Thursday, January 31, 2013

Currently reading

Ever since I joined Goodreads, I have been taking low-grade flak for the length of my currently reading lists.  The criticisms vary:  "that's a lot of books to be reading all at once", "some of those thave been on that list a while", etc.  Here's the thing; There are ALWAYS going to be 3+ books on that list.

So, I thought I would break it down:   

One book is on the bedside table.  This book is almost always non-fiction although sometimes it is a particularly dense novel (most recently The Casual Vacancy which I did enjoy in the end but was slow to build).  For a few years now I have been making an effort not to read much in bed.  A little bit, but not too much.  To that end I have been limiting myself to certain books, something I can think about after the light goes out or something very detailed that is better in small doses.  Right now that books Georgette Heyer's Regency World.  Last night's chapter was about floor plans of the homes of different social classes.

The second book, always audio, is in the quilting room.  I usually aim for something interesting that doesn't require major concentration.  Serialized fiction is good:  Harry Dresden, Nero Wolfe, Stephanie Plum, that kind of thing.  The last reading was from the Modern Scholar Series.  It was about castles.  Interesting, but when it comes time to wrap it up for the day or the week or whatever I have no trouble walking away.  & if I do have trouble, then that book, or those discs or cassettes, they can always leave the quilting room when I do.

There are also likely to be books I am using, often for a while.  I got a copy of The Healing Art of Sports Massage in a Goodreads giveaway.  It has been on my Currently Reading list more or less since then; I refer to it a lot but I am not comfortable calling it Read until I read the whole thing.  I should probably deal with that one, actually.  Knitting, quilting books can linger, too. 

Last (or not, I admit the pile can get pretty tall) is whatever book is priority.  It might be whatever book my bookclub is reading.  It might be a book from one of the other locales that got upgraded,  It might be de back at the library ASAP & have a long hold list (that's how The Casual Vacancy got upgraded).   If it's audio I can listen while I do whatever I am doing, making dinner, sorting dog toys, whatever.  Regular books (which would not work in the quilting room of course) walk around with me.  I can vacuum & read at the same time.  It isn't the best vacuum job in the world, but seeing as how I vacuum most days (I live in a dog hair manufacturing plant; if I didn't vacuum we wouldn't be able to inhale deeply...& we wouldn't want to) what I miss today I catch tomorrow.  They can go with me on my errands; I spend plenty of time waiting, at the DR, at the grocery store (yes, I read in line), where ever.

More than one person has asked how I manage to fit in so much reading.  The first part of the answer is I really do fit it in; I do not spend much time without a book.  The second part is all the other things I do not do:  I have never seen an episode of Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, etc.  I have also never seen Dancing with the Stars or American Idol.  You could probably name the top twenty programs any given week & it is unlikely I have seen half of them.  It is unlikely I have seen most of them.  & it is not just garbage-tv; I have never seen Downton Abbey (I know, I need to amend that).  I almost never watch football (& even when I do, I am mostly just sitting with A....reading) & I certainly never watch basketball.  No soaps, nothing.  Even while I was sick I mostly listened to audio books.

My goal this year is 125 books.  What's yours?

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Marybeth has read 14 books toward her goal of 125 books.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What else

I realized this morning my blog has been quilt block rich with not much else, so here is the rest (the bulk) of my day:

  • The bluebirds are back.  They are flitting around the faux starling house on the highest post of the round pen, just like last year.  I don't know if this means they have moved in there or of it is just a good place to catch bugs.  They are welcome either way.

  • On the same note, the back yard bird feeders are seeing some action.  We set up a sunflower feeder, a thistle feeder & a wild bird mix feeder (& plan to add a cracked corn feeder) on a four-way thing A got me last year.

  • We had no winter to speak of; no hard freeze so far.  This has meant a lot of work re: weeding because they never died back.  On the flip side, the roses are thriving.

  • Becca (the horse) was diagnosed with Cushings late last year.  Did I ever say?  I don't remember.  Anyhow, she is on 1 mg of peroglide a day & doing much much better.  Last week, she was RUNNING. 

  • Rebecca (the cow) AKA Cowgirl AKA Her Ladyship has become hand trained.  Kinda.  We have a routine in which she gets a treat from me when I walk into the pasture & when I walk out.  This keeps her from crowding me while I am trying to work.  She learned this routine in a SHOCKINGLY brief period of time.  I mean maybe four days.  I can never eat beef again.  It would be like eating dolphin.  Or dog.

  • The kittens are still here, three of them anyhow.  They are just barely kittens now as they are coming up on 1 year old, but they are so much younger than the other two cats I suspect they will be The Kittens for the rest of their lives.  One of them has taken to killing snakes-more on this in another post.

  • I am not yet running like I want to.  I am walking.  I am walking a lot.  I usually bring one of the dogs because since the kittens arrived, the big dogs don't get the backyard time they used.

  • I  am feeling mostly better.  I still have a catch-cough, but that is likely to linger for quite some time.  The DR gave me an inhaler but it makes me feel weird, so I have never used it.  If I have never used it, how do I know how it makes me feel?  It is the portable version of what she gave me in the office to stop my coughing long enough to do an X-ray, among other reasons.   I liked not coughing, but the other side effects were yucky.  It was like being hyper-paranoid but without the paranoia.  I really don't know how else to describe it.

It doesn't sound like much, but it all takes a shocking amount of time.  It doesn't help that I am hardly a ball of fire these days.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Birds encore

I gave another afternoon late last week over to the bird trap block.  I don't know why I have connected so strongly with this idea, but whatever.  & quite by accident I decided to make my blocks all together.  This made it easier to knock off requirements as I went, but I think it has also given them a kind of theme they would not otherwise have. 

First, I looked over all the center pieces I made over a week ago, which was PLENTY.  Predicting I was likely to astray with at least one of them I actually made more than a dozen centers, not just the swap total of nine.  While not a requirement, I had decided to start with a fabric that had the images of birds & bird cages.  In this round I met the one plank should be a different width than the others.  I was working with strips out of my scrap bag, so this was quite easy.  In one case I found a short strip of 1/2-square triangles that matched length-wise with one of the blocks, so I used it. 

Many of these strip scraps were also solid (not read-as-solid but solid-solid) which was one of the requirement, but I didn't use the solid strips for all f them from the start.  So, while it will help with block cohesion, it didn't cross that one off my list. 

This time I got a little bit more organized.  I went through & pulled all the solid strips that were between 2" & 3" wide & realized I had quite a bit of green, in several different medium value shades.  I'm not sure why exactly; I think maybe from a 30s round robin I was part of YEARS ago.  The 30s theme was chosen after sign up or I never would have been part of it.  I have nothing against 30s fabric exactly, but I have a limited liking of teeny-eeny prints.  Depending on how they are arranged on the fabric, they sometimes start to vibrate & make me woozy.  & then the destination for the raffle funds got changed after the raffles began &...well let's just say 30s prints & Machiavellian behavior have been linked for me &now I have a whole host of reasons they make me uncomfortable.

Anyhow, I vaguely remember thinking solids were just as authentic & making my rows from them instead of the bleary-making kittens & ballerinas & flowers upon flowers upon little dots that might be more flowers.  Another possibility is the foundation free workshops I did a few years ago.  People brought their own strips, but were encouraged to trade & at the end of every workshop, there were always leftovers that I swept into my basket.  Whatever the reason, I had a number of solid green-in-many shades scrap strips.

I cut these solid strips into squares, matched them w/ like-sized squares of the bird fabric & other scraps in the same color theme, & made 1/2-square triangles (another requirement- one of the plank rounds needed to be piece.  I suggested 1/2-square triangles, but any pieced plank would be fine).

I had added the 1/2-square triangle round to maybe 4 or 5 blocks when I realized NONE & I mean NONE of my scraps were a large scale print.  That was the last requirement I needed to meet (the small scale print requirement was met over & over again in pretty much everything that was not a solid), but I had nothing large scale.  I briefly thought about calling the bird/bird cage print itself large scale & I am still not sure that would have been a cheating, but just in case I hunted until I found one of those all over not-quite-paisley, not quite floral two-tone things.  I used it in the smaller 1/2-square triangles & got a bit nervous that it was not visible enough to be identified as a large scale print, but lets face it this whole swap thing has an honor system quality to it & I KNOW it is as large a pattern as you will every find, just not very high contrast. 

& that is where I am now.  None of the blocks are done & one of them is hideously misshapen, so I will be pulling that out & seeing what the problem is.  In most cases I just have one more round to go to bring it up to size- easily leap-frogging the at east two rounds requirement -& then I am done.  Hopefully freeing my brain to work on more current projects.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Procrastinators don't have a patron saint...yet

A long time ago, when I had friends who were alternative radio DJs (they are now housewives & investment bankers - go figure),  I got this song stuck in my head.

I should say first that I am not one to be plagued by things like this.  I did once follow James Thurber's direction to say Perth Amboy over & over again until it became meaningless, but this did not take much time as I had to look up Perth Amboy to give it any meaning before I began.  So I said Perth Amboy Perth Amboy Perth Amboy & then I was done.  When Perth Amboy comes up in conversation (which is not often), I giggle for no apparent reason but I'm OKay.  I don't get lost in a vortex of meaningless syllables.  Mostly I automatically resist these kind of brain glitches in general; if you tell me NOT to think of a purple elephant I can say "fine" & then not think of one.  Not even for a moment.

But this song got stuck in my head.  Maybe I should back up.  I had this other friend -  I don't think this one ever met the others, but I swear none of them are imaginary - & she played STUDIO Dead.  Not the meandering live stuff that puts me to sleep but what Garcia et al laid down in the studio that may or may not have served as a jumping off point for whatever it was they played when they were on the road.  She listened to actual Grateful Dead albums; no joke until I met her I had no idea there were albums.  & because she played the albums, because the songs were performed exactly the same over & over (because we were listening to a clean, clear studio performance over & over), I got to know the words.  I would be exaggerating if I said I didn't know there were words, but anyone who has ever been trapped in a room with people listening to Grateful Dead bootlegs would agree it was possible to think the words had no real meaning.  I never thought about it until this moment but I but they could be saying Perth Amboy over & over again & it would all sound pretty much the same.

Among the many Grateful Dead songs I learned the words to was Truckin'.  This is a funny song.  It has one of my favorite lyrics of any song:  I'd like to get some sleep before I travel, but if you've got a warrant, I guess you're gonna come in.  I really didn't mind learning the words.  I enjoy the iambic pentameter at the top of the line & the breakdown that followed.  I could sing them in the shower.  Or not.  As I liked.

Then along came the Pop-o-pies.  What I am trying to say is the Pop-o-pies are like musical herpes, they wrap around your brain stem &amp well, they corrupt what you used to enjoy.   Unfortunately, I had more than one friend who thought they were brilliant (on the other hand, I just learned the LATimes  said they were the worst band in California, so who you gonna believe the LATimes & all their baggage or a former alternative music DJ who married an american auto company engineer & began having babies, no judgement). I included the link to their cover of Truckin' above (use at your own risk) but cannot find the song that drieves me out of my mind:  The Pop O Rap.  Search at your own risk.

Well, I guess I have stalled long enough.  Today's saint is Poppo.  He looks mostly ordinary, except he died of natural causes.  The defining characteristic that caught my eye?  Apparently he was quite disorganized.   Also his name makes my skin crawl for reasons I think I have made more than clear.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A notable first

I occasionally peruse the lists of who was born when, who died when & what happened when for interesting little bits.   I don't even do this so I can blog about it (although sometimes I do); I do it because these little windows can be so interesting to look through. 

Today has quite an obscure gem:  the assignation of the 1st Earl of Moray in 1570.  Who was the 1st Earl of Moray you ask?  Well let me tell you the Tudors had nothing NOTHING on the Stewarts.  In fact, for over the top melodrama, the Stewarts just might take the taco.  Mary, Queen of Scots made one of the more notable exits (on the Tudor's dime no less) by concealing her little dog under her very sober skirts & blood red petticoats.  When the head came off, the dog panicked, charged out & I am guessing scared the crap out of everyone there for the private viewing.  You have to admit it is whole level of planning you just don't see much when it comes to one's own execution. 

The 1st Earl of Moray was one of the legion of James Stewarts so let's just call him Moray-1.  Moray-1 was also one of the legion of illegitimate sons of his royal father (guess what his name was, go on...guess).   Even in the day when a king could father child with a married-woman-not-his-wife & claim him, Moray-1 turned heads.  Not because of his inauspicious origins (they weren't so inauspicious then, you can thank the Victorians for that) but because of his extreme ambition.  Imagine what extreme ambition in an age where rivals knifed each other, blew up each others homes, etc. must have looked like (welcome to the upside of those prudey Victorians).

You can do the reading on Moray-1 if you wish, I am just going to give you the highlights:  despite being big with church reform (among other reforms-that's right these savages were REFORMERS), he was chief adviser to his half-sister, the above mentioned Mary.  He had no respect for her priests, but apparently he had a knack for keeping her out of trouble.  Or at least only in the trouble he wanted her in.  Among the trouble he thought she should avoid:  Lord Darnley.  That is another piece of work you can read up on your own.  Back & forth, back & forth Moray-fled, Darnley maybe killed Rizzio, Moray-1 came back, Darnley escaped being blow up only to be ?strangled? while Moray-1 was out of town.  He lay low through the next incarnation of intrigue & returned when herself abdicated the throne in favor of her infant son, James Stewart.  Guess who got made regent?  Yes, James Stewart, of course, but which one?  If you guessed our man Moray-1 you would be correct.

Things tick along eventfully: raids, betrayals, & so forth for the next three years until....until today in 1570 another guy named James but not Stewart waited in his uncle the Archbishop's house & shot Moray-1 from a window.  & that is the end of Moray-1.

What makes this particular story interesting?  Well, the murder of James Stewart, First Earl of Moray is the first recorded instance of assassination by firearm.   Sweet, huh?  The only thing that would make this anniversary sweeter for me is if it had lined up with Gun Appreciation Day last Saturday, but you cannot have everything.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Getting going

In addition to all the year-end doldrums, & the get out of town for the holidays & then the come back blahs stuff, I have been knocked off my ass by a major respiratory inflammation.  It started as what I now know was influenza B, which is apparently the one to have if you want to get up again with no real long lasting effects so Go Me!

I know what it likely was because about ten days after I started feeling really really sick, my husband started feeling kinda sick.  Then we both went to the doctor.  He tested positive for influenza B; I did not.  But after all that time, the conclusion was I had more or less fought it off.  What still lingered though, was almost worse.

While I do have allergies, they are not-so-much the breathing kind.  Yes, I am allergic to pine pollen & other things that get breathed in & make me sneeze, but the real reason I get allergy shots is insect bites.  If it were just garden air allergies I would be fine with an over the counter, as needed type antihistamine   Because of this, I have very clear lungs for a long term immunology patient, as in crystal clear-I don't think anyone has ever even thought I might have bronchitis before.  Well, I had bronchitis this time.  & the past two weeks have been about treating that, & coping with the symptoms of the treatment& then detoxing.

Which brings us to a week ago Sunday.  It was the last day of my prednisone, a most welcome friend in the beginning, & one I was very glad to see leave when it went.  My skin still hardly feels like my own.  It itches & wiggles & I have bumps where I have never had them before.  & that is the least of the irritants.  After the prednisone I was still so weak I got out of breathe getting up & going to the bathroom.  I broke into a sweat & had to sit down after going for the mail, but I was no longer coughing until I puked, or got so dizzy & fell over & hit my head (yes, that happened -- I know, right?).  My appetite has been so poor that despite this complete inertia, I have actually lost weight since the holidays began (& sure was not on a losing streak as we headed north for christmas), which also explains the lightheadedness.

By mid-week I was walking to the end of the driveway & then the dirt road (a whopping 1/10 of a mile, maybe even a bit more but not much).  I figured I may as well bring one of the dogs, which he has been enjoying as well.  On Sunday we made it almost all the way to the one mile mark before we both were very happy to turn around.  I honestly don't know when I will be back to my 4+ miles of intervals, so I guess that 5k at the end of this month is out of the question.  Now I am looking on to the next one; at this rate it really will be more than a year from when I started before I run my first race.   I'm not sure, but this might be the slowest warm-up ever.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Beginning bird trap building

I have I cannot even count how many swaps going right now & the one with the furthest out deadline is the Birdtrap Swap.  So naturally that is the one I want to work on.  I resisted for a week, finished my own every other month swap blocks for February, started sketching my Rainbow Connection block for March & then I just gave in.

Although it was not a requirement (& still isn't) I wanted to have a bird somewhere in my bird trap.  I decided on a fabric with birds in & out of cages & even a few empty cages.  I fussy cut some birds & bordered them up with what was on the top of the scrap pile.  Some of it was a small print (one requirement), some of it was a solid -not a read-as-solid but an actual solid- (another requirement).  Because I wasn't using a ruler for anything but a straight edge, not one of these even began the same size.  Once they were bordered, courthouse steps style with whatever scrap-strip bubbled to the top of the scrap bin, they were not remotely similar, not square, the centers weren't centered...they were just all different.

The advantage of this is that no matter what comes next, it is a small matter to shave bits off the sides to make the next round work (or to add another border, if that is what it takes but frankly I wanted a pieced row as early as possible.

I dug around in the strip scrap bin (yes, my scraps are sorted by general shape, squares/rectangles versus strips versus irregular post-fussy cut leftovers) & came up with a 2" strip of solid because some but not all of the starting pieces had solid borders & I figured I may as well get them all in the same place as far as meeting requirements goes.  I cut those into 2" squares, found another 2" strip not caring much what it was.  As it happens it is the word BABY over & over again; I have no idea where it came from.  Maybe a binding?. Anyhow, I cut that into squares as well & made rather small 1/2-square triangles for the next round.

& that is as far as I have gotten, more or less.  There is a shrinking pile of 1/2 square triangles, so the next step will be to make another collection of those.  I have one last  fabric requirement to deal with:  a large scale print.  I wish the person organizing the swap had been clearer about what constitutes large scale.  Does the bird/bird cages fabric meet it?  The images are all about 1-3" which is not super large, but the all over print repeats only every 1/3 of a yard or so (less than the outsized 5/8 of a yard, but still big...yes?).  So how do we measure a large scale, by the elements or by the repeat?  Unfortunately,  I don't know which one I meant so I guess I am just gonna let it ride.  & maybe look for a big floral to cover all the bases.

At this moment, the largest of the blocks is approximately 7" by....I'm gonna say more or less 7", although you know that is all just ballpark, right?  So I need another 4", give or take before I am done.  I am putting those more complete blocks aside so I can catch up the others.  Also, I need to answer that whole "what is a large scale print?" question.

I should also mention that the whole time I have been resisting thinking about, then thinking about then working on & now thinking again about these bird trap quilt blocks, I have been unable to get this bird song out of my brain.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Heading home

January is

I am having some trouble getting back into the blogging routine.  I having trouble getting back into the breathing routine, to be honest.  While rumors of pneumonia were exaggerated, I am still on prednisone & still not taking full breathes.  Yesterday I forgot my morning dose of cough medicine by midday was back to the dry hacking cough that made me light headed & ultimately sent me to the doctor last Monday.  As for the blogging routine, well, that has been flying through my fingers for the better part of a year.  I try to sit down & get something down once or twice a week.  Whether or not you want to read it is one thing, but I think it also keeps me from marinating in my own...lets say thoughts.

& so, new years resolutions being in the wind I thought I would resolve to.  You know.  & I thought maybe a few simple runs at regular topics might help.  So here it is:

January is National Mentoring Month.  It is also National Stalking Awareness Month.  Am I the only one to find something a bit off about that combo?  I should say that I have been, maybe still kinda, am a bona fide, on paper, written up in reports & all that sh*t mentor.  I have been a Big Sister since the 90s (she's in her 20s now & while we try to see each other more often, we are pretty much guaranteed to see each other at book club because I have co-opted her into my book club.  Also, she works at the local library, which is handy).  When she was younger, mentoring was a bit like stalking.  & she was an EXCELLENT mentee.  I mean, she never showed any sign ever of not wanting to hang out with me.  I hear those mentees can be surly & testing & she never was.  So stalking & mentoring can seem to go hand in hand.  That's all I have to say on that subject, though, so what else.

January is Get Organized Month.  Right.  NEXT.

Lots of winter foods:  soup& hot tea month.  Also peanut brittle day-the 26th, if you care & just to round things out nicely, California Dried Plum Digestive Month.  I guess they got those bases covered, so lets move on.

Be Kind to Food Servers Month.  Also Bath Safety Day at least in Texas.  International Wayfinding Month. Uh-huh.

For me January is:  Get your head back in the game month.  Get off the couch & baste that quilt month.  Maybe, next week it can be clean that stuff out from the back of the fridge day.  That should segway nicely into buy new food storage containers day right there at the beginning of February.  Okay, I made that one up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bird trap swap, not for the faint of heart

I have had my heart set on making a birdtrap quilt like the one at the Belger Art Center since I first saw it in Maude Wahlman's book Signs & symbols : African images in African-American quiltsI have even made a few passes & I think I have come up with a very broad set of guidelines that will work well for a swap.

Before we begin however, I would encourage everyone who thinks they might be interested to take a look at the quilt I am talking about.   The bird trap quilt was made by Pecolia Warner in the 20th century, but it looks like it could have been in use a hundred years or more ago.  The design is simple, sort of, but there is a lot going on, & not just because it is made of leftovers & scraps.

The basic design is a center piece of some kind & then four sides "built up" in either the traditional log cabin style or courthouse steps style or some combination of the two, made either by wrapping the planks around the center or building out from the center by adding a border to two opposite sides & then the other two sides.  If this is hard to  follow, I think a quick look at the links will clear this up.  Mixed in with the solid planks are pieced planks, most often strips of 1/2-square triangles.  & last but not least, not one of these blocks is perfectly square.

To make our bird trap swap blocks you will need a minimum of four fabrics (& very likely more-remember use those scraps up!) :  one fabric must be an actual solid, one fabric must be a large scale print, one fabric most be a small scale print & the fourth is your choice.  The fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. are also all your choice as well.

You will begin with a center block of not less than 2" square & not more than 4.5" square.  If the center is less than 3", it can be a single solid piece, but if it is 3" or more, it should be pieced.

Next you will add your "planks" to all four sides in whatever order pleases you.  You must have at least two planks on each side, but you may have more.  At least one plank in the completed block should be partially or wholly made of 1/2- square triangle pieces.  Lastly, at least one plank in the completed block should be a different width than the others.  They can all be different, actually, but only one must be.

Finally, your block should be between 10.5"-12.5" by 10.5"-12.5" when finished.  It is entirely possible your block will not be square & that is just fine-neither were any in the inspiration quilt.  The swapped blocks you get back will also be of different shapes & sizes (well not too different, the blocks are that are not square, will certainly be rectangle).  As in the inspiration quilt, you can use your sashing to unify them & pull the whole thing together.

Right now, sign-up is open to as many as want to participate.  Each person should make nine (9) bird trap blocks, keep one & send eight.  If we have nine or more participants, everyone will get a block from a different person.  If we have fewer, the blocks will be shuffled between everyone.  You will certainly get more than one from some people BUT as the block itself is so scrappy this should not be an issue.

Blocks are due the last Saturday in November, November 30, 2013.  You can sign up either in the comments here or in the Facebook Quilt Block Swap group.