Sunday, July 20, 2014

Virtual Book Tour: The Songbird of Sovereign by Jennifer Wixson

She's the most popular resident of Sovereign, Maine yet no one in this rural farming community of 1,048 souls has ever known the story behind Miss Hastings' seven decades of dedication to schoolchildren. Now Maggie, the town's minister, sets out on a quest to plumb the mystery of Miss Hastings' past before the retired music teacher -- nearing her 89th birthday and in failing health -- departs this world forever.  (from publisher's blurb)

Mayberry, Walnut Grove and ... Sovereign, Maine.  Sometimes the setting of a story becomes a character of it's own.  The third book ofJennifer Wixson's Sovereign Series welcomes fans back to the friendly village they have come to love.  

When I reviewed the first two installments of this series, I praised Jennifer's blend of old and new. This story takes that blend to a new level, alternating between present day and the early 1940's.  Since I am not normally a fan of historical fiction, I appreciate an author who weaves historical fact into a fictional story and teaches me something as I read.  Ms. Wixson managed to educate me painlessly.   I had no idea that sanatoriums for the treatment and isolation of tuberculosis, like the fictional Windmere, actually existed.  I was fascinated by the inside look at the life of patients who were confined there, separated from family and friends and, in some cases, with no hope of leaving.

The "thing" - for lack of a better word - that made this story so touching, to me, was watching the characters discover the "real" Miss Hastings.  How often do we, like the citizens of Sovereign, think that our surface acquaintance with someone means that we "know" them?  I loved watching the story evolve and the depiction of Miss Hastings evolve along with it.  

Once again, Jennifer has given us a story about time and place and connections that makes you want to pull up a chair on the front porch and just listen awhile.

Check out all the stops on this virtual tour and come back here next Sunday - July 27th - for an interview with the author and a chance to win the first three books of this wonderful series, as well as some other goodies.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tangled Thursday" Zeta Challenge

It's my turn to select the challenge for Tangled Thursday, so I'm choosing "Zeta" as the feature pattern.  Zeta is a new-to-me pattern that I'm anxious to work on. It can be used in any manner you choose in your drawing.  Post your Zeta Tangles on Thursday, July 24th and link up at Tangled Thursday headquarters:  Books & Quilts.

Detailed instructions can be found here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Who's on First? And Why Do They Have My Cell Phone?

I feel like I'm stuck inside Abbott and Costello's Whose on First? routine.  Our daughter's iPhone fell out of the golf cart and landed on concrete.  No more screen - not just cracked glass - the screen no longer functions.  Insurance had a new one overnighted and Amanda left on vacation.  I agreed to return the broken phone for her.  All I have to do is mail it in the provided envelope, right?
In order to secure your private information, you must perform a factory reset on any iPhone device you send back.
That seems reasonable.  What do I do?
Reset your device by selecting "Settings" - "General" . . .
Hmmm.  With no screen, that's not going to work.  What is option 2?
Connect your device to any computer running the iTunes program.
My office computer has iTunes (who knows why).  An all-office email located an iPhone cord that I could borrow.  This should only take a few minutes.
iTunes does not recognize this device.  Please sync device with this computer.  
The phone is synced with Amanda's laptop, which is 120 miles away, so I guess I'll have to start over on this computer.  Since we're wiping out the phone anyway, it won't hurt a thing.
To sync the device to this computer, please sign into your iTunes account.
That would be AMANDA'S account - Amanda, who is on vacation.  A couple texts to Amanda provided the associated email account and five potential passwords (who remembers these things?) Number 3 did the trick - Finally, I'm in!  
iTunes can not connect with this iPhone because the phone is locked.  Please enter the lock pass code.
Pay attention, Apple!  I don't have a screen and I can't enter the code without a screen! Now what?
While connected to iTunes, press and hold wake/sleep button and home button until screen goes black . . . iTunes will recognize that you have a phone in recovery mode and allow you to restore the phone.
Let's review:  iTunes won't access phone (even in recovery mode) until it is synced to the computer, can't sync without unlocking the phone, can't unlock because I have no screen!!

Time to call in the experts.  I'm contacting Apple support.  
Choose a product and we'll connect you with an expert.
[Select "iPhone"]
What's happening with your iPhone?  Choose a topic and we'll find you the best support option. 
[Select "Using iPhone with iTunes"]
Please select a more specific topic from this list . . .
[Select "Restore or Update"]
How would you like to get help?
I don't have time for e-mail  [Select "Chat"]
We need your serial number for this solution.  To find your serial number, tap Settings - General . . .
Haven't we been here before?  I DON'T HAVE A SCREEN!  
See more ways to find your serial number.
Get the information from your computer.  Connect your device and open iTunes....

At this point, I'm taking matters into my own hands.  I can delete all personal information in six easy steps.
  1. Place phone in provided mailer.
  2. Carefully align mailer with tires of SUV.
  3. Back over phone
  4. Pull forward over phone.  
  5. Wipe off tire tracks.
  6. Drop in mailbox.
Take that, Apple!  

Now, who's on first?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Needlework Tuesday: Hexed!

Image from "We All Sew"
Geometry was not my favorite subject, but when I saw this picture, I was immediately sucked into the "hexie" craze.   Doesn't  that make you want to sew hundreds of hexagons just for the fun of it?  Ok, maybe it's just me.  

If you are drawn in, this article from We All Sew includes links to several tutorials and project ideas.   I decided on 1" hexagons (meaning each side measures 1"), so I needed 2 1/2" squares of fabric.   

I won't go into the process of making hexies, since it's covered so well by others, but I will add a couple of my own discoveries.

1.  The best place I find for printing paper templates is at Love Patchwork and Quilting.  They offer free downloads of multiple sizes of hexagons.  I printed 10 sheets and spent a couple hours at my "ultra-busy" job cutting them out.  However, the paper hexagons can be reused multiple times, so I didn't need as many to get started as I thought.

2.  I wasted a ridiculous amount of time and brain power figuring the size of fabric scrap needed, and the fastest/easiest way to cut multiple hexagons.  Then a friend pointed out that the fabric doesn't have to be a perfect hexagon.  Cut 2 1/2" squares, pin on the 1" hexagon template, then snip off corners before you start stitching.  OR, my preference, is to just leave he corners on.  It actually makes it easier to fold around the paper piece and when the final product is pressed, does not add enough bulk to matter.

3.  Don't skip the pinning step.  Whether you use a straight pin, paper clip, glue stick, butcher paper or any of the other methods listed in the article, don't skip this step.  I thought I could just hold the paper in place well enough.  WRONG!  No matter how well I thought I was holding, the paper shifted and I had uneven hexagons.

Now that I have a small stash of hexies made up, I am assembling them into flowers - 1 hexie in the center, surrounded by 6 "petals"  There are dozens and dozens of project ideas on Pinterest, so everyone on my Christmas list can expect hexies in their stocking.  

A sampling of my hexagon flowers on my design board.
For starters, and practice, I'm making a table runner - white background with hexie flowers scattered down the center and machine appliqued.  I practiced on one flower, using a blanket-style stitch.  You can see that I experimented with the number of stitches/inch until I found what I liked. And, of course, on the final project I will use white thread.  I am going for a "scrappy" look, rather than color coordinating each flower (as you'll see in many projects) - the better to use that large plastic tote of scraps I have collected.

I also made progress on the baby quilt.  My great-nephew is due on the 19th, but the doctor says "any minute", so I'm trying to get it complete and ready to go for our first visit. The tying is done and the binding is sewn on.  All that's left is the hand sewing - my favorite part. 

 Someone asked for more details about the machine-tying method I used.  The corner of each block is tacked with a tight zig-zag stitch.  It makes a cleaner look than hand tying - no lose ends - but it was more difficult to keep from bunching up.  Even with pins every 4", the backing shifted a little.  I didn't bother to clip threads between corners, I pulled out enough thread to get to the next corner without pulling in between, and made the next stitches.  I clipped all threads after I was finished.  

Hopefully, there will be pictures of the finished quilt next week.  Maybe even one with the new arrival.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather @ Books & Quilts.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Simple Hearted

The Lord protects the simple hearted.
Psalm 116:6 (NIV)

I read this verse a few weeks ago, and it has been on my mind.  What does it mean to be simple hearted?  I have thought myself to be simple minded at times, but am I simple hearted?  My first response was to look to other Bible translations for clarification.

King James:  The Lord preserveth the simple.
The Living Bible:  The Lord protects the simple and the childlike.
Good News Translation:  The Lord protects the helpless.
God's Word Translation:  The Lord protects defenseless people.
Holman Christian Standard:  The Lord guards the inexperienced.
The New Living Translation:  The Lord protects those of childlike faith.

"Simple" - lacking in knowledge; not hard to understand; not special or unusual.  I am definitely all of those things, but somehow I don't think that's the meaning the Psalmist is trying to convey.

"Helpless" or "defenseless" - I am often in over my head, or outnumbered, or caught off guard and find myself helpless and/or defenseless.  But those are circumstances.  I think being simple hearted is a deliberate choice of attitude.

"Inexperienced" - Well that can apply in so many areas!

"Childlike" - That's not the same as childish, right?  Childlike faith conjures pictures of innocence; accepting the care of the Heavenly Father in the same unquestioning way a child knows that his parents will provide for him.  But that is a child's character, not his choice. 

None of these words defined simple hearted for me, so next I went to Bible dictionaries and commentaries.  The best definition I found is: 

Simple hearted:  Free from deceit; sincere; not artificial; humble; honest.

That's better.  Those are concepts that fit with the Psalm and with my outlook.  A simple heart does not harbor deceit or schemes, but is openly and honestly devoted to God in all company.  Not just in church or with Christian friends,  but in ALL company.

I have written previously about my goals for the "second half" of life (on my 50th birthday, and on my 51st birthday). 

Live Simply - Weed out those possessions, relationships, commitments  and attitudes that cause stress or take more time to maintain than they are worth.  Live better with less.

Be Gracious - pleasantly kind, benevolent, courteous, merciful, compassionate - at all times.  

For my 54th year, I am adding another goal:

Be Simple Hearted

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Job Search 101

For the past three years I have worked at the front desk of a manufacturing plant. One of my duties is to take job applications.  I have been continually amazed and frightened at the parade of humanity that finds their way to my desk seeking employment.  With so many people unemployed, I thought it might be helpful for me to call on my experiences to create a list of tips for applying/interviewing for a job.

1,  Do NOT bring your parent to do all of the talking for you.  Especially if said parent is going to say negative things about your work ethic and skills.

2.  Do NOT have a friend, parent or significant other drive you to your interview unless absolutely necessary; e.g., you will miss the interview entirely if no one gives you a lift.

3.  If #2 is deemed necessary, do NOT announce the fact, as in "I  had to catch a ride with my friend, Ray, 'cause my ex-wife slashed all my tires last night 'cause I won't give her back the pistol I bought her for our 7th anniversary."  

4.  If you must have someone drive you, have them wait in the car.  Do NOT bring Chatty Cathy inside to visit with the receptionist while you fill out your application or take the blueprint-reading test.  This tends to make the receptionist terse.

5.  If, and only if, the temperature is above 100, there is no air conditioning in the vehicle, you are more than 10 miles from home, a mall, Wal-Mart, convenience store, gas station, or any other place your driver could possibly loiter, it is acceptable to allow your driver into the building.  He/she should sit in an out-of-the-way place and remain silent.

6.  Under NO circumstances may your driver assist you in completing the application or answering test questions.  

7.  We do not discriminate against applicants who have been incarcerated.  However, we do discriminate against applicants who can not spell the felony for which they were incarcerated.

8.  Do not make personal or business calls for your current job while in the waiting room. A successful interview never begins with "Hey, Dude, I gotta go.  Catch you later."

9.  A few words about dress code - If you are applying for a manual labor job in the plant, clean, hole-free jeans and t-shirt are acceptable.  What is NOT acceptable is:
  • Jeans with tears/holes
  • Shirts with vulgar sayings
  • Shirts that may have once displayed a vulgar saying, but are so faded/torn as to be unreadable
  • Dirty clothes - does anyone really need to be told this?
  • Hair spiked into a Mohawk.  That may be your personal style, but for this one hour - comb it down.
  • Shorts
  • If you are so unfortunate as to own NO long pants and you can't afford a pair at Good Will, please remember this rule of thumb:  shorts should be longer than they are wide.  
10.  The #1 rule of appropriate dress:  If you choose to disregard the above advice and wear jeans with a hole in the posterior, it is CRUCIAL that you wear underwear!  This can not be emphasized enough.  

11.  Unless you are listing Cher, Madonna or Bono as a reference, you should know the full names of your references.  Spelling them correctly is also encouraged.

12.  You may not list your mother as a reference.

13.  Although it may be common to "inflate" your previous job experience or intangible qualities you may or may not possess, it is a bad idea to flat-out lie about required mechanical skills.  For example, you should assume that at some point when applying for a welding job, you will be asked to weld.  You can't bluff your way through a weld test.

14.  Phone etiquette - At times, it may be necessary to communicate by telephone to check on the status of your application or current job openings. Identify yourself by full name, make your request succinctly, be willing to leave a voicemail, and never, ever, EVER say the following:
"You tell that Plant Manager that I'm the best #$%;* worker he'll ever have.  I will come down there and bust my $@&;% for you all.  I just need one more chance.  I'm getting my #(%&;@ together.  I kicked that @%&; to the curb - my girlfriend, she was costing me a lot of money.  And my daughter, she's costing me a lot of money, but I have that all handled now and I'm ready to be the best @#$%*#$^% worker you ever had.  You tell that Plant Manager one thing - I want to come down there and bust my @%$&;$% for him.  I'm the best worker - you can ask anyone in town, they'll say [name redacted] is the best @$%&;^ worker in town....." (repeat ad nauseam until the receptionist hangs up on you)
Sadly, I didn't make up any of these scenarios. Each has happened at least once - and several repeatedly.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Needlework Tuesday: 4th of July

A holiday from work + no family home = a day of sewing.  

My first project - a Prayer Flag for our nation - was inspired by an image on Facebook of an American flag created from vintage ribbons and trims.  I didn't have enough red, white and blue trim (vintage or otherwise) to make a flag, so my version used fabric scraps. 

It flew on our front porch all weekend and will remain there indefinitely.

Project #2 was the baby quilt I'm making for my great-nephew - due on July 19th.  This was my first attempt at this style of border and, I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of those mitered corners.  I'm trying another new (to me) method in the finishing of the quilt - "machine tying".  Rather than hand typing and leaving the ends of the thread or yarn loose, I tacked the corners of each square with zig-zag stitching.  Much faster and neater than hand-tying and also disguises triangle points that aren't perfect.  I have completed the tacking on the inner section.  I just need to find some red thread and tack at  4" intervals all the way around; then add the red binding.  

During breaks in quilting, I whipped up a journal cover.  I journal almost daily and I am frequently tempted by the beautiful journals I see, but the cost can be prohibitive.  I used to stock up on plain school-type notebooks during the Back-to-School sales.  They were economical (5/$1 in the mid 90's) but not very attractive.  A fabric cover is the best of both worlds.  I used a fat quarter I had picked up months ago just because I loved the sewing motif; and a strip of a reproduction vintage floral that Amanda gave me for Christmas.   After the cover was complete, I decided it needed a pocket for a pen and highlighter.  I fussy-cut the pocket from another fat quarter purchased on a whim.  If I had thought of it sooner, I would probably have re-arranged the pocket and contrast strip - but I'm happy with it anyway.

One more fabric strip helped finish off the interior flaps.  My cover fits a standard
9.75x7.5 composition notebook that costs around $1.50 each, but could easily be adjusted to fit any size.  Best of all, when it becomes worn or stained, or if I'm just tired of it, I can create another.

For hand-work, I tried a new technique for loom knitting, but this post is long enough so I'll save that for next week. If anyone has experience with "double pegging", let me know.  I could use some help.

Hope you had a great week of stitching.  If so, visit our hostess, Heather, at Books & Quilts and link up your post.  If not, stop by to see what others are stitching.  You  might be inspired.