Friday, April 30, 2010

Quilting Update


It's Friday, so I am supposed to be showing you what I've sewed this week for Sew and Tell. Stay awhile, and when you're done reading my blog, be sure to go to Amy's blog to see what other, more productive, people have been sewing.

Sorry there isn't anything finished to show you. Progress has been slow here on the High Road. I am making four Quilts for Kids. The first one is a completed top, pressed and ready for sandwiching and quilting. Two of them have the blocks all together, and are waiting for pressing and borders. The last one has the blocks done, and is waiting to be put together into a top.


Plans and ideas have been completed for the optical illusion quilt. I am going to draw this out on a large sheet of paper so I can properly determine the size of all of the rows. I could try to do it math-wise, but I am a more visual person. Then I was thinking of making a small sample, using 60 degree angles, and just a few rows, to see if there is anything else I am supposed to be thinking of that I haven't.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: Rhyming Pretzels


I decided to try a different publisher for my book reviews. Dorrance Publishing sells a larger variety of books, mostly from new authors. The book I chose was Rhyming Pretzels, The Word-Play Game with a Comical Twist by D. R. Curtis.

The concept is pretty simple, you make a paragraph or story, around 5 sentences long, using as many words as you can that rhyme. The word pretzel is supposed to have a comical, surprise, thoughtful or insightful twist. There are lots of pages, with lots of space for you to add your pretzel. On each page, she provides you with lists of words that rhyme to get you started.

It is an interesting concept, and she does say that we have to use our mind actively and be positive in creating these pretzels. Personally I find it pretty intimidating to create my own comical twists. And I think it would have been useful to have bought a rhyming dictionary instead of having them provided in this format.

I think it would be great for people who work with words, or who are witty, or enjoy playing word games and want to try something different.

I received a complimentary copy of Rhyming Pretzels as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Meat and Potatoes



Having used up all of the electrical impulses in my brain, and having nothing interesting to say, I still want to impart the following tidbit of trivia.

My co-workers are not used to seeing meat and potatoes in the same dish. Since I made food in batches, I tend to take the same thing frequently to work, and everyone I have eaten with, cannot identify and is surprised to see potatoes cooked together with ground beef. Yep, I like to save dishes. The more stuff I can throw in one pot - meat and vegetables, the fewer dishes to cook, the fewer dishes to store in the refrigerator, the fewer dishes to reheat, and the fewer dishes to wash.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Walk


You'll be happy to know that tenth graders can spell much better than third and fourth graders. At the lower grades, they are told to sound out words they don't know how to spell.

The people at work think I am totally nuts to bring a camera to work. For you, my blog readers, and only for you, I am willing to tolerate shame and ridicule! I have my morning break and lunch with the coworkers, but for the afternoon break, I like to go outside and take a walk, and see that the world outside still exists.



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Waiting



Back when I was making slide shows (not that I don't make slide shows anymore, it is just that I get my best ideas when I am in the middle of a project), I imagined making a slide show showing the progress for a quilt. All the way from the inspiration stage, the fabric selection, the cutting, etc. I imagined also including the part where the quilt was resting. The calendar pages would flip while the photo of the resting quilt would appear and reappear.

I am afraid that my kaleidoscope quilt is going to be sitting in this limbo state while I go through the peak season at work. We have finished the reading project, at least my part. I had a wonderful team. We finished third grade (we were the first ones done!), then our group helped another group finish fourth grade, and then I moved to seventh grade for a couple of hours. This weekend, I will try to help another group finish yet another reading project. Then next, I move on to another project, working on fourth grade math, the same one I worked on last year.

This is not a good type of quilt, and is not in a good state to be left waiting. It is a challenging quilt, and those types of quilts are best started while the excitement is at its peak, without thinking through the pros and cons, and the difficulties that are yet to be encountered. Hopefully that same excitement will be back when I finally get a chance to really work on it.

In the meantime, I asked my mother whether she would be willing to make some frozen dinners for me. I told her she could just freeze up a portion of whatever she was eating that day. She has a key to my house, and when she brought food (yes, it comes delivered!), she even washed the dishes (by hand) and cleaned my kitchen!

Maybe I will get to press the fabric and make small progress. Then I can show the quilt with time lapse photography. The photos are going to have to go really really fast to show any progress!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Education System


We've been complaining about the education system again. I guess it is a normal thing in my line of work. One man was saying how we are missing the basics, learning how to spell, doing mental math, memorizing the times tables. I think that the "system" expects kids to have help with a calculator or spell check, and so they don't need to figure things in their head.

One woman was talking about the skills one needs as a mother - basic nursing skills, knowing how to teach, cleaning and organizing, time management, etc.

Another woman said she was in a financial management class at a library, and very few people came, so she got personalized guidance on her finances. This is yet another set of skills that we don't teach our children. I was one of the lucky ones who was taught how to balance my checkbook at school. At that time, it seemed too simple and I knew that there was more to learn, but I didn't know what questions to ask to learn any more.

I think that if the teachers don't teach it in the schools, then it is the parent's requirement to teach it at home. I'm not sure I did such a good job keeping up with my requirements. Luckily, my job isn't over, and I can continue to help her with these tasks when the time comes. I think I've taught her the philosophy of these things, but I don't think she is ready to sit down with me to learn a lesson about mortgages right now.

There are a lot of good books available to review right now - they come in surges, there were three I wanted, so it was hard to choose. I requested a money answer book. I expect it to tell people to maximize the revenue by get a good job that maximizes their skills and talents, to keep going after that promotion. And it should talk about mortgages and investments and paying off the credit card, and retirement. It should talk about minimizing expenses.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cooking Continues

I am really enjoying this idea of cooking once a week for the entire week. I freeze the meal into individual serving size containers, and a healthy lunch is very easy to pack, and dinner is easy too.

I got smart this week, and decided to double the recipe. Instead of making three different things out of a package of family sized meat, I decided to make two. Yesterday, I made chili and curry out of ground beef. I also bought a package of chicken which I have to cook today. The problem is, I kept running out of plastic containers. I bought another package of 5 when I went grocery shopping, but apparently I need more. I am hoping to also make salad and put them in individual packages in the refrigerator for quick lunch packing as well.

I used up the rewards for my Staples free stuff - I bought a clip on lamp for my sewing table, and head phones for Skype, and a snow scraper that was on clearance. They had a $10 coupon off $50 worth of stuff, so I managed to get a good deal on a good deal. I also bought a lot more free stuff from Office Depot, although they had a lot, and I restricted what I got. I still have some office things I want that can wait until the rebate comes in - a shelf, Adobe, and a small camera. I'll have to decide what I want when the rebate comes in.

The lawn has been mowed - half each day. Purple and yellow fabric has been washed. A few more seams have been sewn into the Quilts for Kids. Progress is slow but steady.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Working



This is where I work. Isn't it just beautiful? No I wasn't the last one to leave, there were a couple of cars behind me.

I'm feeling much better. The back pain is gone. There is just enough ache left to remind me to no overdo it. Then Thursday, I got an allergy attack. I sneezed all morning, even though I had taken an allergy pill. People really feel more sorry for me when I have allergy problems than when I have back problems. I would rather not have either problem, but I'm not used to back problems, and I don't like being in pain. Remember I work in an office with 350ish desks, everyone staring at the computer and very few people are talking. I took another allergy pill, because I knew I was bothering everyone, and by afternoon the allergies had subsided a bit, but I was really sleepy. I went straight to bed when I got home, woke up to eat, and went back to bed. Friday, I was better on both the back and the allergy. Sometime during the week, I bought fabric for the optical illusion quilt. Solid purple and pale yellow.

This weekend, I am anxious to get to work on finishing designing and starting to cut the optical illusion quilt. However, the lawn needs to be mowed, and groceries have to be shopped for, laundry needs to be done, and lunches have to be cooked and frozen. Some housecleaning wouldn't hurt either. And the Quilts for Kids are taking up sewing space and I want to make progress on those as well.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Review: If I Could Ask God Anything


This book has a lot of different questions that children ask, and provide parents with answers so they can sound like they know what they are talking about. There are cute questions like "Does God ever sleep?", to knowledge questions, "What is Lent?", to real life questions, "Why do people have to die?" They are answered in simple, easy to understand language, and provide good guidance for both the children and the parents.

I do have to admit that after reading the Islam book, this book did irk me in little ways. Let me give you a couple of examples. In the question, "What's the biggest difference between Christianity and other religions?," the answer was
Christianity is not just another religions that teaches about God. Christianity is a religion centered on having a personal relationship with God. This is possible because Christians believe that God is alive. God is real. God has a special plan for the world and for each person in it.
Most important, Christians believe that God loves the world and all the people in it (John 3:16). God loves you!
That's the whole answer. First of all, it doesn't really answer the question. And there is an implication that people in the other religions don't center on having a personal relationship with God, which is absolutely not true.

Another example, in a similar vein. The question is "Can I have friends who aren't Christians?" The answer:
Yes, it is possible to be friends with people who do not know Jesus. God loves all His children. God wants us to love everyone too. At the same time, it is important to remember that because we are human, we are easily influenced by others. Good friends can be a good influence. Bad friends can be a bad influence.
It is absolutely true that there can be good friends and bad friends, but it seemed irksome that that warning was put right there, again because of the implication. There can be good and bad friends of any religion.

It is a good book, but as with any book about any topic that deal with answers for children, you may want to read them first and be sure you agree with them before you read them to your child, and / or supplement them with information of your own.

Full disclosure: Thomas Nelson provided me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend Activities



My back is still hurting, so I spent a lot of time this weekend reading a book, The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood. I got it from the library. Sherwood has interviewed people who survived harrowing experiences to see if there was anything that they had in common. It is a great book. One of the things he said in passing was that survivors, especially people with long term illnesses and caregivers didn't wait for "normal" to come back. They accepted their new "normal." I realized that I was waiting for normal to come back. When I dropped a cup of paperclips as I was rushing off to work, I left them there, to avoid being late. When I got home, I decided to leave them there until "normal" returned. I cleaned it up this weekend. I can't wait for normal. I have to accept that it will take me twice as long to do anything, and choose my activities accordingly.

I made some progress on the Quilts for Kids. I am making two of the tops at the same time, because they use the same fabric for the four patches. It took me one day to make the first top, and it's taken me two weeks to make the rows, but that's okay. I'm making progress.

I really enjoyed my week of eating the chicken I made last week. As you may recall, I bought a big family size pack of chicken breasts, and made three dishes, and froze them in individual serving size containers. Made packing lunch and eating dinner very easy. I ate all of them this week. I learned it is as hard to cook salt free as it is to eat wheat free.

It was triple coupon day at the grocery store, but after last week, I decided not to deal with coupons much. I just bought things that didn't have coupons, although I did have my coupon box with me, in case I found something I just had to have. I managed to stick to my list.

This week, beef was on sale, so I did the same with beef. They had a package that had three different kinds of meat - a roast, steaks, and beef stew. There is variety. I am hoping to eventually get to a point where I have variety in my freezer. I also bought ground beef, but I got a late start, (had to wash the dishes first) and didn't get a chance to make that. Since I don't think I should be eating red meat everyday, I'll probably freeze up a vegetarian or chicken dish so I can have variety. I think I'll have to cook during the week to get ahead and have the variety.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Case of the Disappearing Pepsi


Once upon a time, I bought a cube of Pepsi. There are 24 cans in the cube. I don't think they sold them by the cube very long.

Well, they were rejected by my guests! I was reminded that carbonation has awful properties, and can actually disintegrate teeth. And cause gas. And has non-nutritive calories. I don't regularly drink soft drinks, but I thought that it would be just fine for a party.

I did remember that I lost about 10 pounds after college simply by stopping the daily soft drink, so I wasn't about to start up again. The case was too big to sit in my tiny kitchen, so I stored it to the basement with the extra dishes.

No problem, I had found a recipe that used a cola in roast beef, and thought these would be handy. I could just grab a can every time I made roast beef. At about that time, meat was rejected by my family. The daughter decided she was vegan.

Also at that time, I started noticing a definite decline in the quality of the meat sold at my regular grocery store. I would have continued to buy small quantities of meat for myself, but I didn't feel like finding another place, so I simply didn't buy meat.

So my soft drink cube sat in the basement and waited for another guest or another party or another recipe or a change in diet or when I decided to make pot roast just for me. Or I came up with another plan for it.

Yesterday I was doing laundry, and the floor felt sticky. It turns out that the soft drink can deteriorate the aluminum it's stored in. There is /are tiny hole (s) on the bottom of several cans from which the drink was leaking. Four or five of the cans were completely empty!

The "Best Taste Drink By Date" is July 14, 2008.

Instead of quilting, I got to spend my extra time opening and spilling out a cube of soft drinks. On the plus side, another step was taken in the basement clean-out and I gained some storage space.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Optical Illusions Quilt



Are you ready? Do you have your scratch pad and pencils ready? How about your compass and your protractor? And your calculator? And if you work anything like me, your biggest eraser? Got your thinking cap?

This quilt is hand pieced and hand appliqued around 1910. This means this person cut out those million trapezoids probably with templates, and sewed them together. By hand. My brain comes up with this idea while hopped up on pain killers. It says "you know, this is just a simple checkerboard. All you have to do is strip piece some checkerboards rows, and rotary cut them at an angle and machine sew them together to make a circle. It's simple, you know like a bargello, only circular." Yep Quilt In a Day, watch out!

This quilt is 85 x 85, which is way too big for me. I want a wall quilt. I can imagine my family members asking me to put it away because it is making them dizzy! When I told my friends I was making it, one of them said "you have way too much time on your hands." I am hoping that with this quilt, at least one person will say, "wow, you made that?!" in a good way. If I can have just one person say that, it will all have been worth it. LOL Yep, I'm still loopy!

Here are some decisions we have made. There are originally 54 pie slices here. A circle has 360 degrees. 360 is not evenly divisible by 54, and my protractor can't measure fractions, we will pick a number smaller than 54 that is evenly divisible by 360. That's 45. 360 divided by 45 means that each arc is 8 degrees.

The rows look like they are proportionately increasing. I thought of starting with 1/4 and adding a 1/4 for every row but that makes way too big a quilt. Then I tried starting with 1/4 and adding 1/8. The size is more manageable, but still kinda big. Since there is no way I am doing anything less than 1/8, I decided to lop off a few rows. So instead of 20 there will be 17. I'm going to skip row 1 so there is a hole in the middle of the quilt for an appliqued circle. I don't want all the seams meeting in the center and causing a big hump. Unless I badly mess up on the tiny pieces at the top, in which case the applique circle will be bigger!

I don't know how they did the ring around that center circle. If you have any ideas, please let me know. Right now the plan is to find someone to just draw in those scallops.

My math teacher, Steve, drew a pie slice at 8 degrees, with a few of the rows in the sizes I mentioned, so I can use that as a template. I will tape it on my ruler to make sure I am slicing the rows at the right angle. It looks like the rows and columns aren't proportional. So the width is long and narrow and gets shorter as time goes on. He recommended that I duplicate the size of the rows at least at the outside rows. This will also help make the quilt smaller. He gave me some formulas that I could try so that the trapezoids in last row is reasonably proportional length and width-wise.


I'm not sure what is giving this optical illusion effect, so I want to try to keep it as much to the original as possible.

What do you think? Do you think that the optical illusion will still work if the rows are the same size from time to time? Like maybe two rows are the same size, and then we increase the next two rows. If I can make them the same size, I might be able to add the last three rows back in. If I cover up the last three rows with my fingers, I can still see the optical illusion. Do you think I need the last three rows to show that it is a checkerboard? Or give the eye a little space to rest, although is a small border for that as well.

We are working with finished sizes, and I know I need to remember to add in the seam allowance once we are done with all this planning. I think I can just add a quarter inch to each side of the pie he drew and cut that angle from the strip sets I create.

I also need to figure out how much fabric to get. I did figure out that since the rows are increasing, I can only make the triangle shapes one way. You know how when you cut equilateral triangles, you turn the ruler and cut the other triangle using the cut edge of the first triangle? I can't do the opposite triangle the other way to save fabric. This means I will have enough triangles to make two quilts. We'll have to see if I am loopy enough to make two quilts when that time comes!

The people at work have recommended I choose purple for a color. I like purple, so I will look for a pretty solid(ish) purple.

Is there anything else I need to think about?

Math for Quilt



One of the best things about my job is that it brings people from many different walks of life together. Yesterday, I had a physical therapist "prescribe" some exercises for me to do for my back.

I have also enlisted the help of a math teacher to figure out the math of a quilt. I saw a photo in a book of a quilt that was made in 1910. It is made out of lots and lots of trapezoids, and I had to bring out my compass and my protractor. I don't remember how to use these things - I'm not so sure I really understood how to use them the first go around in school! The original quilt is 84 x 84" and I am trying to make mine smaller, more of a wall size, but that means my trapezoids are going to be teeny tiny.

I think I'll make this a truly group project and ask you to check over my work before I start cutting fabric, in case I've missed thinking of something.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Revolutionary Paul Revere



As you can probably tell from book jacket, The Revolutionary Paul Revere by Joel J. Miller is a biography of Paul Revere, the guy who lit a lantern as a signal and rode a horse through the streets yelling"The British are Coming!" I have to admit that when I was first learning about him, way back when I was a youngun, I wasn't too impressed with his doings. After all, I could do those things, even at my age, (well except for the riding the horse part, but I figured if I lived in that day, I would be able to do that part too) and I thought you had to do more impressive things to show up in the history books.

So when I saw the offer for the book, I liked that it was history, and a part that I haven't studied since way back when, but I was hoping they would have studied someone more, well, interesting.

The book is historical fact, but it is fictionalized. So the author tells you that the pen made scratching sounds as he wrote something, and how he might have felt at one time or another, based on the fact that pens do make sounds, and people generally feel a certain way when they do a certain action. It was an interesting read, and I do recommend the book. This is a wonderful way to make history come alive and be more interesting, and now I know a lot more about the Revolutionary period than I did.

The one thing it did do, and another similar book about a different time period did, is use today's values to color past events. It compared indentured servants with slaves, and I'm pretty sure that the indentured servants and apprentices in those days would have thought that it was a normal thing-that-you-do thing, even if they were worried about how well they would be treated.

Oh, and Paul is not all that boring.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sew and Tell: Little Nine-Patch Quilt



It's Friday, and that means it is time for AmyLou's Sew and Tell. I'm so glad she does this, because it gives me a deadline to have something to show.


I scurried to finish this in time to photograph that in the daytime. It is a beautiful day outside. It was a fun little quilt to make, designed by Kathleen Tracy for Fairfield batting website. The pattern of Little Nine Patch Quilt is free here. I didn't use Fairfield batting, because I had received a free sample of White Rose from Mountain Mist that was just the right size. It is soft and very nice to work with.

I used scraps to make it as I told you in my previous post. It's around 14 1/2" x 17".


I hurt my back a couple of days ago, and that gave me an excuse not to finish the Quilts for Kids top I showed you last week. You should have seen me shuffling and hunched over at work. I feel better now, so hopefully I'll be able to get to the other ones for the next Sew and Tell.

Be sure to click on the Sew and Tell link to see what others have been crafting.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reading: The Future of Islam



I was walking by the bookshelf at the library when this one caught my eye. The Future of Islam by John L. Esposito. I wasn't sure what it would say, and was somewhat afraid to pick it up, but the library announced that it was closed! The times had changed, and I apparently had gotten there just in time. I decided I could just get it, and return it if I didn't like it.

The reason I was afraid to pick up the book was something that Esposito discusses in the book. "Islamaphobia" is a new term that has been coined to describe it. I hadn't heard it before, but I have seen it in action.

I've had discussions with several people who ask why the Muslims don't denounce terrorists or attacks made by other Muslims.

The other day, it was cold in the office, and a coworker was wearing a scarf over her head. I told her she looked Muslim, and she was very offended. She said she didn't want to be linked to the terrorists. I must have looked at her strangely, because she did follow up with "not that all Muslims are terrorists."

Always on the news when there is an attack, they always bring up the person's religion, if it's Muslim. It was clear from the beginning that the guy at Fort Hood was a Muslim, even though we didn't know if he was shooting for religious reasons. Many people assumed he was. If the person isn't Muslim, then the religion isn't brought up unless they are acting on behalf of their religion.

News about other countries which infringe on Muslim's civil rights by banning minurets, and hijabs are concerning to me. It seems like the world always needs someone to hate. Instead of learning from our mistakes - from when we hated the Native Americans, the Jews, the Japanese, the Russians - we simply shift the hate onto another group. The scary part now is that it isn't just one country that hates the group, it iseems like it is the whole world.

The one thing that irritated me about the book is the list of questions. The preface lists questions, and at the beginning, I was like "yes I want to know the answer to that question, that one too." but eventually I decided I'd rather skip ahead to the answers than read the endless list. And then anytime he asked a question, it irked me, not because it was an endless list, but because I was sensitized to that question mark.

The book jacket has some reviews made by other people. I was surprised at how many people talked about the author being an authority, and didn't really talk about the book. He's written other books on the subject. Makes me wonder if people actually read this book, or any of his previous ones. He says he can say the same thing again and again, in each of his speeches, and books, because people are still asking him the same questions.


I did read it, and afterwards, I've kept my eye out in the media to see if positive messages of Islam are available. They are. They are everywhere. In fact, when I tried to find a photo of the book online, there were many articles labeled "The Future of Islam" by other writers that were also interesting to read. I think people just don't bother to read them, because their minds are already made up, even though they don't know the facts.

There is no way I can review all of the things that are discussed in this book. Please read it yourself. It is a great book. It explains the basic tenets of Islam, telling you about the 1.5 billion Muslims throughout the world, the good ones and the bad ones. It talks about the sticky issues of terrorism, history, politics of different countries, the challenges, reformation of Islam, etc. in a balanced way.

I got this book for free from the library. I didn't even have to review it, but I think it is worth reading.