Thursday, December 15, 2016

Little Things with Great Meaning

When I was a little girl (less than 10 years old) we lived in a small town near Madison, New Jersey.  The "we" was my mother and father, the brother closest in age to me, and for a while, my middle brother. 

My mother had a friend up the street from us whom she visited from time to time.  I accompanied her on the visits occasionally, and since Mother's friend was childless, she was kind to me.  When she discovered I enjoyed polishing silver, she always asked me to polish some of hers and made me feel I was doing very well at something extremely special and important for her.  Once she showed me three little carved wooden figures from the Black Forest region of Germany.  Oh, did I adore those figures and my mother's friend.

When my father died and we moved away, Mother's friend gave me those little figures both as a way to remember her and to help me through a difficult time.  I still have them, and when I told D about them and explained what they meant to me, he started looking for more of these folk art carvings.  Now in our living room there is a display of those figures . . . 

With one some additions including another very special, very meaningful addition.  Last year, my sister-in-law E sent a Christmas card that featured a copy of her painting of her parents village in Germany.  It's full of her love for her family and pride in her background.  That makes it special to me.  And to have those memories visible at this time of year makes them - well, almost glow with their own light.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Holiday Doings

Another day given over to holiday business.  D and I wrapped presents to take for mailing tomorrow.  I finished laundry that had been delayed due to earlier interruptions in the usual schedule.  And then there was the making of Christmas cards which, once printed, had to be signed and envelopes addressed.  

But this was fun because most of it had to do with enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season.  One of the most enjoyable tasks was completed last night when D brought a very large box up from the basement which contained Christmas decorations.  We had gone through those decorations and passed on to our daughter or given away, but as you can imagine, there were still a lot left (more than I thought).  I found I had held on to decorations that I had purchased for use in school; they wound up either in the waste basket or in the box to go to charity.  After that we happily sorted and put up some of my Santa collection (some was relegated to charity for other families to enjoy).  Opening up a box that held D's collection of Christmas-themed Gurley candles, and here they are:

On the kitchen side of the pass through, there are five snowmen and one recent beeswax pine tree.  The winter lamps are new this year (couldn't resist something that could be used throughout the winter and was pretty!), and the holly which is lush this year is in two antique cruets and one Larkin Soap bottle (antique from Buffalo).

From the family room side, there are two Santas and two green pine trees and two glass white and gold trees.  You can also see that the Chinese warrior general is standing guard!

Some times sorting through "old stuff" can yield an hour or two of clearing out things that no longer make us happy and also give weeks of pleasure.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Another Day of Painting

Painting only one day a week is definitely not the best way to get better at it, but lately that's all I can manage (as many others coping with seasonal expectations or any other highly charged situation).  At least I did take the time to think about what I needed to do today.

First, here is the painting as it looked last week:

Now here is the same painting after today:

It's obvious that I have begun adding more dark clouds to the sky, but some of the other changes are possibly less noticeable  The trees on the left are more detailed.  There are now the beginnings of trees on the right (not a truck, I didn't want to hint at even one person being around), the building (not a church - an empty house) is more detailed though it may be hard to see.  The tower has been worked on.  

Oh, well, I guess you had to be there.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Helpful Hint/s

Along the lines of yesterday's posting, this one is for everyone out there who is up to her/his neck in holiday baking.  Or everyday baking for that matter.

Today, I started doing some baking, and yes, I know it's late for a "start", but well, if you've been reading this blog, you understand.  I need to make about 6 batches of biscotti (2 each of 3 different kinds), and if you've baked biscotti, you know they aren't difficult just time consuming.  Indeed, they are one of the most forgiving and easiest of holiday treats one can bake.  The time consuming part is the twice-baked part.

And this is where the helpful hint comes in.  Some of you will say,"Well, DUH!!!" because you've known this forever, but I didn't grow up in a family that made biscotti nor did I have a cookbook that was full of information regarding the baking of biscotti.  Until I purchased the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.  

Here's the hint: after the first baking and the cooling period, BEFORE slicing the biscotti "log", spray that log with water using a clean spritzer (easy and inexpensive at a drug store Walmart type place), wait 5 minutes, and then slice the biscotti log. That spritz of water will soften the baked crust and keep it from crumbling when you start slicing the log.  

Use that little, easy hint, and you'll have neatly sliced biscotti that look professional.

But an even better hint?  If you love cookies like I do, but that cookbook,  King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December when one is on the Outs

Every year I promise that I will not over-book myself, and every year I do just that.  Yet, I don't know many people who manage to avoid the snare of over commitment.  There's sewing, knitting, baking, painting, decorating, socializing . . . oh wait, that's every month!

Actually, what threw me for a loop (small loop, small "l") today was the search for cinnamon chips.  You know, cinnamon chips for baking that are (usually) relatively common around the winter holidays.  Except for this year.  I had very helpful people directing me to the snack aisle (supposedly for cinnamon potato chips), the ice cream freezer (great ice cream idea), and the cookie aisle (chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon? sounds good!).  But no.  Even when I did a thorough check at a second more well-stocked grocery store, I found no cinnamon chips.

Once home, I researched on line to find a substitute and was directed to many sites for a how-to on making my own.  Not going to happen.  I also realized why the stores had none.  That more well-stocked store led me to the truth.

Cinnamon is not "in".  Caramel is.

I'm on the "outs".

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Update on Most Recent Painting

Today I was very eager to go to painting class so I could get back to work on my latest watercolor.  As I am sure I have made abundantly clear, I am having difficulties (as usual) balancing all of my various activities.  Because of that, painting has taken a back seat.

I may also have mentioned that this is a painting that is going where it wants to go.  Any ideas I may have had early on?  Well, forget them.  The painting is having none of it!  Just as a reminder, here are a few of my early studies starting with one sheet of four different skies:

Next is a set of sky and foreground studies:

Here is a study of what I thought would be the closest to the complete work:

And here's where it is today:

It is worth explaining that the painting is progressing in layers, and I am trying very hard not to get ahead of it.  I did add some darker clouds directly behind the building today but then turned my attention to the foreground to begin to lay down some colors.  Following that I returned to the building to bring it along.  As you can tell from all this, I'm trying to keep everything at the same point in the process.  That makes it much easier for me to know what needs to be done where and when.  Eventually there will be more dark clouds in the sky and the foreground will be more developed.

The extension of this building would have been on the far right, but I didn't feel it should be there.  It is a quite uninteresting addition to this old house and would add nothing to my version of the view. The possible need for the rest of the building occurred to me because I had chosen a much larger size paper for the final painting which also placed the tower almost smack in the middle - drat!  This time I will not cut off a portion of the right side; I don't want to lose any of that sky.

Now the painting is whispering that there should be a truck over on the right, but I don't know if I should listen to it or not!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Some Difficulties Writing Entries in December

I find December a difficult time to write entries.  Although I am involved in many different arts, crafts, and home-related activities, many of these are either standard-issue or top secret.  I could write about my current painting except no work has been done on that since last week.

So I will try to write on occasion about generic doings about the house and post photographs as they happen to coincide with what's going on.  

Today I am posting a photograph of our little artificial tree.  We had decided we no longer wanted the expense, work, and clean-up required by a real tree and that we were ready to try an artificial tree. Of course, initially I wanted one of the super fancy, all over lights, very large (and very expensive) faux trees. Fortunately, due to wiser heads than mine, that didn't happen, and I just happened to find this one when wandering though Home Depot looking for screws or bolts, or arrows, or sledge hammers, or who knows what all, when I saw this 42", perfect-for-a-table little poinsettia bedecked tree complete with lights and enough gold to make my bling-heart happy.

Tomorrow is painting day so I may have something to write about but I'm not promising anything.

Have a good week!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Painting Progress

It's been an active day; I've made progress in both painting and quilting.

However, I will focus on the Evansville painting which is turning out to surprise me.  Yesterday I was bound and determined to get the sky behind the building blocked in.  My thought was to lay down a first layer of paint that would eventually be covered with the more intense clouds that I've been working on in study-form for . . . well, for weeks.  I ran into several problems.  First, how to lay down an even layer of moisture on such a large surface.  Second, how to then quickly, quickly, quickly paint the color while the surface was still wet enough to allow the paint to flow.  Third, how to tolerate the result when it didn't match the picture in my mind.  Fourth, how to lift the more egregious areas using whatever blotting materials came to hand (including paper towels, hands, and even a section of my top).  Fifth, how to hide the resultant mess.

Fortunately, I decided to let the whole thing dry and ignore it until today when I would have to take it to class.  When I finally wandered into the studio, a surprise awaited me.  The painting didn't look as bad today as it did last night.  So when I got to class, I merely told Sharon the paint in the sky was intended merely as an undercoat, and she (in her infinite wisdom) suggested that I work on the building instead of going to town on the sky.  That way everything could come together before I could possibly take the sky too far.  And boy, was she right!

Okay, so it isn't finished, but it may be closer than you might think, and I am really liking what is happening.  Definitely time to take some notes before I forget what I did!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Memories of Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is over once more, but oh my, did we have fun, good food, and companionship!  It was so terrific that I am going to break one of my hard and fast rules: "Don't post photos of family - especially children!"  My reasoning is that my blog is not so popular that it would pose a threat, and that there are so many photos on-line that my few won't make a ripple.

First, Rebecca, Caleb, and Aunt Alice.

 Here's a favorite: David and Alice after (with Caleb's considerable help) finishing the puzzle you see on the table.

Then here's Daughter and Mom.

Another favorite; a grand photo of Papa and grandson.  I think Papa was saying something funny out of the corner of his mouth to Caleb who, very maturely, is ignoring him.

Don't even ask what I was doing (or saying, more likely) in the next and last one!

Finally we have some photographs of one of our family times.  Too often (and I am sure we are not the only ones) we let these special occasions (any time a family or group of friends gets together is a special time!) pass unrecorded.  It happens more frequently when a group has only one photographer.  In our case, I am almost always the one with a camera, and it's hard to be the hostess and take pictures.  It occurred to me that Alice has a phone and could take pictures so I asked.  Simple as that.

I want our grandson to have a record of these days to help him remember . . . all of us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow our daughter and grandson will arrive to celebrate Thanksgiving here at home.  Thursday one of D's sisters will arrive and that completes our group.  As you notice, we are a small family though we have several members in far flung states, but that doesn't diminish our joy in getting together however briefly or infrequently.

Thanksgiving does that.

So I hope your holiday is as happy and your home as full of love and laughter and good times as ours will be.

I'll be back next week!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Was Your Day Like Mine?

This week will be a busy one for everyone, I am sure.  My tale will sound very much like yours - all you have to do is switch the noun and or verb in each sentence (or whatever else works) and you will have your own day.  Today I . . . . 
  • went for a walk (it was the coldest one so far this season)
  • did the laundry
  • wrote some checks (ouch!)
  • reviewed shopping list and added additional items (of course!)
  • mixed two batches of cookies - one for grandson and one for SIL
  • finished packing up summer apparel (I was quite optimistic for a long time)
  • worked on quilting project (made very little headway)
  • polished silver
  • found the tablecloth I want to use (can't find the napkins I looked for)
Now I'm not complaining about what I did (except for the quilting - I really need to get that project moving) because I really enjoy Thanksgiving, but I wish . . . 
  • I could remember where I put things when I "put them away some place safe"!
  • I knew why I went down to the basement once I'm there!
  • my glasses would be on my eyes when my hands are full of other stuff but I need to read something!
  • the fairies who make my basement untidy would tidy it!
  • the phone wouldn't ring when I'm in the only place in the house that doesn't have a nearby phone (the basement)
  • a mouse hadn't been attracted by starch and nibbled away a third of the decorative crochet on an antique linen runner
How did you do today?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Window Treatment Day

It was a surprise learning how long it can take to put up window treatments.  Today we had 3 valences-only installed in our family room and quite a different set of "treatments" installed in the Garden Room.

First the easy ones put up by the very proficient young man who installed all our blinds earlier in this re-do.  We talked, he measured, we talked, and he measured again.  Then he installed the first and larger one, and I fell in love.  The next two were smaller but a little more tricky.  They went up above the high windows where the roof comes down from a peak.  The tricky part is managing to get the valence as high as possible without ramming it against the ceiling where it meets the wall.  We talked, he measured, and then he installed first one and then the other.  In this first picture you can see the entire family room with all three valences.

In this close up of the end of the room, you can see the larger valence.  This picture also shows the wood burning stove and my desk.  The fact that the valences are covered in the fabric on my chair and on the pillows on the sofa in the TV area unites the two parts of the room which I really like. The thing I had worried about in this new configuration was the two parts would seem separate.  While they are clearly designed for different activities, to me they now seem like a place where many people could be comfortable doing their own thing but still be together.

Okay.  That was the easy part.  Next came the Garden Room.  Well, trying to figure out exactly how each piece was supposed to hang and then do the math to make it all come out correctly was quite a piece of work for both the installer and for me (you know how good I am at math!).  Plus all the pieces of hardware that had to be assembled and then put in exactly the right spot - whew, we were talking about ⅛ of an inch!  You get an idea from the photographs.

In the first photo you can see the complexity of the installation (although the color isn't accurate):

And here is how it looks from the doorway.  Looking at these pictures, I realize it's not really possible to see all the work that was entailed.  The cream colored linen drapes are mounted on wooden rings that are in turn on a spliced wooden rod.  Then the handkerchief draped valence is hung with fabric loops over a spindle.  Everything had to be measured 40 times (yes, I exaggerate, but you should have been here!) so nothing would show that shouldn't, and things would be evenly spaced.

I think we should all just be grateful we don't have to do that job.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Evansville Painting

Today I decided to take the plunge and begin working on what could be the final painting of the stormy sky in Evansville (which is only a working title).  With that in mind, I took my 18" x 24" watercolor paper to class.  

Once I arrived I took out my supplies and found I had to start by taking the wrapping off the block of paper, then remove the protective cover over the paper itself which required a sharp blade, and then I could begin to think about where I wanted to place the main element of the composition and begin to draw.

Drawing takes time that I prefer to do at home since I think it can be a waste of teachable moments.  "Can be" is not "always is" as I discovered yet again today.  In the beginning I very carefully plotted where I wanted things to be; I even borrowed a long metal ruler from Sharon (I had forgotten mine) so I could make tic marks (okay, so I can be anal at times) where necessary.  Once that measurement compulsion was satisfied, I could begin to draw so I did.

It went well.  I've looked at my photos so many times for several years, and we've visited the site frequently since the pictures were taken.  I have an understanding of the building's perspective, but as it turned out I hadn't considered its mass.  When the drawing (very light and "bare-bones") was almost finished, I took a moment to back off and take a look.  

Oops!  The building was smack in the middle of the darn paper despite my little tic marks to which I obviously paid not one whit of attention!  Well, with rueful chagrin I showed my work to Sharon, and she said, "But it's in the middle!"  Helpful comment, right?  No.  She knew and was laughing with me because she knew I was aware of having made a real mess of my carefully constructed plans.

So I turned back to the drawing trying to figure out how to deal with it when Sharon said, "Just draw a line down the paper!"  It took me a moment or two to understand what she meant until she said, "I mean draw an actual line down the side of the paper [making a wide margin], and the building won't be in the middle any more!"


Monday, November 14, 2016

Super Moon Again

A morning spent in the garden cutting down plants and raking leaves has left me a little sore but full of a feeling of accomplishment.  Especially since I also laid down 40 lbs of bone meal, and it may rain tomorrow.

This evening we went over to a friend's home to watch the UConn vs Florida State.  UConn won but nowhere as handily as they walked away with games last year.  Still it was fun to watch the game in the company of good people.

But as the title of this entry makes clear, this is really about the moon.  On our way to our friends, we passed the most perfect scene - the truly super moon in a gloriously clouded sky with a pond below.  It was so very beautiful . . .  Now, do I have a photo?  No.  Despite the fact that D is always willing to let me take pictures, there was a car behind us who was too close to allow us to stop safely.

Sometimes, things don't go the way we want.  That means that we find an alternative.  When we arrived at our destination, I did take a picture.  It was hurried, but better than nothing:

A bit out of focus, but the clouds were still great!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Super Moon Night

Back after an unseemly time off.  It seems my "dark side" believes if I have no photographs and/or exciting news, there's no reason to blog.  And my "bright side" agreed!  Do you believe that?  I mean, really?

Oh well, I am still working on the sky for the last watercolor I mentioned.  Truly, that will be the last time I promise to show every study and discuss my progress in detail.  Ha!  I probably jinxed myself with that one.

But I am really making headway with my quilting project.  Quick reminder - it is a traditional quilt pattern with stars.  Nothing truly outstanding about that, either.

So since tonight is a super moon night, I actually have some photos.  The first has a great nimbus; I found myself wondering how I could capture this effect in embroidery.  

I like how the moon appears to be an ornament hanging from the branches.  As luck would have it, the automatic lights on our garage cast the light on the branches; that was not moonlight.  And if you look carefully you can see the silhouettes of more trees at the bottom of the photo.

All in all, it is a lovely evening.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Day of Dismals

The "ho-hum" and lazy-dazy and "hey, it's Halloween" bugs hit this week.  That and some unexpected, disappointing things kept me from blogging.  

While I was getting ready for a quilting retreat, I thought I was way ahead of things as far as organizing so I'd be ready to work on the planned quilt.  Everything seemed to be going well.  I had been putting elements in plastic bags and labeling them.  Then I turned to look at the single complete block I had to check again how many parts I would need for the entire quilt.  This is to be a king-sized quilt made up of 24" blocks: 5 patterned blocks, 4 solid blocks, and borders.  All of a sudden I realized I had been thinking I needed pieces for only 3 more block when I needed enough for four more.  It may not seem like a lot, but it adds up to over 150 pieces for one patterned block.  Being off even one block is daunting.

Then today I went to painting class, and I hadn't done any painting at all this week.  I really am having difficulty getting back into my pre-renovation schedule, and it can't be chalked up to that any more.  Anyway, I did go and I did paint, and no, I'm not going to show you because once again, I have nothing worth showing you.  There are at least 9 studies for this painting, and they're all pretty awful.

However, I am stubborn, and by golly, I'll work on it some more!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Boiled Eggs

Well, wasn't this a day of surprises!  Even though there were some conflicting weather forecasts, we knew that there might be rain and some scattered, incidental flurries that wouldn't amount to a great deal.  There were also probably updates that we didn't hear as the day progressed (we are not daytime TV watchers).  Whatever the reason, we were surprised by the snow - enough to coat the ground, make leaves fall faster than they already were, and possibly will cause branches to come down also.

And because I wasn't ready for it, I took no photos.  Darn it!

Well, in the morning we did get our get to the library, bank, art store (to pick up the framed "Rustic Hillside"), and then the grocery stores (we visited two of them).  As we drove home, it was clear that the roads were slippery.  That determined going out after lunch to finish the errands before the roads became worse.

Basically, that was the main thrust of our day.  Oh yes, I know things had to be done, but therefore, neither D nor I were able to get much of anything else accomplished.  I blocked the sleeves of my orange sweater and . . . what was it now?  Oh yes . . . .

I boiled some eggs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Progress on the Crazy Quilt

It's been a while since I've spent any time on my crazy quilt project.  As usual I think that is because I wasn't sure how to do what I had planned; embroidering the eyes of the owl and stuffing the deer.  

Here you can get an idea of what I mean about the owl.  It wasn't the eyes that really created the issue for me; they're amber looking beads.  It was the area around the eyes which I decided to embroider using a blanket stitch in a circular fashion.  That's the way the feathers look in several owls.  It was easier to do than I thought it would be since I had a slender, sharp needle and a silk thread.  However, it didn't turn out as neatly as I hoped.  The beak and the feet with talons were also completed today.

Next the deer.  I wanted to use a trapunto method which cutting a slit in the fabric backing the deer, putting the stuffing in, and then sewing the slit closed.  It was cutting the backing fabric that really had me nervous.  First I marked the length of the cut to be made by pushing pins through the deer from front to back to mark the beginning and the end of the slice.  I used an exacto knife and worked very slowly through three layers of fabric before I revealed the back of the deer.  Nerve-wracking?  You bet!

Originally, I figure I'd use some left over wool roving to stuff in that opening, but, of course, today I had no idea where I had put that material.  I thought for a bit about various materials to use and just as quickly rejected them.  Then I thought about drier lint; I had just washed and dried some white wool so I had a lot of lint going begging.  It worked perfectly.

I wish I thought a little harder about the final step of this part.  When I sewed the back shut, I focused on sewing the edges together again and making my stitches tight to ensure a secure seam..  It sounded wise at the time, but as it turned out, it wasn't.  It was too tight and the front puckered around the deer.  Now I have to cut out those stitches very carefully, sew them again loosely and cover the resulting open seam by stitching a small slice of fabric over it.  

That's for another day!

Not so long ago while cleaning out a drawer, I found an old, single shoe buckle/decoration that I had purchased many years ago.  Because I planned to work on this block, I thought of the mountain behind the house button.  What a good peak for the mountain top!  Right now it looks as though there's not enough room for it as it is hooked over the seam allowance, but I know how I will manage to use it right there.

Finally, here is the (nearly) finished Winter scene for the crazy quilt.  It will be in the top left-hand corner of the quilt (right top will be the same scene in Spring, right bottom is Fall, and left bottom will be Summer), or that's the plan now.  Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yesteday Update and Painting

My apologies for not writing yesterday, but I was tired.  Sunday night I wrote out a list of "To Do's" for Monday.  There were four housekeeping chores, and it ended with sewing and painting.  It's enough to say that I crossed everything off that list but wound up too tired to write my blog.

Now I have to apologize for being too embarrassed to do as I promised earlier when I began this particular painting.  I had said that I would show all the work I did on this one, but honestly, I just can't.  Some of it is simply so awful, I can barely look at them myself!  

I will show what I worked on yesterday and today, but you are warned ahead of time.  What you will see is still pretty awful.  Below are studies 7 - 11.  On the left is #7 - another study for the stormy sky.  This was the one where I laid down the light colors first and then added the dark.  When I saw that it still didn't work and looked much like #1 - 6, I had to think a bit harder.  I realized that I was still dabbing uncertainly at it and was actually simply painting the same way as in #1 - 6.  

Then I thought I'd give myself a break and work on the bottom part of the painting - the ground with its plants and trees (far left).  There are three attempts in the center portion, but I was frustrated by not having enough room.  So I turned the paper sideways and did that part of the painting again.  While not even okay, those four are better than the sky.

Given the fact that I had filled up three pages with 11 studies that don't seem to have helped me at all, I decided to try to put it all together in still another study.  When I first started working on this subject, I drew a very, very rough sketch of just the building's outline and nothing else.  Today I picked that sketch to work on for yet another in what is becoming and long line of studies.

Okay, it's really not good, but I feel so much better!Oh, this painting is dreadful in any number of ways: the sky is a disaster, the building (yes, it was a fast and rough sketch, but really?) is way off kilter, and the foreground isn't there yet.    But working on the entire composition makes a difference; it makes me happy.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Progress on Several Fronts

Last night we went to a 50th wedding anniversary party, and it was a wonderful time.  Our friends were dressed to the nines, the tables had beautifully arranged roses, sunflowers, chrysanthemums and greenery, and the cocktail du jour was champagne and apple cider.  The latter may sound awful but was very tasty indeed.  Their children were all there (as well the surprise appearance of the son and grandson from California) as were the grandchildren, friends from their professional days, members of their bridal party, and a few of us from the bonsai society.  I mention all this because what struck me the most was that this could have been a very formal and stilted party.  Instead the evening was full of laughter, hugs, kisses, children darting about, conversation, and great food.  Just what any anniversary party should be!

Today I was bound and determined to get the dining room back in order.  That meant I had to clear  space in the basement to store the bins which had been in the dining room since the construction began last May (!).  That organizing in the basement was easily done; things had been shifted about to allow the builders and plumbers access to the crawl space under the Garden Room and the well so it really didn't take me long to put things back where they should be.  

D had to sort through those bins that were still in the dining room as only one was mine (mostly empty as it is for the Halloween decorations in the off season) which he did without complaint.  After putting the rug back in front of the washer and drier (moved for the workers), he carried those bins downstairs and piled them neatly.  Naturally, since I had to make room for them, I also had to rearrange the drying racks - which made me think I might as well do the laundry today rather than wait until my usual Monday routine.   

Now the dining room is tidy and the laundry is done.  That means that tomorrow is a free day!  Time to organize an unfinished quilt so I can continue to work on it and be ready take it with me in November to complete at a quilting retreat.  Also, I'd like really like to do some work on the studies for my next painting.  It would be great to be able to start the first study of the entire scene on Tuesday instead of continue working on just the sky.

We'll see what gets done . . .

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Rain for Good Garden Luck and a Matinee

What a wonderful day; we had a really good rainfall!  Funny that I want the rain - especially because I was going out?  Just remember those 263 bulbs I just planted, and you'll understand.

D had another commitment so I was on my own.  It was already raining as I set out for the theater, but the traffic was light so I had no trouble getting there when I wanted.  The problem was the garage.  You know how it is when it starts out iffy before you're even in the garage?  That's how it was - men with cones and hand held signs, other men with electric vests over their suits with money in their hands, and car after car turning around and heading out.  What was that all about?  

Turns out I didn't have any problem; I told them I wanted to park in the garage and they just said, "Okay!  It's free."  Believe me, I was confused, but I took them at their word and hustled myself (car and all) into the garage.  Of course, since there was a production that day at the local theater, I had to drive around and around up and up level by level - with cars in front of me also looking for parking spaces.  Luck was on my side and a space opened up before I hit the roof. Whew!

It was pouring but I had my hooded rain jacket with me so I hustled off to the restaurant to meet my friends.  It was an Asian fusion cuisine featuring seafood and vegetarian (I'm not a veggie but I love the food).  All of us chose some type of seafood cooked with mango. It was delicious!

Then on to the show.  I believe it was a full house for this matinee performance of "American in Paris"  The music was as expected, the story too, the costumes a lot of fun, but for me the sets and the dancing stole the show.  It was a light-hearted musical that made everyone in the house give a standing ovation.  Very well done.

Now tomorrow is almost completely free, and I know what I am going to do. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

More About Gardening

Tah-dah, the bulbs are all planted!  It has taken three days because there was so much necessary preliminary work to be done (trying to take out the invasive gooseneck plants) instead of the two I thought it would take.  I am not disturbed by that, though because by the end I had planted 263 bulbs, and spring will be lovely.

Sadly, I did make some mistakes.  I planted two frittilaria Crown Imperial bulb, one yellow and one orange.  We had had an orange one several years ago, but one year it did not come again.  Thinking about that, this evening I looking up the plants.  Whoops!  It turns out that frittilaria are very sensitive to having wet feet.  It is recommended that they be planted with a layer of and under them.  Now we do have sandy soil here, but that isn't quite the same thing as clean sand.  We'll see what does or doesn't happen with these two in the spring.

Since it is almost Halloween, I found time to remove the summer flowers from the planter on our porch railing.  In its place I set up some pumpkins in various sizes and a large white pumpkin-shaped squash.  Having done that, I looked at the lovely flowers lying on the ground, and I knew I couldn't just toss them out.  So they now grace our living room mantel.

The flowers are pretty, but isn't the grouping of petunias and other summer flowers in a Fall vase with Halloween decorations on either side an amusing contradiction?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gooseneck, Iris, and Narcissus

How's that for a title?  Gooseneck is Lysimachia clethroides to give it the Latin name, and it is a loosestrife.  That fact should make warning bells go off in your mind.  No, not all loosestrifes are invasive, some are merely "vigorous" (hear those bells?), and some are decent, law-abiding plants.

The lovely white Gooseneck is not a decent, law-abiding plant.  I thought it was when I planted it.  After several years, I thought, "Well, maybe it's a 'vigorous' variety."  That when I was beginning to dig some of it out so it wouldn't crowd its neighbors too much.  Hah!

Now I consider it invasive, and I have spent the last two days rooting it out of the entire bed beside our driveway.  Let me tell you, it is very sneaky.  I had to dig out a politely spreading Cerastium (don't know it's common name - gray leaves with white flowers) that grows well in poor soil because the Gooseneck had so thoroughly invaded it that I couldn't pull out individual plants.  Gooseneck has very hardy roots that cluster at the base of the plant and then snake out wherever it wants to go.  I think I will be digging out and trying to follow those roots for years to come.

I started that chore yesterday and had to leave a couple of plants to finish up with today.  Of course, those "couple" turned out to be more as I kept finding little ones hiding here and there.  However, I did finally turn my attention to my glorious white irises. They were in need of thinning, and after dealing with Mr. Gooseneck, the iris thinning seem easy.  The little ones ("Anniversary" and another whose name I do not remember) were thinned and the overflow discarded.  

However, the so-called "Immortality" were not treated in the same cavalier manner.  Little story here. I say "so-called" because "Immortality" is supposed to be a repeat bloomer. The mother plant was purchased before I retired, I think, was planted correctly, thinned once or twice when I thought it needed it, and organically fertilized but rarely.  Its blooms are large, abundant, and breath taking in the early summer, but it has never bloomed again.  By the way, it is listed as one of the most reliable of the re-blooming iris.  

I don't know.  Maybe it just doesn't like where it's planted.  So today one of the things I did was plant some of the thinned rhizomes, but I still have many left. So I posted on Facebook and have one

friend who is also an iris lover who will take them, but I don't know how many she wants so . . . If you're interested let me know.

Then there's the narcissus.  That was the easiest and the most fun.  It was the most fun because I was planting instead of digging up.  Fifty-eight white narcissus were planted:  Stainless, Green Pearl, Calgary, and of course, Mount Hood.  The first three are new to me, but Mount Hood is a favorite.  Spring in the white garden will now have more blooms to show off.

Also planted was a white allium called Mount Everest.  I am hoping the chipmunks aren't fond of onion.  And finally four lilium "Casablanca" which I had for several years until the rodents wiped them out.  This year I planted each bulb in two perforated, plastic bags in which it arrived.  One bag on the bottom and the other upside down over the bottom's open top.  Will it foil the chippies?  Only time will tell.

Tomorrow I have many more narcissus-of-color to plant in the back yard.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Daughter's Exciting Day

Great excitement in this family.  Yesterday we received a very excited text from our daughter telling us that for the first time in her life she'd won something.  Okay, I thought. "Maybe she's won a $25 dollar lottery ticket. or a basket of wine and fruit, or maybe even a turkey for Thanksgiving.  

We had to wait a while until she was able to call us before we could learn what was going on.  Of course, we tried to figure it out (D had his own guesses - including a shopping spree in a local Dollar Store).  We were pretty flummoxed because our daughter isn't a big one for buying lottery or raffle tickets.

As it turned out, she had bought a raffle ticket.  At long last when she called, she made sure I put her on speaker so both of us could hear.  I won't tease you with the build up she tortured us with, but she finally told us she had won four tickets to a nearby (for her) professional football game.  Not only did she win tickets, she won four seat seats in a Time Warner suite! 

At first she was going to give two tickets to her son's best friend and the friend's father (a die-hard fan of the team) and another friend.  Finally she decided to be a bit more "selfish" and go herself.  That was a decision we applauded for many reasons.

As another chapter in this saga, I texted her and told her she'd have to take lots of photos.  Here's the text she sent in reply:

How I laughed!  But you have to admit that even though the photo isn't sharp, it will make a great first page in a Shutterfly book.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Train Trestle in Autumn

D is a very accommodating individual.  Last night I suggested a difficult morning schedule than usual simply so I could take a photograph when the light was right and before the rain (if it happens) tomorrow causes the leaves to fall.  A monkey wrench in the plan was we thought we might have a workman coming today -  naturally at an unknown time. 

But we decided to go with it.

Up at 6:30, garbage out, walk the usual route, eat breakfast, and zippity-doo-dah off to take pictures.  Ironically, although I had worried that I might lose the angle of the sun I hoped to get, we were actually a bit early.  We could have delayed maybe about half an hour for the sun to rise over the woods up on the hill.  However, I do have a good imagination if I have to use it, and there is always a possibility that there will be no rain or that the rain will not cause leaves to drop.

You've seen this setting before, but here are the ones I took this morning.  This first one - oh my, where to start.  Okay, from the top down . . The sky is October blue with wonderful flecks of clouds.  They look like wings, don't you think?  The right-hand side shows it was in the direct path of the sunlight; the trees, while not in full fall color, are bright and eye-catching.  Then there is the reflection; it's crystal clear and stunning.  The rocks in the foreground are in shadow but have wonderful cracks and fissures with growing plants giving a touch of green.  

Then I took one of the shady side. That it is angled differently is obvious from the clouds. Now we have only the light feathers on the left without the right hand wing.  By looking at the trees on the left, you have even more evidence that I was too early.  These trees have barely begun to turn.  But in this view you get a nice look at the rocks hillside from the water up to the trestle itself.  

It is such a lovely place, and I want to paint it.  I think that an autumn approach would be the best.  Of course, I haven't seen it in deep winter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Beginning of a Painting

Usually I show a few stages of my paintings, but I leave out the stages I think might be tedious or well, downright boring.  Unfortunately for you, this time I'm going to show every step and discuss what it's all about.

So here's the photo:

                                  4                          1                           2                   3

Underneath each section is a number.  The numbers refer to the order in which I painted them.  I suddenly realize they look like a study for a Halloween something or other!  Actually they are four stormy sky studies.  I think they would have photographed better if I had taken a picture of each alone.  Number 4 (the first in line but the last one I worked on) shows the color I used in all four - indigo.  

I'm going to dissect them in the order painted.  

Number one has green, lemon yellow, and purple in addition to the indigo because I believe those colors belong in a sky and especially in a stormy one. Also I plan to use those colors in the landscape that will eventually be the finished painting.   Having those colors in the sky will help unify the painting.  In this study I used a wet brush with no paint on only the areas that are now painted.  That means the paint could flow only where the "wet" was.  Next time I try this technique, I will study the photograph more carefully and use the indigo more sparingly - at least at first. There wasn't a lot of "room" for a visible "hint" of the additional colors I added.  Sharon liked what I was doing but suggested I try yellow ochre instead of the lemon yellow which she felt was to opaque in a chalky way.

In number two, I brushed water over the entire surface then I added the indigo, and because the surface was too wet I had to wait for it to set up a little.  Once it did I was able to add yellow ochre, green, and purple.  What did I learn?  I used too much water since it's not a technique I use often and haven't enough practice.  Practice with this technique more is lesson one!  I don't like the yellow ochre and will stick with the lemon yellow.  I also think I'll let the lemon yellow and green mix on the paper to yield a chartreuse.  Sharon agreed with me about the ochre. 

Number three, I was paying attention to the photograph in this one and also using water over the entire surface - but less of it!  The indigo was painted quite deliberately in places where the clouds in the painting seemed the darkest.  However, when I took a step back all I was aware of was all that dark like a straight line right down the middle of the painting!  Arggh!!!  I think I tried a bit of orange and gamboge (a super almost Velveeta cheese color), but I'm not sure.  I do know Sharon and I discussed pyrrole orange (mine is a very red orange but more transparent than any of the cadmium yellow, orange, or reds), gamboge, and lemon yellow, and I will try them in the next studies.  Anyway, I gave up on this one and went on to number four.

Time ran out before I was able to finish working on the last study, but I was more careful with both the amount of water and the amount of indigo I applied to the paper.  In this one I was able to pull the blue out into the wet area (instead of having almost a puddle into which the paint gleefully feathers itself).  What remains to be seen is whether or not I have learned from #1 - 3 and can now layer the next colors successfully!

I have a feeling I'll need to finish #4 and do maybe four more studies before I go on to the landscape studies.

Any suggestions, E?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Brief Return to Normalcy

Made a good start at cleaning up, organizing, and putting away a lot of things that had been stored in that room during the renovation and re-decorating.  That took a surprising length of time.  Even though I was interrupted by visitor, I feel a lot was accomplished,  

Then shortly after the visitor left, our three new chairs arrived (finally) and that took all my attention for the next little bit of time.  Even though I knew where to have the chairs placed, there was then the need to rearrange other things. 

Then I decided it was time for a bit of slightly more creative fun.  Earlier in the day, D showed me a box he found that was marked "Autumn".  Opening it, I found some of my more favorite fall and Halloween decorations that I had used in school.  There were the things I thought had been lost in a mix up in school years ago.  What a pleasure!  So I took out some of the things I really liked and added them to a few of the things I regularly put about and -

It was good to get back into some usual pursuits.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Mundane

Today was spent doing laundry (finally!) only two days late, making soup (that weather is upon us - in the evenings at least), finishing putting my desk back in order, and with D's help laying the new pad and area rug in the family room.  Then, of course, I had to admire it.

Many times.

That left little to no time for creative activities.  Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

New Painting - "Rustic Hillside"

Today I was able to finish the watercolor I've dubbed "Rustic Hillside".  By and large, I like it so it's signed, named, and dated.  The photo I'm showing, however, is before I added a finished touch or two and before I tossed down my brush, threw my hands up in the air, and said firmly, "Step away from the painting!"

When I took the picture (before those "final touches" and signing), the painting was propped up on the piano which is why you can see some musical notation on the upper left.

This is another painting in which I think I've managed to get at least a little of the looseness that watercolor demands.  So I'm going to go back to a subject of which E has painted a masterpiece and I turned out a disaster.  Frankly, I would like to try it in oils, but I do want to see if I can get a least a glimmer in watercolor first.

We'll see,

Monday, October 3, 2016

Three Quilts

ME told me that I should post photos of the quilts I put in the show so I bow to her judgement.  In my own defense, I didn't do so earlier because I think you've seen all of them at one time or another.  However, there may be something to seeing them together.  

So the third place quilt is the only story quilt I entered, "Music of the Night".  This is the quilt I made as my final entry for the McCall's competition five years ago.  It had never been judged before so I was curious as to how it would stand up to the scrutiny of a judge.  Neither well nor surprising.  There were still many finishing details to learn about.  It scored a 79 and an 85 yielding an 82.  How that equalled a third place I don't know.  I would have thought it was out of the running.

Next is the second place "Improvisation in White" finished only a day or two before the deadline for the show.  It was scored at an 88 and a 93 averaging 90.5.  However, it was also the one that earned a special award from one of the judges.  She expressed admiration (creativity, balance, flow, materials used, and workmanship all made more challenging because of the almost all white palette) during the judging which really lifted my spirits and made me glad I took this plunge.

And the third one is the "Pinebush Dreamscape" which you've also seen which was finished last June.   The judges were closer together in their assessment at a 94 and a 96 averaging a 95 the lowest score to still earn a first place ribbon which this one did. It is really only an imaginary landscape as there are no waterfalls in the Pinebush, but the rest is reasonably accurate.

As I've said before, having quilts judged is an eye opening experience.  The importance of "picky" details is put in perspective at only 5 points per, but it is also important to realize that little points lost in those categories add up and are losses easy to prevent.  The more major elements are more difficult to categorize - 40 points for design and 45 for workmanship.  The subcategories in the design category include things like pattern design and quilting design (I did better in that last one than I deserved on the two I quilted myself).   The 45 point category deals with precision and is, I think, worth too much.  Yes, precision is important, but it is worth 20 points while creativity, originality, and degree of difficulty which together is worth only 5 points.  It strikes me as odd.

Ah well, if one reads the score sheet carefully it provides information for the next quilt show.  I plan to take what I learned this year and work on improving.  

But creativity, originality included with degree of difficulty?  And worth only 5 points?  By the way, I earned a 5 from only one judge on only the Pinebush quilt.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Quilt Show: A Thank You Note

One of the Guilds to which I belong had its quilt show this weekend.  It is a massive undertaking as the members of the guild do all the organization and work.  Members earn dollars off their entrance fee by contributing "sweat equity" (hence my day spent working with the judges).  And I saw many, many members gladly contributing their time.

The result this year was a show that went as smoothly as butter on hot toast (or so it seemed to me) and was (again in my opinion) a great show that presented the creativity and superb workmanship of many of our members.  Everyone was smiling and welcoming from those who sold tickets to the women who sat and stitched to illustrate what a quilter actually does to the hostesses in the hospitality room to the "white glove" ladies who cheerfully and enthusiastically showed off various aspects of the quilts to . . .well, the list goes on and on.

As always, special kudos to all of those who shouldered the lion's share of the pre-planning, physical labor, and organization.  It takes a lot of time for months beforehand up to the end of the last day and even into the days following when tying up loose threads is necessary.

If I had had my thinking cap on, I would have taken pictures of those wonderful people working. Instead I was seduced by the sea of color and texture which I would love to share, but I didn't ask any of the ladies if that would be all right with them.

Maybe next time!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Quilt Judging: One Aspect Explained

While I don't usually post on a Friday evening, tonight I decided to do so.  First because I have missed so many entries lately, and second because yesterday I learned something that I want to share with other quilters and their audience.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to assist at the judging of the quilts for a local quilt show.  I have done this before and have found that I learn so much from partaking in this activity that it is well worth any inconvenience.  In order to make what I learned comprehensible (and therefore useful, I hope, for others), at the risk of boring my followers, I must explain the background of my "Another Chapter for the Girl with the Pearl Earring" again.

Last year I created a quilt in response to a challenge I posed to a different guild.  The challenge was to make a quilt that represented the Renaissance.  I chose to portray perspective by depicting a window with an open shutter.  In the open window, I placed Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring".  

Bear with me while I explain the story behind my quilt.  In my version, this portrait was created after the final chapter of the popular novel and movie.  In my quilt, the girl has returned home but receives a letter and a pearl necklace.  What will she do?

Okay, in my description written for the Vermont Quilt Festival, I explained that.  My quilt did not do well at all, and the judge's comments were that my embellishments and shutter detracted from the girl's face which should be the focal point of the quilt.  It was clear to me that the judge didn't "get it", didn't understand the story behind the quilt.

Fast forward to the lesson learned while helping the judging of quilts yesterday.  My job was to read the information given by each quilter to the judge.  Two years ago when I had the same job I read everything the quilter had written which included their personal explanation of the quilt.  This time, the judge with whom I worked told me very specifically to read only the technical description.  She explained she did not want to hear any of the more subjective back story which might influence her unduly.

Ta-dah!  Light bulb time.  Now I realize that is probably precisely what the VQF judge did when looking at my quilt if she had a rating sheet like the one developed by our guild.  And if that is the case, that is what she had to do.  

This experience has gone a long way to relieve my sense of sorrow and resentment over having my quilt's story so misunderstood.  That story was probably never told, and the judge had to use her knowledge of Vermeer's painting in evaluating the quilt.

Now that leaves me with the question:  What should be done for quilters like me for whom the back story of our quilts is so important?  Yesterday were there quilts that were misunderstood because the background was shrouded?  In a picture book, the illustrations help move and illuminate the story.  The emotional and/or informational background of those illustrations are taken into consideration in awarding the coveted Caldecott Award.  Should art quilts be considered like illustrations, and if so how would that be done?  What would the rating sheet look like?

I don't think it can be done nor am I sure it should be done.  Quilts are not usually thought of as having the same qualities as illustrations and rarely as art works with a message.  It would be very difficult to develop an objective way to evaluate them.

However, part of me wishes that there were such an instrument for my story quilts!

What do you think?