Friday, January 30, 2009

Yes We Can!

We hadn't done a jigsaw puzzle in a long time. Like about eight or nine years. I usually think of them as a late August kind of activity -- I remember when the kids were little and summer had gone on just a little bit too long and although they didn't realize it, they were eager to get back to school and routine. That was the time to get out the Monopoly game and when interest in that paled, to get a new jigsaw puzzle. Five hundred pieces was the limit then.

But there's no reason a puzzle can't be a dead-of-winter activity, too. In front of the fireplace. When it is too cold to go anywhere. And adults can tackle a 750 piece puzzle without being daunted.

Since the Inauguration, there hasn't been a whole lot of sewing (or anything else) happening at home. Because on the day before the Inauguration, when I was at the bookstore seeking an orchid resource as a birthday gift for Himself, I saw a 1000-piecer with a most timely theme. Never before had such an undertaking been undertaken!

Rather foolishly, we put it on the coffee table. Where we had to stoop and bend to do the work.

Himself has been just a bit obsessed, coming to bed at all hours, forsaking other activities, moving lamps around to get enough light. I've been less committed, but certainly done my part. Turbo came over one night for some CW scraps and when she saw what we were up to, she just shook her head. Just imagine the sewing that could have been done!

Last night, cramped and with backaches, we went to bed leaving about 30 pieces on the table, much to our dismay. We'd hoped to finish before morning -- Octavia was due to come and clean. But we couldn't do it. The puzzle wasn't done. But we were.

Had our usual weekday juice/cereal/coffee/fruit this morning and then, five minutes before I was to leave for work, some magnet or another drew me back into the living room. In short order, my partner joined me. Five minutes and thirty pieces. Surely this could be done with two of us working.

I was late to work.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fifteen Finished

I wrote a week or so ago about a Round Robin project I'd participated in over the past fourteen months.

Dear Sharon, a member of the group, has taken the time to post the recipe for the project as well as all of the finished quiltlets. You can take a look right here.

The picture to the left is Sharon's little quilt which is my second favorite from the whole collection. I'm such a sucker for batiks!

When Sharon's quilt reached me, my assignment was "embroider something." I thought it already had a lot going on and knew that there were several steps to follow mine. So I got out some waste canvas from my days as a cross-stitcher, and embroidered "garden thyme," which she had indicated was her theme.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day 2009

Now please don't tell Marlene, but I got my snow day today! I just know she's going to take it very hard. I'd woken about five o'clock and looked outside. There was still something coming down, but I could see the street in front of the house and it had been traveled safely. I thought the situation was hopeless and went back to bed. Twenty minutes later the phone rang, and it was not a two-hour-delayed-opening but a full-fledged snow day!

I've thoroughly enjoyed it in a very low-key way. Spent much of the morning on the Sentimental Journey Baby Girl Quilt (gonna need a shorter, easier name soon) and am really very pleased with how it has turned out. It is about 48 inches square. Am thinking of hand-quilting it, although it may end up being tied. It's, I think, what "they" call a blended quilt but to me it's a "blurry" quilt. You can click it to enlarge and see the blur more closely!

After lunch, I swapped out the blocks from the mitten swap. It took longer than I had expected (it always does) and at a couple of points I was short a block, but in the end it all worked out.

The mittens that people made are just terrific. Some are pairs and some are lost single mittens.

It's time for Mrs. I Don't Make Wall Hangings to make a seasonal wall hanging for her office wall. Each block was accompanied by a 2.5" strip of fabric that we can use for framing or bordering or just tossing in our strip piles. Again, you can click to enlarge and see the detail people put into their blocks.

I'm ready to get going on this one next!

Yours for warm hands and warm hearts,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


First: Snow is in the forecast Near Philadelphia for tonight and tomorrow and, of course, all the students and half the staff of our school will be wearing their pajams inside out tonight in hopes of a snow day tomorrow. My buddy down the hall has her radio on for updates -- she's part of the mechanism that makes the decision. She comes up periodically to tell me it is still "iffy."

Now you know I keep the radio on all day at my desk, classical music streaming through my 'puter. So you'd think I wouldn't need Polly's updates. But it's a pledge week at our public radio station, and during pledge weeks I switch stations. A long time ago we lived in Kent, Ohio, in the snowbelt, and listened to WKSU for many years. So that's where I go when WRTI is having a pledge week. It's great to hear old familiar names and places and takes me back to happy times in Northeast Ohio.

'Cept I forget I've changed the station. And when I hear the weather forecast for Kent, Akron, and vicinity -- "a significant winter storm" I get so excited! And so hopeful! And then need a jolt back to reality.

Second: Earlier today I read about a woman in California who had octuplets and plans to breastfeed all of them. I'm not going there. Instead, I read through the rest of the story and came to this: "The United States' first live octuplets were born in Houston in December 1998. They were three months premature and their weights at birth ranged from 11 ounces to 1 pound, 11 ounces. The tiniest infant died of heart and lung failure a week after being born. The surviving siblings — girls Ebuka, Gorom, Chidi, Chima and Echerem, and their brothers Ikem and Jioke — turned 10 in December."

Still with me? Okay. We've got Ebuka, Gorom, Chidi, Chima, Echerem, Ikem, and Jioke. Here's the question: Did their names come from Word Verifications? Or was it the other way around?

Idle minds are the devil's playground. Or so it's said.

Echeremly yours,

Besides the blocks that became Makin' Tracks, when I was cleaning, purging, and organizing the sewing studio I also found a huge bag of Moda Sentimental Journey scraps. I'd bought a complete set of FQs on Ebay to make a wedding quilt for Tim and Ingrid several years ago. The fabric was not to my taste, but I persevered nonetheless, and they were very pleased with the finished quilt, proudly showing it to me on their bed when we visited a couple of months ago.

The Sentimental Journey photo to the left is not the scraps I found. Far from it. It was lifted from the internet (and is much brighter and yellower/orangier than the real thing). My SJ scraps are scrappy, darn it, and raggedy and irregular.

Right after they came to the surface, I got an email at work about the annual spring festival at the school. The auction lady was looking for items. SJ still is not to my taste, but I could see it making into a sweet quilt for a little girl, and offered to do that. One way to get it out of my house!

So I've begun and have a couple of blocks finished and up on my wall and am making this project my sewing focus for this week.

Updates to follow. As if you didn't know that.

Scrappy, ragged, irregular love (with a smile and a wave to Karen Dianne!),

Friday, January 23, 2009

Culture Shock, Sort Of

More of a culture pile-up, I guess, than a shock.

See, we've had a Philadelphia Orchestra subscription since about forever. Six times each year we go downtown to the Kimmel Center to hear the orchestra play. Soon after we moved into our present house, about nine years ago, we learned that our wonderful nextdoor neighbors have the same subscription series that we have. So six times each year, usually on a Tuesday night, we go downtown with Maggie and Frank and have a wonderful dinner someplace splendid, and then go hear the concert. The subscriptions have the feature that if there is something on a different subscription that we would rather hear, we can exchange tickets for the preferred concert. For a small fee.

Last year, Mary had some tickets to the Sunday afternoon Chamber Series that she couldn't use, and twice she offered them to us. We accepted. Joe loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Also last year, there were two plays at the Arden Theatre that we attended and really enjoyed.

This year, I subscribed us to the Arden Theatre. Five plays.

This year, Joe subscribed us to the Chamber Concerts. Five Sunday afternoon concerts.

Now you'd think that five plays and eleven concerts total spread over a nine month period would be manageable and enjoyable. You'd be right. If they were spread evenly. Our events have tended to occur in clumps. One of each, right after the other.

Like the clump we're in now. Last night we went to the Arden to see the brand new play, My Name Is Asher Lev. We loved it. If you live in the Philadelphia area, you might want to consider going. Not only was the play marvelous, but Chaim Potok's widow was present and after the performance, she and the actors sat on chairs on stage and took questions from the audience. Fantastic.

This afternoon was a trade-in concert for the Orchestra. They were playing Schubert's Ninth (The Great) which, IMNSHO is the just the best piece. And they were only playing the Friday matinee and the Saturday night. So we traded in (Frank and Maggie couldn't do this one) and worked a half a day and heard the Bartok Violin Concerto and The Great and drove home feeling mellow and just a little bit decadent for having had such a splendid time in the middle of the afternoon. Stopped at the pub for a sandwich. Lovely.

But wait! There's more! Sunday afternoon is a Chamber concert. A Mozart and a couple of other things.

Culture Shock. Or Culture Pile-Up. Whatever. We're loving it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Comment Spam

The first Spam comment I received on my blog was something directing readers (and me) to a site where someone was selling something. I deleted the comment and moved on.

Put a Word Verification up on my blog after the next one, and while I know no one is crazy about verifying ecomif or spludlat in order to leave a comment, it was the right thing to do because these sales comments stopped coming.

Then, back in the spring, when I was working on the political campaign, I started getting comments of a different sort. They were racial in nature and made some suggestions about my sexual preference. It was strange to see them on my comments section. I had a lot of reactions: annoyance, intrusion, pity, amazement were some of them.

I have a mental image of the commenter -- he's a lonely guy with a low-paying job and few interests. I say "guy," but, heck, it could be Dot, for all I know, as strange as she's become over recent months. She really ought to get back to quilting. Anyway, he doesn't visit often, and it is always a surprise. I usually find one of his comments in my mailbox and delete it and then go over to the blog and delete it from there so any subsequent reader won't see it and be offended. I know I'm not alone; my friend "J" hears from a person who has to be the same guy, judging by the nature of the comments. Good old Anonymous.

Been thinking, though, about whether to continue spending my time deleting his comments. If I'm reading someone's blog and see an inappropriate comment posted, I don't feel offended. I just move on and leave my comment. I suspect my readers have the same reaction.

For a while I had the feature where all comments had to have owner approval. That was even more time-consuming. So I'm wondering today, what other people do, whether they delete offensive comments or just leave them alone. I don't expect to get much, if any, response, but that's what I'm thinking about today. That and how pitiful it is that somebody has nothing more worthwhile to do with his time.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Makin' Tracks

My bear tracks in batiks have been made into a flimsy! And it is called Makin' Tracks.

I had spent so much time cleaning and organizing my sewing studio and when I unearthed the blocks that were made, I decided to get right back to them. I needed an additional six blocks and went into my big Rubbermaid tub of batiks and selected twenty-four different pieces and cut. I was particularly delighted that the black was right there with the blocks and that there was enough of it to finish blocks and make the border.

I had it all finished and was ready to take the picture when I discovered that one row was in upside down. So out came the seam ripper and all in good time, it was out and back in. Problem may have been that I was sewing it on Sunday. My mother used to say that if we did any sewing on a Sunday, we'd have to pull all of the stitches out with our noses! (Just precisely how that was to be accomplished was and remains unclear. I'm just reporting."

I don't believe Makin' Tracks wants or needs anything more. I'll think about the binding when it's ready for that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
'Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

MLK Day Weekend: 2/3 Over

It's been a splendid weekend thus far, despite the cold (which now is not quite so bad as it was).

Friday night we attended a spaghetti supper benefit for someone in our community. The meal was prepared by students from the vo-tech culinary arts program and was absolutely delicious. We enjoyed being part of a community effort to help someone down on his luck.

Then last night Sherry and her family and Honna came to dinner. I fixed a casserole with a Mexican flavor and Sherry made a delicious cake (all the more delicious because we don't often have baked goods any more). The kids were wonderful. Sam loves the new train layout that Joe has set up, and Caroline was amused for a long time by a hatbox full of old cards and photographs.

I spent several hours over the past two days cleaning and organizing my sewing studio. It had been so bad that I [jokingly?] wondered if the Board of Health was going to come and shut me down!

In the process, I unearthed a project from several years ago. It was one of the monthly group efforts. I'd sent out pieces of a really pretty black-on-black (BOB?) fabric and asked the members to each use four different batiks and make me a Bear Tracks block. I was delighted with what came in and then lost track of them.

When I found them today I was happy and put them right up on the design wall so I wouldn't lose them again. Don't you just love the secondary pattern formed by the blacks?

It was obvious that six more blocks are needed, so I lost no time in getting started. I had plenty of the BOB and a big Rubbermaid tub of batik scraps. Bear Tracks in Batik could be my second flimsy finish of '09!

And there's still another 1/3 of the weekend to go.

You're so right, friend. Life is good!

Hope Joy Love

About a year and a half ago, May Britt posted on her blog about a 14-month mini-round robin she'd participated in. She showed pictures of the fourteen finished projects, each of which followed the same "recipe" and each of which was totally distinctive from the others.

I was enthralled, as were many of May Britt's other readers, some of whom inquired, "Why can't we do this?" Indeed, why couldn't we? I put out a call for a show of interest and some wonderful women responded. Our only regret was that in order to be equitable as far as postage was concerned, we had to limit participants to United States citizens.

Each project began with the small square in the upper left hand corner and then, according to a recipe, additional fabrics were added; embroidery, applique and writing were done, and ultimately the little round robins were quilted and bound and made their way home.

During the fourteen months we worked, we kept progress secret. I had no idea at all what was going on with my project. Imagine my delight when it came home last week! "Hope," "Joy," and "Love" have been important to me during this year, even more so than usual.

The group had begun to talk about doing another project together and I thought I had enough going on in my life at present and begged off. Then my little quilt came home and instantly I changed my mind.

Isn't it wonderful?

Hope, Joy, and Love to all of you, too!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Bag Lady Strikes Again

Tonight I made another bag, this one out of left-over Gatsby fabric. I made this bag 5/8 the size of the Cupcake bag, because I wanted it to be used for stopping at the grocery store for just a few things.

Instead of the strips insert, I tried making three 4.5" Churn Dash blocks and stitching them together. That was not as effective as I had it in my mind's eye; if I do this kind of thing again, I think I need more contrast. I do like that Gatsby stuff, though, even if it is not my usual kind of thing.

Again, I used batting instead of Pellon and I really like the feel of the bag.

I got out the instructions for the walker bag tonight. It calls for fabric and lining and no stabilizer whatsoever, not even the Pellon. I can't imagine it will do a very good job or hold very much if it is just two layers of cotton fabric. I think when I do get started on it, I'm going to insert batting to strengthen it. Have you ever made one of these?

And, by the way, I've been using spray baste to affix the batt to the bag proper and it's great! And one more thing: Take a look at Bodacious huddled on the stool behind the bag. Not at all his normal spot for a snooze.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bag Lady

I had such a good time making the bag for Cupcake yesterday. I was eager to make another bag.

I had tractor fabric and coordinating yellow left over from the time I made Sam a pillowcase and thought today that it might be nice for him to have a little bag to carry to and from the library to hold his books.

So tonight after dinner I made one. No pattern. Just used the same technique as Cupcake's bag, but on a smaller scale. Again, I used light batting in place of Pellon interfacing.

A friend had asked me to make a bag for a friend of hers who uses a walker. I said I would, but kept putting it off because I'd never done anything like that. Well, now I have. So there's no more postponing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

To Cupcake, From Sugarplum

There's a young woman at work who's taken a liking to me. And that's just splendid because I've taken a similar liking to her! Despite a vast age difference (I could be her mother), we get along famously. She takes pleasure in my broken Spanish; I take joy in her gorgeous daughters. We're quite a pair.

Out of the blue one day she called me "Sugarplum." And for no reason at all, I responded, "Okay, Cupcake." The names stuck. Other people on the campus raise a quizzical eyebrow. Neither of us tries to explain. How could we?

The week after Christmas, she surprised me at my desk with a little gift. It was a bread mix from William Sonoma, and it was called "Sugarplum Loaf." I made in the very next weekend and it was scrumptious. Unbeknownst to my friend, I'd picked up some fabric with her name on it. I didn't have time to make my project until today. I used scraps of fabrics on hand for the trim and another piece of left-over from another project for the lining. It called for Pellon interfacing and I didn't have any, so I used a light batt. It took me only a few hours to make it and I had such a good time.

For once, I don't mind that tomorrow is Monday!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Something Quilty for a Change

No, I haven't given up quilting! It's been a while, though, since the topic has been blogged. Since a couple of days before Christmas, I've been working on a very simple quilt out of Gatsby fabrics, and tonight I put the borders on. I'm going to contact the local machine quilter and get an appointment. The quilt, picture to follow at some point (the weather Near Philadelphia these days, frankly, is not conducive to putting up the clothesline for a good photo) has a WOW lattice that looks for all the world like miniature stippling, so I'm going to ask Sue to stipple quilt it. A first flimsy finish of the new year!

The block here is part of a group project. I love the block, but I surely do not want to make another! There are 36 pieces in it. I've made blocks with more pieces more easily than this one went together. It's called Carolyn's Star from Quilter's Cache and for some reason, the directions were awfully hard for me to follow. Perhaps it was because I was working on it too close to bedtime.

Now, what do we have here? A picture of a couple of people I know up at the kitchen counter playing with bubbles and soapsuds a couple of days after Christmas.

Sam has his grandfather's trait of sticking his tongue out when he's concentrating. And Caroline, well, for her it was all joy, and no pun intended!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Conzmis, bncaf, and iprqec

Well of course you recognize the image to the left. It's a collection of Word Verifications from Blogger.

I used to find them annoying. Then one day I became amused by one of them. I think it was the time that the word verification for a post on a deeply spiritual friend's blog was "sheol." I mentioned it to her and we had a good laugh.

Then I started inventing definitions for some of the word verifications that come up. And providing them with my comments that I leave. Not all of the words lend themselves to this practice. But some do. And I'm having a good time with that. It's much better than being annoyed. Give it a try. Or a splavu. Whatever.

Yours for bzyofgs and xqhbu,

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Likely Possibility

The curious case of the guy from church (let's call him Mike) has been high in my consciousness for several weeks now, and very recently I've been having an email conversation with another person from church, this one a friend, who shared some concerns, experiences, and insights.

Today I had two additional emails from people who'd read my post from Sunday. One was from an old (old? heck, she's ancient!) friend who'd been a groupmate from a help line training about 35 years ago. She wrote thoughtfully and caringly and presented some excellent strategies. I gave her words careful consideration. While they made sense, they just didn't seem to apply to this situation. My gut was telling me that traditional limit-setting just wasn't going to work with this dude,this Mike.

The second email was from a cyberfriend who jumped right in to stand beside me with the problem. "I am praying for you right now." It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

The latest installment in the email conversation with the friend from church came later in the day, after I'd had time to absorb the first two. This church-lady mentioned the possibility that the offending man has Asperger syndrome. I had a very vague understanding of the disorder -- "It's on the autism spectrum" -- and as I googled and read (this, this, and this ), my understanding grew to the point where I'm ready to believe -- right or wrong -- that this is what Mike's problem is. That he is simply unable to be relational or sensitive as most people are. He honestly can't help it.

There's a young adult woman with some mental retardation who accompanies her mother to church sometimes. They always sit in the back. Joanne is given to strange vocal outbursts that some people, especially new people, find disruptive. But because I know what is causing them, I am able to almost completely tune them out.

I'm hoping this will extend to Mike.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


The recent past weeks have been clouded by some unpleasantness with a fellow church member. Always arrogant and imperious, he's become more so since taking on a position of some responsibility in the congregation. He knows everything and really can't bring himself to even acknowledge that there might be another point of view (albeit a mistaken one, of course) apart from his own. I've thought about Luther's position that has helped me though some other interpersonal difficulties in the past, that of putting the best possible face on our neighbor's failings.

I was thinking today about a book that Honna wanted me to read a few months back. It was about sociopaths. I glanced through it and told her I just didn't want to read it; I didn't want to fill my head with unpleasantness and perhaps start looking for the pathology in people I meet. This morning I had a moment of regret at rejecting the book; if I were able to believe that this man from church has a condition of some sort, a mental illness that he can't help that makes him so unpleasant to be around, I think I could handle it better.

I guess because of what's been going on with this man, I've been supersensitive to other unkindnesses. A couple of routine statements have leaped out in conversations.

Someone I know who is amazingly thoughtful and considerate of others has been saying "You think?" when another person says something that is obvious. I cringed when I heard it directed at someone and thought how hurt I'd be if it had been me.

Another question that causes a visceral reaction is, "What part of [whatever] don't you understand?" This response is such a put-down, leaving the hearer with nothing at all to say. I think if anyone ever said that to me, I'd prolly just walk away, never to return.

Now, of course, I'm wondering what sorts of reflexive unkind things I say and what unkind behaviors I'm exhibiting. I know I'm impatient at having to repeat things, all the while mindful that my own hearing is not as acute as it once was. I guess I wish there were some sort of a magic mirror I could employ for a week or so that would flash a light when I'm mindlessly unkind.

But there isn't. So I just need to slow down a little bit and be more tuned in to my own behavior and language.

And as for the guy at church, I guess the only thing to do is pray for him. He must be terribly insecure and probably is lonely. And that is a sad thing.