Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Customer Service

On Christmas day just as I was about to start whipping the potatoes, my circa 1970 hand mixer gave up the ghost with a snap, crackle, pop, and a plume of acrid smoke.  It all happened so fast that I thought it might have been my imagination.  Except for the smoke.  There was definitely smoke.  So I very carefully unplugged the mixer and mashed the potatoes the old fashioned way. 

During dinner we were lamented the mixer's passing, since the crowning glory of our dinner was to be persimmon pudding with a sherry wine/WHIPPED cream sauce that has been part of my husband's holiday tradition since...forever.  I've made whipped cream with a whisk, but it's not easy.  And I don't own an egg beater any more. 

Then, he remembered that he had his mother's old KitchenAid stand mixer stored away. This mixer was a fixture in her kitchen until she and his dad moved into assisted living a few years ago. My husband can't even remember a time when it wasn't there.  After a little digging around we found it and set it up.  It works just fine.  It whipped up the cream for the sherry wine sauce in an astonishingly short time.

But also in the box  were with a lot of dangerous looking attachments and we had no idea what they were for.  One thing looked like a meat grinder, complete with a wooden thing to push the meat through.  There was some sort of attachment for pureeing and something for slicing and/or shredding (I think I remember her using that to shred cabbage for cole slaw). And a large heavy glass bowl with a spout and a hole in the bottom.

We were pretty curious, so we looked online to see if we could find a manual or some directions from KitchenAid itself.  It turns out that this mixer is pretty old, probably from the '40's or '50's. 

The Monday after Christmas I called KitchenAid to see if they could give me any information or if they had some sort of manual which would explain what the various attachments were for and how they worked.  The girl I talked to didn't offer much hope.  In fact, she suggested Ebay.  She left me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and took my name and address and told me they'd check into it.  What I thought was that she'd found a way to put me off. 

Then, this morning in the mail, I received an envelope from KitchenAid with a copy of the original manual for this mixer!


I'd call that customer service, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

After Christmas

We had a relaxed, mellow Christmas weekend.  Once I had all the supplies laid in by late afternoon on Christmas eve, neither one of us so much as stuck our noses out the door until Saturday when my husband made the regular Saturday run for groceries for his parents.  We watched a few movies, listened to my husband's new CD's, and I alternated knitting and sewing.  We did bestir ourselves to cook a turkey dinner for Christmas day; somehow it wouldn't seem like Christmas without turkey and all the trimmings.

The week before Christmas I made a hat for my husband out of some yarn I found in the stash.  No picture--he's wearing it today since the weather has turned very cold.  That set me off on a hat search around Ravelry and the rest of the internet.  I was looking for something else that would be quick and easy to work on in between Christmas preparation chores.  I found a really nice pattern here for this hat.

Can you see the owl motif?  It worked up very quickly; I think I had it done in less than a day. I'm thinking of getting some tiny buttons and sewing them on for the eyes.  I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to knit hats.  For one thing you don't need to knit a mate! The other great thing about hats is that sizing is less of an issue as long as it fits over your head and doesn't want to fall off too easily. 

I also started on a long-delayed project for a red and white Ohio Stars quilt.  I love Ohio Stars and this has been on the back burner for a long time.  I bought a fat quarter bundle of turkey reds a couple of years ago and I had the plan of the quilt all set in my head, inspired, I thought, by an antique quilt I had seen in a book.  The bundle has been sitting on my shelf all this time, just begging to be used.  This weekend seemed like a good time to start it. 

I used the square in a square ruler to make the little units.  A friend of mine taught this as a class at the LQS a few years ago and it makes crisp, precise blocks.  These blocks will be 8 inches, finished.  You can see the units put together on my design wall (only the top left block is sewn all the way together).  The plan is to make nine of these for a doll quilt or wall hanging.

After I got started on this I went back through my books to find the quilt that I was sure was my inspiration for this one.  I couldn't find it anywhere, but I found enough ideas for other quilts that would keep me busy through the next decade.  Oh boy! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Wish for You

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle loud and clear,
Merry Christmas, 
Peace on Earth,
and a wonderful new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's On My Design Wall Monday

I pulled out the box with these pieces two weeks ago when I was looking for some hand sewing to work on that WASN'T itsy bitsy diamonds. The blocks have been sewn together for ages, but I needed to set them together and had been putting it off for one reason or another. In fact, I'd put it off for so long I had nearly forgotten about them and the project box had become buried under many other UFO boxes in my sewing room.

I'm a little further along than this picture shows. I took advantage of brighter skies on Saturday to get a picture of two of the strips together. I love the secondary pattern that is emerging there. Yesterday I worked on the third strip in between some other things. Each block is about 16 inches, and I have a total of 12.

My plan is to sew a four inch plain border around the 12 block set and then to sew a pieced border of the same half square triangle units in a zigzag pattern around that.

This is a long-term project that I am making entirely from scraps. Yesterday I cut some more pieces for the pieced border, but I've only got about a quarter of what I need cut out. For a while there I was being really good and cutting a 5-inch strip from any likely fabric I brought into the house to make the dark triangles and squares. When the project box got buried I fell off the wagon and so I've been going through the scrap baskets looking for pieces large enough. There are plenty, believe me.

Sewing these block units together has been really satisfying this week. Not too fussy, not too demanding--something I can pick up and put down when other things come up. I doubt I'll get the whole border sewn together right away, but I'll keep plugging along.

You can check out Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times to see what everybody else has up on their design wall this week.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Twas the week before Christmas...

This was a very busy week and I am heartily glad that I am at the end of it.

--All out-of-town Christmas gifts have been bought, wrapped, and mailed out.

--I have shipping confirmations for the on-line gifts. Amazon and L.L. Bean, I love you!

--We made it through the last few days before the Christmas break at school with no major meltdowns (either the kids or the teachers). The classroom parties seemed to go well and I didn't see any students in the office. One of the perks of being a special education teacher is not having to do room parties with dozens of sugar-crazed kids. I count that as a perk, and heaven knows, there aren't many. The other side of the coin is that sometimes my students don't handle the change in the routine well and become a little too sugar-crazed and they end up in the office or my room for a time-out. Not this year.

--My Secret Santa gift recipient really liked her yo-yo garland. You never know with a hand made gift, so that was gratifying.

--I only had to stay for about 45 minutes after school on Friday getting lesson plans ready for the week after break. I had all that extra time, you see, not having to deal with sugar-crazed children.

--I slept around the clock on Friday night and woke up late Saturday morning feeling that all was right with the world.

--The snow they predicted for Friday and Saturday gave us a pass, although the Weather Service keeps threatening that there might be some on the way. We don't handle snow well here in southern Indiana, and even a couple of inches sends us into a frenzy of panic-buying of milk and bread.

I have a little more shopping to do, but this week I'm going to be able to slow down and enjoy the last few days leading up to Christmas.

I hope that you can too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Design Wall Monday

I've stalled out on the Sister's Choice blocks. Half of them are still up on the design wall and the other half have drifted onto the floor, where I pick them up one by one and put them on the table. What I need to do is buy fabric for lattice strips, but in order to do that I need to figure out how much I need to buy, and in order to do THAT I need to spend a little time with a paper and pencil. I don't think it's going to happen this week. I have a design idea I drew up in EQ, but the yardage estimates for the lattice and the borders seem extremely generous; I think EQ wants to figure yardage based on length of fabric rather than width.

This week is shaping up to be very, very busy. It's the week before Christmas break and there are just tons of things to get done before Friday. Even if I do figure out my yardage needs, I won't be able to get to the LQS until Saturday at the earliest.

I did get nearly all of the out-of-town presents on Sunday morning. I headed out early in the morning, well, early for me considering it was Sunday. I was home a little before 1:00 with a trunkful of Christmas stuff and a back seat full of groceries. Once we finally mail off the Christmas presents I'll be a lot less stressed out. Those should go out tomorrow if I'm able to get everything wrapped tonight. We'll see.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon working on a yo-yo garland similar to this one for my Secret Santa person at work. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it last night and I've already taken it in to school. I think it turned out really nice and I hope she likes it.

You can check out what everyone else is working on by checking Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Please Don't Make Me Go Out There!

I say it every year, right about now: "Why didn't I start my Christmas shopping earlier?!"

Every year I make the same resolution to start my holiday shopping RIGHT AFTER Thanksgiving and every year I...don't.

I had to go out this afternoon to pick up some fabric for a Secret Santa gift I'm making for someone at school. I was also supposed to stop by the grocery store for a few things. And, I thought, maybe I can pick up a couple of Christmas gifts at the mall. Let me just say that we live in the shopping mecca for this area. Picture four county's worth of people funneling into our little town, all intent on bargains and parking spaces. It's gridlock out there!

I made it to the fabric store, but somehow couldn't manage to work my way over to the grocery, never mind the mall.

Call me a coward. Call me a wimp. Call me anything you want to, but you can't make me go back. I'll give it another try tomorrow morning. Early. Very early.

My stack of stars continues to grow, but I'll spare you yet another picture. I took a bit of a break the other night when I found a group of bitsy kaleidoscope hexagons I made a few years ago as a practice for another quilt. These little things were made from 2 inch strip sets, and although they're not the best for showing off the repeating pattern since their colors are so subtle, I've always loved them and had them tucked away for something. (Click on the picture to enlarge it and you'll be able to see the repeats a little better.)

It took just a few minutes to cut out some triangles and set them together. This little block reminds me of a tussie-mussie, a kind of small round bouquet popular in Victorian times. I think I'm just going to sandwich it as it is and use it as a table mat.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Design Wall Monday

Design floor, that is. By the time I got home this afternoon about 4:30 it was too dark to take pictures in my sewing room, so I laid these out on the living room floor.

It's been slow going with these blocks. They are very fiddly to sew, although I'm getting better with them the more I do. I have been working on them during my Friday night sewing group, but I wasn't getting much done. Yesterday I decided I'd better devote some more time to them or this project will take, oh I don't know, roughly forever.

I've got ten done, or at least to the finished star stage, and I've prepped enough diamonds for two more. At first I was only going to make 12. Then I liked them so much I decided to go for 15. After playing around in EQ this morning I've got a layout that I like that will use 18.

They are very soothing to sew, once you understand how to line up the diamonds. And yes, I'm a big-time pinner, even with hand sewing. I get the centers lined up, then make sure the intersections at each end are lined up correctly. In the end, its quicker to do that than to sew and maybe have to rip back. There are so many bias edges in these that I avoid ripping if I can.

We were awakened this morning at 5:15 by a telephone call. My husband answered it since the phone is on his side of the bed. He sat there so long listening and nodding (and looking very serious) that I thought something awful must have happened, but it was only the new automated calling system to let us know that we had a two hour delay this morning!

We got the famous southern Indiana "winter mix," which is snow, freezing rain, and sleet. Not a fun thing to drive through before dawn. By the time I left for school it had quit and the snow quickly melted off. But, they are forecasting a winter storm for tomorrow. It looks like I'll have plenty of time to sew some more stars.

Edited to add: Sorry! I forgot to link you back to Judy L.'s Patchwork Times. You can check out what others have on their design wall this week by clicking on the link.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Don't Know If I Can Resist

Okay, block of the month quilts. They sound so easy. So foolproof. Make a block or two each month, right? Easy, peasy. At the end of the year, you've made one nice size quilt. Quilting on the installment plan, right?

I've only made one, or sort of made one. It was in the early days of a LQS and I bought into a civil war block of the month. Some months I loved the fabric choices, other months, not so much. Some of the blocks never got made, and with the others I made two--one with the store's fabric choices and one with my own. I had it quilted over the summer but I haven't bound it yet, although the binding has been sitting right there on my ironing board for a couple of months. It's actually my husband's favorite and is on our bed right now in all its unbound glory. It's at the top of the list, though. Maybe this weekend. Maybe.

Then, yesterday I got the monthly newsletter from another LQS, featuring this quilt as a BOM for next year. It's designed by Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith for Homestead Hearth. Fabrics by Judie Rothermel. Oh my.

My inner conflict goes something like this:

PRO: It's so beautiful!
CON: Yeah, but it's also huge! It'll take forever to sew!

PRO: The fabrics are going to be gorgeous.
CON: Don't you have a rather large stash of fabric already? Hmmmm?

PRO: Well, yes, but it's so BEAUTIFUL! And look at all those intricate blocks.
CON: And do you really NEED to start another project?

PRO: Yes! And the blocks commemorate civil war battles. I'd have a great excuse to get back into all my civil war books.
CON: As if you needed an excuse...

PRO: Why, it'd be educational, I tell you! You BELIEVE in education...
CON: ****

And so it goes. And I think that Saturday morning I'm probably heading over to the LQS. Just to look, mind you. Just to take a peek at it.

Am I insane? Is anybody else out there going to try this?


And, in the spirit of education, Fat Quarter Shop is offering the BOM here. In case your LQS isn't. This information is strictly for educational purposes, okay?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here. My daughter and her husband drove down Wednesday night and my son flew in on Thanksgiving day. With my husband's sister and brother there were seven of us at the table for dinner.

I love that moment before we begin the dinner, when the candles are lit, the food is laid out, the wine is poured, and everyone is eying the platters with anticipation. That's the moment I work for all day. Is there a word for that sweet expectancy?

I finished binding the blooming nine patch quilt with just a few days to spare and was able to present it to my daughter and son-in-law for their wedding present. It was only five months late, but who's counting? Hopefully, you'll be able to click on the picture to see the quilting. Vivian, my machine quilter, thought the fabrics looked like the ocean, so she quilted it all over with swirly designs that look like waves and whirlpools. I love the way it turned out.

This is not a great picture, I'm afraid. The sun just wouldn't cooperate, and the center looks washed out. This quilt just doesn't photograph well.

Having three extra people in our tiny house for the weekend meant that space was a bit tight. My daughter and son-in-law slept in the back bedroom where I normally use the computer. And my son bedded down in the half of my sewing room that I was able to clear out. I had to stack fabric bins and boxes willy-nilly, my poor sewing machine barricaded in the corner.

No computer and no sewing for the weekend. It was hard, let me tell you.

I did start a sock last week, using a free pattern called Wickerware, which I found through Ravelry. I was happily knitting along all weekend during the short bits of time I had until Sunday night, when I noticed that my pattern wasn't looking like the picture. Not that it looked bad, mind you, but really NOT like the picture. Unfortunately I was already at the heel at that point.

I frogged it. NOT so much from a dedication to perfection, but I was really concerned that I wouldn't be able to reproduce whatever mistake I had been making, and since I really love this yarn, I would like to have two semi-identical socks to wear.

So here is my progress so far.

The pattern, by the way, is not at fault, just my hurried and careless reading of it. It's super easy to memorize and is knitting up into a nicely nubbly pattern. The yarn is called Socrates: 30% baby alpaca, 30% merino wool, 20% bamboo, and 20% nylon. In the picture it looks gray, but the color is more like prewashed denim. Soft, soft, soft, with a bit of sheen.