Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saint Egwin

There is something runner-up about the eve before New Year's Eve (not that I have done anything interesting these past New Year's Eves, unless you think sleeping through it is interesting) & there is something a bit runner-up about Egwin, too.  Even the calendar does not think anyone is likely to have heard of this guy. But he founded Eveshem Abbey which I am reliable informed is something a person might actually have heard of. I thought it sounded familiar & then realized it comes up in an Agatha Raisin novel. Egwin himself, to the best of my recollection, does not.

Things began innocently enough:  Egwin was of noble blood, but he was most popular among the proletariat for his protection of widows & orphans.  His fellow clergy, on the other hand, found him overly strict, I presume in a nothing-to-do-with-widows-&-orphans way.  Although I could be wrong, as apparently he was quite the advocate of until-death-us-do-part marriage & clerical celibacy.  One source says, clear as day "There was a need in his diocese for some reform, but Egwin let it get out of hand".  Whatever the case may be, eventually the populist tide turned & Egwin was on the outs.

The man decided to go plead his case to the Pope & did so with one of the great show stopping numbers of religious theater:  declaring himself innocent, Egwin still had himself shackled as though he had been convicted & threw the key into the River Avon.  He traveled, still shackled  & in a not entirely adventure-free manner until he was just this far from his audience with the Pope.  The whole company stopped in Rome, one of Egwin's disciples caught a fish & in it lo & behold The Key!  Is it really any wonder the charges were annulled after that?  It's like a grander, cross-continental, piscine version of the Checkers Speech.

As with Nixon, the story does not end there,  Egwin went home to England, was received with much accolades by the king (no mention of how his original congregation received him).  As ?reward?, Egwin asked for the very plot of land on the River Avon from which the key had been thrown.  Conspiracy theorists among you are now saying "Wait a minute!", but apparently he had a vision.  & following this vision (of virgins & shepherds) he knew he had to dedicate that very spot & it became Evesham Abbey.  This that & the other thing, he more or less retired from public life to govern his abbey.  An abbey that had been given the unusual dispensation to solicit gifts directly from Englands's monarchs while being exempt from any papal or other oversight, which enabled him to live in comfort until he died. 

I do not know if the 8th century is indeed so very different from today but if say Dick Cheney were to leave public office & go live in a very comfortable bunker somewhere, I would not assume it was because he was beloved by the people as the records re: Egwin maintain.  I might even go so far as to wonder if it might actually be the opposite.

But I promised you a runner-up story & here it is:  Egwin turns out to be more or less just a guy but Evesham Abbey--it has everything.  The drama & intrigue, the growth of the town at it's feet, the resisting Henry VIII, the eventual picturesque ruin.  Egwin in all of his corruption &/or glory was just the opening act. 

& a Happy New Year's Eve Eve to you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Baby snowballs for June

I do not know when I got my heart set on a "snowball in June" themed swap, but once these things take hold it is best to just let them have their way.  So our third swap block for 2010, due Saturday June 26th is a snowball block.

A snowball block in general is a square conceptually divided into 9 squares with the corners in an alternate fabric.  The quickest way to make them is to cut the snowball square from one fabric, in the unfinished dimension & then four smaller squares in the background fabric. The smaller squares will be 1/3 the FINISHED snowball + 1/2" for the seam.  

You can choose among THREE snowball blocks.  That is you can make five of any one of these (but please do not mix & match, unless you want to make five of one & five of another).  One reason for the variations is to give people who would rather do less piecing & more appliqueing (or foundation piecing or broderie perse or redwork or something else a bit more snazzy) a space to do that.

You can make either 5 four patch snowballs OR 5 nine patch snowballs, all that changes is the dimension of your fabric units.  The techniques is the same .  You could also make 5 big single snowballs with something special in the center of the block, something special being something appliqued or embroidered, something extra.  The block will be 9" finished/9.5" unfinished.  Pastel or bright or primary colors are perfectly fine, as are novelty prints-especially kids prints.  The overall idea is "baby quilt". So let's begin Baby Snowballs:

To make either the 2x2 (or 3x3) snowball cut four (nine) squares of 5" (3.5") of the snowball fabrics & then four background squares for each snowball.  If you want, you can alternate fabrics so that the snowball fabric for one unit is the corner-background fabric for another but you certainly do not have to do that.  This would be a good time to use up any baby scraps you have lying around (& if you do the 3x3 grid AKA the 9-patch snowball you can use up some very small pieces indeed).  The corner-background squares for the 4-patch would be 2" & for the 9-patch would be 1.5"

If you are going to make the just-one-snowball-per-block block you need one 9.5" piece for the snowball itself & four 3.5" squares for the background HOWEVER do not make this version of the block unless you are doing something extra, such as appliqueing in the center of the snowball.  This is so important I am going to repeat it:  please do not make the single snowball blocks & not do something else by-way of extra (applique or embroidery or what-have-you).

As always, you can send as many sets as you like, so long as they are in sets of FIVE.  All of your sets do not need to be the same, but they can be (this does, however, increase the likelihood of getting one of your own blocks back).  Within each set, the blocks should be more or less the same; please do not mix&match the three kinds of snowball blocks within a single set.  & of course, extra 6th blocks for the community project are always welcome. 

//If you not currently part of the swap group, but you are interested in joining our swap group, you are very very welcome BUT it would make my life A LOT easier if you joined through Facebook.   Log into Facebook, search "quilt block swap" & find the Group.  There will be a picture of the current block as the profile photo.  Ask to join & you should be approved within a day or two.  If you are not on Facebook, but still interested, leave a comment after this post with your e-mail address HOWEVER be warned:  I really cannot do trouble-shooting, take future block suggestions, handle requests to receive 6th blocks, etc. via individual e-mail messages.  The advantage of doing it all through Facebook is all the information is in one place you can check at your leisure.

Floral sunny lanes for April

The second 2010 Facebook Quilt Block Swap block is more complicated ( & more obscure) than previous blocks.  While the group has a good mix of brand new beginners & very advanced artisans & everyone in between, for the first year we did either simple blocks or people could find their own level.  For example the first swap was 9-patch of any kind & there were 9-patches of all kinds, some simple & some complex.

For our April block everyone will have to 1) work with some smaller-than-usual pieces & 2) deal with 1/2-square triangles.   I will lay out the directions so anyone who is new to the triangle-thing can learn it, but obviously you should feel more-than-free to use whatever method works for you.  All that matters is the block you end up with.

Without further ado, I choose a block called Sunny Lanes & for the purposes of this swap at least one fabric needs to be a floral print of some kind.

Sunny Lanes Brackman number is 1144 for those who are interested (the floral thing was just something I threw in there).  I had received many requests for something more challenging,  as well as something that worked with other blocks for an overall effect. One of the specific blocks named as meeting these criteria was Jacob's Ladder & I would have gone with it except it would have meant we would be doing nothing but 9-patches for the first 1/2 of the year & I thought maybe I could do, well, not better but different.  For the purposes of this swap at least one fabric needs to be a floral print of some kind.

Sunny Lanes is a 4 patch with four patches & 1/2 squares triangles in it.  You will need light & dark fabrics to make the triangles & medium fabrics for the smaller 4-squares.  In fact, for this block to 'work', the half square triangle MUST be dark & light & the 4-patches MUST be medium, so please choose your fabrics with this in mind.  It is perfectly OKay to use scraps for the entirety so long as the lights go in the light spots, the darks in the dark spots & the mediums in the medium spots.  Again, for this swap at least one & preferably more of the fabrics you choose should have a floral print.  The block will be 12" finished/12.5" unfinished.  The block requires eight (8) half square triangles & eight (8) mini-4patches.  So lets begin Floral Sunny Lanes.

Part One- There are gazillions of ways to make the half square triangles & as long as you end up with 3.5" half square triangles it does not much matter which technique you use.  I am providing the steps how I make them I make them this way because it is the easiest & most accurate way to use up irregular & smaller pieces of fabric:

1. Cut four 4" squares from you light fabrics & four 4" squares from your dark fabrics.  You can use the same light & same dark throughout the block or you can use up scraps.   On the back of the light square, with a pencil or marker that will not run make a straight line from one corner to the other.  Ultimately this will be your cutting line, so you do not need to worry about it washing out or fading.  Pin the other two corners.

2. Stitch 1/4" from this line on either side.  I find the easiest way to do this without getting the points jammed into the machine is to chain piece (just keep stitching without stopping to cut in between) while alternating which side of the line you are stitching.

3.  Once you have sewn 1/4" on both sides of the line, unpin & cut on the center line.  Press open.  It is possible your triangle will need to be squared up, remember the size you want it to be is 3.5".  Also, cut away any threads (if you did not chain piece) & trim the pointy-bits from the ends of the seam. 

Part Two- The mini 4-patches are not so complicated.  The hardest thing about them is their diminutive size.  As with each half square triangle you want to work with a 3.5" unit.  Therefore, each of the squares within the mini 4-patch begins as a 2" square. Again, you can assemble these as you wish, you can strip piece them, you can use up smaller scraps, you can make conventional 2 fabric 4-squares or use a unique fabric for each square.  The only rule is that ALL of the fabrics comprising the mini 4-squares should be medium shades.  If you are not sure whether or not your fabric is a medium, put it between the dark & the light you have selected for your half square triangles.  If you are still unable to confirm it is a medium, you should consider whether or not the dark or the light you have chosen really medium.  Just like the half-square triangles, you will need 8 mini 4-patches for each block

Part Three- Each block is made up of 4 smaller units, there are two layouts for these smaller units (although they are both made of  2 half-square triangles & 2 mini 4-squares).  You will need two of each for each block. While both have half-square triangles &min 4-squares opposite each other, one as the dark sides of the triangle both pointing to the center, the other has the dark triangles pointing one direction & the light triangles in the other.

After choosing the block, working out the unit sizes, etc. I found there was another version of it on-line at Quilters Cache, an excellent resource if you have not yet discovered it.  You might note that the triangles are handled differently than I have described or is diagrammed in the Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns, from which I took the block.  There is nothing wrong with this variation but because this is such a busy block, it would probably be better if everyone did the same version.

Finally, If you not currently part of the swap group, but you are interested in joining our swap group, you are very very welcome BUT it would make my life A LOT easier if you joined through Facebook.   Log into Facebook, search "quilt block swap" & find the Group.  There will be a picture of the current block as the profile photo.  Ask to join & you should be approved within a day or two.  If you are not on Facebook, but still interested, go to this post & leave a comment there.

Patriotic tossed nines for February

In February the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group will celebrate our first full year.  We will also be swapping our seventh set of quilt blocks.  The way our swap works is you send me five of the same block, I swap them with other blocks received from other swappers &amp you get five (hopefully) different ones back. Blocks must be in-house by the deadline- always the last Saturday of an even numbered month or, in this case, Saturday February 27th, 2010.  Blocks are swapped on Sunday of the same week-end & brought to the Post Office on Monday.

Along with your five blocks you need to include a self addressed, stamped envelope to return your blocks to you.  If you use the same size envelope as you mailed your original blocks out in, postage should be exactly the same.

You can send as many sets as you like, so long as they are in sets of FIVE.  All of your sets do not need to be the same, but they can be (this does, however, increase the likelihood of getting one of your own blocks back).  Within each set, the blocks should be more or less the same.

You can also include a 6th Block.  The 6th Block will go to whatever person or persons have asked for the 6th Blocks for that particular swap to make a quilt (or quilts) for a community service type project.  There are some other guidelines for 6th Blocks & they are all on the Facebook group.  This months group is Quilts of Valor & one of the original swap group swappers is getting these blocks to make a quilt from the group. 

Enough about that, here is this month's swap block:  Patriotic Tossed Nines

1.  Cut 5" squares of eight different red, blue, red&blue, red&white. blue&white OR red&white&blue fabrics.  you will also need one 5" square in white for the center.  A note about colors:  In the example, I used white muslin, but white in this instance means reads as white.  it could be white on white, it could be a soft cream (but not a light brown, please), it could be white with another color in it very peripherally.  If you are looking at a piece of fabric & are unsure if it "reads as" white or blue or red or whatever, it is best to avoid it.

2.  Assemble a traditional 9-patch (again, the center square must be white) using the 1/4" seam allowance.  If it is easier for you make strips & cut them down, then by all means do it that way.

3.  Once the 9-patch is assembled, cut it in half through the center

& then again, lengthwise.

4.  Turn two of the opposite pieces so that the small white square that had been on the inside are now opposite outside corners. 

5. Reassemble so the four squares again become a single block & STOP.  When you get your swapped blocks back you will want to square them HOWEVER it makes sense for this to be done right before assembling the squares. 

      Remember to make enough blocks to swap (5), maybe even one to donate (the 6th Block) & at least one to keep. 

      //If you not currently part of the swap group, but you are interested in joining our swap group, you are very very welcome BUT it would make my life A LOT easier if you joined through Facebook.   Log into Facebook, search "quilt block swap" & find the Group.  There will be a picture of the current block as the profile photo.  Ask to join & you should be approved within a day or two.  If you are not on Facebook, but still interested, go HERE & leave a comment after this post with your e-mail address HOWEVER be warned:  I really cannot do trouble-shooting, take future block suggestions, handle requests to receive 6th blocks, etc. via individual e-mail messages.  The advantage of doing it all through Facebook is all the information is in one place you can check at your leisure.

      Want to join a block swap...on Facebook?

      The next three posts (one Monday, one Tuesday & one Wednesday) are the directions for the next three Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group's swap blocks.  We swap blocks in sets of FIVE- you send five blocks & get five blocks sent by other swappers back.  You can make as many sets of five as you like, joining only those swaps that interest you.  We also collect 6TH BLOCKS, that is a block in addition to the five, that goes to one of the group who makes a community project type quilt.  There is a little more to it than that, actually, & you can find all the details on the group page.  Lastly, you also need to include a self addressed, stamped envelope to return your blocks to you.  Envelopes with insufficient postage will take a very very long time to get back to you so the best idea is to use the same size & weight of envelope you sent your blocks in & affix the same postage.

      If you are not currently part of the swap group, but you are interested in joining our swap group, you are very very welcome BUT it would make my life A LOT easier if you joined the group through Facebook.   Log into Facebook, search "quilt block swap" & find the Quilt Block Swap Group.  There will be a picture of the current block as the profile photo.  Ask to join & you should be approved within a day or two.

      If you are not on Facebook, but still interested in swapping & just need the mailing address, leave a comment with your e-mail address & I will send you that information but be warned:  I really cannot do trouble-shooting, take future block suggestions, handle requests to receive 6th blocks, etc. via individual e-mail messages. 

      The blocks & their deadlines are:

      Patriotic Tossed  Nines - Saturday, February 27, 2010
      Sunny Floral Lanes - Saturday, April 24, 2010
      Baby Snowballs - Saturday, June 26, 2010

      Blocks are swapped on Sunday & brought to the Post Office on Monday.

      Results from our first swap in February 2009 can be seen here.

      Sunday, December 20, 2009

      Melabee in color

      Yes we are still grinding our way through The Canterbury Tales & I am really really hoping this was the low point.  I am also taking a deep deep breathe & plan to revisit it-yes, I really do & all because of The Cook, the Thief, his Wife & her Lover.

      I actually like (it is hard to say enjoyed) this movie.  I did even the first time I saw it.  As E***** described "I do not really care for movies with brutal rape scenes but in this movie it would have been a kind of relief".  I understand it now has an X rating; when I saw it, it was just flagged "Foreign" & the guy at the movie theater who sold us our tickets made sure we were absolutely clear there would be no refunds.  A*****, E*****'s daughter, swears the movie is about color & I think she might be right.  I caught that it worked with color that first go-round but that it might actually be about color makes sense too.

      That is almost all I want to say about that, except I think Melabee is another one of those stories that is about something else.  First, there is the surface story which is an excruciating discussion of why Melabee cannot exact revenge on those who have wronged him (by assaulting his daughter & wife, too, I think-it was hard to stay alert).

      Not so very far underneath that are two competing themes.  The first a parody of the husband as head of the house & the second a sort of 14th Century version of People magazine, in that randomly attributed spewings are all rehashed in an "if you do not know who this is you should not be here" kind of way.  Neither one of these interest me much;  I only read People magazine when I am at the allergist getting my shots & now that Jon&Kate cannot seem to get off the cover, I mostly just look at the walls.

      But I think there must be something else, right?  Gratuitous violence should be easier than this.  The wounds to the daughter (& wife, I think) are just so oddly placed.  Also, I think there might be coded messages in the order that philosophers are referenced.  Maybe it is like Hamlet, & it turns out the whole thing is based on actual history, right down to the carnage.

      I am convinced it cannot be quite so black & white as it appears.

      Friday, December 18, 2009

      Scraps gone wild

      A few weeks ago, when I did the string quilt trunk show, I also got back (temporarily) one of my other quilts.  I consider it a string quilt but no one else does so  I will let you be the judge:

      Yes, these are more of the omnipresent Classic Pooh scraps.  Two of my mothers three grandchildren had Classic Pooh nurseries (the other had all trademark figures banned; we are not a family of compromise).  Then there are all the other babies born around me & what with living so near the Magic Kingdom, most people consider Pooh a basic.  Like black.  Or plaid.

      It made sense to buy what I saw on sale & just hang on to it.  When I got down to more minuscule pieces, it was hard to just toss them, so I would run them through the machine "just to catch the threads".  Then I would iron them, to practice my ironing...?  They would grow into these odd, amorphous, blobby shapes -much like the man himself- only to be squared off, sewn together & Voila!  Scraps gone wild.

      Years after I made this first scraps gone wild quilt top, I came across someone in blog-land (I do not remember who, I would give you credit if I did) who framed her scraps on three sides with white.  She was going for ultimately uniform squares but still it segwayed nicely into what I was already doing.  What with printing a lot of photos on fabric I have a lot of strips of bleached muslin.

      So I have started to add scraps, orphans block parts, previously unused scraps gone wild to the strips.  When I have a few in more or less the same width, I attach them.  Then maybe border them in white.  & keep going.

      I have become one of those cooks who is more interested in the left-overs than the main course.

      Wednesday, December 16, 2009

      "Show me the money"

      It took me a month to settle down enough to write this post & another few weeks to edit it:

      Way back when, I sat STOOPIFIED as a ranking member of the NAACP told people that all this objection to Michael Vick was because he was black. Really? It could not possibly be because he shows the signs of an embryo serial killer? Who happens to be black? I admit this pushed a button with me as I have a family member who is convinced that everyone who disagrees with him is an anti-semite. Even other jews that disagree with him are secretly self loathing. That someone might disagree with his opinion (or dislike him for wholly un-semite related reasons) is just not possible.

      But back to Michael Vick:  there used to be talk (& maybe there still is) about how animal rights activists were rushing to judgment.  Again - really?  Because isn't that what a conviction is-a judgment?  I remain entirely unclear "what time will tell" except how well he plays football & how much cash that generates.  Or are we waiting to see if he gets caught operating a hobby-dog-fighting ring again or torturing animals again or whatever & then rethinking whether he or not he is might not be such a great guy who was just at the wrong place that one time?

      What is starting to come out, though is that a large, financial machine did indeed, rush to judge him, it rushed to judge him rehabilitated. & that, after reading court documents, it would seem Vick had a second chance when his juvenile records were sealed. & had another second chance when his college coaches intervened for him. & has already doubled up on second chances since joining the Eagles, when they argued that drinking in a bar was not in fact a violation of his parole (& opening the door for ANY parole violator busted in the same way to get sprung because a precedent has been set).

      I am told that the Eagles & Vick are gearing up for the post-season.  I do not know, I do not take much interest in football (is it like hockey where virtually everyone plays post-season?), nothing to do with Michael Vick.  The other thing gearing up:  high school & college football players crashing & burning (& drunk driving & shoplifting) & every one of them is certain it will all be forgiven.  Why wouldn't they be?

      Just for fun I like to google "football player arrested".  Since I started this little game, there are always at least 5 (& often more like 8 out of 10) unique arrests that have occurred within the year.  I thought I would try a few others: Baseball, Volleyball & the famously violent Hockey.  There were only two Hockey player arrests that came up for the previous year: one hit & run & one tried to hire someone to kill his boyfriend.  Volleyball was even lamer.  Baseball, that gentlest of contact sports, is almost on par with Football, though not so close as Basketball.  So what do Baseball, Basketball & Football have in common that Hockey & Volleyball do not?  Very large third party financial interests.

      Sunday, December 13, 2009

      This is what happens when you get edumacated in the Magic Kingdom

      Not quite ten years ago nineteen people took over four airplanes & flew them into buildings in New York City & Washington DC & a field in rural Pennsylvania & for a long time after that, no one wanted to get on a plane.  Yes, I know there were a lot of other things that came of it, but for the purposes of this story....

      Here in Fladidah, we make a lot of our operating cash off of people who do not actually operate here.  This business of not getting on planes was a big big problem because no one brought their money here & the industry (& I do mean INDUSTRY) that revolves around the practice of overcharging touristas was feeling the pain.  Along with many many other such entities, Disney's Epcot Center threw open their doors & offered state residents significantly reduced entrance fees during specific week-days. 

      I am not now & was not then a particular fan of Disney.  I am naturally suspicious of any large corporate entity.  Also I was not crazy about the mickeyfying of every story (Scrooge McDuck?  Really?)

      Still we thought, lets see how Disney educates the youngsters.  Well, it was quite the eye opener.  & the biggest eye opener of all was the Monsanto Loves the People of the Earth exhibit.  It would be correct to say it kind of made my skin crawl.  Even A, who is not so likely to get amped up as me, kept shaking his head at the people lining up to hear a commercial (because whether there is a amusement park ride involved or not, endless platitudes about the wisdom of spraying your crops with Monsanto products is still a commercial).

      We left the Agriculture-is-your-friend-so-long-as-you-are-on-the-other-end-of-a-large-piece-of-machinery Pavillion & went to have lunch.  In France.  A funny thing about France, a friend of mine teaches middle school to the Epcot employed offspring & she tells me she has a hard time convincing her students the the countries that border each other in International Plaza do not actually necessarily border each other in real life.  She discovered this was a problem when talking about World War II;  there was some confusion about Germans having to travel through Japan & Morocco to get to France.  I do not remember much about lunch except we were served white bread.  I have been to France.  I do not think they know what white bread is. They also served wine, which is how we happened to settle on France.

      A while ago, another friend was doing an installation in one of the Epcot places-something to do with language & soy sauce...  Anyhow, he told me he often had lunch in Germany (where they serve beer) & then take a short walk around the plaza.  Although I cannot find it on the map he swears that Israel was somewhere near Norway (which I do kind of remember myself, you know, from geography class)  & one of his great joys was to watch the young Arab men pass by the blonde beauties of the Land of the Midnight Sun that are the stock-in-trade of international consumer marketing & make straight for the Israeli girls, who clearly had been chatted up by every Arab male over the age of five in the park & were frankly ready for something completely different.  He swears it happened every day & he was there for months.

      So it seems there are some things you cannot teach people to buy, even in the Magic Kingdom.

      Saturday, December 12, 2009

      Monk monkey in the middle or Tit for tat

      It was 200 years too early for "Neither a borrower no a lender be" but somehow Chaucer managed a new slant with the Shipman's Tale.  The only guy who is happy is the guy who is both a borrower & a lender, the individual borrower & the individual lender mostly just get screwed.

      Let me give you the highlights:
      • There is a guy.  He wants to sleep with his friend-cousin's wife.  The friend-cousin is clueless, the wife slightly less so. 

      • There is the wife.  Her husband makes plenty of money, in her view, for her to have nice things:  richer clothes, etc., but he is not so generous as she would like or even so generous as she has spent in a Chaucerian credit card debt kind of way.

      • There is the husband.  He thinks the first guy is his friend.  He thinks he is happily married.
      The story goes like this.  For a long time the first guy has been visiting his friend-cousin, eating his food, sleeping under his roof & lusting after his wife.  First friend-cousin aka Husband-friend-cousin sees nothing amiss in the longing looks his buddy casts his wife's way.  In fact, I never got that he even noticed.  I did not really even get that she much noticed.  Either my middle english is not great (which is true) or these two are quite the pair of rubes (also true).

      One day, Husband-friend-cousin confides in Lecherous-friend-cousin that he 1) needs to go away on business 2) would like to park some cash somewhere short-term & 3) thinks his wife could stand to be watched.  Lecherous-friend-cousin says no problem & by the way he is temporarily light & maybe he could get a small loan...?  No problem right back at him, money moves from Husband-friend-cousin to Lecherous-friend-cousin & all is well when Husband-friend-cousin hits the road.

      Lecherous-friend-cousin is happy to gift/loan same $$ to the wife & they have a wonderful athletic time together.  Husband-friend-cousin returns, Lecherous-friend-cousin leaves but not before a brief "where's my money?", "Why I gave it to your wife of course".  When the husband asks the wife what she did with it she says "Uhmmmmm I thought it was reimbursement for being such a lengthy house guest, but I will pay you back Husband by charging you for sex".  

      Oh yea, Lecherous-friend-cousin, the guy who is both a borrower & a lender, the only wholly happy person in this tale:  he's a monk.

      Thursday, December 10, 2009

      What would Sandy do?

      I come from a family of avid & yet moderate Red Sox fans.  What does that look like?  Well, during the regular season it is Red Sox all the way.  & this years post season, they rooted for the Yankees because they are the same division.  That's right, no rabid saliva streaming "Yankees must die" rants.  It is just we would rather see the Red Sox lose, after all they choke with such style, than the Yankees win but if it is going to be the Yankees well it is going to be the Yankees.

      Some of my fondest baseball-listening memories are of listening to Yankee games on the radio (baseball is just better on the radio).  Fondest retrospectively anyhow.  At the time, Phil Rizzuto's rambling about nothing happening on the field for inning after inning could get old. He would yak yak yak & then get around to giving the score, which was nowhere near what it had been.  I still remember the day he & his co-broadcaster (I think it was Bill White) disagreed about something & the other guy asked if Rizzuto was going to have some of his Money Store buddies talk with him.   Lately though, the Yankee I have been thinking about is Sandy Koufax.  & wondering what he would do.

      Within days of the final exam date being assigned for A's class this semester someone observed it fell on one of the nights of Chanukah, neither the first nor the last, but one of the other six.  There was concern what this might mean for those students who could not be asked to sit an exam during a religious holiday.  This was a kind of funny concern, especially  1) Chanukah begins the day before exams begin & ends the day after exams end;  there is no such thing as an exam being given this semester that is NOT on a day of Chanukah & 2) of the three professors responsible for this particular large lecture, two of them are Jewish.  So far the administration has not suggested they sit out exams as well.

      Sandy Koufax, for those of you not in the know, missed the opening game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.  So we know what Sandy did.  Still, what would Sandy do?  Because  Yom Kippur is a very big deal & Chanukah is just plain not as important.  Also, Sandy made it to the second game of same series; he did not sit out the whole thing.

      So what to do for the (potential) student who says he cannot take this (or any) exam because of  Chanukah?  The clincher might have to be: what did he do for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th nights of Chanukah last year?

      I had to look it up, but for those nights of Chanukah in previous years, one of the two Jewish professors in this fable kept his office hours, attended his lectures & even proctored an exam.  If anybody did not take that one because it was Chanukah, he never mentioned it. 

      //One of my brothers has a special name for the Red Sox:  Lords of the Rookie Mistake.  Someday I will write a novel & that just might be the title.

      Tuesday, December 8, 2009

      Jane of Cácere

      For reasons I am not clear on, almost every reference to Jane of Cacere is in Chinese. Not reading Chinese I have only the faintest idea why. OKay, I do not even have that. As today is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, most of the calendars are full of that event & have passed over Jane completely.

      & it is easy to see why. The Feast is a celebration of one of the great leaps of faith it takes to be a catholic, maybe even a christian. I have always been amused by the term "leap" in the expression "leap of faith"; from my perspective it looks more like a surrender. I once told my bookclub that I thought religious dogmas of all kinds teach people to be gullible. I was surprised that the churchgoer among us agreed (yes, we only had one in those days).

      In any event it is hard to find much about Jane. There are so many Janes. & she was a Benedictine nun & abbess who spent most of her life cloistered. & she was killed in her church (her home, her workplace) by an invading army. As women's deaths go, it does not get much more anonymous or garden-variety than that.

      There is so much more to say on this that I have completely run out of steam. If you are interested, the statistics are easy enough to find.

      If Jane is long gone & almost forgotten, Caceres, Spain is still there. It is a hard place to get a handle on. The Arabs came in the 8th century, the Jews were expelled in the 15th. In between, Caceres alternately thrived & suffered in that way borders in all eco-systems do. I am confident that if I got off the web & on the ground, I could find the story of Jane of Caceres easily. No doubt something now stands on the site of her martyrdom, & considering the longevity of the community it may well still be a church. On December 8th perhaps the young women of the town follow a statue covered in ribbons through the streets. Maybe they light candles & make predictions about how many children they will have. Maybe not.

      I think it is too hard to remember suffering that remains alive. Again I will not look too hard for those awful statistics. It is easier to celebrate something that could have only happened the once. Or not at all. How do you celebrate the victim of a crime that is committed every day?

      Wednesday, December 2, 2009

      When bedbugs bite

      A month or two before I was due to visit Northern Climes, my hometown-ish newspaper made national headlines.  At least, I thought they had.  The short version is the watchdog reporter for the Hartford Courant was reported negatively (dare I say watchdoggedly) on one of the Courant's few remaining advertisers.  & then he was fired.

      I do not remember where I first heard about it, it really was almost certainly the radio, but you can find the story to read here.  I followed the whole thing, to the degree there was something to follow & rather figured that those who still subscribe to the Hartford Courant did, too.

      I figured wrong.  Not one person that I talked with on my return to Hartford County had any idea what had happened.  Even stranger, they had all noticed the absence of the watchdog reporter but thought his was one of several job cuts made over the past few month for budget reasons.  I know many newly former readers of the Hartford Courant have been disgusted with the combining of the paper & a local tv station (as I typed that last sentence, I pulled up the link to the station & indeed the headline story & photo were exactly the same).  After all, why buy a newspaper when they will plonk the exact same story on your television, no charge?  On a network you could not pay some people to watch?

      So bed bugs bit a consumer.  & then they bit a reported.  & several months later, they are just starting to bite the media operation that fired him.

      Friday, November 27, 2009

      Big ticket consumer goods are really aliens from another galaxy come to conquer us

      I am always interested when a group, of small or large size but preferably a group that had no idea they were grouped, get an idea, wrong, right or just a matter of taste all in line with no apparent source or reason.  No I do not mean Fox News or Ralph Nader or anything like that, besides grouping deliberately, they are more about a collection of opinions than any actual ideas.  I am thinking more along the lines of apparently small, usually unintended ideas that make big changes.

      The Disney movie 101 Dalmations was released in 1961 but before it was a successful movie it was a successful book.  It was so successful that only about five years elapsed between the time the book was printed & the time the movie was made.  Compare this to the decades+ that elapsed between the book2movie of most Disneyfications.  I do not just mean Beauty & the Beast et al, there is also Mary Poppins, published in 1934, movie 1965.  Even A Life in the Woods was published in 1926, almost 20 years before Bambi appeared on the big screen; well over ten of which Disney had already been making full length animated films.  Something about The Great Dog Robbery was so strong that it grabbed the money-lenders-in-the temple by the throat & they could not wait for the author to die & try to slip a bastardized version of the story by a well-funded copyright review board; they had to have that movie right away.  Because it is not how much you spend, but how much you make.  & make they did.

      One of the unintended upshots was the jump in dalmation purchases.  I say unintended because I am sure had Disney been aware this would happen, they would have cornered the market on dalmation puppy mills.  In the days before movie product marketing, this would have been hard to anticipate: it would be hard to find a dog less suited for families with small children than a dalmation.  Unless it was a cocker spaniel a la Lady & the Tramp.

      Flash forward to 2009: the influence of 101 Dalmations is so strong that earlier this year a woman (who must be 20+ years younger than I am; our only connection is her adult-acquired step-mother is a friend of mine) was at my house picking out chickens & when she saw a crevecoeur & asked the hen's name.  When I said Perdita she said she KNEW that was what it had to be.  After all, what else would anyone call a female black & white spotted anything?  Unless it was Missus Pongo.

      It is also from this vantage point that I can see quite clearly another upshot:  the death of the fur coat industry.  The last generation of must-have-a-fur-coat women were already adults in 1961 (except behind the iron curtain women, where it is often colder & there was no Disney).  Do not even start to tell me that this is an extension of animal rights activism & awareness.  If that were true there would have been no upswing in the purchase of leather coats, which have been steadily climbing for three+ decades.  Ask meat-eating, leather-wearing women why they do not want fur & they will tell you:  there is just something cruel about it.  They will actually use the word CRUEL.  PETA can take all the credit they like, I am convinced it was 101 Dalmations.

      Which makes me wonder what the next big accident might be & I think I may have found it:  Transformers.  Check back in 30 years & see if indeed the new grown-ups are not fairly certain we do not need all that multi-tasking gadget crap.  Much better to keep everything to a single function so they will be more easily defeated.

      & Happy Black Friday.

      // The author of The Great Dog Robbery (which I am sure is a charming little volume, although I have never read it) also wrote what I think is one of the must-read books of the 20th Century:  I Capture the Castle.  I am 99.9% sure there are no dogs in it.  Read it anyway.

      Thursday, November 26, 2009

      Working hard might be hardly working

      Many moons ago, I wandered into a job interview that was like none I ever had before. The boss was out of town, but his wife's former secretary was working for him (while they were both on a rare vacation together) & she was doing what I would call a pre-interview. But it wasn't a pre-interview: by the time I got home, the offer was on my answering machine.

      These were my interview questions:

      I see you just got married, congratulations. What was the entree at your reception? My answer: vegetarian lasagna.

      Do you have any pets? yes, two cats. What are their names? Barley Corn & Epiphany.

      & I am sure these questions/answers were the ones that did it because she later told me so.

      I realized early on that this was an office with 'personality conflicts', nothing else explained the personality test I was given. What is funny about these two is they left her with the impression I was a recovering alcoholic (I am not, I suppose I might be an alcoholic but I do not think so, therefore I am certainly not recovering) & vegetarian (which I am also not, we had meat appetizers, but all she asked about was the entree). I am also quite sure these were the impressions she got, because she later told me that as well. Why this got me the job I do not know; 

      F**** was not an alcoholic, at least I don't think he was & not a vegetarian-that I am sure about. He was from Brooklyn though & I think the indulgent Southern culture was wearing on him. He was ready for someone driven regardless of the direction I might be headed.   

      What she never asked me was if I could be any kind of tree what kind would I be. A Hartford insurance company once asked me this question when I was interviewing for their payroll department. My answer was a willow, so I could hang out near the water & have really cool hair. I have not heard from them since

      My boss was 'high strung' (a specialty of mine, I don't know why). He sometimes had trouble with the reality that his name was on the door & mine was not. He was never outwardly angry, but he often paced & practiced his golf swing with an imaginary club in the hallway. I once had to ask him to go home (he came in with pink eye & the rest of the staff said it was him or them). His previous assistant record was 18 months; I worked for him for more than ten years.

      The reality is I worked as his assistant for less than four months. At least in technical terms. I moved around a lot. I do not mean I changed offices or even chairs. I would not even use that corporate speak "changed hats". As far as I was & am concerned the job that was my job was the job that needed to be done next. Whatever it was. I once sat in the car next to another consultant sewing a button back on his cuff while he drove to a meeting. This was an appropriate division of the job at hand; I cannot tell left from right & only know NSEW if I can see the sun (or a shadow & know what time it is).

      I have a friend from high school, better educated than me by any measure, geographically better placed for real success, better manners, the whole package. & every job she ever got she 1) refused to make coffee because she believed, as a tea-drinker herself, that coffee-making should be done by people who drink the coffee. I once asked her if this included potential clients; should they make their own coffee, too? She did not get it. 2) was chronically late. Or early. But usually late. There was no explaining to her that working an hour past time does not make up for that first 10-20 minutes when the phones are ringing off the walls, everyone is prepping for that early status meeting, etc. She just kept repeating to me she did not see what the big deal was: she could prove she got more work done in the hour after closing than anyone else ever did first thing in the morning. I did once say no-sh*t-sherlock, ANYbody can get more done when they are not being repeatedly interrupted while working on a 15-minute deadline. That is when I realized her ignorance was willful. Flash forward- for many years she has not had a job outside her home & last time I spoke with her she was shocked, SHOCKED when her daughters teachers told her the other homeroom moms did not want to work with her because she 1) cherry-picked only fun assignments & 2) did not respect anyone else's schedule.

      I have had more opportunities than most to observe people at their work. For many years that was actually part of my paying-job, watching how things got done, identifying the holes, identifying the traps, identifying the wasted effort. Most people would rather play than work, but not all those that would rather work than play are worth employing. The trick is saying I know this is work, I know it needs be done, I will learn to enjoy it for it's own sake & for the opportunity it gives me to do the things I want to do. That opportunity might be a paycheck, it might be farm-fresh eggs, it might be anything at all. Eventually the work itself just feels good.  & being able to learn that just might be the thing I am most thankful for.  

      Happy Thanksgiving.

      //an apology to all Southerners who are offended by the slacker implication but compared to the average New Yorker/New Englander, you do relax a lot. I am not saying Northerners could not stand to relax more, I am saying the many of you who are keeping munchkinland hours make some of us think you are just a bit lazy.

      Sunday, November 22, 2009

      Die you pumpkin bastard

      Last week I picked up our first CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription basket & in it was the sweetest little seminole pumpkin.  I looked at that pumpkin all week long, thinking how I was going to stuff it a la vegan thanksgivings past & how wonderful it was going to be.

      I got sidetracked, naturally.  First I needed to deal with the more perishable produce in same basket.  Also, I have had a bad cold so... 1) cough cough cough , which just sucks the motivation out of me & 2) I have not-much sense of smell & no sense of taste, which sucks the inspiration right out of me.

      But Friday night I decapitated the little monster & Oh. My. G*d. that was the thickest rind I have ever seen in my life. I cut & scraped & gouged.  It was like mixing cement in a teeny-tiny bucket with a very narrow opening.

      Then I made the stuffing (pumpkin & onions & carrots & some spices & cornbread), stuffed the pumpkin & cooked for 45 minutes.  Then cooked for another 45 minutes.  Because I forgot one of the fundamentals of stuffed pumpkin:  the thicker the rind, the more water it is holding.  We ate much later than usual & then had nachos.  For dessert.

      Once it had cooled a bit, I scooped the goo into a fridge-container & will re-cook it tonight, outside the pumpkin, to go with baked chicken.  Saturday morning I took what was still a very sturdy pumpkin shell to the henhouse & dropped it on the  ground where it split & the ladies gorged themselves on it.  I went in the house to get the camera to take a picture of the colorful birds eating that orange orange squash & when I got back out it was GONE.  Just the littlest bit of a stain was left.

      When I make it again, I will lop off quite a bit more from the top, cook uncovered & make a few other recipe changes (no need to add vegetable stock, maybe saute the onions in white wine, add some apples, you know: CHANGES).  First though I will need to grow some.  Which is why I saved the seeds.

      Saturday, November 21, 2009

      Judging books by their covers & whatever else

      I was catching up on one of my favorite blogs-Awful Library Books when in the comments on a book not about clowns but with clowns skiing on the cover I came across a reference to a publishing house that piqued my interest: Tutis Publishing.

      If you went ahead & hit the ALB link, you know that Tutis uses public domain art on their digital cover art, in many a random way.  My first visit to the site revealed this gem front & center:

      I am not familiar with the translation of Homer that ties into bi-polar disorder, epilepsy, Ménière's disease or whatever-the-hell Van Gogh had, but I highly recommend every high school in the americas get their hands on a copy; bored students everywhere are ready to hear this version of the death of Achilles.  Also, I would imagine there is no more trying to tell the Ajax apart because they are probably the same guy with a split personality.

      Just for fun I did a search on Jane Eyre.  & the second item to come up (the first was indeed Jane Eyre) was Persuasion.  You know - by Jane Austen.  Because Charlotte Bronte & Jane Austen are both...? Listed 3rd was another book by Jane Austen; 4th - Persuasion again.  With a different cover.  Did I mention the first cover?  It featured a couple in renaissance dress on a garden bench, the man appearing to plead with the woman.  Why would anyone want to top that?  Even if they did lay their hands on a different translation?  Am I the only one who did not know Jane Austen had to be translated into english? Or that Persuasion was about one of the three musketeers, if he were a ships captain?

      There was no place left to go but the self-help section, where I found four books:

      The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie with a microphone on the cover
      Quit Your Worrying! by George Wharton James with a pea flower on the cover
      Talks on Talking by Grenville Kleiser with foldling chairs in an open-air amphitheatre/lawn type place on the cover & last but not least
      How to Succeed by Orison Swett Marden with an eagle tearing apart a snake.  Or is it a two-different-headed dragon?

      Success is overrated.

      Wednesday, November 18, 2009

      Friday block party

      A few weeks ago I asked to join & was accepted to the Friday Block Party blog.  Then I got sick & did nothing but cough & moan for 10+ days.  I am feeling more myself & getting back into the swing of everything & have started to retrace the block party blocks.  I am going to try & keep up with the blocks going forward (I am jumping in at week 46) & then, whenever I am caught up to the current block, work my way backwards, starting with week 45.

      I am hoping to get some new techniques out of it, learn to accept techniques I hate (Y seams-BLECH) & just in general see what falls out of the sewing basket.

      Without further ado, please join me at the block party for my first post.

      Sunday, November 15, 2009

      Collectible collectives

      I admit I live in my head. So does A; it is a wonder we ever meet. Or ever even met.

      While I was still a child (well teenager) I started collections that could not be taken away: words that mean the opposite of themselves but are spelled the exact same (my favorite was mother & mother, well actually it was catholic & Catholic but I am told the capitalization does constitute a spelling change. That's right, there are rules); women who made their ex-husband's names famous as their own (Dorothy Parker, Susan Sarandon).

      While getting an english lit degree I collected opening lines (When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow). All it takes is a piece of paper & you have a collection. If you keep that paper with you & memorize it in spare moments, you can learn to encapsule anything, ready to be released when you read your list aloud.

      Everyone knows someone who collects exes. C****** likes to gather musical covers. If I am remembering correctly, she once did a school project on covers of Twist & Shout. I am not all that interested in exes (although I DO like Twist & Shout, Twist & Shout & Twist & Shout).

      When I was in my 20's, I began trying to take myself out of my head. Or at least to empty my head 'on the stage' so at least some of what I did had some context. That is when I began collecting collections. There is nothing that delights me more than whatever someone else has seen fit to gather. That is not true of course; I am most delighted by what no one ever meant to gather, or at least the gathering was not so much a goal as a symptom or even a side effect but when that collection is the backbone of something else entirely.

      & that is when I began collecting collectives. The first one I realized was a list of so-called subversive & fringe groups that all recognize the international symbol for anarchy. Give it a minute.

      Since that day I have made notes on all unintended groupings. Used books stores are fun. Somehow they always seem to have themes that emerge, often quickly, that are obvious to any new customer & invisible to any regular visitor. The used bookstores that sells silver jewlery at the counter-very heavy in the sci-fi department.  The one with the vegan cafe within its walls:  not so much on car repair.

      Artisans guilds can be interesting too. I had a ring-side seat (no I was never a member) when one of the local groups had a 'political restructuring'. The theme of the new concept could be summed up in the words of one former board member "I do not care how many G*d damned kids you have, hire a babysitter or leave them home alone, but do not bring them here when you are supposed to be working".  Last time I checked a lot of guild members were child-free.

      Farmers markets are another favorite of mine. Less diverse than other markets as they are self-limiting (after all if you are going to grow your own food & then sell it you are probably not doing it to gain entry into the world of industrial food), but still there is variety. The heirloom turkey breeders do not always see eye-to-eye with the vegan soap makers.

      There is a new collective in town. A food co-op is trying to form in our area. I could not be more pleased. I like the idea, I agree with the philosophy & I am sure that like minded & agreeing people will provide much discussion & conflict for years to come. & yes, I think that is a good thing.  In the meantime a CSA has formed & we joined.  Every saturday we pick up our basket at the farmers market & go home & try & figure out what to do with what we got.  At last, something to do with all those obscure cookbooks I have been collecting.

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Quilters quiz me vis à vis quips & quackery

      Apparently some of my friends were astonished that I agreed to do a brief presentation of my string quilts to one of the bees (the Miniature Quilt Bee to be exact). While it is true that I have called the guild that sponsors these bees the Symbionese Liberation Quilt Guild the fact remains that I do still have friends there & when they ask me to do something that does not involve anything from me but to be listened to & admired, I am pretty much willing to do it. It helps of course that this group does not meet before noon. Finally, the SLQG was not actually charging for me to be there while I was expected to donate my time & that was indeed the clincher. No it was not; it has been the clincher in the other direction (group charge but me not get paid). This time the clincher was J*** asking so elegantly if I would "be so kind as to" & of course I said yes.

      This is how I happened a few afternoons ago to be standing in the community rec center blathering on about foundation free string piecing. Again.

      The group theme is mini-quilts: those small scale replicas of larger quilts, with tiny patterns on tiny bits of fabric held together with tiny stitches. Whereas I consider a 4' by 4' quilt to be on the small side. They have been making mini-string quilts last month, this month; mini-quilts take longer than you would think.

      For me, this meant getting together at least some of the string quilts I have made & then flung to the far corners of the US. I wanted to say earth, but although I have sent strings, sample blocks & patterns to Australia & Iraq (they asked for them, no really) that seemed an exaggeration. Although now that I think about it most of my string quilts are in Florida & New England, which are actually the closest corners of the US. Whatever, it meant tracking them down.  Some were just across town, but others had further to travel. 

      & track them I did, with varied success.

      While not the first I ever made, this is the original pattern.  Concept, too as there were many many classic pooh scraps left over from something.  The first is, I am sorry to say somewhere in limbo.  It left here in March 2008 to be given as a mitzvah for one of my niece's First Communion (yes, we like to mix things up).  & there it has sat, still pending for reasons I am not sure I understand but...I digress.

      My sister sent the quilts she & her daughter got one year at holiday time.  Guess which one belongs to the grown woman & which belongs to the child who just painted her new bedroom weirdly orange-red? 

      From my mom the first string quilt I made.  I think.  The scraps were from a much larger project & we needed to use them up & clear them out.  & I showed a few others but they are either pretty routine or their pics have already been shown on this blog so Iwill spare you.  As I look over my left-overs though I am realzing I could use some freshening.

      Monday, November 9, 2009


      Today & tomorrow are known to some as The Night of Broken Glass.  In March 1938, Austrian citizens welcomed with parades & celebrations the German 'invaders'.  I do not actually expect that anyone who reads this blog is under the delusion that Nazi atrocities never occurred, but as to the Austrians celebrating, I know there are those who insist it was not true.  So I give you Ann Shapiro: she was a friend of my mothers (& her son wrote a book about her gardening skills sort-of, that is not really germane to today's blog entry).  She was quite sure of what she saw & would have been happy to refer you to many of her relatives who also witnessed it but... they are all dead.

      On October 28, 1938, more than 12K Jews were expelled from Germany, with almost no notice, just a few hours at most to pack one suitcase (leaving the rest of their belongings to looters AKA neighbors).  The son of one expelled family shot & killed a German embassy official.  In Paris.

      In response, the German government coordinated attack on jewish neighborhoods in Germany & then acquired Austria.  Because of their attempts to defend their homes & families, there was now good reason to:  prevent Jews from owning firearms, publishing newspapers, attending school, gathering in large numbers & just plain being allowed to live among decent people. 

      To be specific: a lone gunmen, who did not flee or even deny that he was responsible for the shooting, was held by police in another country, the country in which the shooting took place, but to be on the safe side, the German government (or according to the German government, the German people) thought it would be a good idea to attack ethnically similar people living in their own neighborhoods.

      I think I am going to stop here, actually.  If you really truly want to read more about this almost unrecognized day (& by virtually unknown to mainstream US society), there is more material out there than I could ever list here.  There is so much material that my own bookclub has twice had accidental nazi books; books we choose because they were about one thing but turned out to be about nazis. 

      I am stopping because I am, frankly, sick of nazis.  Aside from all the good reasons to be sick of nazis, I am just plain sick of the word. I would like to offer a new (old) word:  pogrom.  A pogrom is a little like a fatwa only instead of originating in a religious community it begins in a political one.  It is an organized riot, a coordinated attack on people who have been prevented from defending themselves; it is the targeting of a group of people over whom you have mastery for the purposes of destroying them quickly & completely.

      //If you are curious, the accidental nazi book were:  Pink Slip by Rita Ciresi about an Italian-American working at a pharmaceutical company in 1980s Long Island which actually features the very scene one member asked that we avoid & tomorrow's quite-by-coincidence selection:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  We still recommend both of them.

      Saturday, November 7, 2009

      B I N G O

      The December 2009 block swap block is up & I am still getting "but wait a minute" messages/calls so I thought I would just walk anyone who cares through the steps.

      First a disclaimer:  the block (& idea) are from an old Fons & Porters Magazine & can be found at that site under 'Quilt Guild Bingo'.  Maybe.  I was told the site is not cooperative & then I had some trouble myself.  So I sent everyone here.  But it does not have actual step-by-step directions.

      Let's just begin.  We are making a 5x5 grid of 2.5" unfinished squares.  Each row is a different color.  The colors are red, blue, green, orange/yellow & pink/purple.  The color rows can be in any order so long as the center square (the 3rd square in the 3rd row) is black.

      There are also pattern categories.  The categories are:  batik, dots, floral, geometric, heart, leaf, metallic, holiday, novelty, paisley, plaid, solid, star, stripe, or 1930's print.  You can only have a particular category once within a single color but you might have the same category in different colors.  For example: it is OKay to have a red stripe & a blue stripe but you cannot have TWO red stripes or TWO blue stripes.  The original idea was for 'red stripe' to be called out as B-5 might be in an actual bingo game.  There would never be two B-5 squares on the same bingo block.

      Which brings me to another clarification point:  we are not actually playing bingo.  I am not aware of any guild or group that plans to use these blocks in an actual game.  There is nothing wrong with that if someone wants to make enough for many players & then swap so they get back more variety (please send me a message though if you plan to send more than five sets of five blocks),  but I swear I am not using the block swap group to make bingo cards for some party not everyone is invited to.  We are however sticking with the rules, mostly to keep things interesting.  After all who wants a 5x5 grid of nothing but striped fabric?  Well, OKay that might be cool, but that is not what we are doing this time.

      Because we are not actually playing Bingo, we do not need to be sure that every block is different so you can speed things up by strip piecing. I cut 2.5" strips of (from the top) blue dots, blue floral, blue holiday (or metallic or stars), blue plaid (gingham is plaid, right?), & blue novelty.  You can see that there is another color of each of these:  a red star & a red novelty; an orange/yellow stripe, an orange/yellow plaid, an orange/yellow, an orange/yellow floral & an orange/yellow holiday; a pink/purple dot & a pink/purple novelty; & a green plaid & a green novelty but no repeats of any category within the same color strip.

      If it seems like I am harping on this it is because I am.  Everytime I have done a workshop or program or swap or anything to do with this block there is always at least one person who says there are not enough categories for each 2.5" square to be unique.  & for every one person who complains about that, two people turn in a block with category repeats in the same color.

      Once your 5-strip piece is made, press the seams in one direction.  Do not press to the dark or open or this way & that way.  Press all seams in one direction.  This will make it easier to sew to the other colors.

      Then cut this piece into 2.5" strips.  Repeat for all colors.

      If you have pressed all the seams for each strip in one direction, you can flip them when you stitch them & they will lock together. 

      Finally assemble five strips, one of each colorway.  It does not matter what order the colors are in so long as the center square -the 3rd square of the 3rd row- is black.  It can be solid or patterned or whatever so long as the primary color is black.

      Putting these colors in any order is a variation from the original Fons & Porters pattern.  The last time I did this project a handful of people were making these for a much larger group & one of the ways we made the smaller variety of fabrics make a larger variety of bingo cards was to mix the colors.

      It is perfectly OKay to put your color strips in different order for the same swap.  It is OKay if you use different fabrics in each block.  If you look at these three blocks you will see one has a different pink/purple novelty than the others & one has a different mix for the red row.  This is because I was using up scraps & not all the strips were of equal length.

      As always, I am collecting 6th blocks-you send your set of five blocks & get back five blocks & you can send a 6th block which goes to a community project quilt.  Anyone who participates in the current swap & has participated in at least two previous swaps can ask for the 6th blocks, they just need to commit the blocks they themselves get back in this swap to the project & to put up pictures on the Facebook group of the quilt(s) that get made within ?6? months as well as some other fairly loose guidelines: the quilts made need to go to the quilt user, they cannot not used as a fund raiser so no raffles or auctions; this should be part of a larger quilt drive with other people not associated with this swap also making quilts.  These are just to avoid quilts ending up in limbo when the quilt is completed but not delivered, or being redirected to a more personal recipient.  This is a 'random acts of kindness' sort of thing, not 'my neighbor's preemie grandchild really needs a quilt' sort of thing.

      Project Linus has already received four 6th block quilts, so I would like to see another group get these blocks.  As it was a Pennsylvania PL chapter, other chapters could certainly ask.

      Finally if you are not currently part of the Quilt Block Swap Group but would like to be you can:
      • go on FaceBook, search Quilt Block swap Group & ask to join
      • leave a comment to this posting asking for the info that includes your e-mail & I will e-mail you the directions

      We swap every other month.  It is up to each swapper to get their blocks in on time with a SAS envelope to return their swapped blocks in.  This particular swap is due-to-me the last Saturday of December 2009, which is 12/26.

      Last but not least- a picture of a quilt made from 16 bingo blocks, using what regular readers of this blog will recognize as the reconciling the disparate sashing:

      Friday, November 6, 2009

      The women who stare at chickens

      I have tried to read The Men Who Stare at Goats, I really tried.  But it is just too close to Joyce's stream of consciousness style for me to be able to stick with it.  It is like that scene in Ghostbusters where you must not cross the streams would be bad.

      Once upon a time & a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo...  Callie says the dairy barn adds a new ice cream flavor every semester but they almost never keep them through the next semester. 
      His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass; his father had a hairy face.  Whatever is left after finals they sell but they never make any more.
      He was baby tuckoo.  The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: wasn't Betty Byrne one of those lady pirates?  Or was that was Mary Kelly?  No, Mary Kelly was on of the Jack the Ripper's victims.  She sold lemon platt.  Wait, what?

      You can see how this would lead to a very different understanding of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man than my classmates, making my exams answers a bit off.  I still maintain that mine were more Joycean.

      I can actually see how goat-watching would make you think you are accomplishing something.  After almost a decade of staring at chickens I am almost certain I can direct their actions, except when they resist me.  Which they often do,  Stoopid chickens.

      A would like to see the MWSAG movie at the theaters but alas it is playing at the bad theater.  This theater used to have - & may still, I would not know - a baby gets in free policy.  That's right, so long as the baby is small enough to sit on your lap, you do not need to pay anything for baby's ticket.  Because everyone knows that the most disruptive thing a baby can do in a movie theater is take up space.

      By & large it was the later movies that were a problem.  People seem more likely to bring their babies to movies after 8pm.  Which is interesting because that is the date-movie market.  I have a theory that this is why people are not getting married anymore.  Think about it, you meet someone interesting, you go to a movie, there are babies taking up all that seating & after the movie all you can talk about is....all those babies.  Neither of you remembers much of the movie.  There was a time when you actually had to HAVE a baby for baby talk to dominate an otherwise baby-free after-movie conversation.

      The only way this date ends well is if both of you vow to never have any babies.  I suppose it would also be OKay if you both agreed to bring your future babies to the movies because it was such a rollicking good time, but I have never heard of that happening.  Usually one of you says "all babies must die" or the slightly more reasonable "all parents must die" & the other says  "not all parents are like that; you are judging all parents based on a self-selected group & that is not fair".  If you are still going to movies-on-a-date, you are way too early in the process for the That's Not Fair defense & well, it is a relationship killer, every time.

      So, what was I talking about?  Oh yes, chickens.  I like to watch chickens.

      Tuesday, November 3, 2009

      Martin de Porres

      I have been watching the education arguments for & against extending public school unfold & it seemed like a good time to introduce Martin de Porres, the patron of public schools (& some other timely patronages which we will get to when we get to them).

      I think it is only fair to lay my bias right out there, just in case anyone is new or somehow missed it: although we have no children, we are big big believers in public education. Not because A is a professor at a public university. Once upon a time he worked in the private sector & still believed in public education. While I would agree with Bill Maher that if you want the village to help raise your child you should check with us before you reproduced, once the kids are here we have to deal with them. In this & so many other ways I find myself in direct opposition with anti-choice abortion activists; as far as I can tell once those kids are born they are someone else's problem, but I digress.

      Every day I marvel that our culture expects to go into debt to get a car or a more upscale roof over their heads (I have relatives who actually took out a loan to pay for their wedding), but an education should be paid for out of taxes people are proud to cheat on. The arguments my kids are already through school/go to private school/I don't have kids just will not fly with me. Last time I checked it was a good thing when the cashier at the pharmacy could read, that the day care center attendant could do basic math, that the traffic cop could write legibly. Yes, even that last one is a good thing. Whether or not you are or were a direct consumer of public schools, you are an indirect consumer every day of your life & probably a few after you are gone &/or before you ever got here.

      Which brings me to today's feastee: Martin de Porres. Trust me you are going to love him.

      Martin de Porres is the son of a Spanish noble & a freed slave. Now would be the time to mention he is the patron of bi-racial & mixed race people. He went to work at a young age where he begged professionally. The sites call him an almoner, but the definition has changed since the 16th century. In Martin de Porres's time the almoner was expected to raise his own funds. The money was then distributed to the poor & he is the patron of poor people. He was so effective at this, so unrelenting in his work ethic that the Dominicans decided to drop the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our Order”. This is also how he comes to be represented symbolically as a broom. A new broom. A new broom sweeping. Are you hearing me?

      Martin de Porres established an orphanage & a children's hospital in the slums of his hometown (Lima, Peru) & is also the patron of public health. He went on to set up animal shelters for the cities stray dog & cat population. Another of his official representations is a dog, a cat, a bird & a mouse eating from the same dish.

      Martin de Porres is invoked by those seeking social justice as well as those seeking inter-racial harmony. He is also patron of some less explicable things: television, hairdressers & Biloxi, Mississippi. Oh & those seeking public option health care, they pray to him, too.

      Saturday, October 31, 2009

      Hallowe'en in the house

      My sister & her family have moved into a new house & the first holiday they will celebrate in it is HALLOWE'EN!!!! Naturally I made them a quilt as a housewarming gift & I wanted it to be appropriate for this first holiday, but I was not happy locked into the whole black & orange & pumpkin melange. After all, with the incorporation of some more mainstream colors I could give her something she could use year round.

      So I made this instead. Much more versatile; goes with everything.

      Unfortunately, the glow-in-the-dark thread made a slice in my thumb & I was not able to sew in the ends or turn the binding (although I did get the binding attached & the hanging sleeve finished). I hope to have pictures of the quilt up on the wall some day, but for now I have to make-do with my basting pictures.

      Tuesday, October 27, 2009

      What I meant to do while in CT

      I grew up, went to university & had my first jobs in the greater Hartford area & I assure you, it really is not the most boring place on earth. In fact, I always run out of time to do the things I want to do. What I should have done but did not:

      - Seen the Chihuly. We actually tried to on a previous winter holiday visit. After dinner we were four adults just staring at each other & it was a beautiful night so I asked if we could walk around Constitution Plaza & see the lights. No one could come up with a better idea, so we went. I know it does not compare to even lawn displays in some parts of the country but it is still the first big light display I ever saw & I am fond of it. We swung by the Bushnell to see the Chihuly; it is inside but it is massive & well lit BUT they had the shades pulled on the 2+story high windows. If you do not buy a ticket, you cannot see the Chihuly.

      - Visited Horace Wells. Back in the days when I worked around Bushnell Park, I used to seek out the space near the Horace Wells Statue. Sure, I was drawn to the flashy carousel horses in warmer weather, but even when he was dusted with snow I enjoyed a brown bag lunch with Horace. How many other capitol parks have statues of famous dentists, hmmmm? It turns out that the answer to this is Paris; in the Place des Etats-Unis there is a statue of........Horace Wells.

      - Walked through the Mark Twain House. Even before we moved south, it had been too long since I had done this. If you can, go on a day it is snowing so you can watch the snow flakes in the window over the fireplace. It really is pretty cool. You can also visit his neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Unbeknownst to many (well, me) she wrote one of her books just a few miles from where I live now.

      - Dined at Kashmir. I was once dumped over dinner at Kashmir. Immediately after, anyhow. I had never been to the restaurant before that evening & it was worth it. Good-bye man, hello cuisine!

      Then there are all the places outside the city limits that I missed:

      - Crazy Bruce's Liquors. This is another place I have never actually been, but on a past xmass eve my husband & my brother rushed in moments before closing & bought all the ingredients for chocolate martinis, including the glasses (most women want jewelery but we are not most women). The clerk was very helpful & figured out what they were making from their purchases. What does not ever seem to have occurred to them is that she thought they were a couple. Crazy Bruce stocked the bar at A's graduation party, our wedding reception & every event we ever had at my parents on these visits home. Yes, even those whatever night of Chanukah/G***'s Birthday/Open Houses we used to have when we came north in Decembers past.

      - Talcott Mountain. Roughly between the house I grew up in & the house my parents live in now is Talcott Mountain. It is not a big mountain; it is a perfect mountain. You can get up & down in an afternoon & enjoy an uninterrupted view from the top.

      - Rock Cats game. I actually have a hard time leaving Florida in the summer: I like it HOT but we are trying to swing a winter-holidays-in-July so maybe....

      - SONE rehearsal. We have been on previous visits to watch my sister sing & they treat you like an honored guest! Really, they make an announcement & thank you for coming. No talking though, you can only smile & wave like the Queen of England. If you go in winter, take a step back & enjoy the Congregational Church architecture conveniently located diagonally across from the Prosser Public Library. If you go in summer, bring your anorak; I do not know what the deal is at Emanuel Synagogue, but it is the best air-conditioned place I have ever been & I live in Florida.

      & finally there are those places I will never visit again:

      - Mount Southington. I can x-country ski, but I rarely do. I do not downhill ski. I do not even like the ski lift. The sensation of air moving quickly across my face makes me feel ill. I have a lot of great pictures of everyone else coming down the slope though.

      - Cinema City. I have been told there is a theater there again but is it really Cinema City? I remember when they put real butter on the popcorn, popcorn popped right in front of you. The movies were good, bad & off-beat. This is where I saw Dogs from Space, Sid & Nancy, Round Midnight, & the list goes on. Maybe I am wrong & it is everything it could be, but I will never know.

      - The Elm, another theater, but this one really is gone. The last film I saw there was Walt Disney's Cinderella. N*** & I tried to sneak up to the balcony, but it was already closed & then we sat through the unpublicized opening film which caught us by surprise: Nestor the Long Eared Donkey. I don't even think it was xmass-time, but that is part of what made The Elm The Elm. Actually, N*** & I have a twisted history with strange movie theaters across Hartford County. Remember the one in Avon with all the sinks in the stalls so a person could not just wash the salty-popcorn-y smell off her hands without feeling obligated to try & pee....?

      I know this sounds like a tag-you-are-it kind of list, random-beyond-random but these were what made my every day for decades. Or at least they are what was part of what made my every day for decades & then fell away has become. You can follow that, right? Even if they are gone, even if they are back & better than ever, they are not every day anymore. Not for me. I think this might be why people make small shrines in their kitchens & collect scrapbooks & plant trees.

      //one place I had thought I would miss was Shady Glen. These are the only cheeseburgers I ever eat. Which means I have a cheeseburger roughly every eight to fifteen years. I have been enjoying the mural on the back wall & the doilies under the little metal bowls of ice cream for as long as I can remember. So has the rest of my family, except maybe my cousin C**** who has been working there since he was sixteen & just might be sick of it all. We managed to squeeze in a visit on Monday along with one wonderful quilt shop & Penzeys. & yes, I had a cheeseburger, so I will eat beef again in ?2015-2025?, give or take.