Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A week or so ago Rayna Gillman wrote a blog post with the same title as this one. There has been a lot of discussions of "derivative" work on some of the art quilt discussions groups we both belong to.Derivative is not considered a good thing, but the question is always whether one artist is purposely attempting to make her work look like someone else's, or it just naturally, innocently happens sometimes. Most of us are making work that is new to us. Work that we have worked through in our heads and has meaning to us. Sometimes there are startling coincidences where very similar work springs from completely different sources. Rayna showed a piece of hers and one of Karen Rips, made 3000 miles apart, totally independent from one another, that, nevertheless, exhibit very similar elements. The paranoid among us might scream "copy!" but most of us know that it is just coincidental and happens fairly often. Kind of interesting when it does.  Rayna suggested an exhibit of  "Synchronicity" artworks. That would be fun to see, I think.

So, just as I was thinking about these things and they were being discussed online, what should I see, but this piece my friend Gerrie Congdon made for her sketchbook project.

And what did it remind me of? Well, this piece that I made at least 6 years ago for the Journal quilt project.

Did Gerrie copy my work? Absolutely not! She may never have even seen my piece. I think I made it before she lived here. Gerrie's piece is called "Fissure". Mine is "Cracked Ice". I am sure we are not the only people who have found something lovely about the random lines created by cracking ice, dried mud, fractured earth. And we won't be the last. Normally the work we do could not be more different, but this once our observations and inclinations coincided. It's bound to happen. And, actually, kind of a reminder that we are all more alike than we are different.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Better photo

Last night I posted my finished "NW Vibes" piece. I was in a little bit of a hurry, took a quick photo and slapped it up. I was thinking about how much better the piece would look if the photo were better. I took another photo today, because I do like to have good photos of all my work. Here's the new photo:

You can click on it to see it larger.

Here's the photo I took last night:

It is a better representation of the color and it is nicely straightened and smoothed.. We are always told when we enter shows that bad photography can result in good quilts not being accepted. I think that's true.

I do not have a particularly fancy camera, but I take most of my photos for show entries. I have lights that I can use if I am photographing my work indoors, but my preference is to photograph them outdoors in natural light. I think the colors are truer. Today was my favorite kind of day for photographing outside. It was a cloudy day, but not dark. An overcast sky diffuses the light nicely. Direct sunlight washes the color out. Too cloudy and the photos turn out too dark. We have a lot of "white sky" days here in Portland. They are perfect.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


"When it rains I make my own sunshine"

Remember the mooshy rainy background I was working on for the High Fiber Diet "Northwest Vibes" show? I finished the piece today. Some pieces go together fairly uneventfully. This one did not. One of the requirements for this show was size. The outside measurement (all 4 sides added together) has to be at least 100". I knew that, and then I forgot that and made the background too small when I decided I wanted it to be a narrow horizontal. Fortunately I figured out a way to add to the width and it is not noticeable.

Then I made the forground elements, laid them on the background, and decided they too, were too small.

So I redid all of that. Doing that was actually good. It gave me an opportunity to rethink the color a bit and make it a little warmer and richer for more contrast to the rainy background. It also seemed like that white elipse that was the inside of the mug was where my eye kept going, so I changed that too. A relatively small change that, I think, made a big difference. I need to take a better photo to submit, I see. The photo is a little too dark and the sides of this piece are really straight. Really.

So, I still don't know for sure what the heck a "vibe" is, but if the Northwest has its own vibe I think rain must be part of it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thank you

Thanksgiving always makes me sentimental and nostalgic and I get a little mushy around the edges, so I was already in a mood. Then this afternoon I was working in my studio and turned on my little TV set to keep me company and Oprah was having a show about thanking people for kindnesses and making a difference in one's life. It was touching and she closed by saying, " call up someone who deserves your thanks and tell them thank you. It will make both your days." There are plenty of people I could call and thank, but for some reason the first person that came to mind was my high school art teacher, Lorna Obermayr.

Look how cute she was. This photo is from my 1963 HS yearbook. She had style—a bit Bohemian. I think her hair was in a bun in this photo, but it was usually in a single braid down her back and she wore hoop earrings and peasant blouses and sandals. Most of our teachers were far more prim than that in those Mad Men, Jackie Kennedy times. Mrs. OB, as we called her, was excited and passionate about art and I couldn't wait for her class each day. She was funny and intelligent and articulate and made us all feel like artists as she pointed out the best parts of our work in a way that made me feel like she was learning as much from us as we were from her.

Once she gave us a big assignment. A painting. I don't remember the instructions, but it was the culmination of several weeks of color study. Then she sat with each student to evaluate their work. When I sat down for my evaluation she looked at me earnestly and said, "You misunderstood the assignment and you have done this all wrong, BUT—I love what you did and that is why I didn't stop you. I wanted to see where you would go with this."  Then she told me everything she liked about the piece and why, and what I probably learned in doing it. Then she explained, again, what I was supposed to have done, gave me another week to do it and gave me extra credit for the incorrect piece. As I walked away, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, she said, "you are really a very good artist."

She left our High School before my senior year and took a job at the university where her husband was on the art faculty. She eventually became the chair of the art department. She was a gifted writer as well as artist and beloved teacher. She wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper—her observations about the university, the town, arts events, interesting people. She would have been a blogger in another time, I am certain. After I left Pocatello, my mother would clip her columns from the paper and send them to me. They were just the bit of hometown news that I craved. I heard that she and her husband divorced. A surprise to me.

This afternoon I googled her name to see if I could find her. I knew she had moved to Canada some years ago. Today I learned that she died last year. It seems she is sorely missed and her memory has been honored by an exhibit of her work and the purchase of one of her works by the British Columbia city where she made her home. In an online newspaper there was a recent article saying that her studio was for sale.

So how would I thank her if I could? Not for anything heroic or dramatic that she did—she didn't save my life, like some of the people on Oprah—but for being such an inspiring teacher. She did no more for me than she did for any other student, but she showed me, and helped me believe, that being an artist was not a silly or impractical desire. She treated her students as if we were artists. She gave us the great gift of taking us seriously. And she found something beautiful or joyful or funny to point out every day. Once I won a statewide contest to design a poster. There was a ceremony and dinner held in Northern Idaho at a resort and part of my reward was to attend, along with my art teacher, to receive my $100 prize. Mrs.OB and I flew on the governor's plane, attended the dinner and spent the night at the resort, then flew home again the next day. She acted as if we were old pals off on a crazy adventure and we giggled together at the pomp and the fancy clothes and speculated about meeting the governor and whether we should call him Mister Governor or just Governor, or maybe (snicker, snicker) your majesty! I think she had as much fun as I did and I was awfully glad to have her along. She charmed everyone we met.

I spent a year as an art teacher in a Junior High school. I thought about Mrs. Obermayr a lot. I wondered how she stayed so upbeat and where she found her ease in dealing with teenagers. She loved teaching as I never could. I was lucky to have good teachers and several exceptional teachers in my school experience. Mrs. OB was the best.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Around and about in Seattle, continued

When I left off, Becky was just getting off the ferry in Seattle. We made our way down the waterfront area to our favorite lunch. It is a place where you get smoked fish and chips. We don't know the name. It just opens up to the sidewalk and you take your lunch inside to a picnic table to eat. We have been going here for lunch for close to forty years now and it is still as good as ever. I've mentioned it here before. A trip to Seattle would not be complete without a stop. Here's my lunch and my sister's lunch and my sister. I like the smoked halibut. Becky prefers the smoked salmon.

Then we walked up the long flight of stairs from the waterfront up to the Seattle Art Museum. The Hammering Man sculpture out front has an arm that moves up and down. He hammers from morning til night.

Inside there were a series of white Chevys hanging from the ceiling, seemingly careening around with lights shooting out of them, an installation by Cai Guo-Qiang.

We headed directly for the Picasso exhibit. The SAM website describes it: " The exhibition presents iconic works from virtually every phase of Picasso’s legendary career, documenting the full range of his unceasing inventiveness and prodigious creative process. Drawn from the collection of the Musée National Picasso in Paris—the largest and most important repository of the artist’s work in the world—the exhibition features more than 150 extraordinary paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs." It is, in fact, Picasso's own collection of his own work. And it was grand!

Photos were not permitted within the exhibit, but I found these photos on the web, of some of my favorite pieces.

 Probably my very favorite was this one of the dancing couple.

 Do you find this amusing or morbid? I kind of loved it.

 What can I say about this bronze goat? He was life sized and totally fabulous.

There was something for everyone in this exhibit—etchings and photos and drawings and paintings. Classical style and blue period and cubism and harlequins and sculpture. We saw several groups of schoolchildren touring with docents from the museum. It was great to eavesdrop on their comments. Kids seem to totally "get" Picasso. They respond to his humor and drama and storytelling and don't worry much about style or what Picasso was thinking. That lady in the painting has three eyes?—"Cool!"

After walking all over Seattle and then through the museum we were exhausted. We bid Becky farewell and headed back to the hotel. After a "feets up" rest and a quick dinner we hit the street again and walked several blocks to Jazz Alley to hear the wonderful Taj Mahal Trio.

 Our table was right next to the stage and it was a great show. Took the picture with my phone. A near perfect day.

The next morning we took a walk up Pike Street before heading for the train home. I found an art supply store and bought a sketchbook and a couple pens. I was inspired by Picasso! On the train I doodled some Picasso-esque shapes and lines. The motion of the train transferred itself into the lines, giving them a quivery quality.

 I tried an extemporaneous face a la Picasso. It didn't turn out so great, but a little boy, about 4 came by and stopped to watch me draw. He was obviously bored with the train trip and keeping his Dad busy trying to entertain him. He would run through the cars, then come back to see me draw again for awhile.

 The section of the trip from Tacoma to Olympia runs right along the Puget Sound and is always beautiful. As the train passed under the Tacoma Narrows bridge, the sun was setting.

It was a great trip and perfect way to celebrate our anniversary.

The Sewing Machine store

Thanks to Helen, I now know that the store in Seattle with all the sewing machines in the windows is a British chain called All Saints & Co. Ltd. There are about 8 of them in the U.S. including Seattle. Like Helen, I wonder where they found all the old sewing machines. It seems to be their theme.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Around and about in Seattle

 I took this photo with my phone from the restaurant where we had dinner the first night I was there. The blue-ish lighted structure just right of the center is the Space Needle. Ray thought it would be fun to have dinner in the restaurant at the top and assigned me to find out if I could make reservations the next day while he was in his meetings.When I went online the next morning I found that we couldn't get a reservation for the Space Needle restaurant until much later than we would want to eat. Then I looked at the online menu and could see that dinner would be close to $200 for the two of us and decided it was just as well that there were no reservations left!

We were so lucky to have almost no rain the days we were in Seattle. I kept reading my Portland friends' Facebook posts about all the rain there. It provided me with a good opportunity to be out and walking. Ray was in meetings for the first day, but then, on Friday, we went out to see some Seattle and end up at the Seattle Art Museum for the Picasso exhibit in the afternoon.

The day before I had seen a clothing store with window displays of old sewing machines. Every window was lined with them—hundreds of them. I had tried to take some photos but the reflections on the windows were so bright that you couldn't see them. So we went back so I could try again.

Same problem. Then I noticed a wall full of machines inside the store and went in to see them.

And a better view of the window display from the inside.

Inside they also had big, old industrial machines used in displays.

Don't know why it seemed so important to get pictures of those machines, but they fascinated me and I loved the stark graphic appeal of the way they were displayed. The clothing in the shop must have been quite trendy. There were a lot of young, hip people shopping there, but it looked very drab and artificially distressed to me. Nevertheless, I was a big fan of their displays.

We were making our way toward the waterfront, but with plenty of time to spare. My sister, who lives on the other side of Puget Sound, was taking the ferry over to meet us for lunch and the museum. We made our way down through the Pike Street Market and took the stairways down from the market. I had never noticed before, or perhaps they are new, the clever lighting on stairways.

See those metal guys walking down the wall and across the railing, holding lights? They are all through that series of stairways.

Aren't they great?

As we arrived at the waterfront, we could see the ferry Becky was on coming toward its dock.

The Washington State Ferries are wonderful for connecting all the islands and peninsulas in the vast Puget Sound area. The trip from Bremerton, near where Becky lives, to Seattle takes about an hour. We have made the trip many times, but I always love it. On clear days you can see the Olympic mountains behind you and the Seattle skyline up ahead. On misty or foggy days, Blake Island and Bainbridge Island seem to glide, silently past you, then slowly the city unfolds out of the mist. We got to the ferry terminal just as the passengers were walking off. Right on time and there was Beck.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Today is our 40th wedding anniversary. Hard to believe it has been that long and yet when I look back at all we have shared and done together I can count up 40 years of many good things and experiences for sure.

I looked at the photos taken at our wedding and considered scanning one of them, but I have done that before. I decided, instead to use this faded snapshot, taken at my parents house after the wedding. We were hamming it up trying to look like an old-timey couple on their wedding day. Now we are an old timey couple and don't even have to try. I look at this picture, though, and remember that after the nervous-making formal part of the ceremony was over, we had a lot of fun celebrating with our families and friends. I think it is important to have fun at your own wedding. I go to some weddings these days and wonder if the couple is so stressed by all the many details and fanciness of the occasion that they are missing out on the fun the rest of us are having. Weddings have changed in 40 years. Ours was at the Methodist Church we went to and was followed by a reception in the church's Fireside Room. Cake, mints, nuts, punch and coffee were served. The cake was ordered from the super market and the Methodist ladies made and served the coffee and punch. We had little napkins printed with our names and the date. There was a guest book the guests signed. My sorority sisters encircled Ray and me and sang to us.

I made my dress and I had a Maid of Honor—my sister Becky and a Matron of Honor—my best friend, Kathleen, who also loaned me her veil. (Imagine—two of us wore the goofy thing!) They wore cranberry red dresses made from the same pattern as my dress. Most wedding gowns, back then, had long sleeves in winter and cap sleeves in the summer. No one wore strapless wedding gowns.

After we all cleared out of the church, the families and closest friends gathered at my parents' house for one of my Mom's incredible buffet dinners and bottles and bottles of my Dad's fabulous homemade wine. The house was crammed full of people we loved and who loved us. Ray and I sat in the family room and opened gifts amid hoots and applause and lots of laughing—"oh wonderful! Another fondue pot!—just what you needed!" We finally got ourselves together and drove off to our budget honeymoon in Salt Lake City, leaving our guests standing out in the street whistling and whooping and waving their wineglasses in the air. Honestly, we hated to miss the rest of the party.

Forty years later we remember that great day and how loved we felt. I know that the people who were with us that day are still with us—many in spirit only—and it has been an important part of our lives together. Friends. Family. That is really all there is of any great importance. Ray is my best friend and my family and has been those two things from the beginning. Happy Anniversary to us!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I am spending a few days in Seattle. Ray has been here for two days at a conference and I came up on the train yesterday. Today was the last day of Ray's meetings, so I went out and walked around downtown Seattle. We are staying just up the street from the famous Pike Street Public Market.

You can see that it was a gray day in Seattle, but it wasn't raining. I love Seattle so much. I have spent many happy times in this city. Many years ago we came to visit our friends, Kathleen and Gary here several times and I always think of good meals and shopping in the import stores near the waterfront and driving, with them, through the city at night and singing along with the radio. The space needle and near it the beautiful arches of the Pacific Science Center, and of course the market--these were here then and here now. So was the pig at the entrance to the market.

And there have always been street musicians--maybe this very guy was here all those years ago!

And Starbucks. This is where they started. Right here at the Pike Street Market. This used to be the only place you could get Starbucks coffee and it was special and a real treat. The store here at the market still uses the original logo with the bare-breasted, double-tailed mermaid. It was deemed too racy when the company hit it big and became a national chain. I think she's pretty charming.

And the market is most famous for the fish. They put on a big show for tourists of throwing the fish back and forth, but not today. It was business for real.

Something that wasn't here all those years ago was the spectacular new Seattle Public Library, just a few blocks from our hotel. I had driven past it, but never gone inside until today. It was designed by architect Rem Kuhlhaas and while the outside is interesting, the inside is awe-inspiring.

Here is a street view.  When you walk into the library this is what you see:

Beautiful. Glorious, really.

This is a view of the main floor taken from the second floor balcony. The patterns are a carpet with photographic images. When you are there, walking on the carpet it appears to be random, abstract. When you view it from above it resolves into grasses and leaves.

Near the entrance there is a compact little gift shop and next to it a coffee/snack bar. The lower left in this photo is an auditorium set into the main floor and descending down to the bottom floor. Light, space, utility and beauty. One more thing to love about Seattle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

One more studio

Actually the first studio that we visited on Saturday, but I have saved Steve Grice's studio for a post of its own.

When we pulled out the brochure and map for the Studio Tour on Saturday morning we were trying to decide which artists to visit, based on what looked the most interesting and knowing we probably wouldn't make it to all of them. Honestly, metal sculpture made from recycled metal was not high on my list, but we looked at the map, said "Gee, this is actually pretty close to our house and it could be good..." so that is where we started.

We headed up Cooper Mountain in the fog and mist and came to the Open Studio sign next to a graceful archway over a narrow dirt road that wound back into a motley collection of old farm buildings.

As we found the area marked "parking" I looked around and could see no signs of people. We got out of the car, tentatively, and suddenly a woman burst out of the back door of the house. "Oh, gosh! Nobody greeted you! Welcome! The artist is around here somewhere—I'm his wife." She hurried down the porch steps and guided us toward an ancient little outbuilding that serves as the gallery. Inside we found the work of Steve Grice.  Wonderful, whimsical metal sculptures of fish and birds and trees and full scenes of a wharf, with buildings and boats and water.I have seen a lot of this kind of rusty metal work, mostly at garden shows and craft festivals. Steve's work is really a cut above all that. He has an eye for pattern and line and humor and detail and the skill to create beautifully crafted works, made mostly from old oil tanks.

Steve Grice soon joined us and asked if we'd like to see his barn and workshop and we followed him through the mist to a huge barn filled with what he called his "antiques." There were old pinball machines and ancient hand crank washing machines and antique appliances and toys and farm equipment and furniture. "I like old stuff," he said in his quiet, understated way.

He showed us his studio, where he cuts and finishes the artwork and took us down into its basement to see his collections of tools and pieces and parts of whatever you can imagine. "I really like those old shower heads," he said, waving toward a wall displaying dozens of them.

Another small building held his collection of chains and pulleys and metal rods and straps.

I love how the corner of that porch is supported by a pile of rocks. That's the gallery.

As we wandered from building to building a big turkey and some chickens followed us and we passed emu and sheep and horses in fenced enclosures. The views in every direction were of misty vistas of tall trees and rolling fields. The cluster of old buildings houses a life filled with art and animals and children (8, he told us) and a lifetime of collecting. He seemed like a happy man. Our last stop was a tour through the old farmhouse and more of his art.

I was so glad we decided to visit. It was a little bit magical.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Open Studios in Washington County

A couple weeks ago I ran into Art Media, a local art supply store, to drop off my Audubon auction piece and picked up a brochure for the first Washington County Open Studios tour. Saturday was rainy and gray all day so it was a good day to find something fun to do and we decided to go visit some of the studios.

We visited a bunch of studios and it was interesting to see the work of artists out in our area. Washington County emcompasses a large area that includes part of the city of Portland, all of Beaverton, Hillsboro and a large rural farm area. I was interested to visit the Sequioa Studios and Gallery in Hillsboro.

There is a gallery and some small businesses on the main floor and upstairs are artists' studios. I discovered that one of the artists is Grace Henson, a woman I recognized as having known many years ago when we both lived in Ashland. She owned a wonderful shop in Ashland that I loved. She is now painting full time and her work is really whimsical and thought provoking. It was really great to visit with her.

When we visited painter, Jane Aukshunas' studio I learned that she used to be a fabric artist and belonged to High Fiber Diet before my time. We have a mutual friend whose daughter, it happened, was another of the artists. Connections. It is a small world.

Jane Aukshunas' studio. I entered a drawing for the painting on the table. She hasn't called to tell me I won.

Peg Weber's handmade books. I loved the way this one opened up with all the little overlapping pages.

Ana Quinn's studio had a courtyard right outside with her charming ceramic sculpture.

Also listed on the studio tour was Print Arts Northwest, which I had heard something about and I was hoping to find out more. I had picked up a brochure at another event and it said it was dedicated to printmaking and had exhibits and offers classes. The brochure for the open studios listed a street address with no other information, so we headed out with the gps guiding us. When the gps said, "you have reached your destination" we were near the entrance to the Portland Community College Rock Creek campus, but there were no clues as to where this Print Arts place might be. Ray found their web site on his phone and we learned that it is inside the Washington County Historical Museum, which is on the PCC campus. Once there we found a nice exhibit of prints and an elderly volunteer who knew nothing about the studio tour or even much about Print Arts Northwest. No one to answer questions or greet visitors. It seemed pretty odd, but we enjoyed the exhibit.

There was even a small display of printed fabrics, but no explanatory information.

I was a little annoyed that this place had advertised themselves as the sponsor of the event and were listed with the other open studios, but didn't seem to really participate. I'd still like to know more about them.

It was a fun day and we were tired, cold and wet by the end. There was one more studio we visited that, for me, was the best of all. I am saving that visit for a post of its own, tomorrow. If they do this next year I am thinking I'd like to participate as one of the artists.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

And inside the tureen...

Terry’s Beer Cheese Soup   
original recipe from the Coburg Inn, Eugene, Oregon, now gone

•     ¾ C butter (1 cube or less)
•     ½ C finely diced celery (I usually double this)
•     ½ C flour
•     2½ pints chicken stock (I like the Better Than Bouillon vegetable stock as well)
•     2 T parmesan cheese
•     6 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (recipe calls for processed, I use mild natural cheddar)
•     ½ C finely diced onions
(I usually double this)
•     ½ tsp. dry mustard
•     1 11oz. bottle of beer
•     salt and pepper to taste

Saute vegetables in butter until clear, but not browned. Blend in flour, dry mustard and chicken stock; cook 5 minutes. Blend in cheeses and beer. Let simmer 10 minutes, season and serve with French bread and salad.


I had several requests for the recipe, so here it is. I got the recipe nearly 40 years ago when I was practice teaching in Boise. I had never heard of the Coburg Inn. Then we moved to Oregon and discovered the historic Coburg Inn near Eugene. We used to have lunch there when we went to Eugene. It was wonderful, but it is no longer open, but I continue to make their soup.

I have made this with many kinds of beer. The flavor changes a bit depending on the beer. Thursday's version was made with a bottle of Fat Tire Ale. Also, the recipe calls for an 11 ounce bottle of beer. Around here beer comes in 12 oz bottles, so I generally just use the whole bottle and increase all the other ingredients just a little bit. You can, of course, make the recipe as written and drink the extra ounce of beer! I put the beer in and let it simmer the 10 minutes or so to cook out the alcohol, but I add the cheese at the end and serve as soon as the cheese is melted. I find that if it cooks very long after the cheese is added the cheese separates and gets stringy. That's probably why the original recipe calls for processed cheese, but—yuck!  I don't like processed cheese. I added no salt to the soup. Respecting the preferences of our three vegetarian members, I used Better than Bouillon vegetable stock, which seems pretty salty already. I have to say it is delicious, however—so much better than canned vegetable stock, which I think tastes awful.

I also have to tell you that I had soup left over from our lunch on Thursday, so I reheated it for Ray's and my dinner last night. Reheating does weird things to the cheese. It clumped up into chewy wads of cheese in the soup. Not terrible and definitely still edible, but not the texture you really want. So my advice is make it and eat it all!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The object #22 Soup Tureen

Yesterday I had STASH, our small art quilt group at my house. We meet in the morning and then either we go out somewhere to lunch or the hostess serves lunch. Yesterday I cooked and we had soup, salad and bread. I served my yummy beer cheese soup in my soup tureen. The tureen was a wedding gift from my aunt and uncle. Our anniversary is next week and I have been thinking about gifts we got for our wedding. It has been 40 years (I KNOW! 40? Really?) so these items are now 40 years old and, honestly, there aren't too many of those 40 year old wedding gifts that we still have and use. The only trace of the many sets of olive green and harvest gold towels that we got are a few rags out in the garage. The three fondue pots went to Goodwill long ago, though now that fondue is kind of back, I almost wish I had saved the nicest one. It was red enamel, with a wooden knob.  I still have my stoneware dishes and stainless flatware and a few other things, but most of the wedding gifts are used up—gone.

And then there is the soup tureen. The morning of the wedding my Uncle Bill came by the house with the big white box. I could tell he was kind of proud of what he had chosen for us and wanted us to open it right away. Out came the soup tureen and when I took the lid off there was a giant sized can of Campbell's tomato soup inside. "Hmmm," I thought. "A soup tureen." I kind of liked it. It wasn't on our gift registry. Something like that hadn't even occurred to me. Most of what we needed and wanted were basic, practical items. One could live quite comfortably without a soup tureen it seemed.

Now, 40 years later that soup tureen represents hundreds of meals I have served my family and friends. We love good, hearty soups and stews. It has held chile verde, and beef Stroganoff and clam chowder and and homemade noodles and minestrone and potato soup and even Campbell's tomato. Often we dish up our soup from the pot on the stove, but when things are a little special, I pull out the tureen and there is something I love about seeing it passed around the table and the feel of its extra generous ladle, dishing up something warm and delicious. When we were first married and began inviting our parents or friends over for meals, as poor as we truly were, I always felt I could make a meal feel like a party by using some of the nice dishes and serving pieces our families had given with such love. I silently thank my Uncle Bill every time I use the soup tureen and every time I shop for a gift for someone's wedding I think of the soup tureen and hope I can choose something that perfect.