Monday, December 10, 2018

The Process: Mystery Link-up, Week 3

Once again quilters who are doing Bonnie Hunter's annual mystery quilt are linking up to show our progress on her blog: Week 3 Link-up.

My big excitement this week is the fact that I actually finished the top from last year, On Ringo Lake. This was my personal requirement if I was going to start a new project, and that has now been accomplished. I am really happy with it. The scrappy variety of my fabrics meshes really well with Bonnie's patterns, I think. Thank you to Steve, who held the quilt off the damp ground so I could take a picture of it in natural daylight.

And on to the Good Fortune quilt. I am planning to switch up the colors: so far red is staying red, blue is going to be green, and green is going to be yellow. Here are some of my yellows in the early stages of this clue. I once again am diving right into the piecing process by grabbing my boxes of strips using Bonnie's Scrap User's System. I can cut the rectangles and squares right away and get started with the piecing pretty quick. Although this clue is going to take a bit more time to complete, I think.
 Knitters have discussions about whether they are more "process" or "product" focused. I am a "product" knitter because knitting takes too long for me to want to invest the time for a product I am not happy with, but I enjoy the process. But I have decided I am more of a "process" quilter: I love the creativity of the process, the combining of fabrics, and because it moves fast (compared to knitting, anyway), even though I like the end product, that's not what makes quilting "fun" for me. That's why I'm not a perfectionist about the occasional mis-matched corners or fabrics that are oddballs. In fact, I like the fact that fabrics from when my 20-something sons were toddlers occasionally show up in my quilts, and the color scheme often has a lot of "outlier" fabrics. It's all a part of the process, and the process gets messy. Kind of like how I need to clear away a lot of junk from my work area.
 You can see a pretty wide range of yellows, and even a few peachy/light orange ones. Since I'm planning on replacing the oranges with blues, this is the clue to experiment with them. I'll probably make a few extras. The Veggie Tales fabric is the one from when my boys were little... somebody had a pair of shorts with Bob and Larry. The basket to the left contains clues 1 and 2. So far we have red, green, and yellow.
 I don't have the "bonus buddy" ruler but I have been marking my second line this way. It's a smidge more than a quarter inch. A hair would be too small, but a smidge seems to work for me. I am not highly scientific in my measurements, but I do usually have a pretty good eye. This is a deboned shirt from a thrift store trip 4 or 5 years ago.
It takes a little longer this clue to mark the squares; then you are sewing four seams on each rectangle/ 2 squares unit. It's a bit of a longer process this week. Here most of my fabrics are older; bugs fabric from about 18 years ago, yellow checked fabric from when I made curtains for the girls' room about 12 years ago, the triangle neutral from last year.
I've made a few units with the green just so I can play with them when we get further along. The process is super fun. That's what keeps me coming back to these mystery quilts every year.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Randomday and a finished quilt top

Oh, I have missed Randomday! During my long blog hiatus I would often think of a humorous event or observation and wish to share it on my Saturday posts, which I then never got around to making. 
 The impetus for starting up blogging is also the impetus for finishing a project left over from early this year, which had languished largely untouched since January. This is the quilt top for On Ringo Lake, last year's Quiltville mystery. There was a lot of seaming to do, and it was all on the diagonal. which meant it had to stay on the family room floor from the time I laid it down (Tuesday night?) until I finished it late last night. There were periodic times when I had to rearrange some of those tiny pieces because the cat messed them up.

Thanks to Steve for holding the quilt up away from the wet so I could get a photo of it in daylight.
This is a collage from last winter when I was working on it. My new version of Photoscape can probably do collages, but I haven't figured that out yet. I just love how the colors of this quilt mimic a sunrise on the rippling waters of a lake. Finishing this quilt top (not getting it quilted, that's another hurdle for another time) was my requirement of myself to participate in the new mystery quilt. Which I am doing, and it is fun. I have been dealing with my photo storage on my phone, and getting ominous messages like "your iCloud storage is almost full." One technical challenge at a time, but I was able to go back today and delete a bunch of these process photos from my phone. They have served their purpose. But whenever I look at this quilt I'll remember early morning walks with Emma to school last year, and all the beautiful sunrises we saw together.
The tree is up but only partly decorated. The local elves are teenagers and either have better things to do or a short attention span. I put up the cherub in the snow cloud on the shelf, which I think is much nicer than the creepy "elf on the shelf" and anyway, I've been doing this since before I ever heard of that weird trend.
We've had a Christmas bear in the scrollwork sleigh every year since the boys were little, although it wasn't always this bear.

I loved all the coverage of the state funeral this week. It felt refreshing to have something on television that drew us together for a time instead of trying to divide.

Last night I made a recipe from the Redwall Cookbook, "Mole's favorite deeper 'n ever turnip 'n tater 'n beetroot pie." This may be my only autographed cookbook; yes, Brian Jacques himself signed it. There are several good recipes in it. This one is kind of like a vegetarian shepherd's pie, with mashed turnips and carrots layered with mashed potatoes, and cheese on top. The beets are pickled, served on the side along with a crisp salad. Other recipes we have liked from this book include "Shrimp and hotroot soup" and "Roast roots and baked spuds."

We went to a pancake breakfast and silent auction for the Sheriff's department explorer program this morning, which a friend of Quarta's participates in. Steve won a basket that included a gift certificate for Home Depot, which we have already spent.

Tomorrow dinner will probably be Apricot Chicken, a recipe I discovered in the early 90's. You mix an envelope of onion soup mix, and about a cup each of Catalina dressing and apricot jam, and you pour it over chicken, and then bake it and serve with rice. You can do the same thing only substitute cranberry sauce for the apricot jam, and it's Cranberry chicken, which is also good.

And that's it for this re-inauguration of Randomday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Political Tuesdays: November 4, 1992

It will always be one of the great honors of my life that I was present on the South Lawn of the White House the day after Election Day, when George H.W. Bush arrived home and addressed his supporters. C-SPAN archives carry the video still. 

I was 25, newly married, and had never been to the White House before that day. But senior staff at National Right to Life, all of whom had handshake photos of themselves with Reagan or Bush, generously donated their tickets to junior staff the day before the election. They must have known the polls were not promising, and they wanted to give us the chance to witness presidential history as they had. Our election night party in the office was bleak. I was still clinging to a bit of immature magical thinking. We had worked hard enough, surely. And then there was a fax that came in sometime in the afternoon with internal polling from the campaign projecting a defeat. After that, things became somber and deathlike for the rest of the evening.

Still, the next morning dawned, and I dressed in my cute blue checked dress that I had bought before my wedding, braided my hair and set off with my friends and co-workers. Our group was perhaps isolated from other WH staffers and major campaign donors who were present there; we felt that we had worked our little hearts out, but Bush's own staff had let him down. I remember comments from those months... staffers shopping their resumes and not focusing on the election; campaign director sleeping with the enemy, no real loyalty to the President. And the American electorate has always been fickle, and the press has always been hostile to Republicans, but something changed in that election cycle. We knew we were in for 4-8 years of a really difficult time, and most of us were teary-eyed for much of the time we were there. But White House events must go on. We were handed flags to wave by staffers; it was a gray day but not bad weather for November, as I recall. I was running on adrenaline and nerves, which always makes me feel especially socially awkward. It was a pretty large crowd. 

The Bushes got off Marine One, and the crowd cheered wildly. Most of us were toward the back of the crowd; I don't think we're in the video,  but I can't be sure without better eyes and a bigger screen. It must have been a bitterly difficult day for the President, and I'm sure he was emotional, but his speech was short, upbeat, and focused on others. He could have talked about the big accomplishments of his administration; the coalition he built for the Gulf War; the fall of the Communist regime, but he didn't. He simply praised his supporters for their hard work, encouraged them to support the Clintons, and expressed confidence that "we" had served America well... "And maybe history will record it that way." That short, offhand sign-off has stayed with me all these years. 

Yes, I do think history will record your nobility of character and your lasting positive influence on America. Thank you for your life of service, George H.W Bush. RIP. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Good Fortune Mystery Monday link-up 2

Once again there is a link-up at Quiltville for the Good Fortune mystery quilt. Here is what I have been working on this week:

 Clue number 2 is supposed to be half-square triangles of neutrals and BLUE. As you can see, I am switching up the colors that I'll be working with this year. I am so glad I have been working on building up a scrappy supply of pre-cut strips using Bonnie's "Scrap Users System" (you can find out more here). When the clue comes out each Friday, I simply open up my box of strips in the appropriate size:
 On the left is the size I used this week, on the right was last week's. I pulled out the roll of neutrals and the roll of greens this week (actually, I had a roll of light greens and a roll of dark greens, and I pulled from both because I'm all about variety.) This week I was able to do about 80% of the units without having to cut new strips from my fat quarters and other yardage, which really let me get into the piecing quickly. By the time I got a little bit bored with doing one thing, I was mostly finished! This is one of the reasons I love the Scrap Users system -- I really didn't feel like making major decisions this week, and I could just pull strips almost at random and go. I'm not planning on buying any new fabric for this quilt, but of course never say never.
 Clues one and two together ... they look kind of seasonally appropriate.
I did make a few sets of units in the recommended blue, just to try out different possibilities later on.
And here are some of the extra units from last week that I made in blue, for the same reason. Any extra units will go into my collection of extra and orphan units and be used in a future scrappy quilt.
 But one of the requirements I put on myself if I was going to do this mystery was that I would have to also finish up the top from last year's mystery, On Ringo Lake. Last week after doing the red four-patches I cut the brown cornerstones and pieced the side setting blue triangles. And finished piecing the sashings, which was where I had bogged down last year. Last night I stayed up a little too late and laid out the pieces on the family room floor. Surprisingly, Muffball (the cat) did not "block surf" too much. This morning I started the lengthy process of piecing the pieces together. Diagonal sets are always a bit overwhelming, but I think it is going well so far:
There's one corner done! I do love how all the scrappy colors sparkle like sunrise on a still lake. I wonder how long my family will put up with the blocks laid out on the floor? I do enjoy this one and will be glad to have it as a top. Then I will have to quilt it, but that is another challenge for another day.

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by, and Good Fortune to you!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday Distractions

As I am trying to ease back into blogging, I keep thinking of the days of the week and traditional things I have blogged about on those days in the past. Political Tuesdays, WIP Wednesdays, Randomday on Saturday, Finishing things on Friday (HA!), book reviews on Sundays, Design Wall and Stash Report on Mondays. Well, politics is simply too toxic these days, but I'm still not ruling out writing about it. I don't even know if anyone is doing Design Walls and Stash Reports anymore. WIP Wednesday just whipped by yesterday (if that's even still a thing), and by the evening when I thought about it, I had to do my Augustine translation for Latinstudy. (It's City of God, and at 1/2 - 1 heading per week, I will be about 200 years old when I finish it... I just did the math... another rabbit trail). 

The truth is, my life is more full of things to distract me than it ever was, and I am and always have been a willing victim to distractions. It's either a very good thing or a very bad thing that I'm not teaching. I'll go with good. Most of the things that distract me now were ways I coped with stress when I was stressed out beyond bearing. Now that the stress is much better, I can go from distraction to distraction most of the day, every day, only touching the ground long enough to do the driving, shopping, cooking and minimal cleaning.

But do distractions make good blog fodder? Knitting and quilting certainly are, because of the pictures. Here's one from the months when I forgot to blog; my friend Joyce's destash of a bunch of sock yarn. Some of it has been made into socks already and I'm itching to start another pair as soon as I finish the super-stretchy bind-off on the purple/green Socks that Rock.

Other distractions: Duolingo, where I now have Italian, French, Dutch, Swedish, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Romanian, Chinese, Irish, and Polish. For a few weeks I managed to do at least one lesson in each of them, but that was maybe a bit too OCD. I also have an unofficial course in Latin on the Duolingo forum, which is hard to gauge how many people are using, and its corresponding Memrise course, which is doing pretty well and gaining students steadily. I haven't been adding new lessons to it very often recently though, because it gets harder at the more difficult levels to think up good sentences.

Speaking of looking for good sentences, I love the Tatoeba website, which is basically a giant multilingual database of sentences. I contribute there as CarpeLanam as well. 

Other geeky distractions:,, my Kindle with its ability to check out books and audiobooks from the library. I have always enjoyed playing Civilization IV, and picked it up again this summer. I finished a game playing the Indians yesterday, and started one playing the Japanese today (yes, I'm trying them all in alphabetical order.)

And I admit to having Facebook for friends and family, Twitter for news and politics, Instagram for pictures, and Pinterest for recipes, mostly. You can waste a significant amount of time on social media, but only so much before it gets boring and you get distracted by something else. I cook and garden (a bit) and read. And my family is growing and changing; we are half-empty nesters now, and Quarta went on college visits a few weeks ago. Blogging is the one outlet I have that can cover all of these "multifaceted" (as Joyce was kind enough to call them) aspects of my life. I do it for myself, and to keep a journal of my life. Still, the most interesting bits for other readers, especially if I can manage to get photos, are most probably the knitting and quilting. That's why they are the easiest to blog about. But then I feel the need to switch gears and cover another base sometimes, too. Distractions are everywhere.

So as I continue with this very eclectic, often erratic blog, thank you to my readers and extended family who check in from time to time.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Good Fortune Mystery Monday Link-up 1

Well, I am in the process of coming back to my blog after months of neglect, and it is in large part thanks to the Good Fortune Mystery Quilt. Every year, scrappy quilters all over the world start stitching the day after Thanksgiving on the clues released by Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville. The first gathering of photos from the first clue can be found here at Bonnie's site. You can also download the first clue, but be sure to keep checking back for all the clues because they will go away after the Holiday mystery season is over!

I'm happy to report that I finished all the pieces for the first clue this morning. Or did I? I know I'm going to be changing up the colors somewhat, and I think I'm going to substitute blue for orange. But the little four-patches were so cute, I couldn't resist making a few in blue instead of red.
 And even a few in green.
I really like the checkerboard effect, so I think having a bunch of extras of these in various colors isn't such a bad thing. Especially since I haven't made a definite plan for the color scheme.
 It's a messy process: I was able to get right into it, though, because I had my boxes of strips in different colors and widths already cut. This is thanks to Bonnie's scrap user system, which is something I've been converting my stash to over the last several years of mysteries. When the clue came out, all I needed to do was open the box that contained strips in the width called for, and get out the neutrals and reds (and blues, and greens). Instant gratification sewing, very little extra cutting needed. But the tradeoff is the family room is a bit messy and the cat wants to sleep on the pile of neutral strips I haven't used yet.
Um, yeah, I should probably put those back in the cupboard. Lots of old fabrics being used up, and no new fabrics bought so far. I do think my reds are a little low, and yellows as well. I'm probably going to use yellow in the place where the green goes, and green where the blue goes, and blue where the orange goes, and keep the red where it is.

Oh yes, I am also trying to make myself finish up On Ringo Lake from last year. I cut the setting squares and triangles called for in the final clue. Next comes the assembly. also a somewhat messy process. The mess just seems be a part of quilting. Maybe if I actually finished more projects and stuck with them. Well, it does feel good to be back in the quilting area. I will try to dig myself out of the piles of WIPs.

Friday, November 23, 2018

More Dusting of the Blog; Thanksgiving

 As my few readers know, I took a very long hiatus from blogging, from January until October of this year. The catalyst was a broken laptop, but I also got distracted and worked on things I haven't usually blogged about in the past. So we are catching up, but today will be more traditional, post-Thanksgiving. I know how to blog about all the homemaking business of Thanksgiving. The pies are always made the day before. I made the ones on the top: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pie (plus some extra filling), two Apple-Pear-Cranberry, and the Birthday Blueberry on bottom left (Steve's birthday is the same as Thanksgiving this year; he was born on a memorable day for those above a certain age.) Quarta made the Pumpkin Pie (extra filling in the tin) from a Binging with Babish video. The butter crust was particularly tricky. Mine were just made with Crisco. I don't even really measure anymore.
 After pie-baking most of the afternoon, Steve took me out for Chinese. These adorable cuties were parked next to us. Quarta is fond of using words like "doggos" and "puppers" and I have to say, they made me want to use them too.
 I love the fact that I have a well-stocked herb garden that can be harvested even in the late months of the year. Actually, the parsley is growing as a weed and I need to plant some in my herb garden. But our gardening philosophy is to encourage weeds that we like. I have no process photos of the bird, or, sadly the group of us at dinner: it was only 5 of us at home, plus Steve's mom. Daniel is in Scotland visiting my sister and eating haggis instead of turkey.
After dinner Quarta went to visit her friend whose family was having a feast at their church for all comers; then when she was dropped off in the evening, my friend, her friend's mom, left us two slices of Pie-Caken, which is a thing she has learned to make. I will stick to basic pies, but I did have a third of a slice (pecan) for breakfast this morning.

And now, one of the main reasons I needed to dust off my blog. This is my most recent photo of last year's Bonnie K. Hunter mystery quilt, On Ringo Lake. It is not much farther along than this. I have made all the necessary blocks, but I have not connected them into a quilt top yet. One of the reasons I need to keep posting on my blog is to keep myself accountable with various quilting and knitting projects. When I am not blogging, I may not be quilting at all, and I may only be knitting in small increments. And even worse, I am certainly not keeping my sewing room neat and tidy. But, Bonnie has just issued the first clue of this year's mystery quilt, Good Fortune. Once again I am feeling the siren call of starting another scrappy quilt project. Some people shop on the day after Thanksgiving. I prefer to eat dessert for breakfast and start a mystery quilt that I have no guarantee I will finish. The obstacles are great this year:

  1. I must clean my sewing room first, at least enough to be able to use the cutting table, ironing board, and sewing surface.
  2. I must also make adequate progress on finishing On Ringo Lake, ideally within the first few weeks.
  3. I know I want to change the color scheme, but I'm not sure yet how. I am leaning to changing Green, Blue, Red, and Orange to a more country/vintage palette of Yellow, Green, Red, and Blue. I don't really want to work with orange this year since I used a fair amount last year. But I am still dithering about the changes I'll want to make. Fortunately, dithering about the colors is something I can do quite easily while blogging!
  4. The odds are very high that I will get distracted again and stop blogging, and therefore, stop sewing. Christmas is coming. Daniel is posting pictures of the Highlands. I might decide to start another language. 
You will notice that I did NOT list "I don't have enough fabric" as an obstacle. I have enough fabric to make about ten years of mystery quilts, only I might have to change the colors on them. Well, here goes, signing off and maybe I'll start in on some light cleaning now.