Monday, November 28, 2011

Cooking day and Quilting day

Last week Monday, we had no school due to conferences, so I arranged to have all the girl scouts (minus one) come over for a cooking day.  Based on the "new" girl scout badge requirements, we made a healthy breakfast, a healthy lunch, and a dessert.  Cammie and Jessica squeezed their own oranges for juice!  I was the "expert" that gave them lots of helpful hints.  I wouldn't consider myself an expert in the kitchen, but I do cook almost every day, so I guess I have enough experience to qualify.  

Breakfast was fresh fruit, eggs, and toast.  Two girls worked together to make omelettes using pre-cooked bacon bits and cheese.  I had to help with the folding and flipping, but otherwise, the girls did a great job.  The cooking part went really well, except for one major thing--the clean up.  Cammie was the only one who did a good job washing up dishes--the rest of them, it seemed like they'd never picked up a sponge before.  We'll have to give them some homework assignments--learn how to hand wash dishes!!

I was also amazed how many of the girls had virtually no cooking experience--they'd never cracked an egg, never worked with a stove, and didn't know their way around a kitchen.  I guess that says a lot about today's society and eating habits.  In many places around the world, these girls would not only be cooking full meals, but they'd also be sewing their own clothes and caring for younger siblings.  Or maybe working in factories in hazardous conditions for 2 cents an hour.  

They made their own pizzas for lunch, and then made their own cakes (the 1972 edition of Girl Scouts Handbook recommend cooking from an instant mix--they still had to crack eggs and measure water and oil for the mix).  They had to frost them at home since they were still too warm when it was time to go home.  Hmmm...nice picture with Ben's medical basket featured in the center...lovely.
Before Thanksgiving, I had gotten several quilts from Tara.  I thought it would be perfect to get a couple of them done before we went up for the holiday, particularly two which are going to be finished up for Christmas gifts.  For the biggest little Packer fan...

And the little sister...

Then we went to Tara's for Thanksgiving.  Emma and Hollie had a great time playing games and entertaining each other.  Unfortunately, I hadn't yet figured out how to use the camera, so the picture was dark--the flash wouldn't go off and I couldn't figure out how to change the settings.  I got it now....

Then Tara handed me a quilt to finish up for her friend that she's known since Kindergarten.  Linda is the weirdest person I know, and she was diagnosed several years ago with a brain tumor.  She's undergone treatment over the years and the tumor shrank and grew and shrank and she's very ill.  Tara suggested that we make her a comfort quilt.  Since she LOVES cats--creatures she calls "heat-seeking prinks" (whatever that means) or "twibbin kerbers" (no idea)--she needed to have cats on them.  She has three cats--Fat Stuff, Twibby, and Clover (although she calls her something else).  We tossed around a few ideas (see previous post), but Tara was really struck with this design, so she made the top in just a few days, handed it to me at Thanksgiving, and I brought it home and quilted it yesterday.  

I bound it this afternoon by machine.  I used 2 1/2" strips, folded in half, and sewn to the back.  I folded it to the front and tacked it down with a hem stitch.  I would have rather had done it with a blanket stitch, but my machine doesn't have one.  

I finished the card weaving project I started last week.  It went pretty fast, and I tied the ends off in a different way than I have done before.  I much prefer this to the other ways I had been doing it; this is cleaner, fun, and more like fringe.  I don't know what I'll be doing with this one, but I may turn it into a belt or a strap for a satchel.  I have a new piece on the loom in red, black and white, but I'm not thrilled about the way it's coming out.  It'll be serviceable, and I may just donate it to Kingdom or for a prize for a tourney or something.

Stay warm and well, my friends!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mid-November Rolls Around

Now that we are in the middle of the month, all the annoying Christmas commercials are in full swing and everything that should be covered with fall leaves and turkeys are covered in green and red, golden tinsel, and playing age-old tunes over and over and over and over....  I love Christmas, but I hate that it has become more commercialized year after year.  I'm thinking about making cranberry and popcorn garlands for the tree with the kids (and the scouts), and doing other old activities.

Snow is falling gently outside our window for the first time this year--I doubt there will be any serious accumulation, and I hope that it won't impinge upon the activities I have scheduled for tomorrow, which includes driving a fair distance with one of the kiddos.

The other day, when I was going to go horseback riding, but I wasn't feeling very great and didn't have an interest in riding in the cold and rain, my friend Bekah came over and taught me an easy card weaving pattern for my loom.  I had been wanting to re-learn and she was willing to teach me, so I invited her over for the day and stay for dinner.  I finished up the inkle piece I was working on so I could warp up the new card weaving.  This one had actually been on the loom for quite a long time and had been sitting next to a window, so the yarns had faded in one section.  No worries, though; I can flip it over and sew it down so the dark side shows.  I made it in "Ithra" colors--yellow, red and white--and I figured I'd put it on a tunic that I'll reserve for my Chancellorship duties.

Following Bekah's directions to the best of my ability, I warped up a small piece using 18 cards with 44 strings threaded on it and got my weave on.  There are four holes on each card, and usually a thread goes through each hole, which creates the pattern.  I forget what this is called--the technique--but it required missing some holes with the warp threads so that the weft shows up in those empty spaces.  Quite clever.  Since I didn't use all the pegs to warp it, I finished it quite quickly--about two days.  It measures about 65" long, rather than the usual 4 yards that my loom can hold.

That was so much fun, I decided to warp up another piece using a larger, more complex pattern.  It takes a few hours to warp up--making lengths of yarn, threading through the cards in the proper direction (making either an S or a Z twist on it), making sure they're all lined up in the correct order, etc.  This is especially tricky when you make the silly decision to use FIVE colors!  More than four yards of threads, 25 cards with four threads each--that's 400 yards of yarn strung on this little thing.  What was I thinking?

The colors I chose are for the Kingdom and the Barony in which I live.  They're woven together, in a symbolic way, as the branch is woven into the Kingdom.  I don't know if it's really turning out the way I expected, but it still looks pretty cool.  I think I've gotten just shy of a yard done so far, but it's going pretty quickly.  I don't really know what I'm going to do with it when I'm done.  What I've decided, however, is that I would like to get some more colors for my weaving bin.  Maybe I'll just pick up some crochet cotton because it's cheap and I can find it very easily at the local shops.  I can get it in a variety of colors, and I hope to see if I can find it in colors that you can achieve using natural dyes--which covers just about the entire rainbow.  I picked up a book today that talks about using leaves and berries and roots to dye fibers which can create reds, yellows, greens, purples, and brown.  Besides the heraldic colors, there are lots of shades of yellow and green that would be really pretty in a belt.

My sister has a friend that she's known since the dawn of time (it seems), who is having more health issues.  She was diagnosed with a brain tumor several years ago and has been in treatment off and on while it grows and shrinks.  She's continuing to have problems again and Tara has decided to fly out to visit with her at the end of the month.  She wants to take a comfort quilt with her, so we are on a short timeline to get it done.  Since Linda is *crazy* about cats, we decided to make a block with cats in it and alternate it with disappearing 9-patches.  This is a sketch of the cat we're going to make in bright fabrics.  I'll have to find out what we'll be using for background fabrics.  Tara and I were on the phone today trying to figure out what we were going to do, and I doodled, took a picture and posted it on Facebook, consulted more, made changes, posted more pictures...ain't technology grand?!  I still have to figure out the dimensions and make it ready for construction...  Talking with quilting Sharon, she and the rest of the Pirates are on board to help with this project.  Hopefully we'll be able to get blocks turned over to Tara by Thanksgiving and get the top on the frame soon after.

Last weekend was the last soccer game of the season for the Banshees. We had a celebratory lunch at a small pizza and pasta joint where the coaches handed out these lovely scarves to each of the players instead of trophies.  Coach Charlie thought it would be funny to give Cammie a little fringe hairstyle while Coach Scott said lots of lovely things about each player.  The girls didn't have a great year--they lost every game, although most of them were really close games and their defense was quite improved since last year.  They had a good time, and surprisingly good weather so there wasn't much to complain about.  (Funny thing--Charlie isn't the coach's real name.  Everyone (except his wife) calls him Charlie.  His last name is Chaplin.  I guess he was a bit of a clown as a kid or something.  Thankfully he doesn't have the same mustache...a style that has really gone out of fashion since World War II.)

The last game of the season was a little bit drippy and quite cold, but overall not unpleasant.  The parents on our team are all really great people, fun and fair, and supportive of all the girls.  We're lucky not to have some of those obnoxious parents who yell at the refs (some of whom are teenagers), the coaches (all volunteers) and push to have their kid play more.  Our coaches are quite wonderful, fair, and work the girls well.  I hope that Cammie continues on the team since she's made such great strides this year as a forward and midfielder.  She's expressed an interest in quitting, but I'm hoping we can talk her into playing another year or two.

Tomorrow I'm teaching a class on Viking undertunics.  I don't know if I have any students signed up yet, but it'll be fun even if no one does.  I'll bring my loom and some fabric to cut out a tunic for Ben.  Speaking of which, I have to pack.  G'nite.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

End of First Week of November

Good News: Several cool things have happened this week.  I got a news report that the drug, VX-770 has moved ahead toward helping CF patients with the G551D mutation.  This is about 5% of the total number of people with CF, which does not include my kids.  My kids have the more common mutation, called ΔF508.  The Δ is "delta", which in science indicates "change".  In the other one, the D indicates a "deletion", as there is something missing from the directions of the DNA.  The new drug has shown some really promising results and we are anxiously awaiting the progress of the next drug, VX-809, which will target another 75% of the patients.  Here's a recent news story about the progress, although if you want more information, it's better to go to the web site.

Annoying News:  As if it wasn't bad enough that the displays showed up in the beginning of October (so the zombies can go hang out with the Baby Jesus in the nativity), the Christmas ads started on Nov. 1st.  Four weeks apparently is not enough to hound people into spending too much over the holidays, so they have increased the annoying ads, filked Christmas songs (where they change the words to a well-known song), and excited women thrilled about finding a bargain and getting lots of gifts for her kids.  Please.  I love that I have my shows on a DVR so I can fast-forward it, or if it's live, I can hit the mute button. 

GS News:  We had a longer meeting yesterday--extending it from 90 minutes to 2 hours.  It gave the girls a couple of breaks to run around and get some of the wild squirrels out of their systems.  It worked out really well!  I'm only hoping that we'll be able to get the food stuff all done up for the next meeting where we're having a cooking day.  I have broken them up into three teams with 3 or 4 in each team, so I can work with smaller groups making the meals--stagger the oven usage.  They're all making pizzas, but I think we can have the second group making their pizzas while the first group's pizzas are cooking.  Kinda wish I had double ovens...

Cleaning & Remodeling News:  I cleaned out my closet the other day, gutting it to vacuum and reorganize.  In the process I found that some of my woolens have been eaten by carpet beetles and larvae--I found four hand-knit socks, a sweater and a hat with holes in them.  Clearly I haven't vacuumed enough, so it led to more cleaning and vacuuming throughout the bedroom, but I still didn't get it all done.  I still have to throw more stuff into bags to donate (six kitchen garbage bags have been donated already), get rid of more clutter, and I'm thinking we may have to get an exterminator to come in for the carpet beetles.  I'd LOVE to replace all the carpet, but that would be at least $1200 for our bedroom alone.  Then we might as well do the loft, hallways, and kids' bedrooms, too.  $5000, at least.  Then the stairs.  Might as well do the stairs.  And the living room and TV room.  Then it won't match the cheap plank wood floors that were installed in the kitchen, dining room and bathroom downstairs.  So now the square footage is doubled and then some.  And new trims will be needed since the old stuff was made of some kind of paper that wrinkles and warps when it gets wet, as it did in the bathrooms. 

I guess that is the bad news. 

I found a hat that I want to try to knit for Ben--this rooster or something similar.  This is the mom and younger brother of one of Cammie's soccer team mates.  This amazing mom is also one of my GS moms and will be running our First Aid badge--the 1972 version of the badge, not the new 911 Badge.

Her game last week happened to be on a sunny day.  They lost again, but only 2-1.  It'd be nice for them to win at least ONE game this season.  It's been a rough one.  Their defense has been stellar, but they need a better goalie.  Maybe next year they'll merge a couple teams and have more girls to choose from.

I should probably go clean the bedroom out some more.  Die, bugs, die!!

Friday, November 4, 2011


Yes, I've been away.  I've been mass-busy.  (Is that a word?)  Totally.  Maybe it's "mas busy", like Spanglish?  Probably.

A week or so ago, I was considering hanging up the "closed" sign for my business because I wasn't getting any new calls, no new tops to work on, and no prospects on the horizon.  I'm a member of three guilds, I've offered gift certificates as prizes, I've talked to a lot of people, but to little avail.  Then, just when I swore I was done, I got six customers asking for work to be done.  Six.

One of them is a lovely lady by the name of Violet.  She gave me this top to work up for her daughter. She said I could pretty much do anything stipple-wise, and I asked if I could do something fun...she agreed.  I was able to do more of my favorite swirly Dr. Seuss feathers, which echoed the design on the fabrics. The colors for this are much prettier than in this picture.  There are purples, blues, olive green and's really striking!  It's also enormous!  It was 108" square--that's 9 feet wide!  My frame is only 10 feet wide, but the machine's needle doesn't reach the last 4" on either side, so it was almost the maximum I could have on the frame.  The biggest I ever did was 114" wide, and I had to quilt most of it, then move it over and finish the last foot or so on the other side that I couldn't reach.

I also finally got one of the winners of the Christmas gift card to bring me a piece to work on.  This is just a simple stipple around the mooses, zig-zagging in the border, and some fun stitching in the stars.  I assume it might be a test-piece to see if I do good work before giving me something more valuable.  It would be nice to have another customer on the regular roster.

Michele gave me three tablerunners to work on, too.  The most urgent was this leafy tablerunner.  I had fun filling in the background with holly leaves and quilting stems and veins onto the red leaves. 

Two of them were identical--this is one of them, which she requested to have holly quilted on.  The second one needs a backing fabric added to it.  I went to buy a piece to put on the back, but I miscalculated how much I needed, so I need to go back and get something else.  It's an odd color of green, so I only found one piece of fabric that matched well enough.  Maybe I'll try to find yellow or red instead.

I also got a couple calls from people who are getting ready to bring me things--one is my sister's neighbor, another gave me some work a while back and she's got 7 antique quilt tops from her grandmother that she wants finished, and another gal who was given a personal reference from Sharon.  I've got a few things underway!

In addition, I made a pair of costumes for the girls to dress up as St. Margaret Ward, the woman who was tortured and killed for helping a priest escape prison by using a rope she smuggled in to him (hence the rope in the picture).  Those were posted in the previous post, so rather than duplicate efforts with the details, you can scroll down to see the pictures of the parts.  Here's Miss O in her costume on Nov. 1st.  Her dad was surprisingly impressed.  He's known me for a dozen years and he's still surprised.  And this isn't even my best effort--I didn't have time to add the lacing on the front of the doublet and it could have had all kinds of bling added, but I went simple.  It is, after all, just a costume.  She may be able to wear it next year, but if she doesn't, then we're not out a lot of money.  The fabrics were things I pulled out of my stash.  The floral was free from Omi's closet and I wasn't sure what I would do with it, but this was absolutely perfect!  The greenish skirt was some broadcloth that I had sitting around and there was plenty to make two matching skirts for the girls, and may still have enough left over to make a tunic or two.

I needed to get it to her before Halloween, so we met up last Sunday to hand it over.  We had lunch at a burger place about half-way between our houses (35 minutes north of me, and about the same south of her).  The girls were really happy to see each other, and Cammie immediately changed into her skirt, a gift from Sharon, that matches Miss O's. 

Earlier that day, Cammie had a soccer game and I snapped this picture with my phone.  It takes some good pictures sometimes...and she's very photogenic.  :)

I made costumes for myself and Kelly--I decided we should be dressed as Brett Maverick and Mrs. Annabelle Bransford.  I actually wanted to do this last year, but ran out of time, energy, momentum, etc.  I got patterns for the vest and dress  from the local fabric store, but had a lot of trouble finding *just* the right fabric for the vest.  I wanted to get something heavier than quilt-weight cotton; something more like upholstery weight, twill, denim, or something similar.  I didn't like the colors (or price) of the upholstery stuff, the twill was all plain (yawn), and other fabrics just didn't seem right.  After searching for more than half an hour, I finally wandered over to the quilt fabrics and found this Civil War reproduction, which worked just perfectly.  I was concerned about the weight of the fabric, but after I lined it with muslin, it worked just fine.  Not wanting to take all the time to make the vest and find it doesn't fit or won't button properly over the girth, I sewed the front up (didn't get around to putting the buttons on) and left it open on the side, so it ties under the arms.  Then I went out and got some additional pieces for Kelly--a simple shirt (didn't have time to make him a lucky shirt) and tweed pants from a second-hand store.  The pants were NEW with tags on them still.  The shirt was not new, but it still looked new.  Add a little ribbon from the ribbon box, and a creative shave, and presto!  He's back in the mid-19th century.  In all, I think I spent about $25 for his costume. 

Mine was made with a cranberry taffeta and some little trim.  I originally was going to make a saloon girl/burlesque costume, but I decided to go a little more conservative.  I can always shorten it and add more fringe and fancy dancy stuff later, but for the school party, I decided to go less racy.  The vest and skirt are separate, and I was sewing the costume until just minutes before we left for the carnival.  Had I given myself a few extra days, I would have made a bustle for the back and an underdress.  I did make bloomers and a petticoat, but had some trouble with lacing it up the back.  Mostly because I didn't have time to sew lots of hooks and eyes, didn't have a zipper, and really didn't want to add velcro...I'll have to make a few adjustments and maybe I can wear it again next year.

Ben chose to be Zorro.  I gave him a costume catalog that had come in the mail and said to look through it and decide what he wanted to be.  This was what he picked out.  I was able to find the costume online cheaper--minus the hat and sword.  Those I found at a costume shop a couple weeks ago for *really* cheap.  I think the sword was $1.50.

The kids also spent some time disemboweling gourds.  I helped cut the lids out, then allowed them to pull the guts out, placing all the seeds into one bowl and all the slime into the another.  I then washed and baked the seeds as part of Ben's pumpkin project for school.  Cammie chose to carve a cat in the moonlight from the pumpkin carving kit that we bought a few years ago.  The difficulty with these paper kits is that they suggest that you tape the pattern onto the pumpkin.  Tape doesn't stick to pumpkins...did you know?  Especially wet, slimy pumpkins.  We were able to get the pattern transferred on there and she used the mini saw to cut out the cat (rather than the moon).

Ben chose a more unique design--Jack from Nightmare before Christmas.  I had to free-hand it since there was no pattern for it in the kit.  It turned out rather well, I think.  We placed them on the porch and things went well until the day after Halloween, when we found Jack Splat in our driveway.  Really, he was more Humpty Dumpty--cracked in a few places, not scrambled pumpkin in the road.  A couple days later, the cat-in-moonlight pumpkin suffered a similar fate.  Both of these hallowed out gourds will end up in the compost bin by tomorrow. 

The Annual Sugar Beggary Festival went swimmingly, as usual.  Each kid collected around 6 pounds of candy.  Emma and a few teens toured the neighborhood together with their mom, while I went around with Cammie, Ben, Miss J. and her sister, Miss S. and their mom, my girl scout co-leader. 

It was a cool but dry night and we all had a great time.  I hear from several other friends that Halloween in their neighborhoods is a bust.  Sad to see such a fun tradition dying, but it is alive and well here!