Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mercer Girls

Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker

      The year is 1864 and the country is in the middle of the Civil War.  While we spend lots of time on the names of generals and dates of battles, there is always a human side to the story. 
 In Lowell, Massachusetts, the mills are silent.  Cotton isn’t coming from the south and the economy has come to a halt.  The men are gone fighting the war.  On the other side of the continent, people are mining for gold and silver and the West is a mess of growly, snarly men.   Asa Mercer has the idea to bring the unemployed and unattached women of Lowell to Seattle to tame the growly, snarly men.   While he was hoping for 200 women to sign on for the trip, he had just 14 with him when he docked in Seattle.
      Those  14 are represented in 16 year old Dovey, who ran away from her ruined father’s plan to marry her off for the money.  There is Sophronia,  whose rigid religious ideals ruined her  chances of finding  a husband anywhere near Lowell.  There’s Josephine, who is running away from an abusive marriage. 
      Troubles don’t stay put and the women find themselves growing  and pulling together in tenuous friendships as they each try to forge a new life for themselves in muddy, wild Seattle.  For all of the women and some of the men, there is a realization the new suffragist movement, with visits from Susan B. Anthony, looks to be the only hope the women have to improve their lot. The choices these three women made may not have been what Asa Mercer or they had in mind, but in untame Seattle there was a new freedom far away from the constrictions of the East coast
     This story a retelling of true events and is a different spin on the years during our civil war showing us there is always something else, some other part of life happening  somewhere away from the pages of history books we are handed in school.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Birthday fun

We gathered yesterday for PH's birthday. He needed help blowing out the candle on his birthday brownies.
 They call the platform the fort and it's a big hit with the kids.  Elizabeth claimed this corner as hers.
 These two just attach themselves to each other and disappear.  Half of the time we don't know where they are, but yesterday, a hot and humid day, meant they were mostly in the freezer dispensing Klondike bars and fudge bars.  Adelaide knows she just has to make sure the freezer door is shut tight and the contents are there for the taking. 
Even I have a hard time with Klondike bars because there's nothing to hang on to and thus you get a melty end.  Here's how Ceci's ended up half the time.  Notice her chin.  We found little Klondike puddles around after they were all gone.  She DID have the presence of mind to use little dishes to put the meltyness on so that helped a lot when we found one on the hood of the car.
 This little guy is three and thinks he's one of the big kids and tries to do it all and I think he knows the big kids have all been told they have to accommodate him.  To give the big kids a break, he spends a lot of time with me. Yesterday it was Lincoln Logs.
 Charlie loves the woods. He gathered sticks to build a fort wall,  they went down to the creek but eventually down there, the mosquitoes won.
 Son and Daughter put together PH's dream list gift.  A contained firepit.  He does love his fire pits and while he chose for us to live in the forest, it was just too much to give up his firepit evenings.
He's a happy boy now.  He immediately built a fire.  He ran around gathering kindling and logs (there's a forest full of them)  before the assembly was even finished.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Step 1

     From the first minute I saw this wall at the top of the driveway approach to this house, I knew it had to be changed. This grey blob had to go, something had to replace it that would make me smile when I drove up the long,windy driveway to the top of this hill. (I really like this house but getting to it is an issue)

     First of all, it's grey. I don't do grey.  Second, it's big. Those bigger sections measure 8 x 8 foot.  Some days it looks really, really big and some days I look at it and say to myself "not a big deal."  I thought about a plan for a year. Three times I went to the premier paint store in the city to ask what to use and how to approach this project and from those three visits each of the paint people said the same thing, so I believe them. I asked Friend Barb, who is an artist and a quilter, to help give me some space perspective.   Now that those preliminary steps are covered, I'm ready to begin.
      First, the paint store people said to power wash it.  Try to get the little bits of peeling paint off.  Clean it up.  Last Saturday we rented a power washer.
     PH went above the wall into the yard where my new lavender bed is and put up a barrier around the roses I brought with me from the lake house.  I didn't want to spray the leaves off!
 And here we go!  Oh, my, what fun this new toy is. Wow!  I had a great time with this thing!
    Next, test the background blue.  I got a pint of two possible colors and tried them out. 
     I knew which one I like but when I had Adelaide here I asked her opinion.  "The dark one, Grandma.  The light one just looks like white."  Exactly!  In the afternoon this wall is under direct sun and that light blue does look white.
      We used a Pinterest idea I loved for the mural and Friend Barb sketched the idea on a photograph so I have a bit of a plan to follow.  Instead of huge barn like quilt blocks on each square or large actual quilts taking up each square, we decided it would be easier to do in pieces (no pun intended) if we made a clothesline and hung small quilts on the line.  Those little apostrophe looking things that look like clothespins are going to be blackbirds.
    This is a big project and I'm not a spring chicken anymore, so wish me luck. This design gives me the mural look,  won't take gallons and gallons of paint for each section, I can do different looks for each little quilt and it will definitely make me smile as I drive up the hill.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I Hate to Sew

     Honestly, I do hate to sit at a sewing machine and try to make something come together like it does in my brain.
       I never wanted to sew.  My mom was a very good seamstress who made all of her clothes, my wedding dress, christening gowns, life sized Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, you name it, she did it.  Except for men's clothing. She didn't do that.  And she didn't sew for people outside the family because, she said,  "they want it for nothing."  People who don't sew - or while we're at it, quilt - don't have any idea what the cost to US and time and labor means.  So, I don't blame mom for that. I did always have a creative streak. Always needed to use my hands to be doing something. When I was ten years old a neighbor taught me how to knit and a year or so later my mom decided I needed to learn how to sew and signed me up for classes.
      I hated it. I cried during the class. The whole class. The whole time. Honestly, truly, I was a shy kid (ok, those of you who know me, you can stop laughing, but none of you knew me then.)  I didn't like being away from home (but give me a plane ticket now and I won't even ask the destination.) and still don't.  PH always says I'm good for about three days then I want to go home.
     Well, this sewing class was a disaster.  I made a skirt that didn't fit. A simple A-line but even then I subtracted a little when I looked in the mirror. No, I'm not basing my opinion on that first attempt, I've had many attempts over the years.
       At some point when we were newly married and the kids were babies and everyone was wearing knits I remember making little t-shirts but that was the extent of it. You know, I used to say I didn't have to know how to sew because my mom did everything.  I smocked, she put the garment together. I found fabric I liked and handed it to her at the front door and walked around to the back door and the garment was done. 
     When she stopped sewing she kept after me to take her sewing machine.  I never did.  It went with the other things in her house after she died.  I hated sewing enough to never want that piece of furniture sitting in the corner staring at me.  When I sat down at the sewing machine I ended up with a sore neck, stiff back and my voice was hoarse from swearing.

     One day I realized if I was ever going to own a quilt I had to make it myself so I took a class with Friend Marge 18 years ago to prove to myself I wouldn't like the process.  Quilting looked like it would be way too slow.  This class had no sewing machines in it.  Everything was done by hand.  Cutting templates, tracing them onto the fabric, cutting with scissors, marking 1/4 inch sewing lines on the fabric bits and threading a needle to connect them together.  I was hooked.  It was faster than I thought it would be, I loved the colors of the fabrics, I loved the slowness of it.  Dang. I was going to be a quilter.
     My first quilts have never been touched by a machine.  Even the binding was sewn on by hand.  Then one day I asked PH for a very simple, very basic, very portable little machine that I could sew binding onto quilts with.  That's all I wanted.  That's all I still want.  It's been used at times to make string quilts.  I've used it to attach a wide border now and then. When we were expecting Charlie into the family I started to applique and knew the piecing was going to be an accent, not the focus from then on.
    This week almost broke me.  We have this free standing platform kind of deck looking thing in the back.  It's the ONLY space on this property that gets sun in the afternoon and it can be very hot up there. It's also not easy to get to but the kids like to play up there.
     I was asked to put something up there for a little shade so I went looking for cheap sheets and found two sets for just a couple of dollars.  The poles were another matter.  I knew what I wanted but it was a fortune (for me) so plan B was pvc pipes.  Yes, they are bending.  No, I don't care. I found a couple of dowels laying around that I slid into the poles for internal support but they still bend a little.
     I cut the sheets into 12.5 inch squares and sewed them together in a patchwork.  Look how color coordinated they are and I got one at Goodwill and one at Salvation Army! I thought it went well except for the time it took to sew it together and wrestling with a piece that was 12 feet long.  Oh, my aching neck.
     When PH and I went up there to attach it the thing was huge.  Bring it down, cut. Take it up, too big. Bring it down, cut. Take it up, too big.  Bring it down, cut.  Now I'm getting mad.   I actually took a sheer curtain off a window in the house and dragged it up there to see if it would work any better.  It will work, it's going to be Plan C.
      For now, it's up, it covers half of the space leaving some sun for the tomatoes growing in a big washtub up there, the girls will take over and
 I can sit and look at my new bed of lavender we planted this spring.

     All in all, eventually it worked, taking way longer than I wanted it to and my back aches and my neck hurts and it reinforced my feeling about sewing machines.