30 July, 2011

Pictures!

This is a terrible picture, I think I was too close, but you can -sort of- see how we learned to "cage" a cabochon. You make little stacks of beads all around the cabochon, and then create a cage that helps hold the stone on the fabric.


 A postcard I am donating to BHQG. It's a scrappy background, mostly blue with green and orange. Then I added beading and metallic fabric paint.



I bought the fat quarter at Seminole Sampler and am practicing my beading skills by highlighting the birds. It's fun! This is a detail. The next picture shows the big picture.



Beading birds.



One of the quilts I got back from Cloth and Quilts on Thursday. Thomas expressed admiration for the pattern, so he gets this one. He has been wanting a long lap quilt that will completely cover him.




My Fat Baby! Jake, eating in our kitchen. Please note how his legs are sliding out from under him. He gets his face in the bowl and never stops eating, even if all four legs shoot off in different directions.



A view from above. Jake eats like every meal is his first, and maybe his last, he eats with gusto and determination. He's getting so old, and his legs just go every which a way. 



Besties! Sarah and Deana at the end of a long, warm evening full of stories and laughter. I love you guys!

29 July, 2011

Tired of Tired

Got a letter from the radiography center and my boobs are looking okay for now. Then the doctor called with my results from my blood test. She opened with, "Well, you are in menopause." WHOA, Doctor B., you have a fine grip on the obvious. I knew that before I gave all that blood. And then, she did tell me something I didn't know. I have low thyroid. I'm going to see somebody about that, but she already started me on some kind of medicine.

I've been taking the medicine for just four days, and so far I haven't felt a surge of energy and wellness, but I'm going to give it some time. After months and months and years of always feeling half a tank low, any little bit of extra energy would be so welcome.

28 July, 2011

Goons and Quilts

After an absolutely foul day at work I came home all stompy and just as pissy as could be. A long walk with Ginger Bell helped work out some of my aggro, it's hard to remain angry about stupid work stuff when you are dying! Of hot! And don't forget an Xtra large helping of Sweaty!

And guess what I had waiting for me in a large box on the front steps? THREE quilts back from the long-arm quilter. I was so excited, they all three look good. As soon as I find some batteries for the digital camera, I will post pictures. The one for my Mom came out nice. It is large blocks of Moda Marbles with with a red backing. I find it interesting to make quilts with fabrics other people choose. The fabrics Mom chose are not what I would have ever picked for her, but she liked them. The same with the quilt I made my sister years agi was the same thing. She chose beautiful fabrics with a strong tomato red theme; never in a million years would I have thought she'd like them. When that quilt was finished it was very nice.

Quilt for my Sister and Brother-in-law
Then, when I started re-fretting about the situation at work, I slapped myself out of The Snits by putting my whole situation in perspective, something I often lack. I have a habit of working myself up into righteous indignation over things that, when you look at them clearly, just don't matter!

It's just a job. If I quit this one (or get fired) I can get another. I have dear friends who are facing real troubles, and the fact that I'm not married to my job just isn't in it.

I've got Radio 4 Extra on and am listening to the Goon Show. I don't get all the jokes, but it's hilarious anyway. My favorite is the little man who talks to "Min" all the time.

25 July, 2011

Weekend Recap

This weekend was outstanding!

Friday night we watched Part 1 of HP and the Neverending Camping Trip. Saturday we went to the movies and saw HP and the Final Battle. Good job, again.

I always have mixed feelings about movies based on books. Some of them are good, some are painfully terrible, and the majority are neither, they are just disappointing compared to the experience of reading the book. For example, the Lord of the Rings movies were pretty and shiny and star-studded. For me though, the whole series was a large letdown. They got the mood wrong in several places, added in made up romantic details that made me squirm in embarrassment, and left out the actual romance that was right there in the books.

 At the theater we saw a poster for a new Conan movie. What the helicopter? It would be hard to convince me that the Adulterator needed to make his versions thirty years ago. Now they are making them again? Ugh.

Saturday night we went to a crab boil at our friends' house. Shrimp, corn, and lots and lots of crabs. Everything was delicious, and the conversation was top-notch. David, a friend of our friends, was there, and good grief, that guy is a card. He's one of the best storytellers I've ever met. His story of having an ultrasound of the testicular region made me laugh so hard that I couldn't catch my breath. I started wheezing, and thought that at least I would die laughing.

Yesterday was a lazy day. It's important to have the occasional profoundly lazy day. It was as hot as the hinges of hell, as my Texas cousin says, and all the get up and go was melted out of me. I did get some work done on Italian Tiles. I figure if I crank out five blocks a day I will be finished with the block in less than a month. Then I can figure out whether to sash it or not. That is the kind of dilemma I am faced with, sash or no sash? Huge decision, isn't it?

If anyone wants to do a sew-in, let me know!

21 July, 2011

Where's Johnny Paycheck when you need him?

Today I had a moment at work - one of those moments when I wished, with every fiber of my being, that I could punch someone in the nose and get away with it.

I didn't want to go all Chuck Norris on him and drive a piece of his nose into his brain, killing him with one surgically placed punch. No, I just wanted to see him cry like a baby for a moment. It was completely stupid too, it wasn't that what he said was so awful, it just came at a bad moment, and the way he smirked at me while he had his say made all my sensors go directly to Alert! Alert! Punch the douchebag!

I entertained myself on the way home coming up with the snappy comebacks I never deliver at the moment of aggravation. It's probably a good thing I never think of anything to say, because if I ever spoke from my authentic self (snort) I could just pass Go without collecting $200 and go directly to Take This Job and Shove It.

20 July, 2011

7th Month Checkup

Back in the frozen days of January, I posted that I would try to meet some goals this year.

It went like this:

Other goals for this year:

  • Finish at least 6 quilting projects
  • Take part in at least two ATC trades
  • Attend MAQ in July
  • Do at least one volunteer activity for CSAC each month
Well, so far I am prodding buttock on my goals!!!! I have indeed read at least one non-fiction book each month. Some I have enjoyed very much, while others I got through much as you eat a meal that is good for you, but not very tasty. Think green beans without any salt or seasoning.

I have finished four quilting projects:
  • batik quilt (mostly blue)
  • moda marbles quilt for Mom
  • Kim Jalette's Storm at Sea quilt
  • quilted postcard (so Sue can stop nagging me to finish it)

I took part in one ATC swap.

Most months I have done more than one volunteer activity for CSAC. I've gone to an adoption show, and done five or six home visits.

MAQ was last week, and a good time it was!

So, I feel pleased with my progress. I am of that temperament that always feels that I could have done more, thus guaranteeing that I will be slightly dissatisfied with myself, but I am trying to treat myself the way I would treat a friend. More pats on the back and encouragement, less harsh judgment and disappointment.

I hope that your year, so far, has been full of awesome, with 20% less suck. More fiber! Less stress. More slicing, dicing, and julienne fries, less three easy payments of $9.99 (plus shipping and handling)!!!!!

19 July, 2011

Ordinarily I don't let strangers feel me up, but there are exceptions to every rule


Things that I would rather do than get a mammogram:
Have a pedicure.
Take a nap.
Drink a beer.
Go to the dentist. I LOVE going to the dentist. Srsly.

Why I went and got a mammogram anyway:
Because I love myself and want to stay healthy.
Because if I am not healthy in regards to my own personal mammaries, I want to know!

Today I had my mammograms, and once that was over, just to keep the medical fun going I stopped off at my local Quest Diagnostic and had blood drawn for a hormone level test. If you have your boobies smashed very thin and a needle in your arm before 9am, it’s hopeful nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
The mammogram is somewhat surreal. There you are, naked from the waist up, in a room full of involved looking machinery - like part of the sick bay of the starship Enterprise. Then a nice little lady (and she was little, maybe 5 feet tall and as thin as a little bird) positions you in front of the Boobie-Scantron and starts manhandling your breasts, really pushing and pulling on them. And then the machine S-Q-U-E-E-Z-E-S. There’s no other word for it but strange. I hope the results are all good.

I’d like to remind all my friends to get their regular scans for breast cancer. Do the self exams and schedule your mammogram. It ain’t fun, but if it finds a cancer early, it’s so worth it.

18 July, 2011

Three days of the Quilter

Friday Alice and I got to Emmittsburg a little after 8am and had plenty of time to settle into the class rooms. I took a class called Italian Tiles and managed to complete about 18 blocks of  the 80 I will need for the quilt. I finished cutting all my fabric on Sunday, sitting in Susan Grancio's classroom. Susan was kind enough to let me use a table as she helped her students work on their landscape quilts.

Saturday I took the best class - beginning beading. It was so fun. We did little sampler squares of a bunch of beading techniques, we "caged" cabochons, and then did a Peyote stitch to lock in another cabochon. Our $10 class fee got us a bunch of beads. I am inspired to design a small 6" x 6" block to practice some of the techniques we learned.

It was such a good time. In the evenings I went up to the suite of some friends and we hung out and ate snacks and drank a little wine and talked and laughed. Toni said she wasn't sure where to find us and I said she should have drifted down the hall listening for the sound of women shrieking with laughter. Toni spent a lot of her free time holed up with the new book from George R. R. Martin.

On Saturday my Jo-Ann's machine carrier gave up the ghost. The handle broke completely off, leading me mutter profanities under my breath. The rest of the weekend moving my stuff anywhere was a pain.

I came home tired but happy. I look forward to this weekend all year long. Being around a bunch of people who like the same thing you like, who want to learn, and share tips and tricks, I learn a lot every year while having fun. And you can't beat that with a stick.

14 July, 2011

After the fruits of summer are gone...

Yesterday I used up the last of the fruit we got at Larriland Farm making a Blackberry-Blueberry Crumble. For those of you who want to use up fruit but don't make your own piecrust and have found yourself without a pillsbury crust in the freezer, Crumbles are the easiest! You can use any kind of fruit or mix of fruit: think peaches, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries...

You just mix your fruit (about four-five cups) with 3-4 tablespoons of white sugar.  Dump that in a 9" x 13" casserole dish.

Mix together with a pastry cutter or two knives or your fingers:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
 Dump this crumble mix over the fruit and spread it out. Don't pack it down too much, this thing is called a "crumble."

Bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes until berry/fruit mixture is bubbly and crumble is golden brown and crumbly.

Enjoy with vanilla ice cream.

Summer Camp

Today feels like Friday. The reason I have that happy-end-of-week feeling is that early tomorrow I will be driving up to Emmitsburg, MD to join my fellow quilters for three days of grown-up sleepover camp.

All over Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (and even farther parts) women are packing their khaki pants, flowered blouses, and sensible shoes. They are packing pounds of 100% cotton fabric, sewing machines, rotary cutters, rulers, and cutting mats into their handy-dandy rolling carriers.

Quilters are checking their class lists one last time to make sure that they have all the fabric, thread, and notions they need. Then they are throwing in a few extra items, just in case. Quilters don't like to run the risk of running out of something and having to miss class time going to get more.

Bags of chips, hundreds of cans of Diet Coke, and quite a bit of wine are ready to head to MAQ. At Summer Camp for Grown Up Ladies, people like to have something to snack on in the evenings.

Next Monday it will be back to work, routine dog care, and the real world. For the next three days I'll sleep in the dorm, eat at the dining hall, learn some new skills, and enjoy hanging out with my people, the People Who Quilt.

11 July, 2011

Fresh food

I am on a roll, a food roll. Not a bread roll, but a raspberry roll. We picked over 5 lbs. of raspberriess and then I made:

a peach-raspberry crumble
a blueberry-raspberry pie
four beautiful pints of raspberry jam.

Went over to Toni's yesterday and we...jammed? We be jammin? Anyway, after about an hour of gentle cooking and stirring and stirring and cooking, we had jam. So pretty. Smelled so good. We tasted, and both agreed that I probably used too much sugar, but I don't care. I am Jam-Master Amanda.  Making a real food item out of ingredients you picked yourself is very satisfying.

I planted seeds in my raised bed yesterday too. I am getting a ridiculously late start and may not get much bounty from the garden this year, but we have three more months of hot/warm weather. I'll get something to eat out of it, I'm sure. I planted radishes, onions, squash, beets, and corn salad (mache).

09 July, 2011

So much for Saturday as a day of rest

The first thing I would like to say is that we should all be grateful to the people around the world who work hard to plant and harvest the food we eat. Considering how hard they work, they ought to be paid more.  Also! Be grateful for how cheap food is in this country. We are so blessed!

All this is by way of saying that Thomas and I picked raspberries today for about 90 minutes. We were hot and sweaty, our backs ached, but we felt very proud of ourselves. Then I tried to extrapolate how exhausting it would be to pick raspberries for 12 hours a day, or harvest lettuce, or carrots, or all the other yummy vegetables we get to eat all year long. Thank you farmers and farm workers.

Then we came home to find that Jake had been very ill in our absence. Poor, poor baby. Monday I want them to see him, to give him an x-ray or something. I am worried that he may have cancer. He's losing weight while eating ravenously, like he can never get enough food. Then he gets tummy trouble. It's worrying.

We spent the rest of this afternoon building a raised bed. We bought the kit online and assembled it ourselves, and it looks good. It is 3 feet x 6 feet x 16 inches. As soon as we get the top edging boards on I will post a picture. I also want to post how proud I am to have such a hard working husband. He leveled an area for the bed, built a brick footing for it, lined it with mesh so evil little rodents can't tunnel in, and shoveled  a metric assload of soil to fill it. I helped a little, but he did the yeoman's share. Thomas, I salute you.

We came home from Larriland Farms with 5 lbs. of raspberries, a pint of blueberries, a pint of  blackberries, a basket of peaches, two kinds of squash, and a quart of cherries. The cherries have already been eaten. Tonight I am making peach/blackberry pie, raspberry pie, and some raspberry jam. I got the recipe for the jam from that book I read, A Feast Nearby.

Now, I must go. Poor Fat Baby looks like he's thinking about peeing on the floor.

As soon as T get

08 July, 2011

Reading about food in lieu of actual cooking

This week I read two fascinating books about food and cooking.

The first was The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather. Shortly after her marriage broke up, and she was fired from her job as a food writer, she moved to a tiny house in rural Michigan, her home state. She was supporting herself with freelance writing jobs, so her food budget was about $40 per week. Instead of feeling restricted by that, she took it as a challenge to eat delicious food sourced locally. Mather's definition of local food is interesting. She seeks out local farmers, butchers, and dairies. She picks berries in the woods and trades homemade jam and handknits for the bounty of her neighbor's garden. When food can't be gotten locally because it doesn't grow locally (think coffee and spices), she at least tries to buy food that's grown sustainably by individual farmers. She cans, dries, and freezes foods, as well as putting things up in a makeshift root cellar (the basement).

This book is studded with some recipes I want to try. She's inspired me to try canning. I'd like to try it without spending too much money up front, in case I hate doing it and don't ever want to do it again. I'm going to ask around to see if anyone I know does home canning and would be willing to give me a lesson if I buy and bring my own jars and fruit.




Next I dived into Beaten, Seared and Sauced by Jonathan Dixon. I really identified with Jonathan, he surfs through much of his 20s in the grip of depression and anxiety, doing a bunch of different jobs. He works for Martha! Stewart Living for a while, teaches, writes, but nothing really clicks. He loves writing, but it's not enough, and he's not making enough money to really cover the bills. He teaches, but it's unrewarding. He does like to cook. He likes to read recipes and books about cooks and cookery. What starts with a chance comment that he ought to think about cooking school ends up with an acceptance to the Culinary Institute of America, the CIA, in upstate New York.

Cooking school is tough! There is a lot of screaming and yelling (the teachers) and bitching and crying (the students). As a mature student Dixon had (perhaps) a better grip on himself in class than some of his young classmates, but still found the pressure caused him tons of self-doubt, exhaustion, and anxiety. His description of his externship, where he works in a NYC kitchen for 18 weeks is hellish, it made me anxious!

What he learns about food, cooking, and the way he will fit into the culinary world is a very good read.  Check it out!