Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I started wearing glasses when i was in the fifth grade. They were geeee-ky. They kind of looked like oddly arched brown eyebrows on the top, with clear plastic on the bottom that turned yellow in the way that plastic in the '50s turned yellow. But they sure improved my nearsightedness.

When I was 17 I got contact lenses. (cue the Hallelujah chorus) I loved my contact lenses for 42 years. Loved them. Loved them.

About 10 years ago, give or take, I found that to read I needed a little pair of those reading glasses in addition to my contact lenses. As the years went by I needed stronger and stronger reading glasses. Finally, by last year, it got to the point that I couldn't read the caller ID on my phone without the little reading glasses. I couldn't dial my cell phone without them. I couldn't read my watch without the friggin' reading glasses. In addition, the contacts were starting to bother me and feel scratchy and itchy and dry.

I went to see my eye doctor who commiserated. He told me about bifocal options for contact lenses, none of which he thought would work very well for me. He said, he himself was also facing the prospect of giving up his contact lenses for glasses and he said it was painful, because "we baby boomers really love our contact lenses." We nodded sadly at one another. When he looked in my eyes he said I really did need to give my eyes a break from contacts. They were suffering a little "erosion" from the lenses. (Erosion? eeek!)

I thought I would try those all clear, no frame glasses, but when I tried them on the effect was just too schoolmarmish. The technician said, "You need a little color, Hon." She was pushing a metallic blue pair with a rhinestone at each corner, but I wasn't feeling it. Finally I spotted this purply little pair and asked to try them on. "Oh, those are sassy!" she said. Sassy it was.

I'm resigned. I've had them for awhile now and I can see pretty well, even my watch and cell phone. The graduated lenses were hard to adjust to and I think the peripheral vision sucks and when I look in the mirror it is still a shock. Getting old is not cool. I probably need to replace my picture up there at the right hand corner of the blog. That's the old contact lens me. Here's the new glasses me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


So where are the quilts I've been working on? Ummmm--I haven't been in the sewing studio for awhile. I have spent the last two days making candy. We are going to Ecuador for Christmas and I decided, with a little urging from my daughter, to make American Christmas candy to take to my daughter and son-in-law and her Ecuadorean in-laws and friends. It isn't because I'm especially famous as a candy maker. In fact my mother used to make such divine candy that I never felt the need to develope that particular skill. Since Mom died, I have tried to do a little something at least at Christmas. This is a big project for me.

Cranberry/walnut candies--mmmmm, don't those sound good? I thought so. I've never made them before, but it sounded like a nice Oregon kind of candy treat to take to South America.

Here they are "jelling". When they are nice and firm they will be cut into squares and rolled in powdered sugar.

Next came rum balls. These are easy and I've made them before lots of times. Ray brought this bottle of rum back from St. Thomas last week. He's doing a consulting job there. He'll be surprised to see that I've been hitting the bottle pretty hard in his absence.

Rum balls on the right, cranberry candies cut and powdered on the left.

Next up were peanut butter balls, my sister-in-law, Brenda's yummy recipe. I've made these before too. Mine aren't as pretty as Brenda's, but they taste good. I can't quite get the hang of making beautiful dipped chocolates. Mine are a little lumpy looking.

Here are the chocolate peanut butter balls. The rum balls are safely nestled in that big tin on the left and those things in the back, well those are the cranberry candies. You know how you're not supposed to make candy when the weather is humid? This is Oregon, folks. This is November in Oregon. You don't have many choices. The cranberry candies don't seem to want to dry. They wept through the powdered sugar. They formed sticky puddles on the wax paper. I now have them suspended on racks trying to circulate a little air. I hope they dry out so I can try another dousing of powdered sugar. My mother used to make heavenly divinity. It's impossible to make that in Oregon. Fudge is iffy. I'm going to try some sugared walnuts next, but I might wait for a break in the weather.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Strangely mesmerizing

Need a break? Click here. (hint: you can affect the motion with your cursor)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The most famous quilt I never made

Like a lot of quilters/artists over the years I have made numerous attempts to turn my passion into a paying job. I was reading Melody's blog this morning, and then Gabrielle's blog. Both of them have been very successful in both showing and selling their work and leveraging their talents to create successful careers as teachers and speakers and quiltworld celebrities. Today both are talking about cutting back their teaching schedules and making the time to explore new directions in their art.

I have never been nearly as successful as either of them, but I have made the same discovery that the "business" of art/quilting is not the same as, and often conflicts with, the making of art. I've owned a quilt shop, I've designed patterns, I've taught, I've been a sales rep for a fabric company. I'm happy not to be doing any of those things at this point in my life.

During that period of desperately trying to make a little money to justify my total devotion to fabric and sewing and art, I designed a baby quilt to submit to Quiltmaker magazine. I'm sure you've all seen the ads for their ongoing quilt design "contests". I approached it in a very calculated way. I looked at a bunch of past issues of the magazine and I asked myself what the readers were looking for. My answers all added up to a quilt, the likes of which I had never made, but I was game for giving it a shot. My criteria were:
  • It had to be easy and fast to make
  • It had to be "cute" and have a cute name
  • It should include both piecing, but not too much piecing, and applique, but nice big easy-to-stitch applique shapes.
  • Bears or bunnies--everyone loves bears and bunnies

This may sound cynical. It was not, but it was business, not art. The nice thing about the Quiltmaker contest is that you didn't have to actually make the quilt, you just had to come up with the design. My design for "Peek-a-b00 Bears" was accepted and appeared in the May/June 1996 issue. I was paid $100.

To this day I have never made this quilt, but for years I saw a version at nearly every quilt show I attended. People sent me photos of their quilts made from the pattern. People told me how much they looooooved that pattern. A Google search this morning turned up several being sold on a web site (yikes--questionable color choices!) and one that won third prize in a Twin Falls, Idaho quilt show. (Of course none give me design credit--oh well) Several years ago Quiltmaker sent out an advertising mailer to probably every quilter in the US. The center spread of the mailer was Peek-a-boo Bears along with a miniscule picture of me with very big hair. It was on their web site for years. It has been a very popular pattern. Go figure.

I'm not complaining. Really. I'm happy that people like it. But it does nag at me that this pattern may be my quilting legacy. To date it is, by far, the most famous quilt I never made.

Postscript: Apparently some people thought I was saying I was embarrassed by or ashamed of having designed this baby quilt. Not so! I still get a little thrill seeing it in print and seeing that people just keep making this quilt. Caity's comment about having made the quilt blew me away! But I still think it is a little ironic that it may always be the quilt that I am best known for, when it doesn't really reflect the work that means the most to me.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Fine Focus '06

My little piece entitled "Rice Bowl and Bird" has been accepted for Fine Focus '06. I am happy. It is a piece I am really very fond of and the show is one that I have great respect for.

This is the only thing I have entered this year. Last year I entered a lot of shows and was only accepted into one. That gets discouraging, even though reading other blogs and the QuiltArt list lets me know that it happens to everyone. Still, I always feel this little internal crisis when the rejection letter arrives. "Why do I even tryyyyy?" goes my internal wail. Externally I say, "well, you win a few, you lose a few..." and smile bravely. My artist friends and I commiserate. My friend, June Underwood, refers to her Quilt National entry fees as "charitable donations"--except this year she got in to Quilt National. Wow. I was thrilled for her and it wasn't even bittersweet, because I didn't even enter. (And because I really like June and I really liked her QN piece and she deserved it.)

Last year my entries for APNQ didn't get in. I had gotten into the prior one, so that was a tough rejection. It was made worse when I went to the show and saw what I felt were very unworthy pieces that had been accepted. (In fairness I have to say that there were also some amazing, good pieces too) But, there were two literally identical quilts made in the same class, from kits, by two different people that were in that show. And there were quilts made from commercial patterns entered as "art quilts" in that show. Humpf. Will I enter again? Yes, probably. Hope springs eternal...

So, why do we put ourselves through this? Besides the emotional cost, and the time involved, it is expensive to have slides made, pay entry fees, etc. Probably we do it because it feels so damn good when you get into a really good show. And Fine Focus is a really good show. And my piece can currently be seen on their web site--scroll to the bottom of the page.

Yes, I am very happy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

And it's red! -- cranberry salad

My Thanksgiving menu changes a little from time to time, (I'm trying a new sweet potato recipe this year) but the one absolute constant is the cranberry salad. I know Jello salads are passe and I'm not really fond of most of them anyway, but in this recipe the Jello is just there to hold the fruit together. My mother always made this and I really love both the tart-sweet tang and the fact that it is so beautiful--it looks like sparkling jewels. It is so refreshing with all the heavy Thanksgiving dishes and is the perfect accompaniment to a turkey sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving. I always make it the day before Thanksgiving.

Mom used to grind up the fruit and nuts in a food grinder. I use the Cuisinart. Here's the recipe:

Cranberry Jello Salad
Dissolve 1 6-oz package of cranberry Jello in 2 Cups of boiling water.
Coarsely chop and add to the Jello:
-1 package, washed, fresh cranberries
-1 red delicious apple
-1 seedless orange, including the peel (honest--don't peel it!)
-1/2 Cup walnuts
Stir in 3/4 Cup sugar and chill overnight
I have made it with raspberry Jello when I couldn't find cranberry. It tastes the same. I have also made it with sugar free Jello and substituted Splenda for the sugar. I could not tell the difference.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is so much about family. It is the one day that I know my daughter really misses being at home. She lives in Ecuador and has not been home for Thanksgiving for many years. We miss her dearly on Thanksgiving. If all goes according to plan, she and her husband will be here for Thanksgiving next year. He is Ecuadorean and we will show him what an American Thanksgiving is all about.
We will have friends tomorrow and my son and any of his friends who have no place to go for dinner. We will take turns listing things that we are thankful for and we will remember other Thanksgivings and we will call family to wish them a wonderful day and we will eat too much, of course. I hope you all have a perfect day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Rarely Honest Mike's

Ray and I took a short road trip yesterday to celebrate our 35th anniversary. We drove out into the woods to Belknap Hot Springs to spend the night. On our way we stopped in Estacada, Oregon at the most amazing junk store ever. The truck parked out front acts as a sign to the highway traffic.

Mike has everything in large quantities and it is quite organized as far as having like things together. Need a rolling pin? Or salt and pepper shakers?

Here's Mike--or at least that's what the nametag says.

Ray found a cool set of ceramic Moroccan bongo drums. I added to my old scissor collection.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Guess what my favorite color is

I was just putting something away in my closet and noticed how much red is hanging there. I try to buy things that are other colors, but it just seems like it is the red item that calls to me. There is no doubt in my mind that red is the greatest color of all the colors. It's not that I don't like the other colors, but red is juicy and sweet and rich and passionate and seems like life itself. It has always been this way for me. Red was always the shortest crayon in my crayon box. My first car was red. My toothbrush is always the red one. I can't even imagine creating a piece of art that doesn't have red in it--and I'm trying to think if I ever have (aside from black and white drawings). Nope, I don't think I ever have.

P.S. Oops. Correction. I guess I have made art without red in it after all. Silly me. Of course I have. Sometimes I get carried away and I exaggerate--a little.

But, art with red in it is better...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Comments, questions and answers

I'm never sure of the etiquette of blog comments--do I e-mail the commenter or respond with my own comment or blog about the comments? Whether I am doing it right or not, you can be sure that I really appreciate the comments. I never knew I was such a piggie for validation, but when I open the blog and see that comments have been left I fairly squeal, "goodie, goodie, goodie."

So, now you know I just loved the comments about the Ecuadorean woman quilt. To answer Allison's question--right now the piece measures 24" by 40". I'm sure by the time it is quilted and trimmed it will be a couple inches smaller in each dimension. The woman is slightly smaller than life size. (Actually, as I think about it, most Ecuadoreans are smaller than my concept of lifesize, so maybe she's lifesize after all.) Mary, the folds in the shawl are painted and I am thrilled that you had to ask!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Making progress

Working on background colors in Photoshop was a good idea. Thanks to those of you who offered comments on the background. Like several of you, I liked the warmer color, but I also liked the texture. The texture fabric just seemed like such a dead color, so I painted it with transparent paint and got it to a nice orange-y brown, still showing the painted texture, but a bit less contrast-y. I like it. Also looking at the photos made me realize the blue in the weaving was just too light, so I replaced it with a darker blue, more like the real weaving. I extended the bottom, added arms and her dress. I think I am there. Now deciding how to quilt all this will be a challenge.

On another note...
I belong to a womens' organization called P.E.O. Its purpose is to raise money for scholarships for women, but it has its social and educational aspects as well. In my chapter of 39 women, four have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year and a half. Four! Three of the four are younger than I. I just heard yesterday about the most recent diagnosis. Keep a good thought for my friend, Pattie, who will have surgery next Wednesday, and make sure your mammogram is up to date. Take care of yourselves. OK?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I have been working on the background for the Otavalena woman. You may recognize the weaving.

My original plan was to put another weaving behind her on the right of the first one, so essentially the background was all patterned. After I got the first weaving mostly done, I decided more pattern would be too much. So I tried this fabric that I painted, which looks a bit like a stuccoed wall. It is not fused down--just trying it out.

At this point it is helpful to open the image in Photoshop and work on some ideas.

I added to the figure and knocked back the stucco fabric a bit. It could still be too much pattern in that background. Maybe a flatter piece.

I'm kind of liking this plainer background. I don't know. I think I'll have to sleep on it. Opinions?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Show's over

We have a maple tree just outside our 2nd floor bedroom window. We love the way it shades the house in the summer and we love the way it loses its leaves allowing the sun to warm the house in the winter. (On those rare occasions when the sun shines) But most of all we love watching the show every fall as it changes color. I took the picture above on September 23 just as the leaves were beginning to get some tinges of red along their edges.

A week later, September 30, there was noticeable color change.

By October 16 the tree was pretty glorious. For several weeks every October it's a little like having a huge colorful painting in the room. When I spruced up this room several years ago I chose the mottled green wallpaper, in part, to provide a nice backdrop for the yearly show. (It would be even better without the air-conditioner, wouldn't it?)

Today the leaves are gone completely from the tree, but now the view includes the sky and the hills across the way. (Downtown Portland is just on the other side of those hills) The leaves, now a wet, but still lovely, mat underfoot, are waiting to be raked up and hauled away.

I don't think I'd ever like to live in a place where the seasons don't change, appealing as a warmer climate might be. I'd miss the drama.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Isn't the Internet Amazing?

I take it for granted, but sometimes I am reminded again what an amazing resource the internet is. When I started writing this blog in September I posted some examples of my graphic design work. Katherine Nicholson, who lives in New York state, saw the logo examples and e-mailed me. She was interested in a logo for her quilt-related web site. I e-mailed her my prices and a questionaire about what she needed and we were off and running. Entirely by e-mail, I sent her ideas and choices, she responded with likes and dislikes. We auditioned different typefaces and background colors, tweaked a little here, tried different borders on the circle, changed some colors and in pretty short order came up with the image you see below.

If you click on the logo it will take you to Katherine's web site. She wanted the look and feel of the green valleys of Vermont. I think she especially liked the tree. It was fun working with her and I feel like I have both a client and a new friend, but we've never met and likely never will. We live about as far apart as we possibly could and still live in the same country.

Isn't the internet amazing?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Baby quilt finished

Here are some shots of the baby quilt in progress and the finished product. I really powered through this project. I was afraid of not getting it finished in time for the baby shower on Saturday so put the pedal to the metal.

I quilted around the little squares in the 9-patches--worked so long that my "pedal" leg got achy and twitchy. Thank goodness for TV--machine quilting is boring. Notice my little scissors. I really love these little scissors for clipping threads. They are fly-tying scissors called "Dr. Slicks". They have finely serrated edges that really grab little threads and a slightly curved blade making it less likely that you will nip into your quilt while trimming little threads. They are an excellent tool. (and quite pretty) They are made for men's hands, I think, and have nice big round loops for your fingers. I bought them in a fishing store.

Here I am sewing on the binding by machine. It is much faster than by hand and I think it is stronger for utility-type quilts. I use a narrow, long-ish zigzag and it hardly shows. Notice how artfully I have cropped these pictures so you can't see the surrounding mess that is my sewing space.

And here is the finished quilt. I have flipped back the corner so you can see the backing. You can't tell, but it has little, bitty Dutch boys and girls with bunnies and birds. Very '30s, and I think the baby will, at some point, probably like those little figures. One of the yellow fabrics on the top has equally bitty dogs chasing balls--little hidden surprises. That's for the baby. For the Mom I tried to coordinate the colors with the Pottery Barn linens and accessories she chose--I hope she didn't buy the Pottery Barn quilt.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Simple Still Life

Some of the bloggers I read are participating in an exercise called "Simple Still Life". I have been intrigued, especially with the latest challenge, which is to start with a photo of 5 of something. Then the idea is to manipulate the photo in Photoshop or create something in some other way. I haven't officially "joined" this challenge, but thought I would play with the idea. I started with 5 leaves picked up in my yard. I actually just laid them on the scanner and scanned, rather than taking a photo. I liked the shape of these leaves--simple. I liked the green color (though I ended up changing it) and the black marking on them.

So then I started fooling around in Photoshop and came up with some changes.

The first one turned out very quilt-like, I think. This looks like something I might do in fabric. I cropped the next ones to make them horizontal. I make almost nothing with a horizontal orientation. I don't know why.

This is kind of fun. It has given me some ideas for fabric pieces I'd like to try.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sir Paul

"Who knows how long I've loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to, I will
And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
Oh, you know I will
I will"
He wrote the soundtrack of my life and I have waited since the age of 17 to see him sing and play those songs that have come to mean so much. It was good to wait, because now those songs mean even more--all the good times and bad, all the friends here and gone, all those years are wrapped up in the music.
"And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on 'til tomorrow, let it be"
John was the edgy, intellectual Beatle. George was the spiritual Beatle. Ringo was....uh, the drummer. Paul was the romantic, the optimist, the life-with-all-it's-pain-and-sorrow-is-worth-living Beatle. The immensely talented Beatle. He is still all those things. My head is filled with music and I still can hardly believe that I just saw Paul McCartney. I actually HEARD him sing Yesterday and Blackbird and Hey, Jude and, and, and . . . I am hopelessly starstruck.
"And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
You make"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


But not perfect. It is functional again and the birds probably won't mind that the top doesn't quite match the base.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Baby quilt

I went to a quilt store and bought fabric and a package of batting today for the first time in a very long time. Wow. Quilting cottons have gotten expensive. Wow.

I don't really make bed quilts, but for very special people I do make baby quilts. One of my oldest friends (we met in 4th grade--my family is sick of the story, but it is really kind of sweet*) is going to be a grandmother for the first time. Her daughter is expecting a little boy, so I am going to make a quilt for him.

I have my own rules for baby quilts.

1. Traditional pattern and not too complicated. I am partial to 9-patches, though have been known to make pinwheels.

2. All regular cotton broadcloth. Flannel always seems like it would be nice on the back, but really, flannel tends to get pilly and look kind of worn out after a few washings. Broadcloth just gets softer.

3. While I shun pastels in all other areas of life, I still go for the softer colors for babies. Not a fan of the wild and crazy baby quilt. Who wants to be distracted by the rainbow-colored frogs and dogs when you are looking at that sweet baby? No batiks or hand-dyes either.

4. Tough and durable. Machine quilting, flame retardant batting, good sturdy binding. Washable. Very washable. I want the kid dragging that thing around. I do NOT want to see my baby quilt hanging on the wall over the changing table. Baby quilts are not art.

So, I only have a couple of weeks before the shower to get this thing done. I'd better get busy.

* Oh yes, and how I met my friend. To make it short, we were rivals for the attention of one Michael John Langely. Harsh words were spoken and a nasty poem written. Our teachers punished us by making us eat lunch together for a week. We've been the best of friends ever since--more than 50 years. We have no idea what ever happened to young Master Langley.