Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Two New Pillows

I was very excited to finish up a couple of couch pillows over the weekend. The first one replaces one I made a very long time ago, of similar design (from Kaffe Fasset's original Glorious Patchwork book), which had been reduced to shreds after years of wear and pillow fights. The original pillow was done with the paper piece method, which is kind of tedious. I decided to try stitching the strips for this one directly to squares of batting. I didn't really think about how that would work when I joined the squares together (when I mentioned it to the quilt store lady, hoping she'd have some tips, she just looked at me with great pity), but I forged ahead. It came out a tiny bit lumpy at the seams, but barely noticeable.

I started it about the time I got the new couch (you can see the old pillow, in very faded shades of yellow on the old couch in that post), but I got distracted by other projects and summer and stuff and only finally sat down and got it done over the last couple of weeks. The backing is my favorite brown Kaffe Fasset Roman glass design (which I also used in the TV cabinet). I also quilted the back right to batting (hoping the extra layer makes it more durable) and I put a zipper right down the middle to keep it easy.

I finished the first pillow up on Saturday and made the second one on Sunday. While I was working on it, E asked me if I wanted to play a game and I said, "When I finish this," and he said, "How long will it take you?" and I said, "Half an hour," and he said, "How come the other one took you three [sic] months and this one will only take half an hour?" Good question! Because it's a much simpler design. And I just really want to get it over and done with.

I bought the fabric for this one on a trip to the fabric store while my mom was visiting. If I count back through the times my parents have come to Maine, that puts this fabric purchase at about five years ago. Which means this pillow cover took me five years and a half hour, give or take.

Again I sewed the pieces directly to batting, in a sort of mega-wide log cabin design. The down side of rushing through a project as I did with this one, is that it opens one up for a lot of mistakes--I forgot to include seam allowance when I cut the batting (I went ahead using it anyway, hoping that what I read in one of the many zipper tutorials I looked up is true--that a pillow looks better if the cover is slightly smaller than the insert), on one side the design came out off-center, and I didn't catch the fabric in the seam in one place on one of the center squares. I didn't notice this until after I was nearly done and there was no way I was going to rip out all the seams to fix it. I'm not sure what I'll do to keep it from fraying in that spot (am tempted to just stick on a random patch).

So, the pillows don't really match each other, or the other two pillows I already made for the couch, or even the couch for that matter (whose wine-colored cover clashes horribly with the orange walls and the orange butterfly curtains). But I'm pleased with them. And the boys? Less than a minute after I installed the first pillow in its spot on the couch, Z and M started a pillow fight with it, and then a few hours later, C laid on top of it on the floor, where we were playing a game. So, I guess they didn't quite appreciate the aesthetics, but the found them useful.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Signs of a Snow Day



Blowing snow.

Cooperation (briefly).

Browning butter.

Snow tunnel.

Puzzle (1500 pieces might have been a titch ambitious for one day).

Books and blankets.

Snowy trails (and slightly scary creaking-in-the-wind trees).

Catherine Newman's brown butter shortbread (with oats subbed for half the flour, because who doesn't love butter-drenched oats?).

More snow.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Day on the Ice

It was cold and it snowed.

And then it was very, very cold.

And then it rained.

And warmed up.

And the snow melted.

Then it got cold again, for a few days.

With more snow on the way.

We found snow pants and coats and matching mittens.

And tromped through the woods, over the old, rotten snow, through low-hanging hemlock branches.

And we sat on an old log and laced up our skates.

As big, fat, feathery flakes flew, furring the surface of the ice.

And we skated.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January Thaw

After a frigid week--lows below zero most mornings, and negative sixteen one day--we got a couple of days of reprieve. Both Sunday and Monday temps rose to the mid-forties. Sunday it rained most of the day, making the outdoors not very inviting, but Monday the sun came out, and so did we.

As soon as we got outside, snowballs began to form. Around our house, there is an incontrovertible natural law that boys + wet snow = snowball fight.

I don't get it. I always hated snowball fights. But I don't get a lot of things my kids love (Minecraft, dodgeball, bodily function humor).

The warm weather called us down to the river (and not one single person complained about the trip!). I resisted thinking of it as "springlike" because that would only set me up for false hope. There is a lot of winter ahead of us.

Yet, out in the woods there were a lot of signs of life. Tracks (squirrel, I believe). Pileated woodpecker holes.

The swamp we stomp through was wet again--six inches of melted snow over the ice.

I saw this cocoon dangling from a tree that I'm sure I've walked by two dozen times since something spun it but never noticed it before. I wonder what will come out of it in the spring?

Scat. (Okay, so maybe I don't participate in poop jokes, but I take pictures of poop, which is probably even worse).

And more tracks (another squirrel).

The river was rushing.

A deep layer of meltwater ran over the top of what was left of the ice. I don't think this will be a walk or skate down the river kind of winter, unless we tuck into some seriously cold weather for a good long while (that's not a wish, just an observation).

Back in the field, we were back to the snowballs. It's so strange seeing so much bare ground in mid-January. I haven't skied or snowshoed once this winter--there just hasn't been enough snow for it (well, I could have skied last week, but oh, that bitter cold kept me inside).

The boys trooped up our trail toward home, but I extended my walk around the field and up the driveway, soaking in a little peace and quiet and fresh air. 

Already the cold was beginning to seep back across the land. January thaw made its appearance, then handed the reins back over to winter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Weekend Things ~ Need to Do/Want to Do

I again went into the weekend with a list--inside my head--of things I needed to get done, and things I wanted to do. I started the weekend with an evening out Friday night with a friend, to a new Indian restaurant (yum!) and to see this movie, which was so good and so sad. The tragic irony of it destroyed the last shred of faith I had in humanity.

E and Z had a friend over Saturday morning, so I put off the housework until a time at which they could help and focused on a couple of need-to-do's that I've been putting off for too long.

Starting sprouts, finally! Winter's half over (ha!) and I just now got these going, which is ridiculous since it takes all of a minute to find a jar and the sprouting lid, put the seeds in, and add water.

I also finally got the Christmas thank-you-notes (mostly) ready to go in the mail (but didn't get them to the box in time for Saturday's mail delivery). Addressing the envelopes led to a whole 'nother project: I updated my Christmas card mailing list with all of the changed and corrected addresses, printed out a set of labels and stuck them to new, clean pages in my address book.

This is what the book looked like before. People are forever moving and getting married and getting divorced and otherwise messing up my address book. I still need to go back and hand-write in the phone numbers (but since the few people we actually call are programmed into all of our phones, I don't feel terribly compelled to do so).

After the boys and I cleaned house, we got one with some want-to-dos:

Lounging around with comics and comic books (I want to long around reading, too, but it just doesn't seem to happen).

And playing outside. The January thaw hadn't hit yet, and it was still pretty frigid out, so we didn't go too far.

In the evening, I took M to see this amazing guitarist. He's one of M's favorites and the tickets were my Christmas present to him. I love going to see local musicians at local venues--it is so congenial and cozy and intimate and the musicians seem like real people, not demigods. I think I could never attend another big-name concert in an arena full of screaming people and be perfectly happy.

Sunday the rain came, and we spent a cozy day inside. On my need-to-do list: sketch and identify winter weeds (I had collected them a few weeks earlier, so I didn't have to go out in the rain).

And on the want-to-do list: knit and read (books piled on that foot rest include: Big Nate, The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Man Who Walked Through Time, Magical Journey, Akimbo and the Lions, and How to Train Your Dragon. Guess which books are mine?).

I had planned to go to a party in the afternoon, but warm rain falling on frigid roads made for treacherous driving and, after fishtailing as far as our neighbors' driveway, I turned around and skidded back home. Instead I cooked a healthy dinner and did another need to do--fixed two pairs of mittens--while watching various Sunday night PBS programming (Father Brown, Downton Abbey, Grantchester).

And then we had a bonus weekend day! In between E's dentist appointment (about which he was outraged--outraged!--that it did not entail missing any school) and M's voice lesson, I managed another want-to-do that I've been meaning to do for a very long time: make Welsh tea cakes, something I remember my mom making when I was a kid (only I didn't know what they were called, but googled "frying pan cookies") and have been meaning to make myself for ages. The boys and I just finished reading The Dark is Rising series, which again reminded me of these (a good portion of the series takes place in Wales...and tea cakes make an appearance). I used this recipe, subbing whole wheat pastry flour for half the all-purpose flour, using yogurt instead of buttermilk, cutting the sugar by 1/4 cup, and using dried blueberries instead of currants (a little Maine twist). They came out delicious--a bit like a scone or a biscuit, with just enough but not too much sweetness. The orange zest and nutmeg were perfect. I'll definitely be making them again.

Finally, we ended the weekend with this sighting on the way to M's lesson, a barred owl who kindly flew down to a fence post and posed for a photo after the third drive-by.

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