Featherweight buttonholes

Last May as we made our way through the back roads of Idaho, we passed through a small town, then did a double-take as I spotted an antique store. It was our first of the road trip, but not the first we'd passed by. Three days into the trip, I was feeling some serious antique store withdrawal pains.

I offered to let Dave wait in the car while I browsed, but he wanted to come in. I'm glad he did... he found the only treasure in the shop: a buttonhole attachment for my Singer Featherweight.

It's always so cool to stumble across attachments for my antique and oh-so-cool Singer Featherweight (make link to my blog about the machine). It's my machine of choice these days, for everything from quilting to crafts, and I've run across little green boxes of attachments from time to time, and always buy them. They've become increasingly difficult to find, and one day I'll play with each, to figure out how to use them.

A buttonhole attachment is something I didn't know existed for my tiny 1940's machine, and I was thrilled to find it. We did a quick search of model number to make sure it would fit my machine, then took it to the front desk, where my excellent husband dickered the clerk down from $18 to $12.


July 2013 books

There hasn't been much time to read this month. We have houseguests for the summer, my eldest sister and her husband. And summer finally arrived, and I'm spending more time in the yard and flower gardens (finally). And then there are the road trips, and the Oregon Brewer's Festival, and our lake cabin, and fly fishing, and... well, you get my drift.

I have been working my way through a couple of photography books, and a handful of beaded jewelry making books (but spending more time actually making jewelry than just reading about it, which is a good thing).

Edward Parker | Photographing Trees. I love to photograph trees, and there's a massive, beautifully formed maple tree near my house that I visit regularly. I had high hopes for this book. But in truth it was most interesting for another project the author was involved in: photographing ancient trees around the world, including 1000-year old trees in his native England. Most of the book covered basic digital photography skills, and one slim chapter got down to the nitty-gritty of tree photography.

Lisa Niven Kelly | Stamped Metal Jewelry. I mostly make beaded wire jewelry, but am intrigued by this technique. I have my dad's jewelry making tools and materials, including a few sheets of silver, and just ordered a set of stamps (for an entirely different craft). So I just might give it a try.

Dylon Whyte | Beaded Chain Mail Jewelry. We have a friend who makes chain mail jewelry and key fobs, beautiful stuff. When I saw this book, I brought it home to browse through. I generally make my own jump rings, and I like that chain mail can be made simply with just the rings. While watching a movie, I made a graduated strand of links with a beaded end, to use as a zipper pull. This could be fun!

Chris Orwig | Visual Poetry. It sounded interesting, so it also came home in my book bag. The unique ways that other photographers approach the challenge of finding and shooting the world around them is endlessly fascinating to me. And it reminds me that there's never one right way to do anything, and you can learn a lot if you just open yourself up to the opportunity.

David Lebowitz | The Sweet Life in Paris. This book was a bit of a sideways find. I offered to make a German chocolate cake for my mother-in-law's 81st birthday party, and set out to find the perfect recipe. This isn't one of my favorite cakes, and I wanted to jazz it up a bit, make the flavors richer. I found a recipe online, which gave credit to Lebowitz, and when I looked up his website, found this book. It's an account of the author's experiences when he visited Paris for the first time, with the added bonus of lots of recipes. (Oh and by the way, the cake was a smash hit with the family.)

Paul Doiron | The Poacher's Son. Another book I stumbled across while looking for something else, and it was a really good read. I'll be searching out his other books soon.

And I'm re-reading my favorite Dick Francis books, starting with  Decider, To the Hilt, Proof, and Come to Grief.


Fledgling robins

We had a pair of robins set up housekeeping in our camellia bush this year, with the nest just 5 feet off the ground. We took down an 85-foot Douglas fir tree that stood nearby, and I like to think the robins chose another nesting spot nearby, rather than leaving the farm altogether.

My sister discovered the nest a couple of weeks ago while we were working in the yard. There were two tiny naked birds, all gaping mouth and not much else visible, with their anxious parents chirping from the overhanging pear tree. We quickly backed off and watched from indoors until one of the parents flew into the camellia with a mouthful of worm.

Since then I've kept an eye on the nest, putting on hold the weeding and pruning that needs to be done in the perennial garden there, to give the birds some space. Last week they were still in the nest, but today when we got home from a weekend in Portland, the babies had fledged.

I spotted them in the garden near their nest, sitting one above the other on an old branch that I use to prop up the speedwell when it gets leggy. Mom (or dad) kept a close watch on them. These chicks are most definitely robins, with speckled breasts that are already turning red.


Wildflowers at Hurricane Ridge

One of the joys of living here is hiking into the mountains mid-summer, and photographing the wildflowers. Every single year the floral displays are different, richer one year, leaner the next. In full bloom in July, or just emerging from the snow in mid-August. You never know what you'll find, and that makes it an adventure.

Today we woke up at our cabin to clear blue skies, and knew this was the day to take a drive to Hurricane Ridge. One rule to remember: if there are any clouds near the Olympics, save the gas for another day.

The view from the top is one of the best you'll find anywhere in Washington... maybe anywhere. From sea level in Port Angeles to the top of the ridge at 5240 feet, it's a short 17 miles. From the top you can see the peaks of the Olympics, the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, and Mt. Baker.

Today, as gorgeous as the views were, I couldn't get my camera to focus on anything but the wildflower meadows, especially those that line both sides of the 17-mile drive.


Fly fishing diaries | Casting with my feet

The first time I got to really fish from my float tube was at Cady Lake. It was an afternoon of casting and searching for good hiding spots for fish, watching the surface for signs of trout, relaxing and being comfortable there, on the water.

And I realized that I cast with my whole body, by instinct. When I strip line and cast, backward and forward, releasing more line, until finally I let go of the line and drop my rod to the surface... as the rod stops and the line streaks out straight, so do my feet. Out of the water, toes pointing straight ahead.

Some people take photographs of their feet on the world, wherever they happen to be. Standing on a boardwalk, or in the sand, or on the cobblestones of Europe.

As soon as I figure out how to fly cast while also taking a picture of my feet coming out of the water...  I'll be sure to post it here first.


Sage wreath

I've made one and only one dried wreath in my life, during a class at an herb farm that's been gone for years. My friend Ruth and I went together, and had such a good time. The Fat Hen Herb Farm was close to town, but definitely in the country, thanks to a zoning pocket that protected small horse farms and a few ground-breaking organic farms.

Our class was out-of-doors, on picnic tables under the orchard trees. One table held boxes of different kinds of dried flowers and herbs, beautiful subtle colors and also bright strawflowers. We each got a straw wreath to build on, wrapped in nylon thread. Our instructions were few (actually, two): Choose one type of herb or greenery to start with, and cover the straw base so it was completely hidden. Then add more flowers and herbs to add interest. Tuck stems securely behind the nylon thread that holds the straw base together, and make sure to work in the same direction, so the twigs "flow" around the circle of the wreath.

My sister Laurie had a cottage business for years, growing flowers and herbs, drying them, and making wreaths. My favorites were made from hydrangea blossoms, gorgeous blues and purples, interspersed with baby's breath. I loved the subtle play of color, and wanted that for my own wreath. I chose grey-green sage for the base of my wreath, loving the way the stems of sage curled as they dried. To complement the pale green, I chose subtle colors purple and white statice, stalks of pale grains, and cute little wheat colored seed pods.

When we were finished, we walked around and looked at everyone's finished wreaths. I was amazed at how creative everyone was, and was really glad I learned how to do this for myself. My garden has a lot of herbs and flowers that I can dry to make more wreaths for my country house.

Cottage crafts are coming back into style now, but my wreath has hung on the wall of my antique farmhouse from the day I brought it home in 1995, and I never got tired of it. I don't care so much about fashionable decorating styles. I stick to the style that fits my house, the style that helps to make it a home.


Fly fishing diaries | Middle Fork Snoqualmie River

We took my sister and brother-in-law on a little road trip today, starting with breakfast in North Bend and ending with wine tasting in Woodinville. In between, we drove up the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, taking our time, enjoying the beautiful day and equally beautiful river.

There are three forks that merge to make the Snoqualmie River, and the north and middle forks are best rated for fly fishing. We explored the north fork a few weeks ago, and today wanted to see what the middle fork was all about. Out of North Bend, the road quickly turns to gravel, where it follows the river pretty closely, all the way to the source. Most of the river is catch and release, my favorite kind of river.

At a wide S-bend of the river, we spotted a guy fishing from the rocks, and stopped to take a look. When I walked over to the edge, I saw that there were actually four guys fishing here, each on an isolated boulder or hump of land, with no easy path along the shore. To get down to this spot, this fly fisherman had to climb down a steep boulder field between road and river. then scramble out to the edge. He sure found a beautiful place to fish.

For this budding fly fisherman, it was the perfect summertime view. That's why I chose this photo for my August header.


Marble and wire ornaments

Last May I found a really cute copper wire and marble ornament in an Idaho geocache, and it hung from the rearview mirror for the rest of our trip. It was simple, just wire twisted into a heart, one end coiled around a marble.
This little ornament seems perfect for hanging in a window to catch the light, or maybe even outside in the garden. I could see these hanging from the wire of an arbor, or hung from the branches of a tree near the patio. And they'd make beautiful ornaments for a Christmas tree.

First, the materials and tools. Marbles, of course. For wire, I wouldn't use anything finer than 20 gauge; 18 or 16 gauge would be more robust, but harder to work with. You will also need jewelry-making pliers (these have smooth jaws, so they won't mark the wire). I used chain-nose, flat-nose, needle-nose, and nylon jaw (for hardening the wire). You might also want a file to smooth off the cut ends, especially on the hook.

I'd planned to use the copper dangle as a sample, but in truth, I found it impossible to duplicate it. When I started to twist a length of wire using my jewelry making pliers, the wire took on a mind of its own. On the first few I played around with different twists and flat spirals, following the wire where it led, being flexible with the design, adding wire links to hold things together if necessary. When I was happy with the result, I used the wire hardeners to set the wire.

I like silver and brass wire best, but also made them from colored craft wire like red, purple, dark green, and navy blue.

Once I'd made a few simple dangles with marbles, I tried adding a few crystal beads. If you thread them onto the wire, add a tiny twist to the wire above and below to hold the bead in place. Or you can wire beads to loops so they dangle.

Instead of a marble, try using a large faceted crystal bead. They look spectacular wrapped in wire and held between the sides of the ornament. My first attempt was a bit rough, but I really like the idea and will try this again.

Craft wire is inexpensive, perfect for playing with. Once you work out your favorite designs, you can always switch to more expensive silver or copper wire.

Don't be afraid to experiment... you might just like what comes from it. One of my wire hearts came out too short, so instead of dumping it and starting over, I figured out a different design, which has two wings: one wrapped around a marble, the other with bead dangles to balance the weight. I love how it spins around the hook and catches the light.


Hanging with the girls

It's day three of my sister's visit, and today the three Moore girls are gardening at Anna's, helping her get the place ready for their big 4th of July party. It was a gorgeous day, sunny but not too warm (thank goodness, after our bout with 90+ degree days), with beautiful dappled shade for photographs.

Anna gave us our tasks: Kathie tackled the border along the sport court, where the barbecues and food tables will be set up. Laurie started edging and weeding the perennial beds near the back door. And I weeded the rockery and shallow rock steps that lead to the upper lawn, then pulled grass out of the flower beds.

It was so nice to have this time with my sisters, talking as we worked, and enjoying being with Anna and her girls. I haven't seen the Vashon family since Christmas, and the little ones have grown like the proverbial weeds.

Ella flitted among all her adult relatives, sharing her bouncy personality and bright smile equally. She's like a butterfly, never still for long, always on the move. But when asked, she willingly sat down with her baby sister, Vivian, and kept her entertained.

Laurie spread a quilt on the grass in the shade, and the baby was happy to chew on whatever was in reach. I can't say she wasn't distracting... being in reach of a baby and not picking her up? That's hard to resist! Especially when she reaches up with both hands and gives me that serious, "I'm watching you" gaze. She looks so proud of herself when she pulls herself to her feet, then sits down with a diaper-padded thump, smiles and waves her hands.