Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Midweek Updates on Quilting and Knitting

It has been a hard few weeks at school, and I have come to realize that I cope with it so much better if I insist on doing some creative work with my hands every day.  So this week has been a little better, so far.  Because I have insisted on going into my little cubby and doing a little sewing every day.  Also, if you haven't seen already, Sew Mama Sew is doing their giveaway week, and that will lift any crafter's spirits! Currently, I'm plugging away at Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion Mystery.  I didn't finish clue 1 until yesterday, and now I have a start on clue 2.
 I don't have the same Easy Angle ruler as Bonnie uses: mine is the Fons & Porter ruler designed for flying geese, but I use it for both half-square and quarter-square triangles.  I wavered a bit on which of the three methods for clue 2 to use; I was going to just use the stitch-and-flip method, but after looking more carefully at method 2 I decided I would try it and not have to waste fabric or stress about what to do with my bonus triangles.  So I sprayed the paper template with a few shots of machine applique adhesive and taped it onto the ruler like this, and it seemed to work fine.
 This is how my ruler works cutting the neutral diamonds... you can see I'm using some of my vintage sheets.
 And you can still use it to cut the corner triangles, just don't look at the paper template while you do it.
 I have 6 of my diamond units so far.  I think the rest will go fairly quickly once I get a little more cutting done.  I am loving the color combination in this quilt!  It makes me think of my grandmothers' generation, living in the Midwest in the mid-century.  I'm trying to pick very scrappy fabrics that mostly have a vintage feel.
 This is last week's clue: all finished at last.  Maybe the skull and crossbones fabric is not so vintage looking!
And I am still knitting on Azzu's Shawl, which I started more than 2 months ago.  It only has 10 more rows to go, though.  On the Kindle, I'm still working on reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and my daughter is still disgruntled with me for not having finished the latest Percy Jackson book yet.

Now, I've chatted long enough and I need to go do some therapeutic sewing.  Enjoy checking out the other projects on display this week:

Quiltville's Mystery Monday Link-Up
WIP Wednesday

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Randomday with Assorted Holidays

Sinterklaas day: I found this completely delightful assortment of St. Nicholas songs, in Dutch, to celebrate with.  They bring back such fond memories of  my mother, who used to sing almost all of them.  My parents lived in the Netherlands for 4 years and I was born in year 3; a lot of these tunes are familiar from my very early childhood, when the language and culture must have still been fresh in her mind.

A difficult week at school, capped off by what I will probably remember as the St. Nicholas Day massacre, when I intercepted one of Those Notes, spiteful and immature, punctuated by more "lol"s than any decent writer could stand to see in a lifetime.  It was written on a bright neon pink 3x5 card that was supposed to be used for studying Latin grammar rules, but obviously the 4 joint authors and unindicted co-conspirators don't see much value in the study of Latin or have any respect for the teacher.  Funny how they think I won't notice something so bright, passed hand to hand during what's supposed to be quiet work time.  Not since the "pretend to shoot Mrs. Chapman when her back is turned" note years ago have I been as disgusted with a class.  They should get coal in their klompen. It's been 15 years of this, the long dark middle-school of the soul, and I'm teaching kids who weren't even born when I started.  And it's not really any easier.  I don't think the teachers who don't teach the most-hated subject can understand.  "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" is a tragic movie.  Peter O'Toole is brilliant in it but I can't bear to watch it anymore.

Oh well, on to Christmas.  I somehow lost my taste for ballet and so today instead of the Nutcracker I took the girls to see Journey Theater Arts' production of White Christmas.  We know several cast members and it was a lovely production, very professionally presented.  Quarta now wants to watch the movie version sometime soon.  I could do that, I suppose.  Right now, though, we're watching the live Peter Pan recording we started yesterday.  "How old is Wendy supposed to be?" asked Quarta.  "About as old as you, just about ready to become a young woman but still enjoying being a child," was my answer.  That makes one think.  Also today, we went shopping for some Christmas lights and Steve and Peter put them up on the front fence and the gable over the front door.  Sometime very soon I will need to clean the house and figure out how to organize the Christmas shopping.  And here's how you say "bah humbug" in Latin: "Phy! Fabulae!"

I've been working through a translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History for the Latinstudy group, and we are stuck in the interminable debate over the correct observance of Easter.  That part, as Steve observes, is tedious to read in English.

I did not get any sewing done on the Grand Illusion mystery quilt today.  I did mix up a pflaumenkuchen to take to fellowship tomorrow.  Yesterday I taught Steve how to make fudge.  I hope to have a chance to do more domestic things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and sewing soon.  I keep hoping!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mystery Monday Linkup on Thursday

I knew, diving into my 4th Bonnie K. Hunter mystery, that it would not be realistic for me to keep up with all the clues.  But that's okay.  I love these mysteries a lot, and for the 4th holiday season in a row, I am looking forward on a weekly basis to the clues coming out, and rummaging in my stash to make them.  I have about 20 more of the half-square triangles to sew, all from my very scrappy stash; but I've only made this one 4-patch of the Broken Dishes unit.  As you can see, I like my fabrics scrappy, that's part of the fun for me.  My big debate is whether to go with the current gold color (I have just slightly less than 1 1/2 yards of it) as a constant, or to just rummage in my yellows the same way I am rummaging in my blues and pinks and blacks.  I may just wait to see what others are doing for the next few weeks and decide later.  You can see more of the participants and their work here.
 (some of my fabrics under consideration for the quilt)
 This is currently the quilt I've got on my design wall.  It was based on Bonnie's Santa Fe String Star, but I'm heading in a rainbow direction with it and very excited about the potential, but a bit nervous about how I'm going to set it.
 I want to somehow incorporate these cute little stars in the setting.
The background is going to be a medium gray solid.  That's all I know so far!  I don't want to take the pieces down from my wall because I'm enjoying looking at them too much.  Oh, for lots more time to quilt!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Randomday: Clearing the Decks (sort of)

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday.  I cook like a madwoman for a few days and then get to stay in bed until 7:30 the next few days.  Maybe even 8:00.  And there are leftovers, although not so much as you might think of the turkey and mashed potatoes.  I don't do the crazy Black Friday shopping.  In fact, I think that somebody else should produce Christmas this year.  I produced Thanksgiving, and that should really count for something, right?
Tertia did her part to get the Christmas season off to a festive start at the annual Tree-Lighting yesterday.  It went on despite the rain, combined choirs singing several dozen carols at a good clip, proud family members looking on.  There was a romantic proposal of marriage (didn't catch who, but they seemed a nice young couple) after the choir finished singing, then the wait for Santa and Mrs. Claus to show up and throw the switch.  It's the fourth year Tertia has been able to participate.  Getting to be a tradition for her.  Then we went home and had hot cocoa.

Today started off with promise: I spotted a Latin error in the Washington Post.  Nothing makes a grammar geek's day quite like spotting a noun-adjective agreement problem that slipped past the experts.  For the record, the writer chose to say "alumnus non grata."  Now, "persona non grata" is perfectly fine Latin, the feminine adjective agreeing with the feminine noun, and "alumnus non gratus" would have worked although the play on the more familiar "persona" would have been over the heads of the average Post reader, I suppose.  If you ask me, the appropriate quote for the story would have been "corruptio optimi pessima."  But that would have required 8th grade level grammar.

So for the fourth year, I am planning in on joining in on the Bonnie K. Hunter mystery quilt.  This year, it is Grand Illusion, inspired by the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.  The color scheme has a nice "ladies that lunch" vintage feel about it, and I am eager to dive in.  But since quilting has not been happening that much lately, there was unfinished business to attend to.  Another Bonnie Hunter pattern actually -- the Santa Fe String Star that I have been working on for months.  I dedicated the first part of this holiday weekend to seaming the star medallion together, along with the little stars from the extra diamonds in each color.

I'm pleased that the center of the star lies relatively flat.  I pressed the seams open for all the diamonds but it's still fairly bulky with all the strings.
 I really like all the little stars, and hope I can figure out how to use them in the setting for this beast.
 I went out this afternoon and bought 5 yards of Kona medium gray for the background.  I think it will work well.
 I have the large central star and 8 little stars.
 The scrappy string quilting process is a lot of fun... but it leaves the sewing area incredibly messy.
The stars will stay on the design wall until I figure out how to set them in the gray background fabric.  I think it has great potential to be one of the most artistic quilts I've ever made.  But it's far from finished.
Meanwhile, today I started to pull fabrics for the mystery quilt and make the pink and blue half-square triangles.  I have already made about a third of the umpty-hundred I need.  But I don't think I'll run out of fabric anytime soon.  Too bad, really.  I at least need to cull through my little scraps and clean up my working area a bit more.  I will have to return to school on Monday, so my sewing time will be curtailed once again.

Lots of fun movies have been watched over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Sleepless in Seattle on Thursday, Jack the Giant Killer yesterday, and that great classic, Chicken Run, this evening.  We are a little closer to giving the girls a proper education.  Speaking of which, poor Peter is experiencing the less than joyful process of filling out college applications.  They can put paperwork online and they claim that it makes it more efficient, but it is still destructive of the human soul.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


My Dad shared these pictures of my grandparents at a long ago Thanksgiving.  I remember them, their knotty pine kitchen, and their singleminded intensity about the preparation of good food so well.  On days like yesterday, my big prep day, and today, I feel the presence of a great cloud of witnesses, mainly my female ancestors, as I go about the rituals of preparing and serving the great American feast.  I do it differently, yes.  I throw out the giblets without a second thought; I don't make those noodles in the broth; I make whole-berry sauce rather than the chopped cranberry relish; I don't worry -- too much -- if I have fewer than four desserts; and I do make a double batch of turkey stock with the carcass, to freeze for soups later on.  I don't set the same beautiful table and use all the fine china.  But all the time I am thinking about Thanksgivings past, the story Grandma Maffett used to tell of the bank robbery by an inept branch of the Dillinger gang; the time Grandpa Bogue dropped the pecan pie and then stepped in it; the smells and tastes and memories of a blessed childhood.

 It was a little bit lonely without Daniel.  He's been on the wrong side of the country for three years worth of Thanksgivings now.  We did have a nice Skype session with him after the meal, but it's just not the same.  Tertia is the one who likes to pose for the camera, but she blocked Steve's Mom, so I had to take another one.
Yesterday, Quarta learned how to make cranberry sauce.  This is more or less the traditional whole berry sauce I've been making for years, with orange zest and a little orange juice.
 And the second is a sauce of cranberries and a quart of plums from the freezer, with orange zest, orange juice, ginger, spices and a splash of brandy.  It's a little less sweet but still, I think, quite good.  And for once we have enough leftover cranberry sauce, since we had the mother-daughter cook-off.
The pie-making yesterday was when I was thinking of my grandmothers the most.  I dithered as to whether to make the German Chocolate pie or the Chocolate Bourbon pecan pie, and German Chocolate won, but not before I had braved the morning crowds at Winco and bought a bottle of bourbon for the other.  I could picture my two grandmas up in heaven, one shaking her head about the bourbon, and the other one telling me to make even more desserts.
It's a good thing I didn't.  For one thing, I don't have enough pie plates.  And for another, we were all so stuffed that we have plenty of pies leftover too.

All morning as I worked, I could see the 5-k turkey trotters from the local health club jogging down the street in front of the house.  Justifying their feast later on, I guess.  I'm of the opinion that the women who produce the Thanksgiving feast burn quite enough calories in the production process.  I know it's not the dramatic kind of exercise that all the neighbors can see.  But think about it; it's a long, steady sequence of little tasks that put you under a constant low-level stress, thus building up endurance and all-round muscle tone for anything life might throw at you.  Today alone, I arm-wrestled a nearly 20-pound bird and won.  There was chopping, herb-gathering, pantry-rummaging, lifting, fridge-stacking and re-arranging, mixing, stirring, timing, research into ideal temperature points, whipping of cream, browsing of last-minute recipes, delegating of chores to reluctant pre-teens and teenagers, carving, schlepping, whisking of gravy, and I even opened a champagne bottle for the first time (and ducking the backsplash, but not fast enough).  So, take that, turkey-trotters.  It's a much more enjoyable holiday when you don't fight the feast.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIP Wednesday - rainbow diamonds

The eight individual diamonds are done for my String Star quilt.  They have been done for about a week but I've been grading like nothing else matters all this time and have only just come up for air.  There are enough extra little diamonds to make little stars that I hope to use in the setting.

Next will be planning the setting.  I'm thinking solid medium gray background fabric, and somehow I need to work extra stars into it.  At some point I also need to clean up the royal mess I have made in my sewing area.  And hem Tertia's jeans.

It will probably be quite some time before I finish this top, but it was fun pushing through the piecing to get to this point.  At least I have something colorful and pretty to stare at now that the weather has turned gloomy.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Randomday with Boyfriend Jeans

Last week was finals week for all my classes; after spending an insane amount of time grading I declared a moratorium on any further grading until Monday.

In a non-school moment last week it came to my attention that Tertia's wardrobe desperately needed attention.  She had only a few pairs of pants that fit after the mid-teen growth spurt when kids go from size 12 kids to 14, 16, and adult sizes in quick succession, and I culled two full bags to give away.  Which meant that today was designated as a mother-daughter shopping date day.

We hit Cascade Station, which I had never done before, thinking it was just a light rail station by the airport.  I guess I've been a fairly mediocre shopper for the last several years, or I wouldn't have needed someone to tell me it was a good place to shop.  She started giggling immediately after we pulled into the parking lot about the name of the store: Banana Republic.  Then we were looking at jeans and I read one tag that identified the style that fits her best: boyfriend jeans (because they have a cuff rolled up as if borrowed from a taller boyfriend).  We found a petite size that was the perfect length for her.  She hasn't really stopped giggling since.  "Boyfriend!  That's such a funny joke!"
 We bought a few more things at Ross and then hit the new Goodwill Outlet, where you buy by the pound.  We found two pairs of jeans that fit her perfectly, except for the length...
... I will need to hem these before they can be boyfriend style, or maybe just turned under like regular jeans.

Sarah Palin posted this sweet quote from the surgeon who performed her son Trig's eye surgery, and her thoughts after:

 "Compare his eyes to a 'normal' child's. Get a magnifying glass. Look deep. Their eyes are captivating inside! They're different, they're colorful, they sparkle. Surely God made these eyes to reflect what heaven must be." 
If only we all could see into and through the eyes of the innocent! They're God's sons and daughters who may not meet man's standards of perfection but will certainly meet His. Their enduring childlike faith and their patience with the rest of us can teach us what is important. Maybe if we look with those eyes, what a wonderful world we will see. 

It is a never-ending privilege to look into those eyes every day.  If I pay attention, I do learn what is really important.  And sometimes, it's shopping for jeans.