Sunday, September 29, 2013

Baby boomer

block lotto 2013 SEPTToday was the last full day you can get your September Block Lotto blocks posted in time for the drawing.  This month I made a whopping ONE block.  I tried to make two, I thought I would make four (I cut the heads for four) but in the end only one really passed muster.

The block had, for me, limited appeal.  I liked the look of it, but could not imagine what I would do with piles of this guy.  Lucky for me, there is no chance I might win.

The appealing part was thinking of ways to dress him...her.  Whomever.  Yes, I admit I never got to that part, but in my head I imagined cropped tops & knee high boots (a go-go boomer!).  Alas I ran afoul of the head.  It took three tries to get it right; I still don't know what I was doing wrong. 

After I made the first, I made the second & lined them up &...&....& their hands didn't meet.  For reasons I lost interest in discovering I had somehow made the first one slightly less than 1/4" too small, all around.  I would never have caught it if I hadn't made the next one exactly right (again, no idea how) & seen that somehow I had a bigger (better) boomer. 

My plan is to toss the baby boomer into the envelope with the other guy as a free gift with win.  Maybe it will make a good ?label? for the back.  There is no putting it in a row with right-sized ones though, the little off-ness is un-missable. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What would Louis do? OR World Rabies Day

Late last year I read a book about rabies.  & then became convinced I had rabies, despite not being bitten nor my dogs having been (to my knowledge) bitten or anyone showing any sign of biting anyone else.  I was just that sure.  The book was Rabid  A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik & Monica Murphy

After a few weeks of vague pre-rabies symptoms & no other signs that I had even been exposed to the disease, I began to accept that I was probably going to make it.  Then I quite unexpectedly came down with what later turned out to be the flu despite having been religious in getting my annual flu shot for the better part of a decade.  Did you know that the symptoms of the flu & the pre-hydrophobia symptoms of rabies are exactly the same?  Then I became not-hysterical but alert to the possibility that my craziness might actually be accurate.

As it happens, I didn't have rabies (I know you are shocked).  So my next step was to become a complete rabies junkie.  Briefly.  Because my life is a series of all-consuming obsessions of short duration.

One of the things I learned during my rabid enthusiasm is that TODAY is World Rabies Day.  Not coincidentally, it is also Louis Pasteur's death day.  I thought he was just a milk guy.  Just a milk guy, like any of us will ever do anything with a fraction of the impact on an even smaller fraction of human lives.  But he was way-more than the milk guy; I think you could make an argument for his more important contribution being the rabies vaccine.  More important to me anyhow:  I have not had a glass of milk in years & pretty much only eat cooked dairy products anyhow.  But I am typing this with three formerly stray dogs on the couch with me. 

Lastly, for you vampyre aficionados, the author offer a teaser into the origin of vampyre legends. Because vampyres are not real.  You know that, right? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First world problems

I have hinted at some health problems for Chewba, our German Shepherd.  Without going into too much detail, she had a dental.  While having her teeth cleaned since she was sedated anyhow, we did some joint X-rays.  The results were not good, but not entirely unexpected. 

What was unexpected as a lesion at the back of her throat, which turns out to be....something you almost never see in dogs but the operative word is auto-immune.

& lately she has been having the worst-ever, even for her, allergic response to the world around her.  To be even briefer:  her skin is inflamed all the time, even with a monster doses of Benadryl, which does little (I assume, maybe it would be way-way worse without it what do I know), but does make her drowsy enough to sleep through it & stop scratching herself, creating what I long suspected was a vicious cycle.

So, we have antibiotics, three pills twice a day for six pills a day for the next four weeks.  We have medicated wipes for her exposed skin more or less every time she goes out until she doesn't seem to be so rashy. 

& we have a new waterbed for the dog because she is so overheated all the time she is sleeping on the hard cold tile which she really should not do with her elbows & hips the way they are.  A waterbed she is not entirely sure she likes, although she is willing to lie down next to it.

Yes, we have first world problems. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Elephant Appreciation Day

So it turns out, Sunday September 22 was International Elephant Appreciation Day.  I already had the Madeleine L'Engle post queued for the first day of banned books week, so I kinda missed it, but not in real life.

In real life, we went to see the ELEPHANTS!!!!!  First I had no idea there was an elephant sanctuary just one town over & I had no idea that they pretty much only open to the public on Elephant Appreciation Day & I found this out the Friday before so:

So on Elephant Appreciation Day I was indeed, appreciating elephants.  Not since the baby elephant followed the mama elephant into the water feature at the Jacksonville Zoo & then stood there, under water with his baby elephant trunk sticking out like a periscope have I been so elephantly appreciative. 

The event itself was...meager.  The elephants were wonderful, as were the elephant people but the promotion had been slim (also it was drizzly) so there was no crowd.  This was good for us but not great for them.  One of the elephant people told us they opened for Elephant Appreciation Day for the first time last year, expecting 500 people they got 1,500.  This year they maybe could have managed 1,500 but I doubt they got 500.  Just as well because the volunteers in charge of parking nearly caused two accidents while we ere pulling in.  Considering we were the only people pulling in & only two other vehicles were in motion, this was impressive in its own way. 

Yes, we went to see the elephant(s), in the rain, still worth it.  Also the whole wind-up reminded me of a book from last year's bookclub:  Stewart O'Nan's  A Prayer for the Dying.  His narrator talks about "seeing the elephant".  & wholly unrelated to elephants is himself confronted with what he believes is his duty to his fellow men & his god, & what happens when these responsibilities meet mother nature.  Good book.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What would Madeleine do?

I read A Wrinkle In Time at the normal age people do.  I don't remember exactly how old I was but I was probably just a bit younger than Meg Murry. I was not a science fiction loving kid, although most of my friends were.  It didn't matter.  A Wrinkle In Time was, at the time, the best most important book ever written.

I am not sure where I heard it; I am not sure it is true but I think it is: Madeleine L'Engle wrote A Wrinkle In Time as her mother was dieing.  Of cancer.  AWIT was her reconciling that with her own beliefs in a merciful god, which is according to her, one of her core beliefs.  Alas, as is all too often the case, there are people who, when talking about freedom of religion mean freedom of THEIR religion.  It never means freedom for any other religion or, god forbid freedom from religion.  But, as so often happens, I digress.

Recently, the Library of Congress opened an exhibit called Books That Shaped America.  The banned books people went through the list of country shaping books & pointed out those that had been or were even currently banned somewhere in America.  As I type this I have not yet looked at this list but I am guessing To Kill A Mockingbird & Huckleberry Finn are on that list.  Lets go check.

Yep, both are there along with a slew of others that I would have to agree made us what we are.  For better or worse.  This year I will, as I do every year, observe banned books week by reading a banned book.  Thanks to Senator Holtzclaw of Alabama Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye has risen to the top of the pile.  That's right, if you weren't trying to ban it, I would not be reading it & writing about reading it. 

Which brings me to another observation: what is it with white conservatives in southern American states (perhaps I should describe them as former slave states) wanting to ban books written by black women describing experiences that actually happened to black women in southern American states?  I guess it is kinda hard to stand there saying how things were better in the good ole days & how government interference ruined all that when there is a Nobel Laureate saying better for you maybe....except for the rapes, the beatings, the lynchings & the murders. 

My childhood was not one of slavery, incest, etc.; it was a rather quiet life.  I am the oldest.  After me came a brother who was widely regarded as very intelligent but a bit odd & a brother & a sister who were musical prodigies, very active socially.  Have I mentioned how much I loved A Wrinkle in Time?  I am so glad that when confronted with the ordinary horror most of us will face, that is what Madeleine did.  She died, earlier this month in 2007, but I thought maybe today, the first day of Banned Books Week 2014 would be a better place for this post.

Friday, September 20, 2013

52 Photos Project: In My Hands

While I am not a mega-Christmas person, I often send gifts around that time of year which means this time of year is when I really have to get the lead out.  I will have this pile (of five & another almost as big) of unfinished quilts on my hands if I cannot manage to get them basted & In My Hands soon!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Home for the Holidays

A few weeks ago I floated an idea in the Quilt Block Swap group on Facebook & the response was mostly positive (it was unlikely to be negative as even if a person said they were not interested, that was helpful in gauging average interest/disinterest & since participation is never mandatory...).  Anyway.

A few weeks ago I started toying with the idea of a holiday-themed quilt block swap.  Generally I hate these.  I am not shy about telling people why-as a person who observes none of the religious holidays that have gone mainstream here in the US, except maybe Christmas & that one just in a look-at-the-pretty-lights kind of way, imagine how disappointed I was when I participated in a large swap themed SPRING & got nothing but indisputably Easter blocks.  Yes, yes Easter does happen in Spring, but so do so many other things.  & while a nice flower basket block or a some birds (Bird Trap!) would work in an Easter quilt, there is nothing a person who does not celebrate Easter can do with a blocks of crosses & embroidered "Bathed in the Blood of the Lamb".  Except donate it to a Christian quilting circle.  Which is what I did.

So.  There I was thinking how to make a holiday block swap while not feeling like I am cutting people out, either because they didn't want a quilt centered around a holiday they don't celebrate OR because they would rather make a quilt about something they do celebrate & then it came to me:  what about a neighborhood?  This epiphany was a long time coming.  The pieces have been there, rolling around for a while, but when Block Lotto made I-SPY houses earlier this summer is all rolled together:  I can decorate my own house to celebrate whatever I want & so can my neighbor.  The result will be something like the town I grew up in:  Christmas trees & menorahs, sometimes both in the windows of the houses.  Or it might look like the neighborhood we drive thru to get home now, where one house has a HUGE crèche in the front...pasture & a giant wooden sign that says "Jesus is the reason for the season" & the house across the street has an equally large sign that says "Reason for the season: Axial Tilt".  It's a fun town.  & the point is, it is your house, celebrate what you want & realize the house next door will do the same.  Or not, as holiday neutral, just seasonal houses are also acceptable.

Enough about that, here are the rules:
  • The complete unfinished block should be 10.5" by 10.5.  Please make sure decorative elements are AT LEAST 1/2 inch away from the outside border, so nothing gets chopped when the blocks are sewn together.  Please limit decorative elements to those that can be easily machine washed.  In other words, no paints or that kind of thing.  Applique or embroidery should be fine so long as it is stable & washable (so no silk ribbon embroidery, etc.).
  • Each house should consist of a façade & at least one glimpse inside, either via window or door or what-have-you.  The house must have an exterior of some kind. You can put your house at the bottom of your block & make the background all sky or you can put a strip of lawn at the front with the background all garden, as you please.
  • Your house does not have to be a house, it can be any building you might see in a neighborhood:  a hospital, a fire station, an apartment building OR it could be any house, anywhere:  a teepee or yurt, a houseboat.  Any shelter of any kind in any landscape in which a person might voluntarily or otherwise spend a holiday.   Yes, this could include mangers.  Or prisons. Or luxury hotels.
  • Your house should have a reference to some holiday or event in DECEMBER, somewhere on earth.  Christmas: yes, Chanukah: yes, Kwanzaa: yes, Solstice: yes, New Years Eve: yes... BUT there are also many other celebrations, observations & anniversaries in December.  Here in the US, there is anniversary of the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts, the Trail of Tears, the 13th amendment was ratified, prohibition ended, there is Pearl Harbor Day, the actual original Boston Tea Party took place in December & so on.  Outside the US we have the Battle of the Bulge, Nobel prizes are awarded, Boxing Day, Feast of Stephen, National Day of Reconciliation in South Africa, the Emperor's birthday in Japan, the first day of summer in some places, the first day of winter in all the others.  & this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Your house is your house, decorate (or not) to celebrate what you will so long as it takes place in DECEMBER.
  • We are swapping in sets of FIVE.  You should make SIX blocks, keep one & send FIVE.  All of your blocks of one set should be roughly the same.  Because this is free-form-ish, there are likely to be differences, but they should all represent the same holiday(s) & be constructed on more or less along the same idea.  If you make one trailer home celebrating Christmas in the tropics, you should make SIX trailer homes celebrating Christmas in the tropics.
  • I am asking EVERYONE to pin a slip of paper or use a post-it note (please no staples!) that has their name & the holiday being observed.  Like "Beth Jones, Summer Solstice" or "Mary Smith, Winter Solstice".  These should be affixed to the block in some way (making teeny post-it notes ideal) as they will go with your block to the person who receives your block. 
  • I will create a sign-up for ten people, & after that is full, add spaces for the next ten amp; so on.  You can sign up more than once, but only once in each group of ten.  Each of your block sets should be different; either the building or the landscape or the holiday should be different from your previous set.  I will leave sign-up open until the last day of JUNE 2014, so there is no reason to rush.  In fact, it is my hope that people will sign-up, complete a set, only if they get inspired sign-up & complete a 2nd set.
& finally a few ideas:

This Chanukah house from the October 2010 Funky Town post would need something more like land underneath &/or sky in the background (it could sit at the bottom of the block & have just sky), but otherwise works fine.  It is NOT my entry into this swap, it has long since gone to a different home, but it should give you an idea. 

The I-SPY house blocks I made for Block Lotto would need to be bigger.  & maybe have some holiday or anti-holiday themed window content, but they would also work.  Keep in mind, it is not the house (or building) that needs to be bigger, it is the block.  You can make a smaller house & do most of your December stuff on the outside.  Another place for ideas might be the Block Lotto I-SPY neighborhood that coalesced the whole thing for me. 

There is always the traditional house quilt block.  This one is a bit big, but you could size it down.  Or tease out the smaller house elements from this one.  I really like the outside trees in this block.  Or just Google/Bing whatever & look at other whole neighborhoods.

Sign up is required for this swap & this being managed over in the Quilt Block Swap group on Facebook,  just ask to join. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

52 Photos Project: Bright

It's Bright: "Vivid. Sparkly. Reflective. Color. *Bright*" over at 52 Photos Project this week.  & last week I posted the brightest quilt in my workbasket

That's OKay.  I live in the Land of Flowers after all.  There are plenty of bright, heavy blossoms hanging out all over the place.  Well actually, there isn't.  There pretty much never is, this time of year.

With one exception.  Late summer brings the coral vine.  It enjoys a long, hot, wet incubation & right around the middle of August it explodes.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Yes, we have no bananas

Actually, we have lots of bananas.  Seven blossoms worth.  & the first set are just starting to ripen.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

People I have stalked

I have been a bit too quilts-&-dog centric in my blogging lately, so I thought I would clear the decks with another one of my lists.  I make lists & collect them, run them over while I get my teeth cleaned...  One of my oldest yet shortest lists is women who made their ex-husbands' last names famous (Susan Sarandon, Dorothy Parker...there are others I just cannot think of them right now).  Last night when I couldn't sleep I tried to remember everyone I have ever stalked.

A few years ago, my mom & I attended a Writing the Region conference/workshop & there I discovered Rita Ciresi. She was actually teaching a workshop that I had not signed up for but I was so dazzled by her dinner conversation that I followed her into the ladies room (& would have gone into the stall) to ask her if I could switch from the workshop I was signed up for to hers. She so completely did not care, she started to crouch to pee while answering me "yeah, sure" when it became clear I was not leaving without an answer. I have been in love ever since.

I do not know what made me pick up the book That Dorky Homemade Look; I am not much for essays about things I do (except gardening or cooking & there damn well better be specific instruction for a specific task somewhere in the essay).  I also do not understand books about music or books about sports. But anyway, maybe it was the word "dorky". I like "dorky". I like "dorky" as much as I hate "tunes". You are not "playing tunes", you are listening to electronically captured reproductions of someone else's work--get over yourself.   Anyway, I bought the book & later the sequel, I paid full price (people who know me are gasping) & was happy to do it.  I have been cyber-stalking Lisa Boyer ever since. I would like to stalk her in person but she lives in Hawai'i & neither one of us likes to fly.  I have been to Hawai'i but I don't think I was on her island.  Now that I think about it, a real stalker would know that wouldn't she?

I have been loosely stalking Van Halen for more than three decades. Once or twice a year I will google one of them just to see what is new. I have lost or thrown away all my old Tiger Beats with David Lee Roth (yes, I am that old) & I am OKay with that. Still every so often I just gotta see them.   Luckily the internet has been invented so I do not have to actually find a concert near me.

People I have never stalked but everyone else seems to include:
  • Oprah Winfrey -I admire her, but I am just not all that interested in what anyone else has to say (funny that, hmmm);
  • Madonna - I do not get it, I never did. I am neither offended nor enchanted. I am Madonna-neutral.  On the other hand I might consider stalking Gwen Stefani if only for her responses every time some one suggests she (Madonna) says that she (Gwen Stefani) is really just a rip-off of her (Madonna);
  • Martha Stewart - while I am not Martha-neutral exactly. I am Martha-ambivalent;
  • OJ Simpson - this is not in response to media overload & it never was, I have declared myself an OJ free zone since day one. I did not watch the trial, I did not watch the white vehicle (SUV, right?) from the chopper, I do not care what he got away with.  He was found not guilty & that works for me.  If he was later found guilty of something else (he was, right?), that works for me too.  Then earlier this year I read (listened to) another one of those Modern Scholars things:  Alan Dershowitz reviewing pivotal cases of the 20th century & I found the whole OJ section fascinating.  It's a pretty good lecture series, all around. But I have no desire to write OJ in prison or anything.
  • Any Kardashian, ever - seriously, what is that about?
  • Ex-boyfriends - I googled one, once, just because. & when I found his e-mail address on the first try, I e-mailed him. We have been very distantly in touch ever since, but that is not stalking is it?  I mean, I'm not even sure how many kids he has. Although I am pretty sure he does have more than one.

Friday, September 6, 2013

52 Photos Project: At the End of the Day

Lola is settling in.  She has bonded very closely to Lilly.  Maybe a little too closely for Lilly's taste.  My camera is full of pictures of Lilly snoozing in her favorite bucket bed & Lola snoozing on top of her.  In the evening, we park ourselves in front of the tv & generally Lola snoozes on top of A but if he gets up for any reason other than a trip to the kitchen (in which case everybody follows him), she moves to the other end of the couch & squeezes in with Lilly.  & then settles down for a nice cozy nap.  This is what happens here, at the end of the day

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor rich Labor Day

Things have been a little quilt heavy here, at least you would think so from the blog posts.  The reality is most of our time has been spent outside.  We have had a very rainy rainy season (YAY) so there has been a lot happening out there & none of it has had anything to do with wildfires (YAY YAY).

This weekend we went grape picking at Loftus Family Farm.  We try to do this every year, but this year the grapes were bit behind schedule.  All this rain is good, but they need sun, too, to ripen.  Mr. Loftus told us that on Saturday 900 pounds of pick-your-own muscadine were weighed & sold.  We came home with 10+ pounds of our own.  I brought about a third of them over to W*****.  She is doing OKay with the radiation but she is so thin! & I know she loves them.

I also brought her some cuttings from the Reve d'Or which is going gangbusters up the live oak tree, probably because of the rain & being up high in rich well-drained compost.  This is the second set of cutting I have done for her.  The first set got so slammed with the rain, they flooded & never took root.  She will make a better rose-sitter than I ever was & if they all make it (& really they should) she will 14 tiny little rose bushes to plant along her fence.

Michael Faraday went squirrel chasing (nothing new there) up the banana tree (uhm...OKay) & took down the stalk with the closest-to-ripe bunch.  We have had seven banana blossoms this year (I can stop talking about the rain right?).  Those stalks are quite sturdy but Mr. Faraday is no lightweight.  Since they have already started to turn yellow, A cut the stalk & it is hanging from a rope tied to the covered walkway between the house & the garage.  We are hoping this will approximate the light it would have gotten in the banana thicket.  The blossom still had some petals, so I brought it over to W***** with the rose cuttings & the grapes.

So you see, it is not all quilting-quilting-quilting.  Of course, with all the rain I get a chunk of time inside to do something pick-up-put-down, like bind a quilt or...  No more about quilts or rain, for a few days at least.  I promise. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Rainbow wind down

This year in the Facebook Quilt Bock Swap group, we have had an every other month Rainbow Connection block swap.  It does require a sign-up; it was the only way to guarantee only one of each red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple.  There have been some bumps which were more or less to be expected (you can expect them & still not be able to prevent them), but mostly it has been successful.  It is also losing popularity; not completely there are still people interested, but filling a month takes a little longer each time & I don't feel bad making January 2014, the 6th Rainbow Connection the LAST Rainbow Connection.

The Rainbow Connection swap came out of a couple of different ideas.  While we have had long-term swaps before there was always a bump in group membership following one of the special sign-up swaps & the new members were often disappointed as they had joined hoping to participate in the swap that just ended.  That it was all over was never happy news.  & I thought a more limited swap (6 people MAX), along a single theme but year round might better. 

Then there were the beginners.  There are more people who think of themselves as beginner quilters every year & they come in all shapes & sizes & skill levels.  I can think of two regular swappers who describe themselves as beginners who have more years quilting under their belt than I do.  & I don't mean on a calendar, I mean in front of the machine, the ironing board, the cutting table.  How to keep those self-describe beginners from getting bored while still making a space for the person who started last month?  We still have the year-long more advanced swap, & I think having the Rainbow Connection has meant I could go completely off-the-wall with that one (insert Bird Trap reference here), but that is a good&bad thing.  Unless someone wanted to travel down that rather sketchy road, the beginner swap was the only place to be.  So it had to be either very rigid or quite flexible to keep everyone on the same page.  So many questions!

The question no one has ever asked is "Why rainbows?"  Don't worry, I am prepared to answer it. 

I had for a while been looking at the traditional block Rolling Stone, trying to come up with a way to rainbowify it for one of our standing every-other-month.  I tried & tried to fit six colors into four corners, four side strips & a single center square.  You don't have to tell me that won't work, I can see that NOW.


When I am in block swap block picking mode, I generally make the blocks a few times.  It helps with the technical writing, the How-to part & also I can decide whether I think it is drop dead beginner, not new beginner, easier than it looks or just as complicated as it looks.  We don't do anything really advanced because people just don't want to swap a block it took them a weekend to make. 

So I started making Rolling Stone blocks in different colors of the color wheel that I happened to have in the scrap basket.  & the original version of this quilt was born.  Right around the same time I was approached about a fundraiser for a GLBT event & I thought a rainbow quilt ought to fit nicely.  I sent the top off to be quilted & never saw it again except in the background of a group photo including the friend who asked me if I could contribute to their silent auction.  I liked that top so much, I casually started making another set for myself.  & since it was spread out over years, I toyed with changing the blocks this time around, mixing them up sampler-wise.  I didn't of course, but there it was, the answer to all the questions about the Rainbow Swap:  How to keep it interesting for a year (ask for block-of choice, no repeating the same block even if you sign up for more than one month), how to make sure the blocs all work together (color + white & nothing else & no requesting the same color you have requested before).

The result has been big, high contrast, graphic blocks that can work together in a quilt or a fabric book or whatever.  Over at Block Lotto, the question du jour or rather du month?  des mois?  My French is not great.  Also there is no question.  Let's try that again.  Block Lotto is looking for blogs about color.  This is mine about how I picked those colors for that swap.

& in the way these things go, last week I came up with a way to make a ROYGB & P prism-type block.  Next year, I suppose.