Tuesday, July 29, 2008

To the Coast

We are headed out this morning to spend a few days in Mendocino, visiting family and hanging out at the beach and (for Caroline's highlight) visiting a miniature horse ranch. I've packed up my Nikon D80 and am looking forward to taking lots and lots of pictures.

In preparation for this little outing, I've been working away at the stuff on my "must get done" list. I emailed off a bunch of work documents last night, which felt darn good.

And I have a quilt ready to quilt! Remember the red and white house blocks I was working on ages and ages ago? The top has been sitting in my closet waiting for the final borders to be sewn on. So, last week I got that done, pieced the back (why do I dread that task so much? It's never as bad as I think it'll be), and basted it all together while Caroline watched the much-advertised Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana 3-D concert on Saturday night. (Yep, she wore the 3-D glasses, even.) So now it's all ready to go and is sitting on my sewing table providing a comfy resting spot for a cat while I decide how I'm going to quilt it.

I also had the great fun of indoctrinating a newbie into the Great Quilting Cult last week. My friend Jane has been wanting to learn to make a quilt, so gave her a stack of books to peruse. She made various choices (lots of choices!) and we settled on one that is a good first project -- a basic snail's trail pattern in batiks. Ooh la la! Jane has great taste. Then we spent a day fabric shopping -- very very fun -- and selected a gorgeous assortment of fabrics. I was amused at how quickly Jane grasped the concept (and importance) of having a stash ... she kept adding fabrics to the pile, saying "If I end up deciding not to use it, I'll just add it to my stash." See? She's got the right spirit for this sort of thing. Next week we'll get together for cutting and the beginning of sewing. It has been fun to consider things from a newcomer's point of view ...and, not surprisingly, it has made me want to start a new project. Because i don't have enough started, you see.

Before we head up north, we have to stop at Caroline's school for a uniform sale. This will be her first year attending a private school and doing the plaid skirt, logo shirt uniform thing, and she is less than thrilled. And, not surprisingly, she was up at 5:15 am, standing by the side of my bed to say she was nervous about starting at a new school. Ugh -- remember that icky feeling? I can't blame her, and who wants to start thinking about school when it's still a month away? We'll get the uniform stuff done quickly (I hope) and then try to have wild beachy fun to put it out of her head.

Okay... time to finalize the packing and get the dog ready for her doggy camp. I'll be back with (I hope) stunning pictures and sandy shoes and a refreshed attitude. Later!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It really is Sew Easy.

One of the great side-benefits of attending workshops and retreats is that you see your fellow students using tools and products you'd not discovered. And I made a great discovery at my workshop with Laura Fogg a few weeks ago.

My friend Diana was using these quilting disks, by "Quilt Sew Easy," as she did her machine quilting. I'd not seen these before but I'd seen something similar somewhere, and I just didn't think they'd make much difference. But Diana insisted I try them, and I was amazed. Truly amazed.

The white part is hard plastic, and the blue surface (which sits on the quilt) is sort of dense foam but with enough texture that it grips the fabric. I know, it simply doesn't seem like it'd be a big deal. But they make machine quilting WAY easier. You don't need to grip or wear gloves or clutch at the fabric.

I was totally sold after using them for 10 minutes, and I ordered them for myself when I got home. They're around $12.00 (or more, depending on the retailer) -- I ordered mine here.

Trust me. They really work!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Because I can't get enough talk about reading...

One of the reasons I enjoy Deb's blog as much as I do is that she loves books and reading as much as I do. She just posted a great book related meme, and so I'm snagging it to share here. Do feel free to blog your answers -- and if you do, let me know in the comments so I can go and read your answers!

So, here we go...

One book that changed your life: There's this pretty old book called "Greensleeves" by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, about a girl (college age, I think) who is uncertain about what to do with her future so she takes a job in a diner and pretends to be someone else. Her "diner" character allowed her to be social, snappy-witty, and other things she wasn't comfortable being in her real life. Well, that's how I remember it, anyway -- lord knows what it was really about. But I just loved that book as a junior high schooler, and read it over and over. The idea that you could create who you wanted to be was a new concept to me. Also, "Beloved" by Toni Morrison had a huge effect on me, in terms of thinking about race relations and slavery and history and just good writing in general.

One book you’ve read more than once twice: Oh boy, there've been tons of them. There are books I read for comfort when I'm ill, because they make me feel like I'm wrapped in cozy flannel. (Rosamunde Pilcher's "The Shell Seekers" is one of those.) There are books that were so mind-bogglingly wonderful and beautifully written that I want to start over the minute I finish them. "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd was like that for me.

One book you’d want on a desert island: Can it be an island with a well-stocked library, please?

One book that made you laugh: The one that comes immediately to mind is "Neither Here nor There" by Bill Bryson. Bryson, a 40 year old American living in England at the time, decided to retrace the European trek he'd made as a college student. It's simply hilarious ... as is much of what Bryson writes. I also love "Im A Stranger Here Myself," his essays on returning to the US after living away for years.

One book that made you cry: "Final Payments" by Mary Gordon. I read this on a long airplane flight, when I was seated next to a harried mom and her squirmy toddler (I wasn't a mom then and didn't realize the extreme sympathy she deserved for her plight). I buried my nose in the book and was not only swept away, but weeping copiously by the end.

One book you wish you had written: I can't narrow it down to one book, but I can name writers who make me wish I could write like them: Joshilyn Jackson, Elizabeth Berg, Anne Rivers Siddons. I love everything they write and how they infuse their characters with such believable, normal complexity.

One book you wish had never been written: I can't think of any I'd put in that category, but I admit to wondering how in the world certain authors ever, ever, ever got published and why in the world people read them. Those "The Cat Who..." books? Yikes. The one I tried to read was so poorly written I was appalled. I just don't get it.

One book you’re currently reading: "If You Lived Here" by Dana Sachs. It's the story of a woman waiting to adopt a baby from Vietnam, her friendship with a vietnamese woman who has not been back for 20 years, and the results when they travel together to Vietnam. Lovely story, well written.

One book you’ve been meaning to read: "The Quincunx" by Charles Palliser. I picked this up in a bookstore one day because it looked intriguing and different, compared to Dickens' "Bleak House," but I've not managed to get to it. It looks like a winter book to me, dense and heavy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summertime Relaxation

Doesn't this look like a lovely spot for an afternoon of relaxation? Chatting with a friend, reading a novel, sipping iced tea.... This beautiful scene is at the Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg, California. I swear, just looking at this picture changes my blood pressure and breathing rhythem.
And look at the summery color palette this photos yields, courtesy of Big Huge Lab's "Palette Generator":

I'm heading off for a weekend alone with my husband -- boy is that a rarity! Before I go, a few random thoughts:

I'm so happy that Project Runway is back! But c'mon -- if you knew you were going to be a contestant, wouldn't you think about previous challenges, and have some idea of what you'd do if faced with that challenge? I'd be thinking -- "what would I do if we had to use materials from a grocery store...a hardware store... a florist... a Walmart... a thrift store..." How could those people be faced with a grocery store challenge and have no idea what to do?
I just finished a delightful novel, called "If You Could See Me Now" by Cecelia Ahern. The premise is great: What if there were a group of invisible people whose job it was to befriend kids who need a bit of social support? So when a kid talks about his "imaginary friend," what if those "friends" were REAL, just invisible to everyone but the child? The novel is told from the perspective of such an "imaginary friend" whose perspective on life is amusing and entertaining and poignant. He hates being used by parents ("Fred LOVES broccoli and says you should try it, too!") and he just loves having fun. It's a charming novel, well written.
Now, off to the weekend fun...hope your weekend is relaxing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My, your dog is handsome...

I am trying to carry my camera with me every day (or at least have it in the car) so I can take pictures when I see something that captures my eye. And the other morning, I spotted two gorgeous Weimaraners waiting patiently outside Starbucks while their owner was fetching coffee.

I'm not yet brave enough to ask people if I can take *their* picture. But it's not hard for me to approach strangers to admire their dogs ... and asking if I can take the dogs' pictures was an easy step from there.

So here are these beauties. I love how these dogs look so calm and regal (unlike a certain tail-waggy, rambunctious lab at my house...)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So remember I mentioned the 2 day workshop I was taking with Laura Fogg? It was really fun. Here's what I have so far after those 2 days. It needs a lot more work, but I'm happy with where it is so far.

Turns out Laura has a website, www.fogwomancreations.com, where you can see a lot of her work. She's a terrific teacher.

The process involved starting with a photograph, then building a collage with just raw cutting and placing the pieces on a batting background. Once you've created the picture you want, you lay a layer of tulle over the top and sew it all down with machine quilting. And, once that's done, you can add more detail and embellishment on top of that. Laura showed us how to add borders and then add a foreground elements (and a lot more embellishment) that carries into the main image...you can see great examples on her website.

So, I have a long way to go with this, but it was very fun. And the process was very freeing, just cutting and putting bits down.

The image I'm working with is a photo I took of a scene I pass every day between the house and C's school. When the plum trees are in bloom, it's just spectacular. But I've not managed to get a really good photograph, so it's fun to work with it in fabric and see where I can go with it.

Now I can't wait to get back to it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

At last -- back to fiber

After what seems like a long, long non-fabric stretch, I am excited that finally I am going to spend the weekend playing with fabric. Through a small art group I'm in, I'm doing a workshop with Mendocino quilt artist Laura Fogg. Laura is known for her fabric collages, and her name may be familiar to you because she is one of the Mendocino Quilt Artists whose groups of quilts have won the AQS group challenge a few times.

At any rate, I've got my goodies packed up, I have my inspiration photos ready to go, and I am looking forward to a fun and free time cutting and placing fabric. (And then we smack down tulle and sew. Fun!)

I've packed my camera and hopefully will remember to take pictures!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

List Friday: Summer Reading!

Yay! Yay! It's List Friday! My friend Loretta over at PomegranatesandPaper has resumed one of my favorite bloggerly traditions, "List Friday!" And c'mon, who doesn't love a good list?!

This week, the topic is one that is dear to my heart: "Summer Reading." (Followed closely by fall reading, spring reading, and cozy winter reading...) Summer is all about reading for me, ever since I was a child and our summer vacation was punctuated by trips to the library ever two weeks to get new stacks of books to fill our voracious little minds. Now, I'm at the library every week or two, filling my library basket with a new assortment of novels to take me away and entertain me.

I'll tell you what I've been reading (and what I'm about to read) in a second...but what are YOU reading? What's on your nightstand? What book have you read lately that you just loved? What book will be the first one in your duffel bag when you head to the beach? Give me your suggestions in the comments or use a comment to link to your blog. I'm always happy to find new suggestions for future reading....

Okay... first, what I've read lately that I've really liked:

The President's Assassin by Brian Haig (he's the son of Alexander Haig, and he writes political thrillers with a sarcastic funny hero and lots of plot twists)

Magic Time by Doug Marlette (a guy who grew up in Mississippi in the 60's goes home and the effects of the civil rights turmoil are leaking into present day, where learns things about friends and family that shock him...)

Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler (an intriguing and unusual mystery involving a writer who makes a miniature dollhouse featuring a murder scene for each mystery she writes, and her granddaughter who is sorting out which mysteries tell real family stories and which are fiction...)

Footprints in the Sand by Sarah Challis (Two cousins travel to Africa to scatter their grandmother's ashes, and don't know why she wanted them to go there...)

And here's what's ahead on the summer reading list:

Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (I LOVED LOVED LOVED her first novel, Garden Spells)

If You Could See Me Now by Cecelia Ahern

Palace Council by Stephen L. Carter

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

I Was Told There'd be Cake by Sloane Crosley (just the title alone makes me want to read it)

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and other small acts of liberation by Elizabeth Berg

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Feels like just yesterday

You know how with really good friends, a long hunk of time can dash by without your seeing each other, and then you DO manage to get together, and it seems like no time at all has passed and you were just hanging out yesterday?

I've just had the wonderful experience of having a few days with my dear friend Carol, who was visiting from New England. She and I worked together in a law firm back east, at a time when there were only three of us females in a sea of males. So we banded together and relied on each other and giggled over lunch together and complained about the work together, and all in all made the whole thing bearable.

Carol and I hadn't seen each other in [gasp] ten years. It hardly seems possible. Still, time flies when you're doing what you're doing... and here we are.

Carol was the first of my close friends to have a baby and for me to watch her experience new motherhood up close and personal. I was the first non-parent to hold her daughter Elise in the hospital, and I still remember Carol saying, "I still have this weird feeling like 'When is this baby's mother going to come and take her away?!" I watched (as a single professional woman) and commiserated and fought for her (as the only woman partner in the firm) as Carol confronted the struggle of balancing motherhood and work, in a group of men who had wives at home full time to take care of their kids, and didn't have to worry about how they'd get the trial brief written and the laundry done and dinner on the table.

And, some years later, when Roger and I adopted Caroline, so many of Carol's wise parenting words guided how I handled things with Caroline, and the whole juggling thing.

But "baby" Elise is 17 now (gulp) ... Carol and I have each had different jobs, she lost a husband and I gained one, and we live on opposite sides of the country. But we still look young (or is that well-preserved?) and we still laugh together and have a grand old time. It was just simply delightful to be with her again.

Of course we talked nonstop. But when a visitor comes to Healdsburg, wine tasting is on the top of the list of things to do. So I took Carol to one of my favorite local vineyards:

Yep! That's the same Raymond Burr you're thinking of.

And for us lawyers, being able to taste wine AND experience Perry Mason memorabilia is downright thrilling.

(I have one lawyer-friend who, having watched Perry Mason reruns as his method of procrastinating his studying in law school -- on the theory that it was SORT of research -- just about fainted with sheer excitement then they let him hold one of the Emmy Awards that Burr won playing Perry Mason.)

And, Perry Mason and Ironside paraphanalia aside, the wine is delicious (the cabernet sauvigon especially) and the vineyard is gorgeous. It's the perfect place for a picnic.

Because it was 104 degrees AND the air was still so hazy from the numerous distant fires, we opted to head indoors to another winery up the road, Amphora Vineyards. Far healthier to stay inside and drink wine, don't you think?

Carol departed early this morning, but I'm still smiling and thinking of how great it was to see her.