Thursday, September 30, 2010

Adiós September

Ten days ago, when September was already on its way out, my husband and I attended an Oldtime Farming Festival in the nearby town, which boasts its status as the geographical center of the state. I'd never been to a festival of this kind so I was ready for all the surprises, one of them being that everything at a farm festival tends to be oversize, including the huge pigs, pumpkins, dahlias and sunflower heads.

The one thing I wasn't ready for was watching tractors doing square dancing, complete with a tractor-driving guy in drag, and tractors fitted with pants and skirts.

Tractors there were for any taste and need, of all colors and makes and years.

But the draft horses were the most beautiful.

The most fun was watching the border collie demonstration as this very intense dog (reminded me of Lizzy) herded a gaggle of ornery geese around several obstacles and a bridge, and then did the same with a group of sheep. After that, it was on to the goat milk stand to have a taste, which was not bad!

As September ends and October arrives, there are no more farming festivals and the farmer's market will become more reduced to apples and pumpkins and other goodies of fall. I will miss the plentiful summer and now must look forward to next year's old and new farm festivals.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seeing stars

Today's project in quilting class was to make two "friendship stars," like the one above. I only got to make one so I'll have to make the other one here at home. These are quite challenging and the teacher had to rip and resew part of this one when one of my points came out a little crooked. I would've let it be, but she insisted that I should fix it (the idea is that if the blocks aren't symmetrical, then getting all the blocks lined up will be impossible).

By the end of class, I put a deposit to reserve a $180 quilting "kit" for the quilt below, called "American Beauty." My plan is to make this gorgeous quilt on my own (the kit has all the fabric and patterns that you need to make it). That will happen once I'm done with this class and a second beginner's class I plan to take next year to cement what I'm learning so far. Maybe making this quilt will be my major project next summer. I feel that if I can quilt a lovely bedspread like this one, then I'll know I've "arrived" where I want to be as a quilter.

That's a long way to go from four-pointed stars but, as my dissertation advisor used to tell me, "Aim for the stars," and that's what I'm doing. I'll pay for the kit in a few installments and by the time it's mine, maybe, just maybe, I can start on this beauty all by myself.

In the meantime, each time I sew on her old machine, I can feel my abuela's happiness.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quilting imperfection

Now that my abuela's last sewing machine, which she got sometime in the 1960s, is safe and sound with us after being shipped from Puerto Rico to Ohio, and now that it's finally all spruced up and boasting a new motor (the last one, as the sewing machine repairman said, looked like it had been struck by lighting!), I've started putting together what will be my second quilt ever. This one is just a wall hanging so I'm not in the Major Quilting Leagues yet, but I'll get there sometime, I'm sure.

For now, I've made space in my office for the sewing machine and its table, and for the ironing board, which I brought up from the laundry room (I use it to press the fabric pieces after their sewn together) and I've set up a cutting table on top of my husband's old desk in the upstairs loft area. To protect the old desk, my husband provided a large, flat piece of wood on top of which I put my cutting mat.

Tonight, as I started assembling the pieces that are finished to see what the quilt will look like, Hamlet and Darwin were keeping me company, while the dogs slept nearby on the floor.

After placing the sewn pieces on top of the cutting mat, the quilt is beginning to take shape and it looks promising, I think.

This is only the beginning, since the quilt will need its main background, the binding, the batting and then the quilting itself, so this is only the very beginning, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment to see that I am getting it done, slowly but surely. What I like about my quilting class this year, is that we have homework to do before class so we're forced to replicate what we learn without the benefit of having the teacher present. That will ensure that I can continue to quilt after this project is finished, something I didn't feel confident about two years ago when I took my first quilting class.

Still, I foresee taking other beginning quilting classes just so that I can memorize the techniques through lots of practice, which does, after all, make perfect. But I'm actually not hoping to get a perfect quilt. My "Zen" project for this quilt is to make it but not obsess about its perfection or about whether my seams are faultless and my corners flawless. I'm using the quilting process to try to cure myself a little of my perfectionism and just enjoy the process. What a concept!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prelude to fall

In these latitudes, fall officially begins this coming Wednesday, Sept. 22nd, when days and nights will be about equal in terms of length. Fall is supposed to last six weeks before the first frost. But, at the farmer's market, and in terms of nighttime falling temperatures, fall has already begun in earnest.

There's definitely a bittersweet feeling to purchasing butternut squash at the farmer's market, or a few of the many kinds of delicious apples that begin to show up in orchards in this season. There's also that same feeling when you have to shut all the windows at night and, when you awake, you find that the inside temperature barely reaches 66 degrees, making you wonder when you'll have to start turning on the heat as it begins to dip below 65 inside (usually when it's in the low 40s outside).

This has been, like 2008, a very dry summer, so the promise of the stunning fall colors of earlier years likely won't materialize. Still, the pumpkins are doing their best to make up for that (I brought home the homely, warty yellow, green and orange pear-shaped pumpkin above).

This fall, for the first time since we arrived in Ohio in 2001, when I was yet to figure out what I wanted to do, I'm not working full time or teaching, and the break is a welcomed one, even if it feels odd not to be as crazy-busy, not to be in constant communication with students and colleagues, or not getting all dressed up for work. That means I finally have time to dedicate myself not just to my scholarship but also to re-designing my classes for next semester and to making sure that I structure my time in ways that help me finally achieve some kind of balance between my commitment to my job and to myself.

With myself in mind, and thanks to the privilege of having this time off, I'm re-learning to quilt and am devoting time to going on at least two walks a day with the dogs, five or six days a week, aiming to get in the groove of the physical exercise that eluded me completely during the academic year. Since the days and evenings are still pleasant, I don't have to go to the gym to walk a mile or two. Soon that will change, of course, but for now, I'm making the most of these glorious late summer-early fall days.

The summer quilts have been put away and the comforters taken out, a sure sign that summer will soon be a warm (if too dry and hot) memory. But there is much to look forward to this fall: a visit from my sister and niece to see a musical here, a visit from my mom for my birthday, and a visit from my sister and her kids for Thanksgiving (finally I get to cook another scrumptious turkey with her!). Welcome fall!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


There is a bittersweet flavor to the transition from summer to fall: the days get shorter, the days cooler, and the nights more pleasant, and apple season is upon us in earnest.

Our nearby orchard produces scrumptious apples, a little tart, which I prefer, and which make for perfect pies. Now that, thanks to The Joy of Cooking, I have finally figured out how to fully cook the bottom crust of my fruit pies and how to avoid having a soupy pie, baking end-of-summer-start-of-fall apple pies is a lot more fun. I'm just sorry that my dad, who loved my apple pie, didn't get to taste my perfected pièce-de-résistance above. He would have appreciated it very much.

In addition to the apple boom, fall weather brings outside fires, which my husband likes to build in the iron grate that we bought a year or so ago at a community flea market for all of 50 cents. There's plenty of small wood pieces strewn all over the yard to get the fire going and my husband keeps some of the firewood that we inherited from the previous owners of the house in our shed, to protect it from the elements. A lot of the firewood is decomposing at one side of the yard precisely because the former owners didn't protect it from rain, etc.

Inside the house, my husband has set up the sewing machine that I inherited from my abuela, her last Singer from the 1960s, in my office. I found a man who restores Singers in the nearby town and he gave it back to me almost unrecognizable in its improvement. I've started taking a beginning quilting class, which will meet for the next eight weeks, and I've started work on a small, quilted fall-inspired wall hanging (nothing fancy or ambitious). I've quilted once before, in 2008, but have basically forgotten it all and tonight had the hardest time trying to figure out how to get the bobbin to work with the needle of my abuela's machine!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sun and moon

On a recent evening, my husband suggested that we take a motorcycle ride to visit a nearby dam, where we had been before. I wasn't too happy with the idea, thinking it wouldn't be particularly fun since it wasn't a particularly special place. But, oh, how wrong I was.

When we arrived, the sun had begun its setting journey into the horizon and my husband was able to capture the picture above as a solitary fisherman came into the sun's path, shimmering on the golden water.

Rather poetically, and directly on the opposite side, the moon was already full and rising to claim domain over the darkening skies.

As we walked on the dam's edge, we came across an elderly couple, who told us that they often walk there because it's so beautiful. In their late 70s or early 80s, they were still holding hands and chatting with one another, making me wish that my husband and I will be like that, still friends and loving companions after so many, many years.

Sort of like the sun and the moon coinciding on a magical evening.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Late summer/early fall

Even the road most traveled looks freshly new and inviting on such a glorious day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chiquita The Blur

It's nice to end the week by spending time with "the kids" in the backyard. My husband throws Lizzy's favorite toy, a squeaky plastic doughnut, and she runs as fast as she can to get it and, after her, runs Chiquita, trying to catch up to her sister while yapping frantically.

My husband tried to capture the tiny Chihuahua in her run and got her airborne, in a blur, running like the wind after the bigger dog.

I have often said that dogs are great teachers, and ain't that the spirit to emulate? To believe in your heart you can accomplish something, even if there's no chance you can.