Friday, December 30, 2011

Smurfy, Smurfy Day

Oh how I get roped into the kids' fantasy lives....  We had a Smurf party!  Remember the old cartoon with a hundred little blue people running around, all named for his most dominent personality characteristic?  Brainy, Clumsy, Hefty, Farmer, Vanity....  and led by Papa Smurf who was the only one significantly older?  Pursued by the villian Gargamel and his cat.  Who created just one girl Smurf to trap all the others?  But Smurfette was saved from being evil by Papa and joined the village.  No s-e-x....  Baby Smurf was brought by a stork.  It was a cute cartoon way back when my older kids were little and now it's back with a full length movie.  Really cute actually!

Anyhow, I'm on Crowdtap, one of those survey groups (more interesting actually since there are discussion groups and you get feedback and donate your earnings to charity), and one of the activities was to hold a Smurf party....  So we did.  Oh my.... 
We decorated our people with blue sidewalk chalk.  It goes on easily, washes off, etc.  Crowdtap had sent a kit so we made Smurf hats, but had only ONE Papa hat (red...).  We made Smurfy necklaces and bracelets with metallic and alphabet beads.  The little girls loved the coloring pages that came in the kit and the older girls liked the computer games linked to the Smurf movie.  Kate and Hannah made Smurfberry tarts and we ate them while they were still warm. Yum! We made Smurfy punch with blue fruit punch and 7-Up--surprisingly good!

Then we watched the movie.  Would you believe that the favorite character is the CAT?  Actually I remember Asriel being less intelligent in the original cartoons.  He has developed a bit of sophistication and rolls his eyes back when Gargamel does something ditsy in the movie.  It's a good movie for the kids, with enough humor and insight for adults to enjoy too.
It was LONG party--over three hours since we had people coming and going and watched the movie, too.  What's the saying?  "And a good time was had by all"....   

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Like Topsy It Grew

I don't know the origin of that saying and should look it up.  It's probably one of those politically incorrect ones, but it's also one that has definite connotations to some of us!  Did your mother ever describe a project that started out one way, changed directions, then needed something added, then....  You know, it grew like Topsy. 

This is my Topsy project.  I bought the BOM kits wwaaaaayy back before Kate was born, about 1998 or so?  Anyhow, it's the Thimbleberries Calendar series and I just loved the colors and prints.  The blocks were easy to piece and right before we moved from Dickinson I pieced them into a top.  Whoa... not big enough for a bed quilt!  So off I trotted to the fabric store for more Thimbleberries of the same line.  Fortunately, they still had it! 

I drafted out borders.  First a one and a half inch border of the black then a five inch blue border, then a border of flying geese circling around, then a seven inch blue border.  I cut the geese, cream for the background and scrappy geese.   Oops....  I cut the geese wrong!  and by this time we'd moved and I couldn't find any more of the cream background.  Okay, I started "fixing" flying geese blocks. 

That lasted until I had enough to make four Dutchman's Puzzle blocks.  The new plan was to put those four blocks in the corners and then do some fancy quilting on the now wide blue borders.  I do like how the wrap-around black border has a kind of Celtic look to it....

But the blue borders were boring!  Okay, dig out all my Thimbleberries books and trace out some applique patterns.  Not very many, but I love them!  I even added a few appliques to the pieced calendar blocks; a snowflake, May flowers, a school bell, a pumpkin face, and Christmas ornaments.  And I only spent 100 hours doing the hand buttonhole stitches....

So I've been quilting and quilting and every time I think I'm close to being done I notice that one area or another looks naked.  Sigh...  Not too much more, seriously!

***Oh, I did look up "Topsy" on Wikipedia--it comes from Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Topsy was a young slave girl who didn't know her mother or God, saying,  "I s'pect I growed.  Don't think nobody never made me." The phrase "growed like Topsy" originally meant being of unplanned growth, or sometimes just enormous growth.  Yep, that's my Topsy project.



Friday, September 30, 2011

Time to Make Lemonade

Spoke too soon, didn't I?  All the hoopla of early June was only the flood monster's opening salvo.  On June 22 at 1:00 pm the evacuation sirens went off and one-fourth of our city was homeless, including all of my Minot children except one (DD living with BF).  From the safety of 50 miles away I watched the Corps of Engineers frantically shore up the secondary dikes to save the north-south route through town and add even more secondary dikes down the middle of streets, saving one side, giving the other side over to the river.  I watched the river fill some of the loveliest old neighborhoods.  I watched the boat tour down University Ave. and knew for a fact that Doug and Tina's house took water on the main floor, plenty of it.  Kate's school, Ramstad, is gone.  Our zoo, swimming pool, the two largest parks in town are severely damaged.  There really are no words to describe it all.  There are several videos out there worth watching, if you have the fortitude to do so.  It's heartbreaking:

But we survived.  No one drowned.  It was amazing to watch friends, neighbors, and even strangers opening their homes to each other, whether for housing, a complete garage, or even a corner, for storage, or a hot meal, or a shoulder to cry on.  Of 12,000 people evacuated, only 200-300 were stuck in the shelters.  Close to home, a precious granddaughter was added to the family.  (No, they did not name her Venice or Flo.)  We went back to our homes to dig out the muck and sewage.  I'm so very proud of the way my boys (men) banded together to gut first one house and then the next and the next.  They are a formidable crew. 

Doug and Tina's is the worst.  Only three feet of water on the main floor, but gone are the dovetailed hardwood floors, the barrel ceiling in the living room, the notched arch into the dining room.  Time to make lemonade--they didn't like the inefficient layout of the basement and the new utility room is convenient.  It will give them a larger family room eventually.  FEMA was enough to replace the furnace, ductwork, central air, water heater, sheetrock....  and they had decided to move all their furniture and appliances out the week before, even though they weren't in the evacuation zone at first.

Don and Kristi's rental property, closer to the river, had only two inches of water on the main floor, but the floodwaters receded slowly there and the mold had a good head start before they could go in.  It's gutted, ready to be worked on this winter.  The renters left a lot to be hauled away.  The house was their first purchased home and they'd kept it for an investment since it was relatively close to the college.  So no FEMA.

Only two blocks from me, Daryl and the boys at the Man House stayed dry through the flood.  His basement didn't survive the sewage though.  There are 25 lift stations in Minot--13 of them were either under water or broke down.  People going back to their homes found up to four feet of sewage in their basements.  Yes, we'd plugged the drains, but sometimes the pressure was so high that they blew.  One lady had her drain braced with a 2x4 against a floor joist.  It splintered the 2x4.  Daryl had only six inches of sewage, but that is a big basement to empty out.  They are working (slowly) to turn it into an apartment for Dwayne and his bride.

My house?  There's a guardian angel sitting on my roof, just over there by the chimney.  Several of my neighbors had sewage, but I came home to dry floors.  Didn't have utilities for a ~long~ time.  Yes, the basement is very, very damp and I still pull a bucket or two of water out of the dehumidifier every day.  We'd evacuated most of the furniture thinking that if I flooded it wouldn't hit the main floor.  We've pulled the carpets out down there and I've painted about a third of what I intend to paint.  We are surviving on the one upstairs bedroom until I can finish.

Had surgery last week--girl stuff.  It is driving me up the wall to lift only ten pounds!  I'm not messing this repair up though, so I'm behaving.  Lemonade for the past months?  I got to know my son's family much, much better since we were living with them.  They have a big farmhouse and the air mattress was fine.  Kate and Mikayla got to see baby pigs being born!  ....and I don't think I have to worry about paying for vet school in a few years.  Gabby loved the swings and sandbox (8'x12') and learned how to sit up properly.  I think the sand gave her just enough support so she strengthened her back muscles and learned to balance better.  Farm living suited my girls, even doing chores.  Except for those nasty goats.  I didn't like driving in so many miles for work, but at least I didn't get caught up in the two hour traffic jams when there was only one road open between the north and south ends of town.  I missed having internet available all the time.  But we survived.

It would be really nice though if life could get a little back to normal.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig!

A very big sigh of relief to be home and still DRY!  I didn't have time to post before, but we were evacuated due the lovely Souris River flooding.  Evidently we're just within the 100 year flood zone--go figure.  We had record snowfall this year and then rain, rain, rain.  The river finally crested--don't ask me what day, my head is still muggy.  But we've been home and have gas, electric, and water back on.  Now to get the boys to put the downstairs toilet back on--it's in front of the dryer and shower! 

I am sending a few dozen prayers of thankfulness skyward for the cease in rain, for all the local volunteers who sandbagged, for those who opened their homes to "refugees" or who ran the shelters, and for the National Guard. Those saints came in like gangbusters to strengthen the dikes and put up secondary dikes very, very quickly.  Pics follow:

Yes, the river is touching the bottom of the bridge!

Kate's school

One of the old bridges that was converted to a foot bridge/park.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Luxury of Being Creative

Let me say first of all that I really like my job.  The work itself is challenging enough that I don't get bored and the pay is decent if not extravagant.  I enjoy the company of my residents--their stories of when they were younger and their views of the world now.  I really like most of my co-workers and a few have even become friends.  Sure, there's always one that just sets your teeth on edge, but we learn to cope, right?  Avoidance works well....  Occasionally being deaf, dumb, and blind (or catatonic) would be a gift--not going on that rant today.

But I really LOVE to create--whether it's quilting or embroidery or sewing or beading or whatever.  I love using color and pattern and shape to make something new and different or to recreate something vintage.  I love handwork!  It is just so relaxing and seeing a nicely stitched finished piece is very rewarding.  And I enjoy filling my home with one of a kind "artwork".

I love gardening, even the weeding.  There's something very satisfying about looking at a clean row of vegetables or flower bed and tossing the weeds in the dumpster.  I love watching plants grow.  You go home and wham, the next day things have popped up six inches or blossomed!  Amazing....  Best of all, we love eating vegetables that are truly fresh.

I like solving puzzles--logic puzzles, crosswords, the ones that make you think!  I love geocaching--it's just one huge series of puzzles waiting to be solved.  You have to think outside the box to meet challenges set by other geocachers, the highway system, and Mother Nature.  I'm directionally challenged (drive around the block in a figure eight and I can't tell you which way is north anymore...) and learning to use a compass has been "interesting".  Picture me holding a compass, turning around in a circle to find north, and then pointing in another direction before heading off that way.

SO WHY DO I SPEND SO LITTLE TIME DOING CREATIVE THINGS???  Lately, it seems that anything creative or thought provoking is a LUXURY.  Even reading the blogs that I like to follow!  I come home and once again, the house has exploded and spewed out dirty dishes and dirty clothes and who-knows-what on the floor.  If I want a day off to stitch or garden or geocache or read blogs, it has to be time stolen from all those other chores that should be getting done--and aren't. 

The girls and I played hooky after I got off work yesterday.  We found one cache, played in the park, ate at MickeyDoo's, and crashed when we got home.   Today I'm paying for it--poor me--enough of the rant--off to the salt mines again....

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's on the "Design Wall"?

close up of prairies points and the blocks
Well, I don't really have a design wall right now.  I've been pinning blocks and such to my living room drapes, which works for stitching and viewing, but taking a picture there is chancy since the light shines through in funky ways, depending on the time of day, etc.  So my latest "sleepless night design" that I'm actually stitching together is taped on the wall of the girls' room.  (Yes, that's a smokey lavender paint.  Sometimes.  On a sunny day it's almost pink!)  The BIG picture is clear at the bottom....
I found the most luscious FQ's at our Quilt Festival last month--creams, honeys, and sagey greens, and a brown with a red brick tinge to it, all from the same collection (I think), except for the couple of batiks that I just liked.  And I've been wanting to do some kind of Log Cabin, so they just seemed to jump out at me.  Only five lights, five darks, the "red" center, a celery green, and a similar batik FQ with leaf graphics that wouldn't have any punch if cut up in the logs.  And then I started playing! 

The Log Cabins are scrappy because I was concerned about running out of the darkest logs--they're bigger. Yes, I know, the darkest light and the lightest dark are really mediums.... I knew that, just didn't think of it when buying the FQ. I put them together last week, smaller than originally planned, and then pondered. I had a bunch of the "red" left and decided that prairie points would look neat along the bottom edge. And I had a bunch of strips cut for the logs so I made the little prairie points from those. Note to self: You don't need to cut the whole FQ into strips. Sigh.... Then that leaf FQ for the bottom and left borders and a scrap of chocolate and honey brown batik for the top and right borders. That wide border? The celery green FQ just pops against the brown, so I plan on some applique for the right border. Haven't decided what yet, but something viney and leafy seems likely. Pondering, pondering....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Would You Do?

So I freely admit to being an eBay junkie and my b-day giftie this year (selfishly hoarded and thus self-funded) was a lovely spending spree.  I decided to go for a vintage quilt, that quickly became some antique or vintage quilts, tops, or blocks; the 30's Double Wedding Ring quilt and Apple Core top in the previous post being two of them.  (Hey, they were very inexpensive compared to what I had intended to spend on just one!)  I also found two lovely indigo blue and shirting tops, one a Single Irish Chain and the other a star (who can name that pattern?).  And then there were several odd lots of interesting blocks that were very interesting....  Great-Grandma, her mama, and all those assorted aunties and friends were just as good as us at making a trial block or just a couple of blocks extra!

Indigo blue and shirtings tops

It's easy to decide how to finish the indigo tops:  the star just needs to be pressed and then on to quilting.  But on the Irish Chain I need to check all the seams and deepen a few since I noticed that some (many) are rather narrow, and then quilt it.  Either that or leave the seams alone and quilt them down for strength?  I know it's stained from storage, but it feels like the original sizing is still in there and since it doesn't stink I plan to quilt it before washing.  If the storage stains don't wash out we'll just call it "character".   I'm still pondering the quilting pattern, type of batting, etc. but those decisions are simply a matter of waiting for inspiration to strike.  Usually in the middle of the night while surfing the net--hopefully not the night before I have to go to work!

I especially like the bumble bee shirting!

Anyhow, the odd blocks in question?  Would you group them by type and make small wall hangings, table runners or toppers, etc?  Maybe frame a couple?  Or would you put them all into one throw, wallhanging, or bed size quilt, in some kind of sampler arrangement?  They aren't even close to being the same size, and a non-symmetrical layout just somehow feels too modern.  And what fabric to add to fill in the spaces between?  Especially for those four-pointed stars that have shirting at the points?  I don't want those getting lost!  The points would blend into muslin, ticking, or another shirting.  Many of the modern repro prints of that era are brighter.  Gorgeous, but brighter, deeper, and as a whole, more intense.  Muslin?  Lurk on eBay for more goodies?  Ah, decisions, decisions!

Oh, anytime you want to donate to my PayPal account, feel free.  eBay calls my name all kinds of hours, you know....  I promise to scout out a few more vintage bargains!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

That 30's Obsession....

My local quilt guild, website, started a 30's study group a few months ago....  Uh oh, some of you already know what comes next!  I'm obsessed AGAIN.  Possessed even at times.  There is something about handling fabrics that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers sewed that just draws me in.  I get teary even. 

Years and years ago when we were still living in Ohio and going to auctions for fun and necessity I found boxes of old fabric.  And in one box there were some beautiful Sunbonnet Sue blocks that I wanted with a passion!  Well, as auctioneers do, he threw all four boxes into the same lot.  Whew!  People were positively gasping at the bidding war of "those crazy women".  I paid all of $7.00 for them (back when a dollar was worth much more) -- and found 54 yards of fabric when I got home!  I also found a little brown bag with someone's unfinished LeMoyne Stars, the blades made with feedsack fabric and 30's solids.  And there was her threaded needle, left in the seam of a half finished block.  I wept my heart out imagining the abruptness of her life.  Her work was absolutely beautiful--surely she wasn't so careless with that needle. 
(sorry for the lighting--taken against a window)

I didn't rush out to finish that quilt though.  I packed it away (without the needle in the seam).  I was busy with the rug rats and life.  I did use some of that fabric to make maternity tops, curtains, etc.  Shocking!  considering what real feedsacks sell for now....  And then we moved to North Dakota and dropped my sewing machine in the move.  I was devastated!  Monstrously lonely, and positively ITCHING to sew.  So I dug out that little brown bag and finished piecing the stars by hand.  I even used "her" fabric to add blue sashings and yellow cornerstones.  And about that time I found a new quilt guild and made friends and got my machine fixed.  You know, built a new life.  So that top isn't quilted yet.  Picture right there.  I've always thought that there was something missing from the outside border and finally decided to add a small scalloped border, white muslin, and then to bind it with scraps of feedsack.  Hope I have enough buried in my stash.  (insert loud laugh and snort here)

(only the top half)
So this winter, looking at eveyone's vintage 30's quilts and their current projects using the fantastic variety of reproduction fabrics, the 30's bug hit again.  First picture is of a quilt that I found at an auction here a few years ago.  It's in really bad shape, seams popping, shredding fabric, and a blanket used for batting.  But I really like the setting!  Making a copy is on my ever-growing Do List.

And thanks to eBay, I can shop in my jammies and buy quilts, blocks, and tops from all over.  Uh oh!  Won't show pics all of them today, just a couple....  I treated myself this winter to a Double Wedding Ring throw.  It was tied beautifully, every two inches, with two inch long pink tails that just over-powered the wonderful array of feedsack fabrics.  My favorite is a circus print on blue that you can see at the bottom of the second picture of this pretty quilt.  It's a lady riding a horse, but elsewhere on the quilt there's a dog climbing a ladder and an elephant pulling a rope.  Wish I had a nice big chunk of that novelty feedsack!  Anyhow, I've finished quilting around the rings and am ready to start the design in the centers--that's the pattern there in the pictures.  Before you say anything--I know, some of those fabrics aren't feedsack.  I think she must have pieced this much later.  There's a suspiciously bright yellow calico that looks an awfully lot like one of the fabrics I learned to sew on, in the 60's.  I love it anyhow!

And the final pictures?  A small Apple Core top I bought on eBay.  It's slated for a makeover to replace a couple of shredded fabrics and to fix the popped or tucked seams.  I'm pondering making a template slightly smaller than what is "there" and re-piecing it by hand.  And possibly adding some alternating plain blocks?  It does have feedsack pieces big enough to really look at--aren't those explorers and Indians neat? 

Oh, yes, the Sunbonnet Sue blocks?  Well, I have to admit to getting really, really distracted.  It's "there" in one of my many project boxes.  Somewhere....