I have to say, I’m ridiculously proud of myself. I finished a quilt in a week and a half, start-to-finish. I don’t ever want to undertake that kind of marathon again, but still – I did it! It was a special occasion — a girlfriend asked me to make a quilt for her grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary at the end of October. I said sure! Then, come to find out they moved the date of the celebration to October 20th, effectively reducing the time I had to work on it by a week. She said it wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t ready in time, but damnit — what fin is it if you’re at a party and your gift isn’t ready? So I kicked it into overdrive and forged ahead. I can see a lot of mistakes that I made, and some of the corners I would have ripped out and re-sewn if I had the time, but in the end it came out “good enough” and everyone was thrilled with it. That’s all I can ask for, right? My girlfriend is being sweet and giving me two bottles of wine as extra payment.
The pattern is a wedding rings variant called “Diamond Rings”; I found it through Heartland Treasures KS. Originally, the quilt was supposed to be silver, blue, and cream — the theme being that the 60th wedding anniversary is the “Diamond anniversary”. I wanted to evoke the shiny glittery glam of diamonds, but when I headed out to my local quilt shop to pick up fabric I fell in love with the blues and whites. It reminded me of the china you’d get on your wedding day. And the gold accents for the actual entwined wedding rings was a nice touch. The top is quilted with invisible thread, while the backside is done in cream. I didn’t want the quilting to overpower the pattern, or the fabric patterns, so I stitched in the ditch around the oval segments.
The embroidery is my own calligraphy. I’ve been practicing calligraphy lately and it was the perfect excuse to transfer my skills from pen to fabric. The style is a mix between Italic and Spencerian, borrowing elements from both but not being true to either. I sort of just… whimsyed my way through it as I went. I used a water-disappearing marker (like this one) to trace out the calligraphy before I embroidered it; the embroidery itself is just a simple backstitch.
The next few weeks are going to be busy; I have a full-sized baby quilt to make for a girlfriend, a crib-sized baby quilt to make for a different girlfriend, and I have to finish up some Christmas projects. One of the baby quilts can wait until after the Holiday, but the other is a Christmas present. I have my own quilting projects that are still waiting in the wings, as well as the embroidered flower quilt I’m working on. I also started knitting a throw for the living room… I might need a vacation sometime soon!
- 16 cups (or 8 2-cup servings)
- 20 minutes prep
- 40 minutes cooking
- 1 hour total time
You will need…
- 5 carrots (optional)
- 3 stalks celery (optional)
- 1 leek
- 1.5 lb potatoes
- 1 lb cabbage
- 15 oz kielbasa
- 3.5 qt chicken stock (or 3.5 qt water and 4 TB chicken bullion powder)
- 1/4 c butter
- 1/2 tsp marjoram
- 5 TBSP flour
- Salt & Pepper (to taste)
- Cut butter in half. Set half aside. Melt other half in deep pan over medium heat. If using carrots and celery, roughly chop and sautee in butter 5 minutes.
- Roughly chop the dark part of the leek, and thinly slice the white part. Roughly chop cabbage. Add both to the pan and sautee until soft.
- Add chicken stock to large stock pot. Add in the sauteed vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes.
- Melt remaining butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 cups of stock from the pot. It should get thick.
- Return this mixture to the stock pot and stir until incorporated.
- Dice the potatoes and slice the kielbasa. Add them to the stock pot. Also add the marjoram, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are softened and kielbasa is warm.
Things have slowed to a crawl here in the Collective household. Things were picking up steam; it was the beginning of the fall semester — which means an influx of students coming to see me, and I picked up two classes of my own — and along with the usual pickup in pace I had started going on a few job interviews to see if I could land a full-time spot anywhere. I love my current job and I don’t want to leave, but they don’t have the budget to bring me on full-time. And I’d really like full-time. I’d like the security and benefits that come with full time. And things were going pretty well — I had a few interviews lined up and I did well, and then as luck would have it I got sick.
Not one of those fall colds that you just muddle through. No. I could handle that.
The flu. And not the “vomit everywhere and then feel better two days later” flu. The kind of flu where you lose two and a half days to fever and chills and barely move off the couch. The kind of flu where you call out from work for three days, except you don’t call — you email, because you barely have the energy to tap out a few lines and then go lay down again.
This thing knocked me on my butt for a week. And I’m still not feeling completely recovered. I can finally move around without feeling exhausted five minutes later, but I’m still falling asleep at 8 or 9 PM. I also no longer have to sleep sitting up, which is a godsend.
So, yeah. My house is a mess, I’m a week behind on classwork and a few days behind on actual work. My house is a mess, my yard is a mess. And forget about any kind of crafting or quilting. That’s on the back burner until at least next week.
On the upside? Little kitten got adopted out! He found a loving family with one of hubby’s friends; They have two daughters and have been putting photos up on Facebook of kitten settling in. His name is Simon! An adorable name for an adorable kitten! Dusty had separation anxiety for a day or two and wandered around the house meowing and turning things over looking for him, but otherwise she’s settled into our house nicely. There’s very little hissing and batting between the boys and her, which is a good step forward. Dusty still wants to dart out of the house every now and again, and we let her, but I’m hoping that as she becomes more comfortable in the house that she feels the need to pop out less and less.
That, and the less she goes out the less she can bring me dead animals. A mouse, two chipmunks, and a blue jay so far. And that blue jay was half the size of her! The two chipmunks were still alive and not harmed to the point of dying so I was able to save them. And I know it’s instinct, but she doesn’t really need to kill things when she’s got plenty of food at home. So the more I can keep her inside the more I can keep her from killing the wildlife. That, and she’s lost both collars we’ve put on her so far. They were breakaways, but if she lost two breakaways I don’t want to put a non-breakaway on her, lest she get herself into some trouble and caught on something where I can’t get to her. I guess I’m off to the store for another breakaway…
So, mama kitty has a name now: Dusty. And she’s been officially adopted by us! She was given a clean bill of health by the vet and after a round of vaccinations she’s been cleared to interact with the boys. Dusty & baby kitten spent a week quarantined in hubby’s office while we waited for the all-clear from the vet, and after that we slowly started to introduce her to the boys. It’s been going pretty well — there’s still some hissing, and everyone is still adjusting to their new place in the kitty-hierarchy, but they all seem relatively okay with one another. The only real issue that seems to be lingering is when one of the boys decides to roughhouse or hiss at the kitten — Dusty will jump right in and instigate trouble. But once kitten has a new home, that should resolve relatively quickly. That, and if one of the boys races past Dusty, she’ll give chase — and they don’t like that. There’s quite a bit of hissing and growling when that happens.
Speaking of which… baby has gotten his first round of shots and also has been cleared as healthy. And it’s very possible that this upcoming Monday he will be going to his new forever home! Exciting! But I do have to say that I will miss the little guy… he is such a cute, sweet, cuddly little thing! When I took him to the vet to get his vaccinations, he was such a little rockstar — all the vet techs and receptionists wanted to hold him and cuddle with him. I joke that I have a parrot instead of a kitten, because he loves to perch on your shoulder. He definitely will be missed… but I know that he’ll have a fantastic forever home; it’s looking like friends of hubby’s are going to be the ones to adopt him. So it’s looking like this weekend I’m going to have to get my fill — because once it’s over, he’ll be gone!
Read that title again. Really read that title. 24 inches. Twenty-four. Two feet. That’s as tall as a barstool. As wide as your average countertop. That’s the size of some computer monitors. So take a moment and think about what 24″ inches really is.
And then realise that yesterday morning, at 10:30 AM, I went into the hair salon for the first time in five years for a haircut. And I cut off 24 inches. And then realize that with that haircut, my hair is still “long” by society’s standards — it’s past my shoulders. When I went in for my haircut, my hair was past my fingertips.
Let that sink in, for just a moment. Go on. I’ll wait.
I wish I could say that I did it for a good cause. I wish I could say that I was able to donate my hair to Wigs for Kids. Unfortunately, my hair three years ago was in a terrible state. It was processed and bleached and dyed every color imaginable. Over the past few years I’ve learned some awesome tips and tricks to keeping your hair healthy and in great condition thanks to the wonderful folks over at The Long Hair Community. They’ve been really great! But I couldn’t undo the damage I had done years ago, so when I went in for my haircut yesterday morning, it just had to go. Hair that’s been bleached, dyed, or colored using non-natural products can’t be accepted by any wig-making organisation out there.
On the upside, now all the damaged hair is gone. And my hair grows fast, so in another three years? I should be able to have another 24″ of donate-able hair. In reality, you can donate hair at shorter lengths (10″ – 12″, depending on the program), but they’re really lacking in longer lengths. And I don’t mind growing mine out. It’s been long for so long that you almost forget what it’s like to have it short! And I really can’t see myself NOT letting it grow out again. I may leave it short for a few months or so, but I’ll get bored with it and just let it grow.
But for now?
I’ll just enjoy being able to sit down without sitting on my hair.
In my neighbourhood, there are a lot of stray, abandoned, and feral cats wandering around. I also live on a street that has many people that adore cats. My next-door neighbour (we’ll call him Jim) has quite a few cats, most of them rescued from the neighbourhood. For example, take last summer: there was a sweet newcomer stray that my neighbour and I nicknamed “Cali” (she was a Calico cat — we’re so creative, aren’t we?). She had a litter of kittens in my woodpile mid-summer last year, so we made sure Cali was well-fed so she could feed the babies, and then Jim and I found homes for the babies. A friend of his took two of the kittens, and a woman up the street from us took the other two. Then, my neighbour adopted Cali. Next door to the woman up the street is another family that has adopted some of the neighbourhood cats, and the same can be said of a family down the street too. We try and take care of the popluation as best we can: we frequently trap-spay/neuter-release new cats we see in the neighbourhood to keep the population down, but that doesn’t account for the abandoned cats we see all the time.
And there’s a lot of abandoned cats. People get foreclosed on, can’t take their pets with them, and just leave them behind hoping that they’ll “make their way”. Cali was one of those abandoned cats.
So, earlier this summer a new kittyface showed up. She was sweet; she just wanted to be petted, and if you gave her some food that didn’t hurt. At first we thought she was someone’s housecat that had just gotten out, but she never disappeared. I scoped out ads, looking for someone saying “lost cat”, but never came across this sweet little girl. Now, my house has a screen door, with a glass bottom (top is screen, bottom is glass). My boys like to sit in front of the door and look out, since that’s the closest they ever get to the great outdoors. One day, this new kittyface comes up to the glass door and just sits there, staring in. Locke sat on the other side, staring out. He put up his paw, she put up her paw, and BAM! She earned the nickname “Locke’s girlfriend”. Over the course of a month, maybe a little longer, every day she’d come up onto the porch and lay on one side of the glass, and Locke would lay on the other. If she didn’t come by, Locke would get pacy and bounce from window to window, looking for her approach. At the same time, if you had to go in or out of the front door, she’d try her best to slip inside if you weren’t careful.
So after about four months of her hanging around the house, I went to go talk to Jim and see if he’d been able to find if she belonged to anyone, since my search had come up empty. He hadn’t. Now, my husband has said time and again: no more cats. We have two cats, two geckos, and a fishtank. We’re a zoo already. No more animals. And honestly, I tend to agree with him. So if anything, if we were to adopt this sweet kittyface, she’d be an indoor/outdoor cat. If she wanted to go outside and run around, fine. If someone else decided they wanted to keep her, fine. We would take care of her inasmuch as that meant getting her some vaccinations, getting her fixed (if she wasn’t already), and letting her do her thing. And I agreed. So I packed her up in a kitty crate and called the vet to make an appointment… only to find that they’re booked solid until next Friday. So I made the appointment for next Friday, let her outside, and went about my day.
Early afternoon, my husband had to run some errands. Since I was parked behind him in the driveway, we had to swap cars. When we were done, and I was walking back toward the porch I saw Locke’s Girlfriend in the flowerbed. Aw, how cute. And then… could it be… does she…? It was! Locke’s Girlfriend had a little kitten with her! I waved my husband over and we snagged the little tyke, and hunted around for more. We found where Mama and baby had been nesting, but there was no sign of any other kittens. So we took the two inside and I sequestered them in my husband’s office (it’s being used as storage right now anyway).
The kitten is probably about 6 – 8 weeks, at best guess. His eyes are open, and he’s walking, using the litter box, drinking formula, and attempting to eat food. So now these two will remain here for the next week, until their vet appointment. Both of them need to be cleared of anything they could give to my boys (like FeLV) before we introduce them to the rest of the house. We will definitely be finding a home for the little kitten, as I don’t want a house with four cats. Hopefully once they’re cleared health-wise we can convince a friend, or our friends can convince their friends, to take the little one home with them. I mean, I don’t want to sound like a bad guy, but I really don’t want a house with four cats. I don’t even really want a house with three cats, but Locke’s Girlfriend seems to have chosen us, for better or worse. If she spent most of her time outdoors and came in to eat and sleep I would be okay with that. But it’s enough trouble to keep my house clean as it is! (And anyone that knows me knows I clean religiously… the last thing I want is someone dropping by and having my house smell like cat!).
So, we’ll enjoy the kitten while he’s here, and take lots of cute little cat videos to remember him by, and then hopefully find a forever home for him. In the meantime, enjoy some of the kitten videos we’ve already taken!
So, I’ve slowly been chipping away at cutting all the fabric for my Message in a Bottle quilt. I’m really loving the color and pattern choices in the Spring Meadow Stonehenge fat quarters. So pretty!
So, I’ve been quiet lately. Not because anything’s gone terribly wrong, but more because things have been going spectacularly right. All the equipment from the fire has been repaired and replaced, so things are getting back to normal. The days have been incredibly hot here, and we’re in the middle of another heatwave. So the days have been rather slow and lazy…
Which also means I haven’t been very productive.
The blue & yellow bargello has been put on hold for the moment: The only thing remaining is stitching on the binding. I also have a small lap-quilt that needs to be quilted (by hand!) that is on hold. The hubby and I are taking a trip in a few weeks, and I wanted to make sure I had some projects to keep my hands busy while in the car or during the evenings when there’s not much else to do. Since these both are in the hand-stitching phase, I figured they’d both be good candidates. That being said, I have no current quilting projects to work on… But not for lack of trying!
You know how, when you’re reading a wikipedia article, you just start clicking links and getting deeper and deeper and deeper into wikipedia? Wikisurfing? That happened to me over the weekend, but with quilting blogs. I was feeling rather uninspired, and through many links and hours of clicking, I came to Sister’s Choice. And there? I found my inspiration. Earlier this year, Nicole finished her Message in a Bottle quilt, and I thought it was absolutely gorgeous. She worked from a pattern, so I tracked it down online (for only $10!); it has instructions for working with fat quarters. Now, I’ve never done that before — I’ve always bought my fabric from the bolt, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to purchase some Moda fat quarters… And why, the stars just seemed to align! Funny, how that happens… So, right now, right this instant, I have one Adobe Stonehenge and two Spring Meadow Stonehenge fat quarter bundles headed my way. The Spring Meadow will be for the Message in a Bottle quilt, and the Adobe? Well. I just thought it was so nice, and since I was already placing an order… I’ll find something to do with it.
In non-quilting news, I finished building a fire pit in the backyard. Just in time for a heatwave — isn’t my timing great? At least I can console myself with the fact that I’ll be able to enjoy it when the weather cools.
About a year ago, I started a project to make a multi-touch table. It used a short-throw projector and some mirrors, IR LEDs, modified cameras, and specialised software. Once I made the proof-of-concept, it sat in our living room for four months while I was in school. Since we weren’t doing anything with it, I tore it down and stowed the pieces.
A few months after that, my husband and I decided to create a very nice entertainment setup. We cribbed the short-throw projector from the touch-table project, purchased a ceiling mount, and a 100-inch ceiling-mounted projection screen. We also decided to purchase a low-end home theatre system.
So, let me take a moment to explain our home theatre system. We have three devices: A PS3, an XBOX 360, and a cable box. We also occasionally connect a computer or laptop into the system so that we can play games via Steam on the projector. What I wanted to do (eventually), was mount a small television in the kitchen, so that while I’m preparing dinner I could stream Netflix or watch the news without having to turn the living room television volume up to insane levels. I also wanted a setup where my husband could play video games in the living room while I’m in the kitchen watching the news. So it was a key point that we couldn’t just use a splitter: a splitter duplicates the signal across both outputs of the device. We needed something that would take multiple inputs and output two different signals. We also decided that the living room TV and the projector would duplicate displays, since chances were that if we had the projector on, we wouldn’t be watching the living room television.
So, in the end, we settled on a Kinivo 4×2 matrix. It’s a pretty nifty device. It can take up to four inputs and output two different signals. So, for example, if the cable box is connected to port 1 on the matrix, and the PS3 is connected to port two, we could output the PS3 to the living room TV and the cable to the kitchen TV (or vice-versa) at the same time. It’s pretty much exactly what we needed. We called an electrician to install an outlet in the ceiling, and I got started wiring my system together.
The only thing that we outsourced was the electrician — I don’t know nearly enough about mains power to be safe. So the electrician ran an outlet, and I ran an HDMI cable through the attic and down the wall according to code; I also ran the speaker wires, and wired all the components together. The setup was pretty perfect… we could play games on the Projector or the living room TV, the surround sound worked fine. Every once in awhile, when I would connect my laptop into the system there’d be tiny little white sparks, but I chalked that up to static cling discharging…
… Until last Saturday. Last Saturday was a trip and a half. Last Saturday, I was in the process of connecting my PC into the system so that I could play some games while waiting for guests to arrive (it just so happened that last Saturday was also our monthly ‘Saturday Night Game Night’). A few guests had already shown up and we were chatting away while I hooked the HDMI cable from the matrix into my PC.
The next thing I know, someone is screaming “Fire! Fire! Sparks!”. I immediately yanked the HDMI cable out of my PC and shut it down. I then shut off the power to the entertainment system and it’s various components, while a friend put out the fire. As it turns out, the HDMI cable that ran from the projector to the splitter caught on fire! There were sparks coming from the HDMI devices that were connected to the matrix, so that was our first culprit. We also suspected the splitter, based on the multimeter readings. Any HDMI port that was connected to the system was completely toasted (except, interestingly, the home theatre receiver — that’s the only device that escaped unscathed). Over the course of the week, I’ve spent hours talking to customer service about appropriate multimeter readings, ordering replacement parts, getting equipment repair quotes, and setting up RMA orders. In the course of talking to a tech from Kinivo, he recommended we get the outlet checked. So I called up our electrician and had him come out.
So he comes out. A quick test, and come to find out we have a hot/neutral reverse in our junction box in the attic that is connected to the outlet. Why he didn’t catch the issue when he first installed the outlet, I have no idea. This means we’ve had an improperly wired outlet for the past half a year, and every time a device has been plugged in, the neutral has been hot! So it’s very likely that the outlet is our culprit. Considering that it was the HDMI cable that was connected to the projector that caught on fire, and the projector was connected to the outlet that was connected to the improperly wired junction box… (The toe bone’s connected to the heel bone; the heel bone’s connected to the foot bone; the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone…). If the HDMI ports in the projector are connected to the neutral, that makes it even more likely.
So, in the end, the damages are:
Kinivo 4×2 matrix – Replaced free (under warranty)
Splitter - $25
PS3 – $99 RMA repair
Cable box – Replaced free by AT&T
Projector – $30 RMA repair (under warranty)
ASUS Monitor - Repaired free (under warranty)
New HDMI cables – $40 (CL3-certified in-wall was $30)
Total repair/replacement cost: $194
So, tomorrow I’ll head down to the UPS center and drop off all the equipment that needs to be RMA’d or repaired. All in all, it hasn’t been a fun week, and it looks to be another week or two before we’re back up and running completely. I’m just thankful no one was hurt, but holy shnikies this is an adventure I don’t want to have ever again… At least it made game night a little more interesting?
Just a quick scrap quilt to work through all the leftover fabric I have from other quilts. It’s a small lap quilt, meant for slightly chill spring and summer nights. It might end up as a kitty blanket if the cats like it enough (then again, doesn’t every blanket become a kitty blanket at some point in time?). I actually really like this design… I might do it again with smaller blocks eventually. Still needs to be run through the laundry, but I don’t think it’s going to ‘pucker up’ like most quilting does since the stitching is wide and just around the diamonds/triangles.
As always, click for larger view.