Saturday, March 27, 2010

What's been on my nightstand

What with this bad headcold and a resulting lack of energy, I've been reading a lot lately.  What have I been reading?  Nothing serious or heavy, but a lot of entertainment and light reading:

The Last Time I was Me by Cathy Lamb. The funny but moving story of a woman assigned by court order to an anger management class (because of a little incident involving superglue, a condom, and her cheating ex-boyfriend), and the relationships that develop among the class members.  I love this author's writing.

A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball.  Pure, fun escapist reading, about three women who pool their resources and buy a dilapidated farm and mansion in Virginia.  Made me want to move to the country to bake scones, plant green beans and raise sheep.

Brain Storm by Richard Dooling (which I pulled off of the shelf at the library because of the colorful cover and spine -- repeated images of brain scans on a black background!)  A legal thriller with cutting edge brain research thrown in.  Interesting and entertaining, if a bit macho at times.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  Sort of like Harry Potter for grown-ups -- actually, the story wove together aspects of magic in fiction that connected Harry Potter's Hogwarts world and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but from a cynical realistic view of a depressed 17 year old kid.  Definitely unusual and worth reading, with some thought-provoking ideas about what role magic plays in the world.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  The story of three women whose lives intersect, alternating between WWII in London and small town American life in the present.  Enjoyable but not devastatingly great.  If you can find it at the library, go for it.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen. A better-than-average chick lit novel about two sisters, and how the childhood roles they'd had (the smart one, the pretty one) follow them and affect then in adulthood.  Easy entertainment.

Earthly Pleasures by Karen Neches.  A chick lit version of heaven where God is female (and sounds just like Bette Midler), this story follows a new Heaven "greeter" and what happens when she falls in love with an Earth-bound guy.  Charming and light.

First Class Killing by Lynne Heitman.  One in a series of mysteries in which our heroine is a former airline manager turned private detective.  Well-written, with interesting inside glimpses of airport life.  Better than average mystery/thriller.

What have you read lately?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Code in my node

I'm in the middle of the worst head cold I've had in years, and my head feels like I've taken every scrap of batting in the house and crammed it into my skull.  A lovely feeling, let me tell you.  So I've been doing a lot of napping and reading and dozing and watching mindless tv.  One of these days I might be able to hear again and breathe through both nostrils at the same time!  I can hardly wait!  In the meantime, I've got my kleenex and a glass of grapefruit juice at my side at all times and I'm getting by.

In the meantime, I've been using this forced down-time to make some  progress on another City and Guilds activity on English paper piecing...  which is another thing I never thought I'd do. It just seemed  pointless, frankly. The exercise involved choosing a photo (above), then translating it into blocks of color, like so:

A great abstraction technique, yes?   Coloring triangles was a perfect afternoon activity for stuffy-headed me.  And then the trick was sewing the pieces:

This is as far as I've gotten, because in my usual "Can I possibly make this harder on myself?" style, I made the triangles quite small and it makes for dang fussy sewing. Still, it was rather enjoyable and good tv sewing.  I can actually see myself using this technique on something someday.  With bigger pieces, that is.

Time for my mid-afternoon nap now.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

100 Things -- How Many Have You Done?

Here's a fun list of Life Stuff that I found on Dawn's blog, D'Blogala... You bold the ones you've done. I feel a sudden urge to travel to Europe to see Paris, and the Mona Lisa, and to go to Venice....

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland

8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelos David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

Text Color

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

100. Read an entire book in one day

Ups and downs, bits and pieces

Lately I have been working on my City & Guilds activities, trying to catch up after a long period of not making any progress at all.  It's the blessing and curse of self-paced programs -- flexibility, but the dangerous possibility of letting thing go.  Deciding whether to resume made me think about why I signed up in the first place: to expose myself to some new techniques, to learn from artists I admire tremendously (I'm in the course offered by Linda and Laura Kemshall), and to work more specifically on design.  The program is helping me do what I wanted to do.

Plus, there is the huge benefit of having discrete, small tasks to accomplish AND, even better, a check list to mark off when I've completed each activity.  This is enormously satisfying to me right now, when life feels a bit scattered and I'm not in the mood to start a massive new project.  Small and achieveable feels quite good!

The picture above is hand-sewn reverse applique, in case you were wondering.   The activity involved taking design inspiration from a photo and developing it into a reverse applique sample.  I'm thinking this would make a very cool border, if I were inclined to tackle that hand-sewing...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Monday was such a beautiful sunny day that Caroline and I took an impromptu field trip to the zoo in San Francisco. The zoo sits right on the coast -- a block from the beach - and it is usually foggy and cool there, even on the hottest of summer days. To our delight, even there at the zoo the sun was shining and the air was balmy and full of springtime.  And we could tell that the animals were happy to be basking in the spring sunshine, too.

No, he's not dead.  He's just dead to the world.

Gosh, I sort of feel like a nap now.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Morning ramblings

The sun is shining, the sky is blue -- it's enough to make me want to get out into the backyard to do some spring planting.  And then I remember that the soil is solid clay that makes digging a hole to plant anything so hard and miserable that I want to cry.  So maybe I won't do that today.

Waffles or pancakes this morning?  The sunday morning breakfast ritual is in swing and today is waffles.  With bacon.  And real maple syrup.  Perfect. 

I woke up early, or so I thought, and enjoyed an hour on the living room couch, sitting in a patch of sunlight and enjoying my coffee and reading on the beloved Kindle, when I realized that it was move-the-clocks-forward last night.  So I wasn't early after all.  But I still enjoyed the quiet and sunshine.  

We're thinking about a trip to the zoo tomorrow... a homeschooling field trip!  Watch -- it'll be rainy.

The middle finger of my left hand is chewed up and sore because I've been doing some needle-turn applique and hand-quilting (gasp!) for an assignment in the City and Guilds course.  My tender, machine-operating fingers aren't used to getting poked, especially that finger that sits underneath the fabric and pushes the needle back in.  Maybe I'm not doing it right, or maybe I need another thimble for that finger.  But sore finger aside, I'm surprised at how much I've enjoyed the hand-sewing.

We watched "The Informant" last night, starting Matt Damon.  Definitely entertaining.  We were going to watch The Hurt Locker but couldn't handle the drama.

Big thoughts going on here, eh?!  Hope your Sunday is full of pleasant little surprises!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Show and Tell

I was reading something recently about blogging, and referring to blogging as a modern day show-and-tell for grown-ups.  I think that's just about right.  No wonder I like blogging and reading blogs -- I always loved show and tell as a kid.

So here's my show and tell for the day:  I've been playing with Shiva painstiks this afternoon.  Actually, some time ago I bought a bargain bunch of the british Markal paintstiks on Ebay for a bargainous price, so I was using those.  They're strange items, those paintstiks---especially that tough outer skin.  But I'm getting the hang of using them, and today's assignment was to use a design inspired by a leaf shape, make a freezer paper stencil, and apply in some repetitive design on fabric. 

Here is my inspiration photo, of some tiny weed I photographed this weekend -- something about those whimsical leaf shapes appeals to me:

I made mirror image stencils:

And this was the result:

I'm not sure what I'll do with this from here ... Maybe I'll figure that out on another play day!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Strip pieced line study

Yesterday I spent some time working on a line study assignment for a course.  The assignment was to choose a photograph that featured line as a strong element.  Here's my photo:

Then, we were to use strip piecing to construct a design from the image; I did this:

And from there, I used reverse applique and machine quilting to get to this:

It was a fun assignment, and satisfying to get it done.  It's funny -- I never thought I would find a realistic style of art an easy one, but it is the place I tend to go first -- it is stretching the realistic image into something abstract that is the challenge for me.  Maybe I should try to take this and stretch it to something more abstract for my next mini-project...

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The New Digital Frontier

My sister was just telling me about an episode of Frontline that she watched, called "Digital Nation," and I've just tracked it down online and watched it myself.  It explores the way technology is changing how we interact with the world, and whether it's changing our brains as well.  It looks at the internet, blackberries, texting, ipods, googling for research, online games, blogging and video-casting, virtual reality, even military applications.  I was especially interested in how it looked at how technology encourages multi-tasking, and what that means for how kids learn and need to learn.  It's fascinating, and raises a lot of issues about the advantages and disadvantages of technology in our lives. 

The show is online and will stream live on your computer for free, here.  (I watched it via computer while multi-tasking and tidying my office!)  Definitely a thought-provoking ninety minutes.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Teen Time

We are officially in Teen world, and I have discovered that I am suddenly no longer my favorite daughter's person in the whole world.  Evidence Miss C's description of the movie "Up" to a friend of ours recently:

Judy:  So, did you like it?

Miss C:  It was horrible.  Boring and horrible.

Judy: I thought you'd like it!  What was horrible about it?

Miss C:  Mom kept laughing!

Judy: What was she laughing at?

Miss C:  Oh, I don't know, parts that weren't even FUNNY.  And she would gasp at parts that weren't even surprising.  It was (said with big Teen glower) really really annoying.

Me (unable to resist defending myself): But there were funny parts!  LIke how that funny bird kept hissing at the guy he didn't like!  That was funny!  And it was just like Jasmine (Miss C's cat) and how she loves you and hisses at me.

Miss C: Well, that WAS like Jasmine.  And it was kind of funny.  But YOU (said accusingly) were so annoying!

Judy: So  it wasn't the movie you didn't like, it was that your mom was being annoying  by laughing at it?

Miss C.  YES.

*** Sigh.***  I guess Roger and I will be watching our movies alone now...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Web Therapy

In the car yesterday, I was listening to an interview with Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe, from "Friends") and she talked about a web series she's been doing, called "Web Therapy."  She plays a narcissistic therapist who does 3-minute counseling sessions with clients via the internet.  So I had to go  and watch ... and it's hilarious.
Each episode is short (3-7 minutes) so it's the perfect little comedy vignette if you need a break.  (I just love her intro to the show, and how she says "Web THERapy" in that syrupy announcer voice.)

Check it out!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Wonder-full fun


  This past weekend, I was in the mood to just play in my studio, so I did something I've been wanting to try.  I painted Wonder-Under!  It was fast and fun and only slightly messy.  I painted one side of Wonder-under with watered down acrylic paint, spreading it around and blending colors right on the surface of the W-U as I went.  Once it dried, I cut shapes out of it (paper and all) and ironed them to a piece of fabric I'd dyed some time ago.  The stripes just appear as the W-U dries and shrinks up a bit, causing the backing paper to wrinkle a bit.

The effect was quite different than I thought it'd be.  Once I peeled up the W-U backing paper (which was far easier when the shapes had cooled completely), the colors were vibrant.  And there's no sticky residue at all.  I just have to remember not to iron this with some parchment paper over the top.  
Stitching was fun and free and kept me going through the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. 


Hmmm, I'm going to have to play more with this.  By the way, I've not come up with a name for this yet, so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Feeling Blue?


Today is another eagerly- awaited  reveal day on our Twelve by 12 blog.  This challenge, the second in our "Colorplay" series, was on "blue, white and a bit of black."  Here's my response -- you can read about it and see the 11 other amazing pieces here!