Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It takes more than one to tango

Since 2006, And Tango Makes Three has been our most challenged book according to the American Library Association, who tracks these things, except in 2009 when it was the second most challenged book, making it overall the most challenged.  Think about all the other books that have been published since then & the biggest threat to our society is...penguins?

The gist of the challenges is that the story (which is based on two male penguins who, after attempting to hatch a rock together were given an extra egg which they did hatch) 1-promoted a homosexual agenda & 2-does not tell the rest of the story when one of the father penguins leaves & forms a nesting pair with a female penguin.

It is hard to know where to begin.  So lets start with the whole gay agenda thing (after all it is the real reason for all the objections that follow).  There are slews of books about gay families, & a good chunk of those are picture books; there are picture books about living with gay parents, gay adoption, the AIDS Memorial Quilt,  & so on.  What makes And Tango Makes Three so much more objectionable than others which are patently about gay families?  To put it in a nutshell (eggshell?), these were actual, observable penguins & penguins don't make "choices"; they operate solely on their godgiven wiring.

Next, the complaint a picture book does not tell the whole story...specifically events that happened after the book was published.  Was the publisher really supposed to recall all the books & add that paragraph to the end?  Would the adverse be true?  Is anyone recalling the King James Bible to add the note by the by King James himself had sex with men to the biography bit with the frontispiece?   This particular complaint has kind of faded away after Tango (the baby girl penguin with two daddies) has herself hooked up with a female penguin; I guess they don't want that particular footnote added, although since it reinforces some prejudices I really don't understand why not.

Also published in 2005 (& protested & banned & all that) was Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince.  All the Harry Potter books have been listed as unacceptable by one person or another, although it amuses me to learn  now that the whole series is in the world (& there will be no putting that genie back in the bottle) some groups are suggesting the whole thing is a christian allegory à la The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe (also challenged by a christian group for mysticism et al although if you cruise a few forums more than one person who says Harry Potter should be banned because those books ARE evil floats the idea that the reason Lewis was banned was because he was so very christian).  I guess if you can't beat him, pretend he joined you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Joy in December 2011

The last block swap of the year can be tricky.  People want winter holiday things but by the time you get them back, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa et al. will more or less be over.  Also, it can be challenging coming up with something that works for all of those.  So here's hoping JOY works; this year we will be making our first ever word blocks.

I picked JOY because it only has three letters...& because it seems like it ought to be universal, regardless of what holiday you do or do not observe.  Finally, it could work for any time of year.

You may need as few as one fabric (but probably more, depending on how you want to make your letters), & that first fabric should read-as-solid or at least any pattern on it should not make it hard to read the letters J, O, & Y as this will be the background fabric.  As for your letters, you can use different fabric for each letter OR all the same OR no fabric at all if you embroider them.  You can piece the letters (my example is below, also numerous examples in the book Word Play Quilts which is my new addiction) or you can applique them or embroider them (probably the only way you would use just the one background fabric) by hand or with an embroidery machine.

Instead of finished dimensions I am going to give you more-like guidelines: the block should be no smaller than 6.5" x 6.5" unfinished (being sure to keep ALL the text WELL inside of 6.25") or it might be longer, & maybe even a bit taller, but try to keep it close to 6.5" if you can.  That being the case, the height of the letters probably should not be more than 5.5" (to keep it at at least 1/2" from the top & bottom edges), but the lengths will be variable.  In other words most-if-not-all of the blocks will not be square or even uniform, leaving you with a block that is 6.5" x 6.5" OR ~6.5" x  >6.5". I know, it sounds odd, but I have seen irregular word blocks work.

This means you will probably want to add blocks of the holiday or not-holiday of your own choosing, size-up the smaller blocks with snazzy borders or whatever in your own quilt top.  When you make your own quilt, you might decide you want to add some words of your own (for myself, I am thinking of making PEACE in different languages & a few might find their way over to my JOY quilt). You could also expand your own JOY blocks with prefixes & suffixes to ENJOY or JOYFUL or JOY in other languages or JOY in phrases such as JOY TO THE WORLD or maybe even JOY phrases in other languages such as JOYEUX NOEL.

So, to be clear, the block you send will be 6.5" unfinished/6" finished by not less than 6.5" unfinished/6" finished & will say JOY... or Joy ...or joy.

Because there are slews of different ways to do this, I am offering my own work as an example only.  I lifted it more-or-less straight from Word Play Quilts (which I own & I highly recommend as one of the few quilting books you will always wish you did own; I even requested my library by it which they did & it has been checked out ever since).  If you cannot bring yourself to buy yet another quilt book for yourself, you can find free examples on-line herehere & here & here & many, many, many more.

I began with the J.  Keeping in mind the entire block should be no taller than 6.5" unfinished & all the text no taller than 5.5" finished, I started with two 4.5" x 1.5" pieces of fabric, one background & one letter fabric. To that, I added a 1.5" piece of the letter fabric across the bottom & a 1.5" strip of the back ground fabric to the right.  To keep all the letters more or less the same size, I then began my O.

The O is almost too easy:  two sets of two strips of letter fabric, one of them 1"5 x 5.5" & the other 1.5" square,  & a piece of back ground fabric for the center 1.5" x

Finally the Y.  The base was also easy-peasy 1.5" wide of letter with a strip of the background fabric on either side.  The top of the Y was harder, but I just sort of whacked around until I had this one.Yes, yes the Y in the first photo is not the Y in the following photos; it looked shtumpik so I put that one aside & made another in the exact same way, I just cut it down to size later.

Because it will all be bordered by straight cuts of the background fabric, I did not worry for a moment about the bias edges, but as it happens I did not have any.  All of my strips were 1.5" (including the kerns or the spaces between the letters) & all of my letters 5.5" tall.  I added a strip to top & bottom once the letters were all together.  Again, this is how I made my JOY; you can make yours as you please, so long as it is 6.5" tall & not less than 6.5" wide, keeping all text more or less within the 6" of the center (so that even with a generous 1/4" seam allowance no one needs to worry their letters will get cut off.).

As always, blocks are due (not postmarked by but due) the last Saturday of the swap month:  Saturday, December 31st.  Blocks will be swapped on the following Sunday (yes, New Years Day) & mailed back on or before the next Wednesday.  The easiest way to join is to log into Facebook & search for the Quilt Block Swap Group.  If you do not want to join Facebook, leave a message here with your e-mail information & I will send you the address for swapping.

One cut of the cut glass dish for October 2011

I often (often!) get requests for blocks that are quite large &/or complex & as much as I would like to swap these, it just is not realistic to ask people to make six of something so very involved (either because of size or skill or materials consumed or whatever) & send five off.  I have been chewing this over for a while & I think I might have a solution.  Instead of making an entire complex block, I am going to try & break one down into less complicated pieces that we can realistically swap & see how that goes.

For October, I thought we would try one piece of the block that makes up the Cut Glass Dish block.  I freely admit this is one of my favorite blocks.  You can see a completed Cut Glass Dish quilt here (please note the much more soothing colors than the single block example at the right). The quilt in the link is actually nine blocks, in a 3x3 arrangement (not coincidentally the block itself is 9-patch variation).  The cut glass dish block is also a 9-patch, three 6.5" squares & six 4-patches made of 1/2-square triangles arranged so that the three  squares create a diagonal line from one corner of the block to the other & the mid-lines of the  1/2-square triangles are parallel with that diagonal line.

Whenever I have a certain amount of something leftover, I cull thru the scraps bag for what could be the 1/2-square triangles to work with it.  It occurred to me we could swap the 1/2-square triangle squares & people could make up them up with their own 6.5" squares.  Because it helps to have some kind of unifying idea, I landed on I-SPY.  Soooo, we will be exchanging the 4-patch 1/2-square triangles & our theme is I-SPY.

You will need two fabrics for each 4-patch 1/2-square triangle block.  One fabric should be a busy juvenile print OR a bright print OR a bright reads-as-solid.  The second fabric should read-as-solid or be solid; it can be bright or pastel or black or white or anything in between.  Each 4-square should have only two fabrics.  When you are done, you will have a 6.5" unfinished/6" finished square.  Six of these (five to swap & one to keep) will make one cut glass dish block (when combined with the three 6.5" single-fabric squares).   

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 I think it is the easiest & most accurate way to use up irregular & smaller pieces of fabric but again, so long as you end up with four 1/2-square triangles each measuring 3.5"x3.5", you can make them any way you like:

1. Cut four 4" squares from one fabric & four 4" squares from your second fabric.  On the back of one of the fabrics, with a pencil or fabric 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 not washing out when you are finished.  Pin the other two corners.  I know it does not look it but I did not fussy cut one bit for the blocks below.  Because there are four 1/2-square triangles in each 4-square we are making, one of them is bound to have most of the image you are looking for (all of it if the motif is small enough) & as this is an I-SPY project, bits & pieces are just fine.

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. 

4. Take your four 1/2-square triangles & create a 4-patch in which all the triangles have the same orientation, that is the same fabric is on the same side for all four squares (as in the example above).

You're done.  Make one set of six, keep one, swap five.  If you add three 6.5" squares of another fabric to your set of six, you can make the cut glass dish block & I will have the directions for that in a later post (I am worried if we put it here people will get confused about what the swap block actually is).  It could stand alone as a doll quilt (18.5" unfinished/18" finished) OR you could swap four sets & make a nap-sized quilt (36.5" unfinished/36" finished) OR you could swap nine sets & make an almost-twin quilt (52.5" unfinished/52" finished).  Keep in mind these measurements are before quilting but also before any border you put on so, depending on what you do border-wise, they could be spot on; if it helps the finished quilt in the link above it 51" by 50.5", no border.  So as not to confuse anyone, I will not put the direction for the complete cut glass dish block up until this swap is winding down, but trust me, if you can make these six 4-patch 1/2-square triangles, you can make the whole block.

As always the blocks are due here the last Saturday of the swap month, in this case that is Saturday October 29.  & as always we are collecting 6th blocks.  You have the option of sending a 6th block with your five swap blocks; you will get five back & the 6th will go to whichever member of the group asked for them to make a quilt to donate to in her community.  Previous 6th blocks for kids have gone to Project Linus in Houston Texas & CareNet in Port Ste. Lucie, Florida.

Garden mazes for August 2011

I had originally thought to have this block in December & then I got another way-better idea for October & then I changed my mind again & then & then...  So here we are with a slightly more complicated block than I usually put up for the first-of-three, but I really truly think you can handle it. 

The first swap block for the second half of the year is a not-uncommon block; it has quite a bit of mileage frankly.  You will see a variation of it in at least one quilting magazine or catalog every year, although I doubt you will see exactly the variation we are doing. If you are interested in more about this block, it is listed in Brackman as quilt block 3030. 

We begin with a 6.5" unfinished/6" finished 4-patch, 9-patch or 16-patch.  You can make the 4-patch using four 3.5" squares, or the 9-patch using nine 2.5" squares or the 16-patch using sixteen 2" squares or combination, variations so long as they are fundamentally 4-, 9-, or 16-patches.  In short, you can make almost any block you can think of & the only fabric requirement is at least one of the fabrics used is a floral.  You can use anything from two to however-many fabrics & again only one need be a floral.

For this example, I made the simplest block I could with two different floral fabrics but you can stretch your wings in any direction.  You can make a much more complicated block, you can make this same simple 4-patch but with four different fabric & only one of them need be floral. 

That part was the "garden"; next is the "maze".

To make the maze, you will need two (& only two) fabrics: one of these should be more green than any other color (& both of them can be, if that suits your stash), although neither has to read-as-solid, nor does either need to be exclusively green.  Neither of them need have anything at all to do with florals or leaves or anything, just one of them needs to have a noticeable amount of green.  One (or both) of these fabrics could also have been used in the "garden" part of the block although it is perfectly OKay if your garden & your maze fabrics have nothing common.

From each of the "maze" fabrics you will need four (4) 2" by 6.5" strips (or one long 2" strip, as you will sew them together along the long edges).  If you make a long strip, cut it down into 6.5" lengths (& if you measured correctly when you cut, they will be 3.5" across).

From one fabric (the fabric that must have green) you will also need four (4) 3.5" squares; from the other fabric (which could be green, but does not have to be) you will need eight (8)  2" squares.  These will make the outer corners of you block & will be what connects your maze to the maze in adjacent blocks.  

The hardest part of this whole thing is making the corners of the "maze", the outer corners of the completed block.  To make the corner blocks:

-take two of the smaller squares & draw a line on the back in faint pencil from one corner to the opposite corner.

-place one of these, right side down in the corner of one of the larger squares (which is right side up).  The line you drew should connect one straight edge to another.

-stitch from one corner to the other along the line you drew.

-press so that the smaller square (now a triangle) covers the corner

-do the same for the opposite corner of this same square & for each of the other three corner pieces.

Once all four corners are made, attach them to the ends of two of the long strip pieces.

Attach the other two long strip pieces to opposite sides of your center "garden", keeping the green strip to the inside of the block.

Assemble what is a 12.5" unfinished/12" finished block.

If you would like to join this swap, the easiest thing is to go to Facebook & search for the group Quilt Block Swap & ask to join.  Blocks are always due the last Saturday of an even numbered month (which means they should be in the mail no later than the Monday before, if not sooner).  This particular swap is due Saturday, August 27, 2011.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Step-fathers's Day

It will surprise no one, not even not-Catholics, that the patron saint of fathers is Joseph.  Which is funny really, because he is not actually on record as anybody's father.  Which means that the patron saint of fathers was actually a step-father.  As a person who has a much better relationship with my step-father than my biological father -in all fairness I have a much better relationship with Sarah Palin than I have with my biological father & Mrs. Palin & I have never ever met, nor are we likely to & if we did I cannot imagine either one of us would have three nice things to say about the other; I think you know where I am going with this...  As a person who has a much better relationship with my step-father than my biological father, the message of this is not lost.

This Joseph, for those who have not figured it out, is not the guy with the coat of many colors.  For the record that one is not a saint.  This Joseph is the one who married Mary, went to Bethlehem, got the short end of a fiscal negotiation with an unscrupulous innkeeper, left town with a child that was not his, raised that child (including but not limited to hunting him down in the temple when the precocious little angel went a-wandering) & the rest is history...or not, depending on how you look at these things.  Go ahead & read the gospels from Joseph's point of view; can't you see him secretly LONGING for joint custody?  Just one day a week when his father-father had to deal with the holier-than-thou little monster he created?

Anyhow, today is Father's Day in the US; not last Sunday which is when I called my own step-father to wish him a happy Father's Day.  This is not the first time I have observed Father's Day a week early, either.  Clearly I have an issue.  Maybe I should just move it all to March 19 (the actual feast day of Joseph) & be done with it.  I could sing the only song I know about Joseph & be completely out of season in that way, too.

So, in conclusion today is Father's Day but it is not the feast day of the patron saint of fathers who was himself not a father.  Got it?  Good.  Oh & a most happy father's day all the other 364-give-or-take to all the faux-fathers who do the heavy lifting.  If it were not for a guy like you, christianity would never have happened.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The sky is falling, the sky is falling...no, really it's falling....fer crissakes LOOK UP

Chickens panic.  It is what they do.  & even when they are not panicking they sound a little panicky.  Their natural, resting voice is a little bit "what's that, what are you doing, why are you here, who the hell are you anyhow?"  It has been especially rough on them since Wednesday when the sky did indeed start falling.

I know some of you do not want to hear this (& some are saying "I hear you") but we need rain.  We need it bad.  As of last Tuesday, there were 75 fires burning in this county alone (25 of them started since the previous weekend).  I know that sounds like a lot but not a whole lot, except this is a county of <250k people &  <100 square miles of land, almost 10% of that is water.  This means there is 1 fire for every 3,300 people or every 13 square miles or so.  In one week.

Then, on Wednesday we got 6/10ths of an inch of rain in under 40 minutes.  That is a lot of rain all at once & it came in with very high winds on both ends.  When the storm left, my hen house had a ruffled edging along the roof.  I realize that is nothing compared to say, Joplin, but it was plenty for us.  As for helping with the fires, it did some.  It also ignited a few (lightening) & brought one that was under control out over the firebreaks (high winds).

& so on Saturday, we (& by "we" I mean A) began re-roofing the henhouse.  There were other structural things that needed doing as well, so we (he) went ahead & did them, replacing beams, clearing old, mostly-broken perches, etc.  In order to do this, we had to move all of the henhouse structures (all but one we hoped, it is really more improvement than infrastructure, but in the end it too had to go, at least temporarily get out).  While the sun was going down, the lady-birds turned their beaks for home only to discover all of their worldly goods tipped out into the pasture & their home still roofless!

We scrambled & got most of the panels up put some beams across them for weight & the ladies perched up on the roof beam they prefer, the new roof balanced but not fastened overhead.  On Sunday, we woke up bright & early to continue the job & then this morning A went a firmly fastened the last narrow row of panels for the next round of high winds. 

The best part of this was watching those poor birds.  All weekend the hens wandered around all of their stuff tipped out all over the pasture & reminded me of nothing so much as the mother in "One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts" trying to keep her child busy & her neighbors from looking through all her worldly good while movers pile everything she own in the NYC sidewalk.

//about the math:  yes, I could have said 3/5ths of an inch of rain but the rain gauge is marked in tenths.  Also, if the math does not quite work in the equations that is because I used the actual numbers (population, square miles) & not the less-than-this rounded number.  If you are so inclined you can back into the actual numbers doing the problems in reverse.  Or you can just get on with your day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Brigid of Ireland

Yup, patron saint of chickens, chicken farmers (& blacksmiths & cattlemen & fugitives Oh My), Come on Down!  Brigid hailed from Ireland, died in Ireland.  & then they took her head to Portugal.  Those crazy Jesuits!

Everyone seems in agreement that her pagan father was a freeman or lord or king & her mother one of his slaves.  Just before her birth her mother was sold & when she could live apart from her mother, Brigid was returned to her rightful owner, her father.  He in turn sold her to a christian.  While they were haggling over the price, she gave away her father's sword to a leper; when her father tried to punish her, her new owner prevented him. Babies & bastards (the kind with parents who are not married), mariners & midwives, poets & poultry farmers, sailors & scholars all call on Brigid for aid & comfort.  You know who doesn't?  Fathers. 

Aside from her own father, Brigid seems to have clicked with virtually everyone she met, hard working, intelligent & famous for her patience etc. etc.  Turned down legions of marriage offers or walked away from the one her father arranged, Brigid is one of the chaste saints.  No big ugly martrydom here.  Instead, she somehow became a teacher, then an abbess & then a saint.  It is all very murky in the way these things are & I get rather a sense that more than one person might be mixed in there.  Aside from pissing off her father. 

In that holistic way of these things, Brigid is also the celtic goddess of poetry, healing arts & metalwork (c'mon, dontcha love the old gods?). Both the saint & the goddess,when appearing in pictures are beautiful young women with red, red hair. 

& just in case you weren't sure she was an irish saint/goddess let me leave you with a lines from her "readings":  I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yogurt maker the second

Yes, yes it is true my previous post a tale of two yogurt makers actually only had one yogurt maker in it.  I ran out of time.  So without further ado, here she is My New Yogurt Maker!  I call her Gertie & she is a dream.

One of the reasons there was no second yogurt maker in the other post is I did not get around to using her until late last month.  Hey, I was busy.  & then I got a new cow (NEW COW!) & then I had more milk than I usually have & went looking for a purpose.

Now I finish the morning milking & I take those results & do the whole heat-cool-mix in cultures thing.  Then into Gertie it goes, somewhere between 10:15-10:30, out again eight hours later & into the fridge overnight.  For breakfast the next morning we have two quarts of the best yogurt you have ever, ever tasted.  This week I have been mixing it with M******'s homemade granola & the blueberries A got from a co-worker (we swapped for farm fresh eggs). 

Friday, June 3, 2011

We were expecting Mister Lincoln

This past spring there was this rack of roses marked clearance & of course I could not resist.  For six dollars I got six roses, four of them survived, one of those was given away & now those that made it are starting to bloom.

This one is the only one I bought on purpose; that is I had no preference re: the looks (color, size), style (climbing, shrub) etc. when it came to the others.  This was the one I wanted; the others were extras in one of those buy one get five free giveaways. 

I have always loved the rose Miser Lincoln.  I love the name, I love the look & we even hit the planet around the same time (Mister Lincoln had his big debut the year before I was born).  I was all set for a feathery, bushy, not-too-flowery rose bush.  & that is what I got, but this sure is not Mister Lincoln.  Who this blush beauty is I  don't know, but tall & red with strong fragrance it ain't.

Also not what they seem is a Joseph's Coat that shows every sign of being a small shrub rose (not climbing, not large) & small shrub rose that shows every sign of climbing, but is not, alas Joseph's Coat.

For now, I guess I will leave them where they are until I am certain how they are going to behave; I cannot put them thru another planting this season & expect much in the way of blooms (clues) anyhow.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's okay to be Takei

Maybe you know (maybe you don't) but June is National Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.  & completely without irony it is also the traditional month for getting married.  & National Candy Month. & National Dairy Month.  As you also may know (& again, maybe you don't) late last month Tennessee passed a law (A LAW) making any discussion regarding homosexuality off limits for elementary & middle school students. 

More than one person has asked "should they really have that conversation with students that young, anyhow"? But this ruling does more than clamp down on a health & sex education class that was not taking place.  This means when homosexuality comes up in the course of a student's life, & since currently almost 15k foster children nationwide are in gay homes & not less than 300K children- again nationwide- have a gay parent, chances are good it IS going to be relevant even in Tennessee; it is off limits.  When it comes up in current events, say when the next politician is on the news explaining they were just friends (or my favorite how he happened to hire a guy who only advertises on a rentboy website to not help him with his luggage because of his bad back), the teacher is to ignore any story no matter how far reaching & talk about something else.  If asked what does that mean, the answer is "I am not allowed to say."

Pretending something does not exist & banning talk in the classroom is how Tenneessee traditional alters the transfer of information (think Scopes Monkey Trial). 
But it turns out a traveler across space & time has a solution.  This is how it goes: when you might say "gay", say "Takei" (which rhymes with gay; I had no idea-ay).  Then let whomever is policing your vocabulary infer what you mean from context clues, if they don't have their hands full with other problems in their school, say sexual predators or domestic violence or bullying or drugs.  It is so bend-over-backwards absurd that it does take some of the pressure off.  At least until the Tennessee legislature rises up & bans Star Trek in the classroom. Or until they grow up, whichever comes first.  Given that it has been almost 100 years since the Scopes Monkey Trail, I would not hold me breathe on that one.

Just for fun, I went looking for other things banned in Tennessee, just to see what's up.  In Tennessee it is illegal to possess synthetic herbs that provides the same high as pot.    You cannot produce porn in the state but you can possess it (so, careful where you point that camera; don't worry about the dirty pictures though).  & apparently it is illegal to be an illegal alien in Tennessee.  Seems a duplication of effort to me but whatever.  Tennessee did manage to lift another local ban on bringing handguns to local parks.  Also, apparently Jack Daniels had been playing fast & loose with some obscure law since the 1930s & they are trying to fix that.  Leaving us with this memorable quote:
 "Today, if a 13-year-old started making whiskey, they'd chop up his still, send him to reform school and arrest his parents," Niceley said. "That's our biggest problem today - overregulation."
On the other hand if today a teacher were to say maybe you shouldn't pick on that other student because you think he acts gay, is gay, his parents are gay, his parents might be gay, his parents are not gay but the 13 year old cooking up whiskey in his spare time cannot think of anything else to hit him with well it is not overregulation to stop that conversation, it is just good common sense...in Tennessee anyhow.