Thursday, February 16, 2017

I know what I'm doing this weekend

At long last, I've set up an appointment for the local second hand furniture place to come and look at (and hopefully buy) my old bedroom set.

It's a bit bittersweet, as either my mom or I have had various pieces of this set for, well, pretty much my entire lifetime. She sold off what she had when she downsized a decade or longer ago. I finally bought a "big girl bed" almost two years ago.

It took a while to figure out alternative clothes and sundry storage space (including the realization that a good, thorough decluttering would make those decisions easier). Then there was the matter of finding a place that might want the furniture.

Found a local place that is interested. They will come and look at it Wednesday night. If they want it (and I highly doubt they will not), they will write me a check on the spot and take it away.

Between now and then, I need to finish emptying the dresser and chest. Quite honestly, I've not even looked at the clothes in the bottom two drawers of both pieces in at least a year - making it easy to put it all in the donation box. Then everything will get a gentle wipe down and a decent polishing.

Once the extra furniture is out of the way, I can finish up rearranging the bedroom and loft.

Progress.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The usual Friday brain dump...

I really do want to pay less attention to politics, but it's like watching a circus where someone let out all the monkeys: screeching chaos and poo flying everywhere, sliding off the combatants but clinging to the onlookers. It's hard to look away.

David French has a great piece at the National Review on the latest installment of the immigration halt. One portion of that decision holds that the state universities could potentially suffer harm as a result of students, professors and researchers from the affected countries not being allowed in to pursue their studies/goals/research.

H1-B visa holders are only supposed to be hired if there is no American available with the required specialized skill set. Hmpf. I can tell you that hiring foreign professors and researchers is more about the perceived "prestige", "diversity", "collegiality" and "globalization" of the university than about a shortage of American talent.

As for the students...I've personally processed the work-related paperwork for a fair number of students from Iran who are here to study...civil engineering. Am I the only person whose brain explodes a little bit at that thought? They all seemed like nice guys (yes, guys - all male), but you do wonder.

In other news, my quilt guild's workshop day is tomorrow. I'm the teacher for this one.

The pattern is called "Summer in the Park" by Missouri Star Quilts.

My own quilt top looks quite a bit different. Instead of white, I used several different shades of ecru. My prints are not the bright batiks shown here, but the leftovers from a baby quilt I made this summer, mostly muted rose, grey, green and blue. Not at all my colors, which is why I wanted to use the leftovers all up in one scrap style quilt.

The construction is very simple and quick, thanks to a cutting technique that lets you cut the entire block at once from sewn strips. I'm hoping to send participants home with a partially completed quilt top rather than something destined to become another UFO.

Speaking of which, the dual February challenges of quilting twenty minutes a day and working on a UFO are coming along nicely. I'm currently piecing a twin sized quilt called Galaxy that I cut out a couple of years ago. I take no credit for fabric choices; this is a kit. When finished, I plan to hang it on the wall in my bedroom. Unless I change the d├ęcor in the bedroom in the two years it will take to get this finally and completely done, that is.

To avoid confusion, I'm making one block at a time. The piecing method involves sew-and-flip, and if you go in the wrong direction, everything is wrong. There isn't enough extra fabric in a kit to make up for that kind of mistake.

I'm halfway done with piecing the blocks, which is the fun part. There is a narrow sashing with cornerstones between each block which creates the secondary pattern. That portion of construction will be a royal pain.

Otherwise, not much is new. Trying to keep my head both above water and out of the firing line at work. Lots of changes going on. Lots of furor in the homeowner's association as well, which will culminate at the annual meeting the end of April. I've checked the by-laws: I can very easily call for a vote for removal of the current board. En masse would be easiest and quickest, but it can go individually if need be. Unfortunately, the people who would replace them are just as crazy.

Whatever you do this weekend, have fun!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Challenging

I know, it's not Friday. But as usual, I've little to say, and am determined to say it.

The "UFO" (unfinished fabric object) challenge I'm doing this year has us number a dozen of our UFOs, one through twelve. Each month, the organizers draw a number on the first, so we can work on that UFO for that month. By the end of the year, you will have finished (or at least made progress on) all twelve.

The first number was actually drawn December 26th rather than January 1st. Naturally, some smarty-pants, attention-craving lunatics were posting on December 27th that their January UFO (#6, if you care) was done! Done! Done!

Things were pretty calm until around a week ago, with people posting pictures of their progress or finishes. A number of those aforementioned smarty-pants, though, along with some others who had finished their #6 projects, started lobbying pretty hard on the facebook page for the next number to be drawn early.

The challenge is global; naturally, someone posted this morning that it is indeed February 1st in New Zealand, where they are anxiously awaiting the next number.

Good grief, people.

It's not a contest.

Participation is voluntary.

No one is checking to see if you are "working ahead", or just lazing in the recliner eating bon-bons and sipping red wine, waiting for the next number to be drawn.

Me? I finished the weekend of the 7th. It's not a completed quilt, but a quilt top that is the sample for the Super Saturday I'm teaching for my quilt guild on February 11th. I'd hoped to get it layered and quilted, but knew I probably wouldn't get to it, as January tends to be a bit busy at work (evenings after work in January I do laze around in the recliner, eating bon-bons (or pizza) with a glass of wine).

Ay.

I have a question for those who finished so very early in the month - if it took so little time to finish up these projects, why didn't you do them sooner?

And before you ask - yes, someone on the page already asked if the number was going up at 12:01 a.m.tonight.

Sheesh.

This is supposed to be fun? LOL.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Oh weekend, I hate to see you go

Don't we all feel a bit like this, no matter what part of the week in which we take our "weekend"?

Friday after work I went out to a friend's house for dinner. We each do a birthday dinner for the other, sometime in the approximate neighborhoods of our birthdays, which are very conveniently about six months apart. She cooked for me this time, and boy, did she ever...

Beef tenderloin. Sauteed shrimp. Carrots. Sweet potato fries. Death by Chocolate cake for dessert. No wonder I slept two hours later than usual the next morning - it was really an extended food coma.

Puttered on Saturday, reorganizing a bit of the studio, reading a bit, not doing too much of anything too strenuous. Though I did put a cover on the electrical outlet behind the studio door. That door is never closed when I'm in the studio (truth to tell, it's only closed when I have company and don't want them seeing the creative mess), so I don't remember there is an outlet back there. Back when I had the condo painted, I bought nice new covers for all the outlets, but kept forgetting to put that one on.

I had the screwdriver in my hand because I switched out the light switch cover in that room. I have a "thing" for pretty switch covers. This particular one was Monet's "Waterlilies", or at least a small portion of it, done on a standard size cover. The new cover is a bit bigger...

It really is rather large, at 9 inches long. But it looks great and fits with the theme of the room.

Today was spent lolling about a bit, then in the kitchen. Not one, but two new recipes. A small bit of arborio rice has been languishing in the cabinet for months. I need the space, but as much as I adore risotto, I hate standing there adding liquid, stirring, repeat, repeat and on and on for half an hour or more. America's Test Kitchen's Casserole cookbook has a recipe for a baked risotto that sounded a bit less labor intensive. I see the book isn't directly available on Amazon anymore, no wonder, since it's more than ten years old.

Putting everything together was easy. The end result? Not as creamy as traditional risotto, even though I know the liquid I added may have been a bit on the higher side. The rice still had a tiny bit of bite to it. Eh, next time, a little more liquid and a little more baking time.

The second recipe was the ultimate broccoli with cheese sauce. Rather than just pouring the sauce over the veggie and calling it good, this recipe has you put it in a casserole dish, top it with the Best Breadcrumb Topping Ever, and bake it. (BBTE consists of a couple of slices of squishy white bread, torn and put in a food processor along with a tablespoon or two of melted butter. Plus until coarse crumbs form. They brown beautifully and provide a delightful crunch). While I had the two bunches of broccoli the recipe called for, my bunches must have been small. I ended up with a rather high cheese sauce to broccoli ratio. No complaints, though.

This particular cheese sauce (made from scratch) is pretty much the same one you use for macaroni and cheese (complete with a BBTE topping there, too), so the skill is worth mastering.

Needless to say, after pairing servings of each of those with some cod for lunch (pfft - I microwaved the cod with lemon pepper - I'd been fussing over the others for over an hour and I was hungry, darn it), I spent the early part of the afternoon dozing in front of the fire in another food coma.

There are worse ways to go.

The leftovers on the side dishes will give me a headstart on dinner for the next three nights. Porkchops, salmon and more cod all thaw fairly quickly in cold water, so I don't need to make a decision on a protein until I get home from work (translation: forgetting to take something out to thaw isn't a big deal).

It looks like being full of good food has made me chatty. Eh, it's time to decide what, if anything, I want for dinner, and what, if anything, I'm going to pack tonight for tomorrow's lunch. It's not that I won't take a lunch, it's more that I simply don't have the energy to fuss with it tonight. There are things I can pull together in a hurry tomorrow morning that will still end up as a decent lunch.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In fighting

For the most part, I love owning my own home. If something breaks, yes, the repair is my financial responsibility, but I get to chose the vendor, the extent of the repair and the timing of the work.

Our building is well insulated enough that I rarely hear my neighbors. The development is older, with mature landscaping. My building is deep enough into the complex that virtually no road noise penetrates.

It's pretty much perfect - if you could get rid of this whole "community" thing.

Lordy.

Three years ago, the homeowner's association's quarterly assessment went up by a whopping 19%, after years of no or very small increases. That set off a firestorm among the 88 units. Early last summer, yet another storm centered around the HOA board (five people elected by the rest of us) deciding to cut the handyman's hours.

Yesterday, I came home to notice of yet another tsunami, this one internal to the HOA board, but impacting all of us.

It appears three of the board members decided to ditch our current management company and hire a new one, not notifying the other two board members until the new, hand-picked firm came to do a presentation at a "secret" board meeting called with less than the three days' required notice.

None of this, by the way, made known to the community at large.

One of the board members involved in the coup, in fact, specifically conspired to keep this secret until the board had voted to accept the new firm.

I looked up the new firm, along with reviews of their service from various places. It doesn't look good. I'm not aware of any dissatisfaction with the current management (well, the management firm, versus the "management" provided by the HOA board).

It's worth noting all the members of the HOA board are retired. I swear, they have nothing better to do than stir up trouble. Participation by anyone still in the workforce is pretty much impossible, as all of the board meetings are held during the day.

Getting over 100 people or so to agree on anything is akin to herding cats, but the more transparency there is in communication and decision making processes, the easier it will ultimately be. I have enough to do coping with the politics at work - I certainly don't need this garbage at home.

My next home is going to be out in the country, on a big plot of land. I'll make sure the house is in the center of that plot, as far away from anyone else as it can possibly be.

Everyone better stay off my lawn.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A certain Friday in January

Depending on who you listen to, either we are entering a period that will "make America great again", or in which the world will end. Me? I think there is a middle ground.

Will watch the actual swearing in on live stream, as it takes place around the time I generally start my lunch. It's truly remarkable in that we have this (mostly) peaceful, (mostly, though in this particular case I doubt it) willing transfer of power over the most powerful country on the planet.

Since my invitations to all the balls got lost in the mail, I'm spending the weekend puttering around home. It's going to be unseasonably warm (possibly low fifties on Saturday) but rainy. Perfect sewing weather.

In addition to the UFO challenge I've taken on for this year, in February I'm participating, for the second year, in Drop and Give Me Twenty, a commitment to sew/quilt/craft for twenty minutes per day for the entire month. I have a wallhanging to quilt for a friend that is dreadfully, unacceptably late in getting done (about which she has been exceedingly gracious). It's layered and ready to quilt, I have all sorts of gorgeous variegated threads to use...and it will be my DAGMT project. Even if I quilt more than twenty minutes on a weekend, the first twenty will be that project.

Rainy days are perfect for trying out new recipes. I found an America's Test Kitchen recipe for baked broccoli with cheese sauce, and another for baked risotto, that sound wonderful. Heck, anything that includes cheese sauce or handfuls of fresh Parmesan cheese sounds wonderful. Picking up groceries tonight, so I can try these tomorrow.

A bunch of cleaning needs to be done. You'd think the place would stay cleaner with just me around, but no, it still gets both messy and dusty. It's also time to clean the vacuums (you do know they need to be cleaned periodically, right?) again. There are places to take apart and wipe out, and a couple of filters to remove and wash. And the rollers to de-hair. Ye gods, the hair. There may be more hair wrapped around the rollers than currently on my head. Seriously.

That's my excitement for the next couple days - how about you?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Because sometimes...

Too tired to "arrange" them last night; they
still look wonderful just plopped in a vase.
...a girl just has to have roses.

White supermarket roses - I never pay more than a dollar a stem, oftentimes less. They smell wonderful, though given the size of my living room and the incredibly high ceilings, you have to get up close and personal with the flowers before you are aware of the scent.

These are from my local high end grocer; on the rare occasion I'm at Aldi when they have roses in stock, I find those are even nicer.

No matter if they last a few days or a week, it's great to have a floral pick-me-up when the skies are grey and the winter winds blow.