Friday, February 29, 2008

Finally -- Fun in the Snow!

Last week the temperatures finally rose to a livable temperature. At the first opportunity I, and everyone else in town, donned their lightest winter gear and headed outside. Andrew and I had shovelled off part of the deck the day before, so Aaron could finally go out an enjoy the winter. We put on our solar fleeces and snow pants and other cold weather gear and headed out. Andrew had a great time digging pathways through the snow. He made it all the way to the sandbox and dug down to the sand.

Then he continued along the fence, down the slide and over to the little climbing / slide house that I had just dug out for Aaron.
We took Aaron down the laneway and off to see a bulldozer moving snow around, and to watch some people skating. Andrew climbed a "giant" mountain of snow. On the way back to our yard Andrew was running way ahead down the laneway. It was lovely to see him so happy to be out, and finally comfortable enough in his neighbourhood and himself to run to our yard by himself. I let Aaron walk for a little bit, but he was tenative. You could see him thinking, "This is all so big. Those . . . tall things. That . . .big wide thing above us. All the stuff on the ground . . . " I decided I had to fill in a few words for him as we went.
Its hard to remember, sometimes, that Aaron doesn't remember the outside, since for the last few months he's just been rushed from house to car to store or house. He loves going out and just staring at the sheer size of everything. It is all so beautiful and new for him. I love that gift that children give us -- the gift to see the world anew.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Hate Facebook

Really. I used to get emails from people, where they actually told me how they were doing and what was going on in their lives. Sometimes I would get comments on my blog, or go and find out what other people were doing by looking at their pictures and reading their charming stories on their blogs. Now people send me digital eggs and ask me to be a vampire. Facebook is nice for sending quick messages about things back and forth, or for getting in touch with people you haven't seen in a while, but in general, it sucks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Thought on Wall Hanging

Okay, forget the big rectange idea. It seemed like a good idea in my head, but I think instead I"m either going to do some 10" pinwheels out of some of the fabrics or some smaller (6") or so squares surrounded by cream, or a combination of square-in-square blocks and one layer log cabin blocks (like a big square in the middle with one layer of colour / pattern) with five or six of the fabrics.

Ooh, Aaron is standing on his little kitchen and eating dried kidney beans Andrew left in the top of the "coffemaker". Better go.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Help Me Crafty Bloggosphere. You're my only Hope.

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I am plagued with blank white walls. I know, you may find this hard to beleive considering how colourful my quilts and my prose (hem hem) are, but my walls are virtually blank. This is what happens when you spend years of your life spending all your money on education and gas ( to drive to work and assorted educational institutions) and have never actually spent time in your house before. Why stay at home and look at your blank walls when there is that little sushi resteraunt down the road, or Chapters just a 10 min. drive away?

Well, times have changed and we're not in BC anymore. There is no chapters. There are no sushi resteraunts. The local coffee shop closes at 6pm most nights. And though we have been here for 3 years we still have relatively blank walls.

Since this winter will not end, and I am tired of looking at a platte of blank white snow outside and blank beige walls inside, I have decided it is time to put something on the walls. Since I don't have three or four hundred dollars to unload on a large piece of art, I decided I should do something in fabric. Incidentally this justifies buying more fabric, which is a side bonus.

I am thinking of just making 9 squares (but then I was thinking rectangles -- about 13"x17") sashed with cream fabric and bound in something green or pink, and these were the fabrics I thought I would use at first:

But then when I arranged them in a square, I found the yellow one too busy, so I was left with this:
I was thinking of either putting another piece of fabric in it, or some sort of pieced block or applique (a picture made out of cut out and sewn on fabric, for you non-sewers out there). The whole I idea was that it should be quick, though, since I have a lot of other things on the go, and Aaron keeps climbing up and trying to get his fingers sewn over when I try to sew during the day, so my sewing time is now confined to the evening, since I'm trying really hard not to stay up into the wee hours of the night anymore.

I tried a few different things for the centre fabric. I think this one is too light. I'm kicking myself for not getting the one with the orange birds and brown flowers. I really don' want to wait to order that online, though, and I can't get this kind of stuff locally.
Option number two is to put a swatch of the decor fabric I'm making pillows out of. But, well, its home decor fabric and its hard to do it justice in a 13 x 17 rectange, as much as I love love love this fabric:
This is actually the one I liked the best. I am hesitating, however, becuase I actually bought this fabric to make a curtain for my entry way (the only area of my house that is decorated), and I wouldn't have enough to do that if I cut a big square out of it. Which means ordering one metre of fabric online. This is not very cost effective because the shipping is usually about $6, but ordering many metres is, well, also not very cost effective.
I could suck it up and order more, I guess. Or I could change my plan and do something with smaller pieces of fabric and use the yellow paisley at the top. I don't know. So, help me through my dilemma, dear readers. What do you think?

Every Time I Turn Around Lately I See . . .

Or this. Aaron has apparently decided that he loves to climb. Unfortunately he does not yet love to get down by himself. He always starts with this look of amazement and delight that he actually made it up to his planned location. Then after walking around for a bit, he generally gets a bit nervous and starts fussing to get down. I was pulling him down immediately at first. But now I'm getting to the point where I figure that maybe if I don't instantly rescue him, he will realize that its not such a smart idea to climb onto things you can't get off of. Or he'll fall a lot.

In any case, we are now officially in a "clean table" mode again. This means that every surface except the kitchen counters (so far -- but he's pulling out chairs so it won't be long before he figures out he can move them up to the counter top) must be clear of all dangerous / sharp / breakable / interesting objects. As you can see above, he's just about to reach for my coffee.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Judith -- if you're out there, don't read this!

Meet Odd. He's presently sitting on the very soft, cute blanket I made as well. They are on their way to Fort McMurray to meet their new owners, Jon and Nate.
Jon is about 2 months old, and will appreciate the softness of his new blankie -- the yellow side is flannel and the blue nursery rhymes side is quilter's cotton. Its made as per the instructions in "Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts" (I do love that book).
Nate is 3 years old, and I thought it might be nice to send him something as well, since he is Dave's godson. So he gets Odd, one of my first recent attempts at a self-designed softie. You can read more about him below (above? I'm not sure).

Meet Odd.

This little guy is my first attempt at a completely original softie made from shrunk, recycled sweaters (commonly known as felted wool. But as I discovered while trying to find instructions for shrinking sweaters properly so they don't frey, this is a misnomer. Felted wool properly refers to fabric made from previously un-knit wool. So now you know).

One of the things I'm really interested in doing is finding a way to make various fun things out of recycled fabric. So in my quest to do this, I bought a few sweaters and inexpertly shrunk them. Three out of my four selected sweaters worked beautifully. The fourth one had this great snowflake pattern on it. I had great plans for the snowflake pattern, but the snowflakes came out as matted messes. The three that worked, however, produced this really soft, snuggly fabric that doesn't fray, is easy to embroider on and keeps its shape quite well. It is thicker than the felt available in Saskatoon, but considering that he quilt shop charged me $4 for a 6"x12" square of fabric and the sweaters were $6 each and will produce a lot more fabric than that, I think it was a bargain.

Odd is the second softie I have designed recently (the first is a little doll I made for a doll swap last year), and the third softie I've desined that has a head. In highschool and early university I made a number of Absurd dolls -- stuffed birds, dragons and monkeys that were perfect in every way except they were lacking heads. But in recent times I have been following some of the fantastic patterns I've found online to make my dolls and toys. So, I designed the pattern loosely based on my doll pattern.

Odd was supposed to be a bear, but the felt is really thick and so when I flipped him right side out afte sewing him together I discovered tha this ears were all wonky. Andrew and I breifly considered making him into a kangaroo, but that would have required finding a way to stitch a tail onto him. Thus, since he was a bit odd looking, he became the first of hopefully a small troop of Odds. I considered stitching a contrasting face and tummy onto him, but decided I liked the charm and simplicity of the embroidered face. I felt he needed a bit more decoration, so I added the star on a whim, and, later, this little curly tail as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why Microsoft Drives Me Mad ( or alternately why I should have bought a Mac)

I have been trying to network my two computers for a month now. My old reliable is running Windows XP, and this one is running Windows Vista, and for some reason they can not seem to recognize each other. Despite the fact that they are both connected through the same router, it seems to be impossible to get them to actually talk to one another.

You may think I am not trying. But really, I have followed Help prompts, I have pushed all the buttons that say things like "Options" and "Preferences" that should lead to me being allowed to network the two computers. I have renamed my network, renamed my computers, reassigned the security features on both machines, downloaded stuff from Microsoft that was supposed tfix the problem, and actually read through the online menus on both computers and went through their lists of troubleshooting ideas. And still, no talkie.

I really am beginning to think that this process is set up to deliberately frustrate me so that I will either: a) buy Vista for my pc or b) call a computer specialist to come and click the secret box that the uninitiated can not find and charge me $50.

Seriously, you would think it would be possible to create programs that communicate with the former generations of the same program. No one bothers, but you must be able to do it.

In the meantime, in order to get my photos off my hard drive on my pc and burn them onto cds on my laptop so that my pc can once more perform a simple function in less than a month, I am going to have to upload them to somewhere online and then download them to my laptop and then burn them to cd.

And don't get me started on the fact that my laptop came with obnoxious programs with overlapping features that fight over who gets to operate my firewall and download photos off my memory card. And then won't do simple things like only download the 6 new photos on my memory card when I check "only download new photos" and instead re-downloads all 400 pictures on my memory card, thus taking up all the memory on my laptop by storing redundant information.


I was actually going to introduce you to Odd, my first non-patterned fully recycled wool creature, but I couldn't pull him off my memory card without also downloading all 400 of my photos for a third time (in a week) so you can meet him later.

Thanks for all the nifty comments, by the way. I'll try to respond to some of them sometimes soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Testing, Testing . . .

I knew the moment it happened. I could tell by the feeling of overwhelming panic and frustration welling up inside me. It wasn't the moment Aaron decided to climb onto the chest. It was the moment he decided to jump off. I had run over to show him the safe way to get down, and he had jumped into my arms. Thinking that this was a great game, and merited mom's full attention, Andrew joined the game. He climbed up and declared, "Look, Aaron. I can jump off like this!" And despite my protests for Andrew to stop, he would not stop jumping over and over. And Aaron was trying to step off of the 2 ft high chest right onto the floor, and I couldn't chase Andrew into his time out chair while also keeping Aaron away from the chest . . . and I really wanted to get the laundry done. So I did what any self-respecting mother would do when her husband is sick and she has woken up at 4:30 in the morning for the second day in the row and she just wants to have a clean shirt to put on . . . I put pillows around the chest so they couldn't hurt themselves, and went back to folding laundry.
And that was the beginning of the end. No one got hurt -- we have a lot of very big couch cushions which sufficently broke everyone's falls until the jumping fiasco came to an end. But that was the moment when I didn't act, and should have. I failed the 3 year old will-mommy-really-stop-me test. And we all know (at least those of us with 3 year olds) what happens when we fail the three year old test. The whining and hitting and knocking over and demanding and general obnoxious behavior begins. "Are you going to stop me mommy? Are you going to stop me?" seems to be the question that glows in the eyes of my child. "I won't stop myself. Will you stop me? When? How many times?"
So the test begins. And so the test continued all weekend long. And all week long, until I was numb from the pinches and the screams and my back was sore from lifting a heavy three year old into the little white chair and going to set the timer, and my baby started insisting to be carried becuase being down on the floor with big brother raging was just not safe anymore. . . . and I gave up with time out and gave up taking things away and just started giving warnings. Insipid, foolish warnings that do nothing. "If you do that again . . . " my voice rings hollowly. Until my clever 3 year old starts saying "I won't do it again, mommy." as I go to take away the shovel he has just tried to plow his brother with. I am struck with the foolishness of my warnings and I take the shovel away.
And so the test culminated today with a bite. Yes, a bite from my 3 year old son. I had finally sat down with him, and was tring to have a moment of peace while he played before bed. But really he needed to go to bed, and I just wanted him to stay up later to forestall another pre-5am waking tomorrow. So he sat down next to me. And when his brother decided to climb up as well, he bit me. Hard. And I got up and just walked away. And he cried "I need you, mommy!" and in a moment he came and apologized and curled up on my lap, and we went to have a bath. And in the bath he gently smoothed bubbles over the top of his brother's head to wash his baby soft hair. And they smiled at each other and in the way of small children, all was well between them.
After he is in bed, I am left to wonder what this test is all about. Is it because I'm trying not to yell? Is it abou power? Indepenence? Attention? Maturity? I'm not sure. And then I wonder why I need to know.
On my end, it is about consistency -- my lack of it. It is why I am chronically 10 lbs overweight, 10 min. late, 1 week overdue . . . you get the picture. I decide to do it now, and then I decide to do it later, and then tomorrow, and then the tomorrows become a week, two weeks, a month until it is too late to do it at all. With a library book, all this means is that you owe the library a few dollars. But what do you owe a child who grows up with no consistent structure and discipline because you were going to do it later and later and later and then they were gone.
Generally speaking I've always been good at tests. Teachers have usually asked questions I knew the answers to. Friends have usually been disarmed by a clever quip and a quick smile and a peace offering, if needed. But my son shows me what I still need to learn. Where I need to grow, and who I need to become so I can be his best parent, and my best self.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

dad's 70th quilt

dad's 70th quilt
Originally uploaded by davenjilly
So, I thought my dad was 70 this year. I did the math wrong, and have since realized that he's actually 70 next year. But that's okay, becuase that means this quilt will be 10 1/2 months early instead of 2 months late. And I wanted to make him a quilt anyway becuase he's often in and out of hospital, and while some of my other siblings can rush to his side in an emergency, I have small children and no money. So I thought at least he could bring something of me with him so he would know I was thinking of him.

The result was this quilt. It started out with a fat quarter club I joined (that didn't work out, but that is another post all together), which resulted in me having 12 fat quarters of "Aunt Purdy's Parlour", a collection I would never choose to buy -- all burgandy, navy and deep forest greens. I did realize that these are all colour my dad really loves, however, so I started collecting a few homespuns to go with them. When I had about 20 or so fat quarters I was planning to do a turning 20 type quilt with lots of big blocks.

For christmas I bought myself the "Last Minute Patchwork and Quilting Gifts" book, and I loved so many of the quilts in it (damn Martha Steward inspired photography) that I had to try some of the techniques highlighted. I thought of making a coin quilt (basically several smaller rows of coloured strips with smaller solid strips between them) but it was now the middle of December, and my dad's birthday is Dec. 31. So I opted for the big strips of homespun and the two strips of bright quilters cotton and homespun.

This quilt was really fun tomake. It was my fist time using free hand rotary cutting, which is really fun and relaxing (frankly all my rotary cutting ends up being a tiny bit freehand becuase I suck at holding a ruler straight, so it was a bit of a releif) and my first time tying a quilt. I tied it partially because its quicker, and partially because then I could do that part in Winnipeg. It was also my first time using cotton batting, which I love. It has such a nicer weight than the cheap polyester yuk I've used so far, and I can tell that it will not disappear nearly as quickly. I was initially going to bind it in the neutral plaid, but I think that would have been too dull.

Anyway, this was a pretty fast quilt for something measuring 50" x 56", and I'm sure my dad will love it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Curses, Foiled Again!

So aside from wrangling cranky teething 13 month olds and amusing bored snowed in 3 year olds, I've been trying to finish my dad's 70th birthday quilt. I had the top done before I went to Winnipeg, and decided to tie it so I could do that part on my holiday. I did finish it while I was there, so all week long I've been trying to bind it. It took me two days of breaking up fights over swords and who gets to drive / push the motorcycle toy and chasing Aaron away from unplugging the cords and tearing his hands away from the sewing machine's moving parts, etc, etc to get the binding strips even put together. Then I started sewing them on the quilt. And apparently there was too much action going on and I was in too much of a hurry becuase until last night, when I went to hand sew it in place, I didn't even notice it was all INSIDE OUT. Arg, arg, arg! So instead of spending my entire phone conversation with my long lost friend Medea stitching the binding on the quilt and getting to feel my only sense of accomplishment for the week, I spent it ripping the entire binding off the quilt. So now that I had trimmed all the edges, I have to try to re-sew the binding on while keeping all the layers together. Sigh.

On the bright side, during conversations with my siblings in Winnipeg I realized that I did my math wrong. My dad is 69 right now and doesn't turn 70 until next January. So the quilt is now going to be 11 months early instead of one month late.