Thursday
Oct192017

Circling Idaho, Part 3

I admit to succumbing to the use of technology—when I am traveling in unfamiliar places, I like to hook my iPhone up to the speakers in my car and have the Maps program navigate for me. Most of the time it works pretty well. When I left Nampa on Sunday morning, I headed east on I-84, intending to go to Pocatello and pick up I-15 north. I could have gone up 95 north to Hwy 12 and across Lolo Pass, which would have put me onto Hwy 93 just south of Missoula, but that area had gotten snow on Saturday and I just didn't want to deal with it. 

Th iPhone Maps program seems to have a pretty significant bug. Even if you choose a route, it may change its mind along the way and send you in a different direction, and that is how I found myself exiting I-84 about an hour east of Boise and heading north on route 20, a fairly deserted two-lane road that claimed that it led to I-15. I am a big fan of backroads because they lead to interesting places. However, I am getting a bit more conservative in my old age, especially when I am traveling by myself. The sun was just coming up and I had cell service, though, so I kept going. 

It was a strange route that zigged and zagged through the middle of Idaho, only occasionally passing through wide spots in the roads with names like "Hill City" that didn't even qualify as villages, let alone cities. The scenery was gorgeous, however, and mid-morning I was treated to the spectacular site of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. This is an area of ancient lava flows that really does look like the surface of the moon. I should have stopped and taken pictures. This one will have to do:

This doesn't really do it justice; go to the website and Flickr stream and take a look. (The picture, above, is from their Flickr stream and labeled public domain.) 

I finally did hit I-15 and headed north from Idaho into Montana. I haven't been in this part of Montana for a long time—about 25 years, give or take. The husband and I came through here on our first trip to Montana in 1991. It's a stunning drive, and on a Sunday morning in October, traffic was light.

Unfortunately, somewhere around Dillon, Montana, the battery in the remote control for my car decided to die. (It couldn't have done that three days earlier at the BMW dealer?) The remote is what lets me lock and unlock the car and also start the engine. Those Germans, though, build redundancy into every system. There is an actual (though funny-looking) key hidden inside the remote. It pops out and can be used to lock and unlock the driver's door the old-fashioned way. And the engine still starts, but you have to hold the remote up to a special spot on the steering column. I still had about six hours to go before I got to Kalispell. A quick stop in Butte did not yield a replacement battery, so I just powered through and drove most of the rest of the way without stopping. I didn't want to get stuck somewhere with a car that wouldn't start. I pulled in to the driveway just about dinner time. 

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I haven't stopped moving since I got home—meetings, an eye doctor appointment, and such—but I am hoping for some sewing time tonight while the husband is at fire training. I'd like to get going on that blog tour bag. And I just need to sew and do something creative. I've got white beans soaking in anticipation of doing a canner load tomorrow, and Saturday will likely be devoted to getting the pumpkin canned up. We're getting some of that "train of rain" that is poised to inundate the Pacific Northwest this weekend, so there won't be any outside activities. 

Wednesday
Oct182017

Circling Idaho, Part 2

The route I chose from Spokane to Boise took me west on I-90 to Ritzville, south on 395 to the Tri-Cities—Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco—then east on I-84 into Idaho. DD#1 is working at a clinic in Caldwell, Idaho, and living with a very nice couple in Nampa. Nampa is just west of Boise and Caldwell is just west of Nampa. 

Getting snow tires delivered and put on DD#1's car was a big reason for this trip, but I really wanted to see for myself that she was doing okay after a rough summer. She did her first fieldwork session at a skilled nursing facility in Missoula, Montana, and although she enjoyed the work, she had a couple of supervisors whose personal lives were in such disarray that they felt the need to visit all of their frustrations on her. At one point they told her she "wasn't trying hard enough"—a phrase that has never, in 25 years, been used to describe that child. She even began questioning whether or not she had made the right career choice. The mama bear in me had a hard time not driving down there and giving those two supervisors a piece of my mind. She persevered, even though they added insult to injury by making her do an extra two-week stint beyond the 12 weeks she was originally scheduled to be there.

I was hoping that the Boise assignment would be a big improvement and it seems to be. She is working at a pediatric clinic and loves it. Her nickname in grad school was "Baby Whisperer" because she is so good with kids. Several of her clients at this clinic are children on the autism spectrum. When she was in elementary school, one of her classmates was a severely autistic young man. If I remember correctly, he was part of their class from kindergarten all the way through eighth grade graduation. He was nonverbal and prone to oubursts—he had a dedicated aide who was with him all day—but the kids in her class learned to interact with him and included him in all their activities. DD#1 told me that she thinks that having him be part of her elementary school years has been a big help in her work with the kids she sees now. That just reaffirms to me that things that seem random often turn out not to be. 

We dropped DD#1's car off at the tire place first thing Friday morning. I drove her to work and then headed out to do some exploring. I found the Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby stores in Nampa along with half a dozen thrift stores. I didn't find any sewing machines but it was fun looking. That took up most of the morning. I picked DD#1 up at noon. We retrieved her car, got something to eat, and then she went back to work for the afternoon. I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Caxton Printers in Caldwell, which is the printer that I used to publish my Aran and cable knitting books. (They also printed Myrna Stahman's book on shawls and scarves.) Caxton still has some boxes of my Aran book in storage in their warehouse, and I wanted to pick some up and bring them back with me. I was only able to bring about half of them back because of space constraints, but I am going back to Nampa next spring for a denominational board meeting and will retrieve the rest of them then. 

[Heads up to the knitters out there: When these copies of Aran Sweater Design are gone, there will be no more. I am not planning to do a second print run. If you want a copy, I suggest getting it sooner rather than later.]

Later that afternoon, I visited two quilt stores. At Bluebird Quilt Studio in Nampa, I bought a bag pattern for Molly's "Just Right" Bag:

This ought to be a quick sew. It'll go into the queue after the blog tour bag is done. 

I also visited The Quilt Crossing in Meridian, which bills itself as "Idaho's largest quilting store." It probably has the right to that title. The place is huge and has just about every line of fabric and quilting notion available. I spent a good 45 minutes wandering around looking at everything. In the end, I settled on some batting and a charm pack of a new line of fabric from Moda called "Big Sky":

I thought it was appropriate that I—a resident of the Big Sky State—should make a quilt out of this line of fabric. I love the colors. 

On Saturday, DD#1 suggested that we visit the farmer's market in downtown Boise. It was a beautifully clear day and we spent a couple of hours walking around the market sampling local specialties. We then hit the mall and Trader Joe's to stock up on some things that DD#1 needed. After dinner, I hugged her goodbye and headed to the hotel in anticipation of an early start home on Sunday. We'll see her again in December when she comes home for a few weeks before taking her licensing exam in Washington state and hopefully landing a job in Seattle. 

Monday
Oct162017

Circling Idaho, Part 1

I blame my parents for my ridiculous love of road trips. We took a lot of them when my sister and I were growing up—mostly from Ohio to Florida—and as a result, I have to take one every so often or I get twitchy. 

It occurred to me, as I was getting ready for this one, that a lot of my road trips lately have been rather complicated. I suppose that's because my kids are scattered around the Pacific Northwest. I have to cram a lot of stuff into a few days. DD#1 is down in Boise until the end of November, and she needed her snow tires. Rather than have her come home for a weekend to get them put on, I thought it would be easier for me to take them down to her and bring her summer tires home. Boise is a 10-hour drive away. There are a couple of different routes, but they all take about 10 hours. The BMW also needed service, which has to be done in Spokane. I wanted to get the servicing done before the weather got crummy and also before I hit 50,000 miles. 

I hatched a plan. It involved taking last Thursday and Friday off from work, driving to Spokane after work on Wednesday, having the car serviced Thursday morning, then driving down to Boise from Spokane—about six hours—Thursday afternoon. I would get the tires swapped out on Friday, spend Saturday in Boise, and then drive home from Boise on Sunday. 

My friend Tera was going to drive her car over to Spokane on Wednesday and have it serviced, too, and then we planned to spend Wednesday night at the hotel. She would come home on Thursday while I continued on to Boise. Unfortunately, the part for her car that she had ordered three weeks ago still hadn't arrived at the dealer, so she had no reason to take her car over there. That was disappointing, because it would have been fun to spend some time with her. 

And there was a sewing machine. 

I don't want to get ahead of myself, however. That is a big overview of the trip. Now it's time to fill in the details: 

About two weeks ago, someone listed a Singer 31-15 industrial treadle for sale on the Spokane Craigslist. It was a fine-looking machine, but the price was more than I was willing to pay. I already have two industrial sewing machine heads and one industrial treadle base. I kept an eye on CL, however, and about a week later, the seller re-posted the ad and dropped the price by half. At that point, the price was too good to leave it there. I got in touch with him, indicated that I was interested in the machine and that I was coming to Spokane on the following Wednesday. I asked if it would be okay if I checked with him on Tuesday to see if the machine was still available. Honestly, I thought someone would snap it up at the lower price. On Tuesday morning, though, he texted me to find out if I still wanted it. We made arrangements for me to swing by at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday. I got in touch with DD#2's, boyfriend, James, to see if he could help me with this adventure. He's still at Gonzaga. Being a good kid, of course he said yes. I think it also helped that I was taking him some pork chops and sausages and a couple of jars of homemade tomato sauce. He likes to cook. 

I looked at my car after packing it up Tuesday night and realized that I had a problem. Besides four snow tires and my suitcase, I also had DD#2's bike, which I was taking to James, as well as a bunch of miscellaneous things that DD#1 needed. There was no room for me to haul a sewing machine from Spokane to Boise and back to Kalispell. DD#2 has all of her stuff in a storage unit in Spokane while she is in Italy for the semester, and James assured me that there was room for the machine in it. I figured I would just wing it. If I didn't get the machine, oh well, but if it worked out, it worked out. 

I arrived at the seller's house on Wednesday afternoon at the appointed time. Yes, I know the dangers of meeting Craigslist sellers and would have abandoned the project if I didn't feel safe, but he lived in a very nice subdivision in Spokane. Indeed, when I got there, there was a lot of activity in his neighborhood and he had some contractors installing new drywall in his house. The machine was sitting out in the driveway. I got out, introduced myself, and we started chatting about the machine. I told him that I wanted to buy it but that I had to unload some stuff at James's house so I could come back with James and an empty car? I said that I understood if he didn't want to accommodate that request. He said it wasn't a problem, but did tell me that he had about half a dozen people lined up behind me who wanted to buy the machine. (Someone also called while I was standing there talking to him.) He made a few comments to the effect that he thought he was letting the treadle go for too little money (probably true) but I am not there to educate sellers on how much they should be charging for something that I want to buy. I told him I would pay what he was asking in the latest Craigslist ad and didn't try to negotiate on that price.  

Just as I was getting ready to leave, he asked me if I was interested in another machine. I said that I would look at it, so we went into the garage where he pulled out a box containing a Featherweight in excellent condition save for a missing spool pin plate (replacements on eBay). He also had another box containing a whole bunch of presser feet, throat plates, and various other accessories. I asked him how he had acquired all of this stuff, and he said it came from his uncle, who had been a rock collector. He built rock tumblers and took the motors off of old sewing machines to run the rock tumblers. Apparently he just tossed the machines (!) but kept all the bits and pieces. 

This guy didn't know what he had. I could have been a jerk and said that I would take the Featherweight off his hands for another $50, but I'm not like that and besides, he was being nice enough to hold the treadle for me. I spent the next 20 minutes or so explaining the value of Featherweights to him and showing him which of the accessories might be worth something on eBay. He said they had just planned to take the FW to Goodwill. I said he could probably get a couple hundred dollars for it, or more if he could replace the spool pin plate with another original. He thanked me for the information and said that he felt better about letting the treadle go. 

I drove over to James's house and we unloaded the bike and the snow tires, which he put in the garage. The two of us went back over to the seller's house. He had taken the head out of the base and packaged it up nicely with a bungee cord in a box to secure it. He and James loaded the machine and the base into the car and I handed over the cash. I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief as we pulled out of the driveway. 

Here's where the project went a little bit sideways. Theoretically, James and I each had a key to the lock on the storage unit containing DD#2's stuff, but neither of us could find our key. James had already planned for that eventuality and discovered that—for a small fee—the storage unit place would drill out the old lock and remove it. Unfortunately, by this time, the office was closed. We decided that he would keep the snow tires until the following morning. I would pick him up after the BMW had been serviced and we would go to the storage unit place and see if they could drill off the old lock and let us in. We would unload the machine, go back to his house and load up the snow tires, and I would get back on the road to Boise. Thankfully, he did not have any classes Thursday morning. 

I took him out for Mexican for dinner. 

I was done at the BMW dealer by 10 a.m. the following morning. I picked James up and we headed back over to the storage unit place. I was a bit concerned that they wouldn't let us in. Neither of us had signed the contract. Technically, we shouldn't have been given access, although I was all prepared to point out that I was the person paying the bill every month. The woman in the office remembered James, however, and said she would drill off the lock and let us in. We unloaded the machine and put on the replacement lock. Easy-peasy. I went back and dropped James off, picked up the snow tires, and got on the road to Boise. 

I don't have a picture of the machine, sadly, because I was so focused on getting it into the storage unit. I'll retrieve it some time in the next couple of weeks. The husband and I might go to a farm expo in Spokane in a few weeks and I can pick it up then. It looks very much like this one, though, without the fancy decals on the machine (image borrowed from ISMACS):

Tomorrow, Boise. 

Tuesday
Oct102017

Golden Days

We have had a stretch of absolutely beautiful weather here. I wouldn't call it Indian Summer, because the temps haven't gotten much above 50, but the sky has been blue and everything is bathed in that last bit of rich golden sunshine. Maybe it's because we moved here in the fall (24 years ago!), but I have been driving around and falling in love with Montana all over again. 

The husband has been collecting tomato cages, gathering up hoses, pulling up dead vegetation and attempting to bring some order to the chaos that is the garden:

I took a moment to enjoy this last bit of color out there:

Three or four years ago, I scattered a packet of calendula seeds around the garden. After lavenders, these are my next favorite flower. They came up the first year and then happily self-seeded themselves in subsequent years. This is the only clump that came up and bloomed this year, though. I'll have to collect the seed heads from this one and scatter them around next year. 

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I finished cutting out and interfacing pieces for the blog tour bag. The pattern calls for a focus fabric and a contrast fabric. Rather than go with Kona for the contrast—which would have been an obvious choice given that I have so much of it—I chose to use a 100% black linen instead. I think the added texture is going to kick it up a notch. Working with linen is a bit trickier than working with cottons. The weave is looser, so it requires gentle handling until it is interfaced. I have a white interfacing that I use for the lighter-colored fabrics but I also have black interfacing to use on black and darker fabrics. It's a challenge to use black interfacing on black fabric, especially black linen! I kicked around the idea of block fusing the linen—fusing a length of interfacing to a length of linen and then cutting out the pieces once they were stabilized by the interfacing—but in the end, I chose to interface each piece individually. Block fusing tends to result in more waste. It *is* possible to remove the interfacing from the pieces of fabric that are left over after cutting out the pattern pieces, but I knew that would be harder with the black interfacing on black linen (it's nearly impossible to see which is which once they are fused, or maybe that is my old eyes), and there also tends to be some adhesive residue left on the fabric. 

In any case, all the pieces are cut, interfaced, and ready to assemble. This project is right on schedule. 

Ritzville Quilt Update: The sale was this past Saturday. I couldn't go, but someone else from our congregation was there and she reported that the quilt that Margaret and I made sold for $1150 at the auction. Woo-hoo! I am delighted by that. The sale raised a total of $111,000 (nope, not a typo) for Mennonite Central Committee.

From the Menno Mennonite website (Menno is the location of the sale): The Mennonite Country Auction & Relief Sale is one of over 47 relief sales held in the United States and Canada.  Proceeds from these relief sales support the international relief, development and service ministries of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Service is given “In the name of Christ” in the midst of a hurting world as a witness to a compassionate God. MCC was born in 1920 in response to hunger and related human need brought on by war and revolution in Russia and the Ukraine. Today MCC has about 1000 workers serving in some 53 countries, including the U.S., and sends assistance to 70 countries.  MCC’s programs include providing material aid, such as wheat, beans, clothing and medical supplies to meet emergency needs, and agricultural development and water conservation projects to improve life in communities around the globe.  Our sale has contributed over $1.5 million to MCC over the past 38 years.

Margaret and I have not talked about doing a quilt for next year's sale, but it's clearly a worthwhile cause and one I would like to continue to support. 

Sunday
Oct082017

Cured

I need another project like I need a hole in the head, but my friend Anna (the caterer) and I got together last week and were having a little brainstorming session aided by some nice Italian wine. Anna is of Italian descent and lived in Italy one summer, so she has more than a passing familiarity with good Italian food. I was waxing poetic about all the delicious cured meats we had while we were there. She wondered if we (the husband and I) could just get a whole ham/leg from the butcher when we get the pigs processed and try making prosciutto or some other cured ham. 

What an intriguing thought. 

The husband and I had Chinese take-out Friday night and then plopped down in the living room to surf YouTube. I found a couple of videos about making prosciutto, and that was enough to convince me that we are wholly unqualified to take on a project like that. Prosciutto di Parma is aged anywhere from 14 to 24 months. 1) I do not have the patience. 2) Where would we put it while it's aging? 

I still want to research this a bit, but I think that if we want prosciutto, it's going to have to come from the deli counter. I did find the websites for the Portland Meat Collective and Seattle Meat Collective, both of which offer classes throughout the year on butchering, sausage-making, and other gourmet classes. A weekend class at one of those places might be enough to scratch this particular itch. My problem is that I am interested in too many things.  

Our neighbor Smokey and I were talking about the dearth of meat processors in this valley, and what a great business opportunity that would be for someone. When we moved here, I think there were at least five or six meat processors. We're down to two, which is why the husband and I take the pigs to a processor two hours away. It's really a shame. 

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I was up early yesterday and within an hour, I had 3/4 of the upstairs ripped apart. It started because I was looking for a Kaffe Fassett print to use for the blog tour bag, but in the process, I decided it would be a good time to clean out a couple of closets and get the flannel sheets and insulated curtains out of storage. I still need to put the closets back together, but it was good to set aside a few things to donate to the thrift store. 

Sauce-making has officially ended. I ferreted out every single bag of frozen tomatoes and cooked them all down on Friday. I ran the cooked tomatoes through the food mill yesterday morning and then did two canner loads. This season's final total was about 40 quarts, 18 of which were pints for the kids. It might be a bit less than last year, but I do not keep an official canning journal. It will be enough. There was a little sauce left over so I used it—with some of the hot Italian sausage from our pork—to make stuffed peppers for dinner. This was a good batch of sauce. I really love the combination of the Oregon Star paste tomatoes and the Cherokee Purples. 

Nice and rich and thick. 

While the sauce was processing, I also worked on getting the parts for the blog tour bag cut out. I never did find that Kaffe Fassett print I thought I might use, but I found a different fabric and I like it better. The prep work for making a bag takes a long time. There are something like 50+ pieces to cut—outer fabric, contrast fabric, lining, and interfacing—and this isn't even a large bag. I try not to rush this part. I want to make sure that the print on the pieces is oriented properly and that I don't miss a piece (or five). 

I don't mind all the cutting and interfacing. There are sewists of all kinds who complain bitterly about having to cut out pieces for bags, quilts, or whatever they are making because they want to get right to the sewing. It's all part of the journey for me. I have to say, though, that if I ever move beyond casual bag making, I am going to invest in a steam press. It would certainly streamline the interfacing portion of these projects.

I got all the pieces for the outside of the bag cut and interfaced yesterday. I still need to cut the contrast pieces (there are only three) and the lining pieces and get them interfaced, and then I can start sewing. This bag is from an established designer and her patterns are extremely well done. I have yet to run into anything that is unclear or confusing. 

I also made the linings for three canvas grocery bags that have been languishing on the floor of my sewing room all summer. These are for DD#1's boyfriend and I am sure he would like to use them. Those will get finished up today. It's been a pretty productive weekend. I didn't get to the pumpkins, but they aren't going anywhere. 

And I have been thinking that because I did such a good job cleaning up that Necchi, the universe ought to reward me with a new sewing machine project. There has been a bit of a drought here lately. I am just not seeing them for sale like I used to.