Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting it done, January report and February forecast

Well, it's time to round up the January UFOs and WIPs and report.  It may not look like I have much accomplished for January.  These were my goals from the beginning of the month:

January goals:
  1. wool stuffed toy cat  -- randomly drawn from the list, I never even attempted this.
  2. finish Steve's socks -- finished, felted, and unwearable.  Bah humbug.
  3. make Daniel some socks -- 60% done
  4. hand applique one block of Piecemaker's calendar quilt -- not even attempted
So I have absolutely nothing concrete to show for January except this montage of the felted socks:
After they wouldn't fit Steve's feet, I wore them for one day, underneath my cute new boots.  And they felted still more in their second washing, so now they can't fit on my feet.  I have contacted Knit Picks, but there is nothing to do with the socks but cut them up for a blanket with the other dead sweaters.  Let's move on to pleasanter prospects, shall we?

Daniel's socks are progressing nicely as blogged yesterday.  I bailed on the wool cat toy and the applique projects because I a) didn't have time and b) wasn't really that interested in more handwork this very busy month.  Instead, I made small but respectable progress on my Easy Street quilt top.  I'm satisfied, and will remove the cat toy from my queue and my guilt backlog unless I happen to get inspired to do it again.

So, to determine the four goals for February.  First I went to Random Number Generator and drew #20 from my master list, which states and I quote: "and have fun, or everything else is pointless."  So I now have direction.  I'm taking it as Providential.  It's certainly a good reminder from myself of a month ago to myself now about why I do all these crafty things in the first place. 

My four goals for February are:
  1. have fun, or everything else is pointless.
  2. hand applique one of the floral side blocks for the 1996 Piecemaker's calendar quilt
  3. finish Daniel's socks, and get halfway on another pair for Steve.
  4. finish the Easy Street blocks and begin seaming them together
  5. and for good measure, make Crumbs blocks and play with the Scrappy Trip-Along.  Which will be fun even if I don't get them done.
Unofficial goals: I want to finally finish watching Project Runway Allstars and start watching the new regular season.  And I'd like to clean the sewing area and cut out and sew some boxer shorts, but none of these things sound properly fun or glamorous.  But for me, I still think they would be fun.  I have very simple requirements in the fun department, and I don't even try for glamor.

I suspect that others got more done in January than I did: check it out at Patchwork Times.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along which I wish that I had not had to spend so much time grading over the last week.  Seriously.  My sanity is in so much worse shape than it could have been.  You can just feel it slipping away from you, and each time you cross out "misierit" or "he might have been sended" and write in "miserit" or "he has sent" with your red pen, you realize that those were hours you could have spent knitting or sewing and no one will ever read your red marks anyway and you will never get those hours back.
So I pretended I was done last night and made three Easy Street blocks.  I think I'm going to have to cut more green squares, even though I was sure I had followed all the directions.  I'm halfway there with the A blocks, so 8 more to do and then I'm done with everything I need for the quilt and can start seaming it together.

And have you SEEN all the Scrappy Trip-along projects going on in blogland?!  I so much want to start one, it is like being locked up in your house and, well, made to grade Latin papers.  Bonnie Hunter is just magic with scraps.  I want to come out and play!

These are Daniel's Klingon socks.  I've decided they are "earthy, peaty, with a hint of lilac."  The heels are done and it's all pretty straightforward from here.  I posed them atop my gradebook, because that's really all I've been reading for the last week.  (If you want my review of the second Hunger Games book it's here.)  I'm using Cat's Sweet Tomato Heels again, which is a perfect combination with Stashbuster Spirals.  I may use the remnants of that Knit Picks yarn that felted, because I think it will behave itself if it is only one of three yarns being used in rotation.  I doubt I'll get it finished before Groundhog day, but it should be done by mid-February.  My mom always sent me a care package in mid-February for all the minor holidays -- you know, Groundhog Day, Presidents' Day, Valentine's Day, and the Ides of March.  I'm going to try to keep that tradition.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday and the Yarn-Along.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Catching Fire (Hunger Games 2)

I'm finding that as my student load approaches 50, I'm more and more stressed by the end-of-quarter grading rush.  For some reason it took me all of Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday to tackle the final exams and reading worksheets, and I'm by no means done with final grades yet.  This translates into zero time to do things that I actually set the blog up to talk about: quilting and knitting.  So no pretty pictures to share, either.  Instead, I've decided to continue my book reviews of the Hunger Games trilogy.

I’ve already reviewed the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy here.  Today I want to tackle the second, Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins.  I will do my best not to give any spoilers for the 2nd or 3rd books in this review, but I will freely refer to events of the 1st book, so if you have not read it yet you may want to skip this post.

As the second book opens, Katniss Everdeen, the first-person protagonist, has secured a position for herself and co-champion Peeta that is nearly unheard of in the benighted history of District Twelve.  Only once before has a champion emerged from Twelve, and he is Haymitch, the town drunk.  But the shadowy totalitarian rulers at the Capitol, personified by the creepy and all-too-personal President Snow, will not let Katniss and Peeta live in comfortable luxury.  Their victory in last year's games was won by threatening a double-suicide, thereby cheating the public out of their entertainment and somehow posing a threat to the stability of the Capitol.

Katniss and Peeta go on a victory tour and see rumblings of political unrest throughout the districts they tour, as well as the ruthless hand of the government in suppressing any dissent.  They must act as if they are in love, or reprisals will undoubtedly fall on their families and friends.  As champions they are expected to train and advise the next year's champions, but this is a special anniversary year, the 75th since the beginning of the Hunger Games, and it is announced that this year's contestants will be drawn from the winners of previous years.  Think of it as the "all-star" version of your favorite reality show, but to the death.  So the central conflict of this book involves another entry into the arena, forced combat in front of a command audience, and kill-or-be-killed situations.

Now, I freely admit that I am not a major consumer of dystopian or Young Adult fiction, and especially not of the combination of the two genres.  However, I have a fair amount of familiarity with the ancient Romans, and some with the realm of politics, and Catching Fire does not create a completely believable story on either point.  Juvenal's famous quote, "panem et circenses" may have given the Capitol its name and provided inspiration for creating a fascinating fantasy world, but it was in actuality more of an indictment against the Roman people, as you can see in translation:
Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.
In other words, you can't be manipulated unless you let yourself be manipulated.  I would have been more patient with the story if the Capitol had been Roman in more than name: but these effete narcissists would have been wiped off the map by real Romans, or even real barbarians.  I found it impossible to believe that the same culture that took such an avid interest in voting on Katniss' wedding gowns would also have the military savvy and stamina to terrorize the populace so absolutely, even to the point of hidden cameras, genetically engineered torture, and mind control.  The Romans may have had their decadent elements, but they were much more straightforward than that, and they respected courage and leadership in any form they saw it.

However, this book did much more than the first in the series to fill in the gaps in the fictional world of Panem that were troubling me.  We understand a little more of the structure of the country and the seething resentment that must inevitably bubble to the surface.  But I am still troubled by the cross-genre nature of the book itself.  It seems counterintuitive to write an anti-war book condemning the over-reliance on popular culture and violent entertainment, while at the same time coopting your readers into the very manipulative, violent entertainment you are ostensibly condemning.  And that's what happens to us -- remember, first-person narrator in the present tense means that we are connected to Katniss' thoughts with an intimacy and immediacy that could be compared to the "teaser" interviews that contestants give in our reality TV programming.  There is no time to think ahead or live in anything more than the moment.  When we do reflect on what we've read, we realize that other than the enforced intimacy, we don't really like Katniss as a heroine.  She's tough and gutsy, yes.  Quick with a snarky comment, she's honest in the midst of an artificial world and you want to like her.  But when the action is thickest, she tends to be rather passive, letting others make the important calls and retreating into her personal angst after just enough decisive action to advance the plot to the next point of crisis.  At the very end of Catching Fire, the final plot revelation/cliffhanger comes so abruptly that it's disorienting... leaving you, of course, with a compelling need to read the third book, whether you like Katniss or not.

It makes for gripping, page-turning reading, suitable for older teens with enough maturity not to be depressed by the heavy theme.  Or younger teens who will be oblivious to the heavy theme and enjoy it as a violent action/thriller.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along

After the apalling tragedy of the felted socks I am determined not to give up.  I am working on a pair of Stashbuster Spirals with my odd bits of sock yarn, for Daniel.  These have proven to be enormously popular in the other incarnations I have made, and they are fun to knit because the colors are constantly changing.  Already they are large enough to be pockets to hold the little balls of yarn, which helps some with the tangling issues.  I'm reading Michael Medved's autobiography, Right Turns.  Aside from his goofy face on the cover (sorry, MM, I like your radio show a lot but you do have a goofy face) it is an entertaining read from someone who had a front-row seat for a lot of Baby Boomer history.  Like my husband, he also became a conservative at Berkeley.
In quilting, I made a modest amount of progress on Easy Street Saturday, when I was bitter about the felted socks and had a huge stack of ironing to do.  I bribe myself to do ironing by letting myself sew a bunch of patchwork together in between each garment that I press.  I finished 5 more "B" blocks and that makes all of the necessary ones of that type: I need to go back and make the "A" blocks now.
As leaders/enders I'm working on a bunch of crumbs blocks that I hope to make into an auction quilt for Cedar Tree.  Here's one.  I will need a lot more.
I'm linking up to Ginny's Yarn-along and WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Forty Years

I was in kindergarten when Roe v. Wade was decided, and maybe 10 when I understood what it was.  There is no way I can find the right words on my mostly lighthearted blog to describe the cultural and spiritual devastation wrought in America by forty years of legalized abortion.  You know how people talk about "the new normal" by way of coming to terms with a devastating change in circumstances?  Well, abortion is no longer new, but it is now as much an established part of our supposedly enlightened culture as slavery and gladiatorial games were to the ancient Romans.  And, on close examination by any rational person, obviously as barbaric.

55 million lives lost since Justice Blackmun found "emanations and penumbras" in the Constitution to justify allowing mothers to deny maternal instinct and kill their own children before birth.  And ... what ... perhaps 50 million mothers who made that choice, one or even more times.  What is the cost to the human soul when it knows it's responsible for taking an innocent life?  What is the loss in human potential?  Both are incalculable.  How do you begin to offer comfort or counsel in such a situation?  I'm certainly not clever enough to figure that out.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: The Hunger Games

America has fallen.  The powerful and wealthy ruling elite have crafted a new society for their sole benefit, ruthlessly oppressing the majority and imposing a vindictive system of reparations upon those who have opposed them in the past.  These punitive taxes, or "tributes" serve a dual purpose; to prevent the subjugated masses from even the smallest sign of dissent, and to secure the most luxurious and decadent lifestyle possible for the favored few as they run society in the way they please.  Bread and circuses: it worked for the ancient Romans for quite some time, after all.

This is, of course, the scenario of The Hunger Games, the phenomenally best-selling dystopian novel by Suzanne Collins.  I like my writing to have layers, so you may draw your own conclusions about how I feel about the events of the most recent election cycle.  The Hunger Games was my first real foray into the "Young Adult" category of children's literature, and at least in part I felt compelled to read it since it is phenomenally popular among young people I know, and touches on the political intrigue and convoluted history of the ancient Romans.  I don't normally gravitate to edgy or dystopian fiction myself, but this trilogy is deservedly popular, and of course, there is a major motion picture now, making it a book that kids are eager to read and parents are concerned about.  For a review of the series from a Christian perspective, check out this one from Redeemed Reader.  I plan to review the series in three parts, and hope to avoid giving spoilers, although when I get to the 2nd and 3rd books I will have to refer to events of the previous books.

The first thing you are struck by in the opening pages of the novel is the first person narrative, and the second thing is the present tense.  The entire series plays out this way, drawing us into the very mind of heroine Katniss Everdeen with an immediacy that is impossible to deny, rather like the command performance of the Hunger Games where every citizen of Panem is forced to watch children drawn from the twelve districts kill each other for the entertainment of the Capitol.  Once you have read the first few pages, it is almost inevitable that you will be swept along with the story to its conclusion.  It's hard to stop after the first book; there is an insidious power that draws you in, even though Katniss is far from a likeable heroine and the world she inhabits is bleak.

I have heard that most young people do not find the book disturbing but treat it as just a "what if" scenario.  Adults tend to take a harder line against it; and not because of lack of literary merit or author's ability.  In the wake of the Connecticut school shootings especially, a world where children kill children for the entertainment of adults is something we would prefer to keep unthinkable, and my own first reaction was that it would have been better if this book had never been written in the first place.  Some questions should never be asked, and some thoughts should never be entertained, and it may very well be better for most people never to be forced into the mind of someone who must either kill or be killed.  But the book was written, and we who work with young people need to deal with it in an intelligent way.

As Katniss volunteers to take her beloved little sister's place as a tribute from insignificant District 12, we are carried along with her into a different world from the life of deprivation and oppression she has known until now.  She has developed the ability to provide for her family in a meager way by sneaking into the woods to engage in illegal hunting with her best friend, a boy named Gale.  But all that abruptly changes when she and Peeta, the more middle-class son of the town baker, are treated to makeovers by image consultants and stylists to present them along with the other 22 contestants at the gala opening ceremonies.  Plot points unfold at a breathtaking rate; Katniss herself is too caught up in the circumstances to think of the future, but Peeta sets up a gut-wrenching love triangle when he reveals on national TV that he loves her.  But only one person can win the Hunger Games, and it's unlikely to be either one of them.

I assume that Suzanne Collins wrote this postmodern trilogy with the intent to promote an old-fashioned anti-war message, updated for a generation of kids who are comfortable with sharing every thought on social media.  But the very medium she uses, with immersion into the mind of the protagonist who must kill to stay alive, is the literary equivalent of those violent first-person shooter video games that most responsible adults would like to remove from their children's lives.  It's the same senseless bloodbath in an artificial world created only for killing, but with a better vocabulary.  At the end, Katniss has either been forced to kill in self-defense, or killed somewhat accidentally, or killed in mercy, or helplessly witnessed the deaths, of several human beings.  One wonders if this has the same deadening effect on the soul of the reader, who shares Katniss' eyes, as those shooter games.  Granted, Katniss acts with a more or less consistent moral integrity, albeit in a world completely empty of a religious presence of any kind.  But she shows little ability to think over the moral component of her actions, or their future implications beyond the immediate threat.  Perhaps this is meant to illustrate the teenage mind, with its tendency to live only in the present, and its tendency toward narcissism.  That's just the thing, it's hard to tell whether Collins is being moralistic or simply using modern techniques to tell an action-packed story in an amoral setting.  I tend toward the former, but she hides her preachiness very well.  Maybe that's a good thing for this generation.

My own opinion on the book is that you shouldn't encourage your child to read it at all before the age of 15 or so, and then only if you are willing to discuss it with him or her rather extensively.  There are some young people who really shouldn't read it at all... those with depressive or violent tendencies especially.  The theme of suicide is particularly disturbing from my point of view, and (not to give spoilers or anything) its use as a possible game strategy.  I cringed a bit when I saw a 6th grader lending the 3rd volume to a 7th grader a week ago.  Yes, it is possible to read these books thoughtfully.  And those who are not thoughtful enough at this point of their lives to appreciate the questions they raise will certainly remember them vividly when they get older.  Still, I will try to keep my own children away from the Young Adult ghetto of moral ambiguity for awhile yet.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Randomday - Felted Socks

Just a few days ago I blogged about these finished socks for Steve.  He wore them Thursday and they fit perfectly.  Then he did a load of laundry -- now they won't fit on his feet.
I had just recently been singing the praises of Knit Picks yarns for socks.  I have been disappointed with Socks That Rock, Three Irish Girls, and a few other high-end, $30 a skein sock yarns because they either felted or wore out very quickly.  USUALLY I have found Knit Picks to be great in the durability department.  I have never had a pair of socks made with Knit Picks yarn felt, and they usually last through at least two years of steady wear.  These felted in the very first washing.  They were made with Essential, a discontinued sock yarn (although now they call basically the same yarn "Stroll") and I bought it at their warehouse sale over a year ago.  I wonder if it was just poor quality control?  Becuase it very clearly says "superwash wool" and "machine washable" on the label.  Life is just too short to spend over a month making socks for your husband that he only can wear once.  BAH!  I am now using the needles for a pair of socks for Daniel.  I had counted on these socks to keep Steve happy for at least a few more months until I had time to make him another pair.  Now I am sock-yarn shy and I'll just have to get back in the sock saddle and knit like crazy to get over the fear of felting.
The only sunny side of this is that they now fit me.  And I did need some socks, because I had given my own felted socks to Tertia and Quarta.  But I don't really like felted socks.  They aren't floppy and flexible like handknit socks should be, they are stiff and bulky.
There was a frost-covered spiderweb on the patio chair this morning.
I stayed up until 11:00 last night grading pretest quizzes for all three of my classes.  Then I labeled all the final exams and crossed out the sections that some students had tested out of.  Then this morning I updated my Gradekeeper files and emailed appropriate persons.  I still need to plan dinner for tomorrow and do my two or possibly three Latinstudy assignments.  And there is this pile of ironing.  And I am kind of depressed about all the socks I will need to knit.  And Daniel is leaving for 2nd semester early tomorrow morning. 
Oh yeah, if anyone does come forward to claim the pink dangly earring, it's lost again.  I suspect one of the cats.
Yep, lots of random today.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Finished Socks

A finished pair of socks for Steve, the first I've finished in about a year.  These are following the Simple Skyp pattern, but I made them toe-up using the MUMTU formula for toe-up socks.  My willpower held out almost as long as the yarn, but not quite.  I think they will be long enough.
I'm going to try to do better about making the utilitarian socks this year.  Last year was the year of 12 shawls, which were pretty and mostly relaxing to knit, but of limited use to the male members of the family.  I've already cast on a pair of Stashbuster Spirals for Daniel, but I'll have to mail them to him at school.  I'm assuming I will finish them sometime before Spring Break.
I have finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  I have a series of book reviews planned... stay tuned.
Anyone recognize this dangly pink beaded earring?  Possibly dropped at the Last Noel, it will be turned into a fancy stitchmarker if unclaimed.  I always wanted a fancy stitchmarker.  But please, don't let that stop you from claiming it if it's yours!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WIP Wednesday and first stash report of the year

The Easy Street blocks aren't much further along than before... every evening that I have a chance to sew, I make one or two.  But so far that hasn't been much!  I'm making the B blocks first because I'm trying to use a variety of lime green in each one and I need 9 different squares.  
In Seattle we visited two quilt shops and one yarn store.  I completed last year with NO yarn or fiber purchases (okay, maybe one sweater to unravel!), and only necessary fabric purchases, necessary meaning "needed to complete a specific project."  I was successful in using enough of my quilt stash that I decided I could buy some fabric, but I ended up only buying one yard of Seattle fabric at the West Seattle Fabric company, and 1 yard of northwest fish fabric at the Undercover Quilts store,  both intended for Steve for boxers.  And 4 FQs of Nancy Drew fabric, too, which I don't know yet what I'll do with, but it was just cool, you know?  I bought a Crazy Zauberball because I've always kind of wanted one at So Much Yarn.  Oh, and you can see the Apricot and Huckleberry teas we bought at Pike Place Market.  So: the first stash report of the year:
Stash Report:
Quilting fabric:
Fabric used this week: 0 yards (hope to finish Easy Street before end of January)
Fabric used year to date: 0 yards
Added this week: 3 yards
Added year to date: 3 yards
Net used for 2013: -3 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 420 yards for Steve's socks that are almost bound off but will be blogged later
Yarn used year to date: 420 yards
Yarn added this week: 450 yards for Zauberball
Yarn added year to date: 450 yards
Net used for 2013: -30 yards
I'm in the hole in both categories, but not by too much.
Normally I link up to Judy L.'s stash reports but I'll probably just wait until her next one.  Evaluating the WIPs, I'm literally almost finished with the first pair of socks, and the pair I want to make for Daniel is calling me but I need to clear the first pair off the needles first.  Easy Street is making slow progress, and the two other WIP goals I set for January have not even been touched yet -- they are the wool cat toy and the hand applique on the Piecemaker's calendar block.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adventures and Misadventures

So, last weekend Steve and I went up to Seattle.  We left before the kids were off school, leaving Daniel in charge.  Now that we have two licensed drivers among our children this is possible, although I'm still having a hard time wrapping the mind around it.
Seattle skyline, pretty as ever.  We stayed at the Hyatt, and our window looked out on the Space Needle.  It's kind of hypnotic to watch the elevators going up and down.  From a distance the flag on top looked like a giant bird, maybe even a pterodactyl.  But it was really just a Seahawks flag.
Saturday morning we walked down to Pike Place Market and arrived as many of the stalls were just setting up for the day.

For some inexplicable reason, we both were hailed as "cool" while at the market.  For me, it was in the little tea and spice shop were we bought apricot and huckleberry tea.  I was wearing my Cityscape sweater, and not one, not two, but three different shop workers thought it was amazing.  Yeah, it felt good.  For Steve, it was in the little quilt shop, where he showed the owners his app for identifying unknown songs - soundhorn, I think it's called?  They both thought that was amazing.  Well, it is, actually, it would be all I needed for a very long evening's entertainment.  But the point was, we were both considered cool... in Seattle, the epicenter of cool.  I know it won't last, but we did enjoy the experience.
Steve needs reminders to take pictures with his phone camera, but when he can, he always includes a highway.  It was unusually sunny and clear, but a bit cold.  We did a lot of walking.
 After the market and lunch at Starbucks (thanks, students, for the Christmas gift cards!) we took in the Asian Art Museum.  Lots of neat stuff there.  I liked the guardian camels, donated "for the enjoyment of the children of Seattle."  There was a cool conservatory building nearby, with carnivorous pitcher plants and tropical orchids of breathtaking beauty.  Then we took in a concert of Celtic music, which was quite nice.  Turns out it was the farewell concert for a local group that specialized in Scots Gaelic, and the opening act was a young artist, Kyle Carey, who combines Gaelic with Americana in a fascinating way.
Sunday morning we broke out of our mold and visited Mars Hill, something I've always been curious about.  Okay, check that off the bucket list.  The sermon was good, and I actually preferred the indie rock style music to what passes for worship music at a lot of modern churches.  But once is probably enough.
Then it was back to the wars on Monday.  Oh, what a Monday!  Worries about students' academic performance, backlog of grading.  Then the kicker.  I had taken advantage of the half hour assembly period to print out and copy quizzes and final exams.  When I got back to my computer I figured I had just enough time to click on one link... but then my browser froze up for a minute, and I looked down to do some grading while it unfroze.  I made a little plinking sound, and I looked up to be notified that antivirus had detected and neutralized a Trojan Horse, nothing to be concerned about.  Then the next thing I knew, I was staring at myself on my screen in a kind of "mug shot."  Framed around it was a stern warning that I had been caught downloading information illegally and my computer was locked and my personal information would be handed over to the FBI unless I clicked the little green button to pay the fine.  My own webcam had been hijacked and turned against me.
Okay, I'm not that stupid, thank you very much.  Nor do I have a guilty conscience because I do not download anything illegally.  I did what any techically-unproficient knows to do, I rebooted.  Still there.  Then I called Steve.  He was in a meeting but said he would try to deal with it in the afternoon, but when I got home maybe Daniel could try alt-F4 or something like that.  Then I had to teach my last class, and then I had teacher's meeting, and then I had to go to the doctor for my annual exam (which was more like my quadrennial exam ... I'm telling you, it was one of those epic Mondays!)  When I finally got home Daniel took one look at the laptop and went into Nerd Herd mode.  I left him to it, but it was like anxiously pacing back and forth while your loved one is in surgery.  Apparently this is the kind of virus that replicates itself, renames itself randomly, and plants itself in several places, and it has little minion malware offshoots that also seek to cause havoc.  I guess the technical name for it is ransomware, because it holds your computer for ransom.  I'd been having trouble with the firewall turning itself off for the last few weeks; don't know if that was related, but it might certainly be how it got on in the first place.  Daniel continued to debug and run system restores and virus scans and malware scans for a good 28 hours from diagnosis to the time late this afternoon when he pronounced the all-clear (at some point late yesterday, he got that stubborn look on his face that I know so well from other members of the family and pronounced that now it was a personal challenge!).  I had to go to school computer-less today, which wasn't all that bad because I rarely have time to do more than check messages anyway.
And the absolute cherry on the top of Monday was when I showed up at Starbucks for knit night and no other knitters were there.  I ordered my tall decaf vanilla spice latte to go and came home, tucked myself in bed, and knitted and read until I fell asleep early.
So I hope you understand why Kathy was not on the blog yesterday.  All political commentary, book reviews, and knitting and quilting updates will have to wait until the laptop and I recover from Monday.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Randomday in advance, with homophones

Steve and I will be gallivanting this weekend, so I'm doing a Randomday post in advance.  I can do that, right?  I keep thinking of good blog post topics but not feeling energetic enough to do them, but I am saving up for some book reviews at least.

This one is for my 7th and 8th graders:
The Consul, after taking counsel with the council, stepped to the radio console and gave a speech to console the public after the tragedy.

All of these homophones or near-homophones have a Latin equivalent that is plaguing us, except for the radio console (they didn't have radio or gaming consoles in Latin, and if they did they might call it an "instrumentum," but that's just a guess).
  • consul, consulis - 3rd declension noun, masculine by natural gender rule.  Two consuls at a time served as heads of state for the Roman Republic, and they were elected annually.
  • consilium, i - 2nd declension neuter noun, and please use the synonym "plan" or "advice" unless you can spell "counsel".
  • concilium, i - 2nd declension neuter noun.  Open the doors and "C" all the people on the town council.
  • consolor, consolari, consolatus - 1st conjugation deponent verb.  It means "comfort" and appears in the Isaiah 40 translation 8th grade is working on.
Okay, that's all the Latin for now.  No, wait... there's more.  I'm currently doing the Latinstudy groups for Caesar's Gallic Wars and Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English, have been for years now... and there is a brand new group starting up dedicated to Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, which I'm interested in joining even if it's a bit of a stretch for my ability level.  So the first assignment is due this Saturday, and I did it yesterday.  Addressing the goddess Venus as a kind of earth-mother life-force thing.  Anyway, all very interesting and we'll see how long I last.

I just today finished packing up all the Christmas decorations, but they haven't been schlepped down to the basement yet.

I declared today "Second Thanksgiving."  You know how Hobbits have second breakfast?  Since Daniel wasn't with us for Thanksgiving, and since I had an extra turkey in the freezer, I cooked it today and we invited Grandma over for supper too.  It wasn't as fancy a meal as real Thanksgiving, but we had mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, salad and mixed veggies, and now the kids will have leftovers while Steve and I are gallivanting.  Someone pointed out that it's technically "First Thanksgiving" if you go by the calendar year, which would make real Thanksgiving "Second Thanksgiving," but we won't go there.

Some people are not only finished with Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street mystery quilt top, but they've even got it quilted and bound.  I'm astonished.  This week, with school in full swing again and low energy levels, I thought I was doing well if I had time to sew at all.  There were two days that I sewed, and I got a total of four more blocks finished from the time I took this picture:
I'm also only making very slow progress on the socks I'm knitting for Steve.  I would really like to have them done.  But they're not.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Design Wall Monday with Easy Street Progress

On my design wall this Monday is Easy Street, Bonnie Hunter's most recent mystery quilt.  Dozens of overachievers probably already have the whole top finished, but I'm not an overachiever.  I have the border triangles done and 4 of block A (I'll need 16 total).  I even made one block B (I'll need 9 total) to see how it looks, but you can get an idea by putting two border triangles together.  I like it, but it's a lot of lime green jumping out at me!  I'm trying to figure out if it wants to be a Christmas-only quilt or if it could go all year round.  It's definitely a more "modern" feel than most of my previous quilts.

I have no stash reports this week because I haven't finished anything yet in this new year!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


The Last Noel has passed for another year.  I had the brilliant idea of making my filled raisin cookies with apricots instead of raisins:

They turned out very well.  We had almost 100 people show up... the house was humming:

The drinks station was popular.  Toward the end of the evening we ran out of punch ingredients and started passing out the leftover Otter Pops from last summer.  I picked up at least 20 empty ones off the floor in the girls' room last night.

Secundus' room was the site of at least 20 teenagers playing Mafia.

The littles were fairly hyper too.

We're tired today.  We had leftover sloppy Joes for dinner tonight.  There's not quite enough to take to fellowship dinner tomorrow.  But there are plenty of cookies and veggies.

I'm going to go sew for a little bit.  Quarta is watching the 4th Harry Potter movie while Tertia has her bath and the boys are at a birthday party.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January Goals, 2013 Goals

Happy New Year!  For those of us doing Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street mystery quilt, it's time to put the pieces together.  Do you like my little organizer tray? I salvaged it from the veggie tray I used for the teenage boys' party a few weeks ago.
After staying up a little later than I should have last night I have most of the border and corner triangles done.  I'm very excited to get more time to sew, but unfortunately I've invited the whole school over for Friday night's Last Noel party, and I have to cook.  Oh well.  If you like what you see it's not too late to get the pattern for the mystery at the above link; it will be taken down after a few months and will appear in her next book.  It has been a lot of fun making the little units without knowing what the final quilt will look like.
I'm working on some "Crumbs" 6" blocks for this year's Cedar Tree auction signature quilt.  It's rather depressing how many scraps are all over the floor in my sewing nook... this may put some of them to good use.
Here's a recycled picture of the socks I'm working on from two weeks ago.  I'm turning the heels now, so a little further along than this but I forgot to take a new pic.  Reading: I just finished The Hunger Games and am going to have to get the next volume out of the library; even though I don't like it that much, I have to read the rest.
A few days ago I listed some tentative sewing and quilting goals for this year:
  1. 1996 Piecemaker's Calendar quilt - hand applique, add embellishments, and finish top
  2. Classical-themed tote bag
  3. Bowling-style knitting bag
  4. Three-quarters bag (kit from Connecting Threads)
  5. Felted wool blanket
  6. Orca Bay quilting and binding
  7. Farmer's Wife quilting and binding
  8. Easy Street mystery quilt top
  9. Easy Street quilting and binding
  10. Crumbs auction quilt
  11. Hooked Rug in Mariner's Compass design
  12. heirloom linen blouse
  13. wool stuffed toy cat
  14. boxers in 3 different fabrics (at least)
  15. Frugal Patch quilt
  16. Civil War repro/ pine needles quilt
  17. Flannel baby quilts
  18. Set up an Etsy shop to help finance college educations
  19. the ultimate ongoing project: clean and organize sewing area!
  20. and have fun, or everything else is pointless.
Judy L. is having us list four goals we want to finish each month.  I decided to continue the random selection for one of the goals on the list, to keep the element of surprise that I enjoyed last year.  I'm mixing up knitting and sewing goals  And the random number generator came up with lucky #13 for the first month of 2013, so I guess my first goal is going to be the cat.  Now I have to dig out that pattern from somewhere...

January goals:
  1. wool stuffed toy cat
  2. finish Steve's socks
  3. make Daniel some socks
  4. hand applique one block of Piecemaker's calendar quilt
That would be good.  We'll see if it happens!