Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Musical memories aren't so far away

For 37 years, I’ve had a girl-crush on Carole King.

When Tapestry came out in 1971, I was a sophomore in high school and “So Far Away” was a staple on KOIL-AM radio out of Omaha. Of course everyone wanted to sing along, but you risked looking like a total dork if you got the words wrong. So it was godsend when the Omaha World Herald printed the lyrics one week in their Friday youth section. Anita Shires brought a copy to the Auburn High School football game and about a dozen of us AHS Pep Club members huddled around her newspaper clipping, staying warm in the stands while we sang “So Far Away” over and over -- blissfully unaware that we were looking like dorks, anyway, even though we were getting the words right.

(Here’s where I metaphorically take my teeth out and rap my cane on the floor and talk about kids today having it so easy, just Googling song lyrics any time they want. Even if you could afford to buy the albums Way Back When, most of them didn’t have the lyrics printed inside, so you had to either be REALLY sure of the words you heard on the radio, or you had to wait for the Omaha World Herald to give you a lovely surprise by choosing your favorite song to spotlight in the Friday paper. On the other hand, my memory is a lot more fun than Googling would have been.)

Anyway, Carole King was just so fabulous. I loved her slightly-husky voice and her piano accompaniments and everything about her. I stopped everything when “It’s Too Late” or “So Far Away” came on the radio, just to marvel at the rich sound of it all – and to sing along, once Anita Shires’ newspaper clipping had allowed that to happen with impunity. I stared endlessly at the Tapestry album cover down at the Western Auto store, the only place in town where we could buy music, and marveled at her photo. She looked shy and uncomfortable, sitting solemnly in the background with her big, curly hair and her cat taking center stage. I decided she probably hated having her picture taken and would have much rather been at the piano, hammering out more wonderful music and adding to her already amazing repertoire of classic American hit songs.

I parceled out enough of my tip money from my waitress job at Wheel’R Inn to go back to the Western Auto and get Tapestry on cassette tape – preferable to the album because of its portability. Over the next few years, I wore out not only that cassette tape, but Rhymes and Reasons, and then Fantasy.

When I went away to college, it was Fleetwood Mac and Emerson, Lake & Palmer who captured my musical fancy, but I always fell back on Carole King as “comfort music,” the auditory equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup on a bad day.

Occasionally I’d see a news or magazine story about her and continue to be starstruck. She named one of her daughters Louise (my middle name! Yay, Carole!). She was often painfully shy. She became an environmental activist and headline attraction at Democratic Party fundraisers. And then there was that great Gap commercial where she looks at her now-adult daughter with such unabashed love and pride…(what my own daughter hilariously calls “the uterus look.”) She’s in her mid-60s and still writing great music. I think I admire her classic hits even more now, just knowing the path she’s taken over the years.

It’s so easy now to hop onto iTunes and quickly find and download all the music that instantly reminds us where we came from. For me, there’s nothing like Carole King. What’s your favorite comfort music?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'd sleep in them if I could

New shoes. Red. Comfortable. SO comfortable. Great with black, brown, or blue denim. Oddly adorable. Love them.
Is it because I'm staring my 52nd birthday right in the face?

Monday, September 08, 2008

A batch of aprons

I had such a great time in my sewing room over the weekend! I was looking for a couple of additional quick projects to complete for the United Way silent auction at work next week. I realized I still had a number of thrift store shirts on hand, originally scooped up to make another batch of little girls' dresses. Instead, it occurred to me, why not see how they'd transform into colorful aprons?

Some good-natured co-workers agreed to model them for me today.

It was so much fun to see how many of the original shirt details I could turn into apron features. For the sassy little pink plaid number, modeled here by the lovely Sarah, I sliced the shirt horizontally right below the arms, leaving the button and buttonhole plackets in place along the side edges – and the curved shirttail instantly became a gently scalloped hem.

For the yellow Hawaiian print modeled by Kathy, I used just the back of the shirt for the main apron, then sliced out the only piece of the front that wasn’t marred by old barbecue stains to create a deep buttoned pocket. It doesn't seem to show up well in the photo.

Next up, another tropical print. The front button placket became the waistband, and I couldn’t resist actually using the buttons for something – so I repurposed one of the cuffs for a button-on loop for an appliqu├ęd dishtowel.

The bib apron above in a standard windowpane plaid seemed boxy and frumpy up top until I re-did the seam to make a sweetheart neckline – it added the right touch of femininity (even though it's a tad big on Kathy, but she's model-slim.) I felt better yet about the results when Sarah and Kathy were enthusiastic about them, too.

Besides the four aprons made from old cotton shirts, I made one more apron out of a vintage tablecloth and a little rick-rack and grosgrain ribbon. I didn’t think I’d throw this into the silent auction donation, as it seemed to cross the line from cute and whimsical into the dangerous kitschy-and-approaching-dorky zone. But when Sarah obligingly tried it on, she looked so cute in it that I may reconsider. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A necktie backpack

You'd think that if I were going to take another extended blogging break, I'd have something truly spectacular to post upon my return. Not so, unfortunately -- the summer's been preoccupied with gardening and camping, rather than sewing. However, I did spend the final hours of the Labor Day weekend making this experimental backpack out of a bag of old silk ties I got at our quilt guild rummage sale in April.
I didn't use a pattern or really have any sort of plan in mind with it at all. I just started putting ties side-by-side and zig-zagged them together with gold thread. It almost designed itself. I lined the whole thing with a gold and burgundy cotton, and stitched the wide, pointy end of another tie to the lining to form a cell phone pocket.

I have to say, I just love how it turned out. Bohemian, yet rather chic in a strange sort of way. Here's the back:

And because I had plenty of scraps left over, I made a little zippered makeup bag, too.

These will both go into the annual United Way silent auction at work, which always seems to inspire me to get off my duff and start letting the creative juices flow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer thoughts

I feel like I'm embracing summer with great big bear hugs these days. It's immaterial to me that summer doesn't officially begin for another week and a half. Summer is state of mind, and it's absolutely wonderful right now.

Our small lawn, which was so scrawny and anemic-looking last year, has become unbelievably lush and thick. I'm convinced it's because of our new little reel lawnmower. I've been mowing about every five days -- frequently enough so the mulched-up clippings are quite small. It's unbelievable what great, easy, instantly-effective fertilizer that is. Our grass has become amazingly green, thick and healthy-looking. What a transformation!

Another unexpected plus I've discovered from the motor-free mower -- you can stop whenever you want! It sounds silly, but that's just not something you do when you're roaring along with a power mower. If I'm mowing and spot a dandelion, I pull my weeding tool out of my apron pocket and deal with it right then. If a cedar waxwing lands in the serviceberry tree and begins to feast, I can stop and quietly savor the scene without having to re-start a noisy engine. If Dan's out in the yard and we feel like chatting in mid-mow, we simply do. It's amazing how much more pleasure that brings to the whole mowing experience. It's so enjoyable that I'm almost sorry when I'm done.

Tonight we had dinner on the back porch and admired the freshly cut lawn and all the recently-planted perennials that are doing so well right now. The lavendar is just starting to blossom out, and the pink bells of the penstemon are so graceful in the breeze. There are no signs of flowers on the monarda yet, but the foliage is thick, slightly fuzzy, and perfect. The junipers planted last fall are heavy with blue berries that the birds love.

All this, and a wonderful partner to share it with. I am truly blessed. And truly grateful.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A denim garden apron

I’m always leaving stuff like my garden clippers, gloves, and such just lying around the yard and then I spend precious gardening time hunting for them. So since my sewing apron (pictured in my banner) comes in so handy in my quilting room, I thought I’d make myself a gardening apron, too.

I recently ran across this ThreadHeads tutorial (courtesy of Apronista) for an apron made out of old denim jeans. And as luck would have it, Dan had just sorted a worn pair of jeans out of his closet and I had nabbed them for a possible project. So last night, I used some of the ideas from ThreadHeads and liberally adapted them to suit my own needs.

Here’s what I ended up with.

I love, love, love it – especially the re-attached waistband that now buttons in the back.

If you can’t tell, the main part of the apron is actually the pants leg cut off with one seam ripped out, and then turned upside-down. In other words, the end of the leg – the part that would be the cuff, if these were cuffed jeans, which thankfully they were not – ends up at the waist.

I made a deep horizontal tuck to form the large pockets (plenty of fabric for that -- he’s got him some long legs, that sweet husband of mine.) That put the ripped knee right in the front, so I clipped one of the pockets off the tush and stitched it to cover the rip. The whole thing holds together with some stitching along the sides of the two “underneath” layers and a straight vertical line of topstitching along the center seam.

You could do some really adorable embellishments on something like this, with lots of appliques and rick rack and fun embroidery. For mine, I just wanted something really basic and utilitarian that I wasn't afraid to get grimy and that I could throw into the washer and dryer with ease.

I came straight home from work this evening, put it on, loaded up the pockets and had an extremely efficient hour of puttering around weeding, clipping, watering -- with everything I needed right there!

If you have any interest in making this and my description doesn't make sense, leave a comment or e-mail me privately and I'll work up a little tutorial.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Eeek! Thrips!

This weekend's unseasonably hot, humid weather has challenged my flowerbeds, so I've kept the garden hose handy to do deep watering. And I don't know if it was aggravated by the heat or not, but my wonderful little New Dawn rose came down with a case of the thrips.

I plucked off and crushed all the little critters I could spot, but they seemed to come back within hours. Dan positioned the finch feeder next to the rosebush, so that can't hurt. And in looking online for some natural solutions, I ran across this item about sticky traps.

Instead using yellow posterboard (really, who has that in the house?) I stitched some yellow fabric to a couple of narrow strips of stiff interfacing (OK, I do have that in the house) and added hanging loops of the yellow rick rack which also happened to be handy.

Then I just slathered them with Vaseline and hung them right on the rose bush.

To be honest, the thing looks pretty ridiculous with these yellow dangly things on it. Reminds me of old stories about medieval children with a poultices around their necks to ward off the plague.

But I'll be darned -- the traps actually seem to be working. I haven't seen a single little critter feasting on New Dawn's buds or leaves since I put them on yesterday morning!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dude, please -- just paint!

I apologize for being negative, and I truly don’t want to be unkind. But I have the World’s Most Annoying House Painter.

Fortunately he has no reason to suspect that I blog, so he won’t be seeing this. I would never intentionally hurt his feelings. But, just between you and me – this guy is driving me nuts.

He’s a talker. He’s REALLY a talker. Now, I am all for having friendly, collegial business relationships. But this guy is constantly flapping his jaws about anything and everything. We’ll be headed out the door to go somewhere and he decides he needs to hop down off his ladder and talk to us for 20 minutes about some situation with our eaves he’s discovered. Apparently he’s that he’s decided we have some sort of Dreaded Eaves Syndrome that will cause our entire house to self-destruct years from now. But hey, he’s got a cousin that could fix it right away and boy, would we be glad to have THAT little disaster nipped in the bud…

At first we didn’t mind him pointing out this and that, because he is, presumably, someone who knows his way around a two-story domicile and could have some valued professional input on its construction. So we’d listen with a mild amount of interest and assure him we’d look into it at some point. But once he’s got you in a conversation, this guy goes on forever and he always has an angle. He feels our gutters and downspouts are horribly inadequate. His brother-in-law can help out with that. He proclaimed our roof a mess. Surely it will cave in on us one night, but his wife’s nephew could save us from certain doom if only we would call him. You get the picture.

We had an exhaustive inspection when we bought the house two years ago, and while there is always ongoing maintenance to be done -- like, um, painting -- there just is nothing that dire about the condition of our house. But instead of just painting like we're paying him to do, this dude is on a one-man mission to secure employment for his entire family by fixing our home's fabricated ills.

To make matters worse, he’s painting only on weekends so the job is taking forever. Dan generally works Saturdays so that’s when I find myself flying solo in my quest to avoid the World’s Most Annoying House Painter. He’s working on the front of the house? I’ll bolt out the back! He’s run to the store for more paint? Quick, make a break for it!

But when I’m working in the garden, as I was almost all of last weekend, I can’t avoid him. More yappity-yapping. More endless observations of trees that need trimming, and how I'd better get my deck sealed or the earth is just going to open up and swallow my ramshackle hovel.

So you wanna guess my favorite gardening implement of all? Yep, you're right.

Blasting a little Van Morrison into my ears brings me right back to center and keeps the World's Most Annoying House Painter at bay for as long my iPod can hold a charge.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A birdly treat

My office window looks out onto a small courtyard crowded with trees. This afternoon I was earnestly writing away on something, and a flash of orange caught my eye.

Could it be? Nahhh, it couldn't...or could it?

It flitted about and perched in a more-exposed spot. Sure enough, it was a male Baltimore oriole, resplendent in orange and black and singing its little heart out.

This was an amazing sight, considering this little spot -- as green as it is -- seldom attracts any bird life but the occasional grackle or crow. I grabbed my camera out of my purse and snapped away.

When the bird flitted over to another part of the courtyard, I raced down the hallway and around the corner into my co-worker Mike's office. "Look out your window!" I told him. "There's a Baltimore oriole out there!"

Mike scowled. "You know I'm a Yankees fan," he said.

Y'got me on that one, Mike. Ba-DUMP-bum!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The first rose of summer

I’ve been anticipating it for days – yesterday morning when I left for work it had almost happened, and I was sorely tempted to walk home at lunchtime just to check. Pesky work got in the way.

And last night – not quite.

This morning’s early light did the trick. And so, I proudly present my garden’s very first rose of the season.

It’s a New Dawn climbing rose, and it seems to be doing very well in one of the sunny corners of my new flowerbed. It’s absolutely covered with more buds. My friend and garden advisor Judith tells me they’ll soon be exploding out like popcorn.

Not knowing much about roses, I was a little hesitant to put one into the garden, but Judith assured me that New Dawn is one of the easiest, most pest- and disease-resistant varieties in all of rose-dom, and that it will grow like gangbusters all through the summer. Guess I’d better start thinking about putting in a trellis so it can go about its business in a well-supported manner.

If I had been home today, I know I’d have been parked in the garden for hours, just staring at the lovely blush of New Dawn. Instead, I just saved the photo as the background screen on my computer at work. Not quite the same thing, but I sure did enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

From tablecloth to summer skirt

Nothing says "summer" like a cool cotton skirt, and here's one I plan to enjoy a lot over the next few months.

It started as a circular muslin tablecloth that I picked up at the thrift shop for all of a dollar. It came complete with a crocheted edging and it really called out to be made into a summer skirt.

Inspired once again by those clever gals over at Wardrobe Refashion, I cut a wide arc out of the circle, then cut the bottom off of an old white T-shirt to add a stretchy yoke. A couple of seams and two button holes on the yoke later, the thing was ready for trip through the washer with some Rit dye. I love the soft apricot color that resulted - it's just exactly what I wanted. A ribbon tie through the yoke finished the whole thing off.

It's already proven its worth as fun, comfy weekend wear. Do I love the skirt because it's great, or just because I got it for pocket change? Matters not to me!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Summer begins

Hope everyone is having a relaxing Memorial Day weekend.

The main theme of the newscasts this weekend, besides the presidential race, has of course been the high price of gas and its ripple effect on the price of everything. Of course there are tons of extremely serious consequences from this, but Dan and I were talking yesterday about some positives that could come from it as well.

The news has focused on the fact that more people are staying home this weekend and are planning to stick close to home all summer. We certainly are.

And I fully recognize the fact that Dan and I have the option of driving less. We don’t have Little League games to drive to every week, and we live in a small town where we can both walk to work every day. When it comes to avoiding driving, we’re extremely lucky. We can do it.

We were out chatting with some neighbors in the yard last night and everyone seems to be taking a similar attitude toward facing a summer of soaring gas prices. Nobody likes paying more at the pump, but we’ll enjoy being home instead.

And if we're enjoying our homes more, paying more attention to our yards and gardens, reading on the porch and puttering around pulling weeds...this is not a bad thing.

If I'm passing up a quick trip to the mall on a Sunday afternoon because I've realized I'm almost out of my favorite shade of Clinique lipstick -- and instead I admit that I can get along perfectly well with the three nearly-unused tubes of similar shades I already have...this is not a bad thing.

If we wait until a special occasion to try out that new restaurant in town, and instead stock a little extra beer and wine and cheese in the fridge at home so we can spontaneously invite neighbors over when we feel like it...this is not a bad thing.

If we consolidate errands, walk more, budget carefully, simplify, repair instead of replace, and remember to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of our area...these are certainly not bad things.

So I'm not being taken in by the alarmists on the news. Certainly the current economy is having devastating effects on many people, and I'm not meaning to minimize that. But here at our house, we know we've got abundant opportunity to enjoy our own little patch of the earth much, much more. And this summer, that's what we plan to do.

I'm starting right now by going out to check on the new rose bush I planted yesterday. It's laden with buds that should be opening soon. By not driving as much, I'll have the time to stop and smell them!

Friday, May 23, 2008

One word only!

I always enjoy reading the latest from Devorah over at Squid Knits. I thought I'd pick up her "one word" challenge. How about snagging it to do yourself, too? Just copy, paste, do your one-word answers and post. Remember - One word only!!!!

  1. Where is your cell phone? ………….. purse
  2. Where is your significant other?………………….. kitchen
  3. Your hair? …………………………………….. messy
  4. Your parents? ……………………………….. beloved
  5. Your dream last night?………………….. Uganda
  6. Your favorite drink? ……………………….. Appletini
  7. Your dream/goal?………………………….. retirement
  8. The room you’re in?…………………….. family
  9. Your ex?……………………………………….. forgotten
  10. Your fear?…………………………………….. tornadoes
  11. Where do you want to be in 6 years?…….. RVing
  12. Where were you last night?………….. Charlotte
  13. What you’re not?………………………….. Republican
  14. Muffins?………………………………………..Corn
  15. One of your wish list items?………….. iPhone
  16. Where you grew up?…………………….. Nebraska
  17. Your favorite thing? ................... family
  18. The last thing you did?…………………..yawned
  19. What are you wearing?………………….. pajamas
  20. Your TV?……………………………………….. reruns
  21. Your pets?…………………………………….. Abigail
  22. Your computer? …………………………….. Dell
  23. Your life?……………………………………….. enviable
  24. Your mood?………………………………….. tired
  25. Missing someone?……………………….. daughter
  26. Your car?……………………………………….. truck
  27. Something you’re not wearing?…….. lipstick
  28. Favorite Store?……………………………….. fabric
  29. Your summer?……………………………….. busy
  30. Like(love) someone?…………………………….. absolutely
  31. Last time you laughed?……………….. tonight
  32. Last time you cried?……………………….. Monday
  33. Who will re-post this?…………………….. dunno!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Of Ashton Kutcher, Toby Keith and Baby Gavin

On my flight to Charlotte Monday afternoon, I was seated next to a couple with a little boy who had just had his first birthday. He was awfully cute. He looked exactly like Ashton Kutcher must have looked as a baby. Considering he'd been cooped up on various planes and airports most of the day, he was handling the trip pretty well -- but was understandably restless and just a tad bit fussy. His young parents, who called him Gavin, were frantically trying to entertain him for the last leg of what they told me had been an all-day journey. And for the most part, they were pretty successful. I doubt anyone besides me was even aware there was such a young child on board.

I tend not to chat with fellow passengers all that much when I travel, so I was knitting and listening to my iPod during the flight. (I've just discovered the KnitPicks podcasts. What fun!) Eventually, the baby became interested in my iPod. His poor parents had already distracted him with every other gadget they had with them, and I told them I certainly didn't mind if some chubby little hands wanted to play with my iPod for a little bit. There was literally nothing he could hurt on it, and nothing that could hurt him. He seemed to have fun playing and watching the images change rapidly in response to his patting and rubbing on the touchscreen. And he very successfully entertained himself for the rest of the flight. I wished his exhausted parents the best and went on my merry way.

About 2 o'clock the next morning, I jumped awake in my hotel room to the sound of Toby Keith blaring "How Do You Like Me Now?" I stumbled groggily out of bed and lunged toward the sound, rummaging through a pile of travel papers and yesterday's clothes. And there was my iPod, with the screen lit up in "alarm clock" mode.

What the...? I didn't even know my iPod had an alarm clock mode. I certainly had no idea it was capable of playing music I could hear without twisting in the earphones (which always makes me feel a little squeamish.) At that hour, I could barely remember how to turn it off, but a few random jabs at the touchscreen did the trick -- and I went promptly back to sleep.

It was halfway through the next day before I remembered Baby Gavin and realized that he must have set the alarm with his own little hands.

So if he could do it, why couldn't I? I managed to figure out the setting that night. I wasn't nearly as cute doing it as Baby Gavin was, but the alarm worked great for the rest of my week in Charlotte.

It's the best travel tip I ever got from a one-year-old.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quilt guilt

This weekend I'm exhibiting a quilt in a local show.

I do not love this quilt.

I feel pretty guilty about not loving this quilt, because the two of us have spent a lot of time together these past couple of months. Well, actually, there've been three of us. Me, the quilt, and a seam ripper.

I had great plans for this project initially. My guild's challenge for this show was to create a quilt inspired by a poem or a song. What a great challenge for an old English major! (Which I seem to be mentioning a lot lately, for some reason - maybe because I realized it's been exactly 30 years this month that I graduated from college. But anyway....)

I spent ages searching for just the right verse to transform into a quilt design. I went back through the classics. I dug through anthologies I hadn't opened in years, looking for just the right metaphor, the perfect image, that could then be expressed through quilting. I mean, I really beat it to death to a ridiculous degree.

Then I stumbled across the works of the contemporary American poet Mary Oliver. And without question, I knew "Wild Geese" was the poem for me. It was a celebration of diversity -- that everything has a place in this world. And of course the traditional Flying Geese block would set everything off perfectly. Bingo.

I envisioned a whole collection of traditional American blocks and motifs, pieced in a wide variety of fabrics and "embraced" by a sweeping arc of flying geese, giving a place and a purpose to everything below.

But despite charting everything out on graph paper, I had the darndest time getting everything to fit together. The cohesive, everything-has-a-place-in-this-world effect I was going for just didn't ever click. Even as I was sewing, it started to feel too 80s-country to me. Ick.

I finished it and submitted it for the quilt show anyway. It looks OK -- just OK. But it won't become one of my favorites.

Poor quilt. It's not to be blamed for turning out this way. But now what do I do with it?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A little ragged around the edges

I went to a class a few weeks ago on the Bull's Eye quilt technique. It was a really fun day.

The actual technique seems to be under copyright protection since it appeared in this book some years ago, so I won’t go into specific instructional details. (Just Google it for tons of examples.) But you can probably figure out just from looking at the photos that basically, you start with a foundation square, then layer concentric circles of fabric on it, stitching each one down and leaving the edges raw. Slice each layered square into quarters, mix them up to re-assemble, and you’ve got blocks that look like this.

No, the edges don’t match. The fabrics don’t coordinate, with the exception of the foundation squares. The stitching isn’t precise. I used up odds and ends of both fabric and thread. This was very much a “let loose and don’t worry about it” sort of project. In other words, definitely NOT designed for the perfectionist!

When the whole thing is pieced, layered with cotton batting, quilted and bound, you throw it immediately into the washer and dryer. Those raw edges fray and curl just a bit, and you end up with a pretty cool-looking, if very informal, little quilt.

I was sort of going for a scallopy look, using half-circles for the border. It didn't totally turn out to have the effect I was going for, so next time I'll break it up with a solid inner border before adding the half-circles.
(And here's Dan, just looking adorable...)
The cheery woman who taught the class said that once you’ve made a Bull's Eye, it will end up being among your most-used quilts. The frayed edges make it so cozy and inviting, always ready to scrunch up with you when you’re sitting on the porch or lounging on the couch. And she’s absolutely right, because that’s exactly what’s happening with mine right now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fun with geometry

I had a bag full of 2 1/2-inch fabric strips in blue and white after a swap last year at quilt guild. I wanted to whip up a quick gift recently and thought I'd play around with some different ways to use the strips.

Years ago I made one of those neat kaliedoscope quilts with the wedges cut out of strip sets and sewn together into octagonal blocks. I had used a special ruler to cut the 45-degree wedges but of course couldn't find the ruler when I wanted to use it again. It was easy enough to just use the 60-degree angle markings on my regular ruler instead, though. Turns out that six equilateral triangles fit together perfectly into a full hexagon, so I guess my high school geometry teacher, Mr. Hutton, really did know what he was talking about!

The gaps between the four 16-inch-wide hexagons filled in perfectly with more strip sets. I sliced one dark-blue strip straight down the middle to make a narrow inner border, then used more strips for the mitered border. It made for a cute, different, and very easy little quilt design and if you're looking for something unusual to do with those 2 1/2 inch strips, I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The language of business casual

I'm not a very good "business casual" kind of gal.

I wear suits and nice skirts and high heels to work most every day. On weekends, it's pretty much jeans or a denim skirt and flip-flops. Not a lot in the closet that in-between. And not much need for it, really.

Next week I'm going to an out-of-town conference where the dress code is clearly designated as "business casual." Which, I guess, is supposed to make it easier for conference-goers. But which, instead, threw me into a mild panic.

I'm always game for a little clothes shopping, though, so I cruised around online for awhile tonight to see if I could find a few pieces to get me through. A bright summer cardigan seemed like a good idea, and I kind of liked this cute set from Talbot's. But what's this ridiculous thing about "choosing a concept"?? When did a size category like "misses" or "petites" become a concept? Sheesh. The pretentiousness of it all made me grumpy. Sorry, Talbot's, no sale for you.

Then came J.Jill to the rescue, with a not only some items that were just what I needed, but a use of language that appealed to me just as much as that of Talbot's had turned me off. Consider the sale section, so cleverly named "Summer for a Song." Or the "splendid" linen pants. J.Jill, may I place my order now?

Silly, sure -- but somehow you just never get over being an English major!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reel exciting

Last night after work, Dan and I went to Lowe's and bought a reel lawnmower.

Our current house has a fairly small yard, and firing up our 6 hp, gas-powered, self-propelled mower every week was just feeling inappropriate and very non-green. So we thought we'd give the reel variety a try. And this evening, we did exactly that.

We're totally enamored with it! It didn't exactly produce a classic manicured cut, but we're not big fans of that look, anyway. It was lightwight and very easy to maneuver around. The whole lawn was finished in less than 30 minutes, and it felt great to be pushing a mower that wasn't gulping gasoline or belching smoke. A few observations:

  1. It took a much different "hold" than a gas-powered mower -- I had to be conscious not to push downward on the handle, or I'd raise the reels up in front too high to cut.
  2. Rather than taking the classic back-and-forth laps around the yard like I'd do with the old mower, the reel mower seemed to perform best with more vacuum-cleaner like motions -- it didn't leave tracks, so no weird patterns in the lawn from mowing that way.
  3. The mower came with a detachable fabric tray to catch clippings, but it seemed to handle much more easily when we took the tray off. The blades in the reel seem to shred the clippings pretty finely, anyway -- and even though the grass was pretty long, the mower didn't leave any discernable clumps of cut grass behind. So we have the added benefit of leaving those shredded clippings behind as good, natural nourishment for the lawn.
We'll probably have to mow a little more frequently than we're accustomed to in order to keep the lawn looking neat, but this mower was such a pleasure to use that it shouldn't be a real chore. We're pretty easily amused, aren't we?!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Starting up again

Wow, I'm totally out of practice blogging. But I've missed it and thought I'd start up again after letting everything go stale for the past seven months. A few friends have wondered if I'm OK. Why yes, I'm just fine! I just sort of lost steam back in the fall and didn't feel like writing that much.

And of course once I stopped, I couldn't seem to jump-start myself to pick it up again. But rather than shut things down, I thought I'd redesign a little and give it another go.

I'm also going to broaden my approach a bit and let myself write about whatever I'm thinking about. When I first started to blog, I was bound and determined to keep my content very focused on sewing and knitting for community service, and providing ideas that might be useful to other crafters interested in similiar projects. Very organized, very to-the-point, very English major. But as time worn on, to be perfectly honest, posting only about these projects was starting to feel like a bragfest or a rather tiresome litany of "oh, look! I did this! I did that!" Ugh. I don't know really why I felt that way, because I adore reading about other people's projects, but somehow I was getting self-conscious talking about my own and nothing else.

The blogs I really enjoy reading have lots of crafting content, but others are more general in nature, too -- so I may just relax things a bit and have fun writing about anything that occurs to me. That will include lots and lots of sewing and knitting, of course, but also gardening (because things are coming to life in our yard so beautifully this year), and other general stuff that inspires, perplexes, or entertains me.

That said, I'll return to sewing right now to share the final outcome of the blocks I wrote about last fall. Didn't this quilt turn out great?

Best of all, it's being enjoyed every day by this lovely lady. Happy Mother's Day to the mother of the wonderful man with whom I am so, so fortunate to be sharing my life!