Friday, August 26, 2011

Ya, just in case is right

From Nasa - check out this site for more awesome photographs
I don't know about you, but one of the most annoying things to suffer is a power outage (well, I'm sure there is a lot fact I know it, but right now I'd be annoyed with a power outage)....Especially if it goes on for more than a day and you have well water and sew in your basement for a living. If you don't know why the well thing plays in, it's because you need electricity to actually pump the water out, and so, no water with no power. Of course you can fill up your tub, fill up spare containers, buy water at the store, but this won't give you the usual hot shower in the morning, which I have kind of grown to love. I don't know about you.

Anyway, I'm reading all the info on, checking out our local tv stations to see if they really think this thing is going to create any significant damage. Turns out Patrick Deval has declared a state of emergency already for Massachusetts and Springfield has already canceled school for Monday. Really? And even worse, my Sister and I were at the mall today and the Gap girl told us that The Gap was not even going to open on Sunday....just in case. Gasp! I guess it really IS a dangerous storm. The Gap not open. Cripes!

So, busy person that I am, I'm planning a no power plan of attack. I've got a great new book about the Quilters of Gee's Bend ready,(Jeff just gave it to me!) the new Smithsonian Magazine and Wired. (I've got new batteries in the flashlight too), and I'm making a bunch of items that require handsewing.... mostly the nesting bowls. I'll have plenty to do if we actually do lose power for a week like the Western Mass Electric Company is telling people. It's true, they are calling their customers and telling them to be ready for power outages that could last up to a week. I hope not. Be safe everyone, and don't go plan on going to The Gap on Sunday.

I'm not planning on posting again until after Monday when this all blows over. See you Tuesday :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Badminton Season is Open

requisite pre-game gin & tonic

Yes, my friends, badminton season is officially open at our house. We set up the net today and played a smashing game. I've always been way too competitive at sports like these, not that I'm a big sports nut, I'm all.... but I just love a fun game you can run around swinging a weapon any which way with hardly any rules or guidelines.

I can't remember who I used to play with as a kid, but I know I played, and I remember playing hard, until the sun went down and you could no longer see the shuttlecock, the net, or the other player across the yard. Must have been my Sister, cousins, friends next door, my Mom, someone I can't remember. Probably because I was so fixated on not missing the shuttlecock every time it came my way.

Today was no different (well, except that we only played for an hour and it still wasn't dark when we quit). We played really hard, and reacquainted ourselves with our celebratory stances when we won a volley (mine is a kind of olympic gymnastic dismount landing, except with a racquet in one hand), Jeff has perfected the open legged, one arm raised swoosh.

The gin and tonic waits close by.

I did a search on Etsy for Badminton to see if I could find some vintage shuttlecocks or racquets. I did find this from Dain Larson

And this from IllknowitwhenIseeit

Apparently Badminton has an unconfirmed history. It was either played by the Japanese, or Chinese before Christ was born, or the Greeks or Egyptians, all ancient and all some different form or kind of game. It was called Ti jian Zi in China, but there were no racquets. It later was called Battledore and Shuttlecock, until it migrated to the UK with some British soldiers. It was also played in India and was called Poona. "In 1873, the Duke of Beaufort held a lawn party in his country place, Badminton. A game of Poona was played on that day and became popular among the British society's elite. The new party sport became known as "the Badminton game". In 1877, the Bath Badminton Club was formed and developed the first official set of rules." And so, that's where it got its current name. I wish it was still called Battledore. I can hear the monster-truck-pull-voice-over now!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

OK, so the Mint Jelly demanded its own post

Perhaps taking on two kinds of jelly making in one day is just asking for too much. Yesterday, I made elderberry jelly and following immediately, I attempted to make mint jelly. It didn't set. I'm guessing it must have been in a twist because I devoted a whole blog post, photos and all, to the elderberries, and all the mint got was a tiny mention at the bottom of the post. Ok, Ok...I get it.

So today, after another run to the market for more pectin, I devoted my full attention to the mint. Of course, the mint plants are completely flowered out right now and there are a gazillion bees, hornets, wasps, beetles, and a huge assortment of all kinds of crawly things infesting the whole patch. The recipe demands 1 1/2 cups of packed mint leaves....that's a lot of leaves and takes a long time to collect when you are dodging stinging insects. It didn't help that Jeff disturbed an underground nest of yellow jackets close by the mint patch the day before and has waged complete and entire war on these guys since yesterday, including running the nest over with the car a few times. Needless to say, there are some really pissed off yellow jackets zooming all over the place still trying to place blame on whatever happens to walk by.

My Sister will be happy to know that the jelly is successful this time, so I'll have some jelly to trade for those eggs this week! Yippeee! I'm hoping to make one more batch of mint this week. This recipe only makes 4 - half pint jars....not enough to get hungry bears through the winter. The jars, above, are the results. Only three squat jars left, so there's a regular 1/2 pint mixed in. The mint, when boiled down, turns an ochre color, so I added only one small drop of green food coloring to give it a more appealing color.

This is such an easy recipe, if you manage to follow the directions precisely.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Elderberry Jelly

I've been documenting the elderberries since the early spring and have photographed everything right up to the jelly making as of today (August 20, 2011).

(April) The elderberry bushes have started to leaf out, new growth from last years cutting is starting to look like it'll be a bumper crop this year.
(June) Pictured here on June 27, the blossoms are starting to fall from the clusters. New berries are forming. They are so small, only about 1/8 of an inch when they are fully ripe. Last year we canned a total of 18 ounces of jelly. We waited too long to harvest, and another half of the berries were used in an art project. Check out this Syrup of Violet video, you can do something similar with the juice from elderberries creating color test strips that measure ph levels.
(July 12) A closer look at the forming berries (above). All the flower petals have come off of this cluster. If you look closely, you can see a tiny spider taking his hot afternoon siesta on the bottom of a branch. You have to be careful to not collect the spiders and other bugs and insects with the bunches when harvesting. They will float to the top when you wash them, although I'd rather have them stay outside.
The berries on August 19. Ready to go.

(August 19) We harvested the berries yesterday and started the process of washing, destemming, and going through the pile of teeny weeny morsels to take out any green or not so ripe ones. (if you ever do this, be sure to wash the berries while they are still on the stems, it makes it much easier.) The crop wasn't as prolific as last year and I've done some research about pruning the trees in order to encourage a more abundant crop next year. Elderberries are a lot like blueberries with their care and maintenance. Thankfully there is Simply Recipies where I've gotten both my recipe for the jelly and instructions on care and pruning. This recipe is wonderful, and if you've got access to elderberry bushes, I highly recommend trying this out. You will not be disappointed for all of your efforts. You need to collect about 3 to 4 pounds of berries to yield about 3 cups of juice.

We have several plantings and now that I know more about their care, we should have better results next year, hopefully. Maybe 2013. Jeff said he found a bunch of wild elderberry bushes on a walk in the woods yesterday, so if we are super motivated, we'll go out there and collect a second batch. You need about 3 to 4 pounds of berries for 5-6 8oz jars of jelly. 3 to 4 pounds of these berries is A LOT of berries!

(August 20) Here are some photos of the berries in various stages of processing. I'm planning on getting some Weck jars for next year! They are so clean and them. These are 8oz Ball Jars. I get the flat ones because they are so compact and easy to stack on each other.

Our harvest yielded 6, 8 oz jars! I also made fresh mint jelly today from mint found out in our yard, although I put the sugar in too soon, so I'm not sure if it will set properly. If it doesn't set, I'll try another batch tomorrow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19 - chicks, eggs, a couple things I like, and my September Giveaway

My Sister has chickens. These were they....when they were wee. She just gave me 6 eggs! The little cluckers are laying their first eggs....sweet!

For August Break, 2011

I bought this (below) from Whatnomints! Can't wait to hang it in my's going right next to my sewing machine :)

I Love this piece from Chanabean

I am also loving this yarn from SunriseFiberCo
Also, do not forget that I am holding a September Giveaway! <----see details at this link! You can win this tote/project bag by following this blog and leaving a comment! You can also Like my btaylorquilts Facebook page and leave a comment here....two ways to win!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17

The Bear in the back yard. This guy was right outside :)

Don't forget about my September Giveaway! See below

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

September Giveaway

September always feels like a time of transition to me. It must stem from years and years of getting ready to go to school, new classes, professors, schools, and clothes. Even now, beyond my school years, September feels more like the beginning of the new year to me than January ever has, you can even buy calendars that start in September, so I can't be the only one who feels this way.

Anyway, to mark this fresh, crisp and wonderful month, I'm having a btaylorquilts give away! I'll be mailing out this tote/project bag (see photos below) to the winner, who will be drawn at random from all entries. See "How to Enter" after these awesome photos!

How to Enter:

Two things: follow my blog, and leave a comment!! If you already follow my blog, great, just leave a comment and tell me you follow. OR, Like my Facebook page and leave a comment here (see the link on the right ---> )That's it!

Get extra entries if you make a purchase in the shop! Buy anything valued $18 and over and get 3 extra entries. If you buy a quilt your name goes in 10 times!

The drawing will be held on September 1, 2011!! Start entering now :) and tell your friends!

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15

We were out on the river the other day with the kayaks and got caught in a rain storm. Jeff (latentecho)had his waterproof camera with him and was getting some amazing footage of some weeds under the water, full of fish, and streaming sunlight before the storm blew in. He got some great images of the rain on the water's surface. This morning we awoke to downpours, the morning so dark we wondered if it was still too early to get up. I asked him to put a little rain video together to mark the day. So here it is :) For August Break, 2011.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13

Went to the long awaited Art In The Orchard opening today, at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. I'm including three photos for todays August Break, 2011 entry! Above is a detail from an installation piece by Maggie Nowinski called Recall, Recall. It includes an incredible audio loop, that's "undergone a performative deterioration process." If you live in the area it's worth taking a drive to see and hear it. The loop will play on Saturdays from 1-5 until Halloween.

Zag - by Matt Evald Johnson - taken with my Lomo app. It wasn't this dark and stormy.

Another favorite by Easthampton artist, Susan Halls, "Big Bully Boys Rabbits"

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12

For August Break, 2011
Mushrooms growing from a tree stump in the yard.

august 11

For August Break 2011
On the Connecticut River. It's so low right now that the grasses are on the surface. What an amazing time to be on the kayaks on the river. You can see everything, including thousands of fish amongst these reeds. We also saw a huge mass of water bugs that sounded like popcorn when they were trying to get away from us and bouncing off of each other. So cool

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10

These are not my images, but are from my friend Leah, who I met on Etsy. She bought the purple project/tote bag you see above and these are her amazing photographs of her new bag containing a new knitting project! I haven't heard from her as to how this project is progressing, but the yarn is beautiful.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I've quit my day job

That's right! While it was bittersweet and one of the hardest things I've had to do, I left my position at Easthampton City Arts (ECA) as Coordinator. I've been with the group since its early days and started at 3 hours a week managing the website and encouraging other artists in the community to sign up on the brand new site. It slowly developed into a full time position and the group took on some pretty amazing projects, including Bear Fest 2009! It was one of the most amazing projects I've ever been involved with!

All along the way I've been trying to continue to work in my own studio and also manage a growing quilting/sewing business on Etsy. It became clear over the last year that I could not devote enough attention to any of my work, including ECA, and everything was suffering. Not really suffering, but I was just maintaining each thing at a kind of flat-line level...not really how I like to operate.

And so, I've taken the plunge and am facing the risks head on. BTaylor Quilts is doing great, and it can be better, and that's what I'm trying to devote my attention to. I've also got an exhibit this October at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts and am busily working on new paintings to include in that show (well, if it wasn't so hot in my studio!!) I feel so fortunate to be able to have this time to focus on my own work. It's more than a full time job, it's every waking moment for the most part, but I LOVE it! I've got a new long arm quilting machine in the shop, which is another story (I promise to tell you about shortly!!), and have been busy designing new products, quilts, and brewing other ideas for marketing and getting the word out.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6

We've been watching this enormous thistle plant since early spring (well, it's a tree really at over 6 feet tall!). I was walking around it taking some shots, and look who dropped in :). That's his tongue flipped out in the front!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 4

Bad cat has been found. Missing the entire day outside, Mr. Thomas finally emerged from the forest and has promptly collapsed on the floor.

August 3

Monday, August 1, 2011

August 1

my Mother's bench now resides in my own yard. She would have liked the spot.

The August Break 2011

No, I'm not getting a month-long vacation. I spotted this project on The Curious Pug's blog and it sounds like a fun idea. There are no rules, really, you just try to post a photograph a day. There will be no blog police to verify your compliance, it's completely informal, so why not? You can even start mid-month if you want to. I'm not making any promises, except that I'll do my best. The originator is Susannah Conway and you can find it on her blog, sign up, and get started. It's August 1st today. The hardest part will be choosing what to post.