Basket Case complete

I have to run, so this will be brief…

The Basket Case quilt is finished and we have sunshine! Here are a few photos:

Basket Case 3

Basket Case 2

Basket Case 1

More later!

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Oh, it’s been a busy week. I abandoned the blog for the past – yes! – nine days, but I’m back, and I’ll have so much more to say tomorrow. First, a quick update. I’m working at a local restaurant and dinner theater, and I think it has potential. I’m not going into much detail because I don’t want to be one of those people who starts blogging about her workplace and then it comes back to bite her in the butt. So, ’nuff said.

On the quilting front, Mom is nearly finished making the Basket Case quilt. In fact, I may have a photo to upload tomorrow, or Monday at the latest. She finished the quilting tonight and just has the binding to put on. I’m so please with how it has turned out! We chose a line of fabric that’s a couple of years old, Moda’s Picket Fence by Chloe’s Closet. It’s in retro blues, creams, and pinks, with a touch of green that isn’t quite the exact shade in the Picket Fence line, but is close enough to make me happy. It’s a full size quilt, and it will go nicely in her room. I have the instructions all ready to go, and I’m just waiting for the photo to put on the front. I’ll take it (along with the Neapolitan pattern) to a couple of local quilt shops and see if they’re interested in buying some. We have a shop hop coming up next week which will give me a chance to chat with each of the store owners briefly. I’m very fortunate in that I have two shops within a 15 minute drive of my home. There are at least seven within half an hour’s drive, and more than 20 within an hour’s drive. I shop mostly at three that are closest to me, in part because I really like the owners. All three have helped me in my quilting journey, and are just plain nice people, to boot.

Finally, I have a cat question. Does anyone else have a cat that plays fetch? Sometimes I think Buttercup doesn’t understand the way the game is supposed to work, as she will drop her mousie five feet away from me when she returns. When I’m hiking across the room to pick it up, though, I realize that she knows exactly what “fetch” means – and I’M the one doing the fetching. I’ll tell her, “Get your mousie,” and she’ll sit nearby, looking blankly at me. I repeat myself and she looks at the mouse, then at me, plainly communicating, “It’s right there!” Invariably, I heave myself out of the chair and go fetch it so I can throw it for her again. Of course, she also likes to curl up under my shirt, more so now that it’s getting cooler. She’ll paw at the bottom of my shirt, usually when I’m at the computer or reading a book in the recliner. As soon as I lift the bottom edge for her she squeezes herself underneath, crawling up my chest to settle sideways against me. She’s been known to sleep for hours – literally – in there. As long as I don’t move around too much (and even if I do, as long as I support my “growth”), she’s content to cuddle.

Decisions, decisions

I was offered the local job, and I decided to take it. I’m a little nervous, but as several people said, if I didn’t take it I’d always wonder. Today was my first day and I’m pretty comfortable with what I learned. I picked things up quickly, and I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with the rest of the duties. My biggest concern is the pay, but I am looking for ways to supplement my income.

The ironic part is I thought by taking this job closer to home, I’d have a little more time available for sewing. It’s 3.5 miles from home instead of 40 miles, which saves me about 2 hours a day. So I get my schedule for this week, and I have two ten hour days! I don’t mind at all, but it is kind of funny.

On the subject of quilting, I’m teaching a friend to quilt and she finished her first top. The first time we met, I described fabric selection, fabric preparation, rotary cutting, and strip piecing. I showed her the basics of a Chinese Coins quilt, and explained how the same type of construction could be used to create Rail Fence blocks. She chose several fabrics from my stash and went to town. This is the table runner she made:

Lisa's Table Runner

Isn’t it gorgeous?! She’s already chosen her second project, a sixteen block Log Cabin quilt. I explained the basics of log cabin construction, and she’s working on it now. We probably won’t get together again until the family quilting day on Saturday, October 11 (although with my work schedule, I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend!). I’m confident that she’ll have considerable progress to show.

Exhaustion, but in a good way

What a day yesterday! Mom, Aunt Karen and I met up with Aunt Pat and Uncle Larry at the Wisconsin Quilt Expo in Madison. This is Larry’s first quilt show, and he took it like a man. He is not a quilter, although he has a great eye for choosing fabrics, but he traipsed along with Pat, uncomplaining, and was the official bag carrier. We all arrived about 8:00 a.m. because Karen had an 8:30 class. Pat and Larry left around 3:00, and the rest of us stayed until 5:00 (thanks to another class for mom and Karen). It was a full day, but well worth the sore feet.

I viewed all of the vendors at least three times. Normally I would have made it through only once, but it’s amazing how much faster I move when I’m not allowed to spend much money. I had a $50 budget and I stayed just within that. I made only three purchases (plus lunch) – a Moda “Pumpkins Gone Wild” charm pack, a matching fat quarter bundle, and a five pack of replacement blades for my Ergo 2000 rotary cutter.

Pumpkins Gone Wild

Have you seen these? I absolutely love mine – it’s better than any other cutter I’ve used. I’m left handed so mine has a black handle, and the red handled one is for righties. The blade guard requires a little extra movement but with a bit of practice it becomes second nature. Held correctly, they are much better for your wrist. The replacement blades were priced pretty well – my five pack was $17 (much better than the 2 pack for $10).

Ergo Cutters

I was surprised to run into an old friend from high school – it’s always nice when people you know are quilters. He was helping out at one of the booths and we had a nice chat. We exchanged e-mails, did a little catching up. “Imaginary” friends are nice, but it’s always good to talk to a real person now and then!

I took tons of pictures at the show, but the main quilt exhibit has a photo restriction that doesn’t allow posting of the photos. There were some truly gorgeous quilts! I saw a lot of “wow” quilts, but each show I attend I see more and more that make me think, “I could do that!” It’s a nice measure of my growth as a quilter. There was an additional quilt display of local artists that I believe allow the photos to be shared. The kids from Roosevelt School in Janesville, WI created the most incredible quilt – it’s six feet tall and twelve feet wide, and it’s a representation of the city of Janesville.

Our Town, Our World quilt

The quilt is amazing – check out my Flickr set for more photos, and to see larger versions. For those of you unfamiliar with Flickr, you can click the photos to go to the Flickr photo page, then click “All Sizes” above the photo and choose a larger or smaller view. Here are just a few of my favorite closeups:

Our Town, Our World quilt

Rock Aqua Jays water ski team

Our Town, Our World quilt

Music on the Square at Courthouse Park

Our Town, Our World

Rotary Gardens and Title

Our Town, Our World quilt

Project Description

When we got home we were too hungry to cook, so we went to one of my favorite restaurants in Janesville, the Cozy Inn.

Cozy Inn sign

This is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Wisconsin, so old that both sets of grandparents used to go here when they were young. I lost my first tooth here, in a french fry (it was a VERY loose tooth). They have the best egg rolls, fat and greasy with an indescribable flavor. I always eat them inside out – I break them in half, eat the inside of one half with a fork, pick up the shell with my fingers and eat it, then I do the same with the other half. Within the last couple of years I learned their “secret” ingredient – peanut butter! The place is at least 75 years old, and the taste of the food is belied by the appearance. It is literally a hole in the wall, a dive, a pit. My grandparents stopped going years ago because they could no longer climb the stairs. The stairs are steep, and dark, and dirty, and the walls are papered in ancient pink flowers, peeling and taped at the seams. It smells funny, but familiar.

Cozy Inn stairs

The restaurant itself is tiny, only about 20 tables, but oh, the tables! As I child I adored the big round booths, large enough to hold six friendly people, with tall sides that enclosed you in your own private room. There are about 10 round booths, and then a few small booths and some little tables. In all the years I’ve gone there, only once have I not been seated in a round booth.

Cozy Inn interior

Please forgive the terrible photo, but the place is very dark – I probably don’t want to see it with bright lights! The staff is the friendliest and most efficient I’ve ever encountered. You always feel welcome, whether you’re a regular or you’re visiting for the first time. They have an extensive menu, although I rotate between half a dozen favorite items. If we do carryout I always get an extra egg roll for the drive home. (No, I don’t eat that one inside out!)

Cozy Inn is in downtown Janesville, the oldest part of town. There are a lot of old buildings that are in various stages of disrepair, although the city is making an effort to bring people back to the area. This has resulted in a mishmash of stores and I was please to find a used bookstore on the same block. It’s an interesting store, though – I’ve never seen a used books and antique tools shop before!

Books and Tools

They were closed, which is probably fortunate. I really should stick to the library for now. Speaking of books, however, I am reading a book by a Wisconsin author, Michael Perry, titled “Population: 485.” It’s a non-fiction account of life in small town Wisconsin, and it’s filled with moments that remind me why I loved growing up in a town with less than 2,000 inhabitants. If you’d like a sense of his writing, check out his website, Sneezing Cow, and especially the Latest News. Then go buy the book, because it really is wonderful.

Dilemma

I received an interesting proposition today, but I’m not sure if I should pursue it. Big picture (repetive for all five of you who read this blog):

1. Lost my job. Want a new one. Last one paid pretty well for the area and my education level, unlikely that I’ll find another in that price range. Not sure I want to continue doing the same thing I was – office manager/accounting (without education).

2. Currently working assembling aluminum filters about 40 miles from home. Doing fairly well for a new person. Not sure how long the job will last (it’s temporary for the employer, not just me). Pays about 70% of the old job, no benefits, and I spend $10 – $12 per day in gas alone. I lose 2 hours a day in personal time. With fuel cost and personal time calculated, my time is valued at about half was I was getting before. REALLY don’t like the work – need some mental stimulation. And less pain.

3. New potential job offered that does not pay well at all, but is local, so fuel and additional personal time are minimal. The job is completely different from anything that I’ve done before. I’m nervous about trying something new, but intellectually I know that it would be healthy to try it. I need to shake myself up a bit. It’s for a company that interests me – even excites me. With fuel cost and personal time calculated, my time would be valued at slightly less than half what I was getting before, and about $.75 an hour less than the assembly job. However, with the potential of commissions for outside sales, it could increase slightly. Also, the manager suggested that I give it a try and if I found a great job, he’d understand that I need to move on. I could do that anyway, of course, but having that possibility addressed made me more comfortable.

4. Other potential job doing something completely off the wall for me, sales in a department store, probably doesn’t pay well but does offer benefits. Also local. Interestingly, she wouldn’t tell me exactly – or even generally – what it paid, so that makes me nervous. Would involve nights and weekends. Won’t know for two weeks.

So, what do I do? While the “time value” calculation is all well and good, I also have to consider the “actual value” of the job. While the assembly job entails extra time and cost for travel, I would have more in my check every two weeks. On the other hand, I have a fairly flexible living situation, and could get by on less money for a while, if necessary. I don’t want to push it, of course.

Arrrggghhh. I’m not sure. I think I want to try item 3, but I’m scared, but I’m excited, but I’m scared, but I have ideas, but… I need to talk to him early next week, set up an appointment to meet with him, that sort of thing. But I want to have a preliminary decision in mind before the actual meeting.

Not that I expect anyone to solve this for me, but it helps to clarify things in my mind.

Big weekend plans

This weekend is the Wisconsin Quilt Expo in Madison – actually, it started Thursday, but we’re spending the day there tomorrow. If anyone is within a reasonable drive of Madison, I highly recommend this show. This is only its fourth year, but they’re done a wonderful job organizing it. The vendor mall is 75,000 square feet – large enough that you can spend a full day, but not so large that you miss half of the vendors because you’re racing through the aisles to finish before they shut off the lights. They have very good food available – much better than the big show in Chicago. There’s the usual pretzels and hotdogs, but they also have several small carts with pastries, coffee, ice cream. Best of all, they have an affordable, nicely catered buffet with a variety of hot dishes, salads, and sandwiches.

Don’t forget about the classes! They have 3 hour sit and sew workshops for $30 (plus the pattern or book) where you can play with various machines and make cute, fast projects. For only $10 you can attend a one hour lecture on just about any subject imaginable. Their instructors include names you will recognize: Sharlene Jorgenson, Kaye Wood, Jennifer Chiaverini, Billie Lauter, Nancy Zieman and Eleanor Burns, to name just a few. The Expo runs through Sunday and they are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can find more info here:
http://www.wpt.org/quiltexpo/

For more details on the lectures and stage presentations, scroll down and click the 2008 Advance Registration Guide (PDF Format) link (or just click this link!).

And, if you’re going to be there be sure to check out my Neapolitan quilt at the Loose Threads booth!

In other news, is it weird that I’m competitive at my temporary assembly job? (Notice that I always preface it with “temporary”?!) I don’t want to continue any longer than I absolutely have to, although when I’m there and working on a larger job I can zone out and I don’t mind the work. My hands hurt, my back and feet hurt, and I still can’t get the grease off of my fingers, but I’m pleased when I get a job that I can do well. I check the baseline rate and try to beat it, and I’m all “woohoo!” when I do.

Family Stitch & Bitch

Once a month, members of my mom’s side of the family (plus a few guests) get together to quilt, eat and chat. Yesterday we had a small group, just Mom, Aunt Pat, Aunt Karen, and me. We always have a pastry of some sort, usually purchased, but I desperately wanted to bake so I made a Danish Puff. This is possibly the easiest “impressive” food I know. I have no photos, partly because I just don’t seem to be able to photograph food very well, and partly because it was halfway gone within 30 minutes of it coming out of the oven. I can share the recipe, however:

Danish Puff

Crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut butter into flour until crumbly, then sprinkle with water and toss with a fork until it forms a dough. Split in half and roll out into rounded ovals on a large cookie sheet. No need to grease the sheet – this doesn’t stick. You might want to flour your rolling pin well, though. Use your fingers to crimp up the edges just a bit.

Puff:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Combine butter and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the almond extract and flour. Stir over low heat for about a minute, making sure the flour is fully incorporated, until it forms a ball. Remove from heat and beat in eggs until smooth and glossy. Spread evenly over the crust, sealing it against the edges. Bake for 60 minutes, until puffed and golden. Let cool slightly before adding the icing. The puffs will sink in the middle and become slightly custardy.

Icing
1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons of butter, very soft
1-2 tablespoons warm water

Mix until smooth, then spread over the puffs.

We used to have this every Christmas morning when I was a kid. I LOVE this stuff. It’s incredibly good, especially considering that it basically has just five ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, almond extract and powdered sugar. I don’t count water as an ingredient, really. The problem with this stuff is that it makes a fair amount, and it’s too yummy for words, and it isn’t healthy AT ALL. I have no willpower when it comes to Danish Puff, and I ate more than my share yesterday. Bad Sandi refuses to apologize.

Then there was the sewing…

I planned to work on my string quilt, maybe finish it up even though the challenge is over. Would you believe I didn’t sew a single stitch? I helped the aunts make my Anxiety block, and I got caught up in EQ6, coloring and designing and showing them all sorts of possibilities. I took photos while they worked on the Anxiety blocks and I put together a tutorial. It’s just one block, but I think it’s an interesting one. Here’s my aunt Karen’s block:

Anxiety

Gorgeous, isn’t it? My aunt Pat’s is also beautiful, but neglectful me forgot to take a photo of her finished block. Grrr. I put the instructions together in a PDF for you, if you’re interested: Anxiety block tutorial

It looks complicated, but my mom and aunt Pat both had no trouble with it, and they both tend to stick with relatively straightforward patterns. The key is to cut everything very carefully. As long as your cuts are accurate, the block goes together very easily. Please let me know if you make the block – I’d like to see how it turns out.