Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

It's the last day of the year.  A last chance to get the things I wanted to get done this year done.  Fortunately, I can't think of anything that simply must get done this year, so I am going to rest and take it easy.  Always end the year the way you want the new year to be!

My plans for next year are to keep doing what I did this year - working on progressing on my unfinished quilts as much as I can, and only start projects that I can take to completion.

It sounds like the economy is picking up, and I hope to find full time permanent employment.

More immediately though, I am going to take advantage of my time at home by getting as much of the quilting and genealogy accomplished while I can.

Also, I am hoping to get a dog.  This is the first time we will have had a pet in a long time.  We previously had goldfish, so this will be quite a change! I've never had a dog, even as a child.  I will try not to overwhelm the blog with pictures of a new pet, but I am sure I will be needing lots of advice from time to time.

I wanted to share a bit of what I recently learned. I had been buying needle threaders that look like the ones above - only they came in packs of three. I don't know what the brand name is. I hated them, because they kept breaking - the wire wasn't securely attached to the base, so it kept coming off, even when I held the wire to the base to avoid that.

I decided that I wasn't going to buy any needle threader that had more than one in a package.  I only need one at a time, although I will probably be buying more, so one is always available.  I heard good things about a Clover needle threader, but the site didn't have any, even though the website now has it.  I bought the DMC needle threader one shown at the top of the post. Mine is blue so it is a little less easy to lose.  Cue music. It is awesome.  I haven't tried the ones on the sides.   It works really well, and even though I still hold the wire to the base, it is securely attached and doesn't feel like it will come off at any minute. I've been using it for three strands of embroidery floss, and it is almost magical how it goes through the needle. 

It also works well as a good luck charm, because there were several occasions that I was able to thread a needle myself without even needing to try the needle threader.

I hope that 2011 goes well for you - may you be healthy, happy, productive, and surrounded by love.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Recap

Even though I wasn't working two jobs, like I did last year, the first half of the year kept me very busy at work, to a point where my mother was helping me with lunches and cleaning.  In the summer, we hosted a Japanese student. Then things slowed down and I was able to finish some quilts. I also reviewed several books for some companies who were willing to send me complimentary copies of their books in exchange for the review. I also did a great deal of genealogy research.

This year I decided to show not just the finishes, but quilty things I have worked on. It makes the recap look better because there is more stuff on it, and it also gives you a better idea of what I have been doing in 2010. Here they are, in no particular order.

The snowflake coasters were my latest little project. I am keeping these for myself. I also turned a couple into ornaments for the tree.

I made these tissue holders as holiday gifts.

This vase was a project that was abandoned before this year, but finished in October 2010.

Four of five quilts I made for the Quilts for Kids charity. The fifth one looked like the red black and white one, with panda bears on it, and was done in 2009. This charity took a great deal of my time in 2010, but apparently I did have enough time to have other finishes as well.

This is the very first oil painting I made. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to paint with my family. I have it sitting on the book, so you can see the inspiration on the right. The color of the water was actually mostly from the turpentine that we were using to clean our brushes.

The pirate map is an unfinished project for 2010. Our Japanese guest helped with some of the motifs.

The little flag wall hanging was started and finished in 2010. It was simple to make, but I am particularly proud of it because of the quote quilted on it.

This is a sample block I made for a big idea I had. The idea will work, once I get started on it. I tried to finish this block into a project, but it didn't work well. I am hoping that like the vase, I will manage to finish it at a later date.

Since joining Kathleen Tracy's small quilt yahoo group, I have been tempted many times with these little quilts. They are really fun to make. In this one, I limited myself to one small scrap box, to give myself the challenge that people in olden days would have had.  I particularly liked using scraps for this one, and remembering where each one came from.

The African Circles quilt was my first project I started and finished in 2010. It was my goal to finish everything I started this year. It hasn't completely come true, but I have made great strides. And I gave myself permission to simply play - like with the red and white kaleidoscope block and the blue and white blocks below. They were never part of a project, and a great start to an orphan block quilt.

One of these blocks started out as a beginning of Kate's round robin. I still want to do the round robin, but the block, and the additional ones I made are now part of the orphan block collection. I will probably make a small quilt out of these.  I think it is amazing at how the same basic shape can look so completely different based on how it is put together.

The Cheddar Cheese and Crackers was started early in the year, and is a work in progress. It is a pattern by Lori from Humble Quilts. It is being hand quilted. The cheddar fabric isn't playing nicely and isn't laying flat, so it has me worried, but hopefully I will be able to quilt it into submission. It has taught me that I am not capable of hand quilting a big project though!

This is my last finish for 2010. I like this one the best of all the quilts I worked on this year.

The Simply Squares quilt was an impulse quilt made from newly purchased fabric. The top is made.  I was going to try to finish this one for 2010 as well, but I think my quilts look quite impressive for the year, so I won't stress myself out trying to finish it this year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


My finished rail fence quilt.  It is made completely from scraps. The rule of the quilt was to add everything. Ugly, bright, pretty, novelty, holiday, everything. Sew together randomly.  the only order I added is that I tried to keep two pieces of the same fabric separate in each rail fence.  When putting the rail fences together, it was okay to put two pieces of the same fabric next to each other. Each block finishes at three inches. I started it more than a year ago as a Leader and Ender project.  As I worked on other projects, I would cut up some fabric for this one as well as the other project. , but decided to work on it more diligently this fall.  I brought out some scrap boxes and added some older scraps.  I added some pink for Barb and green for Tanya. I kept deciding I wanted to make it bigger, and added more and more scraps.  Then it needed more patterned fabrics, and then it needed more brights. I am very happy with the finished size. 54" x 61". It is a large lap quilt.

There is diagonal quilting through the body of the quilt and scallops on the borders.  I didn't use any marking lines, so they aren't perfectly straight.

Even the backing and binding is "scrap" in that the fabrics were used on other quilts. I added the leftover rail fences and other bright fabric to add interest.

It feels like a door has opened for me, since I can now make a new quilt.  So many possibilities!  I have decided I am going to work on Kate's Another Little Quilt Swap next.  I will be making one or two little quilts to swap with others.  I have lots of ideas about what to do for those.  I think I should be able to get the backing pieced for the Simply Squares quilt in between making the little quilts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


There is a new blog for people who want to share share their stitching story and passion for Leanne Beasley's magazine 'Vignette'. They are having a giveaway of the first issue of the magazine.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season so far, and that the rest of it goes even better.
  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Goodwill to all mankind.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tutorial: Binding Fixes

Way back in September, I presented a tutorial on how to fold over binding. In that post, while showing you how to make a binding by folding over the backing to the front, I made a couple of errors, and I promised that a tutorial on how to fix the errors would be forthcoming "very soon."  I fixed my binding, took pictures, and eventually forgot about my promise.  Since that post is one of my 10 most popular posts, I think maybe it is about time that I make good on my promise. Here's what I said:

10. Now, if you didn't follow my advice in step 4 and have any issues, you have options.  You can decide you want a separate binding after all, or you can wait for the next tutorial (coming up very soon) where I will show you some intermediary steps.

I don't recommend doing this.

I am sorry that I left you wondering how I fixed this problem. When you first encounter this problem, it is important not to panic. You can keep clear headed and decide what to do. There are two ways to fix it.

One way is to give up on the fold over binding, and decide to do it the regular way with a separate binding. To do this, you can trim all of the backing even with the edge of the quilt, and attach a separate binding. But if you are making a casual quilt, one that is meant to provide love and comfort for kids, and not one you are showing to the quilt police, there really isn't any reason you can't add more love by fixing your errors. A little secret spot that got some extra attention might be just the place that the kid will gravitate to when he needs some extra attention himself.

First, trim off the error.  You don't want to look at it any more than you have to.  Then, find a piece of similar or matching fabric that is bigger than the error.  You want to have enough fabric that you can fold over the ends, and still have it big enough to cover the problem area.
Fold down the sides and pin right sides together.  With a machine sew from edge to edge, including the folded over parts.  It is okay if you manage to sew through the batting seam.  That part will be covered up with the binding anyway, and might add some extra security to your layers. 

Fold the fabric up over the seam, and it is almost as good as new.  Trim your little piece to be even with the remaining fabric.  Repeat for as many errors as you made (I made two), and proceed as usual with the steps shown in the first tutorial.  Because the sides aren't sewn, you will have to either hand stitch or machine stitch them when you are done.  I used a machine.

Monday, December 20, 2010


This is an older picture, which does not provide proof, so you will just have to take my word for it, that I am finished with the quilting on the rail fence quilt. Well, the machine part anyway.  I just love the way the diamonds look, and the scallops in the border look pretty good too.

I thought about parallel zig zags, which would make sure that the quilting would be at least three inches apart, but decided to go with the diamond shape instead.  This makes sure there isn't a very long unquilted part through the width of the quilt. Plus it was a lot easier to quilt it this way.

What it does mean though that there is a space where the quilting is six inches apart - in the center of each diamond.  The batting calls for 10 inches so it will be okay, but I am thinking about adding ties through those centers anyway. It will give an old fashioned look to the quilt, and keep me from worrying over the quilt. This center space is where lots of seams meet, so it probably won't be a fun job, but I can go ahead and bind the quilt, and do that part at my leisure.

I've also done some more hand quilting on the Moldy Cheese quilt.  I would love to add it to my finishes for 2010 year end recap, but I doubt that will happen.  But progress is progress, and maybe it will be an early 2011 finish.  I also want to start new things - Bonnie Hunter's new mystery quilt looks so intriguing, plus her old one - the Double Delight is also on my to do list.  But keeping focused on having a nice recap for you is keeping me focused.  I am allowed to start new things, but finishing what I start brings great satisfaction .

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I am really good at procrastinating, and when we had a snow "storm", I sat down and read a couple of books instead of following the to-do list.  It felt so good, and both of these books were wonderful.


The book review of Shaking the Family Tree by Buzzy Jackson has been moved to Millionaire Tips on Hubpages.

Acts of Faith is written by Eboo Patel book review has been moved to Millionaire Tips.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Midnight Ramblings

I was minding my own business when my sister asked me if I wanted to go grocery shopping with her. I went, I put stuff away and sat back down at the computer. I had my family tree up, because I was trying to do some editing - you know, making sure things were explained reasonably, capitalized correctly, there wasn't wasted space, fix typo's, etc. I find this part very difficult, because it is so easy to decide I want to find out something else, and go off searching for new information.

Which is what I did. Wandered off. I don't know why, maybe because it was midnight. I had a person up. She and her first husband are the ancestors. I started searching for the family of her second husband's first wife. It makes absolutely no sense to research them, because they will never show up on any report, and the information will just be sitting useless on the file. It is possible that my person never met the first wife's grandparents. I doubt that they would have family gatherings like that, you know.

But I let myself wander. I do that from time to time, especially around midnight when that "what are you doing?" part of me is sleeping.

Eventually, I found great-grandparents or something, and the names started becoming very familiar. I found Mary White's sister! Apparently I knew her by her middle name, but through this backwards way of finding her, I found both her first and middle names together.

So the person in question - her first husband was a descendant of Mary White, and her second husband's first wife was a descendant of Mary's sister.

I don't think I believe in ghosts, but it does seem like sometimes they help you find them!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

There's some QUILTING going on

If you compare this quilt with the Simply Squares one, I notice a big difference. This one represents me so much more than the other one. These are the fabrics I have used in quilts I have made. Fabric I would choose and have chosen and have processed into other quilts.  Only they are all out to play together.  Mish-mash.  There are wallflower fabrics, and bright bold ones. There are sedate fabrics and crazy novelty ones. The little pieces show that I'm not afraid of repetitious, tedious hard work.

So when it came to choosing a quilting design, I thought that I could maybe quilt my initials into it. The first letter of my first name on the one row, alternated with the first letter of my last name. I practiced the S over and over again on several pieces of junk mail and their envelopes. I didn't like it. Finally I decided to go back to the zig zag I used on the African quilt. I like zig zag. I could zig on one block, and zag on the other block, and in the end, I would have a pretty diamond shape.

I slept on the idea, and decided that I liked it. But I also got smart enough to realize I could quilt straight lines instead of zigging and zagging, and come up with the same design on the fabric, without all the turning. I'm so glad I figured that out before I started sewing!

But the straight lines means that there is a lot more of the quilt to stuff into the throat of the sewing machine, since it is turned diagonally. Luckily I didn't turn this into a queen sized quilt, which is the other brilliant idea I got while I slept!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

End of the Year Panic

Eye Cookie

The countdown to the end of the year is on.  Besides the normal day-to-day of normal life, there are extra things to do.

  • making the list and buying the perfect gifts for loved ones
  • wrapping said gifts
  • filling out refund forms and depositing checks
  • writing annual letter and sending out holiday cards
  • decorating the house
  • buying and putting up the tree
  • doing the final end of the year cleaning, so I can start the new year fresh
  • finishing some quilts so the end of the year quilt report looks good
  • keeping up with the day to day stuff

But what do I do instead? Work on the puzzle I got last year.  Hey, I need to finish it before this year's puzzle comes around, right?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Word Play Quilts is Available!

  Have you seen the countdown that Clare and Lynne and of course Tonya have been showing?  The excitement has been building. And now, drum roll, Tonya's book has been published and it is available on Amazon! Amazon is even showing you some sneak peeks on some of the pages.  My affiliation?  I've been following Tonya's blog from before she was an author, and I've made a word quilt (yes only one quilt and only one word, and it isn't finished yet, but I have cut out the shapes for the border, so progress has been made.) And I got an affiliate ID, so that if you go to amazon by clicking on the picture, I will get a small commission.  No pressure for you, but if you are buying anyway, I might as well benefit a little bit.  I promise I am not going to turn this into a sales blog.

In other news, I have finished piecing the backing for the Rail Fence quilt and finally found backing fabric for the Simply Squares quilt.  I was tempted to go shopping to buy the backing fabric, but I really wanted to be able to find it in the stash, and I found some in the Christmas fabric.  I guess it wanted to be Christmas quilt, and who am I to stop that?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Snowflake Coasters

Since I switched to Google Reader, I have had more and more difficulty marking posts as "read".  It seems like there are so many posts I want to save for their ideas. Especially around the holidays, there are so many cute projects.  

One post I didn't mark as read, had a link to this Snowflake Coasters pattern by Patrick Lose.  It's really cute, so I hurried up and finished sewing the rows together for the Simply Squares quilt, and chose fabric, washed it, and started tracing snowflakes.  Then I started reading the directions.

It turns out that he had a different idea than I imagined about how to assemble these.  I was thinking to sew them together, turn them right sides out, and then apply the snowflake and quilt.  He was thinking sandwich, quilt, and "bind" them with the buttonhole stitch.  Both are good ideas.  I decided to make one of each, and decide later how to do the rest.

Here's the pros and cons.

My way:
Finished edge
Use CD as template

Cutting hole after putting together to turn it right side out - have to be careful to only cut what you want
Applique hides the hole
Press the applique to shapes might flatten the batting (it didn't, I used a towel underneath for pressing)
Pressing helps enforce the circle shape
Have to be able to sew circles circularly
Quilt last

His way
use his paper template
add applique before putting layers together - no worry about flattening batting
Raw edge
quilt first
trim after quilting
hand buttonhole stitch

As you can see from the picture, I went with his way for the most part, except that I used a CD for the circle.  It is a bit larger, but I think that will make it easier to aim the cup.  If you do want finished edges, you will want to keep your quilting to the center of the coaster.  You can also zig zag the raw edges instead of buttonhole if you don't want to do the handwork, but I think it adds to the charm of the coasters.

I went to the thrift store for my almost-annual gift purchase, and found this for myself. It is a cookie jar and comes with a pretty lid. I haven't washed the lid yet. I have great plans for it!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Interviewing People for Family History

Since the holiday season is upon us, I thought I would share some insights I have gathered recently about how to get family history information.

When we met for Thanksgiving, I had one question prepared for asking.  I have found that some people get nervous when you ask them for a formal "interview."  They might be afraid they don't have the answers, and it feels more like a test. And they wonder what you are going to do with the information they provide.   So I try to have informational conversations.  And since I'm being sneaky that way, I try not to ask too many questions.  I turned on the video for my camera, put the camera down so it didn't look like I was videotaping, and asked my question.  The reason I videoed it was because I was afraid I would forget something, so it was more like tape recording.  I have watched this video since then, and here's what I learned.

1.  Having only one theme question is a great idea.  Of course it has to be something that generates conversation, so ask open ended questions.  Something that starts with "Can you tell me about the time..." or "What was such and such like?,"  where such and such can be a location, event or person.  Taking something to talk about, like a photo, might help.  This, of course, can backfire, and not be a subject that is interesting enough for a long enough conversation.  Or it might be too controversial to discuss.  You can have a backup question that you can save for later on in the conversation, or you can just let it go.  Asking a different question right after your flopped question might clue them into the fact that they are being interviewed.

2.  Having follow up questions or an idea of what it is you want to know would have been a good idea.  I found that I kept trying to think of questions, and by the time I thought of them, I was waiting for a lull in the conversation to ask, and then they seemed to be the wrong time to ask, and I didn't follow up on some interesting thing that was said.  Following the conversation as it is rolling is a much better idea, even if it is harder to do.

3.  Asking in front of other people is a great idea.  They can add in what they know. And they can correct each other, and you can learn where the discrepancies are.  They also help by asking their own questions, so it keeps it more of a conversation instead of an interview.  The bonus is that the questions might not have been something you thought of.   Once, during my very first interview, my daughter asked my sister-in-law if she had her own room as a child.  I would never have thought to ask that. I thought I knew, but it turns out that they had an uncle who was also living with them, so she shared a room with her sister.

4. Sitting closer to the interviewee would have been a good idea.  There are times when I couldn't hear the conversation (both in real life and on the tape) because other people walked between us and were having their own conversation.  There was a conversation off to the side, and sometimes it drowned out our conversation.

5.  Sitting in a better lit location would have been nice.  The picture quality is awful, but since that wasn't my main objective, it isn't a big problem.  If I had planned it, I might have set up the area better before the guests arrived.

6.  There are other people who know things.  One thing I realized is that my older brother remembers a lot more things than I do.  He would be a good person to ask too.  Also, my mother seemed to direct a lot of her conversation to my sister-in-law, maybe because she thinks we know most of what she knows, so I think she would be a big source of information as well.  I did turn the camera towards other people in the conversation from time to time, but mostly I kept it in one spot, so it wasn't obvious that I was working it.

7.  The timing of the question is critical.  You want to ask when people are resting, not when they are about to get up to do something else.  The less they have to do instead of talking to you, the better!  I asked after we were done eating and had moved to the living room to digest our food.  Also, if you work in your question when someone has brought up a topic about the past or about something related to your question, that's an extra bonus.  Then it is more of a conversation than an interview.

8.  Videoing / tape recording is a great tool.  I had forgotten many rich details, and am glad that I did it.  If you can't do any of those, go to the bathroom (or someplace else) after the conversation is over, and jot down your notes.  Try to record who said what.  It is very easy to forget the details. You want to get the facts as they were told to you, not as you digested them.    Recording them while they are fresh in your mind is the best way.

9.  Do not rehearse the question ahead of time.  Just have a general feeling of the question you want to ask.  I phrased my question very awkwardly, which maybe helped the "conversation" aspect of it.  Also, because it was awkwardly phased, I could ask it again, better phrased, to keep the conversation going.

10.  Do ask questions.  You will learn more about the people you are talking to and about your family.  And they will feel more valued that you care enough to learn about them.

Writing down the information is another bonus.  It doesn't have to be perfectly done.  You can write down what you learned on your blog, or maybe make one of those photo books or scrap book.  Or just write your notes on a sheet of paper and put the paper in the family Bible.  You don't have to be a genealogist to do this.  And if you are, this information will make your genealogy much less dry and so much more interesting.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday Shopping


I started out the day thinking that I was going to skip the shopping. Someone had stolen my newspaper on Thursday (if indeed I got one since I only subscribe to the Sunday paper, but usually they give you a Thanksgiving paper anyway because of all the ads.) I didn't know what was on sale, and I really couldn't think of any big thing I wanted that would be worth getting up early for if I could find a good price for it.

So I stayed up late on Thanksgiving, and was about to get ready for bed when my daughter said she wanted to go shopping for clothes.  We weren't about to wake up at stupid hours of the morning to get clothes, but she did want to go reasonably early.  We bought the things she wanted, and I bought some of the holiday gifts on my list. I have most of my holiday shopping done, and have a good idea of what to get the rest.  We did pretty good.  She had planned on going to another store, but she decided she had found what she needed, and was satisfied.

Then I found out that the drug stores had their free sales.  Both Walgreens and CVS had things you could buy, and they would give you a coupon for the price of the item that you could use for anything in the store.  They both had a nice selection of different things.  So I went, and got some.  I was choosy and only got the things I knew we could use.  Sometimes I get things for other people, but I didn't do that this year.   My daughter chose half of those as her own.  I went home and ordered a free 8 x 10 that was also available at Walgreens.

On Saturday, I remembered that I had forgotten to get headphones at CVS. This is something we need.  So I went back to the store.  It was a bonus, because I could use the six coupons I received on Friday for the items.   On Friday, I had gotten one of each of the things I wanted, but when I looked at the ad again, some of the things had a limit of 2 or 5.  So I bought more of the things I knew we could use more of, like chocolate! I bought a lot more of the "free" stuff than I had the day before.  If I had known I was going to do this, I would have balanced out my purchases better and bought more on Friday.

The important thing is to use these coupons before they expire, preferably on things that are on sale.  Using the coupons is pretty easy, since CVS sells quilt magazines!

There weren't any big crowds or big lines anywhere I went, so the shopping was quick and easy.  There were no big purchases this year, but I got lots of regular daily stuff at good prices.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Hello everyone, welcome back. I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.  We did. We met with the entire family at my sister's house, and had a great feast, and great conversation.

Just some random thoughts today.  I am still spending a few minutes to sew the Simply Squares together.  At one time, I had decided that I would no longer buy any pins or safety pins.  The ones I have are enough to make maybe two quilts, and if the supplies are in use, I have to finish the project, so the supplies are free to use.  This is a way to limit myself from starting too many new things.


One of the tips I read or heard, and use, is to identify rows by designating the row # by using that number of pins.  I was afraid I was going to run out of pins using this method, since I had fourteen rows. I needed pins for the seams.  One thing I did, was turn them over in pairs, since they had to be sewn up anyway, so I only had to label seven pairs.  I put the labeling pins on the left side of the row, so it was clear which way the pair went.  I also got smart, and I used a safety pin to designate the number 5, kinda like tallies. No, I don't do it neatly, I am going to take them out anyway, although I recommend not pinning the rows together with the tally pins, and not so close to the edge, so you can leave them in until the entire quilt top is done.

It turns out I have a whole box of pins upstairs - safety pins stay on a quilt until the basted quilt is quilted, but straight pins don't stay on very long.  I am not in a habit of straight pinning fabric or blocks and leaving a project in the pinned state.

Also if you are the kind of person who remembers things, you should know that when I brought the rows downstairs after pressing them, it didn't seem like I had enough rows, so I took the leftover squares, cut a couple more (from a new to this quilt fabric), and made another row.  Now I have fully used all the fabric, and except for the part that was too small.  Then I found that I had dropped two rows upstairs on my way down.  So, when you see the quilt, don't expect fourteen rows.  I don't know how many I have, I'm not the kind who remembers these things. Logic says 15, but I'm not making any promises.

so cute
I received my mushrooms I requested from Meyer Imports, who by the way is having a different giveaway this month. I talked about it here on this post.  When I saw them on Allie's blog, I was hoping that the little bottles were part of the gift, and not something she had bought. And they are!  It's glass glitter.  So adorable.  My first thought was "What do I do with these?"  I think it would be smart for the business owner to show what can be done with this stuff, in order to increase sales.

so tiny
But not to worry, John.  I have signed up for Another Little Quilt Swap with Kate, and ideas are brewing in my mind that uses these.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reading: Uncle Sam's Plantation

The welfare system has problems.  There are policies that are made to help, but wind up hurting the situation. They lose the incentive to solve their own problems.  And people use the system to what they think is their best advantage.  If you only get help if your electricity is shut off, there are people who will deliberately not pay their bill until their electricity is shut off, so that they can get the help.  There are cutoffs for certain programs.  I have experienced and know several people who, by making an effort to help themselves, have wound up ever so slightly over the cutoff for lots of help.  There are moral and ethical issues about which is better, so we decided that we are better off in helping ourselves, but not everybody makes that decision.

On the other hand, there are people who did wind up getting into situations where they need temporary help.  If you got laid off, or had a major health crisis, then it seems like a little help is appropriate.  Chances are, that if you are financially disadvantaged, your friends and family members are also living on a shoestring, and would be less able to help you.  It is a complex, sticky situation. While there is a lot people can do to help themselves, there are some conditions that some people are born with that are beyond their control.  How do you help people that need help without making them dependent or tempt them to work the system to get the most they can?

In my view, there aren't any clear, simple solutions.  But we do need to find solutions, so a book that purports to provide them sounds like a worthy read.

I got the book Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can Do About It by Star Parker from Booksneeze. It is about how the "government manipulates, controls and ultimately devastates the lives of the poor."  The title was very intriguing.  I was expecting to learn more about what was wrong with the welfare system, and what she thought were plausible solutions.  I was trying to imagine what life would be like if there was no welfare.

A book that talks about different aspects of the system, and explains what is wrong with it, and suggests a better alternative for that aspect would have been nice.

I am having a hard time figuring out how to discuss this book without talking about politics.  This book obviously espouses the Republican philosophy, and is anti-Democrats.   I personally don't choose between either Democratic or Republican philosophy - I like parts of both.  The world isn't black and white, and it seems like you have to see it as such when you choose one.

It was a rambling book - talking about the difficulties of defining poverty, stating that raising the minimum wage meant either raising prices or laying off people, problems with her mother working while on social security, education, health insurance, etc.  I was struck by the fact that there were some facts that were pointed out without any citations, and but mostly it was conjectures that were purported to be facts without any evidence. There are no footnotes or bibliography.  There were also Republican philosophies that had nothing to do with the subject of the book.

She talks about the changing face of America, with fewer people getting married, more out-of-wedlock babies, etc., but doesn't state how this should affect policies.  I think the implication is that all of these things are a result of Democrat philosophies, and somehow going back to the old ways would be best, although she doesn't say how that could be accomplished.

I was looking forward to the "What We Can Do About It" part of the book, which was at the very end, but it seems like the only recommendation was "A bold Republican agenda." 

The book was interesting enough, but it is basically an Anti-Democrat book, and there were no realistic solutions. It spent so much time complaining and not enough time explaining how her way would be better.

I received this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for my review. You can click on the link to read more reviews on this book.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I added some lighter fabric to my simple squares quilt.  I was worried it might be too dark.  Then I worry that the lighter fabric will change the mood too much from the original.  I decided to just add a few pieces of the lighter fabric, but then I worried that the light fabrics, especially the lightest one, might stand out too much compared to all the darker and dark medium fabrics.

I bought the fabric in quarter yard increments.  I decided to cut the squares four and a half inches, in order to best use the fabric.  Then when I was done with cutting the first row, I worried that there wouldn't be enough to cut a second row, considering that any fabric I cut to get a clean cut, would eat into my nine inches of fabric.  I thought I should have cut something slightly smaller than four and a half inches.  I did buy some pieces in half yards, since they were a great price, but I decided to leave those to leave the proportions intact.

The fabric was cut perfectly though, just a sliver over nine inches, so that there was no waste at all, and I was able to get to get two rows out of every piece of fabric.  I started sewing, and then I worried that I didn't make the quilt big enough.  Sure it is big enough for a small lap quilt, but I like my lap quilts to really cover me, and another row would make me feel better.  So I cut the rest of my fabric.  In fact, I am using it all up.  All of it, in fact, so the proportions are dictated more by circumstance, than by choice.

Since the last quilt I finished is the rail fence, where every single fabric matched, whether it "matched" or not. I am out of practice in the "will these play together nicely" decision making.  I am pretty sure it will work regardless, but I will have to finish the quilt before I am reassured.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I have finished putting the borders of my rail fence quilt. Unfortunately, I didn't record on this blog when I started it, but it was at least a year ago.  Eventually I got motivated to work on it as the main project.  I would like to finish the rail fence quilt now, instead of saving it for later. I am working on piecing the backing now.  Nothing fancy, just getting it big enough.

I have decided that I am not going to be making all of my holiday gifts this year.  I will buy something, and supplement it with a quick handmade gift - like the tissue holders I showed earlier. This leaves my time left to finish quilts. [No, Michele, I am not going to promise to finish 10 quilts. or even one.] It also gives me permission to make little things to get the thrill of making something new as well.

I went shopping for batting, and bought some sale fabric as well, pictured above.  I haven't bought any fabric in a long time, so this was really enjoyable.  I have been fondling the fabric since I bought it, thinking I have so many unfinished projects, and fabric kitted up, that I should just put this away. I hadn't bought the fabric to go together, just what I was in the mood to get at the time, but I think they do look good together.  And I have decided to use it up.  This keeps my promise of not buying fabric for the stash.  I am going to make a quilt simply with squares, like this - letting the fabric do the work.  I'm not sure if I will be doing it as a Leader and Ender or simply just make it now. I'm thinking it is something quick and easy that I should just be able to chain piece, but we all know that those kinds of words should never be uttered.