Saturday, June 28, 2008

A hot time in northern California

Life in Northern California is very weird right now. For over a week, the sky has been filled with a grey smoky haze, and the smell of fire is constantly in the air.

The map shows the current fires raging in Northern California. See where it says "Santa Rosa," right near the number 128? I live just north of there by about 20 miles. We're not in any fire danger (thank goodness) but it's no wonder that the air is so smoky. It is so odd, not to see the sun but to have this smoky heat. Everyone I know is hoping and praying for a good long rainstorm.

As you can imagine, most people are trying to stay indoors as much as possible, to avoid breathing air that is undoubtedly full of unhealthy particulates. The local tennis courts and parks are a lot emptier than they usually are at this time of year.

We've been hunkered down inside, alterntately working and then tiring ourselves out with our new Nintendo Wii (a combo 6th grade graduation present for Caroline and Father's Day present for Roger). Playing tennis and swimming on that thing is actually pretty darn tiring! My personal favorite is the disk of Winter Olympics games we got -- the downhill skiing is very fun (plus there's the psychologial pleasure of seeing snow and hearing the SHHHHH of swooshing over it in this heat). We all get pretty hysterical when we try the ski jumping -- we have not yet mastered the skill of landing on our feet, so we freqently reenact "the Agony of Defeat" as our virtual body slams onto the snow.

I won't be trying that in person any time soon.

So, if you are somewhere where the sky is blue and the air is fresh, take a big gulp next time you are outside and enjoy it for me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Just Holding On

I took this picture in the backyard the other morning, loving how one vine had reached over to hold onto the tendril next to it. And when I was thinking about how, for some strange reason, I feel like I've been having trouble holding onto all of the bits and pieces of my life these days, I thought of this picture.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why I've been feeling so scattered. I mean, there's the usual stuff of daily life: ferrying Caroline to and from activities, trying to get work done, keeping the house clutter to a reasonable state, throwing a load of laundry in from time to time.... And we've all had colds here over the past two weeks, that hasn't helped... But somehow, I'm not managing to get time for quilting, or getting together with friends, or making it to a quilt guild meeting now and then, or doing a bunch of things that are important and fun and I've managed to make time for before now.

At any rate, my goal -- starting now -- is to remember what's important in terms of quality of life and DO THAT STUFF. Yes, work and laundry and such have to get done, but still.

And when I'll be doing that fun stuff? I'll try to blog about it, too. Things have been a little sparse here, I know.

With that said, I'm going to go get to work on a an idea for a quilt that's been haunting me for a while now. No time like the present, eh?!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Need Color? See Kris.

Are you in need of color inspiration? Need a smile? Want something so light your creative spark?

Well, then go look at Kris's Color Stripes. Yes. Right now.
Kris is a an artist and fashion designer who has an amazing eye for color. And she shares her simple, elegant view on a blog where she just extracts color from images that catch her eye. What a simple concept, right? But the images she chooses, and the colors she pulls out of each picture, are just perfect. I think it looks easy, but each gem of a set is so RIGHT that I know there's art and talent at work here.
When I look at her blog, I feel like I've had a little art-spa time -- relaxing and energizing at the same time.
So go douse yourself in color. (And tell Kris I sent you.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One thing inevitably leads to another...

So, remember how back at Christmas time, I got this great new camera? It's a Panasonic Lumix dmc-fz18, in case you're wondering. Roger and I did a bunch of research, and debated about whether to go the full-out digital SLR route, and I chose this little guy. My thinking was that it's small and has an amazing zoom and because it was small and light, I was much more likely to carry it with me and actually use it.

I had a grand time using it, and became addicted to And then the zoom function started being weird. So, off the camera went to the Panasonic warranty repair place. No problem. A few weeks later (eek! no camera!) it came back. I happily took it out to shoot some flower pictures... But wait! The zoom problem was still there.

I crankily sent it back to Panasonic, after an exhausting and irritating time navigating thru the Panasonic repair phone tree -- which, I'll tell you now, only leads you to a recording instructing you to send the thing to the service center. If there is a way to talk to an actual human at Panasonic, I wasn't able to discover it.

So off the camera went again. Meanwhile, I used Roger's camera and pondered whether I wanted to just demand a refund and get a full digital SLR. My weeks using the Panasonic made me realize that I really like taking pictures and I really, really like the Photoshop post-processing. (And I was already realizing the limitations of a smaller point-and-shoot style camera and how at times the quality of my images was sacrificed.)

After more reading reviews and shopping, I jumped in head first and got this gorgeous Nikon D80 digital SLR camera. It's bigger, and heavier, a real grown-up, big girl camera.

In fact, it's way more advanced than I am and I know that I'll be growing with this thing for a long time.

Meanwhile, no word from Panasonic about the little FZ18. I sent a few emails (ranging from polite inquiries to increasingly angry ones) and finally emailed the president of Panasonic North America simply because he was the only individual name I could find. I told the whole story, pointing out that in my brief period of owning the camera, Panasonic had had it in its possession longer than I'd had it in mine.

And you know, the VERY next day I got a phone call confirming me that they were sending me a new camera.

Coincidence? I think not.

So now I have a little FZ18 which, I think, will live in the car for those "I need to take a picture of THAT" moments. And maybe it'll be the one Caroline can use when we go on family walks.

The especially amusing thing (yes, NOW I can chuckle about it) is that with all the camera talk, my dad decided to upgrade his camera, which meant that he ended up passing his camera on to my sister to replace her really ancient one. So out of my camera agonies, I ended up with two cameras and Roger, my dad, and my sister ended up with new cameras too.

Maybe this is kind of like how people end up with multiple sewing machines (which I never understood until I added that second one...)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just too cute

I know, pictures of fluffy little kittens are just too precious. But life around here has been dull lately ... lots of work, making my way through my 12 hours of continuing legal education, pruning the overgrown shrubbery in the yard, other mundane things like that... Hardly blog-worthy events.

So, I thought I'd post a few of the pictures I took yesterday at the ranch. I tell myself I'm not going to take more kitten pictures, but they're just so dang adorable.

Some of them are very timid around people, but still curious...

... but if you sit still long enough, they come out and get distracting by anything moving and then have to pounce.

This rather cranky guy just watched the kitten shenanigans from his royal spot in a tub of dirt.

(C'mon, confess, those kitties made you smile, didn't they?)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stopping and Starting

Here's a shot of the quilt I've just finished machine quilting, which I call "Bali Dreams." Some time back, my MIL gave me some pieces of batik fabric she'd bought in Bali years ago (that rust and black one in the lower right corner and the gold one with a black linear design in the upper left corner). I mixed them with some other batiks and can now give her a lapwarmer quilt for when she sits to read or watch tv. She's always cold, so I hope she'll enjoy this.

But now we are entering into a few transitional weeks around here. Funny, how some periods of time are all about transitions, isn't it?

I am vowing to wean myself off of CNN so I stop getting riled up about politics ... I will try to just enjoy the knowledge that there will be an excellent, smart, compassionate liberal in the presidential race. So I'm mentally shifting gears in that arena and will just enjoy the ride. YES WE CAN. (See? I can!)

[OH! Guess what? I got an actual PERSONAL EMAIL from Jeffrey Toobin after I emailed him to comment about some stuff he said on CNN. So now, when ever he appears on screen, I refer to him as "my good friend Jeff." He's in my email inbox!! Because, you know, we're just TIGHT like that. But I digress.]

I'll be taking down the quilting frame, so we can replace the carpeting in our master bedroom, due to a little (ahem) problem one of the cats had with incontinence (or purposeful, vengeful urinating) when we got the dog. (Yes, that's the same cat who chewed thru the cord on my Juki foot pedal and recently did the SAME DANG THING to my Bernina foot pedal cord. If she weren't my daughter's "familiar," I'd throttle her.) I've also taken the opportunity to buy a new bedspread and so that room will get a makeover. I'm looking forward to refreshing the room -- literally and figuratively.

Caroline will finish 6th grade in a week, so we are officially transitioning ... she into the world of middle school, Roger and I as parents of an adolescent. And we are entering the world of private school, which already (judging from the emails and meetings and uniform-buying sales) feels rather different from the public school world to which we're accustomed.

With Caroline and Roger both home from school, we have our annual summer transition -- beautiful family time, some strain of all of us home all the time ... but we have learned to retreat to our own corners when we need private time, a concept we all respect.

As the weather gets warmer, we will be heading to the pool more, and maybe I'll get myself going in other areas of the health club, too. Let's figure that this will continue my post-gall-bladder-removal-healthier-living transition.

I'm transitioning away from my point-and-shoot Panasonic camera (which I love, if it weren't for the fact that Panasonic repair has now had custody of it for longer than I've owned the thing) to a big-girl, grown-up Nikon DSLR camera. It's fun but it's a lot more complicated. So I will be making my way through the learning curve.

So, some changes, but lots of the usual, ongoing, comfortable, life pleasures. Wonderful family and friends, solid and thought-provoking work, good books to read, fun things to sew, pretty fabrics to fondle...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I'm Not Ready to Make Nice

There are an awful lot of us who know what it feels like to live with the double standard of being female in male-dominated environments. We’ve earned less pay for doing the same work as men. We’ve been criticized for leaving work early to care for a sick child, while the man down the hall is praised as a "great dad" when he leaves early to watch his son’s softball game. We’ve been interrupted by men more often, and we’ve had our opinions disregarded because we speak with softer voices. We’ve been told we’re too friendly with the secretaries, and we’ve been criticized for being cold or snooty when we don’t join in the girl talk in the lunch room. We’ve fended off comments about appearing too feminine or seductive at the office, and we’ve been mocked for trying to dress "like a man" when we downplay the shapes of our bodies or wear more practical pants suits. We’ve been passed over for raises or promotions in favor of the man in the next office, who "needs" the increase "more" because "he’s supporting a family." We’re weak and hormonal if we cry, and we’re cold and unemotional if we don’t. Having seen how men behave in the workplace, we emulate their behaviors and are called hard and emasculating and bitchy.

We know how impossibly hard it is to be a strong, smart, outspoken, and competitive woman in a setting men are used to controlling. It’s an uncomfortable and difficult balance to achieve, especially with constant grace and humor and level-headedness. Most of all, we know how it feels to be expected, without question, to sit down and be quiet and stop complaining and instead defer to a man sitting next to us at the conference table... even if he is younger, less qualified, less knowledgeable, or less experienced.

So it’s no wonder that a lot of us are angry as this primary race is coming to a close. It has been discouraging and saddening to watch this same double standard play out so plainly as two qualified, ground-breaking presidential candidates have made this primary race one of which we should have been proud.

Tonight, even as Barack Obama was being feted for being the first african american to win a major party’s candidacy – which to be sure is a momentous, wonderful, historical event – I cannot help but chafe at the open hostility directed at Hillary Clinton for her failure to give in, sit down and shut up.

As journalist Steven Stark pointed out recently in the Boston Phoenix, a candidate has never been vilified for continuing a candidacy the way Hillary Clinton has. To the contrary, past candidates have been praised for their perseverance as they’ve taken their fights all the way to the conventions. As Stark summarized:

"• In 1988, Jesse Jackson took his hopeless campaign against winner Michael Dukakis all the way to the convention, often to great media praise.

• In 1980, Ted Kennedy carried his run against Jimmy Carter all the way to the convention, even though it was clear he had been routed.

• In 1976, Ronald Reagan contested the "inevitability" of Gerald Ford all the way to the convention. Few, then or since, have ever thought to criticize Reagan’s failure to step aside and let Ford assume the mantle.

• Also in 1976, three candidates — Mo Udall, Jerry Brown, and Frank Church — ran against Jimmy Carter all the way through the final primaries, even though Carter seemed more than likely to be the eventual nominee.

• Even in 1960, Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson fought the "certain" nomination of John F. Kennedy all the way to the convention floor.

In fact, until this year, it’s been an axiom of American politics that candidates are allowed to pursue their runs until they decide to drop out — which is usually, by the way, when they run out of money. Even Mike Huckabee kept running against John McCain in this campaign long after it was obvious he had no hope of winning the GOP nod."

At the culminating point of one of the closest races in modern history, the election results aren’t official. The delegate count has been affected by bizarre, unprecedented "guess-timating" wholly unrelated to actual vote results, a certainly troubling and possibly unconstitutional result with far-reaching implications for future elections.
And nevertheless, people are expressing outrage that Hillary Clinton didn’t see fit to "give the night" to Barack Obama.

I’m proud that our country (the democratic half, anyway) can put forward a smart, passionate, and idealistic candidate like Barack Obama, and I recognize that it’s a significant and hopeful moment in our country’s race relations.

But I’m angry and sad and ashamed that so many in our country can’t celebrate the rise of the first significant black candidate without simultaneously (and almost gleefully) trying to stomp the first significant female candidate down.

We’ve come a long way, baby ... but apparently we’re not good sports if we expect to make it over the finish line.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Watery Day

It's "reveal" day over on the Twelve by Twelve blog for our latest challenge, on the theme "water." And all 12 quilts are already up! Once again, I'm amazed and delighted by the variety of directions people pursued, and impressed by the talent of these artists. They're gorgeous, all of them.

Mine is above, called "Music from Across the Water." I based the image on a photograph (with the artist's permission). I had grand plans to do this with reverse applique, but quickly realized how hard that would be for a 12x12 inch size. So, I opted to do it via painting.

First, I created a line drawing.

I laid white cotton over it (Hoffman's PFD pima cotton, actually) and started in with the Tsukineko inks.

I had a grand time painting... I just love these inks and the little pen applicator thingies that come with them.
Then I quilted, faced it, and voila.
I can't wait to find out what our next theme will be!