Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

What else to play on New Years' Eve?  There's a beautiful acapella version of this that I mislabeled 20 years ago and I will probably never be able to find the artist for, but this is the right tune.  Or you can link to this version by Mairi Campbell.  Either way, I've always liked this tune better than the one you're more likely to hear.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge Recap

For the last 3 years now I have kept track of all the books or book-equivalents I've read, in a thread in the Ravelry Book Challenge group.  What... doesn't everybody use a social networking site for knitters to keep track of books read?  It makes perfect sense to me.  I met my goal of reading 100 books in 2011.  I do have a somewhat flexible definition of "book" and "read."  I count audiobooks, magazines (as long as I've read almost all of the issues in a year), craft books, children's books, and lecture series or classes.  It all goes to the improving of the mind.  Mostly.  I find it helpful to categorize my reading by the categories of fiction (which includes all fiction, bedtime stories for the kids as well as what I read for fun), craft-related nonfiction/ how-to, and other nonfiction.

I've managed a good number of book reviews on the blog (* beside the books I remember doing; I don't have time to link back to all of them now but you can search tags for "book review") and am planning to review a few of these still.  If you want to request a review of one of these that I haven't already done, drop me a comment! I love doing book reviews. I've got similar goals for 2012 reading, and will be trying to work in more reviews.

(1) Inkspell, Cornelia Funke (audiobook) Jan.
(2) Emperor: Time’s Tapestry Book 1, Stephen Baxter, Jan. *
(3) Calling on Dragons, Patricia Wrede (audiobook), Jan.
(4) Teatime for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith, Jan. *
(5) Letters from Pemberley, Jane Dawkins, Jan. *
(6) Persona non Grata, Ruth Downie, Feb. *
(7) Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Feb.
(8) The Five Fakirs of Faizabad, P.B. Kerr, Feb. *
(9) The Double Comfort Safari Club, Alexander McCall Smith, Feb. *
(10) Death of a Valentine, M.C. Beaton, Mar. *
(11) Septimus Heap book 1: Magyk, Angie Sage, (audiobook), March *
(12) The Overton Window, Glenn Beck, March *
(13) Septimus Heap 2: Flyte, Angie Sage, March *
(14) Little Men, Louisa May Alcott, (audiobook) March *
(15) How Right You Are, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse, (audiobook with Ian Carmichael), Apr. *
(16) Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne, (audiobook) Apr. *
(17) The Sign of Four, Arthur Conan Doyle, (audiobook) Apr. *
(18) Vanity Fair, William Thackeray, (audiobook, partial) Apr.
(19) Septimus Heap 3: Physik, Angie Sage, Apr. *
(20) King of Shadows, Susan Cooper, (audiobook with Jim Dale) Apr. *
(21) Septimus Heap 4: Queste, Angie Sage, Apr. *
(22) Septimus Heap 5: Syren, Angie Sage, May *
(23) Freddy the Pilot, Walter Brooks (audiobook), May
(24) Dove Song, Kristine Franklin, June *
(25) Minders, Diana Hendry, June
(26) Saturnalia, Lindsey Davis, June
(27) Septimus Heap 6: Darke, Angie Sage, July *
(28) Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean Auel, July *
(29) The Child’s Homer, Padraic Colum, (audiobook) July *
(30) Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Laura Amy Schlitz (audiobook) July *
(31) The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, (audiobook) July *
(32) The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy, P.G. Wodehouse, (audiobook) July *
(33) Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates (audiobook) July *
(34) The Valley of Horses, Jean Auel, Aug.
(35) Redwall, Brian Jaques, Aug.
(36) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, Aug. *
(37) Guardians of Gahoole book 1: The Capture, Kathryn Lasky, (audiobook) Aug.
(38) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling, Aug. *
(39) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling, Sep. *
(40) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling, Sep. *
(41) Guardians of Gahoole book 2: The Journey, Kathryn Lasky (audiobook) Oct.
(42) North by Northanger, Carrie Bebris, Oct.
(43) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling, Oct.
(44) Conqueror, Time’s Tapestry book 2, Stephen Baxter, Oct.
(45) Charlotte Collins, Jennifer Becton, Oct.
(46) Death of a Chimney Sweep, M.C. Beaton, Oct.
(47) Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Oct.
(48) The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Alexander McCall Smith, Nov.
(49) Son of Neptune, Rick Riordan, Nov.
(50) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling, Dec.
(51) The Gray Wolf and other stories, George MacDonald, Dec.
(52) Inkdeath, Cornelia Funke (audiobook) Dec.
(53) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling, Dec.

Nonfiction, craft-related:
(1) Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, Jan.
(2) Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously, Adrienne Martini
, Jan. *
(3) Knitting America, Susan Strawn, Feb.
(4) Socks from the Toe Up, Wendy Johnson, Feb.
(5) A Knitter’s Almanac, Elizabeth Zimmerman, March
(6) Tudor Roses, Alice Starmore, March
(7) Quilts en Provence, Kaffe Fassett, Apr.
(8) Quilt Romance, Kaffe Fassett, May
(9) Blogging for Dummies, May *
(10) The IT Girls’ Guide to Blogging with Moxie, May *
(11) Best of Fons & Porter Scrap Quilts, Sept.
(12) The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt, Laurie Aaron Hird, Sept.
(13) 1001 Patchwork Designs, Maggie Malone, Sept.
(14) ABCs of Longarm Quilting, Patricia Barry, Nov.
(15) Lots of Scraps, It’s time to Quilt, Stauffer and Hatch, Nov.
(16) Denyse Schmidt Quilts, Nov.
(17) More Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift, Joanne Line, Nov.
(18) Log Cabin Quilts with Attitude, Sharon Rotz, Nov.
(19) The Gentle Art of Knitting, Jane Brockett, Dec.

Nonfiction, philosophy, history, language, etc:
(1) The 10 Big Lies about America, Michael Medved, Jan.
(2) Clutter Cure, Judi Culbertson, Jan. *
(3) Textiles: 5000 years, Harris, Feb.
(4) Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis, David C. Downing, Feb. *
(5) What’s so Great about Christianity, Dinesh D’Souza, March *
(6) 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy, James Delingpole, Apr.
(7) If Democrats had any Brains, They’d be Republicans, Ann Coulter, Apr. *
(8) Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, Jennifer Armstrong, May *
(9) The “American Way”: Family and Community in the Shaping of the American Identity, Allan Carlson, May *
(10) Henle Latin I, May
(11) Henle Latin II, May
(12) An Unexpected Journey: Discovering Reformed Christianity, W. Robert Godfrey, May *
(13) Myths of Greece and Rome, H.A. Guerber, June *
(14) Life After Death: The Evidence, Dinesh D’Souza, June *
(15) Godless, Ann Coulter, June *
(16) Before the Flood:the Biblical flood as a real event and how it changed the course of civilization, Ian Wilson, July *
(17) The Teaching Company: Popes and the Papacy: a History, Thomas F. X. Noble, (CDs) July
(18) The Golden Bough, James Frazer, July *
(19) Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America, Ann Coulter, August *
(20) Veritas Teacher Training conference 2011 lecture series, Matt Whitling et al., Aug.
(21) 1st OPC Summer Bible Study on Joshua, Tom Bradshaw, Aug.
(22) The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble, Robert Johnson, Sept. *
(23) Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog, Kitty
Burns Florey, Sept. *
(24) 1st OPC Sunday School class on Westminster Confession, Dec.
(25) Muzzled, Juan Williams, Dec.
(26) World Magazine, 2011
(27) and (28) The Old and New Testaments. Counting this as 2 books (instead of 66), this brings me to a total of 100 books. I followed a chronological reading plan.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Knitting Goals for the New Year

Knitting and quilting are both something of an obsession with me.  I do approach the two crafts in different ways: I think I am basically a process quilter who loves the end product; while I am a product knitter who loves the process of getting there. I tend to go on jags in both knitting and quilting; but because knitting takes so much longer, it's a bigger deal if I commit to trying to carry out some insane challenge in one year... like the year 2009, when I made 12 sweaters (well, 11 sweaters and one dress)in 12 months.  There was a Ravelry group to enable me, and I was too stubborn to quit.  Besides, I really needed a bunch of new sweaters.  I still wear the April, June, October, and December sweaters a lot.  But there is no denying that the National Knit a Sweater a Month Dodecathon (NaKniSweMoDo09) was pretty all-consuming while it was going on, and I haven't managed to meet a challenge like that since, either in knitting or quilting.  I've pretty much decided to knit (and spin) what makes me happy and try to maintain a balance of making garments that I or family members need/want with the relaxing process knitting that I also enjoy.

Last week I posted about my quilting UFOs and WIPs and goals for 2012. I'm pretty sure that if I manage to finish all 12 of those sewing UFOs I'll be doing really well.  But there is a small chance that I will jump into one or more knitting challenges as well.  I've been queuing lace shawl patterns like a madwoman for over a year.  And there is a 12 shawls in 2012 group, as well as the 12 sweaters in 2012 group.  I will probably try to finish at least 3 shawls.  I've done fairly well, all things considered, at meeting my goals for 2011 as listed last New Years' Eve.  I did make the things I wanted to make (socks, sweaters, shawls) and I'm happy with them.  And in the process, I've had a lot of fun blogging about them.

Knitting goals for 2012, spelled out:
  • argyle socks.  I am becoming seriously obsessed with making argyle socks right now.
  • 3 or more shawls.  Should I go for the big 12 in 12 challenge?
  • finish the On Your Toes sweater, and make at least one more. Preferably the twin of the orange Rhinebeck by Proxy pictured in the collage, for my sister Beth. 
  • (fill in the blank with whatever strikes my fancy at the time)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Orca Bay and Farmer's Wife Update

You may remember that the last time I mentioned the Orca Bay mystery, I was more than a full step behind the clues due to the necessity for the bare minimum of Christmas preparation (and I assure you, it was very minimal!)  I'm still loving Bonnie Hunter's mysteries and her ultra-scrappy approach to making quilts in general, but I have to admit, she definitely is not the "less is more" kind of person.  I am so fine with that!  More is more!  But it also takes longer.  And I have to do things in sequential order, and never, ever, skip ahead.  That would be like skipping a lesson in the Latin book, and I never do that either.  So this morning I finally finished step 5, adding wing triangles to my HSTs from step 3.  That was a lot of cutting, and a lot of piecing, nursing along a spool of pink thread that I wanted to use up because somehow it got loosened from its spool (I blame the cats):
I was not about to let that thread go completely to waste!  I managed to nurse it along for a good long time by using my Grandpa's wooden thread-holder thingy.  Even though I was sewing black and white fabrics.  I did end up having to throw several yards away, but not much.  Especially when you consider that this photo was taken after using more than half of it as-is.  Yep, I can be pretty thrifty about a $4 spool of thread.  When I counted up all the triangle units from step 5, I had 360 total.  That's 10 more than I needed!
I've started step 6; all the black and red squares are cut and I can now join them into the Ohio Star blocks.  I love this block; it was my first quilt way back in the late 80's, pieced by hand.  My blacks are awfully busy; but that probably helps hide the imperfect seams.  I've got pirate skulls, stars, flowers, puzzle pieces, plaids, and I've been trying to use up some of my MIL's bowling, soccer, and motorcycle themed fabrics too.  Motorcycles that say "born to run!"  (I am not a motorcycle or skull person in real life, just so you know!) I really like the way the black, white, and red blocks have such visual pop, and I'm getting excited about the next clue.  I'll link this post to Quiltville where the other Orca Bay participants are sharing their progress.  It's so fun that people from all over the world are doing this mystery.  I love following bilingual blogs and you can find quite a few there.
It's been a few weeks since I last updated my Farmer's Wife Quilt blocks.  This is block #78, Shooting Star.  It wasn't my favorite design so I decided to use fabrics that I didn't like that much but that looked like starlight, and I actually like the finished block, a little bit.  It was paper-pieced after I drew it on graph paper.
Block #79, Silver Lane.  I chose "silvery" fabrics and I like this one, even if it does look a little too much like a Space Invader.
Block #80, Single Wedding Star.  I had the black/white color combination on the brain because of Orca Bay, and I just went to a wedding with those colors (and the bride wore pink shoes, and I used pink thread to piece it!), so this came about as a result of that.  I only had a tiny bit of that basket fabric, but it felt very wedding-y.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Post-Christmas Post

Christmas day was busy and happy; we opened stockings before church in the morning, then came home for dinner with Grandma and Grandpa.  We opened presents, cleaned up the dishes, Grandma and Grandpa left and we rested a bit before the Lessons and Carols service in the evening.
My dear daughter got me fabric softener for Christmas. She picked it out herself, at Dollar Tree. I was trailing along behind her to help and she sternly told me not to look, but I had already seen it. I think she thought it was hand lotion to make my skin smell nice. It has the sweet picture of a mother with her baby and the caption "soft as a mother's love," so I'm flattered she thought of me. I do hope she doesn't expect me to produce a baby out of it, though.

Steve promised each of the kids a "date with Daddy" including a meal at the restaurant of their choice and an activity.  Tertia cashed hers in yesterday with a trip to that great Hazel Dell institution, Steakburger, for mini-golfing and lunch.  Quarta is requesting bowling and Burgerville, Secundus is going to see Sherlock Holmes and eat at 5 Guys, and Primigenitus has inherited my hesitancy and is still making up his mind.  Other memorable gifts: a bunch of Disney movies (Ratatouille, Dumbo, Pooh, and Tangled), the new Zelda game for Secundus mainly, a Greek New Testament and subscription to Analog for Primigenitus.  I bought Steve some things off his Amazon wish list but since I didn't do that until Christmas Eve they aren't here yet (yes, I know... very poor planning on my part).  I did finish his socks yesterday evening:
...He's wearing them today.  He gave me some more custom-created CDs with replacements for some of my favorite old cassette tapes: Steeleye Span and an album that includes Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I also now have a little LED reading book-light that recharges on a base and will help me barrel through my huge reading stack without waking him up with an overhead light.
I made Christian's Potatoes to go with the ham for Christmas dinner.  It's an old family recipe, and I couldn't find it online, although it does bear a strong resemblance to Mormon Funeral Potatoes.

8 - 10 medium potatoes, skins left on, boiled about 20 min. with 2  bay leaves

Coarsely grate or chop potatoes; spread in greased pan.  Then make a sauce:

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 C. sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C. finely chopped or grated onion
1 1/2 C grated cheddar cheese

Gently mix sauce with potatoes in pan and bake 30 min. at 350 degrees or until bubbly and hot.  My grandma put bread crumbs on top, but I never have.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Random Acts of Randomness

Yes, the rest of the blogging world is posting about Christmas cheer, Peace and Goodwill, festive recipes, you name it.  And while I like all of those in their place, and it is Christmas Eve, I'm not going all Christmassy on you.  I'll be posting about this little girl:
How could you not love that face?  Her smile is addictive and people who know her line up for her hugs, but her last two Thursdays have been marked by randomness of the first degree.

On the next-to-last day before Christmas break, Mrs. K., her Special Ed teacher, called me before the bus brought her home from 6th grade.  "She's had a HORRIBLE day."  I was still reeling from "horrible," which is not a word you often hear the grandmotherly Mrs. K. use, but there was more. "She CUT her HAIR... meltdown in 1st period... wrote her name in a library book...another meltdown..." Augh!  Where did this come from?  But truth be told, nobody does random like my dear daughter.  Maybe the random gene is on the 21st chromosome.

So as I cut her hair in an attempt to even out her self-inclicted half-bob, I used police interview techniques to attempt to reconstruct her day.  Turns out, in 1st period they were working on a poster for a student teacher who was leaving and she and her team members had a difference of opinion about how much artistic coloring she should do. "And Matthew grabbed my arm.  Like this..." (she demonstrated) "Not Matthew J." (her best friend from 3 years ago) "... another Matthew.  He's a boy."  She later acknowledged that Matthew did this not to be mean, but because "He was trying to get my attention."  But however it happened, she had disrupted Ms. W.'s class and would need to apologize to her. 

Then there was 3rd period math, where Mrs. K. said she didn't get anything done.  But here she insisted "I was trying to do my math, but David distracted me.  David doesn't talk."  But he does make noise.  Fair enough, it was a minor issue when taken in perspective.  I tiptoed around the library book issue as requested by Mrs. K.  I really wanted to know about the hair.  "What were you thinking when you cut your hair in 7th period?" I asked.

As so often is the case, a Disney Princess is at the root of the matter.  As near as I can reconstruct, she was trying to reenact the climactic scene of Tangled, where Rapunzel cuts her magical hair and saves the hero's life while Mother Gothel meets her well-deserved fate.  But she was supposed to be working on writing a paragraph about Tuck Everlasting.  Oh well, she needed a haircut anyway, and it doesn't look too ragged after my repairs.  But because 7th period was her one academic full-inclusion class, she would need to apologize to Ms. P. the next day, too.  That was 3 apologies to teachers, and possibly some more to students who were only trying to help her.  And for us at home, the only evidence that she had had a bad day was her cut hair.  Her attitude that evening was really pretty chipper, all things considered.  If you could bottle what she has and sell it as anti-depressant...


Two days ago, Steve dropped off Primigenitus at his job at the local Kumon tutoring center, then took Quarta to play at a nearby park for a bit... she wanted to ride her scooter someplace different.  Turns out, Quarta had asked Tertia right before leaving if she wanted to come, too, but hadn't understood or hadn't taken the time to wait because she wanted to go RIGHT NOW.  Well, Tertia did want to go, but since Daddy and little sister were already gone in the car, she decided to put on her coat and go after them.  I was recovering from a headache and was sewing in my cubby so didn't hear her go out, Secundus was asleep, and 45 minutes or so later when Steve and Quarta came back we all assumed Tertia was reading in her room, until Quarta told us she wasn't there.  We looked all around the house, then thought to check her coat and it was missing.  So we figured she might have tried to go to one of the parks on our street, which she knows how to get to.  We split up to check them both, but she wasn't there.  A few frenzied cell-phone conversations later and I told Steve that we would have to call 911.  But 911 called our home number just as Steve got there and asked if he was missing a little girl.

She had walked all the way to the Kumon center, well over a mile and requiring her to cross at least 2 busy streets, before friendly passersby had spotted her and called 911.  She and the sherriff's deputy were waiting for Steve at the Chevron station.  I was still huffing and puffing my way back from the farther of the 2 parks on our street.  She had never been to the park Steve and Quarta went to, otherwise I'm sure she would have found it (but it's not the kind of park you want your kids to go to alone).  She was able to give her name and phone number to the policeman, although her address was a bit garbled.

So the joke was on us, at least a little bit.  She's smart enough to figure out the clues about where people are going and stubborn enough to get there most of the way on her own.  But if we don't slow down the pace of our lives for her, and take the time to explain in simple terms why she needs to have a buddy when she leaves the house and tell people what she plans to do, we'll all get the lesson about slowing down, the hard way.

Maybe this is why God often gives children with Down syndrome to older mothers (I maintain that I wasn't an older mother when she was born, but I guess I am now!)  It's His way of telling us to slow down, focus on the really important stuff, and enjoy life as it happens.  And I guess this is where I bring the post back to Christmas and make the obvious tie-in.  I'm content with a not-quite-perfect house, not-completely-tidy kitchen (and living room, and dining room...), a modest number of presents under the tree, and a still-unfinished to-do list; so long as my family is well and we remember what is truly important in life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Orca Bay Mystery 4.5

Well, I've been grabbing moments to sew whenever I can and I'm still not done with clue 4.  But I probably will be very soon, maybe even today.  With Bonnie releasing the 6th clue early, I decided just to post what I had and try to catch up later.  I like making the red string blocks but they are going slowly, especially with having to do all the Christmas preparations and having the kids home.  I think clue 5 will go faster, and clue 6 actually has us assembling blocks-- whee!  I had some fun laying out all my patches so far on the dining room table for this picture.
(Okay, there is absolutely no reason why my blog would put this photo in upside down.  They both were in the correct direction in my picture file, I checked!  Blogger must have been drinking spiked eggnog.)
I'm linking up to Quiltville so you can check out what everyone else is doing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sewing UFOs and WIPs: Goals for the New Year

Back in June when I last took stock of the situation, I described the difference, at least in my mind, between a UFO and a WIP.  An UnFinished Object is something that languishes, almost forgotten and possibly unloved, for 6 months, a year, or even longer, producing disproportionate amounts of guilt and other negative emotions in the process.  A Work In Progress can be anything that you are currently working on ("currently" meaning that it easily springs to mind as something you are working on without having to sort through layers of unpleasant repressed memories), and is usually characterized by a fair amount of creative agitation, mess, and occasional bad temper.  Still, WIPs by definition are things that a crafter is interested in and thus have an obvious advantage.  There are WIP Wednesday linkup parties to monitor their progression, and crafters really LIKE to talk about them.  UFOs, not so much.  I listed 11 UFOs, all of them quilt-related, without batting an eye, and resolved to finish a few of them.  I actually did: the Shirt-Stripe Boxes quilt and the quilting for my MIL's Japanese Lanterns quilt.  But that's still a drop in the bucket, and new UFOs have sprung up since then.

Now, at the close of the old year, I have discovered Patchwork Times, where Judy Laquidara hosts a yearly challenge to finish up some of those long-term UFOs.  This really appeals to me.  I think the way it works is, I post my list of 12 UFOs that I would like to get finished in 2012.  Then, every month Judy will draw a random number and we work on that numbered project.  I had no trouble coming up with 12 UFOs by splitting some of my bigger challenges into parts and counting projects for which I've bought patterns and fabric but not even started.  So here's my list:

  1. Aunt Maggie's Quilt: finished top, needs machine quilting and binding
  2. Framed in Quilt (pictured above): finished top, needs machine quilting and binding
  3. Log cabin... more blocks? Sew blocks together into quilt top
  4. 1996 Piecemaker's Calendar quilt (pictured at top): prepare half of applique for setting triangles
  5. " "
  6. Classical-themed tote bag
  7. Feathered Star (pictured above): make a decision and finish top
  8. Bowling-style knitting bag (was a sew-along in a Ravelry group over a year ago)
  9. Jack's Chain: piece half of remaining blocks
  10. " "
  11. Kit for three-quarters bag from Connecting Threads in Whirlwind Romance
  12. Pieced blanket of felted wool squares from old sweaters
If I don't make it on any of these 12 goals, there's no penalty of course, but at least I have blog fodder and camaraderie while I'm trying.  I reserve the right to go on an obsessive finishing streak and work on something out of order, too.  That COULD happen.  If it does, here are a few extra projects to throw in for a bonus:
  1. Hooked Rug in Mariner's Compass design
  2. heirloom linen blouse
  3. wool stuffed toy cat
  4. boxers in 3 different fabrics (I was supposed to make them for Christmas. Ha!)
In addition to working on those long-term UFOs, here are my current WIPs that will probably be in play for at least the first 3 months of 2012:
  1. Farmer's Wife Quilt (79 of 111  blocks complete)
  2. Orca Bay mystery quilt (halfway through clue 4)
  3. Sports quilt for Cedar Tree auction (This is really a UFO but I'm giving myself a March deadline)
  4. Crumb-along quilt for auction
  5. conversion to Bonnie Hunter's Scrap-User's system... ongoing
And then, of course I will probably start any number of new quilts.  I have some ideas but I'll wait to share them, lest they be counted as UFOs and start to produce guilt.

I'll do another post sometime soon about my knitting goals for the new year, because I approach knitting UFOs and WIPs in a completely different way than sewing ones.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Quilting STARS quilt-along: a finish!

It's done!  I applied the binding in a furious rush Saturday morning before we had to leave for a 3-hour car trip to a wedding in Seattle, and hand-stitched it down mostly during that time in the car.  This is the quilt-along from Melissa at Happy Quilting, and I just love the colors, the wonky stars, and the fact that it made a dent in my pink stash.
I had a bit of trouble with the Megaquilter while I was quilting it, but I eventually decided to pick out the variegated thread that was glitching it up, adjusted the tension and used plain eggshell thread, and it worked with a minimum of fuss.  I'm still not all friendly with the Megaquilter again, but we're on coldly formal speaking terms.
As we all know, a quilt isn't finished until it has a binding and a label.  So here it is.  Final dimensions are about 61" x 85".  I didn't put a hanging sleeve on because I figured it would almost certainly just be used as a bed quilt.  This quilt is to be donated to the Cedar Tree auction this spring, where I sincerely hope the bidding will get fast and furious and one of my future students will win the prize.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grandma Bogue's Fudge Recipe

Often praised, never before committed to the internet (to my knowledge), now you can make the perfect fudge.  There is no point searching further; other recipes are trickier but not as good.  I usually make a double batch of this every Christmas... that way I can use up a can of evaporated milk, and there is enough to mail off to family.  It just takes a little longer to come to the boil.  But this recipe never comes out grainy, or separates, or any other negative fudge outcome.  Even better, if you insist on being creative, you can change the flavor of chips you use... white chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch.  I prefer straight-up semi-sweet chocolate, myself.

Marshmallow Creme Fudge

1 7-oz jar marshmallow creme
1 1/2 C sugar
2/3 C evaporated milk
1/4 C butter
1/4 t. salt
1 12-oz pkg chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped pecans
1 t. vanilla

Line a 9x13" pan with foil and grease it.  Combine 1st 5 ingredients in large saucepan (especially if you double the ingredients!) and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  When mixture reaches a boil, set timer for 5 minutes and keep stirring.  At the end of 5 minutes, remove from heat, add chocolate chips, and stir until melted.  Add nuts and vanilla; pour into prepared pan; chill until firm.  Makes about 2 lbs.  Give some to the people you love.  Hope that it gets to them before Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

SewMamaSew giveaway day winners!

"Here I come to save the day!"  I had no idea there were so many Mighty Mouse fans out there!  That fabric really grabbed a lot of attention!

Congratulations to Paskiaq, chosen by the Random Number Generator for her comment #45 on my giveaway post (and it couldn't have chosen a sweeter comment):
I am making an i-spy quilt for my 16 month old. I love him more than I could have ever thought possible. He is definitely unique. He turns down cookies and candies but eats fruit like there's no tomorrow. He loves music and always bops his little little body along to the beat no matter type of music or where we are. He prefers to blow kisses rather than saying bye. The best is when he's tired and he walks around like he is drunk and giggles at nothing. :) 
I have a packet of 5" charm squares, the charm quilts book, and a few other little goodies to send off to you.  I'm going to a wedding tomorrow, so it will probably be Monday or Tuesday when I get these packages posted.

Packages plural... because I made extra charm packs!  I said I would keep cutting until I had at least 50 different squares, and there are at least that many (I think closer to 60).  I decided to choose the comments myself, rather than randomly, for the other winners.  I'm sentimental about many of these fabrics, because they came from those early days when my boys were little and I sewed them little shorts and bought novelty fabric for their quilts.  So I really think their highest purpose would be to make I-Spy quilts, and I'd love to spread them around to some other moms who would do just that.  The other charm packs (and a few other odds and ends like buttons and "vintage" quilt magazines) will go to:

pianomama who said,
So cute! I'd make a quilt for my 3yo son who is the "caboose" of six kiddos. I've made quilts for all his big brothers and sisters - but haven't gotten one done for him yet. Bad momma:-)
I understand all about that mommy guilt, and these 5" squares make for quick and easy piecing.

Cricket who said,
I would totally use those for an I spy type quilt for my daughters. But the thing is - my 4 year old is sitting next to me and when she saw the picture she *gasped* and said "mommy! That's my diaper!" Sure enough, the cloth diaper I bought special for her to come home from the hospital in (which matched her black velvet overalls and res handknit hat and booties)was made of that skull fabric in the front. I have never seen it in a store or anything, and I know she would love a quilt with a little bit of that in there!

Thanks for offering such a great giveaway. I just love little bits and bobs and scraps. They're my favorite.  
How could I possibly resist the image of a little girl getting sentimental over pirate skull fabric (with matching black velvet, no less!)

and Kristy, who said,
I have 5 children, and have been planning an "eye-spy" type quilt for them for months as my first attempt at quilting. These fun squares would be a perfect addition to my growing stack! Thanks for the chance!
Go for it, Kristy!  Quilting is a wonderful hobby to enrich your and your kids' lives, and I hope you come to love it as much as I do.

So, I'll look forward to hearing from the four of you.  Thanks to everyone who commented on my giveaway post; I read every single one and wish I had 110 charm packs to give out.  And thanks to SewMamaSew for hosting giveaway day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Orca Bay Mystery 4

Whew, what an absolutely crazy week!  This is about as far as I've gotten with clue 4 of the Orca Bay Mystery, with all the extra Christmas cookie making, shopping, substitute teaching and school programs I've signed up for this week.  And of course in all of that comes the Sew Mama Sew giveaway event, which I'm participating in this time (see last entry) and which is more addictive than dark chocolate.

But I'm getting to use my reds.  I had to cut strips of all of them first, and there's a big basket ready to go by my sewing machine whenever I do get time to sew some more.  I figured out that my Fons and Porter flying geese triangle ruler is equivalent to the rulers Bonnie recommends, and has the same measurements we need for this clue.  I put together the red triangles with a few of the patches from all the other clues just to see how the colors play together.  Good, I think.  I really like the creative color combos some of the other participants have come up with, but wasn't courageous enough to try them this time.

It's late and I have a full day again tomorrow.  Any further blogging adventures will have to go on hold for a little longer.  I'll maybe catch up with clue 4 and 5 next week when school is out!

Monday, December 12, 2011

My First Giveaway

Sew Mama Sew is hosting a giveaway day this week, and I'm joining in with my first giveaway ever! Last spring when I stumbled on the last giveaway party, it changed my blogging life... Even though I didn't win anything, I found several new blogs to follow, and that in turn led to so much inspiration for new quilting projects that I became more of a quilt blog where before I was focusing mainly on knitting and book reviews.  So by all means, go join in the fun.  There are several categories of giveaways and hundreds of participants.
I've been quilting fairly seriously for 20 years, and I have a lot of fabric, but it's mostly in small quantities.  I   So I decided to cut up a bunch of 5" charm squares from some of my novelty fabrics.  Most of them have been in my stash or scrap bins for awhile and would be appropriate for making a nice crib or play quilt for a favorite child.  I have great memories of the projects I made for my own kids while cutting them up! There are 25 charm squares with a little of everything, and I'll keep cutting until I have at least 50 in the stack for you.  There is also a book, Charm Quilts with Style, and I'll throw in a handful of vintage buttons and a lavender sachet.  The winner will be chosen randomly from comments left on this post.  Let me know a little about the child you'd like to make something for: boy or girl, friend or relation, personality, cute stories, whatever!
I'll have a few more packets of charm squares to give away, too.  I'll include some quilting magazines instead of the book and pick those winners based on my own favorite comments.  So there will be at least 3 prizes going out.  I'm looking forward to meeting some new friends!

I'll ship internationally.  Giveaway will stay open until Friday, Dec. 16 at 5:00 p.m.  Make sure I can reach you by email, and I will also be editing this post to reflect the winners.  Now go have fun!


Updated to add winners' names:

Congratulations Paskiaq, the RNG picked you!

And in addition, I've contacted pianomama and Cricket and Kristy because I have a few more charm packs to send their way!  Be sure to send me your snail-mail addy so I can post these to you next week.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Getting the Tree Down, and Up Again

A slight mishap occurred yesterday when we cut down the Christmas tree.  We are thankful for understanding neighbors, no significant damage or injuries, and a pre-existing relationship with the fencing company.
Steve to Secundus: "Hand me that saw!"  No, Secundus does not dress for the season.  It's a macho thing, I guess.  I was busy inside, vacuuming and rearranging furniture.  I moved the sleeper sofa all by myself, and now my lower back is really sore.
It may be our most expensive free Christmas tree ever, but the girls had fun decorating it.  There are lots of clusters of cedar cones, those are the brown things.  We turned it so the lean is toward the window.  You have to use ornament hooks because the branches are not firm enough to support loops of string; Quarta used all of ours plus most of the paperclips in the junk drawer, but all the ornaments are up.  There is a lot of foliage left from the tree which I may or may not make into a garland for the white picket fence.
Seasonal hats make the job even more enjoyable.  It is a proven fact that little girls will do all sorts of jobs if they can wear elf hats and Santa hats.

Friday, December 9, 2011

STARS off the frame

I finished the machine quilting on the STARS quilt-along quilt today.  This is a huge mental weight gone, because as you may remember, my Megaquilter has been a bit tetchy of late.  I unpicked the original variegated pink Gutermann thread that I had started with, and threaded back up with the cone of eggshell that I've used for many quilts already.  I will need to get more of that soon, because it seems to be working when nothing else will.  There were only about 4 times that the thread broke on me, and that's within normal operating parameters.  It's when the needle breaks or the thread forms nests on the back that I start ranting. 

I had little patience left by this time, so I quilted in the widest possible meandering with no particular goal other than holding the layers together and not looking too ugly.  It worked!  At a distant glance there are no ugly spots!  Now I just need to trim the edges and apply binding.  It is destined to be another quilt to donate to the Cedar Tree auction coming up.  It's a great color scheme and I'm sure there will be lots of little girls who'd love it on their beds.

On the Christmas front... while I stand by my earlier post distancing myself from all Christmas-themed or Christmas-deadline crafting, reality is beginning to set in.  I will not be joining the 1st OPC quilting party tomorrow... not so much because I don't want to be quilting, but because we are chopping down and decorating the tree tomorrow, and that has to take precedence.  It would also be the logical day for some cookie-baking and, yes, even cleaning.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WIP Wednesday: the Holiday Denial edition

Although many other quilt bloggers are very sensibly taking a Christmas break from various self-imposed blog challenges, I have adopted my usual policy of ignoring Christmas until the last possible moment in hopes that someone else will do it for me.  By "it" I mean the cooking, cleaning, planning, wrapping, package mailing, and especially the shopping.  I don't really do handmade gifts for Christmas, either.  I did once or twice, but the sheer volume of productivity needed for that in our family and extended family would require me not to have a job as well, so I've decided to make my handmade gifts "just because" gifts at random times of the year, for the most part.

That means that I can continue crafting more or less as usual throughout the holidays, which is good.  It also means that my family is probably starting to lower their expectations of me during this season... which is also good, I guess!  I'll just pretend I don't feel guilty about all the stuff I'm not doing.
I did two Farmer's Wife Quilt blocks this week.  Here's #76 - Sawtooth.  I used scraps from one of Steve's old shirts and the New York fabric I used for some boxers a while back.
#77 - Seasons.  Keeping up with the vintage, reclaimed, and thrifted fabrics theme for this quilt, and hoping that all the different patterns and colors will blend harmoniously when I get it all done.  I'm really not looking forward to block #78, though.

I finished up clue 3 in the Orca Bay Mystery already; actually made a few extra HST's.  I'm enjoying the "in-the-moment" nature of this quilt, and looking forward to the next clue coming out Friday.

At a standstill (still!): the STARS pink/orange/white quilt is still on the quilting frame but I have unpicked all the stitches from the first quilting attempt.  I plan on attempting again with different thread, and then evaluating whether to be a grump and take the Megaquilter back to the dealership again.  I have not been happy with the dealership, but to be honest I don't have time to cart it in and fight that battle, and if I can get it "good enough" with basic tension adjustments, I don't really use it all that often.  Next time it needs maintenance, though, it's definitely going to the nice folks at Hazel Dell House of Sewing Machines and Vacuums.

Today I stopped at Country Manor quilting in Battle Ground and picked up the Pigma Micron pens I'll need for the Crumbs signature quilt.  So I need to begin collecting signatures from all the schoolkids.

Knitting: I finished turning the heels on Steve's socks.  Still working on a baby item and a sweater for myself from my gray Shetland homespun, but not working very fast on any of them.

Spinning: no progress on the wheel, but last week we did cover the Role of women in ancient Rome in my 7th grade class, and I took in my collection of spindles.  I let them try for themselves if they wanted.  We've found that sometimes it works if one person spins while another person drafts, but I don't think any significant yardage of yarn was created.  I still have the spindles in at school and will allow them to try again when we have the time after the quiz Friday.  I should really take some pictures...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Orca Bay Mystery 3

I have 210 of the 350 HST units I need, and am doing a few strips at a time.  They go fast.  Notice the little Kermits, pirate skulls, cartoon cats and flowers in this close-up.  I like using the strip method to cut these, along with my Fons and Porter flying geese triangle cutter.  I usually do a grid for HSTs, but this seems to be more accurate without having to square them up afterwards... maybe because there is less stretching along the bias.

This is a fun way to do a quilt.  I like the fact that each step is self-contained and thus the cleanup afterwards is minimal.  I also like the fact that it's making a dent in some of my unloved scraps.  I'm getting excited to see each new step as it's released.  For my color scheme, I'm sticking pretty close to the model, but others are changing it up.  I'm linking up to Bonnie Hunter's show-and-tell page so you can see what everyone else is doing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pumpkin and Mustard Greens Colcannon Soup

Here's the soup I made for yesterday's church dinner.  Colcannon is an Irish dish with mashed potatoes and cabbage, and this is loosely based on a recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon who wrote my favorite cookbook.  But I added pumpkin puree, which I make up from the pumpkins the kids bring home in the fall even if they're not pie pumpkins, and mustard greens from our garden.  It had a sharp, tangy flavor from the mustard but the sweetness of the pumpkin takes some of the nip out of it.  It's great comfort food on a cold day.

Here's my recipe: assume "approximately" in front of every ingredient, because I didn't measure.

1 1/2 C chopped onions
2 T butter
1 bunch mustard, washed thoroughly to remove bits of cedar scales and dirt, and sliced into ribbons (you could use frozen greens such as spinach, kale, or collards instead)
4-5 potatoes, peeled and diced
6-7 cups water (you could use chicken or vegetable stock, but I didn't)
2 cloves garlic
4 C pureed pumpkin or squash
salt to taste (I used about 2 t.)
pepper to taste
red pepper to taste (I used Aleppo pepper from Penzey's spices; omit if you don't want too much spice)
1-2 C milk
1/2 C cream

Saute onions until clear in butter: add mustard and saute if fresh: otherwise add water and mustard, potatoes, and garlic; bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until potatoes are soft.  Add pumpkin and puree with immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender; leaving it chunky is also an option.  Add salt and pepper to taste; shortly before serving add milk and cream and heat just until hot.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wassail, Wassail All Over the Town...

Cedar Tree had its Madrigal Feaste yesterday and today at the Belltower Cathedral in Ridgefield.  Steve and I attended yesterday's performance, where Primigenitus played the King amid much merriment and music, and <<spoiler alert>> Cyrano actually got the girl.
For those who didn't manage to get tickets before it sold out, there will be an encore free (but foodless) performance at Cedar Tree on Tuesday the 6th of December at 7:00 p.m. 

I was bursting with pride at my son's performance.  He's really grown so much as a singer and actor, and his self-confidence is so many miles ahead of where mine ever was, especially at his age.  All the kids are a delight to see; the casting was great, especially when you consider many of these kids are 7th graders and they are holding their own with the Seniors.  And they are all my students (or former students)!

Today Tertia was off to the Library to sing with her school choir.  She needs to practice looking at the director and not getting distracted.  The band played too... there was a notice up that said because of the children's program, "noise may exceed usual library quiet standards."  Uh, yes.  There was wassail and cookies there, too.

Then it was on to a bridal shower for the girls and me, and more sweets.  I won the "guess the spice" game and Quarta came in second, and we now have coordinating Christmas mugs from the prize box.  Fun!

Tomorrow is a fellowship meal after church, and Steve and I just harvested several bunches of the mustard greens that are thriving in our garden.  I'm thinking of doing a version of Colcannon soup with potatoes, mustard greens, and maybe some pumpkin.  I'll also freeze the extra mustard greens after chopping and blanching them for 2 minutes as the Blue Book recommends... I've found that you can use spinach and mustard greens combined in "spinach noodle bake" instead of straight spinach.  And mustard greens grow like, well, weeds in our garden.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Orca Bay Mystery 2

I'm nearly finished with step 2 of Bonnie Hunter's Orca Bay Mystery quilt.  I've been string piecing these little 3.5" blocks on squares cut from an old phone book, and it works very well as a foundation.  I still have about 10 to go of the 72 required.  You can also see the hourglass units from step 1 on the left.  Making this quilt so far has been all happy playing with scraps... just what I like about quilting.

I had already cleared out a lot of my blue scraps when I pieced the Framed In quilt top (still in the queue waiting for machine quilting), so many of these had to be cut from my boxes of blues, which wasn't a problem.  I'm going to be converting some of my smaller pieces into strips and squares using Bonnie's Scrap User's system, but that will be a long-term project.  Eventually my fat quarter boxes will just have fat quarters in them, and not the smallish scraps that clutter them up now.

If any of you have been following the amazing story of Katie, the 9-year-old adopted from Eastern Europe weighing less than 11 pounds, check out this post from her new family on her progress.  It will warm your heart. If you haven't yet read her story, have a box of tissues handy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WIP Wednesday

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced once again for WIP Wednesday.  This week I got two Farmer's Wife quilt blocks done.  This is block #74, Ribbons.
... and #75, Rosebud.  Not great pictures of either one of them, I'm afraid.

I spent a lot of time this week working on Bonnie Hunter's Orca Bay mystery... here's the one post so far, and I'll post another one tomorrow.  It's a little bit like "if you give a mouse a cookie..." because once I started working on my scraps, I also started wanting to organize my scraps into Bonnie's Scrap User's System, and so I started happily cutting 1.5", 2", 2.5", and 3.5" strips and squares out of all my random scrappiness.  That's a project that's going to take awhile, but it's fun to do in between sewing bursts.  I've really been getting a lot of scraps cleared out with all the tops I've pieced in recent months.
My happy progress came to a screeching halt when I loaded my STARS quilt onto the Mega Quilter and tried to quilt it.  The machine was supposed to be fixed, but there's something wrong with it still, because it can't sew more than 8" in my preferred thread before the thread breaks or forms loopy messes on the back.  I'm disgusted with it and ripping out all the small progress I had made so far.  At the moment it still works semi-well with a plain off-white thread, so I'm going to try again to finish the top using that thread, and then I'll probably lug the thing back to the dealership and demand satisfaction.  There's really no good reason for the machine to be that temperamental.
I don't really have great pictures to share this time.  Oh well, soon I'll be collecting signatures on my Crumbs quilt top and there's still lots more fun to come in Orca Bay. I like piecing so much better than quilting anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth of seven books in J.K. Rowling's epic school story with a twist.  In this book, young Harry, raised by completely unsympathetic, non-magical Muggles, learns more about the civil war that is threatening to burst upon the magical world he now views as his true home.  More than ever before, he feels himself at the center of the action as the evil Lord Voldemort schemes to return to full power... and his plans appear to include Harry.  At the same time, there is plenty of rollicking, lively action to keep any young reader's interest, even though this book is longer than any of the first three in the series.

After a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Quidditch World Cup (Bulgaria vs. Ireland, but it takes place in an undisclosed location in Britain), Harry is back off to Hogwarts, where a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Mad-Eye Moody, encourages the students to take a more serious view of the threats against them.  These include the Unforgivable Curses of torture, mind-control, and murder... which will play an all-too-prominent role in the action of the series from this point onward.  The really big news is that Hogwarts will host the Tri-Wizard Tournament, a year-long competition between the three major European schools of wizardry.  Contestants from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will join a Hogwarts champion... but the goblet of fire that chooses the contestants spits out Harry's name, forcing him to compete against champions older and more experienced than he.  It all seems like a plot to get Harry killed, and to complicate matters, his best mate Ron Weasley is jealous of Harry's chance for glory. 

Many characters from previous books make a return appearance in the course of the book; Dobby the house elf and the ghost Moaning Myrtle give Harry some assistance in the competition.  Memorable new characters include the paranoid Mad-Eye, the poison-quilled tabloid journalist Rita Skeeter, the forlorn house-elf Winky, and the never-serious former athlete Ludo Bagman.  As in other books of the series, the themes of friendship and loyalty are large in this book; Harry as a neglected orphan has a greater apprciation for the value of friendship when he finds it and never undervalues an individual who has shown kindness to him. 

Like Harry himself, this book is in transition between the juvenile and adult world.  If you've followed my previous reviews of the series, you'll know that this is the book I won't let my 9-year-old read yet. (She finished book 3 in less than a day when given the green light, and then read it right through again.)  This book begins with the murder of an innocent man and includes another death of a significant character towards the end.  If your child is bothered by books that do not have completely happy endings and simple solutions, it might be best to hold off on reading this one no matter how appealing the earlier Harry books are.  There is also a very dark scene of ritual bloodletting and mutilation which would disturb just about anyone... although the Death Eaters and Voldemort are not in any way portrayed in a positive light and good eventually triumphs, the potential for bad dreams is significant.  Use good judgment in reading this to children under 10.  If they do read it, they will most likely want to continue the series, which deals with increasingly dark and serious themes and kills off more central characters in each book.  In my experience, some kids handle this better than others, and parents know their own kids best.  But for cultivating a joy in reading, there is still nothing quite like these books.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jazz for Cows, Megaquilter Frustrations

...because it's got to be boring being a cow.  It's nice when they play for you.

My Mega Quilter is giving me no end of frustration as I try to quilt my STARS quilt.  It did Quarta's first quilt fine, after coming back from the servicing.  But as soon as I started on this one, with different thread, it started clicking and making thread nests on the back and breaking thread.  Then it broke a needle, the one that it came back from the repairman with.  I put in a new needle and played with the tension for awhile.  The upshot is, I seem to be able to get it to work with plain white thread from a cone, but the nice Gutermann variegated pink thread just keeps breaking, or making random thread loop nests on the back no matter what tension I have it set to.  Every couple of inches in a simple meander quilting pattern. I tried calling the dealer, which was not helpful at all... no way will I take that puppy off the carriage again anytime soon and bring it across town to get shipped off to Oregon and get charged another $160.  It's only a month since I got it back from the last time. From what I read online, the machine itself is pretty sturdy, so I can't figure out what's up with it.  I've used this thread on this machine before.  I will say that my machine on the frame with the stitch regulator has always been a bit finicky for me, but I can usually "make it work."  I'm frustrated with the dealership because they couldn't give me any tips to try and most of the people I've talked to don't seem very knowledgeable about the machine.  Next step I think is to try buying a smaller size of needle to see if that's causing the problems... they didn't even carry the type of needle I needed... in a Viking dealership!  I think I'll do better with the House of Sewing Machines closer to home.  But tomorrow.  For now I'll work on the Orca Bay mystery and Farmer's Wife blocks, and head out to Knit Night at Starbucks.

Tertia had the quote for the week today.  We've been working with her Life Skills teacher and Learning Support teacher to try to find the middle ground in math for her where she will be challenged and instructed in new concepts but not frustrated.  So I asked her today how that was going and she told me she's working in Ms. W's class (Learning Support) on Order of Operations.  Did she understand it? Yes.  That's good, I said, sometimes I have a hard time with that. "Yes. I know.  Because I love working on Order of Operations in Ms. W.'s classroom."  When you converse with Tertia, you have to embrace the random a little bit.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Busy Season

Tertia was one of many voices in the combined choir of the Vancouver School District singing at the Christmas tree lighting at Esther Short Park yesterday evening.  The Columbian article is here; no pictures of her, unfortunately, even though she was right next to the podium in the front row: she had to stand still while the Mayor spoke right next to her, and was the most excited person on the stage when Santa showed up.  They sang a lot of carols, sacred and secular, and she kept up with the music except when she looked up to see us and got distracted.

Secundus received his letter in Cross Country for Columbia River High School at a banquet this last week.  He had pretty good times, although not quite fast enough for the varsity team, which went on to win eighth in the state.  He made some good friends and seemed to fit in well with the athletic crowd, even though he doesn't study at their school; it's nice that students at private and home schools can caucus with the public schools for sports.  We're hoping he can compete in the Spring Track season as well.

I'm glad not to be driving Secundus to CC practices daily now, but this coming week will be a nightmare of scheduling with late practices for Primigenitus in the Madrigal Feast.  And just about every weekend from here until Christmas, we're double or triple-booked.  I received a scolding call from the dentist's office yesterday and am avoiding the scheduling hassle with various medical specialists the way some people avoid bill-collectors.  And while the pantry moths seem to have been eliminated, the fleas keep coming back and I'm short on the energy and time needed to go after the areas around the cats' bedding and litterboxes.

I miss the idyllic and peaceful lead-up to the holiday that I remember from my childhood... maybe one or two extra events beyond the usual, staying home most evenings and watching TV, one trip to Rolling Acres Mall (back in the 80's before its current notoriety in the Craigslist serial killings, it was actually a pleasant place to shop).  I remember putting up the Christmas tree and staying up late to make presents or cookies, and it was all so fun.  Or maybe my mom just did all the work and never complained about it... probably the most likely.  This year, I'd just like somebody else to do Christmas for me.  I've been feeling like "something's gotta give" since September, and since school is non-negotiable, I guess it will have to be Christmas.  That's okay with everybody, right?  I'll just be hanging out at home, knitting and quilting.  I'll help with cooking, and a little cleaning, but no shopping.  And no scheduling, carpooling, or phone calling.  Now that's an introvert's idea of a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Orca Bay Mystery -- Deal Me In

...because I can never resist a challenge -- especially a challenge that involves insanely high numbers of small precision-pieced units, makes a big mess as I dig through scraps, and will require long hours, late nights and even further neglect of basic housewifely duties like cooking and cleaning -- I jumped into Bonnie K. Hunter's Orca Bay Mystery this week.  This is actually my very first mystery quilt, and it looks like fun.  At 10:30 of Thanksgiving Day evening, I had pieced over half of the 2 1/2" hourglass blocks required in the first clue.  Which is actually pretty good considering I didn't really start until yesterday, and I've got a bunch more triangles cut and pieced into pairs.  Tomorrow should finish it up, especially if I don't have to go shopping and everybody is happy with leftovers.
This clue has you make 224 hourglass units in blacks and neutrals that will finish to 2".  You can use any method that works for you, but she suggests starting with 1 1/2" strips, layering a dark and light right sides together, then using a specialty ruler to cut pairs of QSTs and sew them together, then pair them with different pairs of triangles so your finished units all look different.  I have a Fons and Porter flying geese ruler that works well for cutting the triangles, and this method seems to be a little more precise than the method I used to use, where you draw an X on a square that is cut 1 1/4" bigger than the finished measurement.  There seems to be less pull on the bias this way, though you do have to be careful as you feed the units through that the points don't curve under or to the side.  As you can see, I set up an assembly line when it comes time to press.  I'm taking her at her word that I can use up some of those scraps that I'm not really in love with.  The beauty of these kinds of quilts is that the pieces are small enough that even strange conversational prints blend in with the whole unless you want to look really close.  If you do, you will see some pirate skulls, pretty flowers, dogs, cats, birdhouses, Kermit the Frog, maps, patriotic designs, chili peppers, musical notes, polka dots and plaids.  I absolutely love a quilt where I can use all of those different elements and get away with it.  This is going to be so fun!