Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back home after a week out of town

No, sorry, no vacation pictures to show. I went to Mom's for a week to help her with some sorting and purging of stuff in her garden shed - turns out she had most of it done by the time I got there. I also worked with my brother to insulate and finish the inside walls of his workshop. That's the easy thing about my family. I can visit all of them in one fell swoop - they live in the same town.
Here is a taste of her decorating style. It kind of explains my "more=more" philosophy and why I can't be a minimalist. She bought antiques when they were still called junk. She has the most gorgeous furniture and it cost her almost nothing. The corner shelf is filled with an incredible glassware collection, and a few ironstone and porcelain pieces. They are family items and gifts, mostly. She bought very few of the glassware pieces in the house. There are a few carnival glass pieces that are worth hundreds of dollars, especially the purple stag and holly bowl in the corner of the bottom shelf. I'm partial to the green "vaseline glass" bowl and the amber pieces.

That carved Victorian loveseat is gorgeous. Mom made the afghan lying on the seat. She doesn't claim it's one of her good ones, just something to decorate in the living room. (I need to show you the bedspread she crocheted for me!) Her quilting and crochet works are all over the house. She's starting a pineapple table cover right now. My eyes cross when I try to see the small stitches she's doing. 85 years old and her vision is better than mine. This wash stand and medicine cabinet are lovely but you should have seen them when she brought them home. There must have been twelve coats of paint of all colors on them. When she brought in a new piece in the back of the truck, my brother and I would whine "OH, MOM!" They would be an absolute mess, but she got very, very good at stripping and refinishing furniture and all of them came out like museum pieces.

The transferware washbowl set pieces are quite good too. It's rare to find a set with all the pieces still intact.

Her coffee table is an old round oak table that has had the center pedestal cut down in height. It looks fantastic. Well, now it looks fantastic. When she brought it home, it was painted bright green and the top was attached off-center. There were huge nails driven into the pedestal to hold on the legs, and wire wrapped around it. When she removed the wire the pedestal fell apart into four pieces. This was definitely an "OH, MOM!" piece. A lot of stripping, gluing, filling, staining and varnishing, and it's a treasure. How she got all this stuff done when we were kids, I have no idea.

My grandfather built this library table, which I have always loved. My dad did the woven caning on the chairs on either side. It was a Christmas present for him - the antique chairs and a caning kit. I'm not sure he loved it, but he did a perfect job for his first try at caning. It's not the sheet caning, by the way, it's the kind that you take a strip and weave it through all the holes in the chair frame. It takes forever.

I don't have any pictures of my brother's workshop, but it's coming along. Now that the inside walls are finished, he can mount shelves and cabinets and organize his tools. He has taken up woodworking as a hobby and this workshop is a jewel. Mom had it built for him as a gift. It is heated and cooled too, so no freezing or roasting while you work. If I had it, I would put a longarm quilting machine out there so fast it would make your head spin!

His workshop was broken into, and he lost a few tools, but some were recovered and he's got it buttoned up like a jail now. He's also got a new dog, who keeps tabs on the yard. He said that if she hears a noise in the night and barks, he puts the leash on her and goes outside to check out the property. (She's not normally very barky.) So far, it's probably only been a dog or something that caught her attention. Several times she's looked at him like "Hey, I was only going to let you know. I didn't actually want to go out there!" She's young and kind of hyper, but a good dog, and adores him. She sleeps on a dog bed on the floor of his bedroom and pokes her nose against his cheek if she needs to go out during the night. (100% dependable housebroken; that's most of the hard work of dog training, in my book.)

Well, now that I'm back, I need to catch up on the house. I brought home a week's worth of laundry and there's a week's worth of dishes in the dishwasher to handle. I had moved all the flower pots onto the patio so my husband could water them easily while I was gone and those have to be put back in place. And there's a lot of dead-heading to be done on the flowers.

Gee, I thought I was busy last week!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What's cuter than a baby bunny?

Almost nothing, that's what. You can barely see him in the picture, in front and to the left of the white pot. He's a wee little thing that I have watched for a few weeks now. He hides in tall grass, with just the tips of his ears showing, and wanders around eating clover in my back yard. Every year we have bunnies. I don't know how they manage in a subdivision like this. We're inside the city too, so there's not a lot of places for wild things to shelter. But they perservere. Rabbits and chipmunks, squirrels, doves and birds of all sorts, sometimes a groundhog. It shakes you out of your "city mind" to see a little bit of untamed nature roaming through your manicured lawn.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

At least I'm doing something right

I clicked over to Blogthings this morning while checking for new entries on my favorite blogs and trying to wake up completely. (Hey, that might explain some of my comments - remember that I do this the first thing in the morning!) I was picking random quizzes for amusement and came across one that was "What Women's Hairstyle Is Right For You?" Ok, I'm getting a haircut tomorrow, I'll take ANY input.

Six questions, click click click click click click, get the answer:
The haircut I HAVE! Big help they are!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Waiting for BlockCentral

First, I must tell you that I am a pathologically punctual person. I am the first arrival at every party (I've even driven around the block to kill time so that I won't arrive too early), the one who gets to the doctor's office at least 15 minutes before my appointment - regardless of how long I know I will end up waiting, the person you will see pacing circles around the food court if you're 5 minutes late meeting me at the mall. I think I inherited this trait from the grandfather I never knew, who passed away before I was born. Mom tells of him getting dressed far too early to go to his Lodge meeting, and pacing up and down the back sidewalk until time to leave. This SOOOO sounds like me.

Anyway, that trait is why the following bugs me so much: BlockCentral hasn't posted its BOM June block yet, and it's the 17th. OK, it's just one block, but I'm working on a lot of projects, including four BOM's, so I like to keep up.

Really keep up. Come to think of it, can they post July's block early?

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's like a nature preserve out there

A mockingbird nest in my crape myrtle, baby chipmunks around the driveway, and this little fellow on my patio this morning. He's a newly fledged robin, probably out for his first foray from the nest. He has been sitting on my patio table for a little while, waiting for Mama and Papa to bring him some nice worms.
Every once in a while he opens his little beak expectantly, as if that will make lunch come sooner. He just let out a little cheep, as if to say "Hurry up!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Teacup Block Swap

I received my swapped blocks today, and frankly, the participation was disappointing. Only three other people submitted blocks, so I got three new blocks and nine of mine returned to me. I like my blocks and am going to make a wallhanging of them, but I so wanted to see a wide spectrum of other quilters' work.

This was sent by Diana in England. She does beautiful precise machine applique using a small blanket stitch. The color is so nice; it reminds me of Hammersley China's "Victorian Violets" pattern. (Gee, I must watch too much "Cash in the Attic" on BBC America!)

This is from Chandra in Montana. Her hand applique stitches are soooooo small, it puts me to shame! Lovely job, Chandra!

This is by Betty in Seattle. Isn't the purple floral fabric gorgeous? She used a small machine satin stitch for her block. The black thread makes the design "pop". Nice touch.

I'm really looking forward to the next swap!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Camouflage floor

Yep, that's a picture of my kitchen floor. My clean kitchen floor, I might add. I've been house cleaning today, and the reason I am treating you all to a picture of my clean floor is to identify for those of you perhaps in the market for new kitchen flooring the most crumb-camouflaging pattern ever manufactured. I am always astounded when I sweep the kitchen how many crumbs/thread snippets/cat fur bits that this pattern completely and utterly hides from view. There is something about the coloration and pattern of this stuff so that any little thing dropped on it absolutely disappears. Including pins. Oh, how I hate trying to find a dropped pin on this floor!

This is, of course, both a good and a bad thing. When I'm in the middle of a sewing project and don't want to clean, it's a good thing.

We bought the flooring because it matched the kitchen redesign. I didn't know it had magical powers of prestidigitation. Let's hear it for the crumb-hiding floor!

Man, oh man, is it HUMID!

I decided that I should get some watering and weed pulling done before I start my cleaning day, so I headed outside at 9 am for a little yard work in a pair of knit capris and a short sleeved tee shirt.

Firstly, and you wouldn't think it, too much clothing. I should have opted for a tank top, to begin with. The temp had already hit 85 and the humidity was oppressive. Not to be too gross about it, I am descended from a line of profusive prespirers. That's one of the reasons I hate to wear makeup and eventually just swore off it. I can raise a sweat getting dressed in the morning. Lugging a garden hose around the yard? So not a pretty sight.

The capris, though, are a hit for a simple reason: if I need to kneel down and pull a weed, for example, I can hike the pants legs up and rest on my bare knees. Skin is easier to wash than clothing!

I pulled the weeds around the bottom of my struggling pear tree project and had to make a hard decision. I had a pear tree than contracted fire blight and had to be cut down after several years of unsuccessful treatment. It was cut flush with the ground and I never had the stump removed. Around the edge of the stump sprouts appeared. I decided to give it a shot and let the strongest of them grow. There were six. I watched them, and today weeded it down to four. When I can tell which one is the best of the bunch, it will be selected and nurtured. I would love to have the pear tree back. I don't really even like pears all that much, and I liked these. The only drawback was during its peak producing years: there would be ripe pears fallen all over the ground and wasps LOVE dropped fruit. And if you hit one with the lawnmower it shot out like artillary.

I washed out the birdbath and inspected my flower bed, which is actually growing a little too well, especially the verbena. I'm going to have to do some trimmng soonn, before it takes over the place. The purported short zinnia plants are as tall as my birdbath, which is not exactly what I planned, but they're blooming well. And the balloon flowers are blooming, which I get such a kick out of. They're weird looking little flowers.

The amaryllis is doing very well this year and hasn't had to be staked yet. I attribute it to adequate rainfall. The tall stalks are like hose segments, hollow in the middle, and if there's enough hydration, they're round. If it's been drier, they flatten like that garden hose you retract on a reel, and the flower heads become too heavy to hold up. I have a handful of stakes for lillies that I will deploy if things get droopy, but so far so good.

I can't claim credit for most of the plants in my yard. I put in the flower bed around the birdbath, and extended the azalea border of the patio, but the trees and the amaryllis were here when I arrived. There was also a garden plot that we decided to give back to the yard (not really gardeners - more like the tomato-in-a-pot sort). We've lost and cut down several trees in the last 15 years - the place looked like a national forest when we moved in. The unlamented lost are long needle white pine trees, which are the most aggravating conifers I have ever had. The branches grew straight out from the trunk, and attained such a length that the weight of them caused the branch to crack in the center along its length. They also dropped a profuse amount of needles which could not be mulched up or chopped by the mower, and killed the lawn with their acidity. Better long gone.

We had three fruit trees which met bad ends - the apple was hit by lightening, the peach was blown over by a tornado and the pear contracted fire blight, a nasty tree disease which seems almost impossible to eradicate. I may have a happy ending with the pear tree if the sprouts grow.

We may lose a dogwood this year. I have been fighting the anthracnose disease for years, as has much of the southeast, and five of the six are holding their own, although need watering in the summer due to the drought. The sixth was trimmed back hard this week due to branch die-off, although it might instead be a type of borer infestation from the look of the lower trunk, but we're not sure. We're hoping we can save it. If it dies, I will probably replace it with a Cornus kousa, the dogwood that is resistant to anthracnose. We wouldn't want to give up the spring flowers.

Heat or not, that was the fun part of the morning. Now, to house cleaning.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Giving in to my Spode obsession

I knew when I pulled the Barron's catalog out of the mailbox that I was in trouble. Instead of dropping it immediately into the recycle basket like a sane woman, I flipped through the pages and was stopped dead by a picture of the Spode English Countryside plates that I had been mooning over for a year. Before I could talk myself into buying them from Amazon, they had gone out of stock and weren't available any more. I had done Yahoo searches for them to no avail; even let me down.

But what should I find on page 12 of the catalog but the coveted plates, on sale no less! I showed my husband and told him that was what I wanted for Christmas, only he had to go ahead and order them, in case they sold out, and hide the box until December. "Just order them now," he replied, reasonably. "If you want them, get them." (What a peach!)

And here they are: Did I say how wonderful my husband is? I am soooooo spoiled!

Capri pants

When I started contemplating the dog days of summer in the waning weeks of May, I decided to take a sartorial leap and order some capri pants. By June 1 it was already in the high 80's here, with the renowned southeastern humidity starting to make an appearance. Something had to be done - and since I had given up wearing shorts when I left my 30's (I considered it a public service), there had to be a better option than khakis and sweating.

Now, I'm fully aware that there are few more unfortunate clothing choices for a Woman of a Certain Size than capris. No garment ever designed is better at making a person with an average inseam look like she has the leg length of E.T. And if you have fat calves -- hey, let's stop that hem right where it will draw attention to those chubbies. But, as I pulled on the first pair today and a breeze wafted by my ankles I was willing to overlook those facts.

I'm not going to wear them out in public, for heaven's sake. But I may use some fake-tanning cream. Man, those are some white shins!

Laptop case

I made my laptop case today. I had been looking for an inexpensive travel case for my 17" Toshiba laptop for some time, but had found only a few that fit this larger laptop and they all cost more than I was willing to pay for only occasional travel. 90% of the time my laptop sits on my desk. The only reason I have a laptop to begin with, rather than a monitor, keyboard and tower case, was to save room. We have a wireless network in the house and I use the networked printer in the other room next to his computer.

Anyway, I did want some protection for it if I took it with me to visit Mom, for example, so I decided to buy some double-faced pre-quilted fabric and make a case.
The outside is blue paisley on a chocolate brown background. There is a zipper pocket on the front for the power supply and external mouse (if anyone out there under the age of thirty can use those built-in pointer pads, I am surprised.). The outside pocket has a pleated bottom to hold larger items.

The case is made of a double thickness of the quilted material. I used the reverse side, a patchwork print in blue and brown, for the lining. The handles are inserted between the outside and lining and bar-tacked down the side of the case for strength. I made a shoulder strap to sew onto the sides of the case below the ends of the zipper, but have not decided whether I need it or not. If I had been thinking, I would have attached loops with D rings in the side panel so that I could attach and detach the shoulder strap as needed, but the case was already assembled before the idea came to me and I wasn't about to rip into the side seams to add the D rings. If I decide I need a shoulder strap, I can sew it on later.

I didn't have a pattern for this, just cut out freezer paper shapes for the body of the case and pocket, and messed around with the pocket shape until the pleated bottom came out right.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I am DONE with making purses!

I am so done with making purses I can't tell you. This is Mom's birthday present. It's stuffed with tissue paper to get it in shape, and needs a little steaming to take out a wrinkle or two, but it's done. I'm happy with the way it turned out, but it was a real wrestle to work with that heavy fabric. I know when people make purses they usually do bright prints or unusual fabrics but I wanted to make her an everyday summer purse that would match all her clothes.

A few years ago I bought her a Vera Bradley handbag (it was black background with a print of green leaves, pink buds and pink ribbons - breast cancer awareness special edition) and she does use it, but I guess she pays more attention to matching her purse to her clothes than I do. I have a brown/aqua/blue paisley-floral print Vera that I just love and I carry it with everything! Vera bags are the best when it comes to interior organization and they're well made with sturdy zipper pockets and open pockets for your glasses and cell phone. The only thing that makes it less than perfect is that it has two shoulder straps, one of which is always slipping off my shoulder. I was careful to make Mom's handbag with one strap because she doesn't like the double straps either.

A double strap tote would have been much easier to sew. Adding the D rings to attach the shoulder strap made it more detailed and was simpler than the pattern design, which continued the side gusset into the strap. This pattern got quite a few changes besides the shoulder strap. I added the outside zipper pocket, the inside open pockets for glasses and such, and an inside zipper pocket.

The only depressing thing at this point is that I still haven't made my laptop case! After that, I SWEAR I'm going back to sewing flat things!