Monday, January 2, 2017

The bad part of holidays...



... is that eventually we all have to get back to work in some form or fashion. Not that being a cat in my house is hard work, but some of us just want to put off facing reality for as long as we can! No new kitty toys under the tree this year. In fact, no tree at all this year - no tree to chew on and knock ornaments off of.




Mr. ZQ and I simplified our lives this year and left the tree in the box and the presents in the stores. But we enjoyed more visitors than usual, with neighbours and family members dropping in.


The old year wasn't a bad one for us. I suppose we've had better years, but this one turned out to be mostly pleasant. I retired in February from my job of 14 years and my profession of nearly 40. After a few months off I ran for election to town council and won. I was able to spend most of my time outside working in my garden or yard, instead of in the office sitting in front of a computer. Money started to become a problem towards the end of the year as unexpected bills rolled in and there was no regular paycheque to take care of them, but that's all getting sorted out now. Life is good.


That pretty snowfall that I mentioned in my last post turned into a nasty winter storm by evening with screaming winds from the north. The next day - New Years Day - we were left with snowdrifts of up to two feet high in places, like between our cars. I didn't have any place to go that day but I went out to shovel the

snow away anyway - because this is Canada and it's what we do. I had to go out anyway to refill the bird feeders and to clear a pathway to the backyard for this old stray cat that likes to sleep in our backyard against a cement retaining wall. He's an old tabby with only one eye and he walks with a limp, and our neighbour across the street takes care of him by feeding him and giving him a warm place to sleep in his carport - our neighbour takes care of all the strays on the street - but he doesn't let anyone near him. If he hears me moving around or hears my voice, he'll get up and

leave. On the day of the snowstorm, he was sleeping in his soft nest of alfalfa against the wall where I could see him from our back door. It was a really nice day before it started snowing. He didn't get up at noon as he normally did to walk across the street for his lunch, and the light snow was starting to accumulate on him. He was still there a couple of hours later as the snow and wind were starting to pick up so I went out on our deck, thinking the noise of me stamping my feet and clapping my hands would be enough to wake him up and get him moving on his way, but it wasn't. So I got out the spare food dish and the emergency bag of Whiskas that I keep at the back of the refrigerator for

emergencies and went outside to see if I could roust him. The weather was getting quite nasty by then
and I got to within inches of him with the food before he woke up. He immediately ran for the nearest shelter, which was only a couple of feet away - the old set of wooden stairs from our deck that was leaning against the retaining wall. At least it would protect him from the snow. I shoved the bowl of food towards where I thought he was and went back into the house. When I looked out the backdoor, I saw him eating the food. I saw him today, walking towards our house from the neighbours', and was happy that I had shovelled the deep snow out of the way for him, making him a pathway to the old wooden stairs, and that's where he went. Tough old guy.

In my last post, I mentioned that these little Japanese Knot Bags were addictive and fun to make. Here are more that I made. I began putting embellishments on them, also. Just a little bit, on one of the handles. They aren't really noticeable at first, the way embellishments probably should be, but I haven't been doing this for very long. There are stars on some, diamonds, bright metal, burnished metal, etc. At least I got the last few on straight! Those round bottoms might lend themselves nicely to some soft fringes in the future, or some cording.

I made a couple of special ones, as well - one for myself! and another one using a wool lining.
Unfortunately, the one with the wool lining and the blue and white batik print didn't turn out so well. I didn't realize until after I'd finished it that my sewing machine tension decided to have its own fun and go skipping! So it became my bag, and the one I made for myself with the bright red cardinals and the gorgeous Laurel Burch tree lining became someone else's. I may have mentioned before how much I love Laurel Burch's designs. Well, I have lots more - probably more than I should. I have lots of the wool left, as well, and I can wait for a time when the sewing machine is behaving itself before I try this again. I've worked on the tension for days and days, adjusting the knobs, cleaning the bobbin area, replacing the bobbin and needles, changing the thread, changing the fabric... It doesn't seem logical, but sometimes it work and sometimes it doesn't. I don't know if there is any solution other than patience. Just like this dumb blogger interface - just when I think I've got the hang of it, it gets all screwy again.


And with that, I'm off until you see me again! Until next time,


Wendy

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking forward to 2017

It's snowing today in my town. The lower par of the province has had huge amounts (for them) of snow this month, but all we've gotten so far was a long spell of cold, nasty weather, which was bad enough. It's not the temperature that's the problem here so much as the winds that lower the temperatures by as much as 10 degrees. Even though it's snowing now, there's very little wind and so the temperature is quite mild.


So I've restocked the bird feeder and put out some fresh apples that the house finches, flickers and blackbirds like. The goldfinches flock to the "sock" filled with nyger seed, and as I type this I an see a downy woodpecker in the tree next door.
My parents were enthusiastic amateur birders. I was never interested in them all that much, even though I grew up within a 90-minute drive of Point Pelee National Park - a birders' paradise. We used to go there often - for family drives, to visit friends in nearby Leamington or on school fieldtrips. As my parents would scan the trees for interesting birds, my oldest brother and I would follow along with our eyes glued to the ground, looking for the beautiful native ephemerals and other unique woodland flowers of southern Ontario.

About 11 years ago a few people began a Christmas Bird Count in this area and I went along to see if there was something I could use in the
newspaper I worked for. It was fun if one could ignore the frozen fingers and toes one suffered while tramping through the snow hunting the elusive birds. Eventually I bought a copy of Sibleys guide to birds and began feeding them, as my parents had. I assured my indoor cats that it was for their own amusement, but I can't deny that I enjoy watching the birds at my feeders as much as they do.


And so on this last day of 2016, the falling snow is picking up speed and the birds are chattering noisily in the front yard as they elbow their way to the feeders. And I should be at my sewing machine, but instead I am sitting at my computer while providing a comfortable lap for Rusty - a common scenario these days.


My last post reminded me of something I had forgotten because I hadn't posted in months - that my new blog interface was a horrible and clunky thing. It may well have been responsible for my absence from my blog this year, so I'm hoping that I'll get better as I use it more. It looks like I may be buying a new computer in the new year since this one seems to be dying... Which is too bad because I like this computer. It's also such a pain in the neck to switch all of your files to another computer, and I can't afford a new computer that's as good as this one, but it's been a good computer for nine years and it doesn't owe me anything. And perhaps a new computer
will offer a better interface for blogging.


So, although I haven't finished anything in two or three weeks, I have finished quite a few wallets and bags over the summer. I've made several more of these little wallets, using my experience with the pattern to fussy cut the fabric in some cases - it's a really nice, attractive, simple little compact wallet that I enjoy making.


I've also wanted to make this little Japanese knot bag for some time now, and once I got started, I couldn't stop. I just love the rounded bottoms that provide so much more space in a bag. There's more to making the handles that these instructions describe, so if you find yourself stumped, just drop me a line and I'll try and help you. These bags are very comfortable to carry and are great for holding a wallet, pair of glasses, keys
and other small items, and they look really sharp!


That's all that I have for today. It's time to start the macaroni and cheese casserole for supper - an old family recipe that's a big favourite for days like today. So, my best wishes to all of you for a happy and healthy 2018! I'll see you next year.


Until next time,


Wendy

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 Happy longest night of the year to everyone. Snuggle up! The days get longer from hereon in.

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. So long, perhaps, that I was afraid that I might forget how to do this!
The fact that my computer is dying doesn’t help me. However, we’ll forge ahead.






I may have been absent from my blog, but life hasn’t slowed down. Being retired only means that I no longer have an income. Good thing that I built up my stash while I was working. The above picture is Rusty (of course) making himself a nest in a very small part of my fabric collection – the part that covers the dining room table. I’m very bad, I know. I’m trying to use it up as fast as I can, but it doesn’t seem to make a dent in it.



In my spare time from my retirement activities (which I’ll tell you about one of these days), I’ve been making bags – more bags. I found this pattern from Around the Bobbin for The Annalise Bag over the summer while I was visiting my brother and his wife on Vancouver Island. It looked like it would be fun  to make, and it was! I made a practice bag – the orange one – before I made one for my sister-in-law, and I was very happy with the way they went together. I added a couple of pockets for my SIL’s bag, and included this little zipper pull that used to be an earring. The bags have given me the opportunity to use up lots of heavy duty “upholstery” fabric that I buy as cheap remnants. I used linen for the lining of her bag. I also made my very first yoyo as an embellishment for the front of the bag, and attached it with a metal “brad” – the circle has two metal prongs on the back that split in opposite directions.



I was happy with the first two I made, so I did two more. That was, as you can see from the photos, over the summer. Since then I’ve wandered on to some different   bag patterns. I was hoping to move onto some baby quilts and other “flat” pieces by now, but finding the time to commit to them is still hard to come by. In the past three weeks alone, I organized one indoor market and one Christmas concert, was involved in three more concerts, and spent today tromping around town looking for birds for our annual Christmas Bird Count. That was in addition to several other activities I was involved in as a town councillor, as I was elected to the municipal council back in June.



Like I said, life hasn’t slowed down any. And I don’t really want it to, either. It’s slowed down enough that Rusty and Ginger get a lot more lap time, and I have a bit more time to work in the yard in the summer. I actually got my vegetables planted on time this year, and planted flowers as well! It was a nice feeling. I’m hoping that I’ll get back into the habit of blogging as well. It’s not like I have nothing to blog about! Just as long as my computer keeps working.

Until next time,

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The real stars

These are my colours, aren't they?
I've been spending most of my time outside for the past week because the weather's been so nice. My 500+ tomato seedlings have been enjoying a bit of sunshine each day, but I have to drag them back into the house at night. Today it's been raining and cold. At one point I thought it might do the unthinkable and drop something very unspringlike on us, but it didn't. But I'm sure it made the local Easter Egg Hunts a little uncomfortable. Still, where free candy is concerned, children will bear some lousy weather.


I was hoping to get some time at my sewing machine, but I've been spending the day cleaning up. It'll take another year or two of cleaning to get this house straightened up! Or longer when you have
Sunshine AND quilt blocks!
helpers like Rusty and Ginger.


I was working on a square to go with the sawtooth stars that I made some time ago. The stars were for a quilt for Mr. ZQ's father, who unfortunately passed away unexpectedly before I finished it (Hell could freeze over before I finish ANYTHING!). That happened around this time last year. His mother gave me some of his father's dress shirts to include in the quilt, which I am now making for her.


Anyhow, I made the points for this square and it looked so similar to the stars I'd already made that I stopped and rethank my plans. Then I tossed the pieces I'd already made down with the stars and new ideas started coming. So did Ginger and Rusty. I'm not sure whether the ideas
How could you be mad at a face like this?
are workable, but I'll give them a shot.


How do cats know that you're about to focus on an object when they're in a separate room?


The weather gnomes say the rest of the week is going to be absolutely beautiful, so I'm not sure how much sewing (or cleaning) I'm going to get done in the next little while, but there's always tomorrow.


Our local outdoor farmer and flea market starts up in May - hence the 500+ tomato seedlings and about 100 pepper plants. But I sell other stuff there as well over the course of the summer, much of it things that I've sewn - so I can't spend all of my time playing in the dirt, much as I'd like to. The summers here are usually long and hot - made for being outside. I'd drag my sewing machine out onto the deck if I could. (Well, I could, but then I'd have to drag it back inside every night also.)
Layout possibility
Until next time,

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lots of ideas

I want my Live Writer back! My blog looks so awkward without it. But no use in whining when there's nothing to be done about it. Onward!


There was a New Moon on Tuesday, and that means Action! It's also a good time to get your butt in gear, whether you want to or not. And boy, there seems to be a lot more action associated with this New Moon than most. It occurred in Pisces at around 19 degrees. All of you Pisces will be feeling it, but so will you Virgo, Pisces' opposite in the Zodiac. Pisces should be feeling comfortably motivated for the next month while Virgos may be feeling more restless than anything. This month's New Moon was directly opposite Jupiter in Virgo and square Saturn in Sagittarius. Pisces are normally quiet and contemplative while Virgos are quiet but analytical. Sagittarians are talkative and idealistic. The ruler of the New Moon chart is Mercury, so ideas and communication are going to be high on the list until
the next New Moon on April 7 (in Aries). Fast and furious the ideas come, and just as quickly they'll disappear. Whether you agree with them or not, it will make for an oddly enjoyable and satisfying month.


The weather where I live has been typical for March. After no snow at all in February, we got hit with the white stuff on March 1 and 2. It melted by the afternoon on both days. Yesterday morning started off so nicely that I grabbed my camera and took a long walk down by the Thompson River, one of my favourite places to walk. This is what the country around here looks like. I think it's beautiful. By the afternoon, just moments after I went outside to do some yard work, the wind whipped up and it turned cold. Today is beautiful but still windy, and just now I look out my window and see some Canada Geese being
blown out of formation by the wind. Not that anything stops them for long, especially when they're heading for water.


I made another wallet last week with some bright flutterbyes on it. Love this Blank Quilting fabric. It's from a few years back. For the inside I picked a lightweight fabric with huge butterflies on it. I have no idea where this one came from - must have been a remnant that I bought at some stage. Hope I didn't pay too much for it. Anyway, go big or go home, right? It certainly makes me stare at it each time I look at it. If I truly hated it, I wouldn't be using it in a wallet.


I would be using it to experiment with - to make new blocks that I was unsure about. Earlier this week I was at Quilter's Cache looking for a block to go with some sawtooth stars I have and I found this one . I'm putting it together using junky scraps so I can get an idea of the size and how it would fit. I like paper piecing, especially when I can't decide what I want to do. You can't really improvise when you're paper piecing. You just follow the instructions and add one piece after the other until it's done.


Until next time,

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leaps and bounds

I could get used to this retirement thing! Getting a decent night's sleep, eating well, taking long walks. And sewing. It's all on the schedule I made up for myself.
Yes, I made myself a schedule. That's me. People told me that I'd lose track of time after I retired, and there are so many things I want to do with my time now that I have some for myself that I don't want to waste it. Only thing is, blogging isn't on my schedule.
Guess I'd better add it somewhere, but I'm not spending very much time at my computer these days. That's all I did at work.
My friend and next door neighbour challenged me last week to get some sewing done. Up until then I'd been staring at my machine, moving things around on the table and not getting much else done. It's awesome what a challenge will do!
I started making these little bags again. I made four of them. In one week. Along with music practice, lunch with the gals, house work, yard work, walks, visits and everything else. I made these half an inch narrower than the first ones. You can still fit a cell phone in the outer pockets or a Canadian passport (or money or keys or glasses or...) in the zippered pocket.
Have I mentioned how much I love Laurel Burch fabrics? Probably once or twice. I made up one for myself and had to stop and think about what I would really like on my own bag. Well, cats, of course. I have a not too shabby
collection of cat fabric, and a nice selection of Laurel Burch cats. It wasn't too hard to find some bits that went together nicely.
I'll probably make more of these little bags in the future, but for now I'm off on another project. After that I'll get back to finishing the "bingo bags" that I started well before Christmas.
And after that, I'd like to get back to making quilts. Before that, though, there's going to be a garden to work up and plant. It's going to be fun!
Until next time,

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Word of the Week - Retirement!

As of last Friday, I am retired from my career of almost 40 years! My time is my own now and I almost don't know what to do with it. Almost. I know that I need to retain a bit of structure, but I'm giving myself a week off before I start making lists and plans.




It's hard. My mind is going off in all directions at breakneck speed. Thirty-seven-plus years as a weekly (and daily) newspaper editor made me think in terms of daily story lists and more deadlines than you might believe possible. People used to ask me how I found time for quilting: I told them I squeezed in a little bit here, a little bit there. But even that has become increasingly harder in the past year as company cutbacks and policies have pretty much claimed the last of my free time.




I've been cleaning up around my sewing table and cutting fabric for some more of these little bags. This is a late Christmas present for my music partner. Can you tell? (Hint - music staves and piano keyboards!). I also picked up a cold from a co-worker on my last day of work and on Monday I slept for 18 out of 24 hours. Guess I
needed it. Needless to say, my kitties were very pleased. But that's why I haven't done much at the sewing machine - too fuzzy headed from this cold. I cut some fabric, decide I don't want to use it and look around for something else to cut. I'm going to end up with a pile of tiny pieces and another project if I keep doing that.




Unless I get a surge of energy in the next couple of days, there probably won't be any sewing until next week - but I guarantee, there will be by then.


Until next time,