Thursday, January 22, 2015

Feeling Goosey

My friend Jenny and I were talking quilts the other day, and she was trying to decide on what to do for a wedding quilt she wants to make. "I'm thinking about flying geese," she said, "Have you ever done one?"  

Hah.  As a matter of fact, most of the quilts I've made in the last year or two have involved flying geese.  And Jenny's comments made me get them out and get photos of them -- which was no small feat as they are big quilts and I don't have a great way to photograph such large quilts.  But with some ribbon and pins and command hooks, I rigged something and here you go.  Please take my word for it that these all have straight edges and square corners -- really, they do! 

So here's my "Christmas Geese," one I finished in December after having the geese units floating around my sewing room for a year or two.  Most of the fabrics were from a bundle of geometric prints I fell in love with somewhere along the way -- if you recognize the collection of fabric, do let me know in the comments because I sure don't remember!  It's a fun Christmas quilt.  It's quilted with an overall swirly design.
And then there's the Polka dotted Geese quilt I made a year or so ago, which I mentioned here.  At a quilt show a few years ago, I'd bought a luscious bundle of polka dotted fabric, which I'd had out on a shelf in my sewing room because they looks so happy together.  And during my one and only trip to Festival of Quilts in the UK a few years ago, I bought a bundle of assorted Oakshott cottons which I also had out because the colors were so beautiful.  I was rummaging through my shelves, looking for a particular book, when I happened to put the Oakshott bundle next to the polka dot fabric bundle.  And suddenly they needed to be geese.  I loved making this quilt!  (And truly, the edges are straight!)

The quilt that marked the start of my obsession with fly geese is this huge red and white geese quilt.  I have a TON of red fabric in my stash, a lot of which I collected when I was working on red and white house blocks for another massive quilt.  I started making geese with red scraps and solid white fabric, and I just kept going.  And going.  And this resulted.  I love it, and it lives on the back of the red couch in the family room where it looks happy and is great for movie-time snuggling.

This is a bit fuzzy, but you can get a sense of all of the different prints.  I arranged the geese into blocks of pairs, and was pleased when a secondary star pattern emerged.

I just put a flying geese border on my current project -- and I'm not tired of making them yet!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: Deep, Down, Dark

One of my goals this year is to add some non-fiction to my reading.  I tend to read fiction almost exclusively, and somewhere along the way I realized that I'm probably missing out on some good reading -- and learning.  I'm trying to broaden my reading horizons a bit this year.  So I've set myself the goal of reading a nonfiction book each month, roughly.

And then at some point recently I heard Ann Patchett interviewed on National Public Radio.  NPR's Morning Edition has started its own book club, in which they plan to have a well-known writer choose a book he or she loved.  Ann Patchett's pick for January is Deep Down Dark The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free, by Hector Tobar.

I should probably add that I'm a wimp when it comes to reading about certain difficult things.  (I avoid things about the Holocaust and incest like the plague, for example.)  And reading about miners and mining, let alone miners trapped underground for weeks, is hardly something I'd normally choose.  But as I listened to Ann Patchett's interview (you can hear it here), I was reminded of how enthralled I was watching news footage as the miners emerged, one by one, from the mine.

On that day in October, 2010, I was at the quilt retreat I often attend.  One friend had her Ipad sitting on her table, streaming the live coverage of the rescue.  We gathered around as the "Fenix" rescue pod brought each man up to the surface, and we cheered and hugged.  There we were, miles and miles away, a group of financially secure, middle-aged white woman, cheering and wiping tears from our eyes as men whose lives we couldn't even imagine were rescued from an ordeal we had even less ability to conceive of.  Over the course of that night, we continued to watch and cheer and feel such joy as each man emerged from the mine. It was a funny sort of bonding experience, but I think it made each of us feel connected to the events unfolding in Chile in an unusual way.

When I started the book, to my surprise I found that it was hard to put down.  This book is one of the few inside accounts of those 69 days in the mine, because the miners banded together and agreed that they'd tell their story together.  Tobar's writing is very good, and he personalizes it all by telling each man's individual story.  You get a sense of each man's life and personality, both before the mine collapse and as the story unfolds. There's a bit of history about the area in Chile, about the mining company that owned the mine and the mine operations.  There are stories about the miner's families, how the rescue operations unfolded, and how politics and egos affected things.  All of the pieces are woven together skillfully to tell an amazing story.  Gripping, I'd even say.  I had a hard time putting this book down.

But what comes through is how these ordinary men coped in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.  They weren't perfect -- they struggled.  They felt and expressed fear and anger.  I found it especially interesting to hear how the men have fared since their rescue. Hailed as heroes, they were thrust into a spotlight that was freakishly strange to all of them.

Watching each man emerge from the mine back in October, 2010 made me feel a bit connected to the experience, but reading this book showed me so much more about each of those men, and about the human spirit.  I'm really glad I read it, and I'd recommend it.

I think my nonfiction reading plan is off to a very good start.   

Friday, January 16, 2015

Saying Goodbye

Gemma was just the cutest pup in the world. 

 She loved adventure -- a good run, a lot of sniffing. 

She was always up for a trip to the dog park.


She loved having friends over

And of course she loved a good game of "lick the kid"

She made us laugh.

She wasn't afraid to be silly, and she loved a good party.

 But she had her quiet, dignified moments too.
 She was a sweet, constant, loving companion.

It's so hard to let a beloved companion go. 

But it was time, and it's what we have to do when we take on the responsibility 
of having animals in our lives.

But all that love?  It's still here.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Welcome, 2015!

Happy New Year to you!

This year, I seem to be sliding into the new year while it feels like I'm still emerging from Christmas, and with the sense that January has come around unexpectedly quickly.  Having a succession of out-of-town guests explains that a bit, I guess -- plus the fact that the holiday decorations are still around (I haven't had a chance to sit and sketch them yet!) and I feel like I'm still pulling holiday leftovers out of the freezer to turn into different dinners.

And it feels like I spent an awful lot of 2014 living in my head -- thinking, reflecting, analyzing, planning, reminiscing.  I've experienced a lot of rather huge transitions over the past two years, and I'm finding that even while events have passed, the ripples of them continue to affect me. 2014 was a good year, all in all, but it's been an internal sort of one.  I've gotten a lot of new understanding and perspective, and that's good.

But as I was thinking about the past year, and feeling like I didn't accomplish that much, I sat down and made a list.  And I was pleased to discover that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought -- in fact, I did a lot of wonderful things.

I finished 3 quilts and at least 4 quilt tops... and started a few new projects, too.

I did a fair amount of sketching, completed 3 6-week Sketchbook Skool courses, and went on a lot of sketch outings with my local Urban Sketchers.

I saw my daughter successfully re-enter the world of school at the community college, and helped her navigate some new anxieties and experiences -- and was happy to see her come out with flying colors.

I started making books again, and made a whole bunch of creative "jumbly journals" that were a total blast.

I did a lot of hours of legal work.

I sang in two seasons' worth of chorus concerts, sat on the chorus board for the year, and helped the chorus redesign its logo and website.

I got some long overdue maintenance stuff done at home, including new flooring downstairs and big improvements to the house gutters. Exciting, eh?

I went to three fun and productive quilting retreats, and I've added a monthly sewing group to the schedule that makes me very happy.

Thanks to Goodreads, I know that I read 112 novels last year.  Strangely, that's the exact same number I read in 2013.

I took some fun trips -- to the Seattle area and to the California gold country.

The area in which I've had the biggest developments, oddly enough, is with friendships.  Through all of the turmoil over the last few years, I've been so grateful for amazing friends. During this past year, I've struggled with really difficult challenges involving two close friends.  I've made some delightful new friendships that surprise and enrich me.  And I've had several long-time friendships emerge with new importance as my life has changed. I'm reminded that my friends keep me sane, make me laugh, tell me the truth, and enrich my life so much.  You know who you are -- and thank you!