Monday, December 31, 2007

Naughty Knotty Pine, and What I Hope to Do in 2008

If you're ever bored, Google "painting knotty pine paneling". I'll bet, heretofore, you had no idea there were such strong opinions about what to do with the paneling in strangers' homes. But there are, and people aren't afraid to voice 'em.

I'm ashamed to say that I let all that controversy influence me for years. I wanted to paint our family room, but "people" said that was a terrible idea, it was a treasure to be savored, I'd hate it, etc.

And so, in large part because of the indecisiveness, we let our family room become The Room to Avoid. It was the homeschool room for a while, but it slowly got ickier and creepier (see scary ghouls, right) and we moved the TV out and then it was, as the TP called it, Gollum's Computer Cave and the place that only brave people who couldn't get time on Mom's laptop went. We couldn't even let guests stay there anymore. Ew.

Wednesday morning (day after Christmas), we pulled everything out, went to the dump twice and got rid of a bunch of trashed furniture by pulling it out on the street as freebies. Spouse got a lovely case of hives from something in the dust bunnies. I spent $156 on paint and supplies and spent not two, not three, but four twelve hour days patching, prepping, priming and painting the walls. I painted them green, of all things, and there was instant and unanimous agreement that this was an enormous mistake. So I REPAINTED them (two coats) Muslin, which turned out to be perfect.

Really perfect. I'm astonished at how wonderful the room looks. Painting knotty pine paneling that you hate is a GREAT IDEA.

Today was IKEA day, where we spent an incredible amount of money on what seemed like nothing, and then spent an incredible amount of time setting the nothing up. But now it's mostly done.

And that is what I did with my winter vacation. No art yet, and all the boxes haven't been unpacked, but overall we're happy. We're going to do a family savings plan for a 37" flat screen and a sofa, and life will be good. We will be People With a Family Room.


And I have some Joel Dewberry quilty plans, but I have to get a fat quarter pack to see if the colors work. Stay tuned.

2008 resolutions:

I have, since early November, lost 8 pounds and gotten to the point where I can run (heh, "trundle" is a better word) aaaaaaaaalmost three miles on the street and a bit over three on the treadmill. So the first resolution is to keep up the good work on my health.

Get in to a master's program ranks second.

Then there's "try not to be a shrew to my family, friends and co-workers when I'm suffering from perimenopausal meltdowns". The exercise is helping some. I think. If not, well, sorry...I really am trying.

Make, oh...five quilts this year? Is that reasonable? Maybe if I have someone else longarm them. I want to make one for our bed, and a one for the new family room sofa that we get. My sister is lobbying for one. I can do that.

I'm thinking that's really enough. I feel a little faint just thinking about all that effort.

Happy 2008 to all.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Things What I Knitted

Christmas gift truths can finally be revealed. But first, photos from our now annual stealth Christmas Eve Santa hat defacing of neighborhood lawn ornaments.













The cashermino Fetching and wool Made It Up to Fit JMan mitts delivered in person all seemed to be a hit, all were immediately donned and worn for the rest of the evening (OK, so our chilly house probably helped with that). The (here unblocked) socks for Spouse were proclaimed to be quite nice despite the fact that they were not made with sock yarn, something I swore I'd never do (the yarn place in Iowa didn't have sock yarn I liked, and I had to knit SOMEthing for him while I was stuck in the snow).


But he wrote me a poem despite the sport weight, and all's well that ends well.

In the words of Clement C. Moore, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Visions

All that's left is stitching in the ends on 3 pairs of mitts, 1 pair of socks and finishing up one hat. Now if I could just find my yarn needles...


Here's how things look around here. Hope your tomorrow is peaceful and happy.




Friday, December 21, 2007

Fortune

I'm fortunate to work in the hematology and oncology department of a pediatric hospital. My 18 months there has substantially changed my perspective on life. I'm way more into gratitude, I have let go of a lot of prejudice and subtle racism I once carried, I understand a lot more about the wonder that is human life.

I'm fortunate to work there in a time when the vast majority of kids we see get well or live healthy well into adulthood. So when we have a day like yesterday, it stands in stark contrast to the everyday experience.

Yesterday our oncology doctors had to tell an adolescent and his family that there was no hope. Worse, it was a sudden and unexpected diagnosis, not one that could be anticipated in any way by anyone. It was an awful morning, the drama playing out in the office next door to mine, every word heard, every tear felt, every curse echoed. It was the rawest display of pain I have ever witnessed, and despite my now practiced detachment at work, I could not stay apart from it. I could not help but feel a small part of their pain, and cried many tears, as did many of the staff present.

I'm fortunate. I got to come home and hug my healthy children, knit on a glove for one, take a child to sports practice and pick another up from music. And I slept well. I know that family had none of those blessings, and there but for the grace of God...

Count your blessings this holiday season. Don't worry about that unpurchased gift for the postman or neighbor, or whether the turkey will be done on time. Don't fret about getting the cards out. Just tell someone who wants to hear it that you love him, thank someone for something kind she's done for you. And offer a prayer of thanks to whomever you please for all the bounty that is yours.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sleep

It's no secret to those who know me well that sleep tops my list of favorite things. My nickname in college was CinderSue, as I never saw midnight. Sleep is insanely wonderful. I have no adequate words to describe it beyond that.

Over the years my sleep has been interrupted by pregnancy hormones and discomforts, babies and toddlers and big kids in bed, pets in bed, earthquakes, car accidents in front of our house, helicopters over our house, too much cold, too much hot, sleepless wandering kids, sleepless wandering teen, teen home late, phone calls about sick relatives, broken pipes, smoke alarms. But more than anything else over the last few years, it's been interrupted by snoring. I won't say whose. But there it is. It has become a constant in my world, to be awakened several times each night, poke the offender, pull the pillow over my head, curse under my breath.

This week I said aloud that it might be time for me to move to another room, and a certain person was convinced to try Breathe Right strips.

Oh. My. God.

I now sleep like I am 5 years old again. This is the greatest gift I have ever been given. I need nothing else from the universe. Gratitude, thy name is suzee.

If snoring is an issue in your life, I cannot recommend these things highly enough. The snorer will also be a happy, happy camper, as his/her sleep will be vastly improved, too. Check 'em out.

In other news: I have finished Christmas shopping and am down to just the making. I hope to have a sewing marathon this Sunday and another next weekend. Knitting is almost finished except for one pair of mitts and the last 20 rows or so on a hat. Whee! Photos soon. Tree goes up tomorrow!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Snow Laughing Matter

Dropped in on my grandma this week, in lovely Eastern Iowa. I was a little leery of coming in December 2007, as the state is 4 inches deep in presidential candidates and their leavings, but it turned out the weather trumped the politicos in the news and on the ground. For my part, I have been stranded (just for an hour) in Omaha while we waited for the Des Moines airport to plow, then in Des Moines (for 15 hours) while they cleared Hwy 80, and now (happily) in Cedar Rapids for an extra 24 hours while the second storm dumps its load on us.

Go here to see what everything looks like about now. It's just breathtaking. Inside: visually breathtaking. Outside: physically so. It was like, seriously, 8 degrees when I headed back to my hotel tonight.

Fortunately, it didn't cost much to change the plane reservation, extend the car rental and keep the hotel, and how often do Californians get to call in for a snow day off from work? My Neena and I are having a fine time: we decorated for Christmas, solved some problems around the apartment, and today we even baked cookies together. We realized in the baking that it was the first time I'd ever baked cookies with my grandma, but at 46 it's apparently not too late!

The biggest disaster of the trip: I was hoping to make these (sans the leaves and vines) for the men in my life, but left the bag filled with needles and lovely Rowan yarn by the front door on my way to the airport (thanks for the ride, Mom!). Cedar Rapids is terribly short on yarn shops, but Marion pulled it out with Hearthstone Gifts and Crafts (where I bought, incredibly, my THIRD set of size 6 dpns...they seem to be the ones I leave behind). So I am making these socks for spouse, and hope to still be able to pull off the mitts for JMan by the big day.

Snow kicks the whole knitting drive into high gear.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Homemade Holidays

I caught the homespun fever that's sweeping the internets lately. Tired of Black Friday sales, leading consumer indicators and credit card bills in January, I've decided that I want to try to go as homemade as I can this year.

Not nuts am I. Although I do have a few things in the works on my needles and machine, I've also been surfing Etsy endlessly, and my GOSH are there some wonderful things for great prices there. So far Etsy has two of my loved ones covered, and I'm going to look a bit more this weekend.

And there's pie. Chocolate pie, to be quite specific. I think nearly everyone needs a nice chocolate pie in an upscale pie pan, so that's the gift of choice to the lovely local mamas who help make my children's lives a better place.

I'm still stumped for a few people, and my children will be receiving manufactured items from Toys R Us and other big retailers in addition to their mama-made swag, but so far this plan is going well.

The mama to be loved the baby quilt (below), and was kind enough to make sure it was ooooo'd and aaaaah'd over at the shower today. So gratifying. But I will miss it. I'm already talking with a certain sibling about another version for her bed, and thinking seriously of one for mine (no dalmatians, though).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Baby Quilt in Hexagons

First, apologies for the pics. I am not home during daylight hours during the week this time of year, so this was the best I could do.

I spent months trying to figure out how to put those adorable Heather Ross fabrics together. Once they arrived, I realized that there wasn't really a focal fabric, and except for the browns, no darks at all. Stumped, I was. My old school way of doing things didn't fit with this bundle. I finally decided to try this hexagon pattern, and through the whole process was convinced this was going to be the ugliest little thing ever. Even through quilting, I was muttering about the waste of time, and grateful that I had three baby quilts in reserve to pick from.

Will wonders never cease? I think it's flippin' adorable. I'm especially pleased with the way the quilting turned out. Go figure. The baby shower is Friday. Yay me.

I've been knitting quite a bit too, but mostly for folk who read this space, so neener neener, you can't see those projects.

Nyeah.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Psychotic Neon Duck

The Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas is just the coolest place. I could have posted 50 pix, but I'll leave it to just these few to give you the flavor.


Three days in Vegas with extended family, courtesy of my generous pops and stepmom: Lots of great moments, wonderful food, fabulous entertainment (in addition to the Boneyard, we did the Liberace Museum and "O" by Cirque du Soleil - wow!), a way cush hotel room, and above all nice company. Fabulous weather, and the locals are very pleasant.

And did I mention the food? Holy cow. They know them some food.

Still, nice to be home. Heading into Holiday Time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In Which I Rave About Web 2.0

Google is the neatest thing since sliced bread. We all know the old-school Google Search, Picasa, Blogger, and my very favorite, Google Earth. But today? Today I fell in love all over again.

It started when the "a" key on my laptop gave up the ghost. I hve to, er, hAve to hit "a" three times to make it work. The last straw on a rapidly failing machine. A new laptop is being made for me as we speak in Dell-land. But Evil Microsoft has now taken Outlook out of the Home/Student version of Office, and I hate Outlook Express. So what to load up when the new machine arrives?

I looked at Open Office, but no email program. MS Office Professional, including Outlook? $399. Hyeah, right. And then I stumbled onto GMail - oooooooooooh my. I can keep my old email address? No POP server to get wonky? Access from any web browser? A nifty add-on that informs me of new email even if I don't have a browser open? A stunningly simple interface? I can import all of my contacts easily? A bare bones chat program for grown-ups?

All over it like a bad rash.

And that led me to Google Docs Beta - Office-like web-based productivity software that can be instantly saved in any of a zillion formats (including Office formats, PDF, HTML), and can be edited by anyone you invite, saved online and again, accessed from any browser. Did I already say FREE? Um? Or $399 to Mr. Gates? Hmmmmmm.

So, we're switching. Further reviews as events warrant. I think it will make my kids' lives so much easier - we have three computers here, only one hooked up to a printer, and they are constantly on any of 20 computers at school. This should make memory sticks and emailing to oneself a thing of the past.

In other news, I finished the knit baby sweater (photos next post), a super cute hat and most of a matching jumbo scarf. I need to start some socks...I have my eye on a cool Interweave free pattern. I also need to make that dalmatian baby quilt - the fabrics are washed and ironed and waiting and the baby is due in 8 weeks. Application to UC Berkeley is out the door, the other two are almost done.

Next week? Knitting in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In Which I Say What We've Been Up To

Accidental photographs? Sometimes they're better than the planned ones. This photo of the Teen Princess captures her perfectly. The lovely red-head on the right is a teammate, and they are dining on pizza in Livingston, CA, after an Ultimate tourney.

Things have been a little nutsier than usual here with viral bugs and two tournaments and so on. I did get all but one sleeve done on this cutie for my office-mate's older daughter (the pink rosy quilt is for her baby) - but then lost half my pair of size 8 needles...grr. But I will purchase more and finish this weekend. This was fun: it turned out to be a little small, so I decided to single crochet around the outsides and then crochet together the pieces. Nice and neat, lays flat, it's perfect. I will clean up the front when I put in the collar, and then add some buttons and loops.

And here are photos from the quilt show. It was fun, and my quilts fit in just fine. I will try to make it a yearly event.


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Saturday, September 22, 2007

What, Exactly, Is Art?

Thanks so much for the very kind comments about my middling Mom-ness. I'm OK, really. I think I just wanted to share the depth of my neuroses. It's the damn sugared violet cake that I once saw Martha Stewart make for an 8yo's birthday that bubbles up in the back of my brain every time I get down on my Momming abilities.

But Martha has a staff.

Here's something in the SF Chronicle this morning. I have seldom, in memory, had the "my kid could do that!" moments others seem to when looking at modern art. This however...well. Those who quilt will know how I feel.

Credit: "Aftermath Remnants" (2006), handwoven fabric and crochet by Frances Trombly.

The article says it's art, and I will try to honor that.

The quilt show with my two quilts is this weekend. When I dropped mine off I got to see the pile for hanging and I'm thinking mine aren't quite going to fit in. The pile of perfect perfect machine quilted quilts made with novelty fabrics included kitties, applique in the shape of gray haired ladies holding "welcome" signs (you could swap out the signs for other themed signs, depending on the season), and pretty pink wall sized ballerina frogs. Errrm.

As with Momming, I think I'm lost in the middle zone of quilting, between "cute!" meaning Halloween-themed table runners (bats in witch hats!) and "cute!" meaning Denyse Schmidt "randomness" with vintage repros, all looking exactly like each other.

I think maybe I'm "original". Yes, that's it. I *like* that. Original.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Evidence of My Failings

So you're over the moon today. It's like, you're recruiting patients for a clinical trail, you need someone with the most impossible set of criteria imaginable (one blue eye, one brown; over 6'8"; both names start with Z; never smoked; eats quail eggs for breakfast...) and you actually find someone and he wants to participate and you get up at 5 this morning to meet him at 6:30am on your day off and take him all over the hospital to get the right tests done and the right paperwork filled out, and then basically step in and set up his whole life for the next six months while he goes through the trial but you're just so freakin' happy because you managed to enroll only the third person in the whole country so far who meets the requirements and it's a really great study that's actually going to help someone and not test scary drugs, and you get to tell your grumpy boss, booYAH, I'm all that, here's the subject you said I'd never find, la la la, and then you get...home...and...

Oh, no.

Oh no, no no no no.

You forgot picture day at school (the first one ever for one of your children). This was Very Important.

This after you forgot picture day for soccer, which was Sunday, also Very Important.

And you think to yourself, There are Good Moms, and there are Bad Moms, and then there's me, floating around in the middle zone. Not setting my children on fire or drowning them. Not locking them in a closet while I go to bars. But not remembering picture day, never making a cake with sugared violets on it, constantly forgetting to be Tooth Fairy, not decorating for holidays except for Christmas, always behind with paperwork and doctor's visits, not enough saved for college, planning to spend my money on my OWN college, in fact. Not negligent, but not anything like I knew I would be, the day that first pregnancy test came back positive. Not selfless.

Yes, I think I'm supposed to be selfless, you think. And then you start to get a little weepy.

But after a minute you think, selfless? In truth, it's a little...much, isn't it? And maybe even, not a good thing. And you sniffle and dab at your eyes, but then breathe.

And then you find your checkbook, and drive over to the school, and the photographer van is still - lo! - in the parking lot.

And, because you're a newbie to the whole school thing, you didn't realize that they go ahead and take your children's pictures EVEN IF YOU DON'T PAY FOR THEM, so they already took them, and you can give the nice man a check and the children's names and he will FIX THE PROBLEM. My God, what a country.

And then the bell rings, and you remembered the soccer bag and that you have to pick up the neighbor, and you ask how school was and listen and comment on the responses: geometry project, book project, biology model with grapes, uh huh, uh huh. And then, on today's scoreboard, maybe you're just a little closer to the Good Mom side of the continuum than the Bad Mom side.

[But, deep down, and with only a little guilt, you're still really really really excited about the triumph at your job. Shhhhhh.]

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mud Room Madness

I watch too damn many home improvement shows.

This hideous spot (our 4x6' mud room/water heater closet) actually looked even worse before I pulled everything out and off the walls and painted the concrete floor a few months ago.

But am I content, as I would have been a few years ago, to just slap some paint on and move on? Nooooooo. I need a mud room like they show on DIY shows. A mud room that thrills, causes my friends and neighbors to turn green as the floor.

Fortunately, I already had some paint, so the $212 I just dropped on Elfa shelving wasn't too awful (I swear, it was the only thing I could find that would fit the space, and they cut it to size for FREE!). And with my fabric stash and an IKEA shade I am making the thing that will hide the water heater monster, so: cheap.

No sewing from me this week, but JMan did create this masterpiece. Keep an eye on him. I think you may be seeing him at Sundance in a few years.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Stack o' Quilts

Amy suggested my pile was a stack, which it wasn't, because everybody knows a stack is at least five.

But now I have a stack.

The Amy Butler fabrics...I just couldn't toss the scraps. And I had a bunch of cards I needed to send, and the ideas all came together at once. The card stock pops in and out of the frame, and can be replaced by a photo, or the recipient can put in a new message and pass it on to someone else.

Green greeting cards! For free! What's not to like?


Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Word to the Wise:

Say you're an undergrad, or worse a graduate student. And say you decide to just blow off a class, because, hey, you're already IN at this school, and you're never going to go to another school after THIS, for goodness sake, and who the heck CARES if you have to take a no credit for this stupid class. I mean, it's not like you're ever going to go into anything where anybody cares about it.

Right?

I mean, c'mon.

To you I say, "Life is long, my friends. It takes a circuitous course, and someday, someDAY, someone important to you may very well care about that no credit in Chemistry."

And on a related note: graduate school applications are a little demoralizing. Just not fun. They are also very very very very time-consuming. I was hoping to create some mini-quilts today, but no.

Friday, September 07, 2007

It's the Little Things...

...like being able to wave a hand blithely toward my "pile" of quilts ready for the show. Two counts as a pile, you know.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

FO: Amy Butler Quilt

Yup. Pieced it Sunday, quilted last night, finished binding this evening. In time for the September quilt show here in town, too! Tonight I'll bind the rosy quilt, and may put that in the show, too (deadline is tomorrow for entries). Fun! I've never had anything in a show except the county fair, which wasn't much fun (that's another post).

In my colorway defense, the super pale almost white diamonds are actually a lovely sky blue in real life, and the turquoise in the stripes does not pop at ALL like that when I'm looking at it. Geez.

First day of school? "AWESOME!!!" per both moppets. And a thing I noticed in the parking lot this morning: teenage boys can grow a LOT over the summer. A LOT.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

September

September always creates a little conflict in me. I know I'm supposed to be saddened by the waning days of summer, and bummed at the return to the everyday. But secretly? It's got to be my favorite month. Back into routines, lessened traffic and crowds combined with the Bay Area's best weather, plus an excuse to buy new clothes and hit the office supply store. How could anyone not be a Septemberophile?

This year I'm doubly conflicted, as I send the last one off to school after 10 years of homeschooling, creating an uber-routine (yay!) but meaning I see less of my moppets than before (boo!). So this weekend, as we prepare to send them off to the Big House on Tuesday, I feel alternately elated and depressed. I got all weepy picking out school lunch vittles at Trader Joe's, but found shopping for just the right pencil case strangely exciting.

As good a cure for bipolar back-to-school disease as I know is to sew. This is (finally) finished, save binding. Pix shortly.

And today is our official Do Nothing day during the long weekend. The rest of the weekend was bookended by activities and (rare for us) parties. This is how our Sunday morning started. Perfect.

I will finish up the Q2 quilt today...maybe...if I feel like it.

Finally (not know for brevity, am I), here are my perfect children serenading me on Friday. They are both new to their instruments, and put this together themselves.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Uh oh...

The Princess got me started watching What Not to Wear about a year ago, and along with Dirty Jobs (Mike Rowe? Hot like tamales.) and Mythbusters, it makes up the bulk of my TV watching. I've picked up a few hints from WNTW and Stacey and Clinton, and have to say it's helped as I've gone through the process of building a work wardrobe.

But shoes? No. I am absolutely not doing those heels, the pointy toes. I mean - c'mon.

And then the TP dropped this like a hanky in front of me the other day:

"Mom, you look so much more stylish lately. It's weird, but you really look a lot younger than you did a few years ago..." (italics mine).

And then, JMan really needed a messenger bag for school, and we couldn't find the *right* one. So we went to Zappos.com.

And then...well. I saw these. And they claimed to be "comfort shoes" (they lie). And free shipping? All over it.

They got here, and I wore them today (I had clothes on, too) and I *swear* to you that people treated me like I was CEO of the hospital. And I kinda felt like I was. All the patients I saw today just hopped into line and didn't argue with me about whether it was time for this or not time for that, and the doctors deferred about who would go in to see patients first, and you'da thought I was the Queen of the May.

I see shoe issues in my future.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More August FOs (And FO In the Making)

Not to blow my own horn, but I'm kicking butt craft-wise this month. Well, compared to recent months.


Here's the "muslin" version of the diamond quilt pattern I had in my head - a stash reduction project that will go to Project Linus. I ended up with the orientation wrong, and learned a lot about cutting diamonds with four bias sides and up/down orientation in the print, and was reminded that I am a total doofus where it comes to free motion machine quilting (I ripped and went back to my trusty walking foot and straight lines).

But overall, I'm happy and will use what I learned with the fancy fabric, soon. First up will be finishing the rose quilt (top done), as a baby just entered my world (her mom is a new co-worker) whose name happens to be Rose.

Also did a cute and quick crocheted scarf with gacky all wool yarn that untwisted and turned into bunches of wool thread and drove me nuts. But the scarf is cute.

Finished object in the making is JMan, who entered my world 11 years ago tonight. It's been a super 11 years...thanks, dude.