Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Caterpillar Blood and Lack of Flood

We survived the storm!  Actually, we only had a few small branches down, and a fairly comfortable amount of rain.

We had a beautiful sunset after the storm, too.

Now the storm has passed and with it, the chilly 50 - 60 degree weather.  We're back in the 70s, but I think the brief chill shocked some leaves into starting to turn.  Look how pretty!

As you can see, though, most of the leaves are still cheerfully green.

Our nandina berries are slowly reddening.

One of our front holly bushes has pretty green berries now.  They make great seasonal bouquets.

You can see the range of colors in these acorns, all the way from very pale to darker green, gradually turning to rich chocolate brown.

Just out on our back deck looking for acorns, I found all sorts of little creatures among the leaves.  This teeny tiny daring jumping spider - my favorite! - was only the width of a pencil eraser! 

They are so sassy, and it's really amazing to see the variety of coloration of their abdomens.  Real beauties.

This caterpillar, regretfully, had a fatal injury.  I'm not sure what kind he might be.  I went back and forth between a winter moth and alfalfa caterpillar, but neither are quite right.  Whoever he is, he's a goner. 

Caterpillars don't have blood, of course.  They have a fluid called hemolymph.  This is actually what butterflies push through their wing veins directly after emerging from the cocoon to enlarge and strengthen them.  The same goes for cicadas.  Remember this cicada picture from a few years ago?  When they emerge from the cocoon, their wings are tightly furled.  

The hemolymph is necessary to get the wings ready for flight.  Pretty interesting!

I've done a lot of stitch work this week, but it's all Christmas gifts and therefore off-limits here for a few months.  In the kitchen, I've found an amazing crust-free pumpkin pie recipe at Chocolate Covered Katie.  Not much flour or sugar, but it tastes amazing.  I have a slice every single day.  

Later this week, I'm making a variety of pumpkin truffles.  I'd hoped to send them out to friends and family to celebrate the season, but unfortunately, they need to be refrigerated.  All the more for us!  :)

Have a great week! 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Snips and Snails and Snake-Back Scales

I've had a very productive two weeks!  I finished my little quilt.  I had enough red fabric in my stash for backing and had decided against anything more than a thin sheet of cotton for filling, so it was really a fairly simple process of laying down the backing, centering the filling and top sheet, pinning it, and stitching it on my sewing machine.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  Each square is about 5 inches, I think.

To bind all three layers together, I used light tan thread to stitch a few Xs  in the corner of every other square, right at the seam.  It only took about 30 minutes and is quite invisible!  I love this little quilt and only wish it was big enough for our bed!  :)

I finished my cross stitch pattern and am very pleased with how that turned out, too.

I'm going to frame it soon!

I was so excited about my spider idea last week that I decided to go ahead and try it right away.  I thought that it would be good practice with different kinds of stitches, and I was curious about the photo-to-finished product comparison.

Here's the original photo (not to muddy the waters, but I swapped swapped out the abdomen of this particular spider with another photo of the same spider, because it showed more detail):

I blew this photo up on my computer and used copier paper to hand-trace it from the screen:

Then I used a light box and water soluble marker to trace this design onto fabric.  I worked on it an hour or two every night before bed and got done fairly quickly.  Voila!

 Here's a side-by-side of the two abdomens:

It's not perfect, especially two tracings separated from the original, but I'm really excited about the possibilities. 

I found another pattern repetition today that is an intriguing possibility for embroidery.  I glanced out of my office window and saw this black rat snake on the ground below.

Round pupils = non venomous.  Black rat snakes are great to have around, although Tabitha was hissing and spitting from her window perch the entire time.  I didn't know that cats had opinions about snakes, but I guess it shouldn't surprise me.

All in all, a lovely snake!  But I really loved his scales.  I could see embroidering just this section of his body!

I'll definitely save a project like that for a later date!  

Lots of other wildlife around this week.  The birds, of course, are loving this cooler weather. 

A mockingbird...

(Female) Baltimore oriole...

...and an Eastern phoebe.

Our red fox is back, too, although he still looks awfully ratty...

With October right around the corner, it's safe to say it's almost fall in South Carolina! 

I decided to celebrate yesterday by making two giant cinnamon chip pumpkin scones with a cream cheese glaze.  I blogged about it here in 2011 and basically stick to the same recipe, but cut it in half and throw in a handful of cinnamon chips.  So good...especially in a saucer-sized serving!  

Todd and I have had a few too many 'saucer-sized servings' this year (sigh) and are going to both try to eat healthier foods, but I'm still going to shoot for baking at least once every two weeks...as long as I can give away the extras!

Have a great week!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Spider Backs and Wasp Attacks

The weather here is finally, finally starting to cool off and the wildlife is responding.  From my office window I've observed almost daily a little red fox (with a full tail - he must have been molting earlier and not infested with mange - thanks for the reader tip!) trotting into the woods.  The turkeys have been out and about, and just this weekend I saw a woodchuck ambling down the driveway!  Of course, the Canadian geese are settling in great numbers on the pond every late afternoon.  I love to hear them murmuring on the water at night.

This is the time of year for spiders.  A beautiful spiny-backed orb weaver has spun a web outside my office window.  It's too far off the ground for a picture, but I can watch him while I work.  His web is ingenious.  It puffs and moves in the breeze like a downed parachute, and those intermittent dashes of solid white warn away birds. 

He's no spider, but close enough...a harvestman lurks on a leaf.

On our deck is a large garden spider.  She is collecting her share of those pesky shield bugs that proliferate in the fall and tidily storing them in her web.

I've always enjoyed the pattern repetitions I've seen in nature, from tree bark variations to leaf veins to water ripples.  I have no talent with sketching or painting, but with hand embroidery I have the possibility to take tracings from photos and reproduce designs in thread.  Look at the detail and shading on her abdomen!  This will be my first challenge. 

Look at the abdomen of this little orb weaver!  Yellow, with just a smattering of brown dots.  Really cool. 

Here is another 'pattern repetition' that I'd love to reproduce in thread.  This is a hornworm caterpillar.  A real garden pest. 

See those white things?  Those aren't caterpillar eggs.  They're braconoid wasp cocoons.  The wasp lays her eggs beneath the skin of the caterpillar.  The larvae feed on the caterpillar.  As they mature, they push their way through her skin and spin cocoons.  When they're fully mature, they exit the cocoons and fly away.

Here is a close-up of the cocoons:

See the holes where the larvae pushed through?  Talk about battle-scarred!

If you look closely, you can see 2 larvae, newly emerged from the caterpillar.  I lost about 30 minutes watching them make their cocoons.

I think it would make such a cool embroidery project!  I'll tuck that away for a later date.

The trees have been fairly silent for the past 6 weeks, but birds are suddenly everywhere.  Bluebirds, titmice, catbirds, warblers, and other birds are filling the air with their calls.  Red-throated hummingbirds are in a frenzy at our feeder.  All sorts of woodpeckers, too, are knocking around in the trees.  We had a pair of piliated woodpeckers last week - the largest in the woodpecker family.  Love!

Our plants are responding to the cooler weather too.  Ferns are putting up their new bronzed leaves...

Beautyberries are maturing.

Chives are up!

Our gardenias and one group of azaleas bloom at random times.  They're going full-bore right now.

Now if we can only get to the point where our temperatures are consistently in the 60s and 70s, we'll be set!

Have a great week! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Knee Highs and Apple Pies

I was out of commission for a little over a week, and didn't go outside much.  Restless inside the house, I turned to a stack of projects to keep me busy until I was up and around again.

First, I finished the embroidered quilt square project...the embroidery part, that is.   

Pretty cute, right?  The rooster is my favorite! 

I decided to go ahead and sew the squares together with some random cotton fabric squares from my stash.  It really didn't take very long to iron and cut them.  Stitching them into strips wasn't as scary as I'd thought it might be...

I felt pretty victorious when I stitched all the strips together.  Sure, I still need to put the quilt batting inside and sew on the backing, but it's almost a little quilt! 

I finished a pair of vintage baby almost-knee socks. 

The pattern is from 1912 and has a nice open weave, although it's harder to see when the socks aren't being stretched by a little leg.

 My FAVORITE project, though, is this Carl Larsson-inspired cross stitch pattern.  I love the shapes and the bold colors.  I am absolutely flying through it.

I'm about a third of the way done.  The original pattern is meant to be an upper curtain panel, but I'm sure I'm going to just frame mine.  I'm enjoying it so much!

Yesterday I was finally feeling like my old self again.  Todd has been taking such good care of me - taking care of meals, doing the laundry and dishes, and helping with my business orders (and surprising me with the soundtrack to Grease 2...score!) - so I decided to thank him with his favorite pie.  Now, I have a standard apple pie recipe, but it calls for quite a bit of butter and sugar.  It's delicious, but I wanted to try a different recipe.  I made my usual pie crust but chose an apple pie recipe that called for a sweet crumble instead of a top crust.

I added a cup of oatmeal to the crumble because I can't imagine a crumble without it, but here's the original recipe. 

I made the mistake of really packing the crumb on the top, instead of sprinkling it.  It formed a pretty solid crust.  It was really good, but next time I think I'll wait until 15 minutes before the pie is done before sprinkling - not packing - it on.

This version is definitely Todd-approved, though!

Have a great week!