Thursday, July 29, 2010

home sweet home

Bob and I do love to hit the road, but also love to get on the road that leads to home. Tucked into our own bedlast night, I finally slept like a rock. Funny thing happened at bedtime--Gracie decided we were finally worthy of her presence, and for the first time, laid on top of me and purred! I guess that absence does make the heart grow fonder! Or maybe she sensed that we had just spent time with her real parents, so was willing to move our relationship to the next level. Anyway, she does appear to have fared well in our absence, with the kind attention of our neighbor across the way.

Big problem going on here that is really really bugging me--I CAN'T FIND MY CAMERA! I know I had it in my hand in the hotel room on the last night of vacation, I sort of remember putting it into the zipper bag with cords, chargers, etc., inside a duffle bag, but it is nowhere to be found now. I suppose it could have fallen out or my memory could be faulty. I should have just left it in my carry-on, but had grown tired of carrying so much stuff around for days and decided to skip any Kodak moments onthe trip home. It could have been stolen, but that would be sort of odd because it really isn't any sort of special camera. A Canon digital Elph, perfect for what I need, and very useful. The kids gave it to me for Mother's Day 2 years ago and it lead to the purchase of my trusty MacBook because it wasn't very compatible with the pc stuff we had. And have I mentioned how much I love my MacBook? Not really sure what I did without it! Anyway, I am going to give it a day or 2 in case the camera surfaces in the umpteenth search of every nook and cranny of our travel gear, but I am not hopeful that it will turn up.

I was going to show you some additional pictures of the last night of our trip and also the fabric and yarn souvenirs that I brought home, but can't do that. In the meantime, I have some pictures to share that feature some of the lovely horticultural delights of northern CA--
All the hydrangeas there are the lovely shades of lavender. Here at home, I have great hydrangeas blooming, but they are white/creamy/pale green unless the soil is treated with an acidic additive.
These giant redwoods were the view from the hot tub on the deck of the rental house we stayed in while in Sonoma County. They are huge (but not part of the giant redwoods) and so dense in many areas.
Pretty little geranium leaves with beautiful coloration, at the Gary Farrell winery.
Lavendar blossoms attracting busy bees.

Now back to work! Very much on my mind is the fact that yesterday, Brita and Ben vacated their apartment and started the drive from San Francisco to Minneapolis. A tiring and stressful time for them until they get settled into their next home. San Francisco has been a wonderful home for them, and an essential element in their lives since that is where they met and found their lives together. I only hope that this next phase will be equally wonderful! It is starting to sink into my thinking that they will be nearby and we can actually see them without fitting it into travel plans! Woo-hoo!

Monday, July 26, 2010

so much fun

We are just having such an excellent adventure on this trip, I wish I could prolong the pleasure somehow! The entire (supposedly) purpose of this trip was to be present for the running of the marathon yesterday (7/25/10), so we were up to witness the start on the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building a little after 6AM. There were thousands of runners, released in waves, and we luckily saw Ben, Brita and Molly at the start. Then Dan, Bob and I made our way over towards Golden Gate Park and with the help of the tracking system on the Marathon website and some quick math, managed to time it to see all 3 run past us again. Then on to the next place we planned to see them, about mile 22, but had trouble getting there so ended up at mile 25 and got to see them again. Molly was a few minutes ahead at this point, and smiling! Brita and Ben were kind of in a fog at that point, and not the typical morning fog over the city. But even with their struggling a bit, they got through it together, and were all smiles soon after!
In my eyes, they are Olympic gold medalists!

Today finds us up in wine country, staying at a little rental home on a small creek near Cazadero, not far from Guerneville. We drove a little back road this morning to go to Healdsburg and I was so taken with the beautiful scenery around every curve (and there were lots of curves!).
In Healdsburg, we walked around the square, found some fabric (YAY!), and had lunch at a wonderful place recommended by Brita and Ben--Willi's. It was so delicious, I had to take a picture.
What they did to this bacon-wrapped scallop should be illegal, it was that good! Topped with pumpkin seeds, who knew? All those wasted seeds from jack o'lanterns, I should have been cooking gourmet delights!
Wine tastings at 3 vineyards have rounded out the day, and now we are ready for a little hot tub and grilling on our deck overlooking a creek. It's a wonderful life!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

the city by the bay

We are spending a few days in the lovely city of San Francisco, visiting family here. This city has been the home of my sister, Jan, with her husband, Dennis and children Serra and Scott. And they are part of the reason my own kids have migrated to California, but that is a long story, won't bore you with the details. Jan and Dennis spend part of their time in their home right in the heart of the city, since they need too be close to their Giants during baseball season. So we are bunking with them, and spending time together with our offspring. Getting ready to cheer on Brita, Ben and Molly in the SanFrancisco Marathon tomorrow AM, and sightseeing. The picture above was taken in Sausalito. Then we went to a beautiful resort/lodge, Cavallo Point, near the base of the bridge for a beverage stop. We had not been in this area on the north side of the Golden Gate before.
Molly, Brita, Jan and I spent some time in Golden Gate Park, admiring this great urban green space.
Bob, Dan and I hung out in Union Square for awhile, one of the best places to people watch that you will ever find.
Bob and I walked over to the Ferry Building this morning to browse the farmer's market there, it was very hard to resist the temptation of buying a bunch of beautiful fresh produce. Don't these colorful peppers look great?
Went to the Museum of Modern Art this was one of the paintings that both Jan and I saw separately and concluded would make a good quilt idea, it is all squares, kind of pixellated, to construct a portrait. It is by Chuck Close.
Now taking it easy for a bit, working on a few little hand sewing project. I have completed 3 of those hexagons, a picture will be coming soon. This is such a fun city to visit, especially with family here that know how to get around. Tomorrow will be an exciting and fun day, we are so amazed by the training and discipline that these runners have! We have scoped out some areas to follow the runners and cheer our team on. And, of course, stand in awe at the finish line!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

awww--so nice

I was checking for updates on other blogs a couple days ago (I also just figured out how to get email notices automatically for updates, how cool is that!) and looked in on Buttermilk Basin. Lo and behold, she had written the nicest things about me! Especially good to know that I have mastered being able to not give "the look"!
Stacy, the cream of the crop at Buttermilk Basin, has a long history of great craftiness. I am always amazed at not only her designs for wool, embroidery, punch needle, quilting, etc, but also her fabulous displays. She can really put it together with just the right props to carry out a theme. After working at the store and sharing responsibility for displays, I have come to appreciate that it really takes a knack to present a vignette that looks pleasing and shows off the product nicely. Stacy pulls together odds and ends, making it look so easy. I have had a glimpse of her storeroom(s), and she definitely has plenty of raw material to work with! That girl can really collect stuff! Anyway, I feel honored to be able to quilt some of her creations, and get a little private thrill from seeing my stitches on her pattern covers that go all over.

In other news, I finished my latest selvage project, nothing wild and crazy, just a redo of my own pattern, Going Sewing. This time with brighter coordinates. Makes a very convenient little packet for my travel project. And speaking of travel, it is time for me to sign off and go pack my suitcase--leaving for San Francisco in the AM! Can't wait to see my loved ones out there! I will be taking pictures, so if it works out I will show you what we are doing out there!

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 posse challenge

I have posted previously about the Posse Pledge to Finish this year. I have been on track for May and June. Done. In fact, maybe I should get extra credit because I actually made 2 of the June project, one went to my mom and one to my sis for her belated birthday present. So here we are in the last part of July, and no project that has been designated for this purpose. I hate to fall off the wagon so soon! Have been finishing other things, like another Baby Surprise Jacket and a new ironing board cover--
a new pattern by Hemma Design, a local designer who has released 4 new patterns that we have at Bear Patch. This was a very good pattern and will be included in our fall class offerings. The design of this simple utilitarian project makes it superior to many covers because it ties at 3 separate placesto give a good snug fit.
Had one of those rewarding moments while working on this, when I discover that I actually have just the right tool on hand when I need it! So much better than the frustration of threading the ties through the casing by using a safety pin. I used this thingamabob, officially called a drawstring threader, and it was slick!
Not sure where I got it, why, or when, but I did find out that Dritz makes one very similar. So we will be ordering those at the store, too. It's always good to have the right tool for the job.

But I digress! I have pulled out an oldie to fulfill my challenge pledge, although it's doubtful that it will be finished before July is finished! This is a bunch of hexagons that I was experimenting with, and ended up being useful as a little teaching project at more than one retreat to teach English paper piecing.
It's time to bring this project back into the light of day and make use of what's already done. Of course, this means adding more hexagons, because I really think these are kind of drab and need a little punch to make it fun to work on. I started these in batik fabrics, so back to the batik drawer to select a few new colors to add to the mix. And then another brainstorm, as I was sifting through the project box. I found that in addition to the pack of 600 (what was I thinking?) 1" hexagon templates, I also possess a smaller pack of half hexagons and a bunch of triangles. So I was playing around with layout combinations, and thought I would try something different than the traditional "flower" arrangement of the Grandmother's Flower Garden hexagon quilts. I stitched 6 half-hexagons around the center, you can see my sample in this picture--
So I have marked and cut a bunch of pieces so I can work on these whenever I can fit them in. And since it is all done by hand, I can even take it wherever I go, like to San Francisco later this week!
A few tips that I have learned, in case you want to try this yourself:
get yourself a pack of die-cut paper pieces , they aren't expensive and save you the time involved in drawing and cutting your own.
Make yourself a little plastic template that is approximately 1/4" larger all around the hexagon (or other shape). I just glued one of the paper pieces onto some template plastic and used my ruler to draw the extra 1/4" lines around it, then cut it out. I can lay this on my fabric and draw around it.
Use a piece of fine grit sandpaper under the fabric to prevent slipping when you are drawing the lines, or, as in this case, a tablecloth works.
Butt the lines up against each other to save time both in drawing and cutting. Don't worry about being precise with the lines and/or cutting, at this point precise doesn't matter. And the lines won't show when you are done.
I have enough cut now to probably last me a long time, we'll see what develops! I hope to make something larger than a candlemat, but then again, that would be finished sooner! I'm shooting for bigger than a breadbox but smaller than a bed quilt. Stay tuned....

Saturday, July 17, 2010

stirred up weather

Just came up from the basement where Gracie and I spent about an hour waiting out severe storm and tornado warnings. I was out on the front porch reveling in the lightning and thunder when the tornado sirens started, so I thought it wise to batten down the hatches. Could not get the cat to go in her carrier so I could keep her with me downstairs, so I had to lure her into the basement bathroom with treats and shut the door on her! I had this picture in my mind of the house blowing away and not being able to find her. Forget the house, it's all about the cat. Brita said she liked her carrier before her trip but her flight must have changed her opinion. Really strong winds and heavy rain here, tornados in the county but not on my street! Whew!
Had a fun day at the quilt shop today, quite busy with customers and projects, just like it should be! Had a busy day on my longarm yesterday and stitched up this one for Nancy--
It was made of all kinds and colors of homespun plaids, and had a dark red Minkee back, which is like a plush fabric that is very soft. The quilting on that comes out looking kind of sculpted, really nice with the texture. Not sure if you can appreciate it from this picture, you might have to just take my word for it! If you haven't already sewn or quilted with this fabric, I encourage you to give it a try, it is fun for something a little out of the ordinary.
Working on writing the directions for my new pattern, taking it slowly to make sure it is right the first time. It will be good to get it done and printed. I have decided it is named Star Light, which doesn't rhyme, unless you finish the thought with Star Bright. I'm happy with Star Light and will leave the rest to imagination! Thanks for the suggestions!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

odds 'n ends

1. Getting used to having a cat in the house again, and she is getting used to us, I guess. So far, so good.
2. Finished reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. Pass the kleenex.
3. Stitched up a little quilt to donate to Quilts for Kids from the Disappearing 9-Patch pattern, also blogged here. This is mostly fabric from Thora Lee's de-stashing sale. This took me exactly 2 hours to choose fabric, cut, sew it all, then another hour to quilt. That's good!
4. I got into the selvages again...
5. It was nasty hot and humid today.
6. Got to see the movie of The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo and really liked it--listening to the Swedish was fun! I could even understand parts of it without following the subtitles! I listened to the recorded book earlier and was intrigued. Now waiting for the second book in the series.
7. Finished my new quilt and working on writing the directions. Still not 100% sure on the title. Any suggestions? I really want something that rhymes, but not coming up with anything brilliant yet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

guess who's coming to dinner

We are preparing for a houseguest, due to arrive tomorrow morning. We have some special things on hand for her:
Miss Gracie is in for the ride of her life tonight! She's hopping on a jet plane to come to us from San Francisco, and all her human subjects are hoping she doesn't freak out along the way! Her care package arrived yesterday so she has toys and treats and a familiar britashirt to snuggle. And some kind of fancy schmancy catfood, she's probably become a vegan after living out there in CA a few years, don't ya know! I rediscovered the pet aisle, well now it's the pet kingdom, at Target yesterday to lay in a few supplies myself. I wonder if she knows she actually is coming back to her homeland, she started life as a stray found in an abandoned house in Minneapolis. We will probably have a few days of attitude going on here, but I bet she will enjoy having a whole house to roam again. It's been almost 9 years since we had a cat in the house, so it will be interesting! I think we're ready. Welcome back to MN, Gracie!

Friday, July 9, 2010

pile o' quilts

Look what I picked up last night at my Piecemakers' meeting--
NINE (9) new little quilts for donation to Twin Cities' Quilts for Kids! Thank you, thank you, thank you! The little monkeys on the top are too cute!

I recently took a class at Bead Monkey to learn how to make soldered jewelry, and this was what I made--
It was fun and something I had wanted to do ever since I picked up a book and supplies at Urban Arts and Crafts in Kansas City over a year ago. Or was that 2 years ago? (If it's 2 years ago that is really bad because that means we are way overdue for a Posse Road Trip!) Anyway, I now know how to handle a soldering gun, just a little one, but enough to make me dangerous! These pendants are 2-sided, so there is another related picture on the back. Our teacher was very nice and made it look much easier than it actually is! Practice will help, and I have enough glass squares, copper tape, solder and flux to last me awhile. And Bob will be missing the soldering gun from his workbench!

Today at the store I got totally sucked in by these little hedgehogs, and ended up with a whole pile of fabric to put into a quilt. They are sly little guys, looking so cute and friendly, but troublemakers! When Dan was in high school sometime, he had a pet hedgehog named Nermal. Nermal was a nice little pet, but sadly, perished. Dan took such good care of him, but I don't think they have a very long lifespan.

"I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something."
Jackie Mason

Thursday, July 8, 2010

back on track

I have a quick little baby blankie to share with you to show you that I am back in the saddle again with my sewing! I did spend a lot of time lately on the quilting of my newest quilt, becoming a pattern for the 2010 MN Shop Hop quilt, and as soon as I finish the binding I will show it. It seemed to take me forever to get the quilting on it done, I didn't have a clear plan in mind and found myself just staring at it from time to time to figure out what I wanted to do next! Once it was off the frame, I sought a little reward with this cuddly quilt--
This type of quick quilt has become my new favorite! It is simply 2 fabrics, usually I use some flannel, polar fleece, or other plush fabric. I layer the 2 together without batting and do a big all-over quilt design. Then I cut a wide binding (6" strip) and finish off the edges. I even forego the usual hand-stitched binding for a machine stitch, and feel such a nice sense of completion when finished. And this one is slotted for a cute little one-year-old guy, George, who is having a birthday party on Sunday. He lives with his mom and dad south of Minneapolis and this will be the first time we have a chance to visit their new home, should be fun!

This quote described me as I was quilting:
"Indecision may or may not be my problem." Jimmy Buffett

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

well worn

Well worn wood--
and well worn '55 Chevy, my first car!

It's gone back to nature!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

before and after

While down at my parents' house with Dan, we decided to take on a little maintenance project for them. They have a wonderful deck which needed some serious cleaning and restoration. So we rented a power washer, and Dan went to work. He spent about 6 hours going over every inch of it, and the result was wonderful! The original redwood grain was once again visible. Still needs a new coat of sealer applied, which we couldn't stay long enough to finish, but I'm sure mom and dad will be able to accomplish that. Handling that power washer, however, was not something that even I would want to take on. Many thanks to Dan for his hard work and resolve to get the job done!
I realize that I have been sadly lacking in any fun quilty stuff lately, I promise to make up for that in the near future. The month of June has flown by with so many other things going on that weren't really fiber-friendly most of the time, so I have been on a sewing break. I'm lucky to be able to flex my work and business schedules enough to shift priorities when needed. I'll be back on track with my stitchin' soon enough, I promise!

"I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense."
--Helen Kushner

Saturday, July 3, 2010

from the road less traveled

My brother, Jared (Jarry), farms the land that my Grandpa Herbert and my dad both farmed. That is where we (myself, Jarry and Jan) grew up. That is where my dad and his sister, Donna, came from. That is where my niece and nephew, Nora and Spencer, grew up. It is a big part of our family history, so I'm very glad that Jarry decided to live there and brought his wife, Mary, to make it their home. Farming changes with time, as new methods are found to improve the processes and the land. Jarry uses no till farming and incorporates wildlife habitat preservation. One great project, among many, is this pond that he created on his land. It is home to deer and ducks and birds and other critters.
To get back to it without depleting my dad's energy (who tells me "My legs just aren't what they used to be", from the man who climbed mountains and now is 84) we drove through former pasture land on this "road"--
Don't worry if you don't see the "road", I didn't see much of it either and so I'm glad Dan was driving! The grass is tall and thick now because there is no livestock. The huge old cottonwood trees grow along what we know as the dredge ditch and were big when I was little. There used to be an old wooden bridge over the ditch, where trolls used to live, I'm pretty sure. This was a great picnic spot that we could get to on our little bikes without too much trouble, and the cows grazing there hardly ever bothered us.
My parents' memories of their work and lives here are wonderful, full of ups and downs. I remember learning to drive the old blue pickup ('47 Ford?) as I helped my dad make fence back along this pasture when I was finally big enough to reach the pedals. I could practice using the clutch as we moved from post to post. My job was to hand him the staples as he needed to pound them in to hold the barbed wire to the posts. It felt like very important work. No way did I want to be responsible for letting our cattle get into the neighbors' fields.

I have been collecting some quotes that ring true with me, so I thought I would include some with my posts. I get a quote-of-the-day message from Real Simple by signing up for that newsletter, and when they make sense to me I save them. Here's one I like:
"Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well." Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, July 2, 2010

I'm back again...and good news!

We were only home 2 days and then left again, this time Dan and I drove down to Lake Park, IA, my hometown and the home of my parents, brother & sister-in-law. Dan had really wanted to visit his grandparents while he was here and I was able to arrange the 3 days off from work, although the quilts are calling me! Anyway, we had some fun times and memories together. It is so beautiful right now, the peak of the growing season, so the fields and landscape are beautiful. Maybe not to everyone, but to me, I'm glad this is where I came from. I love the wide open spaces, I think I've said this before. Trees and mountains are my next favorite. Ocean shore has a beauty of its own, which I am less familiar with. We did some rambling around on the farmland that I grew up on, no one lives in the house that I called home for 17 years and it is falling into disrepair and is uninhabitable now. Sad. Those 2 upstairs windows were in the bedroom that I shared with my sister nearly all of those years.
This is part of the view from our old front yard, can you make out the wind turbines dotting the landscape now? They, of course, were not there back in those days. They are like the new breed of windmills. Our house was on a bit of a hill (not that there are any huge hills there but there are some slopes) and at night from my bedroom window I could see a blinking light about 20 miles away on the top of a restaurant (The Hilltop), so that gives an idea of the vista possibility.
We had hollyhocks growing in the yard, and Jan and I used to make these little hollyhock dolls out of them. See the 2 little eyes at the base of the bud? Sadly, no arms, but I used to think they were kind of like fairies so they didn't need arms, right?
Another great treat is the mulberries that my mom and dad still go out to pick from the trees by that house, and we had a super delicious dessert made from them. I never hear about mulberries growing other places, are they becoming extinct?
It was a very good visit, and I have more to share over the next few days. Right now Dan is getting his stuff packed up so we can take him to the airport for his flight back to Reno. We will see him again in just about 3 weeks when we go out to San Francisco, so I'm trying not to get sad.
And now for the really excellent news, that I have been trying so hard to stay calm about, and not jinx anything by hoping too much--Brita and Ben are moving to Minnesota!!! Yeah! I still can't believe that we will be seeing them for longer than a visit! Just a little more than a month, and they will be heading this direction. It helps take some of the sting out of saying goodbye to Dan tonight!