Saturday, May 28, 2016

You May Have Been Wondering...

Where the heck have I been? Things have been pretty quiet here on Dogwood Lane but I have a spectacular excuse for not communicating with you. Romantic Villages of Alpine Europe! Starting with:
I've kept our plans about this trip to myself for more than a year and now I can tell you all about it. Chris and I have never been to Europe so this was a BIG deal for us and we had the best time traveling through five European Alpine countries in 20 days. Don't worry I won't give you a day by day description but I am going to share some of the highlights. I want to preserve the memories for myself and let you see a little travelogue as well.
The first four days of our trip we stayed here in Cernobbio, Italy on the shores of Lake Como.
A charming old world hotel with all the modern touches and wonderful lake views. I was instantly drawn into the setting right outside our hotel front door.

Strolling along the waterfront it was just as I had imagined it. The adventure was just beginning as we boarded a water taxi for a ride down the lake to the town of Como itself. These water taxis run all day criss crossing the lake and drop you off to which ever village you wish.
On the way to Como I waved to George and Amal for you when we passed their gorgeous villa.
This massive stainless steel sculpture greets visitors in the harbor as you arrive at Como. Quite a contrast to the old world vibe of the town.
Como definitely caters to an upscale clientele and it was fun to see how the other half lives. Very stylish.
A quitlter can find hand work anywhere. Isn't this coat great?
A hidden courtyard
A peek down a side street
There's plenty more to see and I'll be telling you all about it. I hope you'll forgive me for not answering your comments over the past month. As you can tell I've been a little out of touch!

Until next time,

Monday, May 9, 2016

Crockpot Ranch Chicken

It's been a while since I've shared any recipes with you. It's not that I haven't been cooking 'cuz I fix a sit down dinner for the two of us every single day unless we're going to be 'off the hill'. The kind of meals I like to cook these days involve left overs. In my opinion left overs are the best thing ever - a two for one deal. Cook once and eat twice. What could be wrong with that?
With that idea in mind here's my version of a recipe I saw on Pinterest and had to try. The next best thing to left overs is a crock pot or pressure cooker recipe. Save time and have a second meal, win/win!

Crockpot Ranch Chicken
Cook time: 4 to 6 hours

Serves: 4-6
Chicken tenders or breasts (I used 1 LB chicken tenders)
1 Ranch Seasoning Dry Mix Packet
1 can Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom Soup (plus 1 can of  milk)
1 clove garlic minced or ½ tsp garlic powder
1 medium onion chopped
4 medium potatoes cut into bite pieces ( I used red potatoes)
4 medium carrots cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp sour cream
  1. Spray crock with nonstick spray for easy clean up
  2. Combine Ranch Seasoning, soup, milk and garlic and mix well.
  3. Combine potatoes, carrots and chicken in crock and coat with soup mixture stirring well.
  4. Cook on low 4-6 hours.
  5. Before serving stir in sour cream and check for seasoning

Mix everything in your slow cooker and forget it.
This would be great served over rice or noodles too.

Until next time,

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Used Needles

 I have a quick tip for you about safely getting rid of your used sewing needles. You do change out your sewing machine needles after every eight hours or so of sewing don't you? I know people who change those needles every time they load a new bobbin! I'm not that fanatical but I do know that a sharp needle makes a world of difference when I'm piecing and it's absolutely essential to machine embroidery. In fact after proper stabilizing I would say a dull needle causes the most problems in machine embroidery.
If you change your needle as much as you should what are going to do with all those dull needles? PLEASE, don't just throw them in the trash! They are a hazard to yourself and everyone else so some form of containment is a great idea.
I use an old medicine container with a child proof lid. I poke a hole in the top and whenever I change a  needle I can just drop the used needle in. Once the medicine bottle is full I just throw it away and start a new one.
You may be able to see a broken needle or two in there as well as some extra small rotary blades.
Bonus point: I use those old, dull needles to display my small projects in the sewing room! They go into the dry wall easily with just a tiny hole.
 Until next time,

Monday, May 2, 2016

Feeling Crafty

Mostly I don't do crafts. I've never made a wreath for the door and if I did I'd probably forget to put it up. I don't change out my decor with the seasons and the only holiday I'm really enthusiastic about is Christmas. You all know I'm a nut about Christmas!  Don't get me wrong I admire all the wonderful creative people who make beautiful things and display them so expertly but the craft gene has passed me by. Still every once in a while I see a crafty project that I think might be useful and I want to give it a try.

Here's my latest foray into the world of crafting - microwave bowl  potholders. They don't look like much do they? But these things are so useful. I watched a couple of YouTube videos and jumped in. What did we all do before we had YouTube to show us the way?

All the videos stressed that this special microwavable batting was essential so I ordered some from Amazon and it was pricey.
After opening the package I realized that all it was was 100% cotton batting with no scrim. That last part is very important to prevent fires in the microwave. 100% cotton with no scrim!
I measured the bowls I normally use to reheat soup and such and cut my fabric accordingly and before you know it I had two microwave bowl potholders.
The neat thing is these are also reversible.
No more burning or spilling trying to get my bowl of soup or stew out of the microwave.

Until next time,

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Garden Plans

It's almost time for planting here at Dogwood Lane Farm. It may seem a little late to a lot of you in the rest of the country but I can tell you that living where we do in the Sierra foothills the weather is very iffy until late May. In fact our last frost date is traditionally Mother's Day and no one in their right mind would set out a tomato plant around here before then. They'd be laughed off of the Divide!
Keeping all this in mind we enlisted the help of our oldest grandson Jed when he was home for spring break to help move straw bales into place for own 2016 garden experiment. This year we're going to give straw bale gardening a go.
Of course this is me talking so I did a lot of research over the winter months and found as much information as I could about this method of growing a garden. We're using this book as our guide. Straw Bale Garden by Joel Karsten.
Basically the idea is grow your vegetables or even flowers and herbs in decomposing straw rather than in the ground. Why you ask? Well, we don't have good soil here in the forest and for years I have struggled to amend it and improve it. Secondly, I'm always looking for ways to use less water and I'm hoping this will help with water conservation. I really have very little to use by trying since straw is so cheap and we've discussed on this blog before how glad I am that I'm not trying to make a living growing crops because I would be a dismal failure as a farmer! I can't seem to grow a vegetable to save my life. I can grow any kind of flower but vegetables hate to grow for me. This confession from the mother of a certified Master Gardener no less!

The bales were moved into place in the previous raised beds that we lined with weed cloth in case of grass seeds germinating. I don't want to be weeding those beds next year. They're supposed to be in place for a few weeks ahead of planting to start their conditioning. I wanted to take advantage of the expected spring rain fall. We haven't had rain in California in so long that I'm determined to catch every drop I can and soak it up with those straw sponges. It was great to help the help of that young man power.
Just a few more weeks and they'll be ready for planting. Remember our little peach and nectarine trees? Lots of blossoms. Aren't they the cutest things? 

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself. ~May Sarton

Until next time,

Monday, April 25, 2016

Everything and the Kitchen SInk

Another UFO sees the light of day. Can you believe it? It seems like I have a never ending supply of unfinished, half done, started and never completed projects in my sewing room. Am I the only one this happens to? I swear I have the best intentions in the world but I must have the attention span of a gnat! You all must have figured out by now that I am bound and determined to whittle down this pile of zombie projects and so here's another one for you to gaze upon.
Cute right? I started this I can't even tell you when, probably when this book first came out. Scrap Basket Surprises by Kim Brackett. Luckily I had the foresight to store the book with the pieces and even mark the pages with a sticky note or I would truly be lost after all this time.
There are so many great quilts in here I could probably make all of them but remember this one I finished last month?
Well, it's made with 2 1/2" strips and being true to myself I cut way too many strips from my stash when I was making it so whats' a girl to do but find a way to use those up? I honestly can't remember now which came first. Did I cut for this Kitchen Sink pattern first and just keep going for a donation quilt? That sounds more like it. I'll never know/remember now. Procrastination is a memory thief.
The pattern for Kitchen Sink calls for 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" pieces and as you can see I have those all cut out and carefully preserved. They've been marinating for at least two years! Time to get sewing.
Turning those pieces into units.
Turning those units into blocks.
I'm on a roll to actually turn these scraps into a quilt. I might even get another UFO off my list soon if I can keep up my momentum.

Linking up to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times along with all those other creative folks and Making Monday.

PS - Thank you all for your kind thoughts and condolences on the passing of our dear Shadow. We have been sad and River truly misses her friend. I have not had the heart to respond to you individually, I hope you will understand. Our pets fill such a unique place in our lives and they leave a hollow spot when they have to go. I do appreciate you and thank you.

Until next time,

Friday, April 22, 2016

So Difficult to Say Good-Bye

Yesterday we had to say farewell to our good and faithful companion Shadow.

What I thought was merely a swelling from a bad tooth turned out to be inoperable and untreatable  bone cancer of her jaw. I was completely blindsided as she had absolutely no symptoms nor signs that she was sick. I brought Shadow home so that she could have one more amazing day doing all the things she loved with her best friends. We went for a nice long walk in the woods and she swam for as long as she wanted in the pond by our house. She chased her ball with River until she was tuckered out and I fixed a hamburger patty just for her for dinner, an unheard of indulgence of people food.

She died peacefully in my arms.

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring—it was peace.

—Milan Kundera