Friday
Mar242017

Ironing Boards and Irons (and Spike)

The to-do list I posted yesterday lasted exactly 12 hours before it got revised. To be fair, I should have put "make a new cover for my ironing board" at the top of the list and just forgot to include it. 

I am mighty particular about my ironing boards. My mother has a Mary Proctor single-flip ironing board that is at least as old as I am. My sister and I both learned to iron my father's dress shirts on that ironing board. What makes it special is that the end of it flips up and down—up, and the ironing board is a large rectangle perfect for ironing yardage; down, and it forms a triangular end for ironing smaller items. 

A few years ago, I went on the hunt for my own. They are not easy to find. Most people who have them (like my mother) refuse to give them up. I started with eBay and managed to locate one and convince the seller to ship it to me. This is what I got:

That's it with the end flipped down. It was in reasonably good shape overall. I got some PVC pipe ends to put on the bottom crossbars and they work fine. I added some padding to the top and then just cut out a large poplin rectangle a few inches larger all around, bound it with double-fold bias tape, and threaded a thin nylon cord through the bias tape to cinch it up. Worked perfectly. 

Not long after that, I ran across a Mary Proctor double-flip ironing board at a thrift store here in town. It has the flip-up end AND a piece on the side that flips up and down to make the body of the ironing board even wider. I keep that one downstairs. In January, I found another single-flip Mary Proctor ironing board at a thrift store in Spokane for a whopping $1.09. I bought that one and gave it to my friend, Tera, because she had been asking about mine.  

I am also kind of particular about my irons. This is the kind of iron I learned to iron with:

I have about six of these. DD#2 felt compelled to lecture me about the number of irons in my collection when she was home on spring break, but I have this terrible fear of having to use a modern iron, so I pick these up at thrift stores whenever I see them. They are usually only a couple of dollars. They are nice and heavy and don't have stupid safety features on them like auto shut-off. There is nothing more annoying than getting up from a sewing session to press something and having to wait for the iron to heat up again. 

Unfortunately, being old, some of these irons have residue in them and that is why I had to replace the cover on my ironing board. I clean these with iron cleaner and/or vinegar before I use them, but one in particular that I tried desperately to rescue and rehabilitate randomly kept spitting up brown liquid. It would work fine for a while and then all of a sudden it would just gush gunk out of the top and onto the ironing board cover (thankfully, not onto any fabric). I had to throw it away, sadly. The ironing board cover got stained and was looking pretty awful. I was cleaning out some fabric the other day and ran across the rest of the poplin I had used for the first cover, so I took it out in anticipation of making another one. 

Yesterday was a long day, for a variety of reasons, and I didn't finish working until 4:30. That's a long day for me. Most days, I am done by 2:00 p.m. or earlier. The husband and I also had to attend a fire department meeting last night because next week is our big fundraising auction. There were plenty of leftovers for dinner, though, so I didn't have to cook. After work I ran upstairs, cut out the new cover, sewed on the bias tape, and threaded the nylon cord through the casing while also watching the first half of the Gonzaga-West Virginia basketball game. I wasn't quite able to get the cover back on the board before we had to leave for the meeting, but I put it on when we got home. 

And now Gonzaga is playing Xavier in the Elite Eight round. My cousin Aimee's son is a junior at Xavier and another one of my cousin's kids is a Xavier alum, so we have a bit of a family rivalry going on here. It should be a good game tomorrow. Spike is ready:

Go Zags! 

Thursday
Mar232017

Apparently I Want to Make Tote Bags

I made a list yesterday of the projects I have in progress or want to start. The trick now is going to be sticking to this list and not getting distracted by anything else, but I also may be delusional in thinking any of this is actually going to happen in the next couple of months. 

Projects I Want to Work On, In Order of Priority:

  1. Ritzville Quilt—needs the last dozen or so blocks made and then I have to decide on the setting and get it over to Margaret for quilting no later than the end of April. 
  2. Noodlehead's Cargo Duffle—I still need to make myself some kind of travel bag for overnight trips. This is almost as big as my Vera Bradley duffle, which is really too big for overnight trips, but the construction is relatively straightforward and will give me some bag-making experience. The fabric is all pulled and ready to go. I have an idea for a smaller duffle bag for which I have not been able to find a pattern. I am thinking about drafting my own, but I want to make a couple from commercial patterns, first, before I re-invent the wheel.  
  3. Noodlehead's Explorer Tote—Anna Graham just released this pattern a few weeks ago. Some people like shoes; I have a thing for bags and purses and I love this one. I just ordered the waxed canvas for the bottom. I have never worked with waxed canvas before and it should be fun. The large version may make a perfectly acceptable overnight bag. 
  4. Noodlehead's Caravan Tote—Obviously, I like Anna's designs. Her patterns are thorough and well-written. This is a smaller tote and there is some chicken-themed home dec fabric at Hobby Lobby that I am eyeing for this project. 
  5. More canvas grocery bags—these are always useful. 
  6. Sewing machine cover(s).
  7. Pillowcases.

Then we have all the Quilts Tops That Need to be Quilted:

  1. Double Slice Layer Cake—This was one of the first tops I ever made and it has languished for about four years now. It is not very big (lap sized) and I just need to get off my butt and get it done. 
  2. Flying Geese—This one needs a border before I can think about quilting it. 
  3. Blue/Orange/Yellow Kona solids quilt—This one didn't turn out quite like I thought it would. It's a bit garish. I still plan to finish it, though, and find it a home. It's 72" square. 
  4. Multicolored Candy Coated from Sunday Morning Quilts—I have the backing for this one. It just needs to get layered and basted and then it will be ready to quilt. 
  5. Flower Sugar—This is the jelly roll quilt from a couple of weeks ago. It also has a backing and just needs to get layered and basted and quilted. 

Naturally, this list is subject to change and probably will. It reflects my current state of thinking, though, and it helps to have it down in black and white. This weekend needs to be devoted to the prep work for some of these projects. 

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I did run in to the farm store yesterday afternoon and they had gotten a shipment of chicks, but they only got half the shipment and it did not include any Buff Orpingtons (they were supposed to get 50). I am on the list to get 24. They are supposed to call me as soon as they arrive. They don't take pre-orders and it's kind of a first come, first served system, but I did promise to drop everything and come in as soon as they call. 

Have you ever seen the Lavender Orpingtons? Meyer Hatchery sells them:

These are much rarer than the Buff or White Orps, but I am seeing more and more of them. They are not cheap—chicks cost anywhere from $10 to $20 each and a lot of places will only sell straight runs so you don't know if you're getting hens or roosters until they are older. As with a lot of animals, you have to be careful who you buy from to make sure that the line breeds true, although the gene(s) for this color seem fairly stable. 

Our first rooster was a purebred Buff Orpington. The husband got him and four hens from a Craigslist ad. My only experience with roosters up to that point had been with my great-grandmother's flock of chickens and her roosters were mean. Our Buff was one chill dude, though. He was very protective of the flock but not aggressive to humans at all. He sired a rooster on one of the Rhode Island Red hens and three roosters on the Barred Rock hens. (All those chicks were raised by Buff Orpington hens, who don't seem to care whose babies they hatch out and care for.) We had him for three or four years and then one day, the husband went out to the coop and found him face down in the feeder, dead. I was very sad. We have two roosters now, one of which is a Black Australorp from the batch two years ago that was supposed to be all pullets but ended up being half roosters. The other rooster is one of the three from the Barred Rock mothers. He looks like a Barred Rock but he has his father's personality. If I didn't know better, I would say they are the same bird in different bodies. He eats out of my hand. He is definitely king of the coop and it's his bloodline that I want to continue, even if it means having hybrid roosters. 

I pick the roosters that get to stay in the flock. It's not my favorite job to decide who lives and who goes to the stock pot, but I spend a lot of time watching the chickens and the way they behave and so far, my instincts have been pretty good. I want a rooster that is attentive to the hens—and not just attentive in terms of getting to mate with them—but isn't overly aggressive. Too much testosterone is never a good thing. Our roosters don't fight but there is a definite hierarchy. If something happened to our big rooster, though, I have no doubt that the Black Australorp would step up and take over as king of the coop.  

Wednesday
Mar222017

Slowly, Then All at Once

That's how I like to describe the transition from winter into spring. It seems like winter is going to last until June, at least, but then things start happening and all of a sudden it's a runaway roller coaster. The seeds are here. The husband has organized them by what needs to get planted when (either indoors or out). I called yesterday and ordered propane for the tank next to the greenhouse so that we can start running the heater at night. The husband is hoping to get some stuff in trays this weekend. While I was in Chicago, he got the brooder box out and cleaned it. It's now set up in the coop awaiting peeps. I stopped at the farm store yesterday to see what they had but they were all sold out. A shipment is supposed to come in today, so one or the other of us will head in and see if we can snag two dozen Buff Orpingtons. 

[The husband refers to the Buffs as the "Golden Retriever" of the chicken world. Docile, even-tempered, good with kids, and—the reason I want them—reliable broody hens. They won't hatch chicks until next spring at the earliest, but I am hoping for some roosters to keep this bloodline going. Our current rooster is quite in his prime and he knows it, but roosters don't live forever.]

We had a flock of turkeys visiting the chicken run yesterday. They wandered around outside and the chickens looked at the turkeys and the turkeys looked at the chickens. They speak different dialects, though. I know this because one year we had a turkey mama with one baby take up residence on top of the chicken coop for a few months. I am fluent in chicken but my turkey is pretty rusty. 

The chickens are happy that the snow is melting:

Soon it will be time to dig up worms in the chicken yard. Protein is good. 

**********************************

I am suffering from the problem of too much creativity leaking out of my brain and not enough time to do something with it. This will be an ongoing issue. It means I really have to buckle down and prioritize. I want to get all the remaining pieces for the Ritzville quilt cut out this weekend. In fact, I may do nothing BUT cut fabric and label parts for future sewing sessions.

Our visit to the art museum last week had me thinking about the art history class I took in college. For the first two years of college, my schedule was crammed with the requisite bio, chem, and math classes that had to be taken early and in a certain order. It wasn't until the second half of my junior year that I had some time to take classes in other topics, so I loaded up on philosophy, English lit, and this art history class. It was a wonderful class. Three mornings a week, I got to immerse myself in something not involving test tubes and I reveled in it. The professor was excellent and laid everything out in a way that really made it come alive. I remember having a textbook about 3" thick full of all sorts of beautiful plates. (I lost that book somewhere in the last 30 years and I wish I still had it.) 

Unfortunately, despite my love of the subject matter, I struggled to do well in that class. The professor seemed to have a bias against science majors. On the first day of class, he asked us to write down our names and majors on an index card and pass them to the front of the class. I suspect he thought that science majors only took his class because they were expecting an easy A. Honestly, if I had wanted an easy A, I would have taken another biology class. I had nothing BUT straight As in my science courses. I came to this conclusion after getting my research paper back toward the end of the semester. We were to choose a painting and do an in-depth analysis of it. I chose Titian's Venus and Adonis. It is on display at the National Gallery of Art in DC and for years afterward, whenever I was in DC, I would make a point of going and sitting in that gallery for a while just to look at that painting. I spent hours and hours on that paper, discussing the history, the themes, the techniques—and when I got the paper back, it was marked "B" and the only comment was "You didn't talk enough about the dogs in the painting." 

Sigh. I only managed a B for the entire course. 

I have often wished that I could go back and talk to that professor and let him know 1) How much I enjoyed that class and 2) How much of that information has stayed with me over the years. I feel like I can walk into an art museum with an adequate understanding and appreciation for what is displayed there. 

Tuesday
Mar212017

The Start of Spring Cleaning

Winter is over. Hallelujah! I took down all the insulated curtains and washed them yesterday. It was a bright, sunny day and I wanted to bask in the light. Those curtains do a phenomenal job of keeping our heating bills down, but after six months, one starts to feel like one is living in a cave. Later in the afternoon, when I was done working, I thoroughly scrubbed and mopped the bathroom/laundry room off the kitchen. It's a start.

When we were in Chicago, we passed a Crate and Barrel store with a lovely, artful display of summer items with a sign that said, "Bring the Outdoors Inside!" I chuckled and said to my mother that my problem is keeping the outdoors outside where it belongs. Between the ants, flies, spiders, mice, stinkbugs (they were bad this year), dirt, mud, concrete, dog hair, chicken feathers, etc., etc., most of my cleaning time is spent removing outdoor things from my house. (This is the difference between city people and me.) A few years ago, we had a very hot summer, and with no air conditioning, that means keeping the windows open. Unfortunately, that was also the year there were some very bad fires and a lot of ash. I am still sweeping up and wiping up that ash two years later. At some point, I may just have to break down and get the ductwork cleaned so it stops recirculating. 

[Letting all that sunshine in has the unintended effect of highlighting where all the dust is. It's a mixed blessing.]

My office desperately needs to be emptied, cleaned, organized, and put back together. It's such a huge job, though, that I have avoided it like the plague. I want to get it done this summer, though. 

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DD#2 went to Portland last month and found this zipper pouch for me at Powell's:

It will be perfect for taking sewing notions to classes with me. The machine pictured is a stylized version of a Singer 348, one of the mid-1960s models that took cams. It's not a model I hear a lot about as it doesn't seem to have the collectible value of, say, a Rocketeer, but the people who own them seem to love them. I find it curious that one of the lesser-recognized machines was picked for this bag, but what do I know? It looks like a sewing machine and maybe that is all that matters. 

Vittorio and I had a short reunion last night. I put some more checkerboard strips of 2-1/2" squares together—just nice long straight seams that don't require much brainpower. One third of that quilt top is now done. 

When we got to Spokane last Wednesday, I sent DD#2 on ahead to get some stuff out of her dorm room that she needed for the trip. I stopped at The Quilting Bee's new store which just opened about two weeks ago. The place is huge. They moved from a smallish, maybe 2000 square foot retail space to a 13,000 square foot BARN. Truly, the building was built to look like a big red barn. I need to go back when I can spend four or five hours in there. As it was, I really only had enough time to make a quick trip through to get a sense of what they had. I am hoping to take a quilting class there at some point. 

Monday
Mar202017

A Trip to the Windy City

DD#2 and I went to Chicago for a long weekend. I like to travel with the girls, but it's getting harder as they get older. Last year, they had spring break on two different weeks. This year, they had spring break the same week, but DD#1 wanted to spend part of hers with her boyfriend. I have to plan my vacation time way ahead so that the transcription account I am on has enough coverage. There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate. A trip to Chicago, though, was do-able. My father's only surviving sister and her husband and two of their daughters live there, too, and I haven't seen them in a couple of years. 

DD#2 came home for a few days at the start of her spring break. Last Wednesday, she and I drove back to Spokane, met DD#1 for dinner, then spent the night at a very crummy Ramada Inn. For some reason, I thought that a hotel right across from the airport terminal wouldn't look like it had been built in 1969 and never updated. Oh well. It was fine for one night. 

Our flight for Minneapolis left at 7 a.m. I was in the middle seat and next to me, by the window, was an older gentleman who wanted to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. I knew that with any encouragement, he would keep talking for the entire flight. I simply could not sustain that level of engagement with a stranger for a two-and-a-half hour flight. I was polite, but I made a point of opening up my book and tried to ignore the fact that he was reading over my shoulder. Argh.

When we got to Minneapolis, we were informed that due to a weight issue with the airplane—one of those regional jets—and the fact that we were supposed to fly into Midway, they were looking for 16 people to take a later flight in exchange for an $800 voucher. We offered to take a flight two hours later into O'Hare. With two $800 vouchers, DD#2's flight to Italy next fall is now paid for. Yay. The two hours passed quickly as we watched Gonzaga beat South Dakota State. 

That put us into Chicago at rush hour, unfortunately, but we had a very entertaining cab ride from the airport. Our driver was from Romania and has been in Chicago for six years. Once we were able to establish common footing in Eastern Europe, he and I spent the rest of the cab ride comparing notes on food and other ethnic traditions. His parents still live in the same village where their family has lived since 1390 and where they raise pigs and chickens and cows. It's obvious that he loves Chicago, though, and he gave us a lot of information about the city on the way to the hotel. 

We met my mother and sister there and headed out for dinner. Chicago is a very pretty city all lit up at night. 

Friday was spent shopping with an afternoon stop at the art museum. We had plans to meet my cousin Emily and her husband, Steve, at their house for drinks at 6 p.m. before going out to eat. Our experiences with Uber to that point had been hit and miss—more miss than hit—so we took a cab. It was the most terrifying cab ride of my life (I was in the front seat). The driver spent the first 10 minutes conversing earnestly with someone on his phone in some patois dialect, and then drove like a maniac one we got out onto Lakeshore Drive. He was tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, speeding up and then slamming on the brakes, etc. When we got to Steve and Emily's, I asked for a shot of whiskey. Thankfully, the ride back was a lot less exciting. 

On Saturday morning, we walked a few blocks over to Enterprise and picked up a rental car. My sister drove and I—with the help of Google Maps—navigated us out of the city down to Naperville, where my aunt and uncle live. We had a wonderful lunch at their place and then they took us to downtown Naperville to walk around and shop. Even though I don't get dressed up enough to justify buying anything at these higher-end stores, I do enjoy looking at the styles and colors that are trendy this season. At Ann Taylor, interestingly, I found a T-shirt with a print in the exact same colors as the Small Plates quilt I just finished—gray, mustard, and coral. I feel vindicated. 

Dinner Saturday night was at a very cool tapas restaurant. DD#2 and I were keeping tabs on the Gonzaga/Northwestern game. They pulled it out, but the score was closer than it should have been. They play West Virginia on Thursday, and depending on whether or not they win that game, they may end up playing Xavier in the following round. My cousin Aimee's son is a junior at Xavier. There may be some good-natured family feuding over that battle of the Jesuit universities. 

We had a 6:30 flight out of Chicago yesterday morning and got back to Spokane just after noon. I dropped DD#2 off at school, grabbed a sandwich and a cup of coffee, and hit the road to drive back to Kalispell. It wasn't the ideal way to get back from Chicago and made for a very long day, but it worked. The husband had dinner waiting for me when I got home. I slept like the dead last night. 

*************************************

My only purchase this weekend was a book:

It's called The Spoonflower Handbook: A DIY Guide to Designing Fabric, Wallpaper, and Gift Wrap. I may never get around to actually designing fabric, but there is a lot of useful information in here and it will all get added to the body of knowledge in my head. 

Our fire department auction is in two weeks. I have two meetings this week and a service to play for on Wednesday. Things are starting to pick up and get busy. Now that this trip is done, though, I feel like I can prioritize all the stuff that is on the schedule and get back to some kind of routine. We still have snow here on this first day of spring, but less than we had before I left. It's progress, no matter how slow and muddy.