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!