Sunday, March 31, 2013

Water Problems

All winter Jim has been very proactive about how much snow there is up against the house.  He takes the tractor and removes the accumulation, dumping it on the lower area of the parking lot.  Ten days ago we had a huge dump of snow.  There are about 2 to 3 feet of snow lying on the flat areas of the yard.  Here and there are deeper drifts, but right by the house he has removed most of it.

However, we didn't think about all the snow that had landed on our roof.  The house has a peak at one corner, slopes down to the middle, and the rest is basically flat, with just enough slope to drain down to one area by the back door.  This is a picture of the roof just above the back door.

About 5:30 p.m. yesterday we noticed water seeping into the basement where the pipe from well enters and got out our shop vacs.  When we had cleared up the major portion of the puddle, we set up the shop vac to keep sucking.  What a racket it makes!  We closed the basement door and went upstairs to have our supper.

Fortunately for us, when the temperature fell below freezing the water stopped running.  We turned off the vacuum and went to bed.

This morning Jim decided he needed to shovel all the snow off the
roof to prevent more water from following the same course.

Just about the time I left to play for the morning service, he climbed up on the roof and began to shovel snow into the tractor bucket.  When the bucket was full, he dumped the snow at the low end of our property, near the road, when it won't run into the house when it melts.

We had a good service, and such an interesting thing happened during the feature for the children.  The children all gathered at the front and our pastor's wife talked with them about eggs.  She asked, why do you think eggs are used to talk about Easter?  One eager 6 year old piped up, "Oh, I know! Because they have three parts, just like God!" Right on!  Then she talked about how a hen sits on her eggs and after a little while, new chicks hatch from the eggs.  "Oh!" he said, "Just like we are newborn children of God!"  By this time we were all chuckling, and thoroughly enjoying his responses.  He had everyone beat!

Then she took the egg, had an older child hold it in his hand, and she pressed hard on it.  Of course, it broke!  But!!!It was empty.  Ezra (actually the name of the 6 year old) said, "JUST LIKE THE EMPTY TOMB!!!"

Well, who even needs a sermon when a little child can lead us?

Meanwhile back at the ranch,  Jim was shovelling, and shovelling, and shovelling.

When I got home at 1 p.m. he had made a lot of progress, but still had a long way to go.  I offered to help shovel, but was turned down.  I saw a lot of water surrounding the downspout by the back door.  It was running off the patio and draining into the soil on the east side of the house, the same side where it was running into the basement.  So I got out the smaller shop vac and started vacuuming up the little lake of water.  More water appeared as soon as I vacuumed what was already there.  About every minute I had to empty the vac, which holds 4 gallons.  By 2:30 it was taking a little longer to fill the vac.  Now it's running and I can go out and empty it about every 4 minutes, so the flow is way, way down.  Naturally, because there's not so much snow on the roof any more.

Now it's 3:45 and Jim is still out there shovelling!  And he's 75 years old!  He'll need a good soak in a hot bath, a long, gentle massage and a good meal to help him recover from this unusual Easter Sunday!

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Very Musical Week

On Monday of this week I went to a rehearsal in Rosebud of the Good Friday section of the Messiah.  I love rehearsals--most especially when I can just play, and not have to organize or conduct.  This time I'm playing the viola part, which, especially in "All We Like Sheep" is significantly easier than the second violin part, which I have played umpteen times.

Tuesday was a violin teaching day.

Wednesday we drove down to the small town north of Lethbridge where we served a church for seven years in the seventies.  We've always maintained quite close ties with that church, and it was while we were there that we met our dear friend, Hilda, the 91 year old friend I've mentioned a few times before.  Hilda died on March 4, and we held her Memorial Service this week on Wednesday.  She had asked Jim many years ago to conduct her funeral service and her step children were aware of this.

Jim was greatly helped in his preparation by her personal bible, with its many underlined passages with comments written in the margin.  He formed the meditation around some of those passages and her remarks, and tied them in with her faith and life.

I played "Great is Thy Faithfulness" which went well and was appreciated.

On the way home, which is pretty much straight north for a 3 hour drive, we saw many flocks of Canada geese, hundreds and hundreds of birds.  Interestingly, they were all bunched up just where the change from brown fields to snow-covered fields occurred.  About 15 km south of Strathmore the fields were full of them.  North of Hwy 1 I saw only one pair of geese standing on a frozen pond.

Thursday was a lesson make up day, for having missed on Wednesday.  (I also missed another rehearsal for the Messiah on Wednesday evening.)

Thursday evening Jan and I went to a very interesting concert here in town.  A Dutch organist from St. Catherines, Ont. wanted to come with a pan flutist and give a concert here.  The Arts Academy mentioned strongly that we don't have organs here good enough for a concert, but he said, he'd play what we had.  So he ended up on a fairly old Baldwin, full pedalboard and two keyboards, but not much in terms of stops or power.

The concert began with the pan flutist at the rear of the church, playing "Abide with Me" very softly, walking slowly down the aisle.  The organ joined in, also very softly.  It was beautiful.

Next they performed a Handel concerto together.  Well, she (the pan flutist) was a tremendously accomplished artist.  We were just blown away!  It was wonderful.  Then the organist played an improvisation, very Dutch in manner, which got louder and louder and more and more dense, until one speaker on the organ just gave up the ghost!  The rest of the concert was pretty subdued on the part of the organ.  A planned toccata was dumped and a quiet, meditative improvisation on "Amazing Grace" took its place.

So we went to hear an organ concert and instead were treated to a fabulous pan flute evening.

This morning our little orchestral group (6 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello and 1 bass) accompanied the Rosebud Chorale in a Good Friday service in Drumheller.  It was a good service, marred only by a worship team that upped the volume to a painful high for the choruses in the first part of the service.  Everything else about the service was thoughtful and appropriate for Good Friday.  Some years ago I wrote about a local service that gave scant attention to the suffering and death of Christ, which is really what this season is meant to observe, and skipped to the triumphant Easter hymns.  Not this service today.  In fact, the leader talked about the necessity, when the sun goes down in the west, not to run in that direction, but to face the east, where the next light will arise.

This afternoon my friend Jan and I spent time preparing music for the Easter service.  Prelude: "Jesu, Joy" on violin and organ, "Crown Him with Many Crowns" on organ and piano; Offertory: "Amazing Grace" on viola and piano; Postlude: "Take My Life and Let It Be" on organ and piano.  I always enjoy playing with Jan, and we get things set up quickly.

Tomorrow will be the one "non musical" day of this week.  Some baking, some cleaning, some reading!  Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Scrap Quilt

I wrote recently about making a scrap quilt of white on black, black on white with bright colour accents.  The idea came from a friend at the quilting group who was making a simple quilt from 6 1/2" squares with two 4" squares sewed diagonally on corners.  The blocks were quick and easy to make, and I was able to get 60 of the black on whites and 60 of the white on blacks.

After sewing the square diagonally onto two opposite corners, sew a second seam 1/2" closer to the corner and cut the corners off between the two seams.  That gives you two half square triangles from each block.  I put all 240 of them into a storage baggie.

Then I experimented with possible layouts of the blocks.  Here's the layout
that I liked best.  It looks quite dynamic with the lines twisting down the length in curlicues.  It's 10 blocks wide by 12 blocks long.  As they are 6" each when finished, the top, without borders will measure 60" x 72" which is a good size for a single bed.  There will be borders added.

After laying out the quilt I picked up the blocks in vertical rows, starting at the bottom.  Now they are ready to sew together into rows, and then the rows sewed together into the top.  At this point 4 of the vertical rows are complete and sewed together.

Each of the half square triangles needs to be trimmed, or what we call "squared."  Here's a glimpse of that work:
The untrimmed squares are in the bag.  The trimmed squares are in the upper right.  One square in under the ruler, ready to go.

The diagonal seam of each square is placed on the 45ยบ line of the ruler and whatever sticks out beyond the ruler is trimmed off.  Then the square is rotated a 1/4 turn, and the process repeated, until each of the four sides has been trimmed.

This next photo shows the trimmings.  Exceedingly small bits of material, some only a few threads across.

This is an extremely fussy, time-consuming job.  There are 240 of these little buggers to trim!  I'm doing just forty at one time.  That's about all I can stand!

Is it worth it to do this super fussy work!  ABSOLUTELY!!!  It will make a huge difference when I go to sew them together.  They will fit uniformly and will be easy to work with.

One of the secrets (it's not really secret) of being a good quilter is being willing to take enough time over each step, cutting very carefully and accurately, sewing carefully and accurately, and
trimming very carefully and accurately.  It helps to be a perfectionist!

Here are a few of the ways these half square triangles can be arranged for the border.  I will be trying these out alongside the finished top, but will be looking for the arrangement with the most movement.  Looks like the choice will be the arrangement on the left.

There will be a narrow black border next to the top, then a row of these 1/2 squares, then a wider black border.  Quilting is all about making decisions, having a look at them to see if you like them, and then being open to changing your mind about what looks best.  I'll often ask the Dear One or the other women at quilting group for their opinion, but in the end, I'll please myself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Missing in Action

Well, I'm not really missing in action, just been totally too busy to even thing about writing a blog post.

This past week was a treat: Dear Daughter #2, hubby and two children came for a visit.  Here we see her relaxing with a mug of tea.  The "Skew" socks I made from her are prominently displayed.  Makes me think I should make a pair for myself!  But since I just finished a pair of socks for myself, the ones knit from two disparate balls of yarn, I'll make a few pairs for others first.

The week before this was total immersion in music week: lessons on Monday, lessons on Tuesday, Music Festival on Wednesday (11:30a.m.  to 7 p.m.), and the Encore concert on Friday evening.  Saturday Jim and I went to a symphony concert in Red Deer, and that is always a good experience.  We stayed overnight in Motel 6 (he has his favourites) and then went to church in Red Deer Sunday morning.

Sunday was my birthday and we went out to Swiss Chalet for dinner with two other couples, friends of ours from the church there.  That was an enjoyable celebration.

Back to the Music Festival: four of my students played in the festival and did very well.  Gold all the way around.  Two of them also performed in the final concert and played even better than on Wednesday.  The little student/community string ensemble also played in the festival and at the concert.

The first piece the ensemble played at the festival, for judging, was an arrangement of the theme of William Tell Overture.  Great start!  Then we played three selections from Patrick Hawes's Simple Strings: "Tenderness," "No Worries," and "Meadow Lands."  You can listen to this music on the net if you google Simple Strings, and then click on the suggestion that mentions WestOneMusic in the second line.  Very neat, interesting music!

This coming week will have lots of music, also.  There's a rehearsal with a group from Rosebud for certain selections from the Messiah which we will perform in Drumheller on Good Friday morning.

Did I mention that our dear old friend in Lethbridge died two weeks ago?  She was just short of her 92nd birthday, and was terribly diminished from the vital, adventuresome person she had been.  Her memorial service will be held this coming week.  Several years ago she asked Jim to officiate at that service, so we will be there.  Her stepson and step-daughter-in-law asked me to play a piece during the service.  I've chosen "Great is Thy Faithfulness," and am looking forward to honouring her, her faith, and God's faithfulness with that music.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's there?

We have four pots of blooming daffodils in the living room, looking very bright and spring-like (in contrast to the outdoor scene!)  There must be some small gnats coming out of the dirt because Dickens is quite fascinated by these pots.  He will sit staring concentratedly to them.  Then suddenly look up into the air, as if he is following a flying insect.

Today I moved the living room furniture aside, cleaned the floor quite carefully and laid out S's quilt for the first time.  It is 13 blocks wide and 14 blocks long.  You're looking at it from the side here.  When all the blocks were on the floor I found two shadow blocks that needed to be reversed.  I was also short one shadow block and one 9 patch.  Those problems were soon remedied. and now the top is complete.

I picked up the squares row by row, pinning the blocks from each row together in the order that they will be sewn.  It makes quite a stack!  In this form, without the borders it will be 97.5" x 104".  The borders will add about 10" each way, so it will end up being a really big quilt for a queen sized bed.

At this point I think I should go measure S's bed to see if it will drag on the floor when it's finished.  That's what happened to a big quilt I made for my dear Sis and her hubby.  I measured our bed, which is fairly high, so when they put the quilt on their bed, it dragged on the floor.

I also have to decide how to machine quilt this monster.  I'll probably sew it together in halves, quilt the halves and then put them together into the whole.

Interesting how the beige squares blend right into the flooring at the edge of the quilt!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Home Baking

I think it was yesterday that DD#2 called to say that she, hubby, and 2 kids would like to come for a visit during the kids' spring break.  I felt kind of "unmotherly" to say, Let me check my calendar.  But that's how this month is.  Next week, for example, has no free days in it.  There is something I have to do (most of the time, be in charge of) every day of the week.  Fortunately, the week they are coming has only violin teaching two days in it.

But since they will come on a Monday after we have been gone for a weekend, following that busy week, I thought I'd better get a head start.  I sat down and wrote out menus for all three meals for the days they will be here.  Then I made two lists: what to prepare ahead of time and what to buy before they came.

So this morning, being Saturday (usual baking day) anyway, I got started.  Here's the fruits of my labours: one dozen muffins chock full of saskatoons, two loaves of 75% whole wheat (freshly ground) bread with flax, and a Deet's Koek, a spice loaf that is cut up into four medium sized loaves.

All these items freeze and thaw well.  They are just the first instalment.  Hope to do more tomorrow and Monday.

I also bought a large frozen lasagne, as lasagne is not something I am good at making.  The big frozen lasagne from IGA is better than what I can do.

Now it's time to enjoy a sunny afternoon.  Maybe go down and read in the solar space which S. and I cleaned up yesterday afternoon.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Just what was Needed

I cut out the white on black background squares for the current quilt a few days ago.  There was not enough material for 60 squares, so I dug through my stash hunting for suitable white on blacks.  I found some and cut some more squares.  When there was no more suitable material I was still short two 6 1/2' squares.  Then my friend called and said she had some more material to bring over.  I was hoping.....and YES! there was more of the white on black.  I now had enough background squares to continue.

Today I made the 60 blocks with the white on black background.  I
just needed to draw the diagonal line on each 4" square and sew along those lines.  When those seams were complete I put on this very nifty foot and sewed the second seam 1/2" away from the original seam.  This was the first time I used this foot, and I found it so very handy!  It means 1/2 the marking time.

It really didn't take long at all to put those sixty blocks together.
Then I put them up on the design wall.  Instead of all the blocks slanting in one direction, this setting alternates the orientation.  I kind of like the way this works out.

But I made a sad discovery.  Several of the blocks had not been fully trimmed down to 6 1/2" squares.  In fact, one whole slew of them, 19 in all, had not been fully trimmed.  This means I have to pick off the 4" triangle from those 19 blocks, trim off the extra fabric from the background and resew them all.   Ooooh, it's so sad to make a mistake like that!

I had actually made the same mistake on 4 of the black on white
background earlier.  You'd think I would have learned.  Instead I made the same mistake many more times!  I will just have to patiently pick out those seams, trim the blocks and resew.

Here's the block setting according to the original pattern.  The advantage to this setting is that there are no points to match, making it much, much easier to sew together.  But I'm thinking the opposing angles are much more attractive.

When I'm finished resewing the 19 blocks, then I'll consider what I want to do next.  Also waiting: 120 half square triangles to press and trim.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Right on Schedule

 The winter storm that was predicted for today arrived right on schedule.  It wasn't snowing when we got up this morning, but the wind was strong from the east.  An east wind usually means precipitation here, because it blows up against the mountains, and stalls there, dropping its load of moisture.  The snowfall started soon after with minuscule flakes.  Soon big, fluffy wet flakes were piling up.

A little after 9 a.m. we got the call that the church service was cancelled because of poor road conditions.  We had already decided not to try driving today.  Church is about 5 miles away, mostly along country roads.  So we had oodles of time for a big breakfast: home fried potatoes with onion, pepper and ham, sausage and scrambled eggs, fresh home made bread (75% whole wheat) and homemade cherry jelly.  Lots of good hot coffee.  Doesn't get better than that!

I finished making the squares for S's quilt this morning, but didn't lay it out on the floor downstairs.  There's too much in and out with trays of dirt and small seedlings.

After those squares were finished I thought I'd play around with some materials, just for fun.  I had a bag of quite large pieces of black on white, and white on black.  Also in that bag were some fairly large pieces of multi coloured cloth.  I had in mind to make a quilt with that combination and this morning I decided to cut the black/whites into 6 1/2 inch squares and the multicoloured into 4" squares.

A friend at Quilt Club had made a simple quilt with that combination recently and I really liked the pattern.  Here's the 4" squares on the right of the sewing machine.  The black and whites were on the left.

Each 4" square has a line drawn diagonally from corner to corner.  Lay the 4" square on the corner of the 6 1/2" square and sew the diagonal line.  Then turn the square around and sew 1/2" from the line you just sewed.  Here's the series of squares with the second line being sewn.  Don't bother cutting the thread, just feed square after square into the machine.

When you have a lot sewn, cut them apart.  Cut the 4" squares in between the two sewing lines.  Press the 1/2 of the 4" square toward the corner.  You can see that already done on the right side of the square approaching the needle.

Then repeat the process on the opposite corner of the 6 1/2" square.

This is a really fast process, and between noon and 5 p.m. I made a total of 60 squares.  Here's a picture of 40 of them up on the design board.  These are only the black on white.  Another day I will make up 60 white on black
with the multicoloured corner triangles.  The addition of black backgrounds will punch this up quite a bit.  Plus, I will carefully edit where the squares end up so that they are better separated from similar background squares.

The bonus: you now have 120 half square triangles to use somewhere in the border.  Those are the parts cut off from the 4" squares.  They do need to be pressed and "squared up," that is, cut to a uniform size.

This is actually a trial run for the pattern.  It's the design I was thinking of use with the lovely batiks that I bought this past week.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In Like a Lamb

Contrary to the old saying, "In like a lion, out like a lamb," March
arrived  yesterday with wonderful, spring-like weather.  I wouldn't be surprised if it were the loveliest March 1 in the history of Alberta!  HOWEVER, the forecast for tomorrow is a heavy snow warning!

Our local quilting shop, part of the IDA, was running its semi-annual fabric sale this past week.  I don't usually buy much fabric then, just perhaps some batting, because I like to buy for specific projects.  But on Thursday I decided to buy for two summer projects coming up.  The poinsettia fabric to the right is a Christmas fabric and the matching green and purple will be used in the same project.  I don't want to say what the project is right now, because it will be used for a gift to a regular blog reader.  But don't these fabrics have real "pizzazz"!

This knitting project is whizzing right along, but I'm finding that I can knit just a few rows before I need to give my hands a rest.  The double strand of cotton yarn makes it kind of heavy going.

So I started another project on the other end of the scale:
A new pair of socks begun.  This yarn is a Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Fine.  Its composition: 50% Peruvian Wool, 20 % Super Fine Alpaca, and 30% Nylon.  The wool makes it warm; the Alpaca makes it soft; and the nylon makes it strong!  The colour is a very deep blue, perhaps a deep Prussian blue, with shadings of a purple, almost black blue.

The label claims 7.5 sts. to 1" on 3 mm needles.  It looked finer than that to me, so I did a swatch on 2.5 mm needles and found it closer to 8.5 or 9 sts. to one inch.  I've started the socks on that basis, and since they are "toe up" I can adjust to fewer or more stitches per round when I reach the end of the toe.  I'm planning to incorporate lots of the same cables on the knitting project just above for the instep and the ribbing.  These will take a bit longer to knit than other recent socks as the yarn and needles are finer, but I'm thinking they will turn out to be wonderful socks.  (Of course, I think that at the beginning of every project I make!)

And here are some 1/2 meter cuts of batik that I also purchased at the fabric sale. These batiks look a little washed out in this photo, but the colours are just scrumptious.  There are 8 1/2 meter cuts here.  They will be 4" half square triangles on two corners of each 6" block in a light weight quilt I plan to make this coming summer.  I need another 6 or 7 half meter cuts to make enough squares for a really large queen sized quilt.  Then I need about 10 meters for all the background 6" squares.  Couldn't find what I wanted today, which is the last day of the sale, with all fabrics priced at 50% off.  But I have lots of time left before summer to finish off the quilts I am working on and to shop for background and other batiks to complete this quilt.