Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Right Spirit

I began a cross stitch for my nephew last year before he was born. Growing up I had a verse in my bedroom that my mother stitched for me, "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance. ~ Proverbs 15:13"

I knew I wanted to do a verse for my nephew. I found a wonderful resource for cross stitch patterns and charts at Wyndham Needleworks. My favorite patterns are from La-D-Da. I bought about a dozen patterns and my first was A Right Spirit.

The pattern says that the model was stitched on 36 count "Nightingale" linen by Birds of a Feather using one strand of embriodery floss over two threads of fabric. I used 28 count evenweave fabric using one strand of floss over just one thread. Mine ended up being a little bit smaller than the model, but I think the finished work would have been too big if I had skipped over two threads on the 28 count fabric. I am happy with how it turned out.

I love the colors in this work. The gorgeous mix of greens in the leaves is so pretty. The rich browns, reds, and oranges are lovely. I improvised on the alphabet at the top. I stitched in my nephew's name and birth date.

There are a few mistakes in the finished work, but Daniel and Susan said they couldn't find them, so I'm not going to tell you what they are! Since this is only my second large work to finish (after many smaller works as a child), I am going to call this one a success!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Week Off

Yep - I took the week off! I can't believe it! Yesterday we did a little Christmas shopping in Vicksburg and Jackson. Today, I cook and bake! I am planning to bake Alicia's Oatmeal Bread. Then, I am making three batches of soup to freeze for winter suppers. A Tomato and Leek soup. A Split-Pea, Sweet Potato, and Kale soup. And a Chickpea and Kale soup. I picked out the kale recipes because I have mounds of mustard greens from my mother-in-law's garden that I am subbing for the kale. Yay! This is going to be a fun day!

An Autumn Walk in the Woods

When the weather turns cooler all I want to do is be outside. I want to take long, quiet afternoon walks where I listen to the trees and the wind and gaze at the blue sky. On Sunday, November 14, the weather was beautiful. With blue skies and cool temperatures, the just-turning leaves in central Mississippi were calling me to take a walk. I'd been wanting to head over to Roosevelt State Park - a short drive from Jackson - but I knew that Chip would not really be up for walking around aimlessly in the woods.

I lured him out to Roosevelt with the promise that the Moccasin Bend Disc Golf Course was one of the best courses in the state. The disc golf course made the perfect autumn walk. I'm not very good at disc golf. I think it is fun, but I can't throw a disc straight. I do like doing things with my husband, so disc golf is perfect for us. I got to gaze at the colors on the trees, and Chip got to play a game he enjoys.
The course winds around the lake in the beginning. My disc ended up inches from the water's edge more than once which made me ponder the meaning of the course's name. I was not in the mood to meet any moccasins that afternoon.

Golden leaves and rusty pine needles swirled together near the bank.

Holes 7, 8, and 9 took us through a deep forest. These were my favorite. I didn't get many photos because my disc kept finding its way into a ditch with banks taller than I am.
The course ends up back on the water where the shots are open and the sky is big, big, big.

Rich autumn colors were reflected on the water.

I am so happy that we decided to head out to Roosevelt. We did walk a few of the nature trails, but the terrain on the trails wasn't nearly as good as the walk on the disc golf course. I would suggest the disc golf walk to anyone heading out to the area as a short day hike.

This Thanksgiving after the turkey and pie, get out and take a walk! Soak in the colors of the season. Let's not rush into Christmas quite so fast. Slow it down and take some time to be thankful for this great, green Earth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pay it Forward: Paid Back!!

It has been more than a year, but I've finally finished and delivered the Pay It Forward gifts! If you don't remember this little game I played with some friends, then check out the Pay It Forward post I did back in February 2009.

It wasn't difficult for me to decide what I wanted to make. I have an awesome botanical field press that I got for Christmas many years ago. Remember that store The Nature Company? Why I didn't choose a natural science career instead of a computer science career is beyond me. I would spend hours in that store reading about fossils and playing with the telescopes and studying the maps... oh, the maps. I am still a map junkie. But I digress... I remember picking out that botanical press at The Nature Company and thinking it was sooo cool.

Over the years I've pressed flowers, leaves , herbs, and ferns using that kit. Also, I've always wanted to try my hand at making decorative paper. So, I combined the pressed flower idea with the paper idea and handmade some pretty blank cards. I purchased plain, blank notecards made from 100% recycled paper from Greenfield Paper Company. Then, I jazzed them up with my own creations.

All of the pressed plants on my cards were grown in my garden. I pressed pansies, ferns, lavender, and daisies.

I didn't have a kit to make the paper, so I made my own deckle using an old wood photo frame, window screen, and a staple gun. By adding dried cilantro and dried onion skins to the paper pulp, I gave the paper some natural color. After the paper was dry, I ironed it flat and cut it to size. On some of the cards, I burned the edges for a natural look. On others, I used decorative scissors.

Pasting the flowers to the paper was the hardest part. It involved special glue, a paint brush, tweezers, and a very steady hand. Given that I grew and pressed all of the flowers and made the paper in the summer of 2009, you can imagine how time consuming it was to arrange the pressed plants perfectly on each card then glue them down just so.

In the end, I had ten cards, just enough for three cards for each of my three Pay It Forward friends.

I made a great new friend by playing this game. Fellow Mississippian and gardener Ginger signed up on my post, and I am so glad she did. She made me a super-cool birdhouse as her Pay It Forward gift to me. I love the birdhouse and even had a bird in it this spring! I hope that my homemade cards live up to that high standard!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pumpkin Parfait with Granola

Casey, a good friend of mine and fellow blogger on A Five-Leaf Clover, has a link to a food blog called Healthy Food for Living. I was browsing through those recipes back in October and decided I had to try to the Pumpkin Parfaits. Mmmmm... Chip and I are big fans of yogurt and granola. With the addition of lightly sweetened pumpkin, I thought these would be divine. And they were!
I took a few shortcuts with mine, and they were still delicious. I have a few cans of organic pumpkin pie filling that I bought on sale at the grocery store last year that have been waiting all year for the perfect recipe. I added maple syrup and a little extra cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice to the canned pumpkin mixture. For the yogurt, I didn't have any greek yogurt on hand - just regular plain yogurt - so I lined a seive with paper towels and poured in the plain yogurt to let some of the water drain out. After 30 minutes of draining in the refrigerator, the regular plain yogurt is thicker and creamier. Then, I made the yummy parfaits. Pumpkin-spiced granola was sprinkled between layers of pumpkin pudding and yogurt. I topped the parfaits with local honey. Yum!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Paddling on the Pearl

On my weekend off we ended up not going camping out at Roosevelt State Park. I really wanted to go, but it was in the 80s - crappy camping weather. I still want to check it out at some point.

Sunday, October 24, we headed to the Pearl River for some paddling. It was a beautiful day, about 11 AM when we finally got on the water. The temperature was already close to 80F, but with the breezes off the water, it felt good. The weather reports said a storm was rolling in that afternoon, so we decided that we'd stay on the water no more than two hours. Putting kayaks up on top of Chip's FJ Cruiser in the rain wasn't something we wanted to try.

We put in at LeFleur's Bluff State park and paddled about 1.5 miles up river. After about 1 mile, we were under the Lakeland Drive bridge. The sky was gorgeous that day. Clouds were rolling in. You can see how dry everything is in these photos. The river was really low and the banks were crisp from lack of rain.

We paddled another half a mile and saw this huge alligator. From head to tail, I would say he was about 8 feel long. My camera is way zoomed in. We weren't really this close to him.

After we saw this gator we were a little freaked out and decided to head back. We knew going in that we would probably see some gators on the river - it is the Pearl after all - but that really didn't prepare me for seeing a live 8-foot gator 30 yards from my little boat. He didn't seem to move an inch as we turned around and headed back to LeFleur's Bluff.

On the way back, we were paddling down river but the wind was at our faces, and it was really picking up. While paddling up river, we were both pretty relaxed, taking in the landscape. While we were returning, our two pairs of eyes were glued to the bank, scanning for more gators. And we did see one more. This guy was tiny compared to the other gator. Maybe 3 or 4 feet long.

In that last photo, my camera is fully zoomed out, so you can see how far away these alligators truly are. Isn't the tail on this one impressive?

We were excited to get out on the water in the middle of the city of Jackson! I'm really not sure if we would do this paddle again, though. The water was fairly gross (trash on the banks), the landscape is a bit monotonous, and the alligators were just too much. I'm not sure what we are going to try next!