Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

It's the last day of 2012, snow is falling instead of rain, and here is Secundus living in the moment.  A little after this was taken he drove in the snow for the first time and we bought some clothes at the store with Grandma's Christmas money.

Wrapping it up for the year:
These are the quilts I finished in 2012.
These are the 12 shawls I knit in 2012.  I also spun and knit one sweater last summer and am turning the heels on a pair of socks.

Final stash report for the year:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 94.5 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 66.5 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 7786 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 4283 yards

I bought no fiber or yarn all year, and I bought only a miniscule amount of quilting fabric (most of the added was gifted by family members).  So I think it was a successful year of using up stash.  I am going to allow myself to do a little judicious fabric shopping next year (I'm running short of white backgrounds for Easy Street), and I might buy yarn if I want to make a sweater, but no single skeins on impulse.  I still have a substantial yarn stash from reclaimed thrift store sweaters to shop for inspiration.

Goals for 2013 -- Well, first off we have the Last Noel this Friday.  After that, I want to knit socks for Steve and Daniel, finish the Easy Street mystery quilt, and clean and organize my sewing area.  I'm not anticipating doing any insane challenges like 12-shawls-2012 next year.  We'll just take it as it comes.

I made a double recipe of fudge this afternoon, and Steve is working on a double recipe of those candied fruit cookies now.  Spaghetti and meat sauce is on the menu for tonight and then pulled pork sandwiches for tomorrow.  Quarta picked out her new hamster this morning: it is a Russian dwarf hamster, female, named Winky.  She's a bit nippy but acclimating to her new habitat fairly well.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last Randomday of 2012, with movie reviews

Christmas break is never long enough.  We all know it, I'm just going to say it now for the record.

I bought a clearance-priced replica of the Colosseum for my aquarium.  This was while Quarta was spending her Christmas money on a hamster habitat at the pet store.  Tertia has an irrational fear of animals, and they share a room.  This should be interesting.

Steve and I are not doing very well at doing our Sunday School Greek class homework ahead of time.  We have a date this evening to do that.

Holiday movie reviews:
The Hobbit:  Only Peter Jackson could take a gentle, erudite children's bedtime storybook and turn it(just the first third of it, mind) into a boisterous, 3-hour-long extravaganza that sets new standards for movie technology, and still make it something that almost the whole family will love to watch.  Don't expect it to match the ethereal beauty or artistic cohesiveness of The Lord of the Rings, but take your kids if they are, say, 8 or older and have read it or had it read to them.  (I'm schoolmarmish about reading first.)  Our kids were 10 and up and did fine, even Tertia who gets scared by loud noises.  There's lots to enjoy throughout, and even the intense action sequences have their lighthearted moments.  Well, some of them... I liked the ladder sequence in Goblintown.  The Pale Orc and the Wargs are just freakishly scary.  Lots of nice tie-ins with LOTR, and I very much look forward to seeing future installments.

Les Miserables: LOVED it! I was fortunate enough to see the musical twice; once on Broadway in 1989, once in Washington D.C. on tour.  It has been my favorite musical ever since, and it's wonderful that it has been adapted so well for the big screen.  The songs are not dubbed in afterwards from the comfort of a sound booth; the actors sing in real time, capturing some very raw emotions indeed.  Definitely respect the PG-13 rating on this, please; prostitution, cruelty and desperate poverty make this inappropriate for children.  The Hollywood actors do their bit to make sure a wider audience will enjoy Victor Hugo's tale of grace vs. works, but I have to say my favorite part was Colm Wilkinson (original Valjean) cast as the Bishop with the candlesticks.  I hadn't researched it beforehand; it was his distinctive voice that gave it away.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if America regained an appreciation of the art of telling stories with music because of this movie?  I think it would.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quilting and Sewing Year in Review

These are the finished quilts I produced this year.  Left column, top to bottom: Crumbs quilt for Cedar Tree auction, Play Ball quilt for auction, Aunt Maggie's Quilt.  Center top: Jack's Chain. Center bottom: Feathered Star wallhanging. Right top to bottom: Framed In quilt, Log Cabin, Anita's Arrowheads.  Not pictured is a mini-Jack's Chain made with extra blocks.

Last year I set some goals for sewing UFO's, inspired by Judy L.'s Patchwork Times.  She would randomly draw a number each month and we were supposed to finish our UFO goal.  Here's my list, with completed goals in red:
  1. Aunt Maggie's Quilt: finished top, needs machine quilting and binding
  2. Framed in Quilt: finished top, needs machine quilting and binding
  3. Log cabin... Sew blocks together into quilt top (and quilting and binding)
  4. 1996 Piecemaker's Calendar quilt: prepare half of applique for setting triangles
  5. " " (I prepared the appliques but the top isn't finished yet)
  6. Classical-themed tote bag
  7. Feathered Star: make a decision and finish top (and quilting and binding)
  8. Bowling-style knitting bag
  9. Jack's Chain: piece half of remaining blocks
  10. " " (and quilting and binding, and I even wrote a tutorial)
  11. Kit for three-quarters bag from Connecting Threads in Whirlwind Romance
  12. Pieced blanket of felted wool squares from old sweaters
There were four months that I didn't even bother to do the project: my bag projects got no love, and I didn't do the felted wool blanket either.  But I did quilt and bind three of the tops on the list, which wasn't required, so I feel like I can declare victory and maybe I'll eventually do those bags.

Judy is doing her UFO challenge in a different way in 2013, I'm probably not going to set yearly goals, but I'm very pleased with how many projects I finished, especially considering some of them were more than 5 years old.
These are my current quilt WIPs/ UFOs.  There's that applique for the 1996 Piecemaker's calendar quilt taunting me still, yes, we're working on our second decade.  Orca Bay is a top in need of quilting; so is the Farmer's Wife.  Easy Street is in process, and on bottom right are some crumbs blocks that I hope will become the next Cedar Tree signature quilt.

Goals for the new year... other than finishing the above WIPs and UFOs, I don't really know.  Here is a list, in no particular order, of the WIPs, UFOs and wannabe projects still hanging around, and maybe I'll be inspired to get to them, maybe not.  I might do my own random number drawing, we'll see.
  1. 1996 Piecemaker's Calendar quilt - hand applique, add embellishments, and finish top
  2. Classical-themed tote bag
  3. Bowling-style knitting bag
  4. Three-quarters bag (kit from Connecting Threads)
  5. Felted wool blanket
  6. Orca Bay quilting and binding
  7. Farmer's Wife quilting and binding
  8. Easy Street mystery quilt top
  9. Easy Street quilting and binding
  10. Crumbs auction quilt
  11. Hooked Rug in Mariner's Compass design
  12. heirloom linen blouse
  13. wool stuffed toy cat
  14. boxers in 3 different fabrics (at least)
  15. Frugal Patch quilt
  16. Civil War repro/ pine needles quilt
  17. Flannel baby quilts
  18. Set up an Etsy shop to help finance college educations
  19. the ultimate ongoing project: clean and organize sewing area!
  20. and have fun, or everything else is pointless.
Okay, that might keep me busy even if I don't start anything new.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Post-Christmas Posting

1.a. Quarta and Tertia watching NORAD Santa tracker. b. Quarta and Tertia with stockings. c. Tertia's Jack's Chain quilt
2.a. group shot, waiting for stocking opening. b. Daniel and Secundus (with bow tie).
3.a. Quarta with purple quilt. b. Quarta with purple bathrobe. (She likes purple, can you tell?) c. Steve hurrying to finish Harry Potter 5, with girls.

Since it's a quilting blog I'll share those quilt finished shots in larger scale:
Jack's Chain
Anita's Arrowheads.  Both are on the girls' beds now.  I stayed up until 12:30 Christmas morning binding the purple one, and it still needs the label sewn on.

Menu for Christmas dinner was ham, Christian's potatoes, peas, spinach salad, applesauce, that corn/hominy dish that Secundus likes, and three kinds of pie for dessert: apple, mocha-pecan, and blueberry.  As you can see the house is not super-neat and clean, and our tree is not exactly symmetrical, but it works for us. 

Steve is planning a "date with Dad" for each of the kids.  Tertia and Quarta are doing theirs today: Tertia went bowling and to McDonald's for lunch, and Quarta will be seeing Ice Age IV and going to Pizza Hut for dinner.  The boys are playing computer games and I'm discovering new ways of wasting time.

The weirdest thing is that, now that both boys are home and they both have their driver's licenses, Steve and I are going on a getaway weekend sometime soon.  I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that one!  I'm still not quite ready for Secundus to go out driving by himself.  Here he is wearing Grandpa's old hat:

Aunt Carol sent a link for how to make this little frog (stuffed with rice) and Quarta was right on it. She has fun with the crafty stuff!
 Merry Christmas to all (be sure to take every one of those 12 days, now!) and enjoy family fun and good food!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Updates

Jack's Chain is finished!  I injured my finger sewing that binding on, but it will be wrapped and go under the tree for Tertia.
I just wrote on the back, which is a vintage sheet, instead of making a special label.
Barney the Purple Dinosaur is finished and the binding is machine stitched on.  Now I have to hand-stitch it to the back before giving it to Quarta.  "Make it work!" time.
Easy Street, step 5 is in progress but not very far along.  It is Christmas Eve, after all, and I have pies to bake and wrapping and binding to do.  I just came back from a run to Target and Kohls.  Yikes, lots to do!
I was playing with my units and came up with this.  Not bad, but it doesn't use all the parts.
Linking up to Easy Street linky party and Design Wall Monday.  And Merry Christmas!

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: .5 yards for purple quilt binding
Fabric used year to date: 94.5 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 66.5 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 7786 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 4283 yards

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Randomday: the Post-apocalyptic Edition

I always want to spell "apocalypse" with two o's, and then it never looks right.  I'm glad we have Google these days.  Note to self -- two a's.
How do you celebrate the end of the world?  In our house, we let our teenage sons have a sleepover party, and then you'd never know the difference.  I counted ten total... four sets of brothers (including ours) and two singles.  Four college boys and 6 high-schoolers ranging from 10th-12th grades.  The menu: 7 boxes of Little Caesar's pizza (1 Hawaiian, 2 Supreme, 2 3-meat, 2 pepperoni), orange soda, caffeine-free Pepsi, diet Pepsi (you could have caffeine or sugar, but not both at the same time) and various other sodas.  A veggie tray - everything but the tomatoes got eaten.  And bean dip (1 large can refried beans, a packet of prefab guacamole, hot salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced olives, green onions, tomatoes in that order).  And two pans of brownies.  The entertainment: first season of Chuck, and various video games.  I think every quilt in the linen cupboard got used.  This morning Steve made a quadruple recipe of pancakes and three packages of bacon.  I'm pretty sure there wasn't enough bacon, but is there ever?  The recycling bin is more than half full just with pizza boxes and soda cans.

The sharp-eyed will note that the purple quilt is still on the machine, but it should come off today.  I had good intentions of finishing the binding of Jack's Chain last night while watching Jane Austen, but instead I made progress on grading while watching "Aisha," a Bollywood musical contemporary version of "Emma."  It was in Hindi with subtitles, but apparently there is quite a bit of English mixed in with modern Hindi.

Daniel's flight home Wednesday was delayed in Chicago and again in Denver, but he did manage to get home nearly 2 hours after originally scheduled, early Thursday morning.  It's great to have him back for the next weeks.

I've been experimenting with Pandora stations the last few days.  I've developed a mix of stations for Christmas music that I like to shuffle: Enya, Sufjan Stevens, Gregorian, Anuna, Celtic Woman, and Straight No Chaser.  I thought it had just the right mix of classical and contemporary.  But Secundus derided Enya as "old lady music." Hmph.

We've reached the point in Christmas preparations where we know it's inevitably going to happen, and I (for one) know it's not going to be perfect, but have ceased to care much.  We have to fit in a showing of The Hobbit sometime soon, and I am determined to make fudge and more Christmas cookies, but it is so nice not to have other deadlines looming.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-along

There are very few days to "do stuff" before Christmas; Daniel is in Chicago waiting for his delayed flight to Denver and hoping to get to PDX late tonight; the other kids are bored with their vacation already, sniping at me and each other, and lobbying for screen time and shopping trips.  I spent over $270 on groceries at Winco this morning (that includes the Christmas ham, the New Years' steak, and a $30 bag of cat food, so it's not a bad as you'd think.  But still.)  This afternoon I cooked some ground beef for Sloppy Joes tonight, baked up a batch of homemade granola, and started a batch of Filled Raisin Cookies.  I was going to make Grandma's Fudge recipe, but I don't have marshmallow creme.  Looks like I'll have to go back to the store before long.

Not a lot of sewing has been done today.  None at all, actually.  But yesterday I loaded Barney onto the Megaquilter and began quilting:
Quarta likes nonstop meander quilting.  She says when she's bored she likes to run her finger along the line to try to find the beginning.  Ideally, there will only be 2 ends to this one continuous line, and if I have ANY time today I might even finish it.
I'm slogging along binding Jack's Chain.  About halfway there now.
Still enjoying the Easy Street mystery quilt, but I have to wait until Friday for the next clue.

Socks for Steve -- almost ready to begin the gusset.  They will not be finished by Christmas.

This is the book I most recently finished, and I quite enjoyed it.  Jane Austen fanfiction is always entertaining but this was a cut above most that I've read.  I really feel the author successfully got inside Mr. Darcy's head and told a story that merges and diverges from Pride and Prejudice in a totally believable way.  It will make you want to reread the original just to see which scenes are changed and how.
I took some time to make this collage of the 12 shawls in 2012 project I completed.  I was going to save it for another post but I may want to take some blog vacation time over the next week, so I might as well share it now.  They're in sequential order, clockwise from top left, with the center photo a closeup of the bottom right shawl.  Of the 12, they all used stash yarn (or handspun from stash fiber) since I did not buy any yarn this year.  Shawls #2, 3, 9, 10, and 12 were from handspun.  Shawls #5, 6, 7, and 9 used more than 500 yards (they make a big deal about that in the Ravelry group).  Shawl #7 "Black Roses/ Lady MacBeth" was more like 1000 yards of cobweb-weight cashmere, reclaimed from a thrift store sweater and dyed with Wilton's, and I beaded that one.  So it was definitely my agony-and-ecstasy project for the year.

Now that I know how to make collages with Photoscape, I'll have to do a retrospective for my 2012 quilts and the ufo's from this year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Political Tuesdays - Cultural Reclamation

I've never been able to stick to one topic.  Earlier in the political season I gave myself permission to take Tuesdays for political wonkery and punditry, with my own particular lighthearted satirical twist.  I return to blogging about knitting, quilting, book reviews, family events, etc. on the other days.  I figure no one has to read my blog, but I know some are interested in politics who aren't interested in needlework.  And I'm interested in the bigger political picture.  You can take the girl out of Washington (D.C.), but you can't take Washington out of the girl.

Of course, I've never been purely a political wonk.  I'd describe myself as a cultural conservative, a values voter who came of age in the days of Reagan and the Moral Majority.  I like the Republican party, even though its leaders have been curiously unable to articulate a unifying vision in recent years.  I dislike the modern Democratic party, although family history says I have to be sympathetic with those coming from the Democratic party of a generation ago, which didn't have quite the hostility toward issues of moral principle as we routinely see today.  I've saved a special measure of my political snark for Libertarians, who seem to have an idea that political decisions need to be made in a moral vacuum.  I have a problem with this way of thinking even though I agree with them on fiscal policy, and for the life of me can't understand libertarianism's appeal to many of my Christian friends.

Of course, it's not politics that is weighing down our hearts right now.  Yesterday as I watched the elementary school across the street I saw sherriff's cars making repeated stops, to reassure and provide a stable presence.  I visited my daughter's middle school to see her dance class practice; the holiday "spirit day" assembly they were to perform at postponed until January, multiple 8th-grade girls dropped out of the dance routine to cry and hug each other.  It's hard for teachers after last Friday; it's hard for parents and it's very hard for the kids.

"Moral values" in the culture are important to me not just because of my background but because of my 13-year-old daughter, the one with Down syndrome. For the present, in America, wanted children with disabilities, as long as they are allowed to be born, receive the best medical and educational interventions in the world, frequently administered by the very people who are most in favor of legalized abortion. This ethical schizophrenia works in my daughter's favor, but I don't feel I can trust it. Just today I heard of a UK politician who advocated mandatory abortions of babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities. I'm thankful for the outrage that has stopped it... so far.

The unthinkable has happened, several times over, aggravated in horrific ways and brought to our national attention in a way we can't ignore.  The economic situation may have more of a practical impact on all of our lives, but somehow no one can give full attention to the fiscal cliff negotiations.  Perhaps the most ancient taboo is matricide; add to this the slaughter of innocents, by someone not far out of childhood himself.  Is there a political solution?

Only insofar as political solutions ever address moral issues.  "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."  Check out Ben Stein's always wise remarks.  In reality, the culture wars of the 80's and 90's never went away; we just ignored the underlying moral decay because we were distracted by the shiny internet.  I'm of the opinion that gun control is a minor issue; treatment for mental illness is a better fit for this particular case - many have read the viral essay on this topic, and it resonates with us at the same time that it grieves us.  But maybe in addition to discussing mental illness, we could spare a bit of time for discussion of how to restore a culture of common decency and respect for fundamental moral values.  I'm going to go out on my preacher's kid, Christian schoolteacher limb and say yes, we should.

Someone needs to tell people not to get divorced.  How many of these crazed killers come from broken or fatherless homes?  Someone needs to tell kids not to rot their brains with constant exposure to violent video games, and parents not to let them.  Someone needs to tell rich people not to use their money to try to buy their own and their kids' happiness at the expense of ordinary human contact.  Someone needs to tell them that personal peace and affluence only goes so far or lasts so long.  Someone needs to tell them they should be going to church each Sunday, and working hard the other days at something other than a gaming console.  I have no problem saying those kinds of things.  I'm used to being ignored; I'm both a mom and a teacher.

In the recent election cycle, the Romney/Ryan ticket was criticized for wanting to return to the America of the 1950's.  That's not looking so bad to me, right now.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Easy Street Part 4

Step 4 of Easy Street, Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt, is complete.  I'm enjoying this one, especially the reds and aqua blues.  Of course we also cut some green this step and I couldn't resist playing with all the units a little:
Makes it a little Christmassy, but not too much.  Especially with the skulls and Hawaiian prints and polka-dots.  Who knows what the next step will bring, but I'm liking my colors.
In other quilt news, I bound Jack's Chain.  It was Friday night and Bonnie had the quilt cam on, so I took my laptop over and sewed that sucker on while enjoying the moral support of other quilters in cyberspace.  I needed the moral support: Jack's Chain has a lot of scallops and turns to bind.  I'm only about 1/3 done with sewing the binding down by hand; it's vintage sheets for both the backing and binding, high thread count, so takes a bit more effort than regular binding jobs.  Still I think I can get this done for Tertia's Christmas.
I pieced the backing for my purple Anita's Arrowheads top out of purples and blues I had used in it.  I'm glad to use up some of these fabrics.  Here's the picture of the top, finished about 2 weeks ago:
This needs to get loaded onto the Megaquilter and quilted and bound before Christmas, for Quarta.  Yeah, I'll be busy.  Fortunately, school's out for me for 2 weeks.  Yay!

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 5 yards for binding Jack and purple quilt backing
Fabric used year to date: 94 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 66 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 7786 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 4283 yards

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I am thankful, so thankful, for working at a school with motivated students, caring parents, and wise administrators.  Sometimes, even that is not enough.  I packed up my Christmas teacher loot yesterday afternoon after class, along with two folders of papers to grade, and drove home.  Switching on the radio I heard the news.  My classroom borders the kindergarten classroom on one side and the first grade classroom on the other.  On some mornings we can hear the kindergartners singing through the thin walls.  One of the first grade reading groups comes in during first period, when I'm just arriving and setting up for the day.  Children that young, that cute, that sweet, were victims yesterday.  And the teachers did what teachers always do, and must have felt, as teachers always feel, that it just wasn't good enough.

If any good can come from such senseless violence, it will be if people turn to Christ for comfort and help, at this season of His birth.  That's all.  There aren't any other words I can really say.

This started out as a sad blog post and I'm not sure how to turn it around and be truly random, as is my habit on Saturdays.  There are a lot of sadnesses in my extended family and friends right now, too; parents preparing to say goodbye forever to their very much loved daughter, struggling in the hospital.  Another set of parents worried about their son after a concussion left him unable to complete his first semester of college.  Teenagers going through rebellion, families struggling to make ends meet.  MSNBC ran a piece about Petra Anderson earlier this week; she was the girl our family remembers from Colorado, who was shot in the Batman shooting last summer.  It's an uplifting piece and a small bit of hope in the midst of darkness.


How about if I declare an asterisk line break, and everything under it is random and lighthearted?

The tree is up.  I looked it up in the little diagram of the landscaping that the Bronsons left for us, and it appears to be a Hinoki Cypress.  It's not such a bad little Christmas tree, in a Charlie Brown kind of way.  I haven't done any decorating... the girls did a little.  At least chopping it down didn't result in a fence repair bill like last year's tree.

Quarta had her first sleepover party last night and stayed up too late.  We can really tell the next day when she doesn't get enough sleep.  Or if she has too much sugar.

Daniel is in the middle of finals and really looking forward to his flight home Wednesday.

Secundus declined to go to the Cedar Tree protocol formal event yesterday and instead jumped on the chance to see the Hobbit.

Tertia is reading The Magician's Nephew for her book report.  She especially liked the part where the Elephant thought Uncle Andrew was a tree and squirted water on him with her trunk.

Grandma's home is still in lockdown mode... I think she's getting a bit tired of it.  Sure hope they get the germs under control soon.

I put on the binding of the Jack's Chain quilt yesterday and I'm stitching it down by hand now.  It's very scalloped all along the edges.  I also pieced a backing for the purple quilt today, and am halfway through the 4th clue of Easy Street.  Somehow the small activities of sewing and knitting and even (gasp!) cleaning and housework are good to focus on right now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WIP Wednesday: holiday denial version

Is it okay to admit that I'm not that big a fan of Christmas anymore?  I used to like it a lot.  But that was before I had to ... you know ... produce it.  I have loved ones who don't celebrate Christmas for religious reasons, but that's not it at all for me.  I'm just too lazy to put on a big Christmas anymore, although I sure enjoyed it when I was younger. 

I am looking forward to having Daniel home again soon.  His first final is tomorrow.  It has been a stressful week for everyone in our extended circle of friends and particularly in our church.  Now, the Clackamas Town Center shooting.  I know kids who were there.  So many needs to pray for.

So I'm keeping busy and not really doing anything specific about Christmas.  Here's what's going on in the craft department:
I finished my 12th shawl in 2012!  This is Wingspan, knit from my Navajo-plied handspun from the Tour de Fleece, Targhee in the "Ladyfern" colorway from Sweet Grass Wool.  I used about 285 yards for this shawl.  So I suppose it's appropriate to share my 12th shawl in 2012 on 12-12-12!  I like how the chartreuse green sections spaced themselves out nicely without my planning that way.  I had about 5 yards of yarn left over.  I would like to spin Targhee again; it was lovely to work with.
Jack's Chain is on the Megaquilter.  I'm almost done!  I've had to raise the take-up rail twice this quilt, it's so long!  But I'm hoping to get it finished for Tertia for Christmas.  I really like the snowflake feather pattern I'm using:
Step 3 of Easy Street is complete.  
I'm enjoying the pace of Easy Street this year.  Definitely easier than Orca Bay last year, but that was fun too!  Let's face it, when it comes to a choice between grading, cleaning house, Christmas preparation and shopping, or quilting, I will choose quilting every. single. time.  Sorry to my family for my lackluster housekeeping these last ... 13 years or so.  You're old enough now to do something about it if you want it cleaner, I figure.
Not the best picture, but I started a new pair of socks.  These will be for Steve.  I'm using the simple Skyp pattern but the MUMTU formula for toe-up socks, as I think I've done before.  I'm reading Lynne Truss' Talk to the Hand, which is an interesting combination of snark and lamentation over the state of modern manners.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Street, Step 3

Easy Street is Bonnie K. Hunter's mystery quilt this year.  I have been keeping up, so far.  Here is my photo of a sampling of the first 3 clues.  I changed the colors up from the model: I'm using red instead of purple, my backgrounds are all white or very light ivory, I'm using various mostly light grays instead of one constant gray, and the aquas are a little lighter in an attempt to have an overall fresh, "modern" feel.  I think it will work, and be quite different from the model.  The only color not yet used is the lime green.  I eliminated some of my aquas that I felt were too dark or muddy during this step, but it's still going to be scrappy with a range of fabric values and prints.  I don't think I can do non-scrappy quilts anymore.  Yes, those are skull-and-crossbones over on the left!

I'm happy to report that I'm more than 2/3 finished quilting Jack's Chain.  Earlier this year I finished the top and posted a tutorial about it.  I'm excited about this little whirling feather snowflake design I'm using in the white hexagons: freeform feathers are actually fun to do now, and not as intimidating as I once thought!  I conquered my fear of them in the feathered star I recently quilted.  It also helped that I bought replacement tracks for my Megaquilter frame so the "ride" is  much smoother than it was last summer.  I'm using a point-to-point arc in the triangles and nine-patches, and a vintage sheet for backing.  Hoping to get this bound in time to be a Christmas gift for Tertia.  Then the purple quilt can be for Quarta.  If I get it quilted and bound before Christmas.  I don't suppose I'll be able to knit socks for any of the guys before Christmas?  Probably not.

Saturday was a little too random for me to do a Randomday blog post.  But here's a sampling of the random to start your Monday off: I had to drive 7th graders from school to the church where our Christmas program was to be on Thursday: it just so happened I had a car full of 7th grade boys.  These are all wonderful kids, mind you.  But I'm glad I don't have to do that every day.  It was educational though.  I got them talking about interesting emergency room visits they had had and that distracted them from playing contact sports in the backseat.

Saturday we watched a double-feature: Hugo followed by The Artist.  Both an homage to the art of film.  I'd seen The Artist before, but Hugo was very good.  Ben Kingsley is an amazing actor - he just is absorbed totally into every role he plays.  I wonder if I'd even notice him if I passed him on the street... and I think that's a compliment.  Hugo was one of those films where I kept pestering Steve to check out IMDB on his smart phone.  The actress who played the kindly "Mama Jeanne" was familiar somehow... turns out she also played the much less amiable Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.

I finished my 12th shawl of 2012 but still need to weave in the ends.  Tomorrow is an inservice day and I must start a pair of socks so I don't die of idle-handed boredom during it.

I just found a flea.  I'm having a hard time chasing down Muffball to give her her treatment.

I'm lobbying Steve just to chop down the ugly shrub by the grape vines and NOT to use it for a Christmas tree this year.  For those who don't know, we've been harvesting our Christmas trees in our own yard for the last 4 or 5 years, and getting some overgrown shrubbery out of the way at the same time.  But the kids are really tired of non-perfect Christmas trees.

Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 7 yards (purple arrowhead quilt)
Fabric used year to date: 89 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 61 yards

Yarn used this week: 285 yards (Targhee homespun for wingspan)
Yarn used year to date: 7786 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 4283 yards

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review: The Legend of Luke

The Legend of Luke, by Brian Jacques.  Although this was the twelfth book written in the Redwall saga, it falls chronologically early in the series.  Martin the Warrior, after the events of Mossflower, is living quietly among the good folk at Redwall Abbey.  The Abbey is still under construction but promises to be a haven of peace for the gentle woodlanders.  However, a travelling hedgehog maiden, Trimp, inadvertently triggers some long-forgotten memories of his childhood, laying upon Martin the burden to find out the story of what happened to his father, Luke.  Only a quest through many dangers will suffice to bring the knowledge he seeks; knowledge both of his father's fate, and of his own character.  True to the Redwall pattern, he is joined by many friends, old and new; Trimp, Dinny the mole, Gonff the mousethief, the young squirrel Chugger, and a rather memorable hare named (for short) Beau.  Much of the later part of the book is told in flashback, a tale-within-a-tale that gives us the noble lineage of Martin's sword, and suggests why he is willing to put it aside at the end.

Some have critiqued the Redwall books as being repetitive; there is always a quest, always at least one horde of evil vermin, always a desire for peace which only comes at a high cost.  If they are repetitive, I believe they have the best kind of repetition, the kind that bridges the gap between old and young and leaves us all wanting "more of the same, but different."  As I have read these books, I have begun to see recurring themes as well; in this book particularly, the sacrifices the older generation must make to protect the younger; the inherent nobility of an unselfish character, the qualities of bravery and leadership which emerge in necessity; the tension between the need for war and the desire for peace.  In a larger sense, Redwall Abbey and the noble woodlanders who dwell there are a metaphor for the island of Britain, constantly beseiged and in need of able defenders, but a beacon of civilization in a dark world.

If you enjoy audiobooks at all, these are well worth listening to: the late Brian Jacques himself narrated them with music and a full cast.  I believe they are the kind of children's books that all children should be exposed to.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along

Ooh boy, is there a lot going on in the craft-blogging world!  Not to mention Christmas, grading, worrying about the fiscal cliff, and general end-of-year craziness.  Sew Mama Sew is hosting giveaways this week, which will easily take all your time if you let it.  I'm trying to visit all the fellow Easy Street quilt blogs too.
In quilting, I finished my purple Anita's Arrowheads top yesterday.  I'm calling it "Barney" for now.  It's 68"x85" and I was thinking about donating it to the Cedar Tree auction in the spring, but Quarta wants it for her own bed.  That's quite a bit of purple cleared out of my stash.  Funny thing about purple, all four of my kids went through a stage where it was their favorite color.  The boys quickly grew out of it once they became school age though.  The girls are still big purple fans.  I'm really not, although I can't explain why.  I like it, I just don't like it enough to work with it a lot, I guess.
These are for Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street mystery quilt.  I'm really enjoying the colors I've chosen and look forward to the next step coming out Friday.  I could stick with red, gray and white and be perfectly happy, but there will be aqua and lime green added to the mix soon.
I had some extra white triangles so I cut some greens to make another batch of geese, for transformation into trees.  I'm planning to make another signature quilt for the Cedar Tree auction next spring.
I've been digging into the scrap bin and making some crumbs blocks.  If you've been following, it was a crumbs quilt I donated for last spring's auction, and I really enjoyed the whole process of working on it.  In the blocks above you see remnants of the last several quilts I've pieced.  I just need to make enough tree blocks and wonky star blocks to pull it all together, and they make great leaders/enders projects as I'm working on other piecing.  I'm still putting off machine-quilting Jack's Chain.
In knitting, Wingspan is getting closer to finished, and lookit what fun book I found at the library: His Good Opinion by Nancy Kelley.  This is Pride and Prejudice told from Darcy's point of view.  I'm really enjoying it so far.
Finally, in honor of Sinter Klaas day, here's a story from Holland:  a flash mob in honor of an elderly knitter, Loes Veenstra, who has made over 500 sweaters in her knitting career.  Rotterdam parties in her honor:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Design Wall, Stash Report, Easy Street Update 2

The purple behemoth is still on my design wall.  I have all of the blocks sewn, now it's just a matter of sewing them together.  Five of the ten rows are together and there are 2 more laid out here.  It's just getting too bulky for the wall.  I'm eager to get it together completely, but I'm distracted at the moment by...
Easy Street!  Finished step 1, midway through step 2.  I'm using red instead of purple because I'm kinda sick of purple (see above).  I like the way the light grays and whites and true reds play together so far.  I have a Fons & Porter Flying Geese ruler and have found it takes the place of both the rulers Bonnie recommends.  I used it for Orca Bay last year, which didn't use flying geese units at all, but quarter-square triangles, and it worked fine.
Closeup of those red flying geese.  I wish I had more of the cute doggies, but I had only a tiny scrap.  I've been using my reds at a faster rate than any of my other fabrics, and I probably need to replenish them.  But whee!  It's fun to piece these little geese!  I always felt like I was missing out, never having made a red-and-white quilt like so many of my quilting buddies.  I may just have to do that sometime.

See where everyone else is on Easy Street here.

Stash Report: No changes this week, but the purple quilt will surely be done soon.

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 82 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 54 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 7501 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 3998 yards

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Once again it's time for Randomday, where it's all about the random.

Wreck-it Ralph was a wonderful movie.  You should all see it.  It was like a mash-up of Toy Story and Tron, and it totally worked.  Best line: "You hit someone ... with glasses.  Well played."

Today I took Tertia and Quarta to the library, where Tertia's choir group did some caroling.  She has really come a long way since last year in her ability to track with the lyrics.  She did the Christmas tree lighting in Esther Short Park in the pouring rain last Friday, and is scheduled for a school concert still and a special appearance at Beaches restaurant for the school district big-wigs in a few weeks.  Plus, it's just fun that once a year, it's okay to sing out loud in the middle of the library!

While the girls were doing that, Steve took Secundus to take his written driver's test.  Apparently, today is the very first day of the new system, where they are farming out the tests to the various driver's ed schools across the county instead of running them at the DMV.  Last summer with Daniel at the DMV, it was a multi-week wait to schedule the actual driving exam locally -- or you could just go to Kelso and take it that day.  We ended up going to Kelso.  Secundus will be taking his driving test this coming week.  He is more than eager to get his license and everything that he thinks comes with that.

Martha Stewart can kiss my grits.  Okay, so I tried a recipe from an old Martha Stewart Living magazine for "crisp anise cookies."  I should have taken warning when it said the bit about "spoon batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" round tip.  Pipe 1-inch tapered mounds on baking sheets lined with nonstick baking mats."  A nonstick baking mat, I thought, that must be a high-tech silicone thingy that only Martha would have... I'll just spray the sheets with Pam.  And the cookies, which did not come out in perfect little 1-inch tapered mounds when I squeezed the plastic bag that I subbed for the pastry bag, stuck to the sheets.  So I tried parchment paper and that worked a little better.  It was an interesting recipe.  But I'll just skip straight to the parchment paper if I ever make it again.

I have finished step one of the Easy Street mystery quilt and am taking a break for blogging before diving into step two.  Actually, I have to fix dinner sometime soon, so maybe after dinner I can start step two.  No, darn it, I really have to grade the rest of my quizzes and iron clothes.  Maybe I can do that little trick where I sew a few seams, and then press a garment, and keep bribing myself to iron more clothes by letting myself do a little patchwork in between.  That's about as good as it gets on ironing nights.

I also need to make soup for tomorrow's fellowship dinner.  I'm thinking of trying loaded baked potato soup.  Or maybe this recipe.  Somehow I haven't felt like cooking much for a few days as I fought the nasty crud that's going around at school.  I'm getting there, but still not quite.  I think it will be quesadillas for dinner again tonight.