Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fresh starts

I've always had a cycle of starting a project with wild enthusiasm, and then losing the last little bit of enthusiasm once the shiny newness wore off, and the persistent slogging took over, way before the end was in sight.

I did this in school: if you charted out the grades on my elementary and high school report cards, they'd form perfect sine waves, starting out high, dipping as I lost interest, peaking again when new classes started, dipping as I lost interest. I do this with quilts: I have a sudden design idea and start putting together some test blocks, and get just enough done that I can see how it will look in the end, and then I lose interest until it's so old that it's new to me again, and I do some more work on it. I do this with manuscripts: I have a brilliant idea for a plot or a character, and I just have to get it down on paper, and figure out all the nifty stuff that can go into the story, until it's worked out enough that actually writing it is work instead of play. 

I'm nothing if not consistent. I follow the same pattern with eating (diet starts Monday!), gardening (this season, the garden will be weed-free!), and housework (I'm going to do spring and fall cleaning this year!). The diet lasts about 24 hours, the weeds are taller than I am before I even get out to the garden for the first ti me, and the less said about housework the better. 

Eventually I get back to the projects and finish them (I've made a couple hundred quilts), but there's a lot of backtracking and angst in the process. The biggest problem with this pattern is that I tend to wallow in the self-loathing that comes with the failure to push straight through to the end. Once my enthusiasm wanes, I'm done. In the past, every time I tried to stick to the schoolwork or quilt or weeding or cleaning beyond the loss of enthusiasm, I was overwhelmed by the negativity associated with the project. I would tell myself I should have finished this quilt five years ago, or the weeds had already sapped the onions so much that it wasn't worth dealing with them now, or the house was beyond mortal help (although this last one is probably true). 

Recently, I've decided to make this pattern work for me, instead of against me. I thrive on fresh starts, and they energize me. A new class in school was always an opportunity to explore a new subject. A new quilt idea was an opportunity to play with color and line. A new story idea was fun, fun, fun. As long as these things were new and fresh, without the weight of the past, I was tremendously productive. I studied, sewed, wrote, and weeded. (Okay, I never scrubbed the house, but hey, there's a limit to everything.)

The trick, for me at least, is to make things new all the time, or at least keep the past from weighing them down. For the last several months, I've been consciously using the first day of every month (and sometimes the first day of every week, when I need extra motivation) as a fresh start.

Whatever my previous month's goals were, I either accomplished them or didn't, and the new month is the cue to let go of the past. This approach works with both accomplishment ("I wrote 200 pages last month; I guess I don't have to write any today." No, no, no.) and disappointment ("I meant to eat better last month, and instead I ate a gallon of ice cream for breakfast every day, so I might as well keep on doing that." No, no, no.) Each month wipes the slate clean, and I get to write fresh new goals on it, even if they're the same old goals.

Inspired by Seanan McGuire's "inchworm girl" posts, I'm going to make myself accountable here for those fresh starts, with a list of WIPs updated on t he first of each month, beginning with September.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Scrappy princess shopping

Once upon a time, there was a Pastel Princess. She loved everything pastel, and she had just about everything that was pastel. Except for a quilt. She desperately needed a pastel quilt.

Her fake aunt made her that quilt, using a huge assortment of 1930s reproduction fabrics. The quilt went to the princess, who lived with it happily ever after.

The problem with fairy tales, though, is that you never get the real ending. In this case, after the quilt went to the princess, the quiltmaker was left with scraps of pastels, and the quiltmaker was the Queen of Jewels, with no dominion over pastels. So she made a table-topper quilt (24" square) with the left-overs (including the back, which is also pieced, so it's two quilts in one), and put it up for sale on Etsy, where everyone's royalty of some sort.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy kitties

I grow my own catnip. Or, rather, my cats' catnip. It's supposed to make a relaxing tea for humans, and I've tried it, but it doesn't do anything for me.

My tortie, Emma, likes her 'nip fresh, straight from the garden. Just crunch a leaf to release the oils, and she's happy. Of course, she also goes berserk over the dried stuff. I have to dry it outside, where she can't get to it, and then crumble it into a big glass jar. When I open the jar, Emma races to stick her head into it. She'd be even happier if she could climb inside and roll around in it.

I figure I've done my duty by growing the stuff and sticking it into basic little fabric bags. Mostly, I make squares with pinked edges that look like fabric ravioli. All of my cats like to pick them up and carry them around the house the way a mom cat carries kittens.

I know, I know. My cats are deprived of all the toys that other cats get. They tell me that all the time. All they get are "ravioli," while other cats get fancy 'nip-filled fish from Etsy. Sob, sob.

If they were more spoiled than they already are, they'd get Etsy fish. I'm torn between two styles as the last word in catnip toys: crackers or embroidered.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sneakin' some zucchini

It's Sneak Some Zucchini Onto The Neighbor's Porch Day tomorrow. I'm so looking forward to celebrating it this year.

Back in May, when it was time to plant, I got out my seed collection, and realized that I'd forgotten to order zucchini and yellow squash from my preferred supplier (Johnny's), and it wasn't worth placing such a small order, since I could get the seeds locally. Turns out, hardly anyone carries seeds any more, or at least not a wide selection, but by the time I'd figured that out, it was too late to mail-order them. Eventually, I found what I needed -- zucchini for me and yellow squash for a friend who helps in my garden, and who hates zucchini but likes yellow squash. Me, I never liked summer squash at all, regardless of variety (although this summer I've found, to my surprise, that yellow squash isn't bad, if it's not overcooked, and it's mixed in with other stuff, instead of served on its own), and I usually only grow the zucchini so I can harvest one baseball-bat-sized squash to make into zucchini bread, which I do like, but shouldn't eat with the sort of abandon that a person might be encouraged to eat, say, stewed zucchini.

I went to plant the seeds, and realized that, in my total disinterest in the fine points of summer squash, I hadn't noticed that the yellow squash seeds weren't actually "yellow squash," but a yellow variety of zucchini (shown in the pic above, with a couple real yellow squash for comparison -- they're the two lighter yellow ones in the middle). The label even proclaims proudly: "with the distinctive flavor of zucchini." Which is just what my friend, who would be expected to eat the squash, doesn't like.

I said to heck with it, and planted a few of the yellow zucchini seeds (along with a few of the green zucchini seeds) anyway, because I'd spent a whole 98 cents on them, and I'd be damned if I was going to waste them. Three seeds each, in the hope that one seed of each variety would germinate, and we'd have a reasonably small number of plants.

But I still didn't have any real yellow squash for my friend, so I went back to hunting for seeds in local stores, and couldn't find the right seeds anywhere. I settled for buying a four-pack of seedlings (costs more than the seeds, and it's roughly four times as many yellow squash plants as we wanted, but the nursery doesn't offer single plants, and I was determined to have yellow squash for my friend). The seedlings survived transplanting, despite my best efforts to give at least a couple them of transplant shock. So, after the seeds germinated, we ended up with three green zucchini plants, three yellow zucchini plants and four yellow squash plants.

Even if you've never grown a vegetable in your life, you probably know that a single summer squash plant will produce enough squash in a single day to feed 3.8 people for two weeks. That's 3.8 people who actually LIKE -- or, even better, LOVE -- squash and are willing to eat it once or twice a day. Plus, those squash plants will keep producing that two-week supply for 3.8 people EVERY SINGLE DAY for the entire season, roughly mid-July to mid-September.

Now, my friend likes yellow squash, enough that she'll make it for her family of four once a week for a month or so. That's pretty much the harvest from ONE plant from ONE day. And we've got ten plants. With a life expectancy of sixty or more days. That's THOUSANDS of people-days' worth of squash.

Oh, yes, we're going to be celebrating Sneak Some Zucchini Onto The Neighbor's Porch Day this year. And perhaps extend the holiday, hybridizing it with a touch of Groundhog Day (in honor of the movie of that name), by doing a replay of August 8th every morning until the first hard frost.