Friday, October 31, 2008

Just a Bit of a Rant

There are many good things about going away for the weekend. There is the change of scenery. There is not having to cook. There are different-from-the-usual activities. There is time to talk, uninterrupted, during the car ride. There is the occasional quilt shop en route! Many good things.

One of the very best things about going away on the weekend before the election is not having to answer the telephone! Already I'm receiving on average two calls per day from people or machines I don't know, urging me to vote for or against a particular candidate. I know that this will intensify over the next few days. Intensify to the point where I'm likely to just take the phone off the hook when I'm home. I already check the Caller ID now and don't answer any calls that are UNAVAILABLE or from a 800 or 888 number. And when I'm downstairs where I don't have a Caller ID phone and I stop sewing to answer a call from a political source, I get peeved.

Who in their right mind would vote for or against a particular candidate because someone they don't know calls on the phone -- likely interrupting something one wants to or should be doing -- and urges that particular voting? Who, I ask you?

I've received so many calls in recent election seasons from our Congresswoman and her staff and her machines that I've told her that if she isn't able to manage a simple request from a constituent to be removed from a calling list, I surely wouldn't trust her to do anything more complicated. Like govern. And so, if I get another call, I'll vote for her opponent. Simple as that.

And -- even worse -- does anyone at all listen to recorded messages that come into the home? Much less take voting counsel from a recording? An automatically dialed machine-recorded instruction? Huh? Don't the politicians realize how utterly annoying and insulting this practice is?

I don't get it.


Heading South (Just a Little Bit)

We leave today for our annual weekend in Chestertown, Maryland. I've written about it on this blog previously. It is always a lovely and enjoyable weekend.

This year we're staying in this room at the White Swan Tavern. We've stayed there before and always found it enjoyable. This particular room is one of the nicest, though not the most costly. It is the only one on the ground floor and was the original kitchen for the inn.

Tonight we'll go down to the waterfront and see the tall ships illuminated for Downrigging Weekend, and tomorrow we'll go for a sail on one of them. The afternoon will be devoted to watercoloring for Joe and shopping and a nap (I've picked up the inevitable headcold going through Upper School) for me.

It is a lovely break in routine, one we've come to thoroughly enjoy each year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rosa Sat

My friend Renie sent me this quote and I thought I would share it.

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked, so Obama could run.
Obama is running so our children can fly."

--source not known to me

First Snow

First snow. Not just first snow of the season. First snow ever.

This is a picture of Sarah, a 15-year-old who has recently come into my life (as if working at a school didn't provide enough teenagers!). Let me tell you just a little bit about her.

It started summer-before-last when my sister Bonnie and a young friend of hers, Rose, spent three weeks in Ghana, teaching creative writing at the Heritage Academy. It was a life-changing experience for both. And for another, as it happens.

Upon returning home, Rose, who is presently a senior in high school, asked her parents if they might help Sarah, who had just finished eighth grade in Ghana, come to the United States for high school. Her parents agreed, and so a year of anticipation and preparation began.

A scant month ago Sarah arrived, alone, on an airplane for the first time in her life, from her village in very rural Ghana, at JFK airport. She's now living with Rose and her family, and Bonnie is her new grandmother (which I hope makes me her new aunt). She's attending a local parochial school and already doing very well. She's learning about the joys of marching band (her new family has three members as participants this year) and shoe stores and squirrels and all kinds of things unknown to Ghanaians. She's 15, finding out about homesickness, and has one of the best smiles I've ever seen. And she likes spaghetti and meatballs.

While the kids at my school were ga-ga with glee when the unseasonable huge, floppy snowflakes came tumbling down yesterday, none of them knew the joy that Sarah did. For it was the first snow of her entire life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bill and the Batiks, Part Two

I've had more time than usual for sewing these past few days. The love of my life is out of town pursuing mandatory continuing education credits in Madison, Wisconsin, thus leaving me to my own devices with no one to answer to between 4 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.! He phoned the first day he was gone and said there were some snow flurries and I thought that was awfully early. By golly, it is still October!

Spoke too soon. For guess what started coming down Near Philadelphia around eleven this morning? Yup. Great big floppy snowflakes. The students freaked and some nervous preschool parents even phoned to see if we were closing early. The snowflakes, meanwhile, had no idea why they'd come in the first place. They'd heard something about a World Series, I suppose . . . .

The batiks. Oh, my. Can't get enough of 'em. The blocks go together quickly and making them is kind of like eating peanuts. You know, "Just one." Hah! Before I took this picture, "just one" had morphed into four without batting an eye.

And, take a look at Bill! I'm pretty pleased with his first border. I think what is called for now is a wide cream border and that is all. I wanted the center of the quilt to kind of "float" on the cream, so when I cut my side triangles, I did the math according to the recipe and then added about two inches. Worked out just the way I'd hoped it would. The more I think about it, the more I hope I'm going to be able to part with him!

Being home alone, it is taking me a little longer to fall asleep at night. Last night as Bodacious and I tried to get warm, I started thinking about the Sister's Choice block and my Civil War FQs and a plan formed. I've told myself I simply have to clean up the "studio" before I start cutting anything new.

Will power not being my strong suit, we'll see.

Monday, October 27, 2008

May, June, August

We'd read the book years ago, after our friend No Blog Nita recommended it. We loved it. We recommended it to everyone we knew. We read it again. And yet it never occurred to us that someone would make it into a movie.

When we heard that someone had, we were a little bit nervous. Would they do it right? What would they compromise? What would they butcher?

Last night my sister Bonnie and I went to see "The Secret Life of Bees." We laughed. We cried. We gasped. We loved it. I said to her at the end, "If you didn't think it was perfect, please don't tell me." She said, "I thought it was perfect."

See it. See it with your sister, if you have one. If not, go with your girlfriend. It's perfect.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And How Do I Contact You?

A handful of people have left comments on my Mittens Swap post that they would either like to participate or would like to know more about it. But they didn't give me their email addresses.

If you are one of those people, please know that I am unable to intuit who you are and how to get in touch with you.

I'd love to have you participate in my Mittens Swap. And the first step is for you to give me an email address so I can send you the criteria. Come on! Shirley in PA and Knitting Auntie (aka Sharon), I'm talking to you! (And anyone else who may be interested.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bill and the Batiks

Bill's making great progress. I've had a lovely time cutting and pairing the FQs to make the pieced blocks and then trying to place them among the non-pieced blocks so that same fabric edges don't touch. I always liked puzzles . . . . Anyway, what needs to happen next is the cutting of the side and corner triangles. Going to use that cream that you can see on the left side for this, and then decide about any additional borders. Might want some, might not. I don't draw out my quilts ahead of time like Turbo does, so I don't know about borders, really, until after I get the main part together. Clicking on the photo will make it large enough to see the pretty fabrics.

As smitten as I am with Bill, as I've been working on this project, someone very dear to me who has been through a very hard time has been in and on my mind and heart, and I'm thinking this quilt just may be for her.

What have we here? Well, they are batik blocks made from a couple of sources. Some month back I won some small batik cuts from a give-away that Amy was having (she's busily nesting, and I remember that feeling), and I had a delightful time pairing them and making four-patches. I didn't know what I was going to do with them, but it was so much fun to do them as a leader-ender project.

Recently I joined another swap list and lo! and behold! one of the very first swaps that they held was 2.5 by half WOF strips of batik! Two days ago I came home from work to find my 100 assorted strips had arrived. And right away I knew they were destined to frame the four-patches. I pulled out a bunch of the four-patches that looked nice together and then started pulling strips and pairing them up. Being half-WOFs, I could get either the short sides for two blocks or the long sides for one block out of a strip. Either way, leaving a small bit of residue to go into the bitty scrap bag for Turbo. Again, you should be able to enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Truth be told, I'm not getting much else done in the way of responsible tasks like the laundry, like the dishes, like -- well, you get the idea. I am obsessed with these! Am mixing in some strips from batiks in my sizeable bin, because out of the 100 strips I received, only about half are in this color scheme. Which, of course, will leave me plenty of opportunity to pursue another project!

After some of the hard times I've had to report in the past few weeks, I'm so glad to be taking such joy in playing right now!

Back to the cutting table . . . .

Friday, October 24, 2008

Keep Those Hands Warm!

Last weekend when we were on our quilt retreat, somehow the conversation turned to making blocks with appliqued mittens. And swapping the blocks. It sounded delightful.

In my alleged spare time, I run a small quilt block-or-fabric swap list, and I posted this proposed swap there soon after coming home. There haven't been a lot of takers so I thought it might be interesting to cast a wider net.

In general, we are talking about 6 blocks to a set, 9 inch finished, cream background, and mittens in your favorite mitteny colors. Applique techniques would include regular applique, needleturn applique, machine buttonhole stitch, hand buttonhole stitch, whichever is your preference.

If this is something that even vaguely interests you, leave me a comment and make sure I can email you back, and I'll send you the complete set of guidelines. If you don't give me your email address, we can't go further with this!

Meanwhile, keep those hands warm!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Election Alert

Polly sent me this story this morning and said that had verified it as something to be concerned about. I do not generally pay much attention at all to anything that urges me to "tell everyone you know," but after that whole Hanging Chad mess, I thought I'd just put it out there for people to think about. Could it hurt?

THE PROBLEM: "Straight party voting" on voting machines is revealing a bad pattern of miscounting and omitting your vote, especially if you are a Democrat. Most recently (Oct. 2008), a firm called Automated Election Services was found to have mis-coded the system in heavily Democratic Santa Fe County, New Mexico such that straight party voters would not have the presidential vote counted.

STRAIGHT PARTY VOTING is allowed in 15 states. Basically, it means that you can take a shortcut to actually looking at who you are voting for and instead just select a party preference. Then the voting machine makes your candidate choices, supposedly for the party you requested.
HOW TO PROTECT THE COUNT against Straight Party Trap:

1) NEVER CHOOSE THE STRAIGHT PARTY VOTE OPTION, because it alerts the computer as to your party preference and allows software code to trigger whatever function the programmer has designed.


3) ESPECIALLY GET THE WORD OUT TO PEOPLE IN THE FOLLOWING STATES, which have straight party voting options: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin


5) LOOK FOR UNDERVOTES (high profile races with lower-than-average number of votes cast) and flag them, post them, bring them to the attention of others for additional scrutiny.

Details, links to documents, news stories, more specifics

Voting machine miscounts of straight party votes were proven by California researcher Judy Alter in the 2004 New Mexico presidential election; in Alabama Democrat straight party votes were caught going to a Republican, and Wisconsin a whole slew of straight party votes disappeared altogether. Both DRE and optical scan machines are vulnerable. Private contractors are involved; private firms like LHS Associates, Automated Election Services, Harp Enterprises, Casto & Harris and others will program almost all systems in the USA this November. ES&S scanners were involved in examples cited, but Diebold has also issued a cryptic Product Advisory Notice in 2006 about unexpected results from certain Straight Party option programming practices.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

That Was Then. This Is Now.

95 words


Hmmmm. Used to be 106. That was 45 years ago. Oh, well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Quilting Continuum: Two More Thoughts

Conversations today on the recent post about The Quilting Continuum have yielded two more thoughts:

1. For me, and for some others, quilting is not about the destination. It is about the journey.

2. With the price of fabric anymore, intricate projects that take a long time make a lot of sense!

The Quilting Continuum

Often when someone looks at one of my quilts, she will ask, "How long did it take you to make that?" At first, this seemed like such a strange question, as though the person was going to weigh the answer and decide whether she was willing to invest that amount of time for that product. After a while, I realized that this really wasn't where the people were coming from; rather, they were interested in having a conversation about the quilt and didn't really know how else to begin.

My answer to their question is something like, "I can't answer that. I don't think about quilt-making in that way. I always have three or four in progress." I have never once tried to keep count of the hours spent in a particular project. That would serve no purpose for me.

I was writing to a far-away cousin about quilting this morning. She isn't a quilter (yet) and is on the cusp of jumping in. She has a million questions (and mercifully, "how long?" isn't one of them!) and while I was writing to her to explain that I really can't teach her via email how to make a quilt, there were thoughts I could share with her to help her formulate her own questions of herself. One had to do with the time involvement.

Coincidentally (or maybe not), Tanya wrote something about this today in her post "Productivity and Excellence." I found her thoughts to be illuminating.

In my very early years as a quilter, one of the things that concerned me was how long it would take to make a quilt. New to the craft, I was eager to see completion! (That old demon of instant gratification again.) In recent years I've found myself getting grumpy when I see books and magazines about making quilts very quickly, as though there were no pride in the quality of the finished product, just churn 'em out.

I've come to see, though, that there is a kind of a continuum with magnificent, intricate quilts at one end and quickly pieced, huge-block quilts at the other. Handquilting and prairie points at the one, "give birth" method and perle tying at the other. When I look at my quilts, I can see where I was on the continuum for each one. I've become comfortable with the balance of where I am most of the time, knowing that there are times when I need to get a quilt done more quickly and times when more painstaking work is in order. The Ecclesiastes writer talked about this long, long ago.

Tanya says, "I wonder what a good balance is between productivity and excellence. . . . It was good to visit the exhibit and think about what is important to me when making quilts."
It was good for me, too, Tanya.

The quilt pictured above, a baby gift from several years back, is one that speaks to this issue. I had such fun selecting from among the many batik FQs I had to make the favorite Louisiana block. I was happy that they went together quickly because I was eager to pair up the next set of fabrics. Once the blocks were pieced, I took a long, long time, moving them around on the wall until I was pleased with the arrangement. And then, because I had fallen in love with this quilt, I knew it warranted the long process of hand quilting.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

White Oak October 2008: Part Three -- The Things We Made (Well, Some of Them)

Turbo was working on this project which she made from cut-up men's shirts. Actually, the men themselves weren't cut up. It was their shirts. This quilt won the prize for the best name: Josh Lyman's Pajamas.

I couldn't get enough of this absolutely spectacular Halloween quilt that Nubbin was making. But she didn't offer to let me take it home. :-(

I'd put this quilt together ages ago after buying charm packs at the Lancaster show back in April. I'd bought the border fabric then, too, but didn't know how to miter the corners. I brought it along because I believed Sherron would know how and would also teach me. I was right.

Turbo didn't work on this quilt during this retreat. But it is so spectacular that I just thought I'd post a picture of it here anyway.

Judy seems to be in her Snowball Period. Here she is working on her third Snowball quilt. This one is a king size.

Everyone was intrigued by this quilt that Marsha was working on. Called Rubik Rings, she was looking for border ideas. Rather than help her with that, people instead urged her to teach them how to make the block. And she did.

I worked on my swap blocks, finishing all eleven Air Castles and all eleven Judy's Stars.

The night we visited with Bonnie Hunter, people mused about what quilt block they could be. Someone said I'd have to be Philadelphia Pavement. Someone else said I'd have to be Near Philadelphia Pavement but there wasn't such a block. Then. Turbo took the classic Philadelphia Pavement and adapted it into Near Philadelphia Pavement.

Bonnie, my sister, has been working on this batike Shakespeare in the Park variation for quite some time. Isn't it gorgeous?

Bonnie's current project is a gift for a young woman from Ghana who has come to this country to attend high school and Bonnie is one of her major sponsors. Sarah's going to need this quilt soon.

Eileen was working on this absolutely stunning quilt made from florals from various designers. Wouldn't you just love to take a nap under it?

One of Helen's projects for the weekend was this pretty lap quilt her difficult mother-in-law had requested. As to whether or not the quilt will actually reach its destination, one is referred to its name, the first runner-up in the imaginative names competition: Fat Chance, Old Lady!

White Oak October 2008: Part Two -- Pillowcase Party

On Saturday night after dinner, Helen and Eileen were kind enough to offer a pillowcase-making workshop and many of us chose to participate. Here are some of our pillowcases.

Helen uses hers as a Sari

Marsha's pillowcase is in her trademark favorite colors

My first pillowcase is for Sam, who likes "diggers"

Then I made a pair to go with the quilt on my own bed

At one point in the process, there is a definite element of pulling someone or something out of a coccoon. Here Rob helps me with my first pillowcase.

White Oak October 2008: Part One -- Happy Campers

Ten of us spent the past weekend at White Oak. Two had to leave sometime on Saturday. The rest of us? Rob and Carol practically had to throw us out! Here are pictures of many of the happy campers.

Helen and Judy

Nubbin and Eileen

Rob and Carol welcome Helen, Judy, and Marsha to Happy Hour

Turbo, glued to her machine as usual