Monday, August 22, 2011


This morning on my commute to work, specifically at the intersection of 522 and 405, my bike turned over 33,333 on the odometer. This isn't particularly significant for any reason, but it is a pleasing number sequence that amused me. Since I began the year at an odometer reading of 26,383 this puts me at just under 7,000 miles ridden in not quite 8 months of riding, leaving me well on track to clear 10,000 miles for the year. Additionally, since I purchased the bike with about 2,700 miles on it, I just recently turned the milestone of putting 30,000 miles of my own on the bike, which is also exciting. Of course, I am still commuting full time, and here are my stats for that so far this year.

Days Worked: 146
Days Ridden: 138
Bad Weather Days: 8
Absolute Percentage: 94.5%
Adjusted Percentage: 100%
Temp Min/Max: 25F / 82F

A few weeks ago I got a new back tire, and I chose a Pilot Road 3 based on the recommendations from some of my online riding friends. The difference from my old worn tire to the new PR3 was just stunning, and not only due to the difference in age/wear. The back end of my bike "sticks" like it never did before, giving me way more margin for safety and improved cornering, and I am super pleased with it. Chris just had to replace both tires on his bike, and he went with Pilot Road 2's, and I think he's happy with them as well although he hasn't had them for very long. I'm hoping we can do a ride for fun over Labor Day weekend, though I haven't actually tried to plan anything so who knows if that will work out. We still haven't visited Mt. St. Helens, and that's something I would very much like to do, so maybe I'll try to make that happen.

I'm currently reading a very interesting book, New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherford. The novel is (clearly) set in the city of New York, and each section follows a few people through a pivotal point in history for the city. I'm just over a third through the book, and so far have read the sections covering the change of New Amsterdam to New York, as well as the American Revolution and the surprise choice of a new American capitol rather than the city of New York. It's very well done and I'm really enjoying it, as not only the major issues of each time period but also the minor issues are illustrated by the characters living in that time, from slavery to interactions with Indians to war profiteering. I had originally heard of this author by an Amazon recommendation for another novel of his based on London, but that one wasn't available for Kindle at the time so I eventually picked up this one when it went on summer sale a few months ago.

I think I've posted about it before, but if you love reading then you really should check out GoodReads. It is an amazing resource where you can list books you've read, review books simply (by 1-5 stars) as well as by written review, and additionally list books to read and further categorize your lists. So in addition to the standard lists, I also have one for my book club where I've tagged each book we've read, as well as a smaller list of books I might not finish for various reasons. The "to-read" list is amazingly helpful - any time I see a blogger, news story, or friend mention a book that sounds good, I'll just hop over to GoodReads and toss it into my to-read pile. Combined with the app for my iPhone, I'm always ready with something else I wanted to read when I finish what I'm working on for my Kindle! So far this year I've read 43 new books, although my total-read is higher as I'm not counting rereads (about 19 so far this year) and truly trashy novels (probably at least 10).

Finally, my friend who is a writer requested that her friends post books that "would make them miss their bus stop" for her birthday, and a few days later she collated all of the recommendations into a single Amazon list. It's a great list of fun reads, and I will definitely be perusing it further soon to add more books to my ever-growing to-read pile!

The Kindle is probably one of the best things I've ever this point I can't imagine bringing home so many paper books as are on my to-read list. I'm still buying books in physical format, of course, especially quilting books and those for my "apocalypse" library which are useful information on homesteading and other topics that would be useful when the internet is no more. But for the vast majority of books, I much prefer to buy them for my Kindle and not have to deal with the physical paper copy, to the point that I will just move on to the next book on my list if I can't find a Kindle version. It's going to be very interesting to see how the eBook market shakes out over the next few years, with publishers fighting a losing battle to keep eBook prices high ($15 for an eBook? not even!) combined with the different standards in place. We shall see...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

project completion roundup

I've finally gifted several of my completed recent projects, so it's roundup time! First up is a small placemat / "mug rug" quilt that I made my grandmother for her birthday in June. I used a charm pack for the brightly colored squares, which were cut in half and then put together at an angle to form the points. The border is leftover fabric from a baby quilt I made earlier this year, and the binding is from fabric in my stash that wasn't used in a quilt I made last year. The back (not shown) is made of charm squares in pastel shades of the colors shown here, with a strip of a red dot fabric. The inspiration for this piece was from something I saw on Quilt Dad a few months ago, and the color choices were based on my Nana's love of bright colors.

Next up are a pair of Nintendo DS cases, which I originally made for my new DS since it didn't come with a case that I approved of using (far too big and bulky). I made it from scratch, using measurements of the DS itself along with some math, and it's basically made of two strips of fabric that are individually quilted and then stitched together. There is a lining as well - and putting the layers together was REALLY hard on even my freearm machine, if I wanted to make many more of these I would really need a Featherweight 222k or similar tiny freearm to make it work.
Mine is made of some black and lime green Spirograph print material I got on shop hop this year, lined with some bright lime green abstract flowers (not pictured), and bound with some Kona teal fabric leftover from binding the baby quilt discussed later in this post. And since my mother's birthday happened around the time I made this one, I decided to make her one too using fabric scraps left over from the bag I made her for Mother's Day earlier this year.

Free motion quilting still isn't coming very easily to me - I need much more practice!

The lining is a fun purple/teal butterfly print that I picked up on shop hop - it adds a bit of whimsy to this piece, I think! The binding is leftover binding from the quilt I made myself as part of the first three I ever made just two years ago.

And of course, the label!

The next project is a bit bigger - it's a baby carrier quilt that I've made for my friend's second son who was born in June. I didn't quite get this made in time for his birth, but I hope he will get plenty of use out of it anyway! The fabric is from a fat-quarter pack of Sandy Gervais "Lollipop" collection that I got at the sewing expo, the backing is from a sock monkey fabric collection that I found online, and the binding is a teal Kona cotton. I went with a psuedo-log cabin layout for this one, adding strips in pairs around the central fussy-cut square with monkeys. I like how it turned out, though it is just a little off from being perfectly square - I think I need more practice or pinning with longer seams.

The quilting was done with my Accufeed foot, just following the line of each strip/log in the pattern. It worked out pretty well, but there was some pulling as I got to the end of each of the longer strips, so I need to figure out what caused that - stitches were balanced on shorter logs, so something's up with the longer stitch lines or the corners turned in the logs.

I actually took this one outside yesterday to take some pictures of it. The sun wasn't terribly cooperative, but I think they came out well enough. I like this one with the flipped-over back which shows the fun banana-print flannel and the label.

I even did a "rolled up quilt" photo with this one! The final size of the quilt is about 34" square, which should be great for covering the baby carrier for now and maybe as a lovey or snuggle blanket later on.

The last project I'm posting today was finished just yesterday evening, a new iPad sleeve to replace the first one I made earlier this year. I already posted about the fabrics I picked, and while I used the same general technique as on the first one, I went with my previously mentioned plan of "measure the item" to select the sizes. It turned out to be a bit smaller than I had meant, so the iPad fits in it perfectly but not with its smart-cover on, the edge on the smart cover protrudes a bit much for the iPad to slide in easily. I expect it to stretch out over time, however, so that shouldn't be much of a problem after a few weeks. I'm pretty proud of how this one came out and have already gotten several compliments on it - color me happy!

Front of the case - Shades of Grey, 1001 Peeps, Silent Cinema, and a Japanese import fabric. I'm very pleased with how the angles came out as well as how nicely the purple/black mixer stripes look. I wish the photo wasn't quite as washed out, it's hard to see the contrast between the purple and black here.

Back of the sleeve, same fabrics but a different order. The binding is more of the black mixer fabric, I got it at The Quilting Loft in Ballard as part of a fat quarter pack, and I may need to put more of it in more colors in my stash.

Perfect fit! I will try to remember and post the dimensions I used, which are written down in a notebook on my cutting table - they really did work out perfectly for a non-covered iPad. The only flaw I can find is apparently my lining isn't quiiiite all the way down - there's about a quarter-inch of "padding" at the bottom edge when the iPad is tucked all the way down.

Surprise! Border collies on the inside! I'm just tickled about this fabric, and so glad that I found some to use here. It made the construction one additional step, so that I wouldn't have upside-down border collies on one side, but that's not a big deal. And of course, my label!

And in conclusion, my real-life border collies enjoying some (limited) swimming at Marymoor Park yesterday. They've already fenced off most of the river for the salmon run, which was very disappointing to me, but the dogs still had a ball and it was just deep enough for them to alternate between swimming and jumping through the water. It's very hard to get a photo of all three of them in the water at the same time when I'm there by myself, however!

Ezri and Curzon racing out of the water together, trying to be the first back to get the ball thrown again! Poor Jadzia just can't compete...she comes out shivering long before these two are willing to consider leaving the water!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

new recipe for me, conditioning for the border collies

At both the Maple Ridge and Salem tournaments in July, Ezri was running a bit slower than I expected, more in the 4.0's instead of the 3.8's / 3.9's that she was putting down in May and June. I figure this is because of the crummy weather we've had most of the spring and early summer, which has limited my desire to actually exercise the dogs on a regular basis. So beginning the Monday after Maple Ridge, I started a conditioning program for miss Ezri consisting of exercise every day. After all, we're going all the way to Gridley, CA in September and this will be our one shot at trying to break 16, and darn it I won't let her be the weak link! I've been primarily running the dogs in the backyard, which for Ezri means a hard sprint across the yard, a leap over the dry water right-of-way, and a hard sprint up the hill to wait for her tennis ball. I keep her moving constantly, while throwing for the other three in between her runs, and after ten minutes I end up with flat melty dog, as seen at left. It's been almost three weeks of this workout program, and Ezri is definitely improving in the stamina department, so hopefully this will pay off in the way that I want next month! It's also helped keep the other dogs calm, as tired dogs are good dogs, and even Phoebe has been almost reasonable around the house the past two weeks.

Unfortunately, running in the yard is really our main option right now. The park nearby that has a creek is running strangely this summer and has no space for swimming, just a long run through about 6" of water that's no challenge at all. The park with actual swimming is a 20-minute drive away, so that's not an option for most evenings after work. I hope to take Ezri out this weekend for swimming, and next weekend I'm taking her to an agility fun match just to play on our own on the equipment.

On the flip side, I've picked up a new recipe for my repertoire - spoonbread. It falls in the same category as the frittata / egg pie recipe that I posted back in May, being that it can be a side dish or a main course depending on what you put into it. The original recipe that I have modified slightly to post below was originally posted on the King Arthur Flour blog a few weeks ago, and that's definitely worth a read as well.

Cornmeal Spoonbread Recipe
serves 4-6

Basic Ingredients
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups 2% milk
2 eggs
Splash of heavy cream or half-and-half
1 cup shredded cheese, plus extra for the top
Butter (for buttering the baking dish)

1) Preheat the oven to 400F, and heavily butter your baking dish or pan. The original recipe calls for a 9" square baking dish, but I've used an 8" square baking pan and a 10.5" x 7" baking dish, both with good results.
2) In a skillet/saucepan (I used a 12" nonstick skillet) over medium heat, combine the cornmeal, milk, and salt. Keep stirring the mixture as it cooks up in order to keep it from sticking or burning on the bottom, I find that a silicone spatula works really well for this.
3) When the cornmeal mush is cooked all the way through, which can be tested by moving the spatula around and seeing if the mixture fills back in the space left by the spatula, take the pan off the heat and let it rest for about five minutes.
4) While the mush is resting, beat your two eggs well with some heavy cream (or half and half, or milk, any would work fine), and measure out your shredded or chopped cheese. Prepare any additional add-ins at this time - chop up some bacon, shred some spinach, mix up some spices, and so on.
5) In the skillet with the cornmeal mush, combine the eggs, cheese, and additional add-ins and mix it up thoroughly with your spatula. Once the mixture is homogeneous, pour it into your buttered baking dish and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the top with additional shredded cheese if you prefer.
6) Bake at 400F for about 40 minutes, or until you can insert a knife into the spoonbread and pull it out again cleanly. It won't "set up" like baked cornbread, but it will cook up thoroughly.
7) Serve warm and enjoy! The spoonbread stays well in the fridge, and reheats nicely both in the microwave or in the oven at 250F.

Now, for my pictures of this process!!

First, I mixed blue cornmeal, milk, and salt in the skillet for cooking.

I keep the burner set to just below middle for this process. In this picture, the cornmeal is cooking along nicely but isn't quite done yet - you can see trails left by the spatula, but they are still filling in and the cooked mush is still very soft and squishy.

Completed mixture put into pan, and halfway covered with additional cheese. For this version, I used some chopped spinach and medium Tillamook cheddar (with a bit of leftover Tillamook mozzarella) for the mix-ins, and topped it off with the remainder of the sharp shredded Tillamook cheddar that I had on hand. I really like putting a bit of sharp cheddar on top of these sorts of dishes - it gives a nice crust and bite on top.

My new Le Crueset baking dish, in purple of course! I got this yesterday as a second choice to the covered 8" square baker that I originally wanted to buy, and this turned out really well for this purpose. I'm pleased. :)

And in closing for today, a picture of the new iPad sleeve that I'm making for myself to replace my first version made in March. It's going along pretty well, although I am getting some non-straight seams somehow (and no, the strips are not cut on the bias), so I may need to do some pinning to fix that. It looks pretty good, however, and it's reasonably non-obvious until you put a ruler onto the seams to check for linearity. I am especially pleased with the sashing I put in of purple and black stripes, set so the purple frames the grey/white fabric and the black frames the purple fabric. I'm hopefully going to finish the strip stitching on this tonight, and then I'll cut it down and assemble it tomorrow - with border collie fabric for the lining!

I have also finally finished the mini baby quilt that I was working on for a friend whose son was born in early June, and it's even labeled, washed, and ready to go! As soon as I've given that to my friend I will be posting pictures of it - I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

Monday, August 8, 2011

the bikes, the sewing, and the border collies

Yesterday instead of practice, we performed at a demo for a brand new dog park out in Snoqualmie, WA, which is near North Bend and in the shadow of Mt. Si as seen in the photo above. It was a beautiful afternoon, with sunshine and mid-70s, and although we had a lot of effort to go through to set up for such a short time, the event went very well. We had sixteen trained dogs participate in the two 15-minute demo shows that we did, and several of our dogs-in-training got some valuable experience in a new situation. The organizers of the event did a very nice job, with some of the best snow fencing for a flyball demo that I've ever seen, and it was a very nice way to spend part of our Sunday afternoon.

My bike turned over 32,700 miles last week, meaning that I have now put on 30,000 miles since I purchased it in February of 2008. I got a new back tire last month and on the recommendation of my riding friends at Ars Technica I got a Pilot Road 3, and it's amazing - I had no idea how much of a difference a really great tire could make! I definitely have a larger safety margin (which I'm trying to not eat away by riding like a hooligan), and overall feel much more stable on the bike. Chris' bike just went in for its 36,000 mile service on Saturday, and it came home with a new full set of Pilot Road 2 tires, and hopefully he will end up with a favorable opinion of them as well. Both of our bikes are paid off now, and they are certainly racking up the miles to earn their keep as we both continue to commute by motorcycle every day. The Subaru is used mainly for running errands these days, although I will be taking it to Bellingham in two weeks, and of course the truck is our vehicle of choice for flyball and dog-related trips. So every time I want to scream at the expense of maintaining the bikes, I try to remember how much it costs for new tires on the Subaru or the upcoming 20,000 mile service on the truck, and that makes it more bearable!

On the sewing front, I can rack up two completions for this weekend. One of them is a gift so I won't post about it until it's been received, but the other is this simple slipcase that I made for my Nintendo DS Lite system. I pretty much winged it to make this, by measuring the DS itself and then cutting fabric to match, and it ended up turning out reasonably well. I selected a black fabric with white and lime green spirograph designs on it (one of the half-yards I picked up on shop hop in June), and cut a long strip for the case and two shorter pieces for the sides. Each piece was put onto a strip of batting and free-motion quilted in loops and swirls as best as I could (I need more practice!), then put together to form the case. I made a lining from a bright green abstract flower print, and used a bit of teal fabric binding left over from my most recent baby quilt. The only real problem I ran into making this was getting the lining attached to the outer sleeve, and then getting the binding tacked down - I need a much smaller freearm than even my Janome L-108 can manage! A Featherweight 222 freearm would be great for this...but I don't have and certainly can't justify the thousand dollars it would take to buy one these days! I hand-stitched the binding down yesterday, and just need to use the mini-iron that I have on loan from a friend to put the label in today and it's done.

And of course, what else have I done? I've cut fabric strips for my new iPad sleeve, and picked up a heavy twill fabric that is printed with Viewmaster slides to make a bag for PAX...and haven't actually worked on any of the quilts that are planned out in my head! I really need a few weekend days where I don't have anything else that needs attention, like the house, or the yard, or the border collies....but that doesn't seem to be in the cards, so I'll just have to deal. The picture on the right shows the fabrics I've cut for the iPad sleeve, although I'm not sure that is the final layout. The final layout will definitely be diagonal, however, no matter what fabric order I end up going with. And I just checked and my order of FABULOUS border-collie print fabric is due for delivery today, so that might end up being the lining!

Restraint with regards to fabric...what's that? :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

what I did on my summer vacation

This is a very picture-heavy post, in case you hadn't noticed already. Which is actually kind of a pain in the butt to put together, since Blogger doesn't have a good way to handle mass uploading of photos. It can only handle five at a time, individually chosen, and all five have to have the same alignment (left/center/right) and that alignment cannot be changed after they've been uploaded. It's really quite annoying, although to be fair it is a free service so I suppose I can't complain too much.

Anyway, on with the pictures! The last week of June and first week of July were spent with our friends from New Jersey, including a week on the Olympic Peninsula. We had a really great time and got to visit a lot of neat stuff that we hadn't yet seen despite living here for ten years now.

The Hoh Rain Forest was very impressive, even for just the small hikes we enjoyed around the ranger station. The trees are enormous, as can be seen from this fallen tree that is several hundred feet long with the trail built right next to it. The park has done a great job with informational signs about nurse logs and how the trees grow, and it was very neat to see the differences between the trees as they grew.

Told you there were some big trees!

Our next excursion was to Cape Flattery, which is the most northwestern point in the continental United States. It's a very long and windy drive to get there, with the roads not in the best condition, so I am rather glad we did not ride our motorcycles out there in May like we had originally considered. The Cape itself is on tribal land, and there is a very nice but steep hike from the parking lot down to the edge of the cliff with several lookouts built into the land. The colors of the water as the tide rolled in and out were just amazing...teals, greens, blues, whites, all on the moss green and stone gray of the rocks. Beautiful!

More lovely water colors, swirling in the tide.

Since this was tribal land and not a state park, dogs were allowed on the trail. We left Phoebe in the truck since it was crowded, but the three border collies came along with us. I even got Ezri to scramble up the ladder to the biggest lookout platform with me!

They were less than impressed as they waited for all six of us to take a group picture on another lookout.

We took a whale watching trip out of Port Townsend which had a lunchtime layover in Friday Harbor, both places we had never been. Unfortunately we did not see any whales, as all three local pods were hanging out closer to Canada that day, but we really enjoyed the boat ride and our lunch at a great restaurant. I'd like to go back to Friday Harbor with more time to walk around and explore, as our short two hour layover wasn't long enough to do much.

Harbor seals out sunning themselves, including a few baby seal pups!

Bald eagle hanging out on driftwood and looking for his own lunch. I took this photo with the biggest zoom my little camera could manage, and I'm pretty pleased with it!

On the Fourth of July we drove to the top of Hurricane Ridge and did a hike along the main hiking trail at the top. It was much improved from our motorcycle visit on Memorial Day, when we couldn't even get out of the main parking lot due to snow, but the highest parking lot was still snowed in and some of our hike was on packed snow. That's quite late for even the Olympic peninsula! The views were absolutely stunning, as shown above, and we had a very good time walking around and looking at all the different alpine plants and rock structures.

Our last outing was to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, including a hike just a few miles from the resort up to a gorgeous waterfall. The hike out to the waterfall was covered with these amazing little ground cover plants, which are related to the dogwood tree and look just like little tiny dogwood branches. The hot springs were very nice and I highly recommend a visit there - the hottest one, straight out of the spring, was at about 106F - heaven on a chilly 65F day!

Tiny waterfall on our way up to the bigger waterfall. Very picturesque with the moss and the cascading water.

The main waterfall, framed between a split tree truck. I am very proud of this picture and the composition that I achieved with the tree.

It was cool for summer but brilliantly sunny, with sunlight peeking down through the trees throughout our hike. Again, I'm pretty proud of my composition in this shot and pleased that the sun flare worked out so well!

We really enjoyed our trip, and I'd like to go out to the peninsula again at some point. The only thing I found to complain about was the restrictions on dogs in national parks, which includes most of the parks and hikes on the Olympic peninsula. I understand why the restrictions are in place, but I also wish there was a way to take a "Responsible Dog Hiker" test so that my dogs could hike along with me and enjoy the days that we did.

On to our next adventure - PAX!! Just three weeks away now!