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!).