Friday, December 31, 2010

On New Year's Eve

The One Minute Writer which I often go to in the morning and write something if the prompt speaks to me, does Friday Fiction and suggests taking longer to write something. I am not a fan of short, short stories but one came to me today. I could offer many caveats but I will write it here simply because it is New Year's eve.

Eve was sitting on the dusty plain piling up twigs. Beyond the thorn bushes she could see Abel guarding his flock of sheep. Adam and Cain had gone off hunting for something for them to eat when it got dark. Eve was patiently rubbing two stones together trying to make sparks so they could have a fire. They needed it to cook whatever food was found and because the nights had lately been getting very cold.

When the guys gathered around, Eve had a nice fire going and there was meat roasting. "I have been watching the stars," Adam said in that lecturing voice he had. "So...?" the boys shrugged. "So I've noticed that some stars move around the sky and that they're all back to where they were when I first began to pay attention. "Big deal," Cain said in his cocky voice. Adam gave him The Stare. "I still have the power to name things," Adam said. "The angel didn't take that away from me. So I'm going to say that we have Time and that when the stars are back like they were we have a New Year." The boys scowled and gnawed on rabbit backbones.

"That's very nice, Dear," Eve said. She had been super sweet to Adam ever since the day the angry angel chased them into the desert. "You're a very, very smart man." Adam heard real sincerity in Eve's voice, not just the wifely rote. He looked at Eve. He had loved her once and maybe he still did. "And I'll call the night the stars get back to their places Eve's New Year." "Thank you, darling," Eve said and kissed him. He kissed her back.

"They're just mushy old so-and-sos," the boys said.

"We'll start all over again," Adam ssid. So they had a happy Eve's New Year around the fire, their stomachs full, their bodies warm. Never mind what troubles might yet befall this small family of man.

And I wish anyone who reads this a happy new year. May you find moments of peace and contentment despite whatever might befall this much enlarged family of man in the coming year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Didn't Happen Here

When something doesn't happen it can be very nice indeed! That is a stock snow image, not one outside my house. Unfortunately it did happen to a lot of people all over the Eastern seaboard. Somehow I seem to be living in a warm bubble. Lots of wind, sometime there's been white stuff in it but we had no accumulation at all. That is definitely not a complaint.

I read, and perhaps not everyone else did, so I'll repeat it, that this very cold and snowy winter in the northern US and northern Europe is actually a global warming effect. That sounds counter-intuitive. But only a few people have the education and tools to take a truly big picture view of what's happening. This cold winter is an effect of the high altitude winds and what happens as they make a kind of wave effect flowing over the giant mountains in central Asia having gathered more moisture than would have formerly been the case. But now, due to the warming of the Arctic during the summer that moisture has kind of been waiting to come dumping down as blizzards throughout the usually more temperate part of the northern hemisphere.

As you can tell this is a murky layman's way of explaining something infinitely more complex. I am sorry for people stranded on highways and in airports and others at home without electricity and the many other problems these blizzards cause. Just now I am counting my lucky stars and am well aware that the winter has only begun. That picture could become a reality outside my window too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gifts given

Post-Christmas photos with my quilting and its new owners. Cory and Rachel in their sweatshirt jackets. Now I feel jealous enough of them to think I will make myself one in the near future.
And Finn at his first Christmas with the bear claw quilt -- it was prescient of him to wear a matching shirt for the occasion. As one can see, he's learning mobility.

It's nice when Christmas comes on a Saturday because Sunday really seems like a needed day of rest. it was a relaxed day full of family, food, fun and lots of laughter -- what more can anyone want?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day Before Christmas

Tis the day before Christmas
and all through the house
not much is happening.
I'm quiet as a mouse
quilting and net-surfing --
because, you see, the fuss and flurry
has moved a generation down from me.
I'm done with my part of the panic
and also given up rhyming this ditty.

How relaxed I am! The sun is shining, the snow is only patchy but that's okay. I started a paper pieced block yesterday that may be the first of a dozen or twenty to make into a quilt, using Carol Doak's mariner's compass star book. I'm mulling a selvage quilt -- my bag of selvages is sizable. I have some writing projects in mind. I will not be bored, plus I have book case of to-read books.

So happy holidays to any regular readers - I know some of you are out there and quietly lurk without leaving notes. That's okay, come back often. And if you're quilters, I hope you'll have a sew-nice year ahead. [yeah, I know, puns are the lowest form of wit]
This quilt is named "Christmas Cactus". It was a long term UFO but finished sometime in the last year or 18 months. It's currently a table covering. I do not "do" Christmas trees. My small poinsettia joins the considerable amount of red in my living room looking as holiday-ish as I need.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great-grand's first Christmas quilt

Inspired by the dark chocolate colored teddy bear, and pushed a bit quicker than anticipated - I was thinking of first birthday, not first Christmas but Finn's mama has a fuzzy memory that says she received plenteous quilts from her Grandmother [c'est moi] and hoped Finn would also, soon! Actually I didn't make THAT many quilts for her. But I just finished this bear claw quilt -- mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago. As obviously it's decorated with silhouetted bears, these from Deborah Kamensky whose "Forest Animals" designs I've had for years and used here and there.

The colors and designs aren't the generally expected so-sweet, so-cute kinds of baby patterns popular in the current books. I don't like cute and prefer traditional, so it's traditional muted New England-y colors. We ARE in New England, after all and this is a very traditional place. I am happy enough to bow to Cory's requests but she has to live with my taste too. For his part, great-grand-Finn, at 7 months doesn't care. He probably won't even be interested in the teddy bear. That's okay, he can get away with total indifference even to the point of spitting up on his quilt, or more serious misdemeanors, because he's a baby. So tomorrow it gets wrapped and goes under the tree at grandmother's house. I have other projects on the back burner which will keep me occupied if tomorrow is another snowy day as today was. Gee, I wish I still lived in a house with a fireplace.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December journal quilt

This is my last journal quilt for the year. My theme was trees and birds. This is a fantasy forest which I did partly because I've been nuts about the background fabric ever since I purchased it a couple of years ago. I didn't cut into it because it felt too pretty. After a certainly period that attitude about various fabrics wears off and so this is about half the FQ I had.

As you see it has a trimmed evergreen appliqued to the center and the fantasy goes into high gear with a couple of peacocks guarding the tree. There are stars and snow flakes added. So ends the year's journal quilt project. It started out seeming like a great idea but, frankly, I got bored and did not put the effort into the later ones that I had anticipated when I began. It's unlikely I will do another. I'm not a block of the month type although I'm still enchanted with Carol Doak's book of mariner's stars and might decide to make one a month for the year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nutty bread recipe

Women's magazines seem to employ hordes of subeditors to fill several pages per issue with recipes. They also employ photographers to make the products of those recipes look delicious -- and they use many a trick I've been told, lighting, coloring, glazes, every so carefully arranged garnishes. I have long suspected these people are paid a pittance and that they mainly scavange recipes from existing or older magazines or newspapers, change an ingredient or two and present it as the latest discovery. Long, long ago I stopped reading these recipes although I enjoy the eye-candy of beautifully arranged plates of food.

All these thoughts have been twittering through my slightly addled brain [I have a cold and am spending much too much time blowing my nose and coughing] because I was at a small gathering last night when a woman presented each person present a baggie with a since of her latest quick bread. Said she, "the recipe was in a magazines and it only calls for two ingredients. Flour, I guess? Yes, self-rising flour a cup and a half. The other ingredient is a pint of maple walnut ice cream.

I sampled my slice this morning. It was horrible! Horrible!!! I thought of all the list of preservatives and junk that goes into ice cream. Why would I ever want to put all those chemicals into a homemade quick bread? The novelty factor appealed to the cook. But surely a little thought could have told her it was a bad idea. I suspect she tasted a slice and decided to cut up the rest, package it up and spread around the agony.

More and more I hear my contemporaries saying "I don't cook any more." So many prepared foods come microwave ready I think most of them don't even fresh salads for themselves. So is eating large amounts of chemicals, and especially salt which is not good for the many with high blood pressure, now our final capstone of the American dream these mostly retired women enjoy? Do they enjoy it? When I say I don't cook, it mean, I don't cook meat very often. I have many vegetarian meals -- fresh vegetables, often briefly steamed or broiled and dressed only with a small bit of butter and maybe a shake of some spice. I do cook fish, usually briefly sauted and eaten with lemon juice or a dab of wasabi dressing -- I really love wasabi!

And I've been a baker all most life. I rarely make quick breads but when I do they are from scratch. They're called quick, and in fact they are. That's what happens when I have bought too many bananas or zucchinis and they're threatening to go bad. I could go on but I've got get another cough drop.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shopping, no crowds!

Are there reports of brisk holiday sales this year? From here it seems unlikely. Yesterday afternoon [Saturday, a prime shopping time, one assumes] Rachel told me she had just come back from the mall and it was not very busy. My own plan was to go there this morning while many people would be in church. There were very few people about, I did not have to wait in line to check out, the parking lot was not packed. This experience may be atypical but it seems few people are frantically shopping.

Happily I had time and space to wander and, as always I shopped with an open mind, not a firmly defined list in my head. I had some basic ideas and thought it would be unlikely I'd finish my shopping. But I did! In about an hour and a half and then I went to the Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble where I got a remarkably fresh cranberry-orange scone with their Christmas special coffee. I enjoyed my snack while I looked through a Quilting Arts Magazine thinking I would find it as pretty as usual but, as usual, not offering many ideas I would be likely to use. Actually, it seemed to have a different, more useful slant this issue so I bought in order to read thoroughly and keep it on hand for reference. It was a most satisfactory morning even though rain was splattering down.

I'll have the mail-away gifts in the postal system's hands in a day or two. What a satisfying feeling! I have a couple of quilting projects to finish but I've got two weeks to do it. No prob'. Ho, ho, ho ... I'm holiday-ready.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another sweatshirt jacket

Another sweatshirt jacket, this one a speedy one using larger pieces of fabric. It's meant to be brighter, more "fun" in the sense of lighthearted fabric designs like the bands of frogs on the bottom and on the sleeves, the big benign lizard at the top of the back and the bright colored strips elsewhere. Front is shown above and back below.

This was on nice Gap pull over, that was really not a sweatshirt, it has a bit more body and structure. It's hard to find such good bases for this kind of jacket in thrift shops, but now that I've made this one, I'm going to keep my eyes open for others. In fact, It thought of putting a zipper up the front but got lazy about that. I'd like to take something with a firm knit like this and do a selvage jacket, maybe one with rickrack as I've just seen on the Selvage Blog several examples of rickrack used with selvages. Well that's in the future. I've got that bear claw quilt to finish at this point.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Old Pattern, old mistakes

The Bear Claw pattern is not the simplest of traditional quilt patterns, but it is certainly not very complicated. In the very early 1970s when I had been sewing dresses for my daughters and curtains for a new house, I decided to make my first quilt. It was a bear claw design which I found in a magazine. I used blue and white print left over from kitchen curtains and white muslin. I make templates from the cardboard of cereal boxes and figured out on my own how to sew it all together. I made quite a few mistakes until I understood the half-square triangles and got the points headed in the proper directions. That was my first and, as the cliche goes, the rest is history.

In all these years I've made, literally, hundreds of quilts, big and small but not another bear claw design. Today I began a bear claw quilt because I have a request for a Christmas quilt for my great-grandson and I happen to have a sweet little stuffed teddy bear to give him. I fiddled around for some hours trying to make a paper piecing pattern but I had trouble with the math. I love paper piecing and would love to have nice sharp pointy "claws". But I got tired of wasting my time and finally decided to sew it the old fashioned way. Which I did -- and I made the very same, old fashioned mistakes I know I made on that first quilt -- not that I specifically remember but I know my own style and method, which is not very methodological. I wound up in the first block [four bear claws as in the picture] with three of the paws, with claws pointing the wrong direction. I reached for the trusty [but not beloved] seam ripper muttering about old dogs never really learning much at all. Impetuosity is not a good trait when sewing small pieces together. Patience and careful consideration of what is needed is much more necessary. So the second patch is much better -- albeit with blunted claws because of my hasty math and sewing.

I hope to get the next patches done and done more precisely in the next few days. The quilt will also feature some paper pieced bears that more or less match the toy that will accompany the quilt. They will grace the border. Photo in a week or so. Meanwhile I'm feasting on humble pie.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What's a Doctor to do?

Most internists, family practitioners and so on went into their fields wanting to help ordinary people with ordinary problems. So what's a doctor to do faced with a 70+ patient during an annual physical with no complaints, blood pressure under control, and all the stats on a blood test well within the target numbers? The patient is reassured that nothing has gone out of whack over the past year and has no complaints to ask about -- well, there's a bit of wax in the ears. That could be taken care of. And a couple of cholesterol stats have moved a couple of points in the wrong direction [but still are in the good range].

Truly I felt sorry for my perky new internist when I had my physical the other morning. She couldn't get any warm fuzzies from giving me good advice [get the ear wax taken out]. She is not a naturally chatty or particularly personable person in her professional milieu [I've never met her socially] so she was left with the usual, "a little more exercise." I vowed I wished I could, if the weather would cooperate. "Try the track at the community sports center. Try mall walking," said she. I was sorry to rain on her parade but I don't do boring [track], I don't do geriatric [mall walking]. I do beach and woods, natural places with natural sounds and quiet enough to think my own thoughts. If worst comes to worst, I'll walk around the neighborhood but I don't like the company of cars and trucks. Perhaps I'm a difficult patient. For my part, I'd wish many more patients were like me but I don't have any secrets to share.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Getting Exercise in the Winter

Pushing a sewing machine pedal is not exercise. Walking two steps from sewing machine to ironing board is not exercise. Sometimes sitting on the floor sandwiching backing, batting and quilt is a bit of a stretching exercise, but not much. How to get exercise in the gloomy, chilly, too often windy winter months? I'm walking in the woods -- but not often enough. I'd continue my walks by the seashore except for the wind which makes chilly positively cold. Some people think exercise should hurt. They are mostly young and foolish or badly deceived by nasty coaches or sports writers.

I believe exercise should be so positive that doing it is a pleasure. Science has actually shown that for the non-athlete, i.e., the normal person who just hopes to stay healthy and reasonably physically fit, walking is an excellent exercise. It is the one I choose. No, I cannot imagine myself EVER being one of those geriatric [yeah, I know how old I am, I'm not in denial] shufflers walking up and down the mall. Malls are, to me, ugly places pushing cheap, ugly clothes to people who are so young and attractive they can wear them without looking entirely ridiculous. They are also places with dreadful music droning in my ears and the scent of pizza and various other fast food trying to entice me to ignore any fitness I get from walking.

No, if the seashore is too cold for me, even when well bundled in down and wool, I'll walk in the woods. Which I did a couple or three times this week. Right now the path is covered with leaves, which hide nasty roots waiting to trip one. The leaves will become slippery when wet or in later stages of decay. But I have my dearly loved trekking pole to support me if I stumble or slide a bit. Best of all I have the peace and quiet of the trees and small lake. I was nearly alone the whole time on each walk lately. The happy bounding of a big white dog, followed some distance behind by his human is a friendly interruption to the mental meanderings which are usual when my feet are in motion. If snow come - and of course it will come -- I'll be forced to walk on sidewalks -- my last resort and not one I welcome -- especially as this town is skimpy with its sidewalks, often being only on one side of a residential street. Maybe it makes some kind of municipal budgetary sense but to a New Yorker it is disconcerting. I'll adjust, the walking needs to happen and I enjoy it. I don't "multi-task" although I would enjoy listening to music. The brain needs down time too, and not just when asleep.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Better Late than Never

This photo of me with the glamorous Jan was just received from Roy who we went to Newport, Rhode Island to meet when his cruise ship arrived. He promised us photos of polar bears when he returned home and we were eager to get them. When his cruise ship left him in NYC he was flying to Churchill in Canada [Ontario?] to see the polar bears in their natural habitat. He wrote that it was an amazing adventure ... but didn't send any pictures. However, I like this photo and am happy to have it.