Friday, 23 January 2015

End of the Spear: Movie Review


Based on actual events, this movie tells the story of the murder of 5 missionaries in the Ecuadorian jungle in 1956 and what happens afterwards.
Honestly, I just sat through all 111 minutes of this movie. It ranks right up there with One Million Years BC, The Adding Machine and Marooned as stupidest movies of all time, movies that you watch to the end waiting for them to actually get interesting. It never happens. I think this movie really missed the whole point. It was a bunch of disjointed scenes, some of which were entirely in native dialogue. I do not speak Waodani, so had to just assume what was going on. It wasn't until I'd watched the whole thing that I decided to turn on the English subtitles and see if it actually translated the dialogue. It did, for the most part. Seriously, I would have thought that if it were necessary to turn on the subtitles to understand the majority of the dialogue in the movie, it would have either been automatic or somehow indicated that during the opening credits. However, even English subtitles couldn't redeem this movie. It really went nowhere. The characters were flat and boring. Such a story of tragedy and triumph should have moved me, but I was only "moved" to turn it off and do something more worthwhile. I also feel that the use of "intense sequences of violence" was deplorable (I fast forwarded those scenes) and they really would have been unnecessary to the plot, if there was one.
I would think that the missionaries this movie was about, who died to bring the message of salvation to the Waodanis, would be deeply disappointed that the name of Jesus was not even mentioned in this movie. I know I was. But even if this movie wasn't meant to be about salvation, it doesn't even pass as entertainment.
The only good thing about this movie was the popcorn I ate.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Mystery Crochet Along, Fabric Diet and Home Renovations

I have decided to have a fabric diet this year. That means not buying any more fabric, just using what I've got. Of course, I will probably need to buy some batting, backing, & binding. When I'm buying fabric for a new project, I often neglect to buy what I need for binding and backing. And of course, I really don't have room to store a large supply of batting, so that is purchased on an as-needed basis. And I will have to buy fabric for the graduation quilt for my great nephew, Jordon. Otherwise, I'm going to try and drastically reduce my fabric purchases this year. The reason for this is that I really need to get some renovations/repairs done on my home that have to be a financial priority. My bathtub hot water tap was running continuously (not just dripping), so I got that repaired this week. Soffit, fascia and eavestroughing will hopefully get done this year (I'm waiting for the estimate to see if I can actually afford it). And I really want to get the sewing room in the basement done. I had the electrician in to give an estimate for moving the lighting fixtures from the wall to the ceiling. Ceiling fixtures are more efficient and walls are for hanging flannelette sheets for design walls. I won't get that estimate until some time next week.Then there's going to be some drywall repair. The previous owners finished the joints with strips of wood instead of drywall tape and mud. And the floors are just bare concrete. So I want to put in some proper flooring, which should make a substantial difference in how warm it is down there. And I need to put up some shelving to store all my fabric, etc. So, I've got my work cut out for me. Once my sewing/crafting area is done, it will be so much more pleasant to work down there. It will be warm and organized. 
But staying on a fabric diet is not easy. Fabric is my drug of choice. I don't know how many of you are old enough to remember this song:
"When I'm feeling low and blue, all I gotta do is look at you. You can make me feel good, yes, you can." That's how I feel about fabric. Except that I feel even better when I actually buy the fabric. So I've already cheated on my "diet." I placed an order this week with Keepsake Quilting. Have you tried them out? Their clearance prices are really clearance prices and kind of hard to resist. And of course, I ordered the Jinny Beyer 2015 BOM quilt kit from Craftsy, but that quilt is part of this year's planned quilts. It's going to be for one of my sisters who turned 60 this past year. I have 4 major quilt projects planned for 2015: that BOM, a swoon quilt for the sister that turned 65 last year, finish the pixel quilt for the sister that turned 50 (yes I'm a year behind in getting these quilts done, but better late than never) and Jordon's graduation quilt. In case you're wondering, I have 5 sisters altogether plus my brother's widow, who is like a sister. 
And honestly, I wasn't planning on any big yarn purchases this year either. I already have so many WIPs and UFOs. Except that there's this really yummy colour of Red Heart Super Saver called Blacklight that I've fallen in love with. I have a great weakness for variegated yarns. And I love loud colours, the louder the better. And set off by black - how much better can you get? You can have a look at this yarn here: Red Heart Super Saver Economy. I just have to figure out a project for it...
Last night on facebook, I thought I had found it. The Crochet Crowd shared a post about a Mystery Afghan Crochet Along (there's also a Knit Along for you knitters) sponsored by Yarnspirations.  I've considered joining a Mystery Quilt Challenge, but just haven't had the opportunity to do it yet. I've also been wanting to join one of The Crochet Crowd's crocheting challenges. So, I get mystery, challenge and crocheting: exciting! You can order the kit in a choice of 9 different colourways, and get 15% off to boot, or you can choose your own yarn. So I was going to choose my own yarn and use Blacklight as my main colour. I would need 5 balls of Blacklight. Unfortunately, my local Walmart only had 2 balls and they weren't even the same dye lot. <sigh> On to Plan B. I spent half of my lunch hour trying to decide what Plan B was, and ended up with this:
Nothing at all like Blacklight, but you notice I used some variegated yarn anyway. I like this colour family. I considered various other options, but this one just kept calling to me. Stay tuned and I will post as it progresses. The challenge doesn't start until February 10th, which hopefully will give me a chance to get this done:
(Why is it that the picture on my viewfinder looks better before I take a picture than after? Maybe it's time for a new camera???). I have a new great niece or nephew due in February. I have the Scrappy Shine quilt if it's a girl, but I need something in case it's a boy. Initially, I was going to make a boy's quilt, but then I remembered this afghan. I started it 7 or 8 years ago and figured maybe it was time to get it finished. Unfortunately, it does not work up very quickly. The yarn (Bernat Baby Coordinates) is not a pleasant yarn to work with. It has one shiny white strand in with the blue that tends to separte from the rest of the yarn. It's also a pretty dense pattern, so requires a lot of "hooking" to get much length finished. It's kind of discouraging spending on evening crocheting, only to have added an inch or two to the length. So I'm sort of hoping that the baby is a girl. LOL!
Meanwhile, I've fiddled around taking selfies of me with my new yarn. 
Seriously, I'm not much good at taking selfies. I usually end up with a glazed eye look, like in this one:
This is actually mild compared to some selfies I've taken. 
The nice thing about digital cameras is that you can see the final result - and delete if so desired - without having to pay to get the film developed. 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Ultimate Quilt Challenge

On my last trip to the city, I picked up this book at a thrift store:

Beyond Charm Quilts: The Ultimate Challenge

Here's a picture of the actual book since one didn't come with the Amazon link:
On the back of the book, it says:

The rules are simple:

  1. Prepare or purchase a charm packet of 60 to 120 fabric squares (4" or larger) in a gradated spectrum.
  2. Create as many quilts as possible using the charm squares and additional fabrics of your choice.
  3.  Make sure that quilt pieces cut from the charm squares are identical in shape and size, and that every charm fabric is included in each quilt.
Now I thought that sounded like a fun challenge, so I'm throwing it out to my fellow quilters if you want to join me in this adventure. If you want the book, you can follow the link above to purchase it on Amazon. This will take you to the Canadian site, but if you're outside of Canada, this will at least give you the details of the book so you can look for it elsewhere. Here's the link to the book on the US site where the lowest price is 1 cent (don't know how long that will last), plus some new ones for only $7.50: Beyond Charm Quilts. However, I don't think the book is necessary in order to join this challenge
I just wanted to clarify #3 in the rules above as it's rather vague. What it means is all of the pieces of fabric for one quilt must be the same size and shape, but you can use a different size and shape for each quilt. And you must use a piece of each fabric in each quilt. For example, I have a 100 fabric charm square pack. I will use a 1 inch square of each charm fabric in one quilt (plus whatever additional fabrics I want to add). In another quilt, I might use a 1-1/2" triangle of each of the 100 fabrics. I hope that makes sense.
What I did to make it work for me was draw a 5 inch square on some graph paper and then started dividing it up into shapes. My goal was to not have any unused scraps.
Now I'm going to be honest about this book: most of the quilts the authors made up are mini quilts which used some incredibly small pieces of fabric, including some 1/8" seams and appliqueing tiny scraps. I'm a very practical person. I like what I create to have a useful purpose. As both my mother and my daughter did paintings, I don't have much need for quilted wallhangings. Mug rugs, placemats, potholders and even doll quilts need to be able to stand up to laundering. Tiny applique and 1/8" seams are not likely to survive repeated washings. So I personally don't see much value in producing a bunch of mini quilts just to meet a challenge if they're not going to have an actual purpose. And I really don't like working with tiny pieces of fabric. I determined to maintain a 1/4" seam throughout and have no piece narrower than 1/2" finished size. Rather than the 18 or 21 quilts produced by the authors, my goal was a more modest 7 quilts. And when I divided up my 5" square, I actually ended up with 8 different shapes. Without compromising the 1/4" seams and minimum 1/2" finished width, I could probably subdivide even further and come up with 11 or 12 quilts, but I doubt I will. As I said, I don't like working with tiny pieces and I want to enjoy this process. If you decide to come along on this adventure, you can interpret it however you choose. (Just an observation: the authors showed diagrams of how they divided up their charms, which had 18 and 21 pieces, totalling 39, but the book only has a gallery of 36 quilts. I'm not sure what became of the other 3). 
Now for the fabric: a "gradated spectrum," rule #1 said. That means varying shades from light to dark of all colours of the rainbow. And I realized that I had the perfect charm pack in my stash: a 100 charm pack of Benartex Fossil Fern. Here they are arranged by colour and gradation:
If you're interested in taking up this challenge and would also like to use this charm pack, Craftsy currently has it on sale for $19.98. Here's the link to Craftsy:
Shop Quilting Supplies Now!
The authors of Beyond Charm Quilts said that they took 3 years to complete the challenge, so it's not going to be a quick project. But it should be fun. And I'm hoping some of you will join me in the adventure. If you do want to join, maybe I can set up a flickr page where we can share all of our projects. Let me know.
Happy quilting!

Creative Expressions 2014: My Crafting Year in Review

2014 has come to an end, and I decided it would be a great opportunity to review all of the craft projects I completed this year. As I perused my blog for the past year, I was pleased by what I was able to accomplish in my hobbies in spite of working full time. 
Way back in January, I finished the Dreamweaver quilt for my daughter:
Dreamweaver Quilt
Following that, I completed Scrappy Shine:
Scrappy Shine
This one hasn't found a home yet, but I have a new great niece or nephew due in February. If it's a niece, this will be hers.
Bearly Hockey was finished in February and just recently I sent it to my great nephew, Leo.
Bearly Hockey
I had actually finished the quilt top in 2013, but didn't get it into the longarm studio right away.
In May I finished Florence Nightingale in time for Nursing Week:
Florence Nightingale Quilt
and used her as the backdrop for the nursing display:
Nursing Week 2014
In August, the Go Wild! quilt was completed:
Go Wild!
In September, I started my acrylic painting class and did this painting on my own:
Painted Trillium
Most of the class paintings are not worth sharing again, but there are a couple that I haven't completed yet that might be worth sharing eventually. 
In October I finished Wild Mustangs of the Painted Desert and gave it to friends who were moving away:
Wild Mustangs of the Painted Desert
I also finished the Law School quilt for the granddaughter of friends:
Law School
a perspective painting that I'm not ashamed to share:
Perspective Painting
and the Lace Enchantment Afghan:
Lace Enchantment Afghan
In November, my machine quilting classes gave me the courage to finish "So You Think You Can Quilt" on my domestic machine:
So You Think You Can Quilt
And a machine quilting sampler I started months before in an online class:
Machine Quilting Sampler
In December I completed Far Above Rubies for the daughter of friends:
Far Above Rubies
and shared my first Tunisian crochet project:
Tunisian Crochet Tote Bag
In the months when I didn't actually complete any projects, I was still busy: working on projects that I haven't finished yet, cooking and reviewing cookbooks, reading and reviewing other books as well, and adding to my stash of fabric and thread, of course. Throughout the year, I have been working on the Bluenose II Pixel quilt for my youngest sister, Cindy. Hopefully I will be able to share the finished project with you soon. I've got numerous other quilting, crocheting and painting projects either in progress or "on the drawing board." Unbroken is ready for the long arm and the Australian Tailor's Quilt just needs another border before it too is ready for quilting. There are at least two more bed size quilts to be produced: a Swoon quilt for my sister Judy and probably a mosaic quilt for my sister Nancy. And there are some new books from Net Galley that will need to be reviewed. It looks like 2015 will be another productive year.
Wishing everyone the best of the New Year.
Laura

Monday, 29 December 2014

Tunisian Crochet Tote Bag

I actually finished this tote bag quite a while ago. I was just waiting to post it until after I got it lined. Alas, I haven't had the time to line it yet, but I wanted to include it in my 2014 posts, so here it is:
This is my very first Tunisian crochet (afghan stitch) project. It turned out bigger than the directions said, probably because I used a different yarn. The instructions don't call for it to be lined, but if I were to throw a set of keys or something similar into this bag, I would be concerned about it poking through the stitches. I have bought the fabric already, but I was waiting until I got my serger back from servicing so that I could serge the seams. By the time that happened, it was time to start getting ready for Christmas and I haven't had the opportunity to sew the lining. I would like to add a zippered pocket in the lining as well, to put car keys and maybe my cell phone in. 
The project came from this book:


I bought a second Tunisian crochet hook during one shopping trip to Michael's, so I can pursue further projects in this book. Eventually, I'd like to get a full set of hooks with the extension cords for doing wider projects.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Very Vegan Christmas

Here is today's menu:
  • Garlic bread
  • Old Fashioned Bread and Celery Stuffing
  • Jellied Cranberries (from a can)
  • Spinach Salad 
  • Honey-Mustard Poppy Seed Dressing
  • Brussels Sprouts with Melty Cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Brown Gravy
  • Gluten Nuggets
  • Special T Loaf
  • Buttercup Squash Casserole
  • Carrot Pudding with Sweet Cream Sauce
The Spinach Salad and the Special T Loaf are from this cookbook:

I have to admit that I didn't really like the smell when I finished the Special T Loaf. It smelled like leftover meatloaf. That's why I decided to make the Gluten Nuggets as well, in case it tasted like it smelled. Gluten Nuggets are my "old standby" for holiday meals. However, the Special T Loaf did end up being rather tasty (better than it smelled), especially with the brown gravy on top. However, it is a rather expensive entrĂ©e: walnuts, pecans and two packages of Mori-Nu tofu go into this recipe. It's a mock-up of the Special K Loaf that used to be well known in Adventist vegetarian circles, though I have to admit that I'm not sure why the Special K Loaf recipe ever saw the light of day. It might have tasted good (it was my ex-husband's one major cooking accomplishment), but with all the eggs and cottage cheese, I certainly wouldn't consider it healthy vegetarian fare. You can see a sample of the original recipe here.
The Honey-Mustard Poppy Seed Dressing was from this cookbook:

Don't be deceived by the title  - there's no honey in this salad dressing.
The Melty Cheese recipe is found in this cookbook:


The Brown Gravy is from this cookbook:

I found the carrot pudding recipe here, though I modified it somewhat, and will continue to do so as I wasn't entirely satisfied with the end product. I added the seasonings found in this recipe, but I think I'll switch the cloves to nutmeg next time and cut back on all three spices as it was too strong. Instead of the margarine, I used apple sauce. I replaced the 1 cup of brown sugar with 3/4 cup of Sucanat and used whole wheat flour in place of white flour. Next time, I think I'll try whole wheat pastry flour or maybe spelt flour as it was a little too heavy. Maybe steaming it for 3 hours is not necessary either as a couple of the other recipes I looked at only called for 2 hours. I also forgot the dates. The cream sauce that I used to top the carrot pudding was a conglomeration of some leftover Silk Creamer I had in the fridge, some raw cashews, a little honey (yes, I do use some honey occasionally, though I could just as easily have used brown rice syrup or agave nectar), water, vanilla and cornstarch whizzed in the blender and then heated on the stove till thickened. I've got to look for a proper recipe for this for next year.
The Gluten Nuggets are from Recipes of Friendship by Katie van Petten. I wasn't able to find this one on Amazon, nor was I able to find the Atco Blue Flame 2011 Holiday Collection, from which the Buttercup Squash Casserole was taken. But I don't know if that one was worth repeating. The apple cider vinegar made it just too tangy and this recipe just can't compare to the deliciousness of the Sweet Potato and Caramelized Apple dish that I've made previously from this same cookbook.
So that was Christmas dinner 2014. There were only 6 of us for dinner and unfortunately, there was probably enough food to feed three times that many. I should have sent food home with my guests. I guess I won't be cooking for the next week or so. :-)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Thread

I finally received my order from Tristan Italian Threads:

14 spools of Aurifil's Aurilux 36 weight polyester thread. I'm not even sure if Aurifil makes this stuff any more as it's not on their website, but I have found a couple of vendors that sell it. I think it will be great for long arm machine quilting. I don't honestly have a specific plan for each of these threads, but I had to order enough to make the shipping charges worthwhile, didn't I? 
These two are for the Bluenose II Pixel quilt. The pictures don't do this thread justice. I tried numerous different shots, employing different settings on the camera, but I couldn't get the shots I wanted. Especially not with the plastic wrap still on the spools. It reflects too much light. And I don't want to take the plastic wrap off until I'm ready to use the thread. I only took it off this spool because (hopefully) it will be used soon. No, I'm not done the pixel quilt yet, but I'm hoping once the Christmas rush is over, I"ll be able to get back to it. 
The pink thread third from the right on the bottom row is destined for the Unbroken quilt. It's the only solid colour in the bunch. Second from the right is a red and green that will work for a Christmas quilt. That's a brown and gold spool next to it, and I realized that's probably the ideal colour for a Western Michigan University quilt. I've been researching as I have a great nephew who has already been accepted at WMU for next school year and I think he should get a quilt for his high school graduation. Brown and gold are WMU's school colours. 
And speaking of great nephews, I did a little research on consanguinity (isn't that a fancy word - it means blood relationships) and apparently it's also acceptable to call great nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews (or uncles and aunts, for that matter). There seems to be an indication that "great" is preferable to the British and Canadians, and "grand" to Americans. Now back to thread...
Third from the left on the bottom row is a red and white thread that will work well for a Canada Day quilt, Remembrance Day quilt or a QOV.
I'm sure I'll find uses for all of them eventually. Meanwhile, they are just pretty to look at.