25 November 2015

Wordless Wednesday

24 November 2015

Paradise Open

When Waterton reopened to the public on Friday, October 30, the weather was not in our favor, but we enjoyed an adventure anyway.

We'd had a few nights of overnight frost and two days of drizzle and rain. I took off work early so we could ride up the canyon before nightfall. I expected the canyon to be jam-packed during Saturday's Indian Summer forecast, and I thought we might have the canyon to ourselves on Friday, especially with the weather.

I also wanted to be able to say I went up the canyon the day it reopened.

The Lizard had just cleaned our muddy bikes, following a very messy ride up Boreas Pass the weekend before. He didn't want to clean the bikes again so soon, so we opted to walk as far up the canyon as we could get and still have time to return to our car in daylight.

We didn't have the canyon to ourselves, but there were miles and miles of solitude. Except for a feisty bighorn who seemed to be upset humans were back on his turf. Either that, or he was working out rutting season anxiety. He butted heads with a tree several times before he turned to us and complained about a headache.

We walked a total of 7.5 miles and enjoyed every step. Every time we walk up the canyon, we see things we miss when on our bikes. This adventure's surprise was a pair of wasp nests right above the dirt road. We'd ridden right beneath them so many times, but we'd never seen them until now.

Wasps nesting so high off the ground typically are beneficial because they aren't aggressive, they eat garden pests, and they pollinate.

Fall colors were outstanding.

Unbelievably, a few blossoms still dotted the landscape.

We returned to the canyon Sunday afternoon after church on our bikes, assuming the crowds would be lighter because the undefeated Broncos were playing the undefeated Packers in Denver. Alas, the perfect weather brought the masses out again en force to enjoy the autumn treasure that had been withheld for two full months. We're all Waterton junkies, and we're thoroughly addicted.

I don't typically like to take pictures of wildlife when they are surrounded by humans, but this display was so humorous in so many ways, I thought my readers might enjoy it. It's not a sight you get to see every day!

23 November 2015

Snowflake Monday

Photo by Brett Atkinson

We were SO excited when Waterton Canyon opened again after eight weeks of being closed due to people trying to take selfies with the bears, I asked my bosses if I could take off early so we could ride on Opening Day before the sun set.

I designed this snowflake the next day.

The third week after I first decided to name some of my snowflakes after Colorado's 14ers (Five years ago next month; can you believe it???), I wasn't able to get out to take a picture of the next flake in front of the namesake mountain. I was so discouraged because I'd come up with this magnificent idea, and right off the bat, I wasn't able to completely follow through.

Initially, I wanted to name that snowflake (which became my Mount Antero Snowflake, just without a picture of it in front of the mountain) Waterton because I could get a picture of the snowflake there. I can't imagine the St. Elmo Pomander being called Waterton now. St. Elmo, the little ghost town at the foot of Antero, fits so much better!

Perhaps it's good I wasn't able to shoot my snowflake in front of its mountain so early on. There have been many, many weeks since when I couldn't escape to the mountains for a picture of a snowflake. I have pictures of the mountains, so perhaps it was never critical to get pictures of the snowflakes WITH their mountains. More important just to get the snowflake patterns done and published, right?

Waterton Canyon is a 6.5-mile stretch of the South Platte River traveling through the foothills of the Front Range and forming the border between Jefferson and Douglas counties. The canyon also serves as the launching point for the east-to-west journey along the Colorado Trail, a 485-mile cross-state trail that runs from Waterton all the way to Durango, Colorado.

Another Waterton has captured my imagination for about 25 years, but I've yet to be able to visit it so far. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was created in 1932 by the joining of the American park Glacier and Canadian park Waterton. I hope one day to be snowflake-inspired by the beautiful vistas of this unique park. Heaven only knows this world needs more peace in a very big way.

More Waterton Canyon photos and a short bighorn movie from Opening Day and our adventure on the third open day tomorrow! And because I'm a Waterton junkie, more photos from the following weekend on Wordless Wednesday!

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Finished Size: 4 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Waterton Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: 12 sc in ring; sl st in starting sc. Don't pull magic ring too tight.

Round 2: * In next sc work 1 sc, 1 hdc, 1 dc, ch 3, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), 1 dc, 1 hdc, 1 sc, sk next sc; repeat from * around 5 times; sl st in starting sc.

Round 3: Ch 9 (counts as 1 dc and ch 6), sk over next picot, 1 dc in joint between petals, ch 6; repeat from * around 4 times, omitting last ch 3 of final repeat; 1 tr in 3rd ch of starting ch 9 to form 6th ch 6 sp of Round.

Round 4: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc over post of tr directly below, * ch 3, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), 3 dc in next ch 6 sp, ch 3, 3 dc in same sp; repeat from * around 4 times; ch 3, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), 3 dc in next ch 6 sp, ch 1, 1 dc in 2nd ch of starting ch 2 to form 6th ch 3 tip of Round.

Round 5: Ch 5 (counts as 1 dc and ch 3), 1 dc over post of dc directly below (or in same sp on repeats), * ch 5, 1 dc in next ch 3 tip, ch 3, 1 dc in same sp, ch 5, 1 dc in same sp, ch 3, 1 dc in same sp; repeat from * around 4 times; ch 5, 1 dc in next ch 3 tip, ch 3, 1 dc in same sp, ch 2, 1 tr in 2nd ch of starting ch 5 to form 6th ch 3 tip of Round.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 6: Ch 5, counts as 1 dc and ch 3), 1 dc over post of tr directly below, * 3 dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 3, 1 sc over next ch 5, ch 3, 3 dc in next ch 3 sp, 1 dc in next ch 5 sp, ch 3, 1 dc in same sp, ch 5, 1 dc in same sp, ch 3, 1 dc in same sp; repeat from * around 5 times, omitting second to last dc, last ch 3 and last dc of final repeat; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 5; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

20 November 2015

Friday Funny

We have the movie. We admit there are serious flaws. Cumberbatch makes a great villain, but he can't hold a candle to Montalban. We wish JJ hadn't trashed the original timeline. Yet we still enjoy rewatching the movie once in a while when it's too cold or electrical to go outside.

This Honest Trailer is better funnier than the actual movie.

Oh, my gosh, there's more!

19 November 2015

My Better Half

About a year ago, my husband The Lizard retired following roughly 30 years in a backup career he used to put himself through college and graduate school. He's never been able to land a job in the field of his dreams due to lack of experience. (How can you gain experience when every job in your field requires three to five years of experience?)

Never in his wildest dreams did he suspect it would be so difficult for a college-educated, middle-aged male to find a new job in a new field when he retired. After much research (and a ton of encouragement/elbowing by me), he decided to try his hands at launching his own business, where he can be his own boss and do something he loves.

I've long thought this move would take him into the world of bicycle maintenance, but he repeatedly warned me it would take up all his weekend time, and instead of cycling with me on our favorite rides and tours, he'd be running the mechanic shop at a stop along the way. Every. Single. Ride.

He's been watching me knit, crochet and quilt for more than ten years now. He sees the joy it brings to both me and recipients. He sees the creative process. He's felt the explosions of imagination on every level.

For my 50th birthday, he endeavored to learn to crochet. After numerous frustrating tangles, he cried wolf. No, he did not cry like a wolf! But he did decide crochet is not for him.

He expressed interest in learning to use the knitting machine I bought used from a graduate student approximately two decades ago, but I've taken the Toyota out of the box only twice and have never tried to use it. I did join a Colorado machine knitting club a few year ago to learn how to use the machine, and I successfully knitted a swatch on one of the member's similar machines. But I've never had the time to really dive into getting my own set up and therefore have not shared much in the way of machine knitting enthusiasm or triumph.

The Lizard fashioned a quilt frame for me when I finally lost patience and sympathy for the splintered and unfinished one I'd inherited from my grandmother in 1979. He's helped me stretch quilts onto the frame, and he's helped me roll up framed Works In Progress (WIPs)to get them out of the way when we have company.

He's often said he would like to learn to quilt, but not by hand. That meant we would have to invest in a long-arm, which isn't realistic for our budget, or I would have to gain confidence in free-motion quilting in order to teach him.

Then something miraculous happened. He found a photo of a rag quilt he loved. Both of us grew up in quilting families that used up what fabric was outgrown or worn out in our own households. Both of us love using up scraps of any leftover project, sewing as well as cycling maintenance.

I have plenty of fabric for him to work with... You know the old saying. She who dies with the most fabric wins. I have more fabric than I can ever use in about six lifetimes. I think I'm winning.

However, there's something special about using fabric you pick out yourself. Especially when you are first learning.

In August, The Lizard picked out a fat quarter bundle for his first project. Three days after its arrival, he was putting the final touches on his very first quilt.

He's getting more and more comfortable with my sewing machine. He still hates my rotary cutter and still threatens to use a box cutter when cutting blocks. He marvels that I allow him to occupy the Design Floor (in the dining room/living room) where I work out my layouts (or playouts, as we affectionately call them).

He never complained when I had a project on the dining room floor for a day or two at a time. Why in the world would I ever complain if he does the very same thing???

I've long had an idea in my head for a logo and name for an Etsy shop I dreamed we'd one day run together. I'm very proud to announce it's time we finally give birth to this baby! Our first "child"!

Introducing... (drum roll, please)... ArroyoLizard. Initially, I wanted to name his shop B.D.Eyes, a cute and logo-worthy moniker. The B. and D. were for Brett & Deborah because this venture would be a collaboration some of the time, and the embroidered B.D. Eyes logo would feature Beady Eyes. Because, you know, lizards have beady eyes, and snowflake creators have lots of beads. We both have an eye for color, we both have an eye for wildlife, and we both have an eye for mountain and desert vistas. Plus, we love to work together. The plan was to have fun creating together.

We'll still collaborate, and we'll still have fun creating together, but The Lizard is doing his own quilting now, all by himself, and it's only fair his shop represents the work he puts into his creations. He's hoping to soon add "mandanas" to his shop. He has a collection of bandanas I've made for him during the last ten years. They are custom made to wear beneath his bicycle helmet so his head doesn't get burn marks from the sun beating down through the helmet vents. He's had enough compliments and interest from other male cyclists to warrant launching his own little mandana factory.

ArroyoLizard will feature creations by The Lizard. When we do occasionally collaborate, such as when he tries his hand at some of my designs, we may open that third shop. With or without B.D. Eyes, I plan to design fabric exclusively for him to use as a quilter. So that will be a joining of our talents, too.

His first few projects have been rag quilts to familiarize him first with my sewing machine, and now with his own. (We invested in a $99 machine earlier this fall when we thought my machine had permanently bit the dust, just as I began teaching him to use it. Thankfully, my 33-year-old baby is still plugging along!) The Lizard has now mastered threading both machines, winding bobbins, reloading bobbins and now is even learning all about tension. I hope to have him free-motion quilting by the end of the year. I anticipate he will have much more confidence than me because he's a good driver and a good cyclist. He can hold the pedal steady, and he can steer! He hasn't spent 20 years being afraid of machine quilting like me. I think he's going to really excel!

17 November 2015

Pulling Weeds

Two years ago when I planted black hollyhocks, specifically for dyeing yarn, I learned hollyhock stalks and leaves, as well as iris leaves, are among the best plant matter for making homemade paper.

I immediately bought an Arnold Grummer Pour Handmold for Paper Making (and later learned it would be cheaper to make a mold, frame and deckle using inexpensive picture frames and window screen), but with autumn photos and an early home snowfall that leveled my garden, I never got around to collecting organic matter for paper-making until this summer.

Hundreds of volunteer hollyhocks were popping up all over the place. I mean hundreds!

One Saturday, I pulled all the seedlings that weren't where I planted them and made my first batch of paper.

Boy, what they say about this being a messy process was so true!

That said, papermaking also was fun. My first sheet of hollyhock paper was a disaster. I think I threw out the pulp and used the cellulose. There wasn't enough fiber to form the paper, and all the beautiful green went right through my screen. No photos because my hands were way too mess; sorry.

Second sheet came out better but did not fill the mold, so the edges were ragged, which actually gave the paper a very attractive appearance, in my opinion. I included a few gorgeous blue flax and lobelia petals in this sheet, and the blue held. !!!!! I planned to do this more often when making decorative paper!

Third sheet was too thick but filled the mold and came out well. For this sheet, I sprinkled in a few Cupid's Dart petals because that was what was most prolific in my garden at the time. The gorgeous shade of purple turned olive green, tan and brown during the drying process, so I won't use Cupid's Dart flowers again, but I do like the way the paper looks.

I also tried sprinklings of blue bachelor button petals. The beautiful cornflower blue held.

I got too anxious to see the paper and removed it from my felt drying station too soon. The paper warped pretty severely as it dried.

No problem! I sprayed the paper lightly with distilled water, put it back in the felts and stacked quilting magazines on top to flatten the sheets (with plastic grocery bags protecting the magazines, of course). I impatiently waited two days, and most of the curvature was flattened!

Warning: Too much moisture can ruin your magazines if you try what I did without some kind of waterproofing!

Homemade Paper

The color of the hollyhock pulp was so gorgeous, I decided to use the rest of that first batch of drained-off cellulose to dye a couple of hanks of cotton yarn mordanted with alum and cream of tartar. Of course, the yarn didn't turn out gorgeous green, and one hank didn't take at all. I soaked the more pastel yellow yarn in last year's avocado pit concoction (ground pits and a glug of ammonia), which had been soaking and solar heating for more than a year. The resulting yellow in the hollyhock hank is so beautiful, it got me back in the mood to natural dye again! I'm pretty happy with the peachy tone I got from overdyeing the pastel yellow with avocado pits, and the plain avocado pit yarn is exceptional!

hollyhock leaf-dyed yarn

year-old avocado pit dye

hollyhock leaf-dyed yarn and avocado pit-dyed yarn

sumac in my yard

My own sumac still produces some of the prettiest natural-dyed yarn!
sumac-dyed yarn

I'd become discouraged in 2014 when my luscious purple hollyhock cotton strips turned gray in a matter of months, even though they were not exposed to daylight. I like color that sticks, so I lost interest in natural dyeing until I began making homemade paper.

fresh hollyhock-dyed jellyroll

one year later

One of my lavender plants and two of my sage plants died unexpectedly during the summer. I boiled the plants, then ground them in the blender with a bit of cornstarch and a bit of scrap paper, and I had the best-smelling homemade paper in the world. Fit for a king!

Boiling the sage and lavender in our kitchen made our whole house smell heavenly. If I had enough lavender, I'd do that again every single week!

hollyhock paper, lavender sage paper, sumac paper and aspen leaf paper

I collected another pretzel barrel full of dried aspen leaves during one of our leaf trips this last October. I tried putting the most colorful leaves onto the paper, and a couple of them held their color.

aspen leaf paper

The end of the gardening season meant I had more plant matter for making paper. I pulled more volunteer hollyhocks and made seven more sheets of paper. This time, I included leftover aspen leaves, maple leaves from our yard, lobelia blossoms, cosmos blossoms, marigold blossoms, poppy blossoms and whole daisies from my garden.

My little six-year-old neighbor loves to help me make paper. She sacrificed an extra lap on a bicycle ride with her dad to help me finish up the last of the hollyhock batch. I let her pick one of my dahlias because we had an overnight frost in the forecast, so it would have died anyway. She liked the red leaves in my backyard, too. With the remains of the hollyhock batch, she made a dahlia and maple sunflower on a circle of hollyhock paper pulp!

Two days later, my latest batch of hollyhock paper was dry, flat, and ready for mailing! My six-year-old neighbor is going to keep her paper. She likes it too much to send it away! She did, however, include these two pieces in a science project to show how leaves change color.

Keira's paper
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