Monday, November 1, 2021

Housekeeping - Overcoming the Photo Block

 In my effort to revive the blog, I have to be honest. One of the reasons I tend to fall into long stretches of non-blogging is my utter lack of technical skills. Specifically, my lack of technical skills and confidence in the management of photos.

When I started blogging... ten years ago... I managed somehow to upload the photos I wanted to use, and then there came a time when the format of the photos had to change. The photo-hosting service I used to use I can't even remember the name of. And there was limited storage, and I had to learn how to transfer the photos from the camera to the computer, and then I had to crunch them down using photoscape. I'm not sure if I still have to do that, but I've been dutifully crunching my photos down in size using that program for years. But then I got an iPhone, and taking photos did become a lot easier. But getting them from the iCloud to my photo files on my computer is a pain, and by the time I download the ones I want I'm out of mental energy to process them and archive them properly. Surely, it is easier for some people, but I end up with zip files that I don't know how to deal with... am I sounding pathetic yet? 

As the technology for photo sharing has improved, I noticed I was sharing things on Facebook and Instagram because it was just plain easy. But of course, there are increasingly negative tradeoffs when that's the only format you use. 

Anyway, long story short, managing photos is a headache for me. I need to break the mental block and blog about the things I like. So here are some that I just snagged as representative of the year so far, and maybe I can skip the downsizing this time. In the interest of keeping blogging, with the occasional photo.

This is the Frolic quilt that was the 2019 Mystery quilt from Bonnie K. Hunter. I blogged about it a little while I was working on it. It became a wedding gift for my firstborn last May! Now, of course, I am still working on the Grassy Creek quilt and the Unity Quilt that Bonnie shared. They aren't finished yet. And the 2021 mystery will be starting up really soon. So, looking on the bright side, I will have plenty of pictures to share as I work through those.
This is the Frugal Patch quilt variation I've been envisioning for many years and working on sporadically. It's the kind of thing I have to pack away between sessions because it's too big to leave on the design wall. But I'm excited about the possibility.

A couple of the baby quilts I've been making during the pandemic. Basic 4" or 5" squares, no batting, backed with flannel that can be folded to the front and topstitched for a binding. All the babies of my acquaintance (or at least the firstborns) are starting to get them, and I can turn one out in a day or two.

Three or four years ago I bought a bunch of mini orchids at Grocery Outlet. I managed to keep most of them alive, and they even rebloom occasionally. This makes me quite happy, and I take pictures of them.


Cleverly Practical, the "Hermione" socks from the Harry Potter collection by Lisa Ross. I really like them.

So, it does seem I can share photos again, even though my blogging interface looks a bit different than it did over a year ago. And you can have a taste of what my social media circle has already seen that I've been doing lately, but I can write about it in my preferred conversational blog format.

I'll settle for that as progress.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Reformation Day 2021 - 95 Theses, Simplified and Re-blogged

Note: This is a re-blog of a post I did back in 2018, which itself was inspired by an informal project of translation of Martin Luther's 95 Theses I worked on over the 500th anniversary of the event. I recently had a favorable comment on the post and revisited it. I think it's worth sharing again. The more I think about history, the more grateful I am for Martin Luther's courage all those centuries ago. He changed the world.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Life Update

 Well.

I have let life pass too long without posting, and not for lack of things to say. I'm a writer, and I'm constantly writing, but when it stays in my head without getting into printed form one way or another, it's not good for me. When I verbally express myself to those closest to me, it helps me but may not necessarily help them to know my head is filled with such a whirl. And when it gets into printed form but it's only by private text or email, I tend not to bother with the more abstract thoughts because they aren't beneficial for the recipients. And when I post it on social media, it's like skipping rocks into a sea of mostly inane, revenue-generating (but not for me) videos. So, I am attempting to dust off my long-neglected little blog. Whoever wants to read, can read, and if not, I still get the same mental benefit. Solvitur scribendo.

But first, a life update.

Steve works from home since the very beginning of the pandemic. They keep talking about moving back to the office, but it won't happen for awhile. He bought a standing desk and stool from IKEA and added a reading chair; the former guest room is now his office, with bookshelves and a single bed so it can (and has been!) used as an extra guest room. He can teach design school from there when called upon to do so, and has phenomenal discipline to get up early and start work every morning about 6:00. We enjoy taking walks together over his lunchbreak. Our neighborhood is good for walking and is pretty safe. Our church's neighborhood in Portland, sadly, is another story, but that rant is for another time.

I am so grateful I got out of teaching when I did. I have a fear and loathing of Zoom teleconferencing which surpasses my fear and loathing of using the telephone. I would not have lasted a week of virtual teaching. I have thought a few times of offering to help start one of those homeschool "pods" that I hear about, but kick myself immediately after. I have subbed a few times at CT, and I love the energy and enthusiasm of the young folks. And slept the sleep of the utterly exhausted and too-old-to-keep-up-with-the-young-folks afterward. As the pandemic has wound on, I have come to realize that my life has changed and I am both an empty-nester and one whose nest is never quite empty. So I mentally exist in this sort of limbo where I can't really plan things, or get rid of things that need to be gotten rid of, and it's hard to do any deep cleaning (which is actually fine by me, but not so great for the overall quality of life of anyone who lives here). I fill my days nicely, but there is always something missing. I think it is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that we live in a free country. But that would be a "political Tuesdays" post. I quilt, knit a little, and have become quite fond of genealogy. I'll have to talk about WikiTree sometime, it's fabulous and I spend a lot of time there.

Our firstborn son is married, as of May, and lives with his beautiful bride in Virginia. He's able to work from home with the occasional travel week, and she is entering the clinical rotation phase of her Physician Assistant training. Their wedding was a beautiful event, and her family are lovely people. 

Our second son is serving his country abroad. He unfortunately had to miss being the best man at his brother's wedding, but at least he is in a safe enough place that I don't worry about him constantly. We are of course proud of the young man he has become and miss him a lot.

Our daughter is a "supersenior" at her transition education program. She had the graduation ceremony last year but is finally getting some on-site work experience training. She has learned to schedule her own paratransit rides. She works 3 days a week doing baking and general kitchen help at a retirement home, and one day at a comic shop.

Our youngest daughter is a sophomore at UW, where she is studying astronomy, physics and math. She received a scholarship, which is an incredible blessing for all of us, and is active in the Reformed University Fellowship group. She's learning to live quite independently and enjoys the city.

Steve and I have aging parents, which presents a new set of challenges that didn't really exist when I started this blog, and our children are adults starting to live their own lives, which is only appropriate, and so I'll focus less on the kids and more on... other things, yet to be determined, as I move forward. I did write, long ago, that the blog would be eclectic. I at least stand by that.



Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Right to Our own Feelings Part 1: Things Fall Apart

Note: Well, it has been six months since my last, relatively carefree blog post. Maybe you should follow me on Instagram if you want happy pictures; I've been putting them there. In this post, I'm working out something that needs to be analyzed, and it's taken over a week so far with not much progress. So here's to Socrates and avoiding the unexamined life which is not worth living. Part 1 of who knows.

I feel like I should have been carefully chronicling the events of 2020 thus far. The vague uneasiness about the strange new flu coming from China, the first rumors of it spreading to this country. Trying to go on, choosing not to live in fear and to continue life as usual for the sake of the children, and then having fear and isolation imposed on us in the blink of an eye by the very political leaders who, five minutes previously, were celebrating absolutely open borders and no restrictions whatsoever. Being lectured on how selfish and irresponsible it would be to go out and buy masks; only to be shamed what seems like a few days later for not having them on at all times. Looking forward to major events for my children: prom, concerts and school plays, a Spring Break trip to Arizona, two graduations... only to have them yanked away on March 12. Wednesday, planning for the trip to Arizona, the tasks that needed to be finished before then. Friday, everything was canceled. Abruptly. Teachers scrambled to craft something resembling school lessons for the rest of the year. Everyone worked from home, or lost their work altogether. The streets and skies were as silent as the days following 9/11, but without the comforting feeling of coming together in unity after a terrible attack. The Saturday before, getting together with the Mom's Breakfast Club at the Kitchen Table Cafe... the Saturday after, everything quiet and anxious.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm an introvert and of course, we introverts know how to thrive without a crowd of people around, at home, pursuing our own hobbies and interests. But these, as virtually every ad reminds us lately, are "uncertain times," and the things you need to stay sane in uncertain times -- work, church, school, community -- were all taken away as well. Some of us practice activities like music, knitting, quilting, reading, etc. to help us cope with a tendency to anxiety or depression that is only going to get worse when we are deprived of the activities of normal life and the social interactions that used to keep us centered.

In the first few weeks of lockdown, I was optimistic that I could distract myself with knitting and quilting beautiful things. I queued a bunch of free patterns on Ravelry (although they are still suppressing my profile pictures and bio, so the ownership is still as bigoted as ever) and started Bonnie Hunter's Unity quilt... all of these are very exciting and beautiful and I'd like to work on them, but as the days of deprivation wore on, I have struggled on Sleeve Island of one sweater that I started last fall, and forced myself to finish three extremely basic baby quilts... because babies continue to be born despite the quarantine rules, and babies need blankies. The same with all my grand intentions of cleaning and organizing my house... a nice thought, and of course absolute cleanliness is mandatory now, but there is just no mental/emotional bandwidth to complete them.

And then, just when we were celebrating graduations and births and friends as best we could in our drastically reduced circumstances, adapting to the new world order that had been imposed on us, peering into screens or putting out posts on social media or pretending to celebrate from six feet away through a mask -- the riots and civil unrest started.

I suppose it was inevitable: Jeremy Boreing, of the Daily Wire, had a very apt tweet analyzing the causes on May 30:

  1. Instill fear
  2. Lock people in their houses 
  3. Drive tens of millions out of work 
  4. Remove the pressure valves: Sports, Concerts, Bars, Theaters, Lunch with Friends... 
  5. Close the churches 
  6. Dehumanize through masking the healthy 
  7. Wait 
  8. Strike match...

It must have felt like this when the Iron Curtain fell over the old Soviet bloc. Suddenly neighbors were viewed with suspicion and the usual social channels became filled with political recriminations. People hunkered down in their increasingly inadequate homes while gangs of Communist thugs roamed the streets, determining who needed to go to the Gulag next and doing their level best to erase history and remove every trace of the old order. Ordinary citizens lived in fear over things they had written, said, or even thought in the old days, and dreaded the midnight knock at the door.

Except now, the police are the enemy. The military are tools of oppression. Every mention of the current President must be one of condemnation... or you will be cancelled. If you have a business, well, if it's located in the downtown of a major city, you better show prominent support for the BLM and Antifa terrorists, and even then expect to lose your entire inventory and have your store smashed up. Maybe, if you're fortunate, you will say the right things to appease them and be allowed to continue doing business on social media. But you better not have any police officers or military members in your family. You better say the words they want you to say, read the books they promote. Better kneel in front of the occupiers, just to be safe.

Well, I refuse to go along with this madness. Yes, there is a political component to what I'm writing, but I think it goes deeper, and a fair-minded human being with very different political views than mine would agree with my fundamental right to feel what I feel, think what I think, and with very limited restrictions, say what I want to say, even if it goes against the woke groupthink currently in power in our country.

In the next part, I want to go back to basics, which helps many people struggling with overwhelming adversity. And the first step to psychological survival, as I see it, is owning your feelings and thoughts, and accepting that you have a right to do so. Indeed, it is what proves your existence.

Cogito, ergo sum.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Knitting Updates

In the time I have not been blogging I finished a pair of socks:
 These are "Rough Waters" from Lisa K. Ross (Paper Daisy Creations). They are part of the "Socks of Narnia" collection of patterns, and I knit one sock during the Lots of Socks KAL back in February-March. I was able to whip out the second sock fairly quickly once I started on it. The yarn is, I think, Mountain Colors Bearfoot Sock yarn. And I have been working on a second pair of "Non-Euclidian" socks in Patons Kroy, which are for a Christmas present and not finished yet, but I'm liking them so far.
Every so often I go on Ravelry and queue a bunch of patterns. A few weeks ago I impulsively started this yoked cardigan by Lea PetajaWomen's Lace Cardigan using some years-old lambswool/nylon from an unraveled thrift store sweater. I have loved knitting something other than socks for a change, on size 4 needles, and I've already divided for the sleeves and am working on the stockinette body of the cardigan, so the tough part is done. Actually, the tough part for me is finishing the cardigan, but details details... Most of this designer's patterns are free, and they are all quite pretty. I'm enjoying the knitting of this one.

Steve and I finished watching the latest season of The Crown. And with the girls we are working our way through Star Trek: the Next Generation (we finished the original series, but watching them with a modern teenager was quite the experience... even TNG has plenty of cringey moments.) And Monk, and the Great British Baking Show. So these are some of the TV memories associated with these knitting projects. And if I need to stay up late to finish the Christmas socks sometime, I can watch a few episodes of NCIS.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Wake Up, Sleepy Blog!

Yes, I've been neglecting the blog for the past two months. No post November, I guess.

There was a quilt finish during the time I've been away:
"Tone it Down" was from an APQ quiltalong several years back based on the low-volume Burgoyne Surrounded quilt in the Feb. 2014 issue. Designed by Lissa Alexander, I believe.
 I just loved all the pastels and bright colors against the low-volume backgrounds, and I used many of my vintage sheets and some of my reclaimed shirtings. It was a fiddly quilt, where I laid out each block with dozens of different fabrics before piecing it, but it was a completely happy quilt to piece.
 It's 75x93", seems to fit a full size bed pretty well.
 I used Bonnie Hunter's Scrap User's System idea of 10.5" blocks pieced together for the backing. I had cut a big stack of fabrics up into these sizes and used them all up for this backing and the one I pieced to go with my Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt, which will maybe be the next one to go on the quilting machine.
 I now have three finished quilts that I plan to give to my sisters and step-mother this month. En Provence above...
And Grand Illusion. That's three quilts quilted this fall and I'm pretty happy about that. Of course, it's just in time for the start of the next Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt-along, "Frolic", which you can find at the link. I've been hooked on these since 2011 and Orca Bay. It and Allietare are still on my bed, I gave away Easy Street, Celtic Solstice and soon the two above, and On Ringo Lake and Good Fortune are waiting to be quilted.
 Frolic is supposed to evoke the happy feeling of a field of Texas wildflowers under a clear aqua sky. I have a lot of scraps in the blue colorways, which I think of as "China blue." They are blues, light and dark, with just a hint of heading to the purple end of the spectrum.
 "Framboise" is the rasberry color that makes this quilt pop. I don't have a lot of fuchsia pinks in my stash and since the three quilts just finished all had pink in them, I wanted to make a less obviously girly quilt... so I am probably going for closer to "cranberry" or "cherry" or "watermelon" with a bit of "burgundy wine" mixed in, but I'm not opposed to a bit of pink. All of my reds have to not be leaning toward orange, but maybe a bit toward purple.
 I have plenty of greens in that yellow-leaning, grass-green shade. I am a little short of aquas. I love the little skull and crossbones on that one but I'm not sure how appropriate it would be. I do want to use what I have, but that is the one color in the mix I am tempted to supplement. I thought about changing the colors, but decided to go with Bonnie's.
Here is so far on Clue #1. Lots of cute little 4-patches. They are so fun to make! I do love a variety of scraps in every quilt I make. I am trying to cut an extra strip or two for my Scrap User's System every time I have to cut a piece of fabric. That way I can use up some of the smaller and older pieces in my stash and replenish the variety in my strips. And if I impulsively decide to start a new quilt, I go to those strip boxes first. Of course, that does mean the quilting process is messy and there are scraps ALL OVER my sewing area!

That's the news on the quilting front! I'll be linking up to Bonnie's show-and-tell post on Monday when it goes live. You can check out what other quilters are doing with this pattern, and join the Frolic festivities!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

En Provence Quilt - A Finish

 I took the final stitches in the binding and label for En Provence yesterday evening. Today was a crisp and clear Fall day, so I put it on the clothesline to get some photos.
Maybe I take too many pictures, but it seemed like it was only fair. You work on these quilts for multiple years and then all of a sudden, they are done. Ready to be packed up and given to someone who will hopefully enjoy them. It's only fair to have a photo session. Speaking of which, Quarta needs to get her Senior photos taken before we ship her off to college. Hmm.
 Anyway, En Provence was the mystery quilt starting in the Fall of 2016. It was the quilt top that I used as a background picture for my first smart phone, and it's still on there. It really is a gorgeous pattern, with the motion of the purple accented with the sparkling magenta stars. I seriously depleted my purples and neutrals when piecing it.
The quilting pattern I chose was squiggle-loop-flower, with a couple different types of flowers I repeated more or less randomly. I depleted my cone of Robison-Anton eggshell thread when I was quilting it. I used to buy it at Joann's, at the dealership inside the store, but they don't carry it anymore. I will have to look for another source for better-quality machine quilting thread. I picked up a spool of Aurifil at Craft Warehouse, but I've never tried it before and really, I'm on a roll (sort of) with machine quilting. I want to encourage myself to get a bunch more done, and that means buying a big cone of thread. And probably a few more extra-wide backings, since piecing backings is kind of a drag.
I really like the light check fabric I used for the backing of Grand Illusion and the label on this quilt. I also like the kind of grunge-looking extra-wide backing (and binding) I used for this one. Maybe another trip to Joann's and another coupon to buy another backing for when I'm ready to quilt On Ringo Lake. I have been piecing a backing for the Tone It Down quilt, which I want to do next. And I finished piecing the Scrappy Trip Around the World top, which I'll share next time.