Decked in Holiday Cheer

From what I could see, most of you decorated for Christmas this weekend, as did I! Car after car had trees tied to the top, merry lights twinkled on homes throughout the countryside and shops were bustling with people purchasing strings of lights and eggnog.
While Glen stockpiled firewood for chilly evenings, I grabbed a mug of cheer and the bins of decorations.
Center stage and first to be decorated was the main Christmas tree in the sunroom. Memories gushed out of the boxes filled with ornaments from years gone by. Each year we get a new ornament that signifies something of importance that happened through the year.

This year was the addition of our new puppy, Cotton.
I collect bottle brush trees and place them here and there throughout the house. They make my cloche and watercan collections look wintry and festive.
The feather trees were next. This year I placed teeny LED lights on them. I love that they have a built-in timer. It's cheery to walk out of my art studio and have the rooms of the house lit up automatically!
Of course there are candles everywhere...and I burn them!
There's abundant joy in our home, especially this time of year, because of the one important reason we have Christmas...the birth of our Lord. There is remembrance of why Jesus came to earth that Christmas day long ago in every twinkle of light, gift that's unwrapped and bite of Christmas cookie.

Thanksgiving Morning

through the rose arbor gate...
Before the hustle and bustle, Glen, Cotton and I took a frosty early Thanksgiving walk through our woods. We are thankful for this beautiful land and our comfy home.

Coffee in hand, we were out the door before 7:30. Grab a pumpkin spice latte and come with us...

...then through the hop arbor gate the Ponderosa area
There's a high fog that hugs the trees; a typical maritime northwest morning in autumn.
Our lil froggy is cold sitting in a layer of ice.
Glen and Cotton cleaned up a little debris that fell from this last storm.
The blueberries are just starting to lose their colorful foliage. hmmm, I wonder how many bird houses we have on our three acres. I will have to do a count someday. I'm a bird person...feeders, houses and baths for the lil guys at every turn!
The hydreangeas are so pretty this year; these are dry, and kept their color nicely. Note to self: cut them, along with the bright holly, for Christmas decorating before the next storm!
Alas, it is time to go in. The parade is about to start and the turkey needs to go in the oven. I LOVE this day!
With such nice weather today, it looks like these pretty little pumpkins will be in the great pumpkin shootout this afternoon.

Making my way to the kitchen to get that turkey started, I noticed there was a pie thief!
This is a picture looking out my kitchen window. It's a french country kitchen filled with all sorts of things I am partial retro red mixer, lighted cabinets of my Jadeite dish collection, baskets filled with cookie cutters and old mason jars with teeny tiny lights in them. It's a joy to cook in there.
I had better get that turkey ready for roasting. I am thankful to our Lord for all of the blessings that he has given me. I do not deserve them.
I hope that you have a beautiful day full of blessings, too.

Traditions: Thanksgiving with Grandma

I'm ready! Ready for the smells, sounds and warmth of Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving reflects what I'm thankful for. First and foremost is a happy and loving family. I get to spend a day with the ones I cherish most on this earth. Most of my childhood Thanksgivings were at my Grandma Williams' home. The house was filled with aunts, uncles and cousins. Now it is in my home with my own family that God has so generously blessed me with.

Then, there's the food. Scrumptious and more bountiful than we need or deserve, we eat Thanksgiving dinner for days. It's always the same each year, except for the ever-changing jello salads. Why don't people serve those anymore? I have a fond memory of Aunt Evelyn's strawberry jello salad.
Our menu is probably like yours; turkey with all of the fixings. Then there are the pies, oh my! Pumpkin and pecan, at least.

Except for the family and friends that drop in, Thanksgiving is the same each year. The parade marches through New York and our TV as I cook, board games are played, we take a crisp autumn walk after dinner and, if weather permits, grab the pumpkins throughout our home and yard for the great pumpkin shoot-out. It's a fun game that gets rid of the pumpkins so I can start decorating for Christmas...tomorrow!

A Sewing Time-Saver! (basting spray)

As a gal that never has enough time to actually make all of the projects floating around in my head, think of how excited I am when I am "forced" to create and make projects for work. I recently needed to make some projects to insert into my new book. Did I mention that I needed to make them in only two short weeks?

I've had a blast drawing, writing, painting, cutting, sewing and quilting. First, though, I needed to head to the local quilt shop for a few supplies (even though my cupboards are stuffed!) There was a 50% off sale on notions; one of them being a basting spray. I don't want to be a salesman for any brand or item, but I had to share what a time saver this was for me.

I've never been one that likes to baste. I use scores of safety pins to keep the layers of my quilts together while quilting. Many of you know what a pain that can be! I'm not a big fan of iron-on fusible web for my applique, either, although I've found it indispensable in the past.

I was skeptical of this spray. Will it gum up my needle? Is it really re-positionable? If so, is it strong enough to hold the layers until I finish my quilting? Does it really wash out? Is it hard to use?

I was pleasantly surprised that it performed all tasks like a charm. The needle didn't even know it was there. The quilts behaved as if they'd never been sprayed when the project was complete. I will be using it from now long as I get coupons for it or it goes on sale, as it is spendy.

One tip that I have. If you are working on a large project (I would say larger than 36" square,) then I would spray the center of the layers and position the fabric at the center of your project, keeping the sides rolled up. Then unroll the sides and spray them one at a time as you position it, making sure all is wrinkle-free. Yes, the fabric can be completely taken up and re-positioned, but it is tacky and hard to do with large pieces.

Oh, one more tip. I bought a name brand. I didn't want to chance all of the work and expense on something I had not heard of. I'm sure there are other brands that work well, but I used "Dritz" temporary adhesive spray for bonding fabric.

The book? It is Every Quilt Has a Story, published by Harvest House Publishers. I'm excited to say it will be in shops this next year. It's a gift book about friendships and quilting, with a few fun and easy projects to make. Every page is illustrated with my watercolors. I'll tell more, with links, when it is closer to its debut!

One Bright Autumn Day

It's one of those days I pinch myself. "This is work?"

I've been asked by my publisher to design a couple of easy quilt gift patterns. I cleared the tables, chose some fun fabrics from my stash and started brainstorming; all before 7a.m.! I wouldn't say I'm excited, would you?

It's the perfect day for quilting and painting. There's an autumn mist in the air and a cozy fire warming the sunroom where I'll do most of my work today.

Cotton enjoying the sunrise. 
Walking thru the maples and firs 
First things first, though. Neither sleet, nor hail nor snow...alas, not even a fun day of quilt design, will keep Cotton and I from our morning walk.

Cold blues and winter whites are not far off, so today we thoroughly enjoyed bright autumn hues. We collected leaves from the maples and placed them in my favorite little vase.

The coleus in the window box is still cheerfully growing.

We live in the heart of Oregon wine country. This was supposedly the best year on record for the wine grape harvest. Most were harvested during the past two weeks.
We grow sweet table grapes and grapes to make jelly.

The persimmons are so plentiful that we had to prop up the branches. When the leaves drop, the fruit looks like bright orange ornaments on the tree. That's when they'll be plump and ready to add into delicious recipes.

The figs are ripening nicely. I'll have to share my fig preserve recipe soon. It is wonderful with cheese and fruit for a bright winter dessert.

Peppers, and more my husband's delight!

The last of the apples and winter squash waiting to be stored.

We made a plastic tent for some of the tomatoes, hoping that we will have ripe tomatoes until Thanksgiving.

Rain is looming on our horizon here in Oregon and I hear there is a fierce storm brewing in the east. Wherever you reside, I hope that you get a chance to enjoy the sights and smells of autumn 2012 before they depart with the winds.

Tea With the Girls

I recently traveled to California for a quick visit with my mother and two of my sisters. I knew the weekend was going to be packed with fun at the onset, when mom treated us girls to high tea!

I make a point of trying to find at least one tea room when I travel away from home. It’s a treat that I give myself. Linde Lane Tea Room in Dixon, California is one of the nicer tea rooms I’ve dined at.

The tea bar consists of about 49 different flavors of tea from around the world.
The tea smells are incredible...wish my home smelled like this.
Linde Lane is not just one room, but at least four rooms that are open to each other, yet private enough to feel like you can carry on a conversation without everyone listening. It used to be the old Dixon Fire Station, which was originally built in 1929. I wonder what those first firemen would say now!

The decor of the tea room is Victorian, and houses custom made chandeliers, furnishings and a one-of-a-kind 8 foot teacup booth.

A booth/table within a giant china teacup!

The "Whimsical Room" has a purple chandelier
There are antiques, some older then a century, intermingled throughout. The retail area features Linde Lane's signature line of products along with hand made handbags, soaps, jewelry and an incredible showing of hats. After all, what is high tea without a hat?

Linde Lane houses a pastry chef and a culinary chef, which must be why their food is so delightfully delicious! Together they work to create amazing menus.

With winter’s chill not far behind, I’ll think often of my fun “girls’ trip” as I sip tea while painting.

Apple Time!

Is there anything as autumn-homey as the smell of apples cooking? Spiced cider, apple butter, candy apples and apple pie; September is apple time!

Macintosh apples
Our trees are right on cue this first day of fall. It was an excellent year for fruit here in the Pacific Northwest. I picked buckets of red Macintosh apples last week. Today I am canning applesauce and freezing apple pie filling.

Canning Applesauce

We have six apple trees and four crab apples. The Macintosh is my favorite for taste, smell and looks, with the Granny Smith a close second.

The Macintosh tree in our orchard.
The crab apple tree wins my vote for the prettiest year-round yard tree and gives us more delicious apples for adding to sauces and jellies than we can use. They’re pretty for home décor use just set in a bowl, dried for potpourri or made into a wreath.

My favorite Crab apple tree

My painting, “Wild Apple,” is of black-capped chickadees sitting in this tree. It made the cover of the 2013 “Psalms for the Seasons” calendar and has been made into home and garden flags. You can take a peek, (and purchase if you wish) at various shops and online here...Psalms for the Season Calendar .
crab apples in my Jadeite bowl

Of course I had to try out a batch of the pie filling as a reward after weekend gardening.

First fresh apple pie of the season!

While waiting for the canner, I chopped some ingredients for fresh apple chutney with a “kick” to go with our pork chops tonight. Here’s the easy recipe:

Aunt Nancy's Chutney

Aunt Nancy’s Apple Chutney

1 tbsp olive oil
2 large, crisp apples -peel, core and chop
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup raisins
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
Orange zest from 1 small orange
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp each of salt & pepper

Sauté onions, apples and garlic in olive oil in a saucepan until tender, but not soft. Combine rest of the ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes with the lid off, stirring now and then. Use with chicken, pork or brie cheese and crackers. Can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.