Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bugs Ahead

I am SO not a bug person.

But I have this new super-duper macro lens, and I went out in the backyard this afternoon to see what sorts of close-up things I could find. And I found bugs.

You know, up close some of them have a fair amount of personality.

I mean, doesn't that guy look like a character from a Pixar movie? With voice by Abe Vigoda?

Then again, I discovered that it doesn't pay to look TOO close.

[Photo removed because it just kept grossing me out. I told you I'm not a bug person.]

I found these critters feasting on a rosebud. YUCK. Guess I'll go to the nursery tomorrow to find out how to keep these little buggers away.

I'd rather take pictures of the flowers, anyway.

Bishop's Ranch Challenge

I'm finally getting a chance to sort through the pictures from the Bishop's Ranch retreat 2 weeks ago (ah, it seems so much longer than that already) and I thought I'd share the results of our quilt challenge. The assignment was to use two particular fabrics which were provided to each participant: Kaffe Fasset's "lotus leaf" print and a green/turquoise stripey piece. There were no other restrictions. And, not surprisingly, the results were fabulous.

Here's Pat M's quilt...and the paper in the lefthand corner is a photo of the quilt made by her sister MaryLou, who lives in Massachusetts and was unable to make it to the retreat this time.

This is Sally's. You can't tell in this photo, but the flower petals are dimensional -- they stick up and really look like lotus flowers.

Here's Sydne's:

This is by Carolyn, who rarely works in bright colors but pulled off a wonderful quilt despite not being wild about the fabrics.

This is Janet's (sorry about the blurry shot):

And Joanie's (another blurry one -- sorry!)

This is Maureen's -- aren't these chairs adorable?

Here's Pam's...

And Pat D's, using a pattern by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes:

This is Ancella's:

And Carol Ann's:

Delaine cleverly made this one quilt to satisfy our challenge and one for her guild, too.

This is by Diane A (the blurriness is mine, not hers)

This is Eleanor's

And you might recall my comical and slightly risque contribution:

The challenge was quite the success and we really enjoyed looking at them all hung together. (That's a plus for doing a challenge with mandated fabrics -- they tend to look cohesive hung together, regardless of how different the quilts actually are.)

Janet, Pat, and Sandy chose fabrics for next April's challenge, including (gasp!) a brown. I have no idea what I'll do, but of course I have a year to decide.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Yosemite in Pictures

I thought I'd share a few more pictures from Yosemite. It's so beautiful that it becomes sort of numbing, all those majestic mountains and dramatic waterfalls everywhere you look.

I swear this little fellow was posing for me.

These are the tent cabins in Camp Curry.

Into the Valley of Aching Muscles

I don't think I've ever been so tired in my life.

I have spent the past 4 days in Yosemite with Caroline's 6th grade class. On the bright side, Yosemite is amazing and beautiful and awe-inspiring.

We slept in these tent cabins which, by the way, are not heated (and it got down into the 20's every night.) I shared a cabin with 3 other moms -- the kids slept four to a tent. The sleeping/showering/bathroom situation was one of the not-so-bright-side things. If I'm gonna camp and sleep in a moldy, dirty tent cabin, I'd at least rather do it with friends and/or family.

The days were filled with long hikes for kids and grown-ups alike. I have sore muscles in places I didn't even know I had muscles.

The views were stunning.

But I don't think any view made me as happy as the sight of our house when we arrived home.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ranch Respite

I am back after several peaceful days at my quilting retreat at the Bishop's Ranch. Actually, I was back home every day, opting as I do to attend as a "day tripper" so I can attend to family matters and appease a bit of guilt for the pure fun I have along the way! As always, the time at the ranch was fun and inspirational and filled with laughter and friendship.

Our group was lucky enough to be one of the first to set foot in a brand new pavilion which is large enough to house all of us retreat-goers in one big room. It was lovely, with lots of light and space and many windows with glorious vineyard views. The photo above shows the view out the window near me....Lovely, yes?

Once again, the absolutely best part of the retreat was spending time with such wonderful women. I love getting the time to spend with some of my favorite people, and this time I had the great fortune to get to know several really fun and interesting newcomers -- two of whom were children's librarians in their former lives. Plenty of book talk ensued!

I took tons of pictures, which I've not even had a chance to sort out. But I wanted to share my contribution to our challenge. We revealed our challenge quilts a few nights into the retreat, and what a great time we had! There were about 15 participants, and each quilt was wonderful and remarkably different from the others.

My contribution brought down the house, I'm pleased to report. I introduced my piece by saying that I'd tried to capture the spirit of sisterhood and camraderie and bonding that we developed at each retreat, and to do that I'd chosen to illustrate something that we all appreciated. And then I revealed this:

For the sake of the newcomers, I described how last April we watched from the dining room at each mealtime as construction guys worked on roofing the pavilion, then under construction. There was one fellow who seemed to preen for us all thru lunchtime. There was one lunch in particular when all the kitchen workers came out into the dining room to see what the hysterical laughter was all about!

For the challenge, we were all required to use the pink/red Kaffe Fassett floral print (doesn't it make a great Botticelli-like shell from which David can rise?) and the green stripey hillside fabric. I also pointed out that my piece incorporated an unusual element -- I used magnets sewn between the layers of fabric so that David's shorts could be removed for a peek at the fellow in all his -- ahem -- glory.

You can imagine the catcalls. David now resides in the Ranch kitchen, to keep the dedicated kitchen staff company. I figured that this was such an inside Ranch joke and I wouldn't be exhibiting him elsewhere -- so he stayed behind to entertain the folks who feed us so well each time we're there. They were all vastly amused and hugely pleased to gain custody of him.

Yes, I sewed. I got most of the way through a kind of complicated pieced quilt using the Dolly Madison star quilt block, for a quilt I will call "A Woman in the White House."

But now I'm in a whirlwind of cleaning and laundry and packing as I prepare to chaperone C's 6th grade class on a field trip to Yosemite this week. I am very much looking forward to it. It'll be quiet here next week, so you'll know I'm hiking and taking pictures and herding 6th graders.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with another peaceful ranch view.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Time for Fun

Yes! Yes! I've been sewing! I dusted off the Bernina and got my challenge quilt done for the Bishop's Ranch retreat that starts tomorrow ... Sorry, can't show you yet so I don't spoil the surprise for my retreat buddies! But I'll post pictures as soon as we have our challenge reveal.

I'm SO looking forward to the retreat. It's going to be a crazy week, as I will have to come and go to accomodate various appointments that can't be rescheduled. Luckily, it's right here in town so I can zip back and forth without too much hassle. And I'll still get lots of socializing and sewing in.

Meanwhile, I will leave you with a few photos I took this weekend. It's fun prowling around finding things to shoot. (That one up top is a close-up of the electricity meter on the side of the house.)
A pansy from my sister's yard -- aren't those ruffles elegant?
And I fiddled with macro settings to get this teeny, tiny, baby fuschia bud.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Does ANY Woman Deserve to be Talked About Like This???

I keep telling myself that I'm not going to post anything political here. But then something comes along and I just need to talk about it.

I continue to be troubled and hugely dismayed at how sexist and mean people's comments about Hillary Clinton tend to be. Have you noticed how many people -- women included -- make derogatory comments about her that involve her hair, her clothes, her femininity or her marriage?

Regardless of how you feel about Hillary Clinton as a person, a politician, or a candidate, watch this video and pay attention to the derogatory language used to talk about her by the mainstream media. Notice the words used, and think about what the comparable words would be if they were talking about a man. (And imagine how people would react if mainstream female broadcast celebrities were talking about any male candidate in similarly inflammatory language.) I'm not asking you to support Hillary, agree with her, or like her at all. I'd just like you to look at how a smart woman who has achieved success is being treated by our mainstream press, and ask yourself whether this is acceptable to you for any woman to be talked about this way.

Personally, I find it offensive and shocking ... and most of all depressing that this doesn't bother more people. As consumers of the press, and as women, we deserve better.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Generate your Palette

You'd think that I just sit here at the computer and fiddle around all day, wouldn't you? Really, I *do* actually get stuff done.

Here's something I stumbled onto that I suspect I will use for art purposes: an instant way to generate a color palette from a photograph using the Palette Generator at

When you open the Palette Generator, you're asked to upload a photograph -- from your computer or from Flickr. You click, and presto: you're presented with the colors in your photo, identified by the screen color codes.

You want to see how it works? I started with this picture, which I took the other day in my neighbor's backyard. They have the most gorgeous wisteria vine climbing over their arbor.

Here's the screen capture of the Palette Generator:

Well, sure, you could do this by eye. But this is so fun! And fast!

And once you start poking around, you'll find all sorts of fun things to do with your photos.

Go, play!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Will You Play Ball with Me?

I was sitting there on the floor in the kitchen while Caroline was doing her homework... and this picture happened.

I think it's one of my best's just so Gemma.

Coming up...

What's this, you say? Actual fabric content here?

Today I am working on a challenge piece for my upcoming spring retreat. My friend Pat and I chose these fabrics, and every participant received a fat quarter of each one.

And I'm adding something interesting to the mix:

Stay tuned!

And then I have to get to THIS. Sigh.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

My morning at the stable, in pictures

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day, with a clear blue sky and a soft breeze in the air. So while Caroline took her weekly riding lesson, I wandered around the stable with my camera. It's a fun place to explore -- various barns full of gorgeous horses, lots of weathered wood and strange rusty implements lying around out back, photographic subjects everywhere you look.

Caroline rides in a covered arena, where I've not yet figured out how to get a decent picture due to the shade inside the the sunny glare outside the ring. But I love watching her as she learns to jump.

After watching the lesson for a bit, I wandered off to say hi to the horses. This friendly fellow wanted to taste the camera.

The hay barn smelled so wonderful. Good thing I'm not allergic.

Someone has to do the raking...

I peeked into a tack room...

...and was charmed to see these blue ribbons on display.

Around back is where they keep the pieces of the big jumps for horse shows... great lines and colors.

I kept on going, and look what I found, just resting against a tree out back --

A PINK scooter! I think I need one of these. No idea whose it was, or why it was way, way back here. But doesn't it make you want to wear a sundress and zoom down a street in Rome?

Ah well. Back to my local roaming. Here's the walkway where the kids take the horses to pasture after the horses have finished up lessons for the day.

I did take a few shots to test my zoom lens on some birds in the distance... Don't they look like they're gossiping?

Then it was time to go back to the barn, as Caroline was untacking. You must pick the dirt out of each hoof, you know.

Here's a random buckle from the girth. (I don't know why I like taking pictures of rusty, peeling things.)

Then it's time to fill the horses' water buckets (Caroline loves that job).

Then the horses get turned out to rest.