Thursday, December 27, 2012

Going around the world

So far we have had about 14" of snow in the last 24 hours, and it's still snowing.  I don't know if I'll be able to get down to the Historical Society tomorrow to volunteer. 

I spent the morning today cutting fat quarters out of the fabric I got for the "Around the World" swap with an online group.  This is modeled after the swap in Jennifer Chiaverini's book Cross Country Quilters.  Each person sends a fat quarter to the others who make blocks representing themselves and send them back.  We have quite a bit of time to do this, but the weather was perfect for cutting the FQs, addressing envelopes, writing notes and including a return mailing label. I will get the international ones (to Canada, the UK, and Australia) to the post office as soon as I fill out the customs forms and the roads clear.

When I get the FQs from the other 19 (so far) people in the swap, I'll be making Dutch[wo]man's Puzzle blocks.  I should be pretty good at making flying geese by the end of the swap!

We did go for a walk in the snow this afternoon, and the snow in the street (which had been plowed once) was up to Max's belly.  He hopped all the way but loved being in the snow.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best Books for 2012

I didn't read much that was "literature" last year, but I did enjoy what I read immensely.  When I encountered something I didn't like, I set it aside, which I did with a couple of books our book group tackled (e.g., Tall Trees, Tough Men).  I resolved to read more classics, so I spent all of September reading The Grapes of Wrath.  It was great, but loooong.  Here are my favorites, in no particular order:
  • Following Atticus - author Tom Ryan hikes all the peaks 4,000 feet and up with his incredibly sweet and smart miniature Schnauzer.  Very engaging, and the dog doesn't die at the end!
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice - the first book in an involving series by Laurie R. King that features Sherlock Holmes and his "wife," Mary Russell.  I enjoy the World War I setting, and Mary is quite a strong character.  She's 15 in this book which describes how they met and began to work together.  I encountered the series toward the end of the run, but every one is as good as the last, no matter what order I read them in.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Amazingly, scenes from the whole trilogy come back to me now and then, particularly when thinking about the 99% and their chances for improving their lot.  The movie was very true to the book, and I'm looking forward to the next two films.
  • Breakdown - this latest V. I. Warshawski mystery by Sara Paretsky is thought-provoking as always.
  • True Sisters by Sandra Dallas, one of my favorite authors.  This tells the story of a group of Mormons who travelled west with handcarts.  I never knew any of the people on the Westward journey had taken such an arduous way, and this group started out far too late in the season.
  • The Sandcastle Girls - Chris Bohjalian's latest novel deals with the Armenian diaspora, with all its pain and sorrow.  I loved it, though.
  • Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenheiser - a true account of a year in the life of two Upstate New York society girls who sign up to be teachers in the early 1900's in frontier Colorado.  They rode horses to school in all weather, brought people together from far and wide for community events, and really changed lives, including their own.  I just happened to pick this up in an airport and am really glad I did.
  • The Beautiful Mystery -  Louise Penny's latest Inspector Gamache mystery is amazing for its suspense and a twist on the limited number people in an isolated place plot.  It's literate and thoughtful, my favorite of the year.
I'm looking forward to 2013 for new books by Sue Grafton, Jennifer Chiaverini, Louise Penny, Jacqueline Winspear, and more.  There's a new biography of Georgette Heyer, my all-time favorite author, coming out in January.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas, 2012

I got up at 5 am today which give me a chance to fill stockings since I don't trust the dog overnight.  It would't be good if he decided to take a nibble of chocolate or some other goodie.  Santa was definitely good to us.

It was fine outside when we got up but by 8 am it was snowing like crazy.  This is the view from our back porch:

Strangely enough, the sun came out at about 11 am, and it was a gorgeous day!  Chris came over after braving the storm, we opened gifts, and then we had brunch - sausages, scrambled eggs, English muffins.  The guys had already dipped into the sticky buns and Chex mix while opening gifts, so after that we were all content.

Chris went home to take a nap, and, after walking Max, we just sat around the read for most of the day.  It was good to talk with family on the phone in between.  A nice quiet Christmas!  Hope yours was, too!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours, best wishes for a wonderful holiday.  We are planning a simple celebration with a close friend tonight and my son tomorrow.  In between I'll be pin basting and then beginning to quilt the last quilt of the year on my trusty Viking Rose.  We're bound to have a White Christmas as almost always in Vermont.  The ski areas had about a foot of snow in the last few days while we only had a little bit.  Great for the economy and the roads!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"A true Vermont day..."

     ...That's what the news blog called yesterday's weather.  When we woke up, it was lightly drizzling freezing rain, but soon it turned to pelting snow.  The kids all got snow-covered waiting for the school bus.  I looked at the thermometer and it was hovering around the freezing point.  The roads were slushy at first, so I decided to sew for a while before going to the grocery store.  By around 10:30 am, I couldn't stand it anymore and headed out.  The roads were a mix of just wet and icy patches, and Hannaford's parking lot was full of sloppy wet stuff.  It was hard to push the carts around, and the snowplow was trying hard to work around the cars.  I was glad to get back home.

     I've been working on a memory quilt, gathering orphan blocks and making them all 12" square to  border a center medallion.  I'm using what I consider "neutrals" (navy, red, black, brown) around them to get them all to fit, and by the time I've attached them, the quilt will be 72" square.  It's fun working with blocks that date back to 2005 and my Dear Jane days.  Memory lane!  Hope to finish today or tomorrow and then start piecing the back.

     Yesterday I was feeling a little overwhelmed by holidays, the tragedy in Connecticut, some endless gloomy days, iffy driving conditions.  So I decided to streamline my life for a change.  I simply said I wasn't going to the three meetings tonight and tomorrow night that popped up with little notice.  And I feel a whole lot less stressed.  Amazing what saying "no" can do for the psyche!  Today I plan to go to the post office with two more packages, then head to the Health Dept. for a TDap shot (Pertussis is on the rise but I really need the Tetanus part), and, if we're lucky, have lunch at the new Cornerstone Restaurant everyone's talking about. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Working on UFOs

The news is so horrific and such a contrast to what this holiday season should be all about.  As therapy, I am buried in fabric and working hard on various UFOs.  The other day I did a little assessment and found I have eight projects going on right now.  That's a few too many, even for me:
  •  I did a couple of Grandmother's Choice blocks a few days ago, and today there's a new weekly block which I'll work on tomorrow.  These are more difficult than they might seem because they're an odd size - 8" finished.   I'm using muslin as a background and scraps of many colors for this one.
  • I made the guild block of the month, a 12" square in a square, with a snowflake in the center.  This is another stashbuster, in blues and greens. 
  • I have yet to do this month's guild "block robin" block, but I did look at Jennine's fabrics and picked out a 9" block to make.
  • Cornucopia of Thanks is a monthly quilt along I've been doing online.  I had ten blocks done and need 16.  Today I made 3 more, way ahead of the group.  But it's one project that I can see an end to, so I hope to work on the last 3 blocks in the coming week.  I have the sashing and cornerstones done, too, so it won't be hard to finish. 
  • There are nine 12" signature blocks from an online group that need to be put together.   Maybe I will leave them until it's time to put together the Around the World swap blocks made with the same group.  They might be a good basis for the back?
  • I'm expecting some Sylvia's Bridal Sampler Christmas swap blocks any day now.  Shall I make a table runner?  I'll have to wait and see how they "play" together.
  • The Calico County challenge fabric is hanging on my design wall for inspiration.  One is a blue/brown print and the other a soft yellow.  I have almost decided to make a basket block with them.  Maybe it will just be a hotpad, since the finished product needs to be no more than 12".  This means a trip to the LQS to get some "Insulbrite."
  • And then there's that pesky L'il Twister block I made last week and a box of disconnected (a/k/a orphan) blocks I was going to put together into a 2012 "memory" quilt.   
Yes, all good projects to keep my mind focused on positive things in life.  My heart goes out to the families touched by tragedy in what should be a time of fun.

Friday, December 14, 2012

CJ's Bento Box

I joined the "strip club" at my local quilt shop this year.  For $10 a month, we get a coordinated set of 2.5" wide strips from new fabric.  Last month's included beiges, blues, and brick reds, some from the "Stonehenge" collection as well as some other designers.  I saw a picture of a pattern called "Bento Box" online and figured at 12" block version out.  Then I put a top together last weekend and quilted it early this week.  I think it will be a perfect thank you for my Dad's caregiver, CJ, who is so willing to do anything we ask.  Hope he likes it!

Secret Santa ornaments

An online group has a Secret Santa swap each year.  This year, I happened to get Terry's name and sent her a table runner made with my Lil Twister tool as well as a little quilted star ornament.  I forgot to get a photo of the table runner, so I hope she does.  It's still wrapped up, under her tree. 

Just by chance, Terry got my name, and sent me these lovely ornaments she made.

I'll put them on the tree when we finally get it up, but until then, the two wool ones are hanging in the kitchen window over the sink so I can admire them whenever I'm there. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Susan's quilt

It's finally done!  It will be winging its way, along with several other quilts, to the Netherlands next weekend with Tracy.  Susan and her sisters will pick it up from Tracy's sister sometime during the holidays.

Susan told me her favorite color is blue, and I just happened to be making a blue and white sampler.  Some of the blocks were made by members of the Heart of Vermont guild, as part of the "square robin" we did.  The appliqued rectangle was a sample I made for a basic applique class I taught last year.  There are a few pieces using Dutch tile fabric here and there, including the "kissing couple."  I love it - hope she does, too!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

L'il Twister

This summer, I hosted a swap of floral charm squares (5" squares) for an online group.  It was tough to swap them out because many people sent quite a few squares to swap.  Each set of five was in a slippery baggie.  Only two duplicates in the whole bunch, though, so everyone got a good variety.  Since then, the charms have been in a box waiting to be used, so last weekend I got a few out and used my "L'il Twister" tool to make this piece.  I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with it but I do have a few ideas.  First, I have to finish sewing the binding down on Susan's blue and white quilt, and then I'm going to quilt CJ's Bento Box throw.  As I'm working on these, I'll be thinking!

It's been a busy week, but luckily next week will be a little less frenetic.  In the past week, I attended meetings of the town recreation committee, the Central Vermont Quilt Show committee, and the board of the Vermont Institute for Government, a musical program for seniors at the library, and the Christmas farmer's market, along with helping at the Vermont Historical Society.  In between, I did some Christmas shopping and wrapping.  Phew!  This afternoon I'll be at the Calico County Quilters meeting - fun!