Friday, August 28, 2009

The hamsters are loose again!

Remember that time when I talked about metaphors and the hamsters in my head? Well, this week the hamsters not only fell off the wheel that runs my brain, they started running around screaming, like they were on the Poseidon Adventure, looking for the exits in an upside-down cruise ship.

In one way, it's been a quiet week. TSU was out of town Monday through Wednesday, and Boy had marching band practice in the evenings, so I was home by myself for dinner, no arguing over the TV clicker. But today was also a crazy week: black belt workout on Tuesday, critique group on Wednesday, and a deadline for a piece quickly approaching. By Thursday, the hamsters had had enough. I was trying to figure out how to take Boy to pick up his sophomore schedule and get my weekly time volunteering at the shelter. I came home and realized I'd completely forgotten the vet appointment I set up for that morning ... and then I returned to my e-mail to discover that the deadline I thought was next Wednesday was actually this Wednesday, and my editor was politely asking when I thought I'd be finished with my assignment? I'd only just finished wading through the first 78 of 165 pages of electronic research on Wednesday, but I managed to work late yesterday and get most of the rest incorporated into the essay.

By now the hamsters wanted to collapse in a heap. But Boy informed me upon his return late last night that he was missing a class in his schedule, so he needed to return to the school and talk to the counselor, and TSU informed me I needed to get a cashier's check for our mortgage refinance that's happening tomorrow. At this point I think the hamsters started decomposing, judging from the nasty snarling that was all I could manage when Boy showed up late when I came to pick him up, but somehow I managed to get everything done. Now I can relax until Monday, when I start worrying about the next deadline.

So now I get to blow off steam on the blog, maybe revive the hamsters with a little mental sauna. My critique buddies were sharing some of the things they've heard at recent conferences, one of which was about an agent or editor who Googles anyone they're seriously thinking of working with; if she reads that person whining about the hard work of revision, she turns them down. If that should ever happen to me ... well, I can just hear the hamsters laughing about it right now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Quilt Files, Episode 13

... or, Theme and Variations in Primary Colors.

I think I've mentioned before how much I like to make baby quilts. They're small enough to assemble quickly, and machine quilting is a breeze (unlike the queen-sized quilt with which I'm currently wrestling). There are a couple of patterns I've used more than once, just because I like them so much. There is the "Stars and Moon" pattern, which I've used in both boy and girl versions, using cotton fabrics. And then there's this "Busy Baby" pattern for a play quilt, which I like to make using flannels. I've made this pattern at least five times; three with a maize 'n' blue theme (and each time I forgot to take a picture, so maybe that will be a future entry), and most recently with primary colors. It also features black and white fabrics, since high contrasts are supposed to be appealing to babies' undeveloped eyesight.

When I started the first of these two primary variations, I was running out of the blue and yellow fabrics I had bought for the Michigan variations. I had plenty of the black and white puppy dog print, which included blue, yellow, and red highlights, so I thought I would include some red flannels as well. After all, the original pattern called for black, white, yellow, and red. I had just switched out the red for a color I thought went more naturally with blue. It made for a balanced pattern: the center square had a black and white frame, and then I had two squares each with red, yellow, black, and white frames. I changed up a couple of the decorations, and put an "A" in the middle for baby Aaron.

When it came to the next quilt, you can see I swapped out the red frames for blue ones. It's a lot harder to find red flannels rather than blue ones, especially ones appropriate for babies. So this time I made the red a prominent accent color. I ran out of solid black flannel and didn't feel like running out to the fabric store in the middle of piecing, so I used a mix of small primaries for the border. I think this variation is a little brighter, a little more "Superman," which is great since it was intended for a family who are big movie fans. I added an "L" for Logan (I couldn't find the X-Men font, so I went with Blade Runner), which you might also see quilted in the center of the top left square. I picked up enough black flannel for the binding, and I had a quilt which was the same pattern, but looks a bit different.

I still have quite a few yellow, blue, black, and white scraps left, so I might make another variation on this pattern in the future. It's a fun mix of applique and patchwork, and I love hiding squeaky toys in the squishy square attachments. (Square 9 on the top quilt, square 6 on the bottom.) Hopefully it's just as fun for the babies as well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Photo of the Week--8/24/09

We just got back from a lovely extended weekend in Benzie County, Michigan (on Lake Michigan, west of Traverse City). It's a lovely area to explore by biking or hiking, and the weather was very interesting. Lots of sun, lots of clouds, lots of showers, lots of wind. Take your pick, we got it during our four-day stay. This is the lighthouse by the beach in Frankfort; although we walked out to it on first day there, watching kids jump off the breakwater and climb back up, on our last day there was no way anyone was going to be out in the water. Too much wind and waves to visit up close—but just enough to make for some great photos!