Thinking on Thursday

Lots of crazy stuff going on in my world now. 

Harvey has taken a path through LA.  Irma is coming in from the African coast and where she lands seems to depend on which side of Cuba she comes in on.  And, there's other bad weather brewing in the gulf that has me watching the weather almost constantly.  New goal, always know at least as much as my boss.  Sometimes he and I know different things, but I always try to know as much as him.  It's embarrassing if I don't. 

Climate change is real, y'all!  Science is real.  Don't believe the lies.

Gotta love Sydney.  It's what keeps her alive.  She is determined that her having to cook one night a week is not a real thing because she doesn't want it to be.  Holy Cow!  I had to tell her Tuesday that she was cooking Wednesday, no excuses.  And, she did.  She even went to the store and bought what she was going to cook.  She cooked it and it was another delicious meal, tho much simpler than she has been making, which was fine with us.  I walked in the house and to the kitchen and dropped my lunchbox off.  She tensed up.  I said "Thank you" and went to change.  She relaxed and smiled.  She is so lucky to have stubborn parents.  Because it takes someone as stubborn as she is, or she'd run right over them. 

Hmmmm, somehow, I think that has a lot to do with her ending up with us after living with so many people that can't stand up for themselves.  We are both at least as stubborn as her.

Her latest excuse was that she didn't know her schedule.  What??  You know I went to the same community college you're going to, right?  I know you know your schedule. 

The council on biblical manhood and womanhood has decided that you can't be a Christian if you accept gay marriage.  (yes, I read the whole statement because I was so appalled I couldn't stop.  Then, I yawned.  bigot idiots.)  Thank goodness God isn't listening to them when he chooses who to love.

I know the message is pray and give, pray and give.  And, I'm going to say it again.  Pray for the folks dealing with Hurricane Harvey.  The evacuees, the volunteers, the officials...even the insurance adjusters (most of them are there to help you).  And, give what you can give to the relief effort.  Everybody needs a helping hand sometimes.  Make sure the helping hand is there when you need it.  Pay it forward.

Be well.  Have a good Thursday.  Every so often, I have to stop and cry when I read or watch some heroic heart touching story...or a funny reunion.  It doesn't take much to overwhelm me right now.  It proves I'm human

I kinda like being reminded sometimes. 




I guess it was a bad week to send the Ark to the cleaners.

It's been nothing but rain and wind for days.  But, the water didn't stay long.  We watched it fall and flow through the back yard, or run off the front into the street.  When we emptied the rain gauge yesterday, we were at 9".  But, it rained all night.  Folks in neighboring counties are not faring as well as we are.  Lots of rivers are starting to flood. 

We have a few limbs down.  Nothing significant.  We take care of our trees and the extra rain this year seems to have left most of the neighborhood trees in good shape.  It won't take long to get ours cleaned up, after the rain stops.  The power only went off for a few seconds at a time, but it went off so often that we stopped re-setting the clocks.  And, every time it blinked out, I wondered if that was it.  I was sleeping the other night and every time the power would cycle off and on, my phone would buzz.  That woke me up and the lamp beside the bed is one that you touch to turn it on (and power surges turn it on) and it was flashing on and off. 

I can only imagine what is going on in Houston now.  My thoughts are with them.  That's deep water and they're going to be dealing with it for days. 

Rob had to get out on Saturday morning, so he went to the grocery and gas.  He had to buy premium to top his tank off because the store was sold out of everything else.  And, the shelves of the grocery were bare.  There was no meat.  Only a couple of pallets of water.  And, only one kind of bread.  We went on Sunday for our regular grocery run and the shelves were re-stocked, tho not full.  It shows how fragile our food chain is. 

Anyway, I couldn't do much else.  I cooked a little, but I didn't want to start too much in case the power went out.  I thought about cleaning house, but honestly, I really didn't want to.  It was pretty scary, even here and I wanted comfort.  So, I did needlepoint.  I had my canvas ready Friday night and Saturday morning, I opened the blinds so I could see out the window and I sat in front of the window and watched TV and the rain.

Remember the other day I talked about designing two pillows?  I wouldn't pay $50 for the yarn to make them.  But, I kept looking on ebay and eventually, found the slight misspelling that got me to the people that didn't know what they had or just wanted to get rid of it, and found that I was willing to spend $30 to make them.  Of course, that means I'm working with other people's leftovers, but that made choosing yarns to fill the spaces more challenging and fun.  If I only have a little, I can only use it in little places.    You can see the quilt blocks starting to form.  I didn't draw the shape on the canvas.  I marked center and am doing it by counting.  I've only made a couple mistakes so far.  And, I'm learning a LOT about getting lines to line up.  You can see all those points on the flying geese and center square in a square.  That took some thinking, I'll tell you. 

I don't know if you can see it, but this is the pattern for the blocks at the top in the sketch below.  Except I replaced the upper left block.  It was too plain, so I picked something else.  
Everybody have a good Monday!  Do whatever you do to ask your higher power to watch out for our neighbors who are STILL in the path of a harsh storm. 



How do you know you're home?

You know I work in insurance, so you can imagine that right now, I am the weather.  It's about all I'm focused on right now.  Checking it.  Or reacting to it.  And, coaching my less experienced peers. 

The trip to New Orleans went well.  I got to meet some of the people I work with all the time face to face.  I really hit it off with some.  People were excited to see me and welcoming.  There was one guy I work with a LOT and he was late, last one in.  We'd never met face to face, tho.  We had already done around the table introductions, but when he got there, we did them again.  I was last.  And, he got so excited that someone mentioned it a couple hours later, ribbing him.  It felt good to be someone people want to talk to.  And, it was interesting to see my boss's reaction.  I've always worked for folks that saw my popularity as a reflection on them...a good thing.  Not sure my current boss feels the same. 

Oh, well.  As bosses go...

this one will eventually go. 

Anyway, I realized when I got back to Austin Wednesday evening that there's a landmark I always look for when I fly in.  I come out of the secured area onto a landing above baggage claim.  You can see a long way.  And, in the center of this area of the airport there is a statue.  A tribute to a great Texan.

Barbara Jordan, first woman elected to the Texas Senate, first African-American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Texas...from anywhere in the deep south.  Orator.  Civil Rights Activist.  If you ever heard her speak, you would not be able to forget that deep, well educated voice.  She spoke with such clarity and skill and calm.  And, whether we know it or not, we miss her today. 

Be well.  Everybody have a great weekend.  If you're in the path of the storm, stay dry.  And, stay safe, no matter where you are. 



A weekend of finishes

Hello and welcome to the eclipse post...not really.  I'm sure we will all hear all we want to about eclipses today...and probably more than we want to about Afghanistan.

It was a busy three day weekend for us.  Rob and I both took Friday off.  We didn't do anything, except relax and enjoy being together.  We spent the cool part of all three days in the yard, cleaning up and watering.  That's August for you.  I think we've had nearly 40 days where the temperature was over 100* this summer, so dealing with dieback and keeping things watered is about all we can do.

During the hot parts of the day, I was inside.  Relaxing.  And, working with needles. 

I got the quilting finished on this little quilt.  And, I learned something.  It was something I ran into on the last quilt I was binding and I tested it on this quilt and it was true.  I guess it's true that an old dog can still learn new tricks. 

The trick I learned is going to be most relevant to left handed quilters.  I am left handed, but sewing machines are right handed.  Or at least right hand oriented.  I have struggled with bindings as long as I've been quilting.  And, this weekend, I learned a better way.

I bind my quilts the traditional way, with the traditional fold at the corners.  You know the one that's supposed to guarantee a perfect miter.  Well, it rarely ended in a perfect miter for me, but I'd tug and pull and stretch and make it look like a miter.  This weekend, I figured out that I'm folding it the wrong way for the way I sew.  A right hander would sew the binding to the front, then turn it over and sew it down on the back by hand, from right to left.  But, I sew by hand from left to right.  That meant those corners were turned the wrong way when I'd fold it to the back.  This time, as I approached the corner, I folded it the other way, folding the side I was approaching over and pinning it down, then folding the side I was working on over and pinning a perfect miter in the corner, then sewing it all down.  That gave me a perfect miter in all four corners.  It's something about the way the fabric is folded that it can't fold over the bulk if I sew it down from left to right. 

Sorry, that was kind of complicated to describe, so you might have to close your eyes to envision what I'm talking about.  What I'm trying to say is that those folded corners that Eleanor Burns showed me how to make work best if you sew the back down from right to left.  And, if you sew it from left to right, there's an easy way to make the fabric act like you're sewing it down the other way that works better.

I also finished the needlepoint piece I've been working on.  Yes, it is a parallelogram instead of a rectangle.  That's going to need some major blocking.  But, I am not going to feel bad, considering this is only the second piece I've done.  I am pretty darn happy with it. 

Ok, that's it for me this eclipse Monday.  Tomorrow, I'm off to New Orleans for one night of business.  I'm not even taking a hand work project.  I'm just not going to be there that long.  But, I have to make sure I pick a book to take with me. 
Everybody have a great day and a great week!  Enjoy the eclipse if you can see it.  We're going to get about 65% and we have our glasses.  I expect to walk outside after lunch for a little while with them to see what I can see.  It's the last one here til 2024.


what happens next

I'm reminded of a poem;

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.

--Martin Niemoller

I've always wanted to ask a racist what happens when the mob decides you're not white enough?  Or your children?  Or your grandchildren? 

The one thing they can't say is "it will never happen" because history has shown us, it will.  It always does. 


The dining table

I hope your dining table is as integral to your family is ours is to us.

This weekend, I made a new tablecloth for the dining table.  I'm way too cheap to buy really nice table cloths and they don't last forever, so I make them when I can.  I've made some really fun ones.  I machine embroidered one a couple years ago that we dropped gravy on the first time we used it.  So, that kind of explains why I won't spend a lot on them.  And, don't let me fool you, I'm the worst.  I dropped blackberry jelly on the edge of the last one...but fortunately, Rob got it out, so that one isn't a loss. 

It looks like a solid blue, but it's not.  There's a pattern of light and dark in it.  I bought a piece of extra wide quilt backing and it worked out perfect.  I plan to try that again.  I need a cloth that's 60" wide, so I bought 1 2/3 yard or 60" of backing, thinking I wouldn't care about the few inches I lost to a hem, but I didn't think about the fact the cutter at the fabric store couldn't possibly cut four layers of fabric in a perfectly straight line.  I had a hard enough time doing it with a rotary cutter and she was having to use scissors.  Next time, I'll buy 1 3/4 yards.  And, from one end, I got a nice piece of quilt fabric to add to the stash that's about 26x60".

Before Sydney came, Rob and I ate at TV trays in the living room.  It was our habit.  But, when we got Sydney, we started eating all our meals at the dining table.  We laughed and argued and taught and talked and discussed school and work.  In the mornings, Sydney and I would eat breakfast there.  At dinner it was the three of us.  Now, when Sydney is gone, Rob and I still eat there out of habit.  He sets the table, I bring the food.  I'm glad we picked up that tradition.  And, I hope we keep it. 

Sydney has been out of school all summer.  You can't convince her it's a mistake.  But, that means she doesn't have anything to do during the day.  So, on one day a week, when she isn't working, she has to cook dinner.  Now, you'd think that would be easy, right?  But, no.  It took a couple weeks to convince her it was really a thing and that she was actually expected to cook.  And, then, she cooked one week and thought she was done and didn't add anything to the grocery list, so she had to cook something I chose the next week.  She really didn't like that, but despite the argument, the food was good.  But, this week, she was back with a vengeance and made some grilled chicken breasts with a stick of rosemary, wrapped in bacon.  It was delicious!

This is a repeated behavior with Syd, bless her li'l pea pickin' heart.  She thinks if she doesn't participate in things that she doesn't want to do, they'll go away.  I don't know where she got that.  I mean, twice, we've dragged her weeping butt through an art museum because she thought refusing to participate would mean we would give up.  I just stood far enough away that people didn't know I was with that crying child.  And, that's not the only time we've shown her that she's not the only person that gets to control the situation. 

Of course, that has meant that when we've made a plan to do something she wanted, we've had to make dang sure it actually happened like it was supposed to.  Because there are two sides to teaching that lesson and I don't think we would have made much impact if we'd only taught her that she had to do what we wanted and not the other way around. 

Unfortunately, we all know someone that went too far the other way and now they have a kid that controls EVERYTHING! 

Anyway, now, like every time it's ever happened, once she finally buckles down and accepts that she's not in control, she finds her place in the interaction and has fun with it.  We sat the other night and talked about recipes that she's thinking of making and flavors and learning to cook more complex dishes, and practicing on her dads.  The other night, Rob asked why she was making something complex?  why couldn't it just be something simple?  And, I couldn't fault her for that.  I'd have wanted to spread my wings too, if I was in her position. 

In fact, I did, making unusual things out of unused cookbooks that my family had to eat.  And, now, I'm a really good cook. 

Life goes on around the dining table. 

Everybody have a great Thursday!  Lane


Plugging away

I'm torn today between talking about what I did this weekend and what I thought about this weekend.  

First, you all blew me away over the weekend with all the beautiful encouraging feedback.  It was much appreciated.  I don't plan to stop blogging and after that, I'm hoping I can blog a little more often.  So, I'm spreading my weekend projects out a little.

I really needed a relaxing weekend.  I'm not quite sure why I was so on edge last week at work.  But, when I would get home, I was exhausted and stressed.  I planned a mix of cleaning and gardening and sewing and needlepoint.  Sounds great, right?

I did get a lot done.  Mostly the stuff other than cleaning.  Oh, well. 

One of my projects was getting the binding on the analogous green quilt.  I got the last hand stitches in last night.  I'm a little worried about that wavy border.  I'm worried that blocking isn't going to make that go away. 

It's wavy because the quilt isn't evenly quilted all over.  It's very densely quilted in the center and more loosely quilted around the edges.  The idea was to quilt it densely in the center, where the piecing is small, then more loosely as the pieces got bigger.  But, there's a reason that judges feedback sheets have a place where they can just put a check mark next to "evenly quilted all over"...it's important.  The only real fix is to go back and add more quilting.  Just not sure if that's what I want to do.  I might have to try blocking it first and see how flat it gets. 

I really didn't mean to build a yarn stash for needlepoint.  I really only want to do one project and needed a little practice before tackling it.  But, end up with a stash I did.  So, I decided to make a project with it.  Rob and I talked about it and we decided on two pillows.  So, this weekend, I drew out the pattern and did a small test square to see how much canvas a piece of yarn would cover. 

Okay, so now I'm a pattern designer, right?  So, I sat down and figured out how much of each color I'd need.  And, then subtracted the yarn I have. 

And, these two pillows were going to cost an additional $50.


But, boy did I have fun drawing and coloring.  Like being a kid again.  I guess I see why adult coloring books are so popular now. 

We watched the news from Charlottesville this weekend.  I am shocked and horrified.  I grew up in the south.  I've seen institutionalized racism.  I've heard the jokes.  I even told a few when I was really young.  And, I can remember talking to my parents about racism when I was a young man.  (I was such a dumbass...I remember judging my Dad for saying he had black friends instead of just saying he had friends, in a time and place where just having black friends was remarkable.)  A family member recently told me a racist joke and then acted like there was something wrong with me because I didn't think it was funny.  I was so sure that the U.S. was beyond such a display of public bigotry tho.  That we were ready to accept one another as people.  Equals.  That the struggle for trans rights would be one of the last struggles. 

But, I was clearly so wrong. 

So, it's my responsibility to speak out for acceptance because I am part of a minority group that has received our share of bigotry.  And, all bigotry hurts at least two people; the one that receives it, and the one that believes it. 

Everybody have a great Monday.  And, practice acceptance. 



blog, blogger, blogging

Is it just me, or are there fewer people posting?  And, also, fewer people reading. 

I thought it was just me.  That my political views caused me to lose some followers.  But, then I noticed that some of the only bloggers posting regularly were the professionals.  And, one day I checked my views and I was only receiving half as many views. 

My many thanks to my stalwart readers that have stuck with me! 

And, I do believe the reduction is probably politics.  I know that some days, I'm just too shocked by what is going on in the world to be able to write something cheerful and entertaining.  And, honestly, I'm torn about posting about what I'm feeling because when the wrong people get wind of that, they retaliate horribly and threateningly.  And, I'm just not up for that crapful of hate that has been unleashed and allowed to flourish.  All because civility has died an spiteful orange death. 

So, I sew.  And, I quilt.  And, I garden.  And, I try to cook and clean.  And, I make sure I get out of bed every morning and face the world, no matter how bad I don't want to sometimes.  And, I make sure that at least once a week, I check in with you all.  The other people out there that accept me for who I am.  Whether they agree or not.  And, we treat one another with civility.  Whether we agree or not.  And, nobody has said I'm crazy for the extremes I'm willing to go to for a beautiful piece of fabric art in a really long time. 

My connection with what I have to believe is the real world. 

So, I'll just keep doing my best to dull every needle in the world by using it to death.  And, tinkering with sewing machines and risking my life through electrocution as I use the ones I've worked on.  And, trying to use up this stash of fabric and yarn that I accidentally ended up with.  And, sitting still in the air conditioning because honestly, that's what we do in August in the south (climate change is real, y'all!).  And, walking through the office with a smile on my face because I see how people react to that, and it makes me happy.  And, doing my best to be a good man, because good men might be in danger of going extinct. 

Here's looking forward to some cool fall days and some cooler heads in the near future. 

This little quilt always reminds me of fall. 

Everybody have a great Friday.  Rob has the day off, but I have to go to the office...this has been the busiest week!  Way too many things going on and I am exhausted.  I'm looking forward to some nice pieceful quilting this weekend. 



A little overkill is a really good thing

On Saturday, I was trying to figure out what to work on.  My guild is having a miniature quilt challenge and I'm trying to figure out if I want to enter something.  I picked this little basket quilt up. 

This is from a Sally Collins pattern.  It used to have another border, a dark green.  But, it never looked like it belonged there, so I took it off and while I was trying to decide what to replace it with, I decided not to replace it.  Without the border, it comes out at the maximum qualifying size.  I've been struggling with a backing for a 24" quilt.  That small, there were plenty of possibilities.  So many that I couldn't pick one.  I was sitting on the floor of the stash closet with fabrics strewn all around me.  This one was too small; this one was too bright; too modern; too large scale...too something. 

And, then it hit me and in 5 minutes, I had my fabrics pulled. 

Next, I had to draft it...it took a lot longer than I expected to go from a 3" block to a 15" block.  I had to draw it more than once.  The original seems to be in 16ths of an inch and that's not fun math to try to increase.  Anyway, it's not exact, but it made a perfect back. 

I haven't done this in a long time.  But, on a small quilt, repeating block quilt, I love to blow up the block and use it as a back.  It's a nice surprise. 

And, the quilting is going well.  After it was pieced, I added the yellow border and then the white one.  They were supposed to be a half inch wide.  But, then the points all fell off the quilt and would have been cut away.  So, I picked out a little bit at the corners and re-sewed a seam and trimmed off some extra fabric and reduced the borders to a quarter inch wide.  And, now it all fits.  When I initially saw the error and pointed it out to Rob, we talked about cutting the points off to keep from completely de-assembling the borders and setting triangles.  Then, it hit me I could adjust it without picking it all out, and that changed everything.  I did the little bit of required picking out on the way to JoAnn's on Saturday.

We went to JoAnn's to pick up a binding for the analogous green quilt.  I found the perfect one.  And, I picked up some 108" wide backing fabric for a new tablecloth.  When it came time to check out, there were two women at the registers.  They were there together.  They both had a bunch of stuff.  One of them questioned everything nearly everything on her bill, comparing it to the advertisement mailing (she had a new cashier and she knew it).  I don't quite know what the other one was doing, but she needed the cashier to go get her a chair so she could sit and rest after it was done.  Both cashiers looked frazzled.  And, when it was over, Rob and I walked up, all smiles.  The cashier thanked us for our patience and Rob thanked her for hers, which took her aback for a second til she realized we were commiserating.  She was so grateful for our patience and smiles and understanding that she pulled up extra coupons so that everything I bought was either 40 or 50 percent off.  That was cool.

Course, she didn't hear us grumbling from a distance while we waited.  We were probably not as patient as the cashier thought we were. 

But, it sure wasn't the cashier's fault. 

The weather broke last week.  There were a couple days where the late afternoon temperatures dropped into the 80's as rain fell all around our house...but not at our house.  This morning, it's making up for it.  It's pouring out there.  That will water all the corners that the sprinklers just can't get to.  And, it's a good thing.  The garden was looking a little sunburned. 

Everybody have a great Monday.  It's off to work for me.  Lane