Thursday, December 31, 2015

Putting 2015 to Rest

2015... the year I pretty much became convinced we are re-living the fall of Rome, and our civilization is crumbling from within. I won't be sad it's done, but I'm not terribly optimistic, big picture, about the prospects for 2016.

George Will's column, highlighting the absurdities of the year without even touching on ISIS, Planned Parenthood,  Donald Trump, or gay marriage, is well worth a read. But it may depress you even more. I do hope for better things in 2016, on a family and community level maybe. I hardly dare hope for national or global sanity, let alone wisdom and good leadership. I think we are too far gone for that.

I do want to begin blogging more in 2016, or rather, return to blogging regularly and thoughtfully. It is a delicate balance between the real need for self-expression and the terrible burden, real or perceived, of being a crazy voice in the wilderness. It makes blogging exclusively about quilting and knitting, as much as I enjoy them, seem shallow and trivial, even self-serving. It makes blogging about education and the finer points of Latin grammar seem naive and pedantic. But those are also the topics that need to come out of my brain, for balance, for being grounded in a world where thought crimes lead to beheadings or prison sentences or having your life savings confiscated because you declined to bake a cake.  I promised a long time ago that this blog would be eclectic. I'll try to live up to that in 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Allietare progress, step 5

Once again there is a link-up party over at Quiltville, where people from all over are sharing their progress on Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt.
I have to say, I spent most of last week working on clue 4, which took me 3 days just for the cutting, and then an additional 4-5 days for the sewing.  I'm pleased with how they turned out, but I was glad I had a little sewing time on Christmas day itself just to get caught up.
 I was pleasantly surprised that when the clue for part 5 came out on Saturday, it seemed much simpler.  And it was, I'm already finished on Monday afternoon, and that's my best progress so far.  The pressing of the black/white/gray four-patches was a little tricky/ counter-intuitive, and not all my seams are perfect. But they never are, and I'm not worrying about it.
 I like to see the pieces add up!
Closeup of this week's units; I have a bit of a French theme with some of my fabrics. And Olivia the pig, of course. I'm excited to see how these units will be put together! I can definitely see Medieval/Renaissance stonework possibilities here.  Now with all the progress I've already made on this year's quilt, maybe for the next few days I can make a little progress on the borders of Grand Illusion. Either that, or organizing my scraps. Happy times in the sewing room!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The (annual) Post-Christmas Post

Wow, it is so easy for an old, worn-out Latin teacher to fall into slacker habits in blogging, even when trying to reform.  (I can only imagine what Donald Trump would say: "Kathy Chapman is a low-energy person. I like people who blog regularly and say nice things about me. What a loser!")

So in the annual tradition of blogging Christmas, here are the photos from 2015:

 The tree, a real purchased one this year! Without and with flash.

 The girls both had new sweaters, bought for the Christmas morning pics.
 And Quarta didn't give up until she found the perfect red scarf.
 Hopefully not too American Gothic.

 Pretty impressive, getting three big kids on the "throne"...
 ...while the Elf distributes the presents.
He seems to like it!

Other themes in the gifts this year: flannel shirts; Greek NT, lexicon and grammar; adult coloring books and pencils; a Dr. Who Christmas showing at Clackamas scheduled for tomorrow; promises of "dates with Dad"; Southern Literature; Star Trek boxers; Inside Out, Cinderella and Minions videos; smoked salmon and fat quarters.
Muffin had her picture taken before Christmas. She's still pretty shy on Christmas morning and avoids noisy, crowded events. But since we lost Bilbo (still sad about that) she has become almost friendly and lets us pet her occasionally.  It doesn't seem right to have Christmas without a cat under the tree picture, so I'm glad she put up with this one.

The meal was ham, Christian's potatoes, green beans, garlic squash, salad, and three kinds of pie - apple, blackberry and German Chocolate. The weather was nice enough that Steve and I had a walk in the afternoon to walk some of it off.

I will be taking kids shopping over the next few days, I think. We're also planning the Last Noel -- this, year, it's a week earlier because of Peter's school schedule.  I'm sewing when I can and keeping up better than I thought with the mystery quilt.  That's all for now!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Well, it's time once again for an update on the Allietare mystery quilt, and the link-up party with everyone else's progress can be found at Bonnie Hunter's blog.  If you haven't heard of the Allietare mystery quilt, you can find the first four clues there as well.  And it's looking very exciting and festive, I must say. Even though I haven't managed to sew a single stitch of this week's clue yet.
 I did cut out all the pieces, though! All 720 of them! I finished playing catch-up from last week's clue on Saturday (see the gold four-patches below), and I decided that since this week's clue had specific directions about reds and blacks needing to match for each set, I would do all the cutting at once.  It took me all of a family screening of "Up" and part of an old movie about a dead gangster and a judge switching places (Angel on my Shoulder? I think) to get through the reds.  Then yesterday evening Steve found the classic Charlton Heston/Rex Harrison movie "The Agony and the Ecstasy" and we watched that while I cut neutrals and began blacks.  I don't know how I managed never to have seen this movie before, but it was quite appropriate for an Italian Renaissance-themed quilting session.  It has a lot to say about the burden of being an artist, the unexpected turns that life can take, and the importance of staying true to your purpose. All in all, it made me thankful that I'm a relatively ordinary person and the biggest challenge I face is cutting 720 pieces of fabric the week before Christmas.
"When will you make an end?" shouts Pope Julius up to Michaelangelo, from the lovely tiled floor of the Sistine Chapel.  "When I'm finished!" Michaelangelo shouts down, spattered with paint up on the scaffolding.  He's a sculptor, not a painter, and he doesn't like being dependent on the wealthy and powerful for commissions; but once he catches the vision, he is stubbornly committed to see it through.  And yes, the color pallette of Renaissance Italy did have a lot of black, white, red and gold in it.  I'm letting the little bits of green and blue creep in here and there as long as the overall value of the fabric is right. I'm much happier with the look of my four-patches from last week after letting in some of the outlier fabrics.  I think this one will be a winner!
And here's the main part of Grand Illusion, all seamed together after last week, and I think I will wait until after Christmas to think about the borders.  Those loooong seams wore me out.  It's looking good too, though, and the corners mostly match up or are not too far off.  It just feels good to get back into quilting after a too-long hiatus.  The colors in this quilt (it was Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt from last year) remind me so much of my Grandma.  Both my grandmas, actually, but especially Grandma M., whose house was decorated in greens and blues and who loved pink flowers in her garden.  Anyway, I may not finish any quilts this calendar year, but it's shaping up to be a more productive 2016.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I can't even remember the last time I linked up to Ginny's Yarn-Along. I just haven't been knitting enough this year, I guess, and certainly not blogging enough.

Well, here is a finished project:
Socks for Steve, given to him on his birthday but finished at least a month before that.  The yarn is Palouse BFL sock yarn that I bought at Blizzard Yarns, and it is basic stockinette knitting, toe-up, with a Sweet Tomato heel. I haven't even entered it on Ravelry yet, but the yarn is a winner, having been worn at least three times so far without felting. (Part of my sour attitude toward sock knitting has come from some felt-prone yarn that spoiled 3 pairs of socks in a row that I knit for Steve. I don't think I'll ever buy Knit Picks sock yarn again).
And here is my current pair on the needles. I'm almost finished turning the first heel. The yarn is Kertzer On Your Toes that I bought at Tuesday Morning, they will be for me, and the heel is the basic toe-up gusset heel that I learned from Wendy Knits.

Books! I have been reading books, and not writing book reviews, all this long time I have not been blogging.  Most recently I finished To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.  It would be a great book if you like Dr. Who, Jerome K. Jerome, Agatha Christie, P.G.Wodehouse, Dorothy Sayers or any combination of them. Time-travelling, historical incongruities, inscrutably wise butlers, eccentric Oxford dons, witty dialogue, and lovable animals.  Oh yes, and the Bishop's Bird Stump.

Then there is Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, where he is attempting to do for the Norse gods what he did for Greco-Roman mythology.  It looks like he has a pretty good chance of doing that, and there is the same ADHD action and sassy humor that you probably love from his Percy Jackson books.  Spoiler alert: the 1st person narrator dies (right at the beginning).  It gets wilder from there.  I haven't finished it yet, though.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Allietare mystery link-up #3

On Mondays during the Allietare mystery quilt, there is a link-up party over at Bonnie's blog. It's fun to see people all over the world, working on the same project with their own color choices.  I usually have the previous week's clue finished and just a start on the current clue.  The above picture is where I ended up after a fair amount of stitching on Friday. I'm going for a scrappy look, but somewhat restrained on the neutrals since I need to maintain a contrast with my gray constant.  I really like that gray, but it's a bit light.
On this close-up you can see that I used a different red and neutral for each of the sets of the little houses/Santa hats. Yep, I like a scrappy quilt!
I am also trying to play catch-up and finish last year's mystery top, Grand Illusion. So I needed to make at least a start on seaming the units together once they were cut.  Saturday after I kicked out the computer gamers I claimed the family room floor and laid this out.  It was obvious the pieces would need to stay there until they were joined or stacked in a way I could remember them.  I completed all but the last two columns, and those are stacked.  So the rows are mostly webbed together, and this is what my machine looks like right now:
Um, yeah. I need to get the thing tuned up, because it's not stitching beautifully at the moment. I have to pull my fabrics through, so the timing must be off. Tough noogies, machine, you'll have to wait for your tune-up until after the mystery quilt!  I can't slow down now!
And this is how much of the current clue I have pieced, as leaders/enders between the long Grand Illusion seams. After looking at some of the other quilts on the link-up, I think I will add in some of my darker golds just to increase the variety, while keeping restrained on the neutrals.  I did make a trip to the quilt store last week and found a few new blacks and neutrals and one red. That was fun!

So, setting goals for this week, finish seaming the central part of Grand Illusion together, finish the little gold 4-patches. I can (probably!) do this!  Tis the season for finishing what we can from this year and setting goals for the new one!  Excelsior!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Randomday, with inclement weather

Once again I am setting a time limit on myself for a quick Randomday blog post.

It has been a wet, weather-ful week. Our basement has experienced more water than basements are supposed to... not sure if it is because the ground is simply too saturated or if there is too much water at the point where the gutters overflow and the porch concrete meets the foundations... or at the window wells.  So all week, I've been very thankful for the new roof. Because think how much worse it would have been with the old one!

Then tonight Quarta noticed that the exposed bricks on the chimney in her bedroom are damp near the ceiling. Peter hopped into the attic to confirm that there is some leakage.  Probably the flashing is not doing its job up at the roofline. So we have an email in to the roof people.  Steve will have to follow up with a call next week.

There was a tornado in Battle Ground Thursday, and I was in the school office to witness the absolutely torrential downpour that hit us while that was going on. Parents were carpooling kids to the church where the Christmas program is being held, and reported a hailstorm on the highway. Of course I-5 had a landslide and was closed to traffic northbound for a few days too. We had at least three families that couldn't make it to school. That's on top of all the cases of pneumonia and respiratory infections.  So far I have only had a low-grade cough, which I hope will go away very soon. When the worms and slugs are drowning, it is too wet, even in the northwest.

We have a tree. It is not decorated yet, but it has at least been started.  It would be good weather to have a fire in the fireplace and dry out the bricks.

I am making good progress on the mystery quilts (this year and last year's).  That's mainly what I accomplished today. That and a little Latin, and some Christmas shopping.  And worrying about the leaky roof.

Steve started watching The Ridiculous Six this evening because he wanted something mindless. It DID fit the bill, but I begged him to stop fairly early on. We switched to an old Cary Grant movie, People Will Talk, which was much nicer.  Now the girls and Steve are watching Mary Poppins.

I want to bake... a batch of granola, some homemade bread, and maybe these Wookie Cookies.  Daniel is coming home Tuesday.  I need to see about getting the whole family to have photographs taken.  We haven't done that since the boys were really little.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Allietare! - Mystery Quilt Link-up 2

It's the second link party for Bonnie Hunter's Allietare mystery quilt.  Check out all the quilts in progress! Even though I chose to stay with the recommended color scheme, I especially enjoy seeing the ones that are in a very different set of colors.  I'm pretty close to the recommended color scheme, anyway. My gray is on the light side, so I'm trying to stay with very light neutrals and not too many wild patterns.
 I tried both methods given in this week's clue; stitch and flip on the bottom, and then the no-waste cutting method, on the three top ones. They were both pretty accurate to the size required, so I switched to the no-waste method from then on. I am thinking about buying some more reds, because I really don't want to have too many (any?) bright reds. Many of my other reds are too burgundy/purple. The terra cotta red of tile roofs is what I have in mind, with some variations.
I don't have the Easy Angle or Companion Angle; instead, I have Fons & Porter's flying geese ruler, which is nice because it can be used to cut both 1/4 square and 1/2 square triangles from a strip of an even size. I was a little concerned that I might not be able to get the "headless geese" (although to me they look more like Tuscan rooftops), but it worked out fine.  I just used the baseline half an inch below the usual one for this width: the 2x4" line.

I'm liking the mystery so far; in addition to attempting to complete each clue within the week it is given, I am trying to finish the Grand Illusion top from last year. Last week I finished piecing all of the main block units together:
 This week I aim to piece together all the green checkerboard sashings and begin assembling the top.  I also would like to make some progress towards tidying up the wreck that is my sewing area, and organizing some of my scraps.
I can't believe how I let my quilting just drop for so long this year. I had almost all the units done, they just sat there for months. Glad to be getting back into it now.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Randomday... Go!

15 minutes to blog.

I finished the Dutch tree on Duolingo today.  Sinterklaas day seemed appropriate. Unfortunately my owl is invisible when I share it on Facebook.

Two days ago I set a record time on solving a cryptogram, beating the previous record (by the famous BS) by one second. The quote was by Jonathan Swift and I took 10 seconds to solve it.  I have to admit I did a happy dance, right there in the living room.  It doesn't happen often.

I subbed for 6th grade Latin twice this week. Sometime I need to blog about why I'm not teaching 6th grade this year, but it would take more than 15 minutes. Anyway, they are all very lively and fun, and I always forget how very literal they still are. One guy volunteered "I'm an ENFP, and that means I'm high on socializing and low on academics" or something to that effect. I hope this doesn't backfire, but I mentioned the initials "TMI."  Then yesterday evening there was a staff Christmas party, and I probably gained about 5 pounds and had to look up a few recipes on Pinterest this morning.

This morning there was a book fair at Barnes and Noble for Cedar Tree. Quarta sang, and I took Tertia along and we bought Christmas presents that we tried to keep secret from each other, and there was a single-round of Latin quiz game that I led. It was another very lively and fun event, and by the end of it I was dead to the world. I came home and cried from exhaustion (I'm an INFJ, and that apparently means I'm high on quiet contemplative activity and very, very low on socializing and loud noises) and did my Latin lessons and sent Steve off with the girls to watch Pan while I stayed home, cooked and sewed.  I made a soup for tomorrow's fellowship - I riffed on the sweet potato chipotle soup from last night and put in pumpkin, carrots, white potatoes, cilantro, and orange pepper as well. I also made a second pan of pflaumenkuchen.  Then I sewed five Grand Illusion blocks and two sets of the units for the current Allietare clue.

Time's up, going to bed to read.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Lendbreen Tunic

Since I'm trying to get back in the blogging groove, I'd like to share a fascinating video I discovered today.  It's the story of the Lendbreen tunic, an ancient (1700 years old) textile found in a Norwegian glacier, and the effort to reproduce it using the same techniques used at the time. They gave up on the handspinning because it would be too expensive to pay for the woman-hours. An estimated 760 hours of work to go into a basic garment.  I loved hearing the Norwegian spoken, and the sheep are just beautiful animals.