Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baskets and More

Last night I had the time to finish the last of the Branky blocks, before my December blocks-to-make arrive. Karrin had sent three different pieces of "Rhapsody in Blue" by Bonnie Benn Stratton, from back when the "Quilt For A Cure" fabrics were a new idea. I had lots of those fabrics and made lots of quilts for friends dealing with breast cancer. The fabrics were so pretty and had such a nice hand; I wish they were still available, inasmuch as friends are still getting breast cancer . . . .

Anyway, Karrin asked us to make an 8" or 10" basket block. Which I love to do. Of course, as you know, the thing about basket blocks is that it is usually just as easy to make two blocks as it is one. So that's what I did. They are going in the mail to Karrin today.

I was so happy with the positive comments about Jacob's Ladder that last night after Karrin's baskets were finished, I went back to completing the blocks! I have to wait until after Saturday before I can do more on the Hot Summer Hearts (would you believe I have to get some fabric already?), so I'm going to see what I can do with Jacob in the meantime.

Oh, and I got my sporadic newsletter from Pinwheels. The fabrics that Amy had shown are finally available on line, and I'm afraid I might have to indulge . . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hot Summer Hearts

A wonderful swap called "Hot Summer Hearts" yielded this dozen blocks. We tried to incorporate as many as possible of the wonderful colors that we find in the summer sunset.

Carol and Debbie's daughter Jill will be graduating high school this June and it's really important that I make a quilt for her to take to college.

You see, the baby quilt for Jill was the first quilt I ever made to give away to someone outside our household. Pink and green, it was also the first project I ever hand-quilted -- up until then the handful of quilts I'd made had all been tied. It seems impossible that so many years have passed since the night I sneaked into the hospital after visiting hours, emboldened by my chaplaincy badge, and held little Jill when she was just a day old. She's grown into a tall, artistic, athletic young woman who loves color. So I think these hearts will be fine for her.

Haven't decided exactly how to set them yet; am thinking of making either Log Cabins or full-size HSTs for the alternate blocks. I'll need to make one more heart block for the lay-out I'm envisioning. They were a lot of fun to make, and certainly are brightening up my wall these days while I ponder the options.

This is the third of the four blocks I'm helping Branky with. It's for Jan who sent the focus fabric and requested a nine-inch block of the maker's choice with WOW background and any color but orange for the contrast. When I made my block, I used a pink for the contrast; this time I dug into the batik box and found the precise shade of green that was needed.

I have one more Branky block to do; it is a blue and yellow basket for Karrin and I plan to get it made and in the mail before this week ends.

Monday, November 26, 2007

November Nesting, Near Philadelphia

From the time we moved into our house, nearly eight years now, we've been aware that the principal residents of the property are not ourselves, but rather the birds. That first summer, there was a window airconditioner in the kitchen window, and some enterprising sparrows had built a nest on the sill under the unit. Somehow we never got around to removing it at season's end, and the following summer some sparrows (the same ones?) moved right back in and raised at least three broods there. We have a screened porch off one side of the kitchen and before we built the deck, we ate most of our warm weather meals out there. The sparrows spend their nights in the eaves just outside that porch.

Once we got the deck up, we erected several feeders that we can see from where we eat in the kitchen.

We also have birdhouses. After the deck was built, I asked Joe to mount a birdhouse on the deck support so I could see bird activity from my sewing/computer window on the lower level. He did, and it was quickly occupied (location, location, location!). Last winter I noticed that birds were taking refuge in the birdhouse during the winter.

A very few weeks ago, Joe placed several more birdhouses on the deck supports, and this weekend there was a fluttering flurry of activity! Not only are the birds roosting on the roofs, perching on the perches, and popping in and out of the entries, but yesterday I noticed them taking twigs and other nesting material inside! Clearly, they are claiming spots and making them comfy cosy for the winter! I quickly cleaned out the dryer lint trap and spread some of the fuzzy matter on the bush nearest the enclave.

The greatest hub of activity concerns the double-decker house, but I couldn't get a good picture of it. This photo, admittedly of dubious quality, is of the house closest to the window. When I sit at the downstairs computer, the birds are about eight feet away and every nuance of activity is visible.

Yesterday I laughed out loud as a bird who had gone into this particular house discovered at the time of egress that s/he was a bit stout. Several face-forward attempts to get out failed; an about-face appeared to occur as the tail section popped out the hole a few times; then another pause for a turn-around, and finally the birdy burst out, shaking its head in disbelief, "What was I thinking!" I could almost hear him say.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Remembering Thanksgiving, 2007!

It was, of course, a splendid Thanksgiving. The kids from Virginia all came up, and brought a couple of guests along, so there were ten adults and the baby for dinner. Then we were joined by Bonnie and her family, ten or so more, for dessert. My daughters and nieces each brought a dessert to save me some work, but I had to make a pan of cherry chocolate bars nonetheless. A wonderful surprise was Kristin's offering -- she made spectacular turkey-looking cupcakes. One is pictured here in front of Amy's signature cookies: Lemon White Chocolate Chip.

We were so happy to all be together, and it was wonderful to see how grown up Bonnie's granddaughters are getting to be. Her grandson Ben had brought along his girlfriend; Bonnie had told me earlier that she had an unusual name and even told me what it was. For the life of me, I couldn't remember and I told my crew that Ben was bringing his girlfriend, Gumdrop. They were all delighted. Turns out her name is Asia, not Gumdrop, but she's as sweet as a gumdrop could be and even gave me permission to call her by that name. Abby and Juliette had a wonderful time entertaining Sam.

At various times during the weekend I actually found some time to sew. These Jacob's Ladder blocks have been on my while for a few weeks. They are made from various Diwabo taupes and a nice black batik. I had the thought of having the lightest ones in the center, and have them get progressively darker as they came out to the edges, and was feeling pretty good about my progress.

The people who got to preview it seemed pretty underwhelmed, and I've begun to feel my own enthusiasm for it fade. So today I took the blocks down and put them aside for another time.

I'd made Amy a Jacob's Ladder quilt several years ago, using "Japanese prints" and cream and it turned out beautifully. This time, I don't know . . . . Perhaps it just needs some time? Or perhaps new previewers? Whatever. I put some different blocks up to ponder for a while. And will revisit Jacob's Ladder in 20008!

Branky is a member of my Fat Quarters on-line quilting group and she's been going through a tough time and has fallen behind on her monthly blocks. She's a fine machine quilter who just finished a project for me (more about which later), and she seems so frazzled and stressed that it occurred to me that she didn't need the additional worry about getting to her late blocks. So I told her to send them along to me and I would make them and get them out for her. I've finished two of the four. The one for Molly looks remarkably like the one that I made for her, so I won't post a picture of it. But here's a picture of the one for Becky. There are two more to go and then Branky should be caught up!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anticipating Thanksgiving, 2007

At some point last summer, Julie posted a "Pay It Forward" on her blog. I joined, and was the fortunate receipient of a wonderful hand-crafted case for a rotary cutter or a pair of glasses. Since my glasses are always either on my face or on my nightstand, I now have the best-dressed rotary cutter in town. As a participant in Julie's challenge, my obligation was to post a similar challenge, with a promise to deliver within a year. My Dancing Ladies blocks have been finished for several weeks now, and today they will at last go in the mail to Deb, Jan, and Debbie who were the first to comment when my challenge was posted.

The timing seemed appropriate. Thanksgiving Week. I'd been thinking over the past few days how glad I am that I became a blogger and how thankful I am for the wonderful relationships that have come from the world of blogging.

My Dancing Ladies were drawn by my dear husband, and are based on some cave drawings that were discovered someplace in Spain. Somehow they have become my emblem, my logo, my symbol. I've used them to recognize friendships, and I've used them to illustrate the verse from Psalm 30: "You have changed my mourning into dancing." And today I'm delighted to share them with three dear blogging friends!

This blog is likely to get a little bit quiet as my house gets a little bit noisy in the next few days! Thanksgiving, of course, is the very best holiday. It is about many good things, and one of them is family. We are blessed that all six of our kids (the three we birthed and the three we acquired) will be with us for most of the weekend. This only happens every two years, and we savor every minute.

As pictured to the left, Joe has the outside ready to welcome our guests. I did much of my grocery shopping on Sunday. Tonight I want to start the preparations, and tomorrow afternoon pick up my turkey. We'll have our crowd on Thursday for dinner, plus Amy's dad; after dinner we'll be joined by Bonnie and her entire family for dessert. Then on Saturday Joe's brother and his boys will come to spend much of the day. It's about family, all right. And we are very, very thankful for ours.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Secret Santa Situation

My Secret Santa gift is nearly ready to send off to far away [name of country omitted]! I'm waiting to find out whether my partner would like me to show a picture of what I have made for her. Elf Donna has asked us to share our preference, and I'm here to say that if the person who has my name wants to show a picture on her blog, she should go right ahead. Just don't mention it is for me!

I've thoroughly enjoyed being part of this project. It has been fun to read the blog of someone I hadn't known before, and to get to know her without her having any idea! I'm thankful to Elf Donna for setting all of this up for us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Be Still, My Heart

I'm awfully glad today that I didn't take The Pledge. You know, the one about not buying new fabric. Because the morning email brought a link from Sistah Kathy in California, a link that caused palpable palpitations. Take a gander:

Yup, just when I'd given up on ever seeing William Morris fabrics readily available at less than scalper's prices (check Ebay if you want a hint), none other than Moda comes out with this delectable line. Kathy points out that it isn't available until January. I can wait that long. In the meantime, I'll take the opportunity to plan a project or two. Or three. Or whatever. O, William! O, Moda! O, Joy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monthly Blocks

One of my internet quilting groups, Fat Quarters (no comments, please!) has a monthly project where we each take a turn sending out a fabric of choice with a specific request for a block. Sometimes it is "any block of this particular size using this fabric." Sometimes it is "this particular block using my fabric for the HSTs and WOW for the background and fabric you add for the rest of the block." I enjoy this each month because it stretches me. There are times when I need to make a block I've never made before and sometimes it is a complicated block that I learn to do. This month Molly did something different: She sent all of the fabrics for her block (the name of which escapes me at the moment!) and asked us to put it together. Took a while. Was fun, though. I enjoyed making one of it. Prolly would find it tedious to make twenty or thirty of them!

Similarly, another internet group, the Birthday Runaways (don't even ask) has a process where each month we receive a specific request from a member or two. It pretty much works the same way as the Fat Quarters group's project does. Again, sometimes I find myself working with orange, a color that doesn't generally occur to me as a starting place. Other times I learn about a new block I'd like to make again and again and again. That was the case this month, when Linda sent us two different yellows and asked us to add six different navy blues to make Fireflies in the Moonlight blocks for her. I so enjoyed seeking out the fabrics and putting this block together for Linda. Was thinking it could also be stunning in Christmas colors on cream or WOW background. Can't wait to see Linda's finished quilt!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Who Knew?

I got my flu shot. It's an employee benefit that's even better than the two dollars a day credit in the cafeteria. I go every year.

This year, the nurse giving the shot told me to relax my arm. "More," she said. So I let my arm hang limp at my side. And I barely felt the needle stick!

She told me that especially for flu shots the impact is lessened with a greatly relaxed arm, but this also applies in general, to any kind of a needle stick. It's easier when the limb is limp.

I wonder why it has taken 62 years for someone to tell me this.

Quilt Show in Chestertown

When we were in Chestertown last weekend, I was delighted that the local quilt guild -- Olde Kent Quilters -- were having a show. I don't know when I last went to a small show, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to attend this one. Unlike the big shows -- Quilters Heritage, Mancuso, etc. -- which are filled with entries that are amazing and gorgeous and totally beyond anything I could imagine ever producing -- the little shows generally have wonderful real quilts made by people like me and like people I know.

There were two rooms in the show. One was filled with exquisite Baltimore Album offerings. I didn't spend much time there. Although I appreciate Baltimore Albums and the amount of effort that must go into them, they just are not my particular thing. The second room was for other quilts made by guild members. People like me and like people I know. And, golly, did they make nice quilts!

I'm aware that most of the ones I photographed are brighter colors than I normally use. I seem to have some sort of lack of confidence that keeps me to the subtle shades, the quiet colors, other than batiks on blacks. I'm ready to branch out, I think, and try something like a red background, and having these photos will help me to do that.

This is a detail from a quilt where each block was different, but featured the same Asian print.

I've never made a quilt with a great bit center like this one. I liked it so much!

This was my favorite quilt in the show. The colors are just wonderful! I'd love to try something like this quilt.

Such liveliness! So many little pieces! And somehow it all works. Another inspiration.

This is the raffle quilt made by the guild. It was just exquisite.

This quilt, my second favorite in the show, is one of three made by a man named John. He was present and people were making quite a fuss over him. Each of his quilts was totally different from the others, and he really knows something about color.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Couldn't Have Said It Any Better

Greg's blog appears in my sidebar. I don't read him daily, but thassokay because he doesn't post daily. Many of his posts relate to the struggles he experiences as a gay man living in a society that's not always tolerant, frequently suspicious, and often downright nasty to "his kind." If you've ever scrolled all the way down my sidebar, you may have seen my rainbow flag and deduced that equal rights for my LGBT sisters and brothers is an important issue for me.

On November 2, however, Greg's post wasn't about the possible disconnect between being gay and being a Baptist. This time he's taken on something that is even more important, and has produced a succinct, sincere, and well-written piece about something that's been troubling me, something that I just hadn't had the opportunity to document. Now I don't have to: my friend's done it for me. You can read it here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November: Bring It On!

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be here for the second time. Last year, shortly before we went to Chestertown, someone from the Quilting 4 Pleasure Blog Ring (I'm so sorry I can't remember who it was!) had posted a brief review of the L'il Country Shoppe in Middletown, Delaware, on her blog. We were ahead of schedule on our drive down to Chestertown, and I persuaded Joe that he looked tired and needed a "quilt shop nap" so he'd be fresh and ready to roll when we arrived. I have such a nice husband! He pulled into the parking lot, let me out, and started his snooze.

I loved the shop and am eager to return to it. They have a lot of wool and brushed fabrics and penny rug patterns and primitive things. Just the kind of thing that I love to work on. But here's what's funny: These primitive things do not belong in my house which is partly Arts and Crafts and partly contemporary. Definitely not country or primitive. So I make these wonderful primitive things and give them away because, I suppose, I'm a journey rather than a destination kind of person. Does that make sense? Anyone else out there like that?

So, anyway, October -- which has not been a good month for me on several fronts -- is gone and November is here. And it is starting off just fine, thank you. Tomorrow we head out to Downrigging Weekend in Chestertown for the fourth consecutive year. I just learned that there is going to be a quilt show in town on Saturday, too! What could be better than a fall weekend in a beautiful small town with good friends, sailing on tall ships, and a quilt show? Ah, November -- bring it on!