The Bumbling Thumb

Company’s Coming!
Sept. 7, 2011

The ideas flow. The energy moves into “go, man, go.” I must be ready. My son is coming home to visit. He wants old fashion macaroni and cheese – the way I make it. And I have to have lots of cookies. Let’s see … chocolate chips cookies, oatmeal cookies, double chocolate cookies, maybe some Snicker doodles or Ranger cookies. I am ready to cook up a storm for all of one person coming to visit an old folks home. When he leaves the old folks will have desserts and dishes to last for a long time. Just one benefit when we know company’s coming!

Who needs this picture anyway?
August 17, 2011

Daughter saw a framed cross stitch. Bought it for me. Her husband saw no reason to purchase it. The thing had another child’s name on it.

She suggested I change the name to her daughter’s name.

I began looking for cross stitch alphabet patterns. Pulled out all my magazines and books, including the cardboard box filled with magazines.

The pages felt damp.

The pages smelled moldy.

The box had mold on the bottom.

I said, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Houston (okay my husband) checked.

The valve in the bathroom had a slight leak.

He fixed it and we are drying out.

All because my daughter bought that framed cross stitch.

Even if I never do the suggested cross stitch project, I am mighty glad she bought it. Saved us a major problem.

Enough sewing machines
August 12, 2011

Thanks, but no thanks, I don’t want or need another sewing machine. Really, I already have four. I’m not as overstocked as the woman with eight working machines who sews everything by hand, but still …

For decades, I had just the one my mother gave me when I graduated from high school. It sewed a straight line, zig-zagged and made button holes and set zippers. Then I saw its sister at a yard sale for $10 and I did not resist.

Within months my experienced machine broke down permanently.
The replacement worked, but, it did not look pretty. which explains my purchasing the working machine in a slightly flawed cabinet for $10. It worked like a dream but the flaw bothered me. I got rid of it.

I found a new-ish machine at a rummage sale for not too much. I said I didn’t need it as I wrote the check. Eventually I gave it to my son’s wife.

That new-ish machine triggered a request to have a new, store bought machine as my one gift for all occasions one year. Works just great – so why did I also purchase two more portable machines at yard sales last year?

Both needed parts to make the pedal work. After inexpensive fixes, both sew like a dream. The fastest is the classic machine for quilters. I swapped it with an avid quilter for the promise of a quilt or two in exchange.

The other’s small size and quaint looks simply amuse me. I should decorate with the thing.

Then, late one night, without a rational thought in my head, I made an impulsive bid of another machine on E-bay and won. So I have four machines.

For a couple hours one day I had five – but only because I bought that cute, newish, portable machine for my daughter.

So I’m not looking at sewing machines at any more yard sales, garage sales, stores or shops … anywhere … unless I see one …
Nope. I’m not looking.

The bargain
July 29, 2011

Briefly. Daughter in new house wanted over the stove micro-wave, but wanted a good price.

Found one at the Habitat Restore in Hot Springs while there for a conference anyway. It popped popcorn in 3 minutes. Bought it at GREAT price. Brought it home – then realized we had not picked up the essential bracket for mounting it.

Another trip to Hot Springs. Another few gallons of gas. Not such a great price including extra trip. But it works great and still half the price of off the floor purchase.

Finding quilts for the orphans
July 28, 2011

The orphans needed our attention. They had gathered in ones or twos. A couple times, several had come in all at once. We were more than overdue to find them homes – as quilts.

These orphans are spare quilt blocks looking for a quilt. Quilters with a bit of creative flair find original ways to combine the blocks into a pleasing whole. A few came with enough siblings to make fantastic quilts they just needed someone to sews them together. And then there are The Others. In time they will join forces to become an original patchwork quilt.

The Night Owl Quilting Guild held a Fourth Tuesday sewing at M&M Quilting shop and began sorting the pile of quilt blocks. First we sorted by colors. Pastels … oh but look at this darling tiny baby quilt with these precious little pastel blocks set in white. Wouldn’t they match with these slightly larger blocks done in pastel and those over there would fit in … and so a good many blocks found a seamstress.

The patriotic red, white and blue blocks and scraps of cloth left in another pile. A collection of little bitty triangles sewn into larger triangles went off together for another sewing party.

Left-over blocks from a sunflower quilt intrigued a third woman, especially with the addition of a sunflower patterned fabric.

I took home a collection of hand sewn blocks for a kid’s quilt with large blocks of bugs framed with red, purple and lime green colored fabric. I thought about taking it all apart. The stitches missed the straight line and were more basting than sewing a seam. I decided to reinforce and add interest using the embroidery stitches on my machine while using up the odds and ends of thread that I have.

By the time I am done, this orphan may look mighty rich … or it may look like it got stuck with an aging aunt with no sense of what the cool kids wear these days. We’ll see.

Do it, learn it, quilt it.
July 18, 2011

The technique used to make these blocks seems like magic for beginners like me.

I can read all the quilting magazines I want – and I did pick up some old issues at a thrift store during our recent vacation.

I can attend all the classes I want about quilts – and I have heard a few.

I can collect all the patterns my house will hold – and I do have a few.

But, ultimately the only way to learn about quilting is to DO IT.
And my sister has a head start on techniques, so when we met in July we had three solid days of quilting. We both came with ideas we wanted to share and learn. I had a technique that produces a 12-inch square from two smaller squares. She wanted to try stack-and-whack with quarters and had another quilt that she wanted my input for ideas on sampler blocks.

Her challenge quilt originated with a Greek and Egyptian patterned piece of fabric. I suggested a couple of sample squares to use and she searched her books and patterns for other ideas that allowed her to use her new triangle template.

The Egyptian print fabric needed some rich colors and sampler blocks.

We both tried the whack-and-stack with four quarters and discovered the intensity of the print of the original pattern makes a difference.

My attempt resulted in square spider webs because the fabric had a parallel lines and few figures.

Hers resulted in soft color clusters that became lost in muted border fabrics. We re-grouped the similar blocks to emphasize the difference and both learned to choose strong colors on densely printed fabric.

A large print framed with a collage of smaller square blocks

We made mistakes. We learned new techniques. We shared our ideas with a couple other quilters.

… And, we made quilt tops for her church’s outreach ministry.
Individuals donate all of the fabric from their unwanted or excess fabric. That is the challenge: To make coordinated quilts.

Fortunately most of the quilts are baby quilts. The rest are twin-full.

The pictures: The blue and red diagonal blocks originally were 10 inch squares sewn together and cut three times and then re-sewn.

The orange and green with framed flower pictures was my sister’s finished quilt. She had enough left-over blocks to begin another quilt. She opted to try a four patch whack-and-stack. We had to re-group them to make the color pop.

I tried a pastel whack-and-stack that became the secondary fabric once I added it to the funny frogs with brilliant pink background.

Looking at the finished quilt, I think I would have used the limited green and pink sashing a bit differently, but it serves its purpose and I enjoyed the experience.

The blue and red blocks are called Anita’s Arrowheads  by Anita Grossman Solomon.  It is in Quiltmaker Magazine  Nov/Dec ’10.   She has a website: Make It Simpler.

I learned to do it at the Tuesday night quilter’s guild meeting.

Traveling heavy
7-12-11

Just the two of us traveled most of the trip from Arkansas to New York State and back. Just two.

But we never once nailed fantastic gas mileage. Not once.

We couldn’t. We had too much stuff in the mini-van and replaced whatever we took out with even more.

I expected to have lots of room after we delivered the sewing stuff to my sister in Rochester, N.Y.: fabric, yarn, craft kits and zippers. She makes donation quilts for her church. Halfway home from her house we would pick up three granddaughters in Indiana.

However, before we left, my sister asked if we could take Christian literature to Love Packages in Butler,Ill. Without seeing how many books she had, I cheerfully agreed to a few extra pounds and a few extra miles.

I should have asked. We left her house with a few hundred pounds of books. The next morning my husband saw a gliding rocking chair and foot rest at a yard sale in Hornell, N.Y. He said we had plenty of space … on top of the books and the suitcase of fabric from her stash I rescued for my stash. The back of the car sagged even before we loaded three teenagers and their accessories.

With teens, the struts sounded stressed until we took that short jog off Interstate 55 and unloaded at Love Packages. AHHH, space… until I found a dozen more books and magazines at thrift stores and some greatly reduced fabric to add to my stash.

I called to tell my daughter. She was also traveling home after an out-of-town trip where she had found a room sized rug at a resale shop. Rolled up and folded over, it fit between her three children’s cars seats and the door.

“We have a problem,” I said. This trip a chair and a rug. Other times it has been a dresser or two, a car seat, bar stools and a rotating book shelf or a car bumper.” My husband reminded me he traveled to New Orleans in the CRX carrying an adult-sized bicycle.

She laughed, “And I added a baby swing before I left.”

So we filled our mini-vans with our finds – and increased our cost in gas bringing home our bargains, books and memories in the most unusual souvenirs ever.

Dressed to move
6-24-11

My daughter called to say that after two weeks of washing clothes between taking care of the new baby and negotiating selling and buying a house, she had to fold and sort her children’s dressers. Only her daughter’s lack of training panties brought the laundry crisis to light.

Obviously hand-me-downs, yard sales and gifts have insured the kids have plenty of clothes.

In the same phone call she said the real estate company had moved up the closing date to Friday and she needed to pack up their dishes – but  how was she going to get enough paper to protect her china and other breakables?

For some reason, the solution popped into my mind immediately, “wrap the dishes up in the kids clothes.” Move some clothes and save the mess of washing newsprint off dishes.

So, Thursday evening when I went to see the three-week-old baby, I also got to help pack her kitchen. Using zipper and button free garments, we dressed the dishes in shorts, shirts and underwear. The tea cups wore wraps of wash cloths and dish towels. The platters and plates rested between layers of placemats, towels and receiving blankets.

Pictures and knick knacks went to the new house in the finest of Sunday undies, dresses and winter pajamas. And that’s what they will continue to wear – until the big brother and sister run out of clothes and momma has yet another reason to finish unpacking the moving boxes.

Re-quilting … again
June 23, 2011

I would have a lot more quilts finished if I could just find the right color and pattern combinations the first time. But I don’t.

A couple months ago I assembled an 18-inch center block with a maroon and gold cottage star pattern with cross stitched Winnie the Pooh and cross stitched “and friends.” At the time I thought it looked just right.

When I tried to do the rest of the quilt this week, the maroon and gold squelched the Pooh fabric the quilt was supposed to feature.

I ripped apart maroon and gold, re-shelved all the wrong color fabrics and fussy cut the Pooh fabric to frame the big x-stitch Pooh with corners of “and friends.”

By the time I fell into bed I had re-considered how to make the entire quilt. I think I will focus on the softer, less busy fabrics that helped tell the story of Pooh in the world and do a sampler of several quilting techniques and patterns we have done at the Quilting guild.

I lost all those hours of work I spent a couple months ago, but I am energized and ready to try the new look with a sampler of block patterns that will each have the Pooh fabric or a complimentary fabric.

Staying available
6-7-11

Daisy I tried to stay out of the way, to just be available when my daughter felt like chatting the day for the scheduled birth of her third child, Daisy Marie. I figure that is my role. For sure she did not need me to help with breathing exercises … they don’t do the whoo-haaa-hee thing of the 70s and 80s. She didn’t need me to assure her she would be okay, not after already having two healthy children. She didn’t need me to drive her to the hospital. She and her husband tiptoed out in the early morning and left the two older children with my husband and I to tend.

I didn’t have hold her hand and soothe her during delivery: the doctor, nurse and her husband surrounded her for that.

Daisy Marie views the world Nope, my primary role proved to be listening, talking and taking pictures of her and the new born. Very important to have a picture of that child as she protested after leaving the cozy comfort. Very important to have pictures of the proud momma and poppa and the excited brother and sister.

Big brother brought his favorite T-shirt to give to his new little sister. Big sister wanted to share pizza with the baby – to include her in the family movie night fun. Momma pulled out the wooden pizza puzzle and told her to the baby would like a piece. Made the two-year old quite happy and Momma snapped a picture of that herself.

The rebel running the waffle maker
May 23, 2011

Quietly in the corner of the hotel breakfast room, hunched over the waffle machine, my back turned to the rest of the room so no one can see, I rebel.

Selecting a sack of plain (okay sometimes I use a flavor) of oatmeal from the rack, I dump it into the styrofoam bowl, pour the measured cup of waffle batter into the bowl and stir. If I get really rebellious, ready to have things MY way, I might add a bit of crushed raisin bran cereal. Once I know it’s all moistened, I shift my eyes to both sides, liberally spray the waffle iron and  scrape my concoction onto the iron, making sure it does not over flow. Hey I might even let it set there a bit longer than necessary to be sure before I clamp down the lid and twirl it into place. (Okay, I admit, sometimes, I travel with crushed nuts and add those to the mix. I really like to sink my teeth into something besides white flour batter.)

I feel like a kid whistling on the corner, staring at the clouds, holding my hands behind my back. saying, “I didn’t do nothin, nothing, nothin’.” as I wait out the two minutes for the ding of “done.”

I lift the lid, stick a fork into the waffle and make my way to the table where I pull out the real fork, knife and spoon that I carry and prepare to eat a REAL breakfast, with real silverware. Next time I am plotting to show up for the free hotel breakfast with real china and a linen table cloth.

Hey, just because I am cheap does not mean I don’t like to like to eat healthy and in style.

One of Those Days.
May 18, 2011

My fingers refuse to work put a curler in my hair. I pick up the sponge covered cylinder and clip. The thing flies to the floor. I reach for another and it sprongs to the back of the bathroom counter. I manage to get one couple curler in and before I have finished with a couple more, the first is sliding out of my hair to the floor.

I would bend down and pick the things up right away, but from previous, painful experience, I know that on one of those days the odds are that I will hit my head on an open door or drawer or fall off the stool on which I sit.

Recognizing that this is “One of those days” I carefully close all the doors and drawers, hold onto the counter when standing and slowly bend down to gather up the recalcitrant rollers to return to their resting place.

The hair will do for today.

Feeling like One of Those Day I park a long ways away from other cars so I won’t block them in my parking too tight or brush up against their pristine chrome.

This is the kind of day when I am willing to let someone else drive, someone else cut the meat for supper, cut the vegetables and do anything else dangerous such as loading the cutlery into the dishwasher. . . . . Hmmm there are a few advantages to having One of Those Days.

Dropping the third ball while juggling
5-10-11

I prefer to cooking ahead so I can come home and simply assemble food for supper. Works fine most of the time. Last night for instance I made chicken spaghetti, started a chicken salad and fixed a soup plus two kinds of cookies from one batter.

Plus, I cleaned house, sorted, straightened up and really did the Suzie Homemaker bit to the max. Course being gone Saturday and refusing to do anything on Mother’s Day probably contributed to the need to de-clutter. But I did a decent job, if I do say so myself … at least this time.

If only it always worked that way. A week ago I thought I would cook ahead and put a deer meat and chicken into the oven to cook while I went to sew.

My friend called and we talked and talked while I continued to sew.

I guess the sewing project tipped the scales. I might be able to do two things at once, but not three. (I really can chew gum and walk, I promise!)

After we hung up, I came out of the sewing room and the smell of “well done!” permeated the house. I raced to the kitchen and pulled out what was supposed to have been several meals.

My husband, who had been sitting at the table 6 feet away had noticed nothing.

He went over, checked the deer steaks and pronounced them edible. In your dreams! I thought, but I took him at his word, cut up the venison and dropped little tiny pieces into vegetable soup for his lunches. If nothing else the meat will soak up some fluid from the soup.

The chicken became chicken spaghetti  … and the sewing project awaits my next cooking, cleaning and sewing day, hopefully with better results.

Emulating the Sneaky Chef
April 25, 2011

It’s all the rage with young mothers … mixing vegetables into other food to increase their child’s intake while improving the nutritional value of food.

So I tried sneaking over the weekend to balance out the Easter weekend indulges. First, feeling quite righteous and healthy I bought one, very large head of cauliflower; the biggest in the pile. Then I bought a little something extra for the holiday: two boxes of the Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes with herbs which were on sale. We had three grandchildren coming to visit for the weekend after all.

I followed the instructions for the instant scalloped potatoes, then I got creative. I added a four slices of ham from the freezer to insure we had lots of forbidden sodium. Earlier I had steamed the cauliflower head. I cut and sliced it to look like the potatoes.

The cauliflower bulked up the casserole almost to the brim. If I poured it into the next larger size I had to wash another dish. If I left it all in and it bubbled over, I might have to clean the oven. I don’t like cleaning ovens. I chose a larger baking dish.

Then I noticed some mushrooms that needed to be eaten. I diced those and added them to one half of the casserole, and baptized it all with left-over cauliflower water, topped it all with a package of shredded cheese and worried that it looked watery.

If it was, it thickened after it baked and cooled.

Result? Well the mushroom half was kind of brownish. The only cauliflower, potato and ham half glowed like the sun. The kids kept asking for seconds, and wanted to eat the casserole for late night snacks.

Only my husband said he noticed a bit of a texture difference in one bite but it did not deter him, he grabbed the last of it for his late night snack.

April 21, 2011

Linda Fitts of El Dorado Connections taught the class. Fold a paper in half lengthwise and then write your name in fancy letters, she said.

Now copy the mirror image on the other half using a light box or holding it up to the window.

She showed how she had then traced the mirrored pattern onto a white on white printed fabric, colored in the loops and holes with a rainbow of colors and developed a colorful design that reflected her name. She quilted around it very closely. After adding beadwork she expects to make a wall hanging out of it.

Hers looked fantastic to me.

Knowing my learning curve for new techniques, I decided to just work with half of my middle name and see what came up on a scrap of cloth.

The other, more adventuresome, five in the class committed to their full name and commented that their design looked like an alien or a strange looking woman, a toadstool or a Christmas tree. Everyone got to work coloring in-between the highlighted lines of our name, adding more black lines to accent sections and filling in with permanent markers.

My creative imagination did not kick in to high gear, so I simply added black lines and colored in between the lines and saw what Linda meant “the colors tend to bleed together near the black outlines.:

Like the first graders I teach on Sunday, I kept changing markers and just adding colors here and there.

I hope to post a copy of Linda’s piece.

I will not quilt my trial run into a quilt – it looks like a kid with a crayon, but the activity did plant a few seed ideas. This mirrored signature might be a fun way to decorate a holiday table cloth, to add my signature to a quilt or to make a variety of name quilt blocks.

No Picasso on this end of the pen, but I had fun and found a couple new ways to “think outside the box” with a signature quilt block.

Lovely laundry
April 15, 2011

My house husband began making up our bed years ago. Since retirement he has taken over a few of the household tasks, including washing the sheets. He made that bed up faster than I could pull off the sheets and toss them in the wash machine.

So I asked him to pick a day of the week when instead of making up the bed he would strip it. He chose Thursdays. And a workable compromise … except for my tendency to toss kitchen towels and used tablecloths into the wash machine to wash along with whatever we washed next. A good habit to insure clean towels in our “No paper towels purchased by these folks” house.

And a bad habit the day I tossed in the new, red tablecloth into the wash machine to wait for the next load of wash.

The next wash day came bright and early Thursday morning. By the time I came home, we had bright pink sheets and pillow cases and pinkish kitchen towels. My husband said he thought the pink hue came from the light shining through the laundry room’s bright orange curtains.

Not even several washes with extra doses of bleach completely faded those sheets. But the pink sheets are clean and I did not have to make up the bed or fold the red table cloth.

Thumb pricker, dish dropper, quilt chopper
April 13, 2011

The cumbersome grandmother tries again.

I am not the tidiest, neatest, most accurate quilt maker.

My threads snarl, twist and tie themselves in knots when I cross stitch.
I drop stitches when I knit and the end product widens and narrows depending on my day’s level of anxiety or relaxation.

I burn the potatoes, cook the meat until it is too dry, simply because I am busy reading or working on something else.

But … I still enjoy doing all of the above and more.

Welcome to the Bumbling Thumb. The world of the imperfect person, who keeps on trying and enjoying learning and growing.

The orphans needed our attention. They had gathered in ones or twos. A couple times, several had come in all at once. We were more than overdue to sort them out and find them homes as quilts. These orphans are spare quilt blocks looking for a quilt. Quilters with a bit of creative flair find original ways to combine the blocks into a pleasing whole. A few came with enough siblings to make fantastic quilts as soon as someone sews them together. And then there are the Others. In time they will join forces to become an original patchwork quilt. The Night Owl Quilting Guild held a Fourth Tuesday sewing at M&M Quilting shop and began sorting the pile of quilt blocks. First we sorted by colors. Pastels … oh but look at this darling tiny baby quilt with these precious little pastel blocks set in white. Wouldn’t they match with these slightly larger blocks done in pastel and those over there would fit in … and so a good many blocks found a seamstress. The patriotic red, white and blue blocks and scraps of cloth left in another pile. A collection of little bitty triangles sewn into larger triangles went off together for another sewing party. Left-over blocks from a sunflower quilt intrigued a third woman, especially with the addition of a sunflower patterned fabric. I took home a collection of hand sewn blocks for a kid’s quilt with large blocks of bugs framed with red, purple and lime green colored fabric. I thought about taking it all apart. The stitches missed the straight line and were more basting than sewing a seam. I decided to reinforce and add interest using the embroidery stitches on my machine while using up the odds and ends of thread that I have. By the time I am done, this orphan may look mighty rich … or it may look like it got stuck with an aging aunt with no sense what the cool kids wear these days. We’ll see.

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