Monday, December 28, 2009

A family holiday

Christmas was really all about family this year.  It is every year, of course, but this year had some differences to it.

Most importantly, we met our new niece Boitumelo, pictured above in my arms displaying a new sweater on Christmas eve.  (Also pictured is my other wonderful sister in law Linda.)   Boitumelo (or "Itu" as she is rapidly becoming known) is from Lesotho and was adopted by my sister-in-law Doreen just before Thanksgiving.  Doreen and Boitumelo's story is a lovely one.  Doreen and  her son Dash traveled to Lesotho about 18 months ago to visit a family she'd lived with while she did volunteer work when she was in college.  They visited an orphanage while they were there, and at some point a woman passed Doreen this small, solemn girl who'd just arrived at the orphanage the day before with a severe and inexplicable wound on her face.  Boitumelo tucked her head into Doreen's neck and clutched at her clothing as if she never wanted to let go.  And that, says Doreen, was that.  She had an immediate sense of recognition of her as her daughter, and set about there and then to adopt her. The path was a complicated one with lots of stops and starts, but we are all so delighted that the story had a happy ending ...

Or should I say, beginning....  Boitumelo has now had her first family-filled, American Christmas and she's learned all about Santa (too scary to get close to), opening presents (great fun), giving presents (tolerable) and eating raspberries (a totally favorite thing.)  She is one strong, confident girl, as evidenced by her total acceptance of constant fawning by an entourage of 8 cousins who followed her and dangled toys in front of her to get her attention all evening long.  We were all charmed by Boitumelo and her presence made for a very joyful holiday. 

Although I was sad not to see my parents and siblings on Christmas day as we've done in past years, this year Roger and Caroline and I decided we needed a focused family Christmas.  It was quite wonderful to get up on Christmas morning, open presents and linger over breakfast without the feeling that I'd best be getting something cooked or mixed or thawed or otherwise prepared!  We set the rule that we would not turn on computers at all for the day -- Caroline and I adhered strictly to the rule, although Roger forgot and wandered off to google various things he needed to know.  And it was so lovely that we decided to take a few more computerless days.  Our friend Beth joined us for Christmas dinner (grilled shrimp, baked sweet potatoes, a raspberry jellow without which it is just not a holiday, artichokes, and the must-have family butter cookies for dessert.)  Easy and perfect, especially since it was all accompanied by champagne.

We chatted, we worked on a jigsaw puzzle, we played the Beatles Rock Band (ah, sore guitar fingers -- a new Christmas injury) and generally had a grand time.  Since the 25th, we've continued the trend with more jigsaw puzzling, game playing, napping, movie-watching, and lots and lots of reading.

So,  we are enjoying this peaceful interlude.  Tomorrow, I may start sewing something -- or maybe not.  We are seeing out 2009 in a quiet way, and it feels just right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Life is better with a sister

A while back, I had an evening to myself and decided to watch a few of the Quilting Arts TV shows that I have on DVD.  In one episode (#202-4, to be exact) Pokey Bolton demonstrated a fast and adorable project that just looked like it'd be so much fun.   She strip pieced a background, fused a photo-transfer image of a pet (manipulated in Photoshop to make it look colorful and sort of funky) and quilted it all up into one charming little quilt.  I was so taken by the project that I got to work the next day -- I was in the mood to do something fun and fabric-y and for no reason other than I was in the mood to play.  I pulled up a photo of my sister Laura's sweet german short-haired pointer Katie (taken on a morning walk), assembled some of the pink scraps leftover from the 12x12 "pink" challenge, and I was on my way.  I really had fun machine stitching Katie's fur.  You can find the project instructions on the Quilting Arts website, here

Today, Laura came over so we could bake our family's "must-have" Christmas cookies together.  What a great time we had -- we made tons of cookies, for us and for our parents, we had holiday music playing in the background, and we chattered away.  The rolling and cutting and pressing and sprinkling went so much faster doing it together ... and now we are well-stocked with cookies and fudge for holiday desserts. 

At the end of our baking (and tasting) session, I couldn't wait and gave Laura this Christmas present a few days early.  She pretty much squealed with delight and made me very happy.  It's great when something you've made is truly appreciated, isn't it?

What a fun day, and how lucky I am to have my sister close by to bake cookies with!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sing Along, Part 2

Things are looking a bit more Christmas-y around here! Some decorations are out (I've been in a glittery silver mood lately), the tree is up and lit (ornaments yet to come) so I'm actually starting to feel festive. I've got my car stereo tuned to a holiday music station, so it's no wonder I'm humming Christmas songs to myself all day. Which has led to this:

Quilted Gifts (sing to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Dashing to the store
For one more spool of thread.
I have all shades of blue,
but I need that perfect red.

The quilt is almost done,
The bobbin's running low.
I'll stitch another hour or two
And then it's good to go. Oh...

Quilted gifts, quilted gifts,
I started back in May
Sewing for the holidays,
To be done by Christmas day. Hey!

Quilted gifts, quilted gifts,
Next year won't be hard.
I'll cross off every project and
Instead give a gift card!

(And for those of you who have asked, you are free to sing my silly songs with your friends, mini-groups or guilds as you choose...And yes, your guilds may print them in newsletters as long as you give me credit! I'm amused that you like my goofy Quilty Holiday songs!)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeling Pinkish -- in a good way!

In case you haven't noticed, it's the twelfth day of the twelfth month, and to celebrate this momentous day, the twelve of us 12x12 collaborators have chosen today to reveal the first set of our new "Colorplay" challenges!

This theme was mine to choose, and knowing how many people avoid the color pink, I chose that for my challenge theme. All we were told was "Pink!" and with the usual cleverness, everyone went off in amazing and fun directions. Go over to the 12x12 blog and see everyone's responses!

I'm trying to break away from my usual literal/representational style, so I'm challenging myself to try to be more abstract in my responses. For this piece, I wanted to illustrate the gentle, soft, pleasing sense I get from the color pink. I've called it "Whimsy in Pink."

I can't wait to see what up is next...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas Sing-Along

Sing along with me (to the tune of "Deck the Halls") -- c'mon, let me hear you!

Deck the halls with yards of fabric, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
I’ll avoid the Christmas traffic. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Sewing gifts for one and all, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
I won’t have to hit the mall. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

My Bernina’s really humming, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
And the items just keep coming. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
My to-do list’s getting longer, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
I’ll just make the coffee stronger. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Piecing quilts is so relaxing. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Cutting bits is hardly taxing. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Drifts of batting look like white snow, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Only six more quilts to go. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Christmas eve and I’m still sewing. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Cookies and eggnog keep me going. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Midnight comes and I’m still sitting, Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Next year I will take up knitting. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

It’s all worthwhile on Christmas morning. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
If only I could stop this yawning. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Brother loves the quilt that’s red. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
(Please don’t use it as a dog bed.) Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Soon the year will start anew, Fa la la la la, la la la la.
I’ll start another quilt or two. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Thread and fabric I’ll be buying. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
I’m addicted, there’s no lying. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

(Once you start putting your own words to holiday songs, you can't stop. Or is it just me?!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Getting into a playful spirit

I don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time getting into a holiday mood. It's only just getting chilly here in Northern California, so the weather feels barely fallish, let alone wintery. And we are all absorbed in helping the student of the house wrap up her first semester of this new school-from-home situation and prepare for final exams. (Physics is traumatizing all of us around here, although we do joke about how we can now measure the speed of flight if Caroline hurls the physics text across the room.) For some reason, just keeping my head above the clutter of housework and daily business feels like plenty.

Yesterday, our neighbors across the street were out in force, blaring Christmas music through the neighborhood as they put out their vast assortment of holiday decorations. It should have added a fun and festive feeling, right? But I was annoyed at the blasting music outside when I'd hoped for a quiet morning, and I was feeling generally un-Christmasy, almost downright Scrooge-like.

I am determined to ease myself into a relaxed holiday mood. The tree will come up this week, I think, and once that is done I know I'll feel more Christmasy. But for now, to cheer ourselves, we did something that always helps: we went to the animal shelter to cuddle the cats. There is nothing that'll make you smile faster than seeing the butt-wiggly, pouncey cuteness of an energetic kitten.

They really know how to live in the moment, kittens do.

They can find fun in the simplest things.

And they can play while lying down or sitting still.

I feel much better now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Staging Life

Whenever I run across it, I pick up an issue of Artful Blogging, a relatively new (and, as far as I can tell, irregular) Somerset Studios publication. It’s a fun magazine, with excerpts of beautiful blogs and good blogging inspiration – something for which I have dire need (as you might have noticed from the sparse entries lately).

So, I dive into the magazine and the first article is all about photo staging. The point of the article, I guess, is to help folks create photos to convey the imagery they want to feature on their blogs. Wait, I thought, people “create” those vignettes? You mean those aren’t photographic glimpses of what their real lives look like?

This reminds me of the sheepish shock I felt years ago while taking a black and white photography course (in the “before digital” days of darkrooms and film winding and all.) We were all novices, trying to get artistic composition and good black and white tones and the right exposure, all at the same time. One woman in the class printed out a lovely picture of a sweet household scene – a weathered cane chair, a small pair of rainboots leaning drunkenly to one side, a casual bouquet of daffodils wrapped in paper and resting on the chair. Silly, naive me – I looked at the shot and thought “Wow, she took that great picture AND she has that great scene in her house.” In my mind, I imagined the wonderful, cozy, picture-book life she must have with daffodils just lying about with such casual whimsy. I could just smell the cookies baking and sense the gingham curtains that surely must have decorated the charming life that went along with that picture.

And then, of course, the woman started talking about how she arranged the shot and posed everything Just So to get the right lighting and shadows, and how she moved the chair from another room, and found the rainboots at a local thrift store for use as a photo prop. Boy, were my illusions shattered. It never occurred to me that you (I mean, I) could do that! Isn’t that, um, cheating?

Here it is years later, and I’ve taken a lot of photographs. But I’ve never mastered the art of staging a photo to get a picture that looks real and spontaneous ... truthfully, it still feels vaguely like cheating so I never really try. And as I’ve pondered this idea over the years, I realize that it undoes what it is I like about photography – the frozen moment of reality, the wonderful discovery of some real moment in time, the discovery of beauty or happiness in some small detail. It’s using the camera to find something artful that appeals to me – as opposed to creating something artful and using the camera to document the creation.

This means, of course, that when I see those great shots of people sitting on victorian sofas in the middle of wheat fields, yes, I do like thinking that somewhere, there’s a couch in the middle of a field because it just IS there. I don’t want to think about it being hauled out there, just to be a prop. I want life to have sofas in fields, I guess. It gives me hope about the magical, unanticipated gifts just waiting out there for us.

The picture above, by the way, is a scene from real life -- not exactly a sofa in a field, but close enough for me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone --

Our holiday feels a bit upside-down this year. Roger has traveled to Southern California to visit his mom, and I am home with a flu bug and missing a lovely holiday dinner with my folks and siblings. Caroline has stayed with me to keep me company and has been a good nursemaid while I've napped and watched the Macy's parade.

But even though we've not spent the day with friends and family, I know that I am surrounded, every day, every minute, by the love and warmth of wonderful family and good friends near and far.

So where ever you have spent the day, know that I am thankful for your friendship and support.

And, just so you know, I'm looking forward to a big piece of pumpkin pie when I feel better!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For your entertainment?

I have been thinking about Adam Lambert's now-notorious performance at the American Music Awards the other night. I happened to tune in at the end of the show, just in time to see his performance. (If you didn't catch it, you can watch it on Youtube, here.)

I'll confess, I was surprised -- not shocked, not morally outraged, but disappointed and somewhat appalled that THAT was how someone as talented as Lambert opted to present himself to the music industry as a whole and the music fans who watch the music awards. He was making a statement, no question about it -- and that's what struck me. The statement he chose to make seemed trite and tasteless, in an "in your face" sort of way. I expected something far better from him.

There's no question that Lambert was making a statement, trying to define himself as an artist to the widest possible audience. And that's no surprise, either -- having come to mainstream recognition in the family-oriented American Idol context, maybe Lambert felt that he'd been forced to tone down his personal musical style and aim for a softer, gentler middle ground to appeal to the Idol audience. Maybe it's the same compulsion that would make an actress choose to play a drug-addicted prostitute role after gaining recognition for playing a goodie-two-shoes nanny. The shock value of the contrast is a conscious choice, designed to counteract the nicey-nice image. I get it.

Still, his performance disappointed me on so many different levels. The performance was more about shock value than it was about musicality, to my mind, and that in and of itself was disappointing. I thought Lambert's singing and tone was off, so that his usually soaring high notes seemed screechy and out of control. I've read that he didn't perform some of the more graphic or potentially offensive moves during rehearsal, so the show producers were unpleasantly surprised themselves. That seems professionally stupid, frankly, for someone who has been touted as having so much musical performing experience. Is Lambert trying to get the reputation as a risky, unreliable performer? Maybe , in fact, he is. Now he's saying that he had no clue that his performance might be offensive to some. You've got to be kidding.

As for Lambert's response that female performers such as Madonna and Britney Spears and Janet Jackson have aggressively used sexually suggestive moves in their acts without controversy, it seems to me that Lambert is missing a few rather significant points. First, Madonna and Spears and Jackson DID get a lot of controversy for the moves they've made. They didn't pass without comment. It's hard to imagine that Lambert wasn't aiming for exactly the controversy he's now gotten. Second, women have traditionally been viewed as victims or recipients of sexual aggression. The portrayal of women as sexually domineering or flagrant about their sexuality is a very different statement than one that shows men as sexually aggressive. Part of what has made Madonna and Spears and even Janet Jackson so noteworthy is not just the shock value alone -- its that the sexual aspect of their performances has said something bold and new about women and sexuality. There's an aspect of empowerment, a declaration of sexual independence in a way, in what they've done.

So when Lambert says that the controversy he's getting now is due to his being a gay man, I don't buy it. The basest stereotype of homosexuality, probably, is of "weird" men acting out in a sexually promiscuous and "perverted" way. And Lambert's performance, dog collar and leash, crotch thrusts, mimicked oral sex, tongue gyrations, and all, just played into that crude stereotype. Was that his intent? An "if this is what you think gay men are, I'll shove it right back at you" sort of message? If Lambert's point is that it doesn't matter whether he's gay -- which, I suspect, truly doesn't matter to most people -- then why did his performance throw his sexuality out there in such a tacky way?

I don't have a problem with Lambert choosing his musical identity and going with it, full out. It's clear he has a strong sense of himself, which is admirable. As a music fan, and as someone who appreciates his amazing talent, I'm disappointed that the direction he's choosing is one I don't happen to like (I'm not a Gene Simmons and Britney Spears fan, either). But I'd respect him more if the was up front about what he was doing. If he's going to choose to make a strong sexual statement with his music, fine -- but admit it and don't act surprised at the result. Maybe, after appearing to be an experienced professional, what Lambert is showing most clearly is professional immaturity.

I guess a lot of people will be watching to see what he does next, which was probably part of his intention too. I'm not sure I'll be one of them, though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Review: Quilting Art

I recently received this new book by Spike Gillespie, called "Quilting Art," and I have been saving it as my reward for when I finished a massive work project. The day after I finished my project, I made myself a cup of tea, settled myself down on the couch, and dove in to this beautiful book.

This book immediately struck me as something different from what we quilters usually see. For one thing, the author is not a quilter -- she's a writer, first and foremost, who stumbled onto quilting as an art form while in the process of writing another book, and then decided to take a close look at artists who use fabric as their medium. So, the book is an examination of twenty contemporary quilt artists and their work.

Gillespie asked each artist how they felt about being known as "quilters" versus "artists," and the explorations on that all-too-tricky line of discussion are interesting and varied. I really enjoyed reading about these twenty women. The artists covered in this book are: Deidre Adams, Pam RuBert, Lisa Call, Mary Beth Bellah, Sarah Williams, Angela Moll, Joan Dreyer, Loretta Bennett, Jane Burch Cochran, Dominie Nash, Malka Dubrawsky, Susan Else, Boo Davis, Karen Kamenetzky, Ai Kijima, Mary Louise Butters, Margot Lovinger, Joanie San Chirico, Robbie Joy Eklow, and Jeanne Williamson.

Some of the artists were ones I was very familiar with -- others I'd not known, and was delighted for the introduction. In each profile, Gillespie explores how each artist got involved with quilting, what processes she uses, her views about quilting in the art world, and more. I found each profile interesting and inspirational.

Works from each artist are featured, in beautiful photographs. I thought there were enough representative photos from each artists to give you a good sense of what her work is like, with great detail shots and even studio shots. (Seeing the workspace is so revealing, isn't it?)

I'm very happy to add this book to my library, and I know I'll be look back at it often. I've already gone to explore other works by some of the artists in here because I was so fascinated by what I'd seen. This would make a great addition to your holiday gift list if someone asks you what you want, or if you have a an art quilter to shop for!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happiness in Fabric

I must apologize for this rather dreadful photo -- but please look past the weird angle and awkward shadow to look at this absolutely wonderful quilt! When Helen came to visit, she surprised me with this lovely gift. I was overwhelmed and touched and delighted beyond words.

Helen knows that I adore Kaffe Fassett fabrics, that I like bright colors and pink, and that I'm a big fan of Freddy Moran. So, thoughfully, Helen combined my favorite things into this charming quilt. It's such a happy quilt, and it makes me all the happier because I remember Helen and Dennis's fun (but all too short) visit.

It is now hanging in the upstairs hallway where I can see it frequently during the day. It makes me smile every time I see it!

Gemma was, as usual, underfoot while I was hanging this so I thought I'd get her in the shot for Dennis. (And just so you know, because of the doorways and stairs across from the wall, there's no straight shot of the wall to get the quilt head-on which partly explains the bad photo.)

Exciting News!

The Twelve by Twelve artists are excited twelve times over to announce that:
(drum roll, please.... )
Sterling Publications/Lark Books will be publishing a book on our Twelve by Twelve Collaborative Art Quilt project!
We are thrilled beyond words to have this wonderful opportunity, and so happy that our art endeavors and friendships are turning us into authors, too. We know that Lark was impressed by the loyal folks who follow our blogs and website, so thanks to all of you friends-of-Twelves for your encouraging words through our explorations!
We'll keep you posted as we know publication dates.
We are lifting a virtual glass of champagne to each other and to all of you for your support!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moving Slowly

We have been moving slowly around here today. At about 2am this morning, I emailed off the very last, absolutely final, everything-is-ready-to-go-to-the-printer version of the appellate brief I've been working on in recent weeks. That moment when it is out of my hands and DONE is delicious, even if it does come in the wee hours of the morning. My plan was to sleep in late (one of the nice perks of the distance ed program Caroline is in) and do a whole lot of "not much" today.

Unfortunately, the phone rang at 7:30am with some last minute questions about the brief, stuff someone wanted to add, etc. But by 8:30 I was sitting in the family room with a full mug of coffee and the day stretching ahead of me. I got to linger with my novel ("The Godchildren" by Nicholas Coleridge, for those who need to know that sort of thing) and it felt very nice.

Unfortunately for Caroline, it was a migraine day for her... she took her meds and conked, which is usually what works. So that meant I had a VERY quiet hunk of time in the middle of the day. I pulled out my notebooks and have planned by next 12x12 "pink" quilt ... I washed and folded laundry... I cleaned my desk and even cleaned out two dresser drawers in the bedroom... bought tickets for C and I to see the King Tut exhibit at the DeYoung Museum this weekend with her Lit & History teacher and some of her classmates...

Not the most productive of days, but very pleasant.

Who knows what I'll do tomorrow?

* I took the picture above in Maine this past summer, when construction work was going on all around our friends' house. The guy just standing there with the SLOW sign just amused me. I think it's his energetic pose.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

What's 4 x 12? Wonderful Fun!

I have had the BEST two days! There is nothing like sharing quilting with wonderful friends and I am still smiling and feeling inspired and happy.

The excitement started on Thursday, when I drove over to Berkeley and found our lovely Helen and her husband Dennis, who are on the first leg of an around-the-world adventure. How lucky for me they started in San Francisco! Helen -- organized planner that she is -- had found a music shop/book shop/cafe for us to meet in, and we had lunch and stumbled over the first funny awkwardness of meeting for the first time while feeling that we know each other so well from our blogs and 12x12 challenge exploits together! We had a lovely lunch (roasted eggplant, red peppers, and melty cheese on focaccia, if you must know) and then Helen and I left Dennis to putter among the books and CDs and we headed off for a quilt shop tour.

Our first stop was Stone Mountain and Daughter, right in the heart of Berkeley. I'd not been there for ages and was happy to see that they had more quilting fabric than the last time I'd been in. We immediately found fabric that called out to us. Helen disclosed her plan to purchase fabric while in the US for a souvenir quilt, so she hunted for her focus fabric and we kept giggling over how often one of us would pull out a bolt and the other would say "I just pulled that very one out!" or how often Helen would choose a fabric and I'd say, "I bought a piece of that recently!" Helen managed to find several small (ahem) pieces for the beginning of her California Collection, I'm glad to report.

From there we went to New Pieces, and had no problem whatsoever finding more for her collection (and yes, I do believe I found three half-yards I couldn't resist...) Then, I treated Helen to a real, live experience in California Rush Hour Freeway Traffic as we crossed over the hill to Lafayette to visit The Cotton Patch* (*as seen on Ricky Tims' and Alex Anderson's The Quilt Show, to Helen's delight). Isn't it funny, when you have out of town friends visiting and encounter traffic? I felt personally responsible and kept apologizing (I did sort of forget about the likely timing of our excursion, in all of my excitement to plan a personal shop hop) and Helen kept laughing and said it felt just like home.

From there (after purchasing just a TINY big more fabric), we returned to Berkeley, retrieved Dennis who'd been sitting and chatting with a local fellow talking American politics, and headed off to dinner at a restaurant at the Berkeley marina, which gave us beautiful views across the bay to the San Francisco skyline.

Dinner was relaxing and delicious, and then we headed back to my house where we all went straight to our beds to dream of fabrics and quilts. (I'm sure Dennis was dreaming of them too, as we kept talking about them and he just couldn't escape...)

With Helen's advance permission, for Friday I'd planned a quilty lunch with a wonderful bunch of friends. Helen and Dennis accompanied me into town while I picked up the last lunch supplies (enjoying an American supermarket, good ol' Safeway.... Helen said, "You have more quilting magazines in your grocery store than we have in our quilt shops!"). Unbeknownst to Helen, a big surprise was in store -- she knew that friends would be coming, but she did NOT know that two intrepid traveling 12x12 compatriots had arranged to come and surprise her at the lunch! The first guest to arrive was Karen, all the way from Southern California. I was so happy to see Karen, and I was rather pleased to see how teary-eyed and happy Helen was to meet her.

Next thing you know, the room was full of laughing, smiling women ... and then the doorbell rang and Surprise Guest #2 arrived, Gerrie, having driven from Portland with her husband for a wine country weekend! I saw Helen gasp and get teary-eyed all over again when she spotted Gerrie at the door. So I felt like a devious but successful hostess.

We had a wonderful afternoon. My buddies have followed the 12x12 exploits and many read Helen's blog regularly, so there was a lot to talk about and Helen mixed in beautifully. We talked, and laughed, and ate, and talked, and laughed, then had a grand "show and tell" mid afternoon. That was total fun and pure inspiration. A highlight of the afternoon was that the four of us "Twelves" showed our collection of challenge quilts together, and it was SO wonderful to see them in person and to have a batch of them together. And cupcakes from the local bakery were the perfect reward after show and tell!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Pat M, Janet, Pam, Sandy, Rita, Eleanor, Pat D, Maureen, Delaine, Ancella, Gerrie, and Karen for coming and bringing show and tell and giving such a warm and friendly welcome to Helen. I could gush and gush about how lucky I feel to count you all among my friends.

After all of that excitement and inspiration, when everyone had gone and the house was quiet, Helen remarked that we still had time to get to my local fabric shop, Fabrications ... so off we went! We popped into two bookshops (for Dennis, ostensibly, but we enjoyed it too) and in Fabrications Helen was enticed by several locally dyed pieces of fabric art.

We got home in time to enjoy guacamole, chips, comforting beverages, and a steak dinner which Roger, wonderful husband, prepared.

A totally perfect day.

Today, Helen, Dennis and I met up with Gerrie and her husband Steve for a quick breakfast before Helen and Dennis headed off to their next adventure (with fabric shops along the way, I'm sure.)

So now it is back to real life in our house, and I am missing Helen and Dennis -- as is our lab Gemma who became instantly smitten with Dennis and has done a bit of pacing around the house looking for him this afternoon.

Okay... dinner and early bed for me -- all that fun was tiring!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Family Pampering

Miss C and I are at Grandma and Grampa's house. Her grandma and grandpa, my parents' house, that is. We inched our way through San Francisco over the Golden Gate bridge in traffic the likes of which I'd not seen in ages in order to come -- I reminded myself that people pay oodles of money and travel miles and miles to drive over the bridge, so if I got to creep over it a foot at a time, I was LUCKY.

The purpose of the trip was to bring Caroline to see the pediatric neurologist who specializes in migraines at Stanford Children's Hospital. There is nothing -- nothing, I tell you -- which snaps your life into perspective faster than sitting in the waiting room in a pediatric neurology waiting room. I am still counting my blessings.

So, all is good and we are now hanging out here through the weekend so that Caroline can go to a Halloween party on Saturday night at the home of one her school classmates. She'll get to meet some classmates in person, so that should be fun. She has an elaborate wizard/princess costume going, and Grandpa helped her make a faux metal dagger and she is delighted. Nothing like greeting new friends with a weapon on hand, just in case.

And we are enjoying the portability of our work -- I have my laptop so I can continue (sigh) my legal work and Caroline has done her classes on Grandpa's computer and is hard at work on her algebra. Have laptops, will travel.

Have a spooky Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Coffee, Please!

I feel as if I am slogging through mud. I wake in the morning and have the urge to just stay in bed all day. I am tempted to wander around the house in my cozy bathrobe and Ugg boots, with occasional collapses onto the couch to rest after the exertion of going downstairs.

In contrast to my external lack of energy, my brain can't stop the whirls of color and pattern flying by. I lay in bed at night and think about quilts I saw, what to do with that one piece of fabric I've had in my closet for the last year, how to finish the border on an almost-done top that is folded on the UFO pile.

And the reality is that once I'm upright each morning, I have to force myself to the computer, open up my work files, and turn down the volume on the right side of my brain so I can summon some lawyerly thinking to deal with the pile of work on my desk. I'm analyzing the legal definition of criminal negligence and trying to ignore the thoughts about how to quilt my pink quilt top as they fly past my inner eye.

So here I sit, yellow pads of paper scattered to the sides of my keyboard. I'm getting down to work. Just ignore the doodles of quilting designs all over them, okay?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quilt Show Delirium

I am down in the SF Bay area, attending the Pacific International Quilt Festival. I am cruising the show with my friend Pat D., and we have had an exhilarating day viewing quilts that we will never make and fondling all of the fabric we long to bring home and shove into our all-too-crowded stashes.

By 4:00, we are giddy with Quilt Overload. Still, we persevere. We admire amazing technique and gorgeous designs, and always look to see the quilt's descriptive card so we know just who to admire and envy as we ogle her (usually her) quilt.

We are standing in front of a lovely, colorful quilt. I glance over at the placard and notice that the quilter's last name is "Dippinlips." I am pondering the fate of either surviving on an elementary school playground with that last name OR loving some fellow enough to take on that last name, and say to Pat, "Her last name is Dippinlips!"

Pat looks more closely at the card. "And her first name is 'Snickle!'" We look at each other as we say, in unison, "Snickle Dippinlips?"

We fall about laughing. Trying to catch her breath, Pat looks more closely at the card. "Wait," she says, "that's the name of the QUILT. Her name is Claire Fairless."

I'm sure Claire Fairless is a lovely person -- undoubtedly quite talented, too -- but somehow we liked her better when we thought she was Snickle Dippinlips. We stagger off down the aisle, giggling helplessly, and entertain ourselves for the next hour by saying things like "Meet my good friend Snickle!" and "How lovely you look, Mrs. Dippinlips!"

Quilt shows: not for the faint-hearted.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October Excitement

It's October in California! And that means (drum roll, please...) it's time for Pacific International Quilt Festival!

I'm off for the weekend to visit my parents (who live 20 minutes away from the quilt show site, lucky me), get inspired by amazing quilts, and see what new fabrics and gadgets I can't live without.

Back soon!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Perhaps a librarian could help

Today was re-entry after a blissful few days off on quilting retreat. After several days of uninterrupted creative time, lovely friends, lots of laughter, all punctuated by regular delicious meals which I did not have to cook, there's always a bit of a thud returning to the reality of home. (Not that home isn't lovely, but landing back amid piles of laundry and catalogs and Work To Be Done and miscellaneous Things to Be Put Away is always a bit of a shock. You know, "Who ARE these people and how to they manage to make such a mess?!")

So, naturally, I took myself out to run errands. I dropped by the fabric store (not having had enough fabric time despite 12 hours per day of it over the last several days), and picked up some groceries, and visited the library to pick up some of the books they'd found for me.

One of my favorite things about my local library system, by the way, is that I can look things up online in the library's county-wide catalog, "request" them with the click of a button, and they magically appear on the "hold" shelf sometime later. It's like but without the
less fun result when the credit card bill comes.

I'm in and out of the library frequently, and I have come to the conclusion that people who become librarians do so because they like books more than they like people. (Excuse me if you are among the rare breed known as Friendly Librarians -- I don't see them often in my bibliographic forest.) Gradually, my extreme charm and sparkling wit are winning these reserved folk over -- some days I get a timid smile and on a really good day I'll get a compliment about my just-for-library-books basket.

Today, as the librarian was sliding my books past the magic magnetic thingie, she looked up with a broad smile. "Oh, I never read books, but I read THAT one and it was really good."

You got that? "I never read books." I replied that I was very glad to hear the book was worth reading, and we resumed our exchange in silence while I pondered how it was she came to choose her career.

This reminded me of an incident some years back with my favorite front-desk librarian, a slim blond woman with perpetually wispy hair and bright pink lipstick smeared crookedly across her lips.

She sighed as she started in processing the stack of novels I'd placed on the counter. "You read so many books! I wish I could find a good novel to read."

What does one say to that, standing in the middle of a library? "Well, what sort of things do you like?" I asked.

"I don't know how to find books about the things I like," she replied with a shrug, and then went on to tell me that she preferred to read the astrology columns in newspapers. I suggested that she search the online catalog for books about astrology, and threw out the name of an author who writes mysteries featuring astrological topics. She looked astonished at my cleverness. "I never thought of that!"

Of course, this was the same woman who announced once as she took my library card, "we have the same name!"

"Oh, you're Diane too?" I replied (brilliant, yes?)

"No, my name is Cynthia." Said brightly, as if perfectly logical.

For the life of me I couldn't figure out how to reply. "We're both goddesses!" she exclaimed.

Note to self: don't try to engage the librarians in conversation. It will only cause more furrowed brow lines of confusion, of which I have plenty already.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Off to the Ranch

This evening marks the start of another of the biannual quilting retreats I attend out at Bishop's Ranch. I especially love the October retreat, when the crispness of fall is in the air and the vineyards are tinged with yellow as the leaves start to turn. It's a wonderful time to gather with friends and get busy with sewing.

So, today I'm packing up and sorting out what to take. It's not easy figuring out what I'll work on! I've found, from past retreats, that I don't do well working on anything that requires too much thought -- I'd rather be chatting, and the retreat setting just doesn't lend itself to heavy concentration. I've also done machine-quilting there in the past, although keeping one's head down and humming away at quilting speed isn't conducive to community chatting, either. So, for me the best tasks tend to be piecing, or working on something I've thought out before I arrive.

In the pile are 1) a bunch of wedges for a One-Block-Wonder quilt I cut out quite a while ago; 2) squares stacked and ready to be sewn into rows for a simple cozy throw quilt, using the snow ball pattern; 3) more blocks to piece from scraps for a springy quilt, probably for donation purposes; and 4) papers and fabrics for a Karen Stone paper-piecing project in shades of yellow and purple that I started at the last retreat.

That ought to keep me busy.

Of course, the camera will go into the bag for future pictures...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Let the Studio Tours Begin!

Quilting Arts is hosting a studio tour this weekend -- what fun to be able to sit at home and still see the creative spaces of a whole bunch of talented quilters and artists! Pull up a chair and start studio hopping!

Me, I have a funny little office/studio combo which means I have desk and work area in one corner and a sewing area in another ... with a closet stuffed full of fabric. Hardly tour-worthy. But I look at some of these studios and dream of having more space someday, still feeling grateful that I have a spot to leave my sewing machine up all the time which I'm convinced is the secret to getting anything done.

Happy touring!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Make a Good Impression

I finished a quilt! This feels like quite a triumph, given my scattered brain and ongoing upheaval of daily life lately. After I made a fingerprint piece for a recent 12x12 challenge (the theme was "Identity") I was inspired to go bigger with the same idea. I've called it "Make a Good Impression" and it's 33 x 39 inches.

As luck would have it, an assignment in my ongoing Practical Design workshop required me to design a quilt with a monochromatic color scheme and an asymmetrical design. So the fingerprint fit the bill nicely. I used reverse applique to create the fingerprint lines. I do enjoy the cutting away part and seeing the design reveal itself.

Here's the original 12x12 piece which spurred me into this larger one, btw:

On to the next UFO!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Twelve" by Twelve by Twelve

Over on the Twelve by Twelve blog, we've just revealed our challenge pieces for the twelfth challenge -- on the theme "twelve." As always, the results are clever and fun and wonderfully surprising. Great variety, but much similarity, too.

Go see!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Quiet Time

You may have noticed that I've not had a lot to say here lately. I'm not entirely sure why. But my mood has been a quiet one lately, not just here but overall. I'm not feeling particularly social, and I'm not feeling particularly creative. I'm just sort of ... well, quiet.

Is it just me, going through phases like this? I don't think so. I wonder whether it's that my outward energy is directed at getting Caroline well-settled in her new school routine, and as a result getting MYSELF into a new routine. For a while I thought that maybe I was coming down with a cold, what with feeling so dulled and flattened.

Now I'm thinking it's just a transition, after a very busy and emotional time. So I am moving forward slowly. I'm working away on a simple piecing project to get an old UFO out of the closet. I'm reading a lot, and I've been letting myself sit in the sunshine in the living room for a bit in the morning after Roger leaves for work, reading and sipping my coffee. I'm making slow progress on a long-term work project, but I'm not knocking myself out with any brilliant spurts. I look at the garden and think about all that needs doing out there, but decide that I don't feel like working on that right now.

It's a quiet time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bye to Summer, Hello to Fall

I have been a Very Bad Blogger over the last months, and I apologize. Too much summer fun, and I'm feeling quite scattered as I try to get into some semblance of an organized mode for fall. I'm trying to get the downstairs back together after the Extreme Colorizing of the last two weeks (Pictures, soon, REALLY!)... sorting out the piles of stuff I'm accumulating to take off to the Salvation Army... Getting Caroline off to a solid start with the new distance ed school...

Which reminds me -- it's AMAZING what technology can do! I mean, I'm pretty computer savvy, but it totally awes me to see Caroline sitting at her school table (we've dedicated a corner in the upstairs hallway to her school table, computer and books) with headset on, watching her teacher and seeing the other students' faces appear on screen when they ask questions ... It really is a virtual classroom.

I guess I'm in some sort of decorating/nesting mode. I found a big big bargain on a set of that resin wicker outdoor furniture, and it is being delivered today. So I was out there early, cleaning off the patio and rearranging stuff in anticipation of a new outdoor room where we can sit and chat and sip wine before dinner and all. I have big dreams of being able to sit still for a bit and be leisurely! Good thing this is California, where we really will get use out of patio furniture even if it does arrive in September.

My sewing area is all tidy and ready for -- ta dah! -- sewing, any minute now. I've got ideas percolating for the upcoming 12x12 challenge on the theme "Twelve" ... I've got various things in progress to finish...

I tell you, getting to the FUN stuff is just around the corner...

The picture above, is in honor of a very fun summer. I took this from our hotel room window when we stayed for a few nights in Reno, Nevada. (Someone asked me if I took it from a diving board! Yikes -- not likely for ME, that's for sure.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Need Inspiration?

What with the summer travel, painting the house, getting Caroline squared away for 8th grade, and general exhaustion (!), I've not been making any fiber art. I just think about the unfinished projects I have going -- which I really do want to finish one of these days! Really! -- but I haven't had any hunk of time to dive into a fabric project.

In the midst of the August Stuff, Jean Wells' new book "Intuitive Color and Design" arrived. I blocked off an hour and parked myself in a lounge chair in the back yard, and fell in love.

Wow. That was my immediate reaction to the book, and it's still my reaction every time I pick it up.

You all probably know Jean Wells from the big Sisters, Oregon quilt show, and from her appearances on Simply Quilts, and her books with her daughter Valori. But this new book shows a whole new side of Jean and her work. Jean says right up front that she was inspired by a workshop with Nancy Crow, and it's clear that Nancy Crow's work with linear design and solid colors have heavily influenced Jean's new direction. Still, the work shown in this book has that simple, direct, clarity that is instantly appealing.

What I especially like about this book is how Jean provides small lessons on seeing the world in a new way -- looking at lines and shapes, mainly -- and then on translating those new sights into cloth. She covers the artistic elements of design and composition, and then addresses sewing techniques for how to make designs in fabric. Jean pieces, so these aren't fused works -- but they're easily accessible to all levels of sewing ability.

Jean shows how she plays with designs in sketches, and then how the ultimate quilt resulted. (I love seeing the contrast between the original concept and the finished work.) She doesn't just stop at the quilt top, either. She discusses how to incorporate a quilting design that is compatible with the overall piece design, and she goes on to show various finishing techniques (including one that strikes me as rather odd an unappealing -- a square, pillow-esque construction she calls an "off the wall" quilt -- but that's just me... it's definitely different, and it may well appeal to some who want to finish their small pieces in a new and interesting way.)

This book is the first thing that has made me itch to get back to fabric -- not that I've been able to yet, but when I do, I'll probably have this book open and I'll be playing with an exercise or two!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Living with Color

I've been all about paint over the last week or so. Here's the family room, with walls in "Golden Glow." It's a rich, bright color, and changes how the room feels depending on the time of day. Sometimes it seems like a cheery yellow, at others a deeper tangerine. We are loving it!

I've moved on to the kitchen and eating nook, which are both at this back end of the house and connected. One wall is a nice, straight-forward red (Benjamin Moore's "redstone," for those you who need to know. And the rest is a very happy robin's egg blue (Ben M's "fairy tale blue). It is intense color but it sure makes me happy.

Pictures when the masking tape is off!

Now I'm eying the guest bathroom off of the dining room, and mentally selecting colors....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Life goes on...

It has been a week of ups and downs. We are still mourning Brad, and will be for ages and ages. I think we're all still in shock.

But good things are happening too. See that tower up there? It's Hoover Tower at Stanford University. And I'm posting it because Caroline has been admitted to Stanford's online school program for gifted kids! We're so proud of her, and so excited for her. Their online middle and high school program is innovative and I think it will be a great experience for her.

Me, I've been in home-dec mode! In that "one thing leads to another" deal, Roger and I bought a tv/shelf/wall unit to replace the ancient tv cabinet we'd hauled from New Hampshire, and it was being delivered last Tuesday. It occurred to me that I should paint the family room BEFORE the wall unit was assembled and put in place, so that I did. Our family room is now a sunny and cozy marigold color, which looks stunning against the white wall shelving unit.

But, of course, you change one room and then other things need changing. The family room is connected to the kitchen, and I have been testing paint swatches all week. I thought I had a plan (a slightly paler shade of marigold) but when I painted a swatch, it just looked flat and boring. So, I've made daily trips to both Home Depot and my local paint store, for more paint chips and samples. I'm now on a first name basis with our local paint guy, who says "See you tomorrow" each time I'm in. Finally, I bought paint today to surge forward...well, maybe "surge" is too strong a word..."Crawl" forward?

Along the way, I learned that the annoying pain I've had in my foot over the last several weeks is a FRACTURE. No wonder climbing up and down ladders made my foot hurt! I figure I'll have a beautifully and artfully paint-spattered immobilization boot by the time the kitchen is painted.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Welcome to Heaven

There are times where we are reminded how fragile life is, and how quickly everything can turn upside down. For us, this is one of those.

Over the weekend, we received news that a member of our family -- a man not yet 50 -- died suddenly and totally unexpectedly. He'd just dropped his oldest daughter off for her first year at college, and he and his wife were off with family for the weekend to relax and have fun. On the golf course, he was having a good old time -- and then he keeled over, dead.

We are so sad, and so shocked. I keep having that "but he was just HERE" feeling, totally unable to get my mind around how it could be that he left the house with a smile and a wave, and will never, ever come back.

I know this happens to people all the time.... death and loss strike all the time, seemingly so randomly. And yet, when it happens in your own circle, it is so harshly shocking. It feels unfathomable.

As trite as it is, it makes me want to say this: Tell everyone you love that you love them. Hug your dear ones. Let your friends know how much they mean to you.

I so appreciate you all -- most of you I've never met but your comments and your support cheer me and make me happy. Thanks for your friendship! Now, go hug your family! Oh, and when you're outside? Look up at the blue sky with a smile to welcome those newly-arrived folks in Heaven.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Blog Give-Away!

Some time ago, I reviewed this very appealing book, Paper Quilts by Sandra Lounsbury Foose.

Well, I'm cleaning my office (got to make room for the NEW stuff, you know) and I have a copy of this book to give away!

First person to email me to say that want it will get it! (Do include your postal address!) And who know... I might just sneak a few other goodies into the package...

Okey dokey -- book is spoken for! Lucky Lisa will get it!

Friday, August 14, 2009

No School Allowed

Hey, school administrator people! Listen up! The month of August is still summer! And August is for sand-between-the-toes, and catching butterflies in the backyard, and riding bikes around the neighborhood at dusk, and eating ice cream cones.

It is not for starting school. What are you people, crazy?

Summer ends with Labor Day. And THEN school can start.


[Roger starts back at school today, with classes starting on Monday...]

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zinnia Heaven

Last week, I visited at my mom and dad's house while Caroline attended a near-by day camp. In my folks' neighborhood, there's a guy who plants about an acre or so of land with a vast garden - tomatoes and vegetables and flowers. From about mid-summer on, he runs a small farm stand on the corner where you can get all sorts of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, squashes, eggplants, lettuce, and more...

But oh, it's the flowers that get me. He has rows and rows of zinnias and dahlias and flowers whose names I don't know -- but I can prowl around there with my camera and have a good old time.

So , here are a few zinnias for you...

They're just the happiest flowers.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fun and surprises in San Francisco

Meet Beth and Moe, two of my best friends in the whole world. When I was a freshman in college at the University of California, Irvine, I had the amazing good luck to be plunked into a dorm room next door to these two. I rapidly learned that I had little in common with my roommates, but that Beth and Moe and I would be lifelong friends. Unfortunately, Moe lives down in Southern California and I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like.

But about 2 weeks ago, we finally got together in San Francisco, a trip we'd planned to celebrate a significant birthday for Moe. And what a time we had! We stayed at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, a San Francisco landmark (and got an amazingly great rate, thanks to had dinner at the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel (which is like Disneyland's Tiki room but without the singing birds and flowers), then went to see "Wicked" which surpassed our very high expectations.

The following day, we rode cable cars and walked all over the place. You know, you really doln't want to walk up one of SF's hills if you can ride...

At one point, we were strolling along Fisherman's Wharf yakking away (as we do, non-stop), and suddenly a bush jumped out at us. Beth gasped, "geesus!" to which the bush replied, "I AM NOT JESUS!" When we'd caught our breaths (and stopped laughing) we realized that we'd had an encounter with the famous (infamous?) Bushman of San Francisco. He sits on a milk crate, tucked next to a mailbox or garbage can, and he holds a hand-made hedge-like bundle of branches. And then he scares passersby. Given that San Franciso has a pretty wide assortment of homeless folks and/or street performers asking for money (we'd been serenaded while waiting in line for the cable car earlier that day), I was impressed at the ingenuity of this guy. I mean, he was certainly entertaining, and it was certainly original. Turns out he has been doing this in SF's Wharf area since 1980! You can see him here:

If you've got a bit more time, you can watch this mini-documentary about him:

And check out this rather humorous article about him from the SF Chronicle which discusses his "act" as "performance art."

Our encounter with the Bushman not only amused us at the time, but kept us talking (enough to research him when we got home.) We learned that he claims to have made as much as $60,000 in a year from the donations he gets. Just goes to show that there are all sorts of career paths out there, eh?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Where ever you go, there you are.

And look, there I am, the gold car reflected in that huge shiny truck! (I took this at a long stoplight, by the way -- do you think I would try to snap photos while driving?!) I feel like I have been on the road for the last several weeks. Homebody that I am, I am not used to living out of suitcases. But this is our last excursion for a while, so I am looking forward to getting home on Saturday and staying there.

This week, I am on the SF peninsula, staying with my mom and dad so Caroline can attend a week-long computer technology day camp at Stanford. They live just 15 minutes away from Stanford, so it's quite convenient. It's lovely to get some leisurely time with my parents, Caroline is enjoying the camp enormously, and I'm having fun spending time alternately roaming and hanging out at the house.

Yesterday was a roaming day. I delivered Caroline into the custody of the enthusiastic camp counselors (who, in age-old camp tradition have nicknames like "Beep," "Peep," "Danger," and "Fridge." Question for the day: What would your camper nickname be this summer? I'm thinking I'd be "Snap" because I've had my camera with me all the time, taking pictures where ever I go.) And then I headed off to roam through some favorite stores.

I had a lovely time cruising around one of my favorite independent bookstores, Books, Inc. in Palo Alto. I found a great book on making digital art with Photoshop that will be fun to explore. I strolled down University Avenue, the funky main street in downtown Palo Alto, and found myself in the Borders bookstore which took over the big old movie theater. It's a wonderful use of the space, really, and there is something I like about climbing up to the balcony level to look at the kids' books.

I was delighted to find the new Somerset publication "Art Quilting Studio":

I haven't even peeked inside yet -- I'm saving that for when I can sit with it for a hunk of time ... perhaps later this evening.

And then there's Somerset's Artful Blogging magazine, which provides wonderful blogging inspiration:

The only danger about that magazine, I find, is that I end up with a list of new blogs to track down and read, and I have a massively long list of favorite blogs at it is!

I don't often take the time to just roam around when I'm at home. It's lovely play time -- I must remember to do this when I'm at home when I'm in need of a mental break.

When you have time to wander, where do you go? Art galleries? Wilderness? Shopping?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Crime of Passion

I have been a horrible blogger, and I apologize to all of you who have looked here to find no updates. All is well -- in fact, I've been having a terrifically fun (if busy) summer. I've been zooming hither and yon -- and I can tell you for a fact that yon does not have a wireless internet connection.

I am about to zoom off again tomorrow for the week (more on that to come, I promise). But I wanted to pop into say I'm fine and all is well.

But more importantly, today is the reveal date for our Twelve by 12 Challenge. The theme this time was "passion" and I can tell you it was not an easy one! I decided to emphasize the phrase "crime of passion" and to highlight my passion for reading! You can read about how I did my piece and see more detailed shots on the Twelve by 12 blog. Go quick and see the amazing interpretations of this theme!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Surprises

Remember that appellate brief I mentioned, that was going to take up a good hunk of my time? POSTPONED. Good news and bad news both, really -- I can play now, but it'll come back one of these days.

So, instead of sitting at my computer doing legal work, I've been fiddling with Photoshop and layers and textures. Wow -- a whole new avenue for play. I know I've barely scratched the surface when it comes to the things one can do with Photoshop, but right now the texture thing is keeping me engrossed. This shot, by the way, is one I took in Old Orchard Beach, on the coast of Maine. It was a gray rainy day and everything was deserted, and I love how it looks like a faded old postcard.

Lest you think I've been at my computer all week, I've been earning my Nursing merit badge. My sister, who lives alone in a charming little house across town, has had some unexpected minor health things so I've escorted her to the local emergency room, doctor's appointments, and the odd test and pharmacy-run. I've even figured out how to arrange cushions on her small living room floor to make quite a cozy bed so I can stay the night, and we've had a few sister sleep-overs. She's doing fine but it's nice to know we have each other for these curve-ball episodes.

I'm still mulling and sketching about "passion" for the upcoming 12x12 theme. Yikes -- time is running out. I think I'll be diving into fabric tomorrow. It has been a hard theme for all of us this time. Be sure to check the 12x12 blog on August 1 to see what we've each come up with!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Locked Inside

Here's a shot from our day in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is a lovely town on the Massachusetts coast, and of course it is famous for the witch-related hysteria that took place there in 1692. Remember Arthur Miller's The Crucible?

We did a bunch of the touristy things -- the witch museum, the witch village, the witch dungeon -- you get the idea. Caroline was fascinated, and even though the attractions were a bit on the hokey side (Disney theme park quality they are not), they provide good, short overviews of the fascinating history of the place. I had been reading a new novel, The Physick of Deliverance Dane, about a Harvard grad student researching Salem witch history, which seemed appropriate, so it was fun to be immersed in the sense of the place as we walked around.

Funnily enough, we spotted SNL comedian/actor Rob Schneider in the witch museum. Celebrity sighting! There were various people trailing after him, aiming their cell phones at him, with others murmuring, "WHO is he?"

It was a fun place to walk around. I can highly recommend the Peabody-Essex museum there, which has some wonderful exhibits AND Yin Yu Tang, a house from China dating back to the 1800's which has been rebuilt stone by stone on the premises.

But there's one more reason this photo is appropriate today -- vacation and the holiday weekend are over, and I have an appellate brief to write -- so I shall be cloistering myself away in my office for a bit to dive in. The door will be closed, and if you hear scary moans and rustly noises coming from inside, don't worry. It's just me at work. :-)

Happy July!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Celebrating Quietly

Happy Independence Day! We are having a quiet day here at home, which feels wonderful. We welcomed the last piece of luggage home last evening and so I've been doing last unpacking and laundry today. We'll grill sausages tonight (we have a local place that does wonderful chicken and apple sausage) and then head into town after dark to watch the fireworks.

We were able to spend a few days in Boston when we were in New England, so we got a refresher course on Paul Revere's ride, the hanging of the lamps in the Old North Church, the dumping of the tea into Boston Harbor, etc. It *is* very cool to see where it actually happened. At one point because we were tired of walking in the rain, we hopped onto a tour bus so we finished the rest of the Freedom Trail in a warm, dry vehicle. The tour guide had an odd mix of history and social commentary, but at one point he threw out an interesting fact: that at the time the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, there was no democratic government existing in any country. Quite remarkable, really.

So, despite the strange twists and turns our democratic process takes from time to time, our governmental system is something rather amazing. It's an honor to celebrate it, and our nation, today.

I snapped the photo above, by the way, on a walk through our friends' neighborhood in Portland, Maine. I love the delicate red and blue flowers against the white house. Seeing flower-filled window boxes all over New England made me want to put them up on our front windows!

Hope you are celebrating with friends and family and abundant relaxation!