Monday Musings: Quilting Quandaries

Next week I’ll be on my way to Ireland and the UK. Trip of a lifetime, anniversary/birthday celebrations, and vacation all rolled into one.

For a knitter and quilter, this poses a problem.

Accessories for patchwork top view on a white surface

How much yarn and fabric should I buy?

Reasons for buying lots and lots of yardage and skeins:

  • I don’t know when or if I’ll ever return and have the opportunity to buy, so I want to have no regrets.
  • Fabric and yarn are fairly lightweight, and won’t add much bulk to my suitcase.
  • There might be patterns or colors not available here.

Reasons to forbear buying anything new and shiny and pretty:

  • With the internet, anything I see can probably be purchased later, just for more money and added shipping costs.
  • I have two completed quilt tops waiting to be finished and one partially pieced top waiting. I should not buy more fabric until those projects are completed.

See my problem?

But oh, the pretty pretty colors and patterns … Colorful balls of yarn on a wooden table

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Monday Musings: So Many States …

I’m getting to check off two entries on my “States I Have Yet to Visit” list this week.

I’m in Fargo, North Dakota this week for a pesticide safety conference, for my part-time day job. Yes, I’ve seen the movie; no, I haven’t seen the television series.

img_8647I’ve never been to North Dakota, or Denver, where we had a layover yesterday. Denver was less mountainous than I’d expected, but still beautiful. Our less-than-an-hour-gonna-have-to-hustle-to-make-the-connecting-flight layover turned into five-plus hours, thanks to mechanical issues on a plane.

Since it’s important to me that any plane I fly on have no mechanical issues, I was just fine with the delay. The upside was my friend and boss has a daughter who lives in Denver,img_8641 and she readily agreed to come pick us up for dinner. And, of course, being introduced to Dion’s and their green chile pizza.

The downside was that I had finished my book and both magazines long before we finally landed in Fargo at 3 AM.

We were surprised and blessed to discover that the car rental agency had stayed open to accommodate our late flight, so we didn’t have to Uber or taxi or hitchhike to the hotel. I crawled into bed about 4:30 AM, Fargo time and managed to sleep a solid six hours.

We ventured to Fargo’s old town area, looking for lunch. The Smokehouse we found turned out to be closed on Sunday (not unusual, we soon discovered), so we went img_8643next door to Würst Bier Hall where we promptly ordered pretzels, wurst, porketta bánh mì, and french fries. Fabulous!! Stud Muffin would love that place, so I obviously have to come back.

After lunch, we walked around the old town area (gotta get some steps in after that lunch!), found a great coffee shop with scones (and a definite Seattle vibe), fun shops, and historic buildings. Dinner turned out to be peach kuchen and a root beer float at Krolls, a recommendation from our lunch server.

Don’t judge.

It’s now 8:00 Sunday evening. It’s only 6 PM in California, but my eyes are heavy. I won’t have a problem getting to sleep tonight. Tomorrow, we work!

Monday Musings on Media: Beauty & the Beast

Yep, I saw Beauty and the Beast on its opening day. I had promised to take a granddaughter to see it on her birthday which just happened to be opening day, so it worked out well.

beauty-and-the-beast-2017I really enjoyed it. I think.

I want to see it again without a four-year-old and a six-year-old fidgeting on my lap and asking questions. I loved seeing it with them, but it was not the best viewing experience for being able to describe and review the story.

But I’ll give it a try.

The wolves are intense. Both of my girls were … not scared, but definitely uneasy about the stalking, slobbering creatures.

The story is familiar but there is more backstory about Belle’s parents and the enchantress and the Beast’s childhood. I really enjoyed that. Although I had to take a girl to the restroom and I missed the part about Belle’s parents. Another reason to see it a second time.

The “gay” scene that is causing boycott talks is soooo subtle and short, it’s easy to miss. In fact, I sort of did.

In the tavern scene when Gaston and his sidekick La Fou are singing about what a catch Gaston is, “No one fights like Gaston, douses lights like Gaston,” and so on, I wondered if La Fou was flirting with Gaston. He seemed to have a coquettish look on his face in a few shots, and the lyrics could have innuendo. I guess that’s the big scene people are objecting to, but as I said, I almost missed the subtext there, it was so subtle.

Later in the movie, when the villagers are storming the castle, the Wardrobe, voiced by Audra McDonald, spits out spools of ribbons, fabric, laces, scarves and arrays three lads in dresses. audraTwo of the guys dash away, humiliated, but one likes it. He winks at the camera and twirls away. When I saw that, I thought, “Oh, that’s the scene. I just imagined the flirting in the other scene.”

And in the ballroom finale, two men (La Fou and the dressed-but-not-humiliated man?) dance together, into and out of camera range in about half a second.

la fouMy young movie-goers absolutely missed all of that. They enjoyed a good story about a beautiful girl who loves books, an ugly beast with a good heart, and talking household items.

I thought Emma Watson was superb as Belle. Although one of my girls asked why Hermione was playing Belle, she soon forgot about Hermione as the story engaged her. Belle is plucky and smart and does nothing she doesn’t want to.

I had forgotten who played Beast, so was pleasantly surprised by the reveal at the end. The makeup is incredible, especially — and I don’t think this is my imagination — since the Beast got less ugly and more … maybe not attractive, but maybe cuddlier? as Belle got to know him and fell in love with him herself.

I recognized Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, but it was a Kevin Kline I had never seen before. He brought a tenderness to the role and left behind the befuddled-absent-minded inventor of the animated story.

Josh Gad as La Fou was simply amazing. Not just for the did-I-see-that-or-didn’t-I flirtiness, but his character has his eyes opened to Gaston’s true character and La Fou changes allegiances. He doesn’t consult anyone, he doesn’t agonize. He simply recognizes that what Gaston is doing is wrong and chooses the right path. I loved that!

The costumes are incredible. The songs, both the new and the familiar, are wonderful.

It seemed strangely full-circle that back in 1991, my sister-in-law and I took our four girls, all cousins, to see the animated version and in 2017, I took my granddaughter and grandniece, daughter of one of the cousins, to see the live action movie. I love both versions and I love all the girls. Like I said, strangely full circle.

Monday Musings: A New Year, A New Word

The last few years my “word of the year” has been an effort to make myself more sure, more confident, less … um … less me. I think I’m marginally better at being brave, at speaking up, at acting in spite of fear and doubts, I’m still fundamentally the same.

So, this year, instead of trying to convince myself I’m something I’m not (Brave, Fearless), I decided to return to something I used to be.

whimsy

Somewhere in the last few years, I’ve lost my whimsy.

Stud Muffin has always been the master of the unexpected fun. He could turn a boring drive into a game. Sometimes it was the usual road trip games, but often he added a twist. He would instigate water balloon fights while I hollered to keep my hair dry. He could sense when mutiny was near and deflect it with a detour, a sightseeing stop, or ice-cream.

Thanks to him, we have memories of freeze outs (driving in winter with the windows down. First one to beg for the heater on and window up lost), Taco Bell bags of food gifted by a stranger at a hotel pool, and pizza for dinner the night before vacation.

Not to say I was a complete downer. I planned those vacations, the beach trips, the camping excursions, the field trips. I drove to the beach, the museum, the aquarium. A lot of our family fun and memories wouldn’t have happened if not for my superb planning and organizational skills.

But I used to take more pleasure in the planning and the execution. It was my idea to drive into the hills to watch the meteor showers in August. My idea to go to a taping of The Price is Right and The Biggest Loser, I bought the tickets to the Raffi concert, the PBR, The Lion King.

We have a “neighbor” (in the country, we use that term loosely, since this one lives about three miles away) who makes an elaborate scene with lights on the small hillside next to their home every year. We’ve seen some dramatic scenes, including Yosemite’s Half Dome and an homage to Egypt, complete with Sphinx. One night last week it occurred to me that we hadn’t driven to see their display in a couple of years. It was a bit after eight o’clock. I opened my mouth to suggest we grab the car keys and make the five minute drive to see what they had this year.

Whimsy, right?

But … Stud Muffin already had on his slippers and flannel pants. The garage door was closed. We were snug. So I skipped it.

No whimsy.

And I regret it. So what if we were in slippers? Eight o’clock is not two am. A quick “late night” drive to see some beautiful lights could be just what we needed.

EV003000A few days later, on New Year’s Day, we saw a woman in a wheelchair with an American flag attached. She wore a Happy New Year hat and waved a streamer wand. She buzzed around in her electric chair, waving her streamers and wishing everyone a Happy New Year. She looked … odd. Even crazy. But fun! She was having a blast. Some people (you know who you are), rolled their eyes. But most smiled and waved and called out to her a Happy New Year greeting.

And I wished I had worn my hat with the lights, to sparkle some happiness back at her.

That’s whimsy.

This past weekend it rained. A lot. Stud Muffin took the grand-girls on a walk and they had a leaf race, sending a leaf of their choice racing down the gutter in the rainwater. Proving he still has whimsy.

Just what I want more of in 2017.

 

Monday Musings: Don’t Be Safe. Be Good.

In the aftermath of last week’s election, a “movement” has gathered momentum on the Internet and Facebook. It’s the safety pin. It’s supposed to signify that the person wearing the pin is “safe,” to approach and talk to. I guess about anything that’s upsetting you, but is meant especially for the non-white non-heterosexual crowds.

safety-pin

 

 

I can see why wearing the pin would be appealing.

But, please, don’t.

Just don’t.

 

 

Who would ever approach a stranger with the intention of baring their soul? Unless they were paying $125 an hour for the privilege?

No one.

No one, except a true bigot/racist/hate monger looking for a target for their hate.

Don’t be a target.

Being “safe” for someone means having a relationship with them. It means talking together, laughing and crying together, having coffee and sharing a blueberry scone together.

I’m reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote from THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Susan asked Mr. Beaver about Aslan the lion: “Is he–quite safe?” Mr. Beaver replied, “Safe? … ‘course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

I guarantee there are enough hurting people in your home, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your community. You don’t have to go looking for someone to be safe to or to be a listening ear.

Instead, look around you. Find someone hurting. Take them to coffee. Be in their life. Love them.

Don’t be safe.

Be good.

 

 

 

Monday Musings: Quilting as a Metaphor, Part II

I’m still musing about how quilting has so many life lessons, if only I would pay attention.

j-quilt

This is my second quilt.

It’s from a kit.

I purchased it more than a year before I finally put it together.

I thought it would be easy and quick. Which it was. Until it came to the satin patch just below the upper right.

 

While satin fabric is pretty to look at, it’s a pain to sew. It slips around. You can see I did a much better job on this quilt compared to last week’s. My seams are straight and even. Except for around those darn satin patches. I ended up have to zigzag them into place.

The extra stitches don’t really show. And they really don’t matter to darling Grand#2. She loves the quilt and still sleeps with it. I think you can tell from her expression how she feels about this quilt. She’s asked for a larger version because she’s growing and the quilt no longer fits on top of her. I’d love to fulfill her request, but I have two other grands who are still waiting for their quilts.

This quilt had a definite “make it work” moment. Instead of giving up when I had a problem with quirky fabric, I had to figure out a way around the problem. No one but me cares that the fabric is zigzagged instead of pieced traditionally. The quilt is warm and cozy and cuddles just the same. And the owner couldn’t be happier.

 

 

Monday Musing: Quilting as a Metaphor

I first quilted 30+ years ago. I wasn’t very good. I was still in the “close is good enough” phase of my sewing. I had crooked seams, strips that resembled a weird trapezium more
than a rectangle. I still have one of my early efforts and to prove that I have basically no pride, I’ll post a picture.

quiltYeah. See that strip on the left.

Yep. I sewed that. And more egregiously, I left it!

Oy vey.

Fast forward a couple of decades and my sewing skills (and standards) were considerably higher and I decided to try another quilt.

But a small one. An easy one.

So I bought a kit for an expected grand-daughter. I planned to have it done before she was born. I think I had it to her before her second birthday. Give or take.

 

I really enjoy the process of piecing the quilt top. I’m less enamored of the actual quilting. I have several quilt tops done and ready for the backing and batting step. I have the batting and the backing fabric. I just can’t seem to bring myself to pin them together.

It’s a symptom, I’m afraid, of a larger problem. And I know I’m not alone. Finishing a project. I think I caught it from Stud Muffin. We have many home projects that are thisclose to be done. My office threshold was duct tape for nearly two years until I insisted he finish it. Friends often comment that they have the same problem.

Why is this? Anyone know??

The next few Mondays will be spent on quilting. I’ll try to get a picture of that baby quilt. It has one off square (free hint: do not try to piece satin or silky fabrics. They slide all over the place and are very difficult to work with).

The current stories I’m working on are set in Harts Leap, a fictional cross of Paso Robles, Stars Hollow, and Bass Lake, located where the real Bass Lake sits. In story number one, a local quilt shop, Pieces of My Heart, has a large role. I get to use some of my quilting knowledge in the story. And even more fun, every quilt is beautiful! No crooked seams!

Do you quilt? If yes, what do you love about quilting? If no, why not? And do you have a problem finishing projects? If yes, why do you think that’s so?