Saturday, March 24, 2012

Winter Wrap-Up

It’s officially spring! The winter woolens are heading back to storage, replaced by summery shirts, rain gear, and garden gloves. Yes, garden gloves.

Every day our garden brings new surprises. The hyacinths have been at full bloom for a week. Peonies are breaking the ground. Hops vines are already 1' above the soil surface. So much to do, and so very little time to get it all done.

New this year is an ornamental planting bed that’s been deepened to create suitable habitat for a small kitchen garden. Strawberry crowns were planted last week. This week chard and chive seeds will be sown. I’m considering facing a bare concrete retaining wall with black bamboo roll fencing.

I realize now that my estimated time of completion for hand quilting my winter quilt didn’t take into consideration the never-ending list of garden chores attached to inflexible deadlines. Oh well. It will get done when it gets done.

I just finished my March blocks for the Craftsy BOM class. String blocks and foundation piecing were the lessons this time around. Using only remnants from past quilting projects, these blocks turned out to be spectacular, if I do say so myself.

I finally reached the underarm bind-offs on the back of Sailing the Hudson Bay. Will continue to work on as the year progresses, but on no deadline.

On the entertainment front, we recently finished Season 1 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. It took me one or two episodes to become invested because there are so many characters and plots, but if little spitfire Arya Stark didn’t get my attention (and she did - simultaneously cute as a button, and fierce as a honey badger), then Daenerys Targaryen - stepping unscathed out of the ashes of her husband’s funeral pyre cradling three freshly hatched baby dragons - certainly would have done it. Can’t wait to see Season 2.

With spring weather comes allergens, so it’s time to resume Eclair’s periodic medicated baths. The glass shower doors make a huge difference in the stress level for this task, keeping her contained for the ten minutes the shampoo is supposed to stay on her before rinsing, without the stress of directly restraining her. We lived that dream way too many times at the old homestead. Lest you feel sorry for the gal, she got her bath because she was starting to show signs of digestive upset and skin irritation. And the medicated shampoo seems to provide almost immediate relief. Each bath at this house her behavior has been a little better. And this time she didn’t hide when she heard the bath being run, didn’t run from me when I retrieved her, and didn’t fight me when I began to put her in the tub. She actually stood patiently while I wetted her down and began rubbing shampoo across her back and down her belly, and actually based her her purrs I would say she actually enjoyed having her neck scrubbed. Huh!

And finally, Facebook. Yes, I finally decided to post real content on my Facebook page, including a photo that isn’t the default blue and white silhouette. I know! I’ve only started to find friends on the site, so I empathize with Claire and her new Facebook account from the “Send out the Clowns” episode of Modern Family.

Speaking of which, a few days ago I looked up the pages of some of my blood relatives. Based on their profiles likes, I should probably demand my parents take a paternity test. “Like: Reading anything by Nicholas Sparks”. Really??? There had to be a mix-up at the hospital!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Roads

When temps soar to an bewildering 83º in the American Midwest in mid-March, there are really only two ways to handle it.

One way, is to lay in stunned submission to the heat hammer that is this year, aching for the slightest breeze.

The second is to revel in its arrival, sitting outdoors with book in one hand and a pint of IPA in the other.

The second way is much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

AMC’s Walking Dead
I can think of no good reason to watch this show, and yet I find myself looking forward to each new installment.

ABC’s Wipeout
I’m not a regular viewer, but keep a batch on my DVR to watch when pure entertainment is prescribed. There is no substitute to a body-slam on a foamy ball.

Worst Cooks in America
I’m pretty saturated on the cooking competition front, yet when a contestant exclaims something like “well no one told me I couldn’t keep meat on the counter all day,” my self-esteem inevitably moves up a couple of notches.

For the more intellectual-type looking for a guilty pleasure, perhaps these paper dolls patterned after key characters from Downton Abbey will fill the bill. My favorite are Thomas & O’Brien, of course, with optional “evil soap” and alternate hand shot through from a WWI trench “accident”. If it weren’t for the fact that I may have once owned Sybil’s NOW T-shirt, that could have been a strong contender.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Springing Forward

Is it spring? Nature seems to believe it is.

Nasturtiums are beginning to blossom outside...

and snapdragons seedlings are sprouting inside.

Nature isn’t the only force in forward momentum, either. I’m over 100 pages in my 900+ book, 1Q84, and finding it hard to put down, despite the riot of birdsong outside my window.

And the back of Sailing the Hudson Bay is approaching arm bind-off.

With highs this week expected to reach the 80s, there’s no rush to finish. Maybe I’ll read a bit more...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Finished Object: Herringbone Quilt Shams

I’m not sure why it hadn’t occurred to me when I originally made the Herringbone Quilt (began in February 2007) that I would want matching shams. Our previous comforter ordered from The Company Store came with shams, which I’ve been using as a make do for the coming on four (!) years. Fugly!! At least I kept some of the fabric remnants from the main quilt’s construction.

Herringbone is a super-easy quilt to piece. It’s just 3 1/2" squares arranged in a specific color pattern, surrounded by a two borders. The difficult thing is the color pattern.

The color blocks are set in pairs, and arranged to look like a traditional herringbone brick pattern. Other than the borders, the quilt uses two color families, green and blue, but in a gradating range of values. One corner of the quilt bears the deepest value of green, going to a very light green at the opposite corner. The same corner that has the deep value of green, also has the lightest value of blue. The center of the quilt has a very balanced green/blue field.

Choosing the original fabrics was a bear. The quilt has 28 different greens, and 28 different blues within the herringbone pattern alone. I had to visit store after store, and bring with me my fabric bundles to ensure the colors were a good match, and that I developed a fairly smooth gradation - no unexpected leaps - in value. Plus, I needed a lot more fabric in the mid-range values than in the extremes, but until I had all the fabric picked out, I couldn’t be certain just how much would be required of each print. I made a spectacle of myself everywhere I sent, and it’s fair to say that a good number of store clerks thought I was nuts.

As for the sham design, they are significantly smaller than the original quilt, so I couldn’t possibly achieve an exact match to the main quilt. Instead, I decided to duplicate the corners that had the extreme value contrasts. I still had the planogram from the large quilt project, and could find the correct fabrics in my stash by using the finished quilt as a reference. Almost easy!

Missing in all this was the backing fabric, wide border, and binding. I had nowhere near sufficient quantities of the backing fabric, and zero remnants of the wide border and binding. Rather than attempt to match (impossible) I went for something completely different, using an off-white with purple pastoral designs for the wide border and backing (originally a pink/green stripe, and a light green check), and a forest green binding instead of the original sherbet green.

Piña and Eclair give the shams two paws up.

I used a similar opening for the back of the sham as the old shams had used, where the two sides overlap and close with matching fabric ties.

Finishing these is a relief, and almost makes me grateful for being otherwise felled with a bad cold, because it gave me guilt-free time indoors despite the optimum weather outside for raking and garden prep.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

My Definition of a Nearly Perfect Saturday

Making progress on the shams for my herringbone quilt (glacial, though it may be).

Watching a live Rugby match, Clermont vs. Toulouse, in the French Top 14 (though with a score of 35-5, it wasn’t much of a match)—while adding a few rows to Sailing the Hudson Bay.

Prepping seed trays so spring planting can begin.

Playing nursemaid to the latest batch of homemade sauerkraut.

And spending an afternoon dyeing with friends.