Thursday, April 30, 2009

The double wedding ring quilt is well-traveled

Remember the calamitous double wedding ring gift quilt? I shipped it off to its recipients on Monday, and as of today it's still merrily riding around in the FedEx truck all over Huntington, WV. The driver tried to deliver it on Wednesday without success. Seems the recipient has a broken doorbell, and the driver rang it (well, thought he rang it), got no response and took the box back to the truck. (I specified signature required for delivery.)

The recipient was in the house, in the kitchen actually, but didn't hear the driver on the front porch. The driver didn't knock because, gee, there was a doorbell and he had no indication it didn't work. So he took it back to the FedEx office and tried again today.

Same thing. No answer, take the package back to the office. I understand they will try a third time before returning it to sender. If it comes back to me I will just hold it until the person visits me again and give it to them in person.

After the first delivery trial, the recipient called the FedEx office and instructed them to hold the package so he could pick it up in person. Of course that didn't happen. Have you ever had UPS or FedEx listen to a single request you made? You can only talk to the central 1-800 number and they never seem to relay any handling request to the local dispatching office. I speak from experience here.

But, the kicker is this: the doorbell has been broken for some time - it wasn't a surprise. Wouldn't you have taken the button off the front door so people weren't tempted to use it, or at least posted a sign that said "Doorbell broken, please knock"?

Invasion of the little furry striped things

Remember these guys? The ones that lived under my house and chewed up my phone wires and wrecked havoc?

I managed to close up the rusted-out foundation vents with hardware cloth, and assumed that after they were denied access to the "Chipmunk Hilton", they would go somewhere else to make their little burrows and live their little furry lives.

Au contraire.

They aren't living under my house anymore, but they sure didn't leave and there seem to be more of them than ever! The cat and I have been watching the patio for the last 30 minutes and have seen at least a dozen of them, zipping around, digging in the flower pots, climbing the nandinas, poking around in the mulch border under the azaleas, scavenging the yard for dropped birdseed.

Were there always this many, and they spent most of the time in the crawlspace so they weren't seen? Or have they come outside, blinked, said "This isn't so bad" and proceeded to make new burrows and invite all their friends? Either way, the colony definitely has expanded.

This is all because I like to feed the birds. There's not a critter in critter-dom that's going to turn down a sunflower seed. I have fought these little vermin for years. I had to buy metal cans to store the birdseed and tie the lids on with bungee cords because they raided the stash. I have a two door resin cabinet that sits on the patio next to the chimney. It holds my gardening tools and supplies and was also my storage for birdseed, until they chewed a hole in the door! (Luckily, it's a hollow core door and they only chewed the outside surface. I would hate to have to put Bondo patches on the patio accessories because the little varmints can't keep their teeth to themselves.)

Yesterday I went out to the patio to water the flats of unplanted annuals and heard a "scritch scritch scritch" which seemed to come from the bottom of the cabinet. My first thought was that I had accidentally trapped one inside when I got the watering can. I even opened the doors and poked around inside with a bamboo stake, among the bags of fertilizer and tools, to make sure. Nobody ran out. The cabinet sits on a couple of scraps of 2x4 to keep it off the concrete. I decided they're under there in that little gap. Oh, great, now they're trying to chew out the bottom of the cabinet too.

I wonder if I could rent the little rat dogs next door to scare them off?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's alive, it's alive!

After a tiring afternoon yesterday, planting is about done. The bare pot at the front door looks like this:and the ones at the driveway like this:The white pots flanking the patio steps are filled:I planted those asymetrically this year and used hypoestes to "mound and trail" over the corner of the pot per the description. Boy, I hope.

There's group of pots next to the bench too. Those contain herbs as well as flowers:And, my flower bed and "bucket garden" (tomatoes in pots) are planted:I have high hopes for the "Better Boy hybrids. I wanted to try heirlooms but the nursery guy didn't think they would do well in containers. These, however, are said to take pot cultivation well. We'll see.My little flower plot looks nice - no vining plants this time, the lantana took over the joint last year and was a nuisance to trim. I like to put scaveola in these hanging baskets. It will fill out nicely and takes summer heat well.Of course, I have more empty pots and to plant!Now, if only I can keep the local critters from disturbing the pots and beds until they are well rooted. The squirrels: and their cute cousins: will dig and uproot the plants - who knows why? As my husband said, "They're called vermin for a reason."

Monday, April 27, 2009

There's a flower garden in there somewhere

Oh brother, what a day. Five solid hours of errands and running around the whole east end of town. I made a chore list last night so I knew what I was in for, but all this dashing here and there really wears a body out.

The list alone is tiring:
1. Drop off recycling at the city's convenience recycling center.
2. Go to the hardware store.
3. Go to the drugstore.
4. Pick up an empty box at the FedEX shipping center.
5. Return home and pack up wedding gift quilt for shipment.
6. Go to the nursery and pick out flowers/tomato plants.
7. Go back to the FedEx and ship wedding gift quilt.
8. Go to the grocery.


So, these:
and these:
will be planted here:and here: and here:
and here:
and here:
and other places too, tomorrow. I plan a very early start so I can do the heavy work digging out and refreshing the dirt in the large pots while it's still cool (I decided that you didn't need to see the bags of composted manure and potting soil).

I tried to pick plants I don't usually use. Although I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a gardener, I try to keep up the flower bed and pots in front of the house and those adorning the back yard and patio, and do enjoy a splash of color in the yard.

Now for the "what was I thinking?" part of this post:

I completed the binding on the double wedding ring quilt yesterday. It took over ten hours stretched over three days to prepare, attach, and hand finish the binding. I used a home-made folded bias tape binding, single thickness - the double thickness kind I usually use won't go around the curves as well. The scallops required a lot of fussing to be sure everything was smooth. It was a narrow binding, just 3/8" and was made of the darker rose fabric used in the center squares. I'm describing this because, well, I can't show you. I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE BEFORE I WRAPPED AND BOXED AND SHIPPED IT. How dumb am I?

Yesterday, I was so exasperated and sick of that quilt. After I finally got all that scalloped binding completed, I spread it out on the guest bed to look one more time for threads to be clipped. Something caught my eye. One of the arc segments, the ones with a vine running through like this, wasn't quilted. I kept looking. There was another one. And another. And another. She had missed quilting the vine in four arcs. So, I threaded my Juki, sketched a vine and leaves with chalk in the four arcs, and duplicated her longarm quilting as well as I could. It's not exactly the same thread as the rest of the quilt, and my vines don't look just like her vines, but at least it was quilted.

I laid it out on the guest room and practially crawled across it with a magnifying glass to be sure there was nothing else. It was finally done. Then, in relief, I swathed it in one of my favorite wrapping papers, put on a nice curly bow, and slipped a card under the ribbon.

Today, I boxed it with the wedding picture album my husband made for them, and set off to FedEX. Just about the time I got in the car, I realized I had not photographed the completed quilt. Oh bother. I'll ask the couple to make a picture and send to me.

That'll have to do.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Half a quilt

Paula's going to be making a quilt for her sweetie. And, sometime before next fall I need to do the same. But for a different reason. Paula, The Quilter wrote that her guy asked for a new lap quilt for his new chair. I need to make half a bed quilt. Let me explain.

I am hot-natured. VERY hot-natured. If I try to sleep with more than one light quilt on the bed, I die. My husband, on the other hand, likes warmth. We have tried folding back half a full size quilt, and putting a twin size quilt only on his side. Neither work very well because the weight of the quilt pulls it off the bed. So I had a brainstorm. Why not half a quilt?

I plan to make it 48" x 84". Just enough to lie on top of the first quilt over one person, to add a second layer of warmth. And, being kitty people, he requested a cat pattern. I already found a GREAT piece of fabric for the back: but I haven't decided on a design. I looked at a bunch of cat-based pieced and appliqued blocks online and he didn't like any of them. So for now I'm stumped.

Anybody have a fantastic cat quilt pattern?

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's not all the girls' fault!

I recently stumbled across a blog promoting "Moms for Modesty". I read her mission statement and was intrigued. I am constantly astounded at what modern mothers think is appropriate clothing for pre-teen girls. And it's not something new. Even ten years ago, I went to a brunch at a couple's house who were celebrating the completion of a kitchen remodeling. Several couples brought their children along. The attire of one pre-teen girl appalled my husband and me. To quote him in all his unstinting truthfulness: "That kid was dressed like a hooker."

I agree completely that the sexualization of children in the media and marketplace is unreasonable and unacceptable. Joan has blogged about this in the past, protesting immorality in behavior depicted in advertisements. However, I don't think this manifesto goes nearly far enough in one aspect: since when is it always the girls'/women's responsibility for the actions of boys/men?

Here is the mission statement:
Moms for Modesty Mission Statement
As a Mom for Modesty I believe in common-sense modesty for girls and young women.

1. I believe in refraining from sexualizing our girls and young women. I believe that it is unwise and unfair to taunt boys and young men by permitting my daughter(s) to dress in an immodest manner.

2. I believe that true beauty comes from within and I strive to teach my daughter(s) this truth.

3. I will loyally shop at retailers that provide girls' and young womens clothing that is modest, affordable and stylish.
Items 2 and 3 - no argument there. Especially item 3. Someone has to put their foot down and say - "These are CHILDREN." But the first item. . .ah, there's the rub. ". . .to taunt boys and young men. . ." That line raised my hackles in a big way. How far is it from this thought to "She asked for it"?

Girls and women should be able to walk down the street in nearly any attire they please without being construed as "loose", "available" or targets for attack. But, you say, what about your comment in the first paragraph? Exactly right. Should be able to. Unfortunately, people aren't there yet. And there's two ways to approach this problem. Teach girls that appearances are important in how people perceive you. And teach boys to keep their hands off and their opinions to themselves.

If you think that demeaning treatment of girls and women is expected because of their dress length; that they have to shrug off the comments and catcalls on the street due to a v-neck sweater; that, God forbid, if they are attacked or raped it is because they led their attackers on because their shorts were too short, you just started my blood boiling.

Here is my comment that I left on the Moms for Morality website.
Even though I am not a mother, I am dismayed with the sexualization of children, the salacious marketing aimed at them, and the appalling clothing choices for pre-teens. I agree with you fully. Given that, I am also waiting for the "Dads for Decency" movement. I fear that, as usual in the cases of morals, behavior and family issues, women are left to carry the load here. Where are the mission statements on teaching sons that there are better people to look up to than rappers and ball players with anger management issues? That how you treat other people, and especially women, is a prime indicator of your value to society and how you value yourself? That a clothing label or a set of special sneakers does not define you or your worth? Dads out there, is anybody listening?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

One quilt in, one quilt out

Here's why it's great to have a quilt stockpile. I made this little "X" quilt just on a whim, because I liked the colors in the jelly roll I bought on sale. I thought I might hang it on the wall in the hallway for a change. Then, my lawn guy told me his son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first baby. Instant baby quilt!
The binding is a small green and ivory check, which just about blinded me. I love small checks and stripes in bias bindings, but they are SO hard to stare at for hours.

Remember the angst about the double wedding ring quilt? Yesterday, the longarm quilter called and said that she was ready to return it. With some trepidation, I waited. Here's an example of the quilting - what do you think?
I had some doubts about the stitch in the ditch around the rings, and the center square quilting, but have decided that after all the vine quilting in the rings was completed, the quilt on the whole looks fine. I'm in the process of binding the scalloped edges right now. I'm sure it will be pretty.

Breathe, Calico, breathe. Don't get so upset about everything.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Up to my neck in birds

The news in the Southeast recently has reported there is an outbreak of salmonella poisoning among Southern songbirds, especially goldfinches and pine siskins, although other birds, such as cardinals, have also been affected.

Boy, can't tell it from my yard.

I have had more goldfinches this year than in the last ten years of bird feeding. I always have loads of cardinals, robins, chickadees, nuthatches, doves, sparrows, wrens, thrushes, purple finches and house finches, but seldom have seen a goldfinch. Now, every time I look into the back yard, there's one perched on my thistle feeder.

I just went to look - there's one out there right now.

And now there's two.

If you feed it, they will come.

I almost quit buying Niger thistle seed because there was so little interest in it compared to the other feeders. I mean, what self-respecting bird would nibble daintily on a teeny-tiny thistle seed when there's a big load of sunflower right there? I have seen little black cap chickadees and purple finches pin a seed to a branch with a foot and peck for a whole minute to crack the hull. They're so little, one seed must be a breakfast for them.

But now, it's all about the thistle. They will empty half the feeder in one day. Remember how tiny thistle seeds are? That's a lot of peck-peck-peck. I'm just glad that the seed is sterilized so the effluvia from the feeder doesn't turn into a thistle patch in the back yard.

Boy, my lawn guy sure wouldn't like that.

As for under the sunflower feeder. . .I'm waiting for someone to invent a back yard vacuum cleaner to pick up all the seed hulls.

Meanwhile, the mourning doves have been meticulously examining all my window sills for possible nesting sites. Coo-coo. "Honey, what do you thing about this one?"

We've gone to the birds here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The joys of home ownership in the Spring!

I haven't even planted annuals yet and I am spending some part of every day outside, piddling around with the landscaping. Today I laid down grass seed and straw on a bare area next to the curb in the side yard where the raked leaves and trimmed branches lay for several months until the city decided to pick them up (supposed to be every month, but......).

When they finally picked up the leaves and clippings, they used the claw truck (exactly what you're picturing, a big motor operated articulated arm with a claw, mounted on a flat bed truck next to an enormous compactor bin for collecting the stuff) and took a sizeable portion of my yard away with the branches and leaves. They left a spot about 8 ft by 10 ft scraped clear to the dirt, so I had to try to get some grass started before it became too warm. There's always some bare areas to try to reseed, too, remnants of the pine trees I had removed years ago. The dirt is still too acid, I guess, from the pine needles. Anyway, the grass has a hard time there. So, I strewed seed and spread straw, and now I just have to hope it takes.

I have to keep weeding out daylily sprouts in my side yard landscaping, where they try to take over. Nearly every morning after I retrieve the newspaper from the driveway, I walk around to the side of the house and inspect the bed for weeds and unwanted stuff. This was previously a problematical stretch of roses, daylilies and various bushes that always looked scraggly. Last fall, I finally ripped out everything but the roses - at least as much as I could see at that time - and put in some low evergreens around them. The daylilies keep sprouting everywhere, and I keep grubbing them out when they make an appearance. If I keep at it, they won't get out of control, and I can pull the little seedlings out by the roots by hand. Since this photo, the iris between the roses have begun to bloom and the rosebushes are full of buds.

This little bed is doing well - there's a lot of new growth since this picture was taken.

I am the furthest thing from a gardener, but I do love to work outside in the spring! In a few weeks, it's time for annuals!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Home Security

Several things have happened recently that make me think more about home security. Yesterday, my neighbor told me that when she let her dog out around midnight the night before, she saw a person she described as looking like a teenage boy run down the driveway of the house on the other side of hers, jump into a car waiting on the curb and speed away. She called the owners that morning, who reported that nothing seemed to be missing or disturbed. Needless to say, the thought of people poking around in the yard in the middle of the night, two doors up the street from me, caused me concern.

There have been more instances. The house four doors up the street was broken into on Christmas night, while the owner was at her relatives' house for dinner. Their security alarm went off just as we sat down to dinner ourselves. And last month, a light like a flashlight being turned on and off quickly was seen around 2 a.m. in the back yard of the house five doors up the street. My neighbor saw that too because she had to get up to let the dog out to go to the bathroom. (She's up at all hours with that silly dog, so she's the only one awake to see what happens around here at night.) The couple who lives in that house were awakened by their dog barking at the same time. It's a big dog, so the guy opened the back door and turned it out in the yard (good deterrent!). When they looked, there was no one outside.

Let me say that I don't live in a dodgy neighborhood. True, it's an older one, but still very respectable. However, there have been indications that this part of the city may have problems in the future.

A little history: my house was built in 1968. It's around 7 miles as the crow flies from the city center. At that time, it was waaaaay outside of town! This was part of a farm that was subdivided and sold for lots. Now of course, the city has grown out to meet and then pass us for miles and we are inside city limits. There's a large elemetary school across the street. Since it's an older area with mostly ranch style houses, it's not so popular with home buyers anymore. Many of the occupants have been here since the 1970's. Nearly all of them are older than we are. My neighbor is 85. The couple across the street are 87 or 88. The lady on the other side of my neighbor is in her 60's. And so on. The lady who lives around the corner from us is around our age, and the house behind us, built on a long-vacant lot around 5 years ago, is owned by a family with two small children. But, mostly, it's retirees here.

That in itself can be a danger. A thief, driving around during the day to survey the area, will see only old people outside, and no children playing. That makes these houses an easier mark. And, there have been disturbing news items reported about the adjoining area just a few miles closer to town. Shootings, burglaries, assaults. True, it's a much older area, and has been going downhill, but it's not that far away. It's also getting a reputation as a less safe part of town. That's why home sales are drying up here and everyone is moving/building further east or north outside town. (Well, that and they don't want to pay both city and county taxes.)

What to do? We tried without luck to find a house last year. This has been a fear of mine, that it will become less safe to live here. And, that we wouldn't be able to sell the place. It's all very worrisome.

Well, on a lighter note, let me tell you a story about my lawn guy. He mowed yesterday for me, my neighbor, and the newer house behind me. (He's got quite a business.) Since the people in the newer house have small children, the yard is always cluttered with toys, soccer nets and swing sets for him to contend with. There are also an enormous number, at least a dozen, play balls and soccer balls always scattered about. I told him if they don't clean up their yard he is going to have to mount a cow catcher on the front of his riding mower. Anyway, yesterday I watched him driving the riding mower around the back yard with what looked like a golf club in his hand, batting the balls out of the way as he worked. Mower polo!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why do you have a blog if you aren't gonna WRITE ANYTHING???!!!

I know - I have been a lax, slacker sluggard. The only thing I've posted on here recently has been bitching and moaning. I'll be better, I promise. It's just that right now I'm not sewing and, honestly, not very interesting.

I couldn't sleep last night because my right knee was bothering me. When I got up I couldn't bend it without a stabbing pain. Another joint inflammation flareup - the manifestation of the inflammation is called Hench-Rosenberg syndrome. It has hit me nearly everywhere on my body that bends during the last fifteen years, generally one joint at a time - even my jaw once. Shoulders and knees are the worst. It comes on fast and disappears fast. The pain only lasts 24 to 36 hours but while it's there it's excruciating to move the affected joint. It's an autoimmune thing, like rheumatoid arthritis or Lupus. The worst part is that I'm a grouchy mess while I'm hurting.

And, no more birdwatching. My baby birds flew away from their nest by my back door yesterday and I didn't even get to see them go. I noticed the day before they were standing up and stretching their little wings. Now - poof. Gone. Wherever you are, little doves, Godspeed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Off to the wedding

We'll be leaving in about two hours for my brother-in-law's wedding. We have about a three hour drive in front of us. At least the weather is cooperating - the sun is shining brightly and it's about 60 degrees, so it will actually be a pretty nice day to take a drive in the mountains.

We temporarily solved the quilt gift dilemma by writing in a pretty card, which will be left on the gift table, that we made them a quilt and it will be mailed to them after they return home. I didn't say exactly what quilt. That will be decided later!