4/28/17

At Last

We had such a good time at Mike's send-off yesterday evening. There's the old man now.


It was the first time I'd met the people he works with, although I'd heard about them many times before. It was fun reminiscing about the many places he's worked. As with any party, everyone was talking at once, and it was hard to hear anything. I noticed, however, that when he started talking about technology from early in his career, the room grew quiet and they all listened and laughed. In his field, new technology comes along and old falls by the wayside and is quickly forgotten. A few of the engineers there were younger than our own sons. Some of what he was describing might as well have come from the stone age as far as they were concerned.

Soon, his countdown clock will look like this:


He's going into work this morning, but mainly just to turn in his security badge and his company-provided laptop, and to say his final round of good-byes. Mike knew at a young age what he wanted to do for his career, and it is a career that has been good to him. He's been afforded many opportunities to work with smart people on interesting projects, and even to do some traveling. He has no regrets, but a lot of excitement about what comes next.

It's been hard to concentrate to get very much done. Yesterday, I made the crust for the lemon meringue pie I'll finish off today. The pie is a bit of a production, although it isn't difficult, and so I made the crust yesterday, and I'll fill it today. This recipe is from Cook's Illustrated. The crust is rolled out on graham cracker crumbs instead of the usual flour. This is so that it doesn't get soggy once it's filled with the lemon custard, but it makes it a very easy crust to work with. No sticking whatsoever. I'm not very good at this fluting business, but it looks pretty good.


It's sitting in the refrigerator for now, lined with foil. I'm walking with Sue this morning, but when I get home, I'll bake the crust and get to work on the filling and the meringue.

When that was finished, I sewed the latest Solstice block together. This one ends up at 24-1/2 inches square, so it's a big block. I made mine in colors to celebrate Earth Day.


While I was out walking around the yard yesterday, I noticed another tulip is getting ready to open. 


After the squirrels ate most of the tulip bulbs a few years ago, I despaired of ever being able to grow tulips. They haven't eaten any more of them, and now that some time has passed, the bulbs have multiplied. We end up with quite a few each spring, all blooming at different times. 

Our weather is supposed to take a turn for the better over the coming week, and Mike and I already have a few outings planned. With him retired, our outings are no longer confined to just the weekends. What fun!

We'll probably get home around the same time later this morning, and then we'll just relax for the rest of the day and have a quiet celebration of our good fortune, punctuated by pie. Sometimes quiet celebrations are the best. We started this journey shortly after we were married in 1975 when we moved to Phoenix, Arizona, so that he could attend school. After so many years, and so much water under the bridge, it's good to be right where we are today.

4/27/17

Retirement! It's almost here!

It's just a hair's breadth away! This evening I'll head out for a little retirement send-off from Mike's company. Nothing fancy, but we've gotta honor the old man with something, don't we? I offered to bring this picture of Mike at the beginning of his career:


Yes, it started before the fall of the Roman Empire! He's aged pretty well considering. Fortunately, he's made a few improvements to his wardrobe as well. So anyway...a half day tomorrow and school's out forever, as the song says.

Today I'm heading off to see my PCP for an annual physical. As far as I know, I should be in ship shape, and only a little bit resembling an actual ship. It means no coffee for me this morning...whaaaaaaaaaaaaa! After that, I need to drop off a parcel at the post office and then make a quick trip to the grocery store. This will be my last grocery shopping trip without someone else to push the cart and help me put stuff away. Yay! That makes up for the lack of coffee.

When I get home, I want to get a loaf of sandwich bread started, and I'm going to make the crust for a lemon meringue pie. Here's a picture of the one I made last year for Pi Day:


It was only my second lemon meringue pie ever, and so today's will be the third. I'll probably stop counting after this. (In case you're wondering, I stopped counting calories long ago.) We're not having a party for Mike's retirement beyond the one his employer is giving him. (Our trip south next month counts as a party.) Instead, we're celebrating with pie. And as long as he'll be wanting lunch, he gets freshly baked sandwich bread too. Do I know how to spoil the guy, or what?

As for yesterday's comings and goings, I picked up some beautiful veggies from the farmers. Given the pie, it's probably just as well. I've missed them so much.


There was some stuff that was new to me...pea shoots, for example. I've eaten them before, but never prepared them. Also, purple sprouting broccoli...never had it, don't know yet what to do with it, but I'll figure it out. The rest were mostly old friends.

Also, I started the latest Solstice Block. Each time one of these is released, I start whining, do I hafta? I'll admit I like those friendship stars, but five in one block. Oy. That's a lot of half square triangles. This one is called "Board Games."


It's a large block at 24-1/2 inches square. Mine is going to be made in colors to celebrate Earth Day. It was a choice between making the block and dusting and vacuuming the downstairs. Which do you suppose I chose? Yes, sewing, but I told myself I had to stop in time to vacuum and dust before I went to pick up the veggies. With that in mind, I got as far as having the pieces all cut, half square triangles sewn and trimmed, and strip sets made. When I needed to quit, I had it laid out for sewing.


Ever the optimist, I laid my largest rulers over the top to avoid, um, reorganization by some very efficient furriends.


That lasted long enough for me to set a stool up on the table in preparation for running the vacuum.


And, whoa. Look at that floor. I'd say it needs vacuuming. Messy quilter at work, obviously.

The only other thing I accomplished yesterday was to make my way nearly halfway across the second border on Mumm's the Word. I'm kind of surprised how quickly this is going.


And I reached a milestone by using an entire spool of DMC thread. Sadie wanted me to tell you that the remaining spool makes an excellent cat toy.


Finally, I noticed that one of the cherry trees is in full bloom.


Sadly, with all the rain, I doubt we'll see many pollinators out flying around. The raccoons are going to be furious at not getting any cherries this year. As for us...well, thanks to raccoons, it'll be a cherry-less season just like any other. And I'm not just kidding about the rain. Yesterday, we learned that we've had the 2nd wettest winter/spring in 75 years. You can read all about it right here. And that makes me kind of mad, because if we're going to have that much rain, I want to at least set a new record. Sheesh. 

Okay, so time to get a move on. The blood suckers are waiting for my veins to reveal themselves.

4/26/17

Two Tuxedos

Well, I'll tell you what...quit a couple of projects, and the woman goes wild. I spent most of the morning yesterday cleaning up the sewing room. It wasn't too bad, but there were a few things that needed putting away. Then I was checking the projects listed on my white board. There are just five now where I'm still working on the blocks, along with four embroidery projects, and seven quilts to be quilted. Not too bad, for me, at least. There were also a couple of barely-started projects from classes I took long ago. I didn't like the classes much when I took them, and so what made me think I would ever finish the associated projects? I won't. And they are so outta here too.

One was from a class called "Transforming the Traditional". You can read about the class beginning right here. And this image shows the extent of what I accomplished in the class.


Then there was another barely started project from a hand applique class I took while I was still attending guild meetings. It was a rather unconventional way to do hand applique, and not really to my liking. The instructor called it "Quick Prep Hand Applique," but to my mind, it was anything but quick. You can read about the class right here. And this is the extent of what I had left from that class.


So you can see...hardly worth crying over, and that takes care of all my NGFI (Never Gonna Finish It) projects. Phew! I feel light as a feather now. I'm actually having a hard time keeping my feet on the ground. Who needs dieting?

With that finished, I got to work on the next of the Tuxedo Tales blocks. I wasn't just kidding when I said my next projects were going to be something involving cats. This was originally a block of the month. It was tempting to do the April block, but then I decided to take them in order, and so the next block is from February.


These were originally created to be done with wool, but mine are going to be done with quilter's cotton. Mostly, I'm using scraps from my stash. When I had it all fused down, it looked like this.


The stitching lines were drawn in with chalk and pencil and the buttons are just there for the picture.

Just then, another cat got in on the act.

Wait a minute. What did I just see? Are you sewing a cat?


Well that is just purrposterous. What self-respecting cat would let a purrd just sit on his head like that? 


These sewing cats just don't know how to purrform like cats. Purrsonally, I'd have that thing for lunch.


When all the stitching and embellishing was finished, it looked like this. 


This one happens to be machine stitched. The January block had quite a bit of hand embroidery in it.


March's block does as well, and just when I thought I was all finished embroidering bees.


Smitty was so disgusted by that cat, he decided to take a nap.


The only other thing I did yesterday was to round the second corner in Mumm's the Word. The border is about 30% quilted, but 50% of the corners are finished!


Next up, I have another kitty pawtrait to do. This cat belongs to my friend, Robin. His name is The Emperor. Fitting, don't you think?


Isn't he a fine looking tuxedo cat? He should be fairly easy to do after having done Miss Speckled Sadie. The Emperor's fur is fairly uniform in color. And what a fine set of whiskers he has! Those will be stitched in at the end. I've pulled quite a few fabrics from the gray bin, which will serve to create a little shading. Mainly he'll be done in black and white with some pretty green batik eyes and a nice pink nose. I can usually finish one of these in a few days, and so I'm hoping to have him finished before the weekend is over.

The next Solstice block is due to be released today, and I'm excited to say that our farmers created a "Hunger Gap" CSA share. They just finished the last of their winter CSA shares. We didn't purchase a share over the winter because, frankly, I need a little break from the challenge of using all the veggies from the summer share. The 2017 summer share won't start until mid-May, and so they're offering a one time only share of veggies between winter and summer that I'll pick up today. Having taken the winter off, I'm more than ready to get started again. Also, we'll probably miss the beginning of the summer share, but the kids will enjoy it on our behalf.

So that's it from me. It's hump day. Day after tomorrow, and Mike will be a free man!


4/25/17

Quilt Quitter

Setting aside a project for over three years can bring perspective. After all my tough talk about the Pony Express quilt yesterday, I'm admitting defeat. As I've mentioned many times on this blog, I first saw this quilt made up in a magazine, and I fell in love with it. Then I bought the pattern. It turned out to be made from some newfangled technique that required a specialty ruler. And as soon as you read those words "specialty ruler," you know this quilt is nothing but bad news. And even with the ruler, I couldn't figure it out. So I've been doing my own thing and adapting the pattern. I was two blocks into it when I put it on the back burner.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I'm ready to have another go at it. The third block in the series is called "Ft. Laramie." It's actually just a Pineapple Star. "Just," she says. I found lots of instructions for the block online, but none that were the right size, and frankly, I'm getting too old for math. Heck, my husband is retiring at the end of the week, if that gives you any clue how old I am. So I probably spent an hour and a half trying to figure this out. Then, I started looking through the pattern book at the many remaining blocks and discouraged myself into quitting. Yes, I've decided life is too short. I mean...just look at those Pony Express riders. All dead. I rest my case.


Just git along there, Mr. Pony Express Rider. Let's just watch while he rides off into the sunset. Since I didn't buy any fabric when I started, I'm only out the cost of the book and the square-in-a-square ruler. If anyone wants it, chime in. It's yours. I've gnashed my teeth long enough on this project, and it is so outta here. (Dusts off hands.)

Moving along...

Next, I turned my attention to the other quilt I've had on the back burner, The Birds Return. When I took out the pattern, I remembered this mess:


And I wrote a long WTF post about this right here, which is too painful to go into here. It was bad enough living it nearly 3 1/2 years ago. Now...I'm 3 1/2 years older, and I've gained wisdom in my quest to finish the Quiltmaker's Garden Nemesis. So I took one look at that and tried to make sense of what I'd already done and, being in a quitting mood, I decided to bag that project too. The Birds Return...please return from whence you came, and we'll all live long and happy lives. I'm too old for math, and I'm too old to carry around excess bird baggage.

So there you go...two finishes, as in, I'm finished with these...and I didn't sew a single stitch. That's one way to get rid of your UFO's.

Now I'm moving onto something I actually want to do. Cats will be involved.

4/24/17

Beginning of the End

Mike's final week of work has arrived! Holy smokes. Each of us worried that it would never get here, and this month of April has really dragged. Day after day of rain hasn't helped. In spite of all of that, I think this week is going to fly by. There's a little send-off for him this Thursday, and I'm invited. Then Friday, he'll just go in for half a day and call it quits. For good. He hasn't ruled out the possibility of doing short-term projects in the future, but for at least the next year, his calendar will be free and clear of anything work related. We are both itching to get on the road and do some traveling.

But, alas. There's still the next few days to get through with the old mundane stuff of cooking, sewing, gardening, and cats. Always the cats. Sadie's new harness arrived yesterday. As you can see, she loves it already!


The dragged herself around on the carpet for a while trying to rub it off. This was actually a pretty good test. I was a little dismayed to see that it fastens only with velcro, and I worried how well it would hold. As it turns out, it's pretty stout velcro, and her pulling herself around didn't budge it. It has the advantage of being much easier to put on than the previous buckles. I just laid it on her back and then used my hands to wrap it around her little body, and voila! Fastened in! The challenge will be keeping the cat fuzz from taking the "stick" out of the velcro over time. Also, we'll have to get her outside to see if pulling at the leash will cause the tabs to pull loose.

She's quite fashionable, don't you think? That red bandana is very becoming next to her black fur.


Puh-leeze! Get it off! Get it off of me right now!

Wow Sadie...what did you do to offend the kitty gods? Can't help you with this one, my furriend. No thumbs, you know...


So, I took pitty and only made her wear it for a few minutes. She's a petite little thing, and the extra small size is just right. If she grows any more, however, we'll need a larger size. Her face is still kittenish, but we're not really sure about her age. She could grow a little larger, but time will have to reveal that secret.

Also in yesterday's deliveries was this new book announcing my newest thing-I've-never-tried-but-really-want-to-learn.


During CSA season, some of my fellow CSAers are into fermenting some of the veggies, and their concoctions always look so tasty. I decided I wanted to make an effort to learn how to ferment some stuff, and so I found this book, which is widely considered to be the bible of fermentation. It's something of a tome at nearly 500 pages of small print. There aren't even very many pictures! So...some light reading to keep me busy in our travels. I'll get a start on it some time today, but it's going to be a commitment to get through the whole thing. Possibly, I won't need to read it all in order to get started.

As for today's activities, I just have a couple of short housekeeping tasks to take care of. Also, I started my bread dough rising this morning. That will probably take most of the day before it's time to bake. As for sewing, I've been considering my options now that I have quilts for quilting. I'll probably put off starting on those until the beginning of May. For the remainder of the month, I'd like to work on some blocks.

Some weirdo started this challenge a few years ago called the NewFO Challenge. She even had a little gadget for it,

2014 NewFO Challenge photo 2014NewFOChallenge_zps5a31001d.png

and she roped a bunch of silly quilters into joining her in starting a new project every month with no need to ever finish anything! Can you imagine? And some of those quilters have never forgiven her for this foray into madness. And I had so danged many projects going that it was complete insanity, and so I actually had to put some of them on the proverbial backburner in order to start whittling the list down to a manageable size.

Fast forward to today, and I'm down to just about eight projects (not including embroidery and quilts to be quilted) with just two still on the backburner. That all changes today because I'm going to get back to work on those remaining two projects this week. First up will be the next block(s) for the Pony Express quilt.



That's how the quilt looks if I were to finish it in the same way it was made originally, but I had some problems with this pattern. Now I'm doing my own thing with it. I wrote about this some in a previous blog post. I'm embarrassed to say that the last time I worked on this quilt was at the end of March in 2014 when I made this block:


So after a three year delay, I'm ready to get back at it, and that's where I'll start today.

The other project I'm taking off the backburner is this little quilt called "The Birds Return." I was all ready to blame my friend Sharon and her "Let's Book It" challenge, but no. It's the crazy cat lady and her NewFO Challenge again. It's the cover quilt from this book:


When I was working on this "regularly" (as if there was anything regular about this), I was making a vertical row at a time. And I'm hanging my head in shame in admitting that the last time I worked on this quilt was in January of 2014, when I completed the second vertical row:


So, I'm kind of determined to get a little more accomplished on each of those quilts this week. On the bright side, these are both scrap quilts and my stash of scraps is bigger than ever!!!

Here it is noon, and I haven't done a thing. Better get to it.

4/23/17

Seven is Heaven

Yesterday's sunrise was dramatic. It's very pretty, but it was a portent of a stormy weekend ahead.


That was okay by me. It simply meant that nothing was going to stop me from getting my seven quilt tops sandwiched for quilting. And there they are!


Boy am I feeling smug. It's like having money in the bank...or a full gas tank...or like that feeling you get when all the groceries are put away and you can put your feet up...or like when the cat has all his vaccines for another year.

Let's just take a roll call, shall we? I decided to start with the most dreaded quilt top, Wind in the Whiskers. I was dreading it because the quilting for this one will consist of top-stitching the appliques. That is to say that all those teeny tiny pieces are not yet top-stitched down, and so I couldn't run my hands over it too vigorously. Also, I still needed to make a back for it. But there it is, ready to go.


The quilting will only be part of the finish. There are a lot of embellishments to add too. 

Next up was the Quiltmaker's Garden quilt, aka, Quiltmaker's Nemesis. The only thing that kept me going on with this quilt was the hope that I was going to love it in the end...and I do. 


To make things easy on myself, I purchased one of the 108-inch wide fabrics for the backing. It doesn't photograph well, however. It's really a sky blue background with a darker blue vine. The colors are more true in the "sandwich stack" image above. The background blue is pretty close in color to the blue four-patches on the quilt top.


Those were two big quilts, and so I decided to do some smaller ones. Next up was Wheel Estate.


Then, the Little Bunnies table runner. I'll probably take this one along and quilt it on the road when we're traveling next month. It's a small quilt, and Pfelicity should be able to do a good job on it.


This quilt is the most special to me of the bunch...Snips & Snails. I'm really excited to see this one finished. After it's quilted, I'll add the Osh Kosh b'Gosh buttons to the oversalls, and I'll give the snake a hot fix nailhead for an eye.


I stopped for the day when those five were finished. During the day, the fabric from my generous quilting friend Ila arrived, and this was just perfect for the elephant applique. I liked the one I'd purchased, but I like this one even better. And check out the name of the fabric on the selvage edge.


It's as if it were meant to be! When I got up this morning, I got to work finishing this quilt top. It took me about three hours, and when it was all finished, I was pretty happy with it.


I used a blanket stitch around all the applique, and I used the triple stitch on my sewing machine to stitch in the balloon strings.


I worried the print for the baby elephant's balloon might be too busy, but when I looked at the whole, it just seemed more playful to me...kind of denoting the youngster.


The backing fabric just needed to be cut to length, and then it too was ready for sandwiching. I'm hoping to get this one quilted before we leave on our trip.


Last, but not least, Bee Loving.


And phew! Done, done, done, done, done, done, and done.

That's not the only thing I did this weekend though. It was time to feed my two sourdough starters. They're kept in the refrigerator where I can see them each time I open the door. When they start forming "hooch," I discard half and feed them with more flour and water. You can see the hooch in the image below. I have the jar tipped toward the camera, and you can see it there at the bottom.


That gets poured off, and then I stir it up before dividing it and discarding half. I'm ready to bake another loaf of the Whole Wheat Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin bread. I made this a while back, and it was good enough for a repeat performance. So rather than discard the whole wheat starter, I just started a new one using what would ordinarily get thrown away. I put the rubber band there to measure its progress.


Many hours passed with no activity. It had come from refrigeration, and so that wasn't completely surprising. However, enough time passed that I was beginning to wonder if it was dead. Then when I checked it around 8:00 p.m. last night, it was starting to show some signs of life.


When I got up this morning...


IT'S ALIVE!!!!!!!

Somewhere I read that you should feed it at least twice before using it, and so I poured off half and fed it again this morning. Again, it started here:


That was at about 7:00 a.m. When I checked it at noon...


Looks ready to me. I might get this mixed up this evening to rise over night, and then it will be ready for baking in the morning.

Also, I went out with Smitty a couple of times yesterday between downpours. The bleeding heart is finally starting to show its petals. This was well into blooming at this time last year. We are far behind from the wet, cold spring we've had. 


The good news is that all 12 sunflowers have germinated now. They should be well ready to be planted in the ground before we leave on our trip.

Also, I've continued to make progress on Mumm's the Word. I'm all the way across the bottom border and getting ready to round the second corner. 


Since I haven't worked on that yet today, I'll probably do a little stitching on it when I finish here.

It's been a productive weekend here, and a good one. I hope you're having a good weekend too. Beginning tomorrow morning, Mike will be in his final week of work.