Sunday, December 03, 2017

Book Review: Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.

This is a very interesting look into daily life in North Korea over a fifteen year period. Needless to say, it's devastating as we watch the collapse of a country and its economy. Millions of people starved to death, and most people have almost nothing to their names (including underwear)! This is a current story, not something from the dark ages. It ends in about 2009. It's shocking to realize how horrific life was and is in North Korea while most of us in the USA struggle to keep our weight down and stop accumulating so much stuff. A bowl of rice and a pair of socks would be a luxury in their world. Amazing! The author was allowed into North Korea a couple of times, and she also interviewed six defectors after they made their way to South Korea. The last third of the book is their stories of escape and their new lives. I found that part to be riveting.

satellite view of the Korean peninsula at night

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

In Response to a Facebook Question: By Whose Standard?

Written in response to my Facebook post which said “Our current president is not normal.” A friend asked me, “by whose standard?”

You ask “by whose standard” do I consider our president to be not normal. My answer is as follows:

I have known you over many years, sometimes while you were in the role of quilt guild president. You have interpersonal experience and know how to lead a group. I contend that it is by your own standard that one could consider our president to be not normal. Consider these examples:

1) While attempting to publicly honor someone for their past great deeds, Trump threw out a racial slur and indicated his complete lack of knowledge of who he was honoring and what they accomplished.
As guild president you never publicly disrespected our guests or uttered racial slurs. You prepared yourself and knew why our guests were at the guild meeting.

2) While speaking publicly, did you ever mimic and ridicule a person with a disability? I never saw you do this in public. Trump, while running for president, did it.

3) I know your Christian values are very important to you. I know you probably attempt to instill these values in your children and grandchildren. I am sure you aim to socialize them to live those values, such as being kind and giving a helping hand when they can. I have seen you yourself do this in your generosity with your quilts and quilting services and in your friendliness with people.

It is not an attribute I have ever observed in our current president. He mocks people, he takes advantage of people whom he considers to be beneath him, for example refusing to pay blue collar workers on his job sites. He behaves in immoral ways and brags about it. He has five children from three different women and has cheated on all his wives and then bragged about it. He assaults women and brags about it, but later, when it’s no longer convenient to brag, he pretends he didn’t do it at all. Even in his supposed philanthropy, he brags about the millions he donates to good causes, but it is always shrouded in mystery and questions about whether it really happened. He loves to be praised for everything he does, so my guess is that the “millions” he donated is all hot air. All of these behaviors strike me as being brazenly un-Christian, far below your own standards.

4) As leader of this country, Trump has put his efforts into undoing major legislation that protects the citizens who put him in office (health care laws, environmental protection laws, consumer protection, undermining the judicial system, etc.). Did you ever do this as quilt guild president? Attempt to undo everything that was done over the past years and stick-it-to the members, making their lives unpleasant? No, it was not up to your standards to do so.

5) Trump is only concerned about himself and needs constant attention. His perennial need for accolades is immature and maddening. As a member and/or as president of the quilt guild, was your main goal to see how many of the members would give you a standing ovation every time you spoke or proposed an idea? No, that was not up to your standards.

I expect much, much more from a president of the U.S. who represents us all. His job is to represent us internationally (which he has failed at completely, making us the laughing stock of the world). His job is also to help run this country in a way that ensures we can all enjoy the “pursuit of happiness.” So far, I have not seen an increase but only a decrease in our happiness, cohesion, and trust in the future. This is all Trump’s doing and for a president is not normal.

Using the above examples, I contend that according to your own standards, Trump is not anywhere near normal. Instead he is divisive and dangerous. His actions are decidedly un-presidential which is why I say “not normal.” He doesn’t seem to understand what job he currently holds nor what it requires of him. I would never vote for him for president of a local quilt guild or for anything else. We need a return to normal.

...happily ever after?...

Monday, November 27, 2017

My (make-do) Method of QAYG

I have made two quilt-as-you-go quilts. That is, I did the quilting in sections, before all the blocks were joined together into one top. The first time I did it, I looked up ideas on the web and found something that seemed to work. This is how I did that one (which I sent away and could no longer examine to remember how)... and so I had to scratch my head and try to remember how when it came time to do this recent one. This one is 48" x 72" which is a little big to quilt on my regular domestic machine. I chose to quilt it in three sections, which means I had two joints to make.

(1) After the three sections were quilted, I joined them together as usual, pushing back the batting and backing so I could pin and sew the seam. This shows me pinning one of the seams. Note: one can't quilt all the way to the edge, because you need to make room for this seam. Also the backing and batting are needed for creating the back joint.

(2) This is the actual sewing of the seam, showing the batting and backing pulled back for room to sew.

(3) The sections are all sewn together, so now I have to work on the back joint seam. I'm not a precise, OCD, it-must-be-perfect quilter, so keep that in mind, please. I pulled back the backing fabric and then just trimmed the batting with a scissor. It sort of meets except where it sort of overlaps. Whatever. I used a glue stick under it to help keep it in place as I worked.

(4) With the batting trimmed and glued into place, I folded the backing fabric into place so it meets. Oh, look! Someone else must have done the quilting in that spot, because it's not perfectly straight! (That's called organic.)

(5) Now I sewed a zig-zag stitch over the folded seam. Do you see that the joint seam is not perfectly centered? That was sort of an accident/on purpose thing.

(6) I liked that it wasn't perfectly centered, because I didn't want to be sewing it right on top of the seam I had just made when I sewed the quilted pieces together. This way, my zig zag landed to the side of the regular seam, so from the front I zig-zagged again on the other side, symmetrically placed, and this helped secure all the batting and folds that were underneath. At least that's my theory, and I hope it's true. [Confession - when I did this joint the second time, I also stitched-in-the-ditch in that regular seam, to add even more strength, but I chose not to do that on this first joint. Who knows why.]

(7) Here's the joined sections from the front. You can't even tell! Isn't it kind of nice? I was pleased. My husband looked at it, front and back, and said "You can't even see it." That was music to my ears.

(8) Here is the completed quilt with a little of the back showing. If you click on the picture it'll get a little bigger so you can examine it. Go ahead. It's not perfect by any means, but I invite you to take a look anyway. This method worked for me, and I'm satisfied with it. I'm so glad I have learned not to worry about perfection. I have a lot more fun just enjoying the quilting process without being strict with myself.

Here's the completed quilt. Yay! I took some time to admire it and be pleased with myself. (Oh, this quilt turned out a little darker than I intended it to.. oh, well. It still looks good.) And now I'm on to another project.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ten Days Later: Baby and Quilts

I had no idea it has been ten days since I posted last. Time flies! Today I am babysitting. This is my Bonus Grandson -- not related by genetics, but I help out (and he helps me feel loved like a real grandma). I usually have him at my house about twice a month. It is so much fun, even though it's exhausting. He is about 20 months old now. (Again, time flies. How did this happen??) He's not a real smiley kid, but I managed to eke out this little hint of a smile from him. He has a sweet, agreeable personality, but he's not big on smiling.

These four quilts I may have posted before. I'm not sure. But while Bonus went down for a nap, I finally got labels on these quilts. I'm going to send them home with Bonus for his half-siblings. I was told they've been sad about something lately, so I'm glad I got these quilts done, finally, and ready to give to them. Maybe having something to cuddle up in will help.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. I listened to this book on audible dot com; it was excellently narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I really liked this beautiful book! Two teen boys come of age while asking many questions about themselves, life, parenting, growing up, what does it all mean? etc. It is very well done. I wanted to give it five stars but there is one thing in the end that I didn't like and that I thought didn't "fit" two of the characters, so I gave it four stars. Other than that, I loved it and loved the characters.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Want to See a Bunch of Monarchs?

Beth P., fellow blogger, quilter and bird/butterfly photographer (she does all three, I do the first two) carefully prepared her garden to attract butterflies. She had an amazing visit of hundreds of monarchs in her yard this fall. She got some beautiful photos; I recommend a visit to her blog to see the monarchs along with a few other species.

Her blog is here.

Here is one of her photos. Amazing, isn't it??

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Small Pieces

I bought a book of scrap quilt patterns (I love scrappy). I can't find the book, but I have been working on a block pattern which I got from the book before misplacing it. The scrap pieces are 2" x 3.5". Today I made 7 of these blocks. In the picture I included the random scrappy block that I made a while back. Since then I have been making them of one color at a time. It wouldn't be necessary, and I don't know if I will always do it that way. The pattern in the book was a big quilt, made of zillions of these blocks, all randomly colored. I have 16 blocks made so far. This is a long-term project.

Remember several months ago I talked about having found a pattern called Controlled Chaos? That pattern consists of twenty blocks, all made of 2-inch squares. Today I made the green and blue block. These are fun, and I hope I get back to this project more quickly next time, otherwise this quilt will take me several years to finish.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Loose Threads Inspiration

I'm in a small group of quilters; we named our group Loose Threads. Here are some projects that were inspired by some of our activities in that group.

(1) One member printed pictures for us, and we each used them in quilts in various ways. One person put her picture on the back of a quilt; another made a story book starring her granddaughter. This is mine: a tribute to my love of travel. It is about 19" x 26".

top left: Iceland, top right: France
middle: Czech Republic
bottom: New Zealand, and the little orange circle is a kangaroo depicting Australia
The baubles on the bottom are general travel icons and icons from France.

Here's the back. I used a piece of fabric that I bought in Colorado, a map of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the other fabric is Australian.

(2) Another Loose Threads project was a challenge to work in a series. I had already made the one on the left. It was going to be a gift for someone in another state, but that idea faded away, so I kept it and wanted to do more tree quilts. The series idea was perfect. I made the one on the left in 2016. I made the one on the right in 2017 (finished it today). I have an idea for a third one in my brain, but it has not yet "materialized." (Like that pun?) If I follow the slow pattern, I have a whole year in which to make the third one.
These are both small, about 10" x 12".

And in other news, we got our first snow of the season overnight. This is our woodsy back yard. We didn't even notice that a tree had fallen over until it seems emphasized by the snow on it. We're oblivious home-owners, I guess. We both think the snow is very pretty!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Our Amazing State Capitol

Our state capitol building has been renovated and is now completed. I participated in a tour today, and was so impressed! We had one of the planners from the restoration team give us the tour, so we got an extra part that normal tours don't get. Beautiful!

Our capitol was designed by architect Cass Gilbert and was completed in 1905. It had experienced several upgrades in the past, but this restoration was the most complete it has ever had. They made structural repairs and upgraded mechanical systems, and corrected past "improvements" such as returning aluminum windows to beautiful wood as they were originally designed, cleaning off paintings and restoring them to their original beauty and colors, cleaning walls and panels and murals, uncovering skylights, taking out lowered ceilings and re-discovering old beauties hidden above... many, many beautiful upgrades so that Cass Gilbert himself would be proud to come through and see how well it has aged. I was gob-smacked. It's a gorgeous, amazing building.

This rotunda is one of the biggest unsupported rotundas in the world. Our guide listed two or three famous rotundas that are bigger, then comes ours in Minnesota!

The column on the right of this picture, reddish color, is stone from St. Cloud, Minnesota. I assume it's granite, but I'm not sure.
In the above picture, all those columns are made of marble from across the world. Our guide didn't specify which countries.

This next part is what we got as a perk for knowing the right guy to lead the tour: go outside up on the roof area and get an up-close look at the Quadriga.. the sculpture of four horses, a man and two women. The man represents prosperity, the women represent civilization, and the horses represent the four directions. They are covered in gold leaf! I had never seen them up-close before. They are huge! It was awesome to be up there.

The Quadriga as zoomed in on from below.

Pictures below: (1) the Supreme Court room, (2) the governor's reception room (press conferences occur here). It is very gaudy compared to the stately beauty of the rest of the building. (3) original in-laid wood flooring, (4) outside looking up to the Quadriga and the dome which covers the beautiful rotunda.

Fall colors and people's colors were beautiful today, too. Too bad the sun didn't shine, but at least we didn't get rained on. I'm eager to go back and spend more time in our beautiful state capitol (the people's house). I can't wait for the next legislative session to begin! The statue below is Hubert Humphrey.

The majestic building in the background is the St. Paul Cathedral, another gem of Saint Paul.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Columbine

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold -- This book was hard to read. Gut-wrenching. The author is the mother of one of the Columbine High School shooters. Her son killed several people and then killed himself. From that day forward, she has had terrible horror to live with. In the excruciating years after Columbine, she has lived in constant grief, sorrow, and fear. She studied the signs, symptoms and treatment of depression and other mental illnesses. She researched the connection between mental illness and violence as well as the roots and causes of violence itself. (It is only a tiny percentage of people with mental illness who perpetrate violence.) She works to learn as much as she can about suicide, its causes, and ways to help prevent it.

The book, I think, was her attempt to understand what her son did and to reveal the self-examination she has done in the ensuing years. She continues to feel intense remorse over what he did and continues to love and miss him as her beloved son. This is a gut-wrenching journey she was forced to walk.

I appreciate learning about her experiences and what she wants to share with the world (her current work in the area of suicide prevention). I have thought of her many times over the years, as I knew she would be grieving the loss of her son along with all the other families who were victims. But she had the added shock of being the mother of a perpetrator.

Her information about suicide prevention is important and is a topic we all need to learn more about and discuss more openly.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Quilt In the Wind

I made a quilt for my daughter, and this weekend we gifted it to her. She lives on the North Shore (Lake Superior), a beautiful place to visit. We had fun being her guests for the day. I wanted to get a picture of her with the quilt in front of the lake. Impossible task! It was way too windy. I laughed so hard watching Daughter and Husband trying to hold the quilt still in the wind. They couldn't do it.

Here's the quilt:

And here they are trying to hold it up for a picture! So funny!

"Oh, well. Let's go back home."