Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hair affairs

Did it ever strike you as strange that your cat will pick up on any little change in your house - move a chair 6" and she will notice it immediately - but you can do major changes to your appearance and she won't even react? I just cut nearly 5" off my hair today and does Molly even act like she sees it? Nope.

I suppose we are strange creatures to them. We change the color of our clothes every day, we use differently scented soaps and perfumes, we put on makeup and glasses and jewelry. Molly probably quit trying to figure me out a long time ago.

By the way, I cut my hair because I found out that Locks of Love can't use gray hair, and neither will any other hair donation organization I investigated. I was growing out my hair to donate it, but the organizations can't use mostly gray hair. None of them wanted hair with more than 5% gray, and I passed that cutoff when I was in my 20's. The Locks of Love website said they will take gray hair and sell it to recoup operating expenses, but I'm not going to cope with growing out my hair for that. Heck, if it was just going to be used to raise money I'll send them a check.

I feel much more like myself with my hair above shoulder length again anyway. And no more catching the end of my hair under my purse shoulder strap, or in the car door (I kid you not, and it hurt - the wind caught my hair and blew it out the opening just as I shut the door) or under the seat belt shoulder belt, or tangling it up and pulling it when you turn over in bed. How do longhaired people do it?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Yarn bombers?

Did you see this story? I heard it today on NPR's All Things Considered while making dinner and had to run to the computer to see the photo on the NPR website. Yes indeed, there it was, a bear statue outfitted with a crochet hoodie.

You see, these people crochet gloves and mittens, scarves and hoods and shawls, and outfit public statues. Why, you ask? I've been trying to figure out that one myself.

As vandalism goes, it's pretty tame. As art, it's pretty lame. The cutesy factor was just too much for me. And the waste - of time, of yarn. When these "installations" are found by the public works people who take care of the statues, they are removed and probably thrown out. The one NPR wrote about on the bear statue in LA was put in place at 5 p.m. one evening and didn't even make it to the next morning before being removed.

I couldn't help thinking that if the self-styled "yarn bombers" put that much effort into crocheting afghans for Project Linus, think of the little children they could help. Or gloves and scarves for homeless people. Or lap robes for old ladies in nursing homes. But I guess that's not cool or artsy enough.

Monday, April 18, 2011


My neighbor passed away yesterday. The couple across the street were in their late 80's, and for the last two years have been living with their son in another state after health issues intruded on their independence. They came back home for a week or two several times, but with her Alzheimer's and his heart trouble and inability to drive anymore, it was difficult for them to stay there. Living with their son, although an imperfect solution, was necessary but the couple never gave up on the thought of coming home, and never actively pursued selling the house.

And now she is gone. It was fairly sudden, a surprise to their friends here in town but not to their son, who had seen his mother's precipitous decline in the last month. He called my other neighbor next door this morning to tell her the bad news because this lady, also in her 80's, had been a close friend. The funeral is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, and soon after that, hard decisions about their house will have to be made since it would be impossible for the widower to live there by himself. So now the changes in the neighborhood that I have been fearing may be starting.

My next door neighbor lost her husband nearly ten years ago, and every year I wonder if this is the summer she decides that upkeep of the house is just too hard alone and that she should move into a condo like her friends; her son lives in another city and worries about her living alone. The elderly gentleman three doors up the street collapsed in his yard last week and is now in the hospital having a pacemaker implanted. My neighbor to the rear died two years ago, although his widow still lives there with two of their five children. More changes are brewing; other people up the street are getting older and have health issues. I feel like a major neighborhood turnover is about to take place.

This is an established subdivision, meaning that it was built over 40 years ago, and many of the houses are still owned by the original buyers. We bought our house in 1993 from a widowed elderly lady who moved here in 1972, and only sold to relocate closer to her daughter. A few of the houses belong to people who moved here after we did eighteen years ago, but they are the exception. People here have been in the same spot for many years and know one another - it's a real neighborhood. Unfortunately, that means that when people start to either die, or move for health reasons, or downsize in their old age, it will happen in a landslide.

But who will move here when the turnover happens? These are old-fashioned houses, and not in a good way. They are mostly ranchers, without bling and pizzazz, no granite countertops or crown molding or stainless steel this and that. They are simple, sturdy construction, mostly brick veneer, but that doesn't catch buyer's attention nowadays, they who want eye candy in their houses, open floor plans, high end touches - and these houses don't qualify. They're also cheap, compared to new construction. You could probably buy any house on this street for way less than $100/sq. foot, if it were listed today. That's amazingly inexpensive for their size, quality of construction and lot size. They would be perfect starter houses for families with children, but this area is in a so-so school district. It's also inside city limits, so residents are hit with both city and county property taxes. Not attractive to middle class families.

So we are probably a target either for house flippers or income property investors. And if renters start moving into the area, it is likely that it will decline further because in this town, people don't want to own houses in areas heavy in rental property - it brings down the property values for everyone. A chain reaction of decline causing more decline. These things have been on my mind since we retired, because we always assumed that we would move sooner or later. But we can't find a house or condo that meets our rather specific physical needs, at least we haven't in the last three years, so we stay. Now we are possibly starting to witness the changes we have feared.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tomato land

Every year I plant tomatoes. And by August of every year, I am tying the vines on the fence, stabilizing the tomato cages with bamboo stakes and generally trying to keep the vines from toppling the flimsy tomato cages you normally find in the garden center. Well, not this year. I got myself some by-gosh TOMATO CAGES. They're lovely. Heavy gage wire, tall, collapsible for easy storage. They weren't as cheap as the round ones, but they are going to do the job. They're a little hard to see against the gray fence, but here's what I mean: They are just great. I installed them when I planted my tomatoes, herbs and the annual flower bed today. You can't see much because of the shadows but it's looking very spiffy:

How nice to get started on the summer chores. It was a beautiful day to work outside this afternoon, too. Back outside tomorrow to plant more stuff. I love it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Quilts for Japan

I'm in the process of finishing two small quilts for the Japanese relief effort. I received an email from Quiltbug.com last week advertising a sew-in to be held this weekend, making quilts for Japan. They had received donated batting, backing fabric and quilting services and were inviting local quilters to participate. They also were soliciting donations, and I had been looking for a place to offer some help. After a quick call to assess if they would take unquilted tops (yes, gladly), I boxed up a full size and two child size tops, backing and even binding and mailed them off on Thursday.

Today, I'm finishing the second of two more quilt tops for them. These are made from the leftovers of the two quilts I made in the last few weeks, the one for my niece and the other made from a Collection for a Cause - Hope FQ bundle. These are child size and perhaps a bit eccentric, but they used up the last of the fabric from the jelly rolls and fat quarter bundles from which the large quilts were made. It's a win-win; fewer scraps to stow in the closet and two more tops for charity. I just had to figure out a plan to make them with whatever I had left. I think they were successful enough, but definitely not masterpieces!

Here are pictures. Note that I said they were eccentric. I was using the leftover shapes from the quilts, which were primarily 2 1/2" strips.Someone tell me quick if they're too weird or too ugly. I will understand.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

This probably isn't as cute if it's YOUR attic

I saw the most adorable thing when I glanced out the back window while on the telephone this evening. Baby squirrels! These little guys amused themselves running up and down the roof of the house next door. Whenever a noise startled them, they zipped back into a hole visible under that angled section of roof beside the end of the rain gutter. They must be able to access the rafter area there and have been spending the winter in a nice cosy nest inside the attic. These little guys were about half the size of a grown gray squirrel and were absolutely adorable. But, like I said, perhaps not so cute if they're living in your house.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When is scrappy TOO scrappy?

I answered that question today - courtesy of a Carrie Nelson pattern named McGuffey. See, the pattern looks like this (Photo from designer's website):
Notice that the blocks have matching pairs of bands around the large square. I've made the quilt that way once before. This time, I decided to introduce more variety in the blocks by mixing up all the patches surrounding the square. This picture shows how the instructions say to piece the block (left) and how I modified it (right).To say that it didn't work is an understatement. I made about 20 blocks and laid them out on the floor. Well. It looked terrible! It was too chaotic. You couldn't see the pattern of the quilt. It was just a jumble. So I took the remaining pieces, sorted them into pairs and started making the blocks the right way. After about 45 blocks I had to start picking apart the ones I made before and rescuing the patches to recycle into new blocks. It was a mess. But I did finish all 64 blocks.Here they are laid out on the floor. I think it's cute. This quilt will be for my niece, because she likes purple, and because her cat of 16 years just died. I'm going to have it quilted with an allover kitty design, in honor of Zoe. Rest in peace, little kitty, you were loved.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I think I just made a Christmas quilt

The fabric is from a bundle of Moda's "Collection for a Cause - Hope" that I picked up on sale. The greens are actually teal when you look at the pieces individually, but combined, they just read as green. I wasn't trying to make anything Christmass-y but........... it absolutely is, isn't it? This is the pattern Chain of Faith from the Moda Bakeshop website. By the time I made a bunch of blocks I realized that the contrast between the fabrics wasn't right for the pattern but decided to finish it anyway since it was going together very quickly (raging insomnia last night helped there, too - I had plenty of sewing time after I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep). The red diagonal lines of squares don't stand out enough, and they would have been better if they weren't scrappy, but I was using what I had. I still have a red border and a scrappy piano key border to add. This isn't much of a show and tell today. I also have a quilt in progress from Carrie Nelson's McGuffey pattern that needs more light colors that I'm going to rework. It's made from Moda's Lilac Hill jelly rolls that I got on sale insanely cheap. On a depressing note, my local quilt shop is going out of business. The story is that the owner is also a local rep for Moda and the two jobs were stretching her too thin, so she chose the rep job. Now I'll have to drive down in Georgia to the nearest quilt shop, which is a nice one but not very handy. Or shop at Joann's or Hancock's, which are fine for notions and thread and such but don't carry any of the well known brands of fabric. Most of their stuff is made especially for them and the quality is variable. I'm not being a brand snob; you can see a real difference between Moda or RJR and what they sell. More online shopping in my future.