Gifts that are made especially for us have lasting meaning and are those we treasure the most. Here is one D and our daughter made for me years ago that comes out in the winter and stays out until spring. Every time I walk past it, I smile. There is something so 1950's about it ("Christmas Story" anyone?) and so very much something clearly homemade . . .
This is one of the gifts I treasure.
Until after the holidays, here is my wish for you -
Did I mention that we had had a piece of furniture refinished for us? In fact it's been in the process of refinishing for some time now. First we had it stripped; I know, I know, Leigh and Lesley Keno would be appalled, but we're not in it for the money. We merely want a piece of furniture that isn't terribly scarred. After stripping we had a new piece of mahogany veneer applied on the base. And that was a far as we got. I think we may have thought that some day we'd put on the stain, but that day never came. Through idle conversation with a friend we got the name of someone who could do the final step for us (good thing, too).
The mahogany library table was in my family, and I remember it as being a permanent fixture in the living room of my grandparents' home. One of my brothers and I are trying to find out (he through my grandmother's diaries and I through research on the table itself) whether my grandparents purchased the table or whether it came from my great-grandparents. We may never know, but I am very glad to have it.
This is the way it looks in the natural light coming through the window of the study. It's a lovey piece, isn't it?
This entry will be a "show" rather than a "tell". More progress has been made on g'son's quilt. The following picture shows the part that is actually on the bed. In other words, the borders that will form the "drop" have not yet been sewn on.
I am going to sew a 1" border of the greens (C's favorite color) used in the quilt on all four sides. Then I will add one row of the 8" block used in the majority of the quilt (four triangles meeting in the middle). After that will be the final border "Return to /Atlantis" by Jason Yenter for In the Beginning fabrics (if you Google that you might find a site with a photo).
As Robert Frost said, "Miles to go before I sleep" though I won't do it tonight, that's for sure!
And now that the medallion is finished (well almost - there will be a clown fish over the skinny part of the seaweed on the left) you get to see what the turtles look like with their eyes!
Despite succumbing now and then to the desire to do things that aren't on my list, I have been able to continue working on the G'son's quilt. Thanks to ME.
I was having difficulties with the thread I was using to applique (blanket stitch) the elements in the medallion to their background. The only green thread I had that was the correct color for the turtle shells was a heavy machine-quilting thread, and my sewing machine was beginning to act like a cat with a hair ball. Yes, I had the same thread in the bobbin, yes, I had just cleaned my machine, and yes, my needle was new for this project. I figured that I needed either a lighter-weight thread or a quilting needle - neither of which I had.
But who wants to go to JoAnn's the week before Christmas? Who even thinks JoAnn's would have either of the items I needed much less both? Any hands raised? Of course not! So who're you gonna call? No, Ghost Busters won't help though given the way my machine was behaving, it might not have been a bad idea.
I called my best friend ME, the self-styled "Queen of Thread". The next time you hear her called that, Ladies, giggle no longer. Raise your eyebrows at your peril. For she is the one and the only QUEEN of Thread. That lady has every thread known to mankind and much that is not. She has cones of thread, spools of thread, bobbins of thread. She has every color on Munsell's color wheel and some he never thought of. You worry about thread weight? ME can help you. I was so overwhelmed I bowed my head in wonder and awe.
Then she took out her organizer for sewing machine needles. Nota bene, she has a section for each kind of sewing machine needle and multiples in each section. Need I say more?
My sewing went like a dream today. Thread in the correct weight and color and a new needle just in case.
JoAnn's you've met your match and then some. Cry your eyes out!
Today was busy with errands and baking (2 kinds of biscotti) for our holiday tea during tomorrow's studio class. And that reminds me: is anyone else confused about tomorrow's predicted weather? I've heard we're getting more snow (3 - 4") in the morning getting heavier closer to noon, or frigid cold, or neither. ??? Guess I'll have to wait.
Anyway, since there should be class tomorrow, I did do some more sketches for Raking the Hay. First I'll show you the first one I did using all kinds of different pencils in a very fast and loose manner to get the "feel" of this scene:
I did some research on mechanized hay rakes to find out what they really look like since my photo wasn't a close-up. Today once I thought I understood the machine, I drew this one:
Funny, I spent more time and effort on the farmer than on the rake. I want to keep this part simple but accurate so I'll have to see what the class says. I think I need to add to the rake to show how it is attached to the tractor. We'll see what everyone says.
Then I decided to work on a slightly more detail sketch of the background (the lake) and add some structures and even hint at some boats.
It's difficult to see, but it will make more sense, I hope, as you see the painting develop and are able to see what I put in and what I omit.
Small gifts are ready and some are even wrapped. Since I realized that there is no way I can get G'son's quilt finished for Christmas, a great load had lifted from my shoulders. Oddly enough, I feel that I can proceed more quickly with it now. Here's where that project stands:
This is the center medallion for his quilt. It is from McKenna Ryan's "The Nerdles" (her name for the turtles, I guess). Some of the elements that she designed for the wall hanging would be too difficult to sew down securely enough for a young boy's curious fingers. Instead I have put in some seaweed (some of which will be pruned). Each plate on each turtle's back has to be sewn all the way around individually which isn't difficult, just time-consuming. While I am very happy with the fabrics I chose for them, I won't be really satisfied until I give them eyes.
Okay, here is the photograph of C's quilt on the design wall:
I made it big so you can't say you can't see it! G'son is crazy about turtles so you may be able to see some fish and sea turtles in some of the blue triangles. These blocks are from the pattern "Liquid Assets". It's the one I made for my great-nephew last year.
However, this quilt will have a center medallion based on McKenna Ryan's pattern of two sea turtles, "The Nerdles". By Monday I hope to have at least some of that under construction.
G'son also very seriously told me that he likes green best now, not blue. I hope he'll find enough green in the quilt! If not, I think the turtles will make up for it.
Since it is December and will shortly officially be winter, I felt a need to change my blog's appearance again. Having been unable to figure out how to use any of my own photographs the way I want to or make this blog an expression of either my subject matter or a reflection of other things that matter, I need to make it more personal by changing the look every so often - sort of like changing the curtains from time to time if you can't choose the color of the paint. The changes to this blog are subject to my whim, the season, ennui, or philosophical ponderings (and if you believe all that, you haven't been reading this blog very long!).
Earlier in the day, ME commented on the new appearance by commenting that it felt like winter. Looking at the design, I had to agree with her; so I changed it again. I'm not quite ready for a true winter look. The current one while still feeling cold has that tinge of sunrise pink in it and early sun yellow. I capitalized on that warmth where I could and now feel I've put my own stamp on it.
Just an explanation of why the blog changes so frequently.
Work on grandson's quilt is continuing successfully. There are more than enough 17" blocks ready and waiting (and probably several to be used as part of the backing) as well as 8½" blocks to fit in where needed. The center medallion is underway - well, I traced all the applique pieces onto Steam-A-Seam and so consider that a start.
There will be photos at some point, but I've also accepted the fact that entries will be sporadic this month due to meetings, classes, appointments, and other projects to be finished. I may not write my usual 5 days a week but will try to write as many as possible.
Good luck with all your plans and remember to take time for yourself, too!
Yes, today was a day of progress and a return of previously marked "Absent" brain cells! I feel like myself, and that too is a relief.
We did a lot of talking during the studio class, but amazingly enough, we still managed to get some work accomplished. As I had decided to set aside the Country Store painting that will require more time than I can give it right now, I had to go through photographs and find something else to work on. At first I just wanted to draw without thinking about the sketch as a study for a painting, but . . . Now that I've started the drawing, I find myself thinking about it in terms of the painting that might follow. It started when my teacher said something about thinking about values for the watercolor. I thought to myself, "Watercolor???????? No way, this is an oil painting!" Funny how I am so sure of that. Anyway, I decided that I should probably try a landscape of this type in watercolors and see what happens. An oil painting could always come later.
However, before I go any further, I will share with you the rough beginnings. Today I experimented with pencils - H and B types of lead, square 2" pieces of four-sided graphite, special drawing pencils with very soft lead (Ebony is the name of them - wonderful things!), and other pencils with broad ½" wide lead. That was a good lesson in itself.
At the moment this title is "Raking the Hay", and there's a funny side to that. This is a view from way up a mountain across the lake from the side where we now stay. I've drawn from this particular spot before but never with a farmer in the scene. As I was drawing, I just knew I would have to do some research because I was having difficulty with the machine on the back of the tractor. I couldn't see it well enough in my photograph and didn't even understand what the farmer was doing.
When Sharon told me not to worry because I didn't have to include it, I was amazed and told her the tractor and whatever what the reason for drawing this particular view (I really love machinery!). She said okay, but I might have trouble with this part. "Don't worry," I said, "D will know what it is and what the farmer is doing with it, and then I'll be able to find the machine on line."
He did, and I did, and now the title pays tribute to the farmer who is using a "mechanized hay rake" to rake the hay into rows.
After quite a bit of upheaval followed by a major holiday, I find that I am mentally aimless and suffering from an attack of the doldrums. Yesterday I spent the day cleaning out-of-the-way cupboards and making piles of things I found. Then of course I had to put the items that were finally considered worthy of keeping neatly away. That used up a goodly portion of time that should have been spent elsewhere.
Today the morning was spent running errands that needed to be done but were actually another avoidance device. Then there were things like laundry (there seems to be quite a lot of that lately), but finally I hauled myself up to my studio by the seat of my britches (hard to do by oneself, you know) where I spent time rearranging blocks that had already been arranged. Sigh. Sewing finally did take place, and it is possible I have actually broken the barrier. Maybe. We will see if tomorrow, when I return from painting, I have enough force of mind to get-to-the-Christmas-sewing-for-goodness-sake!
Mind you, this entry is being written after gathering my materials for tomorrow's painting, drawing, looking at photos, staring off into space exercise. Having finished two subjects in watercolors, I find myself not quite up to starting another challenging piece (the one I mentioned some time ago - a Vermont country store). I feel that I don't have the energy. Or is it merely that I lack the intestinal fortitude to tackle something that is difficult?
Or is it simply that I am tired?
Don't mind me. Here is a photo of my cornucopia (maybe that will brighten my spirits). I didn't have the usual vegetable/fruits for display so I gathered some of my red and white linens.
And here is a photo of an apple pie baked in a paper bag (the remnants of which you can see beneath it). It was by far the best pie I've ever made, positively delicious, and I do say so myself. That's not saying a great deal because we are not a pie eating family so my experience has been minimal. However, if you're curious about the recipe, go to the King Arthur's Flour site and enter "paper bag apple pie". You should be able to find it. If not, let me know, and I'll check for the exact search term.
Wish a newly energized brain for me and an escape from the Doldrums, okay?
Yes, I believe it truly is an art when one practices accepting compliments gracefully, and it isn't an easy one for most women to master. Does that sound sexist? Bear with me.
This morning I was reading the editorial section of our local paper, the Times Union, when I came across "When thanks is enough: Women need to learn the responsibility of accepting praise" [my italics] by Gina Barreca. The subtitle intrigued me into reading the editorial carefully. First, if you didn't have the chance to read this one, I recommend digging the editorial section out of your recycle bin so you can. It's worth it. Obviously the subject is women and their inability to accept compliments gracefully, a grace that I've working hard at learning and teaching to others. But I never thought the subject through to its final resting place - what that inability does to the giver of the compliment. And that's one part of the responsibility that Barreca discusses comes in. The other part is that it comes with success and we should accept that.
As I read, I thought of all my friends (and me, too) who labor so hard and long at their arts/skills - especially at this time of year. I though about how anxiously and eagerly we all await the unveiling of our work . Will she/he like it? Will they understand what we intended? You know how that goes. Whether it is a knit sweater, a bed quilt, a painting, a pie, an ornament, a pot - We wait for the look on the face, and we listen to what is said.
Now be honest. How many of us respond to the "Ohhh, I love it!" with a "Thank you. I'm so very glad it makes you happy!" If you are honest, most of you have to say, not often.
Barreca's point is that inability is not only a "reluctance to accept victory and enjoy even an earned sense of triumph" it is also confusing and sometimes painful to the giver of the compliment ("Men back away . . . swearing never to say another word"). She doesn't belabor this point, indeed, it's a minor issue in this editorial. However, if we realize the awkward situation we create for the person who uttered words of praise, we might find it easier to say that "Thank you" that seems to stick in our throats. At least consider that possibility as a stepping stone to get past the tendency to say, quoting many a quilter, "Well, you see the block in the upper right hand corner? I cut the points off the triangles in that one."
I'll end with two thoughts, first, "It's time for us to stop rehearsing our shortcomings. . . we should accept congratulations with grace and pleasure . . . right along with the other responsibilities of success" [Barreca]. And second, if you don't have a set "thank you" phrase practiced and ready to roll off your tongue, go to http://www.wikihow.com/Take-Compliments (even though the site features a male, there are good ideas here) and find some notions that work for you.
By the way, I've seen your work, and it is beautiful; thank you for sharing!
Like you, most of my time today was spent getting ready for Thanksgiving. I must say it is so much easier in retirement that I find it actually enjoyable. However, since it does take much time and energy, I am going to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving now.
Laundry (sheet day), grocery shopping, cooking, and picking up. Thanksgiving is coming so that is and has been the focus of our attention. Today's cooking included the stock for turkey gravy (such a lot of meat on turkey wings!), the cranberry sauce, and the first step for a new dessert recipe (thanks to Nancy). More on that last item after we sample it on Thursday.
Tomorrow is my studio class, and I've done nothing since last week. That's just a statement of fact, not a whine or excuse. With the holidays coming, painting or even sketching will be pushed to the back burner, and I'm all right with that.
Hope your holiday plans are coming along smoothly. You are too busy, I am sure, to spend much time blog-reading, but I will write when I am able to.
The studio is tidy enough for me to be able to go in there and actually be able to sew or paint. I am proud to be able to say that because it was accomplished without adding to confusion or creating mayhem any where else in the house! Today I spent the afternoon working on cutting out pieces for a serial quilt in the current McCall's magazine. Not what I should have been working on, but I salved my conscience by telling myself I needed a bit of play time.
You see, I had company on Saturday - very special company. My Sisterhood met here and oh, what fun we had. We talked and laughed. We shared some insights and foolishness. We toasted (thanks again P.C.!) the studio and ate birthday cake (in honor of ME). It was lovely time.
After everyone had left and D was back home, I started the clean up. I piled hand-wash-only plates next to the sink, but decided I should empty the dishwasher before I started washing dishes because the utensils would need to be put in the machine. I took out the Portmeirion cereal bowls, opened the cupboard, stacked them in their spot, turned to get more dishes to put away when -
I whirled around and found all four of the bowls had fallen out of the cabinet directly on to the plates.
Three out of four Portmeirion bowls broke and three out of five antique, green Majolica plates shattered. Six pieces - three probably irreplaceable gone in a moment.
Whew, that is a record for me. I don't think I've broken that many items in one fell swoop in my life! I know I haven't had to sweep up and throw away that much loveliness.
But upon reflection? I went on line and found a great buy on six second hand bowls in the Portmeirion botanical pattern which I snapped up. Now if you and your friends come to my house and want triple scoops of ice cream, you may all get a bowl! Though if too many of you come, some of you will have to hold it in your hands.
There are two green Majolica plates left, and I still have other dessert plates. Again if you come to visit, you'll still be able to have a serving of apple pie or coconut cake.
And I have a studio in which to spend some quiet time playing with lovely fabrics today and paint in tomorrow.
I am going to have to ask for your patience and understanding. Like all of you I am shocked at how fast the time is flying, how long it seems to take me to do the simplest tasks, and how little I have accomplished. For those reasons my blog entries may appear sporadically, may be quite short, and may have few photographs. - it's a hit or miss time for blog writing now that the holidays are closing in. This evening is one such example of a "bare minimum" of an entry.
I had a wonderful time at Crazy Quilting and managed to get a bit done. I am still struggling with the block with my great-grandmother's photograph. Deciding on and then executing each new element in the block takes too long; it feels as though I am climbing up the rocky face of a mountain. I am eager to finish this one. I thought about starting a new block that I might find more interesting but am afraid that if I switched now, great-grandmother's block would never be finished.
I think that in this case, I'd rather have the block be less than I want than not be at all.
Spending time with a friend is a precious gift, and I was given that gift today. Celebrating her birthday two months after the day didn't matter - or at least the fact that the celebration was so late didn't. JS is a friend from my teaching days, and I am fortunate to continue to have her as part of my life.
We had lunch, went to the bookstore, buzzed through some other shops, and made our final stop at our favorite coffee shop. And the entire time we talked and laughed and let companionable silences fall. What could be better?
Happy belated birthday to you, JS, and thank you for the gift of your friendship.
The title of this entry is a list of the three artists whose work is currently being shown at the Oakroom Gallery (First Unitarian Society, 1221 Wendell Avenue in Schenectady). More precisely, here's a quote about this "gallery" from their website -
"The Oakroom Artists Gallery is the only membership-by-invitation art association in the Albany area. Membership is limited to 24 artists in order to allow each artist the opportunity of a solo exhibit every two years. Solo exhibits are held at our Home Gallery at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady. Group shows are also organized at area colleges and museums."
This is where my studio group went this afternoon, and with some reservation, where I recommend you go before the end of the month (when the exhibit will change). There we saw the sculpture of Phyllis Kulmatiski some of whose work I found powerful and some lovely, the paintings of Jeffrey Bisaillion which were glorious in their color and intriguing in technique, and finally, my initial reason for going, the fine, fine paintings of Elizabeth Apgar-Smith.
The reason for my reservations are that the gallery is really part of the circular open space planned for the meetings of the Unitarian Society of Schenectady. The wall space is ample but the lighting is not "gallery quality" - a real problem, I think. Also, it was disconcerting to see several of the paintings were crooked. While these may seem like small complaints, think about it. If one finds oneself distracted by wanting to straighten a painting or irritated at not being able to see a work of art, it is the art that suffers.
But despite those issues which may not bother everyone, this small exhibit was a delight. Apgar-Smith, a Schoharie Valley resident) has been a favorite for a long time, and I think her work is even better now. Because I enjoyed it so much, I am going to try to go back with D (who is also a fan) before the exhibit closes.
Oh, and as an added incentive, some of the art work is extremely affordable - great for those art lovers on your holiday list!
During the sorting through and throwing out or putting away that I was doing today, I came across some forgotten things. There's nothing unusual in that, of course, I do it all the time. But this was odd in a couple of ways.
First, I was going through a bin that had mostly crazy quilt things. There were the expected silky, shimmery fabrics, silk ribbons, velvet and embossed ribbons, glittery beads, and laces, but there were also those items that didn't fit the category and must have been tossed in that bin by accident or sheer weariness (you know, the I'm-too-tired-to-think-so-I'll-just-put-it-here-and-sort-it-later syndrome). I found the odd button that might have come off shirts or old coat, a shopping list crumpled at the bottom, a folder with notes on a book, and a really shabby looking drawing pad. As you can tell, those are the items that you simply glance at and throw away.
Except . . . I didn't recognize the drawing pad so I gathered it had to be old, but for once I didn't merely chuck it though I did come close. It was pretty dog-eared and the entire pad looked as though it had been put through a wringer so I nearly did just toss it away. Yet for once, I stopped and thought about what I was doing so I glanced through the pad and saw nothing. Into the wastebasket it went.
Later in the day, I happened to see it again (okay, I knocked the wastebasket over) and remembered that I had thumbed through the pad starting from the back. I plucked it out of the trash, opened the front cover and found -
Three pencil drawings from 2005. The one above is a view of the lake, but from the west side looking south. It shows two boat houses just down the lake from the cottage where we stayed in those days. I remember drawing this the summer that E painted a lovely watercolor of the same scene which I now have hanging in my family room. It's much prettier in color without those splotches. I would have been sitting down right on the edge of the property - probably sitting on the rocks with my legs dangling almost in the water.
The second drawing is the same boat as in the first but obviously from a different angle. And I remember it was the angles that intrigued me. This one I worked on from the hillside looking almost directly down on the lake. Again, I must have been sitting as it would have been difficult holding the pad and drawing without something to lean on.
The final drawing is from the same property but looking north up the lake. There is the boat house belonging to the neighbor right next door to us north side and farther on in the drawing are the steps to the lake from the next cottage beyond.
None of these drawings have been the subject of any of my paintings. D and I were both still working, and the idea of painting some day hadn't entered my thoughts at all. And I had forgotten these three . . .
Isn't it odd that I never tied the second two subjects down in any way? They appear to be floating; they aren't grounded at all. It's only the first one that included any indication of lake and the mountains behind. Strange.
Oh well, they served as exercises in perspective then and as memories of the lake now. They were fun to come across.
First things first, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to SMcG and may this coming year be full of joy!
While organization is still one of my first priorities on a daily basis, I have managed to sew a bit, also. The most important Christmas project received attention first, but then my mind wandered (such a surprise!). While I have been going through my quilt fabric, supplies, and books, one older project rose to the surface and started calling my name. So I worked on it.
This a project that I think of as a canvas, and here's why. What you are seeing is merely a background for the images that I am going to applique over it and was inspired by a pattern and the sample made from it that hung in a quilt store several years ago (and, yes, my project is as old). Some of you can probably date this piece by the fabric you see in it!
The pattern was one of a series of four seasons (I can't remember if all seasons were included in one pattern or if one needed to purchase four patterns), and the pattern for fall made a small, square table mat/wall hanging with possibly a nine patch in the center. Then there was a border and in each corner were pumpkins. My memory is vague and I haven't dug out the pattern to check because I don't want to be influenced by it any further. I do remember looking at the sample with admiration over how effective a simple pattern can be and then having my brain immediately go to work on ways to complicate it.
So here it is, not ironed, pinned to a wall hanging in my family room waiting for me to draft the pattern. It's giving us more pleasure than one would expect from a blank canvas.
How would you complete the "painting" on this canvas?
We actually remembered to vote today - well, to be honest we both forgot because I didn't write it on the calendar when D reminded me about it earlier this week. The only thing that saved the voting part of the day was that D had an appointment at a local school this morning. So when he came home he didn't let either of us get distracted and hustled us out to our local school. Naturally, I had to go through all that hoo-hah to get my middle initial corrected in this venue. I actually thought that getting it changed for state and federal elections would do it. Silly me. Oh well, it should be changed on everything by now. I hope.
We returned home and had lunch which included the usual fresh vegetables and fruit. That made me realize that the compost bucket was very full and since it was a warm day I could take it out. Out I went glorying in the sun and the birds and the fresh air swinging my hands back and forth as one does when one is feeling good. I dumped the bag (which I had taken out of the bucket as soon as I got outside) in the compost heap and that's when I noticed that my left leg was a bit damp.
"What on earth?" I thought. "It's probably just a breath of cool air," I continued, but just to be sure, I glanced down. And yes, all that happy swinging of the arms? The compost bag had broken and I was wearing a good portion of its contents. Feeling more than a little chagrined, I walked back to the house and once inside discovered, oh joy, oh rapture, I had gotten my winter jacket bespangled with compostery also! Mind you, the pants were clean this morning, and it was only the second day this year that I had worn my winter jacket. And, I did the laundry yesterday.
Oh well, I scrounged around and found enough dirty clothes to make a small load of laundry feasible.
All this nattering, and I had planned to tell you about my big achievement of the day (I suppose the fact that I didn't fall into the compost bin could count as a big achievement!). Anyway, I am including this photo so my friends who have never seen this room in this state won't be too shocked when next they come to visit.
Yes, friends, there actually is a table in our dining room! I finished moving all the sewing impedimenta upstairs today, and we will be able to have our Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room this year! There are some additional red and white linens on that far chair, but one is the table cloth we will use and the others will be hung on the ladders in due course.
Last month for the Young Adult (YA) books class I take every year, we read historical fiction, and as always I read some books that were really fine. One in particular I want to mention is Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. This one is a companion to a book we read last year, Code Name Verity, by the same author. Both books are about WWII and the active roles some young women took during that war as transport pilots and gatherers of information/disseminaters of misinformation.
Again, I encourage you to read either or both of these books even though they are marketed for the YA audience. They are extremely well written. Do look them up and see if they would interest you or someone you know. While they are fiction, they do give a fine feel for the time period covered. If you have or know of someone in 8th grade or in high school who is studying, will be studying, or is interested in WWII, you might wish to recommend these two books.
Now this month we are reading mystery, and I have been pleasantly surprised. I have mixed feelings about the first one I read, Panic by Sharon Draper. Do not give this one to a youngster without reading it yourself and talking it over with the parents of the child. It is recommended for high school students and is a cautionary tale of what can happen if a young woman goes off with a stranger or if a young woman stays in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend.
Currently I am reading Splendors and Glooms (Laura Amy Schlitz), All the Truth That's in Me (Julie Berry), and The Girl that was Supposed to Die (April Henry). I'm farther along in the last two books and am involved enough in the stories to want the heroines to be successful, but not far enough along to tell you much about either one. Splendors and Glooms also has me very interested but also rather skeptical as it is very "British-Literature-for-Young-Persons". Having cut my eye teeth on books like this, I am intrigued with the story so far but am wondering how far it will go with 4th grade (age of its target audience) Americans. Vocabulary alone will have it left on the shelf unread by many, but to be fair, I haven't finished it yet and so shouldn't judge.
More on these as I read more. Do check out Elizabeth Wein's books!
The targets for my energy were rather evenly divided between studio and kitchen today. Working from the end of the day to the beginning, I've just returned home from a nice time spent at MW's lovely, welcoming home. It wasn't the sort of evening I generally look forward to, but this one I did. MW was the hostess of a Pampered Chef party, and I was eager to pick up a few items for my kitchen. Naturally, I expected to find both the odd kitchen gadget or two ( I do like gadgets!) that would have to go home with me and the conversation of like-minded people. Well, the conversation was delightful (several of the women were teachers, others were quilters, and all were interested in cooking) and there were some ladies I knew from quilting. What I hadn't expected was to find something I'd been looking for for some time now. I found a big soup pot! It's soup weather, and now I can make something warm and comforting in a pot that is big enough. It will be a treasure. I also found something for D's Christmas stocking that he will find useful. That's another treasure.
My studio time at home was spent primarily in continuing the de-quilting of the dining room. Having Thanksgiving dinner in there this year is looking more and more possible. Of course, my studio is all at sixes and sevens again after being gratifyingly organized last Friday, but that will get sorted out sooner or later. There isn't much more to do in the dining room, and for a smallish room, it's amazing how much larger it looks now!
Finally, since it's Tuesday, I spent my morning at my studio class, and completed the work on West Whately Woods #2. Here it is with the piano obligingly acting as a frame:
While I did say I would show you both of them so you could compare the two, I'll save that for a later blog entry. After the last time I showed it, my sister-in-law voiced a critique that was absolutely spot on, and it has made my fingers itch to get back into that painting and correct the issue (I made sure I didn't make that mistake again in this version!). My plan is to work a bit on WWW #1 and then show both and discuss their differences.
For now, I will say that I like this one well enough to consider framing it.
Lovely conversations with two of my sisters-in-law today which reminded me how lucky I am. Getting along well with in-laws is one thing but really enjoying their company is another. The latter isn't given to everyone so I say again, I'm lucky.
Miserable rainy day that reminded me what November is much of the time. Despite that, we managed to get a lot of business done this morning including the yearly eye exam for D, and buying a new mobile phone for me. I had done my homework ahead of time so I knew what I wanted, but even so it seemed to take an inordinate amount of time from telling the clerk what I wanted and walking out with it in my hand. No one's fault, really. Computers were slow, managers who could unlock things were busy else where, and setting up everything just takes time.
D was concerned because our builder said he'd be by on a rainy day to take care of a couple of minor things like fixing a rain diverter that is going the wrong way (!) that still need to be done, but he didn't make it. That worked out all right. The rain wasn't torrential, and we certainly had enough else to do to keep us both busy.
Thank you all who wrote to tell me how much you like my new cutting table/ironing board/drafting table. D did do a spectacular job! I love it too and so spent time trying to corral the wildest of my fabrics, sort them, and put them away in the closet. I reached the point where everything is off the floor, the room looks lovely, and I can retrieve the last of my sewing gear from the dining room. Of course, that means that the floor will be piled high again, but this should be the last monumental pile for a while anyway.
This morning I was able to spend some time in my studio sorting fabric. It made me think of David Taylor who spoke at the Delmar Guild because he talked about how he loved to touch his fabrics. And don't we all! Anyway, it was a pleasant time, and I was able to get some work done in there that needs doing.
The afternoon was spent running errands and doing yard work. The gardens in the back are now ready for raking as we cut down or pulled out all the dying remains of our flowers. It sounds as though it is a sad thing, but even though I am sorry that the blooms are gone, I like to think of today's work as the beginning of the next growing season. Think how the soils rests and reinvigorates itself and how the roots of the perennials are spreading and getting stronger for next year. Anyway, with both of us working it didn't take too long (though longer than it used to!), but I still think I'll feel some twinges tomorrow!
While I was organizing this morning, D was putting together my two new bookcases that arrived yesterday. Doing that made it possible for us to set up my new cutting table after our garden work. I had decided some time back that I simply wasn't going to spend a lot of money on a manufactured cutting table. So I checked for an appropriate alternative and presented D with an idea. Look at what we came up with:
D salvaged the solid core door that used to be the door into our garage (we came up to code with the recent construction and now have a steel door in its place). He filled in the holes where the doorknob, latch, and hinges had been, sanded down everything, and then primed and painted the door with an oil-based white paint. We carried it upstairs from the garage (boy, that door is no light weight!), put it on top of two 36" tall bookcases, and Bob's your uncle! I now have a cutting table that will double as an ironing board after I make the appropriate cover. Isn't this terrific?
D just suggested that I buy two more bookcases that we can put under the center portion of the table to provide more storage. Oh, yes!
A busy day as I'm sure it was for everyone. After dropping D off at the polls, I came back home and made oven-baked apple cider donuts with a cider based glaze. Those I delivered to our local polling place as I drove out to my studio class. Yes, I know we made the apple crisp, but I have to admit I'd been dying to make donuts. No one I know wants to eat them because we are all so aware of the upcoming holidays and the"up coming" pounds the may add. I had purchased a donut pan and today was my day to go for it. The donuts were well received, and they are very easy to make. It is nice to be able to offer that kind of treat during these crisp fall days, and now that they've been tested . . .
My first new bit to add to the list of little-things-accomplished that I had extolled last week is a considerable advance on the second version of West Whately Woods. I'll save showing it until it is really finished at which time I will show both versions. Some of that work occurred over the weekend (in the privacy of my studio) and some today during studio class. E, I must tell you that I have addressed the issue of hard edges on this one. Once you pointed that out to me on the first attempt, I could hardly stand it. Sharon said she must have missed it, and she and I chatted about changing that one in the same way I worked on #2. Anyway, I am pleased with what is happening.
After my studio class, I headed out to Crazy Quilt class. I made significant inroads on the work yet to be done on my great-grandmother's block. Well, look at it this way. I picked up and threaded a needle and did some sewing. Compared to what has been done over the summer, that work deserves the adjective "significant"! Another addition to the list of little-things-accomplished.
Photographs of these two will be included later this week. I hope.
Tomorrow is election day. That means that some of my siblings and in-laws as well as D will be getting up far too early to go to work at the polls until far too late. I like thinking about why they and so many others all across the US do that and it certainly isn't for the paltry stipend they receive. Like me, they believe in free elections and the perquisites that come with them as well as the responsibilities. Like voting.
I'm sure I've told you this before, but just in case I'll say it again. In the early days of my teaching career, one of my students asked me why it was so important to vote. I responded with the usual come back about the responsibilities and rights of citizens until I saw that it wasn't having any impression. So I finally said, "If I don't vote, I can't complain." It was not the best answer and probably not even a good answer, but it satisfied that particular student. It made sense to a young mind, and I've been known to use that answer more than once since then.
If we exert ourselves to go to the polls and cast our ballot, we have the right to complain about the job that is being done. We cast our ballot in the belief that those elected will do as we want them to do. Obviously, that can't be done very often (no one I've ever voted for has come to my door with a huge check for all the taxes I've ever paid!). We want them to consider us as a whole and do what they promised us they would do. If they don't, we have the right to call them on not upholding their end of our bargain. But, you understand that as some young students can't.
So tomorrow morning I will vote and I will take with me the very large pan of apple crisp I made for the election workers, the "unsung heroes" that facilitate the voting process, as my "thank you" to them.
It seems as though I have talked about the construction that was done here for quite some time, and I have laid my lack of creative work at the door/s of the construction sites. Both statements are true because construction takes longer than one anticipates and because it also interferes with the normal ebb and flow of usual activities.
What I realized today is that it isn't true that I have done nothing. It may seem like it to me, but I have begun a redwork Block of the Month which I plan to combine with a traditionally pieced basket and applique BoM. The first embroidery block is almost finished:
There is one more flower and the ribbon on the handle of the basket yet to add. So far I have used three different reds, one in perle cotton for the basket and the other two (one of which appears almost orange in contrast with the deep reds) in embroidery floss for the leaves and flowers. I'm stalling a bit on the ribbon because I haven't decided whether I will do it in satin stitch or use silk ribbon. From a design point of view, I like the idea of ribbon which will add both texture and a three-dimensional look. However, from a more practical point of view, I may opt for the satin stitch. What do you think?
The other project on which I have been working is a Carpenter's Star wall hanging. This one I started in the summer to have ready as this year's project with my hand-piecing club. Although I've managed to keep the various parts of this project together since late spring when I chose my fabrics, from time to time I've misplaced the bag holding it all. Every time I've had to move things from one room to the next (a frequent occurrence) something important invariably hid itself. In short, I haven't completed as much as I would have liked, but here's what I have done:
Don't even ask how many more stars I need to sew!
Surprisingly, looking at these bits and pieces of work makes me feel good, and I don't mind the fact that each project is far short of completion. Instead these two pictures show me that combined with the paintings I've done, this summer has not been a creative wasteland.
So if you are lamenting not being as far along in your projects, whatever they may be, take a moment to reflect. Count what you have done, count the minutes you've spent planning what you will do when you have the time and realize the amount of creative energy that has already gotten you closer to your goals, and enjoy each moment that you have time to do things you love.
After all, bits and pieces add up eventually to finished works!
Shortly after I began teaching, my father-in-law gave me a Halloween Tree for my classroom. I had never seen anything so fantastic in the true sense of the word. The tree with all its small Halloween themed ornaments was a big hit every year. My students loved it almost as much as I did.
Then D gave me Goblin Town. What a prize that was! Again, I had never seen one before and haven't since. He found it somewhere on one of his trips and brought it home in an old shoe box with its contents and price on the lid: "Gobblin [sic] Town price $8.00". All those pieces for such a bargain!
If you were to ask me which one I prefer, I would be hard pressed to answer. The Halloween Tree means a lot because it was a special gesture from one not given to such gestures. And Goblin Town, well, look at the photo:
I think I have to say that I like them both equally. The Halloween Tree is the centerpiece of Goblin Town, and the houses and characters belong with it.
I didn't realize my focus was so far off, but I hope you can enjoy it even if only a fraction as much as I do.
A good day for me. After ironing fabrics, I was able to get most of my grandson's quilt cut out. There is still more to do as the center medallion hasn't been touched, but I feel so much better about it.
Tomorrow I hope to do the math that is required in order to blend two patterns and come up with the correct size quilt for his bed. Math . . . oh well, tomorrow is Halloween so maybe some spirits will help me out.
Speaking of Halloween:
This is the shelf in our family room. I still have some of the decorations that I used in school so I added them to this shelf with the few that usually are there at this time of year. I like the way it looks.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that the weather forecast is wrong and that there won't be cold rain tomorrow evening. I love seeing the little ones, but I don't want them - or their parents - catching cold!
Today I took two possibilities for paintings to work on during my studio class. The one I thought I would choose to spend time with is a view of a country store in Vermont. That store is one my sister-in-law E has painted with great success, and I confess that fact intimidates me a bit. Okay, maybe a lot. So, instead of starting with the same view she used (we both took photographs from similar vantage points on the same day), I chose to make a preliminary sketch of the store from a very different angle. The sketch was ready to be worked on today if I chose.
However, as I was talking with Sharon, I realized that I didn't feel quite finished with the autumn woods. In the beginning, I had worked on two paintings of that scene at the same time. As time progressed, all my attention and work went to the one with what I considered the better wash of autumn leaf color. That one is virtually finished now, but E raised a question that has niggled at me ever since. Both my eye and my hand reached for it today during class so that is what I spent my time doing.
No pictures were taken yet, but I did spend some time this early evening looking at both paintings. I will continue with the second one and have some ideas how to go about that. Will it be better than the first? Possibly, but I really don't know.
Quick note to emphasize the impact the new love seat makes. Both our builder and the building inspector dropped by today, and both men commented on what a fabulous and WELCOMING space that room is. The building inspector even sat down (after asking permission to do so), leaned back, let out a big sigh and said, "This room is so terrific I wish my wife could see it."
Turns out his wife is an artist, too, but one who doesn't do much painting because she's still in the work world. I told him to wait until she retires, give her a while to get used to the free time, and then - Watch Out! He laughed and said, "A room like this wouldn't hurt."
Here's a huge thank you to ME because of whom my studio is a more comfortable and inviting space. Now when one enters the room, here's what they see:
Yes, I have my wonderful chair thanks to my daughter, but until today that was the only seat in town. Now, because of ME and her mother (original owner), I have a love seat to offer visitors. It makes me feel good to know that when D wants to chat, he can come in and sit down instead of having to wander around amid the piles of fabric and art supplies that are waiting for me to discover where they should live. Then there are my friends. Thanks to this love seat and odds and ends of chairs in various other rooms, there will be seating for all.
In addition to ME, I also must send a HUGE thank you to her son and her son's friend who provided both the muscle and the know-how in order to get the love seat up a flight of stairs and into my studio. Did I mention that the love seat opens into a bed? You know how heavy that makes this unassuming piece of furniture! So ME, please tell your D and friend J that I thank them for their help. You'll have to tell me what I owe them and you!
Has anyone figured out why it is that when we tidy, we usually (and I always) create a mess? That's what happened today. My desk is half cleared off, but all the papers I moved from its surface are now in separate piles on the floor. In among those piles are binders that came down from my studio so I could put those neat piles into them. Hasn't happened.
The kitchen area has been cleaned and tidied and all the coffee paraphernalia that had been out for months for the workmen is now put away out of sight where it belongs. But the kitchen table still has mail that D needs to look over (I did manage to recycle some older catalogs and newspapers) and the balls of yarn that I got out before going to my knitting class after supper. I had to be sure I was happy with my choice of colors for the project being taught. Could I have put it away when I got home? Of course! Did I? Well, half way. The rejected yarn is in at least in a bag. On the kitchen table.
Some items that I had stored on the floor of my closet (mostly books and the yarn I pawed through today) have been put away. Except there are some books on my dresser that I want to read soon and the yarn is - well, you know.
This morning I went through my closet and took out the last (I hope it's the last) of the warm weather clothing, folded it all neatly, put the slacks in a bin, and put the tops in in ROY G. BIV piles (my organization pattern for clothing). The bin of slacks is now in the guest room waiting for D to store where he'd like it put, but the tops are in neat piles on the bed awaiting a bin - creating a messy guest room from one that was pristine this earlier.
D's Bonsai Garden quilt was squared up today (yeah!) so I can sew on binding tomorrow (remember, it came back from the quilter just in time to be put away until I could get my sewing machine out after construction). It is no longer on the chest beside our bed which is good, but it is on the (clean) floor in the studio which isn't so good and certainly not tidy.
Tomorrow I plan to sew the binding on that quilt after I restore some order to places I "tidied" today!
Actually the title of this entry should be the other way around. I just came in from rescuing some tender plants from tonight's low (but not freezing temperatures - only 34 degrees). Now reposing in the warm garage (what a difference insulation makes!) are two gardenias, a very large stephanotis (I staggered under its weight), D's bougainvillea bonsai, and a three year-old, grown from a seed, peach tree. The latter may be all of twelve inches tall. Anyway, they are inside, and I can rest easier knowing they are protected.
Now for the misnomer. "The name of the painting had to be corrected," she said with an embarrassed grin, "because the artist didn't know what direction was up." I didn't think it was possible I would be lucky enough to have alliteration (which I love) so instead of checking my facts last night, I typed what I thought was correct. Silly me.
The painting, which did indeed have to have modest attention today, is "West Whately Woods". There it is on the piano which makes it look as though it were framed. Sort of like dressing in your best clothes; a frame can make a painting look pretty darn good.
Then, because I didn't have the photographs I thought I would work from with me, I started on a new Vermont piece. That was a surprise because there are several New Orleans pieces I'd like to work on, but without my reference photos, I couldn't start on them. It's all right, though. The one I chose is a great water color candidate. On top of that, E and I will be able to look at different approaches to the same subject when I'm finished.
This morning I spent most of my time working in our "computer room" moving some of the odds and ends that had landed there during our moving-things-that-are-in-the-way-of-everything-else phase, a.k.a. construction. Now I sit here knowing that when D is ready, he can move the computer to whichever spot he decides he wants it. That makes me feel as though I have done something purposeful instead of my frequently aimless "I'll-move-this-here-because-it-will-be-out-of-my-way-for-two-minutes".
That meant that this afternoon was open for painting. True, I have my studio class tomorrow, but I hope to be able to move on to another subject even though I am not yet ready to return to oils (once my studio is a bit more settled, I'll feel better about having wet canvases about). Last week I showed you the water color that as it is close to finished is now called "North Whately Woods" from the location of the scene. At that point you could barely make out two/three tree trunks and not much else that was new or exciting. Here it is today -finished, except for the inevitable final tweaking.
As always once I see it on this page, I can pick out all sorts of things that should be changed, but for now I'll just post it. Of course, if you have comments, feel free to voice them. Constructive criticism is a good thing.
Isn't this a wonderful photo? Do you get the same surge of desire to create that I experience when seeing something like this? Look at the edge of the chair seat, the colors and textures of the pumpkins/gourds. Then there's the pot of flowers, the geometry of the bricks and siding. See the airiness of the bittersweet. Colors, shapes, and textures all combined yesterday to start me thinking.
Today while I painted the front door, I thought. While I took more quilting and painting supplies to find homes in my studio, I thought. Tonight while I worked on my redwork embroidery, I thought. And here's what I thought.
Every time I see something like PC's front stoop in the photograph , I start designing a quilt or wool work of some sort. Sometimes it's a painting, but usually with little vignettes like this one, I think quilt.
Do I make them? Do I even sketch them? Do I look at my stash for possible fabrics?
Christmas is coming and I have promises to keep. Quilts I have promised to make that must be done (and I'd better get started, for as ME told me, there are only ten more weeks until Christmas . . . yikes!).
However, I made a promise to myself today, and by writing it down and putting it out there for the public to see, I've made it a point of honor as well as a promise. This coming year, as far as new quilt projects are concerned, I will work primarily on my own designs. Now this is hard because there are so many "traditional" quilts that I want to make, but I do need to let my muse have her day.
Wish me luck and don't be shy to ask how I'm doing on this resolution when you see me and make me be specific and tell you exactly what original work I've done!
More work in the studio today. It still seems to take a long time to accomplish anything, but all I have to do is walk in the room and the smiles start. For example, D and I moved in the floor protector and the cleaned off table. Then we put together my new "sewing" chair complete with lumbar support and a seat that isn't too deep for someone my height. Of course, you do know that it was really D that did most of the work on the chair! I held things and passed tools and made suggestions (Ha!) while he managed to match up all the pre-drilled holes without losing his temper.
The two notable things about this chair are: my daughter bought it for me (isn't that an incredibly thoughtful thing), and it was on sale but also mis-marked so I bought it for considerably less than it would normally be.Time for a happy dance, indeed.
I hope you have something to dance about this weekend, too.
The second bookcase went in the studio today. Doesn't sound like much, does it? But this bookcase holds the "everything else" of my multitudinous interests. The first bookcase took all the quilting books, well, most of them, and the second one has books on buttons, beading, crazy quilts/embroidery, designs, doll making, journal writing, knitting, letter writing, needlework, painting, rug hooking, tatting, and I haven't finished, yet. There are books on textiles in general and handkerchiefs in particular. Books on blackwork, redwork, and goldwork. There are still piles of books in the computer room waiting for me to check them out and see if they are still worthy of inclusion in this curious library.
For that's what takes so much time. Books that I use frequently or within the past 8 - 12 months sail on through the doorway to the bookshelves. Those whose pages form indistinct memories have to be searched through. Then a decision has to be made. Is there enough in this book to merit taking up space on a shelf? Or is there so little that is different from the offerings in other, more favored books that it should go to the library sale table? Sometimes those decisions are hampered by emotional attachments. You know how it is, "Oh, I used this book to find how to make that lace shawl for Great-Aunt Cordelia that she loved so much." Then all your memories of spending time with that aunt who was especially kind to you rise up and cloud your judgment.
Despite all that, progress is being made.
But painting is not.
Yet I keep in mind how much I will be able to truly relax and enjoy and use this studio that D has - incredibly enough - built for me once it is organized.
Finally! Today I found myself able to return to my studio class. Even though the house is still at sixes and sevens, the work is now centered in the garage instead of in the house. That means there are no workmen walking around which I found very distracting. Instead of painting, I wanted to watch and see what they were doing.
This is a view of the interior of my studio from the doorway taken early this evening. It will take time to move in, and as you can see, not much has happened yet. However, you can see a painting on the mini easel on the floor.
Do you remember the Autumn Trees water colors I was working on? It seems like such a long time ago, but it was September 4th when I posted the following:
I think I managed to work on this painting maybe once after that picture was taken. There are two versions of the same scene, but I worked on only one today. Let's see how it looks.
Of the two paintings, this is the one on the left. It's hard to tell, but I've begun to work on the tree trunks (see the birch with its distinctive bark on the right?). Looking at it now, there are things that need to be addressed in addition to completing those trees.
I hope that one more "sitting" will finish this one off, but, oh my, did it feel good to paint again!