Saturday, September 29, 2012

Randomday: the Buddy Walk

Shortly following Tertia's 13th birthday (I have three teenagers now... how can that be?!) came the annual Down Syndrome Buddy Walk.  This year I took both girls.
There was a bounce house. 
There were carnival games with silly prizes.
There were hula hoops.  Two different strangers came up to me and said Tertia was a world class hula-hooper.  Of course, this is one of those events where no one is a true stranger.
There were Star Wars characters, inexplicably made friendly and huggable and transported to Portland.  I'm pretty sure Tertia thinks of Chewie as a close personal friend; she remembers him from last year.
The Central Catholic cheerleaders were there to kick off the walk.  I loved the "poms down!" order right before they did a cheer with lots of clapping.
After the walk they turned on the fountain in the Rose Quarter Commons.  It didn't take long before the inevitable wetness for all kids ensued:
At first it looks like they might stay mostly dry...
... but not for very long.
A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along

It's been awhile since I had any real progress to report... actually, it's been since the start of school.  I can't help feeling jealous of all those bloggers and Facebook friends celebrating sending the kids back to school so they have time to sew!  Somebody has to sacrifice quilting time to teach those kids!

But, I finished quilting my Log Cabin yesterday.  This was one of my long-term UFOs and it's now almost finished!  I just need to make a hanging sleeve, trim the edges and sew on the binding.  I'm happy to get some machine-quilting mojo back, before I start on some other quilts that demand something a little more than just squiggles. I'm linking up to Freshly Pieced.

And I'm also linking up to the Yarn-along at Small things.  That lump of blue yarn is my handspun Wensleydale that I'm attempting to knit into the EZ Half-Pi shawl "camping".  Been working on it since Family Camp in August and it's sloooow.  It looks like a big jumbled mess and I'm taking it on nothing but faith that it will ever look good once it's blocked.  And I'm doing a quick scan of Mossflower by Brian Jacques, which I've read multiple times before, as I read through the entire Redwall series in chronological order and prepare to write a book review of each of them.  Except, nothing is quick these days... except the kids growing up!

This little girl turns 13 today!  She wants to get on Facebook now. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Political Tuesdays - We Have Met the Enemy, and He is Us

It was a frustrating night, knitting at Starbucks.  First off, I discovered I had left the directions for the shawl I was knitting at home.  I suffer from Monday Night Brain anyway, so I decided to start a pair of socks with yarn and pattern I did have in my knitting bag.  I made it through Judy's Magic Cast-on and was trying to knit the first 2 rows, when the conversation around the table turned to politics.  Not real politics, though.  Things like, "Vote-by-mail is awesome" and telling Ron Wyden so on Twitter and how many new followers she got as a result (seems like a lot of interest in Oregon voting for a Washington resident, but I said nothing).  And how someone's husband donated to the Obama campaign last time around and now they keep sending stuff (surprise!) like autographed pictures of Joe Biden.  I may have said something just mildly snarky at this point, but the general sentiment seemed to be that Biden embodies silliness.  He was right up there with the Ron Paulites in their minds... which is pretty close to the way I feel actually.  I did observe at one point (I had long since abandoned hope of getting any knitting done) that the Republican convention had the edge because they were the only one with balloons.  And what fun is a convention where only confetti drops from the ceiling, no balloons?!

Then an older woman piped up, "It's no one's *%$ business how you vote.  It should be secret!"  A sentiment I somewhat agree with, especially when with knitters.  Nobody should really bring up politics in knitting groups, it never ends well.  We'll just admire each others' yarn and patterns and stick to trivialities, and all will be well.  But then the same woman went on to say, "All politicians are the same, they just want power for themselves. They're all liars, every single one of them!"  It does make me wonder, why anyone who really believed that would bother to vote at all, secret or not.  That much cynicism surely cannot be healthy.  As for me, I'm planning on cheerfully voting for people that I believe are telling me the truth, and I agree with the vast majority of their stated policies.  But I surely miss living in a state where my vote actually matters.

I heard that President Obama sided with the Green Bay Packers and against the Seattle Seahawks in their disputed game.  I wonder if he's so sure of Washington State that he doesn't care if he ticks off the Seahawks fans, just so he can become more competitive in Wisconsin?  Probably so.  It's nice to know that he's keeping his full attention on the political situation, and avoiding petty distractions like a nuclear Iran or the jobless rate.  Oh, and he's keeping his interview skills sharp with the ladies on the View, while keeping those tiresome world leaders in their place by not meeting with them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

I've read three vampire books in my life, and this was the funniest.  I'm not necessarily going to recommend Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, because it has a limited appeal, or it could easily have strong appeal to some groups that have no business reading it.  You have to be able to appreciate horror, humor, and history in almost equal amounts, which is a strange combination at best.  You also should not read this if you are young and have not had your historical awareness kindled yet.  It would be wrong to leave an impressionable young mind with a conviction that beheading vampires was the real use of Abe Lincoln's axe.  And the implication that vampires were the real reason for slavery (because of the constant supply of human prey) and that their unholy alliance with the wealthy Southern landowners was the real danger in the Civil War, trivializes the historical complexities to a point that no teacher of history can condone.  But it was funny! I have a feeling the movie (which I won't be watching) has a harder time keeping the humorous tone than the book, because there are just so many gory scenes.  Fortunately I don't get grossed out by reading, and the verbal description of gore is so over-the-top that even though I don't like that particular horror element, I found the book very entertaining.  I consider it in the category of alternate history, which is a favorite of mine... and if you can keep the distinction between fantasy and reality, you might enjoy it too.

The genius of the author is in his ability to capture the feeling of a biography, with specific historical detail that has been tweaked just enough to make you want to Google it to find out for sure if it's made-up.  Of course, that's also the insidious thing about it.  I'll have to be careful in future years as I read about the Civil War, that I don't recall some interesting tidbit of information as factual.  It has implications for the modern day as well... for example, I will always wonder now if there isn't a different reason than I had assumed for why Secret Service agents always wear dark glasses.  And never smile.  And I will certainly never be able to recall "Now he belongs to the ages" in quite the same way.

Bram Stoker's Dracula is a classic and just about anyone could read it without getting creeped out too much.  It doesn't linger on the gory or gruesome; and vampires are unquestionably evil, which is probably where they should stay.  Only in a warped culture such as ours can vampires play the romantic lead.  And no, vampires don't sparkle.

I like a vampire story of literary quality, not just pulp fiction: so I'd like to promote an overlooked treasure - The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.  A slightly more likely mash-up of the Romantic poets (among them of course Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary, the author of Frankenstein) and La Belle Dame Sans Merci, with the riddle of the Sphinx in there too for good measure.  Like Abraham Lincoln, this book is rich with historical and biographical detail, but it doesn't confuse the issue by trying to spoof historical characters. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Randomday - Wat's in the Crockpot

You never know wat you're going to get on Randomday! 
Wat's in the crockpot?  Wat's in the crockpot!  (Wat was in the crockpot earlier in the week, actually, I'm just blogging about it today.)

This one's for you, Dad.  I used a recipe from Stephanie O'Dea's latest book, but it's also on her website A Year of Slow Cooking.   Ethiopian Chicken Stew, also known as Doro Wat.  My mom always made it with beef and served it with pancakes, to replicate the injeera bread that is the authentic way to serve it.  It was always too spicy for us kids to eat, so we had a pancake supper!  But we might venture to eat one of the hard-boiled eggs that had absorbed some of the sauce, just enough enough to know what Wat tastes like.

I tinkered with this recipe a bit... I added chopped kale since I had it and I like greens cooked along with my meat.  I didn't have enough hard-boiled eggs, but that worked out okay.  And I didn't add water since I remember our family Wat being a very thick stew.

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, frozen
Juice of half a lemon
1 T butter
2 diced onions
1 t. ginger
1 T. paprika
1 t. cayenne pepper (more if you're my Dad)
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. turmeric
1 bunch kale or other greens, chopped
1 hardboiled egg for each diner, peeled, to add later

Add everything to the crockpot except the eggs.  Add water if desired, up to 2 cups if you want a more soup-like stew.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4-5.  Stir once or twice during cooking.  Add the eggs about 15 minutes before serving.

I served this with rice in the time-honored Bogue tradition.  It was very good, although I think the Wat spices blend that came from Ethiopia propbably had a few secret ingredients in it that I don't have in this recipe.  And as good as it was, I had a bit of an upset stomach for a few days afterwards... so go cautiously with that cayenne.  This is 1-handkerchief Wat, Dad.  You would probably like a full tablespoon of cayenne!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: Martin the Warrior

Martin the Warrior, by the late Brian Jacques, is chronologically second in the Redwall saga, following Lord Brocktree.  Of all the Redwall books I've read, I think in this one Jacques was exploring more advanced themes than in his typical work.  There are few of the wordplay puzzles and archetypal quests that draw young readers into his other books; instead, it is a tale of slavery and resistance, a serious meditation on the evils of war and vengeance, and definitely closer to a tragedy than a comedy, even with the light and humorous characters that populate it.

The story follows the hero mouse Martin, a natural leader, as he follows the painful path of a hero in his attempt to defeat the evil stoat Badrang, reclaim the stolen sword of his father Luke, and free his enslaved friends.  Along the way he meets Felldoh the squirrel, Brome and his sister Rose of Noonvale, and the faithful mole Grumm.  Badrang has troubles of his own trying to recapture the escaped slaves and hold onto the fortress of Marshank while Clogg, his old enemy, threatens to take it over.  There's also a troupe of travelling actors, a kind-hearted cartographic owl, and dangerous cannibal lizards, among many others.  The book suffers a little from a cast of thousands approach, so that it's hard to remember all the characters, but you can be sure they all have a role to play before the end.  This is an approach that will appeal to children who are proficient readers and enjoy exhaustive detail in epic form.  Jacques was inspired to become an author by reading the great epics, and he does not set the bar low for his readers.  Younger children can enjoy it as a read-aloud, as with all the Redwall books.  Especially if the reader can do the moles and other voices well!

The story of Martin is a prehistory to the events of Mossflower, before the founding of Redwall Abbey.  It also sheds light on the character of Martin, both a driven and a reluctant warrior, and why the peaceful Abbey, when it is built, is a metaphor for all that is good in a dark world.  Jacques wrote many books in this series: if you're only going to read three, this should be the third after Redwall and Mossflower.  Or you can attempt the great Redwall race and read them in chronological order along with me.  I might finish in a few more years!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday - Log Cabin quilting

I love log cabins.  There's just something classic and Americana about them.  I've finally overcome the summer of no quilting and loaded this one on the Megaquilter, and I'm quilting again.  It's a good thing.  Very, very scrappy.
Grandma recently finished this cool top, and I pinned it for her.  Any little boy would want to run cars along those "roads!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Political Tuesdays - The Empty Chair

Who would have thought that Clint Eastwood, famed tough guy of the silver screen and an American icon, would (a) gain fame as a political satirist and (b) help to address the tricky distinction between the ablative case and the accusative case?  I'm afraid I probably can't use it with my 6th graders though... they'd wonder who that fat guy is.

An empty chair is a good metaphor for Obama's administration.  It's kinder than anything I can think of, off the top of my head.  When he took office, I thought at least he would help in a symbolic way to heal some of the tensions of racism.  But really, the Democratic party can't seem to survive without keeping racial tensions amped up.  And Obama has added class warfare and a French Revolution mob mentality to our polarization.  It's worse than in the Clinton administration (and I thought I'd never say this, because I really, thoroughly despised Bill Clinton... but at least he was an artful compromiser and knew how to work with Republicans).  Now, reportedly even Nancy Pelosi is putting her phone on mute so she can get on with whatever work she does while Obama postures.  Without real leadership, we really will hit that fiscal cliff that Merle Hazard sings about.

The most recent attack on Romney from the Obama political machine is that Romney said 47% of Americans who are dependent on government handouts will automatically vote for Obama out of loyalty.  I'm not quite sure why this is supposed to be a scandal.  What concerns me more is why there is no media coverage of the statistics behind this.  Really - 47% of Americans, nearly half, pay no taxes and have no real stake in our government?  We're all familiar with the "No taxation without representation" quote that launched our Republic.  What about "no representation without taxation?"  Is it really good for the country to have a soon-to-be majority class -- let's just call them the Plebeians -- receiving handouts from one party and making no contribution other than their votes for that party?  This sounds ominously similar to some of the social tensions that ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Republic.  The Empire, because of its strong military and its making a religious obligation out of worship of the Emperors, lasted hundreds of years more, but eventually it too ran out of other people's money.

Now, I've been a social issue voter all my life, and as a dedicated pro-lifer I must point out that Obama has in the past supported infanticide.  But even I answer political polls on the most important issue in this election as being the economy (although after last week I'm thinking of changing to keeping America's foreign policy strong ... but it may very well amount to the same thing).  Whether Obama is more likeable than Romney, whether Romney is the ideal candidate, whether Ron Paul got 2 or 3 electors, even whether Romney would take meaningful action to stop abortion -- these are all distractions from the historical crisis we will face if we don't take a grown-up look at the situation and end Obama's quest to discover himself before it ends us.

Any readers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado reading this... I used to live in your states, but I'm no longer registered to vote there and now I live in a state where my vote is basically meaningless, diluted by a hefty concentration of the 47% and all those Seattle liberals who carry around ballot boxes in the back of their hybrid cars.

Age.  Fac ut gaudeam. *

* Go ahead.  Make my day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Design Wall Monday - Moving Along the Quilt Road

At very long last I have reconnected the Megaquilter after replacing some parts on the frame, and this Log Cabin is the first quilt to go up on it.  I finished it earlier in the summer (it was my July UFO) and I decided after such a long hiatus from quilting that I am going to use it as my "sacrificial lamb" quilt to see if I even remember how to meander.  I've got the bobbins wound and the thread chosen, the machine is oiled and I think I should probably put in a new needle.  It's a lap-size quilt at 48"x60" so it should go fast.  In theory...
Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 3 yards for backing for Log Cabin
Fabric used year to date: 58 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 30 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 6144 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 2641 yards

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Randomday with Photo Editing

Here's a random fact about our house: in the closet in Secundus' room, on the right side, it adjoins the cabinet outside the bathroom that is used for towel storage.  And behind that, there is a narrow open bit that must lead to a dead space behind the wall that has been untouched for at least 20 years.  And in the crack, the front part of a woman's high-heeled shoe is stuck.  It has been there ever since we bought the house, and I've tried to work it out many times, the last time during the intervention I did while Secundus was on the Great American Road Trip.  It doesn't come out.  I've decided it gets to stay and add character to the house.

Since I downloaded Photoscape I've been resizing all the photos I've ever used on this blog, to get them to the size that doesn't count against me for storage on Picasa Web albums.  It really is not as difficult as I thought it would be.  But I wonder why they make you jump through so many hoops.  I certainly never paid attention to the pixel size of the photos that I snapped before this.  So I'm working with Picasa Web Albums up in one tab, and going backward through my posts.  I'll look at Picasa and delete the photo du jour, then go to the post and remove that one and replace it with the slimmer version, then update the post.  I've been doing this for 4 days or so and am all the way back in June.  Still, Picasa shows no difference in the amount of storage I've used (100%).  I wonder if I'm doing it right.

I got up early last Monday morning on the first day of school for Cedar Tree.  I went through the stack of paperwork for Tertia's school, and filled out the order form for her school pictures and wrote a check.  Then I filled out an order form and wrote a check to re-fill her lunch money account, and I may have filled out another form as well.  It takes considerable nervous energy for me to tackle filling out forms and writing checks, and I tend to put it off as long as possible.  Well, Tertia got some grief early in the week because she didn't have the receipt for her new P.E. uniform that I had paid for the week before and so couldn't change into it, and then the next day even though I sent the receipt in, she didn't know what to do and didn't change fast enough, and then Thursday, which was school picture day, she went in looking all pretty and her teacher wrote that she didn't have her picture money so we would have to order online.  So, apparently, both checks I wrote Monday were lost, and Tertia has been made to feel like she has been doing everything wrong at school all. week. long.  And I've just about had it with writing checks and filling out paperwork only to have it lost.  I should stop before I rant any more.  But I'm concerned she's being set up to fail, and as a teacher I can't imagine how much trouble I'd be in if I lost 2 of my students' checks.

I've been (finally) reconnecting the Megaquilter, which if you remember, I had to order new tracks and ratchets for.  It is time to get back into quilting again.  But while working around in the quilting area, I stirred up so much dust my allergies were terrible today, and I sneezed so much my vertigo got bad.  I do have the Log Cabin UFO quilt loaded on the frame though, and hope to start quilting it soon.  After that, maybe the Feathered Star and then I choose from Orca Bay, Jack's Chain, or Farmer's Wife for a big project.  I bought 6 yards of Warm & White for 50% off at Hancock Fabrics today.

Steve and I watched Confidential Agent, with Charles Boyer and Lauren Bacall last night.  Tonight we watched Dr. Who while I caught up on the ironing.  Tomorrow he's scheduled to be a narthex monitor at church while I'm in the nursery: I guess we'll find out if the kids are mature enough to sit through the service unsupervised.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Four Round Trips

Thursday, the fourth day of school.  The day I don't have a carpool, and I get to appreciate the huge favors others are doing for me on the other four days.  Thursday is the day it will take some time to understand.  At present I have to make four round trips to Cedar Tree.  Here's how the schedule worked today:

6:50 - wake up kids
7:40 - drive to CT with all 3 kids (Daniel in Pennsylvania is on his own, but I send love!)
7:55 - 8:10 - prayer with other members of the staff.  This is the reason I'm willing to attempt the four round trips thing, but if somebody offered me a carpool I'd jump on it and just ask people to send me a memo instead!
8:11 - collect Tertia and drive home, arriving a little before 8:30.  Tertia was a little concerned when she saw her bus going the other direction, but I explained the driver was probably just heading off to pick up the first kid on the route - 1st round trip completed.
8:43 - Tertia's bus collects her, all pretty in her dress for school pictures.
8:50 - drive to CT again, arriving 9:05.  Open the classroom, attempt to untangle the blind cords, lay out 6th grade materials and review lesson plans. 
9:20 - arrive in 6th grade classroom carrying basket of supplies (plus the 1st declension classroom mascots Prunella, Rubella, and Vacca Caledonensis).  Set up vocab charts and, when math is finished, conduct Latin 1st declension and sentence diagramming practice until 10:15.
10:20 - 11:10 - conduct 7th grade verb synopsis practice and distribute materials for Roman culture overview.
11:15 - 12:05 - conduct 8th grade sentence translation practice and adjective review.
12:10 - 12:50 - drive home, stopping at Target to pick up halogen light bulbs that cost $9 each, and some parmesan cheese to go with leftover spaghetti tonight - 2nd round trip completed.  Technically I could have hung out at CT for a few hours in the afternoon, but I'm a homebody and I was tired by this time.
2:15 - 2:30 - drive to CT again, pick up Secundus after he has changed for cross country practice.
2:47 - deliver Secundus to CRHS for cross country practice - 3rd round trip completed (it's walking distance from there to home).
2:49 - 3:02 - turn left instead of going straight out of the parking lot and go straight back to CT. 
3:03 - 3:30 - Pick up veggies from Grace's Garden, pick up Quarta, and drive home - 4th round trip completed.  Quarta is excited when she sees Secundus jogging by our house.
3:45 - Tertia gets off the bus.  Unfortunately her teacher has emailed me that she didn't have money for her school pictures.  But I had sent a check in Monday, along with another check for lunch money.  So now we have to figure out what happened to the two missing checks.
5:25 - I think that's all I want to think about for today.  I'm going to go heat up leftover spaghetti.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yarn-Along with Martin

I'm linking up to Ginny's Yarn-along today.  This is my September shawl in the 12-shawls-in-2012 challenge.  It's the EZ 100th Anniversary Camping Half-Circle shawl, and it's a free pattern in honor of the late Elizabeth Zimmerman.  It's not really called EZ because it's easy, or anything!  I'm using my handspun Wensleydale light fingering/ wannabe laceweight, and right now it looks like nothing great.  Maybe it will be pretty when blocked.  That's the thing with lace knitting, it's a leap of faith that you didn't make a mistake and that it will be gorgeous when blocked.  I'm in the "willow leaves" next-to-last repeat and the rows are more than 300 stitches long right now, but still haven't used up my first ball of yarn.  I have lots and lots of willow leaves to go.

I'm trying to finish up Martin the Warrior, the second book (if you count them chronologically) in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  I reviewed the first, Lord Brocktree, a few months ago.  Quarta and Daniel and I were doing the great Redwall race, but Quarta has finally kicked in and during the last weeks of summer vacation, she sped through several books and is now all the way up to Rakkety Tam.  Maybe I can review Martin in a few days.  I think Daniel has forfeited by going off to college, but it's mission accomplished in getting Quarta hooked!

No WIP Wednesday today because the start of school has meant no time or energy for quilting for awhile, but I did photograph the shawl on the Chinese Lanterns quilt on my bed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Political Tuesdays - Eleven Years Later

Yesterday after the first day of 5th grade, Quarta asked us, "What's 9-11?  Everyone at school was talking about it today."

She "knew" about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the sense of having heard of them, of course.  But she didn't know about them.  She didn't know exactly where the attacks occurred, how the terrorists had seized the planes, why somebody trapped on the 84th floor couldn't be rescued even though he dropped a note out the window, or why so many people had to die.  (I think a lot of us are still working on that last one).

Born in July of 2002, Quarta would be part of the baby boomlet following the terrorist attacks, if such a boom actually existed.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I certainly could identify with wanting to do something life-affirming, making a stand for preserving American culture, and not putting off any longer something I wanted to do anyway.

But I fell in line with the rest of the culture, which said that 9-11 was too big, too terrible, and we needed to protect our children from it.  I'm not so sure now.  I think, now that years have passed, that we need to teach it to our kids the same way we teach all our history, or we will be condemned to repeat it.  I got out the commemorative news magazine I had bought and then filed away when they told us to protect our kids from images of destruction.  I paged through it a little with Quarta at breakfast today.  She was ready to quit looking after a short time.  Maybe sometime I'll look up some of the children's books dealing with the events of that day and discuss them with her.  I tend to think that talking about it is better than pretending it didn't happen.  And she's a big kid now.

But I kept thinking about that other Tuesday, the second day of school in my second year of teaching, when I flipped on the television to catch the headline news while I fed the kids breakfast, not expecting to be confronted with so much evil so early on a beautiful September day.  The second tower fell just a few minutes after I tuned in, and I remember gathering the boys with me and praying the Lord's Prayer.  Then in the following days, getting chills when I realized that we had probably been praying those words along with the passengers on Flight 93.

Those days after the attacks were deeply saddening but they were also the last time I remember when Americans stood largely united.  We all agreed that evil had been done and justice needed to be pursued, but it didn't last.  Little by little, the pettiness of partisan politics crept into discussions of how to pursue justice.  Conspiracy theorists planted seeds of doubt and distrust for their own strange reasons.  And Americans, as we too often tend to do when there is important work to be done, got bored and wanted to move on to the next exciting thing.

I thought a lot today about the possible reasons why so many people I know today are apolitical.  I think it's a reaction to the overdose of political bickering we get from the media, combined with short attention spans resulting from self-indulgence and an inferior education.  But those things are minor hindrances.  We are, after all, Americans.  We are the descendants of the Founding Fathers, the pioneers, and the Greatest Generation.  So I would challenge anyone reading this blog to make the most of the sacrifices that have been made for us.  If you remain apolitical after a careful examination of your history and heritage, well and good.  But remember that those people who died eleven years ago didn't die so that we could have the freedom to vote.  No, they died because we have the freedom to vote.  Our enemies resent that freedom.  By wasting or ignoring that freedom, we give them what they want.

Realizing that, I can never be apolitical.  Sure, the constant barrage of robo-calls and junk mail is annoying.  Sure, both parties and all politicians have flaws, some of them major.  Are we not bigger than that?  Can we not overcome pettiness and use our hard-won freedoms to make wise choices for the future of our country?  I would certainly hope so.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Reports from the Stupid Blogger

Today was the first day of school.  It was busy and stressful and I have to go back and do it again every day until the middle of next June.  But today I'm not going to blog about teaching Latin.  I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf as a blogger and become less stupid.

Apparently I've been making one of the most ignorant mistakes all along in my blogging career for the last 400+ posts.  I have been taking photos, some of them very nice photos, and sharing them with the blogworld.  But I have not been resizing them smaller before doing so.  I have known, somewhere deep down, that people with better tech skills than I think this is an important thing to do.  But I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to do it, so I just kept uploading mega-sized photos (which I do know how to do).  I don't think Blogger likes me.  So last week I read a post from Connie at Freemotion by the River about how to add watermarks to your photos, and she linked to a free photo editing program called Photoscape.  I thought, "I may never get to the point of adding watermarks to my photos, but surely I can figure out how to resize them."  So I downloaded the program... or I thought I did. 

What I had actually downloaded was Gimp, another free photo editing program.  Why it was Gimp when I thought it was Photoscape I have no idea.  I also have no idea why when you download these free programs they also try to get you to download more free programs - a new toolbar, ads for easier online shopping (!), or free online games.  I couldn't figure out why Gimp said "Gimp" and didn't look like the Photoscape on the website.  I couldn't figure out a lot of things about it, actually (in the midst of all this Daniel skyped from college and said Gimp is crazy complicated.  I had noticed that).  I finally, after three tries and (more than coincidentally) after Steve came home, figured out how to download Photoscape rather than Gimp.  (This is why God puts us in families.  He knows some of us are good at teaching Latin but absolutely stupid at anything on a computer).

With a LOT of help from Steve, I think I may have resized my first photo.  I am hoping to go back and replace the megasized ones gradually, and then maybe Blogger will stop giving me the cold shoulder.  I present the most recent quilt top I pinned for Steve's mom, for Design Wall Monday:
One of those pretty diamond quilts.  It's large... couldn't get it all into one shot even standing on the couch.  But the new file from the "diminuenda" folder (things to be shrunk - it's a gerundive) uploaded so fast.  It's great to know that I may be on the road to less stupidity in my blogging.  I have a lot of photos to resize, but we'll start with baby steps.  I have resized one photo and uploaded it.  Now, of course, I also want to make a diamond quilt.

Baby steps, Kathy!

Stash Report: (no changes this week)

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 55 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 27 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 6144 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 2641 yards

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Randomday with Quesadillas

Thrift store shopping today... in the morning I took the girls to Portland to the big Goodwill.  We found capris that fit like jeans and shorts that fit like capris for Tertia, and some dresses and tops for both girls.  Also some more of Grandma Maffett's china pattern... "Saxony" by Johnson bros. is the incarnation I found, but Grandma had "Blue Fjord" by Wood and sons.  Same basic pattern.  I was also snagged by "Indies" by Johnson bros. -- similar pattern in a dinner plate.

We went on to Lloyd Center to go to Nordstrom's to buy dress shoes for the girls.  Quarta needed Mary Janes for school uniform and Tertia needed something more supportive than she had, that maybe we can fit one of her older orthotics into.

This afternoon I excavated the dehydrator from the basement and hope to make dried apples soon, but cleaning it up took all the time I had.  Also made a grape pie for dinner tomorrow, and then went out to the local Salvation Army store... they were having a half price sale and I bought a bunch of shirts for the girls and me and a quesadilla maker.  The kids love it when we visit my Dad because they make quesadillas.  This one doesn't make the cute little cactus designs on each wedge, but they still tasted good for supper.

I have 46 students this year in my three classes.  That's a lot.  I had to draw extra lines to subdivide my gradebook for 6th grade to fit the participation grade records in.

We just watched Dr. Who.  I'm not the greatest Dr. Who fan in the world, but I did love Rory's father's line: "What sort of a man doesn't carry a trowel?"  Steve would say that.

Steve got into a mild bit of trouble for using a spatula as a flyswatter today.  He broke the spatula, but did kill the fly.  I really should have checked the thrift stores for spatulas.

Friday, September 7, 2012

If I Were A Good Blogger...

... I would have posted on Tuesday, when "Political Tuesday" was my theme and the conventions of both parties provided ample fodder for satire or encomium.  But Tuesday I was imprisoned in teacher inservice all day and came home to lesson planning and last-minute preparations for Tertia's first day of school.

... I would have posted on Wednesday, when "WIP Wednesday" was the theme in quiltblogland and "Yarnalong" was the theme in knitblogland.  Although I would not have had any new photos or progress to share, that has never stopped me in the past from gabbing about my favorite hobbies for several paragraphs on end.  But Wednesday I was imprisoned in teacher inservice all day and came home to go out with Steve to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  Yes, 20 years.  He got me roses and everything.  When we got married we thought it would be nice to have Labor Day weekend as a holiday around our anniversary every year.  We didn't anticipate having kids or me becoming a teacher, I guess!  Built-in anniversary stress.

... I would have posted on Thursday, when I had no prescribed theme to follow and would have been free to chat about the multitude of family and school-related events crowding in upon me.  Of course, that's why I didn't post yesterday... I was doing the lesson-planning, last-minute filling out of forms so Secundus could run cross-country, cleaning my classroom, photocopying, and so forth.  And there was the all-school picnic to prepare for, too.

... Even today, I would have uploaded the photo I took of Tertia on her first day of school, and maybe detailed some of the little stories of the week.  But I don't think I'm a good blogger.  And I certainly am too tired for uploading.

I may not be a good blogger, but I flatter myself to think that I am a good grammar and language teacher, so I'll just point out the use of the subjunctive mood, which is severely under-taught in English.  May we all have a good school year!  Would that we had a million dollars for every A+ student!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Design Wall Monday, Ufo and Stash reports

It is what it is.

My feathered star medallion was my UFO for August... I've had it as a UFO since 1999.  Some of my favorite fabrics ever are in here, and I love the way they combine.  I just never really loved my technical skills in piecing it!  I took my aunt's advice and just slapped some borders on it, and it now looks finished and pretty.  It's a finished top and will join the lengthening queue of tops waiting for machine quilting.  I'd ultimately like to hang it in the living room, maybe using it as a table topper around Christmas time. 

My tastes in fabric haven't changed since I started this, but I definitely am more comfortable with a very scrappy approach now, and it almost seemed too matchy-matchy for me.  I bought lots extra of the fabrics, which can now be released to mix and mingle with the rest of my stash.  I didn't technically finish it in August, since it was actually September 1 when I attached the borders.  But I'm counting it as a UFO FINISH.  So there.  September's UFO is a kit I bought for a bag; so far I haven't done much general sewing this year in the UFO project, but this would be cute so we'll see.  Right now I'm in that very depressing, no-time-for-sewing, frenetic period of lesson planning and back to school shopping.  I wish everyone else would go back to school and work so I could have a vacation and sew!

Stash report (it's been a few weeks):

Fabric used this week: 1.5 yards
Fabric used year to date: 55 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 27 yards

Yarn used this week: 314 yards for Summer Flies shawl
Yarn used year to date: 6144 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 2641 yards

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Once again it's Saturday, that day dominated by the random, when I make random observations to anyone who cares to read.

I was sick Thursday.  Sick as in unpleasant g-i symptoms, curled up in fetal position, pain on a level of 8 or 9 out of 10, calling the girls to instruct them what to do if I passed out sick.  I mean seriously, the closest thing I've ever experienced to this level of pain was childbirth, and at least there the contractions stopped occasionally.  Steve and Secundus were in Yellowstone and their cell phone reception was intermittent, and I couldn't think clearly, so for the first time in a few years I voluntarily called the doctor for myself.  They wanted to see me that day.  After a few hours with a heating pad the pain receded to the point where I could function again, and I kept my appointment that afternoon.  I paid my $30 copay, the doctor ordered a few blood tests and informed me that it would be okay to take Tylenol or Advil for the pain.  Now I know I should be a good patient and not snark at the doctor, and I didn't say this at the time because I was still not very functional, but how was I supposed to keep it down?  I was out of there, including the bloodwork, in less than 25 minutes.  Maybe, just maybe, this is why I don't voluntarily go to the doctor.

Thursday evening was the open house to meet the teachers and see the classrooms at Tertia's school.  This year the school district has placed special ed students in either a "developmental" or "intensive academic" special ed classroom.  Tertia will be in the "intensive academic" classroom, which I was a bit concerned might still be too restrictive for her... we've pushed all along for her to be mainstreamed as much as possible.  We want her to be independent and function well in the general population as an adult.  So I was mildly surprised when I realized that I may be a rarity among special ed parents.  For almost all of the other parents, this was the first move outside of a self-contained special ed classroom, where their kid might be walking the halls of the school to attend other classes like 6th grade literature or art or social studies instead of safely sheltered in the walls of one classroom the entire day.  They expressed concerns about bullying, unkind words/ teasing, homework load, and comprehension.  While I can certainly understand all those concerns, it seems like this might have been the first time the other parents had to think them through.  It was very strange, because my primary concern is still that her involvement in the special ed reading program might not be challenging enough for her.  But I was glad, very glad, that we had been pushy parents all through the elementary school years and insisted on her being mainstreamed in her local elementary school.  Now, going into 7th grade, it truly seems like no big deal for her to be in a class where there will just be one para-educator to help the teacher.  I just pity the kids in the "developmental" class, because I'm afraid it will be more of a ghetto for them than ever.  But maybe that is what their parents want.

But the highlight of the whole evening for me was when the teacher asked Tertia to tell everyone something about herself.  There was a pause, and then she spoke up, "I like princesses."  This is so true.

On to the next bit of random: the fleas.  This summer I let it go too long, and the cats had a very bad case of fleas before I took time to treat them with Advantage.  Now, 2.5 weeks later, 99% of the fleas have jumped off the cats and are lying in wait to jump onto human legs somewhere in the carpet.  I swear they have sensors to detect warm-blooded creatures walking by.  And yes, I have been vacuuming, but it's a big house and I'm afraid it will be a gradual thing.  I will celebrate the first flea-free day.  I almost made it twice, but not yet.

Steve and Secundus are back now, and we had to take the van in for some engine service.  We stopped at the Vancouver Farmer's Market on the way back -- we hadn't been for over a year since we get such lovely veggies every week with Grace's Garden.  But it was fun to see all the different vendors.  Steve, always a sucker for pastries and blueberries, bought some blueberry kolaches at one stand.  That got me to reminiscing about growing up in northeastern Ohio with all the Eastern European immigrant population there, and how all the church ladies were such good cooks that I knew about kolaches, and povatica, and I just assumed that such things were universal and church ladies all knew how to make such fabulous things.