Friday, April 13, 2018

Business As Usual

I finally saw a crocus!   We had the most beautiful day on Thursday, 68 degrees and sunny.  I took
my second outside walk of the season -- as is usual for me this time of year, I passed people in short sleeves, shorts and tank tops, while I was dressed in jeans, socks, long sleeve shirt and a fleece jacket.   I was only a little chilly.    Yesterday was nice, too.

Of course, the sweet Spring weather was short lived.  We have winter storm warnings today, threatening 3/4" of ice and up to ten inches of snow.  Just to keep us on our toes.   It is a bit over 30 degrees as I write this, and temps are dropping.  Frankly, I'm starting to resent the ice and snow a little bit.  And it is obvious that the ice and snow doesn't care one bit.

The simple quilt top I was piecing earlier is finished, with a thin border I found in my stash, and I resurrected an old one, probably the first one I tried piecing together, and will have that quilted, too.  What the heck, I might as well start a whole stack of quilts, going from nothing to a dozen in the first half of the year.
In other news . . . I tried a new bread recipe this week when I had dinner with my kids.   They call it Miracle Bread and, although that might be an overstatement, it was pretty darn good.  I hesitate to even call it a bread recipe since it was so ridiculously easy, but what else do you call a process that ends up as bread?   There is literally no kneading.   Dry ingredients are combined, including a smaller than usual amount of yeast and a larger than usual amount of water, with a spoon -- not the kneading hook of my mixer! -- and it sits overnight.  Then the whole mess is gently dumped onto parchment paper and baked in a pre-heated, screaming hot dutch oven.  That's it.    For sure, it is probably not as good as the artisan breads I used to make, or as good as my bloggy friend Barbara at Cat Patches makes now, but it is delicious nonetheless.   And in my lazy elder years, easy peasy has a charm of its own.  

I am hunkering down now, watching the freezing rain outside my window and tamping down any hope of seeing my sweetie or my family this weekend if the weather gurus are right.   I am also wishing that I had stocked up on comfort (let's face it, I really mean junk) food!  No matter, I will find something to make or cook or bake from the staples in my pantry, because pretty clearly I am not in danger of starving anytime soon.  :)

Monday, April 9, 2018


Michigan Spring, known in other parts of the country simply as "Winter."  It was 17 degrees when I left the house for an Anita Goodesign embroidery "party" last weekend and there were white out conditions on the freeway.  I am getting a bit tired of dressing like a lumberjack and still feeling cold.
I am even more tired of scraping ice off the windshield.  But a friend who just got back from a few months in Florida told me it was 89 degrees when he started the drive north and lord knows I don't want that either.   I guess I am a weather malcontent; just no pleasing me.
I've sent in my 10th scrappy quilt to be quilted and I think I am ready to take a break from piecing quilt tops.   I have a list of other projects to mess around with.  I have material set aside for bags and table runners I need to sew and I have some machine embroidery to do.   I am (slowly) working on the periodic quilt -- the pattern is by My Fair Lady Designs and was the only one of its kind that I could find.   I am making the element-blocks, but don't think I will use the intended layout.  I haven't figured it out yet, but I would like to incorporate some quilted blocks, probably in the border, instead of having all embroidery.  I'm a long way from having to worry about those decisions though!
My latest quilt top, number 11 for this year, is a simple one.  I had planned to do other sewing this week, but this one accidentally got thrown together.
My sister tells me that it is supposed to be warm enough to walk outside in her area next week, so I am planning to drive down and spend a day.    We've been made no such promises here, a couple of hours north of her.  Fingers crossed that she is right!    I am ready for some outdoor exercise!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring Slowly

Michigan Spring, always a back and forth experience, weather-wise.  Cold one minute, 25 degrees yesterday, and today it's sunny and warm, with temperatures in the 50s.   But the snow is finally shrinking away and I've heard rumors that crocuses are starting to pop up, although I haven't seen them myself.  Day before yesterday and again today I took a walk in a sweatshirt.  Yesterday, and again tomorrow, I will need my winter coat.   Maybe that's where the designation "spring" came from, sudden changes springing up on us before the world settles down.   And it will -- the rodents are getting frisky and birds are cuddling up at the feeders.      
One of the nicest things about Spring is the increased light, and -- bonus! -- that light has led to increased egg production for the friends who have chickens, which in turn has led to increased gifts of eggs to me!   I love knowing the people and the chickens who provide my eggs.   And homegrown eggs are so much more beautiful than the grocery store can offer.  I admire each one of them before we eat them, feeling grateful every time.  There are so many wonderful things in my life that I have come to take for granted (shame on me), but somehow the eggs stop me in my tracks every time and remind me how lucky I am.  These days, after listening to the morning news, I often need those reminders.
I have been trying to get my taxes done.    I am such a procrastinator, for no good reason since my tax prep is simple now that I don't make any money or own much of anything.  Still, I have to bribe myself to get it done.   My bribe-to-self these days is the same as other days:  I continue to quilt in between the tasks that need to be done, still using scraps.  
One of these days they will also be quilted and I'll have that to show.   For now, it's just flimsy after flimsy.

The Littles, who are not so little anymore, were on Spring break this week from school.  Yesterday we spent time at a pottery painting place, and at Yogurt Yetti, a perennial favorite, where you fill your own cup with as many flavors of yogurt and topping as you choose.  The kids get crazy mixtures, I always choose mango and pineapple and coconut.    It was good to have some time just being with them.

We even found time to play a board game, a rare treat usually reserved for summer vacation and long school breaks.  This time we played a game that is new to us, Power Grid, which was recommended by one of our 'cooler' relatives in Menlo Park.  Like all the games we play, it involves strategy and a lot of time.   I thought the kids were kidding when they said it would take us about 5 hours to finish the game, but no, they were serious.   Actually, they had played before so we finished in a speedy three  hours.  It was fun, and we will certainly play it again.   
I am driving a lot since my honey can't drive anymore, and the weeks have been full of tasks and mileage, but things are settling down.  At least we hope they are.   We never know how far away we are from the next challenge, so it has been good to take some time to appreciate what we have and a little sunshine.   But lest I forget how fragile life is, I got a gentle reminder from a vanity license plate today that said ARRRR.   It made me laugh, that would have been a good one for me these past few months.   I am hoping for some boring days ahead, what a lovely thing to contemplate.  :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Still Scrapping It

With the daylight savings time change, we sprung back into several inches of snow here in Mid-Michigan's middle of the mitten.  It is beautiful here, but has been good weather to stay indoors.  And if I have to be indoors, I might as well be sewing.

I've made three more quilt tops from my scrap pile, and I am finding more hidden pieces of fabric and orphan blocks that I can already see becoming yet another top or two.   Good grief, will the endless hoard of fabric ever end?!  At this rate, I am not sure I'll live long enough to buy fabric of my own choosing for a quilt, but it doesn't much matter.  Every time I start one, I think how disappointing it is not to have chosen the fabric, and every time I end, I am in love with the way it turned out, especially since it feels like I've made something out of nothing.  As of this writing, so far this year, I've donated two full trash bags of fabric and, along the way, I've made 8 quilt tops, all from stash, plus one little rag quilt.  The smallest of the pieced tops so far is a 47" square, and the largest is the size of a double bed.   None of them were started with any real idea of where I was going, which has also been fun.   I just add things on til they look done to me.  And the resulting color combinations, dictated by what's on hand and many of which no sane person would choose, have been delightful to me.

I've sent six of them in for long arm quilting, and will probably keep doing that.   I know that talented friends quilt on their home machines, but I am not confident enough to try that yet.   Besides, I am not impressed (at all) with my Brother, which has constant stitch and tension issues.   I am fairly certain that it would ruin any quilt I tried on that machine since I already have to toss the occasional simple block.  And I love my Babylock, but I keep it pretty much tied up with embroidery projects.   So instead I am spending my children's inheritance on quilting services and hope they like the quilts which are, at least, a little more interesting than most of the junk I will leave behind!    I am really looking forward to seeing the bursts of color in my house in the meantime.   When my sweetie gave me the AccuQuilt gift he said he hoped that I would eventually make a dozen quilts.  In his mind that was a huge number that would  make him feel like he had chosen a really good gift.  In my mind, it would justify the expense.   It is looking like I'll be able to reach that mark sooner than either of us expected.

In other news, my grandson was one of three kids at his school this month to qualify for a chemistry competition and he said that it was a lot of fun; he finished in the top half of the region but not high enough to go on to the state level, and he was happy with that.  So was I, of course.   Both of my grands love school this year, and I love seeing that.     It is amazing for me to see them excited about math and science, neither of which excited me until long after I was out of school.  I never even took chemistry, which was discouraged and called a 'boy's subject' by my high school career counselor who saw it as mostly an opportunity for the boys to mess around and blow things up.   My grands both continue to play in band (baritone and flute) and orchestra (violin and cello), too, and so of course they get better every year.  The credit goes to their parents, I think, who have always provided the message that it is satisfying to learn things that seem hard at first.   They definitely do make their Grandma proud.  :)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

March On

We've had such a lovely week.  The snowdrops are blooming at my son's house, the grass is visible again, the sun has been shining, the sky has been blue, and we have had temperatures up to 70 degrees.   Today it is chilly and dreary, and we are under a winter weather advisory, with 3 to 6 inches of snow predicted.  It's what we love about Michigan, the weather changes.   On the plus side, we can justify every type of clothing imaginable, because we might need to wear all four seasons in a single weekend.    

My quilting adventure continues, and I have completed my next two quilts-from-stash, numbers five and six for 2018.  No kidding, the AccuQuilt cutter (I have the big electric one), which I would never have bought for myself, has made all the difference.  My productivity has been a surprise to me, since I am, at heart, such a slacker -- quilters will notice how I have learned to embrace my mistakes as "design decisions" rather than do the extra work of correcting them.  

Meanwhile, having made 6 quilts out of my stash without making a dent in the apparent quantity, I have started to cull my fabric in earnest.  This week I filled one huge garbage bag with scrap to donate to a local agency, and I expect to fill several more bags before I am left with a manageable and useable amount.   The scrap I am donating now consists of pieces large enough to make a small zipper/cosmetic-size bag, but not enough to create a consistent colorway.   Later I will move onto the larger scrap pile,  yard cuts of flannel, for instance, that I am unlikely to use now that my Littles are big.  In those days I didn't have a reliable sewing machine and lots of projects never made it to take off.   I hope someone else will find the fabric useful but, if not, the agencies tell me they will recycle it, and that's good enough for me.  The truth of it is that, now that I am making quilt tops, I would like to make one out of chosen fabric, and I can't justify doing that while I am sitting on a ton of perfectly good cloth.

I also made a baby taggie blanket this week, although I have no babies at the moment to sew for.   My sweetie's family has been blessed with three new babies in the past few months and he wanted ideas of something simple he could make for his new grand nieces and nephew, so I created this prototype from an online tutorial, and wish I had thought of it when my own Littles were little!  What a simple idea, and I am pretty sure any baby would love it, although it makes no sense at all to my sweetie.
Meanwhile, life goes lazily on.  My fella is doing well, although life definitely offers him new frustrations and everything moves slower than it used to.  Just finding his socks can be a challenge because his missing visual field, while still blind, is always changing with phantom images.  But he is a trooper and handles it all better than I would.  Sundays are Dominoes days until the end of March, and other days we mostly do as we please.  My sweetie's son challenged us to a game of Trivial Pursuit this weekend, which I failed at miserably, a reminder to me of how rusty my brain has gotten.

The predicted snow will be a reprieve from most of my planned chores, I expect, but I can feel Spring Fever beginning to simmer.  It is (almost) time for me to get a little more energetic after a long, slow winter of slacking.   But not today.  Definitely not today.  Today will be one more day to enjoy hot tea and warm slippers.  Life is good.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

February Musings

February has been a mix of weather here, freezing cold one day and mild and sunny the next.   I am loving the sunshine, it makes temps in the 30s and low 40s feel like paradise.  But oh, how my  heart sinks when the next morning greets me again with snow and ice!

We celebrated Mardi Gras, as we always do, with a King Cake delivered directly from New Orleans.   I've ordered one every year since my son and his wife moved back to Michigan because my grandson was born in New Orleans.    If you buy a King Cake where they are made, they are already decorated.   But when they mail them north, the bakery sends along the white frosting and colored sugars because the decorated cakes do not travel well.   The kids love decorating the cake with the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold and seeing who will find the "baby" -- this year my granddaughter got it in the first slice!  Thank goodness they use a lot less sugar now that they are old enough to be aware of healthy choices -- when they were small, it was a challenge to keep them from sending us all into sugar shock!
Valentine's  Day is not my holiday, and it's a good thing because it never seems to work out the way I want it to!   My sweetie sent flowers, which was so sweet, but circumstances messed up our plan to have dinner together and that was disappointing.  Oh well, shake it off.  

Honestly, the best valentine's gift came from the husband of a friend who knows that I like to invite as much nature into my messy yard as possible.   He made me a bird feeder and included a supply of dried grubs.   I can't wait to see who turns up to eat them!   But . . . gag.

My 13-year-old grandson won local awards for his science project and we are looking forward to his move up to regionals.   His project, titled "Music sets the mood, " considered " the effect of key signature on the perception of music."  He won best in category for behavioral science and first place overall for life sciences.  He doesn't place a lot of expectations on himself but he enjoys the competition, the talks with the judges and the chance to talk to other kids with similar interests.   He also really likes dressing up in a suit and tie, which he does as often as the occasion even marginally permits.  But he had to admit, it was fun to win!   And you can barely imagine how proud I am of him.
I've done only a little sewing.   I made a little rag baby quilt for no particular reason other than that I had the flannel in my scrap pile.
I found a few yards of other fabric that I had planned to use for totes and have decided to use that for a quilt top as well, but I haven't started cutting yet.  I finally got my Victorian sampler framed,
and I bought a sign from Etsy that had a motto that I especially like.   I can be impulsive that way.
I hope things are warming up wherever you are and I'm hoping to see some real signs of spring soon here in Mid-Michigan!!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Super Bowl Sunday and the Superb Owl

What a week!   Cold as a brass patootie, with lots of snow and temps hovering in the low teens almost all week.  School has been cancelled for tomorrow, not for the first time.   But, despite the cold and snow, there were a few interesting events.  
Last week, when it was a little warmer, we went to Chicago by train for a couple of days.    We didn't plan anything, it was a lazy, laid back trip, mostly to see  how traveling would work now that my sweetie has lost so much of his vision.   There were a few troubles, more than one wall was walked into, but we had a good time despite it and he came home willing to try some occupational therapy, which I hope will give him more confidence.   And of course it was good to get away and to eat a bunch of food that I need to stop eating again soon before I'm as big as a house.   I have truly enjoyed this slippery slope down sugar loaf mountain!

Bt now it is cold again.  Cold temps make me want to cook, so that part is always fun.   I started the week out by making granola after my sweetie's son wanted us to pick some up from the store -- the fairly plain 12 ounce bag of cereal cost $6 so I decided to try my hand at it and I was happy with the results.   My first try was a bit too sweet for us so I will cut back on the sugars next time, but I think I'm just a couple attempts away from a winner that will satisfy all of us.
And I finished another quilt top, more or less.   It still needs a border or two.  It's another finish using my AccuQuilt and some larger scraps from my stash.   That makes three stash-scrap quilt tops so far this year, in just over a month!   Not having to cut the pieces by hand is making SUCH a difference for me.
Superbowl Sunday was, as always, on one of our Dominoes days, so we had a double fun Sunday.   I don't know (or care, really) anything about football but I'm always happy for our grand finale of super bowl sundaes.  And my group of guys ate it up like crazy -- so crazy, in fact, that the one kid we have the games for had to go home early with a tummy ache.  We did watch the game -- my grandson and I, neither of us sports folk, texted each other back and forth with silliness, and I am always happy to see the commercials.  Unfortunately, we had some internet troubles, no doubt weather related, that cut into our screen time, with lots of frozen moments.   I guess it's lucky that we aren't super fans, it would have been very frustrating!

But even bigger and more amazing than the Superbowl (menu) was my Superb Owl -- earlier this week, when I finally, belatedly went to take down the Christmas wreath next to my front door, I discovered that a small eastern screech owl was using it as a perch.   The owl stayed all day and into the night after I saw it, long enough for one of my grandchildren to get out of school and see it, too,  and of course I have no idea how long it had been there up til then.   I would have loved to have it nest there and am sorry it left, but I'm so very happy that my grandson and I saw it, and it's going to be awhile before I am ready to take down that wreath!  There are owls in our parts, of course, and we hear them often enough,  but I have never caught a glimpse of one and it was a 'bucket list' item for me.  What's on your bucket list?