Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Seeing Stars

So here's what's on my design wall this morning.  Yep, that's a whole lot of stars!

I've been sewing these for years. Well, actually, I started cutting up scraps for stars about 3 years ago.  I made a few, then got distracted (surprise!) and the box of parts moved to the back of my closet.

So it's been -- marinating, shall we say? -- for all of that time. And recently, in a mood to make a bit of a dent in the UFO list, and looking for some mindless thing to take to my April quilt retreat, I unearthed it.  I have to confess that it took an evening of sorting of parts and trying to make sense of  various scraps of paper. I knew I'd planned it all out -- all I had to do was decipher the plans!  But I finally did, and made a bunch of the blocks on retreat.  Since then, I've had a few star sewing sessions and recently finished them up. 

I am looking forward to sewing them together and getting it quilted. Just in time for the Fourth of July!

What started me down this starry road was stumbling onto blog quilt-along some years back, called "Oh My Stars!" Sheila's blog,, looks like it's been on a long hiatus -- but if you like stars and want to get good tutorials for a bunch of different types, click on the link.  She has really good instructions.  The original Oh My Stars quilt had different types of stars, and her blog provides directions for all of them. 

Me, though, I just wanted to use up red and blue scraps, so I figured simple was the way to go.  I stuck with three sizes of sawtooth stars. I had so many scraps leftover from making this quilt, ages ago.

Looking for a photo of that quilt reminded me that I made another red and blue quilt a few years ago too.

 Apparently I now have a patriotic quilt collection and didn't even know it.

You'd think I'd have made a huge dent in the red fabrics in my stash, wouldn't you?  But, um... no. I still have loads.  But I think I'm done with stars for the time being.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Contained Gardening

My mother tells me that I have gardening in my genes.  Her grandfather was a gardener at an old estate house famous for its lovely gardens. My dad's parents were both natural gardeners, Italian immigrants for whom it was natural to have a massive backyard garden producing fruits and vegetables for the whole family most of the year. With that lineage, it's natural that my parents were big gardeners, too. I grew up seeing them outside in the garden on weekends, and hearing them comment on plants and flowers. I have a lot of memories of weekend trips to the local nursery.  In elementary school, the girl whose family owned the nursery became a friend of mine and it was a treat to go to her house after school where we'd run among the flats of plants and shrubs. That smell of recently-watered soil is a very familiar and comforting smell.

And I want to like gardening, I really do. I love being outside and planting things and watching them grow.  But there's a little issue I didn't realize I'd find so discouraging. The soil here isn't soil. It's clay, heavy, dense clay. When you dig a hole in it and fill it with water to soften it for more digging, the water just sits.  Overnight even, it just sits. It doesn't drain. It's just...clay.

When I moved into this house, the backyard was an expanse of bare dirt. I'd read the gardening books, and when landscapers came in to put in the first bits, I had them amend the soil and rototill yards and yards of good soil into the dirt that was here. I figured that that would take care of it.  And maybe it's better than it would have been if they hadn't done that. But still, it makes for miserable digging.

Which is why I have taken an easy way out: container plants. Pros: nice soil, no clay. And in drought-stricken California, I can water the potted things and not use quite so much water. Cons: they dry out faster. But that just means that I get the pleasant experience of strolling around the garden to do a bit of sprinkling each morning. It's very pleasant.

A few years ago, I put hooks up so I could hang baskets around the edge of the patio. Having flowers there makes me very happy. Last weekend I refreshed the baskets and they look so pretty.

It makes sitting out on the patio quite nice.  Last evening my sister and sat and enjoyed chips and quacamole and some very nice sistery chat. Perfect.

And yesterday, I got a window box installed on the window at the front of the house, and I've filled it with pink geraniums and white petunias. I can't wait to see it grow and overflow into a lush colorful spill of color.

Master gardener, I'm not.  But I'm happy with my bits of color. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Keeping Myself in Books


You all know that I'm an avid reader.  I read fast, and I read a lot. If I had to buy every book I read, I'd be broke. But I have a few good ways to keep books coming for not very much money. So here are my tips on how to do that.

1.  I use the library.  This is a no-brainer, people!  A whole building full of books, available to you for free!  And really, not just one building.  A whole county's worth!  And counties beyond that! Once you start using your inter-library loan system, you can read pretty much anything you  like for free, if you're willing to wait a bit.

When I hear about or see a book I'd like to read, I go straight to my computer and go to the library's online catalog. My library's site shows me books all around my county as well as what's at my local branch. If it's at my branch, I can put it on hold and go down and get it. If it's not at my branch or if it's checked out, I can request it and I get an email when it comes in.

Somehow, a bunch of requested books always seem to come in at the same time. Don't ask me why, but they just do.  It's like how you can go into the library on one day and find little that appeals, and then on another day everything on the shelf looks great and it's a struggle to get the "bring home" pile down to a reasonable size.

2.  I use the Wishlist on as a way to remember books to request from the library.  I suppose the Wishlist is intended as a way to tell  people gifts you'd like, but that's not how I use mine. I keep it private, and for me it functions as a virtual "to be read" list.  When I see a book that looks good, I put it on the wishlist.  Every once in a while, when my library request/hold list isn't long, I'll open two windows on my computer: one with the Amazon wishlist up, and the other with the library's online catalog up.  I'll go through and see if I can find the books on my wishlist at the library, and then request them.  (Be sure to take them off the wishlist when you've requested them, to keep things current.)  Then it feels like I've shopped, and have new books coming to me, without spending a penny.  Shhh, don't tell Amazon!

3.  I check to see which books on my Amazon Wishlist are on sale. Have you ever noticed that every once in a while, the Kindle edition of some current, full-priced book will be on sale for a day or two for $1.99?  Sometimes the first book in a series will be $1.99, I suppose in the hope that it'll hook readers on the series and they'll buy at full price. Every once in a while, I'll go to the Amazon wishlist, and click on the "Filter & Sort" tab to sort by price, low to high. The books on my list will be sorted and if any have had huge price drops, they will show up at the new bargain price.

I did this just today and ended up buying 3books for $1.99 each that are current books and retail for $12.99.  Bargain!  I always figure if the price is what I'd pay if I found the book on a table at my library's book sale, then I'll do it on the Kindle.

You want to know what I got, don't you? You don't even have to ask.

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

 Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. ($2.99, which seemed reasonable using my "library book sale table rule.)

The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo.

By the way, you can sort your Wishlist items by "price drops" and that'll show you the biggest price drops first.

Oh, and one more Amazon Wishlist tip: you can create different lists for different purposes. So you can keep one list for books, a list for other Amazon stuff, a different list you keep for friends and family to show them stuff you want, etc. I keep a separate list of Kindle Unlimited books because my sister gave me a Kindle Unlimited membership for Christmas last year, and so when I stumble onto a K.U. book, I'll put it onto that list for when I'm next looking for something to read.
(I guess Kindle Unlimited is another sort of bargain way to get books. I'm iffy on it and I have to admit that I wouldn't have subscribed on my own. The K.U. books seem to be "B list" sorts of books, with a lot of self-published stuff. I won't resubscribe when my gift subscription is up.)

4.  Have you heard of this? It's exclusively for ebooks.  And it's totally free.  You sign up to a mailing list, and are asked to identify what sorts of books you like.  Based on your preferences, you'll receive a regular email identifying books in your categories that are free or under $3.00 for a limited period of time. The list often has popular books by excellent authors. It can be hit and miss, but I've found great books on there. They have kids' books and nonfiction, as well.

I hasten to add that I have two really lovely bookstores in my little town, and I try to patronize them too. I buy from them when I can. A reader can't have too many books, can she?

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Spontaneously Decorating with Turquoise, or "At Least it's a Pretty Color"

Last night before bedtime, I was looking at one of those decorating blog-hops where people showed their work and craft spaces.  I noticed how stark white seems to be the current trendy look, and I was marveling over how those people could keep white things white. I mean, for work and crafty activities?  I make a mess. Plus all of that white looks kind of stark and unfriendly, don't you think?  Well, that's my opinion, anyway.   

I shut down my Ipad and headed off to bed, making a detour into my non-white and rather cluttered office to put some mail on the desk. Sitting next to my keyboard were a few fountain pens that I'd cleaned earlier in the day to ready them for filling with ink.  I love fountain pens!  But if I drain one and then let it sit for a few days before I refill it (which I do, constantly) the ink dries in the nib and it needs a little flushing out with warm water before it can be refilled to flow smoothly again.

ANYway, I'd had a very productive day. (I promise you, this is going somewhere.) I'd worked in the garden. I'd checked a bunch of stuff of of my to-do list, including "clean pens."  But wait, I hadn't refilled them, and I wanted that task finished. I figured I'd quickly fill the three pens with ink, at best a 10 minute task.

I grabbed one of my favorite inks, Navajo Turquoise by Noodler's Ink. I love this color for writing in my journal -- it's actually a bit darker out of the pen than in the Goulet's sample up there, so it looks more like a turquoisey dark blue and it makes me happy.

Here's what my bottle looks like.

I use this ink pretty often, but it's this empty and this messy because I spilled it once. Big surprise.

So, I got my pens lined up, their converters ready to load.  I opened the bottle. I dipped the first pen, realizing that because the level of ink in the bottle was low, I had to dip the pen pretty deeply to immerse the nib in the ink. Hmm, I need a tissue to wipe the tip off, I thought.  And as I turned to grab a tissue -- you are seeing where this is going, aren't you? -- my elbow hit the bottle, and yes, the bottle tipped and spilled a lovely Navajo Turquoise onto my desk and under my keyboard.

You'll forgive me for not stopping to take photos, I assume?  Rest assured that I leapt up, grabbed the box full of tissues and started swabbing frantically.  I dashed to the laundry room to grab some rag towels.  You can imagine the frenzy of wiping that ensued. I left a lot of turquoise fingerprints in the process, but I eventually got it all cleaned off of my desk and keyboard. Luckily none spilled into the keys, it was just underneath.  I was greatly relieved that none had dripped into the carpet.

Now my mousepad -- a pretty floral with a turquoise background to begin with -- has an extra dark turquoise corner.

Good thing I have a manicure scheduled for tomorrow, as I don't really want to wear this turquoise nail look for long.  And this is after a whole lot of scrubbing.

It was only when I went to climb into bed that I discovered the rather large splodge of turquoise ink on the top of my right foot.  It must have dripped when I was carrying soggy towels to the laundry room. (Still, just my foot. Not the rug. Phew.) Back into the bathroom for more scrubbing.  I went to bed with just a delicate aqua stain.

So, things are back to normal sort of, plus a few turquoise additions to the decor. But I'm quite certain that I'd never be able to carry off a stark white office.