Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Snoozefest

After finishing my quilt Friday, participating in The Man's family's memorial weekend tradition, and visiting with my parents and grandma, we officially entered Snoozefest on Saturday.  It was glorious.

I did manage to get three loads of laundry done in three days.  I also threw cookie dough in a pan and made bar cookies.  The most fancy thing I cooked was french fries... from the freezer to the oven (OreIda is all gluten-free! yay!).  We went grocery shopping.  We both played video games until our eyes bugged out of our skulls.  We played the piano quite a bit.  And by Monday evening, I was bored.

I need another project.

My sister visited on Saturday, and we found a super cute purse pattern that she's eager to get started on.  I have a couple other projects I want to do.

Otherwise? We slept a bunch this weekend.  'Til 9:00am for me, and later for The Man.  We didn't stay up too late either, 11:00pm or so.  Very, very nice.

It was nice actually getting to spend a solid block of time with The Man.  Since he often works later than I do by a couple hours, and I tend to go to bed a bit before him, having three whole days off together was awesome.  Four days together would not have been awesome, though, just sayin'.  Space is a glorious thing. :)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lucky Stars Quilt

After six months, roughly a hundred hours of work time, about $50, and enough stress for one year, I finished my quilt this weekend.  As scared as I was about my original color choice, I'm thrilled the boldness and vividness actually works.  Though you can't see it in my pictures here, the binding is black and creates a great frame for the colors.  The back is all white muslin.  Also, the size is perfect for two people to snuggle on the couch.  My final dimensions were about 60" x 80", or just enough to cover the top of a queen bed and nothing hanging over on the sides.

I purchased everything for this quilt at Jo-Ann Fabrics (except the pattern which was borrowed from my mother-in-law).  I bought five five-color sets of fat quarters from the bins and used four colors out of each bundle to make up twenty quarters.  They were the bright pinks, orange-yellows, purples, greens, and blues sets of batiks that are still available as of my last trip to Jo-Ann's.  After cutting all of my fabric, I arranged it out so that no two stars were the same.  Then I arranged all of the bars so that purple didn't touch purple, blue didn't touch blue, and so on.  In the end, there are a few places where colors are touching, but it isn't too often.  I had to piece everything one block at a time in order to maintain my layout, otherwise I could have chain-pieced in half the time.  The color insanity is worth it though!

The pattern is by Atkinson Designs, who, by the way, has fantastic instructions on all of their patterns.  Seriously, the best instructions ever.

With all of the piecing done, I learned about layering the "quilt sandwich" and how to baste for hand-quilting.  I bought a nice PVC hoop and set to work.  About forty hours went into the hand-quilting around each star.  My stitches did get smaller as I worked, but I seemed to be fairly consistent around any one star.  Maybe someday I'll add some more stitches, but I like the look of just the stars outlined for now.  You can click on the picture to see the detail of my hand stitches.

As you could tell by my last post, not everything was peachy on this quilt adventure.  I had some mistakes, ripped out a lot of stitches, and became very frustrated more than once.  I did get my "in the ditch" stitches put in Friday afternoon without much trouble (after I pinned everything super well).  The binding went on in about an hour.

I snuggled under my new quilt last night while we watched a movie.  It definitely passes the cozy test.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Quilt Catastrophe

I lived through my own nightmare last night, and I was none too happy about it.  I nearly ruined my quilt.  And I was too mad to swear or cry or even throw a tantrum or anything.  It was all my own fault, too.  Argh.

I have spent more than a hundred hours on my quilt at this point, the vast majority of it hand-quilting around the stars.  I have put more effort into this quilt than any other, and probably all the rest combined.  The cutting was perfect.  The piecing (by machine) was excellent.  The whole top came together with very few errors, less than 1/8" in any case.  I know pride is a sin, but I am so proud of the quality.  I learned a ton.

On Wednesday night, I finished the hand-quilting part.  With a blister on one finger and another turned into a pincushion, I was so happy to have completed that stage.  Thursday night saw me setting out to finish the machine quilting "in the ditch" part.  I figure if the stitches are mostly for structure and not for show, it doesn't matter if they're hand-stitched or not.  My little sewing machine may not do much, but it can handle a straight line.  Or so I thought.  The walking foot I purchased doesn't fit my machine--even though I was promised it would.  I was so excited to start machine stitching that I didn't bother with more pins.  I just ran the quilt through the machine, chugging along, all the while realizing that the machine kept binding up on something.

When I layed my quilt out, I immediately realized the problem: the bottom fabric got fed much faster through the machine than the top.  Not pinning meant that I had deep Vs of pulled fabric running the length of my quilt.  The kicker?  Because the machine kept getting hung up, the stitches it made were impossibly small to rip out with a seam ripper.  So my beautiful father-made, custom-fit seam ripper had to be set aside in favor of a straight razor.

Yes, folks, that's right: I took a razor blade to my quilt last night.  From the inside.

It was heartbreaking.  All told, I only put three very tiny holes in the back muslin.  They can easily be stitched closed and hidden within a seam.  I was able to roll and pin my quilt correctly, and worked patiently with my sewing machine until I restitched all two yards again.  While I only got half as much done as I wanted last night, I was able to do the first half the right way.  Aside from the little tiny patches, no one will ever know what catastrophe I endured.

When The Man got home from work and saw me slicing into my quilt with a razor, a blank look on my face, and dinner no where near being started, he hugged me tight and asked where I wanted to eat out.  He's a smart man. :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's All Coming Back To Me

Last weekend included a fun hike in the McDonald-Dunn Forest, a bit of stitching, some piano playing, a video game session or two, some light cooking, and a wee bit of cleaning.  It was almost the perfect weekend.

My quilt is almost finished.  I have one block left to stitch by hand, the in-the-ditch part to do by machine, and then the binding.  I am thinking about machine-binding for extra durability, but I haven't decided that for sure yet.  My goal is to finish the quilt completely early this weekend, maybe by Friday if I'm super diligent.

I've been playing our new piano nearly every day in the last week.  More and more is coming back to me, especially the notes and key spacing.  I'm not quite up to where I left off, but I figure another month or two should see much more improvement.  Last night I pulled up an older song I haven't played in years.  My muscle memory of how I played that song is still pretty strong, but I wasn't always on the right keys, so it sounded awful.  The second run through was much better.

The Man and I are both doing well.  We just don't have much new news.  Maybe a long weekend together will incite some adventure on our part so that I will have new stories to share here.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I bought a pedometer recently, partly out of curiosity.  How many steps do I actually walk during the day?  Am I as active--or inactive--as I thought?  How many more steps will I have to take to reach 10,000 (the recommended daily goal by most science-y types)?

There's good news and bad news.  The bad news is that finding a reliable pedometer that doesn't make loud clicking noises is harder than I thought it would be.  I found one I liked online, but I ended up getting a different one in a local store.  The one I got is poorly rated, so if it breaks, I know what I'm definitely getting next time.  If you are in search of a pedometer, Omron is the trusted brand for most people.  Mine is by New Balance.  Even though it isn't rated well, it seems to be doing a good job so far.

The good news is actually really good!  I have been easily clearing 7,500 steps just in my daily jaunts.  Between shopping, walking on the job, a hike yesterday (my saving grace), and putzing around in the kitchen, I get most of the way toward my 10,000 steps.  If I pushed myself for that one extra mile, about 2,000 steps for most people, I'd be set.  I really do get a bit of exercise during my average day.

I've had to learn to be careful, though.  The vibration from riding in a car, from making a bed, even from stirring food can make the pedometer think I'm walking.  As much as I like the idea of getting some exercise sitting on my butt driving a car, somehow I think that's cheating.  I just have to unclip the device and set it somewhere so it doesn't click-click-click my digits up.

If I could find a way to safely quilt and walk at the same time, I think I could walk a lot more in my day...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fat Head

One of my favorite documentaries is SuperSize Me, produced by Morgan Spurlock.  I've been a fan of his for quite some time, especially his FX Network show 30 Days.  Last night I watched another documentary, Fat Head, that sought to disprove the myth that fast food is unhealthy.  The producer essentially undid Spurlock's documentary.

That sort of rubbed me the wrong way.  Nobody messes with my favorite writers, directors, or producers.  Well... until about an hour later when I learned the rest of the story.

You need to watch this documentary.  It will completely change the way you think about food.  It will change how you view the USDA.  It will make you think about how food science is conducted by researchers (and how to follow the money).  It will also help you realize that a low-carb (not no-carb) diet in combination with regular exercise is how humans were designed--or how we evolved--whichever story you prefer.

The documentary is available on Netflix Instant Watch.  You can also read a related New York Times article in full here.  There are a few YouTube clips from the documentary on this blog that are worth watching if you don't have Netflix.

My final take-way message from the documentary: all things in moderation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Non-Gamer's Review of L.A. Noire

The Man pre-ordered his newest video game, L.A. Noire, so he was able to pick it up the day it came out.  He hurried home, we scarfed dinner, and landed in front of the TV with no time to spare.  He played the game while I watched (typical for us).  And I really do enjoy watching some video games as he plays them.  Just not the ones with lots of fighting and killing and death and destruction.  Lego Batman? Awesome!  I even played that one co-op with him.

Since I'm not a "gamer" and I doubt many of my readers would call themselves "gamers," I am going to refrain from all that technical graphics-and-gameplay jargon.

The game is based on this character, a WWII hero-turned-police-detective.  He is sort of a 1946 version of a crime scene investigator, you know, before DNA and computerized criminal databases.  The game player assumes the detective's job of solving crimes, interviewing suspects, and nabbing criminals.  Easy, right?  No.

You actually have to search for clues, interview suspects, drive to the next location (no jumping or orbing involved), and maintain careful notes in your notebook--which, thankfully, the game auto-updates for you.  When interviewing or interrogating people, you have to use your wits to determine if they're lying, telling the truth, or if you doubt their story.  How you respond could change the outcome of the whole case.  Some people are obviously lying.  Some are sneaky.  Oh, did I mention you even have to chase criminals down on foot sometimes?  Yeah.

The gameplay is fantastic.  The cut scenes, sort of like mini-videos within the game, are almost seamless with the actual gameplay.  I love the dark mood (hence "Noire") and architecture, a beautiful art deco design, realistic cars, and colorful characters.  Using the notebook to decide how to proceed with an interview, interrogation, or setting a new destination seemed intuitive.  The game is well-thought and logically organized.

And the facial scanning technology that makes the game so unique?  GORGEOUS.  It's like the characters are real people!  The way the corners of a mouth or an eye twitch or sag, the way an eyebrow moves, the tensing of the ear muscles, all of it appears in the game.  Beautiful!  My only negative comment is that the eyes are a little weird, almost like the motion capture didn't quite get the eyes right.  Sorta weirds me out sometimes when I'm watching The Man play.

We're not very far into the game yet, but we'll progress more later this week.  I can't wait to run through it a second time and see how different choices make the game turn out in another way.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting the Rust Off

So apparently being without a piano for two years has caused me to become... rusty.  I hate that word.  I don't feel corroded.  I just feel out-of-practice.

I find myself counting ledger bars below the bottom staff again.  Is that a G?  Is that a B?  Dangit, I used to know this!  As a long-time flute player, I'm still pretty familiar with the top staff still--at least.

I question eighth notes and sixteenth notes, as if that extra flag causes a note to be longer in my head when it's really shorter.

I forgot which songs I love to play and which ones always caused me problems, so I'm struggling to figure out where I was.  The up side is that I bet I'll enjoy some songs I forgot hating previously.

Also, did they change the size of the keyboard or move some of the keys around in the last two years?  My fingers are having a hard time hitting the right notes sometimes.  Okay, a lot.  A lot lot.

But I'm having the time of my life figuring all of this out again.  I'm definitely getting the rust off.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Love All Over Again

I am a woman of many loves and few passions.  I love beading and quilting and hot-gluing.  I love baking and eating home-baked food.  I even love watching documentaries.  But yesterday, I was blessed to be able to reclaim a lifelong passion.

Ever vigilant and communicative about our finances, The Man and I had been wavering about our needs and wants.  We had both been thinking of things to spend our meager surplus income on (after we paid off all of our debt, paid ourselves, and all those other things we have to pay for).  [Did I just end two thoughts with prepositions? Bah!]  I was thinking a new sewing machine would be nice, and we both were considering some more "adult" furniture (as in grown-up, not the dirty way).  Two weeks ago, The Man asked me what I was thinking again and mentioned what he'd decided.  Oddly--or not--I agreed completely.

We went shopping last weekend in town and didn't see anything like what we were after.  We researched online a bit and found sorta-close-but-not-quite-right items online, plus we got to see some price points.  Yesterday, while we were in Salem, we went shopping again at a more likely store.  And then the stars aligned.

Holy chromatic scales Batman, we bought a piano!  We are now the exceptionally happy owners of a Roland digital console piano, complete with 88 fully-weighted springless hammer-action keys, a good bunch of fun sounds, page holders built into the music stand, and a deluxe cushiony bench.

It disassembles into pieces that fit (thankfully) into our car.  The Man and I are easily able to carry the top part together.  And it never needs to be tuned.

I have fallen in love all over again.  Between giddy quips back and forth, "We bought a piano! We bought a freakin' piano!" I commented to The Man, "You know, if you had purchased for me one of these two years ago and proposed with it, I totally would have said yes.  This is way better than diamonds, and it's even made to fit my finger(s)."

So you'll have to excuse me if I don't blog for the next week.  I'm going to be where I have always felt like I belong.

Note to The Man: I still like sparkly things, too.  Just so you know.

And a note to valley residents: if you are ever in need of a digital piano or sheet music, please go visit Rick at Music, Music in Salem.  He is fantastic.  He knows his pianos, only sells what he wants to sell--because it's good--and isn't bent on pressuring people to buy from him.  He matches or beats online prices.  Support your local music stores!  (Unpaid advertisement!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dear ABC

Canceling Brothers & Sisters was not your best move.  What were you thinking, "oh, let's take our most-watched shows and chuck 'em"?  Really?  I'm so over you, ABC.  I'm over you and all your broadcast buddies.

That is, unless you give Dave Annable another show... then I might be able to find some forgiveness.  But only then.

Bitter and confused,

P.S.  The food fight scene between "Nora" and "Holly" is probably my favorite TV moment of the last decade.  You know, if I forget about JAG, ER, and oh, wait, those weren't ABC shows...

ABC? You officially suck.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mega Ow

Sunday was so nice.  We had a fantastic brunch with both sets of our parents up at The Man's parents' house.  Everyone ate lots and seemed to really enjoy the food (yay!).  We even had plenty of leftovers to munch on for the next few days.  Sunday evening, though, I sensed a humdinger of a headache building.  So rare is it that one doesn't go away after a full night of sleeping, but I woke up Monday with mine still clinging on.  As much as I enjoy my job, I just wasn't up to staring at a bright computer screen all day without a pounding head.  Thus, I spent most of Monday flat on the couch.

And since I barely moved all day yesterday, I developed a stupendously painful muscle spasm in my lower back.  Not my first rodeo with muscle spasms, but I certainly hoped I wouldn't get another one.  My father has had several, and The Man recently went through this.  It's pretty common and will go away in the next few days.  I just have to relax and try not to move much.  Heat and Aleve will work their magic this evening, and I should be able to sleep pretty well tonight (unlike last night, ow!).

Never take for granted the ability to sit on a toilet seat without assistance.  The same could be said for getting up off a couch or jumping into bed or driving a car.  I never knew I had that particular muscle, but really? I could have gone my whole life without feeling what I'm currently experiencing and been just fine, thanks.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Some days I wish I could just change myself

I don't know where to start.  Grandma always told me that I'd never be able to change a guy.  When I met The Man, I was sure he was perfect and that I'd never have to change him.  I mean, really, he is the only guy in the world who doesn't judge me for being me.  He's everything I always wanted and then some.

It's the "and then some" part that I didn't fully realize until we got married. :)

I knew no marriage is perfect, and neither of us had unrealistic ideas of marriage when we got hitched.  We knew there would be hard times--and there certainly have been.  We were hopeful for some good times, which we've experienced more than we could have imagined.  Nobody prepared us for the in-between times.  Nobody warned us about the little stuff, the petty stuff, the stupid non-fight fights, the I-love-you-deeply-but-if-you-don't-empty-the-dishwasher-I'm-going-to...  Our marriage prep classes didn't exactly cover that part.  How to get pregnant, how to not get pregnant, how to handle finances, how to deal with a new family we may or may not like (phew!), how to not kill each other when the kids are screaming, we understand those things.  We're really, really good at communicating.  We're fantastic at being there for each other.  We hardly spend a dime without discussing it (at length) first.  Sometimes, though, we're just not on the same wavelength at all.

What is "trying to change" someone?  What is it?  Am I trying to change The Man when I ask him to please, please, please stop or start doing something?  Is he trying to change me when he requests that cook a meal differently?  Is asking someone to sort the laundry a "better" way changing them?  Or is inquiring why they eat their sandwich with peanut butter on both slices of bread instead of just one side of the sandwich trying to change them?

When is "trying to change" someone not trying?  When is a request simply a request?  When is asking for a behavioral change a call for compromise and not for true "change"?  What makes a change a change?

Friday, May 06, 2011

I Feel Like Such a Sell-Out

I'm sorry.  We'll just start there, okay?  I'm sorry.  I've ranted and railed against social media for years (even my previous post!).  I can't stand being part of the "in" crowd.  But I did it.

I joined Twitter.

And I feel dirty all over.  

For those less in-the-know that I was (which has to be a phenomenal achievement, so a gold star for you folks), Twitter is like Facebook's status post without all the other fluff that Facebook entails.  It's the social without much of the media.  And lots and lots of famous people--A-list or otherwise--are on Twitter.  If they're nice, they might even tweet you back.

That's why I joined.  I wanted to stay a bit more up-to-date with my favorite musical artists and actors.  I did put up a new block on my sidebar over to your left so you can see my tweets.  If you are so inclined, you can even follow me (but really, don't count on me doing much there for the time being).  Or you can just read it right there and never even have to set up yet another account with yet another unique password that you'll undoubtedly forget in ten seconds (like I did!).

I am going to go take a hot shower now and try to wash the tweety feathers off and forget any of this ever happened.  Until later when I can't stand it anymore and just have to tell you how I did something so amazing you'll want to do it too, and the whole FOMO cycle begins again.

I'm doomed.  *hangs head, sulks*

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

I don't like the Media in Social Media

In the year that I've been without Facebook, I've enjoyed not being surrounded by images and statements that cause me to wonder if I'm living life to the fullest.  I've experienced almost none of the dreaded FOMO (the "fear of missing out," a real psychological term).  I've been able to maintain friendships the old-fashioned way: in person.  Rather than sharing pictures of events or goings-on, I have had the blessed opportunity to experience them with people.

After a lengthy discussion with The Man over dinner last night, we both came to the conclusion that the part of social media we dislike is the media.  We love catching up and staying up-to-date with our friends.  We do not, however, love the bragging and bravado a public profile causes.

Think about it.  When was the last time you set your status as a real feeling?  When was the last time you posted a picture without caring how awesome it made you (or your children) look?  When was the last time you slightly over-exaggerated the quality of your newest purchase, tropical vacation, or all-night-party?

Now consider this: when was the last time you really talked to those friends you're "trying to stay in contact with" via Facebook?  I'm not talking about reading his or her status or seeing that they leveled-up in Farmville.  I'm talking full conversation, two-sided back-and-forth conversation, actually catching up to present day.  Just because you're friends on Facebook doesn't mean you're actively a friend.  And passive friends?  Lame.

We would like to see a platform that allows for easy socialization without all the fluff.  We'd like a place that we could visit, see all of our friends in a list, be able to click on their name and send them a note, ask them how they're doing, and maybe share some goings-on in our lives.  You know, be friends.  It would be nice to have the ability to share pictures or files, but we don't want to deal with tagging or public albums.  Keep it simple.  Maybe allow for video conferencing or voice calls or instant messaging.

*Dawning of realization* I think I just described g-mail.

We'd rather contact people individually and with purpose than to blast out a bunch of fluff for people we don't really stay in contact with anyway.

Lose the media, love the social, ditch Facebook.  And please? Be an active friend.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Win, Lose, or Draw

Happy Monday, dear reader.  I survived the weekend.  I'm giving this week the ol' college try (but no promises).  And next weekend?  Can't wait.  It's not that I have plans, I just can't wait for the weekend. :)

Saturday saw us up early and in Woodburn for some shopping.  I was on the hunt for new shoes and maybe some clothes.  I would also like a new watch, but that's not a huge issue.  The Man got his watch fixed (yay!), scored some awesome pima cotton polos, snagged a new backpack, and found sunglasses that actually fit him, all for under $50.  I? Didn't get a damn thing.  I couldn't find any watches that are small enough for my wrist and look classy (but I did see a few nice wall-clock-sized watches, what is up with that trend? seriously!).  I can't stand 3/4-length sleeves or cap sleeves, so shirt shopping was a total loss.  Pants?  We tried Levi's, but apparently the one style I wear they don't carry in their outlet store.  Blah.  Shoes were my big thing.  I went into store after store looking for narrow shoes.  Either my heel slipped out of the shoes I tried on or I could flop the shoe back and forth over my arch or they just didn't fit.  The one pair of shoes I tried on a Naturalizer were actually too narrow--shockingly, amazingly--but were also ugly.  I mean, really ugly and pointy and tan.  The one pair of shoes I was stoked to try on at Merrell happened to be the one (and only!) style that store didn't carry.  Suffice it to say my Saturday was full of disappointment.

Saturday evening was nice, though.  We went to my parents' house and fixed Mom's computer with some "new" hardware from another computer.  She's rockin' a wireless card now, too.  The Man and I have both learned not to help people with computer issues as a rule, but Mom's problem was hardware.  We can handle the things she needed.  Software issues?  Spyware?  Don't know what that screen means?  Not going there.  Lots of other people get paid to do that kind of stuff, and we're leaving it to tech support professionals.  It's not that we're selfish as much as that we don't want to be responsible for another machine.

Sunday was nice.  We got up and did our weekly shopping errands.  We got some of that foamy shelf liner stuff to put under our couch cushions that were a bit slide-y, so hopefully we've solved that problem.  I waded through the rest of season six of Deadliest Catch, so now I'm all caught up.  So hard to watch that season again, but I filled in all the gaps I had missed last year.  We also finished up season four of JAG which we've been getting on DVD from Netflix since last fall.

I made brownies with frosting yesterday.  We have some Tillamook ice cream in the freezer.  Dessert at Chez Jaggy is going to be awesome this week!  (and next week's diet is going to suck!)