Sunday, April 29, 2007

I've been framed

Well, I've taken possession of the Hinterberg Stretch Frame, and I woke up ready to try to get it all together.

But, probably like most other home frame system users, I realized that there's a fair amount of preparation to do before I can get it all going. So, despite my excitement and eagerness to see the thing actually standing assembled, I decided to be patient and do it right.

The frame came with 10' poles all prepared with "leaders," or the fabric pieces to which you pin your quilt top and back so you can roll them around the poles as your quilting progresses. And that's great, in case I ever want to quilt a really huge quilt.

But it's amazing how big 10 foot poles look when they're lying on the floor in the dining room. They're -- well, you know, TEN FEET LONG. That's like two people tall, depending on the people! So, I decided that it'd make way more sense for me to buy a set of shorter poles (and I've settled on 7 feet) which will still be big enough to quilt most things, but three feet smaller will mean I can set it up in the bedroom without it taking up the whole width of the room. (Roger's incredibly tolerant, but I don't think he'll want to crawl under the frame to get to the bed every night.)

But you know, now when I hear that expression "I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole" I'll actually know what that is. And I'll have the poles not to touch things with.

I've found two incredibly instructive yahoo groups (one for Hinterberg products and one for home quilting machine systems in general) and I'm sorta overwhelmed by the vast information. Probably just as well it'll take a bit of time to get everything I need to get the frame up.

And gee, maybe I can finish a few of the kid quilt tops I have going for donation to my favorite shelter, and work on those when the frame is up...

Friday, April 27, 2007

More fun ahead

Well, I am very excited about tomorrow.

It started last week when I had an orthodontic appointment. (Yep, more braces adjustments and a new PINK rubber band chain to yank my teeth around even more.) But I got talking with my favorite orthodontic assistant Shelley, a single mom with 2 kids. And she announced with a big smile that she has re-entered the dating pool by placing a personal's ad on Craig's List.
(The whole conversation reminded me of how glad I am to be married to an all around nice and easy-going guy, and how really really glad I am not to be worrying about dating. Remember how much energy that took?!)
Anyway. I got laughing pretty hard at some of her date stories, but she is now dating a guy she likes a lot and things are looking good for her, which is rather nice.

But that, I guess, planted Craig's List in the back of my brain. I never go there. I think I've looked at the site twice in my whole life. But, for some inexplicable (and fateful!) reason, last Sunday I was at my computer and popped over to Craig's List. And, don't ask me why, I searched "quilting." (Well, what else would I search? Did you think I was going to say I searched the personals and I have a date tomorrow?!)

And there it was: an ad for a Hinterberg Stretch machine quilting frame, for sale for a really, really bargainous price by a quilter who was moving and was going to upgrade to a big old professional machine when she relocated.

I have this thing about long arm machines. I want one. I don't want to quilt professionally, and really, we don't have the space (not to mention the huge hunk of money those big ones cost). But still, it looks like so much fun! I always try them out at quilt shows. A friend in town who has one gave me lessons on hers and lets me rent time, but I'm sort of self-conscious about working on her machine, in her garage, and I feel compelled to rush so I don't leave something on there overnight. So I've not used it much.

I took to lurking on a great yahoo group about home quilting machines hosted by my friend Angie, to learn about the various smaller machine systems that are becoming available now. And, a while ago, I decided on what I'd get if I could get one. You know, just in case.

My system of choice? The Hinterberg stretch machine quilting frame with Hinterberg's Voyager 17 machine. Just hypothetically speaking, you understand.

You see why that ad for the Hinterberg frame leapt right out at me. AND such a bargain! I called Roger to the computer, we looked at the Hinterberg frame info, we looked at the ad, and he said "Go for it!" (See? Just what one wants in a husband...)

I called Angie, to pick her brain about questions to ask, then called the seller...and 30 minutes later we had a deal.

So, tomorrow I'm going to pick THIS up:

The beauty of this frame is that it is take-downable. It doesn't have to be up all the time. So I can put it up to do a few quilts and then take it down for storage in the garage. (The manufacturer claims it can go under the bed...but they haven't seen how much fabric I have under there.)

It doesn't come with the machine, of course. I'll use my zippy Juki TL98e on it, which won't be as ideal as a bigger machine, but which will work wonderfully I'm told.

And now I'm gonna have to pop into Craig's List more often to look for a bargainous Voyager 17.
Ooh, I can hardly wait!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Calling all Artful Quilters

I am finally getting around to some maintenance work on the Artful Quilters Blog ring. I'm astonished to find that the ring has almost 250 active members! And because we have a lot of new blogs on the ring, I'm proposing a challenge for you:

Every day this week, take a minute to use the "random" button on your AQ blog ring box to go explore a new Artful Quilters blog. (If you're bounced to a blog you already read regularly, bounce again to find one you don't typically read.) Leave a comment to let the blogger know she's had new company. I bet you'll discover some fun new work and interesting people!

One thing I do from time to time (which gets longer, as the ring gets bigger) is work my way around the ring to make sure that the ring is working right. It's kind of amazing how mixed up things can get, really. But as you poke around, do email me if you find a ring blog that is missing its code, doesn't bounce "next" to the right place, or hasn't been updated for over a month. With all these blogs on the ring, it's helpful when I'm pointed to blogs that need a bit of tweaking. can check your own blog to make sure it's working right. Go to the ring list (either from the "list" button on the blog ring box or from ringsurf's page) and see what blogs are directly before and after YOUR blog on the list. Now, return to your blog, hit the "next" and "previous" buttons on your ring code, and make sure you go to the right blogs. If not, let me know and I can help you fix it. It's always an easy fix, actually.

Okay. Go, read blogs and explore!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Yummy Food Ahead (or in my case, behind)

I don't know how y'all do it...take pictures of stuff while you're cooking, and before you eat your gorgeous creations... I guess keeping the camera in the kitchen would be a start. But I get distracted enough while cooking as it is ("Mommy! Come see my drawing!") and by the time the food is ready, I'm ready to eat!

So. Last night my mom and dad and sister came to dinner, so I made one of my favorite dinners: a fast and easy Shrimp Creole recipe from the Desperation Dinners cookbook.

By the way, it's ironic that when I was a single, full-time working trial lawyer, I read Bon Appetit from cover to cover every month, cooked gourmet dinners and tried all sorts of complicated things. I just knew that when I had a family, I'd be cooking wonderful food all the time. And now, I work from home, I have a husband and daughter to cook for...and I'm cooking meals from Desperation Dinners and Rachel Ray's 30 minute meal repertoire. Sigh.

Anyway. Here's the yummy shrimp...and it IS delicious.

Now, I know it's not REAL shrimp creole, or anything like the real thing, probably...but it IS delicious. And fast. And easy. Here's the recipe:

Desperation Shrimp Creole

1 tb olive oil
2 medium onions (for 1 1/2 cups chopped)
1 medium green or red pepper (for 1 cup chopped)
1 medium rib celery (for 1/2 cup chopped)
1 tb worcestershire sauce
2 tsp bottled minced garlic
1 tsp Cajun or Creole seasoning blend
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp Tabasco
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
1 8 0z can of tomato sauce
1 cube fish flavored bouillon
black pepper to taste
1 pound already peeled medium raw shrimp

1. Bring 2 1/2 cups water to boil in 2-qt saucepan. When water boils, add rice, cover pan, and remove from heat until ready to serve.

2. Heat olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to skillet as you chop. Seed and coarsely chop bell pepper and ad to skillet, stirring. Chop celery into bite sized pieces and add; raise heat to medium-high.

3. Stir vegetables well, then add Worcestershire, garlic, Cajun seasoning, bay leaf, thyme, and Tabasco sauce, and stir well again. Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes with their juice and tomato sauce. Cut off one half of fish bouillon cube and crumble it into skillet, then season with black pepper. Simmer sauce for 2 minutes, stirring from time to time.

4. Add shrimp, raise heat to medium high, and cook just until shrimp turns pink, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve at once over bed of rice or linguine

Serves 4.

We had that with caesar salad, crusty sourdough bread, and a crisp Sonoma vally chardonnay. Perfect.

And for dessert? Another ridiculously easy dessert...courtesy of Rachel Ray.

No, it didn't look this pretty. But close.

So here's the recipe.

Buy a pre-made angel food cake at the grocery store. Buy 2 jars of lemon curd (which you can find in the jam section.)

Empty the lemon curd into a sauce pan, add a splash of water, and about a tablespoon each of lemon, orange and lime zest. Or whatever you have.

Cut the angel food cake into 3 sections, crosswise obviously (so you have 3 layers).

On the bottom layer, spread some lemon curd and sprinkle liberally with sweetened coconut (straight from the bag). Top with the next layer, and repeat. Add top layer, spread a light layer of lemon curd, and sprinkle with coconut.

Voila! I served this with sliced fresh strawberries, and it was heavenly. And made in about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Odds and Ends

I'm doing odd chores at present.

Yesterday, I blocked my Moon over the Mountain quilt. (This patch of sunlight really changes the contrast...I'll post a final picture when it's done so you can see the real colors).

I had a plan when I started to quilt this quilt, but as I started free-motion quilting, my quilting was denser than I'd originally planned. I was worried that I over-quilted this, which makes me realize how important it is to stitch on practice fabric before I really dive in. (If I'd done that, more than just a few lines of stitching to test the tension, I'd have realized I needed to leave more space.) Anyway, it looks fine now that it's blocked. Binding to follow.

I've also got custody of the Pointless Sisters' contribution to our guild's raffle. We've made an opportunity quilt called The Farmer's Market, and it landed in my lap for final binding and sleeve-installation. This quilt is stunning, I must say. One of our very talented members, Linda Morand, designed it and executed quite a bit of it, and coached everyone on using Shiva paint sticks and other fabric-painting tools. The quilt hasn't been officially revealed to the group yet, but I'll give you a few peeks...

Looks pretty good, huh?

So, it didn't need a binding, to my view, and I decided to put a facing on it. And that went fine, but I was a bit stumped on how to finish the corners. I hunted through my books, and searched the internet, and didn't find any good trick for how to get the corners nice and square and tight. I finally just winged (wung?) it and it looks fine.

But I'll bet there's a trick. If you know it, let me know!

So, today is prepping for a visit tonight from my mom and dad. I'll tidy the house, then go shopping for ingredients for dinner: shrimp creole pasta, salad, crusty french bread, and lemon coconut angel food cake. Yum!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

More prickly things

Pincushions! Do you know they're very trendy right now?

I had a grand time searching for them to see what fun things people are making. And here are a few.

(And you know, it occurred to's no surprise at all that we quilting types like these photo mosaics. Grid. Color. Pattern. Repetition with variety. Duh.)

But they always make me smile.

Friday, April 20, 2007

My opinion

Responding to my post from a few days ago where I mentioned my dismay over the poorly-reasoned decision by the Supreme Court validating the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, one reader left the following comment:

I don't get how anyone, being either pro-life or pro-choice can be for partial birth abortion. It doesn't even make sense to give the excuse of being for the woman's health, since the child is killed by the doctor as it's actually exiting the birth canal, so I'm not sure what it saves the woman from except having to birth a live child. Have you actually read how it's done? It's a horrific practice, if everyone in this country had to see the procedure done once I'm sure it would be stopped immediately. I understand that the fear is that if ANY rights are taken away, then it's one step closer to stopping legalized abortion. I don't ever see that happening, but I hope that partial birth abortion is done with forever.

Because I believe that there are a lot of misconceptions about this issue – intentionally furthered for political reasons by those who want to undercut a right which profoundly affects women’s lives – I’m going to explain why I hold the view I do. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I feel strongly about these matters. I don’t want to open up a pro-choice/anti-abortion discussion. If you don’t agree, feel free to speak out on your own blog. I’m not inviting contrary opinions. I’m explaining why I said what I said.

First, the term "partial-birth abortion" is not a medical term. It is not recognized in medical literature, nor is it used by doctors who perform second-trimester abortions. "Partial-birth abortion" is a political phrase designed to inflame the emotions. Period. In fact, the medical community refers to the procedure as "dilation & extraction" ("D&E") or "intact dilation and evacuation." Right out of the starting gate, I have a problem with defining the discussion in terms of the "partial birth abortion" because that term is so biased to begin with. That’s why I also have a problem with Congress purporting to legislate about a medical procedure while framing the legislation in such obvious inflammatory and biased terminology. The wording of the law alone suggests motives which are contrary to the expressed intent of the law.

You’ll remember that the foundation of the right to abortion was stated by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. The central holding of Roe is that up until the point at which a fetus becomes "viable," (or potentially able to live outside of the womb), a woman may lawfully choose to have an abortion for any reason. The court tried to balance the competing interests of women and the government by using trimesters to define the relevant rights: during the first trimester of pregnancy, the state cannot restrict a woman's right to abortion; during the second trimester, the state can only regulate the abortion procedure "in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health"; and during the third trimester when the fetus is deemed to be viable, the state can restrict or ban abortion as it sees fit.

The discussion about the D&E procedure takes place in the context of second trimester abortions, for that is when they are used. But D&E is used rarely, overall: between 85 and 90 percent of all abortions performed in the United States take place during the first three months of pregnancy. So, when people talk about this procedure, they are talking about mid-pregnancy, PRE-viability abortions. And why, you wonder, wouldn’t women wanting an abortion do it in the first trimester? Well, there are significant reasons. Research suggests that adolescents and poor women are more likely than other women to have difficulty obtaining an abortion during the first trimester. Minors may be unaware they are pregnant until relatively late in pregnancy. Poor women’s financial circumstances often prevent them from finding services early in their pregnancies. Further, some women choose to abort their pregnancies when they learn of severe fetal anomalies or confront serious health problems in themselves or their fetuses. Many of those problems cannot be diagnosed or do not develop until the second trimester.

Remember that in our country’s long-standing legal framework, the government may only restrict abortions during the second trimester to protect the health of the woman. A significant number of medical experts say that the intact D&E procedure has been determined to be medically safer for the woman (in certain circumstances) than the alternatives available at this stage of the pregnancy. So, a law which wholly bans this procedure not only runs contrary to Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases, but it also leaves a woman subject to the less safe alternatives. Banning the D&E procedure doesn’t save a single fetus. It simply eliminates one of the safest methods, leaving women exposed to procedures that pose greater medical risk and are, frankly, equally as unpleasant in terms of what happens to the fetus.

And there, I believe, lies the crux of the issue. People react with horror to the concept of "partial birth abortion" because it seems cruel to the fetus. The details of the procedure are horrid... as are the details of every abortion procedure, really. And it’s true: if the standard is cruelty to the fetus, then all abortions are cruel to the fetus. Indeed, the purpose of an abortion is to terminate the life of the fetus. That’s a brutal fact. Any abortion is a horrible act. So, how, logically, can one draw a line? Which abortions are less horrible? The fact that legislators are trying to make these distinctions divorced from medical evidence raises serious concerns because the next logical step is the conclusion that all abortions are cruel to the fetus and must be prohibited.

And that comes back around to the issue of the rights of the woman. In the face of substantial medical evidence that the D&E may be the safest medical alternative for women in certain circumstances, banning the D&E procedure because of its cruelty to the fetus puts the welfare of a pre-viable fetus ABOVE the welfare of the woman carrying it. That thought process not only runs counter to the fundamental principles underlying long-standing law, but it has troubling implications for women.

So, I have a problem with trying to choose which abortion procedures are "good" and "bad" when that judgment is based on the treatment of the fetus, and not on what is safe and medically appropriate for the woman. I have a problem with legislators pretending to protect women, while in reality they’re ignoring substantial medical evidence, not acting based on what is reasonably necessary for the woman’s health, and chipping away at significant rights. I have a problem with the Supreme Court ignoring long-standing legal principles, disregarding medical evidence, and cloaking moral judgment in bad legal reasoning.

And to address the comment specifically, I don’t think anyone is actively FOR "abortion," let alone FOR "partial birth abortion." Like many others, I am for the right to choose whether to bear a child. I am for the availability of safe medical procedures that permit women to control their own bodies. I am for keeping government out of the decision about whether a woman will or should carry and bear a child. I’m also for letting medical decisions be made by medical professionals. I believe that doctors, not legislators, should be in charge of determining which medical procedures are safest and most appropriate under the patient’s specific circumstances.

To me, saying one is "against" this procedure is like saying one is "against" lobotomy, or amputation, or organ removal. They’re all brutal, unpleasant, difficult procedures. No one would choose them if they weren’t necessary. Of course I know what the D&E procedure involves a fetus. But I don’t believe that a non-viable fetus has a right superior or even equal to the right of the woman carrying it.

I know that these are controversial, emotional matters. These are my opinions. And we are all entitled to our own opinions.

Light (pink! sparkly!) out of Darkness

I have been working out my crankiness by quilting my Moon Over the Mountain quilt. I don't know whether I'll ever be able to look at this quilt without thinking of the Virginia Tech shootings, as I was working on it while watched Wednesday's convocation ceremony. I'm thinking I'll call this quilt "Even in darkness, there is light."

But I am off today to do some cheering-up things. I'll stop at the library, where I'll pick up a big stack of books (I love how I can access the catalog online to retrieve books from other branches, or put myself on waiting lists for new books). Then it's over to my sister's house for lunch and a bit of chat and stitching. I'm schededuled for a manicure later this afternoon. And tonight is pizza-and-a-movie night, where we get delicious pizza from our favorite place, rent a family movie (lately we've been introducing Caroline to the original Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies) and eat in front of the tv. Decadence!

Oh, and I'm wearing my $3.99 pink GENUINE PINK GEMSTONE ring. (It looks a little darker in this photo than in real life, but it's still pink and sparkly.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Calgon, take me away...

I am feeling deeply dispirited today.

It's due, undoubtedly, to the news. I've intermittently heard more news about the Virginia Tech shootings, which is so horrifying and sad that I can hardly bear to listen.

And then there's the Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, in which by a 5-4 decision the Court upheld the validity of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. You can read the full decision here, if you're so inclined, but be prepared to be discouraged. At least there's the well-written dissenting opinion authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and joined by Justices Stevens, Souter and Breyer, which you can read here. Yay for those four thoughtful justices. If there's ever an example of how much damage a bad president's bad judicial appointments can do, this is it.

Alberto Gonzales gets a double role in my bad mood today. He not only promotes the Partial Birth Abortion Ban and is the named plaintiff above, but his testimony today was simply incredible. It's sort of like listening to George Bush Senior in the Iran-Contra hearings...either he's lying or he's so incredibly stupid and forgetful that he has no place acting as Attorney General. It was vaguely gratifying to hear virtually every senator who questioned him sounding skeptical and at times flat out incredulous. But as an indication of what is being allowed to happen at the top of our government, it's disgusting.

I'm going off to soak in a long bubble bath and read my british mystery novel. If there was ever a day where escape to another time and place was warranted, this is it.

Make things!

Don't you just love art supplies?

Oh, and by the way, I also love making mosaics at

Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm thinking...

Some months ago, The Thinking Blog named 5 blogs that made him think...and challenged those 5 bloggers to identify 5 bloggers who made them think. Well, today I got tagged by Gerrie as one of the 5 blogs that make her think...and for that I'm quite honored!

Now it's my turn to nominate 5 blogs that make me think. When I think about "thinking" blogs (you can see there's a whole lot of thinking going on here) what come to mind are not so much the blogs that are filled with gorgeous pictures, but the blogs with content I love to read. So, here they are:

Crazy Aunt Purl. Laurie's a wonderful, funny, warm, witty woman exploring life as a newly-single divorcee in a Southern California suburb. Her blog covers the territory of her life: her workplace and her awkwardness with the people there, her cats, her neighbors, and knitting. Lots of knitting. She makes me laugh, and she makes me want to hang around with her to knit and giggle. Oh, and she makes me think about things differently.

Faster than Kudzu Joshilyn Jackson knows how to write. There's no question. And through her blog Joss shows how she crafts her amazing novels, raises two adorable kids, struggles to keep her mental illness quotient down when her husband is out of town, and negotiates borderline hostilities between Bagel, a dog whose abiltity to clean up the grossest of messes had me laughing harder than I've ever laughed at a blog entry ever, and her grumpy cat. I'm charmed and fascinated and amused by this blog, and always in awe of Joss's talent.

Kristin La Flamme I love Kristin's blog. I love her art, and I'm always excited to see what she's working on and what amazing process she's using. I'm fascinated by her life raising her family in Germany and exploring European life and culture.

Althouse Ann Althouse is a professor at the University of Wisconsin law school who blogs about legal issues, politics, celebrity, culture, and everything else. She's concise and smart and she makes me think with a capital T.

Pink Sneakers N'at Sarah Louise (which is not her real name but sounds so friendly and charming) is a librarian blogging about "life outside the stacks." Her blog topics are eclectic but always interesting and well written. She likes books, and I love following her links.!

Happy Monday

1. After The Rain, 2. Tulips 7, 3. Untitled, 4. profusion of spring, 5. Ahhh Spring, 6. Spring in Indiana, 7. Spring Flowers, 8. Frozen Tulip garden, 9. Spring Flowers, 10. Would they miss one?, 11. Yellow Tulips, 12. Yellow and Red Tulips, 13. Tulips, 14. Tulip Buds, 15. Yellow Tulips against a stormy sky, 16. Yellow Tulip trio, 17. Yellow Tulip Trio 2, 18. Ultra Violet, 19. Tulips, 20. P1020168, 21. Untitled, 22. Tulip Talk: " Ok, now stick out your tongue and say AWWW!", 23. Tulip Talk - " Harold, just look at that hussy, sticking out her tongue!", 24. Tulips, 25. Tulpen

Oh, by the way, I finished "Solo" by Emily Barr yesterday. What an intriguing novel. It went directions I didn't anticipate and the character development was handled nicely. Thoroughly enjoyable.

May you have a bright and cheery day!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Sudden Trip up the Mountain

Remember how yesterday I was going to spend the day reading and resting?

Well, I'd just finished uploading that very blog entry when the doorbell and telephone rang simultaneously. I ran downstairs to get the door, leaving the telephone call to the answering machine, and as I was signing for the bin of mail which the post office had held for us while we were in Tahoe, from the kitchen I heard the caller leaving her message on the machine.

"Diane, did you remember that today is the Moon over the Mountain class at Fabrications? We're wondering if you're on your way."


I signed up for that class some months ago, and I was quite excited because I've wanted to learn to make the pieced version of that stunning block for a long time. And even though I wrote the class dates on the calendar... well, let's just say I don't always remember to look at the calendar.

I dashed for the phone, called the store, and let them know that I'd be late but I'd be there. Good thing Fabrication is in my town, just 5 minutes away.

I flung decent clothes on, then rushed to my sewing room to gather supplies. But what fabric to bring? How to pick fabric for a project in mere moments? My eyes landed on a bin of fabric under my sewing table.

This was the assortment of batiks I'd used for my Desert Twilight quilt a few months ago, and I'd still not gotten around to putting it away. Hmmm, good moon and mountain colors. I seized that, grabbed my tool box of sewing supplies (still unpacked from the ranch retreat) and away I went. See? Yet another example of how procrastination pays off.

Turns out I arrived at class just 30 minutes after it had started. Not bad. I apologized profusely, was assured I hadn't missed anything vital, collected my templates, and set to work designing. By 3:30, I'd laid out the pieces for 9 blocks, like so:

And this afternoon, while Roger was off running errands and Caroline and her buddy Emma were engrossed in the tadpoles they've collected from the creek across the street, I started piecing a few of the blocks.

Look! Matching arcs, and a tidy y-seam where the mountain peak meets the moon!

The trick, I think, is to just take one's time. It's sort of a meditative thing.

What an unexpected turn of events for the weekend. I'll do these 9 blocks, but then I'll have to think about what colors I'd use to actually PLAN this.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

There is no such thing as too many books

Maybe it's a reaction to having spent 5 days on retreat filled with the visual over-stimulation of so many great quilts and luscious fabrics and the aural stimulation of constant chatter and laughter.

Or maybe it's my tuning in to our Tahoe getaway, where all I wanted to do was be cozy inside, curled up on the couch next to the wood stove with a novel.

But really, I have to confess that I've always been like this, from little up. I love books and I can never have enough of them. At the moment, all I want to do is read. And read. And read.

Fortunately, I have a great stack of books from the library, packed on the shelf next to a great assortment books I've purchased but haven't yet read. (Which leads to this puzzling question: why is it that sometimes I can't find anything appealing at the library, and at other times I fill up my library basket and regretfully pass up books that practially jump off the shelves to get my attention?)

My current novel is Solo, by Emily Barr. It's a first person narrative (I love "I stories", as my sister and I started to call them when we were little) about a pop-cellist, enamored with her own celebrity and newly separated from her husband, finding out what life is like "solo." It's skillfully written, so that you feel sympathy for the heroine while also seeing quite plainly that she's a selfish and egotistical.

Caroline asked me the other day "if you could only do ONE of these for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Reading or quilting?" And I picked reading. No hesitation.

Luckily, I don't have to choose.

And I've made a new, wonderful discovery: You should probably go look, because I'm finding it hard to describe what it is. It's a site where people catalog the books they've read and are reading, and talk about books, and you can catalog your own reading and get recommenations and see what others who've read what you've read have ALSO read... Basically, it's all about books. Among the fun things there, you can make a mosaic of the book covers you've read recently. How fun is that?

I love it.

So, with the rain pattering gently outside, and my head stuffy with this cold, I'm probably going to spend a lot of time reading today. A cup of tea, a box of kleenex, and a stack of books.... that's my Saturday.
What are you reading now?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Homeward bound

We are back from Lake Tahoe and this is pretty much what we saw, at least by Thursday. When we arrived on Monday, there were only a few grimy patches of icy snow left on the ground. Caroline was greatly dismayed, but Roger and I were relieved that the drive was an easy one on ice-free roads. However, it started snowing on Wednesday evening and kept snowing lightly through lunchtime on Thursday, so we got a good fresh layer of snow to romp in before we left. Caroline got to build a snowman and make snow angels and pelt us with snowballs, which thrilled her no end.

We did embarrassingly little while there...which is why we like to go, to be honest. We've not skiied much, and with the lack of snow it didn't seem like a good time to introduce Caroline to the sport. We walked around outside a fair amount, letting Gemma pull us through the woods to follow all the enticing new smells. We made good use of the recliners built into the leather couches (I've always thought those were rather hideous, but I have to admit that they're darn comfy) and we read a lot. And napped. And played games.

I was engrossed in a novel called "Sister Mine" by Tawni O'Dell, a quirky story about sisterhood and life in a coal-mining town. Roger had his nose in a D. W. Buffa legal thriller, "The Defense," which I'd read and liked and shoved at him. Caroline built a new zoo with the Zoo Tycoon game software she loves so much (and I like it fun to build your own zoo!) So we were quite content.

We ventured out for our usual dinner out at Sunnyside, which we love. I had the best filet mignon I'd ever had, perfect accompanied by Roshambo zinfandel (from right here in Healdsburg), and of course we had to have their signature appetizer of fried zucchini. Yum.

We got home last night, just in time for my reoccuring cold to blossom. Lovely. I have spent today catching up on laundry, putting the vacation paraphanalia away, and dosing myself with decongestants. Going away for a few days can make coming home to one's own bed and cozy flannel sheets feel so lovely!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter!

You Are a Chocolate Bunny

A traditionalist, you secretly want to dress up like a bunny. And not just on Easter.
We're off to Tahoe for a few days of fun (and snow? we're not sure if there's any right now) so I'll be back in a while.
Meanwhile, don't eat all that Easter candy in one sitting...

More life at the ranch

Here are more pictures from the ranch retreat. Sigh. It was such fun.

Here's Mary Lou, relaxing after a long day of sewing, reading the new Quilters Home magazine. Mary Lou comes from Massachusetts for this retreat (and to visit her sister Pat). Mary Lou finished TWO quilt tops during the retreat, so she has earned this little rest.

She made this quilt, a Jan Mullen crazy squares thing. Thanks to her exposure to us Californians, her color choices are getting much, much brighter. She tells us that her quilt guild in Massachusetts doesn't know what to make of her color choices when she shows her work there. Pooey on them, that's what I say.

Oh, here she is at her machine. I mean, MY machine. She uses my elderly Elna so she doesn't have to haul a machine cross-country when she comes.

Here's sister Pat (or Patsy, as she is called by her family), working on assembling a kaleidoscope hexagon. Such concentration!

I was down at the end of the room with Pat (on the left), Mary Lou, and Eleanor. Pat also worked on a Twisted Sister wall quilt (appropriate for two sisters hanging out and quilting together, eh?) before she moved on to the one-block-wonder.

Eleanor, there on the right, has been quilting for a mere 2 years, but she's whipping out amazing work. She was working with some gorgeous Australian fabric, designing as she went. Here's what was up on her wall:

This isn't the best picture of her, but here is my dear friend Janet Shore. Janet is a long time quilter, a founding member of the East Bay Heritage Quilt guild, and an all around treasure. She kept us laughing the whole time, too.

I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I wanted to, due to battery wear-out, so I missed a whole bunch of retreat folk! Sorry about that! But I got some... Here are Angie and Delaine, working away.

Ancella got several projects together, including a colorful one with those big Valerie Wells flower blocks (zinnas? gerberas?)

Show and tell is one of the highlights of the retreat. As always, we gather in the chapel for this event. It's a beautiful space with gorgeous stained glass windows, which makes the lighting not ideal for taking photos. I apologize for the grainy shots, but they're the best I could do.

Oh-- the retreat's official photographer is Angie. But since the woman with the camera isn't in many of the photos, I snapped this one of her:

Okay. On to show and tell.

Some of the members are from the Mt. Tam Quilt Guild, which is based in Marin County just north of San Francisco. Several members made small quilts featuring "Mt. Tam," (Mt. Tamalpais, actually) to be featured on their guild's home page. Here's Sydne's, which shows the frequent fog floating nearby:

Pat D. did one too:
Aren't those both gorgeous? And wasn't that a great idea to make quilts to illustrate their guild's home page? (Ironically, that was the idea of their non-quilting web page designer.)
Pat showed another quilt that brought gasps of pleasure when she revealed it. It's a portrait of her dog Liliuokalani, which she had done for a guild challenge. She based the portrait on a Lance Jackson illustration with his permission. Pat learned that fabulous striped border from Mary Mashuta's book on Stripes in Quilts.

Pat made this quilt to honor the quilt teachers who have inspired her. She took blocks made in a Sue Benner workshop, cut them apart, stamped the names of her teacher/mentors, then attached them together in a colorful memorial. If you look closely, you can pick out some of the names... Freddy, Sylvia, Therese, Ann, Kaffe.... go ahead, see how many you can find!
Delaine made this charming quilt for a new baby in her family. I think she used an American Jane fabric as the starting point.

Here's Delaine with a mystery quilt she made "out of her stash." Some great stash, huh?

This isn't a great picture of Shirley (she' doesn't usually have this expression on her face) OR her charming quilt, but if you look carefully you can see the pieced coneflower blossoms. Very, very pretty in person.

Sally was working on the blocks with these 1930's fabrics last year, and so we were all impressed to see how beautifully she finished this quilt. I just love that scalloped border.

Sue made this little quilt as a donation quilt. So cheerful!

Nancy worked away the whole time on the borders for a Jane Austen quilt. If you like Jane Austen, you should go read about the quilt she made. (Go ahead, I'll wait.) It consists of a zillion pieces (that's the exact number) and the border alone takes a lot of time and patience and precision. We all watched in awe as Nancy spent days cutting strips, piecing them, cutting again, and piecing again. See what's she's holding here? That's 4 solid days of work, my friend.

Angie showed us the sign she's done for her quilting room at home.

Quite a show, eh? There were more gorgeous quilts, but that's what my camera battery allowed me to capture.

Back from the ranch

Well, THESE got your attention, didn't they?!
I'm just back from my annual April retreat at Bishop's Ranch, and I am SO jazzed. This was the best retreat ever. I'm not even sure why... the great group of women who were there, the beautiful spring weather, the fun projects to sew, the great food... I experience those every year, and they're always wonderful. This year was just special. One of my favorite people was here all the way from Massachusetts -- Mary Lou -- and as I don't get to see her very often, having her there was especially wonderful. She is probably part of the extra wonderfulness. At any rate, I am still grinning from ear to ear, and feeling full of creative inspiration and enthusiasm.
And the strawberries? Eight of us took a trip into town to a local fabric store for a break and a bit (ahem) of fabric shopping, and when we returned, this lovely spread was waiting for us.
You can see why we like these retreats so much! While we'd been sewing that afternoon, Joanne took some time to make these for everyone! They were even more delicious than they look...and Joanne says that Guittard milk chocolate chips (melted with about 1 tablespoon of crisco shortening so the chocolate doesn't harden to "cracking" stage) are the secret.
There are so many things I love about these retreats, but the very best thing to me is the generous sharing that goes on all week. Everyone is so great about sharing everything -- ideas, fabric, supplies, recipes, magazines, funny stories.
For example, this is Maureen. She's looking so happy because she just got a brand new sewing machine.
Maureen has done her quilting on a Juki TL98E, but she wanted a large harp machine that had other stitches too. This new one has 10" -- a subject which led to many jokes and much hilarity about the benefits of an extra few inches.
This is Pam. And she's smiling (well, she smiles all the time) but she's smiling HERE because she's decided to buy Maureen's Juki.
Pam's excitement over her soon-to-be-new-Juki led to much sharing of information by Joanie (sorry, I didn't have my camera to take pictures up in that room), who was sewing on her own Juki during the retreat.
So, one sewing machine purchase led to a whole lot of excitement throughout the retreat. Maureen was quilting some donation quilts, and we were soon teasing her about her Huck Finn cleverness. "Wanna try my new machine?" she'd say, innocently, "Here, quilt a section of this quilt." Pretty soon, as woman after woman tried the machine and quilted a section, a LOT of that little quilt was quilted!
Another infection spread like wildfire through the retreat. Pat D., one of the most talented quilters I know, had made a quilt top inspired by the book One Block Wonders by Maxine Rosenthal.
It's like the stack-and-whack technique, only working with the colors in the fabric differently in a way that results in a pretty sophisticated looking design. Here's Pat's:

Isn't it stunning? You can see why we were all enthralled...and eager to try the technique. Pat had a set of hinged mirrors that allow you to see what kaleidoscopic effects you can get from different fabric prints, so we all had fun playing with those on our own fabrics, with much excitement. It's amazing how different fabric yields such different results. Can you see the iris print that Pat used to get this effect? It's what she put in the four corner blocks.
Coincidentally, Shirley was working on a one-block-wonder quilt, too, with a very charming animal jungle print. I never did get a picture of her blocks, which were really bright and busy and fun.

Pat had so much fun making hers that she now keeps a set of "magic mirrors" in her car so she can try out kaleidoscopic effects on fabric when she shops!

Seeing Pat's and Shirley's quilts caused several of us to want to give it a try...which is what led to the fabric shopping trip in the first place.
Here are my two Pats playing with magic mirrors. My good friend Pat M got that gorgeous olive/gold/turquoise fabric to work with.
And here's just one of the designs revealed by the mirror trick:
And look at how her blocks looked as she got more made...
Very venetian tile-like, yes? Stunning. Making these blocks is so addictive, because you can't wait to see what each one will look like.
Of course, I couldn't resist trying too. I chose this Alexander Henry fabric called "Kleo":
Gee, it's got a fair amount of PINK. I didn't even notice. Oh, and here's how my blocks look so far:
Totally fun. (At present they sit in a bin and will have to wait for further assembly until we return after Easter vacation.)
Several others in the group rushed off to buy the book, and another group made arrangements to make one of these for their guild's next opportunity quilt.
I do believe that this all makes us "one block Wonder-women."
And isn't that a great thing to share?!