Wednesday, May 30, 2012


"Neighbor" from the Old English meaning "nigh" or "near" and (ge)bur meaning farmer.   That it's from the Old English puts it in the time of Chaucer when one's neighbor would more likely than not be a farmer simply because most people in the countryside were farmers.  Today we still have the sense that a neighbor is someone nearby, and as was always the case, that person can be a friend, a nodding acquaintance, or merely someone we see on rare occasions. 

Fortunately for us, our neighbors are friendly people and some we have known for some time.  Judy lives nearby and is a retired teacher like me.  We chat, wave, do small helpful tasks, and laugh as much as we can.  Tom is another neighbor, also retired.  We have in the past exchanged cat-sitting details, taken in the mail, rolled out the garbage cans, and as frequently as we can manage it, we enjoy glasses of wine either in our family room or in our backyard (in the fall we chase the sun by moving our chairs all over the backyard to prolong the pleasure of being outside before winter sets in). 

Both of these neighbors have rushed to our aid in our latest refrigerator crisis.  Tom gave good advice and is keeping an eye on things when we head off for D's college reunion, and Judy not only lent us some refrigerator/freezer space but also lent us her super compact refrigerator.  Wow, what a novel idea!  She said she bought it when her big, everyday one died and keeps it for emergencies.  Hers is about a 20" cube into which I was able to get quite a bit of perishables. 

Thinking it is a really good idea to have a back-up plan, I suggested to D that we go to Home Depot and buy one, too (they're not very expensive).  I opted for a slightly larger size because of Thanksgiving which we typically host at our house.  I pointed out that it would be a good place to store the turkey.  D, who had been looking at the Judy-sized model, surprised me by agreeing with my reasoning*. We now have two compact refrigerators holding the food cold until the delivery of the new, regular sized model on Monday.

We are lucky to have such good neighbors!

*I think D simply realized that the larger unit will give him more room to keep more beer at the appropriate temperature.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not What I Expected

How many times have you said, "Well, that's not what I expected" (said with a frown) or "Wow, that's that not what I expected!"(said with a grin).  Today, I said the former although I should have expected it.

After painting class, I stopped at the drugstore and before I went inside, I called David to see if he needed anything.  His response was, "No, I don't, but I do need you to come home as we have to go buy a new refrigerator."  Actually, I expected that, but I just didn't want to.  When your ice cream is soupy, you know that isn't good, and you know no one bumped the temperature control, and you know that turning the temperature control to "super, super cold" isn't going to work, and you know that the repair people are going to say, "Just shoot it and put it out of its misery."  But you blithely go on about your daily routine thinking that you really shouldn't be such a Cassandra full of doom and gloom.

There are times when you really should.  Because you know what we were told today as we bought a new refrigerator that can't be delivered until next Monday?

We were lucky that our old one had lasted 15 years.  Nowadays, we were told, you're lucky if it lasts 10 years. 

Just go ahead and pull my hair out and save me the trouble, okay?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weekend Doings

This has been such a lovely weekend full of family, friends, flowers, and sewing.  Starting with the first item in that list, David's sister Alice visited.  She arrived on Friday, and after catching up on some of her news, we went out for supper.  We took her to an Italian restaurant nearby that we had been to once before, and on our way there we passed one of our favorite ice cream stands.  We agreed that ice cream would be our dessert.  However, we hadn't counted on the tasty bread (only one slice each), salad, and superb entrees.  D and Alice even shared a mussels appetizer.  Too full for ice cream, we headed home for a bit of TV and then bed.

Saturday brother and sister wended their way to Dad's via an artisan gift shop, garden shop, and at least two (or was it more?) cemeteries to put flowers on the graves of family and friends.  They made it to their destination and spent some time with Dad before taking him to the town's cemetery to place his poppies on appropriate graves. 

By the time they returned home, I had gone off with Mary Ellen to a quilting pajama party.  That was a successful time for me (after last weekend's debacle, I'm glad to be able to announce that!) and for everyone else, also.  Having been to quite a few of these "parties", Mary Ellen and I knew almost all of the participants.  It was fun to catch up on their news and see their new projects.  Some even brought completed projects they had worked on last time and showed them much to our delight.  It's wonderful to see the progress people make - both in getting things finished and in becoming more competent and confident quilters.  Home at around 2:00 AM, I fell into bed.

Sunday, D cooked up a great breakfast and then drove me over to Mary Ellen's for the monthly get-together of our small group.  It was a good time with good friends.  Everyone made progress on projects (these are projects that don't require sewing machines for those of us who are quilters).  Two of us were working on counted cross stitch, and two had their applique projects with them.  Unfortunately, two of our members weren't able to join us; it is Memorial Day weekend, after all!

Since today is also a good day, I wandered out with my camera to see what is blooming in my gardens.  The iris and peonies are gorgeous and the roses have started.  Even the wisteria had put forth additional blooms to be admired.  I do have a few photos that turned out quite well so I will share them.  The first is a fragrant and beautiful peony by the hedge at the back of our property. 

Blanc Double du Courbet is my favorite white rose.  In this photo of a not-quite-open flower, it looks like a hankie.  It's also fragrant; another reason to celebrate its short bloom time.

In case you don't already know it, I love white flowers and have a white flower garden in the front of our house beside the driveway.  These iris are just lovely now; I think they are "Anniversary".

And also in the front tucked in among the white-flowering hostas are my Japanese Painted Ferns (and other ferns as well, of course).  When I went back outside, camera-less, to water a potted plant that had looked a bit droopy, I saw one of nature's silent dramas going on beneath this fern. 

A garter snake had just caught a small frog and was making a meal of it.  Realizing I couldn't save the frog, I decided to watch something I'd never seen in "real life" and then remove the snake.  No, I had no plans to kill it, but D is slightly ophidiophobic (afraid of snakes) so I thought I'd remove the snake to the woods near us.  I waited and when the time was right, I managed to grasp it behind its head.  While I'm not afraid of snakes, I don't love them, but I figured I could do this with no problem.  Wrong!  Of course, the poor thing was scared (I wasn't exactly calm, either); it thrashed about and managed to bite me, the little rascal.  You can imagine that that didn't make me any calmer, but I did manage to release it into what I thought was a more appropriate environment. 

And I thought chipmunks were going to be my key problem!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Embroidery and Its Future

From time to time, I write about blogs that I enjoy and encourage you to check them out.  Over the course of time in exploring and writing about them, I find that my interest may wane.  It's a natural thing;  a blog written by a professional who may spend part of every entry trying to drum up business (which I can appreciate if it's an issue of keeping body and soul alive) grows old quickly or a person who writes on one topic only and who hasn't learned how to go beyond the surface would become tedious in a matter of days. 

However, one blog I mention often because I find it consistently fascinating is Needle'nThread by Mary Corbet (www.needle' .  Today her entry was her "okay-this-time-I-really-mean-it's-the-final-one" about her medallion project, and you really have to see it.  For the first time since I've been following her, she is able to show how she mounts her embroidered piece onto the intended garment, in this case a chasuble*.  I say "able to show" because she is the one actually doing the sewing - not the seamstress who made the chasuble.  It is a STUNNING work of art. 

This is a gold work pomegranate (photo from Google Images) stitched by Mary Corbet

I think, after looking at the completed garment, that I have a better idea about the future of embroidery in this country (as opposed to European countries which have a wealth of traditional garments requiring hand-stitched embroidery - think England and the Beefeaters, royal regalia, military, etc., France with their haute couture gowns and Japan with traditional kimonos (even if worn only on special occasions).  You might want to visit a few of the entries in Mary C's blog preceding the one I mention here.  She does discuss the approximate cost for the materials she used (yes, that's genuine gold thread!) and the number of hours put into the medallion work.

Another image from the same gold work pomegranate piece designed and stitched by MC
      Initially I was rather depressed when I thought that there is little call for this kind of work in this county, but one of the things Mary Corbet does on her blog, and does so very well, is teach.  She has a following of thousands of embroidery enthusiasts.  People like you and me who love a particular art and practice it will carry it on even if it's not the same volume of work.  Think of all those crazy quilters (myself included).  Some of those people work at Mary's level of skill and attract attention and followers. 

What I want to leave you with is a sense of renewed purpose to continue doing whatever art you love even if you get a bit discouraged when you look at true masterworks.  What we do keeps the flame burning, and we will encourage and teach those who come after.  Maybe someone in one of my classes will excel at something that I sparked them to do. 

I don't know about you, but I've just made myself feel better about the applique I have to "un-sew" !           


*I added the following since I adore words and their etymologies, and I wondered what the root was for this one.  Hope you find it as interesting as I did!
World English Dictionary
chasuble (ˈtʃæzjʊb ə l)
Christianity a long sleeveless outer vestment worn by a priest when celebrating Mass
[C13: from French, from Late Latin casubla garment with a hood, apparently from casula cloak, literally: little house, from Latin casa cottage]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Finished Project - Yeah!

In the entry for Monday, I wrote about all the mishaps I encountered (and some I created) while at Quilt Camp.  I had taken two unfinished projects to work on; one was in the almost-finished stage while the other was an in-progress project.  Today I am proud to announce (drum roll, please) that the almost-finished purse for which I needed my walking foot, is now finished.

Ta-dah! My purse from a Sue Pritt pattern (front side):

And a close up of the back of the body of the purse:

Using Sue's pattern results in a very professional looking handbag and is the ONLY one I would make more than once.  Not only that, it is the ONLY one I would make without whining!  Sue's method for assembling the linings and outer sides of the purse is not only unique but also extremely logical and easy.

The front of the purse has two pockets and the back has one.  The interior - photo, please -

has six pockets (more or less depending on how one divides the fabric).  The lining of my bag is black and the pockets are red with a blue edge (it's hard to tell but the blue complements the blue in the paisley and makes the pockets easy to see). 

Is there anything I'd change in the pattern?  Yes.  I'd make the strap a half inch wider and use a heavy weight interfacing for it.   After using the bag for a while, I might decide to change the outside pockets though not the shape (I love the convex and concave curves Sue has incorporated).

Here's the kicker, though.  Started in November, I finally finished this bag in May and plan to use it next winter when I wear my black and brown wool coat for which I made the purse. 

Well, tomorrow,  since I plan to wear black slacks, maybe . . .

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

McCall's Quilt Design Star 2012

This evening Alice (D's sister) called to find out how things went at Dad's doctor's appointment today.  After David had updated her, she and I had a chance to chat.  As usual, we discussed and laughed about many different things, but just before we hung up, she reminded me of this year's quilt contest.  I had to admit that I hadn't checked it out yet because I thought it was too early.  Well, it isn't, and I've already missed the first round when one votes on the quilts submitted for a chance to enter the actual contest.  Drats, time does have a tendency to slip away, doesn't it!

So consider this a reminder to go to to at least see the quilts that remain in both categories.  Did you know that this year there is an amateur category and a professional category, too?  The voting for the first challenge begins in June so we have plenty of time to decide which quilters we think we may want to follow and support with our votes and comments.

The comments are important as they serve as a very strong support and message of encouragement for the quilter as well as letting the judges know what the public thinks.  I was so lucky last year!  The comments I received were more specific than many of those the other contestants were sent.  Do you think the challenges will be similar?  

Oh, in case you haven't noticed, one of the quilts I designed for last year's contest will be the focus of  a class I will be teaching at Log Cabin on " Miss Ruby Takes a Walk" , and I hope to have all of you take it!  The patterns are available for those who do sign up and for others after the class has been taught (and we've caught any bugs in the pattern that Miss Ruby missed). 

Have fun looking at this year's quilts, and let me know what you think and which ones you like the best.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trees and Quilts

This evening I was sitting in the family room looking out our windows at our back yard.  It's amazing to think that when we moved in to this house there was a field of weed beyond our property line that had once been part of a farm,  But our back yard was almost barren, top soil scraped off, no grass, only weed trees.  When David insisted on taking out the trees (except for one little slippery elm that died all on it's own), I was incredulous.  "You want to take out the only shade, the only living things in our yard?"  He pointed out that they weren't worth saving and that we did have a fine copse of oaks in our front yard (the builder did have some sense!).  At any rate, now after thirty odd years, the backyard is a symphony of green.  Trees, hedges, gardens, and grass all in more shade of green than I can describe.  Trees are a gift.  I challenge you to make a list of all the wonderful things trees provide, and I'll share mine tomorrow.

While I was admiring the trees and the colors, I thought about the different kinds of trees we saw in Charleston. Here is the live oak and unfortunately I didn't get all of this magnificent tree in the photo because I couldn't get far enough away from it as this one is in a walled garden.  The live oak is not only the tree that hosts Spanish moss and other fascinating lichens but also has branches that seem to be able to stretch out a city block without support.

The live oak is not only the tree that hosts Spanish moss and other fascinating lichens but also has branches that seem to be able to stretch out a city block without support.  The tree below is in the battery park, and you can get a sense of its sinuous branches reaching out to the houses across the street.
The other tree from South Carolina is, of course, the palmetto.  It is the state tree and not my particular favorite of the palm trees, but one certainly recognizes the south when one sees this tree.
This uninspiring photo was taken from the porch on the second floor of our lodgings on, appropriately enough, the Isle of Palms. 

"All right," you say, glancing up at the title of this entry, "but where do the quilts come in?" 

"Aha," I respond.  "Just look at the photo below.  What does it remind you of?" 

This is the second photo of that same palmetto tree. I wasn't interested in the tree (though I took its picture for reference); I loved its shadow!  In looked at it from that porch, I suddenly understood Hawaiian quilts.  If you live in a place where the sun is brightly shining almost everyday and is casting dramatic shadows all around you, you'd make stylized silhouette quilts, too!

Breadfruit Tree Pattern
And isn't that a neat discovery!

An Odd Weekend

Clearly, there are times when I remember the old saying, "I should of stood in bed today" with a certain kind of wry smile.  This past weekend I spent three wonderful days with a group of like- minded women in the pursuit of the completion of quilting projects.  These were lovely ladies, some of whom I knew slightly from previous quilting retreats and the like, others I didn't know at all, and my very dear friend Mary Ellen.  Here's the story.

Thursday night David and I went over our plans for Friday which included the delivery of a shed for our backyard (D's plans) and a trip to a quilt store to deliver some patterns (my plans).  After a fitful night of sleep, Friday morning at some point after eight (I think, I couldn't see a clock), I heard the phone ring.  Mary Ellen's cheerful voice greeted me with, "Are you ready?"  I made a few comments in the hopes she would give me more information and when she didn't, I posed my own question, "Ready for what?" I asked.  Eventually, she managed to plow through the sleep-clouds in my brain to explain that we were to start our weekend at 9:00 AM Friday morning, not at 5:00 PM Friday evening as I - for some peculiar reason - had supposed.  You can imagine the flurry that ensued!

The entire day went like that.  We arrived at our destination, the Joyful Quilter, had breakfast and sat down to work.  I pulled out a handbag I planned to finish (started oh maybe in November, 2011).  I finished the straps, cut the lining, and looked for interfacing.  I didn't have any.  JQ didn't have any of the right kind (on order).  Mary Ellen didn't have any.  No one attending the Quilt Camp had any.  Oka-a-a-ay. 

I took out the Girlfriend quilt.  I had the cut blocks in plastic bags all ready to work on.  It's been a while since I've worked on it - maybe as much as 4 weeks or more.  I discovered that I had cut everything (triangles, center square, and small squares) except the strips which formed the sides.  Sighing I went over to the cutting mats and realized that I couldn't remember the size of the rectangles I had to cut.  Going back to the table, I found that the book wasn't in the bag.  Mary Ellen didn't have hers with her.  The shop didn't have it (it's several years old).  No one with us had it with them.  Sigh. I started making a summer handbag by buying a new pattern, new fabric, and the required, different kind of interfacing which the shop had in stock.  The fates were with me, and despite some errors in the pattern, I started and finished the bag on Friday.

Saturday, I went back to the job of finishing the first handbag, and by supper time, I was almost there with it.  But to complete the machine sewing, I needed a walking foot (with quilted items that are thick like the sides of a quilted handbag, a walking foot helps move the top and bottom materials under the needle at the same time).  I didn't have it with me.  Mary Ellen, who was the only one there using the same make and model of  sewing machine as I was, didn't have one with her.  Groan. 

By then I wanted to start something totally different, some regular quilt piecing (as opposed to handbags, wallets, or aprons) but that something needed to be new and not tainted by my bad karma.  After wandering the store, I found an intriguing recent book with a method new to me so I bought it and four fat quarters.  Finally!  I spent the time after dinner happily sewing.  By the end of the day, I had made four blocks that I put up on the wall.  Ugh!  Two of them wouldn't do.  In one the pieces were cut too short (my cataract makes seeing tiny numbers on rulers challenging), and in the second, the two colors were of the same value so the focal point of the block was invisible.  Cataract or bad karma?

Well, luckily, I don't give up easily, and today the sewing was successful.  You may think I should have thrown in the towel, gone home Friday, and "stood in bed" the rest of the weekend, but I couldn't.  You see, I was laughing so hard at my mishaps and having too good a time with a room full of new-found friends to go home!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Different Kind of Photo Album

Today I have too much time on my hands, or maybe I'm really just doing an extremely good job of procrastinating because I've been playing with some of my photographs.  Remember the night of the Super Moon?  Unfortuantely, that occurred the night before we left on our trip - the night before we had to get up at some much-too-early time in the morning.  I was determined to get a photo of that night sky but couldn't stay awake long enough to wait until the moon was in the right place in the sky.  Today I fooled around with using all those special filters you can use while editing and differents "looks" (like "poster-ize" or "comicbook-ize") but decided that I liked the photo pure and simpe after some judicious cropping.  While it's not one of those fabulous moon shots we saw in papers and magazines, I still like this modest photo:

As you can see, the moon is shining through the clouds and from behind the tree branches.  No glitz, no glamor, just a night sky.

Now here is one taken today that I did fool with. This is our wisteria (which hasn't done well this year), and  I think this may be the only "full" bloom we have.   We're not sure if it was the winter (the most likely) or because we took away its supporting arbor (which was falling apart) and it's sulking.  Anyway, I dramatized this one to make the most of the single spray!

I was supposed to be working on the Charleston photos for an hour before going on to other chores.  Somehow two hours slipped by while I played with several folders of pictures without noticing the time at all!  Oh well, I'll leave you with a view of Charleston's new bridge.  This is only a portion of the bridge (which is now the longest span in the US - I think I have that right); if I'd ignored the pilings, I'd have been able to get more of the bridge.  But the pilings and the sky were the perfect foil!

Thank you for letting me share a portion of my photo album with you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Family Treasures

Tiffany Window, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Charleston, S.C.

Today while continuing to de-clutter the house my father-in-law has decided to sell, I worked on the bookshelf that is in the family/sun room.  It is an unusual bookcase in that it has a pair of louvered doors that shut with a hook to hold them closed.  It makes for a neat appearance which for bookshelves that are used for books and papers is quite convenient. 

During the course of my sorting, I found some treasures.  First, I found a photo album that contained photos of my father-in-law during his WWII service.  How young and handsome he looked; indeed, how young all the servicemen looked!  We have one photo of Dad in his uniform, but I hit the mother lode with this album.  Then there was another album that chronicled the wedding trip made by Dad and Mom.  Coincidentally, Dad had just been talking about one day of that trip that they spent at Williamsburg, VA.  Knowing they were married during the war, I never realized they had been able to have any kind of a honeymoon.  The third album was beneath those two and featured my mother-in-law.  The photographs (all of these photos were in black and white, of course) were mounted on black paper on which Mom had written the identifying notations with white ink in lovely cursive.  Remember when cursive was taught and one had to fill workbooks with loops and circles?  It paid off for Mom.  What surprised me was that her album was dated 1939 which was several years before her marriage.  It made me wonder if there were other early family albums to be found. 

The surprises weren't over, though.  On the same shelf I found David's baby book!  It made me laugh - oh, not because of his baby pictures but because his mother was no better at writing everything down than I was when my turn came.  There never seemed to be enough time in the day to fill in all those pages!  And as above, there were more prizes to find.  Both of David's sisters have their own baby books there, and as the years went by the entries for each child became shorter and fewer.  Of course!  With each child, Mom was busier and busier.  I do remember Alice mentioning the existence of those baby books, but I had never seen them nor did I know where they were until today.  Once again, there was an unexpected surprise.  One more baby book was at the bottom of the pile, clearly older than the first three.  It belonged to David's mother and is therefore almost 100 years old.   

How lucky families are that like David's and mine still have first hand accounts (diaries and letters, fr example, in my case) and photographic records (as both of do) of their ancestors!  These are gems.  I hope the day will come when David and his sisters will have the time to sit down together to look at these items I found today.  Maybe, if they do have such an opportunity, they can record the memories that surface, the stories they were told about some of the people, and the oral history they remember being told.  That would be a truly wonderful thing, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back again

Finally!  Have you ever been hit by the post-vacation-two-by-four?  That's what happened to me when we returned from our trip to Charleston.  The next day, I had no energy to do anything not absolutely necessary.  When it was time to pack up so I'd be ready for painting today, I thought to myself that I didn't really feel like painting and maybe I could simply pretend to draw.  And laundry?  Well, if we'd done without for a week, what were a few more days?

Fortunately, that lassitude did not survive the night!  Today I went off to painting with a pristine canvas, oil paints, and both palette knives and brushes.  I was ready to put paint on canvas.  For that reason, I've tucked away my Tibetan monk and the gate in the Summer Palace outer wall for another day.  Spending more time in preliminary studies/sketches was not what I wanted to do today.  Instead I chose a few photos from our trip and started in on a Charleston work that may or may not be something "to write home about".  We'll see.

Since I am currently working on that laundry; I'll leave you with a photograph of a passionflower we saw as we wandered around our last day.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Time Off For Good Behavior?

Yesterday I should have added a P.S. to my entry, but naturally I forgot.  D and I are going to be even busier this week so I won't be posting any entries.  Watch out for when I return because who knows what subjects will occur to in the meantime.

Our pink azalea taken last year; it doesn't look like this - yet!
Take care of your health and be kind to yourself and tolerant of others. Admire what you have accomplished without finding fault with it or pointing out any perceived (only by you) "mistakes". Enjoy life, laugh, and smile as much as you can. Try something new!

All in one week?  You can do it and so can I!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Important Lesson

Thursday Evening:

Our trips have provided me with a wealth of inspiration for my paintings.  The trip to the Southwest fueled three paintings, and our vacations in Vermont gave me the lake and mountains for my latest work.  However, our trip to China did not give me images I wished to record.  For me, the most memorable and meaningful icon of the trip was the Great Wall.  David has even chosen a photograph that he would like me to paint.  I don't want to paint the Great Wall.  Maybe if we had been there in their spring when the foliage would have created a glorious contrast with the age-worn stones in the Wall, maybe then I would feel inspired.  But we weren't and I'm not.

I keep on finding myself drawn to some of the street scenes we saw and the people in the streets.  The wall surrounding the Summer Palace, a Tibetan monk in Tienanmen Square, and the women street cleaners sweeping the snow off the sidewalks in Manchuria - now those are scenes that talk to me.  I've finally decided to combine the Summer Palace's outer wall and the Tibetan monk. 

First, however, I needed to make several studies of both,  I've been painting landscapes not the "hard scape" of cities.  Trees have populated my landscapes not people.   How would I paint these things?  When would I use the palette knife and when the brush?  Making drawings would teach my hands the gestures to use and would teach me how to capture the essence of a standing figure and the intricacies of weather-worn, paint-faded carvings on an open gateway.  I made the first group of studies before my last class. 

I understand how walls are made and to a certain extent how wood is carved.  I know how both of those things feel when I pass my hand over them.  Perspective doesn't give me much trouble.  On the other hand, a body is different.  For the most part we see bodies clothed.  We have all seen skeletons and precise medical drawings of the  musculature over the bones.  So why is the body different?  For me, it turns out that the difference lies in knowing the correct proportions.  Did you know that your hand is as big as your face (put the heel of your open hand on the point of your chin and your fingers will usually be at mid- to upper forehead).  Did you know that your feet are as big as your head?  Generalities, to be sure, and not everyone fits, but these are the basics. 

Let me show you how important it is to know these things.  Here, drawn with a carpenter's pencil which has a broad, flat tip, is my first sketch of the monk with a close up of his head.   I realized right away that his head wasn't right (never mind the wig he seems to be wearing).  He's looking straight ahead instead of downward as he should have been.  Second, his ear is sliding off the side of his head and down his neck.  His eyes aren't on the same plane  . . . well, I could go on and on. 

Then I tried it again. The second sketch is better. Although done very quickly, the tilt of the head is better, but still not right.  The fullness of the face and the neck is closer to the real thing, but . . .  This is when Sharon came over and sat down by me.  She was pleased (and a little surprised) that the figure was good and the proportions right.  I told her I could usually copy what I see, but the head was eluding me - and I wasn't even going to discuss trying to make him look like the monk in my photograph!  That's a whole other series of classes.

It was at this point that she started explaining the proportions of the face which I found truly fascinating.  To have finally some guidelines to be aware of, to inform me as I draw, is a gift.   Copying what one sees without an understanding of basic structure is one thing, drawing what one sees with a knowledge of form and structure is totally different.  Ten minutes later, I had drawn this:

Wow! Perfect?  Clearly I sacrificed some things to get this face quickly, but now I can work on it again to bring it closer to what I want.  Can you see how much more like a real face it is?

Knowledge is power!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Successful Visit

Today we visited David's father.  Sound like a nice thing to do?  Well, we had an ulterior motive.   Dad has once again decided to sell his house.  Operative words in that last sentence are "once again".  Yes, he's done it before.  Sometimes a realtor and seller are not a good match, and that was the reason one attempt didn't work.  Other times, the seller realizes at the last moment it isn't what they want to do after all.  That happened another time.  Here we are, then, at still another attempt, and I'm hoping that this one will be successful.  David's dad is a very intelligent and aware man who shows no sign of mental deterioration even though he is 96 years of age.  He lives independently and has been jealously guarding that independence for some time.  The problem is that his health is beginning to fray around the edges, and while he can still get his own meals, we'd like to see him enjoy having someone else do that for him.  Winter with its dark, dreary days and very long cold nights are very hard for him.  That season seriously affects his emotional state, and we'd love to see him in a facility that is bright, cheerful, full of other aging, able people. 

David arranged to have a realtor meet with them last week.  The meeting wasn't an unqualified success, but it went well.  One of the things said was that the house must be de-cluttered.  Ouch!  Dad's home is piled with old magazines (full of interesting articles), old mail (which might need to be referred to in the future), newspapers (editorials to re-read and ponder) - all of which sit in teetering piles all over the downstairs.  Dad was definitely not pleased with the "de-clutter" idea. 

The point of our trip today, was to test the waters and see if Dad would allow us to help clean out the house.  It took a bit of working around by completing other necessary tasks, but eventually we got out the box of garbage bags we took with us and marched off to the very small sun room (our test area).  Dad followed.  He sat down in his chair.  David snapped open a garbage bag, I grabbed a pile of paper and sat on the floor.  Slowly, we started.  Dad didn't say much, but he didn't glower either.  We took it slowly, mulled over a few items, set aside some books, threw away a lot.  Dad said he didn't want books thrown away.  We assured him we would take books and magazines in good shape and of general interest to our library.  Dad relaxed.  We found a few special items that we handed to him, and he was delighted to see those items again. 

Every time we took a full garbage bag out, Dad reacted with a whew-that's-a-lot! comment.  Not negatively, but in a surprised I-didn't-realize-there-was-so-much kind of way.  By lunch time, we had filled the trunk of our car and some of the back seat (the dump in his town wasn't open on Wednesdays), we had cleared off most of the surfaces, the spaces behind and under furniture, the many baskets and closed containers, and all of the piles that had been on the floor.  Still a few places to finish in the sun room, but oh my, does it look better!  Best of all, Dad was pleased.

Today was a good day.  The next time might not be, but at least we've made that all important first foray into de-cluttering.  It must have simply overwhelmed Dad, and there's also the hard part of letting others do what you can no longer do.  He's a proud and stubborn man determined to live his last days as he wishes to.  I hope what was started today will help him continue to do just that. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chapter Three

Tuesday Evening

Chapter Three - A Quilt

It has occurred to me that there are times when information is presented to us, and we take no notice of it at all.  It may be because it bores us, we see no relevance to our lives, or we aren't ready for it.  Whatever the initial reason for ignoring the information or discarding it, if we are lucky, the insistent fact or idea or inspiration comes back time and time again.  Eventually, we find ourselves ready to acknowledge the tidbit that has been offered.  Understanding it may happen all at once or in stages.  The last two chapters and this one, too, mark the gradual growth of my understanding due to a confluence of ideas and events.

 Ever since I started writing this journal, I was aware of a thread that seemed to be stitched here and there throughout my entries.  Sometimes it was a barely discernable stitch, sometimes it was boldly twining through a paragraph, and other times it disappeared completely.  I found myself musing about the gifts handed down by women from one generation to the other.  Those silent offerings that shyly insert themselves into our lives.  I struggled to explain how I was suddenly aware that my female ancestors fostered in me a love of the "feminine" art as expressed most commonly with a needle.   That awareness made me feel a new, stronger tie to those women.  "Daisy Makes Do", a wall hanging I designed, was created to honor my sister, mother, and grandmother.  I included my three nieces whom I knew were also in a position to feel the same strong bond.  But what puzzled me most was why now?  Those three women have been gone for some time, and  why am I now working on a crazy quilt in which I will incorporate those three again.
Unfinished CzQ block (complete with wonky edges) honoring my mother

Today I went to my Crazy Quilt Class, and we all shared what we had worked on since the previous meeting.  There were a few new people in the class, and I was asked to explain what my plan and my purpose were.  I explained that  my purpose is to honor the women in my family who had endowed me with a lasting love of stitchery. My plan is to picture each of them in a crazy quilt wall hanging that represents the time period as well as an activity of the oldest of the three.  My proposed quilt has become a very important piece for me to do.  When I finished the explanation, one of the women asked me, "Are you going to use a photograph of yourself?"  I was surprised by the question and responded quickly, "No, of course not."  We went on to the topic of the day and spent several lovely hours working on our stitchery.

Just before I left, the same woman said to me, "I really think you should include yourself.  Why wouldn't you?"   Again I said I wasn't planning on it, and then she said, "At least think about including something that represents you."   On my way home, I wondered about her insistence and decided that I should give her idea some serious consideration.  Why should I include myself in this project, and why is this project so important to me now?

The two paintings, a book, and a quilt gave me the answer.   The things that are passed down - whether they are physical objects that we treasure, stories from the past that makes us a part of history, DNA that makes it possible for us to do certain activities, or ideas that are seminal in our lives - all become tangible reminders of the chain that stretches back attaching us to the past.  But it also reminds us of our place, our link, in that chain, as well as the knowledge that the chain extends into the future, too.  Why do I have to make this crazy quilt now?   Because I finally get it.  I finally am old enough to understand why my mother spent hours upon hours on genealogy, and why she spent hours telling me about her searches and her successes.  And I am old enough to acknowledge my own mortality and do my bit to make sure that not only are these women I honor going to be remembered, but that maybe I will be, also.

Given that, perhaps I should include myself in the crazy quilt.  What do you think?  Indeed, what do you think about this whole saga?  Send me your comments.