27 July 2015

Taking a Break

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Life has a way of getting overwhelming at times.  Nothing huge, but just the growing list of demands, including some decisions that need to be made, projects that need completed, and the general busy-ness of life.  Combine that with August, which is shaping up to be a very busy month with my oldest son's wedding and then a trip to Kansas City, MO for the CQI retreat, in addition to the usual work and life commitments!  To put it simply, I need to find a way to create some space in my life right now and so I am going to take a break from my online life for a time!

Blogging is one of the joys of my life though, so I will be back!  Between now and mid-September however, I will be blogging infrequently if at all.  I do so appreciate all your kind thoughts and wishes and look forward to blogging with a renewed spirit and hopefully much to share in September!   

Blessings and Peace to all! 

09 July 2015

May Block for CQJP 2015

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I had hoped to be caught up with my CQJP 2015 blocks by now, but it's going a bit slower than I would like!  This is my block for May!  

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Each block starts off a little differently, some with the main motif, others with a seam.  This one started with the curved stems with pink and yellow flowers.  There wasn't much pink fabric on this block, so I knew I needed to pull it through the rest of the block in order to help it blend with the other blocks.  To the right, I stitched a variation of one of my favorite feather stitch patterns.  In-between the two, I used a vintage seam pattern using a chevron stitch and straight stitch in a variegated thread.  I love the way it turned out and can tell that this will be a favorite!  

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At the bottom of the block, I stitch a fly-stitch seam with lazy daisies added to create leaves and them some beaded flowers.  Above it, I did a layered chevron stitch with some SRE embroidered flowers.

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Buttonhole stitch is one that I don't use very often, but I've found so many variations that I am determined to play with it a bit more.  It layers so beautifully with other stitches such as this herringbone/cretin stitch combo.  I also used cretin stitch to hold this block's bit of rick-rack in place and used more lazy daisies for leaves and a variety of beads as flowers. 

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I've really come to love medallion type motifs.  They lend themselves to so many possibilities! In the upper right corner I added a half medallion, once again trying to bring some of that pink through to the rest of the block.  Below it, I used another favorite seam motif.  The green turned out to be too dominating and I was able to lighten it up a bit to bring it into harmony with the rest of the block by adding the lighter green beads.  

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The seam behind the main motif needed some embellishment as well, so I added a subtle feather stitch variation known as the MaidenHair stitch.  It provided just the right element of interest.  

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Along the top of the block I added a vining stitch with lazy daisies - and once again, a bit more of that bright pink! The combination stitch below is one that I found from Sharon Boggin's blog.  It took me a while to figure it out, but it is layered with herringbone, chevron, straight stitches and has added fly stitches, lazy daisies and bouillon stitches.  

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For the central motif, I wanted to add some more of the little Mokuba ribbon flowers and also some leaves.  I just love using this ribbon!  To finish it off, I added a needle-woven sunflower type flower.  It's a little simpler motif than some of the others that I have done, but it still balances well with the rest of the blocks!  


03 July 2015

Happy Independence Day!

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As I was working in the yard this evening, I was treated to an impromptu parade coming down the street!  One of the local high schools is just a couple blocks away and the band was practicing for tomorrow's Fourth of July Parade!  What fun to see all these kids out having a great time celebrating! 

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The music was great and I loved that so many of the kids had dressed up in patriotic garb! 

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The Greeley Fourth of July Parade is a big one and goes on for a couple of hours with bands, floats and usually a fair amount of military flights down the parade route.  People stake out their spots on the parade route a couple weeks in advance in order to get the best spots!  I loved that I had this wonderful preview right from my own yard!  

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The garden is blooming gloriously!  I was able to pick this lovely bouquet for one of my DIL's last week!  

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This is what the back yard looked like when I moved in back in 2012.

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And this is what it looks like today!  I'm so very happy with all the landscaping and house work that we were able to accomplish last summer!  What a difference it makes! 

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I did a bit of rearranging of the patio furniture today and set up a nice sitting area where the table used to sit.  I think I'll use it much more with this set up! 

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The roses continue to bloom beautifully!  I've got a few new plants to tuck amongst the roses - mainly some bee balm and some pink lupine.  A couple weeks ago, I planted two flats of white Wave petunias and they are already blooming and growing wonderfully! 

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The pink Boscobel rose at the end of the bed is such an amazing rose!  It blooms non-stop and with such wild abandon!  Next year, I hope to add another of these to the opposite end of the patio.

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Isn't it just glorious?!  And such a lovely sweet scent! 

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The fountain is also back up and running for the summer.  The fountain will help to keep the mosquitos at bay and it adds such a lovely soft backdrop of sound to the patio!  Now that the rains have slowed down, the mosquitos aren't as bad and I was able to sit on the patio for a couple of hours this evening!  The perfect end to a lovely day playing in the garden! 


28 June 2015

Out and About in Colorado

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As has become my custom, I drove through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on the morning after my last shift at work this past week.  It's a lovely way to start my days off and helps me make the transition from working nights to a day schedule.  It had been a couple of weeks since I last visited.  What a transformation!  So many wildflowers in bloom and trees which were just thinking about leafing out were now in full leafy splendor!  The wild yarrow was especially lush and beautiful. 

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Throughout the Refuge, the Western Kingbirds were abundant!  Such beautiful birds!  

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The Bull Thistles have an architectural beauty to them.  Stunning.  It's too bad that they are also considered a noxious weed as they can take over huge patches of ground rendering it unfit for anything else to grow.  The tiniest bit of root left in the ground will take hold to create many new plants.  I've dug and dug and dug more than my share of various noxious thistles out of the yard of every house I've lived in here in Colorado.  Beautiful, but difficult! 

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All around the Refuge, there are thickets of short locust trees.  What a delight to see them festooned with these beautiful sprays of pink flowers!  

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There are several large and small ponds on the refuge.  In winter, they were filled with a huge assortment of waterfowl.  Now they are quiet for the most part, hosting swallows and redwing blackbirds primarily.  

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On one lake however, there is a contingent of American White Pelicans and several Cormorants.  When I look at Pelicans, it makes me in awe of the creative talents of God!  For such large ungainly birds, they land with hardly a splash and to watch them fish in a flotilla is a ballet of grace and beauty! 

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Wild flax is abundant in the grasslands of Colorado in the spring and early summer!  Such ethereal beauty! 

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I'm not sure if this is a female Western Kingbird or another variety of flycatcher.  So graceful and posed so beautifully on last year's seed stalk heads! 

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The dagger grasses are growing!  I love how lacy and delicate they are against the sky.  But walking through those grasses... beware!  The little dagger tipped seed heads loosen at the slightest touch and have tiny barbs to work their way into any fabric (or skin!) that brushes against them!  

While I was visiting the refuge, I remembered that my youngest son Zach and I were to go hiking the following day.  The news had posted that there was a possibility of seeing the northern lights from the mountain passes, something that I have always wanted to see.  Knowing he wasn't working that night, I called and we planned an impromptu camping trip in order to attempt to see the lights!  

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Being mid-week, early in the season, we were able to find a camping spot at the Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park!  It was a lovely evening and we had a nice view of Longs Peak from our campsite. 

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It didn't take us long to set up.  Zach was great at getting a fire going and finding a creative way to grill our dinner over it without having to clean off the grating first!  (Tinfoil is the key!)

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We watched a Mule Deer around our campsite for a while.  Then suddenly she made a little call and leaping to her side was a tiny fawn, still in spots!  I'm certain it had been in hiding very close to us the whole time! 

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We enjoyed our dinner (chicken apple bratwurst - which was yummy!), enjoyed the evening light through the trees, and then we gradually made our way up Trail Ridge Road where we found nice view of the northern skies.  Unfortunately, as evening fell, so did the clouds, so even if there were northern lights, we weren't able to see any.  It was a lovely adventure anyway! 

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The next morning, we rose early, took our time fixing breakfast on the camp stove and packing up our gear.  

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Zach had some afternoon appointments and so we just did the short walk around Bear Lake.  So gorgeous and one of my favorite spots!  

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Zach captured a decent photo of me!

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The Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels are in abundance throughout much of Rocky Mountain National Park. Such posers!  Always looking for a handout even though people are not supposed to feed them. Love watching them and their antics! 

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Another view from Bear Lake.  This is the same view that is on the back of the Colorado Quarter.  The tall peak on the left is Longs Peak and the notched ridge to the right is known as "the keys".  

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The Globeflowers were in glorious bloom! They loved the damp side of the lake!

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I loved how this tiny pondlet next to the main lake was like a mirror, while the lake itself was well rippled with the wind.  Like a magic gateway to an alternate universe.  Certainly a fairy realm if ever there was one! 

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The wild roses were blooming like I've never seen them before!  Such lovely large blooms in great profusion!  Would love to add some of these to my garden! 

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I opted to stay a second night on my own and once again was lucky enough to find a campsite!  After the 4th of July, it will be next to impossible to find a campsite, so I was very happy!  Even happier when Zach stayed around long enough to help me set up camp!  When I took this photo in the evening, I was visited by yet another mule deer!  

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After setting up camp, I went out wandering the park and did several watercolor sketches.  This one was of the woods at Endo Valley Picnic Area where I stopped to eat my lunch.  Love these deep woods and the spots of sunlight that come through and light up areas of the grass.  Little islands of citron colored glades hidden in the dark forest. 

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This is perhaps my favorite watercolor sketch ever.  I remembered that I had packed along some watercolor mask, something I have been wanting to learn to use.  It helped to keep bits of the paper a bright white and I could apply paint with abandon and yet preserve them.  This meadow area, adjacent to an aspen grove has long been a favorite spot.  I've painted it before in oils, though I didn't include the meadow.  At first, I thought all those little pink tinged white flowers were clover blossoms, but they turned out to be a type of tiny aster growing among the grasses. 

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I also stopped at another favorite spot at the west end of Horseshoe Park.  The valley ahead is Endo Valley and the picnic area is at the foot of the mountain shown.  Truthfully, this is my least favorite sketch of the day, and as I look at it now, I see where I could do some things to improve it! Regardless, it was a wonderful afternoon of sketching and I am so very grateful to have had the time and opportunity to do so!  

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At my campsite, I enjoyed the rock cairns that someone had built.   They seemed very fitting somehow.  

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The sunset was lovely with the sky all shades of pink, peach and lavender!  I ate my dinner by the campfire and enjoyed the stars and moon and watching the campfire glow until I'd used up all the wood we had brought.  What a lovely evening to simply sit and enjoy this lovely world that God has created! 

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After packing up camp the next morning, I decided to drive up Trail Ridge Road again ~ this time in the daylight!  The sky so blue and the clouds so white!  Just magnificent views of the mountains and forests!

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At the top of Trail Ridge, I was on and even level with the clouds!  Spectacular views!

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There was beauty at my feet as well!  These tiny white flowers might be all of ⅛" across!

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The buds of these flowers, not yet in bloom had an otherworldly look to them!  Fascinating!

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The mountain peaks, still bearing a good coating of snow were simply magnificent!  Years past, the kids and I hiked from the valley below, up across this ridge that you see in the foreground and to the Alpine Visitor Center (out of view to the right).  It was quite a hike and one we all have fond memories of!  

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One of the day's treats was watching these two Bighorn Sheep rams crossing the snowfield!

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Not far away, this ewe, still shedding her heavy winter coat, was nearly invisible as she blended in with the  rocks around her.  That patch of brown dirt must have some mineral or salt that she craved as she stayed for the longest time, licking and tasting! 

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Another well camouflaged resident of the tundra that I always love to see was the Pika!  Smallest member of the rabbit family, it lives at these high altitudes all year round.  All summer long, it is busy harvesting plants and creates little haystacks of food for the times during the winter season when it comes out of hibernation.  

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As I headed down the mountain, the clouds lowered and covered the peaks.

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In the lower levels of the park, the meadows are incredibly lush and green, filled with wildflowers, insects and birds!  I spent two days and two nights in the park and just a few hours at the Refuge, but it felt more like a week of rejuvenation!  Truly a blessed time! 

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

Psalm 24:1

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