Thursday, March 31, 2011

I drove out to Hillsboro today to return the glass shades that didn't work for the light fixture. From my house there are two ways to get to Hillsboro. One is by way of the TV Highway, which I try to avoid if possible. The other is the back road, through farmland. That's my preference.

It is beautiful year round, but especially in the spring. The green fields are so green! This time of year I need little excuse to drive out that way, so I was almost glad to have to return the shades, especially since it is not raining today. Not raining is big. In fact at this moment the sun is shining.  Anyway it is a beautiful drive. In March the daffodils out this way are incredible. They seem to grow wild in huge swaths along the roadsides and on the ditch banks. You see clumps of them even out in the fields. I especially like this old wagon planted with daffodils in a farmyard alongside the road.

When I first saw all the daffodils out here a couple springs ago it inspired me to plant daffodils at home. The past two falls Ray and I have planted probably several hundred daffodil bulbs along the street and up the driveway at our house. They look great this year and I imagine more and more every year.

I appreciated the comments left about the light fixture. Gerrie and Ginny—the first places I looked were at Rejuvenation and Hippo Hardware. It was at Hippo that the woman showed me the similar fixtures they had for sale (pricey) and said that if they did not have the set screws for shades, then they were hung with bare bulbs. I may have convinced myself that bare bulbs will be the way to go with this one. I found this rejuvenated antique , which is similar, on Rejuvenation's web site.The description says it was always intended to have bare bulbs. The ones shown in their photo are hand-painted bulbs that they sell for $9 each. Note the price of the fixture as well. I paid $32, including shipping from eBay and have added another $20 or so with rewiring and paint stripping supplies. Maybe the new owners will want to buy some of the pretty hand-painted bulbs for this fixture, but I am using much less expensive ones. I liked the statement on the Rejuvenation fixture description that says that the dents on that fixture lend it "extra authenticity."  Mine also has that extra authenticity!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Terry from the Prairie

 I have always gotten a charge out of figuring out how to solve my own decorating and house repair problems. Most things aren't really hard if you have good directions to follow. Years ago, when I worked at the Psoriasis Foundation I worked with a young guy, a writer, who had just bought an old house and didn't know how to do a thing! And didn't seem too interested in learning. So he spent great piles of his hard-earned salary hiring other people to fix things and upgrade things at his house. One Monday morning at work I mentioned that I had tiled a bathroom counter top that weekend, and he responded, "Well, aren't you just 'Terry from the Prairie!'" I don't even know what that means, but the name stuck. When I get my DIY on, Ray says "Terry from the Prairie strikes again."

He's gonna say that when he gets home tonight.

The old light fixture that I ordered from eBay arrived today. Here it is right out of the box.

The paint was in bad shape and it definitely needed to be rewired. I took it apart and took the socket down to the hardware store and the helpful guy there helped me find replacements, wire, wire nuts and gave me a quick tutorial on rewiring. While I was there I also bought a can of paint stripper and came home and started right in stripping the ugly paint off. I pulled out our ancient Time-Life wiring book and confirmed the instructions given by the hardware guy. The paint came right off and the brass underneath is really pretty! I replaced the old sockets with my newly wired new sockets, put it all back together and now, several hours later it is pretty much ready to hang.

I am wondering what to do about some little glass shades, which I think I would like. The woman at an antique hardware store where I went last week looking for inspiration told me that some fixtures of this style had shades, some did not and the bare bulbs showed. This fixture doesn't have the set screws to hold the little glass shades with the lip at the top. Beth said she has some old fixtures at her beach house that have lightweight glass shades that just hang on the bulb. I bought some glass shades today, but they won't work. I'm going to have to take them back. If anyone has these kinds of fixtures and can send me a photo or tell me about shades I'd really appreciate it. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Doing a little stitching

I am finishing up my 12 x 12 chartreuse quilt. I thought I was finished last night, but as I lay in bed trying to calm my hyperactive brain, the thought popped into my head that it needed more quilting. In fact, it needed some wild, crazy obsessive quilting. Good thing it is only 12 x 12. Here's a little peek at a section before added quilting:

And the same section after.

I have had a whole lot of fun with this.You will remember my chartreuse tryout a couple of weeks ago, part of which landed at the top of my newly renovated blog design. It is a new look for me, but something I have been fiddling with in somewhat different ways for awhile. It really comes down to the idea of drawing/doodling with thread as part of the design. I have another idea for using this approach for a larger piece that I think might work for another show. I know, I said I wasn't going to make quilts to order for particular shows anymore. I'm still thinking about it, but it seems like something I really want to do. Of course the deadline is looming.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March winding down

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  
when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade."
-  Charles Dickens  

My blog writing seems to have slowed a lot lately. I don't have much to show, unless you want to see the work we are doing at the old house, and really it isn't that interesting. Painted and pulled up carpet yesterday. Two of the upstairs bedrooms had old dusty blue carpeting that has been there for more than 20 years. The realtor said, "pull it up."  "And replace it?" we asked. Nope. She said nobody wants carpet in an old house and if it was there what they really wanted to know was what is under it. Painted fir floor is what. Looks to be in pretty good shape, though the paint is chipped and ugly. But potential buyers will now know that there is a viable wood floor that can be refinished. I bought a period light fixture on eBay this week. It will go in the living room to replace the too-modern fixture that is there now. The one I bought is painted brass and will require some work. I think I will need to strip the paint, which is not in good shape and rewire it. I have never rewired a light fixture. Do you think that's hard? It is a very simple little light fixture with two bulbs. I think I can find some instructions online or in a book. I know this fixture is more authentic than what is now there, but honestly, if it had been in the house when we bought it I probably would have replaced it! And maybe sold it to someone on eBay.

We are heading into the last week of March and, but for the daffodils, it doesn't feel much like spring yet. I bought a pair of sandals this week. Hope springs eternal.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why didn't I do this years ago?

I remember when we moved into the house on Illinois street in 1993 there were so many things I envisioned for that house. And over the years most of  those changes happened. We are leaving that house so much better than we found it—a new oak floor where there was ratty brown carpet, tile where there was canary yellow formica, rebuilt front stairs that are deep and level and don't feel like they will pitch you off the porch head-first. We restored the ceilings to their original height, all the while cursing whoever decided to "modernize" the house by dropping those ceilings. Lots more improvements. Lots. It was an ongoing project all the years we lived there. And I remember looking at the little sconce lights in the bathroom and thinking, "those will go..."  But they never did.

Somehow, over the years, as we worked on big projects, this little project was overlooked. Isn't it interesting how you stop seeing things like this after awhile? Even, several years ago when we made some big changes in that bathroom, again I thought about replacing those lights, and, again, I didn't do it. So, last week when our realtor said to do something about the bright brass fixtures, they were right there in front of me again. I picked up some glass shades at the Rebuilding Center a couple days ago ($2 each) and yesterday took them and my can of spray paint to the old house. It took me a couple hours, including drying time, and I wondered why I had not done this years ago.

They could have looked like this for all those years.

While the paint was drying on the sconces yesterday I drove across town to the Habitat for Humanity Rebuild Center to see if they had an old fixture that would work to replace the bright brass fixture in the living room. As I walked in off the street, I was looking up at the light fixtures hanging overhead and missed seeing an uneven little curb. I stumbled and fell into the store. I landed on my knees and as I was falling I grabbed onto something, where my finger became entangled in a handle. Maybe it was a refrigerator—there were a bunch of appliances sitting around there. Anyway, it was pretty much a blur, but I found myself on my hands and knees on the concrete. No one—NO ONE!—made a move to help me up, or even ask if I was OK. It was as if I were invisible. A man walked right past me out onto the street, very consciously looking past me as if I would think he didn't see me. I could tell I was not badly hurt, though I did wonder if my finger was broken, and my knees were throbbing with pain. It was an effort to get to my feet and I could have used a hand. I am still astounded that the several people who surely saw me fall chose to ignore me. I don't know what to make of it. I see people helping strangers all the time. Last year when Beth fell a very kind woman helped her up and offered to drive her home or to the emergency room. I have, myself, stopped to help someone who fell. So, I can't conclude that such compassion is dead, but yesterday I did not come home with a very high opinion of my fellow citizens. And the store did not have anything even remotely like what I need.

I don't think my finger is broken. It is not that painful. But it is still very swollen and I can't bend it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The object #26 Japanese porcelain vase

This was a wedding gift. Possibly one of the most awkwardly given gifts ever, but nevertheless, a cherished possession.

When Ray and I were married I was working in an upscale furniture store in Boise, Idaho. My boss, the owner of the store, told me I could select something from the store as his gift to us. He was also the guy who told me not to marry a school teacher (which Ray was at the time) because I would never have a nice house. He told me a price limit and said it could not be something utilitarian. He said he wanted me to choose something  that I found beautiful and would keep forever. What I really wanted, and we needed, was a lamp, but that was too useful to fit his parameters for this gift. 

So I chose this vase. We had recently gotten a pair of them in the store and I really was quite taken by this beautiful piece. And, I need to disclose, that in the back of my mind I thought it would be a beautiful lamp and had plans to take it to someone who could turn it into one for me. Obviously we never did that. We spent some money we got as a wedding gift on a lamp we found on our honeymoon. Instead this beautiful porcelain piece has traveled with us through apartments and houses for the past 40 years and I love it more now than I did in the beginning.

It is about 18" tall and sits on a wooden stand. The color continues to inspire me. It is the color of life. The pattern is lovely. The shape is elegant and strong. It is the essence of Japanese design. And it makes me think of all the beauty the Japanese have created over their long and rich history. Porcelains like these were being produced in Japan long before Columbus discovered America and they were treasures, carried to Europe, to grace the palaces of European royalty.

Yesterday, my blogging friend, Judy, commented that she wondered why more bloggers have not written about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I can only speak for myself, but I cannot add anything useful or enlightening or helpful in the face of tragedy on such a scale. To try would be pitifully insignificant. I suppose we are all struggling to take it in—absorbing the photos, the anecdotes of heroism, the continuing fears of nuclear fallout. We hasten to find small ways to help. We marvel and gulp at the dignity and civility of the Japanese people's response and pray that their vast technical knowledge and remarkable work ethic will somehow save the day. And we hope that the rest of the world can somehow help. But it is all too big for words. I am trying to have faith that a time will come when, once again, the mention of Japan will lead our thoughts to things beautiful and life-affirming, not death and devastation.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Just plugging away at things here...

Remember a couple weeks ago I was in shock over the estimate for replacing the bathroom counter top in our old house? When I wrote that, SuSaw left me a comment saying that she had painted a counter top using "granite" paint, followed by several coats of clear urethane. She thought it looked great and it had held up pretty well. Well, thank you SuSaw!

This is how the counter top now looks.


Pretty darned acceptable—right?

I sanded the old painted counter, then sprayed it with spray primer and then the paint, which is called "Stone Effects." The stone paint creates a texture that is fairly rough, but once it was good and dry I started adding layers of clear, satin urethane—3 in all, with a good long drying time between layers. This sort of fills in the texture a bit, though there is still a pleasantly nubbly feel to it. It cost me some time, some effort and about $15 worth of materials. The counter top guys wanted $1200 for the cheapest Corian, on sale. (Does that sound outrageous, or am I just not up with prices of things?!)

We are working away at getting the old house ready to try to sell again. We WILL sell it. We interviewed realtors and selected a woman who seems like she has a great affinity and feel for our kind of old 1914 house, which gives me some confidence. I never felt like the realtor we had before quite appreciated the charms of an old house. She wanted everything "updated". Bah. Anyway, I have a good feeling about this one. I hope she comes through for us.I was a bit hesitant to tell her how I had dealt with the counter in the bathroom, but when I did she got very excited. "That's fabulous! I need to write that down!" and she grabbed her notebook and started copying the info off the paint cans. See why I like this one?

We have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. Our new realtor has some good ideas for freshening things up. All good, but equals work for us. She really is a DIY woman after my own heart though. She said the light fixtures with bright brass are dated and cheesy for today's home buyer. I think I looked alarmed at another possible big expense, though I had to agree about the bright brass. Then she said, "take them down and spray paint them dull brass or bronze." Wow. There's a concept. I guess if I can spray paint formica, I can spray paint light fixture fittings.

Meanwhile here at home the daffodils are blooming.

And the spring green is coming out all over the place. Lots of inspiration for the 12 x 12 "chartreuse" challenge.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Considering Chartreuse

I woke up this morning needing to get into my workroom and find a piece of fabric I remembered last night as I was falling asleep. It is a piece of marbled fabric in a really earthy, acid-y chartreuse color and I bought it so many years ago I don't even remember where or when, but I have never cut into it. With chartreuse being the 12 x 12 theme color this time around it seemed like this might be the time. I decided to make a small piece today for experimenting. I may or may not do something similar for the 12 x 12 challenge. After all the careful work I have been doing for the big quilt I just finished, it felt great to just start pulling fabric, cutting and playing with the pieces until I liked them. Then, my favorite part—adding a lot of crazy stitching. I wonder if I was influenced by the enormous amount of rain that came down today. I wasn't thinking about it at the time, but now that I look at this I am seeing spring rain.

It was fun to start and finish a playful little piece today. It is approximately 6" x 12"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

TV Highway

Friday was a gorgeous sunny, blue-sky day, so when I went out to run errands I stuck my camera in the car. That was when I took the pictures I posted yesterday of the reclining Buddha. From that sublime view I headed toward the more ridiculous—TV Highway.

TV Highway has nothing to do with television. It is officially "The Tualatin Valley Highway"  but is always called by the shorter name. It amused me a few years ago when a huge multi-plex movie theater was built along the highway and they named it "Movies on TV."

TV Highway connects Beaverton and Hillsboro. Oregon and is one of those seemingly unregulated commercial strips that is block after block of old, tired strip malls, fast food outlets, Taco wagons, adult entertainment establishments, pawnshops, etc. I think most cities have something similar. On Friday I had the pleasure of following a garbage truck for several miles. What distinguishes TV Highway, for me, are unique "artistic" touches that can be viewed and enjoyed.

I like this guy who stands outside a cut-rate furniture store. Custom Sofas $399! He looks quite creepy, possibly drunk and is holding an imaginary tray. What says "buy furniture" better than that?

Maybe the giant rabbit at the boat shop. He has a really evil look. He has a leprechaun perched on one hand. I presume this is in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

Scary rabbit is HUGE. Look at the comparison to the van on the street. The flag does not come out of his head. It is on the roof of the building.

I get the sense that the rabbit has been there for a long time. As long as I remember, anyway.

This big dog has been protecting his stretch of TV Highway for a long time too.

The sign advertises a dog groomer. Ah, ha, ha, ha! Makes me laugh because the poor dog looks pretty badly UN-groomed, especially his unfortunate tail.

There is always something to see along TV Highway.  I also saw a man dressed like the Statue of Liberty in Converse High Tops, carrying a sign advertising a tax preparation business back and forth in front of a strip mall. As cars drove past he waggled his sign out toward the street and waved at us. I was tempted to stop and take his picture too, but I decided that would be rude.

As if rudeness was even a concept on the TV highway...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Object # 25 The Reclining Buddha

Several months ago I was driving near my home, through a residential neighborhood, when something large and very white caught my eye. It looked like a very large piece of sculpture and I had to circle the block just to get a better look at it. This was something I had either never noticed before or it was new to the neighborhood.  On my second, much slower drive around the block I could see that it was a statue of a reclining Buddha figure and the little house now had a sign out front identifying it in Vietnamese, I assume, since the only word I could read was "Vietnam." I have not been able to find out anything about what it is, but I assume it is a Buddhist center of some kind.

The statue is quite beautiful and I find myself driving, slowly past it nearly every time I am headed in that direction. It is so incongruous just off a busy street, but looks so peaceful in the shady garden, and there are always fresh flowers sitting nearby. Here is a beautiful black and white photo that shows more detail.

I wish I knew more about it. I did learn that representations of Buddha fall into several classic poses and this, the reclining Buddha, represents the final stage of enlightenment before achieving nirvana.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring cleaning

A busy week. I finished the big quilt and got my photos and entry sent off. It is what it is and I hope it gets into the show. This recent experience of making this piece has had me doing serious thinking about whether I really want to make work to fit a specific theme and a specific size, neither of which I would have chosen as something that inspired or excited me. The value is the chance to be in show that offers recognition and exposure, and really it is flattering to be asked! These are good people putting this all together. Hmmmmm. Thinking, pondering.

Coming to the end of that kind of project is always a good time to do some cleaning up. My workroom is a mess. My sewing machine was acting up a bit toward the end of this project too and in need of cleaning. I am pretty good about keeping my machine clear of lint and fuzz in the bobbin area. I take the bobbin and bobbin race out and am always amazed at how much lint accumulates in there. Though I carefully clean it out with a little brush, I always have this uneasy feeling that I am also pushing fuzz down into the unreachable parts of the machine. With older, mechanical machines, I felt comfortable really taking them apart from time to time and cleaning the gunk out. My current machine is electronic and I am a little more wary of getting inside it, but yesterday I decided to take the bottom off of it and see what had accumulated.

Well, yuck. This pile of crud was just sitting in the bottom. Then there was all the fuzzy junk still clinging to the mechanical parts.

I carefully pulled some pretty big wads of fluff out of there. The machine seems happier.

I wish I could unscrew a plate from the back of my own head and clean it out like I did the machine. It feels like I have the same kind of dust bunnies in there that were piling up in the sewing machine. I know. It's not the same stuff at all. In fact, it is fluid clogging my ears and fogging my brain. I had this two years ago and lost most of my hearing for several weeks. That's what has happened again and I am locked inside this fuzzy head and feel like I am trying to hear through water—or a blanket of lint.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The objects #24 Other peoples' rings

I don't own what you'd call "fine jewelry" which is fine with me. I prefer silver over gold and I like quirky, interesting jewelry. It would make me nervous to have something really valuable to be responsible for, even if I could afford it! My own wedding ring will no longer fit on my finger, so it is in my jewelry box and I am trying to decide what to do about that. But I have a small, but interesting, collection of "other peoples' rings" that I enjoy wearing. Here are four of them.

Starting on the left, the small gold band with the engraved design was among my mother-in-law's possessions. It was not the wedding band that she wore. Perhaps it was from her first marriage. Her first husband was killed in France in WWII. It is a very pretty little ring, quite old-fashioned. Perhaps it was her mother's ring. I like it because it was hers. She was a dear person.

The ring with all the little pearls and garnets (there are some teeny, tiny little diamonds in there too) was found in a parking lot when I was in college. It had been run over, possibly a few times and was pretty mishapen and missing a couple of pearls. It really didn't look like much. I stuck it in my pocket and didn't think much about it. Weeks later I found it in my pocket and when I examined it I realized it was probably an antique and precious to someone. I put a "found" ad in the newspaper, saying where I had found it, but no one ever responded. I took it to a jeweler who replaced the missing pearls and straightened it all out. He confirmed that it is quite old. The photo doesn't do it justice. It is very intricate and, I think, quite lovely. Since I have had it for more than 40 years I suppose it is truly mine, but I still think of it as someone else's ring.

On our 25th anniversary Ray and I went up to Vancouver, B.C. for a long weekend. We had never been there and were enchanted with the misty, watery landscape. One morning we were walking in Stanley Park, among the marvelous totem poles. It had rained overnight and everything was sparkling and clean and green. A beautiful morning. I looked down just in time to avoid stepping into a puddle on the pathway and there in the puddle was the plain gold band you see on my ring finger. I looked around. No one was in sight. I picked it up and slipped onto my finger where it fit perfectly. As we met people on the paths that morning I asked if anyone had lost a ring. No one had. I wondered if it had been flung into the mud in anger, but decided it was more likely that someone simply pulled it off removing a glove and didn't realize it was gone. I have worn it ever since and still feel a little guilty that I didn't do more to find its owner.

The last is a plain gold band set with five small diamonds. It was a gift to my mother from my father on their 50th anniversary. A diamond for every 10 years of marriage. My mother loved it and the romantic gesture by my Dad. I have worn it since she died. It makes me think of both of them.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The big quilt

Really, this quilt I am making for The Space Between invitational is not that big. 36" x 48"  But it is bigger than I usually work and that always takes a mental adjustment. I am really out of the habit of working large. So I have been struggling with it. I had ideas that didn't really work, so I have been changing things as I went along. I am nearly finished, and as is so often the case, I really don't know if it works or not. I have been looking at it much too much to have any objectivity left. That, I find, is another disadvantage to working large. I really get sick of the darn thing before it is finished.

Yesterday I was pushing through. I was finishing up the quilting, which would have left only the binding or other finishing to do. I could have been finished by the end of the day. But there was an area that has been bothering me nearly since the beginning. The baby's face. The two faces were the first things I made. I was trying a way of using small prints in varying values to create the faces, which was really tricky to begin with. I was not going for exact realism, but I wanted a sense of reality about them—not cartoon-ish or overly sweet. I knew the baby would be the hardest one. Easy to make a baby look like a doll or an alien or a little old man. Hard to make it look like a real baby. Here was the face, as I originally made it.

I liked the expression of the sleeping baby, but there were things I didn't like. First, the main pink fabric was thin and the dark fabric behind it showed through giving the baby a slightly dusky complexion. I had used a piece of more orange fabric along the hairline, which just didn't work at all and I felt the dark fabric I used for the hair and shadowed part of the face was too dark. I ended up doing really too much stitching on that face and added some painting. The combination made the face look dirty in some areas. I went back and forth and back and forth with this face. Up close I could really see all the flaws. When I stepped back a bit it looked OK. I decided to go with it and sewed it all down, but it kept nagging at me. I think the final problem was realizing that the baby's face was darker and less defined than the mother's. They did not "match." Finally yesterday afternoon I decided it would always bother me and I started over with the face. Here is the new face:

It is not perfect. In many ways I still like the first better. The pose seems more relaxed and natural, but I like the coloring better in the second and it is my final solution to the baby's face. I think in the context of the rest of the piece it works better.

I'm sure you can tell I have very mixed feelings about this piece. I felt the same way a year ago when I finished the piece for "Beneath the Surface" which was the same invitational. My piece "What's left Behind" was accepted for that show and I like it much better now than I did when I finished it! I just need to finish this one and not look at it for awhile.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The new 12 x 12 piece

This is my new Twelve by Twelve piece, using the colors of blue, brown and sage. It was great fun to make, since it is a remake of an earlier quilt in a newer style and whole new color scheme. Go to the Twelve by Twelve blog for the whole story and to see what everyone else came up with .

The bird is my favorite part of the whole thing.