Monday, December 31, 2012

Here comes a new year!

You may have surmised by my frequent silences here that the past year has been a strange and difficult one for me.  I've found it hard to write blog entries -- talking about what has been going on in my life has felt too personal and too revealing and, at times, just too hard, and trying to talk about other things has felt, well, superficial and sort of phony.  The good part is that I've done a lot of inner work, and I've looked at some hard things, and I've realized a lot about myself.  So I think I can call this past year a Year of Discovery and move on.  (Not that I plan to stop reflecting and discovering. But I'm ready for FUN discoveries.)

But you know, 2012 had a lot of wonderful things.  And although I'm looking forward to 2013 with a sense of eagerness I've never felt for a new year before, I don't want to ignore the great things that I've experienced in 2012.

* I have the BEST friends.  I won't name names -- they know who they are.  But gosh, what a wonderful thing it is to feel the love and support of dear friends, new and old.

* Our Twelve by Twelve project continued with a year of new challenges -- 12x20 in size, with some very challenging themes -- and even while we all found ourselves and our project evolving, I continued to appreciate and treasure the amazing bond we've formed through 5 years of sharing our art quilts.   And even while I wasn't bursting with art quilty creative inspiration for much of this past year, I did appreciate the 12x12 deadline and commitment, to take me back to fabric and my sewing machine.

*  I think I held my breath through the month of October -- but what a relief the outcome of the November election was. 

*  Singing with the Healdsburg chorus has continued to be a delight and never fails to cheer me.  I've made some lovely friends and opened up a whole new world of learning.  I still marvel that I ventured into chorus because I thought my husband would like it and it'd be something we could do together, and while he didn't have any interest, I've ended up loving it.  I'm already looking forward getting back to a new batch of music in a few weeks.

*  Homeschooling Miss C has continued to be an adventure.  I find surprising enjoyment in the process of finding material and ways to present information to Miss C so it will resonate and maybe even be enjoyable.  Seeing her devour a book of Edgar Allen Poe stories, laugh at Mark Twain's "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" were real pleasures for me.

* My explorations in drawing and watercolor painting have continued to provide me with a lot of pleasure.  And through the wonder of online classes, I've been able to learn new things and I've met some delightful and talented artists.  I'm looking forward to more drawing and painting and learning.

* Most importantly, I'm so glad that my family is healthy and I'm so grateful for their love and support.  

Through the wonders of Smilebox (free) slideshow maker, here are a few more photos from the last year. 

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Not about the Autism

In the wake of the horrific events in Connecticut, so many of us are wondering how such a thing could happen.  News media have begun to speculate about the involvement of mental illness -- how could anyone NOT, with what has happened -- and there have been mentions of the possible connection of Aspergers and/or Autism.

 For those of us who have family members on the spectrum in our lives, this is frightening on a totally different level.  We know it's natural to want to find a simple explanation, or something to blame.  But understanding what autism spectrum disorders are, and what they are NOT, is important, in this situation, and for all of the people who live with it. 

Jill, a mom of a child on the spectrum and fellow blogger, expressed it beautifully and has given permission for her words to be shared.  Her original post is here:   Here is what she said:


Dear Community:

There has been much discussion online and in the news about the connection between the Connecticut school shooting and the fact that the shooter may have been diagnosed with autism. As our families and our community discusses this issue and tries to find a reason for this heartbreaking tragedy, I feel that it is very important to remember the following: There is no connection between planned, violent behavior and an autism spectrum diagnosis of any kind.

Autism is not a mental illness; it is a developmental disability. Many autistic people may have emotional regulation problems, which are impulsive expressions of frustration and anger, that are immediate and disorganized. They may lash out with threatening statements or behaviors, but these behaviors are impulsive reactions, they are not deliberate or organized plans. Once the situation has been diffused, the behaviors will stop. What happened in Connecticut required methodical planning of a deliberate and tremendously violent act; this is not typical behavior of an autistic person.

Right now we are all struggling to find a reason why this kind of atrocity would happen, and we can speculate about the mental state of the shooter; about gun control laws; about the current state of our country’s mental health system, or about whatever else that might help us make some sense out of this. Please know, and please tell your children, that even if the shooter was autistic, autism is not the explanation for this tragedy.

If anybody has any questions about autism, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you very much for your time,


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's a Sweet Day!

Today we are revealing our responses to the theme "Sweet" over on the 12x12 blog.  Here's my response, which I call "Millefiori."  I was inspired by the very sweet -- in terms of flavor AND appearance -- candies. 

Be sure to head over and see what the other Twelves have done. As always, the interpretations are fun and strikingly different!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I have mentioned here that lately, life is complicated.  I'm doing lots of sorting out and evaluating and deciding and understanding and learning.  Things are changing, which is not a bad outcome.  Just ... well.. complicated.  Transitions generally are.  So please forgive what are likely to be continued gaps while I sort how my new life will look.  I see light ahead and I know I am moving toward something peaceful, and that is a good thing.

This morning I was reading blogs (oh, how I love the Flipboard app on my Ipad) with my morning coffee, and I came across one in which a life-coach sort of fellow brought up the subject of analyzing his life in terms of the non-negotiables.  And that got me thinking: what in my day to day life is non-negotiable, in terms of how I spend my time and where I put my priorities? 

Here's where I am so far:

1.  Taking care of my daughter -- making sure she is well and happy and emotionally supported
2.  Feeling good about my living space
3.  Being connected to family and friends
4.  Feeling hope -- looking forward to something each day, however small
5.  Reading -- I need to read like I need to breathe.
6.  Doing something creative.  

I undoubtedly could come up with more the longer I think about this.

Thinking of "non-negotiables" applies to all sorts of aspects of our lives, now that I think about it.  Values.  Qualities in a relationship.  Requirements for life-work.

But for the day to day, priority of activity, what is your non-negotiable list?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Get Sketching

   Thank you to all who have commented or emailed with nice words about my watercolor experimenting!  I have really appreciated it.

   I am in a phase of life where I'm feeling a lot of turmoil, and I think that sitting down to draw and paint something is becoming an addictive sort of meditation for me.  The act of really looking at something, studying its lines and shapes and colors and shadows, is a very focusing and calming thing.  I'm also making some discoveries about self-acceptance along the way.  At first, I was irked at feeling like I couldn't draw.  Now I feel like I CAN draw, it's just my own, wonky way and it's not perfection I'm aiming for anyway.  I'm accepting and enjoying the process, and finding that the imperfections are what make these drawings MINE.

   Ah, a bit of psychological discovery with pencil and paints.


  Yes, yes, this is all about me.  But here is the good news for YOU:  Jane LaFazio, the delightful woman who set me off on this free and fun sketching and painting path, is offering online classes again at, and they start soon -- November 8 and 9, I believe.  Jane is a terrific teacher, and her focus is on giving tips and encouragement.  It's less about learning specific drawing or painting techniques than learning to LOOK, and to just try, and to experiment and have fun.

  The online course "Sketchbook and Watercolor: Journal Style" is the one I started with, and was very loose and fun.  It starts again on Nov. 9.  It's 6 weeks and you work at your own pace.  

  I did the dumpling squash page in response to an exercise we did in that class, and we all had so much fun with it (extrapolating designs from things) that Jane turned it into a separate class called "Watercolor Sketchbook: Designs from Life".  That class starts on November 8. 

  So if you are inspired to try a bit of sketchbook style painting, I highly recommend these classes as a way to jump-start you. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where does the time go?

I just realized it's been over a week since I posted here last.  Oops!  I've been catching up after my quilty week away.  And I've been working on a new goal: to do a bit of sketching (almost) every day.  I'm finding it very fun to take along a little kit with pencil, pen, and a small watercolor set -- it makes me stop and celebrate the tiniest of moments.

Today, I returned books to the library, and paused for a bit to draw.  Very relaxing! I highly recommend it. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Irresistible Polka Dots

 I have been at PIQF for the last 5 days, taking a 3 day course on quilt judging, teaching a unit on art principles applied to quilts, and shopping and quilt viewing and having a darned good time, Just before that, I was off at my twice yearly retreat, where one of the things I did was learn a bit about drawing on the Ipad with the app Brushes 3.

I have unpacking and household catching up to do, but in the meantime, here's an iPad drawing of the box of polka dotted fat quarters I could just not pass up at the quilt show. Happiness in a box, isn't it?!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Into the paints again

     I am trying to get back into doing a bit of drawing and watercolor painting, with the help of a group of friends.  We decided to give each other weekly challenges, and this week's topic was "Bird."  Here's mine, of a china figurine that sits on a shelf in my office.

   It felt good to splash about a bit in my watercolors!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

An Art Disaster Revealed

Are you interested in seeing the art quilt projects that go badly wrong?  If so, I tell the story of a "maverick" quilt that went from bad to worse, here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Art with Needle and Thread

    I've been so discombobulated lately that I've not made much time for sewing -- but it's a good thing that I've had a few deadlines lurking because they have forced me to get to work!  This week, on October 1, we revealed our quilts on the theme "Maverick" over at Twelve by Twelve.  Click over to that blog and scroll down to see each of the responses -- they're all different, although two of the Twelves (Brenda and Nikki) worked on the "square peg in round hole" idea. As always, the creativity of the Twelves impresses and inspires me.

  Maverick was not an easy theme.  I went off in one direction and created a big, complicated mess that got worse the more I did to it.  Maybe I'll throw caution to the wind and post about it one of these days.  But in despair, I retreated to my very first "maverick" idea: that in the traditional art world, quilt artists are mavericks.  I decided to illustrate that by putting art quilt tools -- thread and needle -- among the more traditional art tools of paint brushes, palette knife, pencil, etc.

  It only struck me as I was working on it that using drawing to create the imagery in a quilting challenge is, in itself, a bit of an unconventional approach. 

  Now on to the next challenge, which will be on the theme "Sweet."  Hmmm.  Lots of possibilities there!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Making School Spooky

     One of the things I enjoy about homeschooling Miss C is finding ways to make learning fun -- or if not more fun, more palatable, or more entertaining, or more interesting.  For Miss C, some audio-visual supplement can make a difference.  So as she's heading into a new subject, I poke around to see what I can find.

    In a few weeks, she'll be reading some Edgar Allen Poe poems and stories. And oh, what fun stuff I've found!

You can watch a free, full 45-minute biography called "The Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe" from the Discovery Channel, here.

You can watch Vincent Price enact and recite Poe stories in "An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe", here.
(And not direct Poe material, but about him and very entertaining: a Tim Burton short animated video, called "Vincent" about a little boy who wants to be Vincent Price -- with lots of Poe references.)

Remember "The Raven?"  You can hear the rather creepy Christopher Walken read it here.   And then you can compare his version with a reading by James Earl Jones, here.  And another by John Astin (Gomez!), here

There's a charmingly scary animated video version of The Tell-tale Heart, here.

And an animated reading of Annabel Lee, here.

There's a rap video of the Pit and the Pendulum here.

You can hear Basil Rathbone read the poem "Alone" here.

There's an amusing short animated video of Edgar Allan Poe auditioning to host a tv show called Tales of Mystery.

Goodness, we WILL be ready for Halloween!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Random Red Thoughts

I have a LOT of red fabric.

So I started sewing flying geese units. And sewing them.  And sewing them.

And then I started arranging them on the design wall.  And arranging them.

 Then I started sewing them. 

And sewing them.

And sewing them ... until the quilt top got so big that I don't have a wall big enough to hang it up and show the whole thing to you.

But guess what?  I STILL have lots more red fabric.

Ah, the problems of a quilter...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thinking of Natalie

We quilters know that quilters tend to be lovely people.  The connection seems to me to be more than the simple matter of sharing a common interest.  Maybe it's that the quilting tradition is one of women working side by side, so that the quilting process has an aspect of community in it that isn't true of other art or craft forms.  Or maybe it's that as quilters, we are used to mixing all types of fabrics -- prints and solids and bold patterns and soft, subdued prints -- to see that the whole can be greater, and prettier, and stronger, than the sum of its parts.  Maybe that makes us more open to different personalities and appreciate the differences in people a bit more.  I'm not sure.  But it is true to my experience that, for the most part, quilters are genuinely friendly and kind and generous.

I've been thinking of this especially this week, because on Sunday I met with some quilting friends to celebrate our mutual friend and quilter Natalie, who died at the end of July after a long illness.  She was a lovely woman, with a warm smile and big, expressive eyes.  I met her through an ongoing workshop group I was in for some years, and I so enjoyed her -- hearing about her family, and her travels, and of course seeing her quilting talent.  She was so self-deprecating, and even as she'd mutter about how she finally finished some 'little thing" she'd been working on, she'd unfurl a huge, detailed, immaculately pieced quilt with colors and fabrics that'd take our breath away. 

Her family, having no quilters among them, decided that Natalie would want her friends to receive and enjoy the fabrics she'd not used during her life.  So when we met on Sunday, as we shared stories and memories of Natalie, we "shopped" in her very large stash of fabric.  And it struck me as such a quilterly thing to do, the passing on of fabric to be used and incorporated into the quilts and lives of Natalie's friends.  We all enjoyed noting the eclectic assortment of fabric Natalie had collected, and how there was so much beauty and vibrancy in her stash.  We wondered where she'd bought some unusual pieces, or what she'd planned ... and of course, knowing how quilters shop, we figured that probably most of the time she bought what she liked with no plan in mind.

I know I'll be thinking of Natalie as I use these fabrics.  I've already put them away, tucking them into my own stash.  How nice to have this way of remembering a quilting friend.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I need a Breezepod

I interrupt this long period of silence with a blog entry.  Surprise!  I've been consumed by real life matters that haven't left me in the chattiest of moods, but today I took a break from the dull business of reality to go on a fun outing.

Have you heard of Sunset Magazine?  If you live on the west coast, then you surely know that it's a well-established and beloved home decor, gardening, cooking, west coast lifestyle magazine.  And from time to time they build or decorate an "idea house" that is open for touring.  Well, imagine my delight when I realized that the current Sunset Idea House is right here in my town, Healdsburg.  And I was even more delighted when I learned that it's in my very neighborhood, about 6 blocks away and up into the pricey hillside area with gorgeous views.

So off  I went today, with my friend Sally, to tour the place.  Here's what it looks like as you approach from the end of the road.

This "Breezehouse" is a pre-fab home by a California company called Blu Homes, designed to be green and energy efficient and affordable.  While this sort of modern design isn't usually to my taste, I liked how the inside felt open and functional and, well, breezy.   

That deck up there, right off the living room, had the most gorgeous view of oak-covered hills and I could pretty much have stayed there all day.

Okay, here's the photo that made me pull out my phone to start taking photos.  Look at that tile!  Doesn't it look like buttons?  I just love the texture, modern but funky.  Here's another look:

It was on all the walls in the shower, too.  (In case you need this for your next home, it's from Walker Zanger, from the Tu Collection, in cool white.  And oh my gosh, do they have beautiful tile products and a stunning blog. If I ever win the lottery and end up in a position to do a home, I'll know where to go for tile.)

And speaking of tile, here's a shot of me and Sally as we admire the pretty blue tile in this bathroom.  (We were in focus in person.  Honest.)

The kitchen had a similar warm teal subway tile for the backsplash, that looked so pretty with the light wood.

Who knew it would be the tile that would get my attention today?  And speaking of tile, look at the beautiful fireplace surround in the living room:

 The artwork throughout the house was delightful -- pulled together by designer Sharon Portnoy.  (When I win that lottery and do that house?  I'll call her.  That woman has great taste.)  Here's a piece I fell in love with, and I'm sorry that I couldn't find any artist attribution at all:

Kind of makes you want to get out the scissors and glue stick, doesn't it?

There was a little wine room, which Sally and I figured was designed especially so a parent could go hide away alone and get sloshed after a hectic day.  Notice: only one chair in here.

I think my favorite part of the house was what they called the "Breezepod," a separate room across a gorgeous deck from the main house.  It would make the perfect quilt studio, and I was eying the sunny deck thinking what a great fabric dying spot it would make.  I think I'd call mine the Artpod. 

I am happy to report that the house is currently available and on the market, if you happen to have $2.6 million to spend.  You can see the listing (and more photos) here.

It turned out that Alice Waters, the chef and founder of legendary restaurant Chez Panisse, was going to be there later in the day to give a talk about kitchen gardens and her Edible Schoolyard Project.  When I asked one of the home tour reps about her coming, she went off and got me a signed copy of Alice Waters' new book, In the Green Kitchen, which they were going to be giving to the first 500 visitors later on.  She whispered that she'd just consider me one of the first of those 500.  What a  very nice treat.  I'm looking forward to reading it.

 After Sally and I oohed and aahed, we headed into town for a delicious mexican lunch and lots of talk.  Like me, Sally has a child with Aspergers so we often talk parenting stuff.  In fact, we laughed as we went through the house, seeing how impractically decorated for living with real kids, even though the imaginary family the house was staged for was imagined to have twins (and a nanny living in the Breezepod.)  Our kids and our respective dogs would have dirtied up all that white upholstery and smudge-free expanses of glass in no time.

Still, it's fun to step into an imaginary life for an hour or so. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

And it's only been 5 years...

Goodness, but it feels good to finish a big project.  It was this in May, 2007...

And for a long time -- years -- it rested in the closet in the form of these blocks...

You might remember that I played with ideas on Electric Quilt to get to this:

And then, after some more piecing and sandwiching, it looked like this for a while in July:

(If you click on the photo, you can see how I quilted it, with a mix of straight parallel lines and in-the-ditch quilting to outline the star triangles.)

And as of yesterday, it looks like this, ALL FINISHED!

Well, okay.  It needs to be blocked.  And labelled.  But it's finished enough for me to celebrate.  I call it Independence Day. 

Now, on to the next UFO!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Olympic Training

Are you enjoying watching the Olympics as much as I am?  I'm enjoying the events and the scenes of London, especially as they remind me of the lovely trip I had to the UK last summer.  It's too late to make some of the fun British themed projects to celebrate...

like this quilt, by Sarah Brazier (quilt pattern available on Etsy)

or this multi-flagged quilt by Amy at Diary of a Quilter...

Or this shabby chic union jack wall hanging, from Moda.

But wait! There's good news!  There are a whole TWO YEARS until the winter Olympics, which start on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  We have plenty of time to get a Russian Olympics project done!

Amazingly, quilts are being incorporated into the official look of the Sochi Olympics.  These banners went up in Sochi when that city was selected as the 2014 Winter Olympics host:

According to the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, the concept of the "look of the Games" was designed to revolve around “the principle of the ‘patchwork quilt’ — a combination of 16 designs representing the most famous traditional Russian arts and crafts, ranging from Gzhel to Khokhloma.”

If I get started now, I may be ready by February, 2014.