Friday, October 28, 2022

Finish It Friday ~ New Duvet

Since about mid-July, C has been begging me to put the down comforter back on the bed. At any temperature below 70 degrees, a quilt and two blankets just isn't enough for him. But, in addition to not wanting to be roasted alive, I enjoy having the summer quilt on the bed--it even inspires me to make my bed (almost) every morning. Besides, our old duvet had become threadbare, with the fabric eroding to tickly fringe all along the top edge. And no wonder--I made that one thirteen years ago!

I'd been meaning to replace the old duvet, which I'd made by piecing together fat quarters, for a while, but one of the fabric stores near me never reopened to in-person shopping after the pandemic, and the other one moved to a location farther away and changed focus to long-arm quilting, cutting way back on fabric inventory, so I hadn't been able to amass the requisite fat quarters. I finally gave in and ordered a couple of bundles online, supplementing with a couple of additional prints I picked up on a shopping trip with my mother-in-law (to a fabric store that's both open and still selling fabric!), and last week put them together in a big rectangle.

Last time I went with a lot of pastel hues (although, looking back at that old post, it was not as pastel-ey at the beginning as it was after 13 years of sun-bleaching). This time I went with bright, bold prints. My favorites are the feathers, the turkey-tail fungus, the snail shells, and the agates. So fun!

The procedure is pretty simple: for a queen-sized duvet, piece together 20 fat quarters in four rows, five quarters high. Sew this to a full-sized sheet*, wrong-sides together, leaving an opening of about 18-24 inches along the bottom edge. Fold the raw edge of the duvet top, at this opening, over on itself and hem, reinforcing the points where the opening meets the sewed-together bits, if that makes sense.

*It took me way too long that you only need a full-, not queen-sized sheet to back a queen-sized duvet.

My goal with this project was keep it simple as possible, with minimum labor, and so I used the fat quarters as they came. Unfortunately, there ended up being a difference size between quarters of up to two inches, and I don't think there was a square corner among them, so I had to stretch and fold and fudge to get it to all fit together. To save yourself that headache, consider cutting your quarters to be all the same, exact size.

The photo above is just staged--two blankets and a quilt still lie beneath the duvet, because it's still a smidge too warm to really need a down comforter, at least until November.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Finish It Friday ~ The Everything Bookcase

When I was visiting my parents last November, I pointed to a bookcase in a magazine and asked my dad something along the lines of, "Do you want to build that for me?" Now, I say similar things to my husband all the time nothing ever comes of it (well, almost never), so I didn't expect to actually get a bookcase, but my mom mentioned sometime last spring that he was working on it, and then she sent me a photo of the finished product a month or two ago, and then last week a freight carrier truck was trying to negotiate my driveway with a heavy wooden crate in the back that contained this:

It's a round table with bookcases on four sides, set on casters (the original design had a lazy Susan mechanism for allowing it to spin, but casters were more practical from a building standpoint and, as it turns out, from a user standpoint as well). I'm not very good at spatial visualization, and I was expecting something end-table-sized that I could tuck into a corner of the living room (although I became suspicious that I had that wrong when I heard about the woes my dad had at finding a way of getting the table across the country to me). It ended up being much, much bigger than I imagined. At first I wasn't sure where we'd put it, but it fits perfectly in a dead zone behind the couch, which is close to my desk (and who am I kidding, I do most of my work on the couch anyway, so it's doubly handy). Since it's on casters I can move it around so I can access that big piece of furniture next to it or move it in a place where the light is better on a rainy day.

And, even better, it solved some major storage problems I was having--stacks and stacks of books on my bedroom floor from a new project I'm starting, which I'd have to dance around to avoid tripping over (and knocking over) every time I went to bed; clutter on my desk from admin tasks and works-in-progress as well as works-in-aspiration; boxes of Uphill Both Ways on the living room floor. There's enough shelf space (12 feet, I'm told) to solve all those problems with room to spate.

And the top of the table is high enough I can use it as a standing station, if I slip a little something under my laptop to raise it up a bit for extended periods of use. My new rule is to check email only when I'm standing, which I figure will help me achieve two goals: to spend less time sitting AND less time checking email.

Other people in this household had other ideas for how to use it--kitchen island, cookbook storage, drinks cart--but though it's rare I ever win an argument around here, I brooked no dissenting views. My bookcase; build your own island/cookbook shelf/drinks cart. 

While I didn't really have much to do with accomplishing this Finish-It-Friday project, other than a casual suggestion, ground-guiding the freight truck, and directing my kids to carry it into the house, I think it deserves a post of its own. And now that my storage and organization challenges have been resolved, I have one less excuse for not getting going on my own new project. Onward!

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Book Stack ~ September 2022

A monthly post about what I've been reading, with aspirations but no real hope of reading down a very tall stack of books. Previous posts from this year:

May & June 2022 

So...September's book stack looks a lot like August's, which I guess shouldn't be a surprise, except I kind of expected to spend a lot more time writing and a lot less time reading once all the boys went back to school full time. Then COVID-19 hit, and I spent several days sick on the couch, reading, and the previous week I'd been under the weather as well, and there's no such thing as boys at school full time (in the first seven weeks of school, there have been only two when all three of them--C, Z, and E [at least if M's not in school he's still away at school]--have had five days of school, and only one of those four short weeks was due to illness. So let's say the fall writing program has been off the a rocky start. But the reading? The stack is tall, anyway.

Fiction. I finished the ten remaining Amelia Peabody books (by Elizabeth can read more about them in last month's post). I skipped The Painted Queen--the posthumous homage or pastiche or I'm not sure what you'd call it, because I was disappointed the first time I read it. But these ten did not disappoint. I had as much fun reading them as I did the first three or four times I read them. In fact, I kind of more like inhaled them than read them--like a chain smoker lighting up a new cigarette from the butt of the last one, I turned the last page on one book and picked up the next without missing a beat. Rereading them all was a fun and soothing experience. I can't recommend it enough.

Nonfiction. I didn't have time to read much other than Amelia Peabody, but I did read one book for my book coach training program: The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. It's intended to help writers in editing their own work, but I found a lot in it that would be useful for editing others' work as well, and I was very entertained by her use of examples of the editing relationship between F Scott Fitzgerald and Maxwell Perkins while The Great Gatsby was in process. I'm intrigued enough to pick up that book, a few decades after the last time I read it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Autumn Bluebirds


I tend to get morbid in fall. I realize that's not a particularly original reaction to the season that brings us Halloween, Day of the Dead, and innumerable religious holidays that center around remembering those who have cast off their mortal coil. And then there's the whole leaves falling from trees, plants turning brown and shriveling up, cold wind blowing in from the north business. 

This year it hit me harder and more suddenly than usual. Perhaps because it's the last fall in which I will watch my children head back to school, or because it's the last fall when I'll still be less than half a century old. Every year fall is a reminder of passing time and aging bodies, but this year that reminder has a more ominous ring to it.

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to the garden to gather tomatoes for dinner and found, in place of the laden beds of fruits and vegetables that had threatened to overwhelm our kitchen and our stomachs for more than two months, there remained only a handful of overripe cherry tomatoes clinging to blackened, withered vines. We hadn't even had frost yet.

The only way I could describe how I felt was betrayed, as if July's and August's abundance had constituted a contract, a promise of endless summer. Fall comes every year, yet somehow, this year, I thought it might pass me by.

And then COVID struck our house, knocking back three out of four of us for a week. Another betrayal--by our bodies, by the public health system, by society.

Early this week, when I'd regained enough energy to make the trek to the mailbox, I paused at the spot where our driveway takes a hard left turn at our neighbor's field. He hadn't mown this summer, instead letting it grow into waves of tall grass that turned tawny in late summer, when a farmer from down the road came and cut and bundled it into hay bales. Fresh grass grew in since then and, despite the drought, stretched in a mat of bright summer green. Another promise. The leaves in the trees along the edge of the woods had begun to change, however, golden and orange and russet. Darting between the grass and the trees was a small flock of bluebirds, six, seven, eight of them, their cerulean wings bright against the greens and coppers. 

A few of them alighted on the next box we put up next to the field a couple of years ago. Perhaps they were part of the brood that had grown up there this summer, or part of the three broods from last summer. Perhaps they were travelers checking out the real estate for next year. It's hard to feel melancholy while watching bluebirds. There's a reason they're the bird of happiness--their bright feathers, their lithe flight, their gentle song. In visiting the nest box, the green field, the golden trees it was as if they were saying, Yes, summer is over, and spring a long way off. But we'll be back next year, and so will the sun.

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