Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Good Car (Taking Inventory)

Today's story is about the end of one of the best relationships I've ever had. The fact that this relationship involved an inanimate object that doesn't speak is probably telling, but still: it was a good relationship for me nonetheless.

At any rate, my trusty nine-year old Saturn has been retired, the poor thing. And I am quite sad about this turn of events. True, I don't want to think about the stupid car payment I'm about to commit to, which will seriously wreak havoc on my yarn buying. Or buying much of anything else, for that matter. But the Saturn was a great car, and I would have bought another one had they not stopped making them. I did not treat her particularly well, but she was pretty great to me up until the last year, when it became clear she needed more attention than simple oil changes (not to mention getting sideswiped on the streets of Providence). Attention that I really could not afford to pay for, plus when you spend $500 on repairs and triple the value of the car....well. Decisions must be made.

I bought this car the last year I lived in Memphis, and other than my graduate school degree it is the last vestige of my time there. I also used the car to drive all over the state of Maine - four years of community development work from Sanford to Van Buren, Norway to Eastport. We were a team, that Saturn and me; she carted my crap around in her trunk and she listened to me sing very loudly to the Dixie Chicks all the way from Tennessee to Maine. She was there all those weekends I drove to NYC, and put up with my attempts to parallel park her on those narrow side streets in Queens. And she never complained when I (yet again) spilled Diet Pepsi on her carpet.

Tonight I had to empty the car of everything. You'd be surprised - probably shocked - at the stuff that was in there. I was shocked, and it's my freaking car. It was especially shocking because a few years ago my dad, in a fit of embarrassment over the state of his daughter's car, cleaned the whole thing out while it was parked in his driveway those months I lived in NYC. However, apparently in my subsequent moves Things Accumulated.

In some ways, I kind of wish I had filmed the clean out because it has the makings of a genius performance art piece: nine years of my life to sift through. It reminds me of that Adrienne Rich poem when she talks about "diving into the wreck" -- the wreck that is the car, or the wreck that was my life, take your pick. It was a tinge morbid, too, because it occurred to me that our stuff is what is left of us, and someday someone (my sister?) will have to sort through all my worldly possessions, in all likelihood throwing most of them out. It simultaneously makes me want to pare down everything and start hoarding everything. I HAVE STUFF THEREFORE I AM.

So as I stared into nine years of my past, this is a sampling of what surfaced:

*one trash bag full of...well, trash
*three sets of fingernail clippers, which I guarantee were hastily bought on the way to a guitar lesson
*A copy of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" and the first Twilight book (the combination of which led me think about the Tea Partiers as vampires, which wasn't that much of a stretch)
*One round springform cake pan, three wine glasses, and one porcelain teacup
*A black jacket I forgot I owned
*A green blanket, queen sized, that I had thought was in my blanket chest
*A pair of black shoes that, three weeks ago, I tore apart two closets looking for
*An entire box of knitting and quilting patterns and books
*One bamboo double-pointed needle, size 3
*My original Tennessee registration from 2002
*My temporary Maine license from 2003
*30+ cds (including my "Spanish for Dummies" CDs that I bought before I moved to NYC)
*Various Sharpie pens in various stages of drying out
*Two big wall calendars from 2007 and 2008

There was more, but it was swept into boxes and bags and will have to be sorted through at some point. Ugh.

After all this, there was a mix-up at the new car dealership and I threw a hissy fit and came home car-less. I am choosing to believe it was an honest mistake because frankly, these boys just don't seem bright enough to be running a scheme of that sort of complexity. But at the moment my old friend is parked in their lot, devoid of my stuff and her plates, and I'll be walking to the train tomorrow without thumping her trunk as I walk by. And now, she is destined for an auction and I cannot bear to think about it. On the plus side? Now I don't have to listen to my dad lecture me about buying a new car, and I will actually have a vehicle that my sister will let her kids ride in. #winning

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Patchwork Brigade

I have so many unfinished projects around here it's ridiculous. Knitting projects are one thing - they can easily be stuffed into a basket somewhere. My quilt projects, though, are threatening to overtake my tiny living room. I love to sew patchwork, but since I don't machine quilt there can be a big backlog on unfinished tops. Alas, I may have to change my tune lest I lose the cat in the rubble.

I had grand plans of taking myself hiking yesterday afternoon to a local state park, but it was too cold out. So I holed up and did laundry and sewed charm squares - these from Moda's "Summer Breeze by Sentimental Studios". It needs borders, but will make a nice and simple baby quilt. Although really: I wish I had a beach house with a front porch with a white wicker sofa that overlooked the ocean, because this would be the exact sort of quilt to have on that sofa. The colors scream "summer in Maine" to me.

I also finally sewed my blocks together for this:

I may have blogged about this last summer when I started piecing the blocks. I used the Jubilee pattern by Marlous Designs (available all sorts of places including here) and a Bali Pop package in the "Cotton Candy" color way. I'm not entirely thrilled about how this turned out, in large part because I found it very challenging to sew up. It wasn't a technical issue (it's straight strip piecing) but a color issue. Even though the look is random, it wasn't random at all - I had to be really careful about putting too much of one color into each block. For example, look at the second row from the top, the first two blocks on the left. See how they almost read as one single printed fabric in the photo? I also had a very difficult time squaring up the blocks. This may wind up with my youngest niece when all is said and done (whenever that may be). It needs borders too, but I honestly don't have a clue what will work the best.

Also lined up are:

1) my friendship blocks from my quilt guild; I have until June to sew the blocks my mystery friend gave me up with some I've made into a top. I didn't really think this through: I asked for log cabin blocks because I love them, but hate sewing them. And now I have to sew at least 2, but probably more like 6 to turn the blocks into a usable-sized quilt.
2) every month our guild does a block-of-the-month, which are raffled off. The good news is I actually won this month. The bad news is, only 5 other people participated with me. But with a few more blocks I think I can wind up with a small baby quilt, possibly even a gender-neutral one this time.
3) Two summers ago I took a quilt class and have a fairly good sized quilt that needs to be quilted. I'd like to have it professionally machine quilted but aside from the cost involved, I kind of screwed up the borders a bit and I'm not sure it can be machine quilted without me fixing it. And fixing it might require buying fabric that may or may not exist anymore. *sigh*
4) I really want to make something modern out of all solid colors. I saw a book called City Quilts at the quilt store recently, and while I didn't buy it I definitely have my eye on it.

I Did Not Forget How To Knit

When I saw the Brattleboro hat in New England Knits I knew I would make one. Or several. I thought this would be a great hat to have in Ireland, since it will be May and may be chilly. And I'll take any excuse I can to knit something in Malabrigo (this little guy is in the Mint colorway). It took me a little over a week of mostly train knitting, mostly because I knit right-handed and throw, so anything in moss or seed stitch takes me FOREVER. The little button tab gave me a bit of a challenge - mine doesn't look exactly like the photo in the book, but it does look exactly like the sample I saw at the yarn store, so I stopped fussing with it. It is in need of a good blocking, but I need to find the right-sized bowl. Also - this used up about half a skein or so, and all indications are that I will be able to eek out a pair of hand warmers with the rest of the skein. #winning!

Halfway through knitting this, though, I remembered: I can't wear green. It makes me look green - not in an interesting, Elphaba sort of way, but in a sickly, quick-find-her-a-trash-can sort of way. So the hat's going to D., my friend and traveling companion, and sometime this week I'll march back for some more Malabrigo for me. (I think I love the buttons the most.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two Lovely & Positive Things

I'm having one of those spells where the news is just too depressing to watch - the government is about to shut down, radioactive water is being released into the sea, women in Haiti and Libya and Lord knows where else are being systematically raped...it's appalling, and I can only take so much of it before shutting down altogether. So I've been on the look out for a few more inspiring, even magical if you will, things to reinforce my belief in the human race.

1. The Reverb10 folks sent out a new prompt today, and with it a link to this beautiful blog post by Jen Lemen. I love the line "at the end of your unraveling", but I think I love this part most of all:

Go ahead, be disappointed.
Nothing turned out how you hoped.
Sit under a tree and tell me the whole of it
and I won’t say a word.
I won’t say a single word.

There are oodles of other lovely and insightful and inspiring things on her blog as well - I spent the entire train ride home reading her posts on my phone.

2. This video (photo montage?) by Liz Song, which you can view here.

It is far richer to live our lives by the risk to follow our hearts, wherever it leads.

That line made me feel oodles better about a number of things, including my ill-fated move to NYC a few years ago. Wherever it leads, indeed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Catching Up

It's been rather busy here these past few weeks as I try to balance work and family (and cat and guitar wrangling) with getting ready for the Ireland trip. My favorite book thus far on my crash-course in Irish literature is a collection of short stories by Anne Enright entitled "Yesterday's Weather", which I am enjoying even more than her novel "The Gathering", which was pretty fabulous. This is saying a lot, as I am normally not a big fan of the short story genre. And I've had The Frames' album "For the Birds" on the ipod, which I adore, as well as "The Cake Sale", a compilation album done by various Irish artists to benefit OxFam. My new favorite song is "Some Surprise", sung by Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol and Lisa Hannigan - the video is here; it's kinda cheeky but it gets stuck in your head. Or, at least, my head.

One of the many pre-Ireland errands was to buy a new camera. I had been saving up for months, thinking I would invest in an SLR camera, but when I realized what those cameras actually entailed I opted for a higher-end digital camera (a Canon Powershot SX30IS). I haven't had much time to play with it yet, though today I took a nice long walk through the downtown and tried to get a few shots (Meg Hutchinson's album The Living Side was my soundtrack...she's not Irish, but it's lovely music just the same). I'm not really thrilled with the indoor photos - but the outdoor pictures are coming out well. I still have some more fiddling & learning to do before the trip - but hopefully I'll be taking most of the Ireland photos outside anyway!

In the crafting department...I'm still knitting away on an Elizabeth Zimmerman February baby sweater, simply because I wanted to knit one. Eventually someone I know will have a baby girl. Mostly, though, I've been working on a quilt top for my guild, which is a nonprofit organization and makes quilts for the local cancer center. We all make blocks throughout the year, and then a few times a year we get together to sew the blocks into tops, and then the machine quilters in the group finish them up. This was one of the main reasons I decided to join the group, but it was a lot more difficult than I imagined to find blocks that were reasonably coordinated and reasonably the same size. I wound up finding 8 to work with and brought them home, adding 4 more and two borders. I built the quilt around this one appliqued butterfly block that was really sweet and I just loved - I have no idea who made it, it was just in a big pile of blocks on the table:

I was happy and relieved with the outcome (alas, this is one of the first pictures I took with the new camera and it didn't turn out so well...and it wasn't hung very well on the wall...) but trust me, it's way cuter than I could have initially hoped for:

It made me feel really good to take the work of other women, strangers to me, and add my own efforts to make something that will (hopefully) cheer the heart and soul of another stranger down the line who will be struggling with a life-threatening illness. Oh, some of the blocks aren't exactly square, and some of the corners don't meet perfectly, but it's the sort of thing no one but another quilter will notice. I also loved that as I was working inside on this the crocuses were beginning to bloom outside, purple and yellow and white with their green stems. I couldn't help but carry the notion of spring and rebirth in my mind as I sewed, and I hope whoever gets the finished quilt finds a new beginning as well.