Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tole Painting Finish Line

The Create 52 Challenge I'm doing to try to create at least 52 things this year (one for each week of the year) has been inspiring.  It's pushed me to keep creating.  And, it's pushed me to finish up a lot of creative projects that have been sitting around waiting to be worked on or to get their final touches.  I've really been on a roll over the past week as I've finished up about half a dozen projects.  Woot!  The excitement of that must be why I finally pulled out and finished this project...

It's a tole painted planter box (the box is attached to the back of the little cottage).  I painted it in a class many years ago.  MANY years ago!  All that was left to do was to accent it with hand drawn black lines around the windows, leaves, etc.  Why I never finished it?....I have no idea!  Crazy, huh?!

This is how it looked all these years...

It feels good to FINALLY have it finished.  I'm not crazy about it though.  But, I have a feeling I may be able to find someone who is.  So, it's going in my gift box and it'll be ready to be gifted for a birthday, special occasion, or Christmas.

This creative accomplishment counts as number 20 in my Create 52 Challenge.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Argyle Color Pooling

I started a project a recently just to try a new and interesting technique.  It's called, "color pooling".  Multi colored yarn is stitched in such a way as to produce an plaid or argyle-like pattern.  I researched the internet for patterns, videos, blogs, and tutorials that explained how to do it.  And, after a couple of tries, I finally figured it out.

I can't say it's easy.  And, I can't say it's fun either.  It requires constant attention as to where the colors are landing and lots of ripping out, adjusting of tension, and re-stitching to get the pattern to work and continue to work.  So, it did end up in a short time out.  However, on my trip to Arizona about a week ago, I only allowed myself to take projects that were in progress.  As much as I wanted to stick to my norm of taking lots of project possibilities to start new things, I knew that this was the best chance of getting some projects completed.  It worked!  I completed two shawls and made big progress on this during the trip.  So much so that I continued to work on this scarf and finished it up this morning.  Hooray!

I decided to make the finishing end match the starting end...

I realized while taking photos of the scarf that the pattern matches up when it's draped around the neck.  That's pretty cool!

Of course, it has to work as a of my favorite ways to wear a scarf...

I used about a skein and a half of Red Heart Super Saver Multi yarn in the Icelandic colorway and a size J hook to crochet this.  It turned out pretty.  And, even though the process wasn't very fun, the results are kind of magical.  

This will count as number 21 in my Create 52 Challenge.

Mandala Monday

A few years ago, I found a blogger that was making mandalas with little pieces of nature...leaves, flowers, pods, seeds, etc.  I decided to give it a try.  It was fun, creative, and relaxing to be outside just focusing on nature, shapes, and colors.  I haven't made any in a while and with everything growing and blooming so much it seemed like a great time to do it again.

Wishing you a marvelous, Monday!

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Granite Dells

My husband and I went to Prescott, Arizona last week for a little get-away and for him to participate in the Whiskey 50 Off-Road mountain bike race.  We love Arizona and have been exploring more and more of this beautiful state.  The Prescott area was totally new to us.  Like much of Arizona, it didn't disappoint.  It's incredibly beautiful and the higher elevation makes it possible to visit and enjoy even more of the year than some of the hotter parts of the state.

We stayed at Point of Rocks RV Campground.  They were very nice and there were full hook-ups for our RV.  The location of the campground was great!  It was right next to the Granite Dells.  We even got a campsite with a view of them!

Before our trip, I'd Googled Prescott and pictures of The Dells popped up.  The photos were jaw droppingly beautiful.  The opportunity to camp right next to The Dells and hike in them was wonderful.  We quickly headed out for a walk after setting up camp to check out the area and see some of the beauty.  It was stunning!

This is a view looking out over Watson Lake...
Click on any photo to see it larger.

There were lots of wildflowers.  Many of the bushes with these flowers were completely encased in flowers.  It was amazing!  Here's a view of just a few that aren't quite so crowded...

The cactus were blooming...

We scoped out the area to figure out where we wanted to hike the next day.  And, what a hike it was!  We hiked around Watson Lake and through the Dells.  It was amazing!  It was beyond words!  It was so beautiful and so varied!  And, SO fun!

There were more beautiful wildflowers...  

There was the beautiful lake (like in the top photo) and at one far end of the lake was a wetland area that made me feel like we were in the South.  It was gorgeous!  I just couldn't stop saying, "WOW!".  There were benches here and there throughout the hike to sit and take in the beauty.

One section of the hike went along a Rails-to-Trails path where old railroad tracks are turned into a trail for biking and hiking.  That was cool to finally be on a section of something we'd only read about and seen photos of.

The rest of the trail wound around, over, and through giant granite boulders.  At one point, we turned a corner to see lush green.  The trail went down into it and along a stream.  At the top of the stream was a roaring outflow of water coming from the center of the dam.  It was a surprise as we didn't realize we'd be seeing water besides the lake.

We came upon this sign as we neared the end of the hike.  It made us laugh but it wasn't joking!  It was a steep climb up granite boulders.  What was also funny was that both ways were just about as steep.

It's really hard to tell the scale of these boulders in photos or by looking at them from a distance.  They are HUGE!

There's a section high above the lake and near the dam for more incredible views.  That's my awesome hubby!

We saw a skink that was olive green with a red head and neck.  We'd never seen anything like it and had to look it up when we got back to camp to figure out what it was.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a photo of it.  It quickly ran away and hid from us.  We also saw a garter snake crossing the trail. There were lots of lizards. And, we saw lots of beautiful butterflies.  I did get a photo of one of them...

I could post a lot more photos but none of them truly capture what we saw and experienced on our six and a half mile hike.  It turned out to be one of my all time favorite far.

It counted as number 18 in my 52 hike challenge.  My ankle did great!  Yay!  And, I was able to wear my old hiking shoes.  I'm going to try my boots on again and see if my ankle is ok wearing them yet.

Hubby had a blast doing the race.  He rode 54 miles in about six hours.  He said there was a lot of steep climbing involved but he'd trained hard and enjoyed it a lot.

We explored the town of Prescott a bit.  There are lots of antique stores and restaurants, and a few saloons left in the famous Whiskey Row.  We went to the Palace Saloon on Sunday for a drink.  We even saw old time western dudes walk in...complete with guns on their hips.  We had a great time in Prescott and plan to return again someday.  Maybe next time I'll even visit some of the yarn shops in town!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Two Finished Shawls

I finished up two projects this week.  Hooray!

First was this fun shawl knit with Caron Cakes yarn in the Blueberry Kiwi colorway.  This yarn is so nice to work with.  It's soft, has very few to zero flaws in it.  And, I love that I can get different color stripes without changing yarn and having ends to tuck in.

It took about one and a third skeins to make this soft, squishy, roomy shawl.  I used size 10 circular needles.  The pattern is the "Coffee Shop Wrap"...a free one on Ravelry.  I didn't follow the pattern exactly.  In fact, I only followed the beginning and the very end.  I did the eyelet rows whenever the yarn changed colors and had gone across one whole of the row that knits all the way across.  When I started the second ball of yarn, the blue/periwinkle stripe was thin.  So, I pulled out the little bit of green in the center of the second ball and started with the blue to make that stripe a little thicker.  The final stripes of color ended up skinny though.  But, I just went with it on those.  The tassels are a fun touch.

The second shawl I finished up had been in the works for a while.  It was a de-stashing project I'd started almost a year and a half ago.  It's a crochet pattern called, "The Original Half Granny Square/Shawl".  It's another freebie on Ravelry.  I used a size J hook and about 12 skeins of Silver Creek Yarns Space Dyed BFL in the Bordeaux colorway.  I made it really big so I could fold over the top (the long edge) to create a cowl/turtle neck and wrap it around with plenty to cover the tops of my arms.  The colors are much richer in person and it's quite pretty.

Selfies are hard to take!  I must have taken a couple dozen pictures trying to get a decent shot of the shawl and one that I was ok with.  It probably would have worked better if I'd waited until later in the day when the light wasn't so bright.  But, I was anxious to post my accomplishment.  It feels extra good to finish projects that have been around a while.

I finished up these projects while on a trip to Prescott, Arizona.  More on that in the next post. :-)

Hike 16

Number 16 in my 52 hike challenge was up in the mountains.  I was still a bit unsure of how my ankle would do after twisting it a few weeks prior.  So, we chose a trail to hike that wasn't very technical and wasn't very steep.  I wore my running shoes because my hiking boots were still uncomfortable on my ankle bone.  My ankle did great!  Hooray!  We hiked over five miles that day.

We had expected to see a lot of people because the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is popular.  Luckily, there weren't very many people up there that day.  The weather was perfect, the birds were singing, the trees were sprouting new leaves, flowers were blooming (we even saw daffodils), and...a special and rare treat...the streams were flowing. They were flowing so well that the sound filled portions of the trail like a big, beautiful song.  It was wonderful!  Hooray for all the rain we got in California this winter! 

There was switchback section of the trail where there was a small waterfall a few yards up the hill from the trail.  We hiked up to see it and saw a Western Rattlesnake warming up in the sun.  I was a bit surprised by the place it decided to snuggle into as pinecones don't seem like they'd be comfy.  But, it was very content.  I saw it's eyes look at me but it was perfectly happy where it was and had no plans of moving.  So many people are terrified of them.  And, yes, they can be dangerous.  But, they don't want to be bothered by us any more than we want to be bothered by them. As long as hikers are aware and watch out for them and keep a safe distance everyone will be fine.  They're an important part of the ecosystem and help keep rodent populations in check.

Speaking of things that need to be kept in check.  How about this....litter!  I've been finding more and more litter on trails and in nature.  On this hike, we found several bags of dog poop at the end of our hike.  They were sitting just a few yards from the trailhead and just a few more steps away from a trash can.  Why that person or those people didn't take the few extra steps to finish the job just boggles my mind!  I've heard others complain about finding poop bags on the trail too.  It's great that people are picking up their poop but that's only half of the task.  It needs to go in the trash!  I just don't understand what people are thinking when they do this!  I care about our planet and the experience we want when we go into nature....for it to be clean and beautiful.  So, when I see trash on the trail or poop bags I can't just walk by and leave it.  I know of other caring people that feel the same way.  Everyone needs to be responsible and not leave things like this for others to do.

A video was posted recently of a problem in our local mountains that was created by those who went up to play in the snow over the winter....trash and broken plastic sled pieces all over the mountain.  It was unbelievable to see how much was left behind and how wide spread it was.  They've been having clean up days and some residents have been going out for an hour or more every single day to try to get it all.  They said that it's so bad they're not sure they can ever get it all picked up.  So sad!  So ugly!  And, so bad for wildlife and our beautiful mother earth!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

52 Hike Challenge

I love hiking!  So, when my daughter told me she was going to challenge herself to 52 hikes in 2017, one for each week of the year, I just had to join in the fun!  It's such great inspiration to get out there regularly and do something I love and get fit!

We started while she was home on winter break.  Our first hike was a nearby trail that is short and steep.  It's such great training that I decided to try to do this trail once a month.  It's called Monserate Mountain Preserve and it's in northern San Diego county.  The views are amazing!  You can see the ocean on a clear day.  There are beautiful hills all around.  There's a box at the top with notebooks for hikers to write their names, notes, etc.

My second hike was very short but I counted it anyway.  It was a small hill in Tucson that overlooks the city in almost every direction.

Hike three was with hubby.  The destination was a waterfall in San Diego county!  That's pretty amazing to see in Southern California after years of drought!  It was beautiful!

I was sick for the fourth week but managed to do a short hike in the hills above our little town.  Our dog, Salsa, came along too.  The surrounding mountains were covered in snow!  Beautiful!

Hike five was at Monserate again.  Hubby went with me this time and we made it a little longer by taking a different way back from the top.  That added another mile or so.  There were stairs in a section of the east/back side.

Hike six was to Eagle Rock.  It was longer than the previous hikes in my challenge.  And, it was oh so beautiful!  Here's the eagle shaped rock at the turn around spot.  The rocks are huge!

The landscape was just starting to turn green from all the rain we were getting.

Part of the trail meandered through beautiful, old oak trees.

Other parts of the trail went across open grassland.  It was beautiful!  Much of the trail was part of the famous Pacific Crest Trail.  That was exciting to hike on that!

Hike seven was in Tucson!  We started out just before sunset and finished with our headlamps in the dark.  Fun!  Here's a cool silhouette of hubby.

Hike eight was back to Monserate and the flowers were really starting to pop!

I got a pic of a bee enjoying one of the flowers...

Hike nine was to the beautiful Santa Rosa Plateau.  There are vernal pools there and they are very full this year!  Yay for the much needed rain!  There are walkways over the water.  It's fun to look into the water and see fairy shrimp, tadpoles, tiny frogs, and an occasional little snake.

We saw a chocolate lily that day!  We've heard they're rare but we do see them now and then.

On the way to the preserve, we stopped to see a local poppy field in full bloom!  Gorgeous!

Hike 10 was on Mount Palomar.  It's an area we've been curious about but had never hiked.  We were surprised to find a little pond up there, small streams, and even deer!

Hike 11 was back in Tucson with my daughter.  We decided to try Pima Canyon Trail.  We were stunned by the beauty!  There were SO many flowers and it was GORGEOUS!  Pictures don't come close!

Hike 12 was also in Tucson.  We hiked to Seven Falls by Sebino Canyon.  We hiked eight and a half miles that day.  And, I did it in my brand new boots!  It was awesome!  No pics of the falls though.  The falls area was filled with hundreds of people.  That doesn't make for great photos.  There was added interest that day as we saw a woman injured on the trail on our way up.  On the way down we saw that the rescuers had reached her and her family.  We saw search and rescuer people on their way up all along as we headed down.  Here are two that were going up on horses.  The injured woman was later airlifted in a Black Hawk helicopter!  It was a good reminder to be very careful.  And, that if you ever get hurt on the trail that help arrives slowly and might cost a LOT!  I hope she was ok!

I wish photos could come close to how stunning the landscape was with all the flowers.  It was amazing!

Hike 13 was an evening hike back up Monserate.  There were even more gorgeous flowers this time.  Here's one of them...

Hike 14 was in Anza Borrego to Maidenhair Falls.  It's a hike we've wanted to do for a long time.  It was hot that day but gorgeous and the hike was a ton of fun!  There was a lot of way finding and climbing around, over, and under giant boulders to some desert oasis' with palm trees and lots of greenery, and ending at a 20' waterfall.  Ahhh!...Refreshing!

Unfortunately, I twisted my ankle pretty badly on the way down.  I eventually made it to the car but had to rest it for a couple of weeks before I was able to try another hike.  Luckily, I was one hike ahead in my challenge.  That gave me time to let it heal without getting behind.

Last weekend, I went for my first hike after resting my ankle.  It felt SO good to hike again!  However, it started to hurt a bit after about 20 minutes.  So, even though I wanted to keep going, I forced myself to turn around.  I didn't want to go backward on my progress.  I'm glad I did that because it's feeling better and better.

I'm so excited about this challenge and fully intend to succeed.  It's such a great incentive to get out there more often.  And, hiking is a great way to exercise.  Nature is so good for the soul too!  I'm excited to see all the places this challenge will take us! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Weekend Happenings

How was your weekend?  I hope it was wonderful!

We had a great weekend!  It was productive, successful, and filled with pretty things.

We did some some plant shopping and came home with some beauties.  Here's one of the flowers we got for our front yard.  Isn't it gorgeous?!  I love the colors in this verbena!

We planted these and several other kinds of flowers in our front yard.  Shortly after we'd finished and we were standing in the yard admiring the pretty new flowers and how nice our yard is looking, a hummingbird buzzed around and discovered some of the new flowers.  It quickly started eating from them.  That made us so happy!  I love having flowers that the wildlife enjoy!  In fact, we bought two bushes that are supposed to attract butterflies.  I'll be sure to post pictures when they start blooming.  Maybe I'll even get some butterfly pictures.

Our spring and summer garden is shaping up nicely, so far.  We continue to add more to it.  And, we're already enjoying food from it!  Our lettuce and arugula are doing so well that we haven't been able to keep up.  It's so cool to go out and pick fresh food right before a meal.  I'm excited that the arugula is successful because I love arugula!  It's so tasty!  I usually buy a bag every week or so and they often have a lot of moisture in them and don't last long.  Right now, I get it fresh whenever I want some and don't have to worry about it spoiling in the fridge.  I find myself munching on it whenever I'm in the backyard. It makes great pesto too!

I twisted my ankle a couple of weeks ago and have been resting it since.  It's feeling quite a bit better than it has been.  So, I went out Saturday morning and tried to hike on it.  It felt SO good to get back out there again!  I love hiking SO much!  I was encouraged that it felt pretty good.  But, it started to hurt a bit after about 20 minutes.  So, I turned around and kept my hike short so I wouldn't make it worse again.  It was a short hike (only about 40 minutes) but a hike nonetheless.  So, I counted it for my 52 hike challenge and I'm still up to date.

Here's one of the pretty flowers I saw on my hike...

Probably the best part of the weekend involved our SUV (aka what we use to pull our camping trailer).  About a week ago the brakes locked up and started smoking.  We were near a mechanic/dealer that we thought we trusted and pulled in to have it checked out.  It made sense because the only other way to get it home would have been by tow truck.  Well, to make a long story short, they told us the entire brake system and more had melted and that they needed to do $8,000-$10,000 of work on it.  What?!!!  That's insane!  We thought, explored, and shopped many options and ended up having it towed home.  The tow truck driver told us that he tows cars from that mechanic to other places all they time because that place is so crooked and expensive.  Well, now we know!  And, he looked underneath and didn't see anything melted.  Hubby took it apart, found the problem, and fixed it this weekend for about $200!  Whew!  He's going to change out everything in the brake system and more just to be on the safe side.  However, the total cost will be significantly less, about $1,000!

It was a good experience to go through because we learned not to trust that mechanic.  And, we found out, after lots of shopping, that we still like our Yukon XL better than anything we could find to replace it with.  It has so much of what we want on it.  And, best of all, it's paid for!  Besides that, fixing things is so much better for the earth than constantly throwing things out and getting new.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Almost Free

Thrift shopping and bargain hunting are things I love to do!  I like to stretch my dollars as far as I can.  That can sometimes involve a little creativity.  That's the case with this apron.

I found the start of it at a rummage sale.  It was a rolled bit of fabric that was wrapped with a piece of masking tape and marked twenty five cents.  All I could see was the bottom of the apron and I thought it would make a great dish towel.  When I got home and opened it up I found that it was an apron kit.  Directions were printed alongside the apron pieces.  It just needed to be cut out and sewn together.

I completed the project by only using supplies I had.  I liked the challenge of keeping it cheap and using what I had to de-stash my supplies a bit.  I used buttons from my button jar, white thread, and some left over cotton yarn to make the ties at the neck and waist.  Ta da!  A brand new and cute apron for just a quarter and some time!  :-)