Thursday, December 27, 2012

Frosty Sunset

The weather turned frosty for our first Christmas at the lake,
but we were toasty by the fire.
Hope everyone's holiday was as peaceful!

Monday, December 10, 2012


I seem to be a natural forager. 
Every dog walk, city or country, is an opportunity to collect pods or bark or driftwood...even the dog (noticing my interest) has started collecting acorns and carrying them home one by one.
The open land in the lake house neighborhood provides a nice place for nature rambles.

Yes, we have a courtyard enclosure at last!  Talk about a long wait...
Anyway, moving forward, we are now ready to grade.

Right across the street from the house is a swath of common ground, a curve of shoreline on the cove side of the penninsula, that is our usual starting point for happy-dog no-leash walks.
Workman forage along here, too, collecting coolers full of pecans.
The ground drops away from the street, and an interesting assortment of finds appear along the beach.

Lots of animal prints - coyote, racoon, shore birds... and even some fish parts.

I think this was a cat fish (?)  It measured almost a yard.
I've heard they get very big.
What about this one?
I had no idea, so I searched on-line for "Texas Lake Fish Images".
This is an alligater gar, the largest exclusively fresh water fish found in North America.
Obviously, this is a baby as they can grow up to 8 to 10 feet (!).
Look at those teeth!
The head is 12 inches - I wonder how big the rest of it was?
Great for sport fishing, not so much for Christmas decor. 
Kye carried it around for a while but was eventually convinced to leave it behind.
I was actually looking for honey locust pods.
Tricky work around wild, unpruned trees because of the thorns.
One of these little ones went right through my shoe.
But the pods are lovely - long and curly and slightly fuzzy.
I think I can work these into several different projects, starting with the wreath for the townhouse.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Red and Blue Vintage Hankie Quilt

The post I wrote about my first hankie quilt has been so popular that I thought I'd put up pictures of the just completed Hankie Quilt #2. 
This is such a fun project for anyone with a collection of vintage hankies looking for a new life.

I started picking up vintage hankies here and there because of the eye-catching graphics.  Once I started laying out my finds to admire them, the idea of turning them into some kind of quilt seemed obvious.
Vintage hankies can be found in so many pretty colors, and with any number of themes.  I love the fact that each artist started out with the same blank square and turned it into something unique!  Serious collectors pay quite a little for a rare hankie - however, the pieces in my little pile were priced between $3 and $5.  I found them in antique shops, on, and on ebay.

My first hankie throw was created from a collection of aqua or soft turquoise colors.  I was wrapped up it in just this weekend, watching the sun rise out on the lake!

Here are the finalists for quilt number two, featuring hankies with red and navy.

 Each hankie was washed and pressed before being attached to its backing with a light weight, double sided, iron-on pellon.  Then I hand-stitched around each side to make sure every hankie would stay smoothly in place during the quilting process.

I played around with placement before stitching the squares together.
The hankies vary slightly in size, but each of the backing squares measures 16" x 16".
The wonderful long-arm quilter who did the work on my first hankie project was sidelined by health concerns. 
My search for another long-arm quilter struck gold when I found Diane Selman at
Her site is so easy to navigate! 
I followed the very clear and simple directions, packaged up my quilt cover, quilt back and edging fabric and mailed it off.  Two weeks later, as promised, my quilt came back...

It was wrapped like a special gift!
Inside was a beautiful throw, quilted in the all-over pattern I had selected from the many design choices offered by

 The task remaining was to turn over the edging and stitch it down.

Here is the finished edge.

And here is the finished throw.  I immediately washed it to soften the iron-on pellon.

It came out beautifully!

Monday, October 29, 2012


We have the most beautiful buzzards living around this lake, big red-heads with wing spans of four feet or more. 
They soar in graceful silence up and down the shoreline, circling back and dropping lower to see what we are up to out in the yard. 
Occasionally they can be seen in groups of a dozen or more, gathered on a neighbors roof.  Hunched in their feather cloaks, they look like a collection cartoon judges.

The buzzards do keep the environment clean - anything edible that washes up on shore, or meets with a accident, is quickly attended to. 

This week I noticed a second, smaller type of buzzard. Looking a bit like large chickens, two of these black-headed buzzards sat out on the pier on Saturday.

And here's one on my neighbors chimney.

We are really enjoying the bird sightings out here! 
This weekend also brought quite a display of water birds involved in group fishing.  Masses of pelicans and cormorants drove the fish up and down the lake.

I wish I had a better lens! 
We just watched a small, charming movie called The Big Year.  It's about birding enthusiasts (Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin) competing with each other to see who can spot the most species in a single year.  The number of birds they chased after was amazing, as was their ability to tell one bird from another.  Obviously they had some very nice equipment and better eye-sight than mine!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Restoring the Finish on Very Old Doors

In an earlier post I described some of the very old doors we bought last year for our new house.
This picture, taken last March, shows the pair we selected for the front entrance. 
Originally old temple doors, they were rescued from demolition India, shipped to New Mexico for sale, and have now finally settled into their new home in Texas.

The doors are made from Neem wood, an evergreen tree from India that is a member of the mahogany family.  The oil produced from Neem is widely used as a biopesticide in organic farming, and Neem wood is highly valued for its insect resistance. 
These doors have had a hard life.
Here is a close-up of the door on the left side.
Grey, dry, weathered wood and the copper insets are completly black.
On their interior side, these doors are have a plain, rough hewn surface that is a glossy, rich brown.
This weekend my project was to begin to restore their exteriors.
I used Restor-a-Finish by Howard on the wood.
It just drank it up.  I could almost hear it!
Here is the door on the right after a rub-down with Restor-a-Finish in the walnut shade.
I have used this product before on stained exterior doors suffering from sun and weather damage, and I really like the way it works, bringing back color and shine without stripping.
Here are both doors, one restored and the other in its original state - quite a contrast!
Hopefully they will have a longer life with some extra care.
Restoring the brass was much more difficult - I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed with brass cleaner. The black stuff was really stubborn. 
My goal wasn't to remove all of the oxidation, just enough to bring out some gleam.  And the brass panels turned out to be so interesting up close, once their character had been revealed.
Each one is unique, a pieced together collection of valuable scraps that are almost paper thin.
The panels on the left hand door will have to wait until next weekend so that my hand has time to recover.
Workers are still milling around the house trying to finish up various projects, but we did unpack enough to spend a few nights (at last!) in this cozy house.
The sunsets are lovely...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dusty Turquoise

 The first color choice for our lake house was made before we ever broke ground. 
Inspiration came during a visit to New York City.
We were at the New York Botanical Gardens, enjoying the spectacular spring orchid show.
The show has been an annual April event for ten years.
The beauty of the orchids was otherworldly, and the artistry of the displays was amazing.

But it was in the permanent display area featuring dry climate plants that we found these subtle shades of a gorgeous greenish blue.

Not true blue, but decidedly more blue than green when compared to the new growth on the cactus.  Dusty turquoise seems like the right name!

Or maybe powdery aqua? 
It's a color that reminded us of shutters in the French countryside, New Mexican garden gates, turquoise jewelry, Greek pots on white-washed balconies, warm ocean water, old Mexican benches...I think I could go on and on pulling up delightful images! 
What they all have in common is climate.

These are warm weather plants and their beautiful color turns up often in warm weather regions.
Here's a handsome prickly garden outside one of the old San Antonio missions.
What a great combination of shapes and textures and color.

Obviously this dusty turquoise is a perfect color for a hot climate! 
I decided to use it inside as a statement color on some of the kitchen cabinets. 
After collecting the requisite fistful of samples from various shops, I settled on a shade called  Seascape from the Valspar collection at Lowe's.
It looks brighter in this photo of the kitchen, but on site it is actually a bit grayer, an exact match for those cactus in the photo above.

Seascape has a warm tone, so it looks great with the saltillo tile and with the mellow Texas limestone.
The interior of the cabinets have been painted a soft yellow to set off the white dishes. 

This color collection turns up again in the fabrics for the dining nook.
And even in some of the moods of the lake...

As of this weekend, we are mostly unpacked!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One Year Later...

 What a difference twelve months can make! 
Although we had a another exceptionally hot and dry summer in Texas, the lake levels are dramatically different. 
On October 10th in 2011 the lake level was 307.49 feet above sea level, and the beach extended past the end of where the boat house was being constructed. 

On October 10th of this year, the lake level is at 311.59 feet. 
Just a bit of beach is exposed along the sea wall.

We have plenty of water to take the boat out.

The wind was warm yesterday, but pretty brisk, so the waves rolling towards the house had small caps of froth.

This is a large enough body of water to have many moods.  It's so mesmerizing, and so relaxing, that it is hard to resist the temptation to just sit down and watch the water...