Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Giddy with Joy and Relief

I have been too busy for two months to keep this up, but life is easier today than it's been for a long time.  Although we have much to do, we know our nation is now in good hands.  Soon I'll bring this up to date.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Baking & Tea

Today I baked up some of the zillion zucchini into bread, along with the classic French boule, and made Joe Carson's Ginger Cookies and Dixie Curkeet's Refrigerator Cookies. I took the cookies to Obama headquarters for the hardworking volunteers. The place was buzzing like a hive.

Tonight I met Carla and got The Quilt From Hell which she had quilted for me. It looks really nice! I may have to change its name. Even Skip likes it, and wants to use it on our bed. It is huge! I'll get a photo ASAP and post it -- of course, it's not bound yet, and won't be until I get time. It is a long, long way 'round that thing.

I finished reading Three Cups of Tea last night. It's a gripping read and a galvanizing story. I know what I want from my family this Christmas -- a year's salary for a teacher in one of Mortenson's schools -- $356. A dollar a day. To educate girls; he also builds women's vocational centers, brings in fresh drinking water, and other humanitarian deeds, with the unintended consequence eliminating the motivations behind terrorism. Why be the world's worst nightmare when you can be the world's best friend?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Roses and Tomatoes

We had a wonderful visit with our friends Mary and Dave in Denver.  Here's Mary with her birthday quilt.  She likes it!

Yesterday I picked up 40 pounds of tomatoes from our community farm.  Took them home, peeled, chopped and packed them for freezing.  A lot of work, but a lot easier than canning!  They taste like the ones from my grandmother's garden when I was little.  I've had them breakfast, lunch and supper ever since they 'came on.'

This afternoon I got a call from Ginny, a dynamo who sews, weaves, knits and takes care of half the people on the planet.  She told me about an estate sale in the condo complex where she lives and said I had to get right over there.  I'm not into garage sales, rummage sales, etc., but this was the stash of a fabriholic the likes of which one can only imagine!  Main floor:  one room of just buttons, one room of yarns, the rest of the rooms were beautifully organized, top-quality quilting cottons.  One big double closet's shelves were stacked with novelty fabrics.  The shelves over the washer and dryer, as well as the tops of both machines, were stacked with landscape fabrics.  The pantry was full of bright prints and black and white prints.  Large shelving units in the dining area held sorted Orientals, batiks and florals (large and small).  And tables in the living room held boxes of fat quarters.  Prices: $4 - 5 a yard for larger pieces, $.50 a fat quarter.  I bought about $400 worth of quilting fabric for $60.  But the real score was in the 'bargain basement' --  two very large pieces (at least 60"x60") of beautiful quality fake fur for $5 each.  What do I need with that?  I've been making new Christmas pageant costumes for the kids of our parish; the magi have been wearing tatty bathrobes for years, and last year I made satin and brocade tunics for them. When I have time I will add matching capes with fur linings!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

La Boheme

Ta da!  Finished the binding at 10:30 last night, washed it first thing this morning.  What do you think?  

I'm taking it to Denver tomorrow as a birthday gift for my friend Mary -- best friends since 7th grade.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Summer Days

Saturday Margaret and I went to Fran's for a lunch potluck.  Obama's announcement  that Joe Biden would be his V-P running mate had arrived in my Inbox at 3:11 AM, and Margaret and Fran wanted to see their joint appearance in Springfield that afternoon. Biden seems like a good choice: seasoned, knowledgeable, lots of experience working across the aisle in the Senate before politics overtook statesmanship.  Maybe the two of them can turn this battleship around before we sink.

Today I'm making stuffed cabbage rolls for supper.  I used to make these when my boys were young, and it was a favorite supper.  I haven't made them for a long time because it's hard to find cabbages large enough to provide the big leaves required.  The magnificent cabbage from Primrose Farm is just what I needed.  Yum.

I have been poring over eleven years worth of loose photos looking for ones of the trip to Door County Mother Mo and I took in October of her first year here.  I had nearly given up, having got to the 1997 level of the midden without finding them, when several more envelopes of prints came to light.  Lo and behold, there they were!  Just in time for her retirement celebration scrapbook.  But what a lot of wonderful pictures I had forgotten about . . . now I'm on a mission to get them into photo albums.

Day after tomorrow we go to Denver to visit our friends Mary and Dave over Labor Day.  This has become an annual visit, one we look forward to every year.  This year is especially neat because we'll be in Denver the last night of the Democratic Convention, the night Obama gives his acceptance speech there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer bounty

Half of this week's CSA share:

We're splitting a share with Matt & Claire, so they have the other half.  I'm loving it -- fresh veggies without any chemicals, and tasting like they did from my grandmother's garden.

And here's this morning's bread rising, fragrant of yeast and rosemary:

Here are the finished blocks for the Pieces of Time class I'm taking.  It's a two-year class, meeting every other month.  We're making a quilt from a Lori Smith pattern. Although this is not my usual kind of thing, I'm taking the class because I want to learn to applique, and to improve my piecing accuracy.

I'm improving, though I discovered that a quarter inch seam is one click different on my two almost-identical machines.   I've put reminders on each machine with masking tape.

I've used a different method of preparing the appliques for each block, and so far the one that seems to be working best is to iron the freezer paper template on the wrong side of the fabric, baste the seam allowance, give it a good pressing with spray sizing, then remove the freezer paper before stitching  the applique to the background.  If I leave the freezer paper in until after stitching the applique to the background, when I pull it out, it stretches my stitches, distorting the piece.  

I tried heat-proof plastic templates, but they shift around while I'm trying to press the seam allowances.  Needle-turn works well with fairly straight edges, but the first method has given the best all 'round results so far.  I do wish I knew how to avoid little thread pokies in the tight inside curves and corners.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meanwhile . . .

This is what Noah was up to for a week in Canada, followed by three weeks at a nature camp in northern Wisconsin.  It sure was good to see him Friday!


The California grandkids left this morning after ten days with us while their parents vacationed in Belize.  If we needed a reminder of why people our age don't have children, this was it!  We are exhausted.  But the kids had a great time. We did just about everything there is to see and do:  toured the Cave of the Mounds, rode Aunt Claire's horse at Hoofer's stables, saw dinosaur skeletons at UW's Geology Museum, went to Vilas Zoo and the playground, saw Kung-Fu Panda, went to the butterfly hatch at Olbrich Gardens and swimming at the Middleton pool a couple of times.  Cousins Olivia and Annika had several overnights and play dates --  looks like they enjoy being together, doesn't it?

Erik spent about eight hours over two days building an awesome pirate ship (more like a barge) from styrofoam packing materials -- complete with sail, helm and two planks for enemies to walk.  (I suppose to a pirate the Good Guys are the Bad Guys.)

Here is Grandpa watching the kids while Nana cleans up from lunch:

And this is what they left behind in the laundry room:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sausage Pillowcases Part 2

Turn the sausage tube inside out. Voila! The cuff encloses the raw edges of the body fabric on both sides.

Sew the long side seam with a French seam, or serge it, or stitch and then zig-zag the edge so it's a neat finish.

Now just sew across the bottom, and it's done! Very slick. After you've made this once, you can make one start to finish in just a couple of minutes.

Sausage Pillowcases, Part 1

My favorite quilting teacher, Judy Hasheider, taught some of us how to make a pillowcase with a cuff in a jiffy -- and nicely finished inside. Here's how it's done:

You will need 3/4 yard fabric for the main body of the pillowcase, and 1/4 yard fabric for the cuff. Square up the cut ends of each piece of fabric (on the grainline). Each piece will be approximately 42" - 44" inches from selvedge to selvedge -- cut them the same length, trimming off the selvedge at the same time.

Lay out the cuff fabric right side up, and lay the body fabric on top of it, matching the cut edges furthest from you. Beginning with the cut edge closest to you, roll or fold the body fabric up in a sausage considerably narrower than the cuff fabric.

Now fold the bottom cut edge of the cuff fabric up over the sausage so you have a three-layer sandwich of cuff, body, cuff:

Pin and sew the long seam, keeping those three cut edges matched up.

Blogger won't let me put any more photos in this post, so -- to be continued in the next one!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Little Pleasures

What could be nicer than reading the morning paper with a helper?

And there's nothing more luxurious than clean sheets from the solar-powered dryer, smelling of fresh air and sunshine -- complete with wren song.

A poem I wrote years ago:

"Hanging Out the Sheets"
An emerald insect, long, thin,
marquise-cut, beetles in the grass under the clothesline;
the mosquitos are fierce, hungry;
tiny green worms dangle from branches;
webs droop after last night's rain, torn lace.

Yesterday a doe stretched her neck here,
chewed lilac leaves, blew --
stood so near my spying eyes, oblivious,
poked at her nose with a black hoof.
A shot of sunlight touched
the soft inside of her ear, golden, white.

It's a quiet day here, but not for long:  Next week Olivia (age 8) and I will be studying entomology (bugs) at Grandparents University (University of Wisconsin) and on the weekend the California kids and grandkids arrive for an extended stay.  Then the roller coaster will be full throttle until October.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Home Town Visit

Yesterday we went to the Dregne family reunion at the farm just outside Viroqua.  Amazing how many progeny derive from the three original Dregne siblings and their spouses.  I enjoy seeing the little ones and talking with those of my generation -- we are now the matriarchs and patriarchs.  That in-between age group, those just graduating from college and getting married, are not very interested in us old fogeys -- never fear, they'll get their turn!

My sister-in-law and I went into town so she could show me a couple of interesting places I haven't seen.  

First we went to Main Street Station:

This was the old Buick car dealership building.  It's now an indoor town square, complete with fountain and benches.  All around the sides are booths selling antiques, local art and locally-made lotions, clothing, etc.  There's an organic ice-cream shop and a pleasant patio in back for sitting outside.

Then we went to Ewetopia yarn shop:

They sell a lovely selection of high-quality commercial yarns as well as locally-grown, hand-spun and hand-dyed wools.  Also roving and wool for spinning.  The website has pdf files of some nice free patterns designed by the shop owner.  I'm going to make the Bicolor Spiral Cap.

In the early 70s "back-to-earth" young people began moving into Viroqua, and the locals didn't want those dirty hippies.  Now, thirty years later, the economic revival of this dying small town is entirely due to the dirty hippies.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Out of the house

Saturday I took The Quilt From Hell to Carla, the long-arm quilter who has been patiently waiting for it.  I am so glad it's in her hands and out of my house!  

Tuesday afternoon I went out to Fran's house for a reunion of my writing group, the first time we've all been together this summer, what with Margaret at chamber music camp and me all over the state.  Margaret's sister Caroline from Hartford, Connecticut -- a cellist -- was here also, with photos of the mama black bear and three cubs who wandered into her front yard!

Tuesday evening the Dump Salad group of quilters came to my house for supper. What a wonderful bunch of women!  Each doing something different:  knitting a prayer shawl, making beautiful (really beautiful) jewelry, knitting squares to felt into a bag, appliqueing a table runner, needle punching . . . there's nothing they can't do.

Yesterday I took three table runners, a wall hanging and another bed size quilt to Linda in Reedsburg, another long-arm quilter, who finally has time to do them.  Two of the table runners are oriental, one is a seed packet floral stack 'n whack-type for spring. The wall hanging is the leaf pattern done with Shiva Paintstix.  It was a lot of fun to do!  The big quilt is from a book called French Market, the pattern is called Rose Trellis, but I'm calling my quilt "French Flea Market" because that's what it looks like  to me:  very La Boheme, something one would find on a treasure hunt in Paris.  It is promised to my oldest (as in longest-term) friend Mary for her birthday; I'll take it to her in Denver over Labor Day.  I'll post photos of all these quilts when I get them back --  which will take a while.  I can see most of the top of my cutting table now.

Meanwhile I'm sewing together five 120 inch strips of teal batiks for a summer-weight coverlet to replace The Quilt From Hell.  Not only is it not really a king-size quilt, which I've sworn off, but without all those seams, it will be truly summer weight.

Returning from Reedsburg yesterday I came via Spring Green, a beautiful drive.  And I wanted to stop at Paradise Teas to get a replacement for my tea infuser, lost somewhere between here and The Clearing two weeks ago.  The amount of standing water in Spring Green, especially as you come in on Highway 23, is heart-breaking.  Homes still sitting in a foot or more of water.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Progress Report

I've sketched the block for the bottom of Iznik: I simplified flower and leaf designs from a Dover book of Turkish designs -- there's no way I can applique such sharp points!

I've loved Bach's French Suites for many years, but didn't know the English Suites at all well. I've had Murray Perahia's recording of Nos. 2, 4 and 5, and wasn't in thrall. This week I got his recording of Nos. 1, 3 and 6 and am enchanted. I have to give the first recording another good, hard listen. Took me a long time to fall in love with the Goldbergs, but now they're very close friends. In fact, I realized a couple of months ago that they are the story of a human life -- not necessarily chronological, and certainly not programmatic, but when that ethereal theme returns at the end, you know you have come full circle from birth to the sublimity of death. (I'm not claiming that the process of dying is sublime, but that death itself is.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I love a good mystery

Which doesn't include "Where did all these ants come from?" and "I cut this so carefully -- what happened?"

I am putting the finishing touches on the quilt from hell.  This was an ill-conceived project from the get-go.  The plan was to get together with a friend, sharing batiks, and make two similar quilts.  Ellen's was a wedding present for a friend's daughter; mine was to be a quilt that wouldn't show cat hair for our king-size bed.  Ellen finished hers a while back.  Mine is too wild for our calm, woodland bedroom.  I thought I'd put a soft color border on to tone it down.  Looked awful.  So I took it off, all 436 inches of it.  Today I cut black fabric for new borders and binding.  872 inches of it.  When I sew it on (including both sides of the binding), it will be 1744 inches.  Crikey.  I hope if I say the words "king size" again, someone slaps me.

This will now be a gift to our son and daughter-in-law, whose house is decorated in sports and exercise equipment (think snowboards and water skis leaning against the living room walls), and whose bedroom is primer white.  It will add some color and pattern and sparkle to their home, and they're young -- it probably won't keep them awake at night.

But what to do for our bed?  Tomorrow I pick up a bedskirt I had made especially to match the first, late border.  If I even whisper "king-size quilt," someone will slap me.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Iznik in progress

Here's the first segment of the quilt.  It's from Sara Nephew's book Serendipity, the pattern called 'Gull.'  The focal fabric is from Robert Kaufman's Florentine line, and so is the very small print in the hexagons which looks kind of grey in the photo, but is really true blue, gold and creamy white.

It will be a while before I have time to design the top and bottom segments, though I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tentative Beginnings

Today I'm trying to love my neighbors, who kept us awake last night with music, fireworks and motorcycle motors. I'm beginning the newest Boris Akunin mystery. That's the pen name for a Russian who writes delightful, literate mysteries.

And I'm going to look at my books on Turkish tile work, in the hope of finding a design I can incorporate into "Iznik," my new quilt.