Thursday, March 31, 2005

My blogging philosophy

I've been thinking lately about this whole blogging thing. I love that through blogging and through the Artful Quilters Web Ring, there's a community of artists and quilters sharing online journals so I can peek into their lives, their creative processes, and their work. And since I began my blog at the end of last year, I've enjoyed the blogging process. It gives me a place to vent my thoughts about things, to share my life with others who might be interested, and it opens me up to comments from others which encourage, help, and inspire me. It makes me accountable to myself, in a way.

But here's a core belief I have, for myself about blogging: I do this for me. It's fun to share the efforts of my blogging and to have readers, but if I start shaping my blog to please others instead of myself, then I lose my own identify in the blog.

So, I know that a lot of people like a lot of pictures in blogs. I do too. But the reality is that I don't always take pictures. And I'm not going to stress about whether people like or don't like my blog because of the pictures. Sure, it's fun to have a reason to take pictures and the blog is a good incentive to document through photos what I'm doing. But I'm not going to make my life more stressful over it. Do I talk too much about my daughter and my family life? Some people don't want to read about people's family lives. On the other hand, this blog also serves as a connection to friends and family far away... and I want to share that stuff with them. The only thing I can do to make sure that the blog reflects me and my life is to write what I want to say, without regard to what some unseen audience wants to see.

I find that I’m attracted to the blogs where I feel a connection to the writer. I’m drawn to the blogger’s personality, as it is reflected in what he or she chooses to post. Sure, I enjoy good photos and nice artwork. But more important to me is the sense of the person that comes through the entries. I develop an interest in and fondness for the writer, and it’s that feeling that keeps me returning to see what he or she is up to. If she’s too busy to quilt, or has detoured into gardening or painting or baking, I enjoy learning about that, too. I guess I like getting a glimpse into whatever it is that the writer chooses to share in the blog.

Others may feel differently. And that’s okay! One of the great things about the world of weblogs is that you can read, or not read. You can follow a blog every day, or you can pop in from time to time and just read what interests you. So, that brings me back to my conclusion, that the key thing is to make your blog yours by writing about whatever you want, from your own point of view, in your own style, however you want. Don't worry about what others want to see or what you think you SHOULD post. It's your journal, after all.

As for the AQ Web Ring, I think that the goal is not to write your blog to fit into the ring, but to write what ever you want because the blog is for you. The ring collects like-themed blogs, but it's a loose affiliation of people with really different lives, different interests, and a common love of art quilting. If art quilting is an important part of your life, it will come through in your blog. If it’s not, it won’t. And again, that’s okay!

I’m reminded of a piece of advice I once heard from a very experienced and successful trial lawyer as his number one rule for how to succeed in front of juries and audiences: "Be yourself, unless you’re a complete a–hole, and in that case be someone else." Kind of sums it up, doesn’t it?!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Too much fun!

We are having so much fun! Here is my good friend, Silvia, with the result of her fusing today! AND the inner squares are made with the fabric we dyed yesterday. We've been two busy women!

Silvia and her husband Paulo are in the US for two weeks, with Silvia playing while Paulo is working a short-term project. We met them when Caroline started school and she was in the same class as their daughter Daniela. Then they rented the house up the street from us, so we became neighbors which made it that much easier to develop a friendship.

Our families have blended well. Daniela and her sister Paulina play well with Caroline. Paulo and Roger have a great deal in common, especially a love of high-tech gadgets. And Silvia is a very talented artist with a love for fabric. She trained in fashion design in Guatemala, and has only recently discovered quilting (within the last several years). She was just developing a healthy obsession about it when they decided to move back to Guatemala. Silvia is also a talented water color painter, and we have several of her paintings in our home.

So...I was excited to see her again, and I knew we'd have a great time working on projects together. Yesterday, after a long talk over coffee, we mixed dyes and experimented with tray dyeing as demonstrated by Melody. Since we had no idea what we were doing, it was quite exciting to see how the dyes flowed and colors mixed. We were using these big plastic trays from Dick Blick... they're big, but not big enough to hold a full half-yard of fabric. So we scrunched the fabric and did some fat quarters and had a grand old time.

Silvia hadn't been introduced to the wonders of Wonder-Under, so that's what she wanted to play with today. I told her about Melody's block creation method and strip sets, and she played with those. Then, she was eager to try quilting on the Juki so she could experience the thread cutter and knee activated presser foot. She's debating whether her current project needs more quilting, but she's close to done.

So, it's been a very fun two days. Tomorrow we have separate chores to attend to, but we're planning to meet Silvia and Paulo for sushi for dinner, and Silvia will return for another playday on Thursday!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Little girl dresses

I may be getting desperate enough to start sewing clothes again.

This afternoon, Caroline and I went shopping for an Easter outfit. I know, I know, it was terribly last minute...but I figured we'd either find something or we wouldn't and she'd wear something she has. She's just had one of those sudden growth spurts that kids do, and many of her clothes are too small. So, after her riding lesson, we stopped at the mall.

The good news was that the Eastery dresses and skirts and tops were on sale. The bad news was that they were horrid! On average, clothes for 3rd grade girls (out of the toddler cute stuff and too young for the teenage clothes) are appalling. I wouldn't let a 16 year old wear some of the stuff they sell for 9 year olds. I guess they're marketing to create lots of baby Brittany Spears. Gag.

We did stumble onto a very charming lavender dress that doesn't look too little girlish and even has a sort of sophistication to it. On sale for half off, even. If we manage to get a picture tomorrow, I'll post it. Is there a Manolo for kids? We scored with on-sale rainboots, but we're making do with the navy school shoes for Easter footwear.

We're off to Sacramento for the day, to have brunch with our good friends Beth and Tim, Pat and Pia, and their family of dogs. We're doing brunch at a riverboat restaurant in Old Sacramento, which should be great fun. And a backyard Easter egg hunt, of course. Now I'm going to go dig out my Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it...

Happy Easter, everyone!

Interviews, etc.

A few days ago, I replied to Karoda's interview blog entry and she sent me interview questions. I think I messed up by failing to carry on the interview chain... So, I'm picking it up again and will carry on:

1. If you want to participate and receive interview questions, leave a comment below saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

So comment if you want to play!

Another update: I posted a few weeks ago about my good friend Gerrie and her mastectomy. You may know from reading her blog, but I wanted to report that she is doing GREAT. She's active and quilting and when I saw her a few days ago she looked positively sparkly. It makes me very happy to see how well she is doing.

Friday, March 25, 2005

I've been talking lately about running out of room for fabric. So, I thought I'd show you a picture of the closet behind my sewing table. It's all fabric on the left side...behind the closed door is a bit more, although there are other things on that side.

Here's my other main storage area. I bought these cubicles and baskets from a catalog a year ago, and I love them. They didn't clear up all the mess, but they help a lot. Those three top baskets are filled with projects in progress. Long-term progress, that is.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I'm free!

I wrote some time ago about how procrastination pays off for lawyers. Well, it's been reinforced for me again.

I've had a long list of projects to do for Bob, my NH law partner...research on a bunch of different issues, revising pleadings, scripting depositions, starting trial memos... But as none have had immediate deadlines, I've been inching forward on them. I've done a bit each day, but I've been making time to do other things (like dyeing fabric and figuring out new places to stuff it around the house). But I was thinking that the crunch was coming, and I was planning on next week being a busy work week for me.

And then, this morning, I got an urgent email in my box: "The case has settled; stop all work!" Yahoo!!!

So, I'm feeling free. Yes, I have other work to do on a few other cases, but all small stuff with faraway deadlines. And with Caroline busy at pony camp next week for spring vacation, I'll have time to quilt! And play with Silvia, who will be visiting from Guatemala!

I tell you, it always works out in the end.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Questions from Karoda

Karoda sent me personalized interview questions (another meme!) so here they are with my answers:

1. What was the impetus for starting the AQ web ring?

I started reading blogs, and found I couldn't stop! When I found a blog I liked, I'd use that blogger's links to find other fun stuff to read...and along the way I found that the ring buttons were a great way of linking like-minded bloggers. I started to read a few of the knitting blog rings, not for the knitting content (I'm merely an occasional knitter) but for the wonderful sense of community they provided. When I started blogging, and obsessively reading Melody's blog, it occurred to me that I wanted us quilters to have a ring as warm and interesting as the knitters, but with content about the quilt world. So, not knowing anything about HTML, I jumped in with Ringsurf and have been feeling my way through. And now we have 50 members! We should break out the champagne!

2. What do you enjoy the most about the ring?

Ooh, "most" is hard. I love the feeling of community with other quilters exploring art through quilt making. I love seeing what others are making, and learning about how they go through their processes. I'm greatly encouraged by hearing about others' stops and starts and frustrations on the way to making great stuff! And as I'm getting to know the ring members I enjoy learning about the variety of lives we lead. One of my favorite days was finding this entry by Dijanne Cevaal showing kangaroos on the lawn of a cottage she was visiting! It brought home to me in such a shocking way how different our lives are. I'm really loving finding new friends through this ring.

3. Do you plan to enter Smoke Signals in a show? explain

You know, I think I will! Entering shows is new for me... Aside from county fair and local quilt guild shows, I've only entered something once into a big show, Pacific Quilt International. And it got in! I was very pleased. (You can see Red Threads here.) Until then, my biggest claim to fame was winning a "Best of Show" at the Cloverdale, California Citrus Fair, where my quilt was featured in a room where the other big attraction was -- I kid you not -- a HUGE model of the Titanic done in citrus fruit. (Just the thought kinds of leaves you speechless, doesn't it?!) I was just perusing this great listing of upcoming quilt/art shows posted by Lyric Kinard, to find where I might enter Smoke Signals. Suggestions, anyone?

4. What art quilt(s) have you seen that just floors you, leaves you breathless? Yours or one of others?

Yikes. There are many. Melody Johnson's "Matchstick Moons" enthralls me. I love anything by Keiko Goke, like this, for example, and this. I also admire the elegance of Liz Berg's art quilts...her composition is always excellent.

5. As a quilter, what do you do well?

I think I have great ideas and a good eye for imagery. I also feel good about my color sense. But there's so much more to learn and explore!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Too much stuff!

I've been in a strange slump lately. I have a whole host of things to do, and I"m not in the mood to do any of them. It's rainy, and I'd really rather just curl up on the couch and read. And read. And read.

It may be that I've suddenly overwhelmed by the clutter around me. I had a big fabric dyeing binge (which was wonderfully, excitement-making fun) but then I found myself overwhelmed by the piles of fabric that I'd dyed. Where to put it all?

I've also had a large, ongoing legal project...So one side of my tiny office is piled with papers and my file drawers are full...On the other side of the room, my sewing table is heaped with fabric.

I've made inroads... I've folded piles, sorted and reorganized to make room for more. But the truth is, I just have TOO MUCH STUFF. And that includes too much fabric. (Now, I know there is really no such thing as too much fabric, but I mean too much fabric for the storage space I have.) Trust me...there is fabric under the bed, fabric in my office closet, fabric in the drawers in the hall... I have no need to buy fabric for a long, long time. And for those of you out there who shop with me from time to time, REMIND ME OF THAT next time you see me pick up a piece to buy, would you please? It's time for "catch and release" shopping, as my friend Rita calls it. Pick up the bolt, admire it, stroke it, and then put it back on the shelf.

I've also sorted the unfinished projects I've got around here, filling two of the six hefty baskets in my basket/shelf storage system. Most are scrappy things I started to use up scraps with the plan of donating them to the children's shelter. They're fun to work on, mindless sewing for tv watching or child accompaniement. So over the next few weeks I'm going to work on finishing those.

AND there are the quilt tops I have finished, which are sitting here unquilted. Two are Halloween ones I did for fun, two are more ambitious projects that will take some time to decide what to do. So those are also on the to-do list.

See? No wonder I'm overwhelmed. But I think I'm going to work on getting some of this STUFF out of the way, and I'll feel better. Next week is spring vacation for Caroline and Roger. We're staying here, so we can see our good friends Silvia and Paulo who will visit from Guatemala, so Roger can make some big inroads on his soon-to-be-finished textbook, and so Caroline can do pony camp. That'll be a good time to make some progress on these projects.

Today I'm off to the Pointless Sisters meeting, a gathering of our art quilt group. Maybe that will inspire me.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I've been a dyeing fool. Here is one batch from the end of last week, before I ironed them, even. It's so fun seeing how the colors and blends turn out! However am I going to use them all?!

Friday, March 18, 2005


Caroline, in third grade, is having playground problems.

She's hit that age, I think, where friendships start to become more complicated. Those innocent days of everyone being happy to play with everyone else (ah, for the preschool play-yard...) are gone, apparently. So, each day as Caroline as come home from school, I've heard about how one friend of hers, S., is trying to get Caroline NOT to play with another friend, C. And Caroline is torn between the two. Personal politics start young in a few of these kids. As I hear Caroline's stories and watch how her playdates go, I see that one girl, S., is a sophisticated and skillful manipulater. Yep, at age 9. She'll pick one "chosen" kid to play with on a given day, rejecting the other kids and making them feel miserable, and making that "chosen" kid feel special and wonderful...Until the next day, when the chosen one is rejected and someone new is favored. Caroline and her long-time buddy C are not sophisticated in this way, and they're left bewildered and confused, yet fascinated by S's power.

So we've been talking a lot about friendships. It's hard to figure out how to help Caroline steer through this...and of course it conjures up my own feelings about the 3rd grade playground and my own childhood friend and nemesis, Francine.

How to put the concepts of personal relationships at a 3rd grade level? Geez, I still struggle with these things myself sometimes. But here's what I've figured out to say so far:

1. A friend is someone who makes you feel good when you're with him or her. If that person does things or says things that make you feel bad, then maybe that person isn't a good friend for you.

2. A true friend will like you for being yourself.

3. A friend won't tell you not to tell your parents about stuff that you do together. (As you can imagine, I've emphasized this point.)

4. A friend is someone you can trust to keep your secrets and keep promises.

5. You can be a good friend to someone by behaving the way you'd want a friend to behave to you.

I sure do understand that attraction of the hard-to-please friend. It's a powerful feeling, to feel that you've won the attentions of someone whose attitude can be so variable. It took me well into my adulthood to really understand how destructive that push-pull thing can be. So it's hard to watch Caroline as she is drawn to S, and then hurt by her over and over again. But we'll keep talking, and I think she's coping well. She announced that she played jump rope with other girls at recess yesterday and really had fun.

Friends are so important. Talking with Caroline about these things makes me realize how much I've learned since 3rd grade, and how I have such wonderful friends. I'm grateful for them all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Dyeing Question

I had such a good time dyeing fabric on Sunday that I'm eager (dying?!) to do more. But I have a question for you folks who dye all the time.

Do you dissolve your dye (procion) in plain water? urea water? salt water? If you use urea or salt, what proportion of salt/urea to water?

I have several books and they all say different things. One says salt is a MUST to get the fabric to absorb the dye, and urea is for paint on dyeing, but not immersion dye.

Another book says salt is optional and urea makes colors more intense so always use that.

At the class on Sunday, I don't think we used either.

Any hints or advice, guys?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I've Dyed and Gone to Heaven!

My first hand-dyed fabrics!

Well, I knew I was going to like it...but I'm addicted already.

On Sunday, I had my first experience dying my own fabrics. I took a class with Judy Bianchi and Carlene Keller, whose hand-dyed fabrics are sold by New Pieces in Berkeley, Fabrications here in Healdsburg, and at other fine establishments. Judy's been inviting me to come and trying dying with them for a while now... but dates never worked out. Finally, Sunday was free and away I went.

Carlene has a great set up for dying fabric. She has large tables in her garage, with a utility room right off with big sinks and plenty of counter space for mixing and rinsing. We started by making gradations of one color, then did blends. I had such a grand time and couldn't stop... I came home with 28 tubs, each containing a half yard of fabric soaking in dye!

I learned that next time around, I'll need to manipulate the fabric more. These came out quite blotchy, almost tie-dyed in placees. And because I put the fabric in the same way each time, I ended up with a similar pattern on a few pieces...maybe I'll find a way to work that into a project.

So, it was much fun and I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

No Faces

Today, as I am driving Caroline and her friend Sarah to gymnastics, I hear Caroline say to Sarah:

"Except for the no faces thing, what does it mean when you're Catholic?"

We have just picked Sarah up from her school, the local Catholic school. Several of Caroline's friends go there, although she goes to the public school a few blocks away.

I was puzzled by the no faces thing, but opted for silence.

"Well, I like my teacher," Sarah replied.

I couldn't contain my curiousity. "What do you mean, 'no faces'?"

"When we draw pictures of people, we're not allowed to color the skin on the faces or the arms or legs," Sarah answered.

"And when you draw animals, you have to draw them their true colors, like you can't make a blue horse, right?" Caroline added, having heard the coloring rules from her friends Lily and Selena who also go to the school.


I had to interject again, still puzzled. "Why can't you color the faces or arms or legs?"

"Because," Sarah answered, with exaggerated patience, "there are people in the world with skin that is different color from ours and we don't want to make them feel bad."

We are all silent as we ponder this concept. I'm thinking, so you leave everyone white? Then Caroline (with her beautiful asian skin) jumped in. "I'm glad I don't go to your school. I want to be able to color animals any color I want, even blue."

Sarah turned to Caroline. "Do you believe in God? Catholics believe in God." She's 7, by the way.

"I'm not sure," Caroline answered. "I know one thing..." I started to cringe in anticipation. "I believe in horses."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Healing thoughts for Gerrie

I have spent much of today thinking of my good friend Gerrie, who underwent a mastectomy this morning.

I met Gerrie through my quilt guild. When I joined 2 years ago, I wondered whether, in a room full of white-haired older women, I was going to find anyone that liked the sort of quilting I liked and who didn't care too much about quilting rules. Well, early on I met Gerrie--she wasn't hard to miss, with her red hair, red eyeglasses, lime green attire, and big smile. And as time passed and I saw the quilts she brought for show and tell, I knew that she was my type of quilter! She invited me to come to the art quilt group, where I found my "real" quilting home. Anything goes there, quilt wise, and Gerrie has done a lot to keep the group open, welcoming, and sharing.

Gerrie has a quick smile and an energy I envy. She's eager to try new things, and she's got a very positive attitude. She's passionate about her art, and she loves to talk about what she's doing and what she's learned. She eagerly shares ideas and tips and, most of all, her enthusiasm about art quilting. She just keeps growing and learning and having fun. She's a great role model.

She's also a very happy and devoted mom, grandma and wife. I can honestly say I haven't ever heard her grumble about her husband Steve, which is rather amazing (as you wives will acknowledge). She's SO proud of her daughters Lisa and Stephanie and her son Mark. And she tells very funny stories about her grandchildren Mia and Miles! Gerrie is having a medically intense day, I've kept my thoughts with her. She's a strong person, and she has approached this recent diagnosis with an amazing practical optimism. I know she'll come through this difficult time and be smiling on the other side of it.

I have no doubt that Gerrie will be up and emailing and sewing in a few days, if not sooner. She's probably been lying in the recovery room planning the quilts she'll make and how she can translate those drug-induced images she's been seeing into fabric!

Do me a favor, please? When you get into bed tonight, say a prayer or send a healing, happy thought out into the universe for Gerrie.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Smoke Signal

Here's my latest project! It's been a fun fusing exercise... I started out with one thing in mind, and ended up here. I was happily cutting and fusing away, when I realized that the texture I was creating was reminiscent of Melody's "Matchstick Moons." I was unintentionally inspired, I guess... But I'm happy with this.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pressing matters

It all started, innocently enough, with the end of a bolt of muslin that was hanging around the laundry room. For totally mindless sewing, I like to make crazy log cabin blocks with my scraps, which eventually become quilts to donate to a local children's shelter. And my preferred method of making those blocks is on top of a muslin foundation. Last time there was a big sale at JoAnn's Fabric, I bought a bolt of muslin and I've been slowly working my way through it.

I decided I'd better preshrink the rest of the bolt, as this stuff shrinks horribly and I know these quilts will be washed.

Then, bearing in mind that commercial fabrics fuse better with the sizing washed out of them, I threw a bunch of fabric into the washer for future multi-purpose use. Philosophically, I'm of the "preshrink everything" school, on the theory that it's better to be safe than sorry. But practically, I've been too lazy and/or impulsive to preshrink anything, knowing that I haven't been making any functional quilts anyway. I figured I'd start washing fabric by bin (as they're sorted by color) and I'd get caught up AND get to organize my fabrics.

Well, next thing I knew I had a massive pile of ironing to do. Like 3 laundry baskets full....packed full. It's rather amazing, how a little folded stack of fabric can expand to such a huge, wrinkled wad in the dryer. So, I set up the ironing board in front of the tv and I've been standing there ironing for hours at a time. I'm down to one ironing basket left, and boy, am I sick of ironing.

It occurs to me that this was not a good idea.

If I'm going to pursue this avenue, then I have a LOT more fabric to wash and press. And if I don't, then I'll have bits that are preshrunk and others that are not. At present, the newly washed and ironed fabrics are segregated in a separate bin. So now I either have to move forward with this plan or forget the whole thing.

At least there is mexican food ahead...We're meeting our friends Noriko and Alan, and their daughter Lani, for dinner at a terrific local spot. This feels like a good reward for a hard day at the ironing board.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Little indulgences

Today was a day of small indulgences. You've all heard me complain about how much work I've done lately, so today was another day to celebrate a bit and not do to much. I treated myself in some lovely little ways:

* An extra cup of Kenya coffee while watching the next episode of The Gilmore Girls this morning

* An excursion to have my hair trimmed and a fun chat with my talented hair stylist Maria at Elle Lui (we talked almost nonstop about Project Runway.)

* A detour for a quick lunch at the new fast food Chinese place, for "firecracker chicken" which was delicious

* Lunch was especially delicious because I ate while reading a new mystery by Ayelet Waldman called "Murder Plays House" (her heroine is the utterly human, funny, and very pregnant mother of two toddlers and wife of a Hollywood screenwriter... )

* Work out at the health club while listening to the new Maroon 5 cd because they were nominated for Grammy awards and I was curious to hear them

* Home to experiment with a new fusing project, still in progress (and puzzling me on the design wall about where to go next)

* Ratatouille from the Moosewood Cookbook for dinner...which fresh parmesan cheese grated on the new Microplane grater my friend Pat told me I couldn't live without.

* An evening of blog, off to bed.

A very, very nice day.

Orange Burgundy Chicken

By popular request, here is the recipe for Orange Burgundy Chicken I mentioned in a recent entry. I find a lot of crockpot recipes sound good but end up tasting bland and boring...but not this one. It was simple but quite delicious:

Orange Burgundy Chicken

2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken pieces
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

Remove skin from chicken. Rinse and place in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

See? Couldn't be simpler. I used skinless, boneless chicken breasts and they were fine. Next time, I might consider adding even a bit more cornstarch in the last 30 minutes of cooking to thicken the sauce even more, but as is this was good. I'd also strain the sauce at the end for
company presentation.

(By the way, from the ingredients, this sounds like it might be syrupy sweet. But it wasn't. The wine and the lemon juice balance that out, I guess.)