Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Today is all about ME!

It's my birthday today...I'm 49, I think. Here I've been thinking that I'm about to turn 48, then my friend Beth (who just turned 50) sternly reminded me that I'm actually 48 already. Hey, whatEVER.

Anyway! With the back-to-back birthdays in our house, I usually celebrate mine quietly and with a celebration later...after we've finished Caroline's birthday cake!

So today, I'm celebrating with a day of indulgences... Coffee with The Gilmore Girls (I'm in Season 4 and Rory has just arrived at Yale), a morning of sewing on my new piece (soon to be revealed!), sushi for lunch with my good friend Jenny, some leisurely reading in the new novel by Anne River Siddons (one of my favorite authors whose newest book auspiciously arrived at the library in time for me to start it last night), and a poached salmon dinner prepared by Roger.

And now, because it appears to be the Bloggish thing to do, here are 49 things about me that you might not know:

1. I am a third-generation Californian.

2. I don’t like to eat breakfast until I’ve been up for at least an hour.

3. I like daytime tv better than prime-time tv.

4. I get most of my news from National Public Radio. And I like it that way.

5. I read the New Yorker cover to cover, but usually a week or two after it arrives in the mail.

6. I like the IDEA of martinis and I like the LOOK of martinis but I don’t like martinis.

7. I have the straightest hair of anyone I’ve ever met, no matter what I try to do to it.

8. I believe that speaking out and getting involved really can make a difference in the world.

9. I won a creative writing prize in kindergarten, even though I couldn’t write...I dictated.

10. I can only remember one joke at a time.

11. I love to write with fountain pens.

12. The smell of mushrooms sauteeing nauseates me.

13. I used to wake up on Christmas mornings hoping to find a Cocker Spaniel next to my bed.

14. I like ordinary domestic milk chocolate better than fancy gourmet chocolate.

15. I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.

16. I love novels told in the first person narrative style.

17. I love turtleneck sweaters, but at this age (ahem) and in this climate I don’t wear them nearly as often as I used to.

18. I moved to New Hampshire without knowing anyone there because I wanted to live in a snowy climate.

19. I never got enough snow, no matter how long winter was.

20. I’d love to have a pink bedroom with flowery chinz fabrics. But my husband wouldn’t, so we don’t.

21. I used to be intimidated about traveling in foreign countries, but then we went to China to adopt Caroline...And since traveling with a new baby for two weeks there, I feel like I could go anywhere.

22. I believe that families are made by love and respect.

23. I wouldn’t be who I am without the great friends I have.

24. I love to eat breakfast foods for dinner.

25. I’d love to travel to Cornwall, England.

26. I can waste an embarrassing amount of time playing computer games, but I try not to...too often, anyway.

27. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. And then I read "All Things Great and Small" and learned that vets have to put their arms up the rear ends of horses and cows.

28. I went to law school thinking that I probably wouldn’t like being a lawyer. When I started working, I was pleasantly surprised.

29. I don’t like to argue, which made working as a litigation attorney especially stressful.

30. I have always had a hard time remembering how old I am.

31. When I was in college, Paul Newman spoke to me. Unfortunately, I was too astonished to say anything back.

32. I find the saying "I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous" to be extremely funny.

33. I believe that we draw the things we need to us in life.

34. I want to take piano lessons some day.

35. I believe that I can figure out how to do most things if I can read about it.

36. I really hate going into the reptile house at the zoo and will only do so if I absolutely have to.

37. I like cinnamon in my coffee.

38. I need a bit of alone time every day...without it I get crazed.

39. I have more patience than I think I do.

40. I’m very calm when things go wrong or problems arise.

41. It’s important to me to stay in touch with my friends.

42. I love to watch BBC television shows, especially the dramatic series.

43. If I didn’t live in the U.S., I would want to live in the U.K.

44. I need to have my shoulders covered when I sleep.

45. I believe that people and animals we have known and loved live on somewhere and watch over us.

46. I believe that the creative process feeds me.

47. I think having lots of books around is necessary to a happy and comfortable home.

48. I love looking at other people’s family albums and home movies.

49. I’m very, very happy with the life I have.

Monday, January 30, 2006

10 Reasons Why...

...I have the best daughter in the world!

Caroline turned 10 on Saturday, and with all the fun and excitement I didn’t post this on her actual day! But in Caroline’s honor, I’m sharing this now to celebrate this happy and momentous event.

1. Caroline has a quick wit and loves word play. When she was 5, she announced, "I have a riddle, mom! Where do babies come from? Va-China, mom! Get it? Va-China?" (Caroline was born in China.

2. She's always willing to try new things. She even asked if she could try brussels sprouts! The fact that her friends don't like something won't deter her from trying it, either.

3. She doesn't go along with the crowd. She thinks independently and doesn't mind being different.

4. Caroline is very creative, in an original and inventive way. Okay, it frustrates me that she doesn’t want to follow directions and make something the way instructions show...But she always has a clever and interesting approach that is all her own.

5. She is very kind and loving with animals. When she sewed her first mini-quilt, she insisted that we bind it and give it to the animal shelter as a pad for a cat bed.

6. She wants to be helpful all the time. She happily fetched and carried for me when I was immobilized with a broken knee, and she even performed plays and dance routines for me, too.

7. She’s proud of being from China and interested in learning about China. She has enough stuffed pandas on her bed to have genuine Pandamonium!

8. She expresses delightfully interesting thoughts. When she was very small, maybe 3, she said to me while she gazed at Chen, her large stuffed panda, “Chen is very quiet, isn’t he?”

9. Caroline believes she can do anything, and I think she’s right.

10. Caroline is a happy cuddler and loves nothing more to sit snuggled up on the couch or bed to read, talk, or watch movies.

Happy Birthday, sweetie!

Oh– this fluffy demonic beast is Squeekers, the 4th grade classroom guinea pig. In honor of Caroline’s birthday, he came and spent the weekend with us. He provided much entertainment for Caroline and our two cats!

Friday, January 27, 2006

It's Bewitching

This was one of my very favorite TV shows when I was a kid. And a while ago, I started thinking that I'd love to share it with Caroline. At age 10 (in 2 days!), she's the perfect age for it. But I never managed to stumble onto it on Nick at Night or TV Land, and I'd forget about it.

Recently, I stumbled onto the whole first season on DVD, on sale even. I snapped it right up. And that very night, when Roger collapsed into bed suffering from the flu, Caroline and I snuggled on the couch after dinner and I introduced her to Samantha, Darrin, and Endora.

I so enjoyed watching the first episode that night...But what I enjoyed more was watching Caroline's face as she grinned and laughed and watched in amazement as Samantha twitched her nose and made magic happen. She cackles with glee when Gladys Kravitz gets confused and crazed.

So, each night, we've watched an episode together. And almost every night, I can't help myself from saying "This was my favorite show" or "I LOVED this as a kid." The first few times, Caroline said, in that budding-adolescent ennui-filled tone, "I KNOW, mom...you SAID that already." But lately, she's said "I love it too!"

We are having fun.

And I can't wait until she sees Uncle Arthur! And Dr. Bombay!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Snowy Night

I finished my snowy night quilt. That's not the final name, however. I'm not sure what the final name is. When I approached making this house quilt, I wanted it to be about the concept of "home" and the warmth of home. I'm fairly pleased with how this quilt conveys that, as the lighted windows conjures up a pretty strong feeling. In me, anyway.

(By the way, this really is symmetrical and square...I think I tilt the camera funny when I photograph things on my design wall, probably from being crammed back against the closet and sewing table to get a proper distance!)

But I'm not as satisfied with the flat look of this. I chose very flat looking fabrics, so that's clearly why this is the result. In person, the quilting adds a lot more texture and that helps a lot. You can see a bit in the detail here.
snowy night

Anyway, this was a fun challenge and I was happy to present it to the workshop group.

Postcards from Sonoma County

My art quilting group, the Pointless Sisters, met yesterday. As always, it was fun and I came away excited and inspired.

The big excitement yesterday was that volunteer participants revealed the "postcards" they'd made, to be used on an opportunity quilt which will be raffled off by our big parent guild. This is the first year that our "big" guild will have 2 opportunity quilts, one traditional and one art quilt. So it's a new adventure for all of us.

The group decided to do "Postcards from Sonoma County" as the theme, and our task was to make a 12x18 inch image reflecting wine country colors and images. These are unfinished, as they'll be assembled (by a brave group of 4) into something different. But here's the collection:

You can spot my oak tree silhouette. I was a bit worried that its dark colors would make it stand out too much, and maybe they'll choose not to use it. That's okay with me.

I got individual photos of a few of them. Here is Cathy's rocky inlet, made with a Sue Benner fusing technique. Cathy wasn't thrilled with it, she reported it, but we all loved it.

Marty created a very postal image, complete with cancellation mark, using a photo of a tree from a winery in her area. We all covet that beautiful fabric on the bottom edge!

This is Pat's, in which she experimented with thread trees. They're made by sewing lots of thread onto water-soluble sulky and dissolving it later. Very successful. Pat always uses fabric very creatively... notice how well she has used patterned fabric for landscape elements.

It'll be fun to see what the final result looks like!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Moe's Happy Birthday

Last friday, my good friend Moe (short for Maureen) celebrated her 50th birthday. And on Thursday -- the day before -- I learned that Moe's sister Karen was throwing her an impromptu surprise birthday party on Saturday afternoon.

In college, Moe was one of our close foursome-- me, Beth (whose 50th birthday we celebrated a few weeks ago), Moe, and Beth. We met in the dorm when we were all college students at the University of California, Irvine, and then in various permutations, we roomed together for years after. We became friends for life, bonded over events like college boyfriends, break-ups, late-night confidences, popcorn parties, weddings, graduations, births of children...We've been together through all sorts of life events, small and huge.

So, of COURSE we'd want to get to Moe's 50th birthday party! Beth, in Sacramento, called me. Did I want to travel with her? You bet! I called Cheri, in the Santa Barbara area, and Cheri arranged to drive down and meet us.

I drove to Sacramento on Friday night, and spent the night at Beth's so we could be out early (up at 5:30, out the door at 6:30, and at the airport at 7am for an 8am flight.) We were in our rental car by 10am, and at Moe's sister's house excitedly greeting Moe's family and friends and having a reunion with Cheri by noon.

It's a good thing we were having a good time -- margaritas and catered mexican food helped, too! Because Moe, not knowing the plan, was keeping her two grown up boys tapping their feet impatiently while she was trying to finish an emergency work project. She didn't arrive her own party until 2:30! But she was grandly surprised, and downright shocked that Beth and Cheri and I were there from afar to celebrate with her.

Here she is, with hosts Karen and Howie looking on happily:

Get a load of this cake! Moe has worked at Disneyland for many years and is Disneyland obsessed, so this was perfect.

You might have heard that this is Disneyland's 50th anniversary. So, that has set a new standard among our friends -- are you older or younger than Disneyland?! Cheri and I make sure to remind Beth and Moe that while they are THE SAME AGE as Disneyland, we are far younger.

Moe is one of the most amazing women I know. Truly. She has worked hard her entire life, raised two active boys as a single mom, and they are now wonderful, handsome and entertaining men who adore their mom. She's attended every single one of their sporting events, and that's how she kept them active and safe and happy -- they've done every sport on the planet, one season after another, with Moe cheering on. Really, she is one of the people I admire most in the whole world.

She was so happy to see us. Here she is hugging Cheri.

It didn't take too long -- and too many margaritas -- for us to get goofy.

Happy Birthday, Moey! We adore you!

Beth and I hit the road by 6pm to catch an 8pm flight back up to Sacramento, and we were collapsed in bed by 10:30pm. It's a long day when you get up at 5:30, which is something ti which I am not and do not want to become accustomed! Thank goodness we could sleep in on Sunday morning...then I hopped in the car and drove home on Sunday after breakfast.

It was so great to celebrate together. We've vowed we'll see each other soon.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Off to South America

No, I'm not. But that's what Caroline mis-heard when I told her I was flying to Southern California for Saturday and Sunday. So that's why I won't be here.

My friend Beth and I are flying down to San Clemente to attend a birthday party for ... a friend. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure she doesn't read the blog, but then again, I think I gave her the site once. So I won't say her name or mention that it's a huge surprise for her.

But it'll be fun, and she'll NEVER in a million years suspect we're coming.

I will try to remember to take pictures amongst all the general hilarity.

You'll notice that I am leaving my semi-sick husband and daughter to do this. Good timing by me, yes?!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wake up and smell the surveillance

I consider myself pretty lucky. I was born in the US, a baby boomer kid from a middle-class suburban family. I went to good public schools, got a great education, and have a strong sense of my rights and privileges as an American citizen.

For the most part, I take for granted my right to express my political views, to criticize public officials, and live my life in relative safety, privacy, and security.

That’s why, for a lot of us typical Americans, it may be easy to be complacent about the increasing incursions on our civil rights. We don’t worry, on a basic level, about our fundamental rights to free speech and privacy being invaded -- at least the ones we exercise outside of the bedroom. Even if we’re not thrilled with a particular administration at a particular period in time, we tend to assume a basic trust that our essential democatic rights won’t be violated.

It’s time to wake up and pay attention.

This morning, I woke up to NPR’s report on Google filing suit to object to the Bush administration’s attempt to get Google to turn over its records regarding EVERY Google internet search within a one-week period. (Check this out.) The Bush administration claims it needs this information to establish the constitionality of a child pornography statute which the Supreme Court has already struck down as too broad and invasive of privacy rights. It’s hard to imagine what could justify such a wide and undefined search of private records as to want to look at every Google search over a week’s span. Those would be OUR internet activities the government would be getting, mind you, without any cause whatsoever to believe that our searches are in any way related to child pornography. This is what I’d call a fishing expedition. And it’s not hard to imagine all sorts of ways in which this information could be misused. Doesn’t it make you think about what you might not search in Google if you thought the government would be searching your records for some undefined "security" reasons?

And, of course, there is the secret surveillance against American citizens that the Bush Adminstration has authorized, without any court review whatsoever. It’s all in the name of national security, right? I keep thinking that Joseph McCarthy thought HE was acting in the interests of national security, too.

Hmmm...I’ve called and talked to my friend in Guatemala on the phone...could those conversations have been listened to? What about our friends in Bermuda? Bermuda is a huge international banking site, in part because it’s so protective of financial information. Do terrorists hide their money there? Are conversations and emails to Bermuda residents watched and listened to?

Thank goodness for the American Civil Liberties Union. I’m a card-carrying member, and one of my proudest possessions is an award I received from the ACLU for some pro bono legal work I did in New Hampshire. So, I was especially gratified to hear that the ACLU has filed suit against the Bush administration to challenge his claim of authority to have the NSA conduct this secret surveillance against Americans. I immediately got online and made a sizable donation to them.

Someone’s got to speak up for our rights. If you want to help the ACLU protect our civil liberties, here’s where you can.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Night Oak

Gerrie's post today prodded me to get this small quilt done today. Our art group, the Pointless Sisters, is making an art quilt as a raffle quilt for our "parent" guild, and the idea is to have a scattering of Sonoma County themed post cards. So, we were given the task ... if we chose to accept it ... [hum Mission Impossible theme music here] ... of making a 12" x 18" quilted image of something local.

I wasn't going to do this, actually, thinking that I had enough other things to accomplish before Tuesday's meeting. But Gerrie's beautiful one shamed inspired me, and I figured that I could do this today. So, I did.

One of my favorite things about this area of Northern California is the sight of the stately old oak trees on the hills. And since I'm apparently in a silhouette-at-night sort of mood (hey! A series!) I thought I'd do this. It's simple, but I like it.

Here's a detail of the quilting.

The opportunity quilt committee (three of our art group members) will look at all of the options and choose an attractive assortment based on what works together. It'll be fun to see what folks did. Stay tuned!

And thanks, Gerrie, for the inspiration!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Getting Perspective

Remember how today was the first day of Roger going back to school for the new semester? So I was looking forward to my first day home alone in a month?

Yep, you guessed it. Caroline was sick today and stayed home from school. So much for that peace and quiet thing.

Although I think she will be well enough to get back to school tomorrow, Roger came home early to retreat to bed with the same bug...so chances are he'll be home tomorrow too.

It's a good thing I love these people.

Anyway. I did manage to get some time to try to fix that wonky house on the Snowy Night thing. I discovered that I'm not very good at figuring out perspective on even simple building shapes.

Good thing I bought all those erasers the other day!

After various attempts (this is only one of many that ended up in the waste basket) I retreated to the basic 2-point perspective set up to get it right.

That helped, and eventually I got to here, which I'm contented with:

So here's how it looks in the setting, with everything machine appliqued in place:

By the way, several of you asked how I did the trees. I actually found a photograph with tree shapes I liked, then blew it up a bit and traced it to get to a line drawing I liked. Then I enlarged that even further to the size I wanted, then traced the shape onto WonderUnder. I fused that onto the black fabric, then cut the tree shapes out with the paper still on. I used an exacto knife for all the tiny inner holes. And so the tree shapes are just fused on and will eventually be stitched down. Everything else I used a folded edge and blind-hem stitched down to get the smooth finished look I wanted.

The assignment, you might remember, was to create a house in its setting. I wanted this to be less about the house shape and more about the feel of warmth and feeling of "home"... which is why I kept making the building smaller and the field of snow bigger.

This isn't final cropping and I've yet to figure out how I'll quilt it, but I'm looking forward to that and am pleased with this so far.

Not bad, considering I had a snuffly kid lurking around all day!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Art of the Etch-a-Sketch

I think I have perfected the art of the Etch-a-Sketch.

When my friend Patrick was a little kid, one year he got his mom an Etch-a-Sketch for Christmas because he wanted to play with it. Now, among various friends of ours, an "Etch-a-Sketch" is what we call a gift that you get for someone because you really want it for yourself.

Last year, I got Roger a Roomba -- one of those robotic vacuum cleaners for Christmas. I figured he'd enjoy the gadgetyness of it, and I'd get the floors vacuumed. It was the quintessential Etch-a-Sketch.

Well, I seem to have done it again this wear without even planning to. Roger has a 45 minute commute each way to and from school, and there's a stretch of it driving through hills where the radio reception is really bad. He's also in the market for a new car, so I had the bright idea to get him a satellite radio receiver and subscription to XM Radio for Christmas. I got a receiver that he can transfer from the current car to an eventual new car, and I thought he'd enjoy having a new and big variety of stuff to listen to on his drive.

But present for ME, too, as it turns out! Surprise Etch-a-Sketch! Apparently when you subscribe to satellite radio, the monthly fee entitles you to online satellite radio as well! So, I log in on my computer with Roger's password (which he graciously volunteered to me) and I get XM radio streaming through my computer!

At the moment, I'm listening to the XM Cafe channel, which is "mellow alternative" music. I love finding new music and get bored listening to the same stuff all the time, so I'm very pleased about this.

And the best side benefit?! BOB EDWARDS is on XM Radio. All you NPR junkies will know him as the Morning Edition host who was summarily canned just a few months before his 20th anniversary on the show. I LOVE Bob Edwards. So now I'll get his deep, sonorous voice in my very office.

I was smarter than I knew to give this to Roger.

And speaking of Etch-A-Sketch, you can draw on an online one HERE! Go get yourself an oreo or a peanut butter sandwich and then come back and relive a bit of childhood...

A rejuvenating day

Today didn't start out as I'd planned. I thought that after Sunday pancakes, we'd go walk around the plaza or take Gemma for a long walk or do some fun outing... But I was awakened at 6am by Caroline, complaining that she was feeling terrible. Sure enough, she had a fever -- and she NEVER has a fever -- and she looked droopy and miserable. So, I plied her with cold and flu medicine, plumped her pillows, and got her back to sleep.

Oh well. There I was, with a sick child, and a husband who has been at home with me, every day, since DECEMBER 15 (ah, the luxuriously long vacations of the college professor) ... and I was feeling miserably, crankily, housebound. Or, more precisely, FAMILY bound. I love being home. Just not when everyone else is here all the time with me.

So I did what any self-respecting wife and mother would do. I went shopping.

I just needed to get out and peruse STUFF, y'know? I headed south to Santa Rosa, to the shopping center that houses Target, Marshalls, Office Depot, and Costco. Good browsing territory all right.

My main goal at Target, I'm sort of embarrassed to say, was some cool patterned mechanical pencils I saw on Melody's blog. Lover of all things polka dotted, I've been coveting those dang pencils since she posted a picture of hers! To my dismay, my Target was OUT of them. Rats, rats, rats. (And I hereby pledge to anyone who is in a Target and finds them and buys them for me that I will not only reimburse the costs but I will send a polka-dottedly happy gratitude surprise.)

But I did not come away empty handed, and I had a grand time strolling around Target. They rearranged this store a few months ago, so it still feels backwards to me and my favorite aisles are no longer where they used to be. It's disorienting, and time consuming as of course I had to stroll around looking at everything.

In lieu of the wonderful patterned pencils, I did find this bargain pack of 24 bright pencils for $3.99.

So, I'm well-stocked for pencils for a while...NOT THAT I STILL DON'T COVET THOSE PATTERNED ONES, but this will hold me. And notice the erasers. Now that I am hooked on Scooby Doo's (or Sudoku, for you purists) I am ALL ABOUT erasers.

And then I couldn't resist these cute dotty pushpins for the bulletin board right next to my monitor.

Being a big fan of RED stuff, I love Valentine's day merchandise. Displays just pull me in. And that's how I found this cute t-shirt for Caroline.

But it'll look even better with this red skort (skirt with shorts in side, vital for 4th graders who like to go on the monkey bars at recess):

Note the cute ruffle on the bottom!

Then, when I was already feeling rather happy about all these finds, I stumbled on these great double hooks:

Now that Roger and I have use of our master bathroom again, we decided to replace the original cheap and narrow towel rack with three hooks for towels. (Won't we be so "Pottery Barn" with our towels hanging artfully on hooks?!) These are PERFECT. Exactly what I wanted. And they were $5.99 each! These are $18 each at Restoration Hardware, people! This was a HUGE score!

I had a great stroll around Marshall...contemplated a Valentine's Day tablecloth, but ultimately left it behind in a disciplined act of "catch and release" shopping.

Then, on to Costco, where I found this on the book table:

I couldn't resist it. I like Rachel Ray's shows on the Food Channel, and I like her... probably because she reminds me of my good friend from law school days, Dori. But I love the 30 minute meal thing, harried working mom that I am. So, this came home with me, and I'm looking forward to trying some new dinners.

And then because I was thinking about how hard it is to make fast and delicious family dinners on week nights, I was happy to see (on the sale table!) a new cookbook by the Desperation Dinner ladies:

Cheap, fast, and good...sort of says it all. I love the Desperation Dinners book...that turned me on to the joy of frozen chopped onions which now are always stocked in my freezer. I haven't wept over an onion since!

Costco also yielded a great deal on chicken strip dog treats for Gemma and my sister's dog Katie. And on the way home, I stopped to get the one thing Caroline had requested, rainbow sherbet.

I came home feeling happy and rejuvenated. And I got home to find Caroline was non-feverish, resting on the couch and happy to get ice cream, and Roger dozing on the other side of the sectional couch.

So, things are looking up. I've got my fingers crossed that Caroline will feel well enough to return to school on Tuesday... it'll be my first day home alone since mid-December!

Not that I'm counting the hours or anything...

Snowy Night, in progress

So, here's where this is so far. I like the coloring. But the house is wonky, and I think I have to draft it so it looks...well, RIGHT. This doesn't. But so far, so good. (At present, this is about 42 inches wide and a big longer.)

And it'll need heavy cropping. But I'm moving forward, and am looking forward to working on this tomorrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Snowy night

Finally, finally, finally... I've started a project!

I announce this as if it's big news, even though STARTING projects isn't the issue for me. Ahem. It's that pesky finishing thing.

Still, I've lamented here lately that I've been feeling sluggish and not in the mood to work on anything. This is where having a specific deadling looming helps me.

In my Practical Design workshop with Marilyn Felber, we have been challenged to make a quilt on the subject of "house" and its "setting." Our next meeting is January 24, so I decided that I'd better get going if I was going to have something to show at that meeting.

I've had the basic idea for a while. I've long loved the prints of Vermont artist Sabra Field. I love how her landscapes are dramatically simplified, reduced to their austere basics with bold color and clean lines. In fact, I've realized that that represents what I'd like to work further... Very stylized landscapes, clean lines, graphic bold impact, strong color, and a sense of serenity.

So, I made sketches and pulled fabrics, and I'm well on my way. I'm working pretty directly from a Sabra Field pallette in this one, to put a small house in a night-time snowy scene. I've got all blue fabrics, except for some warm golds for the lighted windows.

I like how it looks so far, and I'm excited to get back to work on it tomorrow. With so many deep blues, I'm not even going to try to work on it more tonight!

Pictures soon!

And despite my best hopes, it's not making itself as Melody's quilts apparently do! She has trained her fabric and supplies very well, apparently! Mine are badly behaved, and all they do while I'm out of the studio is jump around and make a big mess! I leave my sewing area neat and tidy ALL the time, truly I do! It's the fabric's fault that the room always looks a mess!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Janet's Quilting Life

Today, I went to help my friend Janet Shore show her quilts to an art group in her local community. I've mentioned Janet before...she's an amazing woman and I aim to be like her when I'm her age! She's in her early 80's, although you'd never know it to look at her. She's energetic and interested in everything and she's very active. She started quilting back in the late 70's, I think, taking her first class with the famed Roberta Horton. She was hooked right away, and with other northern California quilters founded the East Bay Heritage Quilters, one of the biggest and best quilt guilds anywhere. She's had work published all over the place, and her quilting friends are a veritable list of who's who in the quilting world. She counts Michael James, Roberta Horton, Mary Mashuta, Alex Anderson, Diana McClun and other luminaries among her long-time friends.

Janet lives in a lovely older-folks community, one of those areas where everyone is healthy and living on their own in beautiful homes, but all the residents are over 55 or something....It's called Oakmont. When the Oakmont Art Association asked Janet to do a talk about her quilts, she demurred and suggested another local friend and luminary, Judy Mathieson. Judy did a great presentation, but the fellow who'd seen and fallen in love with Janet's quilts persisted, and today was the day.

So, Janet enlisted me and fellow AQ blogger Gerrie and our friends Pat, Pam and Rita to help, and we all went along to hold quilts while she talked about them.

(I would have taken pictures, but I was standing up front holding quilts the whole time! Check out Gerrie's blog, she'll probably have pictures soon.)

Now, there's something wonderful about seeing someone you care about being so happy and enthusiastic. And to see all of Janet's quilts in one swell foop was really fun, too. She brought about 35 quilts spanning the early 80's to the present...a few traditional, many from classes, and many original designs.

But the best part was seeing a hall full of traditional artists have their eyes opened to what a talented artist can do with fabric and batting and thread. Clearly, they were expecting to see bedspreads in pastel calicos. And they were floored and amazed and dazzled by Janet's quilts. Several people exclaimed how Janet's presentation was the best art presentation they'd ever had. One fellow kept fingering the quilts, sighing and looking closely at the detailed stitching, with his wife sternly chiding him, "You may NOT buy any new art supplies! Don't you dare try to start quilting now!"

So, it was a very fun morning. Janet did great, as we all knew she would. And now, I'd better get quilting if I"m going to have a body of work like that when I'm her age!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Simple Quilts isn't so Simple

By now, many of you have heard that HGTV doesn't plan to make any more new episodes of Simply Quilts.

For those of us in the quilt world, this decision is surprising and disappointing. It seems like a stupid business move for HGTV, too. There are thousands of people who tune in to HGTV to watch Simply Quilts, and this move on the station's part suggests that they don't realize what a following the show has.

Many of us have learned a great deal from Simply Quilts. Even if we're proficient seamstresses or quilters or artists, we've picked up helpful tips and shortcuts. We've gotten to meet innovative quilt artists and teachers, and we've been able to see new and sometimes complicated techniques made easier and accessible through visible demonstration.

In recent years, we've been introduced to more art quilters and some delightful quilt challenge projects. I've been impressed at the variety of quilt topics addressed by the show, from traditional and historical quilt information to innovative techniques like creating fabric by free-motion quilting over fibers. We've seen sculptural quilting, wearable art, and toured international quilt festivals.

With the huge popularity of quilting and the amazing diversity of quilt styles and techniques going on, how is it possible that the producers can't come up with new shows, new artists to feature, and new quilts to show?

There are several ways to express yourself if you, like me, want to let HGTV know our interest in keeping Simply Quilts going. I'm not sure whether it'll make a difference, but if you've valued the show over the years, you can make yourself known and express your views.

There's an online petitions, which you can sign here.

Write the show's sponsors, which you can get by emailing webvanisgone@Yahoo.com

You can leave a comment on HGTV's message board here.

But here's what I think is the best idea, offered by Ami Simms:

"[A] good old-fashioned paper letter that arrives by mail will make the most impact.... [A]ddress your letter of protest to:

Simply Quilts-HGTV
Viewer Services
9721 Sherrill Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37932

It doesn't have to be long; a few sentences will do it. Speak from your heart. Ask them to reconsider. Can't find the right words? Try: I watch Simply Quilts. I want YOU to know and I want ALEX to know. Keep her on the air. Please send her this piece of fabric from me.

Include a 3” square of quilting fabric for Alex. Sign the patch with your name, city, and state with a permanent pen. Ink in a message to Alex if you like.


I especially like this idea because having some item to have to put aside and keep for Alex will get people's attention...and probably make Alex feel terrific.

I'm going to go send mine right now.

Monday, January 09, 2006

We have so much in common...don't we???

Some years ago, two friends of mine and I started a book club. Audrey and Laura and I all knew each other because our kids were in the same preschool class, and we were craving some time away from kids and home and responsibility. So we organized a book club with like-minded women, to meet once a month for dinner at a local restaurant for good food and talk and sometimes even book discussion.

I love this bunch of women. Most of them are women I don’t see in my day-to-day life, but they’re fun and fascinating. And I tend to think of us as women with a fair amount in common. We’re all moms of elementary school kids living in the same small town, and we’re all juggling motherhood and work and home and sanity. Among us, there’s a winemaker, several doctors, lawyers, mental health professionals, and a restaurant owner. We’re liberal, feminist, and proud of it. And now that we’ve been meeting for several years, we’ve shared a lot of personal stuff: marital strife, a few divorces, child behavior issues, health issues, general suburban mom angst... so I’ve come to think that we know each other fairly well.

And then we read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. If you’ve not read it, it follows the lives of a missionary family – father, mother, and several daughters – in the African jungle. I loved reading it, and part of what I loved about it was how utterly foreign and strange the life it described was! African superstitions, black magic, the frightening insects (there’s a vivid and horrifyingly fascinating description of a locust infestation) and difficulties of African life... it was all vastly different from anything I’ve ever experienced.

When we met for dinner, I was looking forward to talking about this book... I was eager to discuss all the strange aspects of African life encountered by the unsuspecting American girls. Tess jumped in: "I loved this book! It reminded me SO much of my childhood!"

A silence fell on the group as we tried to imagine HOW it was like her childhood. And Tess went on to explain that as a girl, she and her family had lived in Africa and her parents had been missionaries, and the descriptions of places and customs and people and even the odd bugs were exactly as she’d remembered from her childhood.

The rest of us were dumbfounded. And to this day, it amazes me to think that I could sit down with a bunch of friends that I think of as "like me" and discover that the book I have found the most unimaginably foreign is also the book that is the most directly nostalgic to someone else at the table.

How cool is that?

And I guess that’s partly why I love sharing these meme things. Or MeMe things. Among friends and fellow art quilt bloggers, we share many of the things that we have in common. But it’s so fun and fascinating to discover new things about each other, too.

My book club meets tonight, for dinner at a local brew pub and to discuss The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. And who knows what I’ll learn about my book club friends!

Bistro Jeanty

Pictures from Saturday night's outing to Yountville to celebrate Beffie's birthday!

When we arrived to drop Caroline off at her friend Sarah's house to spend the night, we were greeted by this sign on the front gate:

As I said, there was much merriment at the birthday party. Here, Beth's Swedish sister-in-law Pia, and her brother Peter who was visiting from Stockholm, sang Beth what they claimed was a traditional Swedish birthday song.

Here's what it was, apparently:

Swedish Version
Ja, må du leva, Ja, må du leva,
Ja, må du leva uti hundrade år.
Ja, må du leva, Ja, må du leva,
Ja, må du leva uti hundrade år.

Ja, visst ska du leva, Ja, visst ska du (han, hon, dom) leva,
Ja, visst ska du leva uti hundrade år.
Ja, visst ska du leva, Ja, visst ska du (han, hon, dom) leva,
Ja, visst ska du leva uti hundrade år.

"Ett fyraldigt leve... leve du. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH."

English Translation
Yes, may you live, Yes, may you live,
Yes, may you live for a hundred years.
Yes, may you live, Yes, may you live,
Yes, may you live for a hundred years.

Oh sure, you will live, Oh sure, you will live,
Oh sure, you will live for a hundred years.
Oh sure, you will live, Oh sure, you (he, she, they) will live,
Oh sure, you will live for a hundred years.

Pia and Peter claimed there was a verse in there about being carted away in a wheelbarrow, but the internet version I found didn't say anything about that! Perhaps they added that especially for Beth?

And here we all are (except Roger, who was taking the photo) looking properly celebratory:

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Ring and other thoughts

ARTFUL QUILTERS: The AQ Web Ring is one year old (plus a few days) and has 113 members today! Isn't that cool? Be sure to check out our newest bloggers! I like to scroll backwards through the ring (hitting "previous" on the box) or using the "random" option to just go where the ring takes me. I'm very inspired by everyone's goals for the new year!

By the way, as you are hopping around the ring from time to time, please email me if you find a blog that doesn't have the ring code on it anywhere or hasn't been updated in over 30 days. I'll send a gentle reminder to the blogger so that the ring will continue to work well.

MEMES: I had to laugh when I read Dierdre's blog entry today... she was responding to that 4-way meme and referred to it as a MeMe, which struck me as all too appropriate: they're all about "ME," after all. But they're so fun to do (because of course we bloggers are endlessly fascinated by ourselves) and fun to read!

GENERAL SUNDAY STUFF: Somehow yesterday I seem to have tweaked something in my lower back. I think it was when I had gotten dressed up and ready to go out to dinner with Roger and I had to lunge to avoid the jumping dog from leaving smudgy puppy paw prints on my shirt! So today has been a quiet day with the heating pad and anti-inflammatories. Another good reason not to take down the Christmas tree!

GOOD FOOD: Last night, we celebrated my friend Beth's birthday at a marvelous restaurant in Yountville (near Napa) called Bistro Jeanty. Tres chic! It was a cozy, charming french restaurant. The nine of us sat at a round table and consumed great food and various wines and champagnes. I had sole meuniere, a filet of sole dish that seemed absolutely drenched in butter, deliciously decadent. Ruger happily tucked into coq au vin, one of his very favorite things. We watched as Beth's brother Pat (known to us all for years as Patrickio Pig) ordered a pigs' feet appetizer... no, I didn't taste them. But we did enjoy little tiny fried smelt in a spicy aoli. And a chocolate mousse creme brulee dessert that was to die for.

It is simply astonishing to me that Beth and I celebrated her 21st birthday together (not so long ago, I'd swear!) and last night we were celebrating her 50th! How weird is that? Of course, we're still young and spry and stunning, if somewhat forgetful. And occasionally flushed and cranky! It was a very, very fun evening.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The 4-way Meme

I’ve been tagged for a "4" meme by Deb, on a run of D's... She tagged DebR, and Deborah and Deb Lacativa too so you can check out their answers as well!

Four jobs you've had:
Video game tester for Atari
Carousel operator
Fabric store clerk

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over:
Everyone Says I Love You (the Woody Allen Musical)
White Christmas
Swing Time (or anything Fred and Ginger)
They Might be Giants (George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward)

Four Places You've Lived:
Los Altos Hills, California
Laguna Beach, California
Ithaca, New York
Hopkinton, New Hampshire

Four TV Shows you love to Watch:
Project Runway
The Gilmore Girls
The West Wing (the ones written by Aaron Sorkin, anyway...I can watch them over and over)
(Okay, I’ll admit this: the soap opera As the World Turns)

Four Places You've Been on Vacation:
Nantucket, Massachusetts
Lake Umbagog, Maine
London, England
Quebec City, Canada

Four Websites You Visit Every Day:
Faster than Kudzu
Excite.com TV listings
Radio Paradise

Four Of Your Favorite Foods:
Sourdough french bread with butter
Good Sonoma County zinfandel wine
Milk chocolate
Really good sushi
(Gee, all of these together would be just a fine meal!)

Four Places You'd Rather Be:
On the couch in front of the fireplace with a good novel
On Nantucket
Hanging out with my friend Beth, anywhere
Cozy at home – gee, I’m lucky!

Four Albums You Can't Live Without
Best of Sting
Hourglass by James Taylor
Mirrorball by Sarah McLachlan
Best of the Gipsy Kings
Soundtrack from Felicity, Season 2
(Sorry, I just couldn’t do 4)

Four People You'll Pass This On To:
How about 4 servings of Fiber?
Fibermania (Melody)
A Daily Dose of Fiber (Mary)
Fiber and Thread (Teri)
Crazy for Fiber (Gerrie)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Is it naptime, yet?

Today, I'd planned to take down the Christmas tree and put away all the holiday decorations. It's an unpleasant job, but it needs to be done.

However, the day got away from me. I worked in Caroline's classroom, helping the kids with acting out their Native American legend plays. And I went from there to my sister's house to water her plants while she is out of town.

Once there, I succumbed to the patch of sunlight on her couch and I sat to finish the novel I've been reading. My book club's book this month is The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollingsworth...An odd but gorgeously written tale of British high society and life on the fringe of it. I was about 20 pages away from the end, and the peace of her silent house and the desire to finish the book was just too tempting!

From there, I returned to finishing my errands...returning books to the library, getting groceries, that sort of thing...By then, it was time to get Caroline from school and head home.

So, who can start a huge task like taking down the Christmas tree at 3 in the afternoon? Not I, said the mouse.

Clearly, the only option was to play fetch with the dog for a bit, and after that grueling activity, to lie down for a brief nap.

Next thing you know, it was time for family friday movie night, which consisted of pizza in front of The Polar Express.

Some days are just too strenuous for words. Yawn.

There's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Welcome to Blogland!

By the way, I'm happy to announce that my friend Diane (who was just here with her family to share Christmas with us) has started a blog! She's A Yankee in Bermuda!

(Well, in this picture she's in Maine, not Bermuda. She's displaying ornamental gourds grown in her parents' garden in Limington.) But you'll see, she's in Bermuda. And life looks very different there from here.

I've been urging her to start blogging, as they are newly settled in Bermuda for some undefined period of time, and I knew that she would enjoy sharing her adventures with the blogging world.
So pop in and see her and say hello!

And when you look at her cute little pink house, picture a quilt on her living room wall...I sent one back with her (which she very determinedly jammed into her suitcase) and am happy to think that something I made will grace their home.

(Gee, my quilts are better traveled than I am...)

Creative Angst and Ambivalence

I wrote an email to my buddy Melody telling her about what a creative slump I'm in, and then I decided to post it here because writing to her about it sort of helped. After all, it's not like you can't TELL I'm in a slump...Okay, you've all noticed that I've been posting the same pictures of quilts I've made earlier, reliving the glory of actually getting something done!

So, here it is: I'm feeling ambivalent. And I'm feeling ambivalent about feeling ambivalent.

When I read the blogs of some of the professional artists and teachers on this web ring, I'm inspired and encouraged...and also envious and discouraged, in a way, by how productive they are and how dedicated to making art they are. And how I'm not.

But then I stop myself from going down that road. I don't want to be an artist selling work...I mean, it'd be cool to sell stuff from time to time but that's not my goal. I don't make quilts to be art winning prizes or attracting big prices. (That's obvious from my output...snort...) That'd be exciting and fun and satisfying, but ultimately that's not what this is all about for me.

And as I was pouring out my slumpiness to Mel this morning, here's what came out that seemed like a good realization:

I want to be energized to be producing work I love, and to love doing it.

That's a worthy goal, right? It actually has helped me to articulate that. I want to be producing work I love and to love the process of doing it.

But here's the ambivalence. When I'm in this sort of mood, part of me thinks that it's useful to turn my attention to getting other stuff done. After all, one of the benefits of NOT doing this for a living is that I can choose to do it solely because I want to, when I want to. This is about keeping me feeling centered and happy and balanced. So, perhaps using this time to accomplish other necessary stuff -- you know, basic stuff like taking the Christmas tree down and cleaning up holiday clutter and thta pesky work that pays the bills -- is important to clear the decks for impending creative time, recharging me to miss being away from working artistically.

Then again, I think that maybe I should be pushing myself to do something, ANYthing, because I might stumble onto something and find myself feeling energized again. Hmmm, it's that old thing about inspiration won't find you if you're not at the work table, eh? Maybe I'm just being lazy. That wouldn't exactly be a first.

(One good and bad thing about being a lawyer is being trained to see all sides of an issue. I confuse myself. And I am the type to overthink things. And notice how all this thinking about whether or not I should be making myself do something is actually way of procrastinating and avoiding doing something creative. But why should I push myself if I don't feel like doing it? See? I can go around and around.)

Anyway, that's where I am right now. Do you all ever feel this way? And how do you get yourself out of it? Do you push yourself, or just let yourself recover?

I'm gonna go to my guild tomorrow and see quilty friends. That'll be fun and maybe even get me cranking again...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

After the Flood

The Russian River runs right through Healdsburg, my town in Sonoma County, California. Several times a week, we typically drive over the Healdsburg Avenue bridge, and see the river far below.

This week, the river is so flooded that THIS is what the river and bridge look like.

Looks like we won't be playing at Badger Park this week... See those picnic tables under water?

We've had to reassure Caroline that our home won't flood. We're far from the river, and our house is on a pretty high elevation. But we can hear the creek across the street -- usually an almost dry creek bed -- rushing away.

I took Gemma for a walk to explore the area this morning while we had a clear spell...Looks like more showers this afternoon. Caroline is back to school, Roger is hard at work in his office, and all is cozy inside. Time to get a bit of work done...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Highlights of 2005

In all of the holiday excitement, I missed realizing that my blog is one year old! And on January 5, the Artful Quilters Web Ring will be a year old! I had no idea when I set it up that it’d have over 100 members by now! (As of today, we’re 111 strong!)

Looking back over the year, I’m gratified to realize that I accomplished more than I thought I did. Here are some personal high points of 2005:

Started the Artful Quilters Web Ring, which has allowed me to meet so many talented and wonderful women. I’m inspired and entertained by all of the blogs in the ring.

Finished 9 Quilts!
Ring Cycle

High Tech Tucks for Roger’s birthday

Smoke Signal

The Beating of a Butterfly’s Wing

The Sound of a Summer Evening

Halloween Village

Crazy Halloween Night

Hi, Pod

Christmas Candy

Tried dyeing fabric for the first time and then did more...and more... and more.

Overcame my dental phobia, got all dental work brought up to date, two teeth removed, and braces put on.

Had a lovely visit with our friends Silvia and Paulo from Guatemala, and introduced Silvia to the joy of fabric dyeing.

Watched Caroline continue her passion for horseback riding, saw her participate in two schooling shows, and beamed proudly when she one the all-school award for best/most dedicated groomer.

Got Gemma, our sweet, adorable, fun-loving black lab/weimeraner mix.

Because of Gemma, made new friends with a wonderful family in our neighborhood (Kim, Tom, Jamison and Connor) and their dog Sadie.

Got an Ipod, discovered the fun of downloading individual songs, and fell in love with the fun of listening to randomly selected songs from my personal music list.

Discovered I have "synesthesia," because I spontaneously "see" colors and associate them with letters, numbers, and words.

Experienced some quilt workshops and added to my repertoire of techniques and skills. Cinco de Mayo with Karen Stone, Still Life quilts with Daniele Todaro, Fused Gears with Robbi Joy Ecklow, the ongoing Practical Design workshop with Marilyn Felber

Organized and saw the completion of our art group’s Brown Bag challenge, with very fun results.
Surprised Roger with a date at a sushi making class, and learned to make sushi!

Enjoyed a lovely family summer vacation at Lake Tahoe

Sadly said goodbye to my sister’s dog, Libby - an elderly black lab who graced our entire family with love and devotion for many years.

Became co-president of the PTO at Caroline’s school, became a member of the district’s communications committee, and wrote a sorely needed "FAQs re School Testing" document for the district’s website and for distribution to confused and concerned parents.

Saw Loggins & Messina reunite in concert in Berkeley, still sounding darn good after all these years.

Had two quilts accepted to PIQF and saw them hanging there amid AMAZING quilts. Seeing my own quilts hanging in such great company is big thrill to me.

Lived through the repair and reconstruction of our master bathroom and survived the constant comings and goings of too many worker guys. I now enjoy and appreciate taking long hot baths in our wonderful tub more than I ever did.

Met Veronica and started lessons on her long arm quilting machine, then quilted my first quilt top on it.

Saw my brother Gregg marry his love Kitt...they are SO happy together.

Enjoyed a blissful couple of days at the Bishops Ranch quilt retreat.

Discovered the fun of playing Toontown online with Caroline ... a fun escape we can enjoy together.

Got the massive pile of STUFF out of the garage. This is still a huge accomplishment!

Enjoyed a wonderful season of holidays with my family around me ... I’m so grateful that my mom and dad are still healthy and active.

Reunited with our dear friends Eric, Diane and Abby for a terrifically unproductive week of relaxation with them.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Welcome, 2006

I've been thinking about resolutions, of course. And this year, I'm not even going to try to make any specific ones. Instead, I'm thinking about goals to work on. Here are the ones that are upper most in my mind today:

1. Make good family time, and remember to savor it. It's so easy to let day-to-day business and work and general drudgery get in the way of appreciating how much great time I have and CAN have with Roger and Caroline.

2. Make more time for me and Roger together. All that day-to-day stuff I mentioned in #1? It definitely makes focus on the two of us as a couple harder. So I'm going to really pay attention to improving this.

3. Use my time more wisely. Not that reading blogs and playing internet backgammon and doing Sudoku aren't valuable, but really, I could accomplish so much more if I used even half of that time to do other things.

So, I'm going right now to do other things. Namely, snuggle up on the couch with Roger and Caroline to watch the Polar Express. Nothing like starting right off the right way...

Happy New Year, every one!