Wednesday, August 31, 2005

True Confessions

I'm going to make a confession to y'all, as I know that I'm just among friends here.

Here it is: I love soap operas.

Yes, I know. They're silly and over-the-top and trite and totally lacking in substance. But I love them any way.

I can genuinely blame this on my mom. She started watching "As the World Turns" the year that I was born, which was -- ahem -- over 40 years ago. For my whole, conscious life (and a hunk of my unconscious life) I've had "As the World Turns" as the soundtrack to my lunch-hour. Those long running characters are like family to me, in a weird way. When I lived in New Hampshire, thousands of miles from my mom and sister, it gave me great pleasure and an odd (I admit) sense of security to watch the Hughes clan on that show, and know that my mom and sister were watching, too.

And once you get hooked on watching a soap opera, it seems to me, one just leads to another. (I digress to tell a funny story about my grandma, a serious little lady from Italy whose grasp of English wasn't the strongest. Every afternoon at 3:00 she sat down to watch "All My Children" ...she planned her whole day around that entertainment hour. So, one afternoon, I was at her house and 3:00 rolled around and my grandmother got gingerale for both of us and we settled down to watch "All My Children." Only...wait! The credits were rolling, the show logo spilled across the WASN'T "All My Children!" It was "One Life to Live!" Some months earlier, it turned out, the station had changed its lineup of shows and slotted "One Life to Live" in the 3:00 time slot. And my grandmother didn't notice. Different characters? Well, those soap actors do have a sort of standard look to them. And different plot? Put them all in a hospital and it IS hard to tell which show you're watching. My grandmother didn't notice, and didn't care. She had her 3:00 show, and she just kept on watching.)

Anyway. Watching "As the World Turns" for all those years led me to watch "The Bold and Beautiful," which has always preceded it. (I'd turn on the tv to watch ATWT and catch the closing moments of each B&B episode...and we all know that the good stuff only happens at the end of the show. So, I got curious and started tuning in to see more. That show is about the silliest and subtly tongue-in-cheek show around (at least, that's how I choose to see that show's ridiculous drama).

Just so we're clear (I'm only gonna admit so much, after all) I don't actually sit down and watch, enrapt, for 90 minutes every day. What I actually do is have my VCR set to tape that time slot 5 days a week...and usually I end up piling up tapes so that I'm several weeks behind.

Then, when I'm sewing or cleaning my office or ironing I pop them in and let the shows roll over me. If I miss some stuff, it doesn't matter (heck, if I lose the tape and miss 8 shows it doesn't matter). And I get enormous pleasure of having it on while I sew. It's not worth my full attention, but I'll happily give it 20 percent.

This morning, I had workers pounding away in the master bathroom, and clomping up and down the stairs hauling wood and debris and who knows what else. So, I put my soap tape in the vcr and spent a lovely few hours working on my sprinkler quilt with my friends from Oakdale in the background.

It's pure escapism, but I love it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Sound of Quilting

That's what you could hear coming from my studio today, in more ways than one.

For the last few years, I've been in charge of the challenges for my quilt guild. It's a great guild position, by the pick a challenge theme, announce it at a few meetings and in the newsletter, and you're good to go.

For this year's challenge, I wanted to find a theme that wasn't trite or overdone or boring. I wanted something that would appeal to the traditional quilters in the guild, as well as to the art quilters. I solicited ideas, consulted with friends, and came up with this theme: The Sound of Quilting. The challenge is to make a quilt (smallish, no larger than 36 x 36 inches) inspired by a noise or a sound.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured I'd be full of ideas.

I mulled. I pondered. I thought about the theme each night as I tried to go to sleep, and each time I came to the same conclusion.

Who the hell came up with this stupid idea, anyway?

I can't beg off -- it's my challenge idea, after all. And it's due to be shown, completely finished of course, at the meeting on September 15.

For awhile I was going to illustrate the sound of a cat's purr. Well, I liked the idea of illustrating a cat's purr. The problem was, I couldn't settle on any image that actually portrayed the sound. I kept thinking I'd try to do the image of a cat rubbing up against someone's legs. But I'm not that confident in the drawing department, and I couldn't find an image that I wanted to work from, not for lack of trying. (I can't even tell you how many books on cats I've looked through at area bookstores, and children's books, even.)

A few weeks ago, on a very hot afternoon, I was out in the backyard running the sprinkler both to water the flowers and to entertain the puppy. I laid back on the lounge chair while Gemma ran back and forth through the sprinkler, and as I was relaxing and enjoying the cooling sound of the sprinkler on such a hot day, it hit me: that was THE SOUND.

Today was the first chance I've had to work on this project. And I'm off to a good start, if I do say so myself! Here it is so far:

Water droplets to come! I'm playing around with silk organza to fuse, and with an irridescent white thread... we'll see what happens next!

Funny, I can't seem to stop humming..."The hills are alive....."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

No Child Left Untested

I had hoped to do some work this weekend on my newest quilting project, my quilt for the guild's challenge on "The Sound of Quilting." However, before I could work on that with a clear conscience, I tackled a project I'd volunteered to complete for a school board committee I'm on in my community.

I volunteered to write up a "Frequently Asked Questions" document -- with answers, of course -- about the government-mandated testing in our public school district. Once a year, our kids take state and federally mandated tests, and we parents receive notice of their individual scores. And twice each year, the State of California releases school scores and rankings, which are published in our local newspaper.

Whenever any of these events happens, all sorts of questions and comments fly around the school, because no one knows what to make of them. The numbers are confusing, and it's not clear what they mean for any child, for any one school, or for the school district. So, we folks on the communications committee figured that we'd try to clarify matters.

So, I've spent hours -- literally, hours -- reading information from the California Department of Education, statistics, and various entities' analysis of how the test results are tabulated and what the results mean.

Here are a few of the points I've learned through this process:

1. Pretty much every public school kid has to take the tests, even if they don't read very well or speak English very well. This makes a heck of a lot of sense, since they have to read the test to take it and it's only offered in English. Guess how much those scores are going to reflect what those kids really know?

2. It's really hard to figure out what a less-than-proficient score for your individual child means. Has the teacher actually taught the grade-level content by the point in the school year when your child takes the test? Does your child not take multiple choice tests well? Were the questions worded in a confusing way? Did your child just get tired, taking multiple-choice tests all day for a bunch of days in a row? Or does your child really need work on specific areas?

2. California's tests are designed to match the state's academic content standards for each grade. This means that if your kid is just a bit behind in mastering first-grade level reading and math, by second grade most likely he'll be further behind when measured against 2nd grade content standards....even if he's making excellent progress for his learning speed and ability. This also means that the gap will probably widen every year, without huge intervention. And, of course, there's virtually no government money available for intervention. Heck, our school barely has enough money these days for xerox paper.

3. The school scores listed in the newspaper, and from which parents try to compare their school with other area schools, aren't really comparable because they're based on a complicated calculation that includes weighting for a number of variables. Each school has a different number of "English language learners," socio-economically deprived kids, for example, so the weighting for the scores has different impacts. This means if you try to base a comparison on the few statistics reported for each school, you're basically comparing apples and oranges. The only way to get even close to a valid comparison is to compare the full set of numbers... and how many folks will do that, or will understand the numbers if they get them?

4. To calculate the school's score, the kids' test results are calculated school-wide, AND by various subgroups (race, English learner, socio-economic status, disability, etc.) For a school to be deemed to meet its official "growth target", EVERY different group has to show comparable improvement. This means that even if the overall school score has gone up a lot, if every subgroup hasn't also risen by a comparable amount, the school score is treated as NOT meeting its growth target.... with various penalties imposed as a result.

5. These government testing mandates only apply to public schools. So, there's no way to see how private schools are performing or how your school compares to other area private schools.

6. Under the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, 95% of of all students -- and 95% of each subgroup -- must participate in the testing. This means that no matter how well the students who were actually tested did, if that statistic isn't met across the board because students were sick or parents opted to keep their kids home, the school will be deemed not to have met its annual yearly progress.

7. Under "No Child Left Behind," a school that hasn't met its "annual yearly progress" for two years in a row is designated a "non-performing school" and sanctions that worsen every year are imposed. There is very little funding -- if any -- to help a "non-performing school" improve. This means that once a school is "non-performing," parents think it's a "bad" school and move kids to other schools...with the result that the school receives even less money through the attendance-related money that comes in from the government...Which means that the schools that need the most help end up with decreasing funding.

8. In some states, including California, the state and federal reporting requirements don't match, and the progress demanded by the state is different from the progress demanded by the federal government. This means that a school can focus on one area and show great improvement under one scheme, while failing to meet the growth target under the other scheme.

Frankly, in an effort to answer questions and reassure parents of the signicance of the testing process, I'm discouraged and dismayed and even less confident that these improve public school education.

That said, I'm wholly committed to public school education, and I am amazed and awed and delighted by the wonderful teachers who dedicate themselves to our kids. My daughter's school has an impressive group of truly devoted teachers, and I know that there are many, many more great teachers at other public schools. It's just too bad that the very testing processes that are designed to help our kids get better education are likely to drive these great teachers away from the profession.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An anti-rant

I have nothing against political rants. Like many others, I'm thoroughly distressed with our president (I can't even bear to listen to him) and political matters and the position of the US in the world, andI understand the inclination to rant about it all.

But because I'm so distressed and stressed about the condition of things at the moment (you know, the world, our country, my state, my local community, my daughter's school...things like that) ranting just makes me feel more stressed.

That's why today I'm recommending two insightful, well-written, and thought-provoking blogs to you. When I read these, I feel calmer somehow, more focused on what's important.

The first is Treppenwitz, a blog written by David Bogner. David is a young father and husband living in Israel. The title means "literally, 'the wisdom of the stairs'... The striking reply that crosses one's mind belatedly when already leaving, on the stairs. " In his blog, David discusses fatherhood, marriage, and life in Israel. It's fascinating quiet reading, and David is insightful about current Israel events. I think what I find most appealing about reading David's blog is that his accounts of life in Israel -- which of course include references to the current political climate -- is that it comes from the perspective of a sane, normal, family guy who is experiencing these events as part of his daily life.

The second blog is one called "Real E Fun" by a blogger writing under the psuedonym Zinnia Cyclamen in the U.K. Zinnia is a funeral celebrant, trained and accredited by the British Humanist Association. She blogs about the people she encounters in her work, and the interactions she observes as she's participating in their lives to celebrate a deceased person's life. Now, I know this sounds weird and dull (and directly contradictory to the title which sets you up to expect a party girl's blog or something) but it's fascinating. The entries are beautifully written, with wonderful simple brush-stroke descriptions of people in a way that speaks volumes. I come away feeling that what's most important is to value and respect and love those we hold most dear...

Which is the best antidote to bad politics, I think.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The butterfly has landed!

Here's the butterfly, done! (Well, mostly...the sleeve isn't fully sewn.) I had a big quilting day yesterday and got way more done on it than I thought I would.

This is actually straight and square, not that you can tell this from this photo.

Here's a detail shows the quilting a bit more:

Some of you might remember how stuck I was once I got the butterfly wing itself done. I fiddled and fiddled with the background fabric, trying to find the right one. I finally settled on this green, but then it just sat while I tried to figure out what to do about a border.

I'm learning that the "letting it sit" process can be an important one. I didn't know what to do about it, so instead of rushing to just finish it any old way, I waited. And one day, after I bought some black organza "just because," it dawned on me that it would make a good shadow for the wing.

Then, fortuitously, I happened to see a Simply Quilts episode where the featured artist showed an easy way to do this off-kilter setting. And it just seemed right for this.

So, here it is. I'm happy with it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hooray, hooray, it's Family Day!

In our house, August 19 is Family Day. That's the day we officially adopted Caroline in China, and we celebrate it joyfully every year.

It's hard to believe that 9 years ago today, Caroline officially became part of our family. Really, until then we were a couple. And Caroline made us a family. Don't we look blissfully happy?

That picture was taken at the orphanage in Chongqing, China, the very day we met her.

The events that led us to adopt Caroline weren't easy. We dealt with unexplained infertility for some time, and explored some domestic adoption situations that didn't pan out. It was an emotional time for Roger and me as a couple. But when we learned about the process of adopting a child from China, it seemed like the clear and right path for us.

In retrospect, it seems like the time flew by. But that wasn't how it felt at the time, of course. It felt like the paperwork was endless, and complicated. We sent papers all over the US to get them stamped and sealed as necessary, and then were in awe when they came back to us from the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, stamped and sealed some more, with impressive Chinese characters and a red satin ribbon attached. We were so frustrated we could have chewed nails when the federal government shut down for 4 or 5 months over a political budget mess...Remember that? Our papers sat on someone's desk at Immigration all that time, and there was nothing we could do about it.

During that time, it seemed that I saw heavily pregnant women everywhere, and I felt pregnant as well...I even gained a few pounds!

Finally, after our papers went to China, we got our "child assignment" and received this picture of our as-yet-unseen daughter:

This was our first glimpse of Caroline. I framed it in this frame, and kept it on my desk at work. We made zillions of copies, carried laminated ones in our pockets, and sent them to everyone we knew. (It's funny to me that I see that same serious, contemplative expression on Caroline's face at times, even now.)

And then we waited for clearance from the Chinese government to travel to China. If I thought the waiting was hard before, it became harder when we had a specific child to picture and wonder about!

Roger and I handled things differently, not surprisingly. He got into the excitement of traveling to China, and he researched sites to see and read all about the places we'd be going. Me, I didn't care WHERE we'd be...I bought tiny clothes (pink, pink, pink!) in various sizes, as we didn't know how big she'd be by the time we got there. Would she be on the small side? We knew she was going to be around 6 months old, but we didn't know whether she'd be underdeveloped. I took clothes and diapers for 3 months, 6 months, and a year. Would she accept normal formula, or be lactose intolerant? I took regular and soy. Would she be sick and go through extra diapers? I took enough diapers so she could have diarrhea for the entire time and I wouldn't run out (that's a LOT of diapers). (We were told we could not count on being able to find powdered formula or disposable diapers.) Would she need medication? We took a medical kit (an amazingly complete little pack put together by an international adoption agency out of Texas) that had sterile hypodermic needles, various creams (for lice, scabies, etc.) and antibiotics. We even took duct tape, hearing disaster stories of luggage tearing. We were well prepared and well stocked.

We arrived in China on a Sunday, met up with the other four families we'd be traveling with, and got to meet our babies on a Tuesday. It was an astonishing emotional day, as you can imagine. But every child in our group was beautiful and healthy.

From there, we had almost two weeks of official errands to run to process the adoption... A visit to a health clinic for the most cursory medical exam you could imagine, official photographs for Caroline's passport, interviews with officials, and last, the interview at the American Consulate in Guangzhou so Caroline could get her visa. In between, we did some site-seeing and marveled at our new baby.

We also tried to nap whenever possible. China time is exactly 12 hours off of east coast time (we lived in New Hampshire when we adopted Caroline) so our bodies were in shock. Plus, guess what: babies wake up in the middle of the night!

But she was the cutest baby in the whole world. She gazed thoughtfully out at the world from her stroller as we pushed her around the streets of Guangzhou.

We tested her as a future hat model, but she wouldn't have it and second after every hat picture, she'd ripped it off.

Our day at the American consulate got us the papers to bring her home with us. Note her patriotic red, white and blue attire (well, the blue is hidden in this picture). (And isn't it cool that they had cribs in the American consulate waiting room? Baby swing chairs, too!)

Ah, it was a wonderful experience. I came home feeling that if I could travel in a foreign country with a brand new baby for two weeks, I could do anything.

And here is Caroine now: big and beautiful and smart as a whip.

I simply can't believe it's been NINE years.

We're processing papers to go again, and get a sister for Caroline. So we'll have TWO family days to celebrate, and two beautiful daughters to enjoy.

Meanwhile, we're celebrating. Chinese food for dinner, of course!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Getting in Touch with Your Inner Fabricholic

When I've seen my friend Rita lately, she's had a calm and happy smile on her face. Wondering why she looked like the proverbial cat who ate the canary, I asked what's she's been up to.

"I've been getting in touch with my fabric," she replied, grinning.

Rita explained. She's got several workshops coming up: a trip to Art Quilt Tahoe in late fall, and our fall retreat at Bishop's Ranch in October. In preparation for them, and before she headed out to shop for the materials on her supply lists, she decided to take stock with what she had in her stash. She's been sorting and stroking fabric. She was having such fun fondling her fabric that she decided to wash and iron it all so she could stroke it and gaze at it some more.

"I love what I have!" she announced, happily. "I've found stuff I forgot I had, and I still really love it!"

So, she hasn't sewn a stitch, or designed any new projects, or fused any fabulous quilt tops. But she's having a marvelous time.

Gee, I wonder what's in MY closet? And can I get Rita to come over and iron it?!

A Word about Thread

I've been quilting on my butterfly quilt lately (I know, I know, you want pictures... SOON.) And I've made another discovery, late to arrive at knowledge that others have long known.

I've been using Libby Lehman's "Bottom Line" thread in the bobbin. And it's wonderful! And a bobbin lasts FOREVER! I'd swear this thread has magical properties which make one bobbin just go on and on and on. It's great stuff! I'm going to have to stock up on colors.

On the top, I've been using Aurifil thread. Having been turned on to Aurifil thread by Kathy Sandbach a few years ago, I've ordered it since then from That Thread Shop. Now, a few of my local shops carry it in some colors, which is handy. I buy large cones of grey Aurifil thread and use that for most piecing projects. It's 50 weight, but it feels thinner to me, which I like. And it's virtually fuzz-less, so it doesn't mess up the bobbin case nearly as much as other thread does.

I know a lot of people use heavier weight thread for quilting. I do too, sometimes. But these days, I find myself liking a finer quilting line, so the texture of the quilting shows somewhat more than the thead itself. That's what's working well on my current project, anyway.

Today, Caroline is home sick again (and miserable about missing pony camp for another day), the dishwasher repair guy is due, the bathroom demolition guys will be back shaking the house as they rip the tile off of the shower... and my teeth feel like they have steel bands wrapped around them putting pressure on my whole head. (Oh wait, they DO!) So, it's clearly not a day to concentrate on legal reseach. I'm going to give it all up and just quilt.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


No, that's not because it's my birthday..."B-Day" is "Braces Day"... the day I've been counting down to for the last few months, as I've squarely addressed various dental issues.

You may not appreciate what a big deal this is for me. I've had a rather severe phobia about dentistry for all of my adult life. But over the past two years, I've managed to overcome a lot of it (thanks to a great dentist and his willingness to sedate me and otherwise accomodate my fears) and I've gotten everything that needed doing done.

Now all that's left is to straighten my teeth. Sigh. I grew up with very straight teeth. As an adolescent, I had great, straight teeth while my friends suffered through years of braces. I guess I was smug.

Because, during my late 20's and all through my 30's, my teeth suddenly started migrating forward as if their goal was to leap right out of my mouth. Some of the movement is due, I know, to the years when I nightly ground and clenched my teeth... The stress of my trial lawyer days acting itself out on my poor little teeth.

Anyway, I was weirdly excited for today to come, because it marks the beginning of the end of dealing with something that has become a big issue for me. And they're on! It's a very strange feeling, this mouth full of metal. I'd take a picture, but the wires look all twisty and crooked because my teeth are all crooked! You'll see the final result if you hang around for about 2 years.

So, smile for me, and then go brush and floss!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dog Days of Summer

Gemma had a great day today. Her friend Sadie, accompanied by her friend Connor (who is exactly Caroline's age) came over to play this morning. Sadie is a "Golden Doodle," which is a cross between a golden retriever and a standard poodle. She's very charming.

Sadie is also the same age as Gemma (approaching 6 months old now), about the same size, and about the same energy level. Conveniently for all of us, Sadie's owners live around the corner from us so we get together frequently for doggie play.

They are well matched in their play. Sometimes, Sadie pins Gemma...

And just as often, Gemma pins Sadie.

They do take frequent breaks for refreshments.

They're always a constantly-moving blur of running, rolling, and romping...But if someone opens the screen door coming out of the house, they freeze. Can't you see the thought bubbles over their heads, "FOOD?!"

They're such friendly dogs that they decided to help Connor tie his shoe.

So, a good time was had by all. I got to sit, watch, and read my novel a bit, which was quite pleasant. We sent Sadie and Connor home tired and happy. (I did have to call Kim, Connor's mom, to apologize for sending Sadie home with muddy feet and brambles in her fur-- they had one big romp session back against the fence, in the bushes, until I got them back out on the lawn.)

Gemma was exhausted. And remember the novel I was reading? Gemma spent a bit of the afternoon enjoying it, as well.

You'll notice that she's the type to go straight to the end of the story. Wouldn't you know...she couldn't have chewed up the pages I'd already read!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ebb and Flow

In these phases, when my non-quilting life consumes most of my time and I'm not getting any quilting time, I never quite know what to write about here. When I write about family stuff, I worry that the quilting folks among you will be bored silly. (As if you aren't most of the time here anyway, but I ignore that worry.)

Unlike some folks -- whose inner artistic contemplations I admire -- I don't typically have interesting philosophical thoughts and revelations about the artistic process. I'm thinking about what to make for dinner, whether Caroline has outgrown her school clothes, how I'll find time to finish the motion I'm supposed to be researching, whether the puppy needs more exercise and should I take her to the dog park, why that laurel bush in the corner of the yard has yellow leaves, and the question that almost always lurks in the back of my mind: Can I take a nap?

I try to remind myself that these outwardly unproductive times can actually turn out to be productive. The inability to find time to work on quilt projects seems to make my mind more eager, and I find myself coming up with new creative ideas and even, sometimes, solutions to creative problems that have been plaguing me. So, I guess I should consider these periods in my life as part of my own creative process. If not for the ebb, there wouldn't be flow.

I'm always drawn to new quilt books, and I'm lucky enough to belong to a guild with a massive library. Last week, I borrowed Velda Newman's two books and I've been reading them with great pleasure and interest. I've been thinking (in a general way, not a grand philosophical way) that LARGE quilts have huge impact. See? Not a huge revelation, but a small thought that if I'm going to take the time to work on something that I want to have a big impact, perhaps I need to consider the final size a bit more. Velda Newman's work is an obvious example of this...her work would be stunning even if smaller, but huge, it's breath-taking.

Remember my quilt "Smoke Signals?"

I really like how this turned out, but it's not that powerful. It's small, 29" x 38". I keep thinking I'm going to enter it somewhere, but I haven't...and in part, I think, it's because it doesn't strike me as big enough. Not just in size, but in impact.

Last year, I had a quilt in Pacific Quilt International...which was a big deal to me, as it was the first time I'd entered anything in a juried show. It was "Red Threads":

This is another quilt I'm proud of. It is one of my first wholly original designs, and it was my first effort at something realistic. It's also not very big, about 39" x 41". And, while I was thrilled to have something hanging at PIQF, I was disappointed to see it hanging. At that show, and most others, they hung the small quilts all together, fitted together almost like mosaic tiles on a long wall. There were tons of great, smaller quilts. But in that setting, you lost the impact of any one of them.

So, I'm thinking that the next quilt I do needs to be bigger.

And while I've been pondering that small but useful thought, I went with my friends Pat, Janet, Rita and Gerrie to hear a talk by San Francisco quilt artist Marcia Stein yesterday. You might know her work...she does wonderful, graphic portrayals of scenes and images that are realistic yet simplified in a dramatic way. Here are a few of my favorites:

In one of those synchronistic moments, she mentioned in her talk that she was heavily influenced by a class by Velda Newman and decided to make her quilts large to give them a strong impact.

Well, okay. I think I'm getting the idea. And I'll be ready to work on it, any minute now, as soon as I have time to turn on the "flow."

Friday, August 12, 2005

So much for solitude...

I've mentioned here how summers, while they're lots of fun, are stressful for me.

In summertime, both Roger and Caroline are at home all day, every day. And, while this has some nice advantages, it also makes me crazy. You see, I work from home, so my work schedule is totally thrown out of whack. Plus, I'm the sort of person who needs some quiet and alone time...and the lack of it makes me stir-crazy after a while.

So, I've been looking forward to next week. Roger starts school on Monday, and Caroline is signed up for an all-day pony camp, which will give me from about 9:30 to 3pm at home alone to get work done and get a bit of time to myself. (Just between you and me, I was planning to celebrate the occasion by avoiding all work on Monday and spending the day quilting my butterfly.)

But some things are not meant to be. This morning, workers started tearing apart our master bathroom, to repair a construction defect that has caused leaking and requires replacement of the shower and flooring. That means there will be workers in the house for two weeks, they estimate. Perfect.

That's okay, I thought, I can still spend the day sewing on Monday.


Turns out a work issue is rearing its ugly head, and I have a conference call that promises to be a 2-hour thing. And tuesday morning I get my braces put on, so that morning is shot.

Sigh. There is nothing to do but just deal with it. And enjoy it while it's happening, yes?!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

One Thing Leads to Another

Do you ever have one of those days where you set out to do one chore -- one simple, little, easy chore -- and before you know it, you've made a huge mess that overwhelms you? That was my day today.

I set out to clear off the top of the dryer in the laundry room. Our laundry room is upstairs, which is handy for all sorts of reasons, but it ends up being a sort of "catch-all" place for clothes I don't know what to do with. Usually it's stuff that Caroline has outgrown, or needs mending, or the like. Well, as I was doing that, I decided to take advantage of one of the cupboards over the dryer, which held a bunch of stuff I'd decided to give to the Salvation Army.

So, there was this nice, empty cupboard...which seemed like the ideal place top put the batting that is sitting on the top shelf of my closet. So, in the process of pulling the batting down, I pulled a bunch more stuff down too, which led to a cleaning of the entire walk-in closet. It all exploded out into the entry to the bedroom, looking like this:

And of course, I had to sort stuff, so it all spread to the bed:

Well, as you can guess, the day was shot. I got it all put away by about 3, and loaded a whole bunch of shopping bags full of clothes and shoes into the car to take to Salvation Army...

I was tired but happy with my progress. And I'm pleased to have found a good, out-of-the way place for the batting. However, if I start complaining about needing batting at some point in the future, will one of you please email me and remind me to go look in the cupboard over the dryer?!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Butterflies in my Stomach

Remember this butterfly wing I was working on a long time ago? It's been sitting in my basket of UFOs in my office/studio, waiting for me to figure out what to do with it. I'd attached the butterfly wing to the green background, but there it sat.

And suddenly, last week, the solution became clear. My uncertainty about how to border it -- indeed, whether to border it at all -- evaporated. I had a clear plan, and lots of excitement.

But no time. It's been frustrating.

But today, Roger drove off to take Caroline to her riding lesson...I worked for a bit and got another project done and sent off...and then cleared the table and got to work.

I'm very happy. It's coming along nicely and I'm ready to put the layers together and start quilting!

But I'm not going to show you until it's all done. Besides, it might change some between now and then. Still, it's been a happy experience to have ideas and rough concepts gel into a "yes, THAT" decision, and then finally get time to execute it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My favorite things

What with work obligations, and family activities, and the post-vacation catching up on things like garden and laundry and such, I've not had any creative time and I've not even dug my digital camera out of my backpack where it nested while we were in Tahoe! So, I apologize for the picture-free series of entries here. I'll get back to normal shortly, I think.

In the meantime, I'm posting this list of some of my favorite things...because Caroline was watching "The Sound of Music" earlier this evening and the song stuck in my head. Please post on your blog, I'd love to see what you'd say!

So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite things:

The sound of a rainbird sprinkler on a hot summer day

A hot bubble bath

Clean cotton sheets on the bed

The smell of library books

Stencilled and calico china buttons

Japanese quilting magazines

My waterman fountain pen

Watching Caroline riding horseback


Peanut butter and rasberry jam sandwiches

The view from our bedroom window, across a few rooftops to vineyard-covered hills in the distance

Rainy days

The crunch of snow underfoot

The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking

Playing "yatzee" with Caroline

The scent of the summertime air in Lake Tahoe

Shiny red dishes

My round, pink teapot

Listening to Roger play his guitar

Scones with orange marmelade, and earl grey tea

The hum of my sewing machine when I'm free-motion quilting

Gemma's wild tail-wagging greeting in the morning

Sparkling water, cold and blubbly

A fresh, juicy peach at the peak of summer

I could go on and on. What's your list?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Still Waiting

"Still Waiting," by Sharon Malec

A few months ago, I bought this gorgeous small quilt through the "Keiko and Friends: Art Quilts" exhibit curated by Laura Wasilowski. I simply couldn't resist it. Sharon Malec is a very talented quilt artist who is known as "the Dog Lady" because of her great dog quilts and designs. And this one really called out to me.

My sister, Laura, has had a wonderful, quiet black lab named Libby for about 13 years. She rescued her after Libby was found, staked to a tree behind an empty house. It was apparent from her behavior that she was a young dog, and sweet, but that she'd been badly abused. So, for the past 13 years, Libby has been my sister's shadow. For quite a while, Laura had a job where she could take Libby to work with her. Libby rides "shotgun" next to Laura in her truck, and where ever Laura is, Libby is curled up quietly nearby. When Laura had to travel, we or my parents would keep Libby for her...and this quilt represented what we usually saw, then--Libby's back, as she sat gazing at the door or a window, waiting for Laura.

When I bought this lovely quilt, I wasn't sure whether I was going to keep it or give it to Laura. I really wanted to keep it -- but, after all, it's an amazing likeness of Libby (especially since Sharon Malec has never seen her). I've had it tucked away, and figured I'd decide at some point.

Well, this past week, Laura had to have Libby put to sleep. Libby's been pretty frail for a while now, with back problems and doggie delirium setting in. It was looking like she had a brain tumor, and things were going to plummet fast. So, we all had our sad goodbyes. Laura's doing okay, but she misses her so much.

And of course, it became very clear that Laura needed this lovely art quilt. I gave it to Laura tonight, and we both had a good cry and then went out and threw balls for Gemma.

I've sent my deep thanks to Sharon, for creating something that has become so meaningful to both me and my sister.