Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Scenes from the super market—this is a true story

When I got to Albertson's I had to call Ray to make sure we had eggs at home for the spaghetti carbonara. I had forgotten to check. He confirmed that there was at least a half a carton in the frig.

So I didn't need eggs. But as I was picking up a carton of cream I saw a woman coming toward me with two children trailing behind, whining and protesting about wanting something that the mother had apparently vetoed. As I started toward her, with my cart, she turned her head and barked over her shoulder for the kids to "get out of the way". With her head turned toward the kids, she pushed her cart, head on, with considerable force, into the refrigerated egg case. Suddenly the kids went silent, their eyes got very big and the mother mouthed the words, " Oh Nooooooo" and covered her face with her hands. Wanting no part of this mess, I quickly whipped my cart around the other direction and made a beeline toward the pasta aisle. A little later I came back by the eggs and saw a jumble of crumpled cartons with raw egg mournfully dripping into a growing, slimy puddle on the floor. Egg City disaster area. Mom and kids were nowhere in sight.

I was glad I didn't need eggs.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Last week I stopped by my favorite quilt shop. I was the only customer, so I visited with the owner, who I know a little, as I browsed. Making small talk, I asked if she'd had a nice Christmas. "Well," she replied slowly, "did you know my Dad died this fall?" Then the words began to pour out about how hard Christmas had been. How hard her birthday had been. How hard it just was—is, day by day. Her eyes grew moist and her hands shook as she cut my fabric. Then she pulled herself together, squared her shoulders and apologized, unneccessarily. She said, "I just wonder if I will ever get over this sadness." I told her after 9 years I still feel that sadness over the loss of both my father and my mother, but a turning point comes when you remember them, first with good thoughts and happy memories and not just sadness. It happens. With time.

Tomorrow would have been my Dad's 85th birthday. I miss him very much.

Besides being my Dad he was one of the most interesting people I've known. He was a mechanical engineer and you could almost envisions little gears turning inside his head as he worked through a problem or a puzzle or invented a machine to do some mechanized task. He always had a mechanical pencil in his pocket and a gridded notepad on hand and he explained things in intricate little drawings, labeled with his neatly printed text. How I wish I had saved some of those drawings, but I took them for granted. We lived in Idaho and he designed machines for nearly all the potato processing companies. If you have ever eaten a french fry from a fast food restaurant or bought a bag of frozen potatos, it's a good bet they were probably produced by a machine my Dad designed.

Besides his work, he developed all kinds of creative interests—photography and wine-making for starters. The tale of the 20 bottles of wine that all exploded one night in the basement is a family classic. The log cabin he designed and built is still in use for great family get togethers. And every step of its construction was documented by his excellent photographs.

I ran across this picture the other day. At one point in Dad's life he became intrigued with Northwest Native American woodcarving and decided to give it a try. Like nearly everything he did, (with the possible exception of that one batch of wine!) this carved and painted whale is flawless.

And that was just the beginning. You should see the totem pole—really.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My Valentines

A couple weeks ago I showed you the small piece that I made to use on my Valentines this year. You can see it here. Here are the finished Valentines, ready to be put into envelopes along with our letter. Ray came home from the Post Office and said, "Look at the cool stamps that I got for the Valentines." They are cool. They are Gee's Bend quilts. The family picture on the letter was taken at Thanksgiving with the turkey. (and I don't mean Ray—or Andy—har, har!) I just realized I published a very similar picture a year ago.
The mailing list changes a little every year. Sad to say, people die, they move and don't send their new address, they cross us off their list or we just lose track. Seems like sometimes the person you worked with and ate lunch with every day drifts away after you or they leave the job and intentions to "get together" never materialize and then the Christmas cards stop and there isn't much point in sending a Valentine. There are some people, well one anyway, that I never hear from, but I keep sending the Valentines to. She's not good at communicating, but I still feel a connection.
Lots of people seem to dislike form letters with Christmas cards (or in our case, our Valentine) but I enjoy getting them from other people and I still send mine. I try not to be braggy or enumerate all our purchases of the past year, as some folks seem to do, as in "When Jr. was accepted to Harvard we were afraid we wouldn't be able to afford the new sailboat, but then Roger was promoted to V.P. of marketing and his bonus turned out to be exactly what the boat cost!" Blah, blah, blah. I try to stick to things that people might be interested in reading.
It also seems like every few years lately we have gone to a family reunion where either Ray or I have reconnected with a long lost cousin and they get added to the Valentine list. It is interesting to me that for years we lost track of cousins, or seldom saw them. As we get older we all enjoy getting together again. I remember how much my parents enjoyed reconnecting with their cousins in their later years. Someone once said that the older you get the more you value people who knew you when you were a child. That would be mostly siblings and cousins and it rings true for me.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What's going on at our house

Gray Sunday afternoon. Not much going on. I am puttering today. Procrastinating even.

We are going to spruce up our downstairs bathroom. Everytime we undertake one of these little home improvement projects I wish, afterward, that I had taken "before" pictures, because suddenly I realize that all evidence that it ever looked different is now gone forever. So I just went and took "before" pictures. This bathroom is, I believe, the only room left in our house that we have not changed since we moved here in 1993. Actually the "sprucing" has already begun, because Ray refinished the oak cabinets last week. I didn't get my "before" shots quite before, but that little bit didn't really change things a lot—just made the cabinets look new, not old and scuffed up.
This bathroom has always been way too sweet for my taste, but it wasn't crying out for change as desperately as some other areas of the house, so we have lived with it. It is pinky/peachy with a ditsy little print wallpaper on the bottom half of the walls. The countertop is, for my money, the worst color anyone ever invented—drab blue. Years ago someone, maybe my daughter, used a cleaner on it with bleach in it and bleached some spots. You can see bleached, drippy areas along the front edge in the photo. The brass faucet is, uh, interesting and the finish on it has crazed and discolored badly. Furthermore I think it is too big for the basin—water always splashes out onto the countertop. In the mirror you can see the reflection of a shower curtain I made with 9-patch blocks from a block exchange, in icky pastel colors. Sorry about the shot of the grungy looking towel and washcloth. They help to make the before pictures all the sadder looking, however, so I will keep them in. So there's the "before". We will be referring back to this when I have the new, improved loo to show off.

This looks a little like the lunar lander to me, but it is, in fact, an old GE electric can opener. Ray found it in his mother's stuff last summer and brought it home. It is an artifact of his childhood, but it wasn't nostalgia that motivated him. He figured there has to be somebody warped enough to be collecting things like this, so last week he finally put it on ebay to try to sell it. The auction ended today with no bidders, so he chucked it into the trash. Shortly after that he got an email from someone who was regretting his failure to bid on the can opener and hoping Ray would be relisting it on ebay. Ray went out and pulled it out of the trash. I'm hoping I don't have to look at it much longer, but I have to admit it amuses me. There is something creature-like about it with those wierd little legs. It really looks like it might start walking around anytime now.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Winter Bird

In a recent post on her wonderful blog, Layers of Meaning, Serena Fenton mentioned that a bird sitting on a branch seems to be the image of the moment and is getting to be a bit of a cliche. She's right, but I have loved bird images for a long time. Really, I'm not following a trend. (Really!) I may get sick of looking at them, too, but not yet. So I did another bird piece.

This was, of course, inspired by watching the birds in my yard during the past week's snows. This guy is an Oregon Junco, which are such sweet, feisty little birds. They seem to hang around all winter

This is another small piece—9" square. The white snowflakes are embroidered, which was an exceedingly tedious final step, and something I don't normally do. In fact I nearly gave up on it as the initial flakes looked odd and out of character. I just had to trust that it would all come together, and I think it did. That piece of background fabric, with tiny stars and dots was wondrous. It was a freebie, compliments of my friend June Underwood and her front porch fabric giveaway last summer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Inside, looking out

This is day 2 of Portland's big snowstorm, which by most standards is really a pretty small snowstorm, but here it is a big event. Gerrie is ready to pack up and head back to California (see yesterday's comments), but I am into it. I am "one" with the snow. It is very peaceful. Which is not to say that I couldn't get pretty tired of it eventually, but for now I am enjoying the beauty and the enforced relaxation and watching the birds at the feeders in the yard. Yesterday I did some design work for a future project and today I may even do some stitching. Ray is refinishing cabinets in the downstairs bathroom and I may lend a hand in there as well.

I am sorry for people who have to go out on the treacherous roads, but I am content to stay put for now. Yesterday the school district my daughter teaches in was the only one in the area that did not announce closures, so she had to drive to the school only to find out they had decided, in the meantime, to close, so she had to drive home again. She is home today. When I was growing up in Idaho snow was a way of life and we just drove through it and school went on as usual. It is rare enough here that the city isn't equipped to keep the streets clear. It is also the case that it usually isn't cold enough here to keep the snow from getting icy and really difficult to negotiate. So we hunker down and enjoy it if we can. We may not see this again for several years.
What is up with Blogrolling? For weeks it has been dead. Now today it says that every blog on my roll has a new post. Well, it's free. I guess you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is it just me?

Yesterday I saw this photo in an ad for a Janome Xpression needlefelting machine that was in a magazine. These kinds of machines are all the buzz on the Quiltart list these days, and lots of people got them as Christmas gifts. I have wondered what kinds of things you could do with them. If this is an example worthy of magazine ads I don't think I'm interested. To me this looks like a particularly colorful hunk of dryer lint hanging around this poor girl's neck. (Or something even less appealing, that I will exercise the good taste not to mention.)

While I love most things fiber-related, I don't love this. It falls into the category of "just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should".

Or maybe it's just me.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saturday morning

More experimentation with the camera.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Learning to use my camera

I mentioned that I got a new camera for Christmas. It has a lot more features than my old one and I have been trying to figure it out. I like indoor photos taken using available light, so I sat down today to see if I could determine how best to achieve some nice indoor photos.

I am really enjoying this blog, called 3191. It is a collaboration between two young women who live 3191 miles apart—one in Portland, Oregon, the other in Portland, Maine. Each morning each of them posts a photo. Most of the photos are interior shots of small scenes of their everyday lives. The photos, to me, are beautiful in their ordinariness, seen with an artist's eye. It is eery how many similarities show up in their independent photos. I aspire to those kind of photos. I am practicing.

If you look closely you will see that yesterday's house has found a home—at least for the time being.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I was so happy that Gerrie commented on my house project and said, "This is good. You are playing." It answered my own question—"Now why am I doing this?" It was play, absolutely.

Here are pictures of the finished house. You can probably see that the roof became a little distorted, but overall the pieces did fit together quite well.

Someone is sure to ask, "what is it FOR?" It is for nothing. It is for experience and for fun. It was my own little challenge. I have always maintained that problem-solving is the most creative approach to art. Give yourself a problem, then figure out how to solve it. It makes your brain work. It challenges your creativity and exercises it.
One of the problems with working in fabric is that we mostly tend to commit to a piece and then feel obligated to follow through with it. We have invested money in fabric and it seems such a shame to throw good fabric away. Unlike a painting, that can be painted over, it is harder to wipe out part of a fabric piece and redo it, so we just keep going. Then the investment in time and materials is such that we feel obligated to show it or sell it. I think it is important to be able to experiment and "play" and accept those pieces as learning pieces and not necessarily ready for prime time. I learned quite a lot from this little house that will be useful.
P.S. The little house is 10" tall and 8" side to side.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Awhile back I saw some photos of small fabric houses in a French quilting magazine. They were very charming and I haven't been able to stop thinking about them. I finally decided I had to give it a try and I have been working obsessively for the past two days on a house. I have these wild hairs every so often and get fixated on something and nothing will do until I work it out. And, of course, a simple little house would never do. I had to concoct something a little bit complicated.

I started with some old file folders and cut them up and taped them together to get a basic pattern. I was reminded, a little, of the scene in the movie about Frank Gehry where he and his assistant are cutting up paper to design a building. Except my building was not nearly as creative and complex as Gehry's.

My favorite part of any project is choosing the fabrics. I actually have quite a few fabrics that would work for buildings—texture, geometry. I was particularly pleased with the Japanese wave pattern that I chose for the roof and the woven plaid that is the perfect little windowpane pattern. Once those decisions were made, I started cutting fabrics and fusing them to stiff interfacing to give the structure some form.

Here are all the flat pieces finished. When I started assembling them I discovered that I had measured incorrectly and one row of windows was off on one side, so I had to unstitch and then pry them off and redo them. I used to wish I had become an architect. If I had mis-measured the placement of real windows on a real building that would have been a very expensive redo. Probably better that I do these things with relatively inexpensive materials. Also, as I am putting this thing together I am finding that it doesn't all fit quite as I had planned. I wonder if architects have that problem.
I'm getting a little tired of looking at it, but I will post pictures when I finish it. I don't think this is the first of a series of houses—just something I had to get out of my head!

Friday, January 05, 2007

First little piece of 2007

Don't forget the Kim Family Auction that will be going on until Sunday. So far it is going fabulously.
Kudos to Gerrie, Lisa and Stephanie!

I made this small piece (about 8" x 8") to use for my Valentines this year. I send Valentines and a letter every year instead of Christmas cards and for the past few years I have made small fabric pieces to use on my cards. No, I won't make a gazillion little quilts. I will print small photos of this one quilt and mount them on a card. You may recognize the little mandarin orange. It was one of the last ones left from the bag Emily gave me before Christmas.

We are going to be gone for the first two weeks in February, so I want to get my Valentines ready before I leave. Sometimes I search and search for an appropriate quote to use on my Valentine. Sometimes I use song lyrics. This year I think the single word "Love" on the pictured heart will suffice. It seems to cover everything I want to say this year.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I resolve . . .

that as soon as this Christmas candy is all gone I'm going to start eating healthy—or something—maybe—probably . . .

New Year's resolutions are easy to make and hard to keep, so I don't make them too often anymore. Four years ago Beth and I resolved to start walking at least 3 times a week. We usually walk 5 times a week and this week begins Year 5. I think it is the New Year's resolution I have kept the longest.

But January is a good time to nudge my good intentions. And maybe if I write them down here and make them public I will be more likely to follow through. So these are some changes I'd like to make in my life:

  • I want to stop worrying. Nothing big, just general fretting, obsessing over "what ifs" in the middle of the night, fussing—worrying. Not sure how that will happen, but I'm working on it. I don't know where this habit of worry came from—life, I guess, but I do know by now, that worrying changes nothing and is an incredible waste of energy.
  • Pay more attention to being healthy. Eat healthy. Continue to walk and even increase the amount of exercise I am getting. My first grandchild will be born in less than three months. I want to see her graduate from college and dance at her wedding.
  • Get more sleep. Which actually means, turn off the computer and go to bed at a decent hour. 11 pm seems reasonable. I have always been a night owl, but it just isn't working that well for me anymore. Incredibly, even though I may be dead on my feet, it is hard to break that late night habit.
  • Use the many sketchbooks I own more consistently. I know that drawing is a skill that requires constant practice and drawing is essential to the things I love doing.
  • Find a really comfortable pair of shoes. That's not so much a resolution as it is a life quest. I just bought my first, ever, pair of Birkenstocks. Maybe they will be the ones. (I've said that before.)

Now I guess I better get busy on that Christmas candy so that I can move on. Really, I'm down to the dregs—nuts and hard peppermints mostly, but the maple sugar Santa Claus is almost too pretty to eat. I'm saving him for last, but his days are numbered.

Gotta go—it's my (new) bedtime!