Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Wonderful Day

A group from my church is going on  mission trip this summer.  They'll be doing a construction project in New Orleans and will be gone for a week.  There are about twenty people participating.  I went on a construction trip with the church twenty years ago and know what a great opportunity it is, so I joined the fund raising committee.

I made a quilt for them to raffle and I believe the winning ticket will be drawn in about a month.  I wondered what else I could do to help.

Back near the end of 2010, I got an email from my friend Bonnie Hunter that she was going to be teaching a workshop in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and she wondered if Middletown was close enough to Near Philadelphia to make a visit possible.  Sure, I told her, and it would be great to see her.  We made plans for her to come on Friday and spend much of the weekend here before she headed home.

All at once, the light went on!

"Would you like to do a gig while you're here?" I asked.

I thought I could get some people together and Bonnie thought that sounded like fun.  I asked around and before I knew it, nearly thirty people were interested.  The name Bonnie Hunter has great appeal, it seems.  So we started to plan.

We decided on the Crumbs Workshop for our day together.  Bonnie would teach basic crumb blocks, wonky stars and hearts, and free style letters.  It sounded just great.

Our church holds a quilt day twice a year and we're pretty efficient at it.  Sometimes we have people bring parts of the and set up or clean up from the meal.  A cooperative effort.  It works well.

But I didn't want anyone to miss any of the wonderful day Bonnie had planned for us.

The light bulb went on again!

I contacted the mission trip group.  Knowing that one of the participants, Karla, has a magical way with food, I asked if they wanted to cater the breakfast and the lunch for the day.

They did.  And they were just splendid.

Some of us went down to the church last night to set up and we got there bright and early this morning to find that the kitchen angels had bagels and cream cheeses, fresh fruit, mini danish, hot and cold beverages all prepared for us.  They even poured the coffee!

Bonnie started us off with our basic crumb blocks, and it was exciting to learn how it all works, how the little blocks could come together.

Before lunch time, we'd learned not just the basic crumbs, but also wonky stars and pieced hearts.

We had worked up an appetite by the time we took a break.  And it was a good thing, because Karla and her team had prepared gourmet wraps, assorted terrific cold beverages, and an amazing cantaloupe and cucumber salad for us to enjoy.

We had some announcements, gave out some door prizes, and before very long at all we were picking up fresh fruit and cookies to take back to our places.

Because it was time to learn how to make letters.  And to string piece on pieces of telephone book pages.

We worked, we cut, we pressed, we trimmed.  We oooh'd and we aaaah'd and we laughed and we learned.

We did things that most of us had never attempted before.

And Bonnie made everything so easy.

She's a terrific teacher.  And we had terrific students. And a wonderful day.  Here's my project -- if I made three more blocks, I'll have enough for a small wall hanging.  To put in my office.

As a remembrance

of a Wonderful Day.

Friday, April 29, 2011

In Which We Celebrate the Royal Wedding

Carol hosted a lovely gathering this morning, beginning at four o'clock.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holiday Inn, Revisited

A year ago, I wrote on this blog about my delight in being a member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club.  Not so this time.  Far from it, she snarled.  Or mooed.

Yesterday I had occasion to contact the Priority Club to make reservations for our upcoming visit to North Carolina.  Last year when we stayed at one particular property, the points value for that property was 10,000 points.  This year it has more than doubled -- to stay there would cost 25,000 points.  For the same property as one year ago.  I had enough points to cover the two nights I wanted to spend there, but thought I might save the 50,000 points and use them sometime in the future at a property that was still 10,000 points.  We could have a nice extra vacation at some point by doing that.

Thinking it over last night, it occurred to me that the company may well be in the process of converting all of their properties to the higher price, and I might as well go ahead and use my points to cover the two nights; so today I phoned to make the change.

And they refused.  Absolutely not; no discussion, as Joanna and Ryan's mom used to say.

Because I had booked the accommodations at the Advance Purchase rate (which, incidentally, they didn't offer me until I told them I had seen this rate on the internet), they wouldn't make the conversion.  I had understood yesterday that by going with the Advance Purchase rate, the reservations could not be canceled. But the English-as-a-second-or-third-language clerk didn't tell me that I could not modify the reservation if I wanted to.

Over the years, we've spent a little more to use the Holiday Inns because of the predictability of the quality, partially, and also because of the "points" option.  It's worked well.  But apparently that is changing.  The points cost is going up, the policies are inflexible, and full information isn't given.  Not at all certain this is something we'll want to continue.

I explained my displeasure to the clerk, to her supervisor, and to the manager over that person, after being put on hold for more than fifteen minutes.  But they were rigid.

Wouldn't you think that they would want to be helpful to a loyal customer and do whatever they could to maintain that loyalty?

I guess not.

Oh, and for the record, they never acknowledged the nice things I wrote about Holiday Inn last year, either.  Even though I sent the post to them.


Monday, April 25, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different

There's a stall at some of the quilt shows and I don't know the name of the company*, but their display is just wonderful and the bright colors always command my attention.  The stall sells gorgeous fabrics from France and also terrific baskets from someplace in Africa -- it may be Ghana.  I always stop there.  

One year they had on display a quilt that was just simple bright squares with a stripe border.  I couldn't take my eyes off it.  The woman working there told me that it was charm packs; she told me how many.  And she told me how much yardage for the border.  I looked at the yardage and picked a flowery stripe that I liked, gathered up the charm packs, and had the top together almost before I got home!

And then it languished in the UFO pile, just waiting.  This month Nancy's UFO challenge called for Number Two -- the French Provincial Squares. I got the backing pieced, the binding cut and sewn together and took the top off to the  machine quilter.  Got it back on Wednesday and have spent the past three nights binding it. At some point I'll get a better photo of it, but right now, I'm just delighted to see it in its long-awaited finished state!

*PS:  Googling "French fabric and African baskets" yielded the name of the company:  French Connection.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The First Baskets Quilt

I'd wanted to make a basket quilt for a long time.  I had saved the cover of an old McCall's quilting magazine -- it featured a yellow basket quilt.  I thought someday I might make it.  Meanwhile, I fell in love with a certain black-background print that I discovered in Old Country Store.  I'd bought an unspecified amount and also picked out some coordinates.

My on-line quilting group, Fat Quarters, was doing a little project then where during our birthday month, we would send out some fabric to everyone participant with some instructions, vague or specific, of what was to be done.  I found this basket block, cut some of the black and some of the coordinates and picked out a background and cut some of that and asked for these blocks.  Turned out that I'd not sent quite enough background fabric to some of the participants, and they offered to fill in from similar stash.  I delighted in that idea.  When the blocks came back, I needed to make some more, and deliberately used some similars in parts of some of the blocks.  This was my first basket quilt to be assembled, my first piano key border.

I decided that hand-quilting was the way to go for this special quilt, and asked my then machine quilter to machine baste it for me.  I started the hand quilting about three years ago,  picking it up when there was nothing else going on in the handwork department.  When I was nearly half-way finished the quilting, I discovered that there was a large "bubble" in the backing.  The machinist hadn't gotten the fabric smooth before she began to baste.  I didn't have it in me to rip out all of my quilting and start over.  So I proceeded on, knowing all the while that my very beloved quilt would have a major deficiency when finished.

I finished it last night.  I love the quilt.  And someday I'll get a better photograph so you can see the pretty colors (although that may happen if you click on the photo now) and see some of the blocks where make-do fabric was substituted.

But for now, it is finished.  And, despite it's problematic back side, I love it.  Blackberry does too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Without a Doubt

I wrote earlier about a phenomenon at our church: The Living Last Supper*.

It's been an interesting experience, living with "Thomas" these weeks.  The parts were chosen/assigned at the group's initial meeting.  The Pastor had some suggestions of who might be whom, but first he asked for a volunteer to play Judas.  Pat stepped right up, possibly to the relief of the others.  Endom was asked to be Jesus.  And you already know that my husband became Thomas.

After that first meeting they met in character, trying to fit themselves into the parts.  The doubter had no trouble with that, frequently accusing Jesus of being inconsistent, of talking in circles.  Thomas was apparently a builder, so it was a good fit for an architect.  During discussion, in response the question of "Why did Jesus choose you?" Thomas replied that the two had a business relationship.  As a builder, he often used Jesus for finish carpentry work.  And besides, He already had enough fishermen.

They've studied and worked together, writing their own dialog and helping each other fine-tune things.  Their costumes have been altered.  They've shed their watches, their shoes (Thaddeus, apparently, proposed a group visit to the pedicurist), and their eyeglasses.  The enactment is tomorrow night.

Break a leg, disciples.  Break a leg.

*Yes, it is the original painting.  But the faces have been photoshopped.  Thomas is to the left, wearing teal and holding up one finger.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This Way and That

The batik North Wind blocks have prevailed (prevailing winds from the North, right?) over Dying of Cute.  Those little pink and gray sweethearts have been set aside for a more peaceable time.  For just as these blocks are going this way and that, so am I.  And, frankly, I'm not crazy about it.

Not wanting to settle into a detailed whine, suffice it to say that it's the hiring season at the school where I work and much of my time is spent on tedious detail work.  A committee from church has me at sixes and sevens; I'm having trouble reconciling myself to what they are trying to accomplish.  Worst of all, I'm over-committed in the sewing division:  I agreed to two one-on-one craft swaps and I still have five Pay It Forward projects to produce.  Plus a couple of blocks that I've agreed to make for folks.  And the COW swap to try to organize.  And a quilting workshop I'm putting together for ten days from now.

So, like the North Wind blocks, I'm This Way and That.  Oddly, I have the perfect fabric for the setting triangles already -- it was left over from some other batik project I made.  This Way and That.  It's how I feel, and working on the blocks actually helps me to focus, to settle down, to take pleasure in process.  When life mimics art, or something.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Three Quilts

The weather was finally nice enough for us to hang newly-finished quilts out and photograph them.  We did three.  Most of them have been finished for a while, now, and photos of them in some stage or another have been shared on this blog previously.

Caramel and Indigo Basket remains one of my all-time favorite quilts.  I'm going to put this one away for a grown-up grandchild.

I don't believe I'll ever get my fill of basket quilts.

Sister's Choice with the "blurry" centers.  Scrappy.  A genuine leader-ender project.  This will probably be gifted within the current year.

I think I might start another!

Second Hand Clothes has been finished for a while.  Thanks eternally to Kathy B for putting me on to this terrific pattern.  I'm tickled pink red, orange, and brown with how it turned out!  I love how the nine-patches form what looks like a lattice overlay.

This quilt, as well, will be gifted within the year.  Destination is already determined, just not revealed!

Presently I'm hand-quilting my old Civil War Baskets quilt that I've been working on for pretty many years now.  Unbelievably, I'm halfway through the quilting on the last side of the border and within the month should be binding it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Jewish Cactus and Other Matters

This past December, the Christmas Cactus didn't bloom. And we didn't know why.  We'd thought that those plants bloomed more than once.  Each year, in fact.

Well, yesterday the chef at school told me he'd laid in a mighty supply of matzo and was talking with a couple of the Jewish faculty members about possible interesting lunches for Passover.  And I came and found You Know Who in full bloom!  It's become a Passover Cactus!  Mazel Tov!  Don't worry that the adjacent rabbit is an Easter bunny that is going to offend; the rabbit lives on the sill year-round -- he's a treasure from the home of  a dear friend long gone.

It's been a day of unusual good things.  First, a long-awaited visit from Honna.  It was so good to catch up on what has been going on for each of us.  Joe and Blackberry finished Intermediate Dog School and bounded in just as we were finishing.

Off we went then to the Flourtown Farmer's Market for lunch and shopping for some dinner things for the week ahead and then the Asian produce market for a nice fresh pineapple and some gorgeous asparagus.

And then, the piece de resistance:  a brown paper parcel from England had arrived!  A blog friend had made a quilt using Liberty fabrics and kindly agreed to trade me her scraps in exchange for some neutrals.

Does it get any better than this?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What I'm Up To

I'm working on two very different projects right now.   This is "Dying of Cute."  The HSTs are all made and each night I trim eighteen of them.  I assemble sixteen into a block and set the other two aside to go into another block sometime later on.

I love the fabrics, and I love the look of the blocks, and most especially I love how they work together to look like alternating rings of pink and gray.  I'm going to love the quilt when it is finished.

But it is not the most challenging or rewarding project.

On another part of the design wall, however, we have what is presently exciting me.  I had bought these batik FQs when I was in Richmond with a plan to make a quilt out of the Kaffe book that I purchased the same day.

And then I got this other idea.  And I figured Kaffe wasn't going to go anyplace.  I had to make some North Wind blocks.  I just had to.  And I'm loving them.  So much.  I make two identical blocks each night.

So that is what I'm up to these evenings.  There's a kind of a rhythm to it, a predictability.  Which is really rather nice, right now.  What are you up to?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hey, Diana!

Well, that there Jennifer Chiaverini book is about to be mailed.  I asked Himself to pick a number between 1 and 22, the number of comments I received.  He chose 17,

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pick me, pick me!!! I have not read her books but on my next trip to the library will look up the author. I would love to read her book and definitely would pass it on. It will get a whole new audience here on the West coast. Your CA cuz

My blogless cousin Diana is a lucky person, IMNSHO.  About 15 years ago, I made a quilt for the marching band to raffle and Diana happened to be in town and bought a bunch of raffle tickets.  Yup, she won.  She's now a ticket holder for another raffle quilt, the one I made for the church mission trip.  That drawing won't be for a couple of months yet.

Been working on my pink and gray blocks as well as a new project of North Wind blocks made from batiks. Pics to follow.

And that's all for tonight.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Need a Read?

A friend gave me this book for Christmas, and I finished reading it last week.  It is a collection of three short novels -- or novellas -- by that there Elm Creek writer, Jennifer Chiaverini.  If you like her writing, you'll like this book.

I told the woman who gave it to me that I would pass it along when I finished, and she thought that was a good idea.

So, if you would like this book, leave a comment to that effect, also promising to pass it along when finished.

I'll have my random number generator/design wall/wonderful husband select a number on Monday evening.

Oh, and PAM!  I still need your address from my charm pack give-away.  You sent it to me and somehow it got eaten up.  If I don't hear from you by Tuesday morning, I'm going to give the charm pack to the book winner as a bonus.

That's it for today.  Back to some quilty content tomorrow.  I think.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Music Has Charms to Soothe

I've seen the videos of the flash mobs, you know, where you are at a food court waiting for your corned beef special and all at once you are made aware that some of your fellow shoppers/diners are something more:  they are members of a choir, and a performance has begun, right there, amidst the stir-fry stand and the burger place.  I love these videos and have wished and wished to be somewhere when it happened.

Today: The next best thing.  I was sitting at my desk, stressed to the second power by things at work and things in my other, my real life.  Someone had just left after trying to change a project I'd just spent the better part of two days completing.  I was thinking thoughts too unQuakerly to even verbalize . . . .

Then I noticed a group gathering in the lobby.  Quietly.  So I went out to see what was happening.  There was the Copenhagen Girls Choir, visiting our school today as part of the United States tour.  They sang.  They opened their mouths and this lovely, lovely sound emerged and dissolved my stress.  Later in the day I had the opportunity to hear them again at an assembly.

Serendipitously, much earlier in the morning, I had read this post by one Mike Croghan, as part of a little exercise in visiting links on blogs I follow.  I liked it so much, but certainly didn't expect to be reminded of it just a few hours later!

"Music has Charms to soothe a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak"

And remind one of God.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Bovine Experience

Pat's mooing away today; her topic is frustration with the slowness of some mail order fabric purveyors.  There was a time when most of us found seven to ten business days to be about right for receiving a mail order delivery. Some retailers, however, have raised the bar so consistently, that three or four days has become our expectation.  I'm not going to name names; Pat's done that already and there's no reason to duplicate her effort. She's in moderate, not quite full-blown COW* mode.

Pat's not the first reader or quilter to appreciate the COW concept.  And after reading her post this morning, I got to thinking that it might be fun to make cow quilts in our own honor!

Anyone up for swapping cow blocks, details to be worked out?  This could be fun!

If this appeals to moo, please leave a comment, being certain that I have a way to get back to you.

Yours for a bovine experience,

*Cranky Old Woman

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Itsy Bitsy is a Flimsy

Nancy picked Number Two for April's UFO Challenge.  But somehow I got scrambled and got out Number One to work on!

This one was easy.  My goal for Itsy Bitsy was to get it to flimsy stage and then put it away until it is needed before quilting and binding.

It is finished, as of tonight (my earliest finish in this challenge), folded, and put away.

The blocks finish at 4.5" and the lattice is 1/2".  I made about half of them and my friend, former blogger Jan, made the other half.  We each made identical twin blocks and traded.

It's a small quilt.  But a lovely one.

It is early enough in the month that I believe I could get out Number Two, French Provincial Squares and get to work on it.  Seems like the right thing to do.  It is very different from Itsy Bitsy.

PS:  Pam!  Would you email me please?  I've lost the email with your address in it and I want to send you your charm pack.