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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Who knew there were so many obsessed quilters?

I have finished my two quilts and don't plan to start another one until I need to do some more self-medicating. Hannah's working on her first. I thought she'd enjoy seeing these statistics.

The Quilting in America 2010 survey of 20,000 households in 2010 found:
  • 14% of US households (16.38 million) are home to at least once active quilter.
  • Total quilters in the US now exceeds 21 million
  • Estimated total dollar value of the quilting industry: $3.58 billion

2,500 "Dedicated Quilters" (households that spend more than $600 per year on quilting-related purchases) were also questioned in depth. It turns out they
  • Spend on average $2442 per year on quilting
  • Own $3677 worth of fabric
  • Own an average of 2.7 sewing machines (25% own more than 4 machines)
  • Have, in the past 12 months, each purchased an average of 93.6 yards of fabric
  • Spend an average 2 hours per week on quilting websites.

According to this 2010 survey, despite the recession quilters' spending has increased by 9% since the release of the 2006 survey results.

Monday, July 26, 2010

[Hannah]: One of my favorite time waster blogs lately...

... is Catalog Living, which points out how ridiculous home decor catalogs have become. In their efforts to fill every corner of a room with photogenic (color coordinated, yet artfully mismatched) objects, catalog photographers come up with some very peculiar scenes.

I was just admiring this photo last week, I think it's in Pottery Barn. Catalog Living sayeth:

Gary has no idea what exactly Elaine does in the shower every day, but he certainly knows better than to touch her wooden shower spoon or shower branch.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

[Hannah] West Coast Quilt

I started a Kaleidoscope quilt. I have done 8 squares out of 80 now. i want to do more today but my hand hurts! I need to take the day off!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Finally finished: my "Storm at Sea" quilt is quilted

This is the second of the two quilts I hand-pieced while my son was getting graduated from Wesleyan University and my daughter was getting married.

It took way longer to hand-quilt them than it did to sew them in the first place, and I finally gave up and used the machine to put the borders on. But in the middle, every single stitch was by hand - there were many hours of watching Univision telenovelas while stitching up and down and up and down...

Now I can get back to some of my other enthusiasms (like today's workshop on giant puppet making at the Hillsborough Arts Council).


Friday, July 23, 2010

Giant puppet workshop tomorrow!

It's time for giant puppet workshops again, leading up to the Homemade Parade in Hillsborough. They are working on a Peter Minshall theme this time. I want to make these:


More on Latin as a common language for the EU

Here's my original post from 2006 - below it, a delightful comment "Andy" from Northern Europe just sent this morning.

Extracts from
EU Could Revive Latin as a Working Language
By Jonathan Luxmoore, August 29, 2006

The Vatican's daily newspaper has called for Latin to be made the official working language of the European Union, after attempts by the new Finnish presidency to promote its use in EU departments.

A Latin-language news programme, Nuntii Latini, has been broadcast weekly for the past decade by YLE, Finland’s equivalent to the BBC, making the ancient Roman language "potentially contemporary."

Latin formulations have been found for numerous modern phenomena, such autocinetica (motorway), supervenalicium (supermarket), fullonica electrica (washing machine) and pilae coriaceae lusor (soccer star).

The Finnish government set up a weekly news summary in Latin when it first assumed the EU’s rotating presidency in 1999, and has repeated the service, alongside English, French and Swedish.

Classics scholars have insisted use of the language would "turn EU jargon into poetry". As examples, they said the Common Agricultural Policy could be rendered as "Ratio communis agros colendi" ("common scheme for cultivating the fields"), while the EU's Acquis Communautaire, or body of laws and regulations, could be Latinised as "Corpus legum institutorumque iuris Europaei."

"Latin isn't dead – it’s still very much in use in different forms across the world today. After all, Italians, French and Spaniards all speak a new form of Latin."

Several Italian newspapers have backed the L’Osservatore Romano proposal, while noting that Finland itself was never part of the Roman Empire.

Here's Andy's response:

Resurrecting the Roman Empire...

How hard can it be? What needs to be done are five sequential things:
  1. An EU directive mandating all schools to teach all children across the union Latin as first foreign language at the age of seven for historical reasons (before English and French).

  2. EU-fund and promote free Pan-European pop TV and pop Music channels in Latin, where modern American movies are dubbed and subtitled to Latin.

  3. Establish Latin as one of the official languages of the Union.

  4. Just wait 20 years and by that time those kids will eventually start speaking Latin to each other - referencing the films and the music - and their ancient and historical European bonds.

    In time all 25 local languages (English, German, French, Spanish...) will turn into second languages of the Union - the first being Latin

  5. Create a proper Federal sovereign EU-state and move all those EU-institutions from cold Brussels to the Eternal City, to ROME, where they belong - and rebrand the Union as the Old Republic and incorporate the ancient symbols.

*WOW*. It would just be so way out cool *smile*. /Andy from northern Europe.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quote of the day, from Pablo Casals.

I'm enjoying The Brain that Changes Itself, a study of neuroplasticity - well I liked all of it except the chapter on psychoanalysis, which I considered self-serving poppycock.

I especially liked this, it makes my heart sing:

When Pablo Casals, the cellist, was ninety-one years old, he was approached by a student who asked, "Master, why do you continue to practice?"

Casals replied: "Because I am making progress."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Is it true that "There's always room for one more"?

That old saw reminds me of one of my dad's favorite "jokes" about the farmer who lifted the calf every day as it grew so he could still do it when it was a full-grown bull. I never understood how this was a "joke." Maybe it made more sense in its original language (Pennsylvania Dutch).

My eventual conclusion: the farmer lifts the calf every day until one day he says: "I could still lift that calf - but I don't feel like it today."

Anyway, my son is living here with me for the time being and I have also happily taken in a very welcome long-term house guest. I want her to feel welcome so I'm trying to remove all the stuff that's crept into the room where she's staying in the years since Hannah left home.

My eventual conclusion: this house is like a super-saturated solution. There is stuff everywhere. When my houseguest adds her stuff, other stuff has to crystallize out.

So I've been shipping stuff out - to recycling, to Goodwill, to the trash. I've been moving shelves around and scowling at my possessions: why are there so many of them?

I've been reading about clutter control. One suggestion: pretend it's somebody ELSE'S stuff. Would I still really want 1,200 used file folders if they belonged to somebody else?

Actually a lot of them DID belong to somebody else. I helped an octogenarian friend de-clutter so she could move from a big house where she'd lived for decades to a small apartment in a retirement community. It was easier for her to part with her old file folders when I said I'd take them home. So now I have all my old ones AND all her old ones. Tomorrow, they're going OUT.

I am also using a new rubric: if it annoys me, I'm throwing it out. Some cookbooks with too much caked-on batter and sesame oil stains went out the door today. And a huge pile of LP liner notes with song lyrics, a pile I've had since long before there was - google. Out they go.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My newest hack: a tv swivel arm extension extension

home-made extension arm to add to a purchased tv swivel armHah, I am amused by this. My giant old tv blew up and died when a lightning bolt struck nearby; I got a 26" flat-screen and made this plywood extra arm to mount a cheap swing arm (rated for twice the weight of my tv, but with arms too short to handle it). I wrote about how I made it on a Make your own tv swivel arm extender squidoo lens.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Demonic pig presides.

I fiddled for a couple hours at somebody's family reunion tonight and was enchanted by this frightening pig. Another in a series of strange BBQ images.

Blueberry sour cream muffins

I invented this recipe!

3/4 stick unsalted butter
5/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
2 cups blueberries

Preheat to 350 degrees. Melt butter, use mixer and whip in the sugar, egg yolks, sour cream, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Beat egg whites stiff and fold into wet mixture along with flour. Add blueberries. Cook for about 15-20 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

Staying in homes when you travel.

The first time I went to Paris to study Yiddish I found an apartment on CraigsList and it was wonderful. The second time, three years later, I found CraigsList crawling with scams and real estate agents. Luckily, the apartment I had found the first time was available for part of my stay. CraigsList has really gotten creepy.

I signed up for Couchsurfing and have hosted a few times but never succeeded in finding a "couch" when I wanted to travel.

These sound like good alternatives.

Extracts from
Europe Without Hotels
by Benji Lanyado for the New York Times, July 12, 2010

Social networking first significantly influenced the world of travel in 1999 with the start of Couchsurfing, a service in which members offer a spare couch — or bed, or floor space — to fellow Couchsurfers, at no charge. It spawned a social phenomenon, and today counts almost two million people in 238 countries as members.

Social B&B networks are a natural next step, imposing an important distinction: money. The new sites appeal to a traveler's desire to see a city through local eyes (and from the vantage point of a resident's home), but add a hedge against disaster: with Couchsurfing you get what's given (it's free, after all), while sites like AirBnB generally provide detailed descriptions of the private rooms or apartments available for rent, along with protections if things go wrong.

... I decided to test-drive a few of these new social B&Bs in a three-stop trip through Europe this spring. I began at home, in London. I decided to use CRASHPADDER.COM, a two-year-old British-based site covering 59 countries, with a particularly strong selection of peer-to-peer listings in the city. You're lucky to get a London hotel for less than £100 (about $143) a night, but on the first page of my Crashpadder search results, I saw beds going for £21. In northern cities like Manchester or Leeds there were beds for under £10.

To book one, I first had to create a short profile of myself. Unlike traditional hotel booking services, these sites rely on social networking, and everyone is encouraged to have a face and a little back story. I rewrote my entry three times before settling on: "Hello there. I am a 26-year-old from London. I like Chinese food and early '90s Italian football shirts."

Once you've found your room on Crashpadder, you can interact with the host through the internal messaging system and ask any questions you might have. (Do I need to bring towels? Do you have cats?) Hosts can ask for the money either up front or upon arrival.

Founded in 2008, Crashpadder hasn't expanded as much as AirBnB (in early July it had listings in 898 cities compared with AirBnB's 5,378). I had a feeling that prices were somewhat scattershot, freed from the self-regulating bonds of a more mature marketplace. At my next stop, I wanted more.

The next morning I caught a train to Paris, where my social B&B was booked through AIRBNB.COM. The site, which is based in San Francisco, ... started operating in 2007. In Paris, AirBnB has places in every arrondissement, including $13-a-night rooms in the western suburbs and $285-a-night houseboats on the Seine.

As the first Web site of its kind to grab the headlines, the system has already developed a large and loyal user base. Some properties have as many as 70 user-generated reviews, which give paying guests a greater sense of confidence. It is similar to how eBay works: you're more likely to buy from an eBay seller with good feedback.

For the final stop I found [an apartment] through ISTOPOVER.COM, a year-old site based in Toronto that specializes in providing housing during large events like the World Cup and the Olympics, when visitor demand outstrips the supply of traditional hotels and B&Bs. [Guests provide hosts] the code that allows them to collect my payment from iStopOver. That's one of the safeguards that iStopOver offers to guests. If a listing turns out to be fraudulent or misstated, you can refuse to give the owner the code, and the fee is refunded in full.

Other services offer similar protections: AirBnB withholds a host's payment until 24 hours after guests check into an accommodation in order to fend off potential scammers, and Crashpadder uses credit card payments to verify guest identities (though it says it will monitor but not otherwise involve itself in any disputes).

Friday, July 16, 2010

[Hannah] File in: Simple Solutions to Complex Problems

cross-reference to: "simplify your life"

via Lifehacker

Jethro and Superman get a pedicure

I meant to take pictures when the farrier came at 6:30 this morning, but he was late and I got talking to my houseguest and by the time I realized his truck was in the driveway, he was finished! No pictures!

Horses and donkeys have the same problem with their hooves that we have with our fingernails: they get too long. Every 6-8 weeks you're supposed to have the farrier out to trim their nails.

The farrier who came out when Jethro was new here FIRED him because he tried to kick her. She tossed me a rasp and said: "You do it from now on." !!

So I have. It's not easy work. Donkey hooves are big and tough. I try to do it when the weather has been wet. Filing them is hard work...

... and it's been so hot and dry this summer I've put it off until it was too much for me to handle.

Well, Greg Brittenham is a great farrier as far as I can see. He had no trouble with my critters (I'd tied them up in advance and given them their breakfast so they ate throughout the operation)...

... so I made the momentous decision to get on his rotation. I feel a little guilty hiring this work out when I can do it myself, but I have the same relief I felt years ago when I decided not to do my own oil changes any more.

Besides, why wouldn't I want to support a purveyor of such an arcane service?

Next time I'll try to get pictures.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Come see us play tomorrow 7-9 at Southern Village

Pratie Heads playing on the village green starting 7 pm, free.

More on the brilliant, maddening Eastern Gray Squirrel

At the moment I am raising a bumper crop of squirrels and it's my hens' fault. The hens yell and cluck and nag me and bang on the door with their beaks demanding breakfast, but then they only eat a little bit of what I fling for them and then go off to find their own. The left-over chicken feed is feeding dozens of squirrels. Squirrels are 100,000,000 times smarter than chickens so there's no way to deter them.

In 2007 I wrote about trapping three dozen squirrels before Ezra guilt-tripped me into quitting. Now even he admits we have too many.

But how can I trap them? In what way is a peanut-butter cracker inside a trap better than chicken food lying around free for the taking?

One day a genius squirrel learned to climb up the screen door, sit on a little bit of level real estate on top of the light next to the door, and launch herself 11 feet in a perfectly horizontal trajectory to land in this bird feeder. I took down the light fixture but it was too late, she had cracked the code and soon others followed her example. I had to export the most brilliant squirrels to other locations in Orange County so they wouldn't teach their trick to the masses.

Then there was Squirrel Fishing: A new approach to rodent performance evaluation

Now this.

Extracts from
Nut? What Nut? The Squirrel Outwits to Survive
By Natalie Angier for the New York Times, July 5, 2010

Squirrels can leap a span 10 times the length of their body ... rotate their ankles 180 degrees, and so keep a grip while climbing no matter which way they’re facing. Squirrels can learn by watching others ... a squirrel waited on the grass near a crosswalk until people began to cross the street ... “and then it crossed the street behind them.”

In the acuity of their visual system, the sensitivity and deftness with which they can manipulate objects, their sociability, chattiness and willingness to deceive, squirrels turn out to be surprisingly similar to primates. They nest communally as multigenerational, matrilineal clans, and at the end of a hard day’s forage, they greet each other with a mutual nuzzling of cheek and lip glands that looks decidedly like a kiss... a squirrel’s peripheral vision is as sharp as its focal eyesight, which means it can see what’s above and beside it without moving its head.

Squirrels ... gather acorns and other nuts, assess which are in danger of germinating and using up stored nutrients, remove the offending tree embryos with a few quick slices of their incisors, and then cache the sterilized treasure for later consumption, one seed per inch-deep hole.

But the squirrels don’t just bury an acorn and come back in winter. They bury the seed, dig it up shortly afterward, rebury it elsewhere, dig it up again... as many as five times...

The squirrels recache to deter theft, lest another squirrel spy the burial ... when squirrels are certain that they are being watched, they will actively seek to deceive the would-be thieves. They’ll dig a hole, pretend to push an acorn in, and then cover it over, all the while keeping the prized seed hidden in their mouth.

Friday, July 09, 2010

[Hannah]: how (and why) to make pickled onions

My new husband the Urban Caballero/Companionable Atheist and I are trying to improve our home cooking. One of our big problems is that restaurant food is more flavorful than most of the food we make at home. Well, we know why this is, mostly: restaurants use more butter and oil. To compensate, we've started buying a lot of spice mixes to give ourselves more options for flavoring stuff. That said, our default strategies are still the following:

1) add more salt and pepper
2) add more lemon juice
3) add cumin
4) add raisins or craisins.
5) cook it in beef stock or chicken stock
6) toast the grains in the pan before you add liquid and cook them
7) add soy sauce (don't do this if you've already added raisins or craisins or if it's already salty)
8) add capers (again, not with the raisins, please)

This can get you a long way, but one of these days you might find yourself tired of cumin and raisins.

We also get a long way with this option:

9) add zhug

Now I've come up with another excellent topping, home made and it lasts a few weeks:

Pickled red onions. Steps:

1) cut 2 red onions into thin slices
2) heat in a saucepan to boiling: 2 cups white vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, some cloves, a bay leaf, chili flakes
3) add onions
4) cook for 2 minutes
5) cool
6) pour into nonreactive container (we used a glass jar), put in fridge

These are pretty much great on everything (eggs, burgers, meat, rice dishes...). this week I've been eating them out of the jar with a fork.

Any other ideas - your go-to spices to make things interesting?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Toolbar metastasis

Monday, July 05, 2010

Two sculptures featured at the Festival for the Eno

The Pratie Heads played at the Festival for the Eno yesterday and I saw these two excellent sculptures.


Whirligig quilt finished

I asked Ezra to hold the quilt up outside so I could get a picture of it but he said "I have to see if it works first," and this was the result.

UPDATE: Three hours later he got back on his feet and I was able to take this picture. It was all hand-pieced (needle and thread) and hand-quilted.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

No wonder my mother drank.

I think I'll be back here soon.

The crazy month which started so wonderfully with Ezra's graduation and Hannah's wedding ...

... ended with a crash when I had to go to Orange County Superior Court - my crazy addled bitter old neighbor was suing me for $10,000 plus damages because she claimed the deer fence I erected on my own property was within 50 feet of our mutual property line and that violated a document I signed...

... Well, yes, it was. I don't have to pay her any money but I do have to move the fence, and while I'm at it I decided to make a new playground for Jethro and Superman...

... so since June 28 I've rented the wonderful "Little Beaver Posthole Digger" and had Paco and Efron dig 74 postholes (last time I did them myself in 95 degree weather and ended up in the hospital, a story for another day). I set about 30 posts myself and they set the rest and Paco nailed up the rails...

... now I need to build the new gates and actually move the deerfence onto the new poles...

... and I'm also trying to finish hand-quilting the wedding quilt...

... but today I'm playing at the Festival for the Eno so all these activities will stop for a bit...

... THEN I should have time to blog again.