Sunday, February 27, 2011

The deer and the snow and the hunchback baby

I feel like it has been ages since I blogged, but really, it has only been a few days. This week has been hectic and I have felt worn out by just trying to keep track of things—little chores that need doing, meetings to attend, people to call/email about this or that.. And the weather. Hard to make plans this week. The news was telling us there was a big storm coming. Big. Snow and ice and freezing temperatures. Big.

 Not so big. We got a little snow overnight and woke up to an inch or so Thursday morning. The schools closed, but it was gone by noon. The sun came out and then it did get cold. Below freezing is cold for us. Beth and I walked one cold morning, but not very far. It was too cold for us.

I need to replace the countertop in the main bathroom at the old house in order to get it ready to sell. You may remember that I painted the old formica counter several years ago. The paint held up quite well for quite awhile, but I don't think the renters were as careful as we were and the paint lifted around the sink. I got an estimate at Home Depot for replacing it and they sent the installers out to measure. I was pretty happy to be getting that taken care of. The installer/measurer person wrote it all up and the price quadrupled from the original HD estimate. I was seriously in shock. I think I need to reconsider and figure out a cheaper alternative. Bummer.

It has been that kind of week. Harried and hassled and frustrated. A couple days ago I posted on Facebook that the big quilt I was working on was shaping up to be a big stinky mess. I was discouraged, but pressed on. Yesterday morning I hung it up on the wall to step back and really assess it. The baby, who was supposed to look like he was wrapped in a blanket looked like a hunchback. I squinted and argued with myself trying to believe it was OK and really did just look like a fold in the blanket. I ended up taking it apart and recutting that part. It's better. I did actually start quilting part of it.

I'm still pinning and trying things here. The deadline is approaching. This one will be down to the wire I suspect, but I do think it will get done. (And yes, that quilting looks dreadful. I'll fix it.)

Friday afternoon the sun was shining and as I walked past the livingroom window I saw a deer right near the front steps. She seemed to be nibbling on some moss, which seemed harmless enough and I went to get the camera. It was then that I noticed her companion delicately nipping the little green sprouts off one of our bushes further out in the yard and I snapped. I flung open the door and shouted at the deer to "get the  ---- out of my yard!" and they scampered away. It's becoming a love/hate thing.

I've been crabby. Underlying all these petty frustrations has been the fact that I've been coughing my lungs out for weeks. Ray told me several times I probably ought to go to the doctor to which I would snap at him that I was "getting better, dammit." Yesterday I woke up feeling truly sick and finally did go see a doctor and came home with antibiotics and cough syrup and steroid nasal spray. I am thinking that I am finally going to start feeling better and when I do I won't feel so tired and bummed out.  I clearly need to:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The book

As I reported, the Twelve by Twelve book, due to be released on March 1, is out there! Each of the twelve of us got our author copies last week and others are now reporting that the copies that they pre-ordered have arrived. We have heard nothing but good reviews, and though I am certainly biased, I think it is a beautiful book and I am enjoying reading it from cover to cover. Each of the 144 12" by 12" quilts that we made is in the book, with a short paragraph by the maker talking about each one. In addition, each of us wrote a chapter about one of the themes and the piece we made for that theme. Each of us also wrote a section covering some aspect of the project—a technique, some history, or some other aspect of the two-year collaboration.

Here is some of my section of the book.

I now have some copies to sell. If you are interested in one, send me an email. They cost $22.95 including shipping. I am happy to sign your copy if you want. You can send a check or pay by Paypal.

Lark, our publisher, is featuring the book with twelve days of interviews with each of the twelve authors on their blog. Today was my day! You can read the interview here.

I plan to mention this book often on this blog. You will probably get pretty tired of it. Sorry. It's a big deal for me. The first book I have ever been a co-author of. Wish I could be cool and refer to it as "my most recent book." Heck, it's my ONLY BOOK!

PS - If you are local and want a book, I would love to meet you for coffee somewhere and hand it over in person.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The sun

It is so easy to take sunshine for granted, but I tell you, do not underestimate its power. Sunshine shining into my house this weekend has renewed my spirit and given me incentive to push on. Amazing stuff.

They say our weather is going to turn cold and possibly snowy later this week, but while it lasts I am consuming the sun.

I am working on a large quilt. Remember last year about this time I was finishing up a 36" x 48" piece for an invitational show called "Beneath the Surface." My piece was accepted and showed in several large shows and appeared in a magazine. It was a good deal. This year's theme is "The Space Between" which I find a really interesting theme. Open to a lot of different interpretations. My idea is to think about the space between parents and children, mothers especially. As babies, humans and their mothers are practically inseparable, then as they mature the space widens. It is the natural thing and a good thing, though sometimes difficult and painful and always, that 'space between' crackles with love, tension, guilt, heartbreak, pride and regret.

I have waited on this until the last minute. It is due soon. Not that I purposely procrastinated, there have just been a lot of things that have stood in the way of getting this done. Now I am pushing myself. I can't show much until later. I decided to start with faces. If I can't get them right, I won't have anything. Can these pieces come together into a complete work in time? I hope so.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where does the time go?

Today the STASH group met at my house. I was going to take pictures so I would have something to blog about, but I forgot until we were nearly finished with lunch. It is such a nice group and we have a good time together. There are usually 6 of us, so it is small and we are not a critique group or a very-serious-about-anything kind of group. I have those more serious groups in my life. STASH is really just a group of good friends who are all quilt/fiber artists. We show what we are working on. Today we talked about our plans to go to the Pacific West Quilt Show in Tacoma in August and planned a beach retreat in early May.

The hostess usually makes lunch. Sometimes we go out. We do love to eat! Half of the group are vegetarians, so when we cook it is vegetarian. Fine with me. I'm not a vegetarian, but love all kinds of food and certainly don't need meat with every meal. I experimented on my friends today. I made a dish called "sweet potato walnut quinoa." It seemed to be well-received. Tasted good to me. I was a little dubious as I dished it up. Looked kind of gloppy, if you know what I mean, but the flavors were really good. I also made a salad with greens, pears, almonds and blue cheese and a loaf of my no-knead bread. Fresh strawberries and dark chocolate crisps (from Trader Joe's) for a simple dessert.

I can't recall what Reva was explaining here. Looks like "then the two parts come together and..." About that time Gerrie looked up and noticed a deer laying in the grass in my backyard. By the time I got my camera she knew we had seen her and she was on her feet prepared to flee.

So pretty. Another deer joined her and they both ran off into the woods. I think the same two deer have been in the yard a lot lately. I saw them out front the other day. They drive us crazy in the summer, eating the roses and the garden, but I still love to see them. I don't know what they are finding to eat right now. Daffodils? Oh, I hope not. I am really looking forward to the daffodils.

I can hardly believe how time is flying. Wasn't it just Christmas? I seem never to be caught up and always working against deadline. I produce the newsletter for Columbia FiberArts guild and got that done and out yesterday. I have some small design jobs and a quilt I need to make soon for an invitational and a couple of volunteer chores that need to be attended to. I have a lot to do. But for the moment I am enjoying the quiet in my house. My friends left a couple of hours ago and I have cleaned up the kitchen and the dishwasher is running. I am snacking on the bowl of trail mix I put out with our coffee this morning and remembering the good conversation and the sounds of my friends' laughter. The sun is pouring through the windows and I keep hoping to see that the deer are back. All those things I need to do can wait until tomorrow. I am enjoying today.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This is really exciting

This is one of my author copies of the Twelve by Twelve book. It arrived yesterday, on Valentine's day. Perfect.  I opened the box and handed Ray my phone and asked him to take my picture to record the moment! Do I look like the cat that swallowed a canary? Or something else equally pleased? This has been a long time coming. You probably know that the book is a record of the first two year Twelve by Twelve challenge project. Being part of the international group of twelve has been a thoroughly joyous experience and then when we got the opportunity to write about the experience it was pretty incredible. The book was published by Lark Books, who were great to work with. The twelve authors are totally thrilled! I have to say I never dreamed I would be a part of something like this.

I love the book. Each of the 144 quilts we made is pictured and 12 are featured. Each of us wrote a portion of the book, sharing our thoughts and processes and insights into the project. I am really proud of what we created. I think it is beautiful, and I hope it will be interesting and inspiring to readers.

The books are available for sale through Amazon and Barnes and Noble right now. I imagine they will be carried in bookstores and quilt shops as well. I plan to get a supply to sell as well. If you would like to buy a copy from me, let me know. I will be happy to sign it if you like.

The official release date is March 1 and Lark Books is promoting the book on their blog for the twelve business days ahead of its release. Each day you can read an interview with one of the "Twelves." They are also having giveaways of the book, so you might get a chance for a free copy!

Click here to visit their blog. Today's interview is with Kristin LaFlamme.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Empty house

If you have been reading my blog for awhile you know the saga of the unsold house. We bought our current house, spent nearly a year remodeling, then couldn't sell our old house. We rented it out. This month our renters moved out and we are getting it ready to put back on the market. We need to sell it. Soon. Today we went over to see what needed to be done to get it ready to show. As it turned out, not too much. We need to clean some carpets, touch up some paint, do some yard work. Both bathroom countertops need attention. The downstairs bath will get a new countertop. The upstairs bath has a tiled counter with a problem. I worked on it and think I have a solution for that.

Our renters took good care of things. I am grateful.

My son came and helped us for awhile. He asked if I missed the house and said he misses it. Funny, because he never lived there. I don't miss it. I wandered through it today and wondered what I should feel. It is such a special house and I am so grateful that I got to live there for as long as I did but I am glad to be where I am now. I didn't feel sad about being there, just eager to make it look its best and let someone else love it as I have.

When we were looking for a house in Portland we looked at a lot. When we pulled up in front of this house I knew it was the one, before I even went inside. It isn't fancy and has some real inconveniences, but I always said it was the house I had been looking for for 20 years. It has character and warmth and a comfortably well-worn quality.

But I was happy to leave when it was clear that the time had come to move on. I am happy not to be carrying laundry from the basement to the second floor, and toting groceries up two flights of stairs, though I think the house kept me fit for all those years!

When we left today, Ray said, "Isn't this a great house?" I agreed. Then we came home to our comfy cottage in the woods and rested our weary bones.

The house is almost 100 years old. I think the thing about an old house like that is that you always know you are just one of many owners and, in a way, you are just passing through. There is a certain responsibility to keep it vital and pass it on. We're just trying to do that.

Making Valentines

Leigh asked about making my valentines. She thought perhaps I was sewing a bunch of them to send. No. I send valentines instead of Christmas cards, so I am sending something like 60 of them.  I used to make Christmas cards. Every year  I made a block print or little silk-screen print. It got to be too much, especially when I was working in retail and Christmas was crazy already. So I started making valentines instead and have continued. They used to be prints, like the Christmas cards, then I made a few using Illustrator to create a digital graphic. For the past several years I have made a fabric valentine that I photograph and print multiples of. I usually combine the little print with pretty paper. This year I have a dandy new tool that has streamlined my operation.

The green machine is a Xyron machine—a simple hand-crank device that will apply adhesive and a paper backing to a sheet of paper. You can see my sheets of hearts on the right. I run each one through the Xyron and it turns it into a big sticker. I cut a heart out, then peel the paper off the back and stick it to one of those little rectangles of goldy-green paper. That is then applied to a slightly larger piece of lime green card stock.

I added a bunch of little hearts to the sheets, just because there was wasted space between those large hearts. I can use them as stickers to seal the envelopes or for something else. The Xyron machine was a Christmas present and you can switch out the sticker adhesive cartridge for one that will laminate paper. It is made for scrapbook enthusiasts, but I think I will find a lot of uses for it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What I've been up to

Just puttering away at things.

I finished my yearly Valentine art. This year I made a heart in the shape of a heart—that is, no background.

I hung it in the window of my front door.

I need to have copies made and put my valentines together.

I finished the 12 by 12 piece and I used the second bowl and bird combination. You knew I would! For those of you who said you liked the first bird and the second bowl, I think you will see in a few days, when we reveal the final pieces, why I chose the second bird. It works much better. Really. Just wait and see.

Yesterday was a bad technology day. Early in the day I tried to upload a video to Dropbox. I wrote an article for an upcoming issue of In Stitches, which is Quilting Arts' online magazine. They wanted a little video to include in the article. (what a neat idea!)  I had my son-in-law come over and shoot the video. This is all new to me. First I discovered the file was way too big to email, so the assistant editor at In Stitches told me how to upload it to Dropbox. I followed the directions and it spun its wheels for about an hour, timed out and did not upload. I tried again. And again. Finally, I just burned the file to a CD, packaged it up and was ready to head out the door to see if I could overnight it to the magazine and—surprise!—the file had finally uploaded while I was fussing with the CD.

Jane Davila knows how I love typography and she sent me a message that I needed to check out a very cool iPhone app called TypeDrawing. When I tried to install it I got a message that my phone needed to be upgraded to the latest version, so I plugged it into the computer and iTunes and tried and tried to install the upgrade with no luck. I finally left it after a couple of hours and went to bed. This morning I tried it again and it worked like a charm. I don't understand. But I was glad I could finally install the app. It is very cool. It does this:
And this:

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Working on the blue/brown/sage piece

Usually I keep what I am doing for the next 12 x 12 challenge pretty much under wraps until the reveal. I'm not sure why we have done this. I think in the beginning we thought the blog would be a good place to talk about progress and what we were doing. This one seems to me that it might be somewhat interesting to talk about as I go and show my thought process.

I think I've mentioned that the color scheme doesn't do a lot for me, but, hey, that's why they call it a challenge!

I got to thinking maybe it would be interesting to redo an older piece of mine, using the new color scheme. That could be fun, right? I chose a little piece that was in the traveling show called "Fine Focus" several years ago.

So I went to work, starting with the bowl and the bird. It seemed a lot like this one, but somehow it didn't make me happy. This is beginning to be a pattern, I think! Remember the chokecherry piece? I made it first, using the techniques and way of working that I am accustomed to and it seemed tight and dead. Same with this piece. So then I made it again, using, I hoped, a freer, looser approach. Here are the two .
It is probably obvious that the one on the left was the first and the one on the right my second effort. These are just laying on that background fabric and are far from finished. This is just my start and I think that the stitching that will eventually happen will change whichever one I decide to use rather substantially. Already, though, I am feeling more life in the second one.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Look at how delicate these leaves are—ghosts of leaves, really. I picked them up on my way to the mailbox. It was a clear, cold, sunny day here today and whereas I usually hurry,often through the rain, out to get the mail,  I was taking my time today, enjoying the sunshine and checking to see if the daffodils have started to emerge yet. They have. Scattered over the path to the mailboxes were winter worn leaves, delicate and fragile as moth wings.

This morning, on our walk, we saw a bald eagle. Paula and Beth and I were marching resolutely rounding the far end of the trail that passes the back side of an apartment complex. We heard a man shouting from a balcony, "Ladies! Ladies! —  eagle!"  We stopped and watched, mouths hanging open, as the magnificent bird circled over our heads, close enough to see his eyes, then soared into the treetops. We stood there, dumbstruck, for several minutes, watching to see if he'd return. He didn't.

It seems to me that the older I get the more these small wonders of nature affect me. This entire day was made slightly miraculous by the sight of that eagle this morning. Those ghostly leaves scattered in my path felt like gifts. Finding money on the ground would not have been any better.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pyramid Scheme

Facebook has a way of taking over. It takes up a ridiculous amount of my time and I am beginning to see it as a kind of pyramid that can, and is, becoming much larger than I want or need. Here's the pyramid, as I see it.

As you can see, the further down the pyramid you go, the bigger it becomes. Currently I have almost 400 Facebook friends. Do I actually know all these people? Heck no! It started innocently enough. I just accepted all the requests for friends that I got, unless we had no mutual friends and I had no idea who they were. But they kept coming and I started feeling overwhelmed. Who are these people, and why do they want to be my friend? A few months ago, in a panic, I started ignoring friend requests, except from people I actually know. Those requests, I discovered, never go away. They just sit there waiting. I now have about 200 of those and they just keep coming. There is something wrong here. Are people in a contest to see who can have the most friends? I don't get it.

I love Facebook. Don't get me wrong. I really do. Look up there at the top of my pyramid. I keep up with my family far and near. I get to see baby pictures of the newest little great niece/nephew immediately. I hear about jobs and moves and marriages and car accidents and elderly in-laws in the hospital and all those things that truly strengthen the bonds within my extended family.

The next tier down are my friends around town—my art buddies and my old neighbors and my women friends and former coworkers. I keep up with their lives and make connections and hear any news they have to share about their families and what they are up to. Kind of the same with old friends who live far away. It is so nice to stay connected in an informal way.

The "old friends I lost and reconnected with via FB" is a very special tier. This is something that Facebook has made possible in a way that has never existed before. I wrote about this a month or so ago. It has been possibly the best gift that Facebook has given me.

Internet friends are people I may or may not have actually met in person, but through listservs and online projects we have developed relationships. Some I have "known" for nearly twenty years. Some I have been able to connect with in person, some I hope to actually meet someday. Somehow they have become people who are part of my circle and mean something to me.

The tiers below this become iffy and questionable. I get a request from Facebook: "Mary Jones would like to be your friend". I see that we have 46 mutual friends. Most of them are online friends. Once upon a time I thought, " if they are a friend of _______ then they must be OK and I'd accept the request. I stopped doing that when I realized that a lot of people just accept all requests. It seems if that goes on and on, pretty soon we are down into that bottom tier and one of these days we will all be Facebook friends with the whole world. Very woo-woo touchy-feely thought but totally unworkable.

The "people who want to sell me something" tier. Well, I never did fall for that one. Except some of them are sneaky and pretend to know you when they don't and there you are—Facebook friends. Until I can un-friend them, that is.

So, I decided I have to draw a line. And this is where it is drawn. This is where I refuse to go. I am un-friending anyone in these bottom tiers.

I guess I'm not going to win the "most Facebook Friends" prize.