Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Woman's Work: Bucket, Mop & Scrubbers

My idea of superwoman is someone who scrubs her own floors.
–Bette Midler

This is section five of my Woman's Work quilt, all finished :biggrin:. I have six {of thirteen} sections or fourteen {of thirty-one} blocks done. I got my fabric and patterns all ready for these blocks, but paused before the construction because I decided I wanted to mop my floor to see if it made me feel like superwoman. It did. For like 20 minutes until someone {me :rolleyes:} spilled something sticky on the floor. It's only been three days and I'm feeling like I need to mop again already to preserve that my kitchen floor isn't crunchy or sticky, and I totally wouldn't mind if someone dropped by unexpectedly because the kitchen floor is clean feeling.

Appliquéing a mop was no less satisfactory than wielding a real mop and comes with its own rewards. I've had a bit of difficulty in taking good pictures of the white-on-white fabrics in this quilt {which leads me to wonder if there is a tutorial out there somewhere on how to photograph fabric}. The mop head is made up of a paisley white-on-white; the swirls remind me of the motion of a mop as you work it across the floor. But you'll just have to take my word for it. Or, you could come over and I'll show you. We could sit in the kitchen and sip warm cider or hot chocolate and I could feel all superwomanish because my kitchen floor is clean {except for that one sticky spot} and someone came over to witness it.

For the bucket, I used silver ironing board fabric. The instructions say not to wash it, but I wash everything before I put it in a quilt, so of the yard I bought, I washed a fat quarter to see what would happen. It kind of took some of the silver shine off it, gave it a veined sort of texture {from where the fabric wrinkled in the wash}, and made it look a little bit darker. I debated back and forth about whether or not to wash all of it. In the end, I decided that this quilt is one that will probably never get washed, so I used the shinier, silverier not washed fabric as the outside of the bucket and to give it a little bit of contrast {though you can hardly tell} I used the pre-washed fabric as the inside of the bucket and the little grommet on the side. And whenever I embroider, I find myself wishing for a hand-stitching regulator. Is there such a thing?

Just look at this scrub brush and bit of steel wool. Cute, no? Lori is an appliqué quilt genius. My tracing skills leave a little to be desired, though. After I'd finished, I noticed that QC inspector missed the scrub brush. But I give extra points for the striped fabric that looks like bristles {and also makes cute ghosts}. For the steel wool, I used Platinum Fairy Frost {which wasn't an original idea; Lori uses it for all the silver pieces in her quilts} and silver blending filament to stitch the swirls in.

When I bought this quilt pattern, there were a few blocks that were my favorites. They drew me to this quilt and sold me on it. I find it interesting that as I work, even the less glamourous blocks become my favorites as they emerge, and I'm pretty sure now that it wasn't just a few blocks that drew me to this quilt. It was the quilt as a whole. I am nearing the half-way mark and am really excited about it. I think I'm going to try to squeeze in one more block {the most adorable little apron ever!} this week before I absolutely have to give up procrastinating the Christmas projects.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Apples Red and Apples Yellow

Why do we need so many kinds of apples? Because there are so many folks. A person has a right to gratify his legitimate taste. If he wants twenty or forty kinds of apples for his personal use…he should be accorded the privilege. There is merit in variety itself. It provides more contact with life, and leads away from uniformity and monotony. –Liberty Hyde Baily

My contribution to the Thanksgiving feast this year was pie; cherry, Paula Deen's pumpkin and apple. The cherry wasn't anything special, just cherries from a can thrown into a {homemade} crust, but it went the fastest. I'd never made pumpkin before, so I thought I'd shoot for the moon with Paula Deen's recipe. It was fancy, with cream cheese in it and everything. If you try this recipe, you'll need a deep dish pie plate and some patience. I baked mine for over an hour-and-a-half and the center never set completely, but the problem could be my oven. It has never behaved the way I think it should. Once the pie cooled it was pretty tasty though, so I wasn't too far off. Grasshopper wasn't interested, but LadyBug tried her first ever pie this Thanksgiving {yeah, I know :rolleyes:. The Little Bugs are equal opportunity picky eaters :lol:} and after sampling a bite of each kind, she picked pumpkin as her favorite and had a sliver-of-a-slice of her own.

Apple pie {and apple crisp} is sort of a specialty of mine, so I thought I'd share my recipe with you. The crust is nothing spectacular. I probably ought to find a new recipe for that. But the apple filling is awesome. The secret is to use a variety of apples. The flavors all blend together and you come out with one delicious pie. Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala and Granny Smith are apple varieties that are always available around here, so I always include one of each of those. Then, depending on what the store has, I get a couple other varieties. Pink Lady is another favorite variety and I get those when they are in season. But really the kinds of apples don't matter so much as having a variety. That is what makes the best kind of apple pie.

Deep Dish Apple Pie
1¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup shortening
5 tablespoons cold water
6 large apples {about 8 cups} cored, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice {optional}
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon salt
Crumb Topping
½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter or butter substitute for dairy-free, softened

• In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour until pea-sized lumps form. Mix cold water into flour mixture one tablespoon at a time {be careful not to add too much water as you may not need 5 tablespoons} until a soft dough forms. When all of the flour has been formed into a dough, form it into a ball.
• Flatten the dough onto a floured surface; roll into a 12" circle. Either wrap the pastry around the rolling pin or fold into fourths and ease it into a 9" pie plate. Trim the pastry about ½" beyond the edge of the pie plate; fold edges under and crimp.
• Heat oven to 375˚. Place peeled, cored and sliced apples in a large mixing bowl; sprinkle with lemon juice. In a small mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; add to apples and gently mix until all the apples are covered. Place in pastry-lined pie plate.
• In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over pie filling.
• Cover edges of the pie with foil to prevent over-browning. Bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake for 25 minutes more.

Serves 8

• I'm a big fan of Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus® Spice Blend and almost always use it in place of cinnamon and nutmeg.
• Unless you want to be all day at making this recipe, you really need an apple peeler/corer/slicer. I'm not such a fan of the one from Pampered Chef. It seems to only do a good job with really firm apples {which is why all their recipes using it call for Granny Smith :rolleyes:}. I have one from Cook's Club that I love. I've searched the internet on several occasions to find a new one because my first one broke. I don't think they are being made any more, but eBay did have a used one that I've had for a really long time now. This brand does a great job even on really soft apples. And the Little Bugs think it is so much fun to play with. They'll even eat the apples after they're done peeling, coring and slicing them.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sabbath Songs: I Know That My Redeemer Lives

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. –Job 19:25

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Woman's Work: Laundry Basket

I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life? –Unknown

Of all the household chores, laundry is the one that I will never complain about. Or perhaps I should say it is the one I mind the least, because it is funny and dramatic to say, Mt. Saint Laundry is calling, or, I have to conquer Mt. Washmore today. But if the truth be told, the machines do all the work and we have it really easy. When I lived in Brasil, I did my own laundry by hand for about a year of that time, and washing jeans and towels {or really anything} in a stone sink basin and then wringing them out to dry is a very laborious process. I knew women who would start their day, every day, at the crack of dawn with their family's laundry, and not be finished until well into the afternoon. I count myself lucky that sorting a week's worth of laundry takes all of twenty minutes; that I can throw a load in the washer in less that five minutes {counting pre-treating all the stains} and come back 50 minutes later to find all the hard work done. With a few exceptions, all of that can go in the dryer and in 30 to 60 more minutes, I have a load of clean, bright, fresh smelling clothes which can be folded at my leisure while watching TV. Yes, laundry may take all day, but the bulk of the work is done by machines.

This laundry basket was really fun to appliqué. As I was selecting fabrics for it, I thought, this has to be the worst-sorted load of laundry in the history of laundry, because I sort my laundry not just into darks, mediums and lights, but by color. Then I realized that a monochromatic basket of laundry would have been very boring in this quilt, so I just had fun with it, imagining that this is what was left in the basket after several loads has been dumped in and picked through. I took inspiration from Lori's quilt, using red with big white polka-dots for one piece of laundry and choosing a really cool striped fabric for one of the socks. But for the most part, I picked fabrics that I thought looked nice to make up my basket of laundry. And the basket itself? Well, I searched high and low before I found this perfect basket-weave fabric and I absolutely love how it came out.

Over the years, I've honed my laundry skills and I think I do a fairly decent job. It is totally because I let the machines do all of the work. Here are a few tricks I've learned.
• Hot water sets in stains. I wash every load in cold water, which is good for several reasons; it is green {saves energy on heating the water}, it keeps clothes from fading, it keeps clothes from shrinking {if you don't put them in the dryer}, and if you missed anything in the pre-treat, it is more likely to come out in cold water.
• When treating clothes for stains, do it just before you throw the clothes in the wash as the water is running {rather than when you take the item off and put it in the laundry}. Also, most stains happen on the front of clothes, so if you're pressed for time, you can skip the backs of shirts.
• Let the machines do all the work — set every load to agitate for the maximum time setting on your machine.
• Don't overload your machine. Your clothes will come out better in two medium loads than one extra gigantic load. Also, use the right amount of soap for your load size. Too much detergent is just as bad as not enough.
• Contrary to popular belief, it is the washer, not the dryer, that eats stocks. Stick your head in the dryer and have a look around. There is no place for them to go. They slip down the drain in the drain/rinse cycle in the washer, so if the mis-matched sock pile drives you nuts, put your socks in mesh laundry bags in the wash.
• When drying sheets and blankets {or cuts of fabric for quilting} throw a set of dryer balls {or jumbo-size bouncy balls, which I like better} in with them. It helps keep the fabrics from wadding up into a giant ball and they will dry faster.

I hope that helps lighten your load :rofl: a little. I'm off to conquer Mt. Washmore :rolleyes:.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Favourite Things Friday: Reading and Books

Story is one of the most serious intruders into the heart.Jane Yolen

I love to read. I've always loved to read. It is wonderful to let a book take you to places you've never been before, to explore new ideas, to meet new people, to live a new life. I love reading so much so that in college one of my three minors was English Lit. But when I got to the 400 level classes, I was in over my head with all the required reading. I could have made it work if I didn't also have homework for other classes, a job and, most importantly, social commitments. Everything kind of suffered, and I often went to class without having all of my reading finished. It was really stressful trying to balance, because I wanted to read, understand and enjoy everything I was supposed to be reading, but there just weren't enough hours in the day. When I quit school {three semesters short of graduating :wall: }, I took a break from reading. For five years. Mr. Bug {who is always reading} wasn't even sure I could read :lol:.

My big reading come-back was the Harry Potter series; it was my first book obsession. Which is ironic because I didn't really like Sorcerer's Stone the first time I read it :lol:. It was December of 2001 and Sorcerer's Stone had just come out in theaters. I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie because books are always better, {except in the case of The Time Traveler's Wife, which is one book I wish I could un-read}, and though I finished it, I didn't really enjoy it much. At the time, Mr. Bug had to travel frequently for work and ended up having to stay over a weekend, and so feeling sorry for himself that he wasn't home, he went to see Sorcerer's Stone without me. I put my copy of Harry Potter on the shelf and didn't give it a second thought. Late in the spring of 2002, I picked up the DVD and couldn't believe how magical Harry Potter's world was. I decided to give Sorcerer's Stone a second chance; I read it again and was completely enchanted. Goblet of Fire {book four} had just come out in paperback, so I picked that up, along with Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban {books two and three}, and my love affair with Harry Potter began. When Order of the Phoenix came out a year later, I re-read books 1—4 and Mr. Bug picked up a copy of book five for me at midnight. Two years later, I re-read books 1—5 and then I went to Wal-Mart just after midnight to get a gallon of milk and a copy of Half-Blood Prince. And two years after that, I re-read books 1—6, dressed up as Professor McGonagall, went to the release party, arriving an hour-an-a-half before midnight to enter the costume contest hoping that would help make the time pass faster because I couldn't wait to get my copy of Deathly Hallows.
{My collection of hardback 1st edition Harry Potter books}
Somewhere between Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows {circa 2008}, I discovered that I liked hardback books. Mr. Bug is paperback all the way, and considering his appetite for reading and his dislike of the public library system, paperback is definitely the more economical way to go. But I like the way a hardback book handles the love an attention and re-readings I like to give my books. I had HP 6 and 7 in hardback but the rest of my books were in paperback {although I'd bought book 5 in hardback, I'd given it to my mom and she bought it for me in paperback when it came out}. I had first editions — which aren't too hard to come by — so I went in search of first editions for books 1—5. I found what I was looking for on eBay. The prices were reasonable, but aside from book 5 {which is in better condition than my books} their conditions were only fair. I'm wondering, now, if I could have found new copies of them still circulating somewhere in a bookstore :confused:.

And I'm not exactly sure how to fit this in, but if you're a Harry Potter fan, check out these funny posts.
Lord Voldemort's Inbox
Severus Snape's Inbox

I'm the sort of person who likes to be busy all the time; I multi-task whenever possible, and since reading excludes any other activities, I'm particular about what I read. I've developed a funny sort of habit. I like to read what is familiar to me; books I've read before and enjoyed {as suggested by the number of times I've read through the Harry Potter series; it is more than I indicated above}. That way I know I won't be wasting my time. So, it is unusual for me to read something new. But two years ago, I picked up another book obsession. No, I don't think obsession is the right word. Addiction is more accurate. Which is an interesting thing because I was so hesitant to even read these books. I'm talking, of course, about the Twilight series. I kept hearing, It's the next Harry Potter. That put me completely off, because nothing was going to replace Harry Potter for me.

In the spring of 2008, I bought Penelope on DVD and there was a trailer for the upcoming Twilight movie. I recognized the male actor as "that kid who played Cedric Diggory in Goblet of Fire," and was intrigued by the chemistry between him and the female lead. So, I bought Twilight, and the sequel, New Moon in paperback. And they sat on top of my chest of drawers for a few months. Mr. Bug picked them up and read them. He said he thought that I might like them. Little did he know :mischief:. A few months later, Breaking Dawn {the fourth book in the series} came out, so I picked that up, as well as the third book, Eclipse {both in hard back}, and Mr. Bug read those too. Then all four books sat in a neat little collection on top of the chest of drawers for another couple of months.

When I finally got around to reading them, these books made a big impression on me. I read the first one in three days, pausing to go back and re-read favorite parts {which is unusual for me — I like to read start to finish}. Then I read the next three books in the next three days, averaging about four hours of sleep a night and stopping only to feed the Little Bugs cold cereal or ramen noodles for dinner. And I became one of those fans :rolleyes:. Completely obsessed. So obsessed that I'm {slowly} making a Twilight quilt. And while I'm talking Stephenie Meyer books, I also have to mention, The Host. It is a really great read.
{My Stephenie Meyer collection; the New Moon special edition is autographed}
Fablehaven is another fun series, although I'm not quite as obsessed with these books. My sweet friend, Jenna, gave us the first book for Christmas a few years ago. We read it aloud to the Little Bugs and have enjoyed each new volume in the now finished series.

It is impossible to list all the books I've read and loved. Anne of Green Gables and The Wizard of Oz both certainly deserve a mention. Shakespeare and Jane Austen are among my favorite writers. And these books sit on my nightstand, mostly to look pretty. I got them for Christmas a couple of years ago; they are leather-bound hardback editions of their complete works, with gilded-edged pages. But I know what are in those books and love them. I bought a few paperback editions of my favorite of Shakespeare's works at the used book store so that I didn't have to tote that gigantic tome around with me if I wanted to read a favorite. And I've given Anna Karenina a whirl. The writing flows nicely, but I haven't gotten far enough into the story to get caught up by it, so it sits, patiently waiting for me to get back to it.

Jane Austen was quite an amazing writer. She wrote what she knew and it is still relevant today. Of all her female characters, I love Elizabeth Bennet best. She was strong, she knew her heart and she didn't let the conventions of the time dictate her path. I love it when she tells Mr. Darcy, no, because he totally deserved it. And even though things work out in the end and he is fairly dreamy, he's not my favorite of Jane Austen's male characters. I love Mr. Knightley from Emma best. He is always Emma's friend and always has her best interest at heart. And for another funny post, check out Elizabeth Bennet's Inbox

This is another favorite collection of books. Both of the Little Bugs have small bookshelves in their rooms, filled with great stories. I bought these Classic Starts, condensed versions of classic novels, at Barnes and Noble as a way to help LadyBug develop a love of reading. We started with The Prince and the Pauper, her favorite story, which was so wonderfully retold that I had to have the entire collection {although I discovered with a quick peek over at B&N that there are a few new volumes}. We've read Dracula and Frankenstein and Robin Hood and The Story of King Arthur and The Three Musketeers together, with expectations of many more great adventures together.

Today's post brought to you by:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Attitude of Gratitude

We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.
–Thomas S. Monson, An Attitude of Gratitude, May 1992

I've been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately. To use the popular expression, I've been down in the dumps. I've been so focused on the negative that I've complete forgotten something that I know to be true; attitude is everything. It is all in how you look at things. There's a hymn we sing at church, the words of which have come to mind in recent days:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

–Johnson Oatman, Jr., Count Your Blessings, LDS Hymns #241

It is amazing that something so simple as counting your blessings can and does change your focus if you let it. So, today, I'd like to celebrate the diamonds in my life, remembering that diamonds started out as rocks and were put under tremendous pressure to become something beautiful and precious.

• I have a strong body that answers the call when I ask it to do something.
• I have a strong mind to help me understand the world around me and solve my problems.
• I have a strong spirit able to withstand the pressures of life with the desire to seek the good.

Though these are very simple things, all are blessings from a loving Father in Heaven; gifts to me to help me through the inevitable trials of life. Not every day is a diamond; nor would I want it to be. But I've come to realize that each day is what you make of it, and choosing to focus on the positive, even when there isn't much to work with, makes life more livable. By adopting an attitude of gratitude, we {and by, 'we,' I really mean, 'I'} will find there is much to be grateful for.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bradbury 13: The Ravine

This is Ray Bradbury. Join me for the next 30 minutes on a tour through time and space. Come along to the far future. Follow me into a strange past, with stories that almost could be, or might have been. Real or unreal, this is Bradbury 13.
–Ray Bradbury, introduction to NPR radio series Bradbury 13

In the spring of 1984, NPR aired a series of thirteen 30-minute radio dramas based on stories by Ray Bradbury and created, produced and directed by Mike McDonough at BYU Media Services through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This series was called Bradbury 13. My dad carefully recorded each of these episodes on high-quality cassette tapes and we listened to them over and over, on road trips, as family entertainment and individually whenever the mood struck. He's since transfered his cassette tapes to mp3 audio files and we each have copies to share with our families. Part of what made these stories so amazing was the incredible 3-D sound and none of that was lost in the copies my dad made. It is amazing to listen to them now and have them still be such high-quality.

For quite a while now, I've been thinking over the best way to share this fun part of my past with you. I am going to post one episode each week for the next twelve weeks {it'll be thirteen posts all told, counting today's}, with an episode teaser, my rating {on a scale of one to five smilies, in various and sundry forms}, a review and cast details. Part of my master plan was to include the audio with each post. I researched how to embed audio files and then I checked into NPR and Fair Use Laws and discovered that I would have to cross over too far into pirate :pirate: territory in order to share them with you that way. I was pretty bummed about that. It kind of spoils the whole effect. But I'd rather not get into a lawsuit with NPR. Still, I want to share these with you, even if it is in a somewhat diminished capacity. I found {what I hope is} a legitimate on-line source where you can buy and download each episode for $1.95 {I'll include a link to each episode with its post}. If you do the math, it comes out to $25.35, which is like 4 yards of fabric {that your stash doesn't really need anyway, right?}, and it is less than movie and a popcorn for two. So if you buy a box of microwave popcorn and a 2-liter of soda, you and your significant other can have 13 terrific dates for a lot less than one trip to the movies.

Our first story, The Ravine, is adapted from Dandelion Wine, which is a collection of short stories all set in the fictional Green Town, Illinois and loosely connected by the theme summer as well as the 12-year-old character, Douglas Spaulding and his family. And now, let the fun begin.

The Ravine
The Ravine was a dynamo that never stopped running night or day. There was a great moving hum, a bubbling and murmuring of creature. It smelled like a greenhouse of secret vapors and ancient washed shales and quicksands. And in the shade of warm trees with her hands at either side of her like the oars of a delicate craft, lay Elizabeth Ramsel; her face moonlit, her eyes wide and like flint, her tongue sticking from her mouth.
My Rating: :scared: :scared: :scared: :scared: :scared:
This is unquestionably my favorite of all the Bradbury 13 episodes. It is scare-your-socks-off-psychological-thriller good. {As a side note, I think Mr. Bug is a little worried with my slight fascination with the macabre. Every time Silence of the Lambs comes on [edited] TV, I have to watch.} I'm not sure what I love the most about The Ravine; the fact that Elizabeth {I may have mentioned before that I love my name and I am always drawn to a character in a story who is named Elizabeth} Ramsel was the latest victim of The Lonely One, a serial killer who strangles single women, or the fact that Miss Lavinia is so nonchalant about the possibility of being next.

Barta Heiner plays the part of Lavinia in this episode, as well as parts in several other of the episodes. Her voice is quite wonderful. About 12 years ago, I had the opportunity to actually speak with her. She was teaching at BYU and I was working in the textbook department of the bookstore on campus. One of my main responsibilities was to coordinate textbook orders with each of the academic departments, so I frequently dealt with faculty members. One day my phone rang and the caller I.D. said Barta Heiner :bug eyes:. I greeted the caller and then without giving her a chance to speak asked, Is this THE Barta Heiner? The one from Bradbury 13? I loved Bradbury 13 as a kid. It was one of my finest moments; I met a celebrity and then threw her age in her face :rolleyes:.

I find it interesting to note that The Lonely One is based on a real person {although just a cat burglar} who intruded upon Bradbury's childhood home town of Waukegan, Illinois in 1928. Also interesting is that Tom Kennedy was the police chief at the time and there is an Officer Kennedy in The Ravine. Douglas Spaulding, who is the main character throughout Dandelion Wine, only makes a cameo appearance in the adaptation, but he is semi-autobiographical of Ray Bradbury's childhood self; Bradbury's middle name is Douglas and his father's middle name is Spaulding.

Air Date:
April 2, 1984

Paul Frees

Barta Heiner
Beverly Rowland
Helen Beeman
Oscar Rowland
Duane Hyatt
Bob Nelson

Roger Hoffman
Greg Hansen

Production Assistant:
Patrick Mead

Associate Producer:
Jeff Raider

Created, Produced, Directed:
Mike McDonough

Executive Producer:
Dean Van Uitert

Audio Clip of The Ravine
Buy The Ravine mp3
Buy Bradbury 13 Audio CDs

Monday, November 22, 2010

Woman's Work: Retro Chic Vacuum Cleaner

I'm not going to vacuum until Sears makes one you can ride on.
–Roseanne Barr

Once upon a time my front door was open to anyone. I would jump up to answer no matter what I was doing and greet each visitor with a smile. Our neighborhood is popular with the door-to-door sales people, and so I found myself constantly turning away magazine and book and frozen food and cleaning supply sales people. One day a young woman knocked on my door and wanted to know if she could clean my carpets — the carpets with the heaviest traffic. She assured me that I would be under no obligation to purchase anything and it was a completely free service that she was offering. Of course I let her in because we had that awful light-tan-goes-with-everything-but-is-impossible-to-keep-clean carpet they've put in every new home since 1996.

She brought in a vacuum cleaner and proceeded to show me how much better it would clean my carpets than my current vacuum; she actually hooked up a filter system that showed me exactly how much dirt was coming out of my carpet with the two different vacuums. She showed me every attachment that came standard and told me all the ways to use the attachments for cleaning the blinds and vacuuming out the couches and how much easier my life would be with this vacuum. She then had a moratorium for my vacuum cleaner, covered it with a cloth and proceeded to offer me a huge discount on a new vacuum, a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner, which involved her throwing in a couple of extra accessories and some cleaning supplies, giving up {part of} her commission, arranging for six-month financing at 0% interest, and made it clear that this offer was only good for as long as she stayed in my house. If she left and had to come back, the price would go up. For the grand finale she set up the vacuum with the carpet cleaning attachments, mixed up the carpet cleaner and went to town on my living room. I went to my bedroom and called Mr. Bug, because I had to have this vacuum cleaner. It was the vacuum of my dreams and was going to make my chores so much more pleasant. Never mind that it cost more than my first car. I was convinced that I needed this vacuum. And Mr. Bug was at a loss to tell me I couldn't have it.

This absolutely adorable vacuum cleaner is not a Kirby. But I love it. A lot. It is section three of the Woman's Work quilt. The plaid is a bit of Cider Mill Road by Nancy Halvorsen. I picked up a fat quarter of it a year ago at Shop Hop and since then I've been looking for its coordinates because I knew that plaid had to be used on the vacuum cleaner. But I couldn't find any that would work for a vacuum cleaner block. So I picked a sickly sort of pea-green from my stash that went well with the light stripes in it. When it came time to make the block, I needed a third fabric, and so I rummaged through my stash some more, but couldn't come up with anything perfect to go with the plaid and pea-green combo. When I pulled out these terrific Cherrywood hand-dyed fabrics that my kind friend, Iris, had sent me for my birthday, the coral was an immediate in because I can't think of anything that would make vacuuming funner than a plaid-and-coral-pink vacuum cleaner. There was a pretty tan in the bunch {I think the fabrics are from the Melon Patch collection} that was a shade tamer than the pea-green and I used some ironing board fabric for the silver in the wheels, giving me the perfect components for a so-ugly-it-is-cute Retro Chic Vacuum Cleaner.

I've had my Kirby for 8± years. And I find I don't love or hate vacuuming more or less than I did before, although it is nice to have a reliable vacuum that has lasted for eight years without incident. It doesn't make the vacuuming more exciting and less of a chore, because a Kirby is, after all, just a vacuum. And the moral of the story is this: a No Soliciting sign on the front door is a wise investment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sabbath Songs: Joseph Smith's First Prayer

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other
This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
Joseph Smith History 1:15-17

Saturday, November 20, 2010

All Tucked in for Winter

A man's children and his garden both reflect the amount of weeding done during the growing season. –Unknown

It is done. The biggest, most daunting task on my list of horrible necessary chores is done. It required 35 man-hours {only 27 of which were mine}, ten {non-consecutive} days, six trips to the green waste yard and the life of my totally adorable pink garden clogs, but it is done :faint:.

My gardens have been pretty neglected this season. It all started when I didn't get my fall clean-up done last year and decided that I would do it in the spring instead. Over the winter I became increasingly attached to my quilting time and so when spring came, I didn't want to give up any of that to be out in the gardens. I kept the front yard presentable, because all the neighbors walk by on their way to church. But the back yard grew feral and it became more distressing and overwhelming than therapeutic to go out and dig in the dirt. I took 'before' pictures to show just how crazy it got, but I have to admit I'm pretty embarrassed by it.

This first area is a new bed that I cleared out a little over two years ago. I rented a sod cutter and cut out the grass; then I paid my Lawn Boy to help me haul the sod away and then we dug out about a cubic yard of the underlying mix of very poor quality topsoil and heavy clay and hauled that away. Next I hauled in about a yard-and-a-half of really good dirt and peat moss and tilled it all in. Then I planted nine trees which were dying in their pots and had been handed down to me because the person who bought them ended up with a busier summer than anticipated and wasn't able to get them planted in their yard. I intended for this area to house a little grove to bring some shade and help cool things down in our really sunny south-facing back yard. However, all but three of the trees died and since the soil was so good, the grass and weeds crept back in and I didn't do much at all to stop them. I think that the man who sprays our lawn for weeds took pity on me and sprayed in this area to kill off the weeds without realizing that there were trees in there, because all the weeds were dead, but so were two of the remaining three trees. Either that or the weeds choked them out. In any case, it was pretty scary.
This was the first area I attacked. Two of my good friends {who I have both mentioned here} came and helped me a couple of different times for a couple hours each. Together we got the weeds cleared out and then I cut down the grass that had crept in and sprayed it {because that is the only way to get rid of grass where you don't want it}. One of my friends went to the nursery here in town during their season-end 75% off close-out and surprised me with some new trees and and shrubs. Next spring, I'll give it a once-over with a hoe, spray any grass that remains and then cover this area with bark. It is not meant to be a flower bed but a green area for shrubs and trees to help with the heat.

I call this the Back West Border. This bed runs along the back {south} of the house, going west from the patio all the way around to the front porch. It is one continuous bed, but it is divided by the fence on the side of the house. I employ Lamb's Ear {which is totally a weed} along the edge of this border to keep the grass from creeping into the flower bed, but the lamb's ear was about to take over the entire bed. I like to keep it trimmed down so that it is doesn't flower and stays small and unobtrusive, but this year I totally ignored it. I bought that tree that is to the left of the frame for $12.50 {an amazing 75%-off find} and absolutely love it. When I brought it home the Little Bugs decided that it was to be Mr. Bug's Tree, since they each have a tree in the front yard.

This is the west end of the house, just around the corner from the bed running along the back of the house. This my Cutting Garden, because nobody can see this bed. It is blocked from view in the front by a fence and is on the far end of the house. I don't have much in it, though, that is good for cutting. I kept it empty for a really long time, and then one year I had a surplus of plants I'd ordered on-line so I planted them here. It turned out that most of what is in there doesn't have really long stems for putting in flower vases. Eventually, I'll get some good cutting plants in here, but I'm not convinced that I'll actually use them to cut and bring into the house. I don't bring flowers in much.

This bed runs east from the back patio along the back {south} of the house and I call it the Back East Border. That is my kitchen window there and when the flowers get tall enough {which they sometimes do} I enjoy a lovely view out the window. This bed is small enough that I came out and worked in it a few times this summer. The possibility of getting all the pruning and weeding done in this bed in one day was much higher than in some of the other areas and so I spared a few minutes on it. You can see the lamb's ear isn't quite as huge as on the other side.

This is the Raspberry Patch and Vegetable Garden. It is divided into five sections by a little gravel path {which is in complete disarray}. Two of the sections house raspberries. One section is for tomatoes {because those cages were SO difficult to get into the ground and will never be removed} and two sections are for whatever else I want to grow during the summer; carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes. I planted strawberries along the edges of it to make a cute border {and perhaps choke out any grass that might try to creep in} but I didn't plant anything this year and the strawberries have completely overtaken the bed. They are going to need some serious thinning {if there are some good weather days in the next few weeks I'll work on it, or it can wait until the spring}. The raspberries grew pretty thick and heavy but despite the neglect they produced wonderfully this year. I got them partially thinned, but they need some more attention {now or in the spring, whichever}. In the spring, I'll cut them to the ground and hope for another delicious crop next summer.

This is my Birdbath Garden, so named for the birdbath sitting in it. It sits right up next to the front porch and you have to walk past it to get to the front door. I didn't take 'before' pictures because this garden wasn't too bad {except it had been invaded by quack grass}, but you can see it in full bloom here. It always makes me sad to cut down the plants for fall, but I also love the exposed look of the clean, brown earth.

This is the Shade Garden. It is part of the border that runs all the way from the back patio, around the west end of the house and then across the front of the house up to the porch. It sits in deep shade all the time. This is the bed I've struggled the most with to grow pretty colors in because not much grows in such deep shade. I've spent a lot of time researching and seeking out the best plants to grow here. The trellis on the left {next to the porch} sports a Nightshade vine in summer. I cut it all the way to the ground this year, not sure if I mind too much if that kills it off. It volunteered there four or five years ago, and thrived. This spot gets absolutely no sun, so anything that would grow there was gold in my book. I was talking about it on-line, wondering what it might be and a friend identified it as Nightshade. It lost its charm for me after that, but I've kept it because it grows in a very difficult spot. I use Bishop's Weed as a border in this bed and it very effectively keeps the grass from coming into the bed. As a matter of fact, the Bishop's Weed is coming up on the other side of the cement border and growing in the grass now :lol:. It is an aggressive grower and this year I didn't keep it pruned back as I should have. It choked out several of my favorite shade plants, including some really pretty Astilbe, a sweet smelling Purple Coneflower {which volunteered in the perfect spot} and possibly a Peony. The Hydrangea is not doing so well either, but that could be from a lack of acid in the soil, too much water and/or not enough sun. In the right of the frame, you can see a few branches of LadyBug Tree and the window on the left is my office window.

This is my little Sidewalk Garden. The little bunches of green things sticking out of the ground are Saffron Crocuses and are supposed to be fall-blooming. They come up in the fall, but don't bloom. Then they come up again in the spring and this time they bloom :confused:. I haven't figured that one out yet.

I have come to the conclusion that I have one too many big hobbies or too much yarden for one person who also likes to quilt to handle. I didn't even do annuals this year and the clean-up was monumental. It has been nearly three weeks since I started in earnest to get the beds all cleaned out. And it is a huge relief to have the gardens finished for the season. I'm so glad I won't be looking at decomposing plant skeletons all winter and kicking myself for not getting it done. Also, when the bulbs start to come in in the spring, I'll be able to view them at my leisure instead of trying to get out there to clear away the debris of the last growing season. Today I got bulb fertilizer and Preen 'n Green spread around the beds and Mother Nature is watering it in for me now. I call that a pretty happy ending :flower:.