Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Friends from Across the Pond

My internet friend Mary arrived the other night to stay with me three nights before heading out to Sisters.  We've swapped blocks for several years now, but this is the first time we've met.

And she's just wonderful.  As anticipated.

She came with our other internet friend, Judi, who has come to the US before, and stayed with my sister several times.  She's a lot of fun.

Both women are so generous.  Judi has some project/technique that she's going to teach to our hand-sewing group  that is having a special meeting on Thursday.  And Mary brought me these wonderful African indigo fabrics and a copy of a British quilting magazine that features an article that she wrote!  Isn't that block terrific?  Can't you just see it made in batiks?  I certainly can.  And probably will.  Very soon.

Something Fishy

When I was in Richmond at the time of Nate's birth, I bought a charm pack and a yard from the Odyssea line with the plan of making a little quilt for the little boy.  I just loved the fabrics!  When I got home and into jacket making, I wished I had enough of the fishy print to make a little jacket.

Finally I have the flimsy assembled and I'm pleased with it.  I think I'll tie it with brown floss and bind it with brown fabric and get it off to its rightful owner as soon as I can.

Speaking of whom, here he is in his jacket.  Which is just gorgeous with his blue, blue eyes.  And it will likely fit him for approximately one more week.

So perhaps a fishy jacket in the next size is going to happen after all!  Am headed out to Lancaster County in a week and a half and I'm hoping that Log Cabin shop will have some Odyssea.  If not, I imagine I can find it on line.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't Waste Your Time

More years ago than I remember, I read Conroy's The Great Santini and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I've read most of his other novels, less impressed with each as time went by.

When we were ready to leave for our trip to North Carolina, I picked up South of Broad to take along.  Set in the South, I thought it would be just the ticket.  People had said good things about it, so I thought Conroy might have his mojo back.

Oy.  I can't think when I've read such a dreadful book.  The folks who populate the story are all shallow, vapid creatures, who make long, ridiculous speeches to each other as a way of providing history.  They're not real; they are caricatures rather than characters.  I've never met anyone remotely like any of them.

How's this for an example of dreadful dialogue:

"'I've loved you since the day I first met you, like I told you the other night,' I tell her.

'Why?  That's stupid.  That's unheard-of.  You didn't know me, or one thing about me.'

'I knew your style.  The way you carried yourself.  Your courtesy and attentiveness to everything going on around you.  I loved your defense of Fraser the day I first met you.  I knew you were a match for Chad.  A match for anyone.  I felt your strength.  Then there was your beauty, your extraordinary beauty.  Does that answer your question, Molly, you pain in the ass?  Does that mean you won't punch me again?'"

Or this:

"Fraser says, 'It was mostly liquor talk.  You know the kind: "I love you" slurred in a hundred different ways.  "I miss all of you" slurred in a hundered others.  Classic Trevor.  If he'd been born straight, he'd have married me or Molly.  If he'd been born a girl, he'd've married Leo.  It was drunk talk sure enough, but pure Trevor.  I tried to call him the next day at his flat on Union Street, but his phone was disconnected.  I wrote him a letter, but it came back with address unknown.  So I figured he'd moved.'"

Good grief.   Do you know people who talk like that?  I don't.  (And I'm glad.)

Sure, Conroy is a master of description.  He really has a way with adjectives.  But that's about it.  The critics raved about this book.  I don't get it.  It's purely awful.  Tripe, as my mother would have said.  I'm halfway through -- haven't even reached the hurricane scene -- and don't think I can bear to go any further.

Perhaps I'll hear from the library tomorrow that my next reserve book is in.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Little Things

Y'know, over the years of this blog, I've certainly never hesitated to complain about a company or a product.  This time is different.  I'm going to compliment a company and a product.

As much as I love a long weekend getaway at a romantic B&B with beautiful antique furnishings and scandalous breakfasts, when we're traveling and needing a place just to sleep for a night, I can't see spending a lot of money on a room. 

Several years ago we stopped at our first Holiday Inn and quickly became "Priority Club" members.  We gather "points" for each stay and over time accumulate enough points to earn free nights.  Back in April or May, I contacted Holiday Inn to make reservations for a total of six nights at five different hotels.  I'd earned enough points from past stays that we only paid for four of those six nights. 

This past weekend we stayed at three different Holiday Inn Express properties and had good experiences at each of them.  All of them were pet-friendly and gave us rooms on the ground floor, not far from the end entrance -- this really made it easier to move in not just our luggage but Blackberry's paraphernalia and crate.  All three hotels had firm and soft pillows on the bed.  All had nice curved shower rods and very nice showerheads and plenty of towels.  All had complimentary toiletries and soap with a faint clove-cinnamon fragrance that was very pleasant.  I imagine that all had excellent cable TV, but we didn't turn it on.  All had predictable but more-than-acceptable free breakfasts -- so nice for getting an efficient start to the day's travel.  Two had very enticing swimming pools, though we didn't have the opportunity to indulge.

Holiday Inns are pretty standard; we kind of expect a similar decor and similar amenities and similar complimentary breakfasts at every one. But there are individual pleasant peculiarities.The place in Lexington, Virginia, is a place we've visited before.  I am delighted by the little rubber duckies that they place in the bathroom for their guests to take home.  A very little, very inexpensive thing.  But it won me over completely!  The place in Brevard, North Carolina, was the most expensive of the three (at about $135 per night as opposed to the usual $89 -- $109), but the room was huge and at a corner, giving us more windows than usual.  The last place was in Dublin, Virginia.  We'd set out heading north from Brevard around 6 p.m. and knew we had a net drive of four hours.  But we had to stop a couple of time for Blackberry and once for our supper, and then there was some traffic and it was much later than ten when we arrived.  The woman at the desk was so warm and so welcoming as we sort of stumbled into the lobby.  The room was convenient and on the desk was a complimentary bottle of water and a mysterious little brown grocery bag -- that contained a shiny red apple and a bag of microwave popcorn!  Into the microwave it went and our tired crankiness just popped away!

Talk about the little things making the difference . . . .

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Who, Indeed?

Blackberry is one day older than Nathaniel.  They both turned eleven weeks this weekend.

Who has a wonderful smile? 

Who is easy going and sweet in disposition? 

Who has red red hair?

Who has Grandmom and Grandpop wrapped around his very little finger?

Who has turned out to be a very good traveler? 

Who has now been in half as many different states as he is weeks old?

Who has become very comfortable in his crate?

Who has enchanted Tom and Anastasia besides Nate?

Who is now a pro at entering Holiday Inns via the back door?  And being quiet in his crate?

Nathaniel and Blackberry, that's who!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh, No, She's Using Salad Dressing Again!*

After I swapped out the indigo and caramel baskets, I put mine all up on the design wall and admired them for a while.  Then it dawned on me that even though Judi and Mary will each be bringing me one caramel and one indigo block next week, I'm going to be heavy on indigo and short on caramel.  What to do, what to do?  Well, duh!  Make two more caramel!

This is Simple Flower Basket, the first basket block I ever made and still a favorite.  It's the block I chose for the mini-block when I made my Piecemeal-inspired block this weekend.  So that was one done, now one more would be needed.

What about that basket block that Piecemeal designed in my honor?  Surely I should give it a try.  And so I did.

Except not quite.  I replaced the simple flower basket in the base with a Cactus Pot!  The marvel of Piecemeal's "basket with mini-block" designs is that a person can put any finished-at-4 block in that base!  I'm envisioning a quilt of the same basket block with all different mini-blocks inset.  Wouldn't that be smashing? 

So here's a variation on Piecemeal's #13 with the handle pinned in place for me to hand-stitch down very, very soon.  I just couldn't wait to share!

*If you missed the original reference to salad dressing, you can find it here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Major Pettigrew

This was such a good book!

I don't remember where I got the recommendation.  Prolly from Bookmarks, a journal that the school library takes.  And because I was the person who discovered the journal, the librarian brings me each new issue as soon as it arrives, for my perusal.

Anyway, back to the Major.  I just loved this book.  Major Pettigrew is a sixtyish British widower, very traditional, very proper, and very thoughtful.  Unexpectedly, he finds himself developing a friendship-or-more with Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow who has a shop in the village.  His son, the members of the club, even the Vicar are bewildered by what is happening.

A first novel.  Beautifully written.  Could picture the scenes.  Even began to cast the movie. 

Give it a try, why don't you?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Basket in a Basket

It was inevitable, I told Piecemeal, that sooner or later I would have to try making a basket on my own.  Well, it turned out to be sooner.

I had my idea on Saturday and started working on it that night.  Sometime on Sunday I finished it and wasn't totally pleased.  The base was funky.  and I'd used the same background for the mini-basket as I had for the main block.  I sent it off to Piecemeal and said I thought perhaps a Baker's Dozen baskets would be a nice thing and to have a go at my idea. 

She wrote back with a suggestion or two, and I went back to work and viola!  my block is finished and I like it very much.  The next time I make it, however, I will make that bottom middle segment the same color as the main basket base.

Meanwhile, during the night, Piecemeal got to work and, speed demon marvel of efficiency that she is, her finished block was up on her blog this morning.  And it is, of course, magnificent.  She's drawn up the directions for it, and her construction method is a bit simpler than mine is.

But, you know what?   I like the way mine has more background.  And I love my appliqued handle.  Two very, very nice baskets, and related to each other:  Piecemeal's #13 is a cousin to my #13.  And that is way cool.

A week from tomorrow I'll have the four remaining indigo and caramel versions of Piecemeal's blocks from Mary and Judi.  And on July 9, I'm headed out to White Oak, and guess what I'm going to put together!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Good Day

Joe had a long Synodical meeting this weekend.  It began on Friday around four o'clock and ended late on Saturday night.  Left to my own devices, I had a busy Saturday. 

On the mundane side, I did a lot of laundry and filled and emptied Blackberry (who, incidentally, has grown bigger and produced more freckles than he had on the day we met him).

On the fun side, there were all kinds of things.  First, Helen came to call early in the morning.  She was delivering her Indigo and Caramel basket blocks, which were just lovely.  Since the full swap blocks were all in, I did the swap out and got the bags ready to put in the mail on Monday.  In another week and a half, I'll receive the side swap blocks from Mary and Judi, and then I can think seriously about putting this quilt together into a flimsy.

I got to thinking that if I was going to make a Basket for Bill out of Piecemeal's intricate #12 pattern, I'd best do it immediately while it was still fresh in my mind.  This one went together a little more easily than the first one did, but I still had a fudge factor when doing that long horizontal seam.  I like this block, but it isn't my favorite, and it isn't likely I'll make it again.

Went out to lunch with Honna and made two more Blocks for Bill.  Coming into the home stretch on this project, now, too.

So it was a good day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cue Barry Manilow, Please

Honna and I have had Barry Manilow waiting in the wings for not only years, my friends, but for decades. Our thought was that upon the completion of some mammoth and impressive achievement, we'd have Barry come on stage and belt out "Looks Like We've Made It."  We scheduled him for Honna's master's degree and my seminary graduation, but apparently he had a conflict because he didn't show up.  We knew he wouldn't disappoint us if either of us ever got to our goal weight, but we've not been able to put that to the test.  Yet.

So here I am with the last of Piecemeal's blocks, the 25th block for my indigo and caramel  basket quilt (turns out I only need 24 for the lay-out, so Basket of Chips is likely to end up on the back).  This block was far from simple, but it is finished.  The new method for the handles that Piecemeal devised worked like a dream.  Where I ran into the most trouble was in stitching that long horizontal seam, the one that affixes the basket bottom to the handle half.  My measurements didn't quite match Piecemeal's, and I had to fudge just a tad.  But it's together.  And I like it.  I like it quite a bit.

Come on, Barry.  Join Piecemeal and me on the stage. 

And sing it.

"Looks Like We've Made It!"

Park Avenue!

I've prolly mentioned before that I've been part of a group of dear friends called The Good Guys (yup, we came about when a women's club split into three factions, i.e., The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) for about twenty-five years.  And since becoming a quilter, I've made a quilt (or two) for each of the women.  Except one.  And this is the year for Elaine's. 

She and Herb got married in January and are moving to a new home next month.  The time is right for her quilt.  Ever since the wedding, I've had in my mind an image of the kind of fabric I wanted for Elaine's quilt.  I knew what I wanted but didn't see it in the stores, on the net, or in the catalogs.

Until Thursday night.

And that's when the Fat Quarter Shop posted a link on Facebook to "Park Avenue" by Three Sisters for Moda.

Not only will Herb and Elaine like it, but I love it, too.  I can't wait to get my hands on some!

I dare not get it until I've decided what quilt to make.  I'm thinking of the size that gets folded on the back of the couch or at the foot of the bed, to be pulled up for a Sunday afternoon nap.

Could be stars.  Could be -- well, you knew this was coming -- baskets.  Don't know yet.

Part of the joy of this weekend will be to ponder this problem and consider solutions.  Would love to hear your ideas, too.  And, of course, I'm sitting here grinning as I wonder when Nicole is going to discover this line!  Because I'll want to get mine before she buys it all up!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," said Blanche DuBois.  [Why is it, she asked, that Vivian Leigh got two of the greatest ending lines?  She also got, "Tomorrow is another day," you prolly remember.]

Anyway.  No sooner had I posted last night about my inability to paper piece Piecemeal's Block #12, but my mailbox shows a reply from Piecemeal herself.  Seems she couldn't stand my not having a complete set of her blocks, and she'd set about devising a more traditional method for making that pesky handle.  She said to stay tuned.

And, behold!  This morning she posted the new instructions that she finished sometime around midnight last night.  And then took the time and trouble to email me the PDF.  Is that amazing, or what?

So I guess you know what I'll be doing this weekend.

But here's the question, and I believe it to be a good one:  Once someone -- a person one has never met, mind you -- has done such an extraordinary kindness, is she still a stranger?  Or is she, rather, really a friend I haven't met yet?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reaching My Level of Incompetence

Does anyone remember a book from back in the Sixties called The Peter Principle?  The premise was that in any hierarchy, a person was promoted until he reached his level of incompetence.  As long as he was competent, doing well, he'd be promoted.  But ultimately, he'd reach the point where he was incompetent and at that point promotions would cease.  The treatise was supposed to be humorous, but I swear I've seen it in operation in many, many venues.  Don't get me started.

But not my quilting!!!  I took one look at Piecemeal's Block #12 and knew better than to attempt it.  I've never paper pieced, foundation pieced, or freezer paper pieced.  And, frankly, I've not had a hankering to learn.  (Although there are these blocks that Julie has been producing that make my heart beat faster.)  I know I can't learn from reading a tutorial; I'm a hands-on kind of learner.  Bobbi No Blog has offered to teach me basic paper piecing at White Oak next month, and I'm going to take a stab at it.  But right now, there are a few other basket blocks out there, and since I made Basket of Chips tonight, I only need the one more to have twenty-five.  Here's the plan:  I'll make one more block, as yet to be determined, next week sometime.  And I'll take my blocks along to White Oak along with fabric for Piecemeal's #12 and if the lesson from Bobbi NB goes well, if I'm a competent learner and paper piecer, I'll attempt #12 right then and there.

It's not as if I could set the blocks yet anyway.  I need to go to Sauder's or Old Country Store for finishing fabric. 

And, of course, I've still got Bill's Baskets up on my wall and many more of them to make. 

I love to sew.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Getting There

This is the 23rd basket for my indigo and caramel quilt.  You may recognize it as being one of Piecemeal's.  This block is very much fun to make. 

I still have one more caramel background block to make, Piecemeal's #12, the one that calls for the freezer paper technique, one I've never tried before.  But Piecemeal hasn't failed me yet, so I'm going to give it a whirl this coming weekend.

Then I'll just have Basket of Chips to make, and I don't know yet which background it will need, so I'll have to do my trial lay-out before I can make it.  This quilt is starting to become real.

In other news, my Weight Watcher efforts continue and I've lost 20.8 pounds, 3 pounds of which were this week, a week of many events involving food.  I'm learning how to do it.  Again, if you're someone I see, please don't talk to me about this unless I bring it up.  Thank you!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

* Has Moved In

Long-time readers of the blog may remember that each year someone from Lower School science department comes to spend the summer with me.  The first year was the best, when we had Fig, a wonderful little newt with a lot of personality.  Another year we had a delightful anole, and a different year we hosted four fire belly toads that were filled with energy.  Last year our guest was Watch Your Fingers, a baby snapping turtle, who later on was set free in the wooded stream area adjacent to the campus.

Well, friends, this year we have * (The Frog Formerly Known as Prince), who is an African clawed frog.  The picture isn't * himself but rather an internet photo.  He's kind of dirty, and ugly, and frankly, I haven't made a real good connection with him yet.  For some reason he puts me in mind of that dirty old man, Tyrone F. Horneigh, played by Arte Johnson, who used to harrass Gladys Ormphby on the park bench in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

If he offers me a Walnetto, I'll be sure to post about it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Home Stretch

This is the fourth-to-last of the indigo and caramel baskets.  I had a very hard time getting this one made tonight.  I kept getting confused as to which of my indigos corresponded with Piecemeal's pink, red, yellow, light blue, dark blue, and green!  Plus I had no extra background fabric whatsoever, so I dared not make any kind of an error.  At last it is done, and Blackberry seems to like it just fine.

I've been thinking about the lay-out for these blocks.  I had pretty much assumed I would make five rows of five blocks each, set on point, with some sort of other fabric as the alternate.  That is the layout I'm committed to for the Baskets for Bill.  But do I want two basket quilts with the same lay-out?  I'll have enough for a queen size quilt.  I've looked at Piecemeal's suggested layout and while I like it just fine, I'm afraid that there is already too much going on with these blocks -- many made by different people with many different fabrics -- to go with that particular lay-out.  I'll have to think it through. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Lovely Day, Despite the Heat

Here's Himself, looking at a gift he received from me and from Altar Ego.  She had a give-away on her blog recently -- a collection of beautiferous cards featuring orchid photographs.  And I was fortunate to be one of the winners.  I told her in my entry that I would share them with Joe, as he has a small collection of orchids.  Wasn't it generous of Altar Egoto give these beauties away?

She's a nifty sort of a woman,always with lots going on in her life.  Right now she's collecting tracings of hands on fabrics -- she has plans to make a sort of "laying on of hands" quilt for use in her congregation.  I think it's a splendid idea; one that might be on my eschatological projects list, because there are so many on my regular list!  Today when Sherry and her family come to meet Blackberry, we're going to do our hand tracings so we can get them in the mail to her.  If you feel inclined to give her a hand yourself, I know she'd appreciate it.  Leave a comment on her blog and she'll send you the mailing address.  Or, if you're someone I know, love, and/or trust, you could weasel it out of me.

Speaking of Blackberry, thank you for all of your good wishes.  I'm delighted to report that his malady appears to be over!  He slept like a log last night -- from 10 until 5:30 and woke up feeling much more chipper than he was yesterday.  We kept him on the Sick Dog Meal today, since we already had it made, but he hasn't been sick.  At either end.  All day. 

He doesn't look too lively in this picture, I know.  Because he's had a busy day.  He and Joe did some gardening this morning as well as some intense ball playing, and then mid-day he helped Joe make a batch of bread.  His version of help was mostly staying underfoot.  But help is help. 

Hey -- take a closer look at the top picture, the one of Joe and the orchid cards.  See the "bread" print in the background?  It was a gift from my Secret Sister a year or two ago.  Before Joe started making bread.  I just love how that worked out!

My day's been pretty busy, too, though I'm not about to compete with the guys in my household.  It's a muggy day, and we put the air-conditioning on, which really helped.  Especially with the bread making going on.  I spent several hours downstairs in my studio (oh, what a glorious name for my corner of the lower level!) making these three blocks from Piecemeal's site for my Indigo and Caramel quilt.  I'm nearly there.  Next up are the three with the caramel background from Piecemeal's, and then the Basket of Chips, and then I believe I'll be done.  I was looking at the setting that Piecemeal proposed, and I'm not sure whether to use it or not.  I had another setting in mind, but I'm going to use that one for Bill's Baskets, so perhaps I'll ponder the setting of the I&C baskets a bit while I finish them.

Well, the family will be here any time now.  So it's into the shower for me and then setting the table, and oh what a lovely ending to a day that has already been splendid!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This, That and the Other

Today I managed to make the other three blocks for the side swap.  Here's one; they are identical.  I like them. 

The swap-out is in a little more than two weeks.

So, I need seven more to have the size top that I want.  Six will come from Piecemeal's site and the last one will be Basket of Chips from Quilter's Cache.  I was a little bit surprised how quickly today's blocks went together.  Piecemeal's methods of construction are simply brilliant.  And she writes good instructions, too!

Blackberry isn't feeling well.  Without being too graphic, he's experiencing a couple of kinds of gastrointestinal distress.  This began in the middle of the night on Thursday and has worsened.  Our theory is that the training treats we started giving him on or about Thursday are a little too rich for him, and we need to lay off.  Meanwhile, he's kind of lethargic.  We've put together the old standby Sick Dog Meal of cooked hamburger, rice, and cottage cheese, but he's not interested.  As long as he drinks enough water, we're not real worried.  We've stopped the treats and just need him to get any residue out of his system.  We'll try again with the SDM in the morning.

He's a bright puppy.  He had his name down pat within about three days and is beginning to understand what "No!" means.  Not that he is in agreement all of the time.  And we've decided on his formal name, the name to go on his papers when they come.  Being's as how he's not only an English springer spaniel, but also comes from UK bloodlines, he's going to be Lord Hazelmere of Blackberry.  What do you think of that, Goddessa Binx?

And finally, a bit of a MOOOOOOOO from a Cranky Old Woman coming along here.

What the heck were this girl's parents thinking?  My hunch is that they were misoverestimating her skill and pretty darned aware of the book, appearance, and movie money to be made.  I'm not implying that they don't love their daughter, but rather that their judgment just really wasn't any better than the 16-year-old's.  They thought it was so important for her to take a chance at being the youngest person ever to accomplish what she set out to do that they let her go off without an escort boat "just in case," therefore knowing full well that some generous strangers would have to put their lives at risk to rescue her in the all-too-likely event that she became imperiled on the sea.  And they'll still get all the $$$$$ from the book, the appearances and the Lifetime Channel for Women movie that will likely be made. 

I find the whole situation utterly disgusting.

Moo to you, Sunderland parents!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Indigo and Caramel

Some months ago, a dozen of us agreed to swap basket blocks made from indigo and caramel fabrics.  We used the baskets from this site, and each selected one to make twelve of.  The swap closes in a couple of weeks, and the blocks that have come in are nothing short of gorgeous.  Half have caramel backgrounds and half have indigo backgrounds.  Some of us are so fond of this color combination that we've decided to make larger quilts than twelve-block projects. 

 Mary and Judi No Blog and I decided to do a side swap, each making three more blocks with indigo backgrounds and three more with caramel backgrounds.  And, oh so conveniently, Piecemeal's blocks are the same size as Plano's!  And there are a dozen there, too!  And for our quilts we will each need 25 -- leaving us only one more to discover from another source.

I cut out my first trio the other night and got them finished last night.  I'm very pleased with them, and eager to get the other trio finished before the swap ends at the end of this month.

Truly, I've never met a basket block that I didn't love.  Truly.