Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vitamins, the elixir of life

I hate it when I come home from preschool drop off with a really specific agenda in mind and something screws it up. Preschool is my only free time of the day - those precious hours between 9:30 and 11:45 are when I study (when school is in session), quilt, make things for Etsy, clean the house, grocery shop, etc.

Today I had big plans to work on my quilt for the doll quilt swap hosted by Once Upon a Quilt, and to work on the second block of the Bloggers Block-a-Palooza, which I joined earlier this week.  I had a really good idea for my swap quilt last night and couldn't wait to get started. But, once I got home, I was disappointed to find that my iron, which I just used last night, was inexplicably dead. What is it with me and irons? This is probably my fourth iron. I don't use them for anything except quilting. I don't throw them at the walls or drive over them with the car. What is up, electronic devices? Why do you hate me so?

So I did a little bit of work on my quilt blocks, but there's only so much you can do without pressing seams. And now there's not enough time to go get one and get back home and still get something done before preschool pickup, so I'm stuck. Bleah.

***

Sofie turned to me yesterday, eyes all serious and grave, and said, "Mom, you're really OLD."

A little explanation - Sofie is grappling with the concept of mortality, and has been since Grandma died. It's normal for kids this age, although I think she got an earlier start on it than most kids do. But she talks frequently and with great enthusiasm about how she wants to live forever, and maybe if she eats her vitamins and healthy snacks and gets lots of exercise she will! She can live forever!

And I know you're not supposed to lie to kids about this stuff. I have, at various points, told her the truth - that everyone dies, but that she'll live a long, long time and that people live to be over ONE HUNDRED sometimes (the biggest number she knows and one that always impresses her). But it's hard when she repeats this on a daily basis to say anything other than, "Well maybe you're right. It could happen!"

But yesterday was the first time she seemed to realize that because *I* am older than her, I'm probably closer to death than she is, and the ramifications hit home.

So instead of getting huffy about how NOT old mommy is, I just gave her a big hug and told her how young we both really are and how long people live.

And then I got us both a vitamin. It seemed to help.

***

One of the reasons she's thinking about this is because we've had a couple talks lately about Phoenix, my 19 year old cat and her best friend in the world. Phoenix is kind of on his last legs - not immediately dying, but he's got a growth on his jawbone the size of a tennis ball and a strange tumor on his back leg, both of which have been biopsied inconclusively and neither of which can be safely removed given his other health issues, and at this point the vet is basically just watching to see which one is going to kill him first. I'm hoping he has a year left in him; it could be quicker if the growth on his jaw keeps accelerating the way it has been.

He's still pretty spry, though - he follows Sofie and I around the house most of the day, and finds a variety of warm places to sleep in between visits (like the bottom shelf of the end table, in the pic above, directly in front of a heater vent), and begs for treats, and mostly acts like himself still. I've decided he gets a can of people tuna every day for the rest of his life, if that helps him maintain his weight and last a little longer.

I seem to be morbid today. I blame the freaking iron.

Wonky Eiffel Tower/Log Cabin

I was in my office/studio just playing around last night -- wanted to make something, had nothing in particular in mind, when this small remnant of the Eiffel tower fabric I used in some of my 2009/2010 product lines caught my eye. So I started playing with that and with my string remnants, and ended up making this cute little wonky log cabin block out of it. Isn't it cute?

It's edges really are squared - it's just a strange angle for the picture. 

I love making log cabin blocks, and doing them wonky style is really fun! I think I might make a few more of these.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In progress

Just a couple pics of quilt tops I've finished lately but haven't blocked and quilted yet.

This is a Christmas quilt that I made shortly after the holidays:

It was fun to use a bit of a bunch of reds and whites I've been hoarding. Some are Christmas fabrics, others aren't. I expect to quilt this in the next week or so - I've got the backing all ready to go.

Today I put together this little quilt top from some four patches I'd started working on before Christmas. The colors aren't coming out great in this pic -- the four patch is sky blue and a grass green, and the little border around each square is a bright red gingham.
 Closeup of a block so you can see the cute fabric:
The sashing is white, although it doesn't quite look it here.

This will probably be Sofie's - there are some quilts hanging in her room that I'd like to swap out.

For those of you wondering how I get these things done with a kid, she's reaching this lovely age where she's thrilled to sit in my office with me and make jewelry, string beads on ribbon, or play with fabric scraps for a little while. We sat in there together for about 45 minutes today while I put the blocks and sashing on the blue and green quilt together. I love that she can do this kind of thing with me now!

Here she is making necklaces at my desk/cutting board:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Alzheimer's quilts

Did you know that you can make (and buy) small quilts to support Alzheimer's research? I just ran across a reference to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative on someone's blog today, and was very excited to learn about it. I love making small quilts - something about the instant gratification of working on a tiny piece really appeals to me, and makes a nice counterpoint to the larger projects that always take me so long to complete.

You can browse the quilts for sale, or make and donate one of your own. Which I'm definitely going to do! The only issue is scaling a few of my ideas down to 9x12", their maximum allowed size. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First quilt finish of 2011

Here's my first completely finished quilt of 2011. This has been 80% done for quite a while now - just needed to finish the free motion quilting on probably a quarter of it, then do the binding. I'm so happy with how it turned out!

 This is a scrappy friendship star made from Bonnie Hunter's Starstruck pattern. The pattern has you make the offwhite four-point stars and the colored stars come together when you join the blocks together. I love how you can see it either way - light or dark as the prominent pattern.
 It's mostly made from a jelly roll but I added in the bright cheddar yellow you see in some of the stars and in the thin, inner border. And I think I added a few other fabrics too. I'd link to the name of the fabrics in the jelly roll but I've forgotten what they were!
 I'm not sure of the exact measurements but I think it's about 5' by 7'. I made it to hang over the staircase in the Mazama house - which is another project in itself, since we'll need to beg or borrow a really large ladder to get up high enough to put the nails in. But one thing at a time.
 The back is pieced, three long strips of coordinating fabric. You can't really see the third one here, but it's a dark blue and green shirting fabric that I just love.

And I quilted it with an all over flame pattern, which you can make out pretty well on the maroon fabric, above. For some reason I decided to do the border quilting in a dark navy blue -- I think I was a little nervous about my ability to do it well, so I picked something that wouldn't be as prominent from the front. I have a little trouble with quilting borders, since they need to be neater and more organized than the free motion in a larger area. As it turned out, it came out fine and I wish I'd done it in white, but that's okay.

Now to get up to Mazama one of these days and get it hung up!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Today's cup

I'm rethinking letting Sofie use my grandmother's tea cups, after yesterday's reminder of how old some of them actually are, but at the same time I'm starting to enjoy using them -- gently, gently -- myself. Today, when I went to get some tea, I found myself drawn back to the hutch, partly because of my fascination with yesterday's little mystery, and partly because the act of holding a small, bone china cup in your hand is a really pleasant bit of elegance.

I normally drink coffee or tea out of a great big, hulking mug, the bigger the better, one which holds probably four times what these little cups hold. But I like these smaller ones. And I've always agreed with the idea that beautiful things shouldn't just be locked away. I've already been using a few of the mismatched sugar bowls that came with the collection in my sewing room, because they make such sweet little holders for safety pins and bobbins. So why not use the cups now and then?

Today I pulled this one out.

 It's called Silver Birch, by Royal Albert Bone China, and what do you know, you can buy it at various antique dealers online. There was even someone selling one on Etsy. Rare or not, I think it's gorgeous. Look at the little whirligig of a handle.

I guess it's nice to know that if I break it, I can replace it. But I'm going to try really hard not to.


And here's the other side:



And the saucer:


These cups haven't been used in a very long time - my grandmother died in the early 1970s and was in a nursing home for years prior to that, and for most of my childhood they were displayed in a china cabinet but never used. But at least some of them were used once, and used heavily, I think. One of them, which I will photograph soon, was my grandfather's favorite cup and featured prominently in a chapter of a memoir my mom wrote about her childhood.

I think I'll keep doing this, at least occasionally -- pull out a cup from the hutch, add just a little bit of elegance into my days with these fascinating little beauties, and think about my family's past at the same time.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tidbits

1/6/11 -- Added some pics of the mystery cup.

 
With classes temporarily done (I'm off this semester, back on in April), I thought I'd be feeling lots of blissful free time right about now, but instead I'm finding that stuff expands to fill the available time. Mostly running circles right now trying to get my grad school applications finished and submitted by the 14th. There have been lots of last minute emergencies to that -- missing pages in my transcripts, slow-to-arrive recommendation letters, incompetent idiots working the helpline at the application server, etc. But I'm almost there and will be breathing a sigh of relief by this weekend, I think.

Unless some other part of it completely explodes.

Which, the way I'm going, seems very likely. So we'll see. 


***


Two days ago, Sofie and I were both coughing, so we decided to have some tea with honey, and as a treat I decided to use a couple of the nice teacups I inherited from my mother and aunt. Most of them were my grandmother's on my mom's side. They're lovely and we never use them, so I thought "why not?"

I let Sofie pick her own out of the hutch, and she chose one with blue flowers that I'd never really noticed much.

 Lovely, though, especially the plate, with its gorgeous birds:

 Later, when I was washing up, I discovered a little handwritten sticker on the bottom of Sofie's cup, that read "Mrs. Fischer, Rudie's grandmother, circa 1870." Now this is interesting because there's no Fischer in our family tree that I'm aware of. Also, I had no idea that the cup I was allowing my four year old to sip tea from was ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY YEARS OLD. Wowza. So glad she didn't knock it off the table or throw it at the cat or who knows what!


I can't be 100% sure, but the handwriting does not appear to be my mother's (although the last line reminds me of her writing), and the note is relatively recent since it's on one of those prefab stickers you buy at the drugstore. So somewhere in the last 20-30 years, for sure. But beyond that, I can't tell you anything from studying it.

There aren't many people I can ask about who Mrs. Fischer might have been, with my mother and aunt both gone. I checked my genealogy file and found no Fishers and no Rudy or Rudie, and I checked with my uncle, who didn't recognize the names either. So I guess it's a mystery. I wonder who they were! Friends? Neighbors? And whose friends or neighbors?

***

Sofie wavers daily in her life's ambition between being a kitty doctor (veterinarian) and being a mommy. Most days she tells me that when she grows up, she'll get a baby from the hospital and I can get one too, and then we can raise them together. Which is adorable. Her understanding of the reproductive process seems to involve ordering a baby from some kind of drive up window at your closest hospital. I'll have a brown haired girl, please, and fries with that.

I find it a little bit flattering that she so much wants to be a mommy - it must mean I'm doing something right, doesn't it? That said, if she did have a baby, she'd undoubtedly stuff it in a big cat suit and feed it catfood from a can, so perhaps it's best if this particular ambition waits a few decades to become reality.

***

I recently took up knitting, and I have to tell you, I'm not entirely sure about this whole endeavor. I'm getting the hang of it, slowly, but I'm perplexed by how I always end up with more stitches on the needle than I started with. How does that happen when I have not yet learned how to do an increase? Somehow I accidentally went from sixteen cast on stitches to eighteen stitches in the scarf I'm working on.

Which brings me to my other qualm about knitting. It's freaking slow. With 16 (or 18) stitches in every row, I can work on this thing a little bit here and there for days on end and only find myself maybe a tenth of the way through the length of a scarf. I'm going to keep working on it, but I think knitting might not end up being my favorite pursuit.

It is nice, though, to have handwork to do while watching TV. With so much of my quilting work now being machine-based, I've lost the pleasure of sitting in front of the television sewing. Back when I lived in Connecticut, my friend Sharon and I used to sit around and sew and watch Seinfeld together, and it was a very companionable feeling, that handwork and conversation. So maybe I'll keep at it, I don't know.


And that's about all of the news for now. Brett and I are both still trying to shake off a wicked chest cold which hit us right around new years, and only feeling about halfway better. Not the greatest start ever to 2011. But hopefully we're getting our yearly version of the winter plague over early and will be healthy as horses from here on out.

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