Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why you should never buy a beige refrigerator

The old adage about trouble coming in threes has been validated again - at least in my life.  First, my laptop went to that big electronics store in the sky while trying to do Windows Vista updates ( I blame Vista, but I would attribute global warming, fire ants and sunburn to that dratted operating system if I could - in my opinion, Vista was EVIL).  I bought a new laptop and my husband spent days setting the thing up and then I spent even more time transferring files and arranging the new computer how I wanted it.

Then I got the bad, expensive news about my car and traded it, which was even more expensive news.

Now, my refrigerator has died.

Please, may I just go to my room and be quiet?  I'm tired of fixing problems.

Here's where the beige thing comes in.  When we renovated the kitchen about seven years ago, the refrigerator was the only thing worth keeping because it was running fine.  The old avocado range and dishwasher were hauled away.  When it came time to buy new appliances, we discussed colors and decided that since the stainless ones were so much more expensive than other colors for no obvious good reason, and since we had a perfectly good refrigerator, we would buy bisque, formerly called almond, generally identified as beige.  The color looked nice with the oak cabinets and the flooring we picked out.  I tied everything together with cabinet pulls with bisque ceramic inserts and the kitchen looked lovely.

Now the refrigerator has died and I find that no one - NO ONE - carries a bisque model in stock.  And almost none are made.  I now know how Mom felt when she tried to buy a coppertone range twenty years ago.  It ain't gonna happen, at least not easily.

Oh, they can get them from the manufacturer, but you are going to have to wait.  As in three weeks.  That's right, the stores are full of refrigerators but none of them are beige and from the looks of things they're made in Slovakia or somewhere, or why in heaven's name would it take that long to get one?  So now I plunked down my money at Lowe's and somewhere around September 19th I will finally get a frig.

We're living out of a Coleman cooler and the lady at the convenience store down the street is going to see a lot of me in the next few weeks buying ice.

Lesson learned - follow the herd.  If everyone is buying stainless, follow suit.  But how long before stainless is passe and no one can find anything to match their currently trendy kitchens?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Can't leave well enough alone

A plain border seems so, well, plain to me anymore.  Ever since I started using piano key borders and pieced borders, it's hard to simply sew a length of fabric on the outside of a quilt.  The mystery quilt, Sunset and Vine, is an example.  The concluding instructions were posted Tuesday and showed this:

Which is fine.  The quilt has a lot going on and the border gives a nice finish.  


I didn't want to leave it at that.  The gold and green chains just begged to be included in the border somehow.  I got on EQ an came up with (I'm using greens instead of purples):

Isn't that just, I don't know, cooler somehow?  I thought so.  Don't get me wrong, I love the quilt design and I would have never thought to make those strip pieced corners in the star blocks.  But I love my border.  Even if I had to buy more dark blue fabric and I'm going to have a lot of the medium green left over  Maybe a pieced back?  That sounds like a good idea!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Excuse me while I show off a little!

Here's my Orca Bay quilt on display at Sew Bee It, the LQS near my home.  I'm sorry, but it's the first time any quilt I made was displayed anywhere and I got a kick out of it.  They had asked for string quilts to hang while promoting a new string quilting book tour.  Wheeeee!  I'm really happy to see my work up there on the wall!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunset and Vine mystery quilt

I'm working on the Sunset and Vine mystery quilt at Lyn Brown's blog and just finished all 25 blocks  Here they are on the floor of my sewing room.  Now, I'm not sure this is the final layout, but when you have 12 star blocks and 13 chain blocks, what else could it be?  We should get the first of the assembly instructions this week.  

Surprisingly, I like it.  I bought all Stonehenge fabrics for the quilt to make it different from my usual choices, and it's striking.  It will make a good charity quilt for an older child or teenager.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Construction business must be better locally than we thought

I am gathering estimates for a construction project.  My house has a small covered porch on the front (about 14 inches above grade) with one normal height step down to the sidewalk.  I want that porch extended with a small deck (about 5 x 6 feet) and several deep shallow steps added to make accessibility easier for my husband.  Since it's on the front of the house I can't just bang something together like I did at the kitchen door to the garage.

To my eternal embarrassment, here's a picture of what I built over a long Labor Day five years ago when we needed to make a very quick accessibility improvement for him (and I couldn't find a carpenter to take the job then either).  See, ugly as sin.  But strong.  You could practically park a truck on them.

Anyway, that's the kind of steps I want - deep but shallow (only 4" rise but 14" tread depth).  It's kind of a no brainer if you actually know how to build stuff, like an actual carpenter

I called several deck companies and one told me to my face on the phone that it was too small a job for him to do - because, you see, his business was all the way over in Collegedale (that's sarcasm, folks, Collegedale is less than 10 miles away) and he didn't want to drive that far.  The real reason, of course, being that it was a small job and he wouldn't be making his usual big bucks on it. so it was beneath him.  I would say that a day's work is a day's work and if the construction industry is a depressed as everyone is saying, that's one more day he can pay his employees.  But go figure.

Another one came out to measure and take pictures for an estimate and he wasn't here 5 minutes.  No word so far from him and I'm betting that he doesn't call me back.

I ran into the same kind of problems when I remodeled my kitchen.  I wasn't going to spend $50,000 on a kitchen redo like all the HGTV shows (not in a house like mine); it ended up costing about $17,000 for new cabinets, appliances, flooring, wallpaper, a few wiring changes, and labor.  We're not talking a show kitchen, and I didn't change the layout.  But the kitchen reno companies either wouldn't even talk to me when I described the job, wouldn't show up for the estimate appointment or never called me back after looking at the kitchen.  I ended up hiring the father in law of a guy I worked with, and it took far too long to get the job done, although it was done well.  A kitchen renovation company could have knocked it out in less than a week.  But they weren't going to make big money off me so they weren't interested.

Consider, too, that I had to wait over two months for the house painters this spring because their work was backed up.

It's hard to take the complaints from the construction sector very seriously in this town when stuff like this happens.  Other areas of the country - yes, they're hurting.  But around here the housing market didn't take the hit that it did elsewhere.  If they're turning down money I think they must be doing just fine here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"A New Car!" (Imagine you're at "The Price Is Right)

Yep - I sprung for a new car.  After an appointment at my mechanic on Tuesday where I found that I would have to soon be spending big moola on my almost 10 year old car - the front differential was toast - we decided that instead of waiting for next spring to start car shopping as planned, the time was now.

We had already been casing the car websites and considering what would work for us.  Now that we only have a single car instead of one for me and one for him, a single vehicle would have to perform for all our needs.  In the past I was the queen of the small cars, and bought economy models because I drove quite a bit commuting to work for the last fifteen years of my work life.  My hubby worked closer in the downtown area and liked larger cars for the comfort.   In addition, there were accessibility and storage issues.  We needed to be able to load and carry a wheelchair, and he wanted a larger door opening to get in and out more easily.  If we were the average couple we could have gone out and bought any number of sedans and they would be fine, but with physical limitation issues to consider, we were tied down to looking for a hatchback or wagon with a good amount of space in the cargo area, not too high off the ground for accessibility, and ample foot room in the passenger side for my husband.  That limited the list considerably.

We had been researching cars for several months and my husband had pretty much narrowed the list to Toyota, Honda and a few others.  We were trading in a much beloved Subaru but since that brand upsized the cars, downsized the horsepower and added that Continuously Variable Transmission (it's got a belt inside instead of gear wheels - NO THANKS) we had sadly ruled out another Subaru.

On Tuesday afternoon, off the car dealers we went after making a few phone calls and checking inventory online for the local dealers  The primary candidate, a Toyota Matrix, wasn't in stock anywhere in the area.  We had never  seen one in person but on paper it looked like a good fit.  To our surprise, no one had one in stock and hadn't for over a year.  It seems that they don't sell in the southeast although on the west coast they went like hotcakes  Go figure.

So what else did Toyota have to offer that might work for us?  It turned out - nothing.  We continued on to Honda.

Our first candidate was the CR-V, and I liked it immediately but the passenger footwell was so crammed that sitting straight-legged as he has to, there was absolutely no way he would fit.  The next suggestion, a Pilot, was so tall that I would have needed a step ladder to get in.  Finally the salesman, a little guy that had just graduated from college and only worked there six weeks, brought us a Crosstour.

A Cross what?  I'd never heard of it.  It's kind of a hatchback Accord but fancier.  Bigger than I had ever considered.  But wow - the wheelchair slid into the cargo area over a flat door sill without a problem and plenty of room to spare, and the passenger seat and floor area were fine.  We took a test drive.  I started to reconsider my bias toward small cars.

In the end - we bought it.  The dealership was clearing out the 2012 models and we got a good deal.  In addition I had my dear hubby to dicker with the sales staff for us, especially about the trade-in value.  Gotta love people with project management and contract negotiation experience!

So without further ado - here's the new car:

I also had to replace my laptop last week after it pretty much figuratively crashed and burned during a Windows update.  Hubby resuscitated it until we could visit Best Buy and pick up a new one, so I'm in a learning curve on all sides right now!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I'm not a "red" person.  I'm really not.  So it's difficult to determine what's gotten into me.  When I saw this little quilt in Carol Hopkins' excellent book, "Civil War Legacies" I had to make it.  And thanks to an embarrassingly bulging stash, I could pick fabrics from the closet and start it immediately.  (Note to self:  straighten the stash closet!)  Isn't it charming?  Please excuse the terrible picture;  I threw it over the treadmill and snapped a quick pic.  But I just love it.
There are a lot more little quilts in this book I'm dying to make, but I'm trying to catch up on a mystery I started late, and keep up with the newest Sunbonnet Sleuth mystery.  And, of course, finish the Bowood House Orca Bay variation and any other languishing projects that lie on my cutting table, like the Christmas throw using Moda's Merry Medley charm packs.  

I'm not getting as much sewing done recently because I end up spending so much of my day working with the little stray kitty Tuxedo.  He's coming along just fine and has been passing the evenings with me in the den while I read on the computer or on my Kindle.  As for now, he's confined to the kitchen/den/laundry area but after a few chair-clawing moments, he's understood that the scratching post is the proper place for those kinds of things, and he loves the three toys he has - feather on a stick, catnip mouse and what I call "octo-bunny", the strangest looking pet toy I've ever seen.  It has a bunny head, round body with a rattler inside, and four humongous long legs that are great for chewing on.  It also flops satisfactorily when being wrestled.  I think I need to buy a backup in case this one gets destroyed!

Tuxie did a little meet-and-sniff with Molly through the crack of the door at the dining room last night and both did pretty well.  Molly made a few warning noises, but stood her ground on the other side of the door until Tuxie put a paw through and tried to pat her (NOT claw, just pat).  Molly took exception to being touched by this upstart and retreated a bit but stayed.  Tuxie was talking to her in intriguing kitty noises - wonder what he was saying?  They are both curious about the other but can't figure out exactly what to do.  The first time Molly and Tuxie accidentally met face to face she swatted him.  We are managing the meetings carefully and hope in time he will be less uncouth enough to be a house kitty and she will not be insulted and threatened by another cat in the house.  The best I hope for is that they ignore each other;  I'm not really aiming to find her a playmate (she doesn't really want one), just not initiate a bloodbath!  Tux just needs to understand that Molly is the queen of the house, she got here first, and she always will be the top cat.  That might be hard for a pushy little boy to swallow.  So far, neutering has mellowed him out some, but not hugely.  He's a work in progress.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Two kinds of cats, two kinds of quilts

According to that Cat Whisperer guy on Animal Planet, Jackson Galaxy, there are bush cats and tree cats;  i.e., cats who are happiest on the ground and those who head for the top of things.  Molly has pretty much been a bush cat all her life.  Except for her ambitious, daredevil kittenhood (when I once found her balanced on the valance rod of the bedroom drapes, and she adeptly scaled everything, including my husband's tower speakers - clad in canvas slipcovers in anticipation of just such as that), she has never been much of a climber, unless she is trying to get our attention about something.  A few weeks ago, because she was begging for her dinner early, she got up on the tall dresser and proceeded to carefully knock stuff off the top, looking at me the whole time.  (Of course, in the past she also had tantrums and pushed all the couch throw pillows onto the floor.)  Now, in her sedate and dignified middle age, the highest she gets is her perch on the windowsill.

Tuxedo, a climber.  Also a clawer, a nipper and a one man wrecking crew, if allowed.  But he's also very sweet a lot of the time.  It seems that our civilizing influences are having an effect but like everything difficult, it will take time.  He's spent the last three hours in the den/kitchen with me and has done very well.  He confined his clawing to the scratching post, played with his stuffed bunny and the feather on a string, laid in my lap and generally behaved himself.  Now, he's dozing on top of the piano, the highest spot he can get to in the room.  Well, actually he is fully capable of getting on top of the bookcase, my desk hutch or the fireplace mantel, but blessedly has not tried.

Sleep well, little man, you're slowly becoming a house cat - albeit the tree version.

On the quilty front, I have all the blocks and sashing made for the center of my Orca Bay variation, ready to join together.  Can you spot the differences?

Original Orca Bay:

My variation:

Here's a hint - Pinocchio ("I've got no strings....")

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Maybe not...

I made one brown sashing square with red corners and it was JUST TOO MUCH.  Worked in EQ, not so much in real life.  This is a busy, busy quilt.  It didn't need any more details.  At least it's less work to use plain squares.  Thirteen more sash blocks with the red triangles and I can start assembling the rows.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gilding the lily

Never one to stop when I'm ahead, I dreamed up a new change to the Orca Bay variation I'm working on .  Look at the picture on the previous post.  See those brown squares in the pieced sashing?  Now see the centers to the star blocks - brown squares with red corners?  Yep - I'm going to add red corners to all the brown squares in the sashing - all 72 of them.  Just when I thought I was almost finished piecing the center.  I'm not going to even talk about the pieced border.........

The solution just came to me

I walked into my sewing room this morning still puzzling over what to do with the red and green Orca Bay, and the solution jumped into my head.  It is something I almost did with my original mystery quilt but decided to follow Bonnie's instructions.

I swapped the positions of the green and cream star blocks.  See?

Now I can see green chains around red diamonds with cream stars in the center.  It all makes sense.  Now I like it!

(Which is good, because after all this sewing I was about to put it in the UFO, never-to-be-seen-again box, I was so disgusted with it.  Now I can finish it for a couch quilt at Christmas.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Scrappy, or just a big mess?

It's Orca Bay without the strings.  I wanted a green and red quilt to begin with, and I loved the Bowood House collection by Robyn Pandolph, but I think the pattern is not a good fit with the fabrics because the prints are rather large.  With these small pieces, the scale of the print is crucial.  A supposed-to-be-green triangle, for example, might end up being cut out of a section of the print with very little green, so it doesn't look green enough to carry the design across the block.  

Maybe more of it will look better;  perhaps that small segment doesn't have a very good distribution of all the fabrics used.  Here's a look at four rows, not so close up:

I just have to keep going and reevaluate at a later date.  I've put in too much effort to stop now, I've made all the star blocks and I'm halfway through the pieced sashing blocks. 

But I'm going to be very upset if this looks terrible - it's been a lot of work.