Monday, August 31, 2009

Insulated table runner for brother-in-law/sister-in-law

I pieced this table runner for Wayne and Roseann's anniversary which is in September. I used Thinsulate as the batting, so they can put hot plates on it without worries.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Things I Have Learned From Watching The Tudors

  1. It is always sunny and warm in England.
  2. All English people are gorgeous.
  3. In the 1500s, Velcro must have already been invented, because people's clothes came off with amazing ease and speed.
  4. Nobody in 1500s England was ever hungry, nor did any of them do a lick of work in their lives.
  5. All English artists and musicians are gay. Or at least bisexual.
  6. In the 1500s, people could teleport from one location to another, crossing continents at the summons of their king, cardinal or Pope in a matter of moments.
Stay tuned. I'm only beginning on Season 2 and I'm sure I will learn much, much more.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On account of I needed cheering up, real bad:

Here's a little Improv Everywhere for you. Imagine thinking you were quietly going to get married at the city clerk's office and having a bunch of fake friends descend on you! With presents!

Thirteen years that passed in a moment.

Thirteen years ago, our Britta headed off to her first day of kindergarten. She was so excited! Look at that grin. She was all squeaky clean, with her crisp new bought-a-little-big clothes and her spotless white tennies. When I look very closely at her face, though, not only do I see the joy of finally getting to go to school, but I also see a little bit of fear. It was a big, scary world out there, full of new stuff.

Today was freshman move-in day at Viterbo. Here is our Britta getting settled into her desk at college. If she is afraid, she hid it from her mommy.

They accepted a lot of freshmen this year so rooms that are supposed to hold just 2 are holding 3. Here are Britta, her dad, one roommate Erica, and Erica's parents, trying to figure out how to arrange the furniture so that everyone can breathe.

This is where German blood comes in handy: You can make anything fit if you have a tape measure and a notebook.

They ended up with it set up quite nicely, with the stacked-up beds in the center of the room, effectively creating more wall space, and allowing everybody a little privacy. In fact, other people began tramping through to see how they had done it and to emulate them.

I don't have any pictures of the third roommate, Anna, because she did not arrive with her parents until quite late. The other two did a good job, I thought, of making sure to leave her her fair share of what little space there was. I'm not sure she agreed. Anyway her parents seem nice enough. I'm sure it was just a stressful day for her. (See me trying to see the best in everybody here?)

Here is Britta's minifridge from her grandparents Root, stocked with Dr. Pepper.

I'm home now and a little melancholy. Thirteen years... Has it really gone so fast?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Houston County Fair

Here is Barry's entry in the home brewed beer class: A Belgian strong ale. (Edited to add: The beer is very clear, that's just condensation on the glass.)

And here is my entry in the Aprons category. There are two subcategories, work aprons and fancy aprons. I put this one in the Work Aprons category. I got a nice compliment from the superintendent of Needle Arts on the workmanship, which means a lot. It's very simple, just gorgeous fabric, and I let the fabric speak rather than fussying it up much as is usually my wont.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Going to the Auction in Style

Today there was an estate auction about a block from my house. The bulk of the estate was an old automotive garage which had been in business since the 1930s. Before that, the building was a smithy, and there was still a lot of the blacksmith stuff there too. It was an interesting crowd, lots of old car people. I stuck my head in a couple of times and listened to the real estate part of it to see who bought the 3 parcels of land that were sold, but other than that I was quite restrained. You should be proud of me.

Someone drove to the auction in style in this Ford Model A pickup. I hope he found the parts he needs to keep this little sweetie running.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

She did.

Freak, that is.

Shingles, even!

What a great dad. :o)

She is just going to freak when she gets home from school today!

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Day of School, 2009-2010

Oops. K told me specifically NOT to post anything "corny" about it being the first day of school. Ummm, not sure what I AM supposed to write. Anyway it's too late.

It was not an auspicious start. Neither of their alarms went off, and then K had a major (as in, major for a high school sophomore) catastrophe of not being able to find his handmade hemp necklace. He nearly missed the bus, too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday's Apron: A Little Yellow Gingham Apron for E

I made this child-sized apron out of a piece of yellow gingham plaid that I had in my stash, plus some vintage yellow rick-rack that my mother had given me a long time ago. I have been happily drawing on Mom's stash of vintage rick-rack for several years now -- it's so much fun! This little apron with pocket was a gift for my niece, E. The family got to see her last month and hand delivered it to her.

I used an inset of rickrack to hold the body of the apron to the hem section. It looks like perforated paper but should be sturdy enough for a little girl to wear to play. My niece is a great one for pretending.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Finished by Friday: Tablecloth Dress

I had this wild cotton printed tablecloth/bedspread thing from India, complete with elephants, and decided it needed to be a big, full skirt. I really wanted it to be a dress, though. I ended up cutting the skirt pieces first, then using the scraps to make the halter top (using Amy Butler's Cabo Halter pattern). It wasn't ideal; the scraps were rather skimpy, and some things that should have been cut on the straight grain are cut cross grain, and I had to use plain black cotton for the lining and back panels, but I like the outfit. The skirt is not hemmed yet. Since it's cut on the bias, it needs to hang for awhile, and I decided to hang it on myself rather than a dress form or hanger. More fun that way.

I really, really thought I was smiling in this picture. Turns out I was just squinting. I'm not really in a rotten mood, it just looks like it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Black hollyhocks, a.k.a. purple hollyhocks

I always think of these as black hollyhocks, but in truth they are just deep purple. They are lovely, anyway. Do you want some seeds? Email me at maria dot stahl at gmail dot com and I'll send you some.

Counting Trees in New Albin

(Can you tell work is slow this morning? I'm catching up on all the blogging I had been meaning to do for the past 3-4 weeks.)

A few weeks ago, I spotted a stranger in my lawn, staring at our trees and then making notes on a clipboard. I of course had to find out what on earth he was up to. Turns out that he was with the State of Iowa, which, in an uncharacteristic fit of proactivity, had decided to make a survey of all the trees within city limits of many, if not most or all, of Iowa's towns, so that they would have an idea what and how many trees are likely to need replacing in the next few years due to pests. We are facing an imminent invasion of gypsy moths and emerald ash borers in Iowa, and while the state is gearing up to fight them, it's also planning on contingencies like how to re-tree our state when the pests make their mark. For example, he was counting up ash, oak, maple, locust and other trees in New Albin so that the city would know that, say, 30% of the trees that it is responsible for are ashes that may need to be removed and replaced in the next 10 years. That's a totally made-up number, by the way. He pointed out that our big ol' ugly ash tree, which we already know is a problem because it's all tangled up with the power lines, is actually the city's tree, not ours, as it is on the verge between the street and our sidewalk. He said we should be happy about that one because it would be a very expensive removal.

I walked around with him and talked about our trees for awhile. I pointed out our little red oak that my daughter brought home from school on Arbor Day five years ago. When it came to us it was about the size of a pencil. It's now probably 9-10 feet tall and very healthy. He complimented it. I like anybody who likes trees. :o) This was a very nice man.

He told me about how the DNR gets early warning that an area has been infested with emerald ash borers: They go to some place where there is a lot of public coming and going, like a state campground, and they find a young ash tree and girdle it in springtime. Basically they would throw this little tree into a state of stress. Emerald ash borers go straight for distressed, weakened trees and do their thing, so if there are any ash borers in the area, they will find this poor little tree. In fall, the tree would be cut down and checked to see if there were any signs of ash borers under the bark. If there aren't, then it's a safe bet that the area is clear, so far, of ash borers.

I got the man to pose for these pictures with Ugly Old Ash Tree when I told him I wanted to blog him. He said the more the word gets out, the better.

Baby Bunnies

Master K was working on one of his mowing jobs here in town when he mowed right over a rabbit's nest and scared himself badly until he realized that all the baby rabbits were okay. It was close, though; they were outgrowing the nest and their little ears were awfully close to the blades, and if they hadn't been being good little bunnies and obeying their mama and holding very, very still, it would have been tragic. There are three bunnies in the photos, though they are very well camouflaged. That's K's hand in the second photo so you can get some scale.

The lady whose lawn it was wanted K to take the bunnies somewhere (anywhere) else, but I wouldn't let him make pets out of them, and we decided to just pray for them and leave them there.

Pie cherries!

I love pie cherries! There's nothing like them. I find them delicious just as they are, and of course in pie, and crisp, or jam. Pretty much there is no way that I don't like pie cherries. The last time I picked them myself was the year before Lil Miss A was born, out in Door County with my sister-in-law Vania. I had no idea that there were sour cherries to be had less than an hour's drive from right here in New Albin, until our friend Sara tipped us off that she had found them in Gay's Mills and Richland Center, Wisconsin.

So last weekend, Lil Miss A and I grabbed our empty ice cream buckets and headed out bright and early to Kickapoo Orchard just outside of Gay's Mills. We were almost too late; nearly all the cherries had been picked. But we still easily picked about 25 pounds in less than 2 hours. Plus all the cherries I ate on the spot. Which was a lot. It was just a lovely day, very breezy with clouds scudding by and looking like they wanted to be a storm but hadn't quite made up their minds yet to get organized. It's also a lovely orchard, built on rather dramatic hillsides with astounding views. Nobody else was picking that day, just me and my little girl, so there we were all by ourselves, enjoying the day. Lil Miss A tasted one sour cherry and that was it for her; she said she'd wait for the cherry crisp at home. She was quite a good little worker! I picked the high ones and she picked the low ones.

I spent most of the rest of the day washing, pitting and freezing cherries, making one big cherry crisp, and then of course wiping up sticky cherry juice from every surface. I want to do this again next year!

I also bought a quart of cherry juice concentrate at the orchard. This is sour cherry concentrate, now, not Bing, so it's very, very tart. I think it's just delicious, but nobody else in the family agrees, so I can drink it to my heart's content. Tart cherry juice is supposed to be full of good stuff like antioxidants and some people swear by it for chronic arthritis pain. I just think it's tasty.

Broken dryer, broken washer - and some recommendations

Our Maytag Performa is about 7 years old, well out of the warranty period and has worked fine through rather heavy use by our family of 5. Just recently it has learned a new trick, however: It won't stop spinning. And since everybody in the family does laundry, it has run for hours, literally, without the right person happening to notice and check on their laundry. It has only done this on the delicate cycle, so far.

Trying to head off having to buy a new washer, I did some googling and found I typed in my question and accepted the category that it had already selected for me based on my Google search (appliance problems). The site asked me how much I would be willing to pay for a good answer to my question. Possibilities were $14, $24 or $35. I went with the default of $24. It ran my credit card for that amount as a deposit. Then it threw my question out into its pool of expert answerers. I'm not kidding, less than 3 minutes later I had an answer from an appliance repairman with over 20 years' work experience. He told me what part I could replace to fix the problem - and also told me that I could just not use the delicate cycle anymore. Knowing that I don't have to buy a new washing machine - and indeed that fixing the problem is not even critical - was worth $24 to me, easy!

Now this caused a very short-lived crisis of conscience for me. You see, early this summer, our dryer (much older, a Kenmore that we bought at a garage sale and from which we have certainly gotten our money's worth of work) quit working. K opened the door to check the clothes that were in it and when he closed the door again, it failed to turn on. I checked with a website I already knew about: Dave Harnish is a rather remarkable man: He's a very experienced appliance repair person whose philosophy can be summed up by the Emerson quote on the bottom of his web pages: "Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." He also likes old appliances and sees no point in chucking them into landfills when a few tweaks will get them running again, saving the purchase of a big shiny new one that probably won't hold up anywhere nearly as well. I "met" Dave when I was researching Sunbeam Mixmasters. He's a fan of vintage Mixmasters, and we chatted back and forth about those. I signed up for his newsletter in which he passes on advice about appliance maintenance and how to choose a good machine to last.

Anyway, back to the dryer: I dropped Dave an email and he immediately replied, telling me that it was one of two things. It turned out to be the first: Something had happened to the door switch. That's all! Such a simple thing. Evidently it had gotten bent a little. Barry bent it back and poof, a working dryer. That was in May, I believe.

I just now sent Dave $24 by PayPal. I had never paid him for his help (and he had not asked), but if I was willing to pay a stranger $24 to give me advice on my washing machine, I thought it was the least I could do! Dave also carries the part that my Maytag needs if and when we decide to really fix it and start washing delicate clothes again. My conscience is (temporarily) clear.