Thursday, August 30, 2012

Noche buena for December 2012

Just about every block swapper in the Facebook Quilt Block Swap group knows that I do my best to avoid religious holidays in the bi-monthly block swaps.  We have had christmas & hanukkah specific side swaps, & we could of course have others, if someone wanted to make a suggestion, but for the whole group I avoid anything that says easter or passover or whatever.

That being said, I know someone is going to look at our December block & say "Wait a minute!", but first hear me out.  Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima botanically or as they are also known in their native country "noche buena") are seasonal here in the southern US & while it is true they mostly appear in northern households in connection with christmas, they are really just a December flowering plant.  Kind of like a christmas cactus.  I am hoping that people who don't celebrate christmas in a big way, or even at all, will find something to like about this month's block.

I should also mention that this block is a COMPLETE RIP-OFF of the Block Lotto African Violet block.  Alas the directions for that block have been swallowed by the internet.  I am sure they will reappear, but in the meantime I reverse engineered from my existing block lotto blocks to create our poinsettia block for December.

The basic block is a 4-patch so for each block you will make 4 "petals".  For each petal you will need a main poinsettia color, an outer leaf color & a little flower color .

The main poinsettia color is usually a red, BUT they can range all the way from blood red with black or magenta to salmon or even pale pink & you sometimes see them in greenish or goldish cream.  This fabric does not need to read-as-solid however ALL the colors in it most be appropriate together (i.e. you might have a lovely crisp cream & blue stripe, but there is no such thing as a cream & blue poinsettia so please don't use that, a pale pink & blood red plaid however would be just fine).

The outer leaves should be shades of green, leaning to the darker end of the spectrum, but black or brown would be acceptable if you just don't have any dark green.  Again, it does not need to read as solid so long as all the colors visible are within the range.

The actual flowers of the poinsettia are those clusters at the center of the red leaves.  These are often yellow but can also be light green, gold, white, cream or even a paler-than-the-main-color shade of red. 

For each block, you will need four (4) petals, for each petal you will need:

one  4.5" square of the main fabric
two 2.5" squares of the outer leaf fabric
one 1.5" square of the center fabric

You can use any color combo that would be found in a real poinsettia.  HINT: there is no such thing as a pale poinsettia with a dark red center, but there are cream poinsettias with green or gold centers).  I have included a couple of links to images of poinsettias above & a link to traditional color combos right here; I am confident that there is something to be found for every scrap bag.

Making the block is straightforward:

To make one petal take each background leaf square & mark a line (with pencil or your iron or however) from one corner to the other.

Put one of these over one corner of the main fabric, right sides together & stitch along that line.

Fold back, press & repeat on an adjacent corner.

On a third corner, do the same with the smaller center color

NOTE:  while I was first making this block -the african violet lock lotto block- I made myself CRAZY trying to keep all my flowers turning in the same direction.  I was lucky enough to win that particular block lotto & got a handful that turned in the other direction.  So long as all the petals within an individual flower all turn together, it doesn't matter one bit whether they all go clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Assemble four petals with the small corners together, each petal rotated one turn (see picture at the top).

As always we swap in sets of FIVE (5).  Please send your five (5) blocks to arrive the last Saturday in December & remember to include a stamped self-addressed envelope so blocks can be sent back to you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back on Block Lotto

It has taken me a ridiculous amount of time, but I am f*i*n*a*l*l*y back on Block Lotto.  The problem has not been Block Lotto, it has been me. 

I think I have biotched before about the house computer (the one with the e-book of most of our photos attached) being squirrely.  Well, late last month, it cracked its last nut.  Because it is also the one hooked to the tv (therefore the one on which we view most of the Netflix-Instant videos) this was not good.  We could limp along no more.  After we got back from Savannah (we went to Savannah for a few days; I really want to go back!), A got a new computer, hooked it up & everything EXCEPT the camera software worked like a dream. 

About a week & a half ago, A got the camera software working.  It requires a series of changes to the display that make no damn sense, but now that I know what they are I can do them, load my photos & then reverse them.  & before someone suggests we just get NEW camera software, that would require upgrading either the camera OR handing out wads of cash, neither of which appeals.

Then this morning, I figured out how to reactivate my recently activated (but all on the old machine, so good luck remember user id, password, etc.) WordPress account.  Which means that on the 29th day of the month I finally posted the blocks I made weeks earlier.  Not in time to get the sneak peek for next month, but at least I am back!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Watermelon part deux

The August Facebook quilt block swap blocks are all gone (except for one set that arrived from a New York state zip code but no return envelope or even return address on the envelope to me) & so it is time to get to work on the October blocks. The two blocks are intended to work together, they have the same watermelon color scheme, but if you missed the August block you can make your own (this one works up very very quickly) OR you can use these blocks in a different layout.

To make the October block you will need 4" squares of eight (8) different fabrics in the watermelon color scheme (green, from dark to light & well over into the yellows, pink from hot pink to palest baby pink, black, brown, white, off-white, etc./please AVOID blue & purple colors not found in an ideal watermelon).  You can use solids, reads-as-solid or even wildly patterned fabric so long as ALL the colors in the fabric fall within the guidelines.  Divide these squares into pairs of light & dark (or light & medium or medium & dark).  Make 1/2-square triangles & arrange them so that two of them have the darkest side to the center (points touching) & the other two have the lightest sides to the center (again, points touching).  More complete block directions can be found here & detailed directions on one way to make the 1/2-square triangles can be found here & here.

Blocks are due in-house Saturday October 27th.  The easiest way to participate is to join the Quilt Block Swap group on Facebook.  When you send your blocks, remember to include an envelope with your address & adequate postage to return the swap blocks you get back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The 19 minute mile

The original title of this post was The 19 minute mile.  Then on Sunday, A took my actual run-time divided by my actual distance & came up with just under 18 minutes, so I changed it.  & then on Monday I upgraded my hand weights & it is back to 19 minutes a mile. 

In other two steps forward/one step back news I have now officially lost four pounds.  Naturally that does not include the ten pounds I gained & then lost when I first started (seriously, I still don't know what was up with that).  & I still think the runner's high is an emperor's new clothes style myth; the only people I know who claim to have experienced it have later back tracked & said "it is not so much a high as a felling you could just keep going".  Uh huh.  I have been high & I have felt like I could just keep doing whatever it was I was doing; I am confident I would never confuse the two. 

I have, however, gotten to the point where my overriding thought during my run walk intervals (more accurately described as jog stroll intervals) is not how much I hate what I am doing, how much I hate that I will probably have to do it for the rest of my life, etc.  Now during the longer stretches my mind can wander to all sorts of things & sometimes I can kill whole minutes.  Trust me, this is a good thing.

I have discovered a few other good things that make the ordeal more bearable:

Edy's Fruit Bars, especially the lime ones.  I spend the whole second half of the journey fantasizing about the lime fruit bar I am going to have when I get home.  One time, we got back from a run & A***** declined her fruit bar because she was avoiding the sugar-carb-thing.  I was appalled. 

& I was glad to refer her to the next good thing I have found, The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds wherein there is possibility that the ideal post-workout beverage just might be chocolate milk.  I don't actually like chocolate milk, but I don't like Gatorade or other sports beverages either (they feel slimy) & I felt qualified to make the substitution.  There is a whole host of really good information in this book.  If you don't want to buy a copy, get it out of the library.

I have also renewed my acquaintance with Boudreaux's Butt Paste.  Why was I already acquainted with this stuff, you ask?  Because one of my horses has a really fat ass.  I mean big round monster fat.  She has the upper-butt cleavage of a Kardashian (seriously, she has this long thick pony tail hanging down across this thing.  I point to it & ask what celebrity it reminders whomever of & no one has ever guessed anyone else).  & while I have no idea how the Kardashian's deal with it (& I am not asking, if anyone who reads this knows, please keep it to yourself), I have used Boudreaux's whenever Coco gets sores from one cheek rubbing against the other.  I will spare you the details, but I too found a use for Boudreaux's before I discovered compression running tights/capris/shorts. 

There is one thing I have found no use for & that is an iPod or playaway digital book player or whatever.  Having your ears covered by headsets while running is a mistake.  I run on a country road with very little traffic & I have had enough encounters to know I am safer if I can hear the car/truck/doberman/really unpleasant old man walking up behind me.  Also, if I wore headsets I never would have heard the birds or the frogs or the cicadas or any of the other wonderful things about running where I run.  I would not have gotten to know my neighbors (we have lived here since 1998 & I am just meeting half of them) & if I hadn't met them I would never have learned that one unpleasant old man was also the driver of the two different vehicles that honk at me when they drive by or that the ex-marine on the corner had a talk with the old man's son to get him to stop.  I probably also would not be trying to find homes for stray kittens, but they are worth it too.

Monday, August 20, 2012

National Honey Bee Day

Earlier this year, I signed myself up for an all-day workshop on beekeeping at the local IFAS extension office.  At the time, A was traveling for work; I e-mailed him the info & asked if he was interested knowing full well he wasn't.  Imagine my surprise when he e-mailed that he WAS interested.  So I signed him up as well.

After he got home, it became QUITE CLEAR that he had not actually looked at the attachment.   He did not know what the workshop was about, he did not know how long it was; he only thought he had been away for so long that he thought he should go to be "nice".  The registration was only $10, so even though it was no great investment, once registered he decided to go.

As a result, he learned more than he ever thought he would never/ever know about keeping honey bees.  The work shop was very thorough, a few different speakers to a group of about 20, maybe 1 or 2 more or less people & almost all of them in pairs.  People were thinking about bees to improve their fruit harvests, add honey to their market stalls & just because.

They were also all sorts.  There was the hippy looking couple wanting to go expand their organic garden
Mr. Hippy-looking-gardener came up at the break-turns out he got his degree in chemistry & A had frequently collaborated with his former (now at a different university) adviser.  There was an older-than-us couple, Mr. Older-than-us relied heavily on a cane.  They were particularly distressed that the state of Florida requires an annual hive inspection because the bees are vulnerable to many ailments that can be easily passed from hive to hive (this is done at n o charge to the hie owner, nor is there any licensing fee or anything like that for having a hive; the suggestion was to treat this visit like an opportunity to get some free advice about your hive from a person with a lot of experience in the field).  They did not like the idea of government being so involved in their lives becasue the gov't never does anyone any good.  The presenter pointed out in the politest of terms (really) that they were sitting in a gov't building attending a seminar paid for in part by local gov't.  In the regular irony that is life among the gov't-phobic, I overheard same couple at the end of the program explaining how they did not have to pay for the seminar becasue they were both on disability.  There was one woman who was working on her Master Gardener certifications & was there observing the presentation made by her friend, doing the community education portion of her certification.

I was fascinated.  & yes, I do want to get some bees but I could see we first needed to do a lot of work to get ready for them.  Not bee-specific work, but clearing & pruning type stuff that no one wants to do right next to a beehive.  No one with any sense anyhow.

I had planned to go to the local Honey Bee Festival this past Saturday, but we were up to our eyeballs in other stuff & never made it.  I am planning on observing National Honeybee Day by watching Queen of the Sun.  If you have Netflix, you can watch it on Instant, at least for now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

& then there were four

The first of the kittens to go went to his new home yesterday afternoon.  Earnest Rutherford, now to be known as Rufus left the rest of his litter who are all convalescing next door on W*****'s sleeping porch.  He (along w/everyone else) was parted from his reproductive organs Thursday, spent a quiet night & then he in particular got down to the business of playing with string & strips of newspaper.

The five of them have gotten to be old pros at traveling (2 trips to the vet for exam, rabies vaccs et al  & then 3 weeks booster in addition to Thursday's surgery).  Rutherford/Rufus went easily into the cat carrier & fell asleep while we talked over him for another 20 minutes or so.  I have seen a picture of him in his new home where he looked plenty comfortable, relaxing on an area rug.  Before he left, while h snoozed in the carrier, the others were mildly interested in what was going on at first, but then got more interested in looking out the windows, bathing & eating.  Considering they started their new life with in our barn (& before that were on the side of a dirt road), they have made the transition to indoor cats nicely.  For some of them it will be a permanent transition, which I suspect will be fine with them.

Today was another red letter day of sorts.  It was on Friday, July 13th that we discovered the kittens (well, they discovered us) & managed to catch & bring home 2 of them.  This morning I was up earlier than usual for my run (a new pattern that will need to prevail for the next few months; by late morning the heat & humidity make it almost impossible to breathe & I end up walking the last 2/3rds of my route breathing so loud it is hard to hear oncoming traffic).   Naturally, I cannot help but scan the stretch the where kittens first appeared.  I wonder what happened to their mother, for one thing, although they were not less than 3 months old & she may not have been left with them.  I wonder how someone could have had them in a home (there is NO DOUBT they know the difference between a litter box & a bit of tracked in sand on a concrete floor) & then tossed them.  Even the most aloof of them is a very friendly cat.

I have said before (to everyone who will listen) there was no need to toss them.  Multiple rescues in town would have taken them, as is.  The local humane society shelter had a brief shut down when a cat tested positive for feline leukemia, but the other local groups stepped in & did what they could (it really was brief, no cats in or out for five days I think).  Even crazier, the group No More Homeless Pets spays & neuters for less than $50 an animal, 4 days a week. The group does not even care if you live in the city or even the county or wherever.  If you don't have the cash, call them anyway, there are ways to get it paid for.  They (& any thinking person, really) would rather a dog or cat get spayed/neutered than make more & more. 

The process was a small headache as pick-up & drop-off times are rigid, but this is obviously because they do A LOT of work every day (I was told 35 animals were being dealt with the day we went & I believe it & this was a garden variety Thursday).  The staff is friendly & helpful, & do everything they can to get you in & out in a timely way.  I cannot say enough good things about them, actually.  I am glad they were there when we needed them & have added them to the local NPR station as groups we support with cash donations.