Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Earlier this week, an e-mail arrived from McCall's in Golden, Colorado, in response to a couple I had sent them.  I had asked once again when to expect the return of the final quilts. At one point I had been told they would be shipped out to us in early December.  The e-mail contained reasurring news. 

First, they had not sent the quilts out in the flurry of holiday mailings.  One of my fears was "Music of the Night" would be lost in a corner of a warehouse storing undeliverable packages.  I imagined a box at the bottom of a pile, its side burst under the weight of other packages, and my quilt becoming home to a family of field mice.

Second, the package containing my quilt was not in a semi-trailer that had blown over during the fierce winds rampaging across the highways in Colorado.  In that imagining, boxes were strewn across a snow and ice encrusted road and were slammed into by other huge trucks.  I could see those boxes being ripped apart under wheels by truckers valiantly trying to avoid other vehicles.  In the blinding storm, quilts would be tugged out of open cartons to fly away into the stormy night only to be found high in the wilderness by a pack of wolves.

Third, an unwary secretary hurrying to her desk in the morning, tripped over the strap of a briefcase left lying beside a vacant chair.  In her wild windmilling to avoid tumbling to the ground, the cardboard container she was carrying in one hand sailed across the room and smacked into a quilt hanging on the wall - my quilt.  The container held four lattes intended as a morning wake-up for the secretary and three colleagues.  While friends gathered around asking if she was all right and helping her gather herself and her belongings, my quilt wound up unnoticed, soaking up those lattes.

In my fourth improbable scenario, one night the cleaners were at work.  One of them was vacuuming the room where the 12 quilts are hanging when another cleaner stopped to chat.  As they joked and talked about their holidays, the hose of the vacuum held on the shoulder of one cleaner, quietly ate the wings off the dragonflies, sucked up the owl, and beheaded the grandmother on my quilt.

What wild imaginings have plagued me this past month!  Now I can laugh at them because the quilts are being returned and are not being held ransom by a rogue employee.  The delay was due to a misunderstanding.  The person charged with taking care of the mailing thought it had been decided to avoid the holidays by mailing in January.    She (who as far as I know doesn't even drink lattes) is going to send me the tracking number once "Music" is on its way. 

Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cynthia Emerlye - Artist

Today I have spent a lot of time on line.  And it all started as a search for photos of thistles (I have some of my own, but I'm not satisfied with them).  That turned into a search for sketches of thistles.  A decent botanical illustration (especially in black and white) has a clarity that photos don't always have. You see, I'm thinking of embroidering a thistle, and it's hard to do that if you don't know exactly what a thistle should look like.  Once you know that, you can "interpret" or "stylize" the flower yet still have it be a recognizable thistle (or lily, or peony, or - you get the idea).

Anyway, I came across a sketch of thistles by Cynthia Emerlye, and I was immediately smitten.  Her drawing is not of the botanical illustration variety, but she clearly depicts the shape and properties I needed to see.  Well, I couldn't leave it at that; then I had to go to her blog, and oh my, you must visit this blog: to see her work.  Her logo calls her work "opulent" and "ornate", and she is right!  And just wait until you see her kirigami (Japanese paper cutting) . . . amazing work. 

Beware, once you begin looking through her blog, you may spend more time there than you think.  That's what happened to me today, and I'd love to pull you in, too!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Wishes

As the days draw closer to the holiday, schedules become more full.  So even though we've managed to keep ourselves free-from-frenzy, we do, like you, have a list of things to do before we leave to visit Rebecca's family for the holidays.

Let me take this time to tell you how much you have meant to me this past year.  You know your support has been incredible and something I cherish.  Now every time I doubt myself, and I do still have those niggling worries, I merely say with some confidence, "I can do it!"  You have taught me that, but the other thing you've taught me is even more important.  When I follow that first statement with, "And if I can't, at least I will have tried!", I know I've been given a great gift.  Sometimes it really is the journey that matters.  Thank you for encouraging me so I could learn these valuable lessons.

May your days be filled with journeys that matter to you, and may you find people whose hearts and minds are open both to the importance of your quest and to what it means to you.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, enjoy it and your family and friends.  I'll be back to this blog after we return.  As I said in some of our holiday, cards:

In this coming New Year,
May your Days be filled with Music
and your Nights with Magic!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No Snow in the Forecast

The rain is over, and the sun is shining!  It's hard to believe Christmas is only a few days away.  According to the weather predicters, there is no snow in the forecast.  Isn't it odd to feel conflicted about snow? 

When I was working and had to drive 40 minutes to work, snow was a big deal.  It meant I had to leave earlier (and I already left quite early), drive slower, and be more aware of the other traffic.  There were places in my trip that presented hazards in bad weather that one could fly through if the day was fine.  If the snow or ice was really bad, I'd eagerly watch the school closings to see if my school was closed (it often was when local schools weren't because of the hilly terrain where I taught).  If I saw the magic word, "Closed", scroll across the bottom of the TV, I'd do a little happy dance, get back into bed, and revel in the knowlege that I had an unexpected free day.

In some ways, it was ironic that I would be so gleeful because snow days wreaked havoc with lesson plans and inner schedules.  There were times when having plans thrown off even one day (especially around holidays) was awkward and getting things back on track took a lot of extra planning.  However, it was the "inner schedule" I mentioned that was the real killer.

That unexpected free day through off one's sense of timing.  Getting back into the groove was harder in some ways than getting back after a vacation.  The unplanned nature of free time is hard to adapt to.  First of all, one can spend half a day dithering about what should be or could be done.  I would usually decide to do nothing that had anything to do with work and spend my time doing things I rarely had time to do.  Then when it was time to go to bed, I would feel guilty and out of sorts because I hadn't gotten ahead in my work.  The next day at school, I'd race around doing all the extra things that had to be done when a day was missed: writing out the day's schedule, changing the agenda, posting new "due dates", seeing everyone who had to be seen to re-schedule meetings or library time, figuring out how to get two days of classwork in one day, and all the other details that had to be taken care of.

Now imagine how the students felt when they came back.  They had had a delightful free day and were suddenly thrown back into a school day.  BUT, and it was a big "but", their school day would be slightly off kilter.  People would be a bit distracted, timing would be odd, and the entire day would seem like being inside one of those carnival mirrors that skew normal reflections.  And the worst thing about it?  They had no control over it. 

It was very much like having no control over the weather.  The next time you feel out of sorts about the snow or lack of it, think about it.  Since we have no control over it, isn't it better for us to relax and roll with it than get all upset about it?

Yes, it probably would be, but as humans (even as adult humans), it's hard to do that, isn't it? 

Gee, I'd love to have a bit of snow for the holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Decorating Cookies

Yesterday I mentioned that I was baking the first batch of cookies for the holiday season.  The cookies were basic sugar cookies (one of my personal favorites), I opted to make cut out cookies instead of the easier drop ones.  That's something I haven't done in quite a while, either, so somewhere along the line, I'd misplaced my memory of how much fun those are to make.

In all our culling of Christmas-related items, I didn't touch my cookie cutters.  Even though Rebecca has quite a few, there are still enough Christmas ones left with which to have fun.  I even found the plastic one that I used to make the felt teddy bear I showed you in an earlier blog.  Anyway, yesterday I made reindeer, little gingerbread-style boys, stars, and trees.  Then I designed a two-for-one cookie.  Decorated one way, it was Santa in a sleigh.  Decorated another, it was two women in a pink convertible! 

Mind you, it wasn't planned (don't I wish I were that clever), but when David looked at the undecorated cookies, he said, "I know what that one is; it's Santa."  Now, afterwords he said he didn't see Santa as I had, but he put the idea in my mind.  Collaboration is a great thing!

Actually what I wanted to tell you about is what I used to decorate the cookies.  Yesterday was the first time I used this product so my work is a little rough around the edges, but did I have fun!  I used Betty Crocker's "Cookie Icing" that comes in a pouch, and no, I'm not being paid to say this.  I know you're thinking that you prefer to make your own ,and you don't want all the additives.  I understand that.  But unless you're willing to work with royal icing, you really should at least try this product.  Here's why.  First, it comes in a kneadable pouch with a tip so you don't have to have the extra icing bags and tips.  Where you cut the tip determines how thick or thin a line you can make.  Second, it comes in a lot of colors including black (!) though I haven't found yellow, yet.  Third, and here's the clincher for me, the frosting hardens!  That means you can take a plate loaded of decorated cookies to a friend's house, and the frosting on the bottom cookies stays on the cookies without smudging all over!  Fourth and finally, it tastes like frosting.

What's the drawback?  I don't know how easy it may be for children to use because it requires steady pressure to get a good line, and it takes a bit of strength to do that.  I'd like to try it with my grandson and see how he does with it.  For him, I think I'd snip the tip of the pouch so he'd have a wider opening for the frosting to come out, and he could "paint" a larger area.  Today I'm making cookies in the shape of turtles for him.  It should be lots of fun! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Busy-ness

It's one of those times when everyone is so busy, one doesn't think one can squeeze another task or commitment onto an overflowing calendar.  Doesn't it surprise you that we manage to do so and many times without even blinking?  Last night I found myself wondering how I ever managed to do all I did and work at the same time.  Truly, I don't think I accomplish as much now as I did then, but I certainly am as busy.  Or at least I think I am.  Let's see -

Somehow it is already December 17th, and last night for the first time I sat down and addressed Christmas cards.  Never mind the fact that I could have done it right after Thanksgiving - if I didn't have "so many other important things to do".  What were those "important things", I wonder?  I'm sure I thought they were at the time, but now? 

Yesterday I started baking Christmas and Hanukkah cookies.  These were not continuations of previous batches; these were the first.  Have I done an incredible amount of baking and cooking up till now?  Well, no.  I've made the odd meal here or there, the usual breakfasts, an occasional special lunch, and a treat (yeah, like slicing an apple?  get real!).  I can't say I've spent a tremendous amount of time in the kitchen.

How about homemade gifts.  Well, there I'm doing better.  I have two things made . . . well, almost finished.  They will be by Christmas - or at least one will be.  The other? Maybe.  The third is cut out and will probably be a birthday present instead of Christmas.

Maybe it's work that's holding me back.  Honestly?  No.  I did have to spend several days finishing a sample, but that's all.  After all, I only teach a day or two a month.

So, "What have you been doing with your time?" you ask.  I've been reading, painting, playing the piano, walking, chatting with friends (including my husband), sewing (not always Christmas related, I confess), going out, attending a wedding (now that was really special and worthy of lots of time!!!), but that's about it.  There were other odds and ends like normal housekeeping chores, too, but nothing that took more than a day.

So what has kept me from getting everything done in a more timely manner?  I'm retired.  The pressure is off.  I know that the world won't come to an end if I don't do everything I used to do.  I actually think I have a better perspective on the relative importance of things in general, but it's taken a long time to get here.

Before you agree the next time you hear someone complain about getting older, stop and think.  Every age has its benefits.  I'm still discovering the many that go with my age.  Remember your Wordsworth?  His "Ode to Immortality"?  
     What though the radiance that was once so bright
     Be now forever taken from my sight,
     Though nothing can bring back
     The splendor of the grass,
     The glory of the flower,
     We will grieve not, rather find
     Strength in what remains behind . . .
     . . . . .
     In years that bring the philosophic mind.
All of the above was written because, while I always admired these lines (forgive me for not looking them up to get them exactly right - this quote is from memory), I didn't/couldn't appreciate them as I do now.  And by today's standards, I'm not that old (just check the mean age in this week's obituaries).

Anyway, I just want all of you to take a deep breath, look at something beautiful, spend 20 minutes with your feet up and your eyes closed, and ask yourself, "Is this frenzy really worth it?  In ten years, will this all be so important?"  If your answer is, "Yes!"  then go to it, and I'll cheer you on.  However, if it's, "No" then re-evaluate what you are doing to yourself and find a way to bring calm to your life. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tuesday = Painting = Learning

Every Tuesday morning I have my painting class, and it has become another bright star in my week.  Of course, you probably already know that because I've written about how happy I am that I actually seem to be getting somewhere with it this year.  Since the same thing seems to be happening with my piano lessons, it may be that "third year's the charm" thing.

Whatever it is, I hate to miss a Tuesday of painting if I can help it.  Well, this week I missed.  What with the holidays coming, I had gotten behind in my hand-piecing project.  The sample had to be finished for display by the twentieth of this month so I spent several days stitching all day.  Don't feel sorry for me because I do enjoy it, and it had to be done.  The piece was finished this past Monday, and given our schedules, the only "good" day and time for delivery was Tuesday morning . . . hence, no painting.

However, this story has a good ending.  Sharon, my painting teacher, teaches a class on Thursday night and also offers it as a make up class for those of us who miss our regularly scheduled class.  How's that for luck! 

Anyway, I went last night, and as I painted I thought about how we learn.  Of course, there are many different ways, but I'm going to talk about the power of learning by doing.  Last year Sharon told us a story about when she was a student and was working on a painting of bananas  - dare I say it? - fruitlessly (Ha!) for some time.  She said she just couldn't get the shadows right.  She tried gray.  No good.  She tried brown.  No.  She tried green.  Still didn't look just right.  Then she had an epiphany.  Color complements!  The complement of yellow is violet.  When she tried violet as the shadow, it worked perfectly.  All right.  I know my color theory so I listened to the story and filed it away.

Now, remember the first painting I did this year, the Green Bottle?  At one point I said my shadows weren't quite right?  Of course, at the time I thought I just didn't have the angle right.  Last night I realized that at first I had used gray (from the concrete wall) as my shadow.  However, during class, Sharon suggested that I pull some of the bottle green down into the wall, and I thought, "Oh, okay, and I'll use green as my shadow under the barn siding."  Ta-dah!  It was wonderful, but I didn't make the connection to color theory (green is the complement of red). 

Now I'm working on a painting of an opening in the rock on the cliff walk in Canyon de Chelly so it's all orangey with a cadmium blue sky.  Sharon suggested blue in the shadow of the opening.  I used ultramarine and loved it.  So then - finally - I made the connection.  Light bulbs went on and rockets flared in the night sky!  I used cadmium in the shadows on the rock face.  L-O-V-E it!  Color complements work (blue is the complement of orange), my brain knew it in an all too academic way, but it took using it (more than once!) to really know it. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Final words on Santa's

Okay, you're all laughing so hard I can hear you loud and clear!  Now I feel I have to defend myself. 

You see, about seven years ago, we stopped putting up a regular Christmas tree.  I continued decorating the rest of the house as I usually did.  Gradually, even that diminished to decorating the downstairs only.

Can you imagine the amount of decorations I amassed over the years so I could have Christmas in every room?  Each bedroom had its own little tree (although for safety reasons those were artificial).  Windows were festooned with ribbons, hanging glass balls, glass icicles, or painted cookies.  Bathrooms had Santa's and candles.  Snowmen dotted the bookshelves, and the living room had carved wooden figures from Germany as well as a tree heavily laden with all sorts of ornaments from hand-made expressions to the old Polish or Czech ornaments.  In the dining room were ropes of beads swirled among the crystal candlesticks on the table, bowls of apples or oranges studded with cloves, and the dessert plates, bowls, platters and silverware ready for the dessert goodies.  Needless to say, Santa appeared in almost every nook and cranny!

Most of what was passed on this year were the tree ornaments.  Of course, Santa's. snowmen, figural candles, went also, but we kept the majority of the Santa's (as you could see).  If you remember, my rule was that everything that was kept had to be used or displayed.  Why else keep it?  Hence the exuberance of Santa's on the piano.

Possibly, I started this year's clutter control with that which is hardest for me to sort through.  If so, it should stand me in good stead as we tackle other areas.

Passing on clothing will be a snap after this! 

* Total number of Santa's on the piano?  Twenty-seven!!!  How did you do?   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Clutter Control Update

David tells me we are almost finished with all the various Christmas boxes from the basement.  I find it hard to believe, but he has taken 4 trips to Good Will so he should know!  There are two boxes for Rebecca to sort through, and I have thrown away bags of old, ratty, not-worth-dusting "stuff". 

Now before you get all excited and drive over to pat us on the back, here is a photo (taken today) of the top of my piano:

It's hard to see what's there, isn't it?  Don't worry, just for you, just so you can appreciate the contents of this photo, I've taken two close ups.  Look carefully, and I won't be offended if you start counting. 

Left side
If you are counting, you might want to mark the piano lamp as your stopping point for this photo.  Right side coming up . . .

How many did you count*?

All right, before you break into whoops of laughter, pause and reflect.  Ask yourself, "How many Santa's did she have before the Great Sweep?"  Then think, "This is only the top of the piano . . . !!!"

Really, all joking aside, it's so much less than we had.  Also, you need to realize that in order to sort through everything, everything had to be taken out, dusted, cooed over, memories exchanged, and well, then each and every thing had to be displayed. 

Makes sense to me! 

*Tune in to the next blog to get the final count of Piano-top Santa's. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Music of the Night's" Return: Update

Some of you may not remember that the finalists in the McCall's Quilt Design Star Contest had to send the last quilt to McCall's in Golden, Colorado.  After the announcement of the winner, I waited for the return of my quilt and began to become a little uneasy.  Eventually I e-mailed our contact at McCall's and was told they were taking more photographs and the quilts would be returned shortly.

At least that's what I thought the e-mail said.

As more and more days passed, I became more and more anxious about the fate of my quilt (we all know about the local woman whose prize winning quilt was sent to a magazine but never came back) but managed to convince myself that I should wait until a month had passed since the end of the contest.  During this period, my friends would frequently ask if "Music" had arrived yet and would commiserate with me about the inexplicable delay.  They were all as flummoxed as I over why additional photos would be taken since I was not the winner.  What were they doing to my quilt?  What were their plans for those photos.  In short, what nefarious plan were they hatching? 

Finally, December 9th, the one month date, arrived, and I got ready to check for a phone number for the McCall's contact.  For some reason, I decided to reread the original e-mail that contained the explanation for the delay.  It's a good thing I did for when I read it carefully, I found more information than I had the first time I read it.  The message actually stated that the photographs of the quilts were being color-corrected as the photos are to appear in the May/June 2012 issue of McCall's Quilting (as our neighbor said, "Yeah, probably postage stamp size!").  The quilts would probably be sent back the second week in December which starts today.

So now I can smack my head for not reading carefully and then hang it sheepishly for imagining the worst.

Nefarious plans, indeed!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Hyde Collection

When you were young, did you have a favorite book?  Were there books you read that had illustrations that fired your imagination?  Did you read a comic strip that made you laugh almost every day?  Does a particular story from your childhood still surface in your memory?   I can remember hosts of books whose pages spelled magic for me and illustrators whose work was so special that I would lose myself in their art.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going with two friends to the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls to see the exhibit Children's Book Illustration.  Although small by some standards, it was a wonderful exhibit.  We saw illustrations by Caldecott, the artist in whose name our prestigious book award for illustration is named.  Big names like Kate Greenaway, Palmer Cox (of Brownie fame), Jules Feiffer and Walt Kelly who were primarily cartoonists, Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are, and Gruelle who created Raggedy Ann and Andy.  Those are just a few (I can remember books from years ago but can't remember the names of all the artists we enjoyed yesterday - sigh!). 

The exhibit displayed the art work from early illustrators to current day.  It is amazing how printing capabilities have changed the art that is possible to have in a book.  One of the best things about yesterday's trip was being with two such knowledgeable people.  Johanna, like me, knows quite a bit about books (and their authors) for young people, and Sharon was able to explain the methods used to create the art. 

Additionally, this exhibit was organized by the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, CA (so there's another place to put on your worthy-of-a-visit places).   The Hyde has the Cartoon Museum's absolutely wonderful pamphlet/worksheet booklet for children that Johanna and I thought was superb.  It contains explanations as well as questions with space to write an answer in a beautifully designed and illustrated, color brochure.  Take your grandchildren and have fun! 

We had enough time to stroll through and enjoy the first floor of the Hyde House (incredible art - Tintoretto, Ingres, early illustrated books) before we had to leave. You'll be amazed to know we didn't even spend any money in the gift shop, and my favorite stores are museum gift shops!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Painting Day

Tuesdays are the days when I have my painting classes; and they have become one of my favorite days.  Now, I know I said I would show you the entire series of my last painting, the Green Bottle, and I will.

But I do have to tell you that I started a new painting today, and I am very pleased.  This one is of a small section of Canyon de Chelly so, as you can imaging, it's mostly rock.  Do you remember the photo of the Canyon wall that I showed you way back?  I just checked, and it was on August 24th.  Now, you may know that rock isn't easy to paint; there are so many colors and the textures . . .  wow.  Anyway, I am liking what I have done which is to paint my impression of the rock.   What the colors seem to be.  Hey, it's fun, and I think it's working.

So any way, here's the Green Bottle from beginning to end:
Second Day
Green Bottle appears
The Green Bottle finished
While I don't seem to be able to get these photos arranged as I would like to, at least you will be able to see all four at one time. 

I'd love to hear from you and an easy way to do it is simply e-mail me.  Let me know what you think about the Green Bottle.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Old Ornament

I'm still working on going through all of our boxes of Christmas ornaments.  We've found some jewels, some clunkers, some memories for us, some nice ones for Good Will, and some treasures belonging to Rebecca. 

You'd think that getting all dusty and tired from pawing through numerous boxes would make me decide to stop now.  After all, I've really cleaned up quite a bit.  But I haven't finished yet, and every now and then I find something that makes me sit right down with the item cradled in my hand and - sometimes - tears in my eyes.  Sometimes the ornament will bring back memories that keep me thinking all day long about a time, a person, or a place.

Today was such a day.  At the very bottom of a box I found, very carefully wrapped in tissue paper (I should have stock in it - I wrap everything!), an old handmade ornament  It was a small felt, rather flat teddy bear.  It couldn't be more that 3" tall if that.  Talk about memories!

When we were first married, David was working on his doctorate and I was working as a stewardess.  Like most newlyweds, we didn't have any extra money.  The idea was that since we planned to spend Christmas with his family so there was no need to spend money on a Christmas tree.  We could enjoy the one in his family's home. 

Well, I wasn't having any part of that!  We had a miniature palm in our apartment so I decided to decorate it, and make it our Christmas tree.  No money, no decorations - no problem!  I decided to make the decorations.  Painted eggs were first on my list.  Carefully I made holes at each end of some raw eggs (they were inexpensive and scrambled eggs made a good supper). That meant I had to blow the raw egg through those small holes and into a bowl.   I still remember sitting on the floor to do that because it made me dizzy and I didn't want to fall over.  I think we still have a few of those in a box that I haven't opened yet.

The other ornaments of that year were the felt ones.  Do you remember how inexpensive the small squares of felt were at Woolworth's?  I had some and allowed myself to buy a few more colors.  I remember making elephants, rabbits, and teddy bears by tracing around my old hand-me-down tin cookie cutters with green wooden handles.  Then they were cut out, faces were painted on or tiny scraps of felt were glued on for eyes and mouths.  Next I would stuff them with bits of cotton cut from a roll pulled from a dark blue box, and  sew up the sides.  Finally, I'd add a bit of embroidery floss or string as a loop so they could hang on the palm tree (and later, on real Christmas trees). 

What a wealth of fond memories.  And what a lesson!  Those years of making do are long past, and now it's so easy to get whatever I want almost immediately.  No fuss, no muss, no waiting.  The days when I made ornaments, gifts, and clothing have flown by too quickly.  I need to remember how much I enjoyed making things and the thrill of finally purchasing something for which I'd saved a long time.   The past is gone as are many of our old ornaments thanks to this clean-out, but I'd better hold on to that felt teddy bear.

He has such good stories to tell if I remember to listen.     

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Parties

Now here is a topic that frequently gets bad press.  Holiday parties (especially office holiday parties) are often portrayed as times of drunken lechery or worse.  While I am sure that must happen somewhere sometime, I can't remember ever having suffered through one . . . or even in my very much younger years enjoyed one.  Do you suppose television's situation comedies and/or B movies are to blame?   

This topic occurred to me as I was driving home with David from a party held by a group of which he is a member.  We've been going for years.  It always follows the same format, and we have a grand time every year.  I'm sure that part of our pleasure comes from that predictability.  After all, sometimes it is all right to know what to expect.

However, the real reason we like this particular holiday party has to do with the people and the manner in which they conduct themselves.  First of all, there is a cocktail hour.  I noted tonight that even though no one over indulged, we are not the only couple that has a designated driver.  Generally speaking, I would guess that the average attendee drank 1 - 1.5 alcoholic beverages.  The purpose of this part of the party is to allow people the chance to chat, get reacquainted with the spouses of friends, talk to people one won't be sitting near at dinner, and allow everyone to arrive before sitting down to the meal.   There was laughter and happy chatter, but no one made anyone else uncomfortable.

Next we sit down to eat dinner and chat more.  There is also a very brief business meeting (to which most people listen politely) with some awards given (everyone claps and congratulates the winners).  Then we eat dinner and have our coffee and dessert while anticipating the next, favorite part of the evening. 

The organization holds a blind auction every year after the holiday dinner is finished.  Each member is expected to bring at least one (preferably more) item for the auction.  All the items are wrapped in appropriate winter or holiday paper so no one, not even the auctioneer, can see what the item is.  Some packages are decently covered while others are quite attractively presented.  The pretty ones usually receive higher bids, but that's no surprise.  It's also no surprise that the auction starts slowly, and sometimes the first several items go for a song.

That doesn't last long.  Soon there is good natured rivalry in the bidding.  Each person tries to outwit someone else by slipping in a surprise high bid.  There's laughter, quips are traded between bidding "opponents", comments about the possible contents of the mystery package being auctioned, memories of previous auctions exchanged, and finally someone wins.  To the delight of everyone, curiosity is satisfied immediately as the winner is obliged to unwrap and display the item won.  There have been gag gifts in the past, but I don't remember that there were any this year.  I think that most people were quite pleased with the contents of their packages.  David was, and one item in particular really captured his fancy.  It was something he'd never seen before, didn't even know it existed, and he was fascinated.

Here's the nicest thing.  At the end of the auction, everyone goes to the treasurer and pays her or his tab.  I've never heard any complaints, and people pay without argument.  You see, all the money goes back to the club to help defray the cost of next year's guest lecturers/demonstrators.  By spending money in this light-hearted atmosphere, the members of the club ensure their enjoyment of next year's meetings.  They make it possible to engage top speakers on topics about which they want to hear learn.  All this while having a great, unexceptional time.

Hmmm . . . I wonder if there's actually a lesson to be taken from a holiday party that might apply to our daily lives? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Painting, Day 3 - Mystery Explained

This past Tuesday was day 3 of my painting class and day 3 for this painting.  With the exception of some (minimal) detail work, I consider this painting finished.  Now that is a HUGE change for me.  Last year from September to mid-May, I worked on four paintings; a still life of pumpkins and gourds, stones at the edge of the lake, a beach "sketch", and a quick landscape study.  That's four days a month of class, and frequently one additional day a week at home if the paint was dry enough.  I don't consider any of the four "finished".

It was painfully slow, and I actually knew I was getting stuck on the details, but despite Sharon's attempts to move me on, I just couldn't get past the wall I had erected.  Then on that last day, I decided to try the palatte knife for that quick landscape study from a calendar photo, and you know the results of that experiment.  The palatte knife seems to be the crack in the door for me; it's certainly gotten me out of that detail rut in a hurry!

The Green Bottle
Some of you have been extremely good sports by trying to guess what my painting could possibly represent.  A few years ago in Vermont, we visited a farm on Darling Hill in the Northeast Kingdom.  Davis and Esther, David and I wandered all over that gorgeous place and took loads of photos of all the barns and out-buildings (all painted barn red), gardens and animals, views from every vantage point and even some interiors. 

This particular photo of the side of an out-building, its window, concrete wall, and the dusty green bottle on the window sill has been a favorite for some time.  It seemed the perfect subject for my first serious attempt at painting with the palatte knife.  The shapes are basic, the detail simple (the better to ward off my detail crazed bete-noir!), leaving the color and texture paramount.  If I could capture both of those important facets, I thought I would have both answered my question about my choice of tool and a decent painting. 

I have succeeded! This is a painting of which I can be proud, and I can see it hanging on a wall in my house (that's a first). 

It's too bad that the above photo is not very good (I'll have to ask my friend Brian to take another for me). The paint reflects the daylight in such a way that it's difficult to see the bottle. So I took another, close-up photo, not very sharp, but the bottle is more evident. It, too, was painted with the knife rather than a brush. 

What do you think?  After the details are final, I'm going to try to show all stages of the painting so you have a better view of the changes.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Moving on to Christmas

This is the year.  I have finally faced the fact that since we no longer put up a tree, it is time to go through all our tree ornaments.  Today, David brought up a box marked "good ornaments" from the basement.  "No fair," I thought.  "How am I going to be able to make a decision if these are ones we really like?"  So I told him it might take me a while to go through them let alone make any decisions.  "I know," he grinned.


Okay, so once he'd gone off to bonsai class, I sat down with the box and started.  I had established some guidelines.  I figured I'd make a pile for Rebecca's ornaments, a pile for David's ornaments, a pile for ornaments I want, and a pile for Good Will.  Then I refined the criteria for my pile.  I could set aside any ornament I felt like saving, BUT if I can't find a way to use/display the ornament this year, it has to go.  Whew!  So I turned on the TV (distraction from pain) and opened the box.  An hour later, David's pile had maybe 6 items, Rebecca's 20 - 25, mine 15 - 20, and Good Will's was overflowing.  Wow, again!

It can't have been the box with the good ornaments.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Final Thoughts on Thanksgiving (this year, at least!)

Here's is something I really want to share with all of you.  You may remember that at the end of McCall's Quilt Design Star Contest, I said I was going to close down this blog.  One of the reasons I gave was my frustration at receiving no comments; I still acknowledge the problem lies with this particular blog format.  Several of you, dedicated readers that you are (and bless you for that!), encouraged me to continue.  Some said they read this blog first thing in the morning while having their coffee or tea.  What a charming picture that gave me - friends blowing on steaming cups, wrapped in warm robes, hunched over a computer screen, reading Quilting Tales!  Others claimed to enjoy my writing or my topics. 

It was Esther, my dear sister-in-law, who pointed out the benefit of writing to me.  She said that what I learn about quilting, painting, life through writing about it is worth the slight inconvenience of writing and/or lack of feedback.  Talk about getting right to the heart of the matter (Esther has an uncanny ability of cutting through the chaff to get to the kernel inside)!  She's right, and here I am, still. 

So what does this have to do with Thanksgiving?  After one of my recent entries about this holiday, Esther responded with a comment (and she writes one now for almost every entry) that sums up everything I was trying to say.  She gave me permission to share it with you:

When I prepare for Thanksgiving, I clean and sort items in my dining room -- many from my mother. I find myself talking to her and even listening as she reminds me about removing all the eyes from the potatoes to keep the mashed potatoes that pure white color. The silver was a gift from my parents to Dave and me over a number of Christmases. As I clean I think of the years that have gone by. All my wonderful memories around the holiday. I guess that's one of the reasons Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday -- particularly when I gather my family around me. Yes, I am very thankful and grateful that I've had so many wonderful people in my life. Thanks for being you.   

How's that for a heartfelt expression of this particular holiday.  I choke up every time I read that, and I've read it often.  I know exactly what she means when she talks about hearing her mother's voice in her head; it's a gift we are sometimes given after the death of a parent - her or his voice still with us years later.  Now, every Thanksgiving I will think of what Esther has said  about memories.  I will see her as she moves around her home, and I will cherish this memory of a woman, so dear to me, who is so much more than a sister-in-law.

We should all jot down a similar expression of Thanksgiving's special nature to share with our families.  What a gift Esther has given me - another memory and another reason to love Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Time for Sharing

Well, wasn't that a wonderful time!  Thanksgiving is indeed a special holiday with its focus on family, friends, and the things for which we are grateful.  We spent time with one of David's sisters, our daughter (we missed her son and husband who were off visiting his family but sent them our love), and David's dad.  Because my father-in-law is more comfortable closer to home, we drove down and went out to dinner at a local restaurant.  Each person was able to order her or his dish of choice, be served, eat in comfort, and have the dirty dishes all "mysteriously" whisked away to be cleaned by the staff.  How's that for a Thanksgiving present!  The restaurant to which we went even had old quilts as part of their decorations; I couldn't ask for more.

We have started a new Black Friday tradition (this is the second year we've done it so I guess it qualifies as a tradition).  David, his sister, our daughter, and I go to a local farm called Noch Fiernan in Duanesburg to buy our Christmas wreath.  Check out this site: for some information on where you can buy the best wreaths, kissing balls, and table arrangements for the holiday season.  This is also the place to go for locally grown plants in the spring.  It's a small business, and the proprietress, Rita, is a lovely and talented lady.  I do believe in shopping in small businesses (just look at all the business I give local quilt shops!), and this is a fine one to patronize.  We put up this year's gorgeous wreath and kissing ball as soon as we got back home. 

Saturday Mary Ellen and I spent our day at a local quilt shop taking a class, continuing our responsibility to shop locally, and then sewing until the wee hours of the morning (and I do mean "wee"!).  It was a delightful time, and both of us finished the projects we started during the afternoon class!  Check out the photos on Joyful Quilter's Facebook page.  Some of us take photo ops seriously - others? not so much.  Guess which one I am (okay, so you didn't even have to look . . .).

Two dear friends who live in Florida but who came north to spend Thanksgiving with their son's family (including a 4-month-old grandchild!) stopped in for a quick visit on Sunday.  What a good time - lots of news, memories, and laughter!  Isn't it wonderful how with good friends you can just pick up where you left off even after years of absence?

One last item to share.  Day 2 of the mystery painting- ta dah!  Okay, can you tell what it is now?  At least partly?   Clearly, it's not finished, but I am having fun with the palatte knife.  It will be interesting to see what I can do with it as I add the details.  Should I use the knife or the brush; that is the question.  I admit to using a little brush last time, but it's still primarily knife.  Also, I really should settle on from which direction the light is coming; my shadows are off.  I'm glad I chose a relatively simple subject to start this voyage!

I hope that your Thanksgiving was all you hoped and that your weekend was successful and relaxing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow you will all be even more busy than you were today, I bet.  You'll either be in your own home preparing for Thanksgiving, or you'll be preparing for Thanksgiving elsewhere (or other permutations of these scenarios).  Whichever is the case for you, I hope you are enjoying getting ready for time with your family and friends.

I must admit that every year at this time, I have to remind myself to take the time to be grateful for everything I most often take for granted.  I need a nudge to look beyond myself to others and think about what I can do to make sure I leave a positive imprint on them. 

So, I will respond to my own nudge here.  Thank you, my dear family and friends and those whom I hope will some day be friends, thank you for being who you are.  Thank you for your loving hearts and generous souls.  Thank you for your open minds and outstretched arms.  Your imprint on me has been singularly positive!

Again, happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Faliing Leaves

Autumn is my favorite season of the year.  I love the blue of the sky, the crisp air, the scent of leaves, and the glorious colors.  To me, fall is invigorating, and I love to be outside during the glory days of this season. 

Yesterday was such a day, and David and I spent time raking in our back yard.  Now I know that many of you have been raking for some time.  Some of you may have finished the job because your trees dropped all their leaves some time ago.  But for us, this was the Big Rake in the back yard.  You can see our garden (well, sort of see it; it's on the left of the photo by David's beautiful split rail fence), and you can also see the leaves I'd raked off the garden onto the lawn area.  In the back, we tend to wait until most of the leaves have fallen before we head out to clean up.

As I said, many of you may already have finished this task last month.  Certainly if you have maples, aspens, willows, crab apples, sycamores, or other "early droppers", your leaf piles started with the first snows.  But, you see, we have oak and beech trees whose leaves cling tenaciously to their parent tree until late November and even in to December depending on the weather.  The oak trees in our front and side yards release their leaves slowly late in the season, and the beech hold on for maybe another week after that.  So our biggest raking days are around Thanksgiving time which somehow seems appropriate to me. 

When we first moved in this house, I was mildly disappointed that we didn't have any maples with their more rapid growth, wonderful fall colors, and beautiful shape, but I've learned to value our copse of white oaks.  They're a more rangy tree, and compared to maples, they're quite slow growing.  However, now I am so glad we have our tall oaks to keep our home cool in the summer, and I have learned to appreciate the dark gold to brown color of their  leaves.  And the beech?  Well, I chose to plant the one in the back yard (there were no trees in the back when we moved in) to provide an island of shade and a beautiful outline. 

See this pile of oak and beech leaves?  What's not to like about their subtle colors?  Imagine drawing or painting this picture.  What colors would you choose?  Challenging, isn't it?  Do you see why I value the oak and beech? 

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Here's what happens when I wax philosophical.  The other day, I was mentally castigating myself for not doing a particular job even though I had spent the day doing "things that had to be done".  I had crossed everything off my "Must Do" list except that one job.  I sat myself down to a regular, dyed-in-the-wool bout of self-loathing. 

But then I stopped and started thinking a bit more rationally.

Do we ever enjoy a bout of self-worth?  It sounds like a rather dreadful thing to enjoy, but under certain circumstances it can be quite satisfying.

Let me explain.  Have you ever undertaken an unpleasant task at a time when you truly wanted to do something else, something you'd like doing?  Maybe even something that you are passionate about?  And then, not only do you do the job, but you also do it to the best of your ability.  You take the time to make sure no one (not even you!) can find fault with it.  It's even possible that you are so careful to do it correctly that when it's complete, there's no way you have the time to do what you wanted to do.  Or, you realize that you might as well do something else that you've postponed because you're in a groove.  

When you finish that horrid chore and you look at your handiwork, how do you feel?  A glow?  A sense of accomplishment?  A certain satisfaction?  Are you proud of yourself for "doing the right thing"?  Do you feel worthy of a pat on the back?  Yup, that's when self-worth is a good thing!  Revel in it.  Smile and pat yourself on the back.  Then put that feeling in the closet in your mind, shut the door, and go about whatever else you need or want to do.

Sometimes I think we are too caught up in self-consciousness over thinking we have done something meritorious.  We wear a sense of guilt like a permanent press shirt.  It's all ugly from too many washings, and it has nubbins and bobbles of fabric, lint, and animal hair.  Toothpaste has dripped on it, and there are some mustard stains.  The collar is frayed, and it doesn't even fit yet we still wear it. 

Let's throw that shirt away, okay?  After all, it doesn't do us any good, and why should we want to cling to something that makes us feel bad?  Open the door to that closet in your mind and take out that feeling of self-worth to examine every now and again when you're feeling down on yourself.

Maybe we'll even get to the point where we can wear self-worth like a mantle and learn to appreciate not only what we do accomplish but also appreciate who we are.         

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Saga Continues . . .

Today (Wednesday) I sent out an e-mail to my family and friends in which I told them that I had decided to continue my blog, and here it is.  This time you will be following various threads that may or may not lead us to specific goals.  It will be fun for me, and I hope you will enjoy it, also.  At least you will get to know me better and possibly watch as I begin and end projects.  Books, people, random thoughts, and adventures will figure into this saga (defined as a long story of adventure) as well. 

Thus it begins:

Tuesday I had my first painting class in six months, and what you see above is the beginning of an oil painting.  Since this is another thing I enjoy doing, I decided that this could be the next cliff off of which I will fling myself  (putting oneself out to public scrutiny is much like the feeling of falling you may have experienced in your sleep.  The difference is that I'm awake and anxious about this).  I am a rank beginner in oils so I'm not sure that this will end where I would like it to, but you might enjoy the trip. 
First of all, the bright blue is painter's tape which will come off before long.  It's there to provide guidelines for me.  Second, I'm not going to tell you what I am painting because not knowing will make this a voyage of discovery for you.  Third, because oils take forever to become tacky let alone dry, you won't see daily updates.  I plan to start another painting tomorrow or the next day (before my next class anyway) so I will have one to work on while this one dries enough to allow more work.   
Now for some background:  As some of you may know, I've done quite a bit of drawing, and this is my third year of painting classes (if you're interested about the who, where, when, how etc., of the classes, e-mail me for specifics).  The first year I used acrylic paints for two reasons.  I happened to have a lot of them, and it seemed wasteful not to use them.  Also, acrylics dry very quickly, and one can work on a painting almost whenever one wants to.  However, at the end of the year, I realized that I simply wasn't happy with that medium.  Acrylics dry very flat (although one can add "glossy goo" to change that - it seemed like too much bother for what I was getting on the canvas).  Also, I didn't like the feel of the paint - not that I squished my fingers in it (I was using a brush) - but manipulating paint with a brush does create a tactile impression. 
So the second year, I decided to splurge and get some oils.  I loved them!  They glide and glisten and continue to shine when they are dry.  I managed to produce four painting of which only one was close to completion.  Something was still not right.  Towards the end of that period, I thought I really didn't know how to handle the brush let alone which brush to use.  My teacher had me start on some experiments/exercises.  The results gave me a little more confidence but something still wasn't right.  During my last class, I told my teacher I felt I was too "tight" and too focused on details.  She pulled out a calendar, and we chose one wonderful photograph from which I could work.  Now I can't remember if she suggested the palatte knife or whether I just picked it up as an experiment.  Anyway, I loaded the palatte knife with paints (more that one color) and started.  Oh my, what joy!  I loved the feel of the palatte knife spreading the paint and gloried in the way the colors ran side by side or blended.  It was an epiphany!
Then I stopped lessons because of the contest.
This year I started my first class with a photograph I had taken, a modest-sized, inexpensive canvas board, oils, and a palatte knife.  You can see the result above.  Be kind!  This is still very new to me, and there are layers yet to come.
What do you think I am painting? 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

And the Winner Is . . .

Melanie Wilson from Utah who designed "Mama" is the winner of this year's McCall's Quilt Design Star Contest!  This quilt showed  a nice blending of styles and personal meaning and proves that putting your heart on the line is a good thing. 

This past six months has been a busy time, and as David says after hearing the results, "We now have three more beautiful quilts for our home."  He has been with me all the way - even to cooking meals when I was busy at the machine all day.  When I told him what I had gotten into he said, "Good for you!"  Now that's a supportive husband.  John, my son-in-law, responded to my e-mail about not winning with these words, "That's okay, Mom, I will be more than happy to display any of those quilts in our home any time."  Wow!  My family has e-mailed me with their words of encouragement and excited comments as I progressed, and it's been so wonderful to hear from them.  The teachers I worked with have been vocal with their enthusiasm, and when I went out with my best friend from those years, she always started our conversations with questions about how I was doing.  Everyone I know asked me what they could do to help, and if you've been reading my blog, you know that my best friend opened her stash, her heart, and her encouragement.  Many people have voiced their good wishes all along this incredible trip.  And the quilt shops have willingly put up flyers and asked to hear all about my experiences.  I have been so fortunate!

Now it's time to close this chapter of my life and take the lessons I've learned on with me as I continue to whatever comes next.  I do know that my family and my friends can be counted on even with something as tedious as voting every day, and that was a lot to ask for!  Creating quilts from my own designs will now be something I will do whenever the inspiration strikes instead of filing those ideas away as I did when I was afraid.  I am taking heart from this experience and will continue to challenge myself whenever I can.  And I will be there for all of you when you need me.  Because that's what I've won - proof that it's our family, our friends, and our community who are worth more than any prize (yes, even a Horn cabinet!).

So this is my last entry in my blog.  Thank you all of you have told me that you read it; it hasn't always been easy to write because there is no opportunity for interaction with you, no feedback.  But on the other hand, it has given me an chance to think about and make decisions on subjects that might not have come up otherwise. 

Just make this one more experience you've helped me with.

From the bottom of my heart, Thank You!

Off into the Sunset!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Election Day

We are up early today because I had to take David to the polls.  He's an election inspector so, like the others, he's there from 5:30 a.m. until the polls close.  It's a long day.

While he is gone I have to get caught up on the houseworky chores I didn't do this last weekend.  It's mostly laundry so I should have time to complete some of those have-to-do projects that I got underway last week.  But I also need to cut out some other fabrics so I'll be ready for this coming weekend. 

Two friends and I are going away for a scrap booking weekend at Jiminy Peak.  No, I don't scrapbook, but Mary Ellen and I will tote our sewing machines and other gear so we can work on our sewing while the others glue and put together marvelous albums over which we can "Ooh" and "Aah".  It will be fun to see what they do and maybe pick up a few ideas along the way.  One never knows when or from where inspiration will come so I will include a sketchbook with my quilting goodies. 

And that reminds me that today I should also begin to organize what I plan to work on while away.  I always take more than I can get done because sometimes one sews oneself into a corner and can't get out.  If there isn't at least one alternate project on which to work - well, I guess a long walk might do!  This means that I will take my knitting to work on in the car, possibly some hand-piecing, and a second project for the sewing machine.  Since my family won't be around, I could possibly take some secret project although because of the contest, I hadn't planned on giving any sewing gifts this year.  It may be time for the Job Jar!

And since it is Election Day -

Don't forget to vote - both at the polls and for my quilt!


Monday, November 7, 2011


What a fantastic weekend we had!  That weather was almost beyond belief; we had the kind of days one should hold tightly in one's memory file to pull out on the dismal, grey days to come.  Meeting with friends (we were a total of 5 couples) is always a pleasure, and this particular group is quite special as the men have known each other since at least their early college days in the sixties and some even longer.  The women have entered the lives of the men over a period of time, but averaging it all out, we've known each other for 40 - 50 years.  Oh, of course, there was time out when we all concentrated on careers and raising families, but for the most part, we managed at least to stay in touch with the odd holiday cards.  Now for the past 3 - 4 years, we have gotten together once a year to share news, tour various cultural/historical venues, engage in some modest revelry, and strengthen the bonds of friendship.  A special thank-you goes out to our host and hostess who open their home, plan, and make this event possible.  This year was, as was each preceding year, memorable.

Like you, this group of friends is an excellent example of the support I have received over the past six months.  Now it is actually the final week of the McCall's Quilt Design Star contest.  In the beginning, the chances of meeting each Challenge successfully enough to move on in the contest seemed only remotely possible.  With each step forward, I felt more confident in my ability to do this task I had set myself but continued to doubt my ability to please enough others to enable another forward step.  Each time you, too, rose to a different challenge and voted often enough to push me on, and your comments lifted my spirits when I was at various low points.  The power of family and friends kept me going.

There are now only two days left of voting and commenting (technically the voting ends Wednesday, November 9th at 1:00 A.M. mountain time) , and then it will be up to the judges.  Please continue to vote and comment, and stay tuned to hear what the end result is! 

Friday, November 4, 2011


Today David and I are going away to spend the weekend with friends in Massachusetts.  It's a yearly get together of his friends from college and is great fun.  Even with amidst all that fun and frolic, I won't forget about the contest.  Trust me, my new phone with all its wonderful capabilities will be going with me so our voting can continue. 

And that's what I wanted to remind you about; the McCall's Design Star contest ends this coming Wednesday, November 9th, at 1:00 A.M.  Frankly, I hope that you will be snuggled under warm blankets and sound asleep when that time arrives and the voting closes!  However, until then:

As you vote for "Music of the Night"
Made with my own needle and thimble,
May your fingers be quick,
May your fingers be nimble.  
Please continue your clickety-click
And remember, The end is in sight!

Have a glorious and relaxing weekend.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Yesterday after finishing the first of my three less-than-fascinating projects, I made a good start on the second.  Wow, did I feel good about that; it was a weight off my shoulders.  Now I feel that I have overcome my inertia and have a chance of getting all three completed before mid-month.

Then I felt so good I got out the last of my cooking apples (not that I had many) and made some apple butter.  The yield was only two pints, but that's two more to put away.  

My last noteworthy accomplishment was finishing another Young Adult mystery novel.  This is something I haven't written about before so I'll explain.  The social studies teacher with whom I taught and I yearly took a course in YA literature.  The purpose was to familiarize ourselves with contemporary fiction we could recommend to our students (and since we bought all the books - sometimes as many as ten - fifteen a month, we were able to build up  respectful classroom libraries).  After she retired (four years before I did), my friend continued to take the course with me, and by the time I retired, we had been taking the course for, I think, 13 years. 

Then I gave it up.  For a while I simply did not want to read another YA book.  I was finished, I thought.  However, my friend continued to go and when we met for lunch we'd always go to a bookstore.  I went to adult literature and she would too - after a stop at the "children's books".  She'd talk about those books.  Sometimes I'd just listen; sometimes I'd chime in with comparisons or questions about books we had read before versus the new ones.  Slowly, I began to become interested in what she was saying, and a few times I picked up a YA books from my shelves here at home.  Finally, I was ready to return, and this year I am taking the course again. 

Did I need time to recharge my batteries?  Yes, I think so.  Did I need to realize that I could still enjoy these books even though I no longer had a classroom that might benefit?  Yes, to that, too.  

Sewing, cooking, reading - those were my accomplishments today.  I think I am the most proud - no, not proud - satisfied of the reading and returning to the search for good books.  The fact that I'm now reading for grandson, nieces and nephews, and children of friends rather than students doesn't matter.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Queen of . . .

How easy it is to forget how time consuming mundane tasks can be!  Yesterday I had several errands that had to be taken care of and some that could have waited but because I was already out I did.  It seemed a good choice at the time; it did save gas and another trip some other day.  Then when I returned home, there was house work to be done.  No sewing yesterday.

Today I am determined to sit at my machine and tackle that organized pile of projects even though I do have an appointment that will take me out for a while.  It's very easy to allow things to get between one and what one doesn't really feel like doing.  Procrastination could be considered an art, I guess.  Bu it annoys me when I allow myself to procrastinate even if what occupies my time is worthwhile.  If the worthwhile task isn't that slightly not interesting project that I had planned to start, I know I avoided it by filling my time very cleverly.

Well, I guess that's why I'm the Queen of Procrastination! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Last Week of Contest

Does it seem possible that this is the last week of McCall's Quilt Design Star contest?  Finally?  It is, though.  This is the last time I will be asking you to amp up your voting and comment writing, and I bet you'll be happy when it is over!

I know that there have been comments written that haven't been posted, yet.  The managers of the site seem to be taking longer than usual with that.  If it doesn't change today (I've been at 69 comments since at least last Thursday), I'll send a polite inquiry.  It means a lot to me to read what people say.  Not only is it affirmation but it is also a clue as to what people see and what they like.  In design that information is crucial.

Mind you, I have no intention of becoming a professional designer and never have.  That wasn't the point of entering this contest in the first place.  However, if local people want my designs, I'm happy to share.

I've learned that I can design and make quilts that please me, my family, and my friends.  That was my quest.  I've also learned that I need to simplify my work, and I've never been good at that.  It's something I'm going to ask my painting teacher to help me with - more graphic design, I think.  I keep on looking at the artwork done during the art nouveau and art deco periods both of which I admire greatly.  Simple, elegantly spare, beautiful.  Now if I could do that and add it to what I have learned in this contest?  Wow!

Anyway, I do need to ask you to continue voting every day because that's still important.  Writing a short comment would also be lovely if you can.  My aim to is finish in the top 4 and only you can help me achieve that goal.  I appreciate the time and effort you've taken so far and ask that you keep it up for one more week.

One more week of voting once a day per computer (the more computers you can get to, the better!).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Oops! and Must-Do Projects

Well, I guess I'd better be careful about what I write!  That blog about the beauties of an October snowfall and how it wouldn't last?  BIG mistake!  Please accept my apologies (Nancy's laughing again!).

This weekend I spent a lot of time organizing my projects and trying to clear out some old magazines.  Actually I did pretty well.  I find that quilts that I thought were wonderful and worthy of making 4 -5 years ago don't appeal any more.  I still like traditional quilts and intend to make many of them (I'd better given the size of my stash!), but the big block, easy quilts just don't call to me.  After making all of the Farmer's Wife blocks, my taste has turned to slightly more intricate work.

Anyway, I've spent the last two days cutting out various and sundry smaller projects for the holiday gift-giving.  I am determined to get these things made before I turn to projects that are calling my name.  If I don't do it this way, those gifts will join the UFOs languishing in a heap somewhere.  

Do you have the same issue?  Projects you want to do but a pile of "have to do's" sitting smack dab in their way?  Let's agree that we will clear the deck by sewing the gift items (or whatever else is on your "must do" list) starting today.  Face it, it isn't so much that we don't want to do them, they just don't have the same pull because they usually aren't to our taste.  Let's get them finished as quickly as possible.  We'll feel much better and will be able to go on to our fun projects with a sense of well-being and pride.

Friday, October 28, 2011

October Snow

In may seem strange, but I have a certain fondness for October snow (as long as it doesn't last or inconvenience anyone).  When I was doing my student teaching, we had a bad October snow that closed school, downed power lines, shut down major highways, and generally wreaked havoc in this area. 

Once I had finished lesson plans and homework for the coming week, I could relax.  It meant that for three days, I was home with my family.   We played games, read by the light of flashlights, cooked soup and heated water on our wood burning stove, and went for walks to admire the beauty of the snow when we could.  I was able to sleep at night for eight hours without school work or thoughts intruding. 

That time together was very precious.  If you know anyone who has student taught or if you are a teacher, you know what it is like.  The job is all consuming and is in your mind every waking minute.  To be given a chance to let that school section of your thoughts sit quietly in a closed room in your mind so you can give you 100% attention to your family is rare. 

So, yes, I do have a fondness for the beauty of an October snow.  In my experience, it doesn't last. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Big Mouse in the House

Tuesday I promised to show you another photo of the gifts our Secret Pumpkin included in that goodie bag.  Yesterday I was busy with a myriad of household chores and didn't get around to photography or writing. 

Today when I got my camera out, I started looking for the Halloween bag.  Looked where I had left it, looked behind various pieces of furniture, looked in closets - no luck!  Of course, I figured I had put it away so carefully (so I wouldn't forget where it was) that I could no longer find it.  That happens more often than I care to admit.  Finally, I saw the bag, the empty bag, very carefully and neatly folded with our other recycle, reuse, re-purpose bags.  A clue!  Next stop the refrigerator.  Top shelf?  Yes.  Dairy drawer?  Yes!  On to the pantry (still very tidy!).  Cracker basket on the top?  Yes, again.

The Otter Creek beer was down to 5 bottles, the cheddar cheese was missing a bite sized piece, and the flatbrot crackers were opened.  Now you know what the Pumpkin left for us and what I planned to photograph for you to see.  But the contents of the bag have been dispersed.  And now I know what happened.

There's a very big mouse in my house . . . guess who! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arrival of the Secret Pumpkin

Last Friday David was away at the Middle School Conference in Saratoga, and I was busy doing a number of things in and around the house.  If you remember, I wrote about changing summer clothes for winter ones which entailed numerous trips up and down stairs (Nancy was grinning! her temperature was in the 70's and sunny.  Ah, Florida . . . ).  Despite that one would think that I would still be aware of any strange occurrences, right? 

However, this is the season of magic and mystery.  Leaves swirl in intriguing patterns, birds swoop overhead, woodland creatures prowl, and when you least expect it, the Secret Pumpkin pays a visit.  At some point on Friday, the mysterious Pumpkin left a Halloween treat on our front porch!

Today, I am wondering who could be the S.P.'s messenger?  I have my suspicions . . . a neighbor?  One nearby?  One who shares the common bond of the classroom?  My investigations are not yet complete.

Tomorrow I will show you what was in the bag, and what I have discovered.