Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday, Monday

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we are heading back to some semblance of normalcy around here.
First, thanks to everyone who emailed or commented with thoughts and experiences about Caroline's migraines. I had no idea the childhood/adolescent migraine thing was so common, but seems like every other person I talk to either had them in bad bouts, or knows someone who did. At least we have a plan and a good assortment of resources on our medical team, so that's all good.
Yesterday, I detoured from my grocery shopping errand to visit one of my favorite places in town, a store called The Gardener. It's a cool mix of household and garden things, with lots of interesting outdoor sculptures and big terra cotta pots from Europe, all set in a garden fragrant with herbs and citrus trees. I wandered and took pictures, which reminded me of one of things I am loving about photography --- it makes me LOOK at things differently, which in turn places me solidly in the moment. No room for worrying, it's all just seeing.
So that's my thought for today... I'm going to just focus on being in the moment, and seeing what's going on around me. Oh yeah, and finishing my "mathematics" quilt for 12x12. (The reveal is coming, December 1!)
What do YOU see around you that you haven't really looked at lately?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get ... Coloring

I was one of those kids who could sit for hours with a coloring book and crayons and just color away quite contentedly. (I have fond memories of the Nadine the Ballerina book my grandmother kept at her house just for me. I colored an awful lot of pink tutus.)
A while ago, having one of those wide-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night episodes, I turned on my Ipod and listened to an episode of Craftsanity, a podcast where host Jennifer Ackerman Haywood interviews various people in the crafty world. The episode that night (I chose blindly in the dark) was an interview with Dawn DeVries Sokol about her book 1,000 Artist Journal Pages: Personal Pages and Inspirations (1000 Series) and her art journaling habit. I wasn't very far into the podcast when I decided I had to hunt down the book, and the next day I found it at my local book store. It's a collection of 1000 art journal pages by different people, showing a huge range of subjects and and media and journaling styles.
That got me thinking of how I miss that simple coloring from childhood, and how while I'm not the best in the drawing department, I do have a good time just doodling. The artful ordinariness of the pages in the 1000 Pages book inspired and encouraged me, too. I realized that it wasn't the artistic merit of the drawings that attracted me -- it was the individuality and personality in the pages that I enjoyed. So I put a little bag together with a journal, watercolor pencils, a paintbrush, and some markers. And I've been sitting at odd moments (in the evening in front of the tv, etc) just doodling and coloring. I'm not aiming for art ... I'm not even aiming for any content that will artistically mark my day. I'm just letting myself doodle and color.
And it has been the BEST thing. Very relaxing, I tell you. One day last weekend, I was out running errands and stopped to just sit in the sunshine on the square at the center of town and just do a quick sketch for a moment of peace. It was just what I needed.
Today, I had to spend some time hanging around Caroline's school, and I occupied myself by trying quick sketches of kids around the school. (You'll notice I'm not showing them here -- people are my worst, worst things) And even tho they weren't great artistically speaking, I had a great time.
So, here's my therapy thought for the day: Go Color Something. You'll feel better.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Speaking of the Secretary of State...

Madeleine Albright is one of the women I admire most in the world. She's smart, she's funny, she has common sense, and she has clear ideas about how to help women throughout the world. She also has the ability to make complex ideas sound simple, but not simplistic. So I was delighted, recently, to find her newest book, Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership on my library's sale table for $2. I snatched it up, and I've been reading it since then.
I'm not usually one to read political books. But this is easy reading -- still thought provoking, still instructive -- but a very accessible look at US political history, where we are now, and what the president elect will need to understand and do to get us headed in the right direction. It's actually uplifting -- in part, because it's reassuring to know that people DO understand the complexities of the multitude of global issues, and of course because we know that Obama will be taking the reins and things can only get better.
And it's funny. I've found myself laughing aloud several times. Here's a favorite line: "The men who wrote the Constitution did remarkably well, considering the absence of female guidance."
In any event, it's a surprisingly enjoyable book to read. And for an overview of the issues, you can watch a recent, wide-ranging talk by Madeleine Albright, here:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: Quilts on the Double

I seem to have mounds and mounds of quilt scraps in the form of strips, so I was eager to see the newest book by Australian quiltmakers Judy Hooworth and Margaret Rolfe, Quilts On The Double: Dozens of Easy Strip-Pieced Designs (Martingale & Co., 2008). Graphic designs in bright colors really call out to me, so I'm a big fan of Judy Hooworth... I just love Hooworth's Razzle Dazzle Quilts -- such great use of color!

This book promised to show "dozens of strip pieced designs" -- and you know, it delivers. I mean, look at that one on the cover... it looks exciting and fun and challenging. But, once I read through the technique section, I realized it's quite simple. For one thing, Hooworth and Rolfe use a lot of striped fabric (uh oh, another reason to start collecting a new variety of fabric) and a lot of those pieces in that cover quilt are actually large sections of striped fabric. But the technique boils down to this: you sew two strips of specific widths together, and cut triangles from the strip sets. From the various combinations of strip sets, you get different sorts of triangles ... and the book shows you how reassembly into blocks creates all sorts of amazing patterns.

The trick, really, is in how you place color and using some consistently-sized strips so that when you assemble the triangles into squares, they look mosaic-y, not jumbly. Not that there's anything wrong with jumbly...I LOVE jumbly... but the appeal of this book to me is that it takes something that COULD be confusingly jumbly, and shows you how to organize it into something bold and dramatic and graphic.
I'm making this sound more complicated than Hooworth and Rolfe do. But the result, in the book, is that by varying in small ways a basic strip-piecing technique, you can get tons of really dramatic quilts. Oh, and the "on the double" part -- as you cut triangles from the strip sets, you end up with two different triangles. So the book shows you how, from that one strip set style, you can use one type in one quilt and the second type for a totally different quilt with a totally different look, or use them together and incorporate the differences into the overall pattern for even more complexity.

You all know I'm all about the quilt picures -- and this book doesn't disappoint. There are not only very striking quilts shown, but lots of clear color diagrams to illustrate the various options for assembly of the triangles to create all sorts of different patterns.
The book definitely features bright colors and bold stripey fabrics, because that is clearly what these authors love. But the technique would work just as well with pale fabrics, florals, reproduction vintage stuff, you name it.

I can hardly wait to start piecing my strips.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Officially an Artist

So, I've had this thing in my head. I'm not an artist. I'm a quilter who makes art quilts. I try to use art principles in my pieces. But artists? They're other people. I'm not sure what makes them different from me ... but I just feel a bit pretentious claiming the description of "artist" for myself.

But Saturday night, I had a big leap forward. A show of quilts in which I had several pieces opened at a lovely local art gallery, The Geyser Art Gallery in Geyserville, California. The opening reception was well-attended and very fun.... AND I sold a piece! (Remember my big butterfly wing?) To complete strangers who'd wandered in and liked one of my quilts enough to pay real honest to goodness money for it! I've never even offered my quilts for sale anywhere, really ... so I was just thrilled, and they gushed at me, so it was quite a moment.

Roger took pictures during the party to capture the feel of the event, so you can see how it all looked. That gorgeous quilt of the black squiggle on white is by my friend Marjorie Smith ... I'm afraid I can't remember who made the quilt to the far right.

Here is my friend Laura, showing my one block wonder "Spring Fling" to her son Trevor and his buddy Colin.

There was good wine to sip, and here you see my daughter Caroline (a blur of motion -- fully recovered from the migraines, thank goodness) and my BFF Beth in front of three of my quilt (Smoke Signal, Butterfly Wing, and Split Infinitives).

A shot of one side of the gallery. I was delighted that my friend Pat came with her husband, and my brother and his wife made a surprise appearance.

The buttery yellow walls in this gallery just glow, and show off the art beautifully.

Here's gallery director Emily checking her records. You can see my quilt "The Bees' Secret" behind her .... that one with the irregular edges.

Afterwards, we went next door to a newish restaurant, Diavola, where we had some good wine and delicious pizza.

Oh, and did I mention? I SOLD A QUILT! (My Voyager fund is on its way...)

[Edited because I *really* do know the difference between "next door" and "next store." Sheesh.]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sometimes You Just Need Comfort Food

First, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of you who commented and/or emailed me with advice and sympathy about the migraine situation around here. It's quite reassuring to hear from folks who dealt with the kid angle before, especially to know that it will change. I realize how many people deal with migraines all the time -- it's terribly common, I guess. At any rate, Caroline seems to be improving, and we have a plan, and we're not agonizing quite so much.
With all of this stuff going on around here, when I'm tired and worried and incapable of complex thought (you can imagine that this isn't helping me get work done), I decided that A) I was craving comfort food; and B) I didn't want to do anything much beyond pushing a button or two. And hey! The crockpot was the answer.
Luckily, some months ago, someone turned me onto a blog called "A Year of Crockpotting." Starting January 1, 2008, Stephanie vowed to use her crockpot every single day and blog about the outcome. As a result, the blog has a bunch of easy recipes AND the honest reviews from her family.
I read with interest about Stephanie's cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot. I'd heard of that before, but couldn't figure out why one would do that when it's pretty easy to just throw one in the oven, and it sounded like the chicken would just be sitting in a large pool of grease, with a cooked but slimy skin to boot. Ick. BUT Stephanie removed the skin! I hadn't even considered that concept! And on a day when I knew I was going to get more frazzled as the day went on, I decided to go for it. I peeled (eek) a raw, whole chicken, rubbed the whole thing down with Montreal Chicken Spice (thank you, Rachel Ray), and threw it in the crockpot. No liquid, nothing. Just skinless chicken and spice rub.
It was delicious! Easy, and really great. It got rave reviews all around. I was so inspired that today I'm trying a turkey breast following Stephanie's directions. (I know, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but I just want a REAL turkey sandwich NOW.)
It's 9:20 and the hardest part of dinner is DONE. I love that crockpot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Need Your Help!

Have any of you ever heard of "childhood migraine syndrome?" Have you ever dealt with frequent migraines in kids or adolescents?

I ask out of pure desperation. Caroline, age 12, is suddenly suffering from frequent and intense migraines. We're working with our doctor and a neurologist, both of whom tell us that "childhood migraine syndrome" is relatively common, especially in adolescent girls. We're trying various options in terms of medications, preventative things, but boy, is this rough. The headaches are quite disabling, and poor Caroline has missed more school and suffered from more nausea and headache pain in the last 2 weeks than most kids suffer in 5 years, I'm guessing.

So I'm appealing for help, any advice, reassurance, etc. It is NO FUN for anyone, and of course I'd give anything to stop this for Caroline.

By the way, we're told that adult migraines are pretty different from this sort of child/teen migraine syndrome. So I'm particularly interested in hearing if any of you has experience in dealing with this.

Thanks! (When Caroline gets a migraine, I get an immediate tension headache... so I'm going to go take some ibuprofin...)

Monday, November 10, 2008

My first gallery show!

I'm so excited! My first partipation in a gallery show, along with others from my "gilded lilies" art group! The gallery director took 12 of my pieces, but I don't know which she'll hang. I'm feeling quite thrilled.

Geyserville is not quite 2 hours north of San Francisco, just north of my town of Healdsburg. It's a tiny little town, with one short main street that has taken off suddenly with some lovely tasting rooms, a few very popular restaurants, and several galleries.

DO COME if you're in the area!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Better Late than Never

Um, Happy Autumn!

Curl Up with this Book

Life has been frustrating lately. Too much work, too many school meetings, too much household stuff (yikes -- getting the carpets cleaned meant getting everything off of the floor in my office/studio! And getting all the fabric out from under bed! Egad! It'll be days before I recover) ... so my creative life and my blogging life are suffering. I have pictures I've taken but not yet had time to run thru the Photoshop cure-all, and I have things to talk about, and fun projects I'd love to be working on. However, I have two deposition outlines to finish and email off before bedtime tonight, and a slew of objections to draft this week, so who knows then I'll get to all of that.

Meanwhile, I'm leaving you with a book that you will want to read. It's "Hannah's Dream" by Diane Hammond, and it's the loveliest book I've read in a long time. It's the story of Hannah, a sweet, timid elephant in a small town zoo, and her aging caretaker Sam with whom Hannah is deeply bonded, and their quest to find a solution for Hannah's old age so Sam can retire. It's fascinating, and endearing, and a wonderful way to go someplace different.

I pulled this off of the new book shelf at the library, started reading, and couldn't put it down. By the time I finished it (curled up on the couch while it was raining outside -- just perfect) I was weeping -- in a good way. It was the perfect escape.

Enjoy! And I'll be back after the work gets done...