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Not my favorite pattern or color combo, but fine to start with.

This really shouldn’t be hard, should it?  I mean, I’m an intelligent woman.  And I’ve sewn off and on through my life: my daughter’s dresses, a few shirts for my husband, skirts and shirts for me, and even a jacket.  And while I haven’t pieced a quilt before, I have tied many, so I should be able to combine the two skills, right?

It all started when we spent a Friday evening up at Kim’s and she mentioned she was starting a block-of-the-month quilt the next day.  “Why don’t you come, Mom?” she asked.  Too much to do, a 45-minute drive up there – lots of reasons not to.  But by the end of the evening I was considering it, and by morning I had made up my mind.  It would be fun to do together and I could do it a section at a time, instead of spending several hundred dollars on the makings of my dream quilt and letting it sit there for two years.  Which I have already done, but that’s another story.

We paid our fee and got our starter quilt block packet, and the first dilemma popped up:  to pre-wash or not to pre-wash.  If you don’t, the seams will pucker a bit when you wash the quilt, an old-fashioned look that some quilters like, and some don’t.  I’m a Don’t.  If you do pre-wash, the edges will ravel and you hope that it doesn’t ravel so much that you can’t get the right size squares out of your strips.

So I pre-wash, iron, and take it to cut out at another evening at Kim’s.  At which point I realize I’m missing one strip.  It must have gotten caught up with one of the sheets in the wash.  Kim cuts and pins everything, I cut and pin what I can.  I go home, unfold three sheets (and two of those were fitted bottom sheets!) and can’t find the missing strip anywhere.  Which means the store forgot to put it in, and I need to drive the 45 minutes back to get a new one.

A week goes by and I never get back up there. Neither do I get to JoAnn’s to buy replacement fabric for the color I don’t like.  I decide to at least sew what I have, but I search high and low and can’t find the Ziploc bag with my pieces!  So I go to the second-month meeting and pay $5 for my next block set because I haven’t finished the first one.  I also find out there were several of us missing a strip.

I come home and wash the new fabric strips, NOT putting them in with sheets this time, just in case.  And I finally make my overdue visit to JoAnn’s,which requires two trips because I forgot my 40% off coupon.  I’m not buying $9.99/yard fabric without my coupon!

Kim warns me that this block is harder than the first – there are a lot of points that have to meet right.  Also that I shouldn’t go back and do the first one first, that I should use the time to get the second block done.  Great, I get to start on the difficult one.

Still Wrinkled!

So this time, like a good girl, I start early and iron my strips.  Which is when I discover that if you pre-wash and don’t pull it out of the dryer right away, you can iron and iron and iron, and some wrinkles are STILL set in stone!  I let the strips hang over the back of a chair while I stew for two weeks.

A non-stewing Sunday rolls around. I set up the cutting table and bring my never-used quilt supplies downstairs (remember the dream-quilt purchase?):  cutting mat, razor-sharp rotary cutter, and a nifty clear-plastic, gridded, wide ruler-thingy. Ready?  No – I can’t find my directions!  I search my purse, my office, the pile of papers on the kitchen counter . . . nothing.  I’m about desperate enough to call Kim and ask her to fax me hers, but I don’t want to make her think I’m a total ditz, even if she already does. The directions finally appear in my purse, sans the Ziploc bag they were supposed to be in.

Before I begin cutting, I take her other tip to heart:  spray the strips with starch to help them keep their shape when you cut.  I mean, what person in their right mind expects you to cut exact squares and sew precise straight lines, when the material is stretchy? I thought stretchy only happened with bias-cut fabric, but maybe expensive quilt fabric is different.  So I spray.

Now, mind you, this isn’t any old spray starch.  We moved, and movers don’t like moving aerosol cans – they tend to explode at inopportune moments.  Besides, my old can of Niagara Spray Starch was, well, old.  Positively ancient.  And one of the things included in my several-hundred-dollar dream-quilt purchase is a bottle of special quilting spray starch that stays clear.  $7.99 for a small bottle, and I stand there spraying like it’s water out of the tap.

Smooth Success!

When my strips can almost stand on their own, I lay them on the cutting table and begin.  Which is when I realize that 1) hurray! the spray starch took out all the wrinkles, 2) the fabric stretched while I was ironing it, and now it has hills and valleys where there should be a straight edge, and 3) you have to lean harder on the gridded ruler-thingy than you do on the rotary cutter, or the ruler-thingy slides.  And you have to keep remembering that, over and over.  Needless to say, I’ve got a few squares that are more like parallelograms.  And a few squares that may be a smidge small in one direction because I had to cut the raveled part off and it didn’t leave quite enough.

It’s been more than two hours now and I have pretty little stacks of mostly-squares.  I had wanted to pin them together so I could sew next session, but I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.  After all, I’ve still got two weeks.

Leaf bouquets gave me heart smiles. (No, this isn't my daughter)

I love autumn.  Our front maple tree is turning slowly to vibrant red, and the tree across the street is a blazing yellow.  The fall colors are something I missed when we lived in Ireland, and I give deep sighs of enjoyment as I drive through the community, both for the visual pleasure now and the memories of autumns past.

My three children brought me gifts from nature when they were small.  The boys would pick anything they thought was unique – grass, weeds, poison ivy.  You name it, they brought it.  My daughter, however, took care to gather beauty in her small hands.  One year she brought me a bouquet of carefully chosen autumn leaves, scarlet and orange as bright as any summer flowers.  She insisted I put them in water so they wouldn’t wilt, and then was disappointed when they eventually drooped anyway, without even turn crunchy.

A few years earlier, while visiting grandparents in Oregon, she picked a beautiful bouquet of dandelions for me.  I took them from her sweaty hand, filled a small juice glass with water for them, and put them on the windowsill – the place of pride for flowers. Her grandfather, a horticulturist, came in and immediately wanted to know why there were weeds in the window.  “They’re not weeds, they’re flowers,” came her three-year-old reply.  There followed a back-and-forth argument:  “Weeds.” “Flowers.”  “No, weeds.”  “No, flowers.”  Followed by a foot stomp, complete with hands on hips.  Grandpa, of course, didn’t back down – a weed was a weed was a weed.  But #1 Daughter was determined.  They were beautiful, therefore they were flowers.

What gifts from nature have small hands presented to you?  What favorite fall memories do you have?

I haven’t had my own horse for about eight years now.  Some of the time I ache to go ride, but most of the time I’m too busy to miss it.  So why is it that when I do get to ride (last Saturday evening, thank you to Tony, Nancy & Trotter), I come home glowing and happy?  And it shows enough that when it’s planned but I’m too tired to want to go, Blaik kicks me out anyway.  Wise man.

Other horsey stuff gives me thrills, too.  Here’s a YouTube video of Frédéric Pignon and his Fresians doing gorgeous liberty work.  I love the rapport between them!

The weekend after Tim came home, we went up to Kim & John’s for a lovely dinner and visit.  John was very happy to pull his camera out for pictures, and I bugged him enough he got the tripod to so he could be in it.  (Actually, he was very willing, but I know he doesn’t like posed pictures.)  So here’s all of us in one shot.  Slide down to the second one for a little more fun!

Bryan and Tim are both working at Amazon warehouses – 10 hour shifts of fast-paced shipping or receiving.  Which will go quickly from 4-day weeks to 5-day and then 6-day weeks as the peak season gets going.  It wore them out to begin with, but now they’ve still got a bit of energy when they get home unless it was a really hectic day.  Interesting to have them going to bed at 9:30, tho!

The other hard part is that Bryan works at a warehouse in Plainfield, about a 20 minute drive south, and Tim works in the original Indy warehouse in Whitestown (next to Zionsville), about a 20 minute drive north.  Same Wed-Sat schedule (for regular hours), same day shift, but they can’t carpool.  So when my good friend Susan heard about this, she said “Don’t buy a car until we talk!”  She’s in Maryland, her Saab was still in Indy, and it needed a home and to be registered/insured (she’s driving her husband’s car).  So we have it basically on a long term loan.  Good for finances for each of us, and I’m finding out how much fun a convertible is on a sunny day!

The boys are playing a lot of video games when they’re off work, but they’re doing a lot around here, too.  Mowing, cleaning, organizing their room, shocking their mother with “what would you like me to do?” and so forth.  And doing their own laundry!  (See, some things I taught well.)  They’d both like to cook more, so once a week I guide them through cooking a dinner, and on Tuesdays (at least for now), they do dinner on their own.  It’s really nice for me to come home from class and not start in on household responsibilities.  Feels like a whole day off!

Tim starts a 1-hour evening class in a few weeks.  Easy readjustment to college life – How to Succeed in School or Successful Study Habits or something like that.  I guess he was supposed to take it his first semester.  Then in January, he’ll quit at Amazon and start full time back in Ivy Tech‘s automotive repair program.  Bryan is figuring out if he’s headed back to BYU in January, or if he can take an online class and keep earning money before going back in the spring.  $11.50/hour plus overtime will add up nicely.  But he’s still making decisions on what his major should be.  Sigh.

General Conference was great this weekend.  Quiet time now, and maybe a phone call to my folks.

Tim's home from his mission!

Tim’s home!  Tim’s home!  What else can I say?  I’ve been grinning and bawling alternately through the last week.  And it has never taken so long to get from Sept 1 to Sept 7, ever!

Somehow I stopped forwarding his emails, but he’s spent the last four months or so in the high mountain towns in west-central Colorado.  Old mining towns, lots of community relations work as well as some good teaching.  So I somehow got through the week before he arrived, busy with two college classes, Jensen clan visiting for Labor Day weekend, and switching bedrooms around.

I feel like he’s taller than he was, like topping six feet, but he’s not.  So does that mean that the broader shoulders are part of my imagination too?  It’s wonderful to have him back, drag a few stories out of him (no, that hasn’t changed), and have all the kids together.  Well, the boys all the time (Bryan is taking a semester off to work), and then up at Kim and John’s for visits.  But I think they’re taking bets on how long before I quit basking in it and am ready to kick them back out of the nest and have quiet again!

(Having problems getting pictures to size, but you can click on any and see them full size.)

Kim and John had a late night at college so couldn’t make it to the airport, so we went to their house on Sunday!

In church, the Sacrament Meeting talks on Mother’s Day are usually centered around – you guessed it – Mothers!  I used to enjoy them when the children were at home; they validated what I was doing with the kids and gave me encouragement and ideas to do more.

Now that the kids are grown, though, my main reaction to those talks is usually guilt.  Guilt for things I didn’t do with my kids, guilt for things I tried but didn’t do well, and guilt for what I never thought of but might have helped in certain situations.  Mormon moms are great at guilt, and I’m no exception.

But this Mother’s Day was different.  The first talk celebrated womanhood in general, based on Elder Cook’s talk from general conference.  And the second was focused on how Christ honored women, not only in His life, but through His prophets.  It was nice to think more in depth about the character and strength of women and our role in the Gospel instead of a list of all the wonderful things someone’s mother did.

And of course the best part of Mother’s Day was a quick call from Kim at 8 am (gasp!) because she was working a double shift; a call from Bryan in the evening even though we had talked extensively the night before; and a much anticipated call from Tim, on his mission in Colorado.  And I finally connected with my mother for a long phone call today.  All in all, a happy day!

Now that Blaik’s job is settled (QA position here in Indy), I’ve spent a big chunk of time house-hunting.  Focused mostly in Brownsburg, but included southern Boone & Hamilton Counties as well (but didn’t find what we want in our price range there).  Pulled Blaik into it when I was down to the final possibilities, and we have just finished successful negotiations for the one that we want.

It’s in Brownsburg on .6 acres, was built in the late 1980s, and has the living space we need on the main floor plus a finished half-basement and then two bedrooms and more storage upstairs.  And a multi-level deck and a pool!  Never thought I’d want a pool, but the image of sitting outside on the deck and looking out over the backyard is delightful, as is the idea of cooling off in our first summer back in heat-and-humidity-land. What’s not so delightful is the thought of bathing-suit shopping.

The home inspection is tomorrow.  Blaik will go for the whole thing, traipsing around with the inspector to his heart’s content.  And since the sellers will be gone, Susan and I will come later and talk paint colors and other decorating choices.  Closing is set for mid-May, although we may manage it sooner.  I’ll post pictures when it’s final.

Lots of good stuff happening.  The only downside is that I’m a little too bouncy to settle into working on my story!