Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Do It Right

This lovely bunch of flowers was a hostess gift from one of my friends who was part of the weekend get together here.  It's been a lovely bouquet all along, but tonight I was especially pleased to be able to look at it from time to time.  The rainy day made the flowers look brighter, but I also got myself into a pickle with my current quilting project.

Last week I mentioned having reservations about the way I had used some of the fabric and came up with the idea of changing the orientation of a couple of the smaller pieces.  Today I finished doing that and discovered it didn't work.  I believe I cut one piece incorrectly because it no longer fit, I fussy cut pieces on two sides so it would continue the pattern in the the center block, but I didn't change the other two sides.  By the time I finished mucking with it, I didn't like my half-solution to a whole problem at all.

Bottom line, if you're going to do it, do it right.  

I took it all apart and will start over tomorrow.

But those flowers are lovely!

A Good Teacher

Painting class was successful for me today; I'm getting closer to finishing the current painting even though I did not paint during this past week.  Today I learned another good lesson from Sharon. She talked to me at the end of the class about how long it was taking me to finish this one.  Oh, it wasn't a bad discussion.  Two weeks ago I had said that I was ready to have this one finished, and Sharon gave the why of that fact considerable thought.  

She pointed out that each time I start a new work, I try something different. Even though the oils were landscapes, each one had some element that I had never done before.  She knew from The Road to the Lake that I can paint buildings and handle the perspective so the buildings in this latest one weren't what was delaying me.  The latest painting, Raking the Hay, taught me how to do a tractor so I was confident about painting the trolley and the car.  Then she realized that even though I had painted the farmer on the tractor, until this New Orleans painting, I haven't had to deal with a variety of human skin tones.  And it is taking a long time to learn the right colors to mix, what colors to use as shadow and as highlights. Having pointed out all of this, she said that the time it's taking isn't something I should worry about because I'm learning something new that I can take to another painting.

Having a good teacher, that is, a teacher who can really pinpoint issues and then solve them, is treasure.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Beautiful Day!

What a perfect day!  Although on cool side, I'd swear I could see buds opening.

See what I mean?  This tree may be small but the pleasure it gives me is huge!  And look at its shadow.  Maybe if tomorrow is as fine a day, I can raise the pot so the shadow is easier to see.  Redbuds and some magnolias are out now, too.  

Not only was it a sunny, gorgeous spring day, I also was able to finish the top of and label for the gift quilt!
The colors don't show well in my photograph.  I highlighted it so the they wouldn't be so dark but that washed out the white background.  Oh well, you'll once again have to use your imagination!

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll have to square it up, make the backing, and attach the label.  Then it'll be ready for the quilter.  Yahoo!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Working Weekend: Quilting

Okay, some of you have seen these on Facebook, and some of you have seen these because you were here while I worked on them.  This was the weekend that my "sewing and scrapping" group met here for a weekend of companionship and the creative work of our choice.  

It seemed to me that we all are getting better at thinking about what we want to accomplish before hand so we are more organized.  That means that we actually get quite a bit done over the three days we meet.  Unfortunately, even though we all have cell phones with cameras and some of us even had real cameras available, only one of us took photos and those of the cookies I made.  

So the only work I can display is my own.  I will do better next time, I promise (and I ask my Soul Sisters to help me remember that promise!).  These photographs were taken this afternoon after everyone had gone home.  The first is a table runner that takes almost no time at all to make.  It isn't a quilted piece and has no batting in this version (which is why it is so quick to make).  When I saw the fabric in the center, I fell in love with its rich colors and pattern and knew it would be perfect in our new kitchen.  I made it long enough so it can actually hang over the ends of our table if put lengthwise.  That's a first!  

I'm also proud of getting these four little blocks done.  They're part of a Block of the Month (BOM) that I signed up for at Log Cabin Fabrics, and I had managed to resist the temptation for several weeks because reproduction fabrics aren't my first choice.  However, I do love paper-piecing, and Lisa has such tremendous color/pattern sense that anything she does is beyond beautiful so I caved the last time I was there.

These were the fabrics for April's BOM, and I am very proud of myself for completing the work in April!

Another thing I at least got organized was a BOM on which I am 6 months behind.  Fabrics have been washed (it will be a bed quilt) and ironed, and I thought I would be able to work on at least the first month.  However, I realized Saturday night that I have a gift quilt in progress that has to be finished by this coming Wednesday so I can take it to the quilter.  I had lost track of the fact that the first of May is Thursday!  Therefore, that quilt got priority today and is close to completion.  I'll show you when it's done.

Finally, I continued working on the winter block for the CzQ and will display that soon, also.

All in all a good weekend for quilting work.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Last Report on Forsythia Forcing

Here's my last report on my forsythia forcing adventures, and you will notice there are no photographs.  Like many other plants and shrubs, forsythias have on again off, again years.  My horticultural expert and friend  would explain it all to us, and I do think that at one time I knew the basics.

Anyway, this year my forcing of forsythia branches garnered a few blossoms here and there along the branches.  It was enough to lift my spirits a bit; how could they not be positively glowing with that brilliant yellow?  However, as a florist's dream they did not qualify.  

Oh, those branches are still in the house, and I still look at them every day with pleasure.  While there are few of those striking flowers, there are green leaves.  This is the year - for these branches at any rate - for leaves, and next year would have been their year to bloom.

Too bad I cut them!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Magic Within Us

Yesterday afternoon I spent time sewing, and when I had to put things away because dinner time loomed, I looked at what I had put up on the design wall.  The central blocks were completed, and I found myself dissatisfied.

As I lay in bed last night, that centerpiece kept creeping into my mind.  I had come to terms with the notion of starting all over either with different fabrics or with the same ones I had already used but re-positioning them.  Suddenly, I realized that one small block which repeated itself on each side of the center square, could be oriented differently and make the problem "melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew" (Shakespeare, Hamlet).  

Alas, sewing time was not to be had today, and while I was disappointed, I found the "philosophical mind" (Wordsworth, Ode to Immortality).  The correction won't take long to effect, and had I not had the lag time, the resolution of the problem wouldn't have floated up to the surface of my brain.

And that's what I'll think about tonight after reading and before sleep claims me.  Our amazing brains.  Think of all the times an answer, a creative idea, the way to deal with some irritant has simply appeared in your mind when you weren't looking.  Since I don't know how our brains work (firing neurons and all that), I'll settle for magic.

Don't you think that's as good an explanation as any?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Bonsai Apple Tree

Having shared the forsythia, it's only fair to share D's bonsai apple tree.  The first photograph was taken in the backyard where the watering cans are still sleeping.  It's hard to see any evidence of bloom in this picture - partly because the background is so distracting.  Wonder if watering cans snore?  I know they gurgle . . . hmmm.

Never fear, I did take a close up of the buds.  Oh, these two pictures were taken April 19th, Saturday, and this is the front of the tree.  You can tell because the lower branch is twisting towards the viewer.

Now the final photograph for today show the tree on the bonsai stand in the front yard and was taken today.  It had starting drizzling by the time I realized this setting was a far better one for my purposes and that the buds were significantly larger in just two days!  You are looking at the back of the tree this time.  See how you lose sight of the part of the branch that curves as it makes the twist away from you?  It's not as attractive as the branch is in the other orientation.  You know bonsai experts would explain it much better.

Nature never fails to amaze me.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Weekend Doings including more Painting Activity

Wasn't it a wonderful weekend?  I hope everyone had as good a time as we did and had a chance to get outside and appreciate the coming spring.  We not only did that but also celebrated D's birthday with one of his sisters. 

And I have to send a special thank you to her for being responsible for my first ice cream cone of the season.  She came and urged us to go to our favorite ice cream stand as she wanted a hot fudge sundae.  She had that, D had a small cone with peanut butter chip ice cream (I tasted it and both of us decided it didn't need to be put on our "must have" list of ice cream flavors), and I chose a small cone with a scoop of white chocolate raspberry.  That was good and would be acceptable on days when I feel I need a break from one of my standards Moose Tracks/Panda Paws or Cinnamon Bun.

After A left, D decided to work outside, and I went to the studio with the idea of doing more organizing, then some painting followed by sewing.  Well, when I glanced at the painting - still in the same state it was in after my studio class - I felt impelled to work on it.  So I painted for the rest of the day except for a lunch break.  Here's how it looks now:

I can see areas that still need more work as well as areas that are obviously not even begun.  However, I am happy with both the car and the palm trees as they seem to bring balance to the scene.  Don't get the idea that I think they are perfect because they most certainly are not, but they do help the overall composition.

This is a close up of the three tourists, and I got a real tickle out of the T-shirt worn by the man with the black shorts.  Can you tell what the shirt says?  In order to see it better, you'll have to click on the image so you can see it in full screen mode.  I need to ask for some help from Sharon with skin tones as I don't want them all to look the same.  Then the sunglasses and the beer! 

I had a lot of fun painting these palm trees but now worry that they may be too vivid.  I hope not because I want to make that purple car more intense, too.  Well, we'll see how it goes.  I think the young woman's tank top color will be the deciding factor, and I've haven't a clue what it will be.  Okay, maybe a clue, but it isn't fact, yet

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Forsythia Forcing #2 and a Surprise Appearance

Once they begin to show signs of life, there's nothing to stop forsythia.

This was taken yesterday, and you can just imagine what they look like today.  Check back on the earlier posting to see how quickly they have come along.  In addition to these six little vases, we have four other vases with forsythia branches moving toward a spring show.  

Here's another surprise - a big surprise for me.

You know what this is, right?  I cannot begin to tell you how many poinsettia plants I have had over the years, but none, not a single one, has ever sent out red leaves again.  This is a miniature poinsettia we've had for two years now.  I've kept it because - well, because it's nice to have something green in the house over the winter.  It's been in the same window, been watered twice a week, and that's all.  I haven't done anything special like make it go dormant, put a paper bag on its head, withhold water, fertilize heavily - none of that.  It's just decided to sneak a few tiny leaves with a hint of red just to test the area.  There are a few other leaves that seem to be blushing.  Maybe it will decide the coast is clear and send out some more.  Who knows?

Whatever it decides, it's a pleasure to see.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Orleans Painting Report

After another busy day, I am finding myself tired, and that means, lucky you, that I will be brief.

This was the beginning of my New Orleans painting representing one day of actual painting which I shared with you a couple of weeks ago.  Since then I have done a little more though, of course, not as much as I'd like.

Here it is now after a few more days of work.  Remember, the yellow you see on either side is the color of the tape.  The details of the buildings in the background are no longer as distinct because I removed the masking fluid and some of the lines which were under that fluid went with it.  

I am eager to get back to it, but I know I will be lucky if I get one more day of work on it before my next studio class. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Will Come

All right, so it's snowing outside, but I'm going to make myself feel better about it. Below is a photo I took last Saturday of some small forsythia branches I had just cut.  They are in a collection of vases that one of my sisters-in-law has been adding to every birthday (isn't that a neat thing to do?) because she knows I like to display things in a series.  These are the blue-green vases with my new black one in the middle (tear-drop shaped).  The color of the vases is more accurate in the second photo, though.

Now you can see the same branches on day 4.  So let's forget about the unpleasantness outside and focus on the fact that spring is really close.  It's just in the closet for a moment (probably looking for something warmer to wear!).

We'll check the branches again in a few more days.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Solve Some Problems; Create Others

It was a good work day for me and for D also. We got up, threw ourselves into schlep clothes, and went for a walk - our first this spring.  We'll walk only every other day until we're back into shape.  I hope that won't take too long.  I'm going to try to remember to stretch before walking in the hopes I'll avoid another Achilles tendon problem that way.

After breakfast D worked outside in the lovely weather while I worked on three more bins of things for the kitchen.  It is definitely becoming more difficult to find places for things - a reminder of how crammed into cabinets' nooks and crannies everything was before.  We are determined to avoid having that happen again and also to get rid of unnecessary, unused items.  But that still leaves . . . . well, you know.  Today the biggest problem was our collection of storage containers - which ones do we use, which ones have tops, do ones we use have tops?  We had amassed a great number of them as we took meals down to D's dad for several years before his death, and we still have many of them.  I did manage to arrive at a middle ground and still hope to pass many on to whomever can use them.

Meanwhile laundry was happily gurgling away to itself in the basement.

After lunch I did some more planning on the Girlfriend quilt challenge and resolved a major issue but also uncovered some minor ones.  And isn't that always the way!

Finally I actually found some time to paint - first time since last week's studio class.  It's hard to tell if what I did adds anything of value to my current project, but I suppose it's much like the quilt challenge - I solved some issues but created others,

It was a good day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Last week I wrote an entry complete with photographs about the Empire Quilt show and how much I had enjoyed some of the quilts.  Through my own ineptitude I managed to erase it before posting.  It's the kind of thing that happens, but lately with the hurly-burly of my life, it was more disheartening than it should have been.

Here I sit after several days full of quilting activities with wonderful people where I learned a lot and had a great deal of fun.  I took a class in which I learned a new technique that I hope to incorporate in my own designs.  There was a day of sewing on a new project that I can hardly wait to get back to working on and to meet again with that delightful group.  

This weekend was D's birthday, and who could have asked for better weather?  If my spirits had been down, they would have been elevated - since my spirits weren't down, they soared with the application of sunshine.  We had a grand time complete with his choice of good food (a small boneless leg of lamb, roasted brussels sprouts, Jerusalem artichokes as an experiment, and yams).  His presents from a sister were garden themed - perfect for him and especially in this weather!  Our g'son called and he and our daughter sang "happy birthday" to him.

Finally, today was the meeting of my "Pieceful Piecing Club" where we hand-stitched and laughed, and stitched some more.  

So it was a grand few days! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UConn Wins!

Last night UConn's women's basketball team won the championship!  We have warm feelings for UConn, a SiL works there, D and I have been there to watch a game, and they are a team that believes in education.  I know other schools do, too, but as I said, this one is special to us.  So special that we went out to a sports bar so we could watch the game.

That's what happens when one slashes one's bill by giving up lots of TV channels.

Empire Quilt Festival - Some Favorites

Having planned to show some of my favorite quilts from the Empire Quilt Fest, I am quite disappointed to find that only half of my photos were downloaded.  Tomorrow I will try to rectify that so I can share more.

It's probably a good thing since I'm rather tired tonight after staying up to watch the men's college basketball finals (Hooray for UConn!!!), running around like a chicken trying to make headway on many projects (mostly successful), and not sleeping well last night.

Here is one quilt that really struck me last weekend:

I am really sorry that the one I chose to show is so out-of-focus even though I do have a good excuse; I was trying to get the photo taken before someone walked in front of me.  And I also noticed that this one has a ribbon - the kind that does not tell you what this quilter won; very frustrating!  Anyway, here's a woman who has taken today's palette for her background - gray and darker gray - and then has thrown everything into a cocked hat with the bright colors in her blocks.  Of course, the blocks are contemporary in style, and I love this make-it-any-old-which-way style.  Also the spontaneous blocks are not centered in the gray, so they are not centered horizontally or vertically.  The placement of the dark gray blocks is well thought out, and did you see the boarder?  I would have liked a little less carefully spaced color interruptions, but I like the fact that the border is interrupted.  

Oh, and it took me a while, but I figured out what the label means.  Basically it's a typo and should read, "6" Improv (for improvisational) blocks" . . . Wouldn't it have been fun if she'd explained what the story of one or two of the blocks are?  It's fun to invent my own story for her, though.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Today's Kitchen

At long last I can share with you our beautiful new kitchen!  Yes, there are still a few things that need attention and minor tweaking, but the bulk of the work in finished.  

First, a reminder of what we had to begin with - make note of things like floor, counter tops, walls, and cabinets, oh my . . .  Those were all the cabinets we had except for the island which had a cavernous cabinet space with a half shelf and two drawers.  That island was horizontally placed between the kitchen and the eat-in area.

This is a similar orientation.  The floor looks like slate, but in deference to my feet, it is linoleum with no dimples, ridges, or raised elements of any kind.  Counter tops are quartz and made in this country (some come from Viet Nam).  The wall paper is gone, and the walls are the same white that we used in my studio (you'll be able to see more of the walls later).  There are more cabinets (note the pantry next to the dishwasher), and since they go up almost to the ceiling, they provide more room.  The island? oh that island is my dream come true.  It is larger, the placement makes the entire kitchen are work so both of us can be in there preparing food at the same time, and the storage in it is very functional!

In this view you can see the new sink/faucet (the pass through with my water color of peppers above it).  The sink is almost twice as deep as the one I had and was a no-cost item with the purchase of the counter tops.  In both of these pictures you can see the back splash but only dimly even with the under-cabinet lighting.  It is slate with small white glass tiles embedded in it.  While you can't really tell, the slate picks up all the colors of floor, counter, and cabinets.  The grout is a dark gray.  Though you can't see them all, the lights are recessed and there are a lot of them (it is a big area).

Here's a better view of the island, the shelf with its new color, and the red doors which lead into the living and dining rooms.  We decided to keep that color which we both love because those doors are usually open into the two rooms I mentioned where the red is appropriate.  The hallway in the back right of the picture leads to the garage, and D hung my "Merganser Trio" there.

So that's it for today, and now you can see why I have been so excited!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Color Trends

By this time next week, you may possibly have seen photos of the kitchen.  I say that as a possibility only because one never knows what may happen.  But today the back splash was put on the walls where it now looks just wonderful even though it is not yet grouted.

What is amusing to me is the realization of how thoroughly I have accepted the contemporary designs and colors all the while thinking that they simply aren't for me.  Bright primary colors have been and still are my go to colors in quilting and in painting, but I am drawn to the more earthy side than I would have thought possible.  Plus the fact that we are limited a little by what the designers have decreed.  You have to admit it is hard to find bright reds, yellows, or blues featured in models shown by design magazines and catalogs.  I have been okay with that.

Quilting and painting both lie at the root of this acceptance of today's trends.  While I am still not going to paint my walls in colors that I find depressing - especially in our long winters, I can now appreciate why others find them calming.  Through my two passions I have at first intellectually accepted the colors (especially orange) that I never allowed past my front door unless in edible form and now embrace them enthusiastically.

Maybe it is simply that with age comes both tolerance and wisdom (well, I'm working on that one!).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Another Step Closer: Kitchen-wise

Aside from ironing some fabric for cutting out tomorrow (I hope but realize it is an "iffy" possibility at best), our day was primarily taken up by watching our new-but-not-completed-kitchen-renovation come a stop closer to completion.

Today the quartz counter tops were installed.  It really is amazing.  First of all, the tops were cut in Syracuse according to the measurements taken earlier, and I realize there is nothing unusual in that although the technology to take those measurements is astounding.  They arrived in a truck (of course) and were carried in by two men who clearly had done that before.  There was no wasted time trying to figure out the best way to get them in the house.  

I admit that at the point the counter tops were to be carried in, I went upstairs.  Okay, of course I worry about our home and possessions and how things could get broken during the manhandling of many, many pound of quartz, but I am always very concerned about the welfare of the men who have to "tote that bale".  How easily they could get very hurt!  I am squeamish about that and frantic about not knowing how to help them (besides calling 911) if that should happen.  So I hide.

Good news; no one was hurt and the counter tops were put in place.  However, some pieces did not stay where they belonged for long.  Once the men knew that all was right with the fit of some pieces, they took them off so they could drill the holes for the faucets (kitchen and bathroom).  That they did in our driveway, and it took very little time with the kind of saws they have.  While interesting, that was not as riveting as watching them "marry" two pieces in such a way that the seam is not apparent unless one really knows both where it is and what to look for.  It took time to accomplish but again, no where near as long as I thought it would.

All told, the entire process took about three hours.  And oh, do we love how it looks!

Next the back splash, then the final fiddly bits, and then all will be done (okay, except for the putting everything away and cleaning parts . . .).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Great Day for Painting - and CzQ

First, the sunshine was gorgeous today.  Second, I went to studio class.  Third, I went to crazy quilting.  It was a glorious day!

Yesterday I talked at length about preparing to paint, and today I did so.  Here is day one of my latest work:

While it is clearly in the very beginning stages, I decided to share this New Orleans street scene because of all my chatter yesterday.  Now you can see how the drawing is transferred to the lumpy, bumpy surface of water color paper.  You can also see the yellowy lines around the buildings, the car, and a few other areas; that's the masking medium (aka "friskit").  It's even more evident if you click on the painting and see it enlarged. When I rub the friskit away, the area that it covers will be the same as the unpainted surface you see now.

The trolley is turning on to Canal Street, but liberties have been taken.  The scene - without the trio on the left - is very similar to a photograph I took.  The background buildings are similar to what is there, but not completely accurate.  Colors have been changed to make the painting work better and architecture  and street corner simplified to make the trolley and the people the main attractions.  The three people on the left are from a different photo, different area of New Orleans and were moved to this painting to get the look I wanted as well as improving the composition.

There's not enough on the crazy quilt block yet to make it worth showing here, but it will come soon - I hope.  More work is slated for tomorrow in the kitchen so we'll have to wait and see how much of anything will be accomplished in my studio.