Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween!

With Halloween tonight, it’s time to put out the last of the decorations and fill the candy bowl with goodies for Trick-or-Treaters. Hopefully it won’t be pouring down rain like it was last night.

So last night’s adventure in the pouring rain was, to say the least, rushed, as we had to get home after the play, figure out costumes to wear, and then meet friends at the Edgefield McMenamins. My partner decided to go as Milton from the movie Office Space and I went as a costume a first wore when I was 18, a Literal Interpretation of a Split Personality. Sorry, I didn’t take pictures, but I’m hoping that our friend Laura will post some on her Facebook page sometime today, in which case I’ll steal them and add them to this post later.

One thing about keeping old costumes around is being able to pick and choose from something in case you don’t come up with anything new or simply are unable to locate the fabric required to make the costume authentic. The latter was certainly the case for my partner, who wanted to make a tunic and toga to wear like the Newsreader from the HBO series, Rome. The tapestry-like fabrics, usually made from wool, are incredibly difficult to find, even at a certain fabric store in Portland with an acre and a half of fabric to choose from. So instead of simply settling for curtain and drape material, he opted to figure out another costume, and since Milton really isn’t much of a stretch for him, and he already has the famous red Swingline stapler, it was a costume he could throw together in a couple minutes. Same thing with my Literal Interpretation of a Split Personality, which really only required me to rat out and spray one half of my hair and put on a bit of lipstick and eyeliner on that side too.

Keeping costumes fairly simple is the best way to not make such a big deal out of the whole matter. After all, Halloween is supposed to be fun, not stressful, and if you are spending all your energy into pulling off the perfect costume, you probably will end up having no fun at all. However, the one thing I really don’t understand when it comes to costumes recently, and this is quite the disturbing trend, is to turn every possible occupation or persona into a sexy version, especially for women and little girls. I understand wanting to be pretty, hence princesses and fairies, but why in the world would a costume maker design a sexy nurse costume for a 6 year old? As much as I absolutely love Halloween, there are times that I find certain trends to be not only disgusting, but downright wrong.

But since this is a fun holiday (although, not so holy) my plans today are to get out the rest of the Halloween decorations for outside. I’ve also got to set up the fog machine, strobe light, black lights to cast an eerie glow onto the tombstones and bone yard, and make the front porch as festive as we can with what we have. My only regret is not getting pumpkins to carve this year. Perhaps I should take the small jack-o-lantern out of the pathetic pumpkin patch we have in our backyard, the only jack-o-lantern that grew, and go ahead and carve it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dog Sitting for the Weekend

Lucy’s boyfriend, Otto, is back for a couple days and she is loving the attention. Well, loving it except when she’s being a bitch about him getting even the tiniest amount of attention from us instead.

How should I put it? Our dog is has a jealous streak. Actually, it’s more than just a jealous streak, she’s spoiled rotten. I mean, way worst than only child syndrome here and more like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I only have one person to blame for this… my partner. Okay, so I may have played a minute role in her development too.

Anyway, Otto is an adorable one-eyed Pug who really likes our Lucy. I mean really, really, really likes her in that way that boy dogs like girl dogs. It’s hilarious to watch him lick the inside of her ears as his hips are swinging back and forth. I suppose he just has an ear fetish. I get that.

The thing is, every time we watch another dog for any length of time, it makes me realize more and more why we need to get Lucy a little brother. She’s more excitable and playful when there is another dog in the picture. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she loves the attention she gets from us and abhors any attention we give to our cat, Tuesday, but I’m sure that given a bit of time she’d finally realize the benefits outweigh the detriments. Another dog will actually play with her, whereas our cat just sits in place and swipes her protracted claws at her nose, which I’m sure doesn’t help their currently (and still after over four years) volatile relationship. Perhaps soon we’ll be in a more stable financial place to consider adopting another whether it be another Great Dane from a rescue or a mutt from the Humane Society, but in the mean time dog sitting will have to suffice.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about the Popcorn Cake I posted about yesterday, here’s a picture. And yes, the little girl loved it.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Work and Cake

Last night after work I had to decorate a cake. I haven’t had the hurried cake making experience like that it years.

Even though this cake isn’t due until later this evening, in order for it to be done I had to put it all together yesterday. There are certainly some disadvantages to this, mainly making sure the cake doesn’t dry out before getting eaten, which I was told would be Saturday. One way to counteract this is to tort the cake and fill the layers, which is something I usually reserve for my Death by Chocolate cake and wedding cakes, but with this being out as long as a wedding cake would be before getting eaten, I decided it would be best to give it the same treatment.

Now, with the theme being popcorn, I made the cake in the shape of a popcorn bucket, a little larger on the top and tapering slightly towards the bottom, frosted it and was thinking about simply putting red stripes over the frosting. However, then I decided to cover it in fondant. Sometimes it is best to simply go with your original plan. Because the cake was so tall, I had to roll out the fondant larger than usual in order to completely cover it, but because I frosted the cake like a regular cake and not for covering in fondant, there was a bit of an issue with frosting oozing out the bottom as I formed the fondant around the cake, which in turn made the bucket look a little wonky. Oh well, it’ll be a happy accident and looks fun, perfect for a little girl’s birthday party. I even made fondant popcorn in various buttery shades to cover the top of the cake and a few popped kernels around the base. I’d put a picture up, but the birthday girl hasn’t seen it yet, so I’ll wait until then.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Balance

It seems that with me starting work again, the housework, chores and animals are getting less attention than they should be. I guess that means I need to plan how to bring balance to my life again.

After waking up, starting coffee, feeding the animals and getting cakes baking in the oven first thing this morning, I realized just how out of practice I am at getting everything done before work like I used to be able to do. And last night after work and having to go grocery shopping (in business attire, no less… probably should’ve taken off my tie at least) I was exhausted after putting everything away, feeding the animals and changing into more comfortable clothes. I don’t remember it being like this when I worked in retail where I was on my feet all day, but then again, that was almost two years, so I’m really out of practice.

So while I am decorating a cake tonight after work, I plan on making a plan. I plan on figuring out how to balance work and home life again so I don’t get into a routine where I never cook or clean anymore and the laundry piles up to the point there are 6 loads a week, which, yes, I know isn’t a lot, but for two people is an enormous amount. The most important thing I need to remember while planning is the chickens, as with them being outside I’m not attending to their needs as often as the cat and dog. Oy, that reminds me… I forgot to collect eggs yesterday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Pet Blanket: Started

With fall currently well under way, I figured it was time to start my fall projects that should’ve been done a month ago. Better late than never, right?



Using the current pet blankets, I arranged and rearranged the Charm squares from Moda’s Gobble Gobble by Sandy Gervais until I was well pleased with the results. I then stacked them into rows, chain stitched them into pairs, then the pairs into fours, two rows of fours and finally into finished blocks of 16 squares each.



With the remaining 10 squares, I am probably going to save the patterned ones for another project and the solids I specifically set aside to use on my fall quilt. My plan is to create appliqué pieces for the four feature panels using the solid charms, but I haven’t exactly planned this portion out too much. I’m pretty sure one will be a pumpkin, one a maple leaf, one an oak leaf and the final an acorn. These feature panels I’m also thinking of doing special hand quilting to really make them pop out, which should be an adventure in and of itself.


However, this week being my first week back to work in nearly two years, a major cake order due Friday, and a play my partner has been helping one of the local high school’s with starting tomorrow and running until Sunday, my sewing time will be limited. I guess I’ll have to get creative about being creative.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jobs, Movies and Birthdays

Today has a bunch of reasons to celebrate; it’s my first day back to work in nearly two years, Back to the Future Trilogy comes out today on Blu-ray, and it’s my partner’s birthday. I have a feeling the first two items will make the third that much better.

Okay, so first things first. I start my new job today and I’m a little nervous. I’m not so nervous about the job itself, I’m more nervous how being out of the workplace in general for so long will affect my performance. Of course, let’s be real here, my job is going to be sitting in a chair at a desk and talking on a phone. I’m not worried about that portion, but I am worried about how long it will take getting back into a work routine. I tried it ten months ago with this blog, making it daily to have a goal to accomplish each day, and so far haven’t missed one, including while out of town, so hopefully it will go by smoothly. After all, there is only one day of training involved.

Then there is the issue of our dog, who over the last couple years has gotten quite used to me being around all the time. Actually, I think she’ll adjust perfectly fine. Every time I’ve tried to play with her or get her to do anything she gives me a look like, “Really? You want me to get up off my ass and play?” But as soon as my partner comes home she’s all tail-waggy and jumpy and excited and wants to play… with him. Perhaps me being gone all day too will make her excited to see me when I get home. Perhaps.

Even though it is my partner’s birthday, he unfortunately has a very long day ahead of him. Between substitute teaching, helping with a school play that starts Thursday, and a special choir session tonight, he’ll be gone from 7am until 9pm. Not exactly the best way to spend a birthday, so I’m glad he had a great party on Saturday at least. Who knows… maybe I’ll surprise him with another birthday present.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cheese Zombies

Growing up in the Vancouver School District, one of the staples of the school lunch program was something called a Cheese Zombie. It wasn’t till I was older that I realized just how localized this delicacy was.

Five or six years ago I wanted to make Cheese Zombies. It was a cold, rainy autumn day and the delicious combination of melted cheese baked between two layers of bread and covered with butter with a bowl of hot tomato soup sounded like the perfect dinner. So I made a couple batches of white bread dough, waited for it to rise, rolled half of it into a jelly roll pan, covered it with sliced cheddar cheese, rolled out the other half on top, spread melted butter over it and baked it until it was golden brown. It was okay, but it wasn’t the Cheese Zombie I remember, just a substandard, ultra bready imposter.

Last week, as our weather was beginning to turn (mostly in the morning, mind you, as the afternoons were gorgeous and warm) I decided to do a little more research on the Cheese Zombie, to which I found that there were other school districts in the country who claimed to have the elusive lunch item usually served on the last Friday of the month, and obviously the most common day for parents to join their children for lunch, but most of these were not the ones I was familiar with. It wasn’t until I found one that called for a French bread dough that I knew this was the information I needed. That was the key. And so, with this new knowledge in hand, yesterday afternoon I started the dough and dinner last night of Cheese Zombies and tomato soup was just what we needed on a dark and stormy night.

Cheese Zombies

Ingredients
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 pound 4 ounces flour (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
5 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1½ pounds Tillamook Cheddar Cheese, sliced

Bread Machine: Stir the yeast and warm water into the pan and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl and add to the bread machine pan along with 3 tablespoons melted butter, put the machine on the dough cycle and wait until it has mixed and risen, about 1½ hours.

Stand Mixer: Stir the yeast and warm water into the bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl and add to the stand mixer bowl along with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Using the dough hook, stir the ingredients for about a minute to combine then turn the speed up to medium to medium high for five to ten minutes, or until the dough is thoroughly kneaded and elastic. Remove bowl from stand mixer and cover with plastic wrap, allowing it to rise for an hour and a half.

Hand: Stir the yeast and warm water into a small mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and garlic powder in a very large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture along with 3 tablespoons melted butter and slowly mix in the flour until combined before kneaded for ten minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1½ hours. If there isn’t enough room for the dough to double in size, halve the dough and let it rise in two separate bowls.

Using a jelly roll pan (12x18 inches with a 1 inch lip) roll half of the dough into the pan, edge to edge. If you’ve had experience with sticking bread or cookies on this pan, use a parchment liner. Add sliced cheese, make sure it is at room temperature otherwise it’ll take twice as long for the dough to do its final rise, leaving no more than a quarter inch along the edges or between the slices. Just for reference, I cut 22 slices and placed them 4 across along the 12 inch side of the pan with 5 across (4 x 5 = 20) the 18 inch side, cut the last two slices in half and put those 4 at the other end. Roll out the second half of the dough on top of the cheese, pressing the edges together. Let rise for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Don’t be frightened if it doesn’t rise too much on this final portion, you are mostly letting the dough relax after torturing it into shape. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a minute before brushing on melted butter, then allow it to cool for another few minutes before cutting into 12 slices. Serve with tomato soup.

P.S. – Sorry there aren’t any pictures. We couldn’t wait to start eating them. I hope you understand.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rain and Our Dog

Our dog is afraid of the rain. No, really, she won’t go even go outside to go potty until it has ceased without assistance, which, for a Great Dane, isn’t that easy.

I’m not sure exactly when this phobia of falling water began, but with the nastiness of this morning’s weather here in the Pacific Northwest it was damn near impossible to practically carry her up the steps to the upper portion of our backyard where she goes potty. I’m just thankful she’s only in her 120s and on the smaller side for her breed and not a male in the 180s or heavier. But seriously, I’m sure that her ombrophobia was set in before we got her and knowing our luck before birth, much like most of her other neuroticisms. Okay, that’s a lie. I’m sure we caused it somehow.

Here’s the thing, puppies are inherently curious about everything and afraid of nothing when they are born. Throughout their early development it is recommended that they are exposed to as many different people, objects, scenarios and circumstances as possible to eventually create a well balanced dog. We kind of slacked on the exposure portion of her puppy kindergarten and beginning obedience classes. Instead of a well behaved and obedient Great Dane, we have a spoiled and neurotic Great Dane who begs for food, attention and takes up most of the sofa. Maybe we’ll learn next time, but I doubt it. Oh well, at least she’s adorable.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Party Planning

Today we are celebrating my partner’s birthday, which means that yesterday instead of grocery shopping, making two birthday cakes (one for him), doing the dishes… twice, laundry, mowing the lawn and then making dinner, I should’ve also been cleaning the house. Oh, I had time, I just didn’t want to.

Cleaning means admitting the house is dirty. I prefer the term less than perfect, because, after all, who wants perfection? I’m sure most of the cleaning I do today before we go out to dinner then come back for cake and cocktails will consist of vacuuming, Febreezing and putting away my sewing projects I’ve got scattered in the dining room. I’d dust, but who am I kidding, I won’t.

House is clean, cake is ready, wine is purchased… these are all important. But the most important thing about planning a party is remembering to actually interact with your guests. If you invite people over and then are stuck in the kitchen the entire time trying to prepare stuff for the friends you’ve invited over, that’s not a party, that’s work. That is why whenever we have parties (which, mind you, we are the most boring people in the world, so we don’t do this all too often) we make sure as much is done in advance as possible. If there is a particularly tricky dish you really want to tackle but has to be done right before serving it, perhaps it isn’t the best idea to use for a birthday party but saved for a time when everyone can be involved in the process or be working on their own dishes, like during the holidays.

Parties should be a time to relax for everyone, including the host(s). Sure, something won’t go according to plan and the dog will probably knock somebody over and said somebody will spill their drink on somebody else and a chain reaction not unlike dominoes standing on end where just one tile gets pushed and soon they all fall down occurs. Okay, so a drastic scenario, yes, but not an unlikely one if you’ve ever met our dog, Lucy. By keeping the offerings simple you’ll allow yourself, and your guests, a chance to have fun. After all, isn’t that what parties are for?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween Decorating

With Halloween just over a week away, it’s time to start putting out those decorations. Unless, of course, you fall into one of two camps; you want to surprise your trick-or-treaters on Halloween night or you already have decorated… or a third option is you’re a Jehovah’s Witness and don’t celebrate holidays, in which case, you probably won’t be decorating anyway.

Our street is busy, has no sidewalks, and has no streetlamps. Due to these constraints we either get the diehard trick-or-treaters, the minivan trick-or-treaters or teenagers. So it comes as no surprise that there aren’t too many houses in our area decorated for this particular event. We, on the other hand, put out practically every Halloween themed decoration we have. As far as outdoor décor goes, there are only a few things that get put out until October 31st arrives, mostly due to the fact that the electronic stuff really shouldn’t stay outside for that long. Signs, creepy topiaries and tombstones, however, are already out in the front yard.

Inside the house is another question. I’m not really sure I want to go about decking the halls with boughs of spider infested cobwebs this year, but we’ll see. I know the priorities this weekend are getting our costumes ready, which will also entail a trip to the fabric store for my partner. For myself, I have no idea what I’m going to go as, since my original plan will not only be too costly, but time consuming to put together. Thank goodness I’ve got a ton of leftover costumes I can mix & match to create a new one.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Short Films

After careful review of the footage filmed from my masterpiece, Silence of the Owls, which I made back in 1993, I’m having second thoughts on taking directing credits. Sorry Grant, this really was your project so I’m giving them back to you.

Okay, so the main reason that I’m going to go back on my word is that after watching the movie I remembered my friend Grant actually doing the directorial portions. Sure, there was the one scene I filmed alone so I’ll take assistant directing credits, but as a whole he really helmed the project and should be given credit for doing so. That and the movie is so scattered and scenes are so incoherent and nothing lines up, so I’d rather he take the critical condemnation than I. Of course, we realized that while making the picture that it wasn’t going to be great, but c’mon, we could’ve at least filmed an ending to it. Oh well, I suppose as assistant director and the editor of the original, I can come up with a way to finish the project once and for all.

I’m not exactly sure when my fascination with video cameras began, but I do remember being in front of and (mostly) behind one a lot as a kid, whether it was filming my cousins dancing and making music videos or actually doing short movies. Funnily, I am probably the shyest member of my family, but put me in front of a camera or on the stage and I become a performer. I remember one time in the 6th grade when I was asked to be a mad scientist for a fundraising skit in front of my entire elementary school by my teacher, and being a kid who could never say no to a teacher I agreed to do it. I was nervous until the second I stepped foot on stage, and I went back to being incredibly anxious right afterwards. I don’t know why, but I’m still like this. I’ll never forget the words I got from a director once for a Reader’s Theater performance I was in where he told me, “Don’t look at the people in the audience but over them. I want you to look at that EXIT sign, that EXIT sign and that EXIT sign,” pointing to the left, center and right exits. This was by far the best advice to give someone who is shy by nature, but loves being in front of an audience.

But back to short films, I know my family can’t have been the only one into making these in the 80s and 90s. I couldn’t tell you how many video tapes we had used growing up, but probably more than we should have. I don’t even know if any of them still exist, but I know we had fun making them. Of course, back then there was no YouTube or even much in the way of the internet so sharing them meant physically having people at your house watching the movies. Today there seems to be no shortage of amateur talent, and while part of me wishes we had some of this technology when I was growing up, the other part of me is thankful it didn’t exist because I’m much more prepared now for any reaction my then 16 year old self did in front of a video camera. That is, I can watch the movie with other people and not feel the self-conscious embarrassment I had while showing it to my A/V class.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Quilt vs. Uninspired Quilt

If you’ve been reading my blog with any regularity, you know that I’ve been working on a project for the last couple months I’ve dubbed the Uninspired Quilt. Well, I may have to go back on my word about finishing it before starting my Fall Quilt.

Okay, so here’s the situation. I thought I had two packages of needle punched cotton batting, which I’d need to finish the Uninspired Quilt and start my Fall Quilt. The problem is that I only have one, or I can only find one at least. My craft room is so chaotic right now there are probably dead bodies in there or entire civilizations lost somewhere amongst the piles of fleece, fabric and fondant. So with only one package, I’ve made the decision to put the Uninspired Quilt on hold for the time being so I can start the Fall Quilt.

Who knows, maybe by the time I actually get around to quilting the Fall Quilt I’ll find the other package of batting I’m almost certain I have and be able to quilt both of them at the same time. Of course, that means I’ll have to decide on a quilting pattern, which is almost as stressful as figuring out block patterns for the quilt design itself. I do believe that I’ve found the design I’d like to use for the Fall Quilt after flipping through the book, Material Obsession by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke (which you should totally check out as they have combined modern and traditional quilts), combining 4 large feature panels with 11 Courthouse Steps blocks. It’s perfect for my Jelly Roll of Moda’s Mix & Mingle by Sandy Gervais. Well, perfect except I need to figure out what to do for the feature panels. More than likely I’ll make them out of the brown background fabric I have and appliqué leaves, pumpkins and acorns or something so it is actually reflective of my unique style I’ve employed on a multitude of baby blankets.


The worst part is that a major craft store is having a 2 for 1 deal on all of their batting right now and I can’t afford to buy any to stock up on future projects. Well, I will get a little money from a cake order today which will cover the cost of one so I could use it to get a couple tonight or tomorrow if I wanted to, so perhaps I shouldn’t pack up the Uninspired Quilt just yet. Maybe once it is finally finished I’ll be able to call it by the name I originally had, which is Open Envelopes, which is the block design I created for the quilt.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Christmas Planning

If you’ve been in a retail store lately, you’ve seen Christmas decorations being put out. I’m just glad most stores waited until after August this year.

As most of you know I worked in the world’s largest retail store for 9 years. Over the course of those 9 years it seemed we set our Christmas stuff out earlier and earlier, to the point that by the third week of August we were replacing gardening gear with ornaments and lights, practically bypassing the Back-To-School push (which started in May, a full month before school was even out that year), Halloween and Thanksgiving. Oh, those other big retail events were still out, but all in an area where customers weren’t expecting. Personally, I feel that seasonal items should be in the seasonal section of a store, not Stationary. But what do I know, after all, they let me go and are now barely staying afloat after some overambitious push to make more money that ended up failing and causing a stir even among their loyal customer base.

But, this isn’t a rant about retail, just a simple reminder that Christmas is about two months away, and the perfect time to start your planning for shopping, making projects and decorating. For years I’ve made a gift giving list for our friends and family, listing every single person in our life, and filling out what we would be getting them. A majority of them would just get cards, so please don’t think I’d actually buy or make everyone a present, because that is just crazy! Of course, those cards were all handmade, so I suppose in a way… From the remainder, I’d decide what I was either going to make or buy. Having this list done a couple months ahead allowed plenty of time to make projects, whether they be scrapbooks, hand painted ornaments, puppets or quilts. I’d usually start my gift shopping after Thanksgiving, that way I could wrap them right away and put them under the Christmas tree.

The best part about having a list is crossing stuff off of it. I especially enjoyed the thrill of crossing off nearly 90% of my list after completing and mailing Christmas cards. I don’t know why, but something about shrinking a large list down by that much all at once gives me a boost to finish the rest of the list. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t always do or get everything on the list, but having it as a guide sure helps. I make sure that everybody gets a card, and make extras just in case I forget anybody, which isn’t an unlikely scenario given the vast amount of people in my family alone. That way if I don’t get them a present, they at least got something from us.

The worst part about this is that I haven’t made a list in three years. Honestly it has been nice not having the added stress, but at the same time I don’t have an excuse not to make Christmas cards at the very least to send out. I know one reason is finances have been rather tight, but the biggest reason is simply not feeling the Christmas Spirit. Neither my partner or I have been in any mood to celebrate Christmas, or even Halloween or Thanksgiving for that matter, and this year both of us seem to be looking forward to these events again. I know I’ve been slacking on putting out the Halloween decorations and should probably get to those today, and I know we won’t be able to dress in the costumes we wanted to make, and I know that money is tighter this year more than ever, but we are both looking forward to the 2010 holiday season. I better go start making that Christmas List now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Unification of Church and Gay

The rash of recent suicides from bullied teens who either were gay or perceived to be such has pretty much made it obvious that we need to have an LGBTQ support group at our church. Hopefully sometime in the next couple weeks we’ll be able to make that happen.

Yesterday, my partner talked with our church’s social justice cheerleader (a nickname given to her by our pastor) about getting together this week to discuss what we can do to start up a group within our church. While PFLAG is a great option, we feel that our church should have a group for members and visitors. But what the goal of this group will be I’m uncertain, hence, the reason we are going to have a meeting. Most of the time when you hear of churches discussing the issues around homosexuality, it is primarily focused on “saving” them or trying to convert them to the heterosexual lifestyle. Our church is focused on welcoming everybody, regardless of who you are.

About ten years ago I wrote an article about the origins of homophobia, most of which stemmed from religion, and the fact that the basis for this hatred was off of mistranslated words. Further research led me to believe that even taking what is currently accepted as a suitable English translation from the original Hebrew and Greek, still doesn’t warrant the kind of outrage and bigotry associated with the Religious “Right’s” attack on homosexuality unless they also attack menstruating women, children who refuse to be prostitutes because their parents told them to be, or anyone who wears a cotton/polyester blend shirt. Go ahead and read Leviticus… it’s fun. I just find it interesting that there weren’t any words for homosexual in the Old Testament and the two words used in the New Testament, “pornea” and “akatharsia” (which translate as fornicate and uncleanness) have nothing to do with homosexuality. And mind you, this wasn’t for a lack of words in the Greek language to describe gays, because there were roughly 45-50 different words to choose from at the time the New Testament was written.

I think it is time for some healing to begin. I think it is time for churches to realize that marginalizing a minority will only alienate them from mainstream society. But not only that, marginalizing any human being sets a precedent that intolerance, hatred and bullying are accepted, which as a Christian, goes against the core values of the faith. I think it is time for so many churches who have used their platform to spread hate to turn it around and spread love instead. Seriously people, what would Jesus do?


The Vancouver United Church of Christ website:

http://www.vanucc.org/

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls: Part Deux

My wonderful partner decided to try his hands at making homemade cinnamon rolls again Saturday morning. Oh… my… gawd… were they delicious.


A few alterations was apparently all it took to take a basic dough and turn it into manna from heaven. Of course, making the full batch rather than halving it made a huge difference as it filled the pan much better and allowed the edges to touch, rather than dry out from over-baking. Basically it was the same recipe as before, but with a few minor improvements we talked about a few days ago, like brown sugar instead of white and a heavily whipped cream cheese frosting instead of sweet icing. Sometimes just a couple tweaks is all it takes.


So why is that? Well, from what I’ve gathered, most cookbooks are great places to start from. They usually are formulated to appeal to the widest range of people, and therefore can sometimes be a little bland or lacking for people with more discriminating tastes. There are exceptions, no doubt, and I have a ton of cookbooks I’ve used recipes from without alterations, but a majority require either a little ingenuity and a lot of experience cooking and baking to know what you can and shouldn’t do.

You see, cooking should be an expression of yourself, and the same theory applies to baking. If you are making a dish that traditionally isn’t spicy but you like spice and the dish will lend itself beautifully to a bit of heat, try it. You may want to test it on a small portion just in case it tastes ass-nasty, but really, trust your gut instincts. When he made the first batch of cinnamon rolls, his gut told him to follow the recipe, which whenever trying something new, I always agree that you should start with what it says to do. That way you have a starting point to work from. Does it need more salt? Is it not sweet enough or perhaps a little too sweet for your tastes?

Cooking and baking is all about experimenting. There isn’t a recipe out there that wasn’t created from trial and error, so who says you can’t continue the experiment after someone has gone and published it in a book? But the best thing about cooking and baking, is that you can get the whole family involved. I’m not saying this will be easy or anywhere near as clean and neat as you might cook, but the memories you make together will stick with those kids for a lifetime. I know the ones where my parents (all of them) spent with me and maybe my siblings cooking together or making cookies have probably shaped the reason I love working in the kitchen today. Why not make a few memories of your own?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Home Movies

Back in March, I wrote about transferring home movies to DVD or some other digital archival quality method. Yesterday, I finally transferred my masterpiece.

Okay, so really, it isn’t so much a masterpiece as it was a high school project done for my Audio Video class. However, with it safely transferred to a DVD I no longer have to worry about it degrading any further, and sadly, the footage has degraded quite a bit. This isn’t unexpected, mind you, as it was originally recorded onto VHS back in 1992 and 1993, but some parts look a little rough.

So what is this project, you ask? It was a short film loosely based off a radio show I wrote, starred in and directed for the same class. I say loosely because the “director” and I (yes, he’s in quotes because I was the director, he was just getting credit for the project because I’d already directed a one) agreed to try our hands at adlibbing, especially since we were all such fine thespians. Okay, so none of us could act and none of us had a clue what the hell we were doing, but the results are hilarious nonetheless. Of course, the trick is in the editing room, which come to think of it, I edited the original too. Let’s see, if my credits are correct, I wrote, acted, directed, casted, edited, produced, videoed, chose the music and created the animated beginning and ending credits. Hmmm… Sorry Grant, I’m taking credit for this project!

Yes, I created animated credits, thanks in no small part to Mario Paint for the Super Nintendo. Of course, this was the simplest part of the movie, since I’d already been making silly cartoons based off my little brother Brandon’s book series he wrote and illustrated and sold to neighbors for a ninety percent profit, with ten percent going to his mother for paper. I believe this money went towards a framed, autographed picture of Harrison Ford. No, this isn’t a joke. But back to the animated credits, I fear they are not going to work, as they appear to be almost unrecognizable. I’ll see what I can do in the editing room, which pretty much goes for the rest of the movie. Perhaps I will have to redo the credits using Flash or perhaps some other vector-based animation software (preferably free shareware) which I’m sure will make my Wacom Pen & Tablet happy.

I’m thinking that, just for fun, as this will not be some major Hollywood hit, of making a Special Almost 20th Anniversary Edition of the movie, and include the original radio show, script, an audio commentary and new interviews with the original cast. And, perhaps, just to make one of my two brothers named Ryan blush, include the video he had me take of him dancing to Bobby Brown’s “Humpin’ Around” as a special bonus.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Volunteering

This morning I was at the Clark College Advisory Board Recognition Breakfast. While sitting down and enjoying a delicious meal before the program started, I asked myself why is it that I volunteer my time and talents?

Often we hear of people complaining they don’t have enough money to throw at a particular charity or cause, and all too often, that is the case. But for those people, why not then give those charities or causes a little of your time or offer to help with an upcoming project? After all, giving time out of your day is just as valuable as money from your wallet. For me, I’ve never had much cash on hand or in the bank, but I usually have a little time I can spare for a good cause.

Sometimes I wonder what it is that others see in me that makes them think I would be a good candidate for a particular volunteer activity, especially being on the Business Administration Advisory Committee at Clark College when I am not even a college graduate. However, with today’s breakfast and program it became pretty clear… my experience in the workforce. I may not have all the answers (yes, shocking, I know, that I’d even admit that) but I am able to put relevancy into play. That, and after years of thinking I needed to keep my opinions to myself, I’ve become quite vocal about what I think needs to be done and what needs to be cut from various programs. Apparently that assertiveness is welcome in this environment, even when in other situations it may be grounds for termination.

I also volunteer my time on various committees at my church, and through church, various social outreach and community events. I find that giving a little of myself actually makes me feel more whole and enriched as a human being. While it is true you don’t make money as a volunteer, but what you gain is a lot more fulfilling.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

So yesterday morning my partner decided he wanted to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. He did, and they were delicious, but could use a little more experimentation.

Utilizing our bread maker’s “DOUGH” option, he measured and poured all of the ingredients into the baking pan and let it proceed to mix, knead and rise. An hour and a half later the dough was ready to be rolled out, spread with butter, cinnamon and sugar. After rolling, cutting and placing the raw rolls into the final baking pan, he let them rise a final time while the oven preheated. When they were doubled in size, he baked them for about 25 minutes, I made a quick icing with the leftover butter that didn’t go into the dough or spread onto it to hold the cinnamon and sugar mixture, a little milk, powdered sugar and vanilla. He poured it onto the freshly baked rolls and we each had one, and they were warm and tasted good, but they were, well, perhaps a little bland.

My partner has already decided he’s going to make them again this weekend, but with a few differences. Salted butter, brown sugar and cream cheese icing all come to mind as improvements over unsalted butter, granulated sugar and sweet icing. Yes, I know that true bakers only use unsalted butter, but flavor-wise, salted brings out butter flavor better than unsalted butter with salt added, I don’t know why. Besides, I have no formal training and neither does my partner, so we experiment with what works best and use it until we find something better.


In case you are curious, the original recipe came from the famous Betty Crocker 1969 Cookbook, one of the most coveted cookbooks ever. Go ahead, Google it or check out auction websites for how much this book goes for. We have the fifteenth printing from 1972, and it has been well used to the point where we’ve had to transfer a few recipes onto the computer because they are becoming nearly unreadable.

While it is true, making your own cinnamon rolls takes a little more time than going to the store and picking up premade ones in the bakery, or a tube from the refrigerated section, the end results are worth it. I’d suggest going through your cookbook(s) and making a batch this weekend for your family or friends. After all, aren’t they worth the effort?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dumbing Yourself Down

Yesterday while I was being screened for a job referral at our local government employment agency, I was informed to, and I quote, “dumb down your resume.” Apparently employers aren’t looking for qualified individuals, they’re looking for bodies that can respond, “yessum.”

I informed her that this was my dumbed down version of this particular resume, which was also tailored specifically for the job I was hoping to apply for while leaving out a majority of my relative experience in that field. She responded by saying that if you put down too much employers will think they have to pay you more. Perhaps what she was trying to tell me was to apply for all these positions I know I could do but require Bachelor’s Degrees because my experience without the education might be a way to save a little money. We’ll see how that pans out.

Before the Clark College Business Administration Advisory Board meeting yesterday afternoon I talked with some of the committee about this. Of course, as an academic institution they were surprised, but some of the employers on the board were also surprised that this was being told to job searchers. I told them my theory was that most employers are looking for people they can mold into their corporate culture without excess baggage. In other words, somebody who will do what they say and how they want it done, not a know-it-all.

My problem is that I am a know-it-all. I mean, I don’t know everything, mind you, but I do a lot of research on how to do something, take all those various ways to approach and complete a project, and from there produce my own plan of action. I do this when coming up with new recipes I’ve never tried before and in the same manner before trying a new craft project. This method has worked out well for me by being able to eliminate potential issues and finding potential shortcuts, thus, creating a more efficient plan.

Now, I don’t come up with a new plan for everything I do, as these methods can be adapted in various ways. For cake making, knowing proper ratios for ingredients and their variables makes it easy to turn one recipe into a dozen, much in the same that learning shortcuts in quilting can result in shortcuts in all sorts of other sewing projects. I’ve used this philosophy in the workplace with excellent results, so I know it can be adapted into the confines of certain corporate cultures.

Perhaps I need to look at my resumes once again, throw out anything that is not on the qualifications and requirements for the job and see if that helps. Somehow I have a feeling I’ll be told my resume looks a little scarce and employers are looking for people with experience.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Luck

Yesterday as I was enjoying a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal (don’t mock, they’re magically delicious), I noticed a new marbit, an hourglass. I was perplexed how a symbol associated with the passing of time was lucky, which got me wondering just how symbols became good luck charms in the first place?


I know, I know, I’m probably overthinking the whole issue of marbits, which, in case you haven’t figured it out, is what those little marshmallow bits in cereals are called and is little more than an overly compensated contraction by eliminating the “shmallow” between the two words and turning them into one, hence marbits. But on a more serious note, why would an hourglass be a good luck charm? Watch just about any movie or read a book that has an hourglass and it is invariably a countdown to eventual doom. Of course, this may be a good luck charm for the person who turned the hourglass over, and not so much for whom the sands fall.

Then there are symbols which have been known for thousands of years to be considered good luck charms that are now almost taboo because one culture twisted it into their own. Take the swastik for instance, the name of which translates into “purveyor of good fortune.” The Nazi’s turned it at an angle, added an “a” and perverted the good nature of the symbol, tainting the swastik forever. This Hindu symbol that represents the Lord of good fortune, Ganesh, is what makes it a lucky charm, but what about four leaf clovers and rainbows? What lore is behind those symbols?

Well, the clover has its own mystique in the fact that it is rare to simply stumble upon one. Celtic tradition says the four leaf clover protected them against evil spirits while the Druids considered it an omen of good things to come. Apparently the only thing lucky about a rainbow is that there is supposedly a pot of gold on the end of it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never staggered across one and I’ve been looking at rainbows my entire life.

So what is it about an hourglass that is lucky? What would prompt General Mills to produce a new marbit lucky charm from a symbol that, well, isn’t really considered lucky at all? What would prompt them to create their own legend and lore about a new charm to add to their growing collection of delicious marshmallowy goodness laden cereal? I have a theory. They’re running out of luck, so they’re creating they’re own.

There is an old saying, “there is no fate but what we make.” Okay, so that is a line from Terminator, but it still holds some weight in life. If we go through life with a pessimistic attitude, we’ll probably miss the little things that make it pleasurable. But if we live it with optimism we not only will see the good, but create even more as that optimism spreads. I think I’ll take a cue from Lucky Charms and see if I can’t create a little of my own luck.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Build-A-Bear Cakes

It was last summer on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Portland while we had an out-of-town guest that I stumbled upon a cake pan on clearance at Williams Sonoma. It was to make a standup Build-A-Bear cake and I had to have it.

One issue with impulsive purchases is that the thrill of the find is sometimes more rewarding than the actual item itself. This seemed to be the case with this particular cake pan. I mean, that isn’t to say that I didn’t go home, wash the pan and bake a cake out of it that same day, because I did, but since it didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped (or anywhere near what they looked like on the box) I boxed it up put it away. Over a year later I finally decided to give this cake pan another shot.

Our choir director at church had been there for twenty years and yesterday’s service, unbeknownst to her, was wholly devoted to her. Our pastor wanted a special cake to commemorate this event and commissioned me to come up with something. Being the procrastinator I am, it wasn’t until the day before that I started researching what kind of cake I could make. I already figured that I’d make mostly cupcakes and have a centerpiece cake that I’d actually spend time decorating. I mean, there have been times I spent hours decorating cakes only to have them completely cut and plated before anyone got to see it, and honestly, what is the point of wasting all that time? Eventually I decided to attempt another Build-A-Bear cake and dress her up like a choir director.


Now, this isn’t to say that this time it went smoother because, well, it only went slightly better than my previous attempt nearly fifteen months ago. However, It did work out well enough. I’m sure with practice I’ll be able to perfect the technique, especially the “fur” application, which is where after making a glaze, demerara sugar is applied to create a fur-like texture. That actually looked really cool, but did make it a little more difficult to cover with fondant clothing, so in the future I may forgo the texture where any coverings are going to be. She still turned out great, but I’ve run into another issue that seems to run rampant with some of my cakes in which people don’t want to cut into them because, well, I really don’t know. Sometimes I wish I always carried a cake-cutting knife with me to just slice right down the center of a cake to make people get over it because, c’mon people, it’s cake. Eat it.

And just so you know, the cake wasn’t eaten. Instead, the choir director took it to her office where it will sit until Wednesday when they meet for practice. I assured it that it won’t be any good, but we’ll see. I might be proven wrong… or it might fall over due to a little thing called gravity.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Projects

With the Uninspired Quilt nearly finished, I find myself wanting to start my fall projects. And yes, I know that fall is here.

I was hoping to be done and over with the Uninspired Quilt at least a month ago so I could begin work on my fall quilt and pet covers for the sofa, but alas, other projects took precedent. And then there was the situation of not finding a pattern I liked enough. I’m beginning to think these precuts fabrics are more of a challenge then I originally thought. I mean, I think they’re a great way to get an entire fabric line, but at the same time with all of those choices it can sometimes be overwhelming.

So for my fall quilt I’m using Sandy Gervais’s Mix & Mingle Jelly Roll from Moda and picked up extra yardage of her solid brown, which has a wonderful textured look to it. The strips could be easy to work with if I choose a pattern that will translate well, but at the same time I don’t want to just throw something together without giving it careful thought. I mean, there was some hard-earned cake making money involved in that purchase! However, I want to finish the quilt before we decorate for Christmas! I know I wrote a few days ago that I had narrowed down my choices to a couple different patterns, but now I’m having second thoughts. I guess a little more internet research, Moda Bake Shop recipes and quilt book browsing might have to be in order after church this morning.

The one thing I could probably finish relatively quickly is the pet cover for the sofa. I’m thinking that while I really liked having two of them, perhaps I should try to design a single, table runner style for the fall version. I have a Moda Charm Pack of Sandy Gervais’s Gobble Gobble and some leftover fabric from another project in mind for it. For the back I’ll do what I did with the last ones, which is raid my stash of fleece I originally bought for puppet making and quilt onto it. Don’t want to spend any more money on it than I have to as these are simply to cover the rips and tears in the sofa from our dog, Lucy, and keep them as clean as possible. Seriously, if your pets do sleep on your sofas, use an old blanket or make or buy a pet cover for them. Being able to throw it into the wash once a week has dramatically reduced how dirty the sofa gets.

Ah, so many plans and so many other plans to get in the way. If only there was a little pill I could take to focus? Uh oh. I think I’ve got the topic for tomorrows post.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Getting Over Failures

It seems my anger over being laid off from The Most Evil Corporation in the World still hasn’t subsided. Apparently simply telling myself to get over it doesn’t work.

So, with that in mind, I’m attempting to figure out the root causes for my anger every time somebody mentions the name of The Most Evil Corporation in the World or I see a sign, ad, or commercial. Is it rage or resentment? Or is it simply a matter of being injured by a company I spent so long defending only to have it bite me in the ass? Perhaps it really is just the latter. Honestly, I don’t take betrayal very well and that is what it felt like.

Over the past two years I’ve tried to figure out a way to prevent myself from going through something like that again by focusing on my cake decorating business, but setbacks both financially and legally impede on that solving any of my problems. I then started up my Etsy shop in hopes that if I spent my time a little more wisely I could at least supplement what little income we have, but my lack of focus and clear lack of ambition has dug me into a much deeper hole than I was in before losing my job.

Looking back at the jobs I’ve held, it is obvious I’ve had ambitions. Starting work at a fast food restaurant in high school, I was practically an assistant manager before graduating. I say practically because I had all the responsibilities of an assistant but at half the pay, which prepared me to apply for an assistant manager position that I was told I pretty much had, only to have them retract that promise after I took out a loan on a car. Without the extra income I wasn’t going to be able to keep the car and ended up voluntarily having it repossessed.

Within a few months I was looking for another job, which I found working at a hotel reservation center. While there wasn’t much room for advancement at this particular job, there were other ways to grow. I positioned myself as the go to person for making posters and promoting community fundraising events, which eventually became a full-time endeavor. For four months I had my own desk and felt like I could actually use my creative talents and turn them into a paycheck. However, New Year’s Day I came to work to find my desk cleaned out and everything packed carelessly into a box with an explanation that my job was to take reservations, not make posters. This wasn’t done by my direct supervisor or my boss or even my boss’s boss, but by the person who had a cubicle next to me and wanted to use both of them for her stuff. Feeling defeated, I went back onto the sales floor and resumed taking reservations and within a few weeks I was back into the swing of things. That is, until I received a call from a customer asking if a certain merger was about to happen and I answered I wasn’t sure. A few more calls from other people led me to ask my boss about it. This apparently was a mistake. I got a call that night from my supervisor informing me that I was going to be called into a meeting with her and the boss with the intention of firing me over discussing confidential information. Really? I never confirmed nor denied the merger to any of the people I talked to and now I was going to be fired for something the public clearly knew before we did? This prompted me to write my letter of resignation, which turned out to be four pages long, and which I made copies of and put into everybody’s mailbox. A bit of an overreaction? Undoubtedly, but with this letter I think I created an atmosphere of mistrust and within a year the reservation center was closed down due to the merger with the largest hotel chain in the world. All I could think at the time was Knud Schleussen (it’s an inside joke, so only a select few who worked at the reservation center at the time of The Great Knud Schleussen Debacle will get this reference.)

Months went by without a paycheck and depression set in. My relationship with my partner became strained to the point where it almost ended. Then I applied for The Most Evil Corporation in the World, was interviewed and hired in the span of an hour and spent the next 9 years working there. Starting out as a temporary seasonal worker, by year’s end I had not only gotten full time status but three raises. Eventually I worked myself up to Department Manager which also got me into the Safety Team which I ended up taking over for a couple years. Time passed, the best boss I’ve ever had stepped down, and the person who replaced her was arguably the worst boss I’ve ever had. When working in a retail store, one in which customer service is a key component to its success, cussing out customers and employees and berating them in front of other customer and other employees should not be tolerated, but apparently with this person it was. The first opportunity I had to take over another department I jumped at it. While I went from the smallest department in terms of items to the second largest in terms of items, the transition was fairly smooth. This was due highly in part to generous help from the previous Department Manager of that department and a District Manager who actually cared about her people succeeding. Of course, anything this good was meant to eventually fade, which it did. However, with only a select few who actually knew how to run the department, I felt like I was in a safe position… even a couple years after when other Department Managers were suddenly being let go for absurd reasons. When out of the blue I was called into the Manager’s office, I jokingly told another Department Manager I must be next on the list. It came as quite a shock when they told me I was. I fought to keep my job, even offering to step down into another department, but they told me I should have done that months ago instead of while I was on the chopping block. Trying to keep a positive attitude about the whole situation, I informed them that I was looking at this as an opportunity to branch out and try something different, but inside I could barely contain my rage.

After months of unsuccessful job searching, I felt defeated yet again. I began to only do the bare minimum to keep my unemployment checks coming, and every once in a while would get the urge to look a little harder only to still get no response back from prospective employers. And through it all I kept my anger towards The Most Evil Corporation in the World, but why? Why after two years do I still hold such resentment and disdain towards my former employer for letting me go to profit even more from the recession by saving more money getting rid of full time employees with benefits and only hiring part time employees without? And there was my answer. I wasn’t angry just at my situation, but at the situation as a whole. I spent so long defending the principles which this company was supposed to stand for, only to have everything people warned me about happen to me and those around me. Watching and reading what the founder of the company had implemented to create an atmosphere of ownership and pride in its employees being shoved out the door for a new atmosphere of do it our way or get out created a shift that will eventually come back to haunt the company. The trouble is that the desperation people have in these hard economic times, the last thing on their mind is fairness while at the forefront is where they can get the cheapest goods to provide for their families and themselves. And to this, The Most Evil Corporation in the World has profited on people’s fears and uncertainties while decreasing their payroll and increasing their profit margins.

Gone are the days of good customer service and gone are the days of employees taking pride and ownership in their jobs. For now, if they have a job and a steady paycheck they are the lucky ones. I think it is time for me to accept the fact that my eventual departure from The Most Evil Corporation in the World was inevitable as my personal beliefs were no longer shared by my employer. I think it is time for me to let go of the anger I have towards The Most Evil Corporation in the World and move on with my life so I can find another job, one in which I don’t feel threatened for believing that good customer service is more beneficial than always making the sale. I think it is time for me to stop referring to my former employer as The Most Evil Corporation in the World, and start using its actual name when talking about them and hope that will heal the wounds they have given me.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Uninspired Quilt: Backing

Using my handy calculator on my phone, I punched in the square inches and figured I had more than enough fabric to simply cut it in half lengthwise and sew back together widthwise. Unfortunately, after actually measuring the fabric, I had either been shorted nearly half a yard or only bought 2½ yards of it.

Still, with 2½ yards, I would be cutting it close, literally, but I’d have to be a little more creative. When I thought about having to piece together a bunch of random sized fabrics to make this work, I decided to simply use some of the leftovers from the topper to create a simple design in the center of the back. This turned out better than I had originally anticipated, so much so that I’m thinking of appliquéing a few simple designs (hearts, circles or squares) onto the back before I quilt the whole thing together. That will make this a reversible quilt, and we all know people like two-for-one deals.

Funnily, now that I’m so close to finishing the quilt, it has grown on me and I think will be difficult to part with. I think that is why with all of the baby blankets I’ve made I try to make them from start to finish in an afternoon so I don’t get emotionally attached. Of course, I’m wondering if simply separating my fabric into “Mine for Keep” and “Projects for Sale” will help, but I doubt it.

Perhaps I just need to stick with a specific quilt design that I’m familiar with and only make those for now to put in my Etsy shop, such as my baby blanket design. Making different center appliqués is fairly simple and I can design and cut out a dozen different patterns for them relatively quickly. Maybe I need to challenge myself to find out just how many I can make in a day.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Straw

I had used the last of our straw bale last weekend after I cleaned out the henhouse and knew I needed more. What I forgot was how much those bales weigh.

We tend to go through a bale of straw every six months and a bag of shavings about once a year. Mind you, this bag of shavings is 4 cubic feet, so it is by no means a small bag as most of you have probably conjured up in your imaginations. The bale of straw is huge and weighs a lot. I mean, a lotta lotta lotta lot. And it is packed so tightly it is nearly impossible to grasp the cording that keeps it together to carry it. I don’t remember the last few bales being like this, as I was able to pick them up and carry them to the wall, thrust them onto the upper level of our backyard, walk up the steps and over to the bale to take them to the covered area we keep them behind the chicken coop. Not so much with this last bale. I could barely get it out of the back of our Blazer.

This got me thinking that either this bale of straw was heavier than usual or I’m getting weaker. As much as I’d like to say it is the former, I have a feeling the latter is true. Of course, what little manliness I have suddenly gets flushed down the toilet when I see my sister-in-law chuck bales of hay (there is a difference between straw and hay, but they tend to weigh the same) as if they’re pancakes.

However, I can almost guarantee that this nearly two year unemployment adventure I’ve gotten into has not only weakened my body, but my spirits as well. I guess I’m saying that there is an emptiness associated with a stay-at-home-“_ _ _ _ _” who doesn’t have “dad” or “caregiver” in the blank. Of course, this isn’t to say that if I could actually make money working from home I wouldn’t do it, because honestly I would. But logically that isn’t going to happen unless I focus and give 200%, and unfortunately I’m not motivated to be there yet.

I guess I can equate life to this particularly heavy bale of straw. When times are good, the bale is easier to lift and put away. But when times aren’t so great, the burden seems heavier than it really is, and not only slows you down but nearly breaks you into giving up. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to be a quitter. I want to move that bale into place and protect it from the rain and prevent it from decaying. I want to, and I’m the only person who can do this… for me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rotten Tomatoes

Gardening is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. Okay, so you know, but you don’t know if it’ll actually come to fruition.

With the abundance of green tomatoes on the vines in our garden boxes, from some we planted from seed, some we purchased, and some that sowed themselves from the previous year, I thought for certain our tomato harvest would be plentiful. Instead, an abundance of rain and cool weather has not only prevented them from ripening, but has caused them to start rotting. I’d say a little over half our crop has rotted out, and that’s quite a bit from an already miniscule amount of fruit these plants have produced (on the ones that actually produced fruit at all.) I guess this is what they refer to as slim pickings.


My original thought on the matter was that we would at least have green tomatoes to fry and dip into some freshly made garlic mayonnaise, but now I don’t know if we’ll even have that. The only two tomatoes that have been giving ripened fruit are the Roma and Sun Gold (orange cherry) plants, the latter being the more proficient. Our Early Girl and Oregon Spring seem to be the most susceptible.


So I decided to do a little more research about rotting tomatoes, and a whole host of things I didn’t consider popped up. I did think blossom end rot could be the culprit on some, but most of these fruits were getting all brown and squishy in various areas and not near the blossom end. As it turns out, even though our summer has been less than ideal, the sun we have been getting has been scalding the tomatoes, probably due to an insufficient amount of leaves to protect them. That, and it also appears that a couple of the plants have early blight which severely decreased the amount of shade available to the fruit. Due to this, there will absolutely not be any tomatoes in that box next year. Methinks lettuce and spinach will have to take their place.

Gardening is a lot of trial and error, and unfortunately this year had a lot of errors, both on our part and the cool, wet summer we had. However, we had absolutely delicious onions, carrots, and strawberries, and our herbs did extremely well too, especially the basils and sage. Our squashes are a different story, as from the thirty or so pumpkin plants we have two pumpkins, and from the four zucchinis we actually pulled four zucchinis… all from the same plant. Oh well, you can’t have a good harvest every year!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Quilt

Okay, so maybe I haven’t finished the Uninspired Quilt yet. But seriously, times-a-passing and autumn is here so I want to get this fall quilt done pronto!

I have a Moda Jelly Roll of Sandy Gervais’s incredibly difficult to find Mix & Mingle (admittedly, it is three years old so this isn’t surprising), a Charm Pack of her Gobble Gobble line and 3 yards of her solid brown. It appears I must also admit that I love Sandy Gervais as a designer too. Something about nearly every line she’s come out with inspires me to have fun with her fabrics. Actually that may just be it… her fabric designs are fun.



Anyway, I’ve been wanting to make the Mix & Mingle quilt since I brought home the Jelly Roll and solid brown fabric. The Charm Pack of Gobble Gobble will be used for the sofa’s pet blanket, which I think I’ll redesign to make it more efficient than my first seat covers I did with Ms. Gervais’s Frolic line, which coordinates with the quilt I made with the Scrap Bag I picked up in St. Helens. I unfortunately couldn’t find a Mix & Mingle Charm Pack and didn’t know if there would be enough leftover fabric to make seat covers, so I picked up the Gobble Gobble charm pack. If I can make seat covers with leftovers from the Jelly Roll, I’ll use the charm pack for another project.


While I love the framed 9-patch pattern I used for the Summer Quilt, I want to use or make a pattern that utilizes the strips in a way that reduces the amount of cutting necessary. I don’t want to do this because I’m lazy, I want to do this because I really want to take advantage of these 2½ x 44 inch strips. Part of me is thinking about sewing 4 or 5 of these strips together and cutting them down to square blocks then rearranging them into a parquet pattern, while another part of me simply wants to sew two strips together to form 20 long strips and alternate them with strips of the solid brown. The latter would be easier, but it wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Uninspired Quilt: Contemplating Quilting Techniques

With it already being October, I need to start work on my autumn quilt before fall is over. However, I refuse to begin until I’ve finished the Uninspired Quilt.

I really need to stop calling it the Uninspired Quilt now, since it is completely impeding on my chances of finishing the damn thing. On a good note I have completed the top which, arguably, is the halfway mark. The quilting portion will be the next step, unless I didn’t get enough backing fabric all those years ago. More than likely I’ll have to do a simple design to extend the backing fabric, but I think I’ll just do something with the leftover fabric from the front. I mean, I don’t intend this quilt to be reversible, but if it turns out to be that’ll definitely be a bonus.

Now that the front is done I have to admit that it is beginning to grow on me. Perhaps the term “uninspired” can transform into “challenge” although that seems highly unlikely. I designed a fairly simple pattern, sewed it all together, put a border around the whole thing in relatively little time, and now it is sitting on the dining room table awaiting the final processes of quilting and binding to be completed. The hard part is deciding if I want to do a simple straight stitch quilting or try my hand at free-motion? Or do I want to dabble into hand quilting instead of using the sewing machine?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Garden Cleanup

Okay, so admit it, during some of those hot days of summer you didn’t water your annuals and now they look like crap or have died? I’d hate to think it was just me.

We have a garden under the eaves of our house in the front yard between the garage and the front door. This section is difficult to keep hydrated because, well, no rain ever gets to it, so even during the winter it requires watering. The actual perennial plants and shrubs we have can tolerate less water but annuals need quite a bit more. But after a while, like, say, mid-September, I feel myself deciding to just leave them. I mean, you can’t decorate for Halloween with happy pink impatiens peeking out from behind the tombstones!

So, before the weather gets so nasty you don’t want to even think about going outside to do yard work, why not take a few minutes to clean out some of the dead stuff. It shouldn’t take long if you haven’t watered in a while and you have rather loose soil, but if you have stuff directly in the ground, you may want to set aside an afternoon. When pulling out the dead plants, you will want to make sure you get the root ball too, as these can impede on future plantings growth. I know our front window box (this makes it sound small, but in reality it is an 18 inch high and wide box that spans about 9 feet) is in need of being emptied and refilled with potting soil, which can wait till spring. Hanging baskets and pots that are either filled with dead or dying plants should be emptied and stacked for next year or replanted with fall and winter flowers and plants. It is also a good idea to go ahead and deadhead any plants with spent blooms since you are outside in your garden clothes anyway.

For me, this was only part one of a two part process, and unfortunately the easier of the two tasks. Come next month when the rest of the flowers are done for the year in the backyard, I’ll have to clean out all of the in-ground stuff, the wall, the rock garden, and most of the stuff in the vegetable boxes. Ah, but at least the front yard is almost ready for Halloween decorations. Now all we have to do is go through everything from previous years and decide what to put out, what to keep, and what to toss.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Underwear Shopping

While some of you may enjoy shopping for underwear, I despise one of the tactics employed by the manufacturer. It seems they take great pleasure to lure you in with an extra pair, only to have you discover that your size is the only one that doesn’t come with it.

Okay, so maybe I’m bitter at the fact that my average size makes it difficult to pick up any deals or sales because it is usually the first to go. While Smalls and Extra Larges have a multitude of free underwear available, my Mediums had none… not even in the underwear I would never buy. I’m a bargain hunter, as most know, or a cheapskate if you want another term, so the fact that I didn’t see any didn’t stop me from searching through every single package to make sure. Obsessive? Maybe. Financially conscious? Yes.

The only reason I needed to buy new underwear was because, well, after a while the holes in some of my older pairs were larger than the areas they are meant to keep covered. This would be great for, say, an S & M porn shoot, but I’m not a porn star nor have any desire to do that kind of work. Why then would I keep them? In case the other pairs were all dirty, of course. However, with their slight usefulness waning I decided to just break down and get a few more.

Underwear shopping irks me almost as much as shopping for jeans, which, admittedly are probably the hardest things to shop for. What? You think us guys can just go out and buy any pair of jeans, put them on and be done with it? Clearly you don’t understand the difficulties in finding just the right pair of jeans that flatters our asses while not flattening out the package. This is why most guys will wear a pair of jeans to their death. Personally the main jeans I wear I’ve had for ten years and yes, there are holes all over them and yes, I’ve had to sew areas back together on them, but they fit. I know that eventually the holes will become too much, like with the underwear fiasco, and I dread that day because I will then have to go searching for that elusive perfect pair of blue jeans.

However, all was not lost on my underwear shopping experience. I found a package similar to ones I wear (because apparently basic underwear has to go through a yearly makeover too) and wandered over to the 75% off Clearance section and found another screen tee to add to my collection for $1.98. Sometimes things work out for a reason. Mine was Captain America.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Leftover Quilting: Carry-Along Blankie

I finished what will be the last of the Ladybug & Daisy line in my Etsy shop, mostly because I’ve used up nearly all the fabric I had leftover from the baby blanket I had made years ago. Okay, so I have enough fabric left to do another carry-along, but really, I need to work on something else.


From the crib quilt I made I had a few leftover squares that were already sewn together to form rectangles and really wanted to use them somehow in the carry-along blankie. I decided to go ahead and form two 4-patch blocks out of the four rectangles, which got me almost halfway done. As I was checking out the Moda Bake Shop for any ideas, I saw a small quilt done with pinwheels and slapped my head for not thinking of those for the other two blocks.



Always the adventurous spirit, I figured I’d try a method for making pinwheels (or any other square made with two triangles) that utilized two squares, fronts facing each other with a line at a diagonal down the center of the two. Straight stitching on either side of the line then using it to cut the squares in half afterwards to reveal two perfectly formed squares from triangles. I’m a chain stitcher so this went by really quickly. After pressing the squares, I sewed them into blocks and put them next to the 4-patch blocks I’d made previously. It needed something else, so I decided to frame the blocks in white and also make a border using the green ladybug & daisy print.


Once the front was put together, I sewed it onto batting and backing, quilted using a simple straight stitch, then hand tied some areas too. What can I say, I really like the look of a quilted blanket after it’s been washed, but I’m a sucker for the hand tied look too. Figuring the extra durability it will provide won’t hurt, I decided to utilize both techniques, especially since this was to be made for a toddler to carry-along with them wherever they go.

While it is sad to be finished with the Ladybug & Daisy line, I’m looking forward to picking out a new set of fabrics to form a similar set for a baby boy’s nursery. Part of me wishes I had enough ladybug & daisy fabric to make a diaper bag, but I know the miniscule amount won’t make one. Perhaps I should think about that when selecting which prints to use for the next line.