Tuesday, November 26, 2013


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.  

May your holiday be all you would like it to be!

I'll be back after the weekend.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Report

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. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Day in the Life of . . .

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.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hit or Miss Entries

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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Gift of Friendship

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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Phyllis Kulmatiski, Elizabeth Apgar-Smith & Jeffrey Bisaillion

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!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Forgotten Things

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.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Quilt as Canvas

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?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dining Room Table

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.  

How's that for a good day?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

YA Books

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!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Studio and Kitchen

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.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Completing Some Chores

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.

Stay warm this weekend!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cutting Table/Ironing Board

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!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Additions to Bits and Pieces

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.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Election Day

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.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bits and Pieces

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!