Faye)
Red-winged Blackbird

Stellar Jay

Geese flying overhead. Mt. Hood is in the background.

The viewing blind.
Clouds rolled in with a few sprinkles as we were leaving.

The benches and signs are works of art.
There are many nice walking paths with plenty of benches along the way.
Tualatin River National Refuge
 We took a 2 mile round trip path that follows the river to a viewing station. All of this is free for now. I read where they may charge a small fee soon. It is a first class wildlife sanctuary and one I don't mind supporting. I hope all of you that live in or visit northwest Oregon will get a chance to see this beautiful area that is filled with wildlife all year.

Keeping Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and be thankful for blessings. It's also an anxious time for many women with so much to do in preparation for the big Thanksgiving feast. Will there be enough energy left for black Friday?

Early Christmas Shopping (ps...those are "A Peaceful Christmas" dishes
which I designed. You can purchase them - A Peaceful Christmas by Nancy E. Mink
Speaking of energy, I finally cleaned out my fridge to make room for a 28 pound turkey. Did I mention that is just for my husband and I this year?

Thanksgiving is my husband's favorite holiday. He makes it his mission to find the biggest turkey at the grocer's. I don't mind; the only difference between cooking that or a small turkey is the time in the oven. I've learned to plan and cook as much ahead of time as possible. Almost all of the side dishes and pies are made the day before and then heated in the oven while the turkey rests. The only last minute cooking is the gravy and rolls. I almost always forget the rolls!

I even have freezer boxes and bags waiting to be filled with leftovers. I prepare frozen "TV dinners" from much of the leftover food which comes in handy during busy holiday days or when work deadlines are looming. Of course, enough leftovers are kept handy for those delicious Thanksgiving weekend sandwiches. I'm not sure, but I may like the leftovers more than the main meal!

I get to enjoy Thanksgiving morning; a leisurely coffee by the fire and then a dip in the hot tub. Then, the turkey gets a good rubdown with spices and placed into the oven before a walk in the countryside. 

A walk through our Christmas trees
Thanksgiving day starts our holiday Scrabble tournament, too. It is the world series...7 games from Thanksgiving through Christmas with winner takes all! I look forward to stormy evenings when we play Scrabble by the light of the Christmas tree with a cup of hot cider.

So, you see, Thanksgiving with just the two of us isn't lonely. We keep traditions alive...some old, some new. It has become a time to look forward to.

I hope that whether you have one or thirty people to be with at Thanksgiving, you will form your own traditions to make this a time to look forward to each year.

Favorite Days

Most everyone I meet says that autumn is their favorite time of year. What's not to love? The air smells earthy and clean with the first rains, yet it is warm enough not to care if you get caught in it by surprise. Nights are crisp, days are warm and we can turn our free time from gardening and canning to crafting and quilting.

rustic embroidered tea towel
I just finished another tea towel and the petite pumpkin quilted wall hanging is in place above the calendar. Don't you love rustic? It covers so many mistakes. This was made with fabric scraps, then tea-dyed and framed all in one afternoon.

 Unlike the quick and rustic pumpkin, my sister Linda has quite an eye for detail. She hand quilts all of her pieces, and I have been lucky to receive some of her beautiful wall quilts and table runners. She has such talent and patience, not to mention a loving heart for giving me such treasures!

Autumn quilt by Linda McCoy
I cleaned the garden out of all its pumpkins and lined them up on windowsills, tables and porches. I'm ready for tricks and treats! Well, maybe just treats.

Happy autumn!

Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce (canning recipe)

Well, just when we thought that our twenty tomato plants were going to be a disappointment due to the unusually cool spring and summer, they decided to outshine and outproduce everything else in the garden in a matter of a couple short weeks. They didn't care that we had plans for vacation. They ignored the fact that I had too many work deadlines to enjoy the fruit of their labor. They paid no attention to the calendar which stated it was autumn, not summer! Still, I was proud of those plants and couldn't let the beautiful fruit rot on the vine. Just the thought of a juicy bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich made from a gargantuan heirloom tomato was enough to get us picking...and picking...and picking!
Soon, the counters were lined with bowls and bags of heirloom tomatoes. Half were Italian sauce tomatoes, the others were for slicing. We handed out tomatoes to whoever would take them. We have eaten tomatoes at every meal until we finally had to break out the bottle of antacid. I canned thirty quarts of roasted tomato sauce and twelve pints of salsa. Yes, roasted tomato sauce! I let the oven do a lot of the work for me. Added benefits are the delicious roasted flavor, a thicker sauce, no peeling (hallelujah!) and being able to use slicing tomatoes. Here's how I did it...
  1. Clean, core and cut into chunks your best slicing and/or paste tomatoes. (I used about 1/2 of each.)
  2. Place in baking pans. Roast in a 350 degree oven until desired consistency. This took about 2 1/2 hours for my pans of tomatoes. Stir about every 1/2 hour to let all tomatoes absorb liquid and roast equally.
  3. Place in sterile jars with 2 tbsp. lemon juice in each quart, then process per USDA recommendations for crushed tomatoes processed in a boiling water canner.
Tips: Only use the best tomatoes; none that are over or under-ripe or blemished. I didn't add any salt, but did sprinkle some balsamic vinegar (optional) over the tomatoes before they roasted.

For the purists: You can strain the sauce before adding it to the jars. However, I felt the skins broke down enough for a rustic, slightly chunky sauce that didn't need straining.

Types of tomatoes I used: heirloom slicing tomatoes-
German stripe
Mortgage Lifter
Black Brandywine
Purple Cherokee
Tennessee Britches
Black from Tula

Heirloom Italian sauce tomatoes-
San Marzano Redorta

Think Spring!

I can't believe it is Labor Day already. So, what does that have to do with spring? You gardeners know!

I've learned that the early bird gets the fattest, healthiest bulbs to plant for spring blooms. I buy mine when they hit the shops this weekend. Don't even bother planting the ones that are left over and on clearance in late November; the ones with a bit of mold, all shrivelled or mushy. They will only give you heartache. Some parts of the country can't plant their bulbs until it is cooler. If this is you, still purchase your spring-blooming bulbs now and place them in a dry, cool dark place to keep until planting time.
It's also time to plant a new lawn or revive an old one. Around Labor Day we rake the leaves and pine needles to plant new lawn walkways throughout our little farmstead.  After raking seed into the topsoil, we keep it moist with hand watering if the morning coastal mist doesn't keep it damp. With warm afternoon temperatures, the grass grows strong by winter.

One of our grass paths lined with
daffodils and rhododendrons
Happy Labor Day...
Happy Planting!

Season of Change

Every withered blade of wild grass, every pine needle, reflects the light as if holding tight to the last of the summer sun. Mornings and evenings are starting ever-so-slightly to close in now. It is the season of change between summer and autumn.

Long late-summer shadows through our pines
on my morning walk
"Did you hear that?" Last night the first flock of Canadian geese passed noisily overhead as my husband and I lay reading in bed. And so it is starting; the remarkable migration of our feathered friends silhouetted in brilliant sunsets or hidden in a morning mist.

I picked the first of my little pumpkins yesterday.
 It gets a place of honor by the front door.
I can't drink in enough moments of this season, lest it pass by unnoticed from busy-ness of the day. This year I will not let the snow cover it until I have been filled to overflowing with the beauty of autumn.

Cool, coastal mornings give way to brilliant blue afternoon skies.
The sunflowers are glorious now!