Sunday 31 August 2014

Vacation Days 2 & 3

Yesterday, as usual, I attended church, then had dinner and spent the afternoon with my friends Allen and Airlie. My friends Bob and Neva were also there, and unfortunately, they let us know that they have an offer on their place, and have made an offer on a home in British Columbia. So, it looks as if they will be moving away this fall. :-( Not happy about that, but nothing I can do about it. It just makes me long for the day when "separations come no more."
One of the guys I went to Canadian Union College with used to sing this song and it has stuck with me ever since. Very meaningful when you're separated from loved ones by distance or death. 
Today, I went on a shop-till-you-drop trip with Phil. We hit a lot of our usual places: the thrift stores and both antique malls, but aside from gas in the truck and a sandwich for lunch, neither of us bought anything. All we have is achy feet and fatigue to show for our day. It was fun nevertheless. 
After dropping Phil off at home, I made one last stop at Fabricland and that's where I spent some money. I didn't have much time to look around as the store was closing in half and hour, but I managed to pick up enough fabric to back a couple of quilts I've been working on. 
This is for the Law School quilt:
And this one is for the Rosy Star quilt:
Right now I'm watching some episodes from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Season 5. Not that I've watched Seasons one through four, but Season 5 was the only one available from the local library. 

Saturday 30 August 2014

In a Better Place, Part 1

That's what we say about the deceased when we're trying to comfort and console ourselves and others, that they're "in a better place." No more pain, no more suffering in that better place. But how do we know that? On what do we base our assumptions that there is a better place and pretty well everyone that dies is "in a better place." Does everyone get to go there? And if everyone gets to go there, would it really be a better place? 
This particular post will not be about the place, but about who actually goes there. 
If you follow my blog, you know that I believe the Bible is the only reliable source for truth, so, to quote an evangelist from 40 years ago,
What says the Bible, the blessed Bible?
This my only question be. 
The teachings of men so often mislead us.
What says the Bible to me?
Let's start with what is probably the most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (NKJV). This verse shows not only the love of God, but also the gift of that love, everlasting life through His Son. It presents a contrast between perishing and everlasting life. This dichotomy is also found in Romans 6:23:
I get paid wages in my job. It's what I work for. While I do enjoy my work, I probably wouldn't be willing to do it if I didn't get paid for it. It's what I have coming to me. Based on Romans 6:23, as a sinner, death is what I have coming to me. Some might balk at that and think, "I'm not a sinner. I'm a good person." Some of us seem to think if we aren't out and out criminals, we're not sinners. But whose definition of good or sinner are we going to use? The Bible says, "No one is good, but one. That is God." Matt. 19:17 NKJV. "There is none righteous, no not one." Romans 3:10 and "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 NKJV. So, we are all sinners, deserving of death. 
How then do we get eternal life "in a better place?" Both John 3:16 and Romans 6:23 make it clear that it is only through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Acts 4:12 states "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we might be saved." There is no other route to heaven, only through Jesus Christ. 
But how do we avail ourselves of this gift? Jesus Himself said, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3 NKJV. And how is one born again? First of all we need to acknowledge that we are sinners (Romans 3:23). We need to repent of the wrong things we have done (Acts 2:38), and ask God's forgiveness of them. Finally, we need to ask Jesus to live in our hearts and make us the people He wants us to be (Romans 6). 
And that's how we get to live "in a better place." It's not by being a "good person." It's not by our church membership. It's not by trying really hard and hoping for the best. Not everyone is going there, but we can all choose to be there by accepting Jesus into our hearts.
Need more info? The wonderful book, Steps to Christ, can be downloaded as a pdf or audio here. Or you can read the Bible Study guide, Get to Know Jesus

Vacation (Stay-cation) Begins - 29/08/14

Day 1 of vacation and it turned out a little stressful. It started out great. I went to Costco Hearing Aide Centre and finally ordered my purple hearing aides. They're top of the line and cost me less than half of the mid-range ones I was going to buy from that other place. Yay! I go back for my fitting on Sept. 10. I got to Costco around 10:00. I have never seen it so quiet, but if filled up by the time I was done at the Hearing Aide Centre and I struggled to get around everyone else's carts. Those carts are HUGE, and I hate crowds, so was glad to get out of there. Unfortunately, I felt like the crowds followed me around all day. I don't know if it was because I was driving in unfamiliar areas of the city, or because I don't usually drive in the city on a weekday, or because it was the Friday of the last long weekend of the summer, or because I didn't have my navigator (my buddy Phil) with me, but the traffic was crazy.
Next stop, the Canadian Tire on Fort Road. Following Google maps directions to get there, I had to take a detour because the street I was supposed to turn on had a police-erected road block, but I managed. I had ordered a carpet cleaner at the CT here in town over a month ago, having to make a 50% down payment. A couple of weeks ago I called to see if it was in and was told by the rather snooty person at the customer service desk that it was marked as shipped and they would call me when it came in. Yesterday, having still not heard, I decided to bypass customer service and asked to speak to the manager. She didn't know when it was supposed to arrive either and checked online for me and found one at the Fort Road store in Edmonton. She told me I could buy it at any store in Canada and to tell them I had her permission to do so. I wasn't sure how that worked since I had paid my deposit here in town, but took her word for it and called the Fort Road store and asked them to set one aside for me and I would pick it up today, since I would be in the city for my hearing test anyway. Hmph! Canadian Tires are independently owned and operated, so there was no way they could honour my deposit at another store. Fort Rd. called the other store and were informed that mine had arrived in their store, but the customer service manager in the Fort Rd store informed them that I had been told that I could buy one there. Anyway, I did buy the one in Edmonton, with the promise from the manager back home that they would return all of my money (deposit slips are stamped with the warning that only 50% of it would be refunded, but this screw up was not my fault). This was a different manager from yesterday (just how many managers does a small town CT need?). This unnecessarily shortened my day in Edmonton because I wanted to make sure that I got back to the CT in town to get my money back while that manager was still on duty in case I had any problems getting a full refund.
Next stop was an art supply store because I am taking an acrylic painting course starting next month, and of course I couldn't find the supplies in town. Do you know how many different kinds of brushes there are? And our instructor didn't specify what kind. She also said to get a size 7 and there weren't any. There also weren't the colours of paint I needed in 100 ml tubes, so I ended up buying 213 ml tubes. What if I decide I don't like painting after all? I will then be stuck with 200 ml of paint I don't need.
Then I headed to Johnson's Sewing Centre/Quilters Dream. Normally, I go to the south store - very easy to reach as it's just off the Whitemud Expressway. But since I was in the north end, I went to the north store. I don't think I've ever been there before. And I don't think I'll ever go again. It's in a busy area of town, and the crowd followed me there, too. I was able to find a parking spot on the street that I could fit my pickup truck into. But then the crowd kept passing by and I almost decided to climb out the passenger side before there was finally a break in traffic long enough for me to get the door open and get out without me or the truck door getting run into. I went to Johnson's because I'm taking a machine quilting class at the south store and wanted to maybe get some supplies, specifically a book they recommended. They didn't have it in. At least not that I could see. And since the crowd had followed me to Johnson's, no one offered to help me because the clerks were all serving the rest of the crowd. I'd had enough by this time and would have then headed to Fabricland, but, as I said, I wanted to get back to Canadian Tire to get my money back. And I did. And they told me that my cleaner had come in yesterday. Interesting. I never got a phone call yesterday and when I got home, there was no message on my voice mail telling me it had come in. Great customer service. But at least I got my money back.
And tonight I made vegan mint carob chip ice cream. Very yummy! And no problems with the ice cream maker this time. And I didn't have to share it with the crowd that's been following me all day.

Checking my email, I found this message from my LinkedIn profile:
Hello, I will like to connect with you here. We can do business if the need calls for it. But I won't lie, your profile picture really attracted me. Please get back to me so that we can get to know ourselves.
Seriously??? Dating scammers on LinkedIn, which is supposed to be a professional network and doesn't even have the option to display "relationship status"! Oh, and by the way, scamboy, I do know myself, quite well, thank you. Well enough to report and block you. Go away and get to know your own self. Search your conscience perhaps, if you have one. 
Maybe I should just change my profile picture to a quilt block. Oh yes, it's a professional network, so maybe a nasty-looking nurse...
Hmm, somehow I don't think that will enhance my professional networking...

Sunday 24 August 2014

Go Wild!

I call this quilt "Go Wild!" 
Originally it was supposed to have been two separate quilts, or at least two. I started with the flowered fabric which, if you look carefully, has lions, tigers and leopards. I had plans for that fabric. 
Then I found the panel that featured 6 different African animals (Mystery doesn't qualify...) and added the striped fabric as I felt it was a good match for the panel. Then, as I was mulling it over, I recalled that I had a couple of animal print charm packs.
Then I tried to figure out how I could fit them all into the same quilt. I finally decided to use 12 inch squares of the flowered fabric alternating with the animals from the panel. Unfortunately, not only were they not 12 inches square (something more like 11-1/4"), but they weren't true to grain. So I added the striped borders on the tops and left sides of each square to square them up to the right size. If I'd added them on all four sides, the border would have ended up being only about 3/8" wide and the difference in width to square them up would have been more obvious. 
Since I was using the charm squares as a border, I needed to make the quilt top measurements before the border evenly divisible by 9" (or 4-1/2", the finished size of a charm square), so that it would come out even. So I added a strip of 3" squares to the top and bottom of the quilt. These squares are the flowered fabric alternating with the print from the border of the African animals panel. I also had to make some charm squares from the flowered fabric as I didn't have quite enough for the border with the two animal print charm packs I had. 
The final border was of the striped fabric. This is the first time I mitred the border. It really wasn't that difficult. I used my 45 degree triangle ruler to cut it. 
I wasn't sure what I was going to use for a backing - something that went with the theme of the quilt. I looked around my local quilt shop - they were having a 30% off sale - and couldn't decide on what I felt was right. I considered a waterfall fabric - very pretty, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. Then I remembered that I had seen a piece of tiger print minky in their remnants, and I decided to give minky a try. That was another first for me. I dashed into the store 10 minutes before closing on the final day of the sale and got this minky fabric. They keep their minky in the basement, so that's why I only saw a remnant of the tiger print in the main part of the store. They also had a leopard print, which would have worked as well, but I decided to go with the tiger. 
I did some online research on using minky. Some people had had disastrous results, and refused to ever try it again. I did speak to one of the staff at Sparrow Studioz and they just confirmed what I found on the internet - that  you must load it with the stretch running crosswise, not lengthwise. We also did some pinning, which we normally don't do on the long arm. But minky is slippery compared to cotton and the batting doesn't want to stay in place. 
Also in my research I found the recommendation to prewash your cottons, including the batting as minky doesn't shrink. So the cotton needs to be preshrunk in order to avoid problems when you do wash the quilt later. As I had charm squares as part of this quilt, and I wasn't going to wash them individually, and I had already started the quilt top before I decided to use minky, I just finished the quilt top and prewashed the whole thing. I didn't have my batting yet, so couldn't prewash it. However, I did have some polyester fibrefill batting at home and decided to go with that, since it wouldn't need prewashing. One of the things about minky is that it's quite heavy compared to cotton and I didn't want a quilt that I felt was weighing me down. So the polyester fibrefill was a better option as it weighs much less than cotton batting. 
After quilting it successfully on the long arm (I can't remember the name of the pattern, but it's leaves and twisting vines and the staff member assisting me said that was the first time she knew of that that pattern was being used), I had to decide on a binding. I had more of the flowered fabric, but felt that a self-binding using the minky backing would give it a better look.
Before I even had a chance to stitch the binding, the quilt was cat tested. 
And approved. Both cats had a liking for it. 
I'll be honest: when I was first laying the pieces out and deciding what was going where, I wasn't really sure if I liked it. But it's grown on me and I love it now. I might have to fight with the cats for possession of it, however. 

Sunday 17 August 2014

Courthouse Steps

I decided to do some Courthouse Steps blocks for a very special quilt that I'm making (more about that in a future post). I wasn't sure what colour scheme to use, and then I remembered this Batik fat quarter bundle I bought at last year's Creative Stitches show. When I looked at the bundle, the fat quarters were already separated into warm and cool colours, so I decided to go with that scheme. 
This is the first time I've done Courthouse Steps, which is a variation of the Log Cabin block. It worked up quite easily. The centre square is 2" and all of the steps are 1-1/4", yielding a 12" block. 

Vegan Slow Cooking: A Cookbook Review

I'm in love! With a cookbook, that is. In my experience, it's much safer to fall in love with a cookbook than with a man. As a matter of fact, when it comes to relationships, if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. But enough about my personal life. I want to talk about this cookbook, but let me start a few years back when I moved into my house. A couple of my friends that helped me move informed me that I had too many slow cookers. And I replied, "No, I don't. I use every one of them." I won't say how many I actually have, because I haven't counted them lately <smile>, but I do use them. Some more often than others, but they do get used.
Slow cookers are my favourite small appliance. I remember years ago thinking that someone needed to create a vegan slow cooker cookbook. Then Fast Cooking in a Slow Cooker: A Slow Cooker Vegetarian Cookbook came out in 2006 and I purchased it. I do love that cookbook as well, but it's more family-sized recipes. And I'm alone (plus the cats, who don't eat vegan generally), and I don't always like to eat the same thing for a whole week. Or more. So this cookbook, Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just for You: More than 100 Delicious One-Pot Meals for Your 1.5-Quart/Litre Slow Cooker offers ideal sized recipes for my life. And the food is good!
The recipes are generally straightforward and easy to prepare. Most ingredients can be found in your local supermarket, and for those that aren't, there are some recipe replacements. Recipes for "Cashew Cream" or "Italian Seitan Coins," for instance, can be found in the Budget Rescuers section in the front of the cookbook. And no overabundance of mushrooms in this cookbook, or cilantro (both of which I detest). I've tried several recipes, with mostly delicious results. I'd never tried Old Bay seasoning before, but I was able to find it in one of my local grocery stores and it gave a really nice flavour to the New England Tofu Rolls. I used Vegannaise in this recipe and I found the lemon juice broke it down and made it too watery. Next time I think I will either half the lemon juice or omit it entirely. The Spicy Southern Chickpeas and Grits were also quite tasty, though my northern tastebuds weren't too sure about eating what should have been cornmeal mush as a savory dinner dish instead of breakfast. I will probably skip the grits next time and use rice instead. And I might add a little arrowroot/cornstarch to thicken up the tomato juice. Potato, Greens, and Chickpea Curry - yummy! The only "clunker" recipe I've found so far is Tofu Braised with Pears and Brussels Sprouts. I love Brussels Sprouts, but 7-9 hours to cook them when they're shredded was overkill. Overcooking in a slow cooker, I've found, renders a funky flavour, and that's what it did to this dish. And the whole house stank. Now, having said that, I will admit that I think my slow cooker cooks a little fast, even on the low setting, so I could try reducing the cooking time. I also prepared this the night before and kept it in the fridge before starting it in the morning, so not sure if that impacted it at all. Plus, as an abstainer, I used grape juice instead of the port wine. So the funky flavour may not have been entirely the fault of the recipe. However, I don't think I will retry this dish. One experience with funky-tasting Brussels Sprouts was more than enough. I did not eat the leftovers. Otherwise, an excellent cookbook that I'm really excited about. My only objection is that the recipes I've tried so far are too spicy for my tastebuds, but that's easily remedied.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

How to Make a Quilt: Book Review

How to Make a Quilt: Learn Basic Sewing Techniques for Creating Patchwork Quilts and Projects

by Barbara Weiland Talbert
Disclaimer: I received a free electronic preview edition of this book from Net Galley for review. I have not received any compensation for reviewing this book.

In order to review this book more effectively, I decided to construct the sampler quilt by following the book's instructions. Given that the preview edition doesn't have any pictures, it was rather like sewing a mystery quilt, only harder. Indeed, having never seen a Tam's patch quilt block before, I was rather in a quandary when I was told to construct it according to the diagram, which wasn't there. I ended up having to google Tam's Patch, and even so, since this was a variation, I had to decide how I wanted to arrange the final four sections. I had a similar issue with the Two by Two and just kind of randomly threw it together how I wanted to.  But that glitch is not the fault of the author. However, there were a few things in the actual instructions that left me scratching my head. 
In constructing the Tam's Patch block, I needed to make two half square triangle units. The instructions told me to cut one square of each of two fabrics, cut them in half diagonally, and then sew a light triangle to a dark triangle. The book then warned me to be careful not to stretch the fabric as I'd be sewing along the bias. I really didn't know anyone was still using this method for making half square triangle units. By drawing a diagonal line corner to corner on the light coloured block, putting a light and a dark coloured block together, sewing 1/4" each side of the line and then cutting on the line, you end up with two HST units without having to worry much about stretching the bias. For me, that's much more efficient. So, I was rather puzzled that any instructor in 2014 would still be teaching the old way. (If you're interested, you can see both methods explained here: Intro to Half Square Triangles). In this case, I did not follow the book's instructions. Ditto with the Hourglass block. The book said to cut the two blocks in quarters diagonally and sew bias seams. I knew there had to be a more efficient way to do that block, so I googled once more and found Jenny Doan's youtube instructions. Quick and easy! With either instructions - the book or Jenny's video - I would end up with two hourglass blocks. In Jenny's case, it would be for a whole quilt. In the case of the book, I only needed one hourglass block for the sampler quilt, so I ended up with an orphan block. I hate orphan blocks. They make me feel guilty, like somehow I must use this block so it won't be left alone and forlorn. Isn't there a way to make just one hourglass block? 
And on the subject of extras, the instructions for Tam's Patch said to cut two rectangles of fabric from both the light and the dark, but only the dark were used. I'm still puzzling over that one. What am I supposed to do with the light ones? Hopefully this has been corrected in the published edition of the book. 
The final block was the pinwheel block. For these HSTs, the author said to use the folded corner piecing method. This may work well for Flying Geese units and the Snowball block, but to use it for HSTs wastes a lot of fabric and time. I did the initial cutting for all of the blocks prior to sewing, so I only read enough of the instructions to know what sizes and shapes I needed to cut. Therefore, I didn't realize until it was time for sewing what a waste this was. Following the directions, I cut out 4 dark and 4 light 3-1/2" squares, when all I really needed was 2 dark and 2 light 3-7/8" squares if I was going to use the regular HST method. Grrr! So not impressed. So I cut the pieces I needed to do it my way, which to me is the logical way. I finally finished all of the blocks, and added the sashing, cornerstones and border. Here's the quilt top:
Blocks as follows:
Pinwheel - Flying Geese - Snowball
9 Patch - 4 Patch - Two by Two
Square in a Square - Hourglass - Tam's Patch Variation
Though the book does give directions for finishing the quilt, I don't plan on finishing it right away. It's hardly worth paying to quilt something this small (30" square) on the long arm. If you've been following my blog, you know that I am challenged when it comes to machine quilting on a domestic machine. I haven't been able to learn so far with several online classes I enrolled in, so I am hoping to take a live class this fall. I will probably need some projects to work on in the class, so I will save this quilt top for that. 
Meanwhile, back to this book: While there is useful information in it, I was disappointed with some of the techniques used and don't feel they're the best choice. I can't honestly say that I would recommend this book to someone who desires to learn how to quilt. There are so many better resources available out there.