Monday, November 28, 2011

So Much Going On!

So much has happened since I last posted that it seems like it was a month ago!

On Sunday the 20th we got up early (5 a.m.), had a quick breakfast and hit the road to Iron Springs, a very small town north of Lethbridge where Jim had a preaching appointment.  In the 70's we lived a short drive west of Iron Springs and we are still well acquainted in that area.  It was a very cold day, but the roads were all clear and driving was no problem.  We had a good time visiting there and stayed overnight with friends from Nobleford who had come to the service especially to hear Jim preach again.  It was a nice little holiday, and we returned home by noon on Monday.

Tuesday Dickens had an appointment with the vet to have his inoculations and be neutered.  They also showed me how to clip his nails so he doesn't do me so much "loving" damage.  Before I even reached home after bringing him there they were on the phone to let us know a surprising discovery: he had already been neutered!  That means that he is not the simple stray that I thought he was; he belonged to somebody.  We are quite puzzled, because we know all the cats in this rural neighborhood, and he wasn't one of them.  Several friends have suggested that a townperson dropped him off in the country to get rid of him, but why would they do that when he's such an appealing, good-natured cat?  The vet also assured me, based on checking his teeth, that he is at least a year old, and perhaps as much as a year and a half.  Well, that saved us about $95, so all to the good!

Tuesday the quilting club met and finished up all the quilts for Slave Lake:
There was quite a stack of them, and very attractive quilts, too.  We had our picture taken and the next day I submitted a little write up on our activities to the local weekly newspaper.  We have lately been asking for donations from local service clubs and governments to help defray the cost of these quilts that we give away.  We are blest to receive quite a few donations of fabric, but batting and backings add up. Perhaps reading about all the quilts we give away and seeing the picture will help us raise some money to continue this good work.

On Wednesday we had our last rehearsal of the string group and the community choir before our performances on Friday and Saturday.  We were in good shape--knew our music well and were quite confident of a good performance, even though choir had had only four rehearsals.  And truly, the Christmas program given on both nights was a great success!  I was very happy with the performances, and, judging by the applause and the appreciative comments, so was the audience.

Sunday was the first time I met with the accordian group who have asked me to conduct them in a concert to be given in January.  This is organized by Rosebud School of the Arts and is a fundraiser for the Badlands Passion Play.  The Community Choir has also been asked to take part in the concert.  The rehearsal took place at a home that is a 25 minute drive from here. It was early afternoon when we went, and the wind was severe.  It only got worse flinging dust and gravel against the van as we went along and almost pushing us off the road.  We learned later that it was up to hurricane force in Calgary and did a huge amount of damage there.  Trees were down all over the city, semis were overturned on the highway, and there were so many windows blown out in the downtown core that the entire downtown was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.  We were fortunate to be spared such heavy damage as our area is about 50 kilometers further east.  It was a record breaking storm.

Sometime over that busy weekend I managed to get the sleeve for granddaughter's sweater back on the light knitter to add a few inches.  The stupid thing is that I had originally made the sleeve about that much longer and then raveled it back to this shorter length.  When I finish fixing the sleeves and sewing them back on, I need to start the other sweater for her sister.  We will see them in the middle of December, which is also when they both have their birthday, so this is a priority!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Finished Angel Quilt

The lap quilt that I started three weeks ago tomorrow is finished!  It was a simple design and was easy to put together.  There was very little "reverse stitching" in this one.

I bought 4 remnants, 2 fat quarters and found one more previously purchased remnant in my stash.  The batting was a polyester batt that had been given to our town quilting club.  The backing came from the $5.00/meter shelf.

The finished quilt is soft and fluffy, good for an "angel quilt," the quilts that are collected by our local fabric store and given to needy locals in the Christmas season.  Although it's not strongly feminine it is a quilt for a woman or girl.

I did "stitch in the ditch" quilting on the body of the quilt since it was already very busy.  But in the border I put a swirling design, similar to the print of the material.

It was nice to make a quilt with all new material for a change.  So many of the quilts the past year have been scrap quilts from the stash, and although I really like scrap quilts, it was a treat to buy some new material and create from scratch.

When the quilt was finished, these small pieces were all that was left of my purchases.  Now that's a relief, not to add a whole lot to the stash to be used up later.

Because the batt was donated and the top and back were not full price materials, this lap quilt cost only $46.80 to make.  For an all new material quilt, that might be a record!

The batt had a price tag of $5.99 on it, on sale from a regular price of $8.49.  It had an offer included for an "Ohio Rose Pattern with detailed instructions.  Send this coupon, a MOUNTAIN MIST UPC symbol and $2.00 to cover postage and handling.  Available in English only.  Offer expires October 31, 1991."  (My italics)  So the batt is 20 years old!  The coupon also referred to "Straight Stitch Machine Applique and Machine Quilting."  That was back in the days when most quilts were still hand quilted.  Many quilters then (and some now) thought that machine quilting was cheating!!!

Get a load of the old machine!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cat Tales

Dickens has been with us almost two weeks now and has proven to be a lively, intelligent and affectionate young cat.

Remember how I made him a bed in a little nook beside the cabinet in the back hall?  Well, he had other ideas.  He found this lovely nest of toques, scarves and mittens way up high in the back hall and decided that was the best bed for a cat.

Because he's quite young he's very "scatty" and needs lots of playthings to
keep amused.  One of his favorites is this empty pill bottle.  It's just wonderful fun to bat it around because it spins and jiggles.  He chases it all around the living room.  But sometimes it disappears and he has to go looking for it.  Once in a while it caroms down the open stairs.  One time I saw him pick it up in his mouth to bring it back into play in the open area.

Cats are not claustrophobic!  He's looking for the pill bottle under the loveseat.  Once in a while it gets stuck under a radiator and I have to retrieve it for him.

He also loves to bat around anything crinkly or crackly, so he'll play with a wadded up piece of paper, a paper bag, a crinkled up cellophane bag or somesuch.

The first time I ran the washing machine he was entranced.  It went round and round in the most enticing manner!  This reminded me exactly of a big tom cat we had when I was a girl.  Mom got a new washer--a Bendix front loader and "Fluffy" was mesmerized.  He sat staring at the washer with his head swivelling in time to the tumbling action.  "Fluffy," a misnomer if there ever was one, was also a striped cat like Dickens.

When I sit on the couch reading, sipping my morning coffee, Dickens likes to climb up beside me, real snuggly, until he's all the way up on my lap and there's no room for the book anymore.  My hands and thighs (in spite of wearing my heaviest pair of jeans) show the marks of his affection--lots of little scratches!

Sometimes he gets just too "scatty" and wild.  See the claws gripping the cushion?  It's time for me to decamp or
to evict him.

He's wrassled that pillow right over the edge, but he's still got a good grip on it with his sharp little claws and teeth.

Oops!  Lost it!

He is learning that he's not allowed up on countertops, etc. and I think he's
 intelligent enough to absorb that lesson.
He can barely resist chewing on my
new slippers, so I give him the old one
to chew on--the fur is so alluring!

This morning he was sitting alertly on an armchair across from the couch, observing the fireplace mantel, the wall sconces, the ceiling fan.  It really looked as if he were taking stock of the possibilities for mayhem.  He's already been up on the mantel and almost knocked over an antique Dutch glass canning jar.  I'd hate for that to crash to the floor!

I thought it would be interesting for him if I turned on the ceiling fan.  The switch is right beside the couch.  So when he stared up at it again, I gave the rheostat a little nudge.  OOOOh!  I repent in dust and ashes!  It scared him silly!!!  He exploded out of the chair and shot out of the room, claws scrabbling on the smooth wood floor.  The poor little cat was traumatized.  He finally dared to come back in the living room, but eyed the now immobile fan with great suspicion.  He was unusually quiet for the rest of the day.  Much the same way I would feel enervated after a big shock.  I'm just relieved he isn't holding that against me.

"Fluffy" was more vengeful.  One day my sister was carrying him around in her arms and accidentally knocked his head against a doorframe.  For some time he sat in wait on a dining room chair, just concealed under the drape of the tablecloth.  Whenever Peggy went by the chair, a paw shot out and took a swipe at her.  He didn't bother the rest of us--he was out to get back at her for that insult and injury.

Of course, it's possible that Dickens doesn't know it was I who turned on that fan!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Super Easy Soup

When I buy a beef roast I cut it up into small portions, about 8 ounces each and freeze them for future use.  Today I took one of those portions out of the freezer around 10 this morning, thawed it a bit in the microwave and put it into this handy little crockpot with two pieces of bay leaf underneath.  By 1 o'clock it was tender as could be, surrounded by nice thick gravy, courtesy of a little gravy mix, a spoon of cornstarch and a cup of water, added earlier.

When we were clearing up the dishes after dinner, there was still a cup of thick gravy left in the crockpot.  I couldn't let that go to waste, so I added 1/2 cup of pearl barley, 1 1/2 cups of water, 2 ribs of celery (including leaves), 1/2 an onion chopped, one good sized carrot cut into small pieces, and 1/2 cup of corn kernels.  Let that simmer all afternoon, with the lid on.  Now I added another cup of water with a little beef bullion concentrate.  It will make a satisfying supper on a fairly cold, dark night.

I could also make it a little heartier by adding some precooked loose hamburger that I have in the freezer.

Winter time is soup time!

Friday, November 4, 2011


The cat's name is Dickens, not after the author, but because he is a little dickens!

Beside the washer and dryer in the back hall is a cabinet with a double sink.  Under the countertop beside the cabinet is a 10" wide cubbyhole.  Dickens was attracted to that nice little hidey hole, so I put an old rug down there to make a  bed for him.  That suited me just fine, because I keep the cat confined to the back hall at night.  He's got a bed, a water dish and a kitty litter box there, all nice and snug.

While I was working on my latest quilt top yesterday afternoon, Dickens went exploring.  I heard him somewhere in the back hall, but couldn't find him.  Even peering behind the washer and dryer with a flashlight didn't reveal him, but I could still hear him somewhere in there.

I opened the cupboard, and there he was inside!  He had crawled through the 3" space between the back of the cupboard and wall, found the hole in the back wall of the cupboard where the faucets come in and the drain goes out, and climbed into the cupboard that way.  When I opened the doors there he was with his head is the bag of cat food!  He didn't come out without a struggle!

I wrestled the bag away from him and poured the cat food into a plastic pail with a lid.  I think it's safe now.  He had fun with the empty bag.

Because I worked hard on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I had a day off on Thursday, and that meant, as usual, a day of sewing.

This is the beginning of a lap quilt.  I bought some remnants on Saturday, came home and started cutting and sewing.

But WHAT WAS I THINKING? I cut them into 1-1/2" strips and started sewing them together.  If I'd stopped to think I would have cut wider strips.  That would mean half as much sewing for a slightly larger quilt top.  But did you ever notice how, when you ask yourself that question, the answer usually is: I wasn't  thinking.

Exactly what I used to do when I was still in Junior High School, first making my own clothes.  I would take the bus downtown, buy some material for a skirt or blouse, come home all fired up and start cutting.  By the time Mom came home from her full-time secretarial job I was in a pretty hopeless bind, and she had to figure out an ingenious rescue--which she did.

Well, yesterday morning I was getting sick of all these little 3" blocks, so I thought I'd throw in a few, maybe 7 or 9, six inch blocks of another pattern.  The first one I made is the smaller one of the left in the picture above--turned out to be just 5".  That won't fit.  Second try is on the right: 6" for most of it, and about 1/2" short in the middle of four sides.

There just wasn't enough material to go on experimenting, and no one came to rescue me, so I went back to my original plan: all the 3" squares sewed together in rows, the area shown on the bottom of this photo. This is a basket weave pattern.  With a four inch border on all sides it will finish out at 47" x 59", which is plenty big for a lap quilt.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cat and Choir

Two new things in my life:
Meet the newest member of the family.  This young cat followed Jim home the other day.  We think he was
part of the passel of cats that live around the tannery.  I think he's quite young, and he's quite determined to live in our house.  When he showed up I fed him and petted him and encouraged him to live in the garage.  Having a cat on the place would really help to keep the mouse population in check, and this is quite an appealing young cat.  Before the weather turns very cold, I  would like to take him to a vet and have him wormed and neutered, so as to turn him into a good house cat.  We'll see what happens.

I think I'll name him "Trippy" because he has that cat habit of walking crosswise in front of your feet.

I took a 30 second video of him curling around my feet, purring his heart out.  But it somehow won't upload to blogspot.

The other new event in my life came about this week when the all-around-assistant at the Arts Academy where I teach some violin students told me that she was desperate to find someone to conduct the Community Choir for the annual Christmas Concert, coming up on the 25th and 26th of November.  She didn't know that I have decades of experience leading church choirs.  So when I agreed to do the Community Choir this November she was delighted.

Last night (one day after I agreed to do this) we had our first rehearsal.  Marilyn had picked out two appropriate choir pieces, and I found two more in my files. They are fairly simple pieces, since we will have just four rehearsals before the concert.

I really enjoyed the rehearsal; I've always enjoyed group music rehearsals, whether string or voice.  We had one bass, three tenors, five altos and four sopranos.  A balanced group to start with.  Perhaps other singers will join us when they hear that we are going ahead with a choir for this year.  I hope so!