Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yarn-Along, WIP Wednesday

Work on the purple quilt continues.  Only ten more blocks to piece and 40 more (half of total) to join together.
I have started the Easy Street mystery quilt with Bonnie Hunter.  I don't have enough of any one gray or white for it to be my constant, but I'm going for low-variation, especially in the whites, so it will look nearly solid.  Something about the crud going around this week and the dreary weather makes me want to quilt.
I have a finished shawl to report: this is Citron, #11 in my 12 shawls in 2012 challenge.  Tertia and Quarta both wanted to model it.  I didn't get the lighting quite right for Tertia's shot, but I adjusted it later in photoscape.
So I used a flash when I took the photo with Quarta, but I think it was too much light.  In any case, it was a fun, brainless shawl to knit.  Yarn is 437 yards of KnitPicks shadow laceweight.
There's Citron underneath my final shawl for the year, a Wingspan in my Targhee homespun.  And I'm reading The Legend of Luke by Brian Jacques.  I love the Redwall books!  Linking up to the yarn-along over at Ginny's blog.
I even did a bit of spinning yesterday evening, while watching the Grinch with the girls.  This is hemp.  I've had it in my stash for awhile.  No idea what I'll do with it, but it was time to spin it.  Secundus asked, and I'm pretty sure you could not get high by smoking it, and you'd look pretty stupid trying.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Design Wall, Stash Report, and Easy Street update

Here's what's on my design wall this Monday:  I spent the few days after Thanksgiving working on my purple Anita's Arrowhead.  I started this last summer and after I made a big mess with my fabrics, it got sidelined for awhile as I concentrated on machine quilting and knitting.  But I never cleaned up the fabric mess, and then I heard that Bonnie Hunter was going to do another mystery quilt, and so I decided I really needed to finish up the purple before jumping into another scrappy, mess-making quilt. 
So I dove into it, cleaned up a bunch of fabrics, and here is where we stand now:  I have 60-something of a total of 80 blocks needed; 40 of them are seamed together, and the remaining blocks are in progress.  Most of the purples have been cleaned up and put away, considerably slimmer.  (Purple is one of those colors that I like, but am not drawn to using, so I had too many in my stash and needed to use them up).
Here are the colors I've pulled for Easy Street, Bonnie K. Hunter's new mystery quilt.  Since I've had it up to my eyeballs with purple, I'm subbing red for the purple.  I've been wanting to do a quilt with a fresh modern/ shabby chic feel to it, and the aqua and red combo has been on my mind for over a year.  I think the addition of lime green will be great.  I'm going for lighter colors than Bonnie's.  I have some solid gray and a few tonals, and I'm going for white-on-white prints or solid white, so the gray and white four-patches will be plainish when I do get around to piecing them.  I did Orca Bay last year and I loved it, but it was super-busy and I'm ready for something with a simpler feel to it.  I don't usually do mystery quilts but Orca Bay sold me on the concept.  I hope I get some time to quilt this week and can finish up the purple and start Easy Street!
I cast on for my 12th shawl of the year after finishing Citron: no pictures of Citron yet, but I used all but 3 yards of the yarn I had for it.  The yarn for this Wingspan is my  handspun from last summer, Targhee N-plied, and it is lovely to work with.

Stash Report: Keeping up with not buying any yarn or quilt fabric (other than necessary for finishing) this year.

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

Yarn used this week: 437 yards for red Citron
Yarn used year to date: 7501 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 3998 yards

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Randomday with Wreck-it Ralph

Long holiday weekends are great!  We'll be leaving as a family to go see Wreck-it Ralph this afternoon... and maybe catch dinner out afterwards rather than coming home for more turkey.  That way we'll have just enough turkey to make enchiladas for dinner tomorrow.  We were supposed to go to Grandma's for Sunday dinner, but they are in germ-control lockdown over there so the dining room is not open.  So maybe we can sneak Grandma over to have dinner with us.  Kidding about the sneaking... they don't keep Grandma in lockdown.  I'd like to see anyone try!
Yesterday was more of a Purple Friday for me, as I dug into my Anita's Arrowheads quilt block piecing.  I haven't worked on these since the summer, but I want to clear my workspace for other holiday quilt projects, and that means dealing with the purple and multicolored fabrics that have been covering up my cutting area for months.  I figured out how many I still need to make and have been making them.  I started sewing together the blocks into rows and this is about halfway done.  There are now fewer than 20 remaining blocks to piece, and they are going fast.  All the pre-cutting and starching is done.

I did hit one store to buy white thread for quilting my Jack's Chain quilt.  I stood in line at Hancock Fabrics and everything.  Then I set it down on my workspace, and you guessed it, it got jumbled to the center stratum of stuff and I lost it.  I looked for it for half an hour last night before I finally found it.  I wound bobbins with it this morning, but it's been all purple all day today too.  And I don't even like purple that much.  It's a good cause, though, using up purple from my stash.  It may end up as a Cedar Tree auction quilt.  But purple is Quarta's favorite color.

I finished my 11th shawl of 2012, Citron, yesterday.  And I cast on for my 12th, Wingspan, today.

On Thanksgiving day I saw an interesting bird of prey of some kind, perched in the sycamore tree in back, holding a small bird in one claw.  I think but am not sure that the small bird was already dead.  I think the bigger bird was either a Northern Harrier or Northern Goshawk.

The very tall evergreens in the school grounds across the street have been surrounded with orange hazard fencing, and it looks like several of them lost branches in the recent storm.  At least one stand looks like roots are protruding and they will probably have to come down  for safety reasons; maybe all of them.  It will totally change the way the neighborhood birds interact if so.  The seagulls and the ravens use the highest trees and houses surrounding the park to stake out when it is safe to take over the field at the school; it's like the Crips and the Bloods.  Every once in a while neither of those groups is there, and the regular robins and songbirds are out pecking at the dirt.  Sometimes the disgruntled birds end up in our cedar trees, which are next tallest to the ones at the park.  It's all quite the soap opera.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Things I am thankful for:
  1. God is good.
  2. Steve, who celebrated his birthday today.  He's a perfect square (he was before, but it's official this year), the straight-man counterpoint to my flaky creative side.
  3. Daniel, who is spending break with his Aunt Deb and family in Philadelphia, and skyped us earlier today.
  4. Secundus, who after much effort broke the 3.0 barrier last quarter.
  5. Tertia, who is looking forward to singing carols for the official Vancouver Christmas tree lighting tomorrow, and may even get to see Santa Claus (and the mayor).
  6. Quarta, who figured out today that helping to do dishes the old-fashioned way went really fast when you have help and company.
  7. Grandma C., who came over for dinner and played cribbage and watched football.
  8. Grandpa B., who skyped me this morning as I was eating breakfast before getting the turkey started.  And Grandma Deb and her parents too, hoping they had a nice Thanksgiving in Scottsdale.
  9. My sister Beth, who shared the Peanuts video above.  Methinks Thanksgiving in Scotland is just not the same as here.  She also shared the clip about the flying turkeys from WKRP in Cincinnati, which has great nostalgic value in our family.
  10. My sister Sarah, her family, and brother Andy in Virginia.
  11. Steve's sister Kristine, who called him and chatted this afternoon, and her family in Arizona.
  12. Our home is comfortable.  The patched roof is holding, apparently, and the gutter on the south side has just been cleaned out so the basement is dry again.
  13. Our home is in America, and America is a country to be thankful for.
  14. Steve's job is steady.
  15. Our church, 1st OPC in Portland, and the many friends we have there.
  16. Grove City College is providing an excellent education for Daniel.
  17. Cedar Tree is providing an excellent education for Secundus and Quarta.
  18. The Vancouver Public School District provides an excellent education for Tertia, with many opportunities we could not possibly give her.
  19. Cedar Tree received its accreditation through the Association of Classical Christian Schools, with commendations in Latin (!) and several other areas.  This makes it one of the top 25 ACCS schools in the nation.
  20. My job teaching at Cedar Tree is challenging, enriching, exhausting, and (because of the age of the students I teach mainly) makes me laugh.
  21. My friends and co-workers at Cedar Tree.
  22. My little blog project, which keeps me off the streets and has become incredibly fun and rewarding for me.
  23. My wonderful blog readers, who come from all over and seem to find my blog worth reading.
  24. My hobbies of knitting and quilting, which provide a creative outlet and more or less constant blog fodder.
  25. My well-thumbed copy of the November 1994 issue of Bon Appetit, which taught me that turkey gravy tastes really good with sherry.
  26. ...and that the turkey will be succulent if you rub softened butter with herbs underneath the skin before roasting.
  27. My JennAire range has a convect-roast feature with a meat probe that ended the cooking exactly when the turkey reached 180 degrees.  Ordinarily I don't like appliances that are smarter than I am but this was fun to watch.
  28. A really nice side dish: drained hominy, corn, simmered in half-and-half with some chopped green chiles and cilantro.  Also from that issue of Bon Appetit.
  29. The turkey will provide several more meals.  I made turkey stock in two batches and have four large containers of stock in the freezer and fridge.  The meat itself... well, Hugo was almost 22 pounds.
  30. I don't have to go shopping tomorrow unless I want to.  I don't have to cook tomorrow unless I want to.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finished Feathered Star

Here is my finished Feathered Star.  Long story: begun in 1999 as a group challenge to make a Feathered Star and add elaborate borders; but pregnancy and moving got in the way and I finally decided to slap a few simple borders on it an call it good as part of Judy L.'s UFO challenge this year.  Then I machine quilted it with freeform feathers all in one day, 2 Saturdays ago.  I am amazed at how much I like the feathers and I want to do freeform feathers on my Farmer's Wife quilt now, too.
You can kind of see the feathers on the back in this shot a little better.  I also skipped the label and wrote the pertinent info right on the back of the quilt.  And today, I hung it up above the piano in the living room.  That doesn't count as cleaning the living room, unfortunately, but it spiffs it up a little.
Jack's Chain is on the Megaquilter but I still haven't begun the quilting.
We've been having quite the weather events lately.  Monday morning early there was a small earthquake, epicenter just a few miles from here.  That evening the rain was falling so hard and the leaves were clogging up the gutters so that the basement flooded.  Then yesterday afternoon, apparently we had a microburst or random small tornado go through the neighborhood and it flattened a section of fence.
It snapped the support post off at the base, which was rotten.  Fencing company will come in a week to replace.  So no Black Friday shopping for this family!
For the yarn-along, I'll use this photo from last week.  I'm on the final ruffled edge of Citron, but it still looks like a pile of red.  I may run out of yarn before the 11 rows of the ruffle, so it may be a short ruffle.  I just finished reading The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.  It was okay, but I didn't love it.  The whole hard-edged New York City girl-power chick-lit, f-word, shacking-up, loving Planned Parenthood scene kind of turns me off, actually.  I liked The Shop on Blossom Street, and obviously the knitting theme is something I enjoy in real life, but chick-lit in general isn't my favorite.
Thanksgiving cooking is going on.  I roasted 2 squash and 1 mystery pumpkin today.  It's the mystery pumpkin that was growing in the compost pile, the one with green stripes; the orange mystery pumpkin behind it had been sitting on our front porch for a few weeks and had a couple bad spots so it got put back in the compost pile for next year.  After a bit of internet research I'm convinced the green stripey pumpkin is actually a pumpkin and is not a poisonous gourd.  The butternut squash in the center and the squash that looks like a pumpkin on the right both came from Grace's Garden.  The one on the right had a weird name that I can't remember and was extremely hard-shelled; I roasted it for about an hour before I could cut it in half.  I made our Thanksgiving pumpkin pies with the actual pumpkin and froze the squash for soups this winter.  We will also have a grape pie and a blueberry pie.  Tomorrow, besides being Thanksgiving, is also Steve's birthday.  He requested the blueberry pie.  And Stove Top stuffing instead of homemade.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Political Tuesdays - Quotes for the Culture Wars

Last week I wrote a bit of a downer of a post.  A friend said it was "too depressing for words," and that is how pretty much everyone of my acquaintance who cares about a Biblical world view and the future of the American republic feels.  I'm convinced that post-election, we really are on a slow but inevitable slide toward barbarism.  I hope it won't come in my lifetime or my children's, but America does seem to have abandoned her position as a shining city on a hill and is a little more like a welfare state in a moral vacuum.  I feel most intensely for my friends in the pro-life movement, who have worked passionately for nearly 40 years and now see even their religious institutions forced to support the culture of death.

I'm not going to waste any time on people who refuse to work within the system we have but still complain that Mitt Romney is a "RINO" and could never have been elected.  Their lack of a vote made no difference; the barbarians are already within the gates anyway.  (And no, this is not a reference to the Hispanic vote, which I believe will ultimately go to the Republicans).  But as the above cartoon illustrates, barbarians lack a certain sophistication of thought.  It's awfully easy to outthink them, and for those of us who enjoy such things, it is fun to watch them fail.  It would be more enjoyable if it did not also involve the fall of our own civilization, though.

And, truth be told, it has been a week of many domestic eruptions and tomorrow is the biggest cooking day of the year and I have hearth fires to tend.  So I have just a few random quotes to share today.

"Accustom yourself to look first to the dreadful consequences of failure; then fix your eye on the glorious prize which is before you; and when your strength begins to fail, and your spirits are well nigh exhausted, let the animating view rekindle your resolution, and call forth in renewed vigor the fainting energies of your soul."
-William Wilberforce-

(This has been making the rounds of my pro-life friends on Facebook.  One of the things that attracted me to Steve way back when was that he lent me a biography of Wilberforce to read.  And the slave trade was, ultimately, abolished, as I pray abortion will be someday.)

The second quote is from Redeemed Reader.  They are having a Hobbit read-along; this quote is from J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth by Bradley Birzer.

When one of the riders asks Aragorn how to discern right and wrong in complicated times, Aragorn responds: ‘As he has ever judged,’ for ‘good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

That one made me think of the Teleprompter-dependent President as similar to the Voice of Saruman, and that brought on a fit of giggles.  That will have to do for today.  I'm off for what I hope will be a quiet evening of knitting and tomorrow, a quiet day of baking and cleaning.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Design "Wall" and stash report

It's not really the design wall, but I've mounted Jack's Chain onto the Megaquilter and hope to start the quilting process soon.  I was so encouraged by finishing up the Feathered Star quilting, that I want to see if I can get this one to Tertia for Christmas.  It will be a simpler quilting pattern, maybe with a few spinning feather fans in the hexagons but everything else will be point-to-point arcs.  I apparently do not have any true white thread, only off-white, so will have to pick some up first.

Hope to share pictures of the finished Feathered Star soon.  It's one of my favorites ever!

Here are the candied chestnuts I made that I couldn't get access to the main computer to load Saturday.  As I pointed out, they don't really look that great.
Here are the girls having a gun battle after discovering an old, no-longer functional Nerf gun somewhere.  Tertia was looking fierce; Quarta tried to fend off nonexistent Nerf pellets with a pillow.
Quarta really wanted her turn to pose with the big gun when she saw I had the camera.  Tertia was having none of that.
She gave Quarta the old, non-functional squirt gun and kept the big one for herself. 

Stash report:

Fabric used this week: 6 yards (a vintage queen-size sheet) for backing Jack
Fabric used year to date: 82 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 54 yards

Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 7064 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 3561 yards

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rainy Randomday

It's wet outside.  Very wet.  Wet enough that I don't really want to go out and run errands.  So I translated my Latin assignments (Caesar and Bede) and baked up a batch of granola.  My class quizzes were graded yesterday, I'm still ignoring all the housecleaning that needs to be done, and I may even aspire to sitting on the couch and knitting or finishing the binding on my feathered star.  I should load Jack's Chain onto the Megaquilter, but even that might be too much...

Steve and I watched Gigi last night.  Neither of us knew what it was about before.  (Pretty young French girl being groomed by her grandmother and great-aunt to be a rich man's mistress).  We're glad we didn't offer it as a treat to the girls, who like musicals.  Can I just say that I will never again be able to see Maurice Chevalier as anything but a creeper?  I mean really, "Thank heaven for little girls?"  Could that even be made today?

Steve was channel-surfing and watching a bit of Lawrence of Arabia yesterday.  That spurred him to look up Lawrence.  Apparently, Lawrence was not his real name; his father's name was Chapman, but because he left his first family and had several children with the governess, they adopted the name Lawrence later on.  So add Lawrence of Arabia to Johnny Appleseed as yet another Chapman who is famous, but not by that name.  We'd like to trade them for the guy who shot John Lennon.

Lawrence of Arabia is one of those movies I just don't get.  I made one good-faith effort to stay awake through it, but I have very hazy memories of desert warfare and political intrigue, only to be jolted awake every so often by the stirring theme music and stunning scenery.  Steve tells me it's a classic political drama.  And I liked West Wing (I know... but it was because of the writing).  So I really should watch it again some decade.

Secundus just called on his cell phone.  He spent the night with a friend in Beaverton and will need to be picked up at the Max station in an hour.  And Daniel is apparently arrived safe after numerous rides and transfers at Steve's sister's house in Philadelphia, where he will spend Thanksgiving week.  It is making me feel old and strange, having kids becoming so independent.  It will definitely be strange and quiet next week when Daniel is NOT with us for Thanksgiving.

After reading so many Redwall books, Quarta asked to make candied chestnuts when we saw chestnuts at the farmer's market.  So a few days ago I tried this recipe with her.  We used to have a couple of chestnut trees when I was growing up, but I had forgotten the unique texture that chestnuts have.  I took a picture but our main computer - not my laptop - is having epilepsy or something.  And truly, the picture does not look that appetizing.  The jury is out on whether the kids like candied chestnuts.  Quarta is gamely trying to like them but was a little discouraged by the reaction of her school friends, only one of whom even tried them.  The rest of them said they looked like brains... which they do, kind of.

Steve has been on the phone with the Dell tech support people in India quite a bit lately, but the computer still freezes up when you try to get it warmed up after hibernation.  I was going to upload the candied chestnuts picture and this time, it started making a high-pitched whistling noise (I didn't even notice it at first because it sounded almost exactly like my left ear).  Nice.  I don't know how many pictures I'll be able to add to the blog for awhile!  But again, I don't think you're missing much with the candied chestnuts.  They taste better than they look.

I just received the Round Robin letter that has been making the rounds between me and 5 of my college friends for over 20 years now.  There, now I've admitted to it in the blog, and I'm committed to sending it off again before Thanksgiving.  If I can't get the computer that's attached to the printer to work, I might even have to write it by hand.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Saturday I finally did it.  My UFO Feathered Star had been loaded onto the Megaquilter frame for a few weeks.  I never had the time or energy to get to it, and I was fearful of the freeform feathers that I was determined to machine quilt on there.  But I worked on it all day, off and on (it's only a wall quilt size) and I got all the feathers done, and I'm really, really happy with them!  Here you can see the feathery whirligig I quilted into the center octagon.
And here is a sample of the background squares and inner border with leaves and vines.  The quilt is being bound now and may even be a finish soon.  I'm so glad I ordered the replacement tracks for the Megaquilter; it's doing its thing very nicely now.  I'm going to try to get Jack's Chain loaded up on there soon.  Now that I can do freeform feathers, I won't be afraid of quilting anymore.  Or at least, I shouldn't.
For the yarn-along, this is my Citron shawl.  I'm starting the final repeat, and it's lots of comforting stockinette stitch.  It will be my 11th in the 12 shawls in 2012 challenge that I am insanely trying to complete.  I finished reading the Mark of Athena (latest in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series) and it was a lot of fun but to tell the truth, most of my reading lately has been grading and work related, or the news over at the Drudge Report.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Political Tuesdays: Panem et Circenses

Arguably there were several points during Rome's long and ugly fall at which a twist of history might have averted chaos and barbarism.  If Gaius Gracchus had not established the bread donative as a sacred right, of course -- that is the easiest "what if."  Rome at that time (2nd century B.C.) was a strong and independent republic of fierce and loyal warriors, demanding self-discipline and virtue from her citizens.  Her leaders refused on principle to call themselves "king" -- but that was before they discovered that they could call themselves something else and have all the power of a king, and then some.  With the establishment of statist welfare provision as a sacred right, the plebeians became a permanent dependent class and their support automatically went to their feeders.

If only the party of Marius and the party of Sulla had avoided violent retribution against their political enemies, but instead practiced some of that historical self-discipline (it was a recent memory then) in steering Rome toward a course that didn't involve demagoguery.  If only Julius Caesar had been less imperialistic, or, if not that, once he had conquerered Gaul, if he had retired quietly to Rome without his army like Cincinnatus, content to act in an advisory role in the Senate.  After his assassination, if Augustus had been less insistent on his own godlike prerogatives and turned his considerable administrative skills to supervising a reasonable transfer of power to the Senate.  Certainly, it would have been nice if Augustus had chosen a wiser successor than Tiberius; better yet, if he had set up a system for ensuring a peaceful succession that did not depend on one man's ego.

Source: via Katherine on Pinterest

Tiberius.  Tacitus complains about Tiberius that new words had to be invented to describe the depravities he committed.  There was to be no change for the better under his rule; in fact, the Praetorian Guard took on new and excessively unsavory duties, while Tiberius himself disengaged from public affairs and left governance to his underlings, who had their own agendas.

There were brief moments when the Republic might have been restored, or at least, the absolute power of tyrannical emperors might have been curtailed.  There were even a few good emperors; "good" in that they were competent administrators and took necessary steps to ensure peace and stability - Vespasian, Titus, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius.  But the high places were not destroyed, and they continued to accept and even demand the worship of the people as a basic pledge of allegiance.  And of course they continued the official policy of persecution of Christians, that dangerous sect loyal to a city not of this world, who were viewed as dangerous because they were not "Roman" enough.

Marcus Aurelius, the scholarly Stoic.  He had considerable wisdom as a philosopher, but spent his life in the saddle carrying out increasingly futile wars against masses of barbarians.  Plagues and natural disasters added to the burden of leadership.  He also was curiously unwise in his selection of his son Commodus as his successor.  Commodus was narcissistic and perverse, and his reign began a period of social instability and financial collapse lasting more than 100 years.  The Praetorian Guard could be bribed by anyone who really wanted to be emperor; but as soon as money to pay the legions ran out, so did the emperor's time in office.  The people who had once refused on principle to negotiate with an armed enemy took to paying off the barbarians to leave them alone.  By the time marginally competent leadership emerged once again, it was too late.  Rome had lost its cultural integrity and its ability to convince the world that "Roman" was a good thing.  The Empire was too big to be ruled by one man, and even the barbarians knew it.  It has been fashionable for centuries to blame the Christians for the fall of Rome, but that argument ignores the very obvious trail of internal corruption and self-absorption that is available to any serious student of history.

The American presidential election last Tuesday gave us an extremely clear-cut choice; I see it as a little like choosing between Tiberius and Marcus Aurelius.  And we rejected a decent, capable, intelligent man in favor of a self-absorbed, detached man-child who sends his own thugs out to do his bidding while trying to find himself.  But as long as we get our free birth control and entertainment, about 50.5% of Americans prefer to return the party that feeds us to power.  Granted, there were good leaders after Tiberius and very few after Marcus Aurelius.  Granted, Obama is not the pervert that Tiberius was, and Romney is a Mormon, not a Stoic (both of which have been confused with Christianity in the past, by the way).  A checkpoint has been passed, and we are quite a bit further down the road to chaos.  When the Chinese become the majority shareholders in the American GNP, when Russia demands even more "flexibility," when the true barbarians in the world today demand that we implement Sharia law, will we have enough cultural cohesiveness to stand up to them?  Will we be able to convince them that being American is a good thing?

If you want some analysis more directly related to the election, I enjoyed David Bahnsen's blog post.  For the ominous implications of Obamacare alone, check out this article.  Plenteous opportunities for observing the political circus games can be found on the Drudge Report.  And how about those incredible imperial scandals with the Petraeus Guard, I mean the Praetorian Guard, and the various cherchez-la-femmes associated with them?  Who even lives like that?!  For us plebeians raising kids in non-gated communities, working a dead-end job that barely pays for the gasoline for the commute, it's quite entertaining to see the soap operas unfold.  It keeps our minds off the worry that we will be forced into the bread lines next.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Design Wall Monday and Stash Report

On the design floor today, two Christmas quilts I pinned for my mother-in-law yesterday.  She has been busy!
I harvested a mystery gourd, possibly a pumpkin (it was growing in the compost pile), and two zucchini the other day.  I was impressed with zucchini in November.

Stash report: It has been several weeks but I need to get back to doing this regularly.

Fabric used this week: 1.5 yards for backing and binding Feathered Star
Fabric used year to date: 76 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 28 yards
Net used for 2012: 48 yards

Yarn used this week: 320 yards for Mayan Spring shawl
Yarn used year to date: 7064 yards
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 3503 yards (all handspun, not purchased)
Net used for 2012: 3561 yards

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Well, poop.

That was my Facebook status update Wednesday morning.  Some may argue that my usual command of the English language failed me, but I think it's le mot juste.  I've been writing a lengthy post about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in my head all week, but it's still not actually, you know, written.  The reality of four more years of incompetent and misguided leadership is becoming more depressing with each passing day.  But the blog must go on.

Saturday is never long enough for all the randomness that needs to be done on Saturday.  Have you noticed that?

Steve is making lots of applesauce. 

Winesap apples are my very favorite kind.  I thought for a few years that Arkansas Black might take their place, but the Arkansas Black apples are almost too crispy/starchy.  But it's a close competition.

My students all had their final exam on Thursday.  I've graded all of them, but there are still a bunch of other assignments to get through before turning in the grades.  Latin bloopers provide some much-needed comic relief in a week like this.  For example: the 7th grader who translated "adhibenda est in jocando moderatio" as "be moderate in your jocking."  Twice.  And the other 7th grader who left an entire portion of the vocabulary section blank.

I quilted an entire Feathered Star wallhanging today on my Megaquilter.  I did all the feathers freehand, and I am really pleased with how it turned out.  Pictures of that will have to wait until another day though.
Here is shawl #10 in my 12 shawls in 2012 challenge.  Made with some of my handspun from a batt from Butterfly Girl Designs in the "Mardi Gras" colorway.  It is "Mayan Spring" (with the presumption that we will still be here after the Mayan calendar thing, which I'm not so sure about now, but anyway).  It has been turned over to the designer, who asked that she not be named and the shawl not be pictured in full until she has a chance to submit the pattern for publication.  I listed it in the Ravelry group with this picture and a brief description of the circumstances, and the post is gathering lots of "disagree" votes.  Don't you just love the cattiness of some knitters?  I'm going to need to hide the disagree button again.  I was just getting tough enough to handle seeing it in the political groups... but this is the shawl knitting group!

I'm going to bed to finish reading The Mark of Athena.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Political Tuesdays: Memories of Election Days Past

Election Day, 1968 - I was learning to walk.  My family was living in the Netherlands as expat American grad students.  I have no memories of this election day, but the Republican won.

Election Day, 1972 - I think I have very hazy memories of this.  Vague separation anxiety as I accompanied my mother to the polls in Akron, Ohio but couldn't go into the booth with her... I kept an eye on her legs.  And it was interesting that everyone else in the voting booths had only legs to look at.  I think I asked her in the car afterward who she had voted for, and she told me it was a secret.  It is quite possible, at this stage of her life, that she was still voting Democratic.  But the Republican won. And I'm not sure I even was aware of the name "Nixon" until the day he resigned, because my mother made a point of taking us down to the TV in the lobby of the dorm where we were staying at Westminster College in Pennsylvania for the New Wilmington Missionary Conference to watch his resignation speech.

Election Day, 1976 - I cast my vote for Ford in the mock election at Turkeyfoot Elementary School in Portage Lakes, Ohio.  I was disappointed when Carter won, both the mock and the real election.  But my father did tell me it was remarkable that a peanut farmer who had never been heard of outside his home state could become the President of the United States.  And his daughter was my age.  My dad said he would see about arranging a playdate.  I worried for 2 whole years that Amy Carter might show up for a sleepover and my room would be a mess.

Election Day, 1980 - I was definitely political by this time, staying up late to watch election returns in our den in Manchester, Ohio.  I kept track on a sheet of notebook paper as the states rolled in for Reagan.  I remember how excited I was when it was New York that put him over the top.  I know there are a lot of people rooting for a similar turnout today.  Now I'm teaching students the same age I was during that election.  If today is as uplifting and exciting as the Reagan landslide was, great -- but I've also seen reverses of political fortunes and have learned there is a season for everything.

Election Day, 1984 - There was real partisan pleasure in watching Reagan trounce Mondale.  I won't deny it.  Is it really true as George Will suggests, that Minnesota has a chance to swing red today?  I sincerely hope so.

Election Day, 1988 - The first presidential election in which I was eligible to vote.  I was a senior in college, voted in Ohio by absentee ballot, and watched election returns and debates from whatever TV I could find available in the dorm lobby or basement.  Bad reception.  It was Grove City, so there was only one token Dukakis voter in our midst.  I learned in this election cycle that the guy you support in the primary is very rarely the guy you get to vote for in the general, and that it's all okay as long as the party comes together for the good of the country.  It may not seem like it's that big of a lesson, but it's one that many voters of middle age or older still haven't learned yet.  Of course, George H.W. Bush wasn't Reagan.  But even Reagan wasn't as Reaganesque as our memories would have him be.

Election Day, 1992 - I was a newlywed, working for National Right to Life, voting in Northern Virginia, and this was a hard one.  I was young and idealistic and I didn't think it could be possible that God would let a philandering, lying narcissist like Bill Clinton win over a thoroughly decent, classy guy like Bush.  We got a fax from the campaign mid-afternoon that basically said internal polling put the writing on the wall.  It was in black and white and I still couldn't process it.  The day after I went with several other junior staff (senior staff were probably too depressed to deal with it, and gave their tickets away) to the White House lawn to welcome President Bush back.  We saw the helicopter land, waved American flags, hugged each other and cried.  Bush gave his speech about how maybe history will have a different opinion, Rai Rojas picked up a leaf which he would later use as a metaphor for lost hopes for unborn children, and we returned to the office, convinced that we had worked harder to re-elect Bush than Bush's own campaign staff.  As a Calvinist I had an easier time accepting the results of the election than many of my Catholic friends, but it was hard.  I learned that God has different plans than mine, and I also learned a certain amount of distrust for the voters who don't weigh moral values highly in making their voting decision.  To this day, I heartily despise Bill Clinton, although I will admit he was a more competent leader than Barack Obama.

Election Day, 1996 - Secundus' due date was November 5, but he came 3 days early.  I was at home in Littleton, Colorado with two little boys.  My mother and grandmother were visiting, my lifelong-Democrat grandmother brought a little stuffed elephant labeled "Bob Dole".  By this time I was used to tuning out the President, and I had a brand new baby to distract me, so this loss wasn't quite as bad.  But I'm pretty sure both my little boys were born with a preference for Rush Limbaugh's voice.

Election Day, 2000 - We had just relocated to Washington State in 1999, and I had a new little girl, my "extra-chromosome right wing", who gave me extra motivation to vote against Al Gore.  I knew that my vote would not really matter in my state, but I was ready for the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was optimistic that Bush would win; when the initial Florida results came in I was thrilled and figured that was it.  But of course, it wasn't.  This was the election I learned to have contempt for the "anything to win" mentality of the Democratic party machine.  And when I realized how fractured our national culture had become... sadness at that and happiness at the fact we had elected a decent man were mixed for me in this election.

Election Day, 2004 - It was hard to imagine how any Democrats, no matter how partisan, could support the arrogant John Kerry, but we were still agonizingly sharply divided.  I began to be frustrated by the apolitical and third-party voters populating my community... why didn't they see how big the stakes were?  Why didn't they realize that an imperfect candidate is much to be preferred to giving up their voice altogether?  I really hope their pure idealism has comforted them during the last 4 years.

Election Day, 2008 - There was something Kennedyesque about Obama's rise to power from obscurity.  I consoled myself with the thought that his election proved America was not a racist country, and at least he seemed like a personally upright individual in comparison to Clinton.  I strongly supported Sarah Palin because I liked her, I liked her ability to give an inspiring speech without a teleprompter, I liked the fact that she was a fellow Down syndrome mom and committed to the pro-life issue.  As a knitter active on Ravelry, I had been terribly distressed by the absolute vitriol directed at her by the ultra-leftist hate groups.  (If you think civility on the internet is at an all-time low, you should have seen the online knitting forums in 2008).  It was a harsh education, but I don't regret it.  But more than ever, I'm convinced of the need for Republican leadership in the presidency, and particularly the need for Christian "values voters" to make their voices heard.  If we don't, we forfeit our say in the future of our civilization.  The stakes are very high.  There is no guarantee that the American republic will endure, not without citizen education and involvement.  Or even with it.

So there you have it, a history of my electoral thoughts over a lifetime, two continents, and from one end to another of America.  Your votes are already cast, so you can amuse yourselves by reading this if you, like me, are anxiously watching the returns roll in.  I'm wearing my team colors - red, been wearing red for a week now - and I've been encouraged by a lot that I've read.  But it could still be a long night, with disappointment at the end of it.  I'm hoping not, but let's stay strong.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review: Mossflower

Mossflower, by Brian Jacques, was the book that introduced me to the Redwall world, and is still my favorite.  I was initially drawn to the paperback in my senior year of college by its lovely cover art, reminiscent of medieval illuminated manuscripts:
I bought it for the cover, and because it sounded like the kind of fantasy I loved: childlike, innocent, yet fiercely fought and with timeless themes.  And I was amazed that it followed through on the promise of the cover.  Several years ago I was able to take my children to a book-signing with Brian Jacques, where he talked about his inspirations for writing these stories... chiefly The Iliad and The Odyssey.  It's hard to go wrong with that kind of inspiration!

So there is a bit of a Redwall race/ reading challenge going on in our family.  Some of us are reading through the books in chronological order.  I've reviewed Lord Brocktree and Martin the Warrior.  Now Mossflower.  I had originally intended just to quickly review the characters, but I ended up doing a full re-read.  Martin is a returning heroic character if you've read Martin the Warrior, but he shows up in this book with no hint of the self-doubt that was explored in the prequel.  He is the heroic freedom-fighter who unites the woodlanders, oppressed by the evil Tsarmina, a wildcat who rules from the dark fortress of Kotir.  Joining Martin are Gonff the mousethief, a jolly and cheeky creature whose thievery is mostly confined to food; Lady Amber, chieftainess of the woodland squirrels; Dinny the mole; Bella of Brockhall, the wise badger lady who wishes to protect the small creatures of Mossflower wood.  Of course there are many other characters, both good and evil.  No Redwall epic tale is complete without a multitude of characters, a quest, a mysterious riddle, adorable woodland babies who must escape right under the nose of the enemy, infighting among the enemy, and at least two battles with vermin.  This story delivers all of those items and much more.  Don't forget the wonderful descriptions of the feasts!

In my opinion, this or Redwall is the best choice to introduce your children to these fantasies, preferably as a read-aloud.  Good times and good memories await.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Randomday - Use What You Have

A good Randomday, like good soup, is made with available ingredients.  This was pretty good soup.  Leftovers of Costco chicken, an acorn squash, some assorted greens, potatoes, and a "clunk" of stock from the freezer.  (A "clunk" of stock is frozen chicken or turkey stock, and may vary in size from 4-8 cups.  I've been using the term since Secundus coined it for the 4 and 5-year-old Sunday School class cookbook.  His recipe, for potato soup, was one of the few ones that was actually possible).

Secundus celebrated his "Sweet Sixteen" birthday yesterday.  We had Filet Mignon and mashed potatoes, with apple pie for dessert.  Daniel skyped us from college.  His roommate was wildly successful in a game called "humans vs. zombies."

Today we added Secundus to the cell phone plan and got him his own phone.  It's definitely a dumb phone, not a smart one.  Don't expect him to start texting because it's not on the plan.  I have never texted in my life, and my phone is even dumber.  Its camera quit working over a year ago.

We took a jaunt into downtown Portland to the farmer's market in quest of Winesap and Arkansas Black apples.  We also picked up some cider and chestnuts.  It was a bit of culture shock, walking into the midst of all those hipsters.  On the way home we had lunch at McDonald's.  Quarta at first did not know what we meant by "Micky D's."  Tertia got it before she did.

Steve harvested the rest of the apples from our tree today and is working on his second large pot of applesauce.  We will really need to freeze some of it.

I finished grading the pretest quizzes today.  I give a pretest for the final exam that includes about 40% of the material, usually the most concrete and easiest to grade.  I secretly (or not-so-secretly) hope that most of my students will test out of this material so I won't have to grade it twice.  Because grading is becoming more and more painful as my classes get larger.

Literally painful.  So this week, in my ongoing quest to cope with chronic neck pain and headaches, I took the chiropractor's advice and had my first ever therapeutic massage.  I apparently have a lot of muscles I previously did not know existed, and every single one of them has muscle memory, and somehow all these muscles have got it into their muscle memory that they need to be in knots.  And now, every single one of them hurts.  I felt absolutely wonderful for the first 45 minutes after the massage, and then the pain started.  Now, I am noticing more and more that the way I hold my head while grading Latin papers is almost impossible to do without pain.  Maybe it will be good to be aware of all those previously nonexistent muscles, if I can figure out ways to do everyday tasks without hurting them.  I am going to try to be a good patient and do my stretching exercises, and drink lots of water.  But ow!

I need to enter the grades in my database and send out last minute advisories to some parents.  We've got a busy week next week with finals for the 1st quarter and oh yeah, a national election.

I've been thinking about how nice it would be if I could do just one Harry Potter spell.  I'd have a hard time choosing between "scourgify" and "reparo."  Even better might be one to grade papers.

Friday, November 2, 2012

UFO to FO - Log Cabin

This wasn't the UFO I was supposed to finish for October.  Finishing the top was my UFO goal for... I forget which month, but I did it.  The individual blocks were all made and I just needed to join them up.  And then it sat in my quilting queue.  And I finally finished quilting it, about a month ago, and then it sat, half-bound, for almost a month.  I finally finished the binding last week and it is an official FO!  Hanging up in the dining room for now, because I think it has a good wintry/ Christmas feel to it with all those red centers.  It's a lap size quilt at 48"x60".  Now I really need to get some other tops quilted.  My Feathered Star is on the machine now but I'm scared of all those feathers I want to free-motion quilt.

I'm linking up to Judy L's UFO challenge.  The number for November is one I've already done -- Jack's Chain, which I had broken down into two halves, but once I got started on it back in the Spring I just kept going until I had a finished top.  It's in the quilting queue too.  So that gives me a little freedom in November to work on a different UFO number, one of the four things I've blown off when their number was called.  The trend seems for me to not make bags or felted projects, but it would be nice to have at least one of those 4 finished so it won't have to go on next year's list.  I'm being sucked in by Bonnie K. Hunter's mystery quilt again this year, I think.  I really enjoyed Orca Bay last year and I'm always up for a challenge.  I'm thinking of colors already.  Does this quilting insanity ever stop?