Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WIP Wednesday #9: Progress on 2 out of 3 quilts

I'm mostly finished with block 3 of the STARS quilt-along from Melissa at Happy Quilting.  I'm making 4 of each block for a twin-sized quilt.  I'm going to have to start repeating fabrics soon.  I'm also thinking I need a bigger design wall.
The Farmer's Wife blocks won't fit on much longer, either.  I have 30 of them now - made 4 this week.  I still have 3 to blog about individually but that can wait until tomorrow. 

No progress to report on my MIL's quilt that I'm machine quilting.  Hope to get a little more done this week.
Progress has been made on the scary  basement organization project, too.  I bought a couple of wire storage shelves at Target and some pegboard at Home Depot for the tools.  (There was a second picture too, on the other side of the doorway, of the painting supplies on a shelf with more pegboard.  But it was sideways and when I rotated the picture, it vanished, never to be found again.  Why in the world does it do that?! You'll just have to take my word for it that I did 2 shelves and 2 areas of pegboard).
See that white stuff painted around the ductwork?  That's my DIY asbestos mitigation.  Four years ago we had the very old furnace replaced and the professionals took off the asbestos around it; but there was still the asbestos tape around the old ductwork, and they left us a little jar of rubbery stuff to paint over it and just leave it in place.  I just this last week got around to doing that, in the areas that I could reach.  There are plenty of areas I consider out of my reach in the crawl space around the other side of the brickwork; only the cats go there.  And they're probably not going to sue me for any asbestos-related illnesses they might incur.  Although you never know, these days.

As usual, the link-up party is going on over at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In which I rage against pointless bureaucracy

The good news: the massive Latin quotes reorganization project (phase one) is complete, and the quotes have been filed in their appropriate weeks in my lesson plans for ALL THREE LEVELS that I teach.  And that's for the whole year.  And the dates of this school year have been synched into the monster lesson plan template, too.  Which means that, just possibly, I could just tweak the assignments and be able to turn in the entire year's lesson plans at the beginning of the year.  I usually do them a quarter at a time, but let's go for the whole year.  It will be my 12th year at Cedar Tree.  My students will get a quarter at a time syllabus, and the quotes will be on it so they can use it as a study aid.

The bad news... I am completely out of patience with the passive-aggressive bureaucrats who decided that they were going to play mind games with me today, and I'm going to rant for a bit about them, right here.  So, Tertia, the one with Down syndrome, is the only one of my 4 kids in the public school system.  She's going into 6th grade next week: we've had the IEP meetings and the planning meetings with the school, and everything.  I'm about as confident that she will have good help there as it's possible to be with the government schools.  We've been getting automatic calls all summer about how we need to provide proof of vaccination for TDAP and varicella, and I explained to the one actual person who called about how she has her appointment this Friday where she will get the one shot she needs, and the actual person said fine, as long as we get the vaccination record into the office before school starts.  I went to the school office today to pick up her schedule (after another automated call) and took her with me.  To be honest, I was hoping I would be able to see some of her classrooms and get a little orientation tour, just for my own benefit... Tertia has been with her 5th grade class already.  Well, it was a little scary walking in there with all the other kids, who are a lot taller, knowing that Tertia was going to have a lot of big changes thrown at her all at once, and hoping her natural positive attitude would hold.  But when we gave her name to the office lady, she said, "looks like all I have for her is this paper," which was a repeat of the incessant demand for vaccination records we've been getting all summer.  They have not prepared a schedule for her (and her schedule is going to be complicated) because they didn't have the little sheet of paper.  When I asked why, the singularly unhelpful office lady said, "Well, she won't be a student here if she doesn't show proof of vaccinations."  I had explained about the timing for her Dr. appointment.  It was a total "no soup for you!" moment.  The Schedule Nazi.  So, after her appointment I will have to drive back over to the school (not sure I can trust it to a fax) and hand deliver her vaccination record, and hope that by then they will have her schedule and any special information ready for us.  I'm worried they won't even set up her bus schedule until these people get their little slip of paper.

Administrare -- in Latin, it means to manage or attend to things, but it also carries a bit of the idea of a servant's heart.  Tertia and I could both have used a little of that today.  I'm really spoiled at Cedar Tree.  Never take for granted the prayer before important meetings, and the idea that the school exists to serve parents and children.  It's always a bit of a rude awakening NOT to find that in the public schools.

Oh yes, and Quarta has Veggie Tales sing-alongs playing while she's doing dishes.  I can do without Larry the Cucumber singing Kum ba yah in my one good ear today.  Grr.

Monday, August 29, 2011

When Summer Ends

Media vita in morte sumus.  The death of summer, the death of the hope that I will get my longed-for organization accomplished, the death of my very last nerve as I spent the afternoon compiling a massive table of Latin lessons keyed to appropriate quotes and tried to pack it all back into my master template before some random electron cloud might come along and scramble the whole thing.  (It didn't, but I have that kind of relationship with MSWord, so you never know).  Note to my students: I've cut some of the repetitive quotes and you will have to work for your bonus points from now on - they'll be retroactive.  And much less of the silly ones.  I'm keeping "Avis est, aeronavis est, Supervir est," but ditching "Sanctos Subjunctivos, Virvespertilio!" and "Me transmitte sursum Caledonii."  (Most 6th graders don't know who Scotty is even in English.)  When it's all done I will have a much more streamlined master lesson plan, but there is much more of the dread formatting that must happen.  I must steel myself with folk music and knitting.

I have a recurring fantasy this time of year that someone will come along and make all my phone calls, organize my schedule, do my grocery shopping, and plan my carpool for me.  I'm avoiding all of that myself, and re-reading the first three Harry Potter books -- now that's going back to school in style!  Maybe by September 12 I'll be good to go, doing my level best to channel Professor McGonagall.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Plums, puzzles, and patchwork

We have a lovely plum tree in the back yard, a bit overgrown, prone to broken branches and with at least one squirrel's nest up high.  This year was kind of a slow year for it; we'll most likely eat all the plums fresh.  There have been years where I made plum jam, plum chutney, dried plums for school lunches, made plum leather for school lunches, froze them by the quart load and gave them away to the neighbors.  I have to put the plums in my plum-glazed bowl (from college Ceramics class) every year.  This year I actually took a picture and blogged about it.
Nostalgic for Ohio?  I was after helping Quarta put together this 500 piece puzzle my mom gave us over a decade ago.  I should get a puzzle like this for all the states we've lived or vacationed in.
Farmer's Wife Quilt block 27: Darting Birds.  I needed more red in the quilt, and this definitely is more red.  Now I'll need to put even more red in.  That's not a bad thing.  I started this block by making a grid of eight 1 7/8" squares for the HSTs.  There are 4 additional brown check 1 7/8" squares that I cut diagonally into triangles, and four brown 1 1/2" squares, and 4 red 1 1/2" squares for the heads, and two 2 7/8" red squares cut diagonally for the birds' bodies.  I really like how this block turned out.

I've been busy but not in a bloggy way the last few days.  I need to photograph what I've done so I'll feel more productive: organizing the basement, back-to-school shopping, estate sale shopping (!) and cleaning house (ugh!)  Secundus is running cross-country for the local public HS this fall, and practices have started for that.  Personally, I'm hoping my lesson plans will format themselves with a minimum of input from me, and dreading the moment when I actually have to start digging in.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Corn on the cob

For the first time ever in our years in the Pacific Northwest, we had corn on the cob for dinner the other day.  Now, I know these ears are on the small side, but as a Midwest girl who had given up on ever successfully growing corn out here, I assure you they tasted delicious.  It makes it all the more remarkable when you consider the three raccoons, the blackbirds, and the squirrels that hang out in our yard.  And the generally cool and overcast weather we've had this summer.  Some may say that buying corn plants in 6-packs at the garden center is for wimps, but out here, you do what ya gotta do.  Three cheers for the all-American treat!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WIP Wednesday #8

With Family Camp and painting going on this week, I didn't get much sewing done.  This is the Farmer's Wife Quilt block 25: Cups and Saucers.  I'm glad it was a simple 9-patch and easy to analyze.
Here's block 26: Cut Glass Dish.  Another 9-patch grid.  I had fun choosing "sparkly" fabrics for this one.  I think it really does give the look of cut glass.
I'm working on block 2 of the STARS quilt-along.  I'm planning on doing 4 of each block and winding up with a twin-size quilt.  I haven't repeated a print yet, and it's all from my stash. 

No real progress on the Japanese Lanterns machine quilting.  I have 3 other quilt tops waiting for quilting, too.
My current knitting project: Stashbuster Spirals socks for Primigenitus.  I'm loving how the different bits and bobs of leftover sock yarn combine.  There are three primary yarns: a slow-changing variegated yarn from my Leyburns, the blue variegated one leftover from Steve's most recent pair, and the self-striping yarn leftovers from socks I made for myself on our UK bus tour back in 2005.  Should be finished soon, and I'll start another pair because I have lots more leftovers to use up.  The next pair will probably be in shades of green.

I'm linking up to Freshly Pieced so you can check out what lots of other crafty bloggers are up to.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Family Camp

We've been going to the 1st OPC Family Camp for more than 10 years now.  This is the first time to my knowledge that an egret has shown up.  And posed for photos, no less!
The older young folks spent much of their free time perfecting the Virginia Reel...
... and the waltz.  There was also Ultimate Frisbee.
And of course, the Bananathon.  Very hard to capture in just one photo.
The younger young folks would say it was over too quickly.
Saturday morning at 7:30, sleeping in after the Talent Show.
Secundus slept under the stars... until 7:35, which I think must be hard to do.
... and the leather jacket goes on even before the shoes.
Many thanks to Ben Hopp, OPC missionary in Haiti, for sharing about the work of the Gospel in such a beautiful and challenging place.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Housewife's Lament

So we got back from Family Camp yesterday and are still recovering from sunburn, bugbites and exhaustion.  My rendition of the old folksong "The Housewife's Lament" was greeted with gratifying applause at the Talent Show.  In case you weren't there and want to check it out here's a youtube version that's similar to what I was aiming for (but I couldn't resist hamming it up a bit more than they did).  The song deserves to be better-known. 

Maybe pictures tomorrow. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WIP Wednesday #7: Odds and Ends

Many works in progress and little finished this week.  Boys are painting outside and trying to put the gutters and light fixtures back on, and for some reason that makes me less likely to get things done inside.  I did make two Farmer's Wife blocks:
Block 23: Country Farm.  This one is almost a 9-patch, but you have to build it diagonally from the center.  The center triangles are HST's cut 2 7/8", the green star points and blue background triangles are QST's cut 3 1/4", and the squares are cut 2 1/2".  And yes, that top point isn't perfect.  Watch me not worrying about it!
Block 24: Country Path.  I played with value placement on this one, and I like how it turned out even if it's a lot darker than the rest of my blocks. Center lozenge is from a 2 5/8" square, with the fast-45 technique to attach two 1 5/8" (scant) squares to become the triangles.  The small squares are also 1 5/8" (scant) and the triangles are QST's cut from a 2 3/4" square.  The big squares are cut 2".

It's amazing how much memory-linking there is in a quilt like this.  Just in these two blocks, there is fabric from my mother, my father-in-law, my husband, my daughters, and remnants from a dress I made for myself.  Of course, my obsessive scrap-saving might have something to do with that.

In addition to the Farmer's Wife blocks, this week I finished two pairs of boxers for my husband and son, jumped into the Happy Quilting Stars quilt-along (3 blocks so far!), and made a very little progress on machine quilting Grandma's Japanese Lanterns quilt.  And I started knitting another pair of socks.

I have a backlog of tops to quilt, so I hope to finish the Lanterns up soon and move on.  Also, Family Camp starts tomorrow (for us, today for some hardy souls) so not much will be posted for a few days.  And -- I shudder to think -- school is just around the corner.

Primigenitus just poked his head in the door to ask about when you're putting a light fixture back on... it's white on white and black on black... right? And what's the worst that could happen if you're wrong? This is one of the reasons I quilt.

Link-up party over at Freshly Pieced today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New quilt-along

I found a fun quilt-along over at Happy Quilting and have been pulled in.  At least partway.  I decided on colors:
and made two blocks today:
The plan is for it to be a twin-sized quilt, suitable for a girl's quilt for the Cedar Tree auction.  I have a half-baked idea of doing multiple quilts for next year's auction.  We'll see.  If nothing else, I can dig into my stash of bright oranges, pinks and yellows.  Mostly oranges and pinks though.

The boys have been working on trim today. 
Primigenitus generally follows ladder safety rules and paints within the lines.  And he smiles for the camera.
Secundus has to spray things down after he tries to reposition the ladder with the paint bucket still hanging from it...
...and he avoids the camera.  There are a lot of loose ends still, but most of the painting is done.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A few finishes

I've finished a few projects in the midst of the painting frenzy.  These are my Leyburn Socks, finished mainly during the Veritas training.  I liked this pattern but could have used more direction on the short row heels, which I pretty much faked my way through.  I've cast on socks for Primigenitus using the Stashbuster Spirals pattern to use up some of the little balls of sock yarn I've been saving.  It's a fun pattern and is very interesting in self-striping yarns.
I finished two pairs of boxers in an antique-looking New York City print for Steve and Secundus (who is convinced he's going to live there someday).  These were the ones with the cursed brown thread.  My machine, newly tuned-up, did not like the brown thread I used for this, but did fine with the same kind of pink, white, grey, and blue thread during the time I was frustratedly working on these.  It would break, have tension issues, make nasty sounds, etc. with the brown thread -- then I'd give up in frustration and switch to Farmer's Wife blocks and it would hum along just fine.  I have no idea why it was just the brown thread.  And it was just in the spool: the bobbins of brown thread work fine.  Weird.
Trim painting and touch-up is going on today.  No drama with color - it's Courtyard.  Primigenitus is a good sport about having his photo taken.
Secundus, not so much.  I'm liking the progress outside and I've also been working on the basement cleaning a bit.  Soon, too soon, I'm going to have to shift into mad prep mode for school.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friendly Yellow

So we hired the wonderful people at Handyman Can to paint our house for us, with Primigenitus and Secundus helping with the labor to keep the cost manageable.  The inside of our house has an eerie quality to the light.  You can't tell when someone pulls into the driveway, and you have to go out of this door rather than our regular one.
Big changes are in store.  We are going yellow.  The house has been "the big old white farmhouse with blue trim and a white picket fence" for so long.
The trim's going to change too.  We'll keep the picket fence white.
Even the extraordinarily tall young Mr. B. does, occasionally, need a ladder.
We had some issues with the paint color.  On the left is "Friendly Yellow," our choice for the house body, in the sample that was mixed up for us.  But Sherwin Williams doesn't do Friendly Yellow in exterior paints.  On the right is their first attempt to match the color: it should have been "Banana Cream" (which was the closest exterior match) but in reality was something with a lot more red in it, like "Jonquil."  It was just too peach, although it did okay as a base coat. 
After squinting at lots of different samples, we called in the cavalry.  Dee-Anna Janku is superwoman... and all I had to do was watch her adorable children and adorable puppy while she sped off in her adorable convertible to make it all good.  Sherwin Williams didn't have enough of the right base to mix up the closest match for Friendly Yellow (apparently there's a nationwide paint shortage...who knew?) so they custom mixed a batch using another base that is a much closer match to Friendly Yellow than either the mismatched batch we got first or the Banana Cream we were prepared to settle for.  And if we ever need to order more, it's got a special name... Chapman Yellow.  I may have lost the ability to differentiate between shades of yellow after today, but by gum I've got a paint named after me.

Now we need to settle on trim color.  I'm leaning towards Courtyard, a dark green.  But not Clover or English Ivy or Dried Thyme or Black Emerald...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WIP Wednesday #6: Farmer with Lanterns

Despite crazy schedules last week and work being done on the house this week (the boys are helping get it ready to be painted), I've been getting some sewing done.  I'm finally beginning the quilting on my mother-in-law's Japanese Lanterns quilt.
I am relieved to finally be working on it, but I sure wish I could keep the stitching smoother.  Those big white squares are terrifying to quilt in a variegated thread.  I'm hoping the overall effect will be good.  Finished is better than perfect, right?  The good thing is that my mother-in-law doesn't really like super-close quilting, so I just have to do squiggle motifs in the bands of the lanterns and in the corners (and probably centers) of the white squares, and it will be done quickly.  After all this time worrying about it.
I had fun with the Farmer's Wife quilt this week too.  Here's block 20: Churn Dash.  Super-easy 9-patch: central square cut 2 1/2", HST's cut 2 7/8", rectangles cut 2 1/2" x 1 1/2".  Dark fabric is from an old shirt of Steve's, gingham from the thrift store, and the cute background is a vintage scrap from I don't know where.
Block 21: Contrary Wife.  I think she's pretty and demure, actually.  Another simple 9-patch: the orange gingham from a thrift store shirt, leftover yellow plaid from another quilt, and red dots from the thrift store.
Block 22: Corn and Beans.  I used a flash for this picture and the colors show up a little better.  I like how this turned out, but it was a pain to piece.  The fabrics: thrifted background; the black and brown fabrics are from my mother.  I tried to pick corny and beany colors.  The cutting: central hourglass triangles are actually HST's cut 2 7/8".  Then I cut 10 background 1 7/8" squares and 2 each the same size of yellow, black and brown for the small HST's.  Of these you piece (very carefully, because they're very small and most of them don't go into squares) the triangle units of 1 yellow and 3 backgrounds, and when they are together you sew them to the diagonal stretchy edges of the center diamond, and you have a square.  Then you need to cut a green square 3 1/4" for the smaller green QST's: add background HST's to turn it into a flying goose unit, then add black and brown HST's to the sides.  Those trapezoid units are pieced onto the sides of the center square, and then finally, you add four background HST's (2 7/8") to the corners.  Unfortunately, there aren't many fast-piecing methods that make sense for this block, and at each stage you're working with stretchy bias edges.  You have to take it slow and cut and sew very cautiously.  But this is close to being my favorite block yet!
Group shot.  I wouldn't have expected these little 6" blocks to be so much fun.  Be sure to check out the other WIPs over at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Reviews: Paleolithic Lit

You never know where a curious mind will take you.  Because I knit, I joined Ravelry.  There I interacted with people who assume you're mentally deficient if you don't embrace evolution.  So I read up on the Intelligent Design debate, which is Ground Zero for atheism vs. any logical system of thought.  Because I'm a Latin teacher with a background in literature, I'm curious about the origins of the ancient myths.  If I had a time machine, I'd be going back into the pre-Abrahamic era to find out as much as possible about the stories they told, who travelled where, and how they did things.  I'm pretty sure that's where most of our myths started out.  The challenging thing, of course, is that we can never know for sure.  For all our talk about carbon dating and Young Earth vs. Old Earth, we can't observe that time period directly.  So, why are modern scholars so quick to deconstruct one of the few written documents that claims to describe that era?  Hmm.  Here are three books I've looked at recently that play with prehistory in one way or another.

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, by James G. Frazer. 
Genre: Anthropology? Comparative religion? Mythology? Philosophy? New Age/Wicca?  Gnosticism? Could be any and all of them.
I skimmed this one.  It's really long, even in abridged form.  And it's all built around one idea: sympathetic magic (human and animal sacrifice, fertility rituals, etc.) is the basis of all religion.   By implication, Christianity is just one more example among thousands of the myth of the dying and rising god.  This is considered a seminal work in the field of anthropology, and it had an incalculable influence on the intellectuals who wrote the literature of the 20th century.  Also, if you're ever inducted into the language honor society Alpha Mu Gamma, loyalty to the Golden Bough forms a part of the quaint/silly secret initiation ceremony.  I presume it's this golden bough and not the original one that Virgil wrote about.  Frazer adopts the superior attitude of modern anthropologists, even referring to primitive societies as "savages."  He skips around a lot: the peoples he describes are united by similarity of customs, not historical era or geographical area.  I'd like to return to this at some point when I have more patience for it.  Even if you disagree with his premise, he successfully created the mythology of the modern era: i.e., that the old stories are all equally true, which means, of course, that they are all equally false.  His work definitely forms a part of the Great Conversation.

Before the Flood: The Biblical Flood as a Real Event and How it Changed the Course of Civilization, by Ian Wilson. 
Genre: Archaeology, history, literature, marine science.  This was a fascinating book.  The author is not a creationist attempting to prove the book of Genesis; the Black Sea flood at the end of the Ice Age, Noah's flood, and accounts from the Gilgamesh epic and other ancient accounts are presumed to be identical, and therefore the flood would not have been worldwide in scope.  The author takes an interdisciplinary approach, describing the Black Sea flood as documented by Ryan and Pitman and explored by Robert Ballard, postulating Turkey rather than the Fertile Crescent as the cradle of civilization, and pursuing tantalizing clues in ancient texts like Gilgamesh and the Argonautica.  Much of it is by necessity speculative; much (but not all) of the speculation is compelling.  I loved reading about the archaeological excavation of Catal Huyuk in Turkey.  I was less thrilled with the case built around the worship of bulls and the Great Mother goddess: Wilson spends a lot of time describing these widespread practices as being the ancient norm, including a matriarchal society and promiscuous sex.  He bemoans the overturn of this culture and the rise of patriarchy -- OK, we get it, this is the obligatory modernist distancing of self from the Biblical tradition.  Despite this, the book is enjoyable, readable proof that not all modern secular scholars dismiss Genesis altogether.

The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel
Genre: Historical Fantasy.  Why I read it: I was curious, of course -- what other reason is there?  So in the '80's when everyone else was reading this I was underage, and THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT A BOOK FOR CHILDREN.  But there's something charming about the premise of this long-lasting 6-book series: a young Cro-Magnon girl, suddenly orphaned and homeless after a cataclysmic earthquake, adopted and brought up by a clan of kindly Neanderthals.  Part of the fun of historical fiction is learning what life was like in the old days... this is one author's speculation about life in the really old days.  You learn about knapping flint for knives other tools, how to hunt wooly mammoths and butcher them and dry their meat, and what plants Neanderthals used for medicinal purposes.  All very intriguing; but unfortunately, the impression I was left with was that it seems very dated now.  Not enough of "Little Cave on the Steppe" and too much proto-feminist manifesto, with a little bit of potboiler to swing it in the other direction entirely.  Ayla is a likable enough protagonist, and Creb the wise man and Iza the medicine woman are even lovable.  But the Neanderthals are a dead end of evolution, and Ayla's departure is inevitable.  I suspect that Ayla singlehandedly will advance early humans from Paleolithic to bronze age over the next several books -- but I'm not likely to read the later books based on the reviews on Amazon. 

The intriguing questions for me relate to the modern assumptions that prehistoric humans were less intelligent -- yet this story has even the non-verbal Neanderthals capable of living in an orderly social group, with laws and traditions consistent over generations and every member of the Clan performing necessary work.  The only things they can't figure out are how to count beyond 20 and where babies come from.  Then I look at modern young people, who diligently check the social media for the next scheduled riot but who couldn't cook dinner if they had to harvest the ingredients from their backyard rather than the local bistro, and have not even the faintest idea of basic economics, and I wonder if the technological age has really advanced us all that much?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Farmer's Wife #17-19

I can't stop with the Farmer's Wife blocks.  They're addictive little puzzles, kind of like Sudoku.
Block 17: Cats and Mice.  I had to bend my rule about fabric in this one to allow for the darling dancing Egyptian mice and fairy cats... both of these fabrics were from scrap bags I purchased.  When you stuff a bag of scraps for $1, it's almost like thrift store fabric, right?  More challenging was the block analysis... this is another one I drew out on graph paper and measured. It and block 19 are sisters.  The mice squares are a finished measurement of a generous 1 3/8", so I cut them a generous 1 7/8".  The QST's also finish to a generous 1 3/8", so I cut them a generous 2 5/8" and used the hourglass piecing method where you don't cut until after you've sewn the bias seams.  Then the side triangles: the base measurement is 4" so you cut one 5 1/4" square and cut it diagonally to get 4 triangles.  The corner triangles: 1" finished so you cut 1 7/8" squares (right on the line) and cut them once diagonally.
Here's sister block #19 - Checkerboard.  You can see that the square unit is the same (cut a generous 1 7/8"), but instead of the 4 larger side triangles we have 8 smaller ones - cut 3 1/4" squares and cut them diagonally twice for those QST's.  The corner HST's are again cut from 1 7/8" (not generous, just regular) squares.  To make up for my frivolous fabric choices in Cats and Mice I used all vintage or upcycled scraps - two of Steve's old shirts, two different old curtains, and some fabric from my mom.  Drawing these two blocks out helped me to remember some of my geometry from long-lost days of yore.
Block 18 - Century of Progress.  No way around it unless you want to piece it by hand, I think you're going to have to draw it out on paper (or print out paper piecing patterns) and use foundation paper piecing to get this puppy together.  Draw a 6" square, divide it into 4 quarter squares, and draw a line diagonally connecting the center points of the sides so you have a diamond in the square.  That diagonal measurement (about 4 1/3", but don't trust my math) needs to be subdivided into thirds, and a line connecting the thirds to the center or corner of the block needs to be drawn.  Then you piece it in 8 sections and sew them together.  I might have been able to get the center more perfect if I hadn't chosen a heavy-weight red ticking stripe, but I like the way it looks.  I had wanted to use more lime green, yellow and red in the quilt, so here it is.

Fortunately the next few blocks are easier to analyze and go together quickly.