Saturday, August 31, 2013


I had a cavity filled this last week.  Turns out, there apparently are (were) still a few spaces in my teeth without fillings.  I sure hope they develop the ability to use stem cells to clone new teeth before I get much older, because I don't think my teeth are going to make it.  Ever since getting the filling, my bite has been off.  It was on the far left lower molar, and now those two far left teeth meet before any of my other teeth.  Of course, it doesn't help that I don't have a corresponding far right lower molar.  That's the one I want to see about getting an implant for someday.  Of course, I'll never be able to afford that.  I might be able to work up the courage to call the dentist and ask about having the new filling filed down.  But not very likely.  Easier to just learn to live with the new normal, right?

I am in complete and abject denial about the looming start of school.  Even though I took Tertia and Quarta out and spent $200 or so today on school supplies, 3 pairs of shoes, 2 backpacks, 2 lunchboxes and a water bottle.  And I took Quarta to Dennis Uniform and spent over $200 on clothes in her new size and a few more things for Secundus.  They can start school.  Well, assuming I'm able to line up a carpool for them.  But I refuse to think about teaching until I absolutely have to.  And that means that my desk has to be set up first.  Last time I checked, I didn't have a desk.  And I'll be dodging the raindrops and carting stuff around to 3 different classrooms when school does start, which I personally don't think will be very conducive to me staying organized.  And if I'm not organized... well, to say I'm depressed about the oncoming year, my 14th of teaching, is putting it generously.  And there's inservice to be gotten through next week.  I just want to cry whenever I think about it, so I try not to.

Secundus' new truck won't start.  They got it home originally by means of a jump start, and it started again without one after a brief fuel stop on the way.  He replaced the battery himself, and it won't start at all now.  Best guess (because it's totally out of Steve's and my familiarity level) is that there's a problem with the starter.  And probably a leak in the fuel line.  He remains undaunted and is determined to learn what he needs to know to fix it himself, with the help of some friends who are good with cars.  Bear in mind, he did get it for fairly cheap (still about 1 1/2 months' salary for me).  But somehow I don't think he will be driving himself to school and cross-country practice for at least a few weeks.  Which means that I will have to think about how to get him and Quarta to school, since I have to stay home until Tertia gets on her bus and I can't do it.  Sigh.

My computer is not working right.  Steve says it needs a full lobotomy and a new battery.  Another thing I can't fix.

I used to be able to embed pins from Pinterest on my blog here, but they have changed the code for the way to do that and I can't figure out how to make it work at all.  I was going to try to do a book review.  Another thing I can't fix... if it can't be done with a needle and thread or a cogently written paragraph, I'm hopeless.

I'd like to be able to put one lighthearted, happy thought on the blog today, but I can't seem to muster it.  Sorry.  I won't share to Facebook for fear of the happy police.  Usually I'm cheerful enough to avoid them, but they do stalk me occasionally.  What is the procedure for dealing with "friends" who complain about you to your boss rather than talking to you personally?  Should I unfriend them?  Another problem I can't solve, apparently.

"Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such." 
 Samuel Butler

Friday, August 30, 2013

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

I am inordinately proud of these two first blocks in the Not All Who Wander Are Lost quilt from Fandom in Stitches.  I just made them this week (yesterday and the day before) and I'm working on the third one now.  Paper piecing is fun!  I did a bunch of it a long time ago when I made Daniel's Noah's Ark quilt, but that was more than 12 years ago.  These patterns are all free for personal use, and they have lots of other subjects (Harry Potter, Disney Princesses, Dr. Who...) depending on your interests.  This quilt-along started in January so I have a bit of catching up to do.  I am steadfastly ignoring the back-to-school shopping and other things I am supposed to be doing.  Lesson plans?  What lesson plans?
Bag End.  Quarta donated the gold bead for the doorknob.  The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. 
Bree -- Pippin's beer mug.  These blocks are 7" finished, except for some that are larger sized.  I'm working on Weathertop now, which has some pretty intricate piecing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pickles and a Red Truck

 We have been blessed with an abundance of cucumbers in the Grace's Garden basket the last few weeks -- I tried this recipe... Easy Refrigerator Pickles...
...and this recipe... Lacto-fermented Pickles.  This one called for whey from yogurt and had to sit out on the counter for 2 days fermenting.  It's quite the neo-hippie earth mother experience, let me tell you... the ones I ate today tasted quite fermented but had a nice dilly sourness to them, even with no vinegar added.  I wouldn't let the rest of the family taste yet -- we'll see if I'm posting tomorrow, they're probably okay.  I'll be brewing kombucha next.  Just kidding, I don't have any fridge space left.  Any more pickles will have to be canned to be shelf-stable.
Secundus' truck.  This is what he cleaned bathrooms at the fair and die-cut game pieces for.  It's as old as Daniel, has almost enough mileage for a trip to the moon, and the battery is the first thing on the replacement list, because it has to be jump-started each time.  Secundus is not willing to make it Facebook-official yet until he removes the canopy, which he finds unattractive.  So I won't be sharing this to Facebook, but I personally find the canopy a thing of grace and beauty compared to the tires and the loud, exhaust-fumed engine.  I hope he can get it to pass emissions.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WIP Wednesday, Yarn-Along, and Book Review: Young, Restless, Reformed

 You can tell it's back-to-school time.  I started two new quilting projects in the last week, and they are the heartbreakingly complex, hopeless to finish quickly kind.  This is the beginning of an idea I had to interpret Bonnie K. Hunter's Santa Fe String Star (from String Fling) in a rainbow progression.  I like scrappy quilts and all that, I just like them to be planned scrappy.  I think it could be a knockout, but I'll need a lot more string diamonds before I can start playing with all the colors.
And here are the pieces of the Bag End block from the Lord of the Rings "Not All Who Wander are Lost" quilt, by Fandom in Stitches.  It is the coolest, funnest idea for a quilt I've seen in awhile, and of course I choose the week before school starts to dive in!  It's what I was thinking about today while in the dentist's chair having a cavity filled, oh joy.

Knitting during Family Camp got me a bit further on Rosalind.  The back is done and the left front is half-done.  I don't think I'll be able to wear it for the first day of school though.
I've been plugging along on my second Circle of Fun rug.  Each segment has about 9 strands of reclaimed cotton or linen yarn from thrift store sweaters.  3 of them are the color of the segment; blue, yellow, or lime; and all the rest are white or off-white.  Kind of fun, mindless TV knitting.  5 more segments to go!

And I just finished reading Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists by Collin Hansen.  I found it quite enlightening as an exploration of a cultural phenomenon that most of us who have always been Reformed have encountered but that is poorly understood.  Hansen pays particular attention to the enduring legacy of Jonathan Edwards - although the halls of Yale have drifted far from Edwards' Christian vision, still his spiritual descendants are thriving in some unexpected places.  Among the living Calvinist leaders Hansen interviews are John Piper, Al Mohler, and Mark Driscoll.  All of them have very different styles and personalities and are called to serve in diverse locations, but the common thread is there, and the story of how that commonality was discovered is fascinating.  I particularly appreciated the exploration of the tensions
(and they do exist) between the old-guard and the titular newly-converted, most of whom come from Baptist or non-denominational backgrounds that do not necessarily have a rich theological heritage.  This is, of course, the very thing that most likely attracts them about Calvinism.  It makes sense -- I'm a strong advocate of giving young people challenging subjects to study, so why not in theology as well?  Hansen is a fair and knowledgeable journalist, able to explain some of the basic points of Reformed theology in a way that most outsiders would be able to understand, while still giving enough gritty detail to amuse us old-timers. 

I have to love the fact that Calvinism is now trending.  It's almost enough to make me sign up for a Twitter account.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Political Tuesdays: Scraping the Debt Ceiling

This is scary.  Apparently the U.S. Treasury is about to run out of other people's money.  And the people in charge seem to think the solution is to go further into debt, which is even scarier.  And when you consider that this debt would most likely be to China, giving an anti-freedom, anti-human rights regime even more control over the future of the U.S., it becomes almost unthinkable.  But I sure hope somebody in Washington is thinking about it.  I may not know a lot about economics -- I may even think it is the most deadly-dull, soul-killing subject known to man -- but I do know that it would be completely inconceivable to run a household along the same principles the Obama Administration is trying to use to run the American economy into the ground.  Surely someone is willing to stand up to the craziness?

I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't have an ancient Roman analogy to share.  I believe it was financial mismanagement more than any other factor that led to the fall of the Roman Empire.  Too many social programs, if you will, and a dependent class that grew proportionately over time while the Empire came under attack from opportunistic barbarians and spread itself too thin.  Some of the barbarians offered a helping hand, providing horses and soldiers to fight, and were happy to cooperate with the Romans as long as the Romans were the most powerful nation in the world -- but they themselves became part of the balance of power that tipped in the other direction eventually. There were some who said the Roman culture was too big to fail, but history voted otherwise.

Is it too late to draft Dave Ramsey to get us out of this mess?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Randomday Delayed - With Bananathon

I have been neglecting my blog, so I thought I'd do a catch-up for everyone with a Randomday post.

We went to Camp Morrow for 1st OPC Family Camp.  Daniel had to be on a red-eye flight early Saturday, so I drove him and Peter back after the Talent Show (at which a highly-amusing version of Telephone/Clue/Charades had speaker Larry Wilson trying to inform Mr. Southgate that a clown was killed on the volleyball court with a cinnamon roll).  He caught his flight and has just finished up his first day of classes in his sophomore year at Grove City College.

Of course one of the grand highlights of Family Camp is the annual Bananathon.  It happens to be the only event I have pictures for, too.
Secundus was a team captain this year, with Tertia on his team.  Here is the pre-contest strategy session.  Daniel and Quarta were on the other two teams, so no matter who won, we had at least one kid to cheer for.
 Turns out that even if the bananaholder is on his school's swim team, having to wear a life vest as a handicap slows him down enough that he might as well have stayed in his canoe.  There followed in close and dizzying succession the other events after the banana hand-off... splashketball, frisbee toss, pudding/bubblegum race, three-legged race, and the race to the flagpole with the banana being tossed from hand to hand.
 Secundus' team was victorious after he ate the banana (which was frozen) and gave a whistle.
Mrs. McConnell even found banana trophies... pretty cool!

Back home and after a full weekend to try to recover, I have ratatouille in the oven along with some chicken kebabs.  What do they have in common?  They are both ways to use up zucchini!  I didn't even come close with the double batch of zucchini brownies I took to family camp.  There are still 11 zucchini on the countertop.

I just checked on Daniel's plum wine in the cellar.  It has this little airlock contraption on the carboy to let carbon dioxide escape without letting in oxygen.  Before family camp, it was releasing a bubble precisely every 17 seconds.  It has slowed down now to once every 36 seconds.  I have no idea what this means though.

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."
                                   -- Hans Hofmann

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

3 on the 21st - Down Syndrome blog hop

For the second time I'm going to link up with the Down Syndrome Blogs "3 on the 21st" blog hop.  We are supposed to share one truth, one tip, and one photo.  So here goes:
Truth: Parenting a child with Down Syndrome can be tough and discouraging.  On the medical front and on the educational front, if you aren't pushy and aggressive, your child may very well suffer.  The odds of the world are stacked in favor of extroverts.  Those of us who are introverts will never be able to feel confident that we have done everything we're supposed to do for our kids.  Sometimes things that are standard procedure/ basic human rights for everybody else will be seen as unnecessary luxuries for an individual with a cognitive disability.  It's not fair, and it will force us out of our comfort zones... but if we don't advocate for our kids, we can't count on anyone else doing it.  This was brought home for me in a personal way this week when I saw this news story about a woman with Down syndrome getting long-needed foot surgery so that she can dance again.  That story got me thinking about Tertia's feet, which slowly started becoming deformed with bunions sometime in that range from age 3-8, when I was super busy with baby Quarta and school and life in general, and totally burned out on doing anything beyond the basics.  Now she has orthotic inserts in her shoes, and I'm not sure if she will eventually need a similar surgery someday.  But whenever I look at her bare feet I feel a surge of wrenching mommy-guilt.  I really need to move on, but it's hard.
Tip: Make getting good medical care for your child a priority, even when you are shy or hesitant to do so.  A good pediatrician may not be able to answer every question that you have, but will be able to point you in the direction of the experts who can.  When I finally called Tertia's foot issues to her doctor's attention, we got set up with a foot and bone joint specialist, x-rays, and eventually specialized orthotic fittings pretty quickly.  Every new specialist is a little like another piece in the jigsaw puzzle, or learning a new word in a foreign language (I should know about that!) It's not nearly as intimidating as it might sound at first.  If it helps, take notes and make a detailed list of all the tasks you need to do and the questions you need to ask.  And let go of the guilt for not doing it earlier, because it doesn't help anyone.  I should know about that, too!
Playing in the waves of the Pacific Ocean in the sparkling late afternoon.  She is full of joy and loves to dance, and nothing is going to change that!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Finished Country Stars Top and State of the Stash

I have a finished quilt top!  This is Country Stars, which I've been working on since June.  It is about 89"x101", so should work as a queen-size.  It was inspired by a photo of a quilt I saw 4 years ago at a quilt shop in Lake Oswego, and I used that photo to reverse-engineer it.  My fabric "recipe" was Civil War repro fabrics and any fabric with a "country" feel, with that lovely Sturbridge Village barn red for the setting blocks and triangles.

Unfortunately I didn't have enough of that red for the outer border, and after a few attempts to find extra, I at first thought I would use a fabric that was very similar:
That's a Cotton Club by Paula Barnes fabric on the left... and I like it, but when I formally auditioned it with the Sturbridge Village on the right, it looked muddy and confusing, not warm and cozy like I wanted.
To the rescue - the striped red fabric (Debbie Mumm) I found at that epic estate sale.  It was the right shade of red - not too much purple, not too much orange - and it reads a little darker so it "anchored" the quilt at the edges.  And the stripes have a whimsical wave to them, balancing the more formal Civil War fabrics, and it's different enough from the feathers to avoid looking like a match gone bad.
Kind of rumply in this picture, but you can see how I mitered the corners, which I like to do with stripes.  I am really pleased with this quilt top - better be, because it's basically the only major project I've finished this summer!
It was a good opportunity to do a bit of stash organization.  I emptied out the giant bin of scraps from the estate sale and gave them homes, either with their colors in my strip boxes or fat quarter storage system, or in the overflowing bin of scraps to be cut down to usable sizes (I won't show you  pictures of that!)  Then I cleaned up the bin, and used it to store my felted sweater scraps, wool scraps and polar fleece yardage in the corner under my sewing nook.  In the foreground are my bins for 10.5" squares for quilt backings, 2.5" strips, and my old sewing basket Grandma gave me, with the old phone book for paper piecing on top.  On the left are the bins for 3.5" squares and strips, 2.5" and 2" squares and bricks, and 1.5" strips, squares and bricks.  I'm loosely following Bonnie K. Hunter's scrap user's system, but I needed to put these things away for awhile to deal with other projects.
Here's a montage - 3 pictures stitched together - of my 3-door fabric storage cabinet over my sewing machine.  I don't think I've ever shared a picture of my fabric storage system, and this is probably the best it's ever looked since I've been blogging.  (Don't judge me!)  I use tubs from baby-wipe containers, some of them 16 years old and still going strong to keep my fat quarters organized!  Bottom shelf left to right it starts with blacks, whites, neutrals, browns, and then progresses ROYGBIV, wrapping onto the 2nd shelf; then I finish that shelf with specialty fabrics, novelties, theme prints, etc.  The top shelf is for anything bigger than 1/2 a yard or so.  You can see the estate sale tub had a lot of blues and jewel tones that didn't quite fit into the tubs.  And that's pretty much my fabric stash.  I need to make about 5 more scrappy quilts before it gets down to a size where I can justify buying fabric again without a plan.
To the right of my sewing chair is this storage tower, which I put there with the idea of having it be convenient storage for whatever projects I'm currently working on.  At the moment I'm sorting my strings into cools, warms, and neutrals with the idea of doing Santa Fe String Star from String Fling.
Bottom line, the stash is not finished being organized, but it's in a fairly usable and convenient state right now, and I hope to start a new sewing project or two to ease the always stressful transition into the school year.

Stash report:

Fabric used this week: 8.5 yards for Country Stars top
Fabric used year to date: 49.5 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 49 yards
Net used for 2013: .5 yards (yay, back in the black again!)
Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards (2 knitting projects about 40% done)
Yarn used year to date: 6550 yards.
Yarn added this week: 0 yards (still have some to ply, skein and measure soon)
Yarn added year to date: 5800 yards
Net used for 2013: 750 yards

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Once again it's Randomday, when the blog eats leftovers and is happy to do it.
That awkward moment when Secundus, trying to back Dad's car out without hitting Grandma's, manages to wedge it between Grandma's car and the garage with less than an inch to spare in either direction.  He did, eventually, have to come back in the house and ask for help.  Neither car was damaged, but he was a little late to his job at the fair.  Now that the fair is over, he is plotting how best to spend his earnings, researching used pickup trucks.
Zucchini recipes here and here.  Surely you will find something to do with your zucchini.  You know you have them!  This is Quarta's blue-ribbon fair zucchini.
Speaking of the fair, here are my results and the judges' comments, clockwise from the top:
  • Feathered star, red ribbon, "some quilting is not straight but I applaud you for doing it yourself."
  • Mayan Spring shawl, blue ribbon, "nice tension. One end needs yarn worked back in, easy to do."
  • Orca Bay quilt, red ribbon, "some points do not quite meet up and some are puckered. Nice use of scrap."
  • Jack's Chain quilt, red ribbon, "some points don't quite match up.  Very nice binding.  Sweet retro quilt."
  • Wingspan shawlette, blue ribbon, "very nice.  Keeps shoulders warm."
  • Handspun BFL yarn, red ribbon, "Great color in yarn, nice twist - no info as to use and source of fiber."
  • Argyle socks, blue ribbon, "very nice, lovely colors."
I have decided I will probably never win a blue ribbon on a quilt, if those three didn't qualify.  I tend to think my quilting skills are a little better than my knitting skills, especially when it comes to design and color choice, but the clothing department where I entered my knitting had more generous judges.  Oh well, it was still fun.

And a random book review: The Ionia Sanction, by Gary Corby.  This is the second book in a series of historical mysteries set in ancient Greece.  Nicolaos, (whose kid brother is a hilariously geeky Socrates), is called upon to pursue an investigation of the murder of a city official with ties to Ephesus.  He rescues a slave girl and travels to return her to her family, along the way reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend, the priestess Diotima, and the great general Themistocles, now a traitor to Greece and in the service of the Persians.  And though the book is meticulously well-researched, and the dialogue is witty and hip so as not to turn off the modern generation of readers, and the main characters are well-drawn and sympathetic, I can't recommend it wholeheartedly.  Graphic, sickening violence and gratuitous sexual situations are woven into the plot, making it a bit too disturbing, in my opinion, for the lighthearted tone the author is trying to create.  Definitely not for kids or sensitive adults, but a fascinating glimpse into history.

History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstances  
- Donald Creighton

Friday, August 16, 2013


There was a vacation, somewhat minimalistic.  Steve and I and the girls went to a beach house in Moclips, WA for a few days.  I thought about blogging, but didn't do it.
The ocean is always a good idea. 
Building sand castles below tide line, however, I have never quite appreciated.  This one was quite pretty while it lasted, with a magician's cave and an island guard tower.
Tertia built a 2-dimensional sand castle, a combination of Hogwarts and Narnia, which gave her more time to play in the waves.
Daddy and Quarta kept laboring away.  It did not last.  When we came back in mid-afternoon it was nowhere to be seen.
 So they started a new one just below high tide mark.
Those waves are cold, but she's stubborn.

 The next day we took a trip to Lake Quinault and the rain forest.  Quarta bought a souvenir eagle.
 This is the largest Sitka Spruce tree in the world.
 And from a greater distance.
We took an arduous climb over rough ground to reach the largest (or once-largest) Cedar tree.  It was completely hollow inside, but still living at the top, although it had lost most of its branches.

We stayed at Katie's Cottage in Moclips, ate at Home Port and Viet Hoa restaurants in Ocean Shores, and prepared the rest of our food ourselves.  It was nice, especially seeing shooting stars and the Milky Way from the back deck the first night, and waking up every morning to the sound of the ocean.  We each got sunburned in different spots, but not to the degree of agonizing pain.  It never got very hot, mostly 60's and 70's.  The boys stayed home to work and hang out with friends.  It was another bittersweet reminder of oncoming empty-nesting.  Daniel has only a week before going back to college, right after family camp.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Down Syndrome - Remembering the Early Days

Tertia on safety patrol, a few years ago.

It's been my unexpected privilege in the last few days to talk to two other Down syndrome moms, whether virtually or face-to-face, whose daughters are quite a bit younger than Tertia.  And it brought back those memories of how isolating it felt, how frightening, and how exhausting, to be shoved into this completely unfamiliar world.  You feel like all the medical experts are heartless robots who just want to tell you what is wrong with your child, and the very seriousness of some of the medical issues is terrifying.  (Down syndrome carries with it a greater risk of heart defects, leukemia, hearing and vision problems, digestive issues, autism, etc.)  I remember when Tertia was born, not being able to read through the medical brochures (which were mostly horribly outdated and insensitive anyway) without feeling physically assaulted. It felt like, as Martha Beck wrote in Expecting Adam, having your heart caught in a meat grinder. 

Then later, after the cavalry arrived and the exhausting whirlwind of making sure she met with all the medical specialists she needed and got started off with the therapies she needed calmed just a little bit, I had time to feel scared and overwhelmed again.  "I am going to have to be so pushy, just to get to square one of what she needs.  I'll not be able to keep up with the latest research and she'll miss out on something REALLY important.  I'll take my eyes off her for one second and she'll wander off and get killed.  She won't have friends.  I won't have friends.  She will have behavior problems.  Her siblings will suffer because I'm spending too much time taking care of her.  School will be too hard for her."  Wow, that was a lot of mommy-angst!  Truth be told, all of those worries are variations of standard mommy-angst that I have recognized in regards to my other three children as well.  The intensity was just exponentially higher because of her diagnosis.  As it stands now, I haven't stopped worrying, but I can honestly say the worry is more or less evenly divided among my four children.  I'm sure there are things I've done wrong, but time has softened the angst and given me some of the larger perspective.  A friend shared this hilarious satire today, and I was reminded again of the unnecessary worry so many of us take on ourselves as moms.

So if you're reading this as a new or relatively new parent of a child with Down syndrome, I'm honored.  I would love to be able to share the definitive list of advice, tips, and links, but the truth is, there is none.  The following links and tips are just things that I personally have found helpful, or like.  You will no doubt develop your own list of favorites over time.

Nutrivene is a line of nutritional supplements that we have been using, to greater or lesser degree, since Tertia was a baby.  In recent years I have frequently forgotten to give her her daily dose and I never gave her every single supplement that is recommended, but I do believe the special vitamins have made a positive difference in her overall health.  It was one of those things that I could actually do when she was tiny, so it helped with some of that mommy-angst.  So I'm glad we went this route even though there is no way of proving scientifically that it helped. 

Love and Learning is a language and reading program that we used from early on.  Tertia could read simple sentences at age 3 and was able to keep pace with her peers once she was in school.  It may surprise people, but children with Down syndrome can learn just about anything other children learn, given time and patience.  This program is ample proof of that.  It probably helped that I was a literature major and it was very important to me for my daughter to be able to read.

Karen Gaffney gave me inspiration and hope when I really needed it.  Here's a young woman with Down syndrome who followed an ambitious educational path, excels at her chosen sport, and is an articulate speaker.

There are so many blogs and websites that didn't exist in those early years.  Each one has a different feel and tells a different story, but I am so thankful for them all.  There's a joy in watching the current crop of toddlers with Down syndrome prove themselves.
Noah's Dad
Enjoying the small things
The blessing of Verity
Down wit Dat
Everything and Nothing from Essex

Tertia dashing to the car for a trip to Oaks Park with Daniel and Quarta today

The obligatory pose.  As you can see, she still loves Hello Kitty

I blog mostly about my quilting, knitting and various domestic adventures here, but Down syndrome is a recurring feature.  I think of it as my way to give back just a little, and I hope it helps some who are not as far along on this road.  Here is the link to the previous posts I've tagged with Down syndrome.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along

All by herself, Quarta came up with this design using some UFO blocks and patches that were in that big tub of scraps I got at the estate sale a few weeks ago:
(The tub itself is still sitting in the family room, waiting to be sorted through.  I just pulled out some obvious projects for her to work on and fabrics that she liked).
Yesterday she sewed them together.  I taught her how to make coping strips of some of the poppy fabric for the four hourglass blocks, which were about 1" smaller than the red and white ones.  For today's project, she baked and is frosting cut-out cookies.  I really wish I had one quarter of her energy.  My project today had to be something to clean the house, so I chose the linen closet upstairs.  Well, it's not really a closet because it has no door, and blankets and sleeping bags were spilling out into the hallway.  It was a small enough project I felt I could tackle it.
I found this old quilt, much loved and partly tattered, that Steve's grandmother pieced and his mom tied.  Daniel remembers the tattered spots fondly from when it was on his bed.
 There are some great vintage fabrics on these old string blocks!
I just couldn't resist bringing it out for a little photo op on the blog.  My own quilting has been limited lately, but I'm determined to finish seaming up the Country Stars quilt in the next few days.  Maybe now that my linen closet is clean and organized I can justify some play in the sewing room.
 I have been knitting a bit on my second Circle of Fun rug using lots of reclaimed cotton yarns.  And I read The Devil Wears Prada, which just happened to be on the staff picks shelf at the library.  I'd seen the movie and it was a fun read.  However, I think it's one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the original book.  I found Andrea, the first-person narrator, less sympathetic because of her constant snarkiness than Anne Hathaway's character in the movie.  The portrayal of the boss from hell who mistreats her employees and forces them to neglect their own personal and family lives is about the only plot point, so the book reads like a lengthy tabloid expose.  But I was irritated by Andrea's spineless, passive-aggressive response to her situation, and couldn't really sympathize with her much.  And last week, when I reviewed the latest Tom Clancy book, I put in a caution about language... well, this little book surprised me by dropping more F-bombs than that 800-pager.  Maybe New York girls really do talk like that, but it sure didn't make me like them, or the chick-lit they show up in.
This is how far I've gotten on Rosalind.  It's starting to be pretty, but there's a long way to go yet.  Linking up to WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along.

Monday, August 5, 2013

August updates

Here's where it stands on my design wall at this moment.  I am seaming one of the looong unwieldy seams of my scrappy Country Stars quilt, and the three diagonal rows at the upper left corner are the only ones left.  It's totally do-able to finish this top, even today, if I just kicked into gear.  But I just haven't kicked into gear.  I'm tired, sore, discouraged about the state of the house and the rapidly oncoming school year (which will be much tougher than last year as I won't have my own designated classroom anymore but will have to itinerate), and a bit lonely.  I think some therapeutic sewing will be in order, just as soon as I can clear time for it.  I have really enjoyed this project with all the pretty reds and the scrappy fabrics. I hope I can take a big picture of it as a finished top later this week.

I'm not going to update my stash report this week because there has been nothing new in or out.  I decided not to attempt to calculate yardage of that big bin of scraps from the estate sale -- it will just get morphed in with my existing scrap bins as I have time, and I look forward to the treasure hunt that that will feel like.

It's also past time to report on my July goals and set some new crafty goals for August. 

These were my goals for July:
  1. Finish the brown socks. done!
  2. Machine quilt the Farmer's Wife Quilt, or at least reach a midway point.  Ha! Not done!
  3. The knitting bag project.  Nope.
  4. Finish the Country Stars top. Almost.  It would be done if I weren't such a loser.
Bonus points: I spun every day of the Tour de Fleece.
I entered three quilts in the Clark County Fair.
Maybe my bonus projects can offset the ones I didn't finish!
  1. Mount and begin quilting the Farmer's Wife quilt.  I want each little block to be beautifully quilted, so this will be a longer-term project.
  2. Complete Country Stars top.
  3. randomly chosen from my list of 2013 goals: #4, the 3/4 bag kit.
  4. Finish the Rosalind sweater.
Bonus points available for making that silly bowling-style knitting bag, sewing multiple boxer shorts for the menfolk, finishing any other knitting project, or finishing a few hand-applique blocks.  And a big bonus point for getting my sewing area neatly organized enough that I would be willing to photograph it.

I was picking a few more plums from the tree this morning, when I turned around and there were 5 large zucchini that had crept up on me.  It was a little like a scene from Hitchcock's The Birds.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Randomday - Plum Ennui

Lately I have been feeling thin, sort of stretched.  Like plum butter that has been scraped over too much bread.  I am ready for plum season to be over.  However, I am not ready to go back to school.  I have an uneasy feeling that the one will inevitably lead to the other, and I don't like it.

I started with about a gallon of halved, pitted plums.  It's approximately the same as it takes to fill a dehydrator or make a recipe of plum chutney.  My thumb has a sore spot on it from pitting the plums.  I diverged from online recipes by using my crock pot for the major part of the cooking.

4 quarts halved plums, pits removed
5 cups sugar (adjust to taste)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 T ground cinnamon
sprig or bundle of thyme (optional)
10 cloves
1 1/2 t. ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in stockpot, bring to boil and simmer slowly, uncovered, for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, stirring frequently.  Let cool slightly, remove cinnamon sticks and thyme sprig, and press through a food mill into a large crock pot.  Set heat setting to low and leave cover off while mixture slowly cooks down, 8 - 10 hours.  You can stir every hour or so if you like.  I let mine go overnight, and woke up once at about 3:30 to the aroma of spicy plum butter and went down to stir it then.  After the final stir-down, it's nice to give it a final puree with an immersion blender to even out the texture.  Can in 1/2 pint or 1-pint jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

That recipe went better than my attempt to make a double batch of Cinnamon Plum Jam.  Unfortunately, my stockpot was not big enough for 14 cups of sugar and the plums that went with them, and when I added the pectin, I had a boilover.  I couldn't cook the mixture at the full rolling boil required to activate the pectin and so my plum jam is runny.  I think it will thicken up if I boil the contents of each jar individually after I open it up and then put it back in its jar, but it essentially spoils any chance of giving the jars away as gifts.  And the surface of my glass cooktop bears the pitting scars from when burnt sugar gets crusted on.

My endurance for plum season may not last much longer.  I might have one dehydrator load and a few quarts of frozen plums in me still.  I made another pflaumenkuchen recipe today.  I would kind of like to try plum preserves, or basically, whole plums in syrup.

The children have been rediscovering the cedar tree.  That's Secundus, way up there.  Daniel and Quarta wanted their turn too, almost as high.

Secundus is working at the fair, cleaning bathrooms.  Daniel is attending a weekend conference in Oregon.  Quarta attended a 4-day tennis camp this last week.  Tertia is not doing much of anything and seems to like it that way.

We went to the fair yesterday morning.  My knitting all won blue ribbons; my quilts and yarn won red ribbons.  Quarta's pillow got a red, and her zucchini got a blue.

We took the girls to the farmer's market this morning and bought the ingredients for a dandy fruit salad for supper.  Also some basil and lovage to plant, from Grace's Garden.  And kolaches, because Steve can't resist them.

And I found the perfect quote for Steve the other day while playing cryptograms:

"I can't say I was ever lost, but I was bewildered once for three days."

— Daniel Boone