Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In need of a brain dump

Really, truly, I'll get back to thankful before the end of the month. I keep thinking about it, but can't seem to find the time to post. Meanwhile, a bit of a brain dump...

Last week, my newly married cousin's father in law passed away suddenly. By God's grace, the family had been together that evening laughing and playing dominoes, so their last memory is very happy one. It's a shock, of course - by all accounts he was a wonderful man, who should have had years to enjoy his family and grandkids.

Also last week, I found out a dear college friend has had a recurrence of cancer, which means four months of chemo, surgery and radiation. My heart is breaking for their family: just this September their son died after collapsing at football practice.

Even in all this, we can still say God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good. We don't see or understand even a portion of all that is at work around us. This is part of what faith is - believing that God is benevolent and loving, in spite of things that may seem to make us doubt that. 

I did indeed start Whole30, and am mourning the absence of cheese in my life for the next month. I'm also heartily sick of washing dishes, after one day of prep and a day and a half of program. I'll get more efficient, I know, but in the meantime, my hands are all wrinkly from all the dishwater.

The new tax plan is causing fits at work. People keep asking me to write up the impact, and while I do it, it's really a bit of witchcraft. Much like the process of making the law, it seems. While we have the basic outlines, the versions are different, and trying to project any meaningful numbers for our institution is frustrating. All I know for sure is that under the proposed Senate plan, my personal tax bill will go up.

Not finding time to get into the sewing studio, my happy place and the home of the natural daylight lamp. It is still just barely light out, if I come right home from work, but as soon as the sun goes down, my body starts to think about sleep. The only thing that keeps me from going straight to bed some days is the fact that my alarm clock only works correctly if there are at least eleven hours from the present time until the time it is set to ring.

I don't have much of the fall decor out; next week Friday, I decorate for Christmas. Where has the fall gone? On my plan for this last summer was to preaddress Christmas cards, Yup, did not get done. I usually like to mail them a few days after Thanksgiving, or at least by the end of November. Hmm, need to work on that on the long weekend, I guess.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Thirty Days of Thanks

Here it is, November 1st already. Hard to believe, right?
November is the season of falling leaves, cold breezes, snow flurries and Thanksgiving. Not a whole lot to celebrate in those first three, but quite a bit, when you think about it, in the last.

For November, I'm going to try (heaven knows I most likely won't succeed) to post a daily "thanks". Some may be profound, some, like today, much less profound, but something to be grateful for nonetheless.

Today, I'm thankful for getting up early enough to stream the early news on the computer before getting ready for the day. A terrible accident involving a semi blocked all northbound lanes of the freeway that I generally take to work. Knowing this, I took city streets in, unlike a coworker who hadn't heard the news, got stuck in the traffic jam and ended up bouncing up and over a low verge to get to an off ramp.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-7

Thank God for small mercies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Among the living

Me, that is. These long gaps are becoming a habit. I have things to say, but a good portion of them are opinions that are unpopular with the social justice, politically correct, climate-change-is-settled-science!, current liberal cause of the day crowd. I just don't feel like arguing.

Busy at work. Generally hate my job, which is a seasonal thing. Changes in administration, so people staking out their territory and sucking up. Good grief, the sucking up. I've no patience for that stuff.

Lots to do at home. The condo was painted, which was a nightmare (and still is). They came back and cleaned the drips off of the center of the big windows, and replaced the globe on the outside light fixture, but did not remove the inch-wide strip of paint on the glass where the trim painter got a bit enthusiastic, nor did they move the planters back to where they belong. Homeowners' Association meeting tomorrow night - the first one in six years that I can actually go to because it is after work, rather than during the day. They are going to get an earful about that, and several other things.

It was really, really warm last week (Thursday and Friday up to 80), which is unusual this time of year. Naturally, this week the temperature has been lower than average. Last night I finally caved and turned on the heat. They say we could see the first snow flurries of the year this afternoon. Frost advisory tonight, and my allergies could not be happier about that.

I'm....not really ok. There's a lot on my mind, from my own life, and due to unpleasant circumstances in the lives of people I care about. I've been struggling physically since I caught that cold in September, which was exacerbated by the side effects of the drug my doctor gave me to fight the cold. I can either get more sleep or eat well/cook at home, and sleep has won. So I'm eating like crap, which makes some other things go wonky.

On the plus side, I just had my semi-annual dental appointment, and my teeth are still absolutely perfect and healthy. Yay for one thing that isn't falling apart.

A houseful of people is coming for dinner on the 4th. After that, I'm planning to start a Whole30, in an attempt to reset myself and improve my blood sugar. I've done some research, and so far, the only thing that may be an issue for me (more mentally than anything else), is no cheese. No dairy, actually. I'm already mourning its loss.

The key to success is preparation, which I can't really start until the day after the dinner party. I may end up starting the program Wednesday rather than Monday. The goal here is to be done before the Christmas holiday. I'm not worried about Thanksgiving: turkey is Whole30 compliant. Baked sweet potato with clarified butter, green beans with the same and some slivered almonds and I'm good to go.

That's about it for the lots of nothing here.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Simple Woman's Daybook

Playing along...

For Today

Looking out my window - Blue skies and sunshine, but I already see a few shriveled brown leaves on the patio.

I am thinking - That as much as I would love a nap in front of the fireplace, I've too much to do today.

I am thankful - for the return of autumn, warm days, chilly nights, thick soups and stews, the return of routines.

One of my favorite things - Right now, the Instant Pot (see the previous answer re: soups and stews).

I am creating - A wedding quilt for family. With luck, it will be done before the wedding.

I am wearing - Yoga pants and a very old patriotic t-shirt. No socks or shoes.

I am reading - Jan Karon's latest Mitford book, To Be Where You Are. Just sweetness.

I am hoping - That this cold goes away for good. Two weeks of a persistent cough. a five-day course of prednisone, and it is still hanging on.

I am learning - The ins and outs of pressure cooking (see above favorite thing). So far, no explosions.

In my kitchen - Dutch baby pancake for breakfast, filled with apples sauteed with brown sugar in maple syrup and butter. Darn tasty. Rolls are currently rising in the cast iron pan (see the Pioneer Woman's Rosemary Rolls - yummy, easy, and a very cute presentation). Later today, chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms in the Instant Pot. That's dinner for most of the week.

That's about it. Sunday tends to be a big cooking day - I like to get as much of my lunches for the week packed (parcel out pretzels, pack the nuts/cheese/raisin snacks, make sure I've granola made for the yogurt) as well as at least a few dinners for the week prepared. I find if all I have to do is reheat and microwave a veggie, I am much more likely to eat at home than pick something up on the way. Like to make sure the house is reasonably clean as well, to avoid having to do much cleaning through the week.

And now - it looks like I do have time for a short nap.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fan the flames

I am, at best, a casual football fan. Living in Wisconsin, it's inevitable that one is drawn into the Packer frenzy, to some extent. Grocery stores are packed to the gills until twenty minutes before kickoff. The best time to do Christmas shopping is during a game - though good luck on finding a clerk to check you out. There are plenty of choices in new casual wear in the stores, provided you don't mind wearing green and gold, generally with a player number (well, some years there is the red and white for the Badgers, but that's not nearly as enduring as the green and gold). Even baked goods bleed the team colors.

Even a casual fan can't escape the furor over the various "protest" that overpaid, overgrown athletes are staging during the national anthem prior to their events. But like so many "protests", they've not thought through the ramifications.

The attention is no longer on the actual issue for which they are protesting, but on the protests themselves.

Even the athletes themselves seem to have lost the focus of what they are protesting, as this bit of a ramble from Packer's quarterback Aaron Rodgers points out:

“This is about equality,” Rodgers said. “This is about unity and love and growing together as a society, and starting a conversation around something that may be a little bit uncomfortable for people. But we’ve got to come together and talk about these things and grow as a community, as a connected group of individuals in our society, and we’re going to continue to show love and unity.

“And this week we’re going to ask the fans to join in as well and come together and show people that we can be connected and we can grow together.”

Well, no: the original reason Colin Kapernick took a knee was to protest perceived police violence targeted at black men. Note that Rodgers never mentions the central issue by name - racism - but goes on about "unity". The core of the protest is about anything but unity.

Bah. It's to the point where the only way to watch any part of a game is to watch it with the sound off, and to stay away from all media between games.

The better plan? Spend those three and a half hours reading a good book.

Friday, September 15, 2017

This and that 091517

Wow - not even a full week, and I'm posting again. Nothing of great value, but at least words into pixels.

I was on vacation the week of Labor Day, and naturally, got sick. Stuffy/nose-runny, then a dry, occasional cough began Thursday. Yeah, it's not so "occasional" anymore, and not so dry, but it's not keeping me up at night. More annoying than anything. I had a nasal spray the doctor had given me last winter to dry out my poor, plugged sinuses, and that has done a great job unstuffing them and keeping them from regressing, so breathing is fine.

That whole ability to sleep eleven hours a night - and take a short nap during the day - certainly helped as well.

All that to say I'm feeling a bit better.

While I was off, they came to paint the outside of the condo. Let's just say they did not do a stellar job. They did not replace the globe over the outside light (I can't reach it without a ladder) and did not put the giant planters back where they belong (they only had to move them six inches to paint; instead, it took two guys to move each of them to the center of the patio - yeah, like I'm going to be able to move them back). Oh - and the guy doing trim work overpainted onto the window glass, (again, the highest windows on the place) and that has not been cleaned up. I sent a complaint to the management company a week ago, which they are doing a great job of ignoring.

Oh yeah - they also raised the condo fees for the next quarter, with less than three weeks' notice.

That, at least, is a good development. They were decreased in April, mostly because a bully on the HOA board wanted to sell his unit. But more than three weeks notice would have been appreciated.

While on vacation I began reorganizing the studio. Rather, reorganizing the projects. All of the various tools and patterns, books and fabric stash have homes, but although I know what my started projects/kits/fabric pulled for quilts bins generally contain, I'm no longer sure which of the three bins they reside in, nor what, if any supplies are still needed for completion. That this is an issue was highlighted when I went through the basket of fabric waiting to be used/put away, to discover I'd bought backing for a particular quilt twice. Gah.

I'd planned to take in the 830 for servicing, well, annual cleaning (it's running just fine) and software update, but I'm glad I didn't. My cousin's daughter is getting married in a month, and I'm going to hem a couple of bridesmaid's dresses and the mother of the bride's dress. The 830 has a handy dandy rolled hem foot that makes doing that narrow little hem a breeze.

We finally have a new area vice president at work. The good news is that he has an accounting degree (from our institution, no less); the bad news is that he has absolutely no experience in higher education. Going to be a steep learning curve for him. His first day is Monday; he's scheduled to come and say hi to us that afternoon.

Summer has returned, with temperatures in/around the low eighties for the next week. This, after more than a week of highs in the high sixties. Argh. Once the urns are moved and the light cover put on, I'd like to pack up the patio for the winter. Didn't expect to want to use it this week.

Like I said, not much for content today. There are a lot of things on my heart I can't talk about - friends struggles with health, other things going on - that are an ongoing heaviness. All you can do most of the time is just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Winnie the Pooh

As I mentioned a while back, because my direct report was "too busy" to organize an easy-peasy work baby shower for her assistant, I ended up doing it. Naturally, because of all that, I didn't quite get the last stitches in the binding of the baby quilt started back in April. And it's not even that big.

I fear the picture of the extremely adorable quilt label is on my phone (I really, really hope so) - the pictures below were taken with my actual camera (novel thought, I know) on the floor at work before I put the quilt in the gift bag. Nothing like waiting until the last moment to take pictures. I used both the camera and the phone, covering my bases as the camera on the phone is actually a better one than the Canon, which is at least seven years old, most likely more. You know how quickly things change in the digital world.

The Winnie the Pooh fabric squares were an impulse buy back in January when a pack of 40, five-inch squares were the daily deal at a favorite online quilt store. Silly me, I should have bought two sets, as when they are part of the daily deal, it usually means the retailer is running out of the fabric and it will soon be gone forever.

Which is what I found in April when I went to get some yardage to make things big enough for an actual quilt. The honeycomb fabric on the ends, which I don't particularly like, was the only fabric left from the entire line. Well, since this was all impulse anyway, I rolled with it.

Full quilt
There were forty-two of the Winnie the Pooh fabric squares in the original charm pack; I used every one of them. To make the quilt wider, the six character squares in each row are separated by 2" stripes of a medium gray, which is one color that is in most of the character pieces. In between each row, to give a bit of length, there is a pretty yellow two-inch wide strip. The six-inch strips of honeycomb fabric at the ends got the size where I needed it to be. If memory serves, the quilt ended up around 40 x 56.

The quilting is where the fun started.

I stitched "in the ditch" along the seam lines to stabilize the quilt. Then...it just sat there for over a month, while I thought about it. It's been a while since I've done much machine quilting. In addtion, the batting used is wool, which is not only nice and warm, but very fluffy. What to do?

With time rapidly winding down, I decided to do flowers. After all, the Hundred Acre Wood must have some pretty flora, right? Not to mention that the baby is a girl.

In each of the character squares, there is a swirly-centered daisy. The gray rectangles got a messy rose, or peony, depending on your viewpoint. The long strips simply got a run of leaves, which is also the filler used in the end panels.

All of the quilting is done with a variegated Aurifil 40 weight thread on the top, a solid Aurifil 50 weight on the bottom. The top thread moves from a medium yellow through a very pale lemon and back. The solid thread was a medium yellow. I love the heavier weight for adding a bit of depth to the flowers. Aurifil is an Italian thread, pretty much the Ferrari to everyone else's Ford. I use their color #2600-Dove for piecing, as the light gray seems to blend in with more fabric colors than an ecru or beige.

Assuming I do have one, I'll update with a picture of the label. It was worth setting up the embroidery machine for twenty minutes of stitching, I'll say that much, as well as being in keeping with the theme.