Thursday, January 29, 2009

One more little house project down

There is so much more we want to do with our house, but the sad facts are that we have no money with which to do it. "It" would be a major remodel of the back part of the house where bedrooms and bathroom are. So it is becoming clear to me that we may have to live "as is" for the forseeable future. So now I am thinking of inexpensive ways to make it all more comfortable and liveable until our ship comes in. My two allies in this endeavor (besides Ray, the all-around handy guy) are Miller Paint and IKEA.

Up until last week, this is what passed for linen storage, just outside the bathroom and bedroom doors. It really looked messy with sheets and towels and tablecloths hanging over the edges of the shelves and, of course, it is my unfavorite baby blue, as was all of that hallway area. Ray ripped out the shelves, which unfortunately were unsalvageable, I painted the walls and then we took a trip to IKEA where we found this great cupboard, ON SALE. Since there was space and the finishes matched, we also got the always useful BILLY shelf unit to sit next to it.

Isn't that just so much cleaner and neater and brighter looking? I am looking for some baskets or bins that will fit in the open shelves.

On the opposite wall I painted a darker taupe and decided to paint the closet door and trim the same color, despite painting the bedroom and bathroom doors the lighter color with white trim. It just seemed better to sort of paint that door "out".

That's my great-grandmother in the oval frame and one of my quilts on the door. I think more old family pictures will go in this area once I locate them.

I think it has improved the view, down the hall, from the livingroom significantly.

Small things make me happy these days. Good thing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Who do I look like?

I saw this on someone else's blog and decided to check it out. You enter your photo and by some algarithm the site chooses a bunch of celebrities with whom you share many facial features. Goofy, and, need I say very disconcerting, to learn that my closest match is Colin Powell?!

The thing is, I wasn't sure I was even going to use this on my blog, but to my chagrin, when I entered my blog address on the My Heritage site, it immediately published to my blog. I very quickly edited it to "draft" and it disappeared—or so I thought! I learned today that if you see my blog through Google Reader you see that original post.

But back to the look alike thing. Oddly enough, as I look at those pictures, the one that I think bears the closest resemblance is Sean Astin. When I was a teenager I was occasionally told that I looked like his mother, Patty Duke. And, should I be concerned that my two closest matches are both men? And those others—Meryl Streep?—I don't think so!

Anyway, now I am curious. If you read this on Google Reader, are you seeing this revised edition? And if so, do you still see the original post?

Friday, January 23, 2009

A little bit of sunshine

A couple of weeks ago we got an email from Michelle Obama, suggesting that all Americans participate in a national volunteer day in honor of Martin Luther King day. There were links to local organizations that need volunteers. Ray and I decided that we don't do enough of that kind of thing, so we selected a food pantry, not far from our house, and signed up to volunteer on Monday.

We found the Sunshine Pantry in a couple of small units on the back side of one of the buildings in a big office park complex. There were a lot of folks there, also responding to the Michelle Obama email. After signing in and sticking nametags on our chests, we met Sharon, the force behind the Sunshine Pantry. What an incredible story. Sharon started more than 25 years ago, with a Cub Scout troop project to put together food packages for 6 needy families at Christmas time. Seeing the need, she continued the project and expanded it and for many years the pantry resided in her garage in a residential neighborhood. (In fact, we discovered, just around the corner from my daughter Emily's house.) Just last year she was able to move to the warehouses in the office park. Here's Sharon.

She's a small woman with a big voice (and obviously big heart). She showed us around the aisles of donated refrigerators and freezers full of fresh and frozen food, including decorated birthday cakes for children. (She provides everything for a birthday party, including paper plates, napkins, candy, decorations, etc.—all donated) There are aisles filled with canned goods, cleaning products and health and hygiene items. In the second building there is backstock as well as clothing, toys and household items. There were people standing patiently in a line with totebags and laundry baskets, waiting their turn to "shop". At one point a van pulled up and we all helped unload cases of canned goods. We learned that it was a woman who enjoys filling her van once or twice a year and making a surprise delivery to the pantry. Sharon greeted her with a big hug and profuse thanks.

Sharon was thrilled, but unprepared for all the volunteers and for a few moments I wondered what on earth good we could be, but she quickly put us all to work. It seemed that she and her core volunteers had not been able to keep up with the donations of things other than food and there were boxes and bags of donated items piled in the back of the warehouse. We pulled everything out onto the strip of grass alongside the parking lot and began sorting donations into piles of like items. Within a few hours we were able to put everything back, but organized and relatively visible.

Sharon's good humor never wavered and I believe she got around to thank each volunteer personally—she thanked me twice. We promised her we'd be back. Remarkable woman.

Added: In the comments Miles said he did not get the email from Michelle Obama and asked for a link to the information. You can find it here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How cool was Aretha?!

I am still basking in the glow of yesterday's inauguration ceremonies and the wonderful celebration concert at the Lincoln Memorial the day before and realizing how important music is to my mood and attitude about things. I told Ray this morning that one of the things I have really enjoyed about the festivities was "more Stevie Wonder in my life than I've had for awhile." A little bit of a joke, but I woke up this morning humming "Overjoyed". Must mean something.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today, when I woke up, the early sun was streaming through the windows. A good day.

I hung our flag by the front door as the sun was rising up through the trees.

Then we settled in to watch the pomp, the ceremony and the festivities. Cayo and Sofia joined us and I took a picture for Sofia to show her grandchildren. The quality of the photography isn't great, but it records the moment.

Perhaps Barack Obama's legacy will be only that he was our first African American president, and that alone would be historic, but perhaps he truly will, with all our help, restore our country.

Tomorrow the work will begin, but today is glorious.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Green line piece

This is my piece for the High Fiber Diet show that we are doing in April. Each piece in this show will have a horizontal green line running through it. The name of the show is "Line Dance". The approximate size of this piece is 20" x 30". I used a bunch of the 2" squares that I was making a couple years ago from my bits and scraps and I think this is an idea I will continue to work with. I am really quite happy with the way they work together.

The group is putting together a CD of pieces for this show that we can send out to potential additional venues and galleries, so we are asking for good photos of each piece. I am a tightwad and never want to pay for professional photos. One of the members of our group has arranged with a photographer to shoot quilts for members who want his services. It will cost about $100 per quilt. Yikes.

There is always discussion on the Quiltart list about photographing quilts and some people are quite insistent that for entering shows and such one must have professional photos taken. I am in agreement that good photos are important, but I also think that there is a point of "good enough" that doesn't necessarily require a big monetary outlay. The way I see it, that is an expense that needs to be added to the sale price of a piece and I'm not sure that in most cases that makes financial sense. Professional photos are a must for print publication, but for work being viewed on a computer screen, I can't see the necessity.

I take my own photos. I usually shoot outdoors in natural light. A bright, overcast day works best in my opinion. I pin my quilt to a big board, covered with flannel that I set up outside, then use a tripod to get the clearest shot. I'm happy with what I got. The color is true. The quilting shows up nicely. I cleaned up the background in Photoshop. But all this talk about the necessity of professional photos makes me insecure. I'm interested in hearing other opinions.

By the way, this piece needs a name. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

At the end of the day

It is good to come to the end of a day with a head full of music and celebration and beautiful images.

We took the train downtown to see Slumdog Millionaire this afternoon, then we came home and watched the Obama celebration on HBO.

Beautiful, amazing movie. Like me, you've probably heard all the praise for this movie and maybe, like me, wondered what could be so great about a poor kid that somehow ends up on a TV game show. Sounded almost silly to me. I can't even begin to tell you what this movie is really about. You have to go see it and I promise you will see stunning photography and hear glorious music, but more you will experience a story cleverly and intricately constructed and tragic and joyful and beautiful. Don't wait to rent it. You want to see it on a big screen. I am totally in love with this movie. (And don't leave before the closing credits.)

Did you see the Obama celebration show? What a thrill it would have been to be in that huge crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, even as cold as it appeared to be.

Lots of great performances, lots of good feeling and patriotic pride. Just look at Pete Seeger in his jaunty cap. He's 89 years old and belting out "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land" which seems to have more meaning than ever. Inaugurations are always grand affairs and I am always moved by the ritual of the peaceful transition of power, but this one coming up feels like all that and joyous celebration. I'm planning to watch every second of it.

Where does the time go?

Haven't posted since Wednesday. Thursday the STASH group met at my house. We had a lot of catching up to do since our annual Christmas/Holiday girls' lunch out was cancelled due to snow. Then the Christmas party at my house was pretty much a no-show (Beth came) because of weather, then I was too sick to go to Reva's for New Years Day Hoppin' John. So I've been missing my friends.

I was finally able to give them the coasters I made and there were gifts from them as well. We have not made it a practice to exchange Christmas gifts in the past, but for some reason everyone was in a mood to share a little something this year.

Reva brought me some of their hoppin' john and cornbread, (not shown in the picture) since I missed the party. Delicious and essential to a prosperous and successful new year. Gerrie brought each of us one of the wonderful Obama stickers, designed by Shepard Fairey. This is something to keep for posterity, I think. Gale brought us pewter snowflakes with the word "Joy" on it. How appropriate. I have been thinking about paying attention and appreciating moments of joy. It has been on my mind. Linda's gifts were practical and hilarious at the same time! The first was the little purse size packet of emery boards, actually totally practical and not at all hilarious. The second is the package of a product called P-mate—hilarious, but at the same time, something I have often wished existed! We will all be interested in a report from whomever among us uses it first.

I made lunch for the group and the cooking gods were not especially helpful that day. I decided to make Ecuadorian potato soup (Locro de papas), which I had described to the group, but never made for them. It is a basic, delicious potato soup with onions. You serve it with chunks of avocado and fresh cheese in it and pass popcorn to sprinkle in as you eat it. (This is what it looks like, except I don't add any green onions) Easy. That morning I boiled the potatoes, cooked the onions and just before everyone was to arrive, I drained the potatoes and poured in several cups of half and half. I tasted it to see if it needed salt and discovered it tasted weird—sweet. What the!?? Then I noticed for the first time that I had purchased "French Vanilla" flavored half and half. Screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs, I quickly dumped it into a strainer and rinsed the sweet stuff off the potatoes and onions. Ray, expecting that I had cut off a finger at the very least, came running and as soon as he learned what the ruckus was about, headed off to the store to get plain half and half, before I could even ask.

Before the soup disaster I discovered that the plantains I had bought to make patacones, another Ecuadorian treat, were so green that they could not even be peeled, so I ditched that idea and served bread sticks instead. The soup was salvaged, but overall I was having a seriously bad cooking day. Sigh. No pictures were taken.

I had a finished quilt to show the group, which was a good thing. Tomorrow I'll post a picture of the green line piece that I finished.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I still haven't started my 12 x 12 piece for this challenge. The theme is "chairs" and it isn't that I don't have an idea, it is that I probably have too many and can't settle on anything. I just love chairs. Maybe that's a given. Maybe everyone loves chairs. After all, we all use them every day.

I was thinking back about all the times I have posted something about a chair on this blog. Like this one; or this one, probably my favorite chair story. I showed you this old chair, and this one, which I made look like this, and this one that I made look like this. Good friends, every one of those chairs.

Yesterday I walked around the house looking at chairs for inspiration. This one will not be the subject of my 12 x 12 piece, but this is a good, old chair too.

It is a classic. A workhorse. A homely chair for sure. I use this chair at my sewing machine and I like it because the height can be adjusted, the back can be adjusted for just the right spot and it rolls around. This chair was in my Dad's office for years and years and the orange Naugahyde upholstery is original and in perfect condition. This chair and I—we're a team.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday outing

We've been sick for weeks it seems. I still have the naggy, hang-y-on-y cough that is worst at night. It was nice to get out of the house on Sunday with a destination in mind. I went to see Gerrie's show at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

First, I have to tell you what a beautiful church this is. The exhibit is in this hall with the inlaid labyrinth in the floor and beautiful wood and windows all around. What a setting for a show. Gerrie's work is all inspired by the trip she and Steve took to the Holy Land last spring and it is a lovely exhibit.

This piece is one of my favorites, inspired by the Dead Sea.

This piece, representing the wall that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem, was another favorite. Very graphic and effective.

Gerrie was not feeling well (I think everyone in Portland is sick) but was a trooper. She has worked so hard getting this all together and I would say it paid off. That's Virginia O'Donnell with Gerrie in the picture. More of her work and that gorgeous window in the background.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Now is the Hour

It is a fascinating experience to read a novel, written by someone you once knew, set in the town in which you once lived at a time when you were there. Now is the Hour, by Tom Spanbauer is that book.

I loved reading this book. It is one that I wanted to never end. Perhaps it was because the setting was so familiar, but probably it was because it is a very good book.

I first met Tom on the first day of ninth grade at Hawthorne Junior High School, in Pocatello, Idaho. I had transferred from another school because my parents moved over the summer. Tom was entering public school for the first time, having gone to a private Catholic school for his first eight years. We were in the same English class. The teacher called on Tom and Tom popped up out of his seat to answer. Students snickered, the teacher sighed and said, "sit down, sit down" in a tired way and muttered something about nuns and Catholic schools and that's not the way we do it here. As a fellow newbie to the school, I felt an immediate bond and instant dislike for the teacher. Tom was quiet and smart and unfailingly polite. He had a sweet smile and my friends and I all agreed he was quite cute. That spring I invited him to be my date for a dance being held by the Job's Daughters group I belonged to. It was, as I remember, a fairly awkward evening, with long gaps in the conversation—we were both pretty shy in those days. But we enjoyed dancing and he was a good dancer. This first date did not lead to romance, but rather to a casual, superficial friendship that lasted through High School and into college. Then I lost track of him. Years went by and we moved to Portland in 1993. I saw in the paper that Tom Spanbauer would be reading from his new novel at a local bookstore, and learned that he lived in Portland. I went to the reading and afterward sought him out. He remembered me and mentioned that I had been his first date and he thought his mother still had the photo that was taken of us in our party clothes. He seemed as gentle and polite as he was in the ninth grade. Since then I have read all four of his novels and seen him from time to time at readings.

Reading his books has revealed to me how little I really ever knew Tom. If he had ambitions to be a writer I never knew about them. I couldn't have imagined how keenly he was observing the life of our community, nor how beautifully he would one day remember that place and time in his writing. While reading Now is the Hour I remembered things long forgotten, like the sweaty smell of cedar and the windrows of Lombardy poplar trees that defined the boundaries of the farms along the Portneuf River. Friday nights at the Red Steer Drive-In or the Snac-out. St. Joseph's, where the Girl Scout troop met, and the Memorial Building. Hot summer nights that smelled like sagebrush, St. Anthony's Hospital where my sister was born, now long gone. The book is fiction, but the place was real and every so often someone real walks through the pages. Someone I knew, or knew of. As I read the book, I seemed to see myself at its edges—perhaps I was somewhere in the Wys Way market, shopping with my Mom when Rigby John, the main character, came in with his mother. I could have been in one of the cars across the parking lot at the Red Steer, or at the Snac-out. When Rigby John was being beat up by Joe Scardino behind the Memorial Building I might have been at my friend Lea's just up the street.

I am proud of my old friend and happy that he has found success and, more importantly, I hope, satisfaction in his work. Besides being an author he is quite famous locally as a writing teacher. I can recommend all of his books. In the City of Shy Hunters and Now is the Hour are my favorites. If you require a warning about graphic sexuality, consider yourself duly warned, but I hope not dissuaded.

Tom Spanbauer

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hello Yellow

The Pantone company has announced that the color of the year is Mimosa. They describe it as "a warm, engaging yellow. In a time of economic uncertainty and political change, optimism is paramount and no other color expresses hope and reassurance more than yellow." I'll buy that, though it is hard to envision Martha Stewart embracing such a jazzy color.
I love this color and use it in my quilts a lot. That great orange-y yellow always adds a little punch. I think some folks call it "cheddar".

I am fascinated with the field of "color forecasting" which is how this color of the year business all comes about. There is a group of experts who meet regularly and analyze trends to predict what colors will be popular in given years and seasons. Fashion, car colors, furniture designers all rely on those predictions to create the newest colors for their products. It has to do with lots of factors, including the economy, youth trends, what's in the news and cultural events, but mostly observation of what people are buying and wearing. I have my own theory about color popularity, which is that we quickly grow tired of seeing the same colors and our eyes crave something quite opposite of what has been really big for a few years. I'm old enough to remember when olive green and harvest gold was the BIG color trend. It was also when I got married, so all my wedding gifts seemed to be a variation on this theme. We all got so tired of this combo that it was years and years before yellow greens, especially earthy, olive-y greens, were acceptable again. Now after years of forest green and teal and such, yellow greens seem fresh all over again. I think I'd be good at color forecasting. How do you get that job?

My granddaughter loves to say yellow. She pronounces it "lello" and I think she actually thinks that is what her crayons are called and doesn't really quite get the concept of color, but I am working at teaching her.

I used to have a lemony yellow shirt that I loved. I wore it until it was shaggy, when I finally reluctantly got rid of it. I've wanted to replace it ever since. Last week I was at the Eddie Bauer Outlet in Lincoln City and saw this great yellow knit shirt that was 70% off. I was standing at the display, holding the shirt and deep in thought—actually trying to do the math to figure out what 70% off $39.99 would be—when a wild-haired woman, also browsing gave me a firm shake of the head, looked intently into my eyes and said, "that color does not look good on you!" Well, gee. I nearly put it right back on the rack, then came to my senses and snatched it up before I could change my mind. I like it

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Thinking about a new year

Everybody on the QuiltArt list and on blogs I read have been talking about New Year's resolutions. Some people prefer to call them "goals" with the idea that calling it something different makes a resolution less intimidating. I don't know, it sounds about the same to me. I have gotten some good ideas from reading what others have written, others just make me tired, but here are some of my thoughts about changes I'd like to make.

1. Most of the good things that have happened to me in life have not resulted from having set it as a goal and worked toward it. Most have resulted from seizing an opportunity—usually something that was not previously on my radar and therefore was never a goal. Often the big changes that have occurred in my life were made around my husband's job. I know—not very enlightened or feminist of me, but it is what it is. But in nearly every case, that change has revealed to me an opportunity for me to do something interesting, creative, challenging. So I wonder if resolving to remain open to unexpected opportunities really qualifies as a resolution. I think it does.

2 Diane wrote a great blog entry about Joy. It really resonated with me. Everyone keeps talking about what hard times these are, and I, like many, find myself really caught up in worrying about the economy, obsessing over what the stock market is doing to my retirement savings, wishing for something better. That stuff is all real, but even more real is how great life is at so many levels and even watching the birds at the feeder out my window is an occasion for joy. Family and friends are great sources of joy for me, and this one, in particular, is my role model for how to live joyfully.

3. Rayna's list included this: "Ninety days Choose something that you would like to accomplish or change within the next 90 days. It's a more manageable length of time than a year and then you can do it again." That also made some sense to me. I find eating healthy and controlling my weight an ongoing struggle. Once again, I plan to tackle that perpetual problem and think maybe giving up all sugar and white flour for 90 days might be a way to get my habits back on track.

4. Relax. Everything doesn't have to be such a big deal.

5. Don't let other people's stress get to me. It's their problem, not mine. But it feels like my problem.

6. Go to bed earlier. That was a resolution last year. (No wait, that was two years ago. Time flies.) I did for awhile, but fell back into my night owl ways. Now I am reading that my lack of sleep is going to a) make me fat and b) kill me. Wow. I'll try again.

7. Use my Waterpik more consistently. I'm getting old, my teeth are really old. I'd like to hang onto them. But, jeez, that thing really makes me gag.

8. Art. Do more.

Eight seems like enough. If I could accomplish #2 and #4 it would be a successful year. If I can accomplish #7 my friendly hygienist, Brandy, will be happy.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Good Stuff in the Mail

Last week I got a copy of this Australian Quilting magazine in the mail from Brenda Smith, a fellow member of the 12 x 12 group.

Inside is an article about our 12 x 12 international challenge project. Illustrating the article is one of Brenda's quilts, a quilt by our other Australian member, Kirsty and my "chocolate" theme piece! What a nice surprise. I think this counts as my first piece published outside the U.S.

So nice of Brenda to send a copy!
Several weeks ago I got this box of goodies in the mail.

This is something really special. So special that for more than a year I could refer to it only as the "super secret project"! Way back in 2007 I was invited to contribute some work to a book being written by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston. I felt so flattered to be asked and then so excited about the book once I got my "instructions" that it has been hard to keep it a secret. But now we can talk about it because the book will be released this month. I can hardly wait to see it! The contents of the box include a couple of the pieces that I made, as well as "swap" pieces made for the book by other artists and two small pieces made by Jane and Elin as thank yous for participating. Once the book is actually out, I will show you more detail, but I can tell you I am in love with everything in that box!

Watch for this book! Published by C&T, due to be released January, 2009. You can preorder autographed copies from Jane or Elin.


And finally—this is more of a virtual mail thing—hop on over to the 12 x 12 blog and download a copy of a 2009 calendar with our latest challenge pieces on it. Brenda put the calendar together and we are offering it to our blog readers as a thank you for your support and wonderful comments. You can't imagine how thrilled we are to read those comments when our new challenges are revealed. It is so great that other people are enjoying our work, because we are having a great time making it!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Starting the new year on a wet note

Last night Ray said, "step outside here, with me and look at the creek." We took a flashlight and walked across the soggy lawn to the pathway down to the little bridge. After a day of record rainfall and melting snow, it was the highest we'd seen it, flowing over the top of the bridge and around the trees that are normally part of the bank.

By this morning it had subsided considerably, but the pattern of the snow shows where the water had been.

One of the things that attracted us to this house and property was the little creek running through and I went back to look at all the photos I have taken of the creek in a little more than a year. It is called Johnson Creek and eventually drains into the Tualatin River. It seems to originate not far from us, on Cooper Mountain. There is a nice trail that follows it below our property for awhile.

Last December it was nearly as high as it is today, but not moving as rapidly.

By May it was moving lazily through, with water skippers and frogs I could hear, but never did see.

June found it barely moving, clean and clear, reflecting the blue sky above.

In October the creek was dry.

By November we'd had a little rain that brought the creek back to life.

The snows of last month nearly obscured it altogether before they were done.

I am so drawn to the creek and love, especially, the view from the edge of our driveway, looking down toward the little bridge. The bridge reminds me of a much smaller version of the famous green bridge in Monet's garden. Monet painted that bridge so many times, in so many seasons. There is something so peaceful about watching water flow under a little bridge.