Sunday, December 31, 2006

"She was nothing of the kind."


That's the first line of The World According to Garp and it's for the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge group I'm a member of. Once a month, we're issued a challenge with a theme and an element of art to use to complete a piece within one week. This month, it was to take the first or last line of a favorite book to use as inspiration and incorporate the element of contrast. I had a lot of fun with this one and needed the stark colors and graphic look of it to clear my head from working on the batik piece. Well, a lot of fun other than the fact that for some unknown reason I decided it needed microscopic stipple quilting on it. I wouldn't have minded it so much except for the fact that white on white is terribly hard to see. The final effect is what I was looking for though so it's all good. It also felt good to actually finish something for a change. And again, I completely forgot to put the sleeve on it, but my corners look good! Fortunately, I've left the sleeves off often enough that I've devised an invisible way to add them after the fact.


My friend in Illinois gave me an update on his painted piece we're collaborating on too, and he has the fabric gessoed and was shooting for laying in the background colors last night. The design is incredibly cool looking and I can't wait to get my hands on it to begin work. If the timing works out right, I may have it available to display at the artist invitational thing this spring. He's also done some beautiful hand drawings that I'm going to use for the next piece (or second next if I do the draw-down quilt first) in line to be worked on. And in the midst of doing my own stuff, I have one more OPS quilt to finish.
Today is our 23 wedding anniversary. Time flies.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cory and her strangeness

My oldest daughter turns 22 on January 2, and she's having a pirates and ninjas costume party at a local restaurant. Her friends are apparently just as strange since they're going along with this wild plan. We've been cobbling together a pirate costume for her and I've gotten several calls from her friends about how to put together their own pirate and ninja costumes. When I asked about the theme her perfectly reasonable response was "Everyone is either a pirate or a ninja." I couldn't help but think of the novels by Lawrence Block, in which the protagonist Matthew Scudder explains about everyone being either a pig or a fox, although he's referring to their looks. I think the whole pirate/ninja thing is more a comment on personality.
She's also announced that what she is getting herself for her birthday is "Mom" and "Dad" tattoos. But not just any old flower and skull tattoos since that would be tres gauche, but "Mom" written in sign language (I speak ASL) and "Dad" written in Klingon. I think they will go nicely with the copyright symbol she already has on her back. Maybe she'll get quotation marks on her shoulders next year.
Our 23 wedding anniversary is on New Year's Eve (my parents and sister have the same anniversary) and our big plans are to go out to eat and then come home and drink champagne and eat sour cream and onion potato chips. One more year and I will have been married for half my life. Two kids already in college and the third graduates this Spring and wants to take a couple of courses this summer to get a jump on freshman year. Within 6 months, ALL my kids will be in college. Am I really that old already?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A quilt!


I was beginning to feel guilty about the name of my blog since I haven't put anything quilt related up in a while. I've mostly just been trying to get through the holidays and haven't hit a lick at a snake much beyond that. But this one is just little scrappy pieces that I can work on a few minutes (or hours) at the time. Slow but getting there with it. No sort of plan either. I just pick up and sew on whichever next strip is the right length with no thought to colors or anything unless it's 2 of the same side by side. Other than that, it's very organic.

I'm maybe 2/3 of way finished with this part of it, then some fairly wide pieced borders and I'm done with the top. I'm really liking this one too.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Home for the holidays

We had our family thing last night at my parent's house. All the sibs and spouses except my youngest sister and her husband in Memphis made it, including my uncle from the coast and my mother's cousin and her husband. These things go MUCH more smoothly when my mother starts on the wine/martinis/whatever before we get there. Nobody had assigned seats and we didn't have to raise our hands this year to talk. The traditional Christmas gumbo was wonderful, as usual, and my brother and his wife brought red beans and rice. Unfortunately, they don't have kids and lived alone for many years until they married this past April, so they're sort of unclear on the concept of cooking for more than 2. Doubling the recipe doesn't quite cover feeding 15 or so adults. On the other hand, I've always had a houseful of people to feed so I'm sort of unclear on the concept of cooking for 2 now that my DH and I are alone so much.

The kids were entertaining as always and I should know by now not to sit close enough to Nick and Bryndan to hear them talking. I usually wind up embarrassing myself by bursting out laughing at inappropriate times from their muttered comments. The upside to that is I was far enough away from Cory to miss most of her pithy observations. She was sitting next to her dad though so he was the one doing the inappropriate laughing, which sort of spread the embarrassment around evenly. Nick and Bryndan had some sort of betting thing going on where they were calling out colors, or making responses to the gifts being opened BEFORE they were open too. The really funny part was how often the comments were dead on for whatever the gift happened to be.

I think my brother summed things up pretty well about our family during a conversation with my mom and oldest daughter too. My mother had asked her about the Marriage and Family class she took at State and my brother's response was "How do you think she did, coming from a family where the girls get guns and the boys get tea sets?" My B-I-L gave me a Daisy air pellet pistol (which I think is a totally cool gift) and DH gave my brother a beautiful Japanese tea set and tea ceremony book. Nobody had even thought anything about the strangeness of either until my brother made the comment about guns and tea sets. Maybe that says volumes about the family all by itself.

All in all it was a pleasant evening with good food, good company, good wine and a noticeable lack of any discord. That alone made it a nice, relaxing night.

The canvas floor cloth made a huge hit too, and I'd show it off and brag about it if I hadn't had my head up my butt and forgotten, yet AGAIN, to get a picture of the finished product. You'll just have to take my word for it that it looks pretty cool under the table it was made for and the colors work as well as I hoped they would.

Friday, December 22, 2006

As requested....



I completely forgot that Jen had asked to see a picture of the well-dressed flamingos! Here they are in their Santa hats and cheery holiday scarves. They get straw hats and flowers at Easter, masks and tons of beads at Mardi Gras, and sunglasses the rest of the year.

Incoherent rambling

Does "sorry, we're out of beta" strike anyone else as hysterically funny? That's like saying "this hammer quit working" isn't it?

Ziplock double zipper bags...no, I'm not adding them to my list of can't-do-without supplies, I'm making fun of them. Their ads start out with a jab at store brand bags with one zipper that doesn't work, then brings in their selling point of TWO zippers. So I'm thinking if you're too stupid to get ONE to work, why would you suddenly become smart enough to work double that?


One of the most annoying tv commercials in the history of mankind is for one of those local pager/cell phone companies here. Not only is it about twice as loud as everything else, but it has this high-pitched ringtone in the background. And to further compound the felony, they have "flexable" plans. Makes me want to scream (or whimper in the corner) every time it comes on.


Another pet peeve of mine, besides illiterate advertising, is the misuse of the word unique. There is no degree to unique! Things, by definition, cannot be more unique or very unique or the most unique. It's either unique or it's not. Which brings us to the use and misuse of phrases. A few that I've heard recently are case and point (case in point), I'd just assume (I'd just as soon), and for all intensive purposes (for all intents and purposes) among others. Do people who say that stuff even think about what they're saying or are they just mimicking the sound of something they heard? Reminds me of that new commercial for the cell phone that plays music where the guys are singing along with Rock the Casbah but they sing lock the cash box, argue about it for a second and then change it to lock the cat box. Southerners are notorious for using some truly weird sayings, but at least they make sense when you think about them. At least they do to us.


And to keep from sounding like a complete Grinch I leave you with a picture of the Tabasco cookies and the "cookies with hats" I made the other day. The recipe for the cookies with hats came from Vicci over at http://moonstarsandpaper.blogspot.com/ Hers are MUCH prettier than mine, but nobody will ever know since all 7 dozen were gone in a little over 24 hours. I hid the Tabasco cookies so I still have a couple dozen of those.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Santa Claus is coming to town...

...but much too early this year it seems. I'm going to blame it on the weather rather than my lack of organization. It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's 75 degrees outside. Don those red tank tops and green shorts for holiday attire! I have a nice pair of lime green flip-flops that will work nicely I think.

Why is it that artists/crafters seem to have so much trouble sticking to one thing? I've spent the last 2 days on my knees making a painted canvas floorcloth for my mom (to be included with a 'gift certificate' for DH and I to hang wallpaper if she ever gets around to actually choosing some) instead of doing something at the sewing machine. Same thing with my S-I-L. We draw names each year among the adults so we only have to do one big present for each other instead of one for each of the fortylebben siblings and spouses. This is her first year as real family with us and I could have done a quilt for her, had I not done one for their wedding in April. Bad planning on my part I guess. So she's getting a pashmina with some needlefelting on it. And maybe a pair of gloves and a hat to match if I can find the right ones. But that would involve actually getting out to shop and that's WAAAAAY down on my list. I tend to go to one specific place looking for one specific thing, and if I have to hit a bunch of places just "looking" I usually change my mind about what to get so I can bypass the whole shopping experience as much as possible. That's the Scrooge in me coming out I guess, since shopping to me feels like rooting around in someone's closet. Maybe my expectations are too high also. If I see something I like, I expect the store to have it in the color/size/style I need. All too often, I find exactly what I'm looking for only to discover the only one in the right size only comes in Tangerine Sunrise, (I tried to work the word 'only' into that sentence one more time but just couldn't do it) or it doesn't come in any size but 2X-petite. Too much crap piled up too high on the displays, and it looks like my slob child has folded and stacked the stuff too. There is just some sort of switch in my brain that makes it impossible for me to justify spending 45 minutes rooting through a pile of stuff to spend $15 on it in the hope that the recipient will enjoy it.

And more Scrooginess on my part involves the incessant ads for "One Day Only" sales, and "Lowest Prices of the Season" sales. If they're one day only, why do they have them every Saturday? If J.C.Penney keeps lowering their prices every week to the lowest of the season, I can just wait until January and they'll GIVE me the stuff. Sort of makes me wonder just exactly what their mark-up is to begin with too if they can keep lowering the prices like that. And my favorite is the "Everything in the Store ON SALE" sales. Well, everything in the store with the exception of the list of departments in the fine print at the end of the ad, which they very neatly cover with lots of movement and color so even if you're looking for the exemptions you can't read them.

Thank God I live in the Deep South where Christmas lights hanging year-round don't get too many weird looks from the neighbors (reference Redneck Woman) so my decorations so far involve plugging in the lights on the front of the house. Yeah, I have pink flamingoes in scarves too, although with this heat they should be in bathing suits. We finally broke down last year and bought a plastic tree too, already lighted (long story about the Christmas tree that stayed up until April that was the last straw for a live one) and I'm leaning towards hanging tons of candy canes on it and being done with it. I found candy cane stripe wrapping paper (wrapping you say? Sure, I wrap everything as we're walking out the door to deliver it) at Dollar Tree yesterday and may be back to buy enough to do ALL the presents with this year. Keep everything simple, but it will involve actually attaching name tags to the presents. When the kids were little each one had their own paper so nothing needed tags. Another lazy way to do things. It will probably keep me out of the running for Mother-of-the-Year, but I'll get over it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My kids and their mouths



Not smart mouths, mind you, my kids know better than that. Medical mouth stuff. My son has been at the doctor twice trying to get his healed or at least get some relief from the pain. He went with the GF to a sorority party and they shipped them up to Laurel on a bus. On the way back, there was some sort of argument over music (he takes his music very seriously) and he wound up in the middle of a fight. He may or may not have been actually INVOLVED in the fight, the stories differ, but at some point he got pinned between 2 bus seats and took a punch in the cheek. It chopped up the inside of his cheek and the side of his tongue and gave him a split lip. After a couple of days, the cuts turned into a HUGE ulcer in his mouth and my poor baby could barely even eat. Not eating is a critical situation for him. So off he goes to the doctor to get antibiotics, some kind of topical stuff and a mouth rinse. He seems all better now but it took a few days. He also did really well on his Philosophy of Politics paper and exam yesterday :)

My youngest daughter had all 4 wisdom teeth out several months ago and things haven't been completely right since. She's been on several rounds of antibiotics and been back and forth to three different dentists. First, she had a dry socket, then one of the 'dissolving stitches' didn't dissolve and had to be removed , then she had swelling and bruising come up for no known reason, then muscle cramps in her jaw, then a big knot came up in her neck. One dentist told her to chew gum for the muscle cramps, then the next one a week later said one of her molars was out of alignment and the gum chewing was making it worse so he re-aligned her tooth. Another of the dentists thinks the surgery may have resulted in some nerve damage that would account for the fact that she's been in constant pain to some degree since the wisdom teeth were removed. She's BACK on antibiotics with another appointment next week.
It just kills me when the kids are in pain and I can't fix it.

Bryndan and the GF (pretend that's Sprite they're holding) and a picture of Aidan I'm playing with for a quilt.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Decorating for Christmas


At least I think that's what they're doing. A few minutes after letting the dogs back in about 5:00 I heard a bunch of rolling around and barking and grunting. They have a habit of getting too wound up and knocking things over when they roughhouse inside so I went to check on them. They've dragged the stuffed animals out of the bag my daughter had packed up to get rid of and looked soooooooo cute when I walked in and "caught" them. Is there any breed in the world that has more human facial expression than Labs? Jake is the brown one (referred to as "Brown dog" when he's where he can hear us talking about him) and dOg is the black one.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Nutcracker


Last night, my youngest daughter took my father to a performance of The Nutcracker for his Christmas present. She is carrying on a long tradition of mine and perhaps building one of her own. My dad told her it was the best Christmas present he'd ever received, and I don't think he was just being polite.
The first time I ever saw a live performance of The Nutcracker, I was 11 years old. For some unknown reason I got it in my head that I HAD to see it that year. The music was familiar to me but I'd never seen a live performance of it. I went by myself that first year, and for many years after that. I still have vivid memories of my dad dropping me off and picking me up before I could drive myself. Once my daughters were born and old enough to sit still through it and enjoy it, my dad started going with us every year. I didn't miss a single year going until I was about 40, and they stopped having the big professional production here for a couple of years. We even suffered through a show at the Madison Arts Center the last year we all went together but our old bodies and arthritis couldn't stand the wooden bleachers and bad sound and barely-heated gym. Over the years we have seen some incredible ballet troupes, and some really amateur ones, heard full orchestras and screeching recorded noise, seen the absolute best and worst of productions, costumes, sets, lighting and choreography. One year they changed everything up and we left simply shaking our heads and wondering where the mice and pas de deaux were. No Chinese or Russian dancers, and dancing candy canes (we think that's what they were anyway) instead of the army of mice. It's like an old friend to see the same sets and costumes year after year, and there's no real reason to do more than tweak the staging on a classic.
I was floored when she told me a month or so ago that she wanted to take him. She worked for the money to buy the tickets and took care of all the arrangements herself. She spent an hour yesterday trying on everything in her closet looking for the "right" Nutcracker attire. We've worn everything from black velvet to blue jeans so I left it up to her. She looked beautiful and elegant in her black pants and pretty shirt and her paternal grandmother's white fur coat. I can't believe how grown-up she looked and acted last night, but I was so proud of her and so happy that the years of taking (sometimes dragging) them to get some culture has seemingly paid off. The Nutcracker was something that has been a part of my holidays for so many years that I can't help but be sentimental when it takes on importance to one of my kids too. Maybe our traditions were not all for naught.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

7:30 on a Saturday morning....

...and the phone rings. It's my son. Of course, I have visions of bail money or a crushed fender or another broken bone since he is NEVER up that early for ANY reason. Thankfully, not this time though. He's just calling to tell us they have the day off so they're coming home for a quick visit if that's ok with us. When is a visit from the one of the kids NOT ok? Ten minutes later, the phone rings again. Yep. It's him. This time, he needs directions to a local high school. A girl in Jackson called him in Hattiesburg on his cell phone to get directions to the place in Jackson so he calls me from Hattiesburg (I'm in Jackson) so he can call her back and she can call her brother, who is probably in Memphis or something. Oh the joys of a cell phone. Meanwhile, each time the phone rings I have to wipe the glue and paint off my hands to answer it because it MIGHT be something important.

My oldest daughter asked yesterday if she can invite a friend home for Christmas too. Something about a feud with a sibling and an unwillingness (or maybe a request) to be in the same house at the same time, so she apparently has the choice of hanging around an empty college town in an empty apartment over the holidays or coming visit us. My daughter is the Pied Piper of people with bad home situations so naturally her solution is to just "adopt" her for Christmas this year. It did make me feel good to know she'd already invited her before she asked me because she knew it would be ok though. That's the same way my "spare" son came to live with us. He followed my son home one day 3 years ago and he's still here with us, even though my son hasn't lived at home for 2 years.

I finally finished the pieces of art for the blog swap thing too. I got Sombra's mailed off Tuesday and the rest will go out either today or Monday. And in my usual fashion, I was 90% finished with the original pieces when I changed horses totally and started new projects. I can never do the simple thing either and choose something that was time- but not labor- intensive. Many layers of stuff that has to dry well between layers so I'd do a bit, let it sit a day and do a bit more. At least I had the forethought to do a bunch at one time. There are definitely some tweaks necessary, but this is something I'll do more of, maybe a lot more. I have some ideas already for a few Christmas gifts with them and my fingers are crossed that the strangers from my blog like them.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Flashback to 9/11

I'm a long-time poster on a Chicago message board and have many friends up there. On 9/11 we were all frantic to touch base with everyone who worked downtown after they started evacuating people. Not knowing any details, and hearing that Chicago was a target was nerve-wracking until everyone was accounted for. Today, I was merrily chatting away on IM with my friend in Chicago when he says they have to evacuate, sirens are going off, alarms are sounding and everyone is being told to get the hell out of the building. His only information was a shooting and possible hostages a few floors above him. After the news this morning about the 'lone terrorist' and his bomb planting plans of course my mind jumped immediately to that. Fortunately, he was one of the friends posting on 9/11 with us so he knew I'd be worried. As soon as he got outside he called to let me know he was OK and give me what little additional info he had. I didn't realize just HOW panicked I was until I actually heard his voice either. It meant a lot to me that he called from the middle of the confusion in single-digit weather while he was wondering how the hell he was going to get home, just because he knew I'd be worried if I didn't hear from him.

I'm thankful he's OK but you people up there have GOT to stop scaring me like this!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What a surprise!

I almost said "unexpected surprise" but that's pretty redundant. Aren't all surprises unexpected? Anyway, I did a google search on "fruitcake brick" and my blog came up on the very first page! 'Brick fruitcake' brings it up close to the top of the second page. Of course neither of those search terms has a damn thing to do with quilts, art, or art quilting so I guess I shouldn't get too excited. Well, maybe a little bit excited.

And on the quilting front, my piece "Orphans of the Motherland" will be shown to another group of people in Minnesota. It's going to an IAPP dinner/presentation to be used to illustrate a talk on visions and living your dreams. I think that is a very cool use for it. The other very cool use for it is the pleasure my friend (and the owner of the quilt) Mary gets from seeing it hanging in her office. As the saying goes, my quilt travels more than I do.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If it was raining soup...

...I'd be out there with a fork. After all the work I did on the Christmas stockings, and racing madly to get my son's quilt finished for his Christmas present, I didn't get a single picture of any of it. The GF is supposedly getting pics for me and emailing them but we had a mini-crisis with the son yesterday so the pictures from her are running a bit behind schedule. I'm guessing her attention was on nursing him back to health rather than doing a favor for me. I was really proud of his quilt too, and made his stocking to match. I had to post Ben's and say it was Bryndan's so he wouldn't know he was getting the quilt too, but he seemed to be pleasantly surprised. I know the GF was surprised she got the "Dreidel" quilt. Hopefully, she'll send a pic of Ben's Chinese mixed media piece too since that's another one I never got a pic of.

All in all, I think he did a beautiful job of entertaining the 2 sets of parents and we all had a wonderful time. I was particularly impressed that he made the eggnog from scratch including whipping the egg whites to form soft peaks. It made such a big hit that he had to whip up a second batch before we left. I am so proud of him and it's almost scary watching him mature SO much, SO quickly. He seems so settled in his apartment and, well, so mature.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

More Christmas stuff

Thinking back through the years and the stuff we did for gifts when the kids were small and needed teacher presents and such has brought back good memories. The Chex mix was always a hit as a gift, and the kids had such fun picking out the "right" packaging for it every year. We've used painted and "stained glass" (colored tissue and white glue) jars, painted tins, decorated lunch bags, small cookie jars, baskets, pretty much anything that either had a lid or would hold a plastic bag. And of course they always decorated it, whatever it was.

We've baked banana nut bread in terra cotta flower pots (decorated, of course) and stuck suckers in the top like flowers. That was a really big hit with the teachers. And at 20 cents each for the pots and the bread mix that I could get 4 loaves out of for a dollar, it was a big hit with me too. Just remember to bake in one set of pots and decorate the other, then transfer the loaves to the decorated ones. Oil the inside of the baking pots and line with wax paper or something to cover the hole in the bottom.

And the "fruitcakes." We can't forget the "fruitcakes." I had a request for one the other day and it's been at least 10 years since I made the first one. It's a truly easy recipe too.

Grandma's Heirloom "Fruitcake"
1 brick (the tan one if possible) with no holes
craft acrylics - red, green, yellow, etc
plastic wrap or cellophane
label

Sponge paint the brick to look like a fruitcake, or just sponge paint it to kindasorta look like one.
Print an adhesive label on the computer with whatever sort of weird gibberish you want. Seems to me like we put something about the Ice Age on the original one, but it's morphed over the years and I'm not sure I even still have a copy of it. Wrap it with the plastic or cellophane and stick the label on it. The closer you can get the label to look like the real thing (ingredients: marble, iron ore, dinosaur dung, etc) the better it is, regardless of how much or little the thing actually LOOKS like a fruitcake.

People have used these for doorstops, bookends, whatever you would normally use a brick for, and I have a couple of friends who bring theirs out each year with the Christmas decorations. For whatever reason, adults really seem to get a kick out of them and they're great for those stupid parties where you have to bring something cheap. I had one woman who wanted 10 of them for bunko prizes too.

And of course we did innumerable theme baskets from the Dollar Tree too. Cooking stuff, with a few hand-written recipes included. Bath salts the kids made that were wrapped in loofah mitts. One year they did a whole raft of different types of spice mixes and then got stuck when it came time to pack them. We wound up with those old fashioned salt and pepper shakers, which by good fortune happened to fit 4 perfectly in a wire mesh napkin holder. We made 5 different mixes and it was interesting to watch the kids try to decide which 4 flavors each recipient got. The ensuing conversations as they justified their choice about why the math teacher got the Cajun instead of the poultry was hilarious.

And for our own friends and 'special' teachers, we've made Kahlua and Bailey's on occasion too.
DH's dad swears we tried to poison him one year with it. My bright idea was to pack it in Grolsch beer bottles with those locking caps. DH drank the beer and I made the Kahlua then we labeled it and packed it up and shipped it off to him. Apparently, when it got there it no longer had the label attached and for some reason he assumed we had sent him a single bottle of beer for Christmas. So off it goes to the fridge to chill for a week or so. He settles into his recliner one night to watch tv with a bottle of beer, opens it and takes a big slug of ice cold Kahlua. He swears he spewed it 20 feet. We still giggle uncontrollably at that mental image.

Magic Reindeer Food

1 bag dried split-peas
1 (pkg, cup, handful, whatever) of something else (oatmeal, rice, vermicelli, whatever)
red food coloring
glitter

Put the oatmeal, rice, whatever you're using in a ziplock with a few drops of red food color. Squish it up until it's all red. Let it dry and mix the split-peas and a tiny amount of glitter with it and you have Magic Reindeer Food. You can leave the glitter out if you're worried about the animals getting it, but if you craft like I do it's already in the yard (and in the carpet and on the deck and in your hair) and the glitter they make now is so tiny I don't see a real problem with it, but that's my disclaimer.

Put a little bit of the mix in one of those small ziplock bags and add this tag to it:

Magic Reindeer Food
On Christmas Eve, right before bed, take the food out in the yard. Turn around three times with your eyes tightly shut and scatter the Reindeer Food. Then run as fast as you can and hop in bed and go to sleep. The glitter will sparkle to show the way and the reindeer will have a snack while Santa is at your house.

There are endless variations on not only the recipe (I haven't found any others that use the split-peas, most use colored sugar and/or hay) but also on the instructions on the tag. We made and gave these out by the dozens every year when my kids were little and they were always well received. And now the kids are beginning to pass it along to another generation. My oldest teaches a class of 8 year olds in an after-school program and she's making this for her kids, along with candy cane reindeer, if we can ever find the little tiny google eyes. We have the pipe cleaners and pompoms waiting.

YUM!

My son's response when I asked if we could bring anything when we go down later today was "Chex mix" so that's what he's getting. All of the kids have, independently of each other, not so subtly hinted that we needed to make some, so we got enough supplies for 2 batches. I can smell it baking all the way back here in the work room. The silly people at Chex only call for 1 cup of pretzels and 1 cup of nuts. It makes us laugh as we dump the entire bag of pretzels and 2 cans of nuts in it too. My oldest daughter is taking one batch back with her to put in treat bags for her co-workers and her students. She's also giving them little bags of reindeer food if we can ever remember to buy the dried split peas. That is NOT something on my normal grocery list.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Oh well....

So much for my daily posting! I skipped yesterday and didn't even realize it. I did manage to get a LOT of stuff done yesterday and today though. It turned off cold here for a day or two and I was expecting to hurt but I've been relatively pain-free this weekend so I've been knocking out some work while I can. Of course, everything that I've accomplished this weekend has to wait to be posted since it's all gifts but I'll get some of it up tomorrow night after they're delivered. I might even remember to get pictures of the stuff this time. It occurred to me as Julie pulled out of the driveway yesterday that I hadn't gotten any pictures of the finished carousel horse quilt. She was thrilled with it so that's good enough. The one picture of it I do have is not a good one, and the colors are way off. She thought it was navy from the picture and it's actually a bright purple.

My oldest daughter is home again this weekend for another funeral of a friend's parent. It's nice having her home but, damn, I hate the reason for it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Comfort food

I made a big pot of a Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscany soup yesterday....or at least a big pot of my version of it. I use all the same ingredients (though I doubt they use canned potatoes) just maybe not in the same proportions they do. I have a tendency to use as much of something as I have on hand, so I use "the rest of the bag of spinach" and the small pack of sausage and any cut onions already in the fridge and whatever bacon we have leftover. Then I add chicken stock and other stuff until it "looks right" to me. I don't add the cream until I serve a bowl of it though so I can freeze it without worrying about it. A bowl (or 3) of this and some good French bread and I'm set for the night. I also tend to eat it for several days running and when it gets low in the pot, I add more chicken stock. I can stretch it out for a week and live on it. But not tonight! Tonight, my sewing machine has been giving me FITS and I want some curl-up-and-pet-myself food and for me, that happens to be a big bag of Lays and an entire carton of Ranch dip, with a big glass of orange juice. I can hear the gagging from here, but that is my absolute last resort go-to comfort food. And my DH realized I was on the verge of tears earlier after the top thread broke, then the bobbin thread, then the top thread, etc.......so off he went for his daily trip to the grocery store and that's what he came home with. It was a sweet thing to do without even saying a word to me. He just handed it to me when he got in.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And Jessie's

Three down, one to go. I have not the clue what to do for the roommate. The best the other kids can tell me is that he plays the drums and loves Sublime and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not much to go on, but I have until Sunday to work on it. They all need to be assembled, but other than that I'm done with them. Not bad for a morning's work.

And my son's



Believe it or not, with the exception of trimming less than 1/2 inch off the back of the heel, this one is exactly the same size and shape of the flamingo. If you didn't believe before that shapes and colors and negative space can change visual perception, I bet you do now.

'Tis the season


For silly Christmas stockings. This is the beginning of the one for the girlfriend, and it's the most detailed. The others should go pretty quickly. I don't think you can tell in the picture, but the wing is a separate little quiltlet so it gives it some dimension to balance the legs. The eye is a push pin temporarily until I find a button I like for it.

About that lack of sleep thing I mentioned....

It was just idle thoughts, not my Christmas wish! If I'd said getting older was my preference, I'd have probably been 63 when I woke up. (I've actually been awake for over an hour already.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My apologies

To everyone who has commented and I haven't responded to, and also to those of you who I read regularly that I haven't commented on your blogs. It's been a very tough few days and my mind doesn't seem to be tracking properly. I'm still not sure my friend's death has really hit me, but it definitely has me preoccupied and a bit weepy. I've decided that getting old, being on medications, not sleeping, being ill, and emotional upheaval all have pretty much the same effect on me. Too bad I can't pick just one of those if they're all going to make me feel the same way as a result. I'd pick lack of sleep, since I've been dealing with insomnia most of my life anyway. Getting old (strangely enough) would probably be my second choice.

Monday, November 27, 2006

They never grow up.....

They just move away from home. My son called last night and asked me if I could make personalized Christmas stockings for him, his girlfriend, his roommate, and the GF's best friend. They called from the Dollar Tree in Hattisburg, where they sounded like they were having TOO much fun picking out Christmas decorations for the apartment. After a few minutes of discussion we decided on a pink flamingo shaped one for the GF (he has been mortified for years by the real ones in the front yard, so that was a surprise) a ballet toe shoe shaped one for the best friend, a music note one for him and something "hippie and tie-dyed" for the roommate. I got all the patterns but the hippie one drawn off and printed out this morning and since he desperately wants us to come for a visit Sunday, maybe I can finish them in time to take them with me. It may mean writing the names with fabric paint rather than having them embroidered, but it's a small price to pay for a child who WANTS us to come see him. He's excited about having the decorations up, and the GF parents will be there Sunday and he wants us to meet them. That's sort of a scary thought, but he's getting to that age and she really does seem to be a sweet girl. And she makes him happy. What more could a mother want?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

No news, thank goodness



A lazy Sunday so far. DH has a HUGE pork roast started for this afternoon since the oldest daughter announced on Friday that that's what we were having today even if she had to buy it herself. She and the BF are in Starkville this morning and will call when they get on the road back to Jackson so her dad can get breakfast started. That's one of the nice things about the kids being gone for the most part. He gets up and fixes a big breakfast every Sunday morning. Even when I'm not hungry, the smell of bacon frying is enough to kick-start my appetite. Of course, the onions and garlic and olive oil he seared the roast with did that before I ever thought about breakfast.

I think Girl Kitty knows she messed up by being gone a week. Either that or someone had her in their house and she couldn't escape. She has not left my side (and my lap) since she showed back up, and she was never one to be held, just petted. She's also very vocal and has talked non-stop since she got back. She even hopped up on the bed this morning to tell me something. I'm still waiting on delivery of my cat-talk decoder ring so I have no idea what she was saying, but it sure sounded important. All I could think of was "Come quick, Timmy is in trouble!" That's a huge change from Gumbo the mime cat who makes no sounds at all. He just opens his mouth and makes the meow movement.

That's Gumbo at the bottom (notice the white mime gloves) waiting for belly rubs, and Girl Kitty (her real name is Canola) at the top, worn out from helping me sew. And Gumbo is sleeping on a WIP quilt too.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Take the good with the bad....

About 5:00 this morning my sweet baby Girl Kitty showed back up on the deck after a week of being missing. I've been feeling sort of like the Crazy Cat Lady out there at all hours of the day and night calling for her, but I'm thankful she's home and if that's what it took to get her back, it was worth it.

About an hour later a dear friend called from the hospital. She's been admitted with a stroke, undiagnosed diabetes and COPD, among other things. CAT scans and MRIs scheduled for today so I'm not real sure what else they're looking for. I'm heading out there in a bit with some treats for her (and NO I'm not taking the candy bar she asked for) and her Christmas present a bit early. She has one 25 year old son who lives in Louisiana but they have a terrible relationship so she's pretty much on her own as far as support goes.

We are much too young to be getting sick and dying. Marion was 53, Terry will be 53 in two weeks. Monday was the 8th anniversary of a dear friend's (and oldest daughter's Godfather, and my boss for 7 years, and husband of one of my oldest friends) death too, so it's been weighing on my mind all week to begin with.

And never let them go....

Very hard day yesterday. Middle of the afternoon I got a frantic call from a young woman I have been close to for almost 20 years. She and my oldest daughter started kindergarten together and have stayed close all these years, even though their lives have taken very different paths. Her mother was admitted to the hospital Thursday evening and by Friday afternoon they gave her about a 1% chance to live. Kristen is the one that the medical decisions ultimately fell to, since it's only she and her brother as next of kin, and the brother is in jail. Knowing her mother's siblings, I didn't hold out much hope for them to do anything other than argue about everything. So she calls practically in hysterics and her only words were "I need you." I raced to the hospital just in time to sit with Marian while the doctor told the family they needed to discuss letting her go. I actually felt fortunate to have the time with her with nobody else in the room. After a bout of pneumonia a few weeks ago and a scare then, she had talked with Kristen about her own wishes, so the decision was relatively easy for her, knowing exactly what her mother wanted. And Kristen is blessed to have a husband who has HER as his main concern. I just can't see him letting her crazy family bully her into anything. Anyway, they came back to the house and ate when they left the hospital and got a chance to visit with everyone, including my oldest daughter and her fiance. After a quick trip back to their own house for showers and clean clothes, they headed back to the hospital to sit with her through the night. She called about midnight and said her mom was gone.

Kristen is 21 years old. No child should ever have to make that decision about a parent and my heart breaks for her. We're supposed to be meeting with hospital staff today to see if there is any sort of assistance for her funeral. The last thing her aunt said to her before her mother died was that they had decided to have her cremated because it was cheaper, and they weren't chipping in any more than $50 each. First off, it's not their decision to make, it's Kristen's. Second off, the bullying has already begun. Kristen has 3 kids and doesn't work, and I just can't see how James is going to come up with funeral expenses, but with the help of the hospital staff and the Church, we'll come up with something. Say a little prayer for all of them, please.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Macy's Parade


My friend and his troupe of gymnasts were in the Macy's Day parade this morning and they looked great. It's the first time I've ever actually watched the parade and it's about the same as an NFL game. If you can watch it muted, it's not too bad. If you have to listen to the burbling inanity, it's damn near unbearable. Thank goodness there were about 10 kids in there with me keeping me aurally occupied so I didn't have to listen to the drivel from the announcers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Progress


You do a few here, a few there, and before you know it you've actually made some progress. I think of this as my "15 minute quilt" although truth in advertising doesn't exactly apply, since the QUILT isn't done in 15 minutes, that's just how I've assembled it. 15 minutes to cut some wonky strips, 15 minutes to put at least one strip on each center block, 15 minutes to press and cut more strips, 15 minutes to add some rust-dyed stuff to get them closer to square, 15 minutes to lay the pieces out for a progress picture.

Anyway, I'm still happy with the effect of the fabrics and the shapes for this one. By this point, I'm usually ready to lay a project aside and do something else, but this one has kept my attention. Maybe it's the whole 15 minute thing that's keeping me interested. Not any one chunk of time large enough for me to get bored with the tedious repetition of this particular technique. And besides that, I LOVE working with batiks, even though I'm on my third needle so far. My deepest respect to people who can hand-quilt batiks.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again


I just KNEW Rissa was going to jump in with an agreement on WordPress! The only reason I haven't swapped over yet is because she's the only person I know well enough to ask questions of who uses it and I don't want to overload her. Jonathan, you have a great blog yourself and the video tour of other blogs was a stroke of genius. So we can chalk up TWO advantages to the NaBloPoMo movement (with apologies to Arlo) in that not only has it gotten me blogging regularly, but I've discovered some really good blogs I would have never found otherwise.

I got started on a new quilt yesterday, thinking I needed to get in gear making my annual donation to the Draw Down silent auction at the school. It's held in February and I tend to start thinking about it, oh, the end of January, usually. This will be my 5th quilt and it's Aidan's last year at St. Joe. Once she's gone, I may hang up the needles for that particular fund-raiser, but maybe not. After 17 years of daily contact with that same group of people it may be hard to just walk away. So anyway, I had no plan, no design, no well-thought-out idea of what the hell I was going to do, but I was saved by my constitutional inability to EVER put anything back where it came from. Lo and behold, I was tripping over the bin of batiks in all those gorgeous jewel tones and Earth colors. I've been wanting to actually USE some of the rust-dyed fabric I make rather than just making it too, and the colors seemed to work very well together. I made half a dozen or so blocks with curved piecing before I remembered why I DON'T do curved piecing. If I'd stuck with that ill-conceived plan, I'd be making a new quilt come the end of January anyway. Sooooo.....from scratch, wonky log cabin-ish blocks and some weird ladder things and some strange triangle things, and free hand cut strips and not-quite-square rust centers and I was off and running. After a trip to the Big Lots for a new iron of course. Alas, I finally conceeded defeat to an electrical appliance that IS smarter than me. The power strip threw the breaker the first time I used it and the 9 lb cord tended to get in the way. I'll report back on the new Proctor Silex next week after I've used it. Unless I kill it before then. I do like the HUGE water tank on it and the 1 hour shut-off. A simple button on the side turns it back on too. I think I can handle that.

Anyway, the quilt will ultimately be the blocks and filler things, and some of the blocks I'll just keep building on until they're big, some will stay relatively small. I want the rust stuff in the center of the blocks to be spread out sort of randomly over the face of the quilt and not lined up like little tin soldiers in nice neat lines and rows. I will ultimately quilt this one to within an inch of its life with (most likely) copper colored thread. It surprises me how pleased I am with this one too, since it's NOTHING like my usual. Not my colors, too busy, it's pieced, no negative space, and for damn sure no design to it. No metallics, no primaries, no lime green, and no appliques. The blocks in the picture are basically just scattered across the ironing board at this point but you can see the colors and general idea I'm shooting for.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blogger problem

This is what I've been getting since yesterday mid-morning whenever I try to post to my blog.

Blogger Problem
This server is currently experiencing a problem. An engineer has been notified and will investigate.
Status code: 1-500-3
Please visit the Blogger status page or the Blogger Knowledge Base for further assistance.

They make it awfully hard to post daily if we can't get into blogger.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

More on the HANDS exhibit



Strolling through the backlog of 15 quiltart digests this morning and I came across a post from Barb Douglas at www.stonecottagequilts.com/ about the HANDS exhibit. I was totally shocked that out of however many jillions of hands they had, she mentioned mine specifically! She said "One touching story is the workman's glove from hurricane Katrina, holding the FEMA bill, from Louisiana." So unless there were TWO gloves from Katrina submitted, she's referring to mine. And even if she isn't, I'm going to allow myself to believe she is and just assume she misspoke about it being from LA and not MS. Any of you who've read my past hurricane posts know how important it is to me that people not forget. At least in this one instance the glove touched someone enough to remember it months after the fact. I don't think we can ask much more than that from our art, can we? She also has a link to http://www.handsasart.org/ with a slideshow at the top which shows all 4 hands I submitted. They're all together in one picture and they are the 3rd picture after the big hand holding the bird if you want to catch a glimpse of them on a real website. Unless I followed my usual pattern and forgot, I may have pictures of the completed hands and I'll post them shortly if I can find them.
OK, I found them, but I apparently didn't get pictures of JUST the hands. Over look the paint-stained jeans and scraped back hair.

Addendum: Mary Ann Littlejohn has some more pictures of the hands up at http://picasaweb.google.com/malittlej/AShowOfHands
Thank you for doing this Mary Ann. I hated to have to miss out on the trip to Houston to see them for myself.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The New Iron

I woke up this morning thinking that since, as a rule, I'm smarter than most electrical appliances that I would just get in the habit of turning the iron off each time I used it. That way I could just turn it back on instead of having to unplug it each time. It was a great idea while it lasted. I soon discovered that THERE IS NO OFF on this iron. The lowest setting is still ON.

So much for being smarter than the electrical appliances.

Just do it!


Glumping around not feeling well has demotivated me to sew, and the longer I went without doing anything the worse I felt. Last night I started on a scrappy quilt for someone else, and once I got past the lightheadness of standing at the table cutting all the little squares, it went together very fast and sort of sparked me to go ahead and finish it up. I did over half the piecing last night and the rest this morning. Everything but the border and cornerstones are done, and I can't do those until a trip out to Hancock since the guy only sent me EXACTLY enough fabric for the squares. This will be THE END of the Aunt Grace stuff (thank goodness) but at least it wasn't the pastel AG I had to use on the last two. Yuck. I think I dislike AG as much as I do Thimbleberries. At any rate, at least I finished something and got back in front of the machine. This one will get a very simple diagonal grid quilting pattern and then I'm done with it.



Next up: A very graphic, limited pallette piece using a pair of hands drawn by my friend. Lots of black and white, maybe some red and yellow. A "study in shape" if it works out as I envision. I also get to do some more thread painting on it and I'm chewing on the idea of making each element a separate piece with them all attached. Why is it that the simplest designs are sometimes the hardest to execute? I'm sort of excited to get to work on it but don't want to jinx the result by overthinking it too much.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

To sleep, perchance to dream.

My "never fail" trick of coming up with some of my very best design ideas while in the grip of a fever seems to have let me down this time. I'm thinking a low fever works better than a high fever. My concentration and creativity is non-existent the last few days, and I miss lying there drifting off to sleep with the shapes and colors of future quilts dancing in my head. I did get two finished quilts out the door yesterday and another one due to be picked up today or tomorrow. Still waiting on the name block to come back from my friend with the embroidery machine and get that one done and gone, and a simple 9 patch and I'll be through with OPS for a while. Maybe by that time, I'll have some motivation to get back on my own.

I killed another iron the other day, this time the good Panasonic. My one absolute requirement for any iron is an auto-off feature. That's an absolute imperative, between my forgetfulness and my cat's penchant for sleeping on the ironing board. I can do without spade-shaped burn marks on the floor, ironing board, cutting table, fabric, what ever it happens to land on when he's ready for a nap and shoves it off because, as we ALL know, he IS the king of the entire known universe and nothing is more important than his comfort. Well, food maybe, but that's about it. So, back to the auto-off thing. I had the choice of 2 different styles at Fred's so got the lighter one with the shiny sole plate. Only AFTER I get it home, get it fired up, play with the burst of steam thing, press some binding and a sleeve, then come back to it, do I realize that the damn thing shuts off after 30 minutes, whether you're using it or not. And when it shuts off while you're actually ironing, it spits water everywhere. To turn it back on you have to UNPLUG THE FREAKING THING and plug it back in. Not nearly as convenient as the box leads you to believe. I may put this one back for a spare (for the many times I've needed one at night and killed the current one) and go back to Target to replace the Panasonic.

I've had expensive Rowenta irons, cheap Continental irons, and everything in between. I manage to kill every single one of them within about 6 months. For a while I was buying a more expensive one each time, thinking the quality just wasn't there with the cheap ones and a good one would last longer. I did that for a few irons until I realized that the expensive ones didn't last any longer than the cheap ones and I'd rather pay $15 twice a year than $60 twice a year. I have no idea why my mojo with irons is so bad either. They don't get dropped (I do move them off the ironing board when I'm not actively using them....see reference to Gumbo the cat above) and they don't stay on all the time (see reference to auto-off above) and I don't do much weird with them beyond maybe melting some Tyvek or something and I don't let them run dry while on the steam setting. No real explanation of why I can't keep one for more than a few months at the time. By the way, did you know you can blow out the thermostat and ruin an iron if you add cold water to a hot iron? If you HAVE to add water while the iron is hot, turn the iron to no steam and pour a tiny bit of water in first, then add the rest of it. I can only imagine how many more I would have killed over the years without doing that.

I'm telling myself that I will get back later today and post some pictures. Maybe if I post some quilt pictures it will motivate me. Or maybe I'll post a picture of the cat. Something besides words in any case.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

First Five update

I have 2 finished, one almost finished and 2 more waiting in the wings. They should have been done by now, but whatever this bout of the mulligrubs is that we all have has knocked me flat almost. Whatever work I can manage to get done fairly early in the day is pretty much what I get done period. Me, DH and both kids living here have all been 'round and 'round with it this week and I'm ready for it to be GONE.

OK, that was my whine for the week. Come back tomorrow for sweetness and light.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

THANKS Y'ALL

We had signs all over the interstates that said "Thanks y'all" about a year after Katrina hit. It was for all of the people headed north on the way home after helping with the clean-up and rebuilding. The signs have pretty much disappeared, but the people helping haven't. It's slowed a good bit, but it seems to be steady. This little blurb was in our paper yesterday:

HENNIKER, N.H. — Fifteen New Hampshire college students will spend their winter break in Mississippi helping renovate homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.The group from New England College will work in teams in the Gulfport area. The effort was organized by Project Pericles, a nonprofit that encourages social activism among college students.The students will go to Mississippi on Jan. 4 and work for nine days, sleeping in permanent tents that were built to house hurricane survivors.

I think it's great that people in New Hampshire, especially young people, haven't forgotten us, and they seem to realize it's not all fixed by now. What does strike me as odd though, is the fact that they use a story from New Hampshire, instead of reporting on the kids and adults from here who are going in groups. My oldest is going twice in the next few months with organized groups. Once with her Church and once with a group from MS State. And there are many other groups doing the same. High schools, colleges, churches, businesses, and just groups of people who feel moved to do something.

One of the hardest things for me to accept is that my memories of the coast are already being altered, and in some cases lost altogether. We drove Beach Blvd the other day and found ourselves discussing what had been on that corner, or what this empty space used to be. Occasionally there were enough visual clues to narrow it down to an almost certainty (thank God for recognizable shapes of signs, and trademark color schemes) but just as often, we passed by without ever deciding for sure what it "used to be." I resisted taking pictures for over a year for the simple fact that I didn't want the permanency of the pictures to become my memories. That's happening anyway with each new trip to the coast. The pictures are all in my head now, and when I remember the drive through Long Beach, it's the miles of Hanes in the trees, not the beautiful homes that my mind conjures up first. The piles of debris and heaved up boardwalks, the prehistoric skeletons of Coke machines and retail shelving littering the beaches, instead of the miles of pristine white sand and sturdy fishing piers. Gone are the kites and jet ski rentals and brightly colored umbrellas and string bikini booths. No more lobster-red tourists from Michigan asleep on their towels, or children with boundless energy running in and out of the water, squealing with each new "treasure" discovered. Now there are front end loaders and cranes, great slabs of asphalt highway waiting to be hauled off for landfill under someone's new home. And the naked ribcages of the piers.

If you're interested in "doing something" to help, www.hands.ms has some opportunities. The into to the site is worth watching whether you help or not.

Monday, November 13, 2006

yuck

Not only did I miss a day of posting (does it count that I have a bunch of days with multiple postings?) but I missed it because I spent practically the whole day in bed feeling pretty rough. Whoever invented TheraFlu, especially the apple cinnamon flavor, deserves to make a pile of money. I thought I'd shaken whatever bug I had but it hit with a vengence yesterday. Even DH was feeling pretty rocky and he never gets sick. By yesterday evening, we were both hungry so I guess that's a good sign. Things to do, things to do, so no time to be sick this week,

And happy birthday Bronwyn! I hope you have a great one.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Show of Hands

Mary Ann Littlejohn has a few photos posted of the Show of Hands exhibit in Houston, and one of mine is sort of front and center! Third from left in the second row. The one with the ASL hand sign for "I love you."
http://malittlejohn.blogspot.com/2006/11/show-of-hands-exhibit-at-international.html
It was made with a scan of a real hand printed on organza, with a Red Ant Screen prints fabric with ASL letters for the background. The backing was another black and white fabric that has words like joy and peace and love printed on it. I actually had 4 hanging, but these are the only pictures I've seen of the exhibit so far.

about that cake...

looks like I might not have to feed it to the dogs after all. When I got up this morning I noticed there's about 1/4 of it gone already. Nick (our "spare" son) apparently has no problem at all with carrot cake or pecans. He came in from work about midnight and the rest of us were already in bed so I'm assuming he's the one who ate it. Either that, or the dogs have learned how to use a knife. He's a sweet kid and straight A student in the honors college at a local college so I can't complain. My son called last night too and he starts a job on Tuesday. Whew! It's about time. My oldest daughter also called, and yet once again, MS State has screwed something up. We have our fingers crossed for it to get fixed before she has to waste another semester up there. She's already one semester behind, with a bunch of useless classes under her belt, because of bad advice from the school 2 years ago. This time, they neglected to record her PRAXIS math score so they didn't enroll her in the education dept, although they had told her she was already in.

Friday, November 10, 2006

November 10 is Forget-me-not day

and my birthday too. The list of bizarre American holidays is pretty funny and it says today is Forget-me-not day. http://library.thinkquest.org/2886/INDEX.HTM

My DH and youngest daughter took me out to eat tonight and I filled up on sushi with wasabi that was so fresh it was clearing the sinuses of the guy sitting behind me. Won ton, sesame meatballs and coconut shrimp, duck, and egg drop soup. My daughter and my sister spent the afternoon making a homemade carrot cake for me because they called DH and asked what kind I wanted. I have absolutely NO idea why he thought that was it. Maybe the same reason that after 23 years of marriage he forgets that I don't eat chicken. It's not that I MIND carrot cake, it's just not way up there on my favorites list. And my sister absolutely LOADS it with pecans, which I avoid whenever possible. Growing up, when I stayed with my grandmother, her sister owned a pecan farm so they put pecans in everything but spaghetti. It got to the point where I loathed gathering, cracking, shelling, picking, chopping and eating pecans. That dislike has eased a bit over the years and I cook with them occasionally, but rarely eat them. But my daughter spent the time and the energy on doing it. so I will eat it. She even made the cute little orange and green carrots in icing on the top. Or maybe I'll feed a slice or two to the dogs while they're gone during the day and tell her how wonderful it was as it slowly dwindles.

Now, the box of chocolate covered cherries on the other hand, will be gone within an hour of opening them. Those I WILL savor.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Jumping on the bandwagon

Technorati Profile
I have claimed my blog on the incredibly rare chance that someone else would want it. Now they can't have it.

I feel like this should have involved horses and foot-races and Tom Cruse, but it was much easier than that. Any moron can cut and paste code, even if I can't write it.

Daily

Post.

Just so I don't break my promise within the first two weeks of the NaBloPoMo thing. Maybe more later, but I'm feeling sort of puny right now, and pitiful because tomorrow is my birthday and I don't want to be sick. I guess the advantage to that would be maybe it would head off the guaranteed Thanksgiving/Christmas illness this year. Go ahead and get it out of the way so I don't have to stress out over which holiday I'll be missing this season. It's a family tradition. My mother gets one holiday to be sick, I get the other.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hit-and-run

Just a quick "good morning" today before I head out. I'm off to the coast with a dear friend for a couple of days. She's moving back to South Dakota so it will most likely be my last chance to spend some time with her. I also MAY get a chance to at least say hello to my son down at USM. If not him, at least the girlfriend. He's destroyed yet another cell phone and it makes me (and everybody else, especially my mother) batso to be out of contact with him so I'm dropping one off to him. Of course, since he doesn't have a cell phone, I have no way to make arrangements with him to drop it off, hence the girlfriend thing. At least I have a way to get in touch with her.

I'm sort of liking this daily blog thing too. It's a habit I'll probably continue with long after the month is over. Well, maybe not DAILY, but more often than monthly.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jabberwocky


I belong to a group that does one "quick fire" challenge a month. We have one week from the time we get the theme until we post pictures of the finished piece. I was the challenge hostess this time and my theme was "Jabberwocky." I spent several days and got halfway through with the original one before I chucked it and did this one in a short period. My daughter has always called the Nigerian scam letters and the insane subject lines and sender names jabberwocky, so what could be more appropriate? I really like this little piece.

I played around with some free-hand writing on the background, and the letter and junk mail ads are intentionally printed on thin fabric so the words underneath show. The individual computer keys on the body of the quilt are the ESC and DEL keys.

Time to get busy


We're headed to the coast tomorrow for a couple of days and I have some loose ends I need to tie up around here first. It's been raining for 2 days but I have to get out in it anyway and run some errands. First up, some exercise. In the voting booth of course. I seem to have the REALLY bad mojo for electronic stuff the last day or so too. Two brand new cell phones, straight out of the box, and neither one works. I also spent over an hour on the phone last night with the morons at Comcast because one of our new cable boxes bit the dust less than a week after installation. I'm still angry over their crappy attitude and customer service and inability to actually communicate with reasonably intelligent responses, so it will have to suffice to say that I am NOT a fan, and they have a ways to go to convince me they are anything but a cadre of idiots.

On the other hand, I've finally gotten the inspiration needed for my most recent quilt, which has been hanging practically in front of my face for a couple of weeks now and getting NOTHING done to it while I spend my time working on OPS (other people's stuff) and none of my own. Periodically I HAVE to do some of my own work, regardless of deadlines or anything else for OPS. If I didn't, their stuff would never get done. It's almost like recharging myself. A couple of hours doing what I want to do and I'm energized to get back to what other people want me to do.

The new piece will have circles on it (I already used a bunch of polka dot fabrics, but I'm adding bigger applique circles) that I intend to make out of cotton cosmetic pads. I'm thinking Heat-N-Bond for the fabric onto the pads and then trim around the pads. Voila! Perfect circles and the cotton will give them some dimension without having to batt each one of them individually. I hope it works like I think it will, but even if it doesn't, I'm sure I'll learn something from the experiment. Still waiting on delivery from some ephemera I ordered from eBay the other day but it will probably come while I'm gone.

Another idea in the back of my mind is to use gloves in a similar manner to the cosmetic pads. Quilt the fabrics directly to the gloves and then applique the whole thing to a quilt. Sort of a trapunto cheat if you will. No idea where my current obsession with hands has come from either. I guess I'll just go with it until something else comes along. I even have a friend of mine doing some beautiful drawings of his own hands for me to use. He sent me the first one last night and his talent just blows me away. We're also collaborating on a quilt for him and I'm looking SO forward to actually getting the piece in my hands to work on it. He's piddling around with inconsequential stuff, like his job, instead of working on it though.

Monday, November 06, 2006

On looking back





Today is my youngest daughter's senior retreat. Each year, the school has us secretly (or not, if they have older siblings they know about it) write letters to the kids about how much we love them and how special they are. It's hard to boil down 17 years into one letter, so we just hit the high points usually. Maybe it's because she is my last one to graduate and I'm sort of looking back at my own last 10 years at that same school, with the same kids they started kindergarten with, and it's harder to let go and realize that THIS IS IT for the kids. The others are already in college, and in 8 more months she will be too. It has been a joy to watch her finally come into her own this year and see her blossom. She's made the honor roll for the first time, and is widening her circle of friends. She also has a lot of the do-her-own-thing attitude her older sister has.

She's a beautiful young lady, and as sweet and compassionate as she is pretty. We are so proud of her and look to forward to seeing what good things she has coming in her life.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday morning coming down

Since blogger seems cooperative this morning, I'll take a shot at re-doing yesterday's post. Rissa asked about the toenail clippers specifically, so I'll start with that. I use the big ones with the flat, rather than curved, cutting edge to trim off shanks on buttons (metal and plastic), to cut jump rings off, to cut off loops on charms if I'm gluing rather than sewing them, and pretty much anything that's small enough to fit between the blades. I use them as wire cutters and to clip those infernal plastic tag hangers too. They're cheap, strong and you can really get some good pressure behind them because of the handles. And they're smaller than a pair of wire cutters or pliers so I can put a pair close to each place where I use them. They work pretty well as tweezers to pick up little bitty things too. I also use baby safety nail clippers to clip threads with when I take handwork to sit in the doctor's office or where ever. They give a very clean cut edge, they're small and they don't take them away from you at the airport. You're also not in much danger of clipping anything besides the thread. It's REALLY handy if you put one of those tiny eyeglass repair magnifying glasses on the chain of the clippers too. I never realized how handy they were, or how much I would use a magnifying glass until I actually had one available.

I keep my needles in an empty TicTac box in my "mobile" handwork kit. I like the tight-fitting lid on it, I can see what I'm going after, and again, it's small. I also keep a very small, brightly colored feather in the kit so when I have to thread the needle again, I can stick the point of it up through the shaft of the feather and not worry about where I put the damn thing. I'm the world's worst about sticking it in the corner of the piece I'm working on while I cut a new piece of thread then spending 5 minutes looking for the needle. Another advantage is that the feather sort of clings to the fabric so I don't drop it as often, and it gives me something substantial to hang onto when trying to thread it.

I keep the spool(s) of thread I'm using in old spice bottles. Depending on the spools and the bottles, I either have one per spool or 2 spools in one. I usually have a spool of regular sewing thread and one of a beading thread. I just run the end through the holes in the top and I'm good to go when I need more thread in the needle. Pull just enough thread out for the top of the spice bottle to catch it and it won't fall back into the bottle either. And when I drop it, thread doesn't unspool all over the floor. On the days I'm really organized and thinking ahead, I thread 3 or 4 needles onto the spool in good light at home so I don't have to try to thread them in questionable light somewhere else. When I need the next length of thread, I just pick up the first needle in line and unspool the thread, letting the additional needles fall below the cut line. One more advantage is that you can knot the cut end coming off the spool so the spare needles stay on the thread too. It takes a little getting used to knotting the "wrong" side of the cut, but the needles are already on it. It's really handy for bad eyesighted people like me, and surprisingly easy. Every time I forget to do it beforehand, I kick myself and SWEAR I'll remember the next time. Yeah, right.

For bead storage and convenience for individual projects, I use the pill stackers that screw bottom to top to each other. I just pick which beads I need for each piece and reconfigure the stacks to only take the ones I need. No holes in little plastic bags, no big clunky bead trays, and if you ever spill one, it's only that one. Can you tell that dropping things seems to be a major consideration in my choice of tools? And they don't get mixed in with the ones in the adjoining compartment either. You can get them at the Dollar Tree or you can pay $3.50 for the same thing at Michael's.

As for the kit itself, I think that's purely personal preference and depends on the size of the work being hauled around as much as it does what's in the kit itself. I personally prefer an old purse or bag with a flat, stiff bottom, even if I have to put a piece of cardboard in it myself. Purses tend to have pockets and I like that. Purses also tend to have top closures and as much as I love canvas bags, they generally have neither. The one absolute for me is a shoulder strap, backpack style if possible. I don't normally carry a purse so my hands are full of car keys and cell phone and credit card/ID case. And if you get a bag (of any description) that you really, really like you can always do some of your own work on it. You'd be surprised at the number of people who will ask about it. It's a good way to showcase some of your own stuff without having to drag out the project du jour for every interested stranger.

Spoiler alert for the First Five recipients

If you're one of the First Five recipients for a little piece of art (SombraKnight, Moon Stars and Paper, Groggy Froggy, Vodka and Diet coke and Rissa), skip this post unless you want details on what they MIGHT be. Ideas still flying around, but they are quickly coalescing in my head so some or all of them will ultimately wind up in a frame. Yes, I decided to actually mount and frame them since I have NO desire to do more fabric postcards. I love the ones I have and I love teaching how to make them, but actually making them on my own is not something I willingly spend time doing unless forced to.

So here are the ideas I have so far. Go away now if you want to be surprised when they arrive in the mail. I picked up a bunch of small frames the other day, some 4x6, some 5x7 and 2 really nice 8x8 square ones. The square ones are hard to find, but I love the way they look so I grab whatever they have in stock. Only 2 this time. I also got a few black and white shadowbox frames that will be nice with the thick frame so there's room for the 3D elements. I won't use glass (monoprints, anyone?) on the finished pieces so the frame depth is important. I hit the $1 placemat table and found some really nice stuff that can be used as backgrounds to work on. One very flat bamboo, one crimson red with tiny sticks woven through it, and a green and an orange that have a nice woven design on the border. I also picked up some very detailed, albeit very cheap, "Japanese kimono" wine bottle dresses. The fabric is obviously poly, but the colors and patterns and tiny little piping and frogs can be individual elements without looking so cheap. They go nicely with the joss paper and bone dominos and wooden tiles and all the other Oriental ephemera I have.

I've also gathered up a bunch of different sizes and shapes of cheap necklace chains (from the 90 lbs of costume jewelry I inherited from the M-I-L) and other junk with interesting shapes. I'll be out on the deck with the acid today to remove the finishes, a sprinkle of salt, and tomorrow I'll arrange them and start rust dying some fabric. I'm hoping to get some good patterns on the fabrics so I can use that for the backing on one of the pieces. Maybe rusty washers and old skeleton keys with it? Still thinking through that one. I may try to overdye the rust dyed fabric with a hint of color too. We'll see.

The one that came to me pretty much full-blown is a music-themed one. Who knew? I have some of those rubber molds for Sculpey with faces and hands and I have a saxophone made from layers of gold and silver metallic cardstock. I'm pretty sure it's a scrapbooking thing, but it's the perfect size for the face and hands. That one might actually get a quilted background for it. Or not. Anyway, it's the one I'm most looking forward to working on.

I have a few other ideas (African themed is always a favorite of mine and I'd like to use the thread painted window screen plains tree again) for these little pieces too. They may wind up as gifts if I make more than the initial 5, and I'm pretty sure there will be more than 5. This is a slightly larger size than the 4x6 postcards, and I'm liking the idea of the frames, so I think I may take this and run with it. I could probably do at least 5 with nothing but the Asian stuff I have accumulated.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

One last try

I've posted twice today already, but blogger is apparently being horsey about it. At one point, they both showed up even though the first time I typed a looooooong post and it said it never published and to save it to my computer. I tried to. I really, really did, but the first time I hit the enter key, I got the dreaded white screen and the whole thing locked up. It's probably published on someone else's blog now. Look for a post raving about the great uses for toenail clippers and buttons and thread and you'll know you've found my errant post.

Maybe I'll come back tomorrow and try to re-create it, or maybe I'll just come back tomorrow and natter on about nothing. Either way, I'll come back tomorrow.

Friday, November 03, 2006

favorite (non)tools for quilting

I've been noticing the last few days that I use an awful lot of stuff for my quilting that isn't actually made for quilting. I don't mean the stuff like fiberglass window screen that's actually an element on the quilt either. I mean the stuff I use to make the quilt. Things like the little mesh tubes from the flower shop that the spider mums come covered with. They're about 4" long and stretch REALLY big. I use them to store my cone threads in so I don't wind up with a rat's nest of loose threads in the drawer and bins. Did I mention I probably have 100 cones of thread? The thread fairy periodically drops off 5 gallon buckets of thread cones on my front porch. I have some truly weird colors too. Anyway, the little stretchy mesh things are perfect for storing it and they're FREE from the florist.

Another thing I use constantly is my carpenter's sheet rock ruler. No, not the metal kind but a thick plastic one with inset levels. The edge of it is exactly the right height to run the rotary cutter down and the center is deeper than the edge so my fingers are out of the way. Being 48" long is great too so I don't have to keep moving it and lining it up to cut borders and binding. It's also EXACTLY 2" wide so you'll see a lot of that width in my sashings and borders and such. It's SOOOOO handy.

Another must-have for me is a new discovery. It's Reynolds Wrap Release non-stick foil. And it truly IS non-stick. I played around with it when I got it and fused everything I could find and NOTHING stuck to it. Let it cool for a second and even straight fusible just peels off like it does on the teflon sheets. And you can throw this away and buy more! I can quit worrying about creases or cuts or ink marks on the expensive teflon now.

And my DH gave me a B&D laser level for Christmas. I'm on probably my third or fourth set of batteries I use it so much. I mark cutting lines, use it for blocking, hang the pieces straight on the wall to take pics, use it to get more accurate than 'eyeballing' from one element to another on a quilt top. All sorts of uses for it, including messing with the cats and dogs, but that's just lagniappe.

Last but not least, my favorite seam ripping tool is a pair of suture scissors from the medical supply place. They are the ones with the little hook on the bottom blade right at the end. Half the time, the hook itself breaks the thread before I ever snip it and it gets those tinytight stitches beautifully without catching the threads of the fabric.

Some other things that are handy to have are push pins for sticking stuff up on the wall for in-progress pics. Small bulldog clips for the same reason....they hang on the push pins too and are great for displaying the fabric art postcards. I get them in all different colors. Cafe curtain hooks are another option and I usually have a handful of those around. I've also used the bulldog clips and cafe curtain clips as the actual hanging mechanism on quilts. I'm fairly sure I used some painted ones on Jen's "Alice's Restaurant" piece.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 2


Some loose ends first....being as how I'm the smertist woman in the world, my big plans for a follow-along tutorial were for the piece I have planned for Lisa over at groggyfroggy so maybe that idea needs to go on the back burner for a bit. I'll keep the pictures and stuff and just post it later than originally planned.

I am doing several piecemeal (notice I didn't say I was PIECING) quilts for other people right now so I'm forcing myself to not start on any of my own stuff just yet or I'll never get these finished. 2 of them are Aunt Grace fabrics which I loathe beyond words, but they're for the brother of a very good friend. He's developed some serious health problems and was unable to finish the quilts, and not only is his sister my friend, but he sent me absolute MOUNDS of every sort of sewing thing you can imagine. From (several thousand) pins to huge storage tubs of fabrics. It was wonderful and well worth the trade of doing some quilting for him to get the tops finished. Another one is some absolutely beautiful carousel horses in cross-stitch to be assembled for a Christmas present. The gift recipient is actually a friend of my daughter's from high school so I'm happy to do this one too. It will ultimately have a yellow binding and I'm waiting to hear if she is going to let me do a tab top instead of a sleeve. I hope she does since I think it will look better. I notice the colors are crappy on here too. They really aren't in real life. I'll get a better picture and a close up once it's finished.

Side note to blogger: I think there should be a button at the top to automatically insert the "crappy color/picture" disclaimer. Seems like most every blog I read that uses a lot of pictures winds up saying that at some point. Sure would save a lot of typing.

So, once I get these 3 quilts finished (one is completely done and waiting to ship, one still needs to be sandwiched and quilted, but I'm waiting on the name/date block to be embroidered and the one above is down to the final quilting and binding) I have designs in my head for 3 more. For some weird reason, they all involve pianos too. I have no idea what my obsession with pianos is. I don't play, I don't particularly like piano music, I know nothing about them other than what they look like, and yet they keep forcing their way into my work. Maybe I was frightened by a piano as a child. Who knows?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NaBloPoMo

I've signed up for the National Blog Posting Month thingy. www.fussy.org/nablopomo.html in hopes that it will get me in the habit of posting daily. Well, maybe not daily, but more often than monthly at any rate. I have no clue what I'll post about 30 times this month. Maybe I'll finally get off my duff and do one of those "follow along" tutorials for the next quilt I make. Or maybe I'll just make up crap or natter on about my kids and dogs. We'll see as the month goes along.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Art-gift update - 3 takers so far

Vodka&DietCoke, Lisa, and Rissa are on the art gift list so far, so there are at least 3 people who read the blog! Yes, you count Rissa, since I posted first! Not my fault you were out of town and lagged behind 2 days. It's not too often that I get excited about being FORCED to create art to GIVE away to (mostly) strangers, but this one has really captured my interest. And since it's not limited to only quilting blogs, I feel a certain sense of freedom I don't usually have. And I LOVE to stick random stuff on what starts out as a quilt but rarely have the chance to do that so I'm looking forward to being able to wade in the collage pool a bit with this.
If you will send me your snail mail addresses to DeltaMoon95 at Yahoo dot com I'll get the pieces in the mail by the end of November. Probably much sooner than that, but I built in a little flex-time justincase. You all know how that goes!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

assignment from the teacher

Finally! A random post from someone I don't know, and it involves a question that has been wrestled with through the ages. What is an art quilt? For every person who is asked that question, there is a different answer, but since it's my question this time, you get my answer. Traditional quilting to me involves a lot of 'rules' about the type of fabric (100% cotton) and the type of thread, and some basic piecing techniques, using specific shapes. You can cut a bunch of precise squares and triangles and combine them into traditional, named patterns and make a quilt.

To me, traditional quilting requires a lot of futzing around with templates and point matching and all sorts of other fussy details to basically reproduce the same block over and over. Then you sew enough of them together to make something big enough to cover a bed with.

On the other hand, art quilting has very few rules. It's generally accepted that they have three layers and are sewn together. That's about it. It can be any fabric (or plastic or metal or found object or geegaw or anything else that you can glue/sew/staple/weld/bolt/rivet onto the background)that advances the effect you're looking for. I've used cotton, velvet, burlap, plastic FEMA tarps, linen, old clothing, new clothing, fiberglass window screen and who-knows-what-else on my quilts. I've added beads and buttons and toys and hardware and sticks and stones and guitar picks and doll hats and sea shells and who-knows-what-else as embellishments. I've painted, dyed, discharged, stamped, drawn, printed, rusted, stained and who-knows-what-else to the fabric itself.

Traditional applique involves some very tedious hand-work usually, but mine involve fusible adhesive, glue sticks, liquid fusible, spray adhesive, school paste or anything else (besides pins, I rarely use pins for anything) that holds the applique in place until I stitch it down. Sometimes I stitch it with a satin stitch, wide or narrow, to cover all the cut edges, sometimes a decorative stitch, sometimes a straight stitch at the edge and sometimes I just make my quilting lines all over everything and leave any raw edges to fray as they will. I don't really have any quilting plan on most of mine, unless "move it around while I'm talking or dealing with the dogs or watching tv and hope it comes out ok" counts as a plan. Sometimes my quilting lines follow the shape of something on the quilt, sometimes they don't.

This has been a good exercise because it's forced me to think what the actual differences are, not just be able to recognize one on sight. It is hard for me to define though, since my work is very....I almost said haphazard, but that isn't right....intuitive! That's the word. I rarely have a plan in mind when I start, other than something really basic. The title of a quilt (almost always song titles in my case) or a piece of fabric or a specific element may be the genesis of a design. I have 2 in progress and at least 2 more in my head that involve hands. I use a lot of musical references and themes too. My pieces tend to have great gaps of negative space, with lots of solid color and background fabric showing.

With my own work, I try to evoke a specific "feel" to each piece. The elements aren't always accurate (mixing kokopellis with hieroglyphs isn't accurate) but the final effect is cohesive. At least I hope it is. Other people work towards mastering a specific technique or a specific theme, and some just seem to make the same quilt over and over and over and over.

Friday, October 27, 2006

First Fast Friday, now First Five get Free Fiber

I saw this over at JenClair's blog (http://bayouquilts.blogspot.com/) and really liked the idea of it. The first five people to respond in the comments section will get a piece of original fiber art from me. The interesting part will be seeing if there are actually five people who know this blog exists.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Aidan and homecoming


My youngest daughter and her brother's best friend and roommate on their way to the homecoming dance. The dog was trying to help by offering them the lid to a shoebox. We're not sure why he thought they needed it though, since it didn't match her dress at all.

Friday, September 08, 2006

This and That

"Orphans of the Motherland" and "Miles Davis" will be showing at Augsburg College through October 8. They are the 2 that didn't sell at Hennepin County but they were chosen to go to this exhibit so there's still a chance. We got a copy of the public comment cards from the Hennepin exhibit and my work is "off the chain" according to one visitor. I had to go ask my kids what that meant, but it's a compliment so it's all good. (Brag warning: My name is the only one mentioned specifically on the comment cards!)
I started on a new piece this weekend out of sheer boredom and it's working up pretty well. More music, but with polka dots this time. I don't work with a lot of dots so I was sort of surprised that's what I reached for. I had originally planned to do a step-by-step of the process for the blog, but this one is totally intuitive with no plan so it was sort of hard to follow though on the idea to post about it. Maybe next time, if I start with a real design I can figure out a way to walk through it in words and pictures. I would have felt bad to just say "I picked this fabric up because I liked it, and cut it 4" wide because I wanted to." That doesn't really tell you anything, but it's sometimes how I work. My son and his roommate like it well enough that it may go live in their apartment at college to "impress the girls." They seem to think it shows their sensitive and artistic sides or something. If nothing else, my work is usually so bright and striking that maybe it will draw attention away from their terrible furniture.
Next up is turning out a bunch of postcards for an up-scale craft fair in KC the first week in December. I can work on them this week in FL with my friend Vicki. Six whole days of making art! She is an incredible artist herself and I can't wait to see all of her work. I have one gorgeous piece in my living room already. She does mixed media and painting (and a little of everything else) and has the most wonderful color sense. Not the colors I tend to go towards, but that's how you learn. Look at what others do and file the combinations away for use later.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Goodbye yellow...."

"Jump, Jive and Wail" has found a new home in Minnesota. I actually got to speak to the new owner last night on the phone and that was so cool! Other than being nice to hear how much she loved it, the best part was what else she said. "That one piece is what drew me in to look at the rest of the exhibit." That really meant a lot to me to know that she was moved to look at the rest of the works by artists on the coast who were truly decimated by Katrina. The pictures I've seen of the exhibit were very powerful, and I can only imagine the impact they made in person. Still, nothing even comes close to seeing the actual damage. No amount of pictures, videos and written descriptions can even approach the reality of the coast. Mary Gray of Minnesota Helpers has done an incredible, back breaking job of getting our work out there, and my gratitude to her for giving me this opportunity is boundless. I can't thank you enough, Mary.