Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Daybook

I've decided to start taking part in A Simple Woman's Daybook meme -- so here's a little snapshot of our Monday this week.

Outside my a garden that’s once again becoming completely out of control. But I like it.

I am thinking...I need to get moving on my swap quilts, but I’m completely stymied. I'm also thinking about how my neighbor down the road has been buying crickets intended as reptile food and setting them loose in her yard, where they're making the most delightful sounds at night. I LOVE the sound of crickets. Will they survive in Seattle, I'm thinking? Can I get some?

I am thankful daughter playing happily at my feet for a few minutes, absorbed in her games. Not having to go to work today. A host of fun parties we went to over the weekend - one at Brett's VP's house, and one hosted by a former employee of mine. We had a blast at each!

From the kitchen... working on triple cooked pork for fajitas – almost done! It's been boiled, baked, and shredded and now just gets cooked in some oil in a little bit here. Mmmm.

I am creating...a big huge mess in my sewing room trying to come up with a miniature quilt that isn't a disaster, for a swap.

I am go running in the morning if it kills me.

I am wearing...a red linen shirt that didn’t fit two months ago (yay diet and running!) and blue shorts

I am reading...just finished “Starting Out In The Evening” and haven’t started a new one. Also read Children of Men last week, by PD James, which I vastly preferred to the movie.

I am hoping...that Brett gets home early tonight, since they shipped last week.

I am hearing...about thirty little wrens chirping madly in the backyard – I think they’re mating. And I'm hearing Sofie mutter "BOBO!!" as she tries to put diapers on her bobo the clown doll.

Around the house...there is order in some places and chaos in others. But it’s sunny and bright and all the windows are open.

One of my favorite things...Sofie in her strawberry bathing suit.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... Get the back made for my orange crush quilt and deliver to the longarmer, have some kids over to play, babysit Molly (Tuesday) and Jack (Wednesday), go swimming lots in the wading pool, run, play outside, go to quilt guild on Thursday.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you: tomatoes!

My obsessive compulsive toddler

For those of you who feel like I make my kid out to be too entirely perfect, let me point out that yesterday, my little one:
  • Had two thirty minute tantrums, one over the wrong kind of diaper being applied (who knew?) and the other over the fact that we were out of oranges.
  • Spent the whole day yelling "BOOGER!!" whenever her runny nose needed to be wiped.
  • Spent all of dinner waiting until I sat down then demanding some new food that had to be fetched and cut up, then rejecting it and insisting on something else. Fun, fun dinner games.
  • Showed her obsessive-compulsive streak in a host of new ways, including stopping after her bath to make sure that all of her froggie-suction toys were positioned with their heads up and their feet down before she'd let me wrap her in the towel. Because it's just much better that way.

She also insists on all these strange routines, like touching each doorknob of the three-door business on the corner when we go on a walk, and immediately fastening the clasps on her high chair after she gets out of the chair after a meal. We call her "Monk" sometimes. True OCs have nothing on two year olds.

We met the lady who owns the business on the corner the other day after Sofie had just rattled all of her doorknobs.

"Sorry about that," I said to her. "I hope that didn't startle you!"

"Oh no," she said. "It did the first couple times but now I just look for the little shadow going by and I know it's her."

We have a reputation. :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Climate change?

I keep a garden book from year to year, noting when the first things start to bloom, when I put the tomatoes in and what varieties I used, when they produced fruit and how they did, and the odd note here and there about weather patterns, etc. I've kept it for about five years running now and it's interesting to flip back through it and look at what was happening in previous years.

Which is how I know that three years ago, I had zucchinis at the end of June, when we're nowhere near that point this year. And that the lilacs were a couple weeks late this year.

But I'm also noticing some things this year that make me wonder.

For example, has anyone else noticed that there aren't any aphids?

Now I'm no big fan of those little buggers. Last year I had so many of them on each rose bud that I could hardly see the plants, a veritable swarm that I shot off with a hard stream of water every few days, only to see them recamp within a day or two.

This year, I've looked and looked but there's nary an aphid in sight. Temperature change? Maybe I have more ladybugs than before, who love to eat them? (Not noticeably so.) I know aphids and bees are linked in some way, so the rumored bee decline could have something to do with it, but we've got plenty of honeybees around here right now so I doubt it. So, um, where'd they go? And more importantly, what's the impact of not having any aphids? Something must eat them or rely on them and be impacted by their absence.

I've also been faithfully keeping a silly, sentimental childhood tradition for many years of eating the first wild violet you see each spring for luck. Not violas, those lovely little voilet-like flowers that everyone grows in their yard (although they're edible too) but the wild ones that pop up here and there in people's yards and parking strips. This year, I looked and looked but never saw a single one.

It made me wonder. A year without lucky violets? A year without luck?

These are small things -- my roses are mutating, my aphid hordes are gone, my luck violets disappeared, big deal really. But elsewhere in the world the icebergs are melting, the rivers are rising, earthquakes are swarming in ways no one can understand just off the Oregon Coast, and overall sometimes I just get a bad feeling. The world, it could be trying to tell us something.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Finally, the temperatures are in the 80s and supposed to stay there for a while! Yay, summer is here! Sofie and I have been making the most of it, indulging in long lazy mornings in the backyard, going on our morning runs that end up at the park around the corner where she gets to line up trucks to her heart's content while mama stretches and catches her breath, sharing the occasional popsicle with all of its sticky-chinned wonder.

Every day I get to dress her in some cute little summer outfit, a sundress or a cute little pair of shorts, then watch her chubby little legs as she jogs wildly down the block, arms flailing in the inimitable baby run, laughing, always laughing.

Sofie learned to say her name this week, and now says it proudly whenever asked. "What's your name?" "THOFIE!" she shrieks. She also said grandma for the first time this week ("GRAMMIE!"), bringing to an end the era in which "papa" referred to both of my parents. She's getting better and better at communicating and asking for what she wants. And she's got the cutest lisp ever. "THONG!" means not that she'd like a piece of risque underwear, but that she'd like to hear a song. And then she'll tell you which song. They all have a one word label, to her.

Out in the yard, the plants are thriving. The tomatoes and peppers are big and healthy, the zucchinis are starting to take off, and the first crop of lettuce and radishes is ready to come inside. I've got about two hundred foxgloves, one of which has *ten* flowerheads on a single stem. I didn't know that was possible.

Two of the roses, one of ours and one of mom and dad's, have turned up with red flowers this year when they used to be pink and yellow, respectively. Again, oddities abound. It's grafted root stock, I suppose. My New Dawn pink shrub rose has been slowly turning red for years but it was a real surprise when the yellow Peace rose across the street turned up bright red this year.

I haven't posted much quilty goodness lately because I've been getting very little done -- since we got back from the road trip I've just had little motivation to do anything creative. I just want to read and play with my baby and sit on the back deck. It's summer, finally.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wordless Wednesdays - the girls playing with Sofie's ur-prize.

IMG_0093, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

I don't know who started Wordless Wednesday but I think I'm officially going to start playing along. What a nice idea.

Except that I'm talking here. Oops. Must stop.

Chocolate hugs

A few more thoughts on our trip last weekend.

First, I just wanted to mention the lovely wedding we attended in a little more detail. It was one of those events that's so free of pretension or artifice and instead just reflects perfectly the personalities of its hosts -- in this case Alice and Andrew, who chose to have their wedding and reception in this cool, quirky artists' barn in Uniontown Washington.

The wheel fence, which you can see a part of here, has over 1000 wheels and was built over a period of 50 years. Inside, there are studios, a gift shop, and a big center space where the wedding was held.

This is the only picture we took during the wedding -- Sofie didn't leave us much time for photography. I snuck this one during the champagne toast.

I'm not feeling very inspired in my prose tonight -- more sleepy than eloquent tonight -- but I just wanted to say that the wedding was sweet and touching and simple and utterly lovely, and we were delighted to be a part of it. Thank you, Alice and Andrew!

One side note -- Brett was a reader during the service. Shortly before we left to go to the wedding, he snuggled up for a few minutes with Sofie on the couch at our hotel, unaware that she was clutching the remnants of a piece of chocolate chip cookie in her little fist. Which then melted all over his shirt. But, good daddy that he is, he didn't get mad or get upset -- we just brushed off what we could and went on with our lives. He even managed to work it into his speech.

What a good guy. :)

That's all for now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More thrift store finds

I'm a sucker for rough-and-tumble homemade quilts, like the baby clothes quilt I got at the Fremont Market a few weeks ago. So today, when we were rooting around looking for next season's toddler winter coats at Goodwill, I took a quick spin through the crib bedding hangers to see if there was anything home made. And we came home with this little pretty, for about five bucks:

Isn't it sweet? It's lumpy and bumpy, the fabrics aren't all cotton, it's obviously been chewed and worn, the corners are a little off, and the label is on the front rather than the back -- but I think it's adorable. And the border and back are covered in chickens. :) How can you not like that?

I wonder whose this was and why it ended up there.

Sofie at the wedding

Sofie in the dress she wore to the wedding this weekend, eating a peanut butter cookie outside the barn where it was held:


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why do I ever doubt her?

Sofie has proven once again to be the greatest baby ever. She did a FANTASTIC JOB in the car on the way out to Pullman -- a slightly less than five hour ride from our house in Seattle. Although she only napped for forty five minutes, she amused herself with her magnadoodle, read her new Richard Scarry Busy Busy Town book as if it were a novel, absorbed in its page for a half hour at a time, and spent the rest of the time variously playing with her feet, looking out the window, or listening to music.

And then, when we got there, she spent a half hour bouncing on the hotel bed and then went to the rehearsal dinner with us and was charming and sociable and funny for anohter 90 minutes.

And THEN, she slept all night in a tiny little crib.

What a good kid. :)

Today (so far) we went swimming, visited the farmer's market in Moscow, Idaho, stopped in at Quilt Something, a really great quilt shop I'd heard about online, and went to the park. And now she's napping. Tonight is the wedding, which is at a barn, which hopefully means some opportunities for her to run around like a crazy person and burn off some energy.

I'm sure she'll do great!

Mini quilt winner...

And the winner of the miniature quilt is...


Who has, wow, over ten blogs listed in her profile. But I think this looks her main one:

I finished the binding in the car on the way to the wedding on Friday, and just need to get the hanging sleeve on and then it will be on its way up north to its new home.

Thank you so much, everyone, for playing!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Road trip

Just a reminder to go to this post to sign up for my mini-quilt giveaway! You can sign up until Friday night and if you REALLY want it you can comment multiple times. :) Winner will be posted on Saturday.


We're leaving later today on a road trip to our friends Alan and Beth's daughter's wedding in Pullman. This is a four hour drive that we're assuming will take six due to diaper changes, play breaks, and dinner. It's been a long time since we've been on a road trip with Sofie -- she's been on exactly two so far in her life, one wonderful and one a hellish experience I wouldn't want to relive. (To her credit, though, on the hellish one she was actually coming down with croup and we didn't know it, so there was a reason she cried for four hours straight.)

I have a feeling this one will be fine. We're leaving a day before the wedding so we have time to get out there, get a good night's sleep, do a little sightseeing and maybe visit the hotel pool, and THEN go to the wedding, where she'll be asked to behave for a couple hours before we beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel for a slightly-later-than-usual bedtime.

We also changed our room reservation from one of the wedding block rooms to a suite with a separate living room so we can put her to bed in the one room and still have lights and television on in the other room.

I've got books and lacing cards and a travel magna-doodle for the car. I already bought a supply of car snacks and bagged up beans and pasta for her dinner. We've got her cute little dress ready. We've got it covered, I think.

And yes, I will be online because hey -- three hour nap and an early bedtime means lots of downtime in the hotel. So stay tuned to see who wins the quilt and how good or bad the drive actually was.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More Free Motion Play

Just a reminder to go to this post to sign up for my mini-quilt giveaway! You can sign up until Friday night. Winner will be posted on Saturday.


I got this highly recommended and as-it-turns-out thoroughly excellent book, Machine Quilting Solutions by Christina Maraccini, in the mail yesterday and was so excited after flipping through it that I jettisoned my other naptime plans -- you know, clean the house, do some grant work, take care of various responsibilities, or even take a nap myself -- to come down to the sewing room and play on the big practice quilt sandwich I made for last week's class.

And, because a lot of commenters seemed interested in my first post on my fledgling free-motion attempts, I thought I'd show a few more. I had about five squares left on my practice quilt, so I started from the beginning of the book and tried a few things until I ran out of steam.

I started with her heatwave pattern, an all-over pattern. Yes, my stitches are ENORMOUS, but I'm trying to get used to doing this without the feed dogs:

Various leaves with swirls, including if you look closely, one abortive attempt at a holly leaf with only one recognizable leaf -- but overall these came out pretty good:

The answer to my question about whether it was easier to make a row of leaves if you were moving horizontally or vertically -- horizontally looks better, but vertical is easier. But in the vertical version the leaves don't really point out at an angle the way I'd intended.

And something she calls the artichoke - the lumpy thing in the bottom left corner of this square, with an attempt at her crocus border (a pattern I've always liked and which wasn't too hard) up in the top and left, and an e's and l's border along the bottom (not difficult technically but keeping them even was beyond me:

And this one was fun - this is a chrysanthemum, designed to fill up a square rather than be a repeated pattern:

Lots of fun! And my stitches are getting smaller. I finally quit in frustration not because of the quilting but because I keep having endless problems with my thread! The bobbin thread breaks, gets stuck and won't spool, gets loose and overspools, gathers up in lumps on the bottom, you name it, it happens. Every few minutes, it seems like, one of these things happens. My machine was recently serviced so I don't see how that could be the problem. I've dusted. I've changed the needle. I've threaded and rethreaded a billion times. Any thoughts from the quilters out there? (I have a pfaff, if that helps.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sofie's uh-PRIZE

Just a reminder to go to this post to sign up for my mini-quilt giveaway! I've got 45 entries so far! You can sign up until Friday night.

In the meantime, Sofie's got a new playset in our tiny little postage-stamp backyard, seen here in all it's weedy glory:

It's just the right size for both the yard and for Sofie, who *adores* it and calls it her "uh-PRIZE!" (for "surprise"). It took her a little while to figure out how to climb the ladder, because she was trying to use her knees instead of her feet, but once she got the hang of that she was off and running.

Bless her heart, she also loves to have her friends over to play with it. I was a little worried that she wouldn't like sharing it, but she's had her playgroup friends and now her neighborhood peeps over to try it out and she's been great, saying "Share! Fun! Share!" and waiting at the bottom of the slide to cheer on the other kids as they slide down.

Oh, and it also has a steering wheel. How cool is that?

And the best part -- I can sit at the patio table with a cup of coffee and a magazine and read while she runs around it going down the slide fifty gazillion times in a row and we're both happy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mini quilt giveaway!

I hit my 100,000th visit yesterday -- and to belatedly celebrate I'm giving away this pretty little mini-quilt, made by me. It's approximately 16 x 18, all cotton batiks, and it's waiting for a good home!

Here's the front:

Look - it's stippled! And yes, you're seeing pins around the binding -- it's not quite finished yet.

And here's the back. The binding isn't sewn down on the back yet, which is why this looks kind of strange:

To win this little pretty, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post between now and Friday. On Saturday I'll choose a random winner and post the winner's identity!

A few notes:
  • You may comment as many times as you want. Each comment gets one name put in the hat. :)
  • If you post an entry about this giveaway on your blog with a link back here and let me know that you've posted, I'll give you two extra entries in the drawing.
  • Please leave email contact info if you're set no-reply, and be sure to check back on Thursday to see if you're the winner!

Thanks for visiting! I know this is small potatoes in the blog world, my 100K visits, but it sure feels like a lot to me!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Free Motion Quilting

I took a machine quilting class at the Quilting Loft in Ballard on Monday -- and what a revelation that was! Finally, finally, I learned how to use the free motion foot on my machine (including a trick I never would have figured out on my own about why this is hard to do on a Pfaff and how to get around it), and now a whole new quilting world is open to me -- I can quilt in something other than a straight line!!

I learned to stipple and make loops:

The instructor said most people prefer either stipples or loops. I thought the loops were really fun.

I made snails, and flowers, and stars on a chain -- and yes, these are all screwy, but it was my first time doing this and it takes a while to get good at it:

And back-and-forth landscape quilting, and something she called "Es and Fs" (bottom left corner):

And then I came home and practiced on some old quilts from my unfinished projects bin -- stuff that was probably never going to get finished anyways so I didn't mind practicing my less than perfect freehand motion on it. Like this old Christmas wallhanging I never finished. So I stippled and looped all around the snowmen and trees on this, then did stars in the border:

View from the back:

And then I bound this tiny little thing and did some back and forth quilting on it and made bubbles around the rocks at the base of the lighthouse:

Brett's taking this to work today to hang in his cubicle. It's tiny, probably 6 x 8 inches, something I got a long time ago out on San Juan Island. But very cute!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Cold snap

While Brett is off in 95 degree heat at his high school reunion in Massachussetts, Sofie and I are stuck here with the seventh straight day of rain, gloom, and cold. I keep finding it so utterly strange that I'm sitting around on June 8th, dressed in long sleeves, pants, and wool socks, huddled under a comforter in the evening trying to stay warm while I read my book. It's been 47 the last few days most of the time. FORTY FREAKING SEVEN. On June 8th.

Yesterday Sofie wanted to put on her winter coat to go outside and I didn't stop her. It was cold enough that it wasn't unreasonable. Today we walked around the block in our raincoats, desperate to get out of the house for a while, and she was the only one warm enough because she'd insisted on putting on one of her ubiquitous knit stocking caps.

Let me repeat -- on June 8th.

Today the newspaper's major headline was that this unexpected cold snap, in which the temperatures are averaging 10 to 15 degrees lower than average, might continue through the rest of June and possibly all of July too.

And with that, I officially lost my will to live.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Random cuteness

Random adorable moments in the last 24 hours:

  • I pull out a yellow and orange striped teeshirt (a la Charlie brown) that’s so freaking cute and which I've been dying to get on her, but Sofie refuses to wear it. With a bit of sudden inspiration I tell her that wearing it will make her a bumblebee. She happily accepts and buzzes off and on all morning.

  • After her own lunch lunch, she gathers up three of the committee and one small lego guy (whose name, apparently, is “guy!”) and sets about laboriously buckling them into her high chair. Lunch, she announces. Then she goes to get another little guy to be with the first guy. Because no one should have lunch alone.

  • Today is apparently the day of laughing REALLY LOUD in this exaggerated “ha HA HA HA” way that most resembles a maniacal superhero villain. And she has been doing it without fail the entire day, whenever something strikes her fancy. And – if you want to see funny, you should see two twenty month olds making fart noises at each other and cracking up. Let's just say she and Jack had a good time this morning.

So funny, this kid.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Another quilt finished, another quilt begun

Just finished the second of the heart doll quilts I've been making lately for Sofie's little friends -- this one has been sitting on my "get to it" pile for several months lately and I'm glad to have it finally done! As always, finishing it was no big deal once I got it sandwiched -- I got 90% of the quilting done in a single naptime, with a little bit of handstitching and sewing on the binding that evening. Added the label today and it's finished!! Yay!



The back isn't really pieced -- it's a single piece of fabric that looks like it's made of tiny blocks. My machine quilting is slowly getting better - I'm actually really happy with the wavy meandering line in the inner border and the tight parallel lines in the outer border on this one. And the hearts didn't shrink or distort in the wash as much as the ones on Molly's quilt, because I hand quilted a heart shape inside the border of each of them, which seemed to stabilize them. Live and learn.

And -- I'm extra excited because I'm signed up for a machine quilting class on Monday the 9th at which I'll get some expert help at learning how to quilt freehand on my machine. Which should make a huge difference in what I can do! I can't wait.

Being all caught up on the mystery quilt for the moment, I've also started working on My Blue Heaven, from quiltville. The first step of which involves sewing together SIX HUNDRED AND NINETY SIX triangles. Ouch. I've got 400 cut and about 200 sewed. But Brett's going away this week for four days and I'll have my evenings wide open to obsessively quilt after Sofie goes to bed, and I figured this will be a good project to work on while he's off gallavanting about at his high school reunion. I'm thinking of it as my own little quilting retreat.

And here's my take on what the mystery quilt is going to look like -- we find out the next step, which should be laying all the rows out, somewhere around the 9th. But I had to lay out my blocks and see what it looked like:

It's REALLY bright but I like it! This is my first truly scrappy quilt -- in that all of the little four squares and other small blocks that make up the larger pieces are just random colors from my scrap basket, evened out by the red, blue, and orange yardage that repeats throughout the quilt. I had a hard time with the randomness at the beginning but I'm officially hooked on scrap quilting and will be making a lot more things from strips. If you look closely at the little squares and triangles above, there's everything in there from neons to darks to christmas fabric. Look how it all blends together so nicely!

This is only about half of the blocks in the quilt top -- I ran out of room laying them out and just added the half and quarter blocks around it to simulate what the final top might look like. What do you think?

Doll quilt swap #4

Signups for doll quilt swap #4 are open now to the first 100 people who sign up -- see the doll quilt swap blog for details!


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