Monday, May 31, 2010

Planning vs. Overplanning

It’s time for another Good Idea, Bad Idea. Good Idea: planning a project. Bad Idea: overplanning a project to the point you no longer want to have anything to do with it.

I like to plan and have the ability to overplan something so much I never actually get to following through with the plan, aka, producing something from it. Sometimes I think it is a sickness that I have to go through every possible scenario in my head of What Ifs and Thens that come time to start I feel mentally exhausted. I think that is one reason I rarely do test runs for my cakes, even though that would be totally beneficial, with the exception of my sister’s wedding cake, from which I did three different tests to plot out design feasibility due to the intricate scrollwork design.

For the most part I’ve tried to get away from planning projects to prevent overplanning them and instead make lists of what needs to be purchased or used to complete said project and maybe a sketch. Anything more than that and my brain goes into research mode and then there are days, weeks, even months of looking for everything similar to what I want to do, which in turn overwhelms me and turns me off from the project. That reminds me, I need to start making more puppets…

So, take the quilt I’ve been working on lately. I don’t think I’ve spent this long on a quilt ever. Then again, I’ve only made baby blanket-sized quilts, most of which I have made in an afternoon from start to finish and I just admitted that to all the parents who received them for their little ones. I guess part of me is taking my time on this one because it is kind of like a test run so to speak where I am both making it for a throw in the living room and to test out my sewing machine’s capabilities for future quilts. Basically finding out what I can and cannot do with this machine, as well as learning what I should and shouldn’t do while quilting, such as when your gut tells you to start quilting in the middle and work your way out don’t try to convince yourself that sewing the four edges together first is a better way because it most certainly is not.

Okay, so I guess the real question is what should a plan resemble? That varies from person to person. Some people research like crazy and have a multitude of resources they use to craft their project and are able to look past the vast amount of information inundation while others can barely make a rough idea of what they need to complete the project and they’re overwhelmed. For me, a list of ingredients and basic instructions along with a rough sketch of what the end result will look like and being okay with any last minute changes during actual construction works best for me. I’ve used the term ingredients here because pretty much every project I tackle seems to be easier to figure out if I plan it out like a recipe, and from the success of the Moda Bake Shop, I’m apparently not alone.

I guess the moral of the story is keep your plans simple and allow for happy accidents and you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and headaches and a few of those debilitating eye pains that tend to happen too in situations like this. Eventually you’ll work yourself into being able to accomplish those more difficult tasks with ease due to practice and experience.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Independent Fabric Stores

Sometimes spur of the moment shopping can be a good thing. On the other hand there is trying to figure out what to do with spur-of-the-moment purchases.

While our friends little girl’s Birthday Brunch was coming to an end, it was apparently decided those of us crafty folk were going to a fabric shop in Battle Ground. I had a cake to deliver in a couple hours so there were a few trepidations on my part, but not enough to stop me from going anyway. My partner decided to stay with the husbands and I went with the wives and if I hear one crack about it…

So since the other two had a few too many mimosas with brunch, I drove to a little shop called Country Manor. Or so I thought it was a little shop. The space is pretty large and wherever there is room there is fabric, either on shelves or the floor if the shelf space is full. While the clearance room was a little overwhelming trying to find anything as it wasn’t really laid out with a plan of any sort, or at least none that the analytical part of my brain could identify, there was so much to choose from that it kind of made it like a treasure hunt.

The rest of the shop had an order, usually by brand and designer and/or line. Seeing the wide selection of Moda Solids made me drool and I wish I would’ve gotten a couple yards to work into a few projects, or maybe some of the lightly patterned monochromes for a little interest. Ah, this tight little shop filled with just about every fabric line imaginable was like a dream for me. And yes, they had the precuts I so adore in Charms, Honey Buns, Jelly Rolls and Layer Cakes. I didn’t find the Layer Cakes until I was about to check out, but as I was looking over the Jelly Rolls I instantly picked one up that I liked and was perusing the rest when another caught my eye and I swapped them. Funnily it was also by the same designer who did the line for the quilt I am currently working on, but that shouldn’t be too surprising that I would like other works by her as her eye for color coordinating are amazingly similar to my own tastes. It was fall-like and I thought it would make a nice autumn throw.

As I was going through the plethora of Charms I saw one called Figgy Pudding which looked incredibly fun and wintery and would go with our Christmas décor well, so I grabbed one. I then decided I needed two so I could make a throw with alternating squares. What those alternating squares will be I don’t know… maybe I’ll have to pick up a couple more Charms or may get the Layer Cake and alternate simple Charms 4-patches with the larger Layer Cake squares. Hey, I didn’t say I wanted to get too creative with it, I just really like the pattern. But that is at least three quilts away before starting it, so we’ll see where I go when I start it. Besides, I really want to make a few for either my Etsy shop or a Holiday Bazaar I’ll probably be doing this winter at our church and maybe both if I get rambitious. Of course, if I need to get more fabric, I’ve got a more local place to go and some good friends who will join me and offer their expert advice.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rain

Living in the Northwest, rain is a pretty common occurrence. I love the rain, but even I am getting tired of the incessant wetness we’ve had this spring.

I really shouldn’t complain about the horrendous amount of rain we’ve been getting lately, as our reservoir levels are all full now which hasn’t happened in years, but seriously this is getting ridiculous. Even on days the weather forecasters predict to be nice turn out to have torrential downpours and adds another couple inches of total rainfall to the month.

The only plus side is the gardens seem to be enjoying the massive amount of nutrient rich watering, but alas, the weeds have gone rampant as well. Our grass is soggy and is getting too tall. There are pools around the gutter downspout runoff diverters and I’m quite afraid to look in the crawl space of the house for fear that it is a wading pool down there now.

Oh, how I long for the summery days of winter we had so many months ago! Dramatic? Yes. True? Also a resounding yes. Funnily, I don’t even care if the sun comes out, I just want to be able to go outside so I can clean out the chicken coop and weed the vegetable garden without getting drenched and weighed down from the rain.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cleaning out the Closet

Do you ever look into your closet or wardrobe and think to yourself when the last time was that you wore a particular article of clothing? If a date from this century doesn’t pop into your head, it may be time for a trip to Goodwill.

After we installed a new closet system, one that allowed for our clothes to all fit into the closet that is, we probably tossed out a good third of our clothes that we no longer wore into two piles; donate and garbage. If it was in fair condition it went into the donate pile and if there were holes and tattered edges it went into the toss pile… except for a couple of my old button up shirts that I really liked the fabrics and plan on cutting them up to make a quilt out of.

Don’t underestimate a second life for some of your clothes. If it is still wearable then donate it or have a garage sale for someone else to get some use out of. However, for the holey jeans, khakis and even screen tees there is room for upcycling. I don’t know why but just writing that last sentence made me finally think of a good use for the many, many, many old screen tees I have. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it work and put them in my Etsy shop assuming I can find the courage to let them go.

When Cory was in Closetland
“Let my screen tees go!”

Okay, so you’ve gone through and cleaned out your closet and yet another six months or a year has gone by and that means it is time to rethink what you kept. I like to clean out our closet's old clothing in June and January for the simple reason that in June if there were any winter clothes not worn they can be tossed, and January the same for summer garments. I will freely admit that this is much easier said than done. Ever since I was a young warthog I’ve loved screen tees and probably have never intentionally thrown any of them away. I’m still trying to figure out what happened to my Prince concert T-shirt my stepmom brought back for me when she saw him in concert back in 1989 in Atlanta, Georgia, but I have a feeling that if it isn’t in my box of school stuff (freely admitting my pack-rattiness here by stating that I have every piece of homework from sixth grade up in a box, along with that year’s binder or… gasp… Trapper Keeper) then it must have gotten tossed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but had we gone to the 80s prom a couple weeks ago this would have been a perfect shirt to wear.

Screen tees are the only exception I’ve allowed myself and sadly since I didn’t wear any of my plaid flannel shirts this last winter they will have to go. Considering they would now be considered “VINTAGE” and early representations of the “Grunge Rock Era” that so defined my middle and high school days it’ll be sad to let them go. But alas, they are taking up space and unless I suddenly get the urge to wear plaid flannel again… uh oh, I think my brain is telling me it is time for a revival. Hmmm, maybe I could keep a few around, you know, just in case.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quilting in-the-Ditch

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really quilted before. After what I just started, I may decide not to ever again.

So I figured if I was going to make a quilt, I’d actually, you know, try to quilt it. Most every blanket I’ve done has just been tied, however most every blanket I’ve done have also been for babies and are much smaller. Something tells me I should have figured on using that size to test out my machine quilting skills.

Anyway, I finished piecing the top of my quilt with the framed 9-patches and alternating square border. I then laid it over thin cotton batting, my favorite both for ease of use and look it gives after washing, and pinned it into place, cutting the excess with a two inch border around the entire quilt. After that I put on my backing, which for this I’m using the same natural cotton muslin as I used as a filler for the front (what can I say, I love the look of natural muslin) and added yet another two inch border out from the batting after pinning it all together.


I agonized over which type of quilting I should do for this project and in the end decided that it would either be straight lines between each adjoining seam or in-the-ditch in the seams themselves. To really make the colorful squares pop, I chose in-the-ditch. Before I started quilting I carefully stitched up any areas that weren’t properly sewn together or had begun to come loose. This happens unfortunately and is much easier to repair before you start quilting then after. I also embroidered my name and date-year on the back corner just for the heck of it.


Now, for some reason in my head I was thinking it would be a good idea to quilt a frame around the entire edge of the quilt first and work my way from various angles. This was a horrible idea and I must protest if you are thinking of doing the same. My logic was that it would help to keep everything in place, but in reality it just created a major issue with bunching towards the end of each area I was quilting. What I would suggest instead is work from the center in one direction, smooth out the adjacent area, and continue before turning it 90 degrees and repeating the process. I’m not too worried about this particular quilt because it is just for us to use, but if I were to put it in my Etsy shop I’d have to put it in the Ghetto category or maybe Totally Amateurish category. Hey, crafting is a trial and error learning practice, is it not? Hopefully I can salvage the rest of this quilt before the whole thing goes awry.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Cupboard Less Opened

Six cupboards diverged in a small kitchen
     And sorry I could not open all…
Especially that one above the refrigerator

Robert Frost would be so proud. Okay, so, here’s the deal. I decided to replace the hinge on the broken cupboard above the stove that gets used multiple times a day with the one above the refrigerator which I thought hadn’t been opened in about a year. Turns out not only was that estimate off, but also the contents of the cupboard itself too. Apparently we did get rid of the two sets of extra dishes we had stored in there, probably a garage sale or something, and it’s been years since we had one of those. What is currently residing is a lot of old serving plates and our plastic picnic plates, as well as a margarita set of glasses and a pitcher. But more frightening than anything is the half bottle of rum lying in there along with three unopened drink mixes. This made me realize that it has been many years since this cupboard was opened because since we got our shelving unit in the kitchen four years ago our alcohol has been stored on the top in a cocktail tray.

I laughed a hearty laugh, mostly at the bottle of Monarch Rum, a brand I have never even drank which means that it was from before I started drinking, which furthermore means is over five years old. I nearly vomited at the crustified particles that had sunk to the bottom of the drink mixes, but was too horrified to touch them and so I left them lying there on their sides next to the margarita glasses.

But, I had a job to do and I needed to do it. The mission was to take one of the hinges off the right door of the cupboard where nobody would notice it missing and put it onto the one above the stove so that it could be hung back up. This was fairly simple, although I did notice that the left cupboard door above the stove was a little bent out of shape and I’m not exactly sure how to go about fixing that short of taking it off and rebending the hinge to make it square again, which of course I haven’t done yet but will need to do in the near future.

Now a logical person after hanging the door back up and knowing full well that there was stuff that needed to be thrown away in the other cupboard would have taken out said stuff and tossed it. I am not that person. Instead I closed the door, put the canvas storage bins back in front of the cabinet and focused instead on being able to open and close the door above the stove without it trying to impale me to death or take out an eye. However, after writing this now I have guilt for not cleaning it out and will probably end up doing so after I post this. Stupid conscience.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Honey-Do Lists

Do you ever wake up and open the cupboard door where the coffee is stored and have the door fly off the hinges and nearly impale you? If not… lucky.

So our kitchen cabinets are old, I mean as old as the house anyway which was built in 1956. Furthermore the hinges are all the original brass hinges with the exception of the ones under the sink which have been replaced at least four times since we moved in. I don’t know, I guess they get a lot of use, or perhaps my kicking them shut and using my foot to open them isn’t the most gentle of things to do.

Well, let’s see, Sunday morning I wake up, shower, get dressed, feed the animals and open the cabinet to get the coffee canister and filters and the top hinge had apparently been compromised because the door almost took out an eye. I like my eyes and would hate for anything to happen to them. So what would the next logical step be? Remove the cabinet before it takes out someone else’s eye? You’d think, but instead I made my coffee, put it back into the cabinet and carefully propped the door back up and made sure the little magnet (also over fifty years old) secured it into place. Monday morning was a repeat of nearly taking out an eye, but this time I grabbed a screw driver and took the door off and placed it next to the stove. This made me realize two things: I really do like not being able to see what is behind the cabinet door; I really have to clean out this cabinet yet again.

Then upon further inspection, I believe I do not necessarily have to get a new hinge, but merely take one of the hinges off of one of the cabinet doors above the refrigerator which haven’t been opened in over a year. There isn’t much in there we use anyway, since we don’t entertain nearly enough to need more than four martini glasses, four margarita glasses (both of which work interchangeably), eight cocktail glasses (which also work for both margaritas and martinis), six pub glasses and who knows how many wine and champagne glasses we have in the cupboard we store our glasses and mugs in. The one over the fridge is more of the same, along with two sets of dishes we really should just get rid of. I figure they are short enough that one hinge should in theory be all that is required to keep it in place. If not, I’ll find another at a local hardware store and pray that it will fit in the same place, which has been the main issue with the sink cabinet as is evident in the multitude of holes next to, above and below the current hinges.

Of course, the biggest issue is when I will decide to go ahead and take care of this. Something tells me it’ll be sooner than later as I really hate looking at the nutritional information on the sides of our cereal boxes, especially the one for Cap’n Crunch.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Poor Quilt

Alone lying upon the dining table
     Folded, pressed, pinned
Awaiting the return of gentle hands
     Sew, bind, finish

Okay, so I’ll never be a poet and I am okay with that. However, my neglectful duties to the projects I have started didn’t stop with the gardens, but has also extended to my quilt as well. I’ve started the tiled border on it, which is basically just alternating squares of plain muslin with leftover squares of patterned fabric used in the quilt, as well as pieced scraps to form about half of the squares to complete this border. Hopefully it’ll look as neat in real life as it does in my head.

Sometimes overthinking causes me to question whether or not the decisions I have made will produce the results I intend. Most of the time there are happy accidents, but the fear of disaster is not far from my mind and looms there like a violent storm cloud about to unleash it’s fury. Okay, that may be a little dramatic as I allow the young adult thriller author in me to escape for a second, but this is my first regular sized person quilt and I don’t want to mess it up. I’m not aiming for perfect, just something I’d actually want to use and not stow away in the linen closet or worse, to cover the couch for the dog to sleep on.

Then again I could always think of it as a practice quilt, in which case I could analyze the inner workings of every part of the process to death and use those valuable skills learned and apply them to future quilts. This seems like a good idea, but at the heart is just the procrastinator in me trying to justify my lack of progress.

Alas, I suppose it will be finished when it is finished. I’ve got everything I need to complete the project and maybe I should just sew on the tiled border, another solid border and start quilting it. I just wish I could decide on whether or not to hand quilt the blanket or use the sewing machine or utilize both methods. For now I just want my dining table back.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Neglecting the Gardens

Our gardens have been feeling rather neglected lately. I can’t say I blame them, I mean, after all, I have been.

Between our odd wintry weather and helping a friend out with her garden chores and cake orders I haven’t done any daily tending to the vegetable garden or even bothered to water the front garden under the eaves which doesn’t receive any rainwater whatsoever and at times is annoying. As I look out into the vegetable boxes I can see a flurry of little white flowers from the pea box and the sage is in full bloom now with a multitude of purple flowers climbing up each stalk.

The rock garden is in desperate need of weeding, as well as the beds along the back fence of beans and squashes which are currently fighting for survival amongst dandelions and blackberry sproutlings. Our rock wall bulbs have all died back till fall and are begging to be filled with petunias and alyssum and such.

In fact the only things that are doing well with neglect are the roses, all of which are either in full bloom or about to explode. Maybe the excess grass that has seeped under each of them (and funnily nowhere else) must be helping. I was originally going to plant chives throughout the rose bed to fight off diseases and bad insects but didn’t and they seem to be doing just fine.

Perhaps tomorrow, if the weather isn’t too stormy, I’ll get around to giving the gardens the attention they deserve. Of course, I should probably also let the chickens out of the coop too as I weed to clean up everything I pluck out of the ground. They’re kinda neat like that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

(Lack of) Motivation

Can somebody please help me find my motivation? I seem to have lost it.

Every once in a while I have a day where I simply do not want to do anything. This is okay for most people, but I have these days when I’ve got a lot going on at the same time. I attribute it to some unconscious decision that causes me to shut down when I get overwhelmed, kind of like a computer that is running too many programs at the same time. Well, today is one of those days.

Yesterday I spent in the kitchen baking and making frosting and decorating cakes. Not like part of the day but from the time I finished blogging (priorities) until eleven-thirty at night I was working on cake stuffs. I remember eating a bowl of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch (I know, totally healthy, right?) and I’m pretty sure I had a bowl of leftover curry, but the only other things I ate were cake batter and frosting… this is for quality assurance I assure you. If someone orders something made with Splenda and it happens to be a lemon cake with frosting also made from Splenda and I gag while tasting both because it is ass-nasty, I want to be able to tell the customer this before taking it to them just in case they change their mind and want me to make it with real ingredients not formed in a chemistry lab and when they don’t I at least told them ahead of time this is ass-nasty and my dog wouldn’t even go near it.

Anyway, so this morning my head is pounding, probably from the obscene amount of sugar I ate during taste-testing, my throat is sore, again I’ll blame sugar, and my back and feet feel like someone ran me over with their Cadillac Escalade. I’m hoping the aspirin and coffee breakfast will take care of the aches and pains, but still I have some final touches on one of the cakes to pump out before driving it a half-hour away to Lewisville Park before heading back into town to take two sheet cakes and fifty cupcakes to our friend’s funeral and I just hope I can get there in time for it. So what am I doing? Blogging about it, and even that took a lot to get out of me as I stared at the laptop monitor’s blinking cursor for half-an-hour before realizing I needed to write about not having motivation because I feel completely unmotivated. However, now that I’ve written it, does that mean that I’ve found my motivation to get showered and finish everything I need to get done? Not so much.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nephews

Yesterday we had six nephews, two on my partner’s side and four from my side. And then there were seven.

When my sister told us she was pregnant again, I knew right away that it was going to be a boy. Yes, the laws of science say that a girl should pop into the equation at some point considering girls are natural and boys are defects, but then again, my family is quite defective. Sure enough, ultrasound came back boy.

For some reason my brothers and sisters (I guess technically a brother and a sister since the rest do not have children or at the very least none that they know of and/or have informed their family about) seem to only be able to produce boys. At least my partner’s siblings have an equal number as his older brother had a boy and his younger brother had two girls and a boy.

So we get the text message that my sister is in labor yesterday (and yes, texting seems to be the preferred way to talk in our family, followed of course by Facebook wall posts) and my immediate reaction is that she has incredibly bad timing. This weekend I am busy with a multitude of activities and cake orders that I had to start working on and was in the middle of doing yard work for a friend at our church. Me being me, I ignored the message and continued to dig and plant flowers.

And so when I got home I baked up about half of the cakes I needed to bake and my partner and I headed to the hospital where we found that over the course of the last eight hours my sister had failed to produce a baby yet. So we went to Mongolian Grill with my other sister’s husband and ate before going back to the hospital to wait. And wait. And wait some more. As the clock began to approach eleven, we decided to head back home and about a quarter till two we received text messages, picture messages no less, of our newest nephew, Usiah.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Garage Sales

The season of garage and yard sales is upon us! Let us rejoice in the bounty of unwanted crap we are about to receive.

There is a saying that goes one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but sometimes trash is just trash and should be disposed of as such, not try to make a buck off of it. I couldn’t tell you how many garage and yard sales we’ve been to where they were literally selling garbage. And for the love of everything holy refuse the urge to purchase a “Surprise Bag” if they are selling those too for fear of getting used tampons and poop-stained underwear! Okay, so maybe that would never happen, but it does in my brain, and my brain is a very scary place indeed.

When you are on the hunt for something specific, try to keep to those specifications as much as possible while shopping. Impulse buys are nearly impossible to resist, especially if it is a perfect condition vinyl of The Mamas and The Papas album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, but that is part of the fun. Almost like a treasure hunt (trash and treasure connection made here for those who are dense.) However, it is best for your wallet and future stuff you’ll end up having to garage sale out yourself if you keep those impulses to Must Haves and not Want Nows. If your criteria is like-new used books of a certain genre or author, stick to it, but if you are looking for a bookcase and find one that will work but isn’t what you had in mind, get it. It seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many people would pass on something that would work but isn’t the color a coat of paint couldn’t cure and continue looking at other sales and not find anything else and go back to the place they saw the bookcase and it was sold. Remember to expect some wear, after all it is used stuff you are looking at. However, if they have new items and the price tags are still on them you should be weary, they may have stolen it and were unable to return the item without a receipt and if you buy it you are probably feeding a drug habit! Again, overactive brain disorder… sorry.

If you are setting up a garage or yard sale yourself, the key to a successful sale is organization. Keep like items together. This not only will help you keep better track of items, but also help potential buyers who are probably on a mission themselves for something specific. That and it just plain looks better. If you are getting rid of a bunch of toys but have them scattered throughout it’s going to look like you simply opened your garage and invited people into your space and quite frankly makes you look like a slob. By gathering the toys into one location, a buyer can see what you have all at once and find what they are looking for much easier. And another bonus of putting like items together is if you are a serial garage saler (like those people up the street from us who seem to have one every weekend during the summer) it’ll be easier to box everything up and put it back out again on another date, as well as add to the boxes new items you want to get rid of.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Overbooked

Do you ever schedule something then something else comes up and you agree to schedule that too not realizing that they are both at the same time on the same day? While I am not as bad as some people I know (and you know who you are), I certainly am guilty of overcommitting myself.

Most of my cake orders I do are taken weeks if not months in advance and this works out fairly well for planning and scheduling and such. However, when unexpected events happen and I agree to take other orders or be somewhere for something, my brain skips over previous commitments, especially if I don’t have them on my phone’s calendar. You can seriously ask people, the first thing I do is whip out my phone and check it for scheduling conflicts.

How is it that these seemingly unitasking devices have become so vital to everyday life? I remember when a phone was used for talking and that is probably the least popular thing I do with mine. If I don’t have the events listed in my calendar in my phone I somehow think I don’t have anything going on that day, even if my Google Calendar says otherwise. I guess this is where having a smart phone would come in handy, you know, to keep track of engagements.

But alas, I’ve got a complicated cake order due in Lewisville Park and a funeral, for which I am also making cake, at about the same time. Oh, the joy! I’m thinking it might be a good idea to decorate all the funeral cakes at the church and leave it there the night before just to make sure they have it, or at the very least drop them off that morning before heading up to Battle Ground.

Why is it that I can go months without anything going on then one day, usually at the same time, have three, four, sometimes five different events I’ve either been invited to, asked to make a cake for or both? Something tells me God has a twisted sense of humor, or maybe just likes to see how we handle a challenge. We’ll see how this Saturday goes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Graduations

May and June are quite busy with high school and college graduations, why not make a big deal out of it by throwing a party. After all, I’m sure our Vice President would even agree, it’s a big $&#*@^! deal.

I’m sorry but ceremonies for “graduating” preschool, kindergarten and fifth
grade all seem to, well… they’re dumb. It’s not a graduation people! They are just going into another grade in a couple months! And besides, how many kids don’t graduate from preschool? “I’m sorry, Timmy, but you are being held back because you finger-painted yourself in lime rather than green like you were told.”

Celebrating bigger milestones, like graduating high school for instance, makes a little more sense. This is usually a big transition from being a kid to becoming an adult, complete with a whole new set of responsibilities. Have a party. Have some cake. Have some fun. The sticker-shock of the real world will soon set in them, but before that happens have a get-together with family and friends to commemorate their achievements.

College graduations can be a little more tricky, depending of course on how much the kid changed, which let’s be honest with ourselves, those first years out of high school we all changed a lot. It also may depend on where they went to school, which if it is quite a ways from home, a big celebration may not readily be possible, especially if they do not plan on coming home any time soon. However, there is no reason that those who did make it to the graduation can’t plan on something, even if it is nothing more than a night out at a nice restaurant.

Of course, everybody is different. Hopefully you’ll know your graduate well enough to plan something that will be special to them and a memory they will cherish. And if not, and this is nothing to beat yourself up over as teenagers and young adults are highly erratic creatures, you can always ask them what they want to do. Then again, if their response is, “I don’t know” tell them you are renting a petting zoo and Cowboy Bob will be there to make balloon animals for everyone. That might help them figure something out, and if not, who doesn’t like balloon animals?!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Starting a Softball “League”

First of all, anyone who knows me pretty much knows I’m not all that into playing sport. Second of all, I didn’t sign up for this.

A couple months ago my partner put out a signup sheet in the lobby area of our church for anyone who was interested in starting a team to play softball. This was just a way to get people together to play, not so much for competition. So after nearly filling up the sheet with names of prospective players he checked into the cost for joining a league. Sticker-shock would be an understatement.

After making a few phone calls he found that there were official city leagues and then there were some unofficial leagues too, mostly from smaller churches. The cost for those was much easier to stomach, but they played every Sunday afternoon from May through August and, well, that posed a bit of a problem. You see, our church is kind of funny about making commitments, especially weekly ones during the summer when a majority of people take vacations, or perhaps if they are in the choir, just taking a little break from church while on summer hiatus. He called a meeting and it was agreed that if they could find other churches to play once a month that would be ideal and forget about a league.

So back on the phone my partner went to find out if any other churches were interested in a very informal League of Nonaligned Churches and found a couple interested in playing. Dates were chosen and just like that four games were scheduled. Now, time to get everyone together to practice which should be simple, right? Ha.

May is a busy church month, or at least it seems to be in ours. With so much going on it can be difficult to plan on getting everyone together for a practice, and after many reschedules, yesterday was the first one. Let me just state for the record, I did not put my name on the list nor had any intentions of joining this team. I did state that I would be in the crowd and there for moral support, maybe even go so far as being a batboy/waterboy, but participate? As in actually play? I don’t think so.

Somehow I got conned into going to practice. Okay, so maybe I was curious to see how well other people were at this whole thing because I seriously don’t know how to play softball, let alone any sport other than soccer and that is just because I played it for a couple years when I was a kid. But alas, at practice after playing catch for a while, we switched to, uh, I think the word is scrimmage? I don’t know… sports term. Anyway, we pretended to play a game and rotated between batting, bases and pitching. This is where I informed everyone that I will pretty much swing at anything that doesn’t hit the ground first and wasn’t kidding about that fact. But, I have to say that even with my erratic swinging I hit over fifty percent of the balls thrown in my general direction so I must be like an athletic whiz, right?

I guess we’ll see how well this whole “league” thing works out. But I have to say, it was fun just getting out and playing with a bunch of great people. Hopefully I don’t break under pressure and totally bring down our team with my lack of ability! Then again, we are playing against other churches that have the same philosophy of playing ball together that we do in that we’re there to have fun, not be competitive. Wow, three thats in one sentence. Now I only hope my competitive streak doesn’t kick in and completely ruin everything!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunburns

It’s time for another Good Idea, Bad Idea. Good Idea: Putting on sunscreen before going to watch the Hazel Dell Parade; Bad Idea: Forgetting to put on sunscreen before going to watch the Hazel Dell Parade in the blazing hot sun and wearing black.

Yes, that’s right kiddos… I forgot to put on sunscreen before we left the house and have become quite red as a result. Fortunately the older I get the quicker it turns into a tan instead of a blistering sunburn, but still, that warm-skin-feeling is there. Unless, of course, I happen to get sunburn on my feet in which case they swell to the size of watermelons (and look pinkish-red like watermelon flesh too now that I think about it) and I can’t walk on them for two days and when I’d poke them they’d feel all squishy and I’d think to myself that it’ll be like that forever and ever. Okay, a little dramatic, yes… but it was a horrible burn.

Up until a few years ago I stayed out of the sun as much as possible. Being outside while there was sunshine would make me physically ill, but gradually I started going outside more and more. At first I’d just burn if I didn’t slather on an obscene amount of sunblock, probably from hardly ever going outside as a child except for the confines of a deeply shaded forest behind my dad and stepmom’s house, and even that was rare compared to my brothers and sisters. I remember being kicked out of the house because it was too nice of a day outside to sit inside and draw, so I gathered my art supplies and sat on the front patio to draw. I’m sure my father and stepmother were not amused, but at least I was outside.

When my little brother was in Little League baseball, and I’m telling you this kid could’ve gone pro if he wanted to, I eventually started taking him to all of his practices and games. While I wouldn’t stick around for the practices, I went to every one of those games for those years and probably from my increased exposure to the sun developed a tan. Now, being of mostly British descent with some Irish and German mixed in for good measure, pale, pasty-white skin is rather normal, and because of such any sunlight that reaches the skin quickly turns into a burn. However, the body has a natural mechanism to protect against too much ultraviolet radiation and that process is skin tanning. The darker your skin, the better UV protection you have. But as we all know, too much sun causes skin cancer, and really, who wants that.

I don’t get as sick as I used to from being in the sun, but it sure makes me sleepy! And of course, if you have a burn it can be difficult to sleep. Oh well, now that I’ve got some color and don’t look like an albino I suppose it’s time to apply the sunscreen again, especially if we have any more days like we’ve had this last week!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Parades

With summer practically here it is time for parade season. However, sometimes planning on marching in one of those parades can be a bit stressful too.

My partner tried to gather interest in marching in the Hazel Dell Parade of Bands this year for our church, however with only us, the pastor and his wife as the marchers and the pick-up bed “float” plan out too, we decided last night after waiting half-an-hour for anyone to show up for the poster decorating and to organize banner holders, to forgo this year and try to plan better next year. Of course with a theme like Pirates Treasure like they had this year for the floats, it was too bad we couldn’t make this happen. After all, our church is shaped kind of like a ship to begin with and we could have had a lot of fun with the pirate theme. But alas, it apparently was not meant to be.

As negative as the previous paragraph sounds, I’m really quite relieved we cancelled our march in the parade. It takes a lot to get people to march and if you plan on decorating a float too there are a ton of other issues to consider. I’m sure if we decide to try again next year, our planning committee will need to be started months in advance, and hopefully gather more interest from the congregation to participate. Hmmm… I’m on the Communications Committee next year, I wonder if this would fall into that category?

Even though our church will not be marching, we still plan on watching the parade this morning anyway. The weather will be perfect and we know a few people who will be performing in their school’s marching bands.

Of course, with this really just the beginning of the parade season, there are plenty of chances to take your family out to see one. In the month of June during the Portland Rose Festival you can choose from a multitude of parades, as well as the Portland Pride Parade. And of course the Ridgefield 4th of July Parade and Battle Ground’s Harvest Days Grand Parade in July.

I don’t know why, but parades always bring back a sense of times past. Nostalgia from simpler days and makes me feel like a kid again, even though we didn’t really go to many parades while I was growing up, except, of course, the ones I was in while in band in middle school with those ill-fitting marching band uniforms that were quite cumbersome and made playing the saxophone difficult. Or maybe that was my excuse because I sucked at it. Oh well, it is time to get ready and head down to Hazel Dell to find a spot to watch the parade and if I see a kid on the saxophone struggling, I’ll cheer the loudest for him or her.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Letting the Chickens Out

Yesterday after working in a friend’s yard during what was arguably the hottest day of the year (so far) I decided to let the chickens out for a while. Okay, so I got home, started dinner, took a shower, watered the flowers in the front yard then went out back to let the girls out.

They seemed ecstatic about frolicking in the grass and scrounging up bugs and worms and of course any leftover seeds from the black oil sunflower seed feeder a multitude of birds and some tenacious squirrels all seem to be passionate about. Even Kendra, who is still broody decided to hop off the empty nest box to eat, drink and be merry in the sunshine. I don’t know if it is the fact that she is on verge of ending her broodiness or if she was just super hungry, thirsty and needed to poop. Either way, I’m glad she got out to play, even if the other girls all picked on her for acting weird.


While the chickens were scavenging the yard, I decided to water the vegetable garden which seems to have grown dramatically since the day before, especially the peas. Upon closer inspection of the peas I saw that one indeed had a flower with another forming. I thought I saw yet another but it turned out to be a spider. Oh well, once one blooms the rest will probably follow suit in a matter of days and then the wait for delicious peas to form begins.


Our dog Lucy was also out and running about and decided to start chasing the chickens off the patio and deck. She’s trained well like that and it keeps it poop free which is a total bonus. However, when she started chasing Dawn, the hen who thinks she’s a cock, her feminine instincts kicked in and she immediately took the mating position, wings spread and tail to the side. They do this for both my partner and I when we walk up to them to let us know they’d like some petting, but I’ve never seen any of the girls do this for the dog. Apparently Lucy is now a dominatrix, and a couple of the other hens also did this when she approached them. Our dog, clueless as to what to do, simply sniffed Dawn’s back then walked away. Apparently she wanted to play but the hens were too busy searching for grubs.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Capturing Your Garden: Container

Container gardens should be viewed like any other garden, they just happen to be in smaller doses. Whether you plant a single specimen in the pot or a multitude, get the whole picture then focus on a feature or few.

When taking pictures of your container garden, whether it be pots, window boxes or hanging baskets, take note to capture not only the container your plants are in but also where they are located. This way if you like the way something looks in the pot but it didn’t do so well in that particular location, you can move it.


Container gardens are usually annuals but don’t always have to be. For instance, mums and topiaries are right at home in a pot and will usually be around for years to come under the right conditions. Most gardeners grow mums as annuals when they really are perennials that go dormant during the winter however they still require a little watering if not in a location where they will receive rain. Of course, if you live in a climate where there are freezing temperatures for weeks at a time, you may want to bring your potted plants into the garage or in a protected area under the eaves of the house to prevent them from freezing, as well as prevent damage to your pots. This mum is on its third year in this pot and while it won’t bloom until fall has interesting foliage to plant spring and summer blooming annuals against.


Sometimes you want to make a statement and in that case simply fill a container with one type of flower. These violas for instance will eventually be spilling out of the pot by summer to welcome guests into our home.


Mix up sizes and foliage and showcase that. I usually will plant a large plant in the middle of the pot and put smaller plants around the edges, either three of the same or three different or two and two alternating so the pot can be turned occasionally to prevent leaning. Another fun thing is to plant three or more plants of all different species with contrasting foliage together, even if they will all end up the same size. Turning the pot every week will reveal a different look.


While I like leaving pots individual, groupings have a great effect too, especially when they are all different sizes and colors of both pots and flowers. In front of our whiskey barrel fish pond we have various potted plants and a couple inside the pond as well, although one won’t be completely ready for another month and still looks quite dormant.


Hanging baskets are great for areas where you want a punch of color but don’t have a place on the ground, or simply want some color at eye level. The same techniques for both taking pictures and planting are utilized in a hanging basket. Or, if you happen to have a bird feeder on the other side filled with supposedly sterile black oil sunflower seeds, you may end up with a sunflower growing in the basket like we have! With most baskets it is usually preferred to have trailing plants and flowers, however sometimes a plant with height is an unexpected surprise, and if it does well, you’ll have photographic evidence while planning for next year.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Capturing Your Garden: In the Ground

Whether you have shrubs, bulbs, plants, annuals and/or perennials, chances are that some things are doing well and others are not so much. Taking pictures throughout the season will help when planning for the following year.


Our rock garden has been a work-in-progress since the day we moved in. Okay, the day we moved in it was a huge area covered with wild blackberry vines and was quite scary. What was scarier was when we were cleaning it out and found that the previous owners apparently used this part of the backyard to dump their garbage and they were kind enough to put it all into black plastic bags so as to more than likely not draw any suspicion from the neighbors.


We have gutted and replanted this particular part of the yard completely four times, the last being about six years ago and I am quite pleased with most of it. Yes, there are a few small areas that need some new plants to replace the dead ones, but overall the design is much more pleasing and the varying height makes it an interesting area to gaze upon while seated on the deck. And yes, there are a ton of weeds that need to be pulled, as is quite obvious in the pictures.

The irises we have planted along the entire length of the North fence from the street to the end of the rock garden has also been quite the interesting experience. We first planted a few along the wall above the rock garden during our initial clean up and planting and have been dividing and gifting the rhizomes ever since. As you can see, the rock garden is mostly yellow, not by choice, but because I must have accidentally divided and gifted and replanted along the rest of the fence the white and purple irises. It is time to divide and conquer this year a couple weeks after they are finished blooming, so I plan to redistribute them to better integrate the colors.


From the street side, there are very obvious groupings of irises, a couple varieties of purples and whites and a group of yellows. Actually, this was initially two darker purples with yellow throats, five whites, ten light purples and three yellows. Only one of the yellows took and about half of the light purples didn’t take either, and after a few years they have nearly filled in the wall. However, as you can see in the pictures there are some empty spots that need to be filled in and will be when I divide them all.


In the front yard under the eaves, not much is able to grow. It gets shade most of the day except for late afternoon sun, aka the hottest time of the day, so these plants have to be able to withstand those conditions. Trial and error has taught us that not much can and we just have to replant often. However, a few years ago when we were going to be hosting Easter at our house, we planted quite a few things under there and to this day they are all still alive. Some aren’t doing so well and should have been dug up and put out of their misery, but for the most part we have had a little success… as long as we remember to water at least once a week during the spring and fall, every day during the summer and every other week during the winter since this area receives no rain being completely covered, they do fine. However, in the picture you can see there are some areas not doing so well and probably need some fertilizer, more water or both.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Capturing Your Garden: Vegetable

A lot of us garden, but how many of us take pictures of our gardens to compare year after year? I do, and I’ll tell you why in three parts, starting with the Vegetable Garden.


Gardening is all about trial and error. What doesn’t work usually gets taken out, what works well may get a few more of the same added the following year. Yes, there are people who feel their gardens should be exactly the same year after year, but honestly, where is the fun in that? Then again, maybe that is the challenge.


Our vegetable gardens should be viewed the same way. You may really want Brussels sprouts to grow, but your chickens have other plans, as in eating the tender young stalks and never giving them a chance to produce. This can be frustrating or you can simply take that as a sign that you either need to block off the area to prevent destruction or try something else instead.


I like to take pictures of my gardens each year and throughout the season to collect an archive of what we grew when. This will help you plan your garden for next year rather well, as you can visually see what did well where, and what may need to be planted in another location to see if it fares any better.


Taking pictures of your vegetable garden will eliminate any guessing for crop rotation if you practice that. Tomatoes for instance shouldn’t be planted in the same location year after year but alternated with legumes (peas, beans, soy, etc.) to keep the soil rich and help prevent diseases. What the tomatoes take out of the soil to produce fruit, the legumes replace.


The other reason for taking pictures of your vegetable garden, whether it is a full-scale operation directly in the ground or a few pots on the patio, is to show people what you are growing or have grown in the past. Having those pictures will help to clarify growing tips if you stake or cage your tomatoes a certain way or use branches from a sapling maple that has been growing between your fence and the neighbor’s wood shed butted up to the fence for years that you finally decided to take a chainsaw to and tie the larger branches together and use as an arbor for pole beans to climb. Of course I didn’t take a picture of that this morning, but the beans are so tiny right now they’d get lost in the weeds that surround them. Soon… I promise.


And like I say to everyone with a camera, especially those who feel they have to be twenty feet away to take not only a picture of the subject but everything around them so that their subject gets lost and unrecognizable in the sea of busyness that surrounds, DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET UP CLOSE!!! When I take pictures of my gardens I take a couple full shots for perspective and then get as close as possible to take pictures of the plant’s features. If it has a flower I get as close as a centimeter, depending on the flower, to get a couple close-up shots for detail. Check your camera’s manual or play around to find out exactly how close you can get to a subject, but please get close. You will be rewarded with knowing what you are taking a picture of when you flip through your pictures later.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Trout with Rosemary

When life gives you trout, eat it. When your partner gives you trout, clean it, cook it, debone it, then eat it.

My partner loves to go fishing. This is something I’ve never gotten into, but I’m sure my lack of effort involved at trying this “sport” has something to do with that. During the last week he went fishing twice, and both times caught some beautiful rainbow trout. Okay, so the first time he went with a couple friends, caught two, one got away, and one of the friends gave him an extra because he caught five. But the second time he caught three all on his own.

Here’s the thing, I don’t know too much about fish except when I buy it in the store it usually no longer has any resemblance of a fish except for its delicate flesh. Well, I usually buy salmon by the half so it still has the body of a fish look, but alas no bones, head or tail. I’m sure if I tried to debone and clean out a fish I’d mangle it unrecognizable and end up with a mash not even good enough to make fish sticks out of. Okay, that might be an exaggeration… but not much of one. So what is one to do with such inadequacies? Let your partner do the cooking.

Since we had grilled trout Thursday by wrapping it in foil with a little butter and fresh stuffing made of croutons, onions, garlic and mushrooms, we decided to have bacon-wrapped last night from the catch he got the day before. If there is one thing I know for certain about our oven is that bacon + broiler = smoke… a lot of smoke. Our little 50s exhaust fan can’t handle more than what would escape a pot of gently simmering water with every window and door open to allow plenty of airflow, so I said he should grill them instead and avoid being asphyxiated or alarm the neighbors into thinking our house is on fire and have them bring out lawn furniture and popcorn to watch the show in our front yard.

I was planning on making a salad and rice pilaf and was going outside to cut some fresh herbs and my partner suggested we stuff the fish with rosemary sprigs so I cut three extras of those before also getting some sage, parsley, thyme and oregano for the rice. The fish was simply prepared, since he cleaned them as soon as he got home from fishing, and was minimally seasoned with salt and pepper, stuffed a sprig of rosemary inside, and wrapped each trout with a couple slices of bacon. One thing I would suggest would be to go ahead and use toothpicks to keep the bacon firmly attached to the fish and avoid pain and frustration. I didn’t think it was necessary and I was wrong and we lost a fish in the process but our dog was able to reap the rewards of unruly bacon and slippery fish that escaped the confines of the grill in an attempt to flip. I think this would also be a good time to invest in a good fish turner or better yet one of those cage thingies that completely contain the fish and make for a much cleaner and less agitating grilling session.

But even with all of the mishaps, the fish was delicious and is much easier to debone after cooked, but like any fish you should take small bites and chew slowly as stray bones could be lurking about anywhere. Of course, what isn’t better when it is stuffed with rosemary and wrapped in bacon?

Bacon-Wrapped Trout with Rosemary

2 – 4 trouts (about 1 pound each) cleaned and beheaded.
2 – 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 – 8 slices bacon
salt and pepper

Get your grill ready at about medium-high and make sure it is clean and spray it with a nonstick grilling spray too. If you have mad skills and can debone a fish without destroying it before it is cooked and prefer to do it that way, go ahead. Otherwise season the inside with salt and pepper and place a sprig of rosemary in the center. Using one to two slices per trout, wrap the bacon around the fish and use toothpicks to keep in place. Place the fish on the grill, close the lid and leave it in place for about 3 – 4 minutes before moving. Flip and keep moving and flipping until the bacon is done, which means the fish should be done as well. If you see any blood coming out of the fish, continue to cook in a cooler part of the grill until it is completely cooked and will help to avoid burning the bacon. This process should take 12 – 15 minutes total and should be eaten immediately.

If you prefer to broil in your oven, simply place the bacon wrapped fish under the broiler for 7 minutes, flip, and let it cook on the reverse side for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove promptly and enjoy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Handmade Greeting Cards

With today being Mother’s Day, you might have already picked out and purchased a card for yours. However if you haven’t might I suggest you make her one instead.

Remember making cards in grade school? The time and care you put into them to make sure they were just right and something you thought your mother would treasure forever, maybe even frame for family and friends to gawk at while visiting or a representative from Hallmark will spy your masterpiece and offer you millions of dollars to create cards for them because you were able to capture just exactly what their team of experts have been unable to do? Okay, so maybe not that far, but you get where I’m going with this… right?

It isn’t so much the effort to make the card as the smile on the recipients face when they receive it. A handmade card, whether it be for a birthday, get well, holiday or thank-you, carries a lot more weight than a store bought card in the emotions department, but just because you don’t have a creative bone in your body doesn’t give you an excuse to not try to make one yourself.

For crafters, you probably have a medium or twenty you could utilize to create a greeting card. Rubber stamps, collages, fabric patchworks, photographs, line to fine art, all work well to create a one of a kind card for that special someone. Of course, with the computer you have even more options to play with, but please hand write the message inside. Even if you have horrible handwriting, I still suggest doing so to really make it personal. And if all else fails and you have to come up with a quick card fast, a plain piece of paper with a note inside and maybe a stick figure or flower on the front will work. So let your inner child free and have fun in the process, because if you enjoy making it, the person receiving it will see that in the final product.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Kendra’s Gone Broody for Real This Time, Ya’ll

Okay, so the last time we thought Kendra, our Dominique hen, was going broody it turned out to be a false alarm. This time it isn’t.

Out of the eight hens we have, Kendra is the only one with the broody gene in her. I don’t know if it is just her breed or if it has just been bred out of the others we have or what, but once a year Kendra is determined to hatch her some chicks, whether there is a rooster or eggs under her or not.


She is quite a compact bird compared to the other girls who are all a bit large, but when she goes broody her feathers are all puffed out and she looks huge. And when you pet her she makes these defensive clucking noises to let you know she means business. It is nearly impossible to get her to move if there are any eggs under her, but I found that by opening the interior hatch I use to clean out the hen house and throw down scratch in the run leaps off the nest box she’s on and rushes to get her share of cracked corn. I take this very small window of opportunity to gather the eggs before she gets back onto the nest.

With the weather being nice the last few days I’ve had the girls out freeranging, supervised of course, while I worked on the vegetable garden, but Kendra refuses to leave her nest. Having them cooped up so much lately I thought she would relish the opportunity to get out and catch some fresh worms and eat delicious dandelions, but it never happened.

As much as I’d love to just throw a chick or two under her one night and see how well she will be at mothering, we simply are getting too many eggs from the girls at this time. Seriously, even with eating them and making cakes and giving three dozen away at a time we have a ton of eggs in the fridge from the last couple weeks. Unless we got another refrigerator for the garage to store them in I don’t think that option is viable. Hmmm…


So right now we are just going to wait out her broodiness and let it pass. She’s been at it for a little over a week now, which means we probably have two or three more to go before she gives up. Then again, I’ve heard horror stories of hens desperately trying to hatch chicks and literally die in their attempt from starvation. Perhaps we’ll have to do what we did last year and put her in the ferret cage in the open air for a few days to break her. We’ll see.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Half Bath Renovation: Now What?

With the half bathroom fairly finished now, it looks, well, empty. At least the floor is pretty to look at, right?

I finally broke down and applied Liquid Nails to the back of the sink and pressed it against the wall, still resting on both the pedestal and metal wall piece from the previous sink. After making sure it wasn’t going anywhere I caulked around the sides and top where the sink meets the wall to prevent any water damage that may occur from splashing. Now I just have to get the paint out again and paint the sections where the old sink was and the new sink doesn’t cover and the walls will be completely painted.


However, now the dilemma has become what to do with décor. When the room was filled with Looney Tunes characters it had “art” and a cohesive look, but with all of those painted over in a solid color, the room feels naked. I’m not saying I want to cover everything up in clutter and make it a clusterflust-of-conglomerate-crap, just that it needs a few things to make it looked finished. You know, like maybe a large picture, a cabinet above the toilet and a candle or small houseplant.


I picked up a glass shelf to go above the sink, but I think where it would be placed and the placement of the medicine cabinet will inhibit most of its function, not to mention get in the way of the faucet. Then I thought that a small corner shelf on the wall between the sink and door would work to hold hand soap, but haven’t found anything that I like that matches those criteria. And then there is the wall cabinet for above the toilet, which apparently what I have in my head that I want and what is available on the market are two very different things. I mean, we don’t want anything huge, just something large enough to hold a few towels and some toilet paper and not look like a ghetto melamine covered piece of glued sawdust and paperboard. And while sitting on the toilet, it would be nice to have some artwork to look at, but the sicko in me also thinks a full length mirror would be hilarious!


But for now the walls remain bare and there is nowhere to place a soap dispenser and there isn’t even a trash can on the floor. I’m sure we’ll find some things that will work, but in the meantime I keep looking at the floor and cursing the rest of the room for not looking as good as it.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bordering a Quilt

When I set out to make this quilt I had no idea I was setting myself up for a challenge. Working with scraps can be a little difficult when you run out before you even begin to sew.

It became painfully obvious I would need another fabric for the solid border around the framed 9-patch blocks, but I didn’t realize I would also run out of extra squares to use on the alternating square border too. In order to figure out exactly how many I would need I did a physical count of each 2-inch section and came up with 136; 68 each of colored and plain muslin. The pattern called for 72 each, so I should have just saved the time and gone with that number, I just figured with my quilt missing four blocks it wouldn’t have as large of a border but apparently my bad math failed me again. Cursed numbers!


So I had 50 colored squares already, 10 of which were from sewn scraps, and needed 18 more. I ransacked my bag of selvages from the fabrics in the quilt and started piecing strips together onto 2¼” wide strips of muslin about the same length and started to sew them together using a zig-zag stitch creating a long strip from which to cut individual squares. I went this route rather than cutting individual 2¼” long pieces because, well, why not. Besides, the first 10 squares I pieced together were from excess pieces already cut that length, and if there were longer strips I would’ve gone that route to begin with.


Being the easily distracted being I am, I decided to start the solid border on the quilt rather than make more squares, and realized that piecing long strips isn’t nearly as difficult as I once thought it would be. Just have patience and go slow, two things I excel at ignoring. Much like when halfway through I had to refill the bobbin and wound it up and started sewing again only to have it stop on me an inch and a half in with the crappy problem I had before getting it serviced. Of course, tracing my steps I realized I didn’t lift the presser foot to release tension and that is what caused the problem, which means that was probably the problem the entire last few years now that I think about it. Oh well, the new bobbin case is much stronger than the old one anyway.


With the solid color border and another solid muslin border on, my quilt top is finally taking shape and looking more and more like the finished product I wanted. Now, if only I had the motivation to make more squares rather than make a bunch of stuff for my rather empty Etsy shop.