Saturday, November 30, 2013


 New family member:  meet Pookles, Quarta's new "fancy bear hamster."  Also known as Pookie, Spooky-Pookie, and Pookle-Toes.
Muffball reportedly is terrified of her.  Of course, if you removed Muffball's fur, Pookles is almost as big. We had to get a new hamster ball because the mini one we used for the late Winkie (a Russian dwarf hamster) would not have worked.
(file photo of Muffball)

I made the Pioneer Woman's apple dumplings recipe today, with crescent rolls and a can of lemon-lime soda.  Pure yumminess.  I think it probably says something about both of our childhoods that I was puzzled about how to open the cans of crescent rolls, and Steve stepped in and said, "I've got this."  My late mother used to make both crescent rolls and apple dumplings from scratch.  I haven't made either one in at least a decade.  Book-knowledge will only get you so far in the baking world.  This is a great recipe for moms with kids to feed and memories to make.

A tiny bit of Christmas shopping was done today.  And Steve bought himself two pairs of New Balance sneakers, identical except in different colors.  His previous walking and gardening shoes both had holes or had come unglued.

One of the nicest things about the Thanksgiving weekend is having time to be lazy.  No Latin lessons to do today, turkey enchiladas were made, and mindless TV was watched.  A Dr. Who episode, too scary for me, and part of Finding Nemo.  Quarta played frisbee with the group from church, Secundus is hanging out with friends, and after the girls have their baths we will be watching Babe.  I'm about halfway done with the first clue in Celtic Solstice.  I did most of the cutting yesterday, finished this morning and started sewing.  I'm looking forward to taking some pictures when I have enough done to show.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Rider Friday

Happy day after Thanksgiving!  I have been doing light blogging this November, not because I have nothing to say, but because I haven't had a lot of time to organize my thoughts to my satisfaction.  It has been somewhat fun to take a break, but that hasn't meant that I've gotten any more crafting projects done.
 Secundus joined the throngs for the Clark County Turkey Trot 5K yesterday morning, and placed 5th.  Here he is with friends, showing off his State sweatshirt.
He apparently felt he needed to do something to make running a 5K more extreme, so he ran it shirtless.
And joined the polar bear swim at the end.  Now, we have mild winters in the Northwest, but not that mild.  It was in the 30's.  He come home with teeth chattering and needed to wrap up in a blanket for quite some time to warm up.

Daniel chatted with me by Skype yesterday and I got to see all the Virginia nieces and nephews.  He had a good time with family that he doesn't get to see often, although it would have been lovely to be able to afford to fly him out here for Thanksgiving; we'll have to wait a few more weeks to see him in person.  Grandma came over and we had a fairly classic Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, Stovetop stuffing (from a box, at Steve's request), mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, turkey gravy (I like to add a splash of sherry), cranberry sauce made with tangerine juice, rolls from the Safeway bakery, green beans, Delicata squash, baked yams, pickles, salad, and pumpkin or Dutch apple pie.
 Grandma had two quilts for me to pin out for her.  She didn't know the name of this pattern, but it's very pretty and scrappy, with very few repeats of fabric.
 She didn't know the name of this pattern either.  She had pieces for a kit for a Lone Star with solid diamonds already cut out, and used them in this arrangement instead.
So here's why it's "Black Rider Friday."  I wanted to quilt most of the day today on Bonnie K. Hunter's new mystery quilt, Celtic Solstice.  But I had this block from the "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" quiltalong only halfway completed, and knew I needed to finish it up before getting any more fabrics out to play with.  So I did, while enjoying Christmas music on my custom-shuffle Pandora stations.  I think the two Nazgul who showed up in the black brocade must have been a little embarrassed at having stolen such girly fabric from their barrows, don't you?  And I just realized now that the back right one has a place where he's transparent.  Nazgul wardrobe malfunction.  I'm not taking it apart now.

I did finish them up and started cutting fabrics for Celtic Solstice.  Then Tertia needed to be taken to choir practice and Quarta was taken to buy a new hamster (she calls her "Pookles").  Then we went to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Esther Short Park, where Tertia sang with the combined choirs, and the Mayor and Santa Claus were both there.

Secundus is off now doing an extreme sport, something called "bouldering" that I had to sign a waiver form for.  I didn't have to sign anything for the polar bear swim and that seemed plenty foolhardy, so I'm trying not to worry if he'll come home in one piece.  The girls are watching Annie.  I will probably go hang out and cut some more pieces for Celtic Solstice.  It has a lot more cheery colors than the Nazgul.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Design Wall Monday

On my design wall -- er, quilting machine -- is the second row of blocks in my Farmer's Wife quilt, which I quilted last week.  Left to right, these are #48, Homeward Bound; #51 Hovering Birds; #59, Night and Day...
#32, Farmer's Daughter; #68, Postage Stamp; #24, Country Path.  You can't really see the quilting detail on any of these though.  On to the next bit of sashing and then row 3!

Steve dropped off 6 of Grandma's quilts at the charity she donates them to today.  6!  I can't imagine finishing so many quilts at a time, let alone being willing to donate them.

Tomorrow is the last day of school this week and I hope to get some sewing in as well as cooking over the Thanksgiving break.  It's been pretty bleak around here lately.

No yardage to report for stash report, again this week.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Randomday: The Dr. Who Anniversary edition

Steve celebrated his birthday yesterday; a milestone birthday, and yes, he was born that same day that you've been seeing all the Kennedy retrospectives about.  So, as you might imagine, we focus on other things for his birthday.  It was a pretty low-key day.  He requested a blueberry cake (I adapted the recipe for strawberry cake with lemon jello instead of strawberry and gently simmered blueberries instead of chopped strawberries).  And spinach-noodle bake.

And we've been watching lots of Dr. Who episodes today, interspersed with raking the final leaves.  There is a mountain of leaves over the compost pile.  For a few months we've been watching the Dr. Who episodes sequentially with Quarta and sometimes Tertia (who covers her face with the pillow mostly and peeks around it during the creepy parts... and it's all creepy parts sometimes).  We're somewhere mid-Tennant, and it's making so much more sense than the random episodes I'd seen before.  I mean, we just watched "Blink" for the first time.  Today we broke out of the sequence and Steve showed Quarta (and Tertia, part-time) some of the Matt Smith episodes leading up to the big "Day of the Doctor" episode.  Oh, and I made a Thai pumpkin coconut soup with leftover Costco chicken and it was yummy.

Daniel is on Thanksgiving break but isn't coming home -- instead he is visiting my brother and sister and her family in Virginia for the week.  Secundus has been out and about all day; running with a buddy in the morning, working most of the day and meeting up with friends to watch the Hunger Games movie this evening.

"There was a time when a fool and his money were soon parted, but now it happens to everybody."
— Adlai E. Stevenson

Monday, November 18, 2013

Design Wall Monday

Not much going on in the sewing room and next to no knitting, so no change in the stash report.
This is pretty much it... the only sewing I've done in two weeks or more.  It's the 5th block in the Fandom In Stitches "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" quilt.  This is supposedly Elvish Tengwar for "nine."  But it looks like it could be English fantasy script for nine, or nim, or pom.  But maybe I'm just being picky.  Anyway, here it is, and I do like the fabrics together.  The next block is the Nazgul.  Not much else other than teaching and stress is going on.

Steve's Farmer McGregor socks felted, too, so they're unwearable.  Bah.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


So Quarta got her big break and was published in Highlights Magazine this month, in the "Our Own Pages" section that she has been submitting artwork and poems to for some time now.  She has a quirky alien theme going on with her artwork and poetry.  They chose to publish the poem without her artwork, but I'm sure I could probably talk her into illustrating the poem, just for this blog.

It's good that I have Quarta and my mother-in-law to supply creative material for the blog, because my own creativity has been at low ebb lately.  That is almost 100% down to school, of course.  Finals week/ grading week is enough to kill imagination dead, for anyone.  I did get my grades calculated and turned in, and new material prepared for the second quarter, but not much else.

Secundus' truck, Francesca, is no longer operable.  Her brakes were completely shot and it would cost far too much to fix them in addition to the other issues she has.  It was a sad 17th birthday surprise for him, but he is facing it stoically and hoping to get out of debt in the next month or so.  He did get to go to State as a varsity alternate for his cross-country team last weekend.  He is still eating like an athlete, grazing at all hours.  But he discovered firsthand when he was responsible for buying his own food how expensive almonds are and why I don't like it when he eats 2 pounds of them in a week.

Tertia is entering the busy season at school, with lots of choir events coming up, all of which seemingly need permission slips and insurance information filled out.  We said no to her going to a basketball team this week between the staffs of her middle school and another one -- she would have loved to dance her routine at halftime, but we were overbooked and had to draw the line.  There will be plenty of other events in the next month though.  I saw a Facebook meme today with 2 contrasting attitudes towards the onslaught of the Christmas season -- my personal one is definitely Theoden's grim, "So it begins."

I may not be getting much knitting or sewing done, but I have been playing the "Rhyes and Fall of Civilization" mod on Civ4 Beyond the Sword, taking my turn at each one of the civilizations.  My best so far has been when I played as the Greeks, and won a historical victory by being the first to discover literature, drama, and philosophy; building the Oracle, the Parthenon, the Colossus, and the temple of Artemis; and by being the first to circumnavigate the globe.  I'm not really sure how historically accurate that last one is, but I did it.  With random outbreaks of plague and barbarian uprisings and the odd glitch, it can be a frustrating game to play, but some good old-fashioned imperialistic violence really helps me deal with the stress of teaching sometimes.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Review: Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

The SecretThoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield is my book review today.  It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading it, and while it’s a small book and a quick, pageturning read, I’m still finding myself fascinated by some of the issues it raises.  It is particularly well worth the reading for anyone with an interest in Christianity and culture.

Rosaria Champagne was a postmodern lesbian feminist professor of English at Syracuse University, working on a book denouncing the religious right, when she received a letter from a local pastor in 1999 and her world rather quickly fell apart.  She struck up an unlikely friendship with this Reformed Presbyterian pastor and his wife, leading to a spiritual crisis in her own life and a painful, messy conversion she describes as a train wreck.  Central to her conversion was the conviction that the Bible she began to study critically was both authentic and morally authoritative; and this changed her life radically.  She left her partner, eventually left her tenured position; lost most of what was once important to her in the process.  She is now married to a pastor and the full-time, homeschooling mother of 4 adopted children.

Pause with me a moment in wonder that not only did she convert from radical lesbianism to conservative Christianity, but she became an RP, embracing exclusive psalmody and a few other quirks that even most conservative Christians might balk at.  This is akin, in my mind, to Elijah's dousing the altar with water before confidently awaiting the fire from heaven: there is really nothing too hard for the God we serve; perhaps we should not be so surprised.

Rosaria Butterfield's book is making some serious waves in the Christian community.  You can see her interview with Marvin Olasky that originally brought her to a much wider audience, as well as other video and audio resources, here.

This is a tiny book but it contains the seeds of enough books to fill an entire library, and I would want to read almost every one.  When I picked it up, I expected a spiritual autobiography, and got it.  Rosaria has a fascinating conversion story, messy and painful and controversial as it may be, and one that can and should be retold to a wider audience.  This will undoubtedly take its place alongside Augustine's Confessions and C.S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy as a memorable example of the genre.  But it is also a small treatise on the topic of Christianity and culture, which is endlessly fascinating to me, and I’d love to see more from her on this topic.  Coming from the very different background she does, Rosaria challenges the church to practice hospitality, minister to orphans and those in distress, and engage the culture in countless ways.  She speaks with authority on this front because her own life was transformed by such simple acts.  She speaks with compassion because it wasn't a perfect, immediate transformation.

Her book is also an indictment of the secular postmodern academic world, with its fill-in-the-blank studies departments refusing to offer tolerance to anyone who doesn’t fit in.  I would love to see more of the autobiographical description of how she disentangled from that world and arrived at the nearly polar opposite of Christian homeschooling.  As someone who seriously considered post-graduate education but backed away from it because of the anti-Christian bigotry of the academic industrial complex, I'm curious about how to counsel my own children and students as they enter that hostile world.  How should the ethical Christian behave in academia, and what are some wise strategies to follow if we are called down that road?  Does she regret leaving it behind and does she hope to return to university teaching someday?

There is a bit of mostly gentle critique of the complacency of certain aspects of the Evangelical Christian subculture; e.g., reflexive criticism of public schools, bigotry against those with a messy or sinful past, unwillingness to consider adoption.  She and her husband lived and ministered for several years near Patrick Henry College, so having just recently read and reviewed God's Harvard, I found these aspects of her story intriguing.  Evangelical Christians would do well to read her book for the sole purpose of seeing themselves as the world sees us.  And of course, the attention-grabbing issue of homosexuality is front and center in the American culture war right now.  That's probably why the book is receiving so much attention; however, "outreach" to the gay and lesbian community is not really more than a minor focus of the book.

Even more minor in emphasis, but I can't let this review go without mentioning them: three areas of special interest to me personally.  There is knitting!  And Latin instruction (with a nod to the particular importance of verbs!)  And parenting children with special needs.  Bottom line: this is a must-read book for Christians who want to engage the anti-Christian culture compassionately.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Veteran's Day, Old-School Style

Cedar Tree's 6th Grade class, AKA "Grammar 4" presents the adventures of Odysseus.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WIP Wednesday and Argyles

I'm finished with the top row of blocks and almost with the 2nd zigzag row of sashing. The Megaquilter is behaving well, if a bit wobbly.  I wonder if the plastic rods are degrading again, or if it's just my mediocre quilting skills.  Either way, one row down of the Farmer's Wife.  Many more to go.  Linking up to WIP Wednesday for this, the only progress I've made in sewing for awhile.
I started a new argyle socks project, for Secundus.  I'm liking it so far.  I sized it up to a total of 70 stitches (2 selvage plus 68 stitches on a 34 stitch base rather than a 32 stitch base like I used for mine.  The tricky part comes when the diagonal line intersects the brown diamond, and there's an ambiguous stitch: it needs to be the diagonal line, but then the next row is confusing.  I think I've figured it out though, after one rip-back.  There is no yarn-along today; Ginny at the appropriately named Small Things has a new baby boy!
Fred the phantasmagoric pumpkin is looking very creepy indeed with the slugs crawling in and out of his eyes.  He needs to be composted.  By the way, did you know that "phantasmagoric" is a Proto-Indo European word?  I have asked for a P.I.E. grammar and dictionary for Christmas.  I think that would be ultimately cool.

It is a busy week with sister Beth coming for her yearly visit after I give (and maybe grade) 49 Latin final exams tomorrow.  Secundus is going to State with the varsity cross-country boys, as an alternate; Tertia is singing a solo opening line of "America the Beautiful" at her school's Veteran's Day assembly tomorrow, Steve and Secundus are even now taking Francesca the derelict pickup in to the shop for a brake job and other necessary and doubtless expensive repairs, and Quarta is under strict orders to have all the Legos in the guest room picked up so Aunt Beth will not hurt her feet when she comes.  I'm glad for a little tiny bit of stitching time squeezed in between the craziness.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Design Wall and Stash Report

Grandma came over Saturday for Secundus' birthday and brought a couple of quilt tops for me to pin:
Winding Ways, I think?  It's so pretty.  I don't have the patience for all that curved seaming at this point in my life.
And a Spider Web.  Grandma said that is her one paper-pieced quilt, and she's moving on to other things now.  Ironically, I find paper-piecing soothing and comforting, and I don't mind the fiddly work of pulling out the paper afterwards.
 Farmer's Wife Quilt #107, Windblown Square.  In my very slow progress through the machine quilting process, I'm almost finished with the top row.  It's kind of a pain doing only half a block at a time, but that's the way it has to be on the Megaquilter setup.
 #23 Country Farm.
#47 Homemaker.

Stash Report:  No changes from last time.

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 53 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 49 yards
Net used for 2013: 4 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 10,900 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 5800 yards
Net used for 2013: 5100 yards

Also linking up to Design Wall Monday.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Randomday, with November goals

Secundus' birthday was today - 17.  He spent it on the bus to the district meet in Tacoma and back.  He's an alternate to the varsity runners and didn't get to race, but seems like it was a good opportunity anyway.  His team did well and he'll get to go to State next week, we think.  Again as an observer and support, kind of like the Vice President.  When he got back at 6:30 we had his requested birthday dinner of tenderloin steak, mashed potatoes, and apple pie.

Yesterday I didn't have to go in to school; no Latin so the Reformation Day festivities could proceed.  Quarta went as her namesake from the Bible, with the appropriate passage from 1 Corinthians (in Latin) as the sole clue to her identity.
It was nice not to have to go in to school; my grades are all caught up although it was a painful marathon Thursday evening.  I made another large batch of gumbo, part for the freezer and part for church dinner tomorrow; and "shrimp and hotroot soup" from the Redwall cookbook for the church Reformation day party.  The skit this year was about the runaway nuns who hid in the pickled herring barrels.

I suppose I better report on last month's goals and set new ones for this month. October's goals:
  • Start quilting Farmer's Wife.  Done.
  • Finish Quarta's socks. Done 
  • Finish Rosalind.  Not done
  • "Fair" progress on NAWWAL and the String Star.  Well, it was less than fair.
So for this month, November, my goals will be:
  • Maybe to the 1/3 way mark on Farmer's Wife.
  • Finish Rosalind
  • There's a new sock in progress...  it's argyle, so it will probably not be done in a month or anything, but maybe one of the two socks.
  • More progress on NAWWAL and the String Star.  And I'll probably start the new Bonnie K. Hunter mystery quilt.
More than that I know I won't be able to do, but there's no guarantee I won't try.

Steve and Secundus and I watched Fargo while I was typing this up.  Now I'm going to post and reboot this computer, which has been multitasking for too long.  And I'm going to reboot myself, since I've been multitasking too long, by heading off to bed to enjoy that extra hour of sleep.