Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Comment Amnesty Time


It has happened again.  I find myself in Comment Overload.  Which, as my daughter would say, is a good problem to have.

Right now I'm on overload timewise, between getting the school year started and the upcoming move of my husband's office into our home.

And when I look at my email box and see there are so many comments that I appreciate so much and really want to respond to individually, and know that there just isn't time right now and I don't know when there will be, I start to hyperventilate just a tad. 

And so, once again, I must claim a period of Comment Amnesty.  I need to just delete that comment build-up and start fresh.  Forgive me, please.

Good Hair Day

Elijah Boo, a Few Days Later

Monday, August 30, 2010

My How You've Grown!

Blackberry, at four-and-a-half months, with Joe

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cafe Con Leche

The way this blog has been recently, you might be wondering, "Is she still a quilter?" 

I've sort of been wondering it myself.

Matt and Carrie were married this past month and their housewarming party is next weekend.  One of those "no gifts, please" events. 

Well, you know me, never have been good and following directions.  Ever since second grade, actually.

So this is their present.  Coffee With Cream or Cafe Con Leche, whether you prefer English or Spanish.  The blocks were the yield of a swap I organized a few years ago.  There was not a single bad block in the batch.  I saw the brown print at the LQS and thought it would go well with the blocks.  Then I saw the binding fabric, which really bowled me over, even though as a matter of principle, I almost never use a light binding.

It's done and ready to gift!  Have a lovely life together, dear Carrie and Matt!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010


The other day I thought about someone I used to know, a long time ago.  I was in my thirties and she was in her late fifties.  One day she canceled a planned get-together because she had to go to a funeral.  "You go to a lot of funerals," I told her.

I'd just emerged from a period of going to a lot of baby showers and before that a lot of weddings and wedding showers.  I'd begun to hear about a lot of divorces.

Then there was a long spell, many years long, with only the occasional punctuation mark of a wedding, a baby, a funeral.

And now I go to more funerals than I used to.

My friend's husband died yesterday.  She's one of my Circle sisters -- yes, she was raising a glass with us just the other night when we had our mu shu pork and drinks with umbrellas.  He was President of our Church Council, a strong and thoughtful leader, a man with a gift of hearing all of the points of view and conversation and talk on an issue, and then filtering out the inanities and succinctly sum up what was going on.

It's been a week of hard things.  Superimposed on our upcoming restructuring at home, I learned that a friend's son's faltering marriage has, indeed, ended; another young man I know and like so much has been served by his wife with unwanted divorce papers; and yet another young man faces surgery in a few days for what may very well be a cancer.  And there's a young woman I know who is entering the phase of "separation" from her husband.  And now this terrible loss -- for my friend, for our church.

My other friend Sherron is one for succinct remarks.  In the face of unpleasant news, she's known to say, "Well, it's not cancer.  And nobody died."  In other words, "Keep your perspective."  She wouldn't be able to say that to me if I talked to her today.

But she wouldn't be at a loss for words.  Because she has another remark, "Hug your people.  Hold your people."

That's precisely what I plan to do.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mu Shu Pork and Fortune Cookies

The day we joined our church, my friend told me that her Circle was meeting the next night and I should come.  So I did.  At that time the church had a women's organization with a large membership; it was divided into morning and evening "circles" named for women of the Bible.  I became a member of Deborah Circle, a group of about 15 women who grew to become movers and shakers in our congregation.  We meet once a month from September through June and have devotions, a topic or project, a brief business meeting, and the all-important refreshments.  One of our members has an in-ground swimming pool, and she invites us for a pot luck supper and swim in July.   And it used to be that nothing happened in August, Circlewise.

Then one Sunday morning, just before the service began, three of us were in the back of the church and out of the blue, one of us said, "Let's go out to the Chinese restaurant for dinner tomorrow night."  Thus began the Deborah Circle Almost Annual Chinese Dinner.  In twenty-five years, I've only missed one of them and still regret it.  Eventually the closest Chinese restaurant became too grungy for our patronage and it didn't help when Joe learned of our concern and began making comments about there being fewer stray cats in the area.  So we moved to another venue and at that place began a new custom, that of ordering "drinks with umbrellas."

Last night fourteen of us gathered for food, fellowship, mild misbehavior and drinks with umbrellas.  It was a good time.  We relived old comedy, caught up on each others' lives, and made some vague plans for the September meeting (I believe it is to be a pot luck salad supper at my house).  I came home full and happy and thought that in the midst of a great deal of change in my life, this group of wonderful women is a constant.  And that is good.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Change is in the Air

Change is coming to the Near Philadelphia household.  It isn't a change we've planned or welcomed, but one that is necessary, and one we've prepared for -- mentally and emotionally -- over the past couple of months. 

For twenty years Joe has had a small architecture practice in our town.  His work is diverse and includes additions, custom homes, refitting business spaces, low income housing, church design and modification, shops, and other types of projects.  The recent economic downturn began to impact his business long before the rest of the country was talking about it.  Back in the early spring, there were indications that things were picking up, but this didn't hold.  Having laid off his employees in the late spring/early summer, with the hope that he could call them back in the autumn, Joe worked very, very hard this summer, refining skills he'd not used in a while, continuing to look for new work, and thinking deeply about what was next.

Next has come, it seems, and with it the decision to move the office out of the space it has been occupying on a busy street in downtown NP, and re-establish it in our lower level.  Possibly for the time being; more likely, permanently.  This was a change that we knew would come someday; we just hadn't anticipated Someday for another few years.

The Move will happen over Labor Day Weekend.  Sherry has offered to be the logistics manager and organizer.  Both of the boys have volunteered to come and carry out the actual physical move.  I am deeply touched by their kindness; a friend said, "Well, it is the right thing to do and they know it."  She's right, of course, but I'm well aware that both of them have complicated lives with young babies and long, irregular work schedules.  And, their gift of time entails driving up and down I-95 on a holiday weekend, an enormous sacrifice of time, patience, disposition, and godknowswhatelse.  Another friend said, "Somewhere along the line, they've learned what priorities are."

Our home is a ranch-type house that sits on a slightly sloped lot so that the downstairs isn't a "basement" but rather a "lower level" that has peep-type windows in the front, but the back has a huge, wide picture window and a door that leads out to the back yard that Joe has landscaped beautifully.  One-fourth of the lower level is my sewing space, and the plans that have been drawn up show that I don't lose a single inch of it.  The other three-fourths will become the office. 

The positives that come to mind in this situation include Joe's having the ability to work any hours he chooses, the delight of having Blackberry around to keep him company, and vice versa (not to mention the much-needed attention to the as-yet-incomplete potty training!), a restructuring of the household schedule to an earlier dinner hour, a less formal working environment, and, best of all, having him here instead of there when working late is a necessity.

Though I'm not losing any of my space, my conscience tells me that the next two weeks need to be spent making that space more aesthetically appealing to my new neighbor.  I don't actually throw fabric scraps over my shoulder a la Eleanor Burns, but you wouldn't know that to look at the floor.  And the "nearly completed" and "failed experiments" are everywhere.

Beginning today, much of my time in the next two weeks will be spent not only tidying up but actually cleaning up, finishing those things that are near to completion, stowing and prioritizing those that are not, tossing that which needs tossing and finding places for All Those Things that are casually here and there.  Blogging time will be impacted, I would expect.

I'm not one of those people who abhor change and neither is Joe.  We've experienced plenty of it over our years together, and much of the change has been imposed upon us rather than chosen by us.  Nonetheless, we've always tried to put a positive spin on change, and to find and embrace the good that lies within, for there always is something good.  This is a change we expected eventually, and while I'm not one to think of God as a micro-manager, I remember all too well how the opening of the office was in His time -- and His hands -- and I'm trying to let this change rest there as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Everything You Do Is Sacred

Take a look at this post of Kim's, won't you?

I don't know who Hafiz is, but there are bits in this piece that I resonate with.  So strongly.

Look, won't you, where it says:

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
It takes me back a long time, a good many years.  It was autumn of 1993.  I had spent the 1992-93 year, my first year at seminary, in a hard place.  It was the year my mother's husband was dying.  A long, slow death, with many false alarms.  During that year also, a lump appeared on my mother's scalp; it was a cancer and it needed removal. Her Alzheimer's made everything all the more difficult.  I was learning to be a seminarian, both at the campus and at my mother's house.  We buried John the week after final exams, the one-week interlude I had before beginning the stressful period of Clinical Pastoral Education.
My CPE site was an inner-city hospital, a major trauma unit and regional spinal cord center.  I was on call every sixth night and every sixth weekend day.  I baptized babies who would not last the night.  I telephoned families to tell them their sons had been shot.  I kept the death watch with countless lonely souls.  I struggled with a diverse group of peers, all of us trying to learn by doing, what it meant to be a chaplain, what the ministry of presence really meant.
The unit ended and I had a week or perhaps two before the second year of seminary began.  I looked forward to rest, to relaxation, and -- with less enthusiasm -- to learning the Hebrew alphabet in preparation for that year's classes.
It was not to be.  My mother's caregiver called me to come.  There was a lump.  Within a few days there were several lumps.  Metastases of the cancer we had dealt with months earlier.  A fast-growing cancer, they said.  My vacation was spent visiting doctors, making decisions, arranging for hospice, learning a different new vocabulary.
I returned to school and through God's grace got through the month of intense Hebrew study.  By the time regular classes began, I was some sort of a walking zombie, a fragile sort of a shell of my real self.  I didn't see how I could get through a second year of seminary/death watch combination.  I wondered if I should take a year off, reduce my course load, withdraw altogether, or try somehow to get through it all.
I went to see my favorite professor from the year before.  I poured it all out to him.  He listened.  He waited.  He provided ministry of presence.  Finally, he asked, "What do you want to do?" 
I don't know where the answer came from.  It had nothing to do with the options I was considering.    "I want to make a quilt for my daughter."  I hadn't made a quilt in several years.  But Sherry was in her last year of high school and in ten more months I would be losing her to an as yet unknown college campus.
"Then do it," he said.  "And do it with intentionality."
So I dropped two of my four courses, took Sherry off to the fabric store, and began, through the making of her quilt, to piece myself back together.
Look again at what Hafiz says:
This is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Dining Out (courtesy of a colleague)

A group of 15 year old girlfriends discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally, it was agreed upon that they should meet at the Dairy Queen next to the Ocean View restaurant because they only had $6.00 between them and Jimmy Johnson, that cute boy in Social Studies, lives on that street and they might see him and they can ride their bikes there.

10 years later, the group of 25 year old girlfriends discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally, it was agreed upon that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the beer was cheap, they had free snacks, the band was good, there was no cover and there were lots of cute guys.

10 years later, at 35 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally, it was agreed upon that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the cosmos were good, it was right near the gym and if they go late enough, there wouldn't be too many whiny little kids.

10 years later, at 45 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally, it was agreed upon that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the martinis were big, and the waiters there had tight pants and nice buns.

10 years later, at 55 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the food there was reasonable, the wine list was good, they had windows that open in case of a hot flash, and fish is good for your cholesterol.

10 years later, at 65 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because lighting was good and they have an early bird special.

10 years later, at 75 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because food was not too spicy, the restaurant was handicapped accessible and they even had an elevator!

10 years later, at 85 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they had never been there before.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hi Ho The Dairy-Ho

I, for one, am not going to speculate on what drove him to seek a mistress.  And I''m not going to campaign to have "the farmer takes a mistress" included in the song.  R-rated situation, thassfersure.

Anyway, I finished three of the four remaining blocks for The Farmer's Concubine Lady Friend  Mistress and would have finished the very last one (the cheese stands alone) except when I made the kit I cut one of the components too small.  So I'll make that block when I get home and see how soon this gal (whom Honna is now calling The Farmer's Skanky Ho, believe it or not) off my wall and out to a quilter.

So we leave Chautauqua, but our vacation doesn't end quite yet.  We're off to Kent, Ohio, to visit some very important people. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vacation Week Coming to a Close

Progress continues.  Terrible quality of photographs, but progress nonetheless. Our week at Chautauqua nears its end, and it has been good. We have enjoyed being together in a beautiful setting without telephone interruptions. We have enjoyed times of quiet and times of talk. We spent part of one evening visiting with our fascinating landlady and her interesting husband. We have walked and listened and watched.

We have a major change in our lives coming within the next month, and we've taken time to think and talk about that. We might not have had that opportunity had we been at home. So that has been good.

The symphony has been glorious, many of the lectures superb, and the general atmosphere amiable.

One morning I skipped the lecture and drove into Erie to meet a couple of internet friends. I'd arranged to connect with Kat at a quilt shop she knew of, and she was going to give me back We The Purple, having completed the long-arming of same. To my pleasant surprise, she brought along Holly, another internet friend. Holly and I don't connect often, but whenever I'm with her, I have that warm and happy feeling of being with someone where a whole lot of words aren't necessary; there is just easy understanding.

I've thought about Sacred Space, the theme of the week, and one thing I've concluded is that the sanctity of a particular space is connected to the person experiencing the space. I do not wish to say that any space can be a sacred space. Rather, I am suggesting that for any space to be sacred, one must go to a set-apart space within the self, and then a space may be experienced as sacred.

I have had that experience a few times. As a young, emotional, and impressionable teenager, a camp I attended felt like sacred space. Later as an adult visiting the Holocaust Museum in D.C., and again in D.C. visiting the Vietnam Memorial, I knew I was in sacred space.

There remain just a few blocks and The Farmer's Mistress will be ready to assemble. I hope to do that soon after returning home. The potential recipient of the quilt is about as far away from being a farmer's wife or mistress as I can imagine. But one never knows.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not His Wife

Oh, my well-meaning friends!  A hearty "thank you" to all who wrote to tell me of groups I could join to make The Farmer's Wife go more smoothly, who shared with me links of places where this project is being discussed and, in fact, have the templates (aaargh!) available in their correct form and not just one to a page, and who directed me to the author's own website where she has produced corrections to the errors in the book.

Perhaps I was unclear.  I do not need to make The Farmer's Wife quilt.  In fact, I do not want to make The Farmer's Wife quilt.  I know that many quilters take great pleasure and satisfaction in duplicating the efforts of "Jane," "Sylvia," and some nameless individual who is nearly insane.  This is not my particular cuppa tea, if you'll pardon a bit of a metaphor mix.  I almost never use a purchased pattern and rarely make a quilt according to someone's recipe.  I just like to do my own thing.

The Farmer's Wife book was a gift from a dear friend who thought it might be fun for us to  make a pair of these quilts together.  Since I love her, I agreed and plunged right in.  It didn't take long for both of us to decide this was not a project we would see to fruition.  What I'm doing now is finding a way to use the blocks that I had completed before we reached that conclusion.  I'm content with the solution I found and outlined in a recent post.

But it looks as though I need to stop referring to this project as The Farmer's Wife.  Because clearly it is not.

Friends, above are the four most recent blocks for The Farmer's Mistress.

Something Completely Different

I mentioned yesterday in my rant comments about The Farmer's Wife that I hadn't been sewing since coming to Chautauqua.  Haven't been blogging, either, someone might point out. 
But that doesn't mean the fingers have been idle.

We spend a lot of time attending lectures and concerts at a huge venue (I believe it seats 5,000 but perhaps I'm making that up), the Amphitheatre.  Called "The Amp" by the community, it has a large stage and uncomfortable wooden pew-benches going up at impressively steep angles.  Before a scheduled event, you'll see hordes of people briskly walking in the direction of The Amp, each carrying a situpon or two, an absolute necessity for bun preservation on those benches.  Usually we plan to arrive early in order to get the seats we prefer.  People bring along books, needlework, newspaper puzzles, Kindles, journals to fill the time while waiting for the lecture or concert to start.  And it is an informal setting, so people often continue to work on what they've brought during the event.

I had bought some stamped bibs to embroider and brought them along to work on at The Amp.  And just look what I've accomplished!  Stamped embroidery hasn't been "my thing" for many years, and it still isn't really, but with all of the reproducing my children and my friends' children have been doing, I've brought it back. 

These four are done.  I have two more for the remainder of the week.  A cow.  And, as Caroline says, a peeeeeg.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Farmer's Wife Goes to Chautauqua

Remember The Farmer's Wife and all the frustration I had with that project?  The one with all the dratted templates?  Some of which didn't seem accurate?  I decided that there was no joy for me in struggling with the templates.  And two of the people I was swapping blocks with were having a worse time than I was.  People, this is supposed to be fun!  I have come up with a solution! 

First of all, I absolved those two swapmates of any responsibility to me.  I certainly didn't want them struggling on my behalf!  Second, I looked at the options in the back of the book -- and decided that instead of attempting to make the entire 111-block quilt, I would go for the lap version, at a mere 50 blocks.  Third step, of course, was to count my blocks and see how many were lacking.  And fourth, I set The Farmer's Wife aside and turned to Around the Block where I selected sixteen very nice, very appealing six-inch blocks that would all look very well set on point.  Knowing I was ready to go on vacation, and wanting something to bring along, I spent an evening selecting fabrics, cutting components, and making sixteen tiny baggie kits.

We've been pretty busy since we set foot at Chautauqua, and this afternoon I had a long empty spell (before going to the 3:40 showing of "Letters to Juliet" [predictable but charming]) and I set up Bernina and got out my kits and then tried to find a place to plug in the iron where I wouldn't blow a fuse (lesson learned Monday morning when drying hair at the same time himself was making coffee).  And got four of my blocks made!  From top to bottom:  Contrary Wife, Brave World, Attic Windows, and Rising Star.  

I've not looked at the schedule for tomorrow, but I just might find the time to make some more of them.  In between attending lectures, programs, recitals, concerts and oops, sorry, but it is time to head out to get a bite to eat before tonight's Symphony!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vacation, August, 2010

Joe and I are spending a week at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York State.  I've written about this place on this blog in the past and won't do so in very much detail now.  We are staying in a tiny apartment and are soaking up culture and philosophy; we are resting and reading.  He is sailing and also taking a class in chair caning.

The theme this week is "Sacred Spaces," and as always has been thought-producing.  I may (or may not) write more about that.

It is good to be here, to be away from some of the stress that Joe has been under in recent weeks.  I brought Bernina along, but haven't opened her.  Instead, I've been embroidering baby bibs and reading when I'm not attending an event.  Yesterday morning we heard Ken Burns speak on sacred space; he returns to the amphitheatre tomorrow night for a talk on Gettysburg, I believe.  Tonight the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra is on stage.

I am quiet, but I am alive and well.  And thinking.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Worth It?

Today I saw this quilt on someone's blog and I liked it.  Liked it enough to do a little research on it.  The photo could be better, but that's what I've got.  Better pictures of portions of the quilt are on that blog. 

You can see that it's a pretty quilt with lots of embroidered details and appliques and pieced portions and gorgeous colors and themes of friendship and quilting and other good stuff.

It's called Journey of a Quilter by Leanne Beasley.  And the pattern costs $160.

The pattern costs one hundred and sixty dollars.

I wonder how many she's sold.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Thinking About Fabric

I've been thinking about fabric.  Surprised?

When I first began quilting, I would go to the fabric store with a quilt in mind and look for fabric to make that quilt.  I loved pulling the bolts down and putting them together and trying this green or that green, this floral or the other floral, to see which combination I liked best.

Lately I've seen a lot of quilts that were made from a single line of fabric.  Heck, I've made a few quilts recently that were from a single line of fabric.  The Fat Quarter Shop mystery quilts come to mind as an example.  Also my Bill's Baskets.  All were made from a line of fabric designed to go together.  These quilts are pretty in a perfect, almost sterile kind of a way.  The indigo and caramel baskets quilt that I finished last month ago was from all kinds of indigo and caramel fabrics, from many different designers and manufacturers.  And somehow, to me, it is more interesting because of that.

And that's what I've been thinking.  About fabric.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Yoo Hoo, Fitzy . . .

Back in August of 2007, shortly after Joe and I returned from our magical Star Flyers trip to Greece in celebration of our fortieth anniversary, I pondered the possibility of trying to sell some of my quilts to start a savings fund for another Star Flyers trip.  I got over that idea pretty quickly.

Then I took a part-time job doing medical transcription, thinking that would be the way to go.  Got over that pretty quickly, too.

Another Star Flyers trip did happen; a year and a half ago we went to the Windward Islands.  And I've come to think that if another trip is in the stars for us, it will happen somehow.

But, getting back to summer of 2007, some of the pondering I did happened in blog posts.  And one of you, QuiltingFitzy, wrote this in a comment:

PS...try looking at ingdirect.com for a really easy way to save. They have an internet savings account that pays 4.5% and I have been using them since 2001 with no issues. If you have any ?, drop me an email. I'm just a really happy customer 8^)

I'm not a good saver.  Never have been.  It's a flaw in my make up.  But what Fitzy was proposing sounded like a sane idea, and I set up an account that automatically deducts a small amount weekly from our regular checking account.  We never miss it.  In fact, I don't even look at the monthly statements they send me. 

Last year that ING account funded our summer vacation to North Carolina.  And I haven't touched it since then.

We have an antique loveseat that needs rebuilding and recovering.  And we both hate our refrigerator, one that simply will not die despite our evil wishes towards it.

This morning I got a notice that the ING statement was ready.  So I went and looked.  And lo!  Behold!  Come September, there will be enough money to fund one of those projects.  Painlessly! 

So, Fitzy dear, if you are still following this blog, thank you for the idea (three years later)!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends

The Weight Watchers group that I attend has a good leader.  She's prolly not a great leader, but she is a good leader, and she is the right leader for me.  Early on, she said that she had lost seventy pounds and that it had taken her three years.  I admired her sticktoitiveness.  We have a really good and supportive receptionist, too. 

But what keeps me coming back to this particular meeting is the group itself.  There are a handful of us who started around the same time; some have much more to lose than others.  Then there are two who have been coming for months and months.  About eight of us sit near the front (so much for being a Lutheran!) and have formed a tight bond.  We really care about each others' issues.  We are genuinely happy for each others' losses.  We matter to each other, even though some of us don't know each others' names!  It is one thing when a family member or a friend congratulates me on the loss of a pound or two.  It is something else entirely when one of the group members issues congratulations.  It just means more from someone who is down in the trenches alongside.

We have membership books where our progress is recorded, and over time, mine got a bit battered.  I use it every day.  Several times every day, in fact.  So I took some pink William Morris fabric and made a little cover for it.  Last week one of the women in the cluster commented on the cover.  So I decided to make some for my friends.  I chose a variety of fabrics and got one out of a fat quarter, using the same fabric for the lining as the outside.  I spent a total of about two or three hours making eight of these.

For my friends.  My colleagues.  My peers.  Who care about my journey.  And the feeling is mutual.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Moving Along on Martinique

I realized this weekend that Blocks Three and Blocks Four for Martinique had arrived and not been made.  And it seems as though it is nearly time for Block Five.

So I got caught up.

I still need to get the border on the Indigo and Caramel Baskets and on Cinnamon Latte.  I still have some kitty cat fabric and school bus fabric to make pillowcases for Caroline and Sam.  I have a top that needs to be sandwiched and tied.  And then there is dear Bill's Baskets, still waiting for his final border.

I have another small, for-now-secret, project in the works.

And more ideas in my mind that I believe I'll live long enough to see come to fruition.