Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

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.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Bit Closer to Sewing

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!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Woods Painting #2

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.  

I'll have to wait and see.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lucky Woman

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."

Yes, I do know how lucky I am!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thank-You Note

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!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Never Ending Cycle

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!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Garden to Visit

Here's my entry:

Of course, I had nothing to do with the amazing work shown here, but it's worth the time you'd spend reading an entry to visit that site and simply enjoy the ingenuity of others.

By the way, which one is your favorite?  Can you limit yourself to just one?  I haven't yet.

Thank you to E for sharing the website!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Misnomer and a Cold Night

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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

North Whately Woods a.k.a.Autumn Woods

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.

Enjoy our waning autumn.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Quilter's Early Resolution for 2014

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!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

When a Chair Fits . . .

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.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


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.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Return to Painting

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!

Friday, October 11, 2013

New Orleans 5

Tonight's entry is going to be an example of "more is more".  I promised this is the last entry on New Orleans, and I will keep my promise.  I also told you I was going to share what I feel is the highlight of our trip (and as you can tell from the other 4 entries, there were lots of wonderful experiences).  In order to let you enjoy, I will keep the commentary to a minimum.

So the experience that I absolutely loved and would do again was our Swamp Tour. Because of a number of different things, we wound up in a small boat with only the captain and no one else.  What follows are a mere fraction of the photographs I took.

Of the many shots of alligators I got, this is my favorite.  Moses may have his bulrushes; this alligator has his water lilies.

This is the more open, accessible part of the bayou.  By the way, I found out that according to our captain a "bayou" is a swampy, sluggish body of water that connects two other bodies of water (like rivers that have a more active current).  Notice how still the water is the photo below.

Here a mass of vegetation seems to be floating on the water.  The water level was high this season, but soil does get caught and builds up around the tree roots as it did here.

This barn owl came from her nest/roost to keep an eye on "Carlos" (or "Carlita" as one can't tell the gender) the alligator that our captain had coaxed near our boat.  It wasn't the same alligator that was in the first photograph; we saw many.

The next two are simply pretty pictures.  Since we were in a small boat, we were able to see areas of the swamp bigger boats can't reach.  Weren't we lucky!

This is another pretty picture, but I took it because of the cypress "knees" which may act to keep the tree upright and in place though no one really knows what they are for.

And another shot that focuses on the base of the trees.  Cypress have a particularly lovely flare - a wide, ridged base that tapers quickly and gracefully upwards.  Can you find the cypress trees in this photo?

I haven't showed you all the birds, wild hogs, or alligators we saw . . .  or the flowers . . . . or turtles or . . . . or . . . .

It is a wonderful place!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New Orleans 4

I hope you aren't tired of New Orleans yet.  There are simply so many things I want to share with you, and one of them is the morning we spent at the Degas House.  You recognize the name Edgar Degas, a noted French Impressionist painter, of course.  What you might not realize is that his mother was born in New Orleans, and he visited his American cousins for about four months.  During that time he painted many works - mostly family portraits painted while inside.  Although he loved the city and appreciated the light, his eyes were troubling him so the light was actually painful.  

We arrived early for our scheduled tour and decided to walk along the street.  Here are some houses one block down from the Degas House.  In the photo below you can see a man in a pink shirt who was overseeing work being done on re-building the front porch of the bright green house (with purple and red trim).  As we walked by, I could see the carpenter cutting the grooves (by hand with mallet and chisel) in which the boards would fit.  He worked quickly and with practiced precision.

Although this is a historic area, the rules governing historic homes are different from what we are used to here.  In New Orleans, they may suggest what one might consider doing.  However, most home owners do what pleases them and no one complains.  

 The orange house is next to the green one and then there is the blue one . . .
followed by a lovely pink Creole bungalow style.  You can just see the lavender cottage on the corner beyond the pink house.

Then I took this picture to get a better notion of the lavender color and its curving iron work.  While taking the photo, I saw the crape myrtle bush in the garden next door.  Matching pink blossoms!

But this is probably my favorite shot - the bright red motorcycle parked on the sidewalk in front of the semi-sedate Victorian home.  Juxtapositions, again!

While on the tour of the Degas House (our guide was a great-grand niece of Degas), I was asked not to take any photographs.  Later, I did ask if I could take one of a particular location and when granted permission, I was asked again not to publish any photos.  I'm not sure, but I got the impression the house is privately owned (though not by any Degas relatives), and the owner is quite particular about what is permitted.  What matters is that it was a tour worth taking (there were just the two of us) as we learned a great deal about Degas' visit as well as its possible influence on his work.  If you are interested, you can Google "Degas House New Orleans" and see quite a bit of the house and its surrounds.

Tomorrow will be the last day I will spend on this trip because it really isn't fair to go on and on about it.  However, the entry tomorrow will be about what I think is my favorite part of the trip . . .

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Orleans 3

Transportation is something I don't think about very often - in case, of course, it lets me down (missed buses, flat tires, vagaries of airline schedules, etc.), but in going over my photos from New Orleans, I noticed how many different ways there were to get around the city. So this will be the subject of today's memoir.

First, a disclaimer.  This is not my area of expertise.  So if I sound as if I know what I'm talking about, don't believe it.  If you choose to quote me, be careful either to check the veracity of my statements or be prepared to suffer ridicule when someone in your circle knows more than I do (that would be almost everyone you know).  That said -

Here is an old car.  Don't bother to ask what make it is because I have no clue.  I liked the color and the clearly elderly appearance but didn't care enough to go to the front or back to find make or model indicators.  If you know what it is, I would like to know because then I might be able to impress someone.

The ground is pretty steady under my feet on these next two.  These are boats.  The first is a steamboat, also known as a "paddle-wheeler" though I didn't hear anyone in New Orleans call it that.  The body of water on which it travels is the Mississippi River.  The river is quite impressive all by itself, by the way.  We did take a trip on a steamboat but not this one.  We traveled on the "Natchez" which is both bigger and older than this one, the "Creole Queen".

This ferry plies the Mississippi from New Orleans to Algiers which is across the river from NO many times a day.  It carries both people and cars.   Algiers is part of NO but there isn't much to see or do there, and it isn't considered safe for unwary tourists.  Especially those who tend to stand around taking numerous photographs of anything and everything. 

The next mode of transportation appears to be very popular - for tourists, again, as you probably realized.  Similar to Central Park in NYC it is a buggy pulled not by a horse but by, I think, a mule.  David's sisters will be able to verify this tidbit of information or not with a mere glance at the animal in the picture.  There may have been a couple of horses but not many.  Anyway, although expensive, this is a lovely way to get around, don't you think?

Since we were in NO when the Saints hosted the Miami Dolphins in the Dome, we caught a glimpse or two of the blimp.  Both teams were undefeated and the NO Saints won the game.  What merriment and frolicking occurred after that event!  The Saints are a REALLY big deal to their town.

Finally, the Canal Street trolley, the oldest of the trolleys in NO.  D and I took a ride from the center of town to the Garden District and back on a hot, sultry day, and it was worth the pittance we paid.  The cars are lovely with their gleaming wooden seats and windows that open wide almost all around the car (except in front of the engineer/driver).  And they are clean!  As a matter of fact, the entire town impressed us with its mostly clean streets even in the poorer sections (where we did see graffiti on abandoned houses).

There were still other forms of transportation, of course - the pedicabs, bicycles, motorcycles, flashy new cars, planes - well, far more that I have either the room or the pictures for here.  I was so stunned when we had to stop for a parade of Porsches (we saw twenty to thirty, and we weren't there for the beginning of the parade!) that I didn't take a single picture.  

Just know that you will be able to find a way to get around should you ever visit this city.

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Orleans 2

Looking over yesterday's entry, I realize that I haven't said anything about another of New Orleans' charms, and that is, the juxtaposition of new and old.  So here a few photos I took that express the harmony I think is achieved - rather than dissonance.

On our first morning, D took me to his favorite breakfast spot which happens to be lodged in this old brick building.  Being in a hurry for my first jolt of caffeine for the day, I took this picture after we ate breakfast.  Just look at the great color in those old bricks and then look at the modern glass building directly behind it with its scarlet "W" almost crown-like . . .  to say nothing of the angular building to the left.  Angles, planes, texture, reflection, and color.  It's all there.  And just in case you don't bother to click on the photos to get a better look at them, I re-cropped this one for you.  Now check out the reflection in the glass building. Aren't reflections great?

Here is one that I like because it includes a verbal juxtaposition.  A one-way sign on a "gas lamp" in front of two lovely doorways.

While I am sure that everyone knows about the above-ground burials that the high water table of New Orleans makes necessary, I did have to take some pictures of them.  Frankly, I think it's an eminently sensible way to save land while giving dignity to burials/mourning rituals.  Nor would I be surprised to see something like it adopted in other areas of the country and world as                                                        population continues to explode.

 Lest you think that all we did was walk around the French Quarter and gawk a buildings and cemeteries, let me share some of my very favorite picture of the landscape.  You can be sure that some of these will be revisited in a painting or three!  These were all taken in the City Park which is simply glorious.

Doesn't this remind you of Monet's series of paintings of the Japanese bridge in his garden at Giverny?

Spanish moss again.  I know I shared photos of it after our trip to Charleston, but this close up may allow to see Resurrection Fern also.  That fern grows along the branches and is a lovely green counterpoint to the so-called "moss" (it's really an epiphyte) as long as there is moisture.  When there is a dry spell, the fern turns brown as it is in this photo and wilts, but let the rains come and it perks right up and resurrects itself.  Hence the name.

At this point I need to confess why I go the lengths I do to tell you all this.  And no, it isn't just because I was a teacher although I have to admit that might be a bit of it.  It's really because if I write it down, I have a better chance of remembering it myself!  Sigh - sad but true.  

So until tomorrow's memory boosters, enjoy doing something you love to do.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New Orleans

We're back from a nine-day trip to New Orleans which is now in my "Top-Five Cities to Visit".  D had traveled to this city a couple of times and really wanted us to make a trip there so we signed up for a Road Scholar program that would give us an over-view of the city.  Since D had had some experience there, we went down three days before the program started to do some of our own exploring.  I think that its geographic location has kept this city semi-isolated, and semi-developed in such a way that it has retained more of its own flavor than other cities that were more accessible and more able to expand .  Not that New Orleans hasn't grown and changed with the influx of specific cultures, but it has adapted and grown while retaining much of the original settlers (Native American, French, and Spanish).  

Be that as it may, I loved the area and as you look at my photos, you will understand why.  After we checked in at our hotel, we waked to the French Quarter where I took a few pictures of Bourbon street (one does have to go there once).  Some of the things we saw were amusing like this truck . . . 

and the remnants of Mardi Gras masquerading as icicles . . .

Store fronts and windows captured my eye also.  Lucky Dogs are a New Orleans staple, but I think they should leave hot dog making to the pros in other cities.  Even though I wasn't impressed with the product, I enjoyed this window.

Away from Bourbon Street we walked along quiet streets that felt like a small town neighborhood.  Everyone has probably seen pictures of the incredible ironwork in New Orleans (NO from now on), but streets like this one have a special charm all their own.

Every now and then as we walked, we saw narrow alleyways that led to surprise courtyards like this one.  A lovely retreat from the hustle and bustle.  Are you noticing the different colors of the buildings?  Keep an eye out for different vegetation, too, as the week goes on.

Throughout this week, I will share some of my photographs, but as I took many, I will try to share those that highlight different areas than one may ordinarily see.  Don't forget to click on a photograph to get a larger view.