Monday, December 31, 2012

Rainbow connection quilt block swap for beginners

Last year, well this year but it's almost up, I did not do any bigger swaps.  That is, we had no longer lasting than the every other month, nothing needing a sign-up or much in the way of planning.  Well this year, we will have two.  The first, this one, is on the easy side. & so, here are the rules:

FIRST- pick a color red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple.  Every participant MUST sign up for their color in the Quilt Block Swap group on Facebook.  I'm sorry but I have wracked my brains & cannot think of any other way to keep it straight.  After the first round of ROYGBP has been claimed, I will open up another set & once that one is filled, etc..  You can sign up for as many colors as you like BUT only one in each set & you cannot sign-up for the same color more than once.  Every time one set of six has been filled I will open a new set & I will do this right up until Thanksgiving, so there will be as many chances as there are people who want to swap, I hope.  Also, there will be a rolling deadline, approximately 2-3 months after a set opens for sign up, through-out all of 2013 & into 2014.  As each new set is opened the deadline will be posted; the deadline for the first set is the last Saturday in March, March 30, 2013.

SECOND- choose a block, any block.  The final block should be 12.5" unfinished but there is nothing wrong with choosing a 10" block & then adding a border to bring it up to 12.5".  

THIRD- get your fabrics together.  You will need at least one fabric in your color choice.  You can of course use more than one fabric, so long as the color you chose & only the color you chose (with maybe, just maybe a bit of black &/or white but NO OTHER COLOR) is in the fabric.  The easiest thing to do is to limit yourself to read-as-solid, but a tone-on-tone pattern is also perfectly acceptable.  You will also need a background fabric; please limit yourself to white (muslin is fine) or a white-on-white print.  This is the same fabric you would use to "border up" if you make a smaller block & need to bring it to 12.5".  You can also use black or a black-on-black print if your block requires something to make it pop, but black should be used very sparingly if at all.

FOURTH- make six blocks.  Keep one for yourself & send the other five in with a stamped, addressed return envelope.  Once ALL the colors from your set have arrived, you will get back one each of the other five colors (yes, I know the traditional spectrum is actually seven colors, but I decided to merge indigo & violet into a single purple).

& that is it.  Naturally, when choosing & working on your block, you should make the blocks you wish to receive, quality-wise.  This swap is open to (designed for, even) beginners who want to challenge themselves, so please reach beyond the usual 4- or 9-patch.

I have included a picture (the traditional rolling stone block) as an example of what you could make.  In this case, the color is obviously BLUE.  The color fabric has several shades of blue & the slightest bit of black but no other colors & the background is a white-on-white pattern. This particular pattern block is already 12.5" unfinished so it would not need any additional background to bring it to size.  As it happens, this block is NOT part of this swap, so don't go looking for it in the blocks you get back; this is just an example of the kind of thing you could make (& honestly, as it is a pattern any advanced beginner should be able to tackle, you could use it as a guide to the kind of pattern you could make).

If you think this swap might interest you, please go to Facebook, find the Quilt Block Swap group & ask to join

Friday, December 28, 2012

Quilt block regatta for June 2013

Every year I try to include one block that can be appliqued rather than pieced (although pieced is OKay, too).  Not surprisingly, this block is often an image block (in the past we have had houses, words, etc.).  For 2013 that is going to be our June swap block. 

For June 2013, we are swapping boat blocks.  You can applique or piece (or foundation piece or embroider or any combination of whatever you wish) your boat.  The final blocks should be 10.5" unfinished & yes, this is big BUT a lot of that is going to be background.  In fact, you can make something smaller, say 6", if you like.

The guidelines are, not surprisingly, quite broad:  
  • Please try to avoid anything too juvenile when choosing your fabrics (& colors), as we are aiming for boat-looking boats.  Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I think you know what I mean; ideally these blocks could be used in a quilt for a grown man or woman, as well as a child. 
  • For your background (this will be the background of your block as well as the border you may need to add to bring it up to size), please use something that is the color of the sky &/or sea.  In the event you choose a block that has a boat sitting on water that is different from sky, please use the same fabric for both.  This uniform setting will help our blocks all work together.  If you should choose an on-point block, please be sure to set it on point, keeping it to the 10.5" square size.
  • Please do not embellish with beads or what-have you.  The 100% cotton fabric only rule still applies. 
To get you started, here are some links to boat blocks.  Not all of these meet our 10.5" x 10.5" measurement requirement, some would have to be sized down, others sized up, but it is a good jumping off point:
As always, we swap in sets of five (5), you send five (5) blocks & get five (5) back.  Blocks are due the last Saturday of even numbered months, in this case it is Saturday, June 29, 2013.  If you would like, you can include a sixth block; every swap one person takes these to make a quilt for a non-profit or community group.  If you would like more details, just ask to join our group on FaceBook (search Quilt Block Swap).

Starburst super-nova for April 2013

In college I had a favorite sweater; it was alternating stripes of an eye-searing neon blue & a purple that would do Barney proud.  The only improvement that could have been made would be if the stripes were of variable widths.  My roommate called this my "hurts the buzz" sweater & it could bring a hungover frat boy to tears.  I loved it.

Why is this relevant, you ask?  Well, for our starburst super-nova you will need two (2) fabrics. Neither one has to be particularly bright or ugly or whatever, but the combo should make you Take Notice.  All I ask is that you not use either white or black (too neutralizing) & if you want to use something patterned, make sure there is very limited color/value contrast within the piece (a dark purple, dark red combo would be lovely: I myself own an orange & pink paisley that will be perfect).

In keeping with the overall contrariness of this block, you know how I often say the block is easier than it looks?  Well, this one is a bit trickier than expected, mostly because the final seam is all bias, both sides.  I suggest pinning your brains out & easing it all under the foot with as little tugging as you can manage. 

This block is also our "component block".  In other words, this block x4, plus some strips & a stones makes the Cross & Crown block (also known as goose tracks-I think the difference is something to do with the width of the strips&stone).  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I am instead going to refer you to the directions on Quilter's Cache.  Again we are making only the corner squares for our swap.  When you get your swapped blocks back, you can go on to finish the overall block as you like.

These blocks are due the last Saturday in April, which is Saturday, April 27th.  We always swap in sets of five (5), you send five (5) blocks & get five (5) back.  If you can, think about including a 6th block-this one goes to whichever member of that swap has volunteered to make a quilt for her community.  If you would like more details, just ask to join our group on FaceBook (search Quilt Block Swap).

Red, white & blue plate special for February 2013

 A couple years ago, we had a red,white&blue swap block that was one of the more difficult we have ever had.  The result was not great for everyone, especially as the red,white&blue swap is one of the most popular with beginners.  So this time, in the interests of making things easy but still interesting, I have come up with Red, White & Blue Plate Special.  Although I am describing making one block, you should find this is very easy to scale up & chain piece.  Because there are no seams to match, I would call this easy-beyond easy HOWEVER you need to pay attention & make sure the borders are paired correctly so that you end up with a square & not a rectangle.
  1. Begin with a 6.5" square of red &/or white &/or blue, the busier the better.  In the interest of accommodating hybrids, shades of purple (blue & red overlapped) & pink (red & white overlapped) are also perfectly acceptable.  While an all black block would be gloomy (so please avoid), the reality is many many fabrics have some black & that is Okay (but please: no green, no yellow, you get it, right?)

  2. Using 2" strips of a red or blue or black border all four sides.  This looks sharpest (best) when it is a dark, reads-as-solid fabric but so long as there is NO WHITE (this means also no off-white or cream or beige) in this fabric, almost anything red &/or blue &/or black will work.

  3. From a white or reads-as-solid white-on-white cut four strips:
    • one 2" strip
    • one 2.5" strip
    • one 3" strip
    • one 3.5: strip

    Separate them into pairs that total 5.5".  That is, pair the 2" strip with the 3.5" strip & the 2.5" strip with the 3" strip.  I found it was very easy to get these strips mixed up, so after I had remeasured them a few time, I put one large sharpie dot at the selvage edge of the first pair & two dots at the end of the second pair & then I pinned each pair together.  If you ever do get them scrambled just take out your ruler.  Each strip pair will always add up to 5.5"...until it is stitched up of course.  In fact, if you are feeling adventurous, you are welcome to cut strips of any width (so long as none are less than one inch wide) that add up to 5.5" across the pair, & so long as NONE of the strips in any given block are the same width.  The idea is for the color block to bounce within the over all block.

  4. Taking the one set, border either side of the bordered square.  That is border one side with one strip & the opposite side with the other strip.  Trim, press & then using the second pair, border the other two sides, one of the strips one each side.  While all the strips are different widths, the block will still be square. 
 & you are done.  The bordered red/white/blue square you began with will be slightly off center, but the completed block will be roughly 14", unfinished.

I do not have a picture of this color version made up into a quilt, but I do have the first quilt I made using this block (& a narrow sashing with cornerstones made from the same fabric as many of the 6.5" squares) here.

As always, we swap in sets of five (5), you send five (5) blocks & get five (5) back.  Blocks are due the last Saturday of even numbered months, in this case it is Saturday, February 23, 2013.  If you would like, you can include a sixth block; every swap one person takes these to make a quilt for a non-profit or community group.  If you would like more details, just ask to join our group on FaceBook (search Quilt Block Swap).

Monday, December 3, 2012

6th block

Not long after the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group started (technically before the group started because before we were a group, we were a mailing list), we started a thing called the 6th block.  As has been covered ad nauseam: we swap in sets of five; you send five blocks you get five back; ideally none of your own.

With each swap, every person has the option of including a 6th block.  They do not get back a block for this one; it goes to whichever member of the group asks for the 6th blocks.  As in all good (& bad) giveaways, there are strings.

  • The quilt or quilts made from these block should go to a person or persons, not a fund raiser.  In other words, it is OKay to give it to a homeless shelter for residents use, but not OKay to give it to the shelter to use in a raffle.  If this seems petty, I'm sorry.  The idea was to eliminate any concern the funds raised would be used for something you maybe didn't believe in.  The real-world example I gave is that while I had no problem contributing mucho blocks to a group that made quilts for babies cared for at a  low-income birth center, I would have been less than thrilled if the quilt had been auctioned or raffled or whatever & the funds used in anti-choice activities (another function of the birth center).  This rule makes it possible to send quilts to a large variety of beneficiaries, all around the world, because we can all agree to help a person in need.
  • Ideally the quilt should go to someone not specifically known to you.  This is almost impossible as often quilts going to say, people in hospice are made by volunteers at that hospice.  There is going to be overlap.  It can go through a national organization like Project Linus or Quilts of Valor.  Or an ongoing local quilt drive, perhaps through your quilt guild or church or some other volunteer venue.  Or even a limited time project like relief following Hurricane Sandy.  What the 6th block quilt should not be is a personal gift from you to a person you know. 
  • The quilt should get where it is going in 6 months to a year after the blocks are forwarded, but in the real world, this is not always possible. Naturally, the quilt should get where it is going sooner rather than later, just so long as it doesn't linger in a UFO pile indefinitely.  To keep things moving, while one 6th block quilt is undelivered, you cannot reserve another set of 6th blocks.   
  • There are not always enough 6th blocks to make a complete quilt & quilting thread, batting, & other materials needed for quilting are not provided by the quilt block swap group.  It is not OKay to ask for that stuff from members of the group on the group page or message group members asking for more materials.  I include this because we once had this problem:  after requesting 6th blocks a former member of the group sent messages asking for supplies or money to buy supplies.  So...when you ask for these blocks do it with the understanding that the balance of materials will need to come from somewhere else:  your stash, your sewing circle, wherever.
  • Finally, I give seasoned swappers first dibs.  I also ask that someone participate in two other swaps before asking to receive the 6th blocks from a swap.  I used to do this because I thought "proven" swappers were more likely to follow through.  After a year+ of tracking the 6th blocks I discovered it did not make all that much difference; there was no real correlation between the length of time with the swap & how long it took a person to follow through.  Now I ask it so a swapper can get a feel for the group & an idea of what they are likely to get back, but in months when someone has an interest but has not participated in two swaps, I don't hold things up.  The only exception is that in order to get the 6th blocks in any given swap, you MUST participate in that swap.
Now the happy side of this.  I find when strip-piecing, I make extra blocks without realizing it & I am pretty sure I am not alone in that.  More than once I have finished a quilt top with a leftover or two.  I call them orphans & throw them in a bag which I clear out every couple years (ideally), either giving the blocks away, or making something (pillows, tote bags).  The 6th block was just a way to head those orphans in the same direction where they could become something for someone in need.

The 6th block is entirely voluntary & more than that, I don't really keep records.  I rarely know from one swap to the next who sent 6th blocks & who didn't, I just keep track of who receives them & cross them off the list when photos of the completed quilt are posted. 

I hope this helps people who swap but not through the group understand what the 6th block is.  If you would like to see some of the quilts made & given away, the easiest thing is to join the group & go through the photos.  They are all there (except the ones that FaceBook ate  *sigh*).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This week's big event

Sometimes it seems like the entire community has been getting ready for a great big day this week.  There have been months of planning & allocating police & other resources, weeks of coverage in the newspaper & television & of course, the pep rallies will stop traffic. 

That's right, I am talking about Gator Homecoming.

Football is a bit of a mystery to me.  Periodically I have to ask a question about the rules, the names of things & all.  I have never learned what the positions are called (I mean place on the field).  When I was in high school, the high school football team apparently won something important & I did not have a clue.  I would have remained clueless if not for some "Remember When" Facebook-thing.  I didn't remember so much as learn for the first time, but whatever.

It's a funny thing, homecoming.  A didn't realize it had nothing to do with a home game (well it does in that an away game homecoming would be odd) so much as alumni.  Even schools that do not field a football team have an annual homecoming.  Around here, the school shuts down (I know, right) no classes the Friday before & getting through town is a bear.  There is a parade & a pep-rally-sort-of-thing with headline guests (this year it's Tracy Morgan & some country music guy; Fladidah is a melting pot!).  A lot of money comes into town this weekend, national news crews pay a visit as well. 

& this is not all good.  A couple of years ago a person I know who was hiring for MicroSoft declined to go to UF's job fair.  To paraphrase:  I don't have to travel across the country to get a jock-wanna-be party animal who will disappear early Friday & puke on his keyboard Monday.  In many ways, his loss; in order to keep the cream of their public school system in state UF offers a tuition & scholoarship package that is like no other.  As a result more than one undergrad decides to go here instead of anywhere else you can think of.

That's the thing about these high octane events.  What it looks like from the inside or even from just out of the edge bears no resemblance to what it looks like to the majority who only get these glimpses.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Noche buena second-to-last call, one more time

We are down to the second-to-last month of the last block swap of 2012.  As I said in the original post, this is a mostly-copy of the african violet block from Block Lotto in 2011.  It may be an exact copy (that is what I was going for), but as I could not find the original instructions, I made my own.

The directions for the making the swap block are here .  Also, Sophie -the Queen of Block Lotto- was good enough to let me know the original pattern can be found on the Block Lotto's pattern page (go here & scroll down to Violet-they are alphabetical-so rational!).  The Block Lotto pattern has the added advantage of six different sizes (we are still swapping just the 8.5" unfinished/8" finished size). 

The directions for participating in the swap are unchanged, but we have enough new people....& that is where I went astray.

What I meant to say was the guidelines have not changed much since we started in January 2009.  If you want to join the swap, or just lurk, the easiest thing is to join the group on Facebook (search Quilt Block Swap & ask to join).  It is a closed group because in the early days we were plagued with cross posting adverts, also my home address & other contact info. is right there (including a mailing label with the post office barcode, which has helped A LOT when it comes to preventing  AWOL swap blocks) & I wasn't crazy about that being open to people I didn't even know.

Noche buena second-to-last call

We are down to the second-to-last month of the last block swap of 2012.  As I said in the original post, this is a mostly-copy of the african violet block from Block Lotto in 2011.  It may be an exact copy (that is what I was going for), but as I could not find the original instructions, I made my own.

The directions for the making the swap block are here .  Also, Sophie -the Queen of Block Lotto- was good enough to let me know the original pattern can be found on the Block Lotto's pattern page (go here & scroll down to Violet-they are alphabetical-so rational!).  The Block Lotto pattern has the added advantage of six different sizes (we are still swapping just the 8.5" unfinished/8" finished size). 

The directions for participating in the swap are unchanged, but we have enough new people (& more than a few who swapped, stopped swapping & have started up again) that it is worth a recap:

1-  We swap in sets of FIVE.  You make as many blocks as you like (I would recommend at least six, maybe even seven) but send me FIVE (or ten or fifteen) & you will get FIVE (or ten or fifteen) back.  If you send a quantity that is not divisible by FIVE, I will assume you intended the balance to go to our give-away quilt block thing, better known as 6th Block.  If you send nine blocks, you will get FIVE back & the other four will go to whichever swapper that month asked for them to make a quilt for her (so far, always a 'her') community.  If you send just four blocks, I will hunt you down & kill you.  No, I won't; I will assume all of these are intended for the 6th Block & you will get none back.  No, that is not true either.  You will very likely get all of your own blocks back in your pre-postage-paid envelope because anything that is not divisible by five hurts my brain.  That last one really was true.

2- Blocks are due IN-HOUSE the last Saturday of an even numbered month.  I know there are swaps & other contest-y type things that say 'postmarked by' but I am not that organized.  In a perfect world, the block envelopes all get chucked into a bag hanging off a chair in my kitchen until swap Saturday.  Then, on the following Sunday, I open the envelopes.  This is a switch from the old days when I used to open them as they came, but now we have so many people in the group (>100) that in a big month that means a horrible confusion come swap-time trying to make sure no one gets their own back. 

Where was I?  Right, on that Sunday I open the envelopes, swap & seal the return envelopes.  The blocks that are being returned in postage paid envelopes go out to my truck & wait until I have time to get to our local post office during their peculiar, staggered, money-saving window hours.  This is because even though the postage is paid, any envelope over a particular thickness (& quilt blocks almost always fall into that category) need to be hand cancelled.  In fact, I would say just dropping a thick envelope into a mailbox, even with way-over-the-top postage is maybe the most frequent reason that swap blocks get hung up.  The reason for this fun & not-at-all-inconvenient rule is anthrax.  At least that is what I have been told.

So on Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday or) I go to the post office & mail the blocks back.  You can see how an envelope postmarked the Saturday before would just not make it in time.  If you mailed your blocks in a timely manner, but they still do not arrive & I know they are en route, we do have options.  There are a few local people who swap & don't get their blocks until I see them, so those can be scrambled at no inconvenience.  The person getting the 6th blocks usually has a bit of a wait because there are often extras that get sent not-for-swapping (often those same locals picking up late) & I like to get the 6th Blocker as much as I can.  The key here is I need to know that the blocks are MIA before I have handed the others around (I would actually rather know they have been sent before the deadline even; you would be stunned how often someone swears up&down they mailed their blocks way-in-time & then they arrive postmarked the day of the swap & now the story is "I thought they needed to be postmarked by the last Saturday of the even numbered, that's the way everyone else does it & you should do it that way, too..."

My personal favorite in this vein is the person who told me her blocks had already been sent about a week before the deadline.  That is, this is when she told me, a week before they were due.  The deadline passes, no blocks.  Another week passes, no blocks & she is not returning my on-line messages.  This is extra not good because she has signed up for not one but two special swaps (we used to have an special swap or two every year around a very particular theme such as 'the months of the year' or 'chanukah/christmas star', that kind of thing that limited the number of participants through an early sign-up & next year we will again, but this is the story of why we had none in 2012).  I finally get through to her & she apologizes, doesn't know what happened, yes she sent the blocks before the deadline, what bad luck they are missing, etc.  She also confirms she is absolutely participating in the second limited swap she signed up for & in fact is mailing those blocks that day, well before the deadline.  The next deadline comes & goes & you can guess, no sign of those blocks either.  I make one attempt to reach her & then give up.  To my surprise I get a reply in which she tells me a close relative died suddenly & that is why she never mailed either set.  & just for gravy she gives me a death-date: a full week after she had already mailed the second set of blocks, per her last message.  I don't know what or if I even replied; I think I just deleted her from the group & got on with my life until....I get  a notice from Facebook that the Quilt Block Swap Group is on double secret probation because a harassment complaint has been made & we are maybe-gonna be disbanded becasue there has been a harassment complaint(I will say this for Facebook, they are spineless; if we had in fact been harassing someone I am more or less convinced we could have happily gone on that way for months).  Of course I have no way of knowing who complained, except there is only one person who complained directly to me that I was harassing her & that was guess-who.  Even more amusing I had at this point made zero attempt to contact her or even reply to any of her messages, which continued to come to me with some regularity, all complaining about my harassment.  To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, "I don't think that word means what you think it means".

3-  Please include an envelope with postage for returning your blocks that has your address written clearly, otherwise my postmistress tosses it back in my face & tells me to go to hell.  Another lie, although she & I have spent many a cozy half hour trying to decipher zip codes.  She is actually a lovely person.  She calls when suspiciously squishy packages addressed to any remotely possible variation of my name & or address you can imagine show up.  She doesn't even make me come in for those mystery packages; she lets me know they are on the truck & if they are not for me, could I send them back tomorrow?  So far they are never not for me.

I used to go into ridiculous detail about the return envelope, saying things like "It is reasonable to assume the postage to get back to you will be the same as the postage to get here" & "please use an envelope that is the same size as the one you mailed your blocks in".  You really would not believe how many people sent blocks in large envelopes with say a dollar or so in postage & thought I could get their swapped blocks back to them in a #10 business envelope with a single first class stamp.  Actually, I think they were not quite making the connection between their outgoing & returning blocks & the role of the self-addressed envelope & postage in that process (seriously).  One person in particular did this every single swap & told me to just drop it in the mailbox, it would get there eventually & she was in no hurry.  Eventually I deleted her from the group.  Yes, I really did that.

Sometimes people send loose stamps or money.  This is fine with me, but I will use all of it.  If you send me five stamps & your envelope only needs three, I do not stand at the counter putting stamps on one at a time & saying "what about now?" to poor Gabriel (the lovely man at the counter almost every time I go; if there is a line he takes one look at me & calls for back-up).  Nope, I slap all those stamps on the envelope & the post office makes out like a bandit.  If you send cash, I pay for your postage & then put the change in whatever save the animals fund they are collecting for at the local feed & seed.  For a long time they were spaying stray kittens, although the last time I was in there it looked like a feed the starving horses group of some kind. One time there was a collection to help pay the medical bills of a family involved in not one but two different drunk driving accidents, but as they were the drunk drivers both times, I refused to give them money.  So I took it to my next errand (the library) & made a donation to the Friends of the Library. instead.

People outside the US can send their blocks & a fat quarter & I will pick up the postage for the return.  Obviously, the address should be included as well but frankly the international packages have never been a problem.  One person in the US asked if she could also pay by fat quarter as that was more convenient & I said sure (& then made the offer to the whole group), but it never happened.  I think the swapper realized that the cost of postage within the US was rarely even half the cost of a fat quarter.

So there it is.  More than you ever (thought you) needed to know about how to send a set of quilt blocks for swapping. Not really much about the current block though.  Sorry about that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

October was a good month for blogging

This past October probably doesn't look it, from out there, but in here it was miserable.  One of the reasons there are so many more blog posts than any other month (even most other months combined) was the amount of time I had to kill sitting around doctor's offices, car repair places, waiting on the large animal vet, etc.  It turns out blogging can be picked up & put down, like mending. Still, I am looking forward to a more peaceful November.  We had one big appointment this month & that was last Friday.  We have plans for Thanksgiving, but I am not cooking so that is one of those show up & eat things. 

October being good for blogging made it not-good for almost every other activity.  I am hoping November will be good for quilt top basting, horse grooming, fence mending (literally, we have boards down) & actually seeing some real live humans of my choosing & not receptionists at doctor's offices. Not that they aren't nice people, they just aren't...

I'm going to stop now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Big doings week-end

There is A LOT going on in our little corner of earth over the next few days.  Let me start be describing the one thing we will not be doing & yet benefits us greatly.  Wait, let me back up.

How do you feel about football?  College football? Gator college football?  Well, we have a love hate relationship.  More like a like, don't really care relationship, but whatever.  The short version is when there is a home game we do everything we can to get the hell out of Dodge.  It is not just what the people attending the game do.  I don't mean drunk & disorderly, although that is a factor, I mean thing like the university reselling ALL THE PARKING SPACES to alumni & other fans, so if you have not done something about your car before the end of business Friday, you can count on getting towed & fined.  When you consider how much it costs to park near A's building (I will give you a hint: it is more than $500), you can see how it might get old.  Fast.  But added to that are all the people not attending the game, who just want to hang out & bask in the drunken halo outside of the stadium.  & that is before we get into any real rivalry games.

Well, this weekend is the most famous college football rivalry of all time:  The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  & the good news is it is so damned big (& the rival is so damned close), they have all agreed to move it to Jacksonville & we get our town back.  Which means we will be able to move about freely & do everything else going on this week-end.

Today is the first day you can vote in the election here in Florida.  I am told that this is the second busiest day (the first being the actual 2nd Tuesday in November), but I probably won't get there until Monday myself.

Today is the first day of the Friends of the Library Book Sale.  We actually have a FOL booksale twice a year (we do love our library) but the October sale is usually the BIG one.  We will not be there this first day, but we do plan to go Sunday (the book sale runs Saturday to Wednesday).  We are arriving late because

Saturday is the only day of the Bat Festival at the Lubee Bat Conservancy.    We have never been, but I am determined to go this year. 

Yesterday I was on campus, for the first time in a long time I might add, & was talking with the most recent set of undergrads work-studying in the Herbarium when one of them bemoaned the "home game" being "so far away" & how he was just going to have to watch it on tv because without football there is "nothing to do in this town".

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Poulet pays à quatre minute à neuf

It was my intention to get this quilt done & shipped off (walked next door) last spring but, well, too much happened.  A lot happened here & a lot happened there.  Ordinarily what goes on next door does not impact my free time one iota but in this case there was a death in her family, which meant W***** was out-of-state for right around 3 weeks.  She meant to go for just the weekend but discovered more unfinished business than expected when she got there.  & back here, we were having henhouse problems & assorted other issues on both properties & since I had to deal for me, it only made sense to deal for her.

As a result, this quilt, which had already been delayed was delayed further & did not get into her hands until this very October.  Doubly sad as I have PICTURES of the blocks on my blog dated March....2011.

The pattern is straight forward.  I got it from Block Lotto, made numerous blocks in the red & white colorway that was part of the direction.  It didn't take the link to the source pattern (where Block Lotto seems to have gotten it, although I am not trying to suggest this is the first place it appeared ever in the history of quilting & the internet) for me to realize this block had potential with my favorite & most useless kind of fabric, large scale novelties with peculiar subjects.

Enter chickens.  Chickens wearing bandanas.  Chickens wearing bandanas with endearments written underneath them.  Chickens wearing bandanas with endearments written underneath them in French.  Anyone who knows me will realize that of course I bought the remaining fabric on the bolt.  There was not a little & it is already almost gone. 

I am still calling the block 8:56 (4 to 9) or en français: quatre minute à neuf heures.  & they are country chickens (poulet pays), although I suppose what with the colors, etc. they could be gangsta chickens...  Turns out, there is no google translate for gangsta, so I guess I will stick with country. Yes, I realize that this all mock-french, but it will work for me.

The finished quilt measures  56"x56" more or less, just the right size for a lap or a nap.  It was pieced & quilted on my Bernina, 153 Quilters Edition.  I used an irregular on-the-diagonal stripe which I have used before.  In addition to being a bit snazzier (& easier) than a regular side to side stripe, I have learned it wears well & so it is my default quilting for anything I know is likely to see regular use & thus regular washing.

Lastly there is a display sleeve on the back, machine stitched at the same time as the binding to the front.  Under ordinary circumstances I would consider this a strictly utilitarian quilt, but I know W*****'s entire house is decorated in chickens & I suspect this might get hung up as often as it is used.

So, here it is, my entry for the Autumn 2012 Blogger's Quilt Festival.  All my previous Blogger's Quilt Festival entries can be seen here.

Blogger’s Quilt Festival Stats
Finished quilt measures : 56″ x 56"
Quilted & pieced by : me on a Bernina 153
Best Category : Throw Quilt, Scrap Quilt, Home Machine Quilted Quilt

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crispin not Crispian or even Crispinian

I once said (or I vaguely remember typing) some crap about the Patron Saint of Shoes.  Well, I have finally found him.  Kinda.  I found a slew of saints (a slew of saints, like a murder of crows, I like it!) who oversee cobblers.  Also I like thinking of chichi shoemakers like Manolo Blahnik as "cobblers".  Feel free to delve the list yourself, but I am settling for Crispin not to be confused with Crispian, also a patron of shoemakers & his twin brother.

Sooooo, let's dig in:

Crispin (not Crispian AKA Crispinian, not that we care overmuch) or Crispinus but not Crispianus (because those spellings have fallen out of favor) was born to a noble Roman family sometime in the 3rd century.  Just to give you some perspective, Hadrian's Wall would have been well underway (as in a century & a half underway) by the time this kid (these kids) was (were) born.   That doesn't help? Let's just say the world was Roman as far as the eye could see & depending on which direction you were facing, probably much much farther.  In short, it was not the best time to start walking around talking about the one son of the one god.  There was many many words for that & one of them was treason.

Anyhow.  Our saint (& his brother) went out into Gaul & started preaching this heresy & eventually lost their lives over it (details to follow).  But that is not where the shoes come in.  Apparently, for his (their) pay-the-bills job, not to be confused with their vocation, he (they) made & repaired shoes.  He (they) got into trouble with the local constabulary over their contempt for all things material & were martyred in a variety of ways.  No really, a variety:  the rack, a few other tortures to get them to recant, thrown in a river with a millstone secured at the neck, & then burned.  All of this had no sway & the torturer was reputed to seek refuge in the flames himself.  I don't know about you, but I have had jobs like that; I kinda feel for this guy.

Anyhow, after the torturer left the building, the emperor's man, the one who had assigned the torturer, took over the job & made short work of it:  beheadings all around.  & let me say I have had jobs where I wished my boss would step in & kill people so I would be able to stop trying to punish them into seeing the error of their ways.

So that's the story of our saint.  & his twin brother, the other guy.  Also a saint.  Now for the shoes.

Shoes get A LOT of press.  They used to be just one of many fashion accessories, but now that no one wears hats or gloves & I cannot remember the last time I saw an evening bag on the red carpet, accessories more or less boil down to shoes.  That they might be the day job of a guy going on about the evils of excess & & his twin brother, that's just funny to me.  In fact, it seems appropriate that the Patron Saint of Shoes be one of a matched pair.

So how to celebrate the Patron saints of  shoes.  Well, may I suggest cocktails at the Designer Shoe Warehouse (they really should apply for a liquor license, don't you think?), where we could maybe listen to the late & truly lamented Kirsty MacColl.  Then we could all settle down to watch one of my very favorite movies based ever so loosely on a true story (almost certainly more than you can say about the life of our saint.  & his brother.) of a struggling family business in a world of changing values: Kinky Boots.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Move over Pocahontas

Generally I try to avoid two saints in one month (& there is already a saint queued up in less than a week) but Lily of the Mohawks is brand new saint this week & it seemed petty not to cover her.  Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere in the americas (north, south, central, wherever) would have to take quite the circuitous route not to trip over a story of an indian princess.  Even then, I am 99.9% sure you would wind up smack in the middle of an indian princess story not-on-purpose.  Indian princesses jump off cliffs, marry the wrong man, betray their people, save their people, sometimes they just abandon their people.  In short they are very busy people themselves.

& up until last week I would have said Pocahontas was the most famous in the world.  If you have never seen the Disney movie (& I haven't), you would still have to be living under a rock not to know who Pocahontas was.  Or rather, who history says she was.  Or might have been.  Whatever, it doesn't matter.  This is not a post about Pocahontas.  That being said, let us all take a moment to listen the Peggy Lee's Fever, which mentions Pocahontas.

Back to our saint: Tekakwitha was born to a family of mixed heritage (one parent was a Mohawk, who are part of the Iroquios language group, the other was an Algonquin, who have their own language, Algonquin; I might be misremembering, but I don't think these two groups always got along that well), but was orphaned at a very young age.  Much of her family died of the same thing that wiped out so many people in the 17th century New World:  smallpox.  It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway, she was left dependent on an uncle who had a great distrust of christians in general & priests in specific.  First, let me speculate this might be why said uncle was around to care for the much afflicted (scarred & partial blinded by small pox scars) little girl.  Second, guess what kind of indian princess listed above, not that Tekakwitha was a princess-princess, but guess what kind of princess she was.  If you guessed the kind that left her people you would be right.  As a young woman, she ran away to be baptized, then ran away again (I don't entirely follow that one myself) to become a nun.  Then she died of tuberculosis, another disease I am guessing her unreasonable uncle did not catch.

So, that sums that up.  Except that on her deathbed, witnesses say her scars disappeared & she became beautiful (they don't say anything about her putting a on a little weight, so she must have been beautiful à la heroin chic).  & of course later she started performing miracles, pretty much isolated to those who prayed to her so that probably helped determine who got the credit.  Anyway.  Tekakwitha is a saint now, better known as Lily of the Mohawks

Which brings me back to Disney.  It is a very familiar story; see Therese the little flower for the sickness in childhood, the tuberculosis in adulthood & so-forth, or countless others for the whole running away thing, or, or, or.  Seriously, it is a familiar story, but now we have a native american heroine.  Sigh.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The 17 minute mile

It has been a long haul (& I am quite sure it will be longer to the next minute less), but yesterday morning I posted my first ever (less than) 17 minute mile average for the whole route.   Recently I expanded the route to cover more than 4 & 1/2 miles.  I had originally been thinking I would run a 5K, so I was more interested in getting faster within very specific parameters; after I realized a 5K in October was unlikely, I started trying to stretch the distance & thinking less about MPH.

In thinking less about speed I have gotten much faster.   This isn't so odd as you might think.  Part of my gaining speed has been extending my running intervals to 10, 11, 12 minutes with 1 minute walking intervals between.  When I limited myself to just 1/2 mile or so longer than the 5K I was targeting it was hard to really extend those times. 

The timing of this has also been good.  I try to get out before 10 to be sure to be home by 11 so I avoid that time of day when the sun is right overhead (I worry if I am squinting, chances are good drivers flying by me are also squinting & I don't want this to end badly), but the days when I would try to get wrapped up before the temperature was over 90F are gone; yesterday it was in the mid-70s in the middle of the day (brrrrr).

& that's it really.  Weight loss is stalled, but I am also eating pretty much whatever, whenever I want without guilt.  Hallowe'en is almost here, & the candy started coming into the house last week.  Then Thanksgiving, then holiday cookie swap, & then, & then...  When it is all over, I hope to be circling the 16 minute mile.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What would Arthur do?

Every few years I am forcibly reminded they no longer teach The Crucible in high school english class.This rather astonishes me on so many levels:  Arthur Miller was an american playwright, writing about an event in american history that had strong tie-ins to what was at the time of writing american current events.  Also, even though there was already a french film version, they made it into a movie with Winona Ryder & Daniel Day-Lewis & it has been my sad experience that some english teachers like to set up a movie JUST IN CASE someone in class could not be bothered to find the crib notes.  Also, in the case of one friend's english teacher it meant she (the teacher) could nap peacefully in the dark while the kids are more or less occupied; I LOVE teachers but there are a few bad apples in there.  Or maybe they are just tired.  It has been a long, ugly haul for teachers here in Fladidah.

The american movie is not bad, actually.  It takes a few side roads from the play, mostly because it can (a change of scenery does a body good after all & just imagine a movie that remained set in what a stage could manage in scene changes).  If you are someone who does not much care for reading plays (it is a learned skill & even then you may not develop a taste for it), go ahead & watch the movie.  Netflix even has it on Instant View in time for the Hallowe'en season, & really what is scarier than Salem witches at Hallowe'en?  Turns out the day-to-day Salem townsfolk are pretty damn frightening themselves.

The gist of The Crucible in a paragraph is this:  for a variety of motives, the best of them being religious zealotry, the people of a village start accusing each other of witchcraft.  Once accused, you are more or less can give the people accusing you another name.  Doesn't even have to be all that plausible; just say "yes, but I was lured & so-&-so lured me".  You will get a slap on the wrist, lose your property (maybe) & be shamed & ostracized (becoming a member of a group almost as large as said village, so that's not so bad, really).  Then of course you have to live with yourself, forever after, knowing that you are responsible for whatever happens to the next person.  & the next.  & the next.

If it all sounds a bit familiar, it was meant to.  When The Crucible was written, the Salem Witch Trials were common knowledge.  So was McCarthyism, whereby people were called up before a senate committee, accused of Communism & sentenced to jail, blacklisted, whatever.  Pretty much the only way to ease your situation was to say "yes, but I was lured; so-&-so lured me".  Some people resisted & their lives were ruined, Pete Seeger famously resisted & his life sure looked like ruined for a few years, but he who laughs last & all that.  I suspect few people on this earth will ever laugh so completely as Pete Seeger, in a completely not-malicious, laugh-along-with-me kind of way.

Late in their cycle, when the popularity wheel was rolling away from them, the McCarthy-ites turned their attention to Arthur Miller.  He was, at the time, married to Marilyn Monroe & most historians agree the accusation was almost certainly a ploy to grab some headlines rather than a sincere attempt to isolate the most dangerous communist in the country.  Unfortunately (depending on your perspective), Miller's response to the McCarthy spotlight was to write the most damning criticism of the work of the committee.  Double unlucky, it is one of the most famous pieces of writing in our american history (it lives right up there with a few others some people spend  a lot of time misquoting).  The Crucible has long held the distinction of being the most widely read & performed american play outside of this country.  It is all so interesting (truly) & you can find whole volumes on the subject; you can take classes on the struggle between Arthur Miller & Joseph McCarthy, on the widely predicted & very very wrong death of Death of a Salesman as a result of McCarthy et al.   But enough about Arthur Miller, lets talk for a bit about Lance Armstrong.

Earlier this month, Lance Armstrong said (I paraphrase) "I am sick of fighting it, I have a life to live.  You want my Tour de France wins back?  Take 'em".   For those who don't know, Armstrong has been denying allegations of doping for years.  It's interesting they keep coming back, in light of the complete lack of medical evidence etc.  I am not saying he wasn't doping, although as a reader of The Crucible I cannot help but wonder.  Particularly as his most ardent accusers have been other athletes who have actually been caught & then parlayed an easing of their punishment if only they can bring in the big fish.  I think Brit Hammond said it best:  "To me it says if you cheat and lie about it for several years, and then drop somebody else in it, you'll be alright".

Which brings us back around to what Arthur has done.  He has told us more about our system of justice than maybe we want to know, not because it is so awful but because it is so universally human. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Proud to be a consumer

I don't know when it started but for years I have been telling anyone who will listen (usually my mother, sorry mom) that I am a GROWN-UP with my own CHECKBOOK & everything.  This is of course a big fat lie; I haven't had my own checkbook since I got married 18 years ago, but the gist is still there:  my own money is my own business...& my own problem.  As a married person it became our own business/problem, as the case may be.

If you got this far & are now worried I am going to start talking about fiscal responsibility, fear not.  I am thinking more about holiday (or non-holiday) on-line shopping.  Even more specifically about iGive.  The short version is iGive is a free-to-you service that collects a percentage of your purchase from the on-line seller & gives it to the charity of your choice (provided they are registered with iGive, which I am told is not all that hard if you are indeed a charity & not some backyard faux-non-profit cash cow). 

What that percentage is depends on the vendor. Amazon for example gives only  part of one percent, but because of the volume of orders that go through them (it's not just books anymore, baby), it can add up fast.  UnderArmour, who I started loving because they are not Nike (in fairness Nike is also an iGive company), then I loved more when I learned they will do embroidery for say, horse crazy middle aged women's specialty catalogs & now of course gets my love all over again for their 3.2% (same as Nike, but they are in a hole so deep I doubt I can ever love them).

So...I would encourage anyone reading this to double check if their favorite charity (alas you can only specify a time) is listed.  Several of mine were but I quickly chose one that does valuable work & to whom my $8 (so far) does make a difference.  After I made my choice (& did a little shopping), I could see how much my cause has received so far - check by check, what their next check amount will be & how much of that is attributable to me.  I have never been a huge on-line shopper having preferred to spend my money locally, even if it is at a chain store, at least those are local people employed there, but ever since the kid at S***** A******** told me I "need to get over that" re: Michael Vick, Nike et al, I am just as happy to bypass some people all together.  Seriously, I may never leave the house again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Running without

I know I have said before what stuff I run with that makes the whole thing more bearable (lime popsicles, Boudreaux's butt paste, etc.), but I thought I would tell you the things I do without.  Specifically, those things that many a running book, magazine, you name it would imply are commonplace or even necessary:

iPod or playaway or anything that gets between my ears & the sound of the world around me.  This was a new one for me, actually.  Whenever I had used our elliptical I made sure I had something to listen to.  Running in the world, though it turns out things go better when I pay attention.  A big part of this is becasue of the sheer number of people out there with me who are themselves not paying attention.  As most of them are behind the wheel of a car, the odds are in their favor surviving-a-collision-wise, so I like to know when someone is flying up behind me & you can only know that by listening.  //here's a handy little physics trick- if you hear a vehicle behind you but cannot tell if it is getting closer or farther away, listen to the pitch.  If the overall pitch gets higher, the vehicle is headed your way.

light weight running shoes.  My goal has never been to get done faster.  In fact I run with weights in my hands so light-weight would never interest me anyhow.  That aside, I don't seem to have delicate feet that require specialized shoes that do whatever those shoes are called upon to do.  In part this is due to the interval nature of my running (& by running I mean walk 1 minute, run 9-12 minutes.  Or rather stroll breathing deeply 1 minute & then jog chanting I hate this I hate this I hate this 9-12 minutes).  Or even the reality that most of my route is on dirt road so I don't have that jarring pavement-pounded feeling at the end.  Whatever the reason, whatever the cause I have 3 pairs of $50 sneakers & rotate through them depending on how wet it is outside (the oldest pair is for days I know I will run through deep puddles).

a heart or blood pressure monitor.  When it feels like my heart is going to pound right out of my chest, I slow down (don't worry mom, this hasn't happened in months & it was just that one time).  It turns out that the target heart rate for my age is almost certainly 5-8 beats per minute too fast so it is just as well I never aimed for any rate in particular. 

a pedometer.  I admit I would cruise past those displays of snazzy watches that also told you how far you had gone, but I run more or less the same route every day (adding a bit every now & then as my run sets get longer & I need to cover more road).  In the end it was easy enough to drive the route & look at the truck's odometer.  I was glad I did, too, because it turned out that the point on one stretch that mapquest & run keeper & google maps & all of those said was the mid-point actually isn't, if you drive (or run or walk).  This is because one side of that point is very flat & the other side of that point goes up & down what used to be fairly substantial gullies.  When the road was first created, it did not actually connect the two paved roads it now does; it dead ended at the last house.  The road was leveled & lime rocked to that point, but the dirt track that connected this point to the farmers field just a but further on got pushed further still until it came out on the county road.  This extension is not for the faint of heart or faint of suspension, as it can still wash out in a bad storm.  Running-wise, what with having to go down the side of one gully & then up the other side, & then do that again a couple more times, this 1/2 mile is actually more than a tenth of a mile longer than the other half.  Yes, yes, if I had a pedometer I would have known this sooner, but I still haven't bothered to get one.

& last but never least, Nike.  I have managed to avoid plonking down my money on what used to be the premier women's running brand & is now & will forever be those Michael Vick supporting corporate whores.  I know what they said, that they supplied equipment to the league & did not have any control over who used it within the league & my response is if Abercrombie & Fitch can ban fat people from working at their stores & the Situation from wearing their label anywhere in the rest of the world, it seems to me Nike could have said "while we appreciate the league doing us this huge favor of wearing our apparel at no charge to them, we would like you to stop handing it out to every felon on the payroll".  But Nike didn't & they have since gone on to sign Michael Vick to an endorsement deal.  That was Nike's call & they are entitled to it..  Walking quickly past every Nike rack in every sporting goods store everywhere is mine.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lefcado revisited

A few months (a year? no, not yet), a few months ago, I wrote a post ostensibly about Saint Maura but really about other things, including how no one had heard of Lefcado Hearn.  I was not expecting much in the way of hue & cry, not because I think Lefcado Hearn is completely off the map, but becasue I know not that many people read this blog for anything other than the quilt patterns & those that do are not-so-much for poetry written in Japanese.  Also, it helped that not many people have heard of Lefcado Hearn.

Imagine my DELIGHT when he made an appearance over in Letters of Note.

I think I am going to leave this post here & let you go over there & read that one.  It is better than what I write anyhow.  I think I especially like the bit about there being no point in editing out the words with no meaning in the language (or a very different meaning than Lefcado Hearn experienced, what with him thinking letters had colors & all).  & of course a bad reason for doing something being better than no reason at all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The race I will not be running

So.  Shortly after my 47th birthday I decided to start moving my ass (& not just from the kitchen to the tv room, etc.).  As of this morning, I am covering approx. 4 & 1/2 miles in walk-run (stroll-jog) intervals in just over an hour.  It is no the best hour of my day but the results are worth it.  No I am not losing weight hand over fist, but my hip (& all my joints) feel much better, I have more energy, blah blah blah. 

But back to the beginning.  I had decided, when I started-as part of my starting actually, that I wanted to run a 5K before the end of the year & it really looked like doing this was going to happen.  I was unlikely to win anything, but I could certainly finish.  Maybe finish last, but finish for sure.  & the race I had decided on was the first (& maybe last) Run with the Wild at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation.

Up until maybe two weeks ago, I had every intention of running (with the wild or more likely trailing behind everyone else running with the wild).  Then a series of things happened here at home.  The short version is somehow we have two different significant yet not-emergency medical procedures scheduled in the ten days before the race & that the race is scheduled on the same day as the annual arts festival downtown (a festival I never remember happening in October before; all I can think it their usual weekend is homecoming this year & in their shoes I would find another weekend, too). 

Unrelated to my decision there are not one, not two, but three other running events scheduled for that same day.  Something called the Hustle for Humanity at Boulware Springs.  Another unknown-to-me called The Pickin' Patch with no links, but I am guessing might be the Florida Track Club's own autumn holiday event (it's on the calendar, but not being a member I know no details). & lastly the Halloween Hobble on campus. 

So for a number of reasons, I will not be running with the wild.  Or hobbling for Halloween.  Or hustling for humanity.  & I feel bad about it, the wild running one.  I hope they have it next year.  If anyone does run with the wild, let me know how much fun it was?  Please?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Not what I intended-still more about books

In one of those aligning, not quite coincidence things, I completed my Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge on the first day of Banned Books Week.  I vowed to read 112 books in 2012 & had logged that many as read by September 30th.  Yes, I am a big reader BUT not all the books were all that big.  For example Why is Blue Dog Blue? is on the list as one of the 112.  So is Nancy Drew, Vampire Slayer, not only not a particularly bookish book, but a graphic novel as well.  At the other end is Robert Massie's Catherine the Great, which certainly counts as a big book.

Also in that list are slews of  book junk food, romances & mysteries abound.  Quite by accident I managed at least one frequently banned book:  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  No, this was not the first time I have rad this book; I don't even think it was the third.  I read it when I was the age to read it (the age deemed too impressionable by book banners), I read it again in college while doing background for a class in crossover literature (children's & sci fi, hello!; & I say children's because the young adult designation did not exist when I was an undergrad).  It would be a lie to say I never knew this book had been banned; when I saw it on the frequently banned list it rang a bell.  What I did not know is how popular banning it was (& apparently still is, as it is creeping its way up the list of most frequently banned children's books.  Mazel Tov).

Mostly, though, the books I have read so far are a cross-section of what I was in the mood for & what was available on the shelves of my local library.  I fully expect the rest of the year is going to be mostly like that as well.    If you want to see what they are, you can...right here (just click the View Books option):



      2012 Reading Challenge


          2012 Reading Challenge


        Marybeth has
            completed her goal of reading 112 books in 2012!





        112 of 112 (100%)


          view books



Monday, October 1, 2012

Split star encore

Last year in June, the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group had a split-ish star for our swap, specifically the Massachusetts Star.  It would be a mistake to say it went badly, but it did not exactly go well.  Multiple blocks (in one case every single block from one of the swappers) were wrong; specifically the parts were all right but they were assembled all wrong.  The Massachusetts star is a two fabric 9-patch, but seven squares of the 9-patch had something going on; they were either 1/2-square or 1/4-square triangles & it was their arrangement that made the split star effect.   When the layout was incorrect, it just didn't work.

Unfortunately I had set this block for a month the 6th blocks were all going to a Quilt of Valor project.  A LOT of people wanted to participate & I think that was part of the problem.  People who were not interested in such a complicated block gave it a shot anyway because they wanted to be part of the Quilt of Valor.  To round the fiasco out nicely, after the Quilt of Valor quilt top was made, quilted & almost ready to go we learned one of the fabric's color had bled into the adjacent blocks & the quilt was not eligible for the Quilt of Valor program.

I felt like the universe was telling me to stay away from more complex blocks & I confess the past year of Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group blocks have all been on the beginner/advanced beginner end of things.  I even pulled a Kansas Troubles style block I was that worried about, which I kind of regret.  Then about a week ago, I got the sneak peek of the October Block Lotto Block & I love it.

It takes three fabrics & they would need to be different from each other to have the contrast to make the edges sharp & while it doesn't have the 1/4-square triangles, it does have flying geese, which can be tricky.  I will have to chew on it over the winter & maybe come up for something for next spring.  In the meantime, though, isn't it a pretty star?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Banned books & living in the library

Starting today, a writer & editor (& fan of Kurt Vonnegut & free speech, I am guessing) will live in the Kurt Vonnegut Library in downtown Indianapolis.  His plan is to stay into October, through the end of  Banned Books Week

Well, good for him.  I am planning on reading a banned book; I have started the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor because I adored Witch's Sister & the sequels when I first read them  when I was maybe ?12?  I am guessing they have been banned somewhere as well (witchcraft!).

More interesting to me, though, is this business of living in the library.  I am interested because last month someone returned a dachshund to our local library.  The librarian does rescue cats, & feeds strays (& underfed "pets") & our best guess is someone knew she would find a good home for the little dog (& a good home has been found). 

Cats & the occasional dog are not the only ones who call our local library branch home.  According to the 2010 census, this particular town had a median income of $12,345 (to put this in perspective the 2010 threshold for poverty for a person under 65 was $11,344).  This town has no community center (although there is a Senior Center that does an excellent sideline with mentally disabled adults of any age).  There is not even an in-town high school; the kids that stay in school go to high school in the booming metropolis next door (population 3,630 per the same census). 

What is does have is a well funded library.  This is because the county has a well funded library & this branch is part of that system (not coincidentally, the school district is also county wide & one of the best in the country).  If the library seems like a waste of money in a town were people are barely scraping by, I promise it isn't.  This place is hopping pretty much any day you go in:  On school days, the tables get set up for all kinds of board games in prep. for the school bus unloading, the computers with internet access have long sign-up sheets & as it gets close to closing time, the kids line up to use a phone (in a just-scraping-by community, the kids don't all have cell phones, never mind smart phones).  Earlier in the day it's moms & grandmoms & great-grandmoms with toddlers having their own story hours on the carpet in the miniscule children's section.  On Sundays, after church, the Mennonite ladies stop in for their romance novels & the Mennonite men surf the web. 

For the start of this Banned Books Week there are big, big plans; here the first day of Banned Books Week is the Family Literacy Festival.  Because the first step in getting books off the burn pile & on to the shelves is teaching everyone to read.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A second attempt at a simple red scarf

Earlier this year I got the bug to make a scarf for the Red Scarf Project.  Naturally, I did not follow the guidelines as far as dimensions went.  Fortunately, I also missed the deadline by roughly 11 months so I have had plenty of time to make another scarf the right way.  Plenty of time, but I still had not started by the first of this month.

Luckily, I have until the first week of December to begin, finish & get the whole thing off in the mail (to arrive by December 15).  So I am starting again.  I used my 30% off your total purchase to buy a few different kinds of red yarn (& by red I mean ever-so-loosely red; I certainly did not feel obliged to limit myself).  The Red Scarf Project site has links to several patterns (emphasizing reversible patterns, which is great), but I decided to revisit my own, but do it right this time.

Using the same yarn as in the old post pictures (but red, of course), I cast on 33 stitches to meet the 5-8 inches wide requirement; in the end it was 10.5 inches on the nose but honestly 8 inches looked so spindly.  Besides, I know it is going to get longer with use so it will move closer to the required width over time.  In the end, mine was around 52 inches long, but that made it long enough to wrap & tie, which was suggested.  The pattern remains:

Knit for seven (7) rows.

For the rest of the scarf, up to the last seven (7) rows -& I bet you can guess how those will go- repeat the following three rows:

Row 1:  Knit
Row 2: Knit five (5) , purl to the last 5 stitches, knit five (5)
Row 3: Knit

Continue until scarf is desired length.

I made mine so that it ended the opposite of the beginning (if the first three rows were knit on the same side, they were all purled on the same side at the end).  If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it. Lastly, A tells me the fluffy yarn makes it a girls-only scarf; I hope he is wrong. Now that I have finished this one, my plan is to get another on the needles quickish; I figure if I knit instead of playing Angry Birds I will actually have a nice little pile to ship off.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The 9 minute 1/2 mile

I still have not broken the 18 minute mile consistently; I can average it but not maintain it (there is always one set that runs a shave longer & one or two that run so much shorter).  I am still doing walking intervals every 4, 5, 6, 7 8 or 9 minutes though, so that probably explains the drag.  What I do know is that the two quickest half miles are absolutely covered in 9 minutes or less....each.

I realize of course that predicting the miles in general by the fastest half mile is absurd.  A funny thing about that--many many years ago (yes, we can say decades) I was briefly involved in collecting data about how children learn (specifically how they learn to express themselves).  My end of things was interviews designed (not by me) to elicit precisely the same response in terms of perspective, but record the different ways it was expressed.  By the parents.  I asked questions & parents answered knowing full well they were being recorded & these recordings would be seen & heard by the people who cared for their children & so, naturally, we expected lies about the home routine & BOY-O-BOY did we get them.  Seriously parents, the people who take care of your kids upwards of 4 hours a day know more about your life, including details of your sex life, than you do; they don't WANT to know, it just happens.  There is almost no point in telling these people anything that isn't true..

That is all an aside.  I am more interested these days in the data collection that was going on in the next office & by "office" I mean cubicle & by "next" I mean we shared a computer table that had a cardboard screen propped between the two monitors; our chairs were side-by-side.  There was roughly the level of privacy between us as there is between your child & the person changing your child's diaper.

What they were tracking was standardized test scores.  In those days, standardized tests were just a blip on the horizon.  When I was a high school freshman, our class was given a test along with a handful of other districts around the state.  As I understand it, the schools involved largely volunteered.  I have no memory of ever being given an all-students style test again.  Anyhow, the results of the annual volunteer tests were being gathered together & used to determine averages, highs, lows, etc.  I remember one memorable fall semester when for whatever reason a certain chunk of the test taking schools failed to forward their tests in time for the scores to be calculated & entered into the system before the student slave labor let for winter break.  Someone made the ingenious decision to just go with the test results they had in-house & for several years (& maybe still, I graduated after all & never looked back), it was the high water mark of standardized testing, as the averages of the class of  1988 were noticeably better than all the others.  It turns out, though, that schools that can turn in paperwork on time generally have higher scores on these things than schools that get bogged down.  Also shocker of shockers, schools that volunteer for these kinds of tests often have significantly higher scores than schools that don't.  Soooo, it seems that basing an average on the higher end of the performance scale may not be the best way to motivate everyone else to do better.

& we are back at my 9 minute 1/2 mile.  In short, it does not an 18 minute mile make.  Still, I am covering more ground in less time. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore

I have said before I am not the world's biggest fan of people who fly the confederate flag.  Whatever I have estimated your intelligence to be, a flag decal on your vehicle will cut it in half.  One of the things that put me off the tea party very early on was the diatribe about how the US wasn't for her people anymore & those people were sporting confederate flags.  Imagine if you will a group of protesters in France complaining that their government was disrespecting them as they flew the Union Jack; absurd, yes?  Then imagine England's succession had not been successful. 

SIDEBAR:  When A was teaching at a small eastern university, many years many you ask?  Well I can say exactly, it was a week before the presidential election that removed Jimmy Carter & put Ronald Reagan in the White House.  More to the point of this story, it was the tail end (although we did not know it) of the Iran hostage crisis & pretty much the only americans in Iran were hostages.  That week, A looked out his window & saw a group of Iranian students protesting & carrying signs.  Their signs said "America, get out of Iran".  Two things struck him.  The first was, of course, how stoopid could they be & the second was that not one single person was interfering with them while they marched around on a busy college campus.  No one was harassing them or cursing or throwing rocks.  He likes to think they were disappointed.

Where were we?  Oh right, the streets of Paris complaining that the French govt was ill-treating British people who didn't want to be there & had tried to get away before & were now trying to take over.  

This whole picture is lost on most confederate flag sporting types.  They don't need you to tell them their history, after all it is THEIR history & they know it well.  Lately I have taken to asking questions about the confederacy of people sporting this flag:  name a single member of the Confederate States of America Cabinet (I used to ask them to name two, thinking Jefferson Davis was a gimme, but turns out he is not).  I do not ask that they stick with the original members, which opens up the field a teeny bit.  One old guy hung in there insisting that Stonewall Jackson had to be one of them (he wasn't), but I said I will give you the point IF you can tell me where the battle that gave him his nickname took place (& you have to do better than "near a stone wall", which while probably correct is not how the nickname came about anyhow); this one battle also has two well known names & I would have taken either of them in lieu of a state/territory name, but he could name none. When I told him one of the names he was QUITE INSISTENT that that could not be correct because that battle was fought against indians (yikes).  Finally, the old guy really didn't like hearing General Jackson actually did not die in battle, he died of pneumonia in the weeks following battle field surgery required because he was (accidentally) shot by Confederate troops.  

Back in the days when I thought up this question I naturally assumed that one person with such a flag decal would be able to answer that one question (they never have), so I thought up a second question:  Name the chairs of the Confederate States of America Cabinet.  I will give you President & Vice-President, there are six more.  One of them, my personal favorite, was largely honorary as the field it was intended to oversee was performed by the Union officer of same as the Confederacy had no....can you guess?    If you can name that one I will give you credit for the whole she-bang.

I have never gotten to the second question (never mind the extra credit option of the second question) because people who do work on our place have stopped wearing confederate flag t-shirts when they come here & they avoid my eye if they happen to run into me in the grocery store while in such garb.  Mostly they are nice people, the ones I know anyhow, who have latched on to that idea the way a drowning man latches onto Jesus; they have filled it with what they need it to be which bears a passing but not detailed resemblance to what it was. 

Today, in 1864, citizens of two confederate states formalized plans to rejoin the Union.  They were Tennessee & Louisiana.  In less than five years, all the confederate states would again have representation in the US Congress.  Say what you will, this does not sound like the behavior of a persecution government. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

4th Annual International Vulture Awareness Day

So here we are, between the two waves of the political conventions & just the right time to talk about vultures.  This does rather do vultures an injustice, but well it was just so easy.

Living in the country, I have an appreciation for vultures that maybe people who are routinely unaware of what happens out of their line of sight. It is easy in a city, or even a well-groomed suburb, to forget that when you put that garbage out at the curb it goes somewhere.  You know it goes somewhere else, but that it continues to be there, at that somewhere is shockingly easy to forget.

Out here, though, there is no garbage pick-up, at least not for Mother Nature's garbage.  & the fact is she has PLENTY: trees that fall & decay over years, plants that burn in the first frost & are just husks a few days later.  Birds & insects & even small mammals do what they do & slowly it all gets turned over.  But those birds & small mammals & even large mammals also keel over & then what?  Enter the vultures.

It is a rare day that I do not see a carrion bird of some kind & good thing, too.  If it weren't for them we would be stacked up to our eyeballs in cadavers.  We wouldn't care, though, because the stench & the disease from all those bodies would have killed us before the pile got past our knees.

Which brings us to today's holiday, of sorts, dedicated to the not only unsung hero but the villainized hero.  That would be the guy who does a job that is so repellant the most mild mannered among us swerve to avoid associating with them, while others routinely throw rocks.  But like it or not, a vulture doesn't do the killing.  At best they clean up everyone else's mess, at worst they start circling a bit early when they spot a volunteer.

Happy International Vulture Awareness Day