Welcome to Ohio

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Ohio Postcard

On January 8, 2008, I rolled into Cincinnati right at rush hour and after sunset. I lost my bearings once I-74 hit I-75 and I turned south. From the upper level of the Brent Spence Bridge, I spotted a Hampton Inn and decided to call it a night, taking the next exit. I didn’t realize that I was actually going to spend my first night in my new city really in Covington, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River.

I drove in from Illinois where I spent a night with my uncle, aunt, and cousins, and then my last night on the road with my grandma in Geneseo, IL. See, Cincinnati, and the Midwest in general, was not my first geographic choice. I grew up and went to college in Alaska. After spending 2 years in Atlanta, Georgia learning how to write advertising copy, I drove west to Portland, Oregon, where I figured surely my Alaskan upbringing would make me feel at home. The Pacific Northwest, which I had dreamed about in my final months of portfolio school, literally chewed me up and spit me out. While driving back from the airport to the room I sublet in Beaverton, OR after my Cincinnati job interview, I took the wrong direction on the interstate—heading east when I should have been going west. I didn’t recognize my error until the road went pitch black from lack of civilization. The city of Portland did not want me there.

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Postcard with a beautiful view of Cincinnati…taken from Kentucky. You don’t have Cincinnati without Northern Kentucky.

When I first moved to Cincinnati, I had plans to work the job that brought me here for 3 to 5 years before assessing both my career (deciding what challenge to take on next) and geographic location. Should I return to the Pacific Northwest and finally conquer it? Move to Minneapolis? But, just as Portland had made its intentions known to me, so has Cincinnati. The job that I came here for is gone—almost exactly at the 3.5-year mark—but I outlasted it. I married a born-and-raised Ohioan, a Buckeye, who has always lived in Greater Cincinnati. I have 2 kids born here (or close enough). And, the wanderlust that propelled me to the Midwest has dissipated.

I am here.

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Postcard of Greater Cincinnati. The I-275 loop goes through 3 states: Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

January 8, 2018 marks my 10th anniversary of living and working in the Greater Cincinnati area—Ohio. In celebration, I will be making an Ohio Star quilt block each month of 2018. The Ohio Star Quilt Block 12 Different Ways, you may say. In fine print: The Ohio Star Quilt Block 12 Different Ways in Celebration of My 10th Anniversary Living in Cincinnati.

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Ohio Star Quilt Block Coloring Sheet

There is nothing that links quilts and Ohio for me specifically, except that my interest in quilting has bloomed in the past couple of years. The Ohio Star quilt block also isn’t just a clever name. The pattern has origins in Ohio. In an attempt to nourish my interest and to motivate myself to keep quilting and learning, I am self-assigning this project.

My hope is to have each quilt block represent a facet of my Ohio story. I have a few months planned in my head. I don’t know what the others will look like or what they’ll represent.

My other hope his that you’ll follow along as I share my Ohio story through quilting.

My Quilt History

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This isn’t my first quilt. I’m willing to bet my mom made it anyway. She made the doll, “Picture,” that I’m hugging.

The first quilt my mom made and hand-quilted for me sat years and years on the large wooden quilt frame that only fit in our living room. For what felt like eternity, the quilt on the frame was a fixture of our house. I walked past it daily, played and watched TV nearby, all while knowing that when my mom finished it, it would be mine. All mine–I didn’t have to share and it wasn’t going to be passed on or down from a sibling. I think it felt like a long time partly because that is simply how time passes when you are a kid, very slowly.

When I received my college graduation quilt in the mail from my mom a mere year, maybe year and a half, after I had received my diploma, I called her to let her know it arrived and how much I loved it. The yellow and blue-purple fabrics, the chicken hand-quilted near the bottom. I also marveled at her speed. She replied that of course she had gotten it completed quickly, because she didn’t have us kids around bugging her!

For my entire life, I have slept under a quilt made by someone I know. That is, I have never slept under a quilt made to be sold in a big box or department store. I believe that I get good sleep because of this. I despise big, fluffy comforters. You’re doing it wrong, I think when someone tries to explain down and duvets. At one of my past jobs, I wrote descriptions of both “factory” quilts and comforters. I was privy to a conversation or email chain that included a member of the buying department. She explained that quilts were actually summer bedding, because they’re thinner and cooler than their winter counterparts, the dreaded comforter. Again, I thought, you’re doing it wrong. Just layer your quilts (like I do). The weight of 2-3 quilts is comforting. And, when your mom is a prolific quilter and has been your entire life, you have the 2-3 quilts required to keep you warm when the temperature dips to 20F or colder at night.

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Posing in my First Communion dress in front of the quilt frame. This was not my quilt. I don’t have a picture of it.

Quilts have always been in the backdrop of my life, but I have never endeavored to make my own. In fact, I have told my mom that I wouldn’t take up quilting until she was unable to keep me and my family “covered,” in which case, by necessity and my desire to always sleep under a quilt and for my children to do the same as long as they are living under my roof, I would take up the craft. We haven’t reached that point, but I am already dabbling in the art.

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Planning this new quilt project.

My mom liked something quilty on Facebook, which made it pop up in my feed. It caught my eye, and I went down a rabbit hole of modern quilts. I thumbed through photos and photos of textile eye-candy. A few months later, I joined the Modern Quilt Guild. A year later, I signed up for a block of the month program. Another year later and I am setting out on my own quilt project.

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

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Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

I catalog the books I read on Instagram. A picture, a note, and a number. For this particular book I wrote, “…[it] is such an important, timely book. Goodness, if you’re tired of seeing political discussions via memes on the Internet, this book is for you. And, if you’re making, posting, sharing, or even liking those memes (guilty right here!), this book is for you, too.”

In general, this book makes the case for being a better human being and gives concrete steps on how to do just that.

It’s a call to trust ourselves and others and to behave in a trustworthy manner.

It’s a call to stop bullshitting. (Thank you Internet. Again, guilty right here!) And, to call out bullshit.

It’s a call to connect with people on a human level.

It’s a call to stay vulnerable while maintaining the strength to endure the conflicts and criticisms that doing the above 3 things will cause.

I’m paraphrasing, of course. Brown says it simply:

People are hard to hate close up. Move in.

Speak truth to BS. Be civil.

Hold hands. With strangers.

Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

Honestly, this book got my mind racing and thinking about all sorts of experiences I’ve had. I wrote down a lot of quotes in my trusty notebook. For now, I’ll share this:

[Harry] Frankfurt explains how the widespread conviction that many of us share about needing to comment or weigh in on every single issue around the globe leads to increased levels of BS.

I think the Internet and self-publishing via social media and blogs have contributed to this. If you’re on any form of social media, you immediately have a megaphone. And, social media isn’t fun unless you’re posting something, anything, and garnering clicks, likes, and shares. There’s also a vast array of quick “articles” that have the sole purpose of getting picked up by Google searches, yet offer superficial information. (I could go on about this, but I’m still researching and thinking.)

I’ll say it a third time, I’m guilty! Here I am writing this on a blog! I’m a fan of memoirs and personal essays. I try to write them, but when I’m guilty of bullshitting, I twist my personal experience into “how-to” pieces that maybe, pretty please will rack up some traffic. But, that’s bullshitting. Why not just write my experience as a personal essay? It just may be more persuasive.

And, that’s all to say, go read this book.

 

Last Night, We Had Our First Frost

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Combs Canyon in August

I woke up to frosty cold temperatures this morning. I knew it was coming. That’s why yesterday evening, I harvested 6 more okras and 3 impossibly small jalapeños. Folks, I’m calling it. The gardening season is over.

A few weekends ago, we had put away the tomato containers and pulled up the smaller okra plants and bell pepper plants. We left the 3 big okra plants and the jalapeño plant because they were still blooming and producing. I also made the decision to leave in my zucchini plants. They were planted late and I had hopes of getting at least one small zuke from them. This weekend we’ll probably pull up these lingering plants.

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The last of the cherry tomatoes.

I started recording my harvest this year. My hope is that I can be a better garden planner–actually put in the right number of plants so I get enough cucumbers, peppers or okras at once to pickle. I just spent some quality time with my calculator and now I have the totals for our 2017 garden.

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I bet there’s an app for this, but there’s something satisfying about a physical chart.

Cherry Tomatoes (5 plants): 1,457 (a little less than 300 of these were picked green, but are ripening in a brown paper bag on our counter)

Yellow Squash (2 plants): 10

Bell Peppers (3 plants): 2

Okra (6 plants): 93

Pickling Cucumbers (4 plants): 84

Jalapeños (1 plant): 18

 

Lessons Learned, Ideas for Next Year & Thoughts:

+I’m so glad we only planted cherry tomatoes this year. I’m trying to convince my husband that we need another container (2 plants) of cherry tomatoes so that we can have a surplus and then I can be the “tomato lady” of the neighborhood. I’d sell fresh-picked pints of tomatoes and even deliver them. Who wouldn’t want to buy homegrown tomatoes from a neighbor? Not much tastes better!

+I’m planting zucchini earlier.

+No more bell peppers. These did not do well at all. I have some seeds for lunchbox peppers, which may do better since they’re a smaller pepper. I may try those next year before I decide to not bother with peppers altogether.

+Half of my okra plants were powerhouses. I saved the insert-thingy from them so I can remember the variety. I’m going to hold out for that particular variety next year.

+While I never harvested enough okras at once to pickle them (my dream) I have a bunch in my freezer and I’ve already made a batch of gumbo!

+Ditto with pickling cucumbers. I never had enough at once to pickle, but we pretty much ate these as we harvested. They’re really tasty. Next year, I’ll plant more and have something ready to replace them once they’re done.

+My first batch of jalapeños I made into refrigerator pickles. They were so good! I did the same thing with my second harvest and they were unbearably hot. What? I like spicy, but I don’t like food so hot that I can’t enjoy it. What to do? I just may put in another jalapeño plant next year because this year’s did so well and I really want pickled slices! Maybe I’ll figure out how to “tame” them.

Overall, this year’s garden was successful. If I didn’t get a good yield, I at least learned a lot and have notes for next year.

 

 

40 Before Forty Update: No. 06

6. Complete my Sarah Fielke Block of the Month 2017 quilt top…and then put it all together.

I don’t even know what month of this I’m on, because I’m behind. I did hand applique my sunflower corners, though!

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Sarah Fielke Block of the Month Quilt 2017

I count this as progress. I’m also cutting out pieces for the next border as fast as I can. But, there are a lot of little pieces to cut.

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For reference, there are a total of 80 of those hexagon pieces. And, I need 152 triangles out of the blue.

I’m learning so much with this quilt, especially just how long it takes me to do quilty tasks!

While I’m loving this quilt and I WILL get it finished, I’m pretty sure that I will not be doing a structured or group block of the month quilt next year. Mostly because I have an idea for doing my own block of the month. I’ve got a theme, I just need to work out the details. Although, I think those details will be defined as I go! I’m going to come up with a nifty hashtag for the project, but for now, I’m going with #TBudCoBOMQuilt2018. Stay tuned, as I’ll share more as we get closer to 2018. Of course, stay tuned to see the progress on my 2017 BOM quilt!