4/2/20

The Trouble with Cats

There are only fabric cats on today's post. The furry ones were in short supply yesterday. I suppose with all the sewing going on these days, they may be striking for higher wages with the increased demand. I have noticed them hanging out next to their treat bowls, carrying signs, and singing protest songs. Until now, I hadn't really wondered what all the fuss was about.

For yesterday's sewing, I was finishing off the first of the Ties & Tails blocks by adding on the pieced sashings. The first step was to add a black flange. It was supposed to be blue, according to the pattern. I looked for something blue, but then did it in black when I couldn't find anything appropriate.


When it was all sewn together, I found the blue piece I'd pulled at the very beginning. Of course, I did. Oh well...another time for the blue, I suppose. For this, I'll stick with black, and no one will be the wiser. You won't tell, will you?

So the next step was to cut 2-1/2 inch squares for the pieced sashing. I'm doing this block by block so I don't have to cut so many at the end. The pattern provides a diagram for the sashing, and I counted out how many I would need: 4 vertical rows of 15 each, and 2 horizontal rows of 6 each, for a total of 72. Then, I picked out any of the smallest red scraps that could be cut into a 2-1/2 inch square. When I was finished, I had more than I needed, and so the extras will get used for the next block.


The upper and lower sashing worked out just fine...6 squares each.


Then, I sewed together four rows of 15 squares each for the vertical sashings. When they were all sewn together, I realized I had one block to many. I counted again on the diagram...twice...then I looked at the pattern cover and counted there. If you can see that well enough, you'll count 14 squares in those vertical rows. Drat.


Oh well...I removed one square from each row, and then all was well. I sewed them to the quilt block, and this one was finished. Next time, I'll know to count on the pattern cover and ignore what the instructions say. It's starting to look as if I'll need to do everything on this quilt wrong first before I can do it right.


So that took up my entire sewing day. Lucky for us, Matthew was cooking last night. Matthew was never much of a cook until the Instant Pot came into his life. Now, he's an Instant Pot convert, and he's making some delicious food with his one cooking vessel. Last night's dinner was a yummy pot roast. The broth was from Madeira (Have some Madeira, m'dear?), and it was delicious. I had some frozen bread that I baked off to soak up all that yummy broth.


We've worked out a deal where Matthew does the cooking on Wednesday and Saturday nights. I love to cook, but I like a day off now and then too. With all the restaurants closed, it's nice to have someone else pick up the slack two days out of the week.

Speaking of Matthew, today is his 36th birthday. We had planned a family get-together for this evening, and we were going to smoke a turkey that's been sitting in the freezer. Then, we thought Lyndsey might be joining us, fresh back from her trip to Bali. We wanted to give her time to self-quarantine, and so we moved it to Sunday. Then, Lyndsey got caught up in flight cancellations and border closings, and so she's still in Bali, unable to get back to the USA. She'll stay in Bali until all this passes. We were sticking with our Sunday date, but with Mike still sick, we decided to cancel our family get-together. We'll still do the turkey, but it will be just the three of us on Sunday.

Instead, I'm making a lasagna and Caesar salad, and I'm going ahead with plans to bake an angelfood cake for dessert. I was able to score some fresh strawberries for the topping. Mike's will be a coffee'd up version of the same dessert, sans strawberries. It doesn't seem very festive to me, but Matthew will be happy with it.

Some of you have asked about Mike. His symptoms are mild, and we still have no way of knowing if he has COVID-19, but it seems the most likely explanation. He had a telephone conversation with his doctor a few days ago (on another matter), and the COVID questions came up. The doctor told him to keep doing what he's doing, and that his symptoms didn't warrant testing. It makes me wonder how many people are in the same situation. The reports we hear of infections are only of "confirmed" cases, which means there are a whole lot more people infected than what we're hearing. It really makes no difference, but it's hard to know how to behave when there's so much uncertainty.

Today I'm going to make a couple of masks for our family to use when we go out, and then I'm going to make up the next block for the Dancing Chickens and Flying Pigs. It's next up for embroidery, but I need to do the applique sections first. Appalachian Memories will be finished in the next few days, and I'll want the Dancing Chickens ready to go.

4/1/20

Lackluster Day

No news is good news, as they say, and I have very little to report. As I mentioned yesterday, I was heading out for a "short" trip to the grocery store. Before I left yesterday, Erik called to ask about our toilet paper situation. (I just love meaningful conversations with my sons, don't you?) He was aware we had a plentiful supply, and he and Mae were nearly out. No problem, of course. I had some to spare. He had another outing planned to Target, and hoped to find his own, but I was going to check at our store too.

I first stopped off at a vegetable market in town. They sell only vegetables and fruits. It's a little like a privately-owned farmers market. I picked up my produce there. They also had strawberries. Matthew has requested angelfood cake with strawberry topping for his birthday cake tomorrow, and so it was good to find fresh strawberries...ripe ones, even.

After that, I headed off to the small grocery store, located just down the street from the vegetable stand. There, I picked up most of my groceries, and checked the toilet paper aisle. I found none. I texted Erik to let him know it was a no-go, and he hadn't found any at Target either. Also, I found no mascarpone cheese, which I needed for a recipe, and so that meant going to the larger grocery store (my usual store) at the other end of town. While there, I checked again for TP...annnnnnnnnd SCORE!


There were two packages left on the shelf, with a limit of one per customer. From there I had to walk to the far end of the store to look for cat food. When I came back about five minutes later, the last package was gone. You know it's been a lackluster day when I start blogging about toilet paper. Haven't we all moved the bar that measures a good time to a seriously low position in all of this?

Also, I was happy to find zucchini seeds. I'd read about a seed shortage recently, and it seems seeds are on the “panic buying” list now. We want to plant a garden this year, but when I went to my usual online source for seeds, I found them sold out of residential quantities of some of the things I wanted. I purchased different varieties from the old standbys, but couldn’t find any zucchini except in farm-sized packets. (My friend Marei requested that I not plant a farm-sized amount of zucchini, which I took to be good advice.) I planned to look at a local feed store this week, but found them at the grocery store. I can cross one less worry off my list. It would be disastrous if I couldn't plant zucchini, wouldn't you agree?

So, back home again, I finished stitching the face on the cat.


The collar is three-dimensional. It lays flat, but wasn't tacked down until I stitched the whiskers over the top. And then, I was to add a button to each corner. I'd say that's one dapper cat with his button-down collar and tie, wouldn't you?


That was all the sewing I did yesterday. I'm going to cut all the little sashing blocks and sew them around it before I move on to the next thing. I'd like to do them a little at a time, rather than all at once. I've been sewing for days and days, and all that cutting makes my left wrist hurt. Holding the ruler gives me tendonitis. So, I gave my wrist a break and immobilized it. I can still feel it a little this morning, but I'll probably get back to sewing anyway.

Speaking of "moving on," it's time to set a goal for April's


As I've mentioned, I'm working away at a bag of bonus triangles. I'd like to sew them into a quilt top before month's end, but I'm not sure I can get it accomplished. Instead, I think I'll set as my goal to finish quilting and binding the pansy mosaic. That would be my quilt finish for the month.


It's all sandwiched and ready to go. It shouldn't take too long. Binding strips are already cut, if I'm remembering right. It'll be good to get this one finished. This was a pattern by Jane Kakaley. As I was writing this, I looked for images of pansies I might use a guides for quilting. In the process, I found this article from the Vancouver Sun all about pansies with several pretty pictures. Check it out! Or don't...I'm not trying to boss you around. I would never do that.

Today I have some housework to catch up on, and then I'll get back to the sashing for the tall cat. Also, I'll get back to the Appalachian Memories block for today's slow-stitching. I missed stitching it yesterday in favor of the cat. Cats. Their needs always come first, even when they're made of fabric.

3/31/20

Cats, Confusion, and Chaos

(Awesome alliteration.) Some might say "cats, confusion, and chaos" are synonyms, but what do they know? As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was close to filling my slow-stitching hoop. When I finished up with my stitching yesterday, I'd stitched the whole of the right side of the block.


Now I've moved my hoop to the left side, and I stitched in the flag before I stopped for the day.


When I moved into the sewing room, I started a new project...this one...


I wanted to make the "tall cat" in the upper left-hand corner. These blocks are mostly pieced in the way Pam Bono created her patterns...with strips of different sizes, lengths, shapes, etc. In the end, it all works out, but it can be tedious to do the cutting. Also, the blocks are larger than I expected, and so when the instructions say to use fat quarters, they aren't just kidding around. I started with a large scrap for a background piece, but still ended up supplementing with a few closely color-matched scraps.

The first section was to make the cat's head. That was easy enough. The triangular nose is folded so that it is three-dimensional. I'm going to tack it down with a single stitch when I'm finished with the whole block.


Here's where it got confusing. The collar pieces are also three dimensional. The instructions were very confusing, and the accompanying diagrams were less-than-helpful. It was the sort of thing you needed to understand three steps down the road for the current step to make sense. And so I sewed it together wrong at first, but then it all became clear. When I make the rest of the blocks, I'll understand how to do this without the need to do it wrong first.


When Sadie saw how much trouble this was giving me, she decided to lend her paw and her expurrt guidance.


And she is the best little trooper...working, working, working to make my sewing life easier.


Honestly, I was overwhelmed.


It was almost too much.


When I could see she was getting tired, I encouraged her to nap in her little kitty bed, which she did. Thankfully. Then, I could finish up the rest. The tie section is paper-pieced, but it's not too hateful.


The only thing left to do at that point was to add the eyes. I'm choosing colors consistent with those shown on the pattern cover.


Now it's waiting for me downstairs. I still need to hand embroider the mouth and the whiskers. I tried doing it by machine, but it didn't work very well. It'll be faster and better-defined if I do it by hand. When that's finished, I believe I'll cut the squares for the sashing and add them around each block as I go. It will save me from having to cut zillions of them when I'm ready to finish the quilt.

As for today's activities, we have some sunshine this morning. It might be a good day to get out and pick another bucket of weeds. Our weather has been so crappy, I haven't set foot outside since the last bucket I picked. Today I must make at least a short trip to the grocery store. There's a story behind this decision, but it would take too long to tell. All you need to know is that I haven't done up a menu or a list, and so I'm just getting a few things we need to get by until I make up a more complete list. And that brings me to this meme I found on my Facebook memories this morning. I posted this six years ago...little did I know how pertinent it would seem for the times. It describes how I feel about the grocery store both then and now.
Mike has been sick since we returned home from our trip...12 days now. His symptoms are mild...a low-grade fever, dry cough, and fatigue. It seems likely he has COVID-19. On the other hand, neither Matthew nor I have any symptoms at all. I know it's possible for people to have the virus and be asymptomatic, but for both of us to be asymptomatic seems unlikely. So that makes me think Mike doesn't have the virus, but I don't know what else would hang on for so long with the symptoms he has. Anyway...he scheduled a teleconference with his doctor for this morning. I doubt his condition warrants testing, since tests are scarce right now. It's just one more thing to add to the anxiety that goes with these weird times.

Okay, so I wrote that last paragraph without really intending to, but there it is. It's hard to know how to behave under the conditions, but life goes on. We need groceries, and so I must go. Someone suggested asking neighbors to do my shopping, but all of my neighbors are even older than we are, and so I don't feel right about that. Someone else suggested our church, but we don't attend church. Someone else suggested the police. Really??? No, I'll do the shopping, and I'll maintain social distance. It seems the best solution for our household.

So with that I'll sign off in the usual way...stay well...be safe. Most of all, stay sane.

3/30/20

A New Scrappy

It was a quiet day here yesterday. Self-quarantining hasn't really caused me to break stride at all. My days are pretty much as they've always been, with the addition of Mike sitting in the chair across from me. He was working up until we left on our trip south this past December. Now he's home...hopefully, for good. My biggest concern is my weekly (or so) trips to the grocery store and worry about what will be there (or not be there) when I arrive. Grocery shopping has always been the biggest annoyance in my life, and now it's even more annoying than ever.

Yesterday, I mixed up the bread dough and got it ready to go, and then spent some time on my slow-stitching. I should finish up the first hoop's worth this morning, and I'll have a picture for you in tomorrow's post.

When I made my way into the sewing room, I started on a new project called "City Bank." It comes from this book:


The quilts in this book were inspired by urban views...patterns on buildings...city blocks...that sort of thing. I'm assuming this quilt was named for the City Bank building, although I'm not sure about that. It consists of 7 horizontal rows of 6 blocks each. My progress on this quilt will be measured in rows of blocks. By that I mean that when its turn comes in my WIPs rotation, I'll make a row of blocks, or six blocks. 

Yesterday's effort involved cutting all the black strips for the entire quilt. I'm using my blues and greens for the remainder, although I might decide to add some purple too. The quilt pattern suggests one lavender "surprise" block. I'm kind of thinking if I'm going to include lavender at all, I might split the blocks up into three colors and add in some purples too. What do you think? For now, I have just six blocks (the first row) finished. But before these can be allowed into the quilt, they must first pass the snuggleability test.


I purrnounce them to be of acceptable quality.


Phew! She had me a little worried there. So, these are intended to be a row of six, but I put them in pattern so you could see what it's going to look like. The bright green in the lower left corner is one of Vicki Welsh's hand-dyed fabrics.


I have lots of long cut off strips from the edges of quilts that are going to be laid to rest as I make this. I'm hoping I'll see a dent in my scraps because of it, but then...hahahahahahahahaha...because that never happens.

It was close to dinner time when my loaf of bread went into the oven. When it came out...voila!


We had slices with our dinner, and then again this morning with our breakfast. It's already about 3/4 eaten. Next, I'm going to make some conventional white sandwich bread, but I'll probably wait until tomorrow for that.

Today I'm starting yet another new project. As I mentioned, I have three open spaces on my WIPs dance card, and so this quilt pattern is the third of three.


I can't remember how I acquired this pattern, but I've been wanting to make it for a long time. I pulled a few fabrics for it yesterday, but I'll mostly rely on scraps. Paging through the pattern yesterday, I realized it's a little more complicated than it looks...all pieced, with some paper-piecing and embroidery. The cat eyes are appliqued on, I believe. It will be a good use of my red, orange, and yellow scraps, and I found a perfect outer border fabric in my stash of cat fabrics. Today, I'll start working on the tall cat in the upper left-hand corner, and my plan is to make one cat each time this comes up in the WIPs rotation. Oh yes, and if you want one of these patterns for your very own, I found them for sale right here.

This morning, I saw this meme on Facebook...



No kidding. Does this seem like the longest month of March EVER?!? As I mentioned to my friend Lyndsey yesterday, it's weird that the whole world is experiencing this catastrophe at the same time. Usually these sorts of things are limited to a small geographical area, and so it seems strange to be talking with folks from the United Kingdom and Australia about what's happening right here in Oregon. And now we're extending our self-isolation through April 30th...in the USA, at least. I don't know about you, but I really hope this doesn't wreck the whole summer. All we can do is stay home and stay safe, and hope to minimize the number of deaths. Stay healthy, Everybody.

3/29/20

Here's What's Cooking

Smitty has developed a strategic plan to deal with his free-loading housecatmate. Their morning routine has always been to wake up the people, chomp on the morning treats conveniently dispensed by the now-awake people, beg to be let into the clubhouse (that's their space between the basement and main levels of the house), take a morning nap in the clubhouse, come back upstairs and beg for more treats. Only, since we've been home, Smitty has worked out a new plan. He first begs for the clubhouse to be opened and lures Sadie down there too. Once Sadie is asleep in the clubhouse, he sneaks back upstairs where all the laps belong to him exclusively now. Pretty smart, huh?

So here he is taking advantage of Mike's lap.


When Mike got up from his chair, he came and took up my lap while I did my slow-stitching. Generally, Sadie has this job. It's one of the best jobs a cat has in this house.


Slow-stitching time was over though, and so I went back to work on the Guacamole block. I needed to finish the top-stitching and stitch in a few more details. When all of that was finished, it looked like this:


By machine, I stitched some white thread to lighten up the ends of the onions, and I stitched in some roots. Also, some lines on the garlic cloves, and some ribs on the tomato.


Bits of tomato were stitched by hand into the guacamole.


After that, I needed to hand stitch the fringe on the table cloth and add borders, and the whole thing was finished.


The fringe was kind of a bugger. The pattern instructed me to cut 40 4-inch lengths of 6-strand embroidery floss and to tie a knot in the center of each length. Well...does anyone know a way to get the knot to land in the center? Because I don't. I got better at it as I went along, using my fingers to guide it to where I wanted before pulling it tight. Then, I was to use a needle and thread to make two loops around the knot, thus fastening it down. I worried those would pull out, and so I took my first stitch through the knot, and then made a loop over it before moving on to the next one. The whole process took about two hours. I'm happy with how it turned out though.


Menacingly, there are still five more blocks of the 12 total that will require stitching more fringe. That will have me dragging my feet on an otherwise fun project. And since several of you mentioned you were hungry for guacamole now, I'm including the recipe that was included with the pattern. Each of the blocks in the quilt has an associated recipe.


When I make my way into the sewing room today, I'll be starting on another new project...this City Bank quilt. I'm hoping to make a dent in my blue and green scraps. The one pictured here is done all in solids, but I'll be using what I have in my scrap bins. I'll probably get a mix of prints and solids.


This pattern can be found in this book by Cherri House:


I've made several quilts from this book. It's a good book.

When I fed my starter yesterday, I added 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup of water. It about half filled the jar when I was finished. When we went to bed last night, it looked like this:


Whoa! I think it's ready! So I've gone back and forth about which loaf to make, and I've finally settled on an Artisan Sourdough No-Knead Bread. I've made it before with good results.


It uses both whole-wheat and white bread flour. This morning I mixed it up and left it sitting at room temperature.


Now it will sit until around 3:30 this afternoon when I'll take it through the next steps. I'm hoping we'll have some fresh bread around dinner time.

So that's what's cooking today. What's cooking at your house? Hint: It doesn't have to be edible.

3/28/20

The Food and Nothing but the Food

Mike and I restarted the Cooking Light Diet this week. We never really went off, but it's much harder to be faithful when we're traveling. This week's shopping trip left me no wiggle room, and so we're sticking to the menus as they come up. This morning, I tried this new dish. This is called Bacon-Powered Sweet Potato Veggie Skillet. I served it up with a fried egg over the top. It was supposed to have some feta cheese sprinkled over, but I forgot all about that...as is my way.


Have you ever noticed how good things from an iron skillet taste? It was a bit of a to-do for the morning, when my eyes aren't yet opened, but it would be good for dinner too. I'm not one for buying precut veggies, but that would have made the job easier. Also, if you want to try this, I'd suggest cutting up the veggies the night before. That would have made it pretty quick to throw together.

Before getting the breakfast skillet going though, I stirred my sourdough starter. The night before I fed it another 5-1/4 tablespoons of whole wheat flour and 3 tablespoons of purified water (meaning, water with no chlorine added). The volume doubled over night. Then I stirred it down this morning. An hour later, it was doubled in volume again.


This will be ready for baking in the next day or two. Now I'm getting geared up for some bread. I've always made the artisan-style round loaves, but I'm going to try doing this next one in a loaf pan and see what I get.

Sewing yesterday was all about food too. I'm working on the first block for the New Mexico Kitchen quilt. It started with making the background. Six of the 12 blocks in this quilt will have a curve-pieced background like this one. I surprised myself by sewing that curved seam so it would actually lay flat. Miracles do happen.


I'm using fabrics from my stash. This is the "Guacamole" block. The first task was to get the letters placed and fused. There is a template provided to help with this.


Then I fused the rest of the ingredients.


I was working on top-stitching and adding in details when it was time to quit for the day.


There is just a little more to do on this to finish it off. I'll have to try my hand at making the hand-made fringe for the bottom of the "tablecloth." If I can get that finished, I'll move on to another new project. I'll say more about that when I get it started.

It rained pretty much all day yesterday, and today's weather promises more of the same. Looks like the yard clean-up is going to wait a little longer. Sad.

3/27/20

Cats and Stars

My kitty consultants were hard at work yesterday. It seems kitties have very strong opinions about color value. I was working on the next two blocks for the Charm Stars quilt. The stars are made from a combination of light and dark color values as well as neutrals. Sadie was not happy with my choices at all.

You've chosen a lavender, where you really should have chosen a light purrple.



She read over the instructions and looked at the diagram several times. We couldn't agree on the color choices or placement.

Pawsibly you need new glasses, because I read it a diffurrent way.



In disgust, she gave up.

Sometimes no amount of purrsuasion makes any difference.



She decided to bed down on the already-made blocks for a nap.

It's depurressing when my human will not listen to my expurrt advice.


So, despite her disappointment, I laid out the HST's my way.


They're a little tricky getting the right configuration of darks and lights.


Of course, Smitty had to put in his two cents too.

Don't listen to Sadie. Any cat with a short tail like that is not to be trusted.


By day's end, I had them sewn together.



I still need two more blocks for this quilt. I'll do the last two in browns.

It was time to think about dinner by then. As I mentioned, Matthew won a sort of all-in-one cooker just before Christmas, and this is the first time I've felt courageous enough to give it a try. Mike thinks it looks like R2D2. When it makes its little button beeps, it sounds like R2D2 too. So it's a rather large appliance, but it steams, roasts, air fries, pressure cooks, broils, steams, slow cooks, dehydrates...let's see...I'm sure I've left something out.


I was planning to air fry two pork tenderloins. But first, I needed to read the instructions, and this was rather intimidating. There were two pages of ways I could die using this.


They contained many scary words like "DO NOT" and "NEVER" and "ALWAYS," and I don't know about you, but my memory isn't good enough to be trusted with "nevers" and "alwayses." In all, there were 61 ways to die.


Also...that many cooking functions translates into lots of pieces. It took me at least 20 minutes to figure out what went where, and which parts I would need for last night's dinner.


In the end though...it turned out good. I used this recipe to marinate and then air fry the pork tenderloins. (By the way, you can use the marinade and cook the pork tenderloins however you like. No air frying is required.) They took about 30 minutes, rather than the 20 listed in the recipe. Mine might have been a little larger than specified. Either way, they were quite tasty. Mike and Matthew had the pieces at either end. They thought theirs were a tad dry. My slices from the middle were just right.


So that was something new and exciting. I'll try one of the other functions next, but I'm not sure which or when.

Speaking of new and exciting, I'm starting a new project today. I know I said "no new projects," but here's the deal: My plan for the year is to finish quilting one quilt and to finishing sewing together one quilt top per month. When those two things are accomplished, I can work on my WIPs. And after years of experimentation, I believe a list of five WIPs is a reasonable number to have going. You may disagree...and I can hear you laughing, so be quiet! So with that excuse explanation out of the way, I'll just say that recently, three positions have opened up on my dance card. The first one will be filled with this pattern I purchased nearly 10 years ago.


When we were traveling through Las Cruces, New Mexico, I had a day of visiting three different quilt shops. This one came from a shop called "Sew What's New." You can read my blog post about it right here. My visit was in 2011, and so I wondered if they were still in business. It seems they are. You can find them on the web right here.

So, as is my usual practice, I'll be doing this one block at a time. The first will be this "Guacamole" block.


When I purchased this pattern, I was fairly new to quilting. There are some tricky bits to this pattern, including curved piecing of the block backgrounds, and homemade fringe on some of the background "tablecloths." I'm kind of glad I didn't try this way back then because it would have been rather confusing. And I'm not sure it won't be confusing still, but I'm hoping I'll be able to get 'er done. That's on today's agenda. It looks like all those striped fabrics I've been collecting are going to come in handy for this project.

Also yesterday, I started stitching the next Appalachian Memories block. I like to start with the quilt block on these. When I stopped for the morning, I had it this far. 


I'll be heading there as soon as I publish this post.

Also yesterday, I took another picture of the star magnolia. The flowers still have not opened, and we're expecting rain all week. I'm afraid the flowers will be fairly battered by raindrops by the time they are in full bloom.


I had good intentions of getting out and picking another bucket of weeds yesterday. By the time I was dressed and heading outside, the rain had started up. I'm easily discouraged from weeding, and so that was the end of my weedy day. Darn. It's looking pretty dark and cold right now, and so I doubt I'll get any more done today either. It's my expectation the weeds will wait for me. They're very dependable that way.