Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Another First On Aunt Mildred's Porch

The time has come.  Aunt Mildred's porch not only entered the interwebs last month when I renamed my blog, soon thereafter came my new instagram name and today---- a new facebook page!

You'd probably imagine that I made it nice and simple by using  Alas, standing by my motto: why measure twice when you can cry about it afterwards, I didn't realize I had mistyped.  And when I tried to change it there was a big problem.

So, I'm stuck with Go check it out.  Be among the first to like it.   See where we go from the porch.  Watch  me stumble through yet another social media site.  It'll be fun.

And my mother might make some beans for supper if you're lucky.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Little Something For Myself

The woman at school who thinks I can sew like magic put me to work once again.  After I made the most expensive dog bed in the world, she asked me to make cushions for two rocking chairs.  This should have been a no brainer, but as always with this woman, there was a twist.

Instead of getting foam just the right size for her chairs, she took apart some piece of furniture and used a kitchen knife to cut the foam to an approximate imitation of the shape of the chairs.  She handed me two pieces of chair sized foam and 3 rectangular shape cubes and some fabric and told me to have at it.

What she didn't make clear to me was that both of the chair cushions were to be cut the same size but she only cut one.  I was supposed to cut the other.  I must have been taking a powder during that part of the conversation because I knew nothing about it.  The big rectangle was my favorite one and I was pretty sure it was the best cushion I've ever made.

The rounded one for one chair and the 3 cubes were all finished way back in the fall, but she handed me back the rectangle and asked me to reconstruct it.  Oh and at that point, she had sent the right sized cushion with one chair to Florida, so we had to guesstimate.

And by we, I mean me.

And by guesstimate, I mean to took a pencil and stood in her office and drew an arc and said "like this?" and she said "exactly".

And for months, it has sat in my sewing room.  I was afraid to attack it and cut the foam too small.  And, I don't have any knives in my kitchen that I was willing to sacrifice to cut foam.  Foam freaks me out with all of its chemicals so no regular food knife was going near it.

It took her until last week to realize she hadn't paid me and I hadn't asked for payment because technically, I wasn't done since I had to reconstruct the one pillow.  She brought in a check, so I felt like I had to really get on it.

After cutting the foam, the reconstruction of the cover was marginally easy but I wasn't impressed with any of this, as I had been with the original rectangle.  I'm not a professional so I really have no idea what I'm doing and I wing anything that goes into and comes out of my sewing machine!

The bonus of this project is that I have a little fabric leftover.  It's some sort of outdoor fabric, so it was perfect to make a new bag for my clothespins.

The last one was also from a pillow project, but for a different woman.  It's pretty old and has seen better days, so I was thrilled to replace it.

I sat at my serger, ready to whip up my new bag, and it started giving me trouble again.  The thread broke every 2 inches.  I rethreaded the needle again and again and though it had worked just beautifully for the pillow, it refused to cooperate for the bag.  Same material, same thread, really no excuses.

I fought with it for about an hour and gave up, determining I'd have to have it repaired again.  But, I waited until daylight and tried again and after a ridiculous amount of attempts, I finally took out all of the thread, rethreaded and off it went, like butter.

So, pillows complete, check is in the bank and a new clothespin bag is ready for spring!

If you sew for people, do you give them back their fabric?  In most cases, they have no use for it, so I keep it and use it later.  It's kind of fun to use it later and remember what I did with it the first time.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Royal Flush With The Queen of Hearts

I don't play poker so I have no idea what this title really means.  But I thought it was clever!

I've been working on this Queen of Hearts since February and I finally finished it!

The back is pieced, so it's really two quilts in one.  A giant heart on one side,

and squares on the back.

After a VERY frustrating few days of machine quilting with my non-quilting machine Bernina, I finally finished, bound it and put it on my etsy!

I love the look of it, but it does not go with anything in my house.  I also never use quilts, though I give them away all the time and sell them on my etsy.  I prefer a duvet with a cover that I can wash, so quilts are not my thing.

Ironic, I know!

If I had a guest room, that's where I'd put this, but alas, I don't.

Which means we never have guests!  Sly, I know!

I loved playing with the half square triangles and I was utterly shocked when I ended up with a queen sized quilt!  My original plan was for a wall hanging that I would put up every February.  I'd need a whole wall to display this and I don't have that, either!

I think I will eventually make another one, with much smaller squares, that actually will be a wall hanging.  But, since I used almost every pink, white and red that was in  my stash, I'll have to wait a while before attempting this again!

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Little Easter Cheer

Finally, FINALLY, I can put my clothes on the line to dry!  I usually do this all winter, capitalizing on bright sunny days, even when I have to wear gloves to hang them up.  But this winter, we had snow, rain or grey skies almost every weekend from January until last weekend.  I have never dried my clothes in the dryer as often as I did this winter!

On this day that started out pretty but ended up grey, I moved things around a little in the greenhouse.

The radishes are going crazy!  They did so well in the germination cage with the heat mat, that I decided to move them off the mat so I can put out more seeds.  Now that they have germinated, they should be fine because they are cold weather hardy.  I'm really curious to see what the "rainbow mix" produces!

The peas are really taking off, but I left them in the cage because a few still have some seeds exposed as they are just starting, and that's what the rodents love to eat.  I think I will move these containers outside next weekend and hope for the best.

The beets are just coming.  I'm impressed anything is going on because this packet is a few years old.  They say that you can use old seeds but every year, the chances of them actually growing get slimmer and slimmer.

And this brussels sprout was happy in the fall but looked just about dead a few weeks ago.  Because there was still some green on it, I started watering it again and it looks like it's coming back.    Clearly, caterpillars were munching on it in the fall and then the super freeze took over.  No idea what it will do!

Now that I have that fantastic heat mat and my germination cage, I'm excited to get everything going.

And I'm totally ignoring that we are supposed to get snow this week!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Making Lunch

Do you bring your lunch to work?  If so, do you enjoy making your lunch?

I bring mine to school because I will not eat the food in the cafeteria.  For many reasons.  #1 being the smell of the cafeteria completely repulses me and I can't even get in the door, let alone consider eating anything made there.

I've been making my lunch since 5th grade when I complained too many times about what my mother gave me for lunch.  I probably thought making lunch was great for about 2 days.

Since then, I've hated every second of the lunch making process.  It doesn't matter if it's my own lunch during the school year, k-ster's lunch in the summer, my own lunch in the summer when I take a course and can't run home for lunch and sometimes, I even hate making lunch when I'm home and don't have to even pack it!

Until recently.

First, I got myself the ultimate lunch bag.
It's just big enough that I can bring all of the glass jars and containers I want and not worry that something won't fit.  Most lunch bags aren't big enough to bring actual containers and I try not to bring too many plastic bags.  This one if just right.  It's also rectangular which makes it easy to fill.

Second, I started making my lunch at night.  The worst part for me is the entree.  Making a sandwich or a salad or deciding on leftovers at 6:30am was always really hard for me.  I am not big on food in the morning and can barely eat the oatmeal I make.  Thinking about what I might want for lunch was impossible and touching it and smelling it at that hour was never fun.

By the time lunch rolled around, I'd be craving the egg salad I couldn't deal with that morning, or wishing I had grabbed some of the meatloaf I made the night before.

Now, I get everything together the night before.  If I'm having a salad for lunch, I put it all together the night before.  It's amazing what fun things I will put in a salad in the evening vs. the wee hours of the morning!  If I'm having leftovers, I make sure to put all of them in one dish for easy heating.

If I'm going out the night before, I put everything together when I get home from school, before I go out.  If I wait until after my meeting or whatever I'm doing, then I'm too tired to care what I put together and I'm in the same boat as making lunch at 6:30am.

Sometimes, when I know I've made enough supper that there will be leftovers, I take out a lunch portion and put it away before we even eat.  That always feels like my biggest victory!

Next, I get  yogurt ready.  I've been buying the large Fage yogurt because I find that Whole Foods has it cheaper than anyone around.  It's big enough to last me the week, so I have less waste form all the little containers and I keep the container to plant my seedlings so they can stay in the greenhouse and get a little bigger than the little yogurt cups I used to use. 

I buy the plain and put my homemade grape jelly in it and then at school, I add almonds. All winter, I've been saying that grape jelly in yogurt is amazing and I can't imagine why no one does it.  And then I saw last week that Chobani is offering it as a limited flavor.  You have to try that combination.  It's amazing.

Any fruit that needs to be cut or vegetables that I will want peeled get done the night before and put in containers or plastic bags.  Cheese too.  When I know I'm going to have a late day or my protein isn't really high in my lunch, I bring cheese to eat before I leave school so I don't bite anyone after school.  The prepackaged string cheese is great but sometimes, I want cheddar or gruyere.  If I cut it the night before, it's ready and I will eat it later!

Any dry things like bars or jerky get put near my bag.

And on the rare occasion I bring a sweet, it gets cut and ready the night before.

I keep all of the refrigerated stuff on top of each other in the refrigerator and then put it all together in the morning.  My bag goes on the floor at home, at school and in my car, so there's no way I'd fill it and put it in the refrigerator the night before.   Plus, I don't have that kind of space in there. As long as the "hard" work of getting the stuff portioned has been done, collecting it all is no big deal in the morning.

Except on the few occasions when I've grabbed the wrong container and had nothing but a plain pasta or ALL of the chicken for my entree.  All of the chicken made for a fun lunch conversation!  Plain pasta just made for a sad, empty calorie afternoon.

Getting it ready the night before has made my morning a breeze.  I have a little more time to eat breakfast and catch up on internet happenings from the night before.  I don't have to smell something that will be great at lunch but turns my stomach in the morning. 

And sometimes, I find a little something extra in the morning that I hadn't thought about the night before, so I toss that in.

You'd think by what I pack that I'm going on a 10 mile hike.  I'm one of those people that must be fed every 2 hours or so or someone will get hurt.  This year, I've been so good about bringing all the right snacks to keep me on track.

Getting it all ready the night before is the best decision I've ever made!

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Beating the Queen of Hearts

When Sarah at put out the 4x7 sewing challenge in February, I used it to get my butt in gear and finally make a quilt I've been thinking about for years.  It's a heart pattern that I saw somewhere online and for a long time, I've pondered making that quilt.
It's a rare day that I look at a picture and plot out what I want to do, but since it was all squares and triangles, I thought I could handle this.  I could not possibly handle drawing lines down the center of 231 squares to make the half square triangles, so I used the method of sewing two diagonal lines across a square and getting 4 smaller squares out of it.

This worked beautifully because I didn't have any size requirements.  If I were to do an actual pattern that required HST of certain sizes, I have no idea how I would do the math to make that work.

4 weeks seemed like enough time to figure out how to do it, cut it, sew it and finish it.  Not even close!

What a surprise when I realized that my squares were really big and this quilt that was supposed to be a wallhanging became a queen!

The Queen of Hearts got the upper hand the night my last square was created.

Putting together over 200 half square triangles was new for me but overall, it went pretty well.  The top was finished close to the end of February but then I had a lot of thinking to do about the backing and the batting.

When I started the quilt, my plan was to only use my stash and buy absolutely nothing.  For the top, this was a no brainer.  I had plenty of pinks and reds and enough white that I should be fine.

For the back, I had nothing big enough to cover the back in one piece.  Anything that might have been big enough to piece had already been cut into HST.   I was left with a tough decision.  Go out and buy something for the back or piece something together with smaller pieces.

I wasn't in love with the fact that this quilt had epically grown from a small idea to a huge, queen size quilt!  I don't have hearts in my bedroom, nothing in there is pink or red, and really, I don't want a quilt on my  bed because we only sleep under duvets.  A quilt would really throw a monkey wrench into the whole sleeping thing.

So, I decided that I would have to either give away or try to sell this quilt on etsy, but I still couldn't justify spending money for backing.

Instead, I looked again at my reds, pinks and whites and decided to make a pieced backing.  It took a lot of rooting around in my stash to discover some of these fabrics, but 90 something squares later, I had a back.
Which could also be a front!

Pretty pleased with the equivalent of two queen sized quilt tops from nothing but my stash, now the question about batting had to be resolved.

I thought I had a lot of pieces of batting that I could put together.  Several people told me they do it often and explained how to cut the pieces and whipstitch them so they stay together.  But all of my pieces were too small to bother.  There would have been so many joins within the batting it would have been like a road map that I think you could have felt through the layers.  I knew I was going to machine quilt it, so I was afraid there'd be shifting in the batting and I'd be throwing away the entire project.

So, I bit the bullet and bought batting, which happened to be on sale.

And then I got to work.  I laid  everything out and actually used the binder clips to stretch everything a little bit, even thought I wasn't going to baste it.  I wanted to make sure things appeared to fit and that the backing was actually big enough, with enough margins  on the sides to cover any mistakes I might make when quilting.

Because I've created my own lazy way to machine quilt, I roll my quilt and work on the diagonal instead of basting it.  In the past, basting didn't work for me and caused more bunching and shifting that necessary.  Somehow, this method has worked, so I set about doing it for the Queen of Hearts.

I've done baby quilts and a full sized quilt this way, and I  knew the queen was going to be a bear, but I didn't realize just how frustrating it was going to be.  My method of rolling each side into tubes as I work seems like a great idea until I try to manipulate it alone.  I'm short, I have don't have a quilting machine so I'm just using my short throat Bernina and a rolled quilt really has the power to take over and do what it wants!
It started out fine...
but as I neared the middle, both rolled sides were big and getting it all through without breaking the thread or needles became a do or die process.

I'd rather not share just how many needles I broke but I will tell you it was an obscene number.  Too much weight pulling on the needle and less than stellar quality thread led me to asking k-ster if maybe he could help with the final quarter of this procedure.

I had done 3/4 of it alone, swearing, sweating and almost crying and the whole time, I kept thinking that if someone was at the other end, taking the weight off the table as it came out of the machine, that might help.

So, we first thought maybe he could help hold the quilt at the beginning so it could go into the machine easier.  He stood behind me, shouldering the giant quilt, but that was frustrating.  Once he got to the other side and could kind of hold up the quilt and guide it out, things went better.

We also decided that maybe rolling each side was causing more trouble than it was worth, so I relaxed the roll on the finished part and things went a little better.  The tight roll of finished work was like an anaconda that was too long to fit on the table because I was doing it on the diagonal.

As we finished, we talked about lots of different things that could make this process easier.  A  pulley system that would clip onto the edge as it comes out of the machine, which I could tighten as I get through the quilt, would lift the end of it enough to keep the weight off.  A bigger table.  A rolling system at one end.

But really, not doing such big quilts would be the simplest thing, aside from buying a quilting machine!

There were many thread breaks, so now I have to go in and creatively fix those by hand so they are secure and don't unravel.  In a few rows, when the thread broke, I completely ripped it out and started again.  But for many, it was more than halfway through the row and I just couldn't rip it out.  If I had done a more random pattern, this wouldn't have bothered me at all, but these diagonal lines are a little obvious, so the quilter's eye.

My favorite part is actually the way the back is nice and straight.  For the first time, possibly ever, I didn't have any weird bunching on either side!  That's usually one of my biggest issues.
It needs a binding and I need to go in and fix those broken threads, but it should be etsy-ready very soon.  I'm excited to bind it with my new binding clips instead of stabbing my poor fingers with pins!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Uber-ly Big Misunderstanding

I can start this post by saying that I know I live in a fantasy world a good portion of the time.  My imagination is such that often, when someone tells me about some new product, I'll create such a vision in my head that the real thing is just one huge disappointment.

I've been doing this my whole life.

I do it when people tell me about someone I don't know, a place I've never been, an animal I just have to see.

And every time?  NOTHING like what I imagined.

I live that portion of my life in a  land where people sing LA LA LA LA LA LA over and over.

So, a few years ago, before Uber (the car service) had overtaken the taxi world, someone first told me about it and this is what I thought it was.

She told me that her sister in California had had some kind of surgery that made it impossible to drive and she had little kids, so getting anywhere was a pain.  Insert UBER, the new car service where you call and tell them  where you want to go and they come in cars like Lincolns and Cadillacs and take you where you want.

Wow, I thought.  FANCY.

And expensive, right?

She said you had to pay for it but it wasn't a car service where you pay for a certain amount of calls, you just pay as you go.  She wasn't really sure how much it cost.

Wow, life in California, I mused.  I pictured sleek, shiny cars with chauffeurs, whisking away her sister and nieces for a day shopping and what have you.

Later, I heard a little more about UBER and completely misunderstood how it worked.  The next person who told me about it, made it sound like any old Joe in a car could go to some website and say "hey, on Friday at 10am, I'll be heading to XYZ place.  Anyone needing a ride in that direction, let me know."

Nowhere did I understand that payment was involved.

And, k-ster is going to kill me for even thinking this, I thought "wow, I should look into driving people when I'm on my way somewhere."

For free.

This is what America should be.  This is people helping people AND the environment.

People who need rides because they don't have a car of their own.

I live in a fairly rural area, so no one here should not have a car.  We don't have public transportation.  Therefore, if someone needs a ride, it's a sketchy situation and I should not, in any way, be giving them rides.

By my fantasy brain imagined the fun of having someone in the car for 5 miles, someone to chat with, whom I  could drop off at a place not out of my way.

The fantasy does not end there, my friends.

When I found it that drivers actually get PAID to drive these people around, I got even more excited!  So, I just go online, post that I will be going to my gym on Friday and if someone needs a ride in the direction, they will actually pay me to do this?  SWEET!

I pictured it becoming a regular thing. I'd bring the same people to the same places as I went on my same errands each week.

And that's where the record screeched and the music stopped.

Because then I realized, I'd be driving the same deadbeats, every week, not to their jobs, but to sketchy places where they did sketchy things with other people who don't have jobs.

I'd be driving kids, likely my former students, to the mall to hang out with their dopey friends who aren't old enough to drive yet.

I might have to drive around someone who didn't smell good.

I don't live in a swanky city.  There won't be fancy business women perfuming up my car as I drive them from their doormanned buildings to their high rise offices, them talking a mile a minute on their cell phones as I navigate the high stakes task of driving in rush hour.

Everything here is off the beaten path because there really is not any beaten path.  That means I'd be driving God knows where to pick these people up.  And then I'd be letting them out where, on the sidewalk?  At stop signs?

What was I thinking?

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