Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Randomday of 2016

It is only fitting that 2016 should end on a random note, don't you think? From political developments to foreign affairs to celebrity deaths to the millions of strange events in everyday prosaic life, 2016 has contained a sizeable portion of the random. In the spirit of this blog's Randomday, where we try to celebrate and not judge, here's some more random for you to close out the year.
This is what my quilting design wall has looked like for about 2 years now. There must be some powerful quilting endorphins going around in the En Provence mystery quilt that I fell into, because after not sewing much at all until November, I'm not only keeping up with the clues, but trying to move along some seriously stalled projects. Like this rainbow string star with its little starlets, which I've been mulling over how to get to a square for more than 2 years. I had the Kona gray solid for the background, 5 yards, bought in November of 2014.
I decided I was never going to be able to do the math to piece the little starlets into blocks and then those blocks into the larger background. This is what I consider the "old-fashioned" way: I borrowed Steve's tape measure, took a bunch of measurements, then made a paper template for the side insets that are shaped like a house. I even doodled out a basic diagram in my little quilt notebook.
 Just like cutting out a pattern in Home-ec class.
 Okay, why is there a clean spot on my carpet?
 Here it is with just the side insets.
 And then yesterday I cut out the squares. 26.5" square but it could have been an inch bigger. I guess I'll trim the side pieces. I'm sure those ripples will smooth out with a good pressing.
 And the little starlets will be arranged thusly, and be appliqued down. I can handle applique a whole lot better than figuring out the piecing. There may be a rainbow scrappy square border with an additional outer border of the gray. What do you think?
 I tried to get a different camera angle and while I was doing so, Muffball just casually sauntered in and lay down.
Apparently she votes for more gray. Won't make eye contact with the camera, either. She knows she's about to be scolded.
You should try the Stokes Purple sweet potatoes... they are very nice, not too sweet and pretty firm and dry, not mushy, when roasted. I made this Purple Sweet Potato Soup with a chile oil garnish with the ones leftover from Christmas dinner. It was good. I like the plain roasted potatoes better, and I would like the soup better if I used homemade vegetable stock rather than the soup base from a jar. But still, it's purple! I was going to say I'd never made purple soup before... but I have made Borsch. However, this is a different shade of purple.

Thursday evening before Daniel had to leave to catch his redeye back to Virginia, we played Rook with Tertia's new set of cards. I have fond memories of playing Euchre with Rook cards back in Ohio, when there were Baptists present who might have been offended by the presence of regular cards. This was the first time I had ever played Rook, which is just similar enough to Euchre to be slightly confusing. Also, whenever anyone declared "trump", Tertia got into a fit of the giggles and said "Donald Trump!" She couldn't quite figure out what the President-Elect had to do with her new card game.

We watched some nice movies and shows over break: Rogue One, The Secret Life of Pets, the BFG, some episodes of The Crown, and Henry VI part 1 and 2, of the Hollow Crown series. Despite having excellent acting, I felt they were a little too intense for Tertia, who loves Shakespeare but not gory battle scenes. We may bring out the video of Finding Dory tonight to try to rebalance things.

We went to a reception today for a wedding that took place in Texas a few weeks ago. It was a nice party to round off the old year. And as I watch Disney movies and stitch away this evening, I wish all the best to you in the new year: cowboy boots, fun fabrics and luxury yarns, good books, good music, good health, good friends, loving families and lots of laughter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

After Christmas, Mystery Quilt Progress

Christmas was great, and went by fast. We were able to get someone at church to snag a picture of the whole family:
 And Steve took one of the kids. That's pretty much it for family photos this year, everyone is in such fast transition. We only have the boys for a few more days, and it may be quite some time before Daniel gets back.
It has been harder to get multiple blog posts in a week this year, so excuse me for sneaking in family photos. But for some reason, Christmas season also kickstarts my lagging quilting and knitting, and I like to document them on the blog. First up is the En Provence Mystery quilt, and I'm linking up to Bonnie Hunter's blog with lots of other people sharing their progress: Part 5 Link-up
 I was able to get clue 5 done pretty easily. My purple stash is pretty well depleted at this point.
 I have the pieces for the mystery quilt in a small storage box, and since I finished this week early, I decided to work on some other sewing projects that had been lying around.
 Everything except the borders of Allietare had been done since last January, so I finally trimmed the edges and put the borders on. I think it's just a stunning quilt pattern, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.
You can't see it, but Orca Bay is underneath it on our bed. That was the first mystery quilt I did and I've been hooked ever since. This is the sixth straight year I've joined in. If you are happening to hear about this for the first time, you have a chance to get the clues for the current mystery still, at the website linked above. And you want to grab them while they are freely available, because Bonnie takes them down at some point so they can be included in a future book. I never thought I'd enjoy doing mystery quilts so much, but these are really quite addictive. My only concern is that I've fallen way behind in getting them quilted.
The other thing Bonnie got me hooked on is organizing my scraps. I still haven't perfected it, but I have been cutting strips of various commonly used sizes as I have different fabrics out, and today it was time to organize my 1.5" strips. Here's how they looked midway through. The box was completely overflowing when I started.
 Here's me laying them out in color groups,
And here they all are, fitting into the same bin neatly with room to spare! It made me really happy to get this done today! I'm partway through with the 2.5" strips as well. The 2" and 3.5" strips had to be organized to do the previous steps of the mystery quilt.
One other bit of sewing got done today. It was sad, considering the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, but I threaded up my machine with black and went ahead on these Star Wars boxers for Steve. I had wrapped the fabric for him, with the promise to sew it up after Christmas. Got it all done today, start to finish.
 And both boys were very happy with their handknit socks... they put them on right after unwrapping them.
So they fit, the boys like them, and it looks like I could knit socks and sew boxer shorts and my menfolk would be happy for Christmas presents and birthday presents. Seems like a pretty good deal to me! I still wish I could figure out that trick like they do in Harry Potter to make the needles knit by themselves, though. It takes me about a month to knit a pair of socks. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

En Provence progress

En Provence Mystery link-up is here.  I stayed up late Monday and finished all the units, and then I took pictures of them yesterday to post but got distracted with Christmas stuff, a brief internet outage, and our family trip to see Rogue One.
So I am all caught up with the mystery quilt and I should spend any spare time I have putting the borders on Allietare. But I am dubious because there is more Christmas work to be done, including all the wrapping. And about 7 more rounds of knitting to finish.
When Grandma came over Sunday she brought the quilt top she finished last week with the fabric she picked out recently. She had the center pieced but needed more fabric for the borders, and I think it's really cute. I tried to get a picture of Daniel, home for Christmas and kindly holding the quilt for the picture, but it came out too blurry.
I haven't blogged since last week... and we had a 2-day school-closing snowstorm, rare for this area. I feel for poor Smudge, but he is certainly well-fed, so don't let his pathetic meowing fool you. I suspect he makes rounds in the neighborhood and picks up extra food that way.
North and South, on our street.

And Smudge again, telling me I should give him more food.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Saga of the Feral Housecat... and Yarn-along

This is Muffball, the feral housecat, when she is on good terms with her humans and not on the defensive. She came to us as a stray, and let's just say she has trust issues. She doesn't like to be around people unless it is on her terms, and the humans are seated and not looking like they are going to try to corral her and take her to the vet.

That is exactly what I did on Monday; she had a raging case of fleas a month ago that needed a cortisone shot... but that did the trick, that and giving her the proper dose of flea medicine. This week was the checkup and catching up on basic vaccinations. But to go to the vet, I have to pick up a wary cat and put her into the cat carrier. This was much harder than you would think a month ago; Monday, it only took two tries, but she was so spooked that she peed on the kitchen floor, and my leg, as I was getting her in. She complained very loudly all the way to the vet, where she got shots and $60 flea collar ("it's a bargain because it will last for 8 months.") It took 3 people to put the collar on her Tuesday, after she had recovered from the vet trip and even been a bit affectionate to her humans; she peed on the Persian rug in the process, but we got it on her. We weren't able to clip off the extra length, but we called it enough for one day. She was even mildly affectionate yesterday evening, as we watched The Crown.
But today she slipped back to the basement after a quick breakfast, and was invisible most of the day. This is what a feral housecat looks like, sitting on a heating duct (and cutting off the heat to the upstairs in the process) in the narrow crawl space under the oldest part of the house. Humans do not go back there, not if they can help it.
 With flash, it looks even more spidery. (Warning to my boys, Christmas spoilers ahead).
 I do not think the collar is here, but if we could find it and try putting it on her again in a few days...
But I sure don't want to crawl back there. Frustrated, I spent a little time cleaning other parts of the basement this morning and afternoon. I have a pile of things to give away and maybe it's time to get rid of the crib and crib mattress too.

So here below is my entry for this week's Yarn-Along. The socks have advanced since a few weeks ago when I had just finished the first pair and cast on the toes. I have now turned the heel and am a third of the way up the leg. So both boys should have Stashbuster Spirals socks for Christmas. I am currently reading Death of a Nurse, the recent Hamish MacBeth mystery, and listening to an audiobook of Gone Girl.
Here's hoping that the missing collar turns up somewhere easily accessible, and dear little Muffin decides to be sweet again and go back to sleeping on the couch.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

En Provence: Purple Progress

It's another week of progress on Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt, En Provence, and we are hitting purple! Here  at the Quiltville link-up is where you go to see what others are up to. Not since making the quilt pictured above have I made such demands of my purple stash... and that was Christmas of 2012, for Quarta. She still has it on her bed, and Tertia still has Jack's Chain. That was back when Easy Street was the mystery quilt.
I love purple, but I don't use it that often. I found some lavender that I'd dried and laid the bunches out to show you that it really does come in all shades, and those are just the bushes I am growing in my yard. At first I decided to be systematic and cut at least one strip from all my purples.
Here's the lavender, all harvested and put into a spice jar. I'll use it occasionally in cooking, or in tea. I love the smell of it in sachets too, or just to rub between my fingers.
I decided to cut lengths suitable for 4 or 5 sets. Then I could match them up somewhat randomly and have a wide variety of 4-patches.
I underestimated the amount of strip cutting I would need to do. I think I should always cut three times as much as I think I need, because the first batch only covered about a third of the units I needed to make. That's why I didn't post this on Monday; I got sidetracked into the fun of making more purple patches. I'm still not done, but it's fun and I'm using up fabric. Here's one of the patterns I could make with the units I have so far:
The camera must have a hard time getting the color right under artificial lighting. This looks too blueish. I'm excited to see where this mystery takes me! I need to go back and cut a bunch more strips, and maybe organize my scraps before the next clue comes out. Happy sewing!

Monday, December 5, 2016

En Provence - In Search of Magenta

Today there is a linkup party going on at Quiltville for the En Provence mystery quilt. Be sure to check other entries out too!
I now have all the 4-patches finished from the first clue. As I went on, I tended to include only one or two patches in each 4-patch that were "outliers" and a little more noticeable than a typical neutral, and I think that will help them blend a little better. But also, my definition of "typical neutral" changed and broadened. I think these 4-patches will probably play nicely in the big quilt. Even the Halloween and 3 Little Pigs fabrics.
I have all the neutral triangles cut for clue 2, and some of the magenta. Or is it hot pink? I am requiring myself not to buy new fabric for this mystery, and I don't have enough of any one fabric, so I am going scrappy in a limited way instead of the recommended constant. I plan to use 5 fabrics that I tend to think of as "hot pink" but they are pretty close to what Bonnie calls magenta. I googled the difference between magenta and hot pink, and I'm not sure if I'm any the wiser. In fact, now I have to worry about fuchsia too! The fabric on top of the above photo is closer to what I think of as magenta, but I was counting it as red-violet and saving it for maybe use with the purples later on. As you can see, I'm a person who likes variety. I used to be a person who couldn't make up my mind, so when there's an opportunity, I now like to include a little of everything. And so I make scrappy quilts!
Here are some of my finished units. I plan on having units in multiples of 4 for each color, in case they are used in a star block like this, but the background neutrals will be scrappy. It reminds me a little of my Happy Stars quilt from five years back, probably because I used some of those fabrics against a neutral background. But I'm looking forward to getting into the purples and greens and seeing how they come together. It will have a very different feel with those colors added.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


A patchwork of thoughts from the scraps of the week...

I substitute taught Friday for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. It was so fun to show up for classes, because the kids had been told I was there to play games with them, and I actually had a cheering section going in. It went pretty much the way a game day in Latin should go: the kids had fun and had a good chance to practice while doing it. 5th grade got to take a sample National Latin Exam... this was a new concept for them but I think they enjoyed it. I played Jeopardy with 4th grade, and I could sense the wheels turning in their brains. 3rd grade was just like a bunch of eager puppies. Still, when I went home after noon I think I crashed on the couch and fell asleep from residual kid exhaustion.

I finished up the first clue in the En Provence mystery quilt today, and began cutting more neutrals for clue 2. I need to make some decisions about the magenta, which is supposed to be a constant fabric; I don't have enough of any one fabric in my stash, and I don't want to buy more fabric, so I'm going to have to make it somewhat scrappy. I'll decide when I get into the sewing for that color in the next few days. Yesterday morning when I went to print out the directions, the printer ran out of magenta ink. It must have seen the challenge coming and balked!

We watched Jungle book yesterday evening, and then Tertia wanted to watch Maleficent, which she had bought with her birthday money, tonight. I think the moral complexities of turning Maleficent into the hero, and some of the other characters into villains, were a bit much for her. Afterwards she told me she preferred the animated version of Sleeping Beauty, and fished the VCR out of the cupboard for next time. Everyone liked the Jungle Book reboot, though... I especially loved the use of Kipling's poem on the Law of the Wolves. Modern literature so rarely includes poetry, and I think it's sad that children grow up without it.

Steve worked very hard on raking and mowing for most of the day today. It seems weird to be living in a climate where grass needs to be mowed in December. Quarta said there was a chance of snow coming up, but that seems rather unlikely.

The girls had an orthodontist appointment this week; Tertia is out of braces but needed to have her retainer checked, and Quarta is still in a holding pattern, waiting for a very slow tooth to grow in far enough to work on.

I was pretty lazy all day today; I sewed and cut, and I ironed a bit, and I made some food for tomorrow's fellowship dinner, but that was it. And now I'm going to read before falling asleep.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thanksgiving Photo Dump

So I posted many of these on Twitter and Facebook last Wednesday and Thursday, but never on my blog. And with it being a week post-Thanksgiving, I'd better get them up here or forever hold my peace. Think of this as a photo documentation of the busiest two cooking days of the year, or a celebration of food, or something like that.
 I started with pies on Wednesday, baking two pumpkins. Only the pumpkin on the left was more like spaghetti squash and was not suitable for pie; on the right is what I think was a kabocha squash, not a pumpkin. It eventually made it into the pie.
 Mocha pecan pie
 kabocha squash "pumpkin" pie, with pie-dough decoration by Quarta
 classic apple
 Quarta made the cranberry sauce

 Nasturtiums and plum branches, still pretty in the garden.
 Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme... plus a little oregano and marjoram. From the garden.
 Thursday morning I started in on the stuffing. Stovetop, by popular demand.
 Most of the herbs went into the softened butter, to rub under the turkey skin.
 The setting up of the oven is an ordeal. You have to put the meat probe in first or it will complain, and the setting was convect roast, 325 degrees, with the probe set to 180. Obviously we were just warming up here.
 My well-worn copy of the Thanksgiving 1994 issue. The subscription was a gift from my late mother, and I always think of her and Thanksgivings past when I use it... which I still do.
 Whipped cream for the pies
 Tertia peeled potatoes... lots of them
 Quarta had made a sweet potato casserole the previous day
the bird, done. I like putting the butter/herb mixture under the skin, even if it makes it look funny; it stays moist that way.
 The table
 After the meal, the cook still has to get the meat off the bird, and then divide the bones into two batches for stock. Or as the current health food gurus call it, "bone broth," I make one batch in the crock pot overnight, and one stovetop until early evening.
Someone must have been watching football. It's just as well I'm a football agnostic. Grandma brought her poker chips
Peter really doesn't like having his picture taken, but I guess I had fed him well enough he couldn't complain too much.

That's all the photo-blogging I could manage before the post-Thanksgiving collapse. We missed Daniel, but he was at least with family on the other side of the country.