Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

It's not a great secret that I've been a somewhat negligent blogger lately.  More randomday posts than usual, less of the daily discipline of thinking coherently about something and writing it down.  I still love writing, and I'm still thinking thoughts both deep and frivolous that I'd like, in theory, to share with anyone who cares to read them.  It just hasn't happened as much lately, partly because it's more of a struggle to find a calm and centered mental place for writing.  I could have made myself write more, but it would have felt inauthentic to push a perky blog-voice on myself when I haven't really been all that perky.  But I'd like to get back to it more in 2015.

I'm not a huge one for New Year's resolutions, just as I'm not a big fan of all the little semi-superstitious rituals we do around holiday times.  I'm not, but then again, I find myself a little at loose ends without them.  I am sitting here at 11:15 p.m. on New Year's Eve and deciding not to do a big post about the year in review, and feeling a bit anxious and unsettled about it.  But hey, it's been a bit more random lately and I celebrate random too.  This evening, for example, we picked up Grandma and took her and the kids to the Petra House Jordanian restaurant.  Then after dropping Grandma back at her place we came home and played board games... Taboo, Clue, and Apples to Apples.  The girls are too hyper to go to sleep but they are heading toward bed; Tertia has had her rubber bands put on her braces and Quarta is at least not talking constantly and is hopefully reading in bed.  Meanwhile I opened a bottle of sparkling peach moscato and am sipping a half glass of it while the fireworks go off all around the neighborhood and the boys watch an episode of Psych.  Steve is too tired to stay up any longer and I would go to bed earlier if I could fall asleep easily.  And maybe I can, but probably not until the fireworks calm down after midnight.  I printed off the final clue in the Grand Illusion mystery, even though I have only finished the first three clues and have quite a bit of catchup to do.

So in brief, a few year in review things:  I read a lot of books, some of them of significant literary value, but have fallen away from reviewing them here.  I'd like to get back to that.  I really plowed my energies into the Duolingo website and app... starting a year ago with Italian on my then-new Kindle Fire, I worked steadily to learn Italian to prove my often-repeated advice that knowing Latin makes learning any Romance language much easier.  It did... I finished Italian in May, and also in May, I flew through a rapid review of my French which had lain dormant for 25 years.  Then I started Spanish, frequently noting the similarities with Italian, and then German over the summer.  I also started Dutch but have not pushed far with it because it is so close to German.  I did finish the German just a few days ago, and I'm setting a general New Year's resolution to advance through Dutch, and add a Scandinavian language and at least one other to my mix.  I'd also like to look more seriously at the Indo-European textbooks Steve got me last Christmas, which will be a little more meaningful with the broader experience of modern European languages I now have.  I haven't figured out ways of writing perky blog posts about language study quite yet, but I'm sure game to try.

I still knit and sew and quilt, but there has been quite a bit less of it at this particular stage of life, and my photography and documentation of my work has been quite a bit less than before.  I'd like to ramp it back up, but perhaps in a thoughtful way that won't overload my patience, if I can figure out the perfect balance.  I find I need to work with my hands to stay centered for the other work that isn't considered optional.  And I need to write down what I am thinking in some format, or life loses some of its purpose.  It's completely secondary whether anyone reads it.

So, kind readers, I wish you all a happy New Year, and that you may find the magic balance between creativity and chaos.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Randomday after Christmas

Somehow it always works out.  Christmas is stressful, we don't take enough family pictures, we eat too much ham and pie and candy, the youngest in the family has at least one meltdown and we become groggy, irritable and lethargic at least once during the evening.  We're not the kind of family that posts gushing Facebook updates about "best Christmas ever" or sends out those perfect family picture greeting cards.  We don't mock you if you are.  In fact, you are the impossible ideal and we have been forced to adopt a policy of admiration from afar.  No, perfection is not achieveable in this life and we aren't trying anymore.   But we still have pretty nice Christmases and they don't last long enough.
 I like this picture of Steve's mom, who joined us about 10:00 am for the opening of presents.  She was a good sport about not getting too many gifts herself and just watching while the rest of the family did their thing.  She enjoyed the homemade eggnog, sampled some of Daniel's plum wine, and I think she won all the games of cribbage she played.
 Peter bought Quarta a set of Minecraft paper animals and she spent most of the day crafting her menagerie.  Steve put together my old bedframe that has been in storage for years and we are going to get her a new mattress since the one she has been using is at least 50 years old.  She also has a Minecraft account of her own now, and fuzzy Minnie Mouse pajama pants.  Tertia has fluffy pink pajamas and a brand new Facebook account.  It may be the beginning of a whole new era.
 Steve gave me a hammered dulcimer for Christmas, which pretty much tops last year's gift of a Kindle (also spectacular), and was totally unexpected because it was, in my mind, in the category of Unachieveable Things that Might Materialize in the Far Distant Future.  I've always wanted one since I first started listening to Celtic music more than 3 decades ago, so I guess now is the far distant future from then.  Apparently in this futuristic world, one learns to play hammered dulcimer by watching youtube videos.  Or, since I'm kind of an intuitive learner, I just dived right in and started picking out things.  I can play Simple Gifts, Good King Wenceslaus, and the Star Wars theme (for Tertia) without too much trouble now.  I'm working on Come Boat me Over and an old harp tune that is NOT called Nonesuch but is similar, only now that I looked up Nonesuch I can't remember it and am picking out Nonesuch instead.  Such is the way my brain works, very prone to distraction.  I won't be earning money playing at dances and weddings anytime soon, but I am managing to make music.
My gift for Steve was a sweater he helped pick out himself when we were shopping at the mall, and the board game Ticket to Ride (Europe).  We played it last night and he, predictably, won by a large margin (yellow).  It's a fun game and I would like to play it again now that I have the feel for it.  I was green, Daniel was black, Tertia was red and Quarta was blue.  Afterwards we watched Peter's video of Guardians of the Galaxy.  Apparently this was the only thing he asked for for Christmas (it was the movie I took him to see on Family Day after Basic Training).  I'm really glad he remembered to ask for it again right before Christmas or I wouldn't have been able to snag the next-to-last copy at Target.  It finished after midnight.

Today was a nice lazy day.  I celebrated my 1 year anniversary of using Duolingo by finishing my German "tree", and Steve and I took a 2 mile walk, and Daniel is catching up on the last few episodes of an entire missed season of Doctor Who (with the girls' help) so that maybe tomorrow we can watch the Christmas special.  I am trying not to eat all my chocolate, and there will be our traditional Ham Pasta dish for dinner, and there are still a few slices of the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie that I didn't make for Thanksgiving.  Soon enough we will start the after-Christmas shopping trips to buy clothes, and the kids will choose their annual "date with Dad."  And soon after that school will start up again and we will need to plan the Last Noel.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Braces and Baby Steps

 Tertia and Quarta had appointments at the orthodontist today. It was Quarta's day to get bands and upper brackets put on. Tertia is now wearing rubber bands to pull her lower jaw into alignment with the upper.  She cannot put them in herself.  I can put them in, but it apparently takes 20 minutes to do it.  I'm hoping to improve that speed.
 Quarta seems a lot taller.   She is also much more verbal than Tertia, and will be sure to tell me if she's in pain.  That doesn't mean that I can do anything about it, of course.  Tertia is nearing the end of her braces adventure: she'll be wearing a retainer then, and biding her time until she can get some dental implants to fill that big gap on top.  With one family member or another, it seems like I practically live at the dentist's office these days.
It's Christmas time, and I'm not really doing anything about it.  I'm taking baby steps on the Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt... this is clue 3, a little more than halfway done.  The mystery link-up is technically for clue 4 but I'm happy to be this far along.  I really like the green and white checkerboard with bits of black.

Here's what I should be doing, but am not: cleaning the house; organizing all the new orthodontic supplies and cleaning the kids' bathroom; baking cookies with no nuts or sticky bits to get caught in braces; writing thank-you notes for all the teacher loot I received; grading and updating the SchoolSpeak database; shopping, cooking, and menu-planning; writing Christmas letters; making New Year's resolutions to be much, much more organized and productive than I have been this year.  Nope, I don't think so.  I'm finding the amount of cooking and cleaning I'm doing is therapeutic, and so is the quilting.  Not going to push it beyond that!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Randomday before Christmas

I'll make this quick.  Christmas is a complicated thing.  We like it in our house.  But I don't necessarily like the production that goes into it.  And here we are, four days out, and only two days into Christmas vacation, and I have no master plan, no clean house, and no real energy to make Christmas happen.  And somehow, that has to be all right.  It's kind of okay for me, but I'm a little worried about the rest of the family.  Okay, a lot worried.  I mean, they're big kids now and all, but somewhere deep down, I'm sure they're all expecting Christmas Magic that I don't have.  I've been using up all my energy to teach Latin lately when, trust me, I'd rather be scrubbing toilets and baking.

Daniel came home from college, arriving late Wednesday evening.  It's great to have him back.  Peter had his training weekend for the National Guard last week and reportedly spent a lot of time standing at attention.  Tertia's class went to see the Nutcracker and she really enjoyed it this evening when we watched "Elf" as a family.  Quarta had her first official orthodontist appointment to put expanders in and then, Tuesday, gets the full treatment for braces, just in time for Christmas. It will be interesting... she does not suffer in silence, unlike Tertia, who if you remember, had a cavernous mouth wound caused by her braces for a week without uttering a word of complaint when we were on vacation last summer.

Steve and I had a date last night, went to the Petra House Jordanian restaurant, and did a modest amount of Christmas shopping.  I'm planning on cooking the second turkey of the year tomorrow for after church.  Kind of a late Thanksgiving dinner for Daniel, and of course, the rest of us like turkey too.  Then next week, a little more shopping and cooking will get done, but I'm not sure about the baking.  I seem to be falling short on the baking and cleaning lately.

I have been trying to get in a little sewing time every day on the mystery quilt; not so much because I plan to get it finished or anything, but because working with my hands helps me stay more cheerful during the stressful Christmas season.  Surely I'm not the only one.

Also, I wrapped up a fun game of Civilization 4 Caveman to Cosmos today; I played at an easy level on the fastest settings and smallest map possible on that mod, and with a random start I ended up as the Canadians.  The units said "eh" a lot.  I conquered the four other civs on my home continent: the Danish, Indians, Slovaks and Phoenicians, and then I had the game well in hand and put myself on the fastest track to navigation so I could sail over to the other continent and fight with the Manchurians.  Romans were also in the game but they weren't much of a power.  I decided to quit in 795 B.C. after discovering chemistry, since there wasn't really anything left to prove.  There's something profoundly satisfying about laying waste entire civilizations and controlling 92% of the world, even if it is a fictitious world.  This is why I will never run for public office.  The temptation to do something dastardly to, say, North Korea would be too great.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Midweek Updates on Quilting and Knitting

It has been a hard few weeks at school, and I have come to realize that I cope with it so much better if I insist on doing some creative work with my hands every day.  So this week has been a little better, so far.  Because I have insisted on going into my little cubby and doing a little sewing every day.  Also, if you haven't seen already, Sew Mama Sew is doing their giveaway week, and that will lift any crafter's spirits! Currently, I'm plugging away at Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion Mystery.  I didn't finish clue 1 until yesterday, and now I have a start on clue 2.
 I don't have the same Easy Angle ruler as Bonnie uses: mine is the Fons & Porter ruler designed for flying geese, but I use it for both half-square and quarter-square triangles.  I wavered a bit on which of the three methods for clue 2 to use; I was going to just use the stitch-and-flip method, but after looking more carefully at method 2 I decided I would try it and not have to waste fabric or stress about what to do with my bonus triangles.  So I sprayed the paper template with a few shots of machine applique adhesive and taped it onto the ruler like this, and it seemed to work fine.
 This is how my ruler works cutting the neutral diamonds... you can see I'm using some of my vintage sheets.
 And you can still use it to cut the corner triangles, just don't look at the paper template while you do it.
 I have 6 of my diamond units so far.  I think the rest will go fairly quickly once I get a little more cutting done.  I am loving the color combination in this quilt!  It makes me think of my grandmothers' generation, living in the Midwest in the mid-century.  I'm trying to pick very scrappy fabrics that mostly have a vintage feel.
 This is last week's clue: all finished at last.  Maybe the skull and crossbones fabric is not so vintage looking!
And I am still knitting on Azzu's Shawl, which I started more than 2 months ago.  It only has 10 more rows to go, though.  On the Kindle, I'm still working on reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and my daughter is still disgruntled with me for not having finished the latest Percy Jackson book yet.

Now, I've chatted long enough and I need to go do some therapeutic sewing.  Enjoy checking out the other projects on display this week:

Quiltville's Mystery Monday Link-Up
WIP Wednesday

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Randomday with Assorted Holidays

Sinterklaas day: I found this completely delightful assortment of St. Nicholas songs, in Dutch, to celebrate with.  They bring back such fond memories of  my mother, who used to sing almost all of them.  My parents lived in the Netherlands for 4 years and I was born in year 3; a lot of these tunes are familiar from my very early childhood, when the language and culture must have still been fresh in her mind.

A difficult week at school, capped off by what I will probably remember as the St. Nicholas Day massacre, when I intercepted one of Those Notes, spiteful and immature, punctuated by more "lol"s than any decent writer could stand to see in a lifetime.  It was written on a bright neon pink 3x5 card that was supposed to be used for studying Latin grammar rules, but obviously the 4 joint authors and unindicted co-conspirators don't see much value in the study of Latin or have any respect for the teacher.  Funny how they think I won't notice something so bright, passed hand to hand during what's supposed to be quiet work time.  Not since the "pretend to shoot Mrs. Chapman when her back is turned" note years ago have I been as disgusted with a class.  They should get coal in their klompen. It's been 15 years of this, the long dark middle-school of the soul, and I'm teaching kids who weren't even born when I started.  And it's not really any easier.  I don't think the teachers who don't teach the most-hated subject can understand.  "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" is a tragic movie.  Peter O'Toole is brilliant in it but I can't bear to watch it anymore.

Oh well, on to Christmas.  I somehow lost my taste for ballet and so today instead of the Nutcracker I took the girls to see Journey Theater Arts' production of White Christmas.  We know several cast members and it was a lovely production, very professionally presented.  Quarta now wants to watch the movie version sometime soon.  I could do that, I suppose.  Right now, though, we're watching the live Peter Pan recording we started yesterday.  "How old is Wendy supposed to be?" asked Quarta.  "About as old as you, just about ready to become a young woman but still enjoying being a child," was my answer.  That makes one think.  Also today, we went shopping for some Christmas lights and Steve and Peter put them up on the front fence and the gable over the front door.  Sometime very soon I will need to clean the house and figure out how to organize the Christmas shopping.  And here's how you say "bah humbug" in Latin: "Phy! Fabulae!"

I've been working through a translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History for the Latinstudy group, and we are stuck in the interminable debate over the correct observance of Easter.  That part, as Steve observes, is tedious to read in English.

I did not get any sewing done on the Grand Illusion mystery quilt today.  I did mix up a pflaumenkuchen to take to fellowship tomorrow.  Yesterday I taught Steve how to make fudge.  I hope to have a chance to do more domestic things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and sewing soon.  I keep hoping!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mystery Monday Linkup on Thursday

I knew, diving into my 4th Bonnie K. Hunter mystery, that it would not be realistic for me to keep up with all the clues.  But that's okay.  I love these mysteries a lot, and for the 4th holiday season in a row, I am looking forward on a weekly basis to the clues coming out, and rummaging in my stash to make them.  I have about 20 more of the half-square triangles to sew, all from my very scrappy stash; but I've only made this one 4-patch of the Broken Dishes unit.  As you can see, I like my fabrics scrappy, that's part of the fun for me.  My big debate is whether to go with the current gold color (I have just slightly less than 1 1/2 yards of it) as a constant, or to just rummage in my yellows the same way I am rummaging in my blues and pinks and blacks.  I may just wait to see what others are doing for the next few weeks and decide later.  You can see more of the participants and their work here.
 (some of my fabrics under consideration for the quilt)
 This is currently the quilt I've got on my design wall.  It was based on Bonnie's Santa Fe String Star, but I'm heading in a rainbow direction with it and very excited about the potential, but a bit nervous about how I'm going to set it.
 I want to somehow incorporate these cute little stars in the setting.
The background is going to be a medium gray solid.  That's all I know so far!  I don't want to take the pieces down from my wall because I'm enjoying looking at them too much.  Oh, for lots more time to quilt!