Sunday, September 26, 2010

Public Lands Day

Another worthwhile holiday you have never heard of has rolled on by; yesterday was National Public Lands Day.   I don't know what happened where you were are, but here the state parks were looking for help cleaning up Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.  The link from the Florida State Parks twitter account originally went to eco-jobs work site in Europe...& in German, but they resolved that & now it goes here.

It is also possible to find out what went on closer to you, though, if you are interested.  The good/bad news is chances are they will be happy to see your smiling face even now that National Public Lands Day has come to an end.  That is also the bad/good news.  Even if you are not prepared to break out the work gloves, etc. you might discover something close by you didn't know you owned.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Quick & dirty

I was getting my act together for a trip to my parents at the very end of this month &, while sorting through bring-this/don't-bring-that/ship-that/put-that-away, I had put a quilt on the Ship That pile.  I am planning to see my grandmother (if she is still seeing anybody, it is that shaky) & thought it would make a good present, when A told me it was his favorite of all the quilts I had ever made.  Ever.  So I cannot very well give it to my grandmother now & I had less than a month to make something else entirely.

Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of ideas & even more fabric.  Technically I even had lots of time, although this business of working out 2-4 hours a day has really been cutting into my life (on the upside, I am sleeping better & my thyroid seems to be functioning again so stopping that is not really an option).  I needed something fast, which usually means large, but I am not the worlds biggest fan of oversized blocks.  What I am a big fan of is asymmetrical blocks (& square jewelry & french fries, not necessarily in that order).  & I have enough experience to know that two little-bit wider-than-usual outer borders can normalize a slightly-too-small quilt when paired with two what-you-would-expect outer borders.  & I began to wonder if that could be scaled down & multiplied.

So I began with one pile of fat quarters, kind of.  Some of them were actual fat quarters, others were scraps roughly fat quarter sized.  Or fat quarter volumed, anyhow.  All of them had a flower-y, garden-y, country-y aspect.  Several had a lot of white as either part of the pattern or in the background (this becomes important later).  I cut them into 6.5" squares, mostly because that is the width of my favorite ruler & who needs to go hunting for that little line, right? 

Next I cut strips from white muslin.  I do a lot of printing photos on fabric & thus I buy white muslin by the bolt.  Having plenty on hand makes it ideal for the I-have-no-idea-how-much-I'm-gonna-need projects.  I planned for each of the above mentioned 6.5" blocks to have four irregular borders: one 2" & one 3.5", the other two 2.5" & 3" keeping the same square dimension for all the blocks, although each block itself would be off center.

But as I started work I realized there was just enough white in some of the original 6.5" squares that the white border was kind of fuzzy, making everything not so much irregular as blurry.  So I went back to the pile & found a good bit of pale green polka-dot (I think it might have been left over from a pieced back way-back-when) & cut 1.5" strips;  I didn't have time to figure out how much there is versus how much I need & I did not want to run out.  I bordered  the 6.5" squares in these & then added the irregular white borders.

Which turned out to be a good thing because, that same narrow green strip went on the make  a 2" sashing between the blocks themselves (with scraps of the original fat quarters for cornerstones).  Yes, I needed a way to break up all that white-on-white, which you would think would have been obvious the first time I needed something to break up the white but well, that's part of quick&dirty processes after all.

Finally I basted & quilted in my new-favorite go-to quilt pattern, a "corner to corner outside of the lines".

& this is what I got:

I know this will never win an ribbon.  & the large boring squares of just plain gingham for several of the blocks would not cut it ordinarily but... I was in a hurry.  Besides, my grandmother's sight just is not that great; any piecing I did would be lost on her, but the fabrics I choose are very soft & smooth & I thought the fewer seams the better.  So, no awards, but it will keep one little old lady warm as long as she needs it, in bright clean spring garden colors.

If I had it to do again, which of course I do, I would make one of the pairs of borders more extreme.  While still totaling 5.5" unfinished (you caught that right?), I think I would make one pair 4" & 1.5" to really make it jiggle.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lost city of readers

I need another bookclub like I need another....quilt block swap.  Speaking of which, is any one else pressed up against the glass over at Block Lotto?  Maybe it is the stars aligning -yes, I am sure that is what it is- but their September lotto block is very similar to our October swap block.  It kinda makes me want to make a funky stonehenge just to commemorate the moment.

What was I saying?  Oh yea, bookclub.  Tonight is the first meeting I attended of the museum volunteers bookclub.  I will not be attending the October meeting, because I already have plans that night, & I am well & truly up in the air about any after that.  It would depend on the book list, which was a well kept secret.  I went in knowing only the first two books, The Lost City of Z & The Philosopher Fish.

While they look like good choices from the variety of natural history perspective (it is a natural history museum bookclub, after all), both of these books are approximately 330 pages.  That is kind of a lot for one month's reading. I read more than almost anyone I know & I always did & I would have trouble shoehorning 330 more pages into my month.

Neither of them is all that easy to get a hold of either, unless I am prepared to buy a copy, which I am not.  Our local library owns just one copy of The Philosopher Fish.  I put it on hold the moment I knew what the second book would be.  I am number one out of five, which means the person who has the book now can keep it for 30 days, & then I can (but I won't) & so forth.  I  think it is probable another four people who would like to read this book for the October meeting won't be able to, at least not via the library.  That every single copy of The Lost City of Z the library owns (both hard copies & audio copies) are all currently checked out does not bode well.

As for the Lost City of was Okay.  I mean, I don't consider the time I spent listening to it (yes, I got it on disc from the local library) wasted & I put the author's other book on hold.  I also learned that Brad Pitt has optioned the book & I would see that movie.  I hope they make it with variable endings though, like The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  & I am curious how tonight's discussion might go.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Master, Margarita & me

Last spring, when we sat down to choose the next year's reading, one bookclub member brought up Bulgakov's The Master & Margarita, not realizing it was my second least favorite book in all the world.  When she DID learn this, B****** offered to remove the book from her suggestion lists but I said (& I believe) that my perspective might be different with a few years & a new translation & even if I did hate it again, that was no reason no one else should read it.  Besides, reading it with a mind to discussing it might make it smoother, somehow.

Well, it didn't.  & now I am wondering if I do indeed hate this book more than the G*d-damned Fish Book.  I think I might.  As I was thinking this, I spent some time on GoodReads, reading the other reviews of M&M & where at least one of the people who gave The Master & Margarita a bad review got all kinds of hate-mail-style follow-up.  It seems if you hate someone else's favorite book you are an irredeemable idiot who should exit the planet ASAP.

Naturally this got me thinking about other great books I loathe(d):

The G*d-damned Fish book:  I am in good company here, actually.  Leonard Wolf, long suffering husband of Virginia, also hated this book.  Most people suspect Melville was drunk when he wrote it; I am quite sure he was drunk when he did the math.  My favorite chapter has to be when Captain Ahab, unable to stabilize himself on a plank, has to be hoisted to visit another ship.  He balances himself on his solitary thigh.  This is interesting because he lost his other leg below the knee (at least there are references to two knees), so apparently he experienced some kind of apocalyptic thigh-meld...or maybe he keeps one of the knees in a jar?  This is hardly the only instance of cat-math in this book.  I once walked my Discussion of the American Novel class through a rant that went something like this:  if X =  the length of an ancient whale skeleton & X+ (X x Y%) = Z, where Y = the known difference between contemporary whale skeletons & the whale's actual size & Z is less than the documented size of contemporary whales, that would mean that whales are getting LARGER which is the opposite of what Melville says.  I will spare you the details, but both the professor & the rest of the class thought maybe I should change majors & I am fairly certain they are the kind of people who say "I am so hungry I am literally starving to death" when they miss lunch.

The Great Gatsby:  what a stoopid book!  It did not help that my English teacher was also a stoopid woman.  All I really remember about in-class discussion was suggesting that maybe those giant eyes in West Egg or East Egg or wherever Egg was were not, in fact, the eyes of god, but maybe they were the eyes of people who read too much symbolism into things but she told me & the rest of class I was absolutely wrong & they were the eyes of god.  Okay then. 

& then there are the books I was more or less neutral on.  they were Okay, in their way but I could never see what the fuss was about.  This list includes:  Catcher in the Rye, The Prophet, The Alchemist (which much of book club loathed, except for one person who really liked it).  A random collection of fiction I would agree, but they all have something in common.  They were all (& some still are) banned.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What would Terry do?

Yesterday I was asking what would Terry do & I mean Terry Jones.  No not Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, but Terry Jones of DoveWorld Church fame.  As of this typing the "pastor" of the Dove World "church" is planning to burn a book holy to a religion not his own.  The reasons he gives have been well covered in the media locally & internationally.  By & large they read like a list of the usual I know the one true god, they have it coming & look everyone- look at me.

So I thought I would take a moment to review the reasons not being covered ( & the reasons for quotes around the words pastor & church):

Dove World church is only just barely a church.  I don't mean because they don't believe what I believe, I mean because they are a for-profit business.  They are have already had their not-for-profit status revoked for one arm of their enterprise & the rest is still under investigation.  Once you start selling stuff on eBay, it is hard to convince anyone you are not selling stuff.

In the course of investigating are they in fact a "church", the profiteers were identified & numero uno is ...wait for it...Terry Jones.  The technical term is commingled funds, but the initial issue was money made from the labor of people fulfilling court ordered community service, etc.  I want you to imagine for a moment that a person could be arrested for say drunk driving, ordered to "give back" some time making the community a better place & they went to work for well anyone really, who in turn put whatever profit was made in their own pocket.  Does this say "church" to you?  In any case, members of the organization also worked without compensation, except perhaps a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

The website sells anti-muslim books, bumper stickers & coffee mugs & where that money goes is still being investigated.  Among the t-shirts being sold is the "Islam is of the devil" t-shirt that so endeared DoveWorld to the local school district.  The short version is kids who wore this t-shirt to school were asked to put a sweatshirt over it because others might find it offensive, thereby violating the then-dress-code. That was so offensive, some of them dropped out. 

If you thought that was all that was for sale, think again.  The church itself is on the block.  That's right, that piece of real estate being photographed & displayed all over the world is on the market.

Which brings me back to: what would Terry do?  Apparently he would try to parlay his success as a media whore to make a buck.  The truly astonishing part is he is still going broke.  & there in lies the more recent what would Terry do & that is back-down.  Because it turns out the only thing more likely to make him change his mind than cash was the very real threat of a $60K bill for police services during the event, the likely cost of defending himself form "yelling fire in a crowded movie theatre" type charges & assorted civil actions from the local neighborhood association.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sweet potato chips

For the longest time last season, every CSA basket, every week was flush with sweet potatoes.  I admit I am a big fan of sweet potatoes, but I am also not from the USsouth & my repertoire was limited.   Fortunately, along with sweet potatoes, they included new recipes for sweet potatoes.  New to me anyhow.

This was my new favorite for most of last winter:

- Take a sweet potato, take three, as many as you might eat in one sitting.  The longer, skinnier ones are better for this, which is a lucky break because the bigger fatter ones are better for almost everything else.  Wash them & peel them, or don't peel them.  Wash them for sure, though.

- Slice the sweet potatoes as thin as you can without them having any too-thin pieces.  Hmm, how about as thin as you can keeping the thickness consistent, is that better?

- In a bowl that will be large enough for all the slices of sweet potatoes, mix olive oil & salt&pepper to taste.  Add the slices of sweet potatoes.  If you do this just a few slices at a time, it is much easier to get them all covered.  Because they need to be all covered.

-  On a cookie sheet, spread out the slices.  I used parchment paper underneath, instead of the usual foil & I think this helped the thinner slices not to burn. Pre-heat the oven to 400F (yea, I should have said that before, Sorry!) & sprinkle the sweet potatoes with finely chopped herbs of your choosing (I chose basil & thyme, mostly).

-  Cook for 20/25 minutes or so.  How thin you sliced them (& whether or not you used tin foil) will play a role here.  Let them cool some or that hot oil will burn your mouth!  & serve right away or later.  Right away is better.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A pox

Yesterday I was in the hen house, swapping out the coastal (hay) in the boxes & rearranging the furnishings a bit, to liven up their little poultry lives when one of the salmon faverolles flew to the top of the rabbit hutch (former home of all the birds when they were between peeps & fullgrown, the birds injured during shipping until they died & now being used to store 3/4 bale of coastal).  She looked pretty awful, but they all have been lately.  Between the extreme heat & the reality of molting, most of them have bald faces & look a bit glazed.  This girl though. looked more than a little loopy & when I reached for her I saw why.  Her comb was covered in white nodules, some of which were bloody.  One of her eyes was completely covered & the other was barely a slit.  My chicken has a pox.

I am lucky that I live next door to a crazy chicken lady (she lives with the crazy cat lady; they inhabit the same body) & she had some equine eye ointment that I put on the poor girl's head -after rinsing away the gnats.  That I could run water gently across her at all is a sure sign this is not a happy bird; once you have seen a healthy wet hen, "madder than a wet hen" is not something you want to get wrapped up in.  Anyway, W***** quickly identified fowl dry pox (not to be confused with chicken pox).

So the rabbit hutch is again a hospital pen & joining the first girl is one of the old lakenvelders.  Both of the old lakenvelders actually have pox, but the one in hospital also has clusters around her eyes.  The good new is this afternoon there is no question the first bird is doing much better.  The pustules are not so gross (the picture is an improvement!) & her eye looks close to opening again.  In even better news,  she has finally gotten some food.  Last night I watched her & maybe one in five passes at the food bowl resulted in her getting anything in her beak.  This meant to me her vision was not gone (I have seen blind birds eat just fine; they must be relying on another sense, probably smell); she was trying to go where her eyes said food was, just missing by an inch or so too high.

& as disgusting as this whole thing looks, there is not much I can do to prevent it.  It is almost certainly working it's way through my whole flock,others have a few bumps, but seem otherwise not bothered, one other has some suspicious comb-wound but nothing that looks like this.  My poultry keeping books tell me it has nothing to do with cleanliness & everything to do with mosquitoes.