Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FKA Santa Maura

Lots & lots of saints today, including Saint Andrew (not the patron saint of golf) & Saint Trojan (not the patron saint of condoms).  But enough about them & what they are not.  This afternoon, lets get to know Saint Maura.  Don't worry, there isn't much to know.

First let me say that a friend of mine wanted to choose Maura as her confirmation name but the priest would not let her becasue there was no saint named Maura & she chose Margaret instead.  There are slews of Margarets.  As it happens in this post-google era we can all know there is indeed a Saint Maura.  She was a virgin (so much more appropriate than a few of the Margaret-ilk I would think but there you go).  She was martyred.  End of story.  Well not quite.

Apparently a kinda-sorta cult sprang up around Maura & for a while there she was very big in the east.  We don't know why exactly because one of Emperor Constantine's brothers (1/2 brothers?  I get confused) divided his time between being emperor & putting down christians generally, & when he had a little extra time on his hands he would go round repressing devotions to Saint Maura specifically.  & that was more or less all I could find about Maura until....

It turns out there is an island named after her.  Originally  I couldn't find the island, even with google but eventually I learned it was renamed Lefkas (in English).  I'm sure they had their reasons

Naturally I got curious what those reasons might be.  While trying to find out (I never did but I did not look that hard) I learned  it was the birth place of that well-known Greco-Irish writer Patrick Lafcadio Hearn.  Don't worry if you have never heard of him, apparently he was mostly big in Japan. 

So there was a Saint Maura, not too much remains known except they named an island for her & then they renamed it & then a guy who was named for the island went on to change his name.  Which brings us to the end of this story & the end of November.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The young lady with the flying lizard body art

Last, year, not far into the year, I decided I had really had it with nazis.  I don't (just) mean in the usual way a person could get fed up with nazis, I mean I was fed up with people talking about nazis.  It started with an unswerving impulse to change the channel the minute one person referred to a person of opposite political affiliation as "hitler-like".  It progressed so that I could no longer even take a chance of watching Secrets of the Dead (which I L*O*V*E, also Liev Schreiber's voice is the voice in my head I always attributed to Eben Strauss who I also love) because every season SotD does cover at least one nazi story & now I just cannot shake it, which is breaking my heart because I would pay to listen to Liev Schrieber read my grocery list aloud.

But somehow all these things had gotten wired & cross-wired in my brain & I just could not take nazis anymore.  Soooo, I declared a nazi free for the rest of the year.  As a result I did not read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

//SIDEBAR:  many people who hear this have tried to tell me the Millenium books are not about nazis, that is just one little part & to read them during a nazi free year would not be a violation.  More on this later.

Mostly passing this book over was easy, I had the discs on hold at the library forEVER & I finally bubbled to the top of the lending list just as we were packing for Hawai'i last December.  & I knew I wouldn't be able to read(listen) in the few days after December 31st but before the discs were due back (I am not so obnoxious that I would ask to renew a book other people were waiting for, even though I do have the connections; that's right I am library book hooked-up).  So, back it went into the pool to drag down someone else's solstice observance.

Flash forward four months & a handful of days & it seems I am once again at the top of the list.  But now, also on my bedside table are Harry Dresden, Waking up in Eden, & Naguib Mahfouz.  So back to the library they went & this time I did not put them on hold again even.

Flash forward to late last month when someone asked me how I thought the books ended.  Well, there's a question.  I have a very particular belief about how many books end (Smilla's Sense of Snow being one of them) that almost no one I talk to finds reasonable (my mother-in-law got quite adamant & a bit upset when I said how I thought what happened at the end of Smilla & I swear that time I really was not trying to yank her chain.  I don't think I said more than two sentences & they weren't even run-on sentences, that I recall).  This time, though I did not have to put anything on hold.  Multiple formats of the book were readily available.

I plugged away thru the first 1/3 or so of the first book & my only thought was this girl better be quite something, because I think I have forgotten why I ever wanted to read this book.  The contrast between details that are glossed over & details that are not, as in detailed lists of computer hardware...  Don't get me wrong, I L*O*V*E a good list.  Nevil Shute's passages about airplane part inventory can make me teary eyed, no really.  & I was not kidding about Liev Schrieber & my groceries.  But these lists told me more about the author than any of the characters (seriously, there are more or less detailed descriptions of everyone's computer hardware but what color is any car, any car at all?)

So I am glad to have an audio version, even if it means the names all sound a bit samey.  & as for it not being about nazis:  do you think the Great Gatsby had anything to do with WASPs?  Dante's Inferno Catholics?  Yea, me too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gimme a "J"

I have received a few messages about the December Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group block (which is the word JOY).  Most of these are from people who have never seen examples of letter quilts, or quilts inspired by Word Play.  Those that are interested (& it is perfectly OKay if you are not) mostly want directions for making the letters.

Pieced alphabet quilt patterns abound on the internet (just google it), can be found in all kinds of quilt books (your local library is bound to have at least one) & you can always embroider or machine embroider or foundation paper piece or applique if you prefer anyhow.

But because I keep getting asked (& because some of these questions were being asked by a person standing in my own kitchen) I went ahead & documented these specific directions for this letter J.  The reason I am limiting myself to J is it is better if the words are all a bit different & most people can manage an O on their own anyhow.  As for Y, you will see that it can be made of the same pieces more-or-less & shuffled around, as the J.  For those who saw the original JOY post, you will notice this is NOT the same J.  It is the same J as in the photo on the Facebook Group page, but that should not be taken as a direction to use this J; this is just the J we came up with that could easily be chain pieced (yes chain pieced, my student -let's call her mom- made nine blocks; not the correct number for swapping but we were just using up each chain; we are still swapping in sets of FIVE).

Begin with a 3.5" strip of the background fabric & a  1.5" strip of the letter fabric; in this case the background is purple & the letter is teal.  Stitch them together, press one way or the other (it does not matter) & cut into 4.5" segments.  This means they will be square.

Next, to make the little hook of the J, take a 1.75" square of letter fabric & sew it corner-to-corner in the lower left hand side opposite the other part of the J.  When you iron it back on itself, it will create a corner triangle.

For the base of the J we made flying geese.  The letter fabric piece was  4.5" by 2.5" & the two background squares were  2.5".  I include a link to flying geese directions, in this particular case I used the second method (Speed Piecing Method A), but you can make them anyway you like.  Or not.  There is no rule that says you need a flying goose in your J.

& finally here is the assembled J:

& here it is JOY.  Yes, it needs to be squared up & maybe bordered to make it neater, but you get the idea.  The Y is the same width for the stem (base?  what do you call that part of a Y?) with background fabric on either side, a flying goose to make up the bowl (again not sure what else to call that) & then a strip with a hooky-bit on each end & voila!

As for the O, well I forgot to write that down.  I can tell you it is the same width letter fabric (1.5" strip) as the other two & that's all I remember.

Monday, November 7, 2011

JOY for the shortest days of the year

We are down to the last Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group swap of 2011 & it is....JOY.

You can find the directions (more guidelines, really) here, but the gist is make a quilt block (make five, we swap in sets of five) of the word JOY.  They do not have to be the same fabrics, they do not even have to be the same technique.  They can be appliqued, embroidered, pieced whatever it takes to make JOY.

So far, no blocks other than my demo blocks are in-house so I am making the decision not to do a 6th block quilt for this swap.  That means make six & keep one yourself & send the five.  I realize there is a possibility no blocks will ever arrive but c'est la vie.  In general, I get more messages about the December block/deadline than all the others rolled into one.  I hoped that posting the block six months early would help, but maybe it hasn't; I also realize maybe this block has not caught fire with anyone & hey, that is allowed.  One of the primary rules of this swap is no pressure:  swap when you want to, when you can, when you are inspired & sit out the others.

This block will need at least one fabric, two if you are piecing although you can use more if you like.  I would suggest one of them be a read-as-solid so that the letters stand out, but so long as there is contrast between the background & the letters, the word will still be legible.  It should be 6.5" unfinished/6" finished by 6.5" unfinished/6" finished OR LARGER.  The block does not need to be, almost certainly will not be, square. 

One of the December swap queries has been why I we are making Christmas blocks to swap December 31st.  I would like to float the idea that there are other kinds of JOY.  Baby joy & garden joy & patriotic joy &...&... there are lots of ways to make this block without getting bogged down in just the one holiday. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Holiday cookie swap guidelines

Yup, it's that time of year when we start thinking about cookie swaps.  Last year was intended to be...better than it was.  But Farley-boy dieing right there in the middle of the planning made it all too much for me to deal with.  I know he was a smelly old man who loved only me, but that was kind of what I loved about him.

This year I WILL have my act together.  & this is how it will go.  I think.

Anyone can participate, you do not have to show to win.  You can send your cookies with another person who IS coming (Tuesday, December 13th, 7:30 pm) or drop your off anytime from Monday on (although if they need to be refrigerated we need to talk beforehand) or mail ahead of time (USPS flat rate box is $4.95...I'm just saying).

You need to bring at least 2 dozen cookies.  & you need to package them somehow in units of 1/2dozen OR 1/2dozen-equivalents.  I say 1/2dozen-equivalents because some cookies are just less than others.  For example, I make these very popular, very easy nut balls every year.  They are a kind of shortbread rolled with walnuts & have maybe five ingredients, aren't really decorated & 1/2dozen of them would not overfill the palm of my hand.  I would consider a dozen of these to be roughly equal to 1/2dozen of any normal cookie.

For every 1/2dozen you have to trade, you walk away with 1/2dozen made by some one else.  If you like a good variety for the holidays, the way to go make a lot of the one or two cookies you really like making & know you won't be stuck eating them all (because there is no punishment like having to eat extra cookies). 

I know some people will be bringing 1/2dozens for people who cannot attend which is perfectly OKay.  if you think you might be interested, let me know....