Tuesday, January 10, 2017

More Weather, Some Setbacks, Slower Progress

Sunday was a snow/ice day. Church services were cancelled and we looked up one of my Dad's recent sermons on sermonaudio and had church in the living room. Monday was another 2 hour late start; today was a regular start day but Quarta had 2-hour early release. I had heard there was more snow coming so I did my run to Winco to buy supplies for the Last Noel... which is this Friday!

I browned the 10 pounds of ground beef I bought with some onions and celery and put it in the freezer for sloppy joes. I have all the supplies for punch and hot cider and Quarta and I have been baking cookies. So far there are frosted cut-outs, rosemary-walnut biscotti, chocolate-covered peanut butter balls (they would be buckeyes but they were fully immersed in chocolate), and another batch of fudge to replace what is almost gone now. Today I also made a big batch of granola.

The bad news... Peter's car, which was in an accident on the 1st, is now considered a total loss. I wish it hadn't taken so long to come to that conclusion, but oh well. That means he'll have to come home this weekend, return his rental and get a "new" car... but he might be here for the Last Noel, which would at least be some consolation. He's had a rough start to the year and the weather on his side of the state is at least as bad as here.
 These are some of the first photos I've taken on my new iPhone. Here you can see Allietare in the bottom right corner, and 11 blocks on the design wall. Progress on En Provence is continuing slowly. I can get one or two blocks pieced per day if I clear some serious sewing time, maybe more. I haven't had any serious sewing time today!
I'm liking the  pattern as it develops but I don't have any of the sashing laid out yet to see the overall pattern. I've discovered I prefer it if I trim the patches before joining them, but that takes longer. I'm not in a hurry though. I'm going to go ahead and post the link to the link-up at the Quiltville blog. I'm always amazed at how many people get their entire top finished, and quite a few have it quilted. I like my variety of yellows and purples and hope they make the quilt sparkle.
Now there's reason to hope/fear (pick one) that school will be cancelled tomorrow... over an inch and still coming down thickly. I don't think we've ever had so many snow days since moving here... the poor kids will be in school almost through June. Sure is pretty, and no ice rain so far. So here's the deal: I worked hard today so that, whether tomorrow is a snow day or not, I am determined to sew for about 2 episodes worth of Call the Midwife. I'm hoping it works. Then maybe I'll get to the point where I can start the sashing.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Randomday on a Snowy Saturday

It has been cold this past week: chapped lips, cracked dry skin and dried-out sinuses cold, 14 degrees in the mornings. It reminds me of what Ohio winters were like growing up, and what a wimp I've become that I'm not used to it anymore. But in the Northwest, when it gets this cold it usually is clear - no precipitation. Don't ask me why. For whatever reason, most of our snow happens in the 29-32 degree range, and that of course raises the odds of freezing rain when it warms up just slightly above that. So I'm looking out at a road covered with powdery snow and some churches have already cancelled for tomorrow. The children have already had 3 or 4 snow days and Tertia is looking at a lengthened school year. Quarta has spent the day baking cut-out sugar cookies for the Last Noel, scheduled for next Friday (the 13th!)
 Here are four flannel baby quilts that I finished back in November, busting some flannel stash.
 They are made in 2 layers only, no batting, and I back them with flannel and use the inside-out stitch-around way of avoiding having to bind them.
 They're quilted with an allover meander quilting and I don't sweat the puckers.
They're just about the perfect weight and flexibility for swaddling a baby or becoming a "blankie" for a toddler. My mother-in-law gave several similar ones to me when Daniel was born and they were all loved to death.
It would be a great day for soup... unfortunately I made this soup back in November and it's all used up. It's another variation of my standard Pumpkin/greens/potato soup. This time I put a fair amount of rosemary in with the onions and garlic, and it was a batch of mixed greens... I can't remember the other specific details because I waited too long to blog it! But it is a great base for healthy vegetable soup... lots of vitamins in the pumpkin and greens, and you can substitute something less carb-y for the potatoes if you are so inclined. Anyway, we finished up the black bean soup last night and I guess we won't have soup tonight unless Quarta decides to make it instead of pizza. 

Muffball is seated by my side on the sofa arm, distracted by the chirping of the cold little chickadees outside the window. She has managed to keep the long-term flea collar on since I put it on her with such great trauma last month. She is a much sweeter kitty when the fleas are under control, and the vet is a distant memory.

I have not made a lot of progress on the En Provence mystery quilt, but I have finished about 4 blocks this week. I feel like I've made a great deal of progress tidying up the kitchen, though. I am following the Declutter 365 plan so far. I also need to get a little more serious about helathy eating and exercise. I have been doing yoga routines a little with Tertia... she is so hyper-flexible and has such short limbs that she is good at some things, like touching the floor and imitating a pretzel, but she has lots of trouble and gets the giggles on poses that require fine balance and great muscle strength. Tertia getting the giggles is one of the big payoffs of doing yoga with her.

That's all I have for randomday: back to get some more piecing done while Star Trek is on in the background.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

...And, It's the New Year!

...So far, it has not been as relaxing as I had hoped. But my hopes were probably unrealistic. Peter had a car accident Sunday - fortunately, no injuries - and is dealing with needing to get back to WSU tomorrow while his car is not drivable yet. My sister had another cardiac "event" Monday and is hoping to be released from the ICU today. At under 40, she is a bit young to have heart attacks but she has a rare condition that apparently makes them more common; this time, it seems that she just needs to have her medication adjusted. All of this has not helped any plans I might or might not have had to get healthy, get more sleep, have less stress and stay positive in 2017. But as I've often thought, these holidays are superficial and self-imposed anyway. We do what we can. And God sees us through.

So to deal with all the extra stress I have been trying to control some of the things I actually can. After following it on facebook for two years I am finally starting with the Declutter challenge. Today was counters... I spent a whole lot more than 15 minutes and half of my kitchen counters are clean. I am working on getting back to regularly posting my Latin for Duolingo lessons, although that will probably be tomorrow at the earliest. And I have been busy on the En Provence mystery quilt. Bonnie was kind enough to post the last clue on New Year's Day... but it contains about 5 times as much work as any of the other clues. I feel quite content that I have all the individual components made now and ready to be seamed together into blocks and then the whole quilt. Some overachievers on the fb page have already quilted the whole thing! I can't even.
I like greens and yellows together -- Hobbit colors! Part of the fun of these mystery quilts for me is the process of working intensively with a few colors, and getting my fabrics organized bit by bit. I now feel pretty comfortable with Bonnie Hunter's scrap user's system, and most of my fabric is now organized that way.
 My 2" strips are now vastly expanded, neatly rolled up and crammed into the plastic storage box ready for the next time. I have a LOT of greens. I would have even more blues, but there wouldn't be room for them right now so I haven't felt the need to cut them. Before the "reveal" post came out, I had these three block possibilities on my design wall:
 Of course they do not include the units that were in part 7, but I was hoping to include these in the Mystery link-up post which didn't happen this week.
 Like I said, I was feeling really good about how well I was keeping up with the challenge until the last part came out and all the speedy people have pictures of their finished, and some even quilted, tops.
The finished quilt will be so pretty! We will see how much more I can get done before next Monday, but I can guarantee right now that it will not be a finished quilt by then.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Randomday of 2016

It is only fitting that 2016 should end on a random note, don't you think? From political developments to foreign affairs to celebrity deaths to the millions of strange events in everyday prosaic life, 2016 has contained a sizeable portion of the random. In the spirit of this blog's Randomday, where we try to celebrate and not judge, here's some more random for you to close out the year.
This is what my quilting design wall has looked like for about 2 years now. There must be some powerful quilting endorphins going around in the En Provence mystery quilt that I fell into, because after not sewing much at all until November, I'm not only keeping up with the clues, but trying to move along some seriously stalled projects. Like this rainbow string star with its little starlets, which I've been mulling over how to get to a square for more than 2 years. I had the Kona gray solid for the background, 5 yards, bought in November of 2014.
I decided I was never going to be able to do the math to piece the little starlets into blocks and then those blocks into the larger background. This is what I consider the "old-fashioned" way: I borrowed Steve's tape measure, took a bunch of measurements, then made a paper template for the side insets that are shaped like a house. I even doodled out a basic diagram in my little quilt notebook.
 Just like cutting out a pattern in Home-ec class.
 Okay, why is there a clean spot on my carpet?
 Here it is with just the side insets.
 And then yesterday I cut out the squares. 26.5" square but it could have been an inch bigger. I guess I'll trim the side pieces. I'm sure those ripples will smooth out with a good pressing.
 And the little starlets will be arranged thusly, and be appliqued down. I can handle applique a whole lot better than figuring out the piecing. There may be a rainbow scrappy square border with an additional outer border of the gray. What do you think?
 I tried to get a different camera angle and while I was doing so, Muffball just casually sauntered in and lay down.
Apparently she votes for more gray. Won't make eye contact with the camera, either. She knows she's about to be scolded.
You should try the Stokes Purple sweet potatoes... they are very nice, not too sweet and pretty firm and dry, not mushy, when roasted. I made this Purple Sweet Potato Soup with a chile oil garnish with the ones leftover from Christmas dinner. It was good. I like the plain roasted potatoes better, and I would like the soup better if I used homemade vegetable stock rather than the soup base from a jar. But still, it's purple! I was going to say I'd never made purple soup before... but I have made Borsch. However, this is a different shade of purple.

Thursday evening before Daniel had to leave to catch his redeye back to Virginia, we played Rook with Tertia's new set of cards. I have fond memories of playing Euchre with Rook cards back in Ohio, when there were Baptists present who might have been offended by the presence of regular cards. This was the first time I had ever played Rook, which is just similar enough to Euchre to be slightly confusing. Also, whenever anyone declared "trump", Tertia got into a fit of the giggles and said "Donald Trump!" She couldn't quite figure out what the President-Elect had to do with her new card game.

We watched some nice movies and shows over break: Rogue One, The Secret Life of Pets, the BFG, some episodes of The Crown, and Henry VI part 1 and 2, of the Hollow Crown series. Despite having excellent acting, I felt they were a little too intense for Tertia, who loves Shakespeare but not gory battle scenes. We may bring out the video of Finding Dory tonight to try to rebalance things.

We went to a reception today for a wedding that took place in Texas a few weeks ago. It was a nice party to round off the old year. And as I watch Disney movies and stitch away this evening, I wish all the best to you in the new year: cowboy boots, fun fabrics and luxury yarns, good books, good music, good health, good friends, loving families and lots of laughter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

After Christmas, Mystery Quilt Progress

Christmas was great, and went by fast. We were able to get someone at church to snag a picture of the whole family:
 And Steve took one of the kids. That's pretty much it for family photos this year, everyone is in such fast transition. We only have the boys for a few more days, and it may be quite some time before Daniel gets back.
It has been harder to get multiple blog posts in a week this year, so excuse me for sneaking in family photos. But for some reason, Christmas season also kickstarts my lagging quilting and knitting, and I like to document them on the blog. First up is the En Provence Mystery quilt, and I'm linking up to Bonnie Hunter's blog with lots of other people sharing their progress: Part 5 Link-up
 I was able to get clue 5 done pretty easily. My purple stash is pretty well depleted at this point.
 I have the pieces for the mystery quilt in a small storage box, and since I finished this week early, I decided to work on some other sewing projects that had been lying around.
 Everything except the borders of Allietare had been done since last January, so I finally trimmed the edges and put the borders on. I think it's just a stunning quilt pattern, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.
You can't see it, but Orca Bay is underneath it on our bed. That was the first mystery quilt I did and I've been hooked ever since. This is the sixth straight year I've joined in. If you are happening to hear about this for the first time, you have a chance to get the clues for the current mystery still, at the website linked above. And you want to grab them while they are freely available, because Bonnie takes them down at some point so they can be included in a future book. I never thought I'd enjoy doing mystery quilts so much, but these are really quite addictive. My only concern is that I've fallen way behind in getting them quilted.
The other thing Bonnie got me hooked on is organizing my scraps. I still haven't perfected it, but I have been cutting strips of various commonly used sizes as I have different fabrics out, and today it was time to organize my 1.5" strips. Here's how they looked midway through. The box was completely overflowing when I started.
 Here's me laying them out in color groups,
And here they all are, fitting into the same bin neatly with room to spare! It made me really happy to get this done today! I'm partway through with the 2.5" strips as well. The 2" and 3.5" strips had to be organized to do the previous steps of the mystery quilt.
One other bit of sewing got done today. It was sad, considering the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, but I threaded up my machine with black and went ahead on these Star Wars boxers for Steve. I had wrapped the fabric for him, with the promise to sew it up after Christmas. Got it all done today, start to finish.
 And both boys were very happy with their handknit socks... they put them on right after unwrapping them.
So they fit, the boys like them, and it looks like I could knit socks and sew boxer shorts and my menfolk would be happy for Christmas presents and birthday presents. Seems like a pretty good deal to me! I still wish I could figure out that trick like they do in Harry Potter to make the needles knit by themselves, though. It takes me about a month to knit a pair of socks. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

En Provence progress

En Provence Mystery link-up is here.  I stayed up late Monday and finished all the units, and then I took pictures of them yesterday to post but got distracted with Christmas stuff, a brief internet outage, and our family trip to see Rogue One.
So I am all caught up with the mystery quilt and I should spend any spare time I have putting the borders on Allietare. But I am dubious because there is more Christmas work to be done, including all the wrapping. And about 7 more rounds of knitting to finish.
When Grandma came over Sunday she brought the quilt top she finished last week with the fabric she picked out recently. She had the center pieced but needed more fabric for the borders, and I think it's really cute. I tried to get a picture of Daniel, home for Christmas and kindly holding the quilt for the picture, but it came out too blurry.
I haven't blogged since last week... and we had a 2-day school-closing snowstorm, rare for this area. I feel for poor Smudge, but he is certainly well-fed, so don't let his pathetic meowing fool you. I suspect he makes rounds in the neighborhood and picks up extra food that way.
North and South, on our street.

And Smudge again, telling me I should give him more food.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Saga of the Feral Housecat... and Yarn-along

This is Muffball, the feral housecat, when she is on good terms with her humans and not on the defensive. She came to us as a stray, and let's just say she has trust issues. She doesn't like to be around people unless it is on her terms, and the humans are seated and not looking like they are going to try to corral her and take her to the vet.

That is exactly what I did on Monday; she had a raging case of fleas a month ago that needed a cortisone shot... but that did the trick, that and giving her the proper dose of flea medicine. This week was the checkup and catching up on basic vaccinations. But to go to the vet, I have to pick up a wary cat and put her into the cat carrier. This was much harder than you would think a month ago; Monday, it only took two tries, but she was so spooked that she peed on the kitchen floor, and my leg, as I was getting her in. She complained very loudly all the way to the vet, where she got shots and $60 flea collar ("it's a bargain because it will last for 8 months.") It took 3 people to put the collar on her Tuesday, after she had recovered from the vet trip and even been a bit affectionate to her humans; she peed on the Persian rug in the process, but we got it on her. We weren't able to clip off the extra length, but we called it enough for one day. She was even mildly affectionate yesterday evening, as we watched The Crown.
But today she slipped back to the basement after a quick breakfast, and was invisible most of the day. This is what a feral housecat looks like, sitting on a heating duct (and cutting off the heat to the upstairs in the process) in the narrow crawl space under the oldest part of the house. Humans do not go back there, not if they can help it.
 With flash, it looks even more spidery. (Warning to my boys, Christmas spoilers ahead).
 I do not think the collar is here, but if we could find it and try putting it on her again in a few days...
But I sure don't want to crawl back there. Frustrated, I spent a little time cleaning other parts of the basement this morning and afternoon. I have a pile of things to give away and maybe it's time to get rid of the crib and crib mattress too.

So here below is my entry for this week's Yarn-Along. The socks have advanced since a few weeks ago when I had just finished the first pair and cast on the toes. I have now turned the heel and am a third of the way up the leg. So both boys should have Stashbuster Spirals socks for Christmas. I am currently reading Death of a Nurse, the recent Hamish MacBeth mystery, and listening to an audiobook of Gone Girl.
Here's hoping that the missing collar turns up somewhere easily accessible, and dear little Muffin decides to be sweet again and go back to sleeping on the couch.