Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Birds

It's that time again.

An important part of Christmas for me since I've become a blogger is to publish my friend Frank's poem that he shared with me many years ago. I've shared it each year with my readers, and -- God willing -- I will do it again next year, and the next and the next.





THE BIRDS



IT WASN'T THAT HE DIDN'T LIKE CHRISTMAS

HE ENJOYED THE HOLIDAY FUN

ALL THE BRIGHT COLORS AND SUDDEN GOOD WILL

AND THE CHILDREN'S HAPPY SUSPENSE


BUT HE COULDN'T BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS

IN THE INCARNATION I MEAN

GOD LIVING A MAN-LIFE LIKE HIS? WHAT FOR?

IT JUST DIDN'T MAKE SENSE TO HIM



HE SAT BY THE FIRE

WARM IN HIS HOME

ON CHRISTMAS EVE ALONE

THE FAMILY GONE OFF TO MIDNIGHT MASS



HE HEARD A THUMP AT THE WINDOW

AND THEN ANOTHER

SOME MISCHIEF BOY OUT FOR FUN HE THOUGHT

HE WENT TO THE WINDOW TO CHASE HIM WITH A GLANCE


BUT FOUND NO BOY

BUT A SPARROW FLOCK

LURED BY THE LIGHT AND SIGHT OF WARMTH

HAD TRIED TO COME THROUGH HIS WINDOW


THEY HUDDLED NOW IN THE SNOW

WITH NO PLACE TO GO

AND HE FELT COMPASSION FOR THEM

HE PUT ON HIS BOOTS AND JACKET AND SCARF

AND OUT HE WENT TO OPEN THE GARAGE

TO GIVE THEM SHELTER


BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME

SO HE TURNED ON THE LIGHT

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME


HE WENT AND GOT BREAD

AND THREW IT MANNA LIKE UPON THE SNOW

A PATH TO FOLLOW

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME


HE TRIED TO HERD THEM IN

SHOUTING AND WAVING HIS ARMS

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME


I'M SCARING THEM HE THOUGHT

I'M SO BIG COMPARED TO THEM

AND DIFFERENT


IF BUT FOR A MOMENT I COULD BE A SPARROW

I COULD LEAD THEM THROUGH THE DOOR

I COULD LEAD THEM THROUGH.....THE DOOR



FRANK A. VOLLMER 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Give-Away Winner

Thank you to the twenty-eight people who committed to Random Acts of Kindness. The give-away winner is Sue, who wrote:

My neighbor has been so supportive since my husband died earlier this year. She cares for her 18month old grandson. I'm offering to keep him tomorrow so she can finish her Christmas shopping.

I enjoy reading your blog, your quilting projects are often just my style. I like traditional with a twist or two!


Sue, please email me with your name and mailing address and your mystery gift will be in the mail shortly.

Monday, December 14, 2015

1985

This is my 1985th post since I began blogging a good many years ago.  I had anticipated having my 2000th post before the end of 2015 and holding a big celebration.

It doesn't look as though that is going to happen.

So how about a mystery give-away now, in anticipation?

I don't know yet exactly what it will be. Definitely there will be something handmade by me. Prolly there will be a pattern. More than likely, a little fabric will be involved. It won't be as big a package as the picture shows and it certainly will not be wrapped that beautifully.

To have a chance to win, just leave a comment about one Random Act of Kindness you performed or will perform today, keeping in mind these things: (1) If you are a no-reply commenter, I won't know how to contact you unless you provide your email address. (2) Please don't publicize my give-away on your blog; this is just for my regular readers (who have faithfully followed even during my recent periods of silence). (3) If you're a reader but not a quilter, the handmade item is something you will be able to use and enjoy, and you just might know a quilter who would appreciate any quilty items!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Two More


This lively quilt that was so much fun to make will be going to its rightful owner later this month. The recipient is -- I think -- not a blog reader.




This quilt is made from 6" CW fabric blocks, some of which came from The Farmer's Wife and others just because I like them. The quilt is a gift for someone who needs a reminder to take a nap.


Friday, December 11, 2015

A Boy or a Girl?


The autistic school where I spend three mornings each week might be called a hotbed of fertility. Nearly all of the teachers are in their late-twenties-to-early-thirties, so it is understandable. One of my favorites is expecting a boy or a girl later this month. I enjoyed making this Kaffe-ish quilt for that little one.


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

May

Who's that woman in that picture? It's May Boatwright from The Secret Life of Bees. The woman who feels everyone else's sorrows so deeply that most sadness wrecks her.

People have asked me why my blogging has fallen off of late. I think it is because I have a new understanding of May. I don't feel like my usual jolly, creative, happy, peaceful self.

I am terribly saddened by the violence that seems to be everywhere. The Paris massacre occurred during a weekend getaway with a group of quilters, taking the edge off of the joy of being together. Then there was San Bernardino. And so many other senseless shootings. Someone said, "You know what's the worst thing about today's shooting? That it's today's shooting."

I am incredulous that most of the leaders of this country don't see a need for more stringent gun control. I am disgusted with those who say that guns don't kill people; people do. I am appalled that a distant (and growing more distant) relative supports the NRA.

And then there's the candidate. What he is saying, what he is proposing, is so horrific that I don't even think I have the words. Worse, apparently there really are Americans who support this racist, egotistical man (probably that relative, I fear).

I thought about not reading the news anymore, but that would be irresponsible and, besides, it's all over Facebook.

So I'm kind of hunkering down and focusing more intently on the family, reveling in the small successes of my autistic students, sewing as much as I can, and generally avoiding much of the world.

I'm an empathetic person. That's what makes me a good hospital chaplain. But being empathetic has its downside, I'm discovering. I feel like May Boatwright.



Pink


Each spring my granddaughter's ballet school director holds a massive tea party at the ballet school to benefit Susan G. Komen. Last year I asked if she would like a little girl's quilt for the raffle area; she would. I told her I would make a quilt for her tea party every year that Caroline takes dance lessons. Here is my quilt for this year. While I have some issues with Susan G. Komen, I have nothing but admiration for Jane Lopoten and her ballet school.


Monday, December 07, 2015

The Gang's All Here


Honestly, I don't know where November went! Seemed like we were just morning-after-Halloween and now here we are, well into December.

I picked up some quilts from the machinist right before Thanksgiving and now they are all bound and ready for their recipients.

My younger granddaughter Aberdeen doesn't read my blog, so I'm feeling as though it is safe to post this photo. This quilt was begun back in the summer of 2012 during the Olympics, when I organized a swap with a whole lot of other enthusiastic quilters, some of whom live in different countries. It was quilted with a paper-doll design. I suppose the sashing interferes with the idea of all of these diverse children holding hands, but I thought they would show better with some space between them. I love this quilt and I hope Aberdeen does, too. It will be her Christmas present.

Many of the athletes are no longer in the news, such as that cute British guy in the tiny swimsuit at the start of row three. He has a french knot for a belly button. Usain Bolt is in the center of the top row, and that darling American gymnast is somewhere in her purple leotard. I thoroughly enjoyed every step of making this quilt.

My gratitude to Lynn for getting us going on this wonderful idea.


Friday, November 20, 2015

For The Birds!


Last month, I wrote in this post about our experience of being landlords to a colony of sparrows. I told how we'd finally taken the time to take all of the birdhouses apart and clean out a couple of years' worth of nest accumulation. I went on to say that when we were finished, I had taken some scraps of batting and put them on the floors of the houses, hoping to provide a soft foundation for the occupants' winter use.

I was proud. I felt virtuous. Not only was His eye on the sparrow, but so was mine!

I was in for a surprise.

They didn't like the batting. They really didn't like the batting.

First we found one of the batts on the ground. We thought I had cut one too many and dropped it. But then we found another. And one day Joe saw the event pictured above: The occupants of that birdhouse were pulling the batt out of the house!


Here it is happening again in the upper level of the duplex.

One sparrow couple worked so hard to get it out, but it got stuck in the door hole and was there for a couple of days.

We intervened. We pulled it the rest of the way out. And then checked to remove the batts from the other houses. We want happy tenants. We didn't know. We were trying to help. We were foolish.

On Monday of this week, all at once, we saw sparrows flying back and forth, hauling dried grasses and things to the door holes. It was time to start their winter nests.

Without any help from the landlords.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gato Limpio!


Here's the story on this flimsy: 
  • A couple of years ago when the Renegades were off at a quilting retreat, the topic of paper piecing arose. People either did or did not like paper piecing. There wasn't much in the way of middle ground. I declared, "I'd rather give a cat a bath than paper piece."
  • This month, a particularly talented member of our Guild was Queen Bee. She gave each of us some arcs for paper piecing and some fabric for the alternate spokes. We were to add whatever else we wanted. Generous Sarah also gave us additional arcs, as well as patterns for centers and shoulders. She said we could make arcs for ourselves, but please not to share the pattern as yet.
  • I chuckled and tried to think who I could get to do that paper piecing for me and asked all my friends who had dirty cats if they would do it. 
  • Not really.
  • I made Sarah's arcs; they were not only remarkably easy but actually fun!
  • I made more and more arcs. After awhile Joe said, "What are you going to do with all those?"
  • I was stuck for an answer. So he created a design.
  • I bought cerise fabric. I made mylar patterns for centers and arcs.
This weekend was the Guild autumn weekend retreat. I took all of my arcs, my patterns, my white fabric, my cerise, and Joe's design.

And now *Gato Limpio! is a flimsy!






*Clean Cat in Spanish

Saturday, November 07, 2015

A Nice Outing

We drove up to northern New Jersey yesterday and took the ferry to Ellis Island. Neither of us had ever been before, and while I'd thought it would be a nifty outing, we just never got around to it until I learned that my great-niece is doing an internship there this semester. Funny how that became the impetus to take the trip!

We learned a lot. My impression previously was that Ellis Island was a dreadful place where immigrants were mistreated. I learned otherwise.  Yes, of course the sheer numbers of individuals meant that they were managed like cattle. But not mistreated. It was the steamship companies who brought the people via steerage who abused them, causing many to become ill before landing.

The museum/park was so interesting. We like to start with the orientation film. The National Parks do a terrific job with that. Throughout the museum were black-and-white images, information plaques, and artifacts. Joe observed that the dormitory set-up reminded him of the berthing compartment on a Navy ship. One thing that I noticed was in the food area: The menu for the day was posted (including beef stew for the main meal three consecutive days!) and pieces of the china and silver services were shown. Most people were processed within a day; some were hospitalized until they were healthy enough to be admitted, and actually only two percent of the immigrants were rejected and sent back home -- at the expense of the steamship company.

We had a surprisingly tasty lunch with Abby at the cafe on the premises; we caught up with what is going on in her life and her aspirations for the future. She recommended we visit the Tenement Museum in NYC, and I'm already looking for a date to do just that!



Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Mercy Quilts for Veterans

Our monthly hand-sewing group, the Uvulati, met on Tuesday night. We've been together for pretty many years, gathering on the first (or second) Tuesday of each month to work on binding, hand-piecing, hand-quilting, embroidery, hexies, whatever, while we solve the problems of the world and sing a little as moved by the spirit. Over the summer, we usually try to each produce a quilt for a charity that we've agreed on and this year we made small lap quilts for hospice patients at the VA Hospital. Six of us brought ours this  month; there are two more to be collected at the December meeting and then they'll be delivered.













Sunday, November 01, 2015

Scrabbling with Speedy

These internet relationships, well, they're complicated.

It was in the late 90s, when the world wide web was still very new to me, and a virtual friend named Desertsky (pronounced Desert Sky, not de-ZERT-ski) invited me to join a small internet group list called "Fat Quarters." Her friend Bonnie Hunter and another friend Jill [surname forgotten] had decided it would be fun to form a new group of people who mostly didn't already know each other. I "met" a fabulous group of women through this group, many of whom I'm still in contact with today, even though the list became defunct as blogs and Facebook bloomed. Most of us are minimally connected through FB.

Early on, Marilyn and I hit it off. A prolific quilter, Marilyn soon became known as "Speedy." She was full of ideas, and actually carried them out. No stack of UFOs for that gal. At one point, she and I decided to deplete our flannel stashes by making pairs of blocks, sending half to each other, and putting them together for charity quilts. We must have made a half-dozen each.

Marilyn and Kathy came to Lancaster at one point early on, and I drove out to meet them for lunch. That was the sum-total of our in-person experience. One lunch. But we had so much more. She encouraged me as I explored the possibility of hospital chaplaincy. I supported her as she watched her husband lose his cancer battle. I could always count on her for a word of wisdom; she told me once that I was "a constant in her life."

Marilyn participated in most of the block swaps I ran over the years, with Speedy always being the first to send in her creations. And they were perfect. And beautiful. She was a generous and thoughtful friend. Spontaneous gifts would show up in my mailbox with no identification, no return address, just the suspicious postmark "Corte Madera, CA."

As a Scrabble opponent, she was the best ever. A linguistics major, Marilyn knew more words than anyone I've ever met. I used to have fun creating definitions for ones that she would spring on me, and we'd go back and forth, refining and improving said definitions. I'm a decent Scrabble player, but on the occasions when I'd defeat Marilyn, I'd feel exuberantly proud. Especially since most of the time in my games with her my rack would be filled with one-point vowels and the occasional N. I connected Marilyn with the next-best Scrabbler I know, my nephew Scott. The two of them trounced me regularly.

In the middle of last week, a side message on a Scrabble game said, "Missed a step. In the hospital with two pelvic fractures." I responded appropriately -- telling her the hospital was MY turf -- and then the game went quiet. I imagined she hadn't had her phone charger with her and the phone battery needed juice. Yesterday I started to worry. Surely someone would have intervened and helped charge that phone. "Worrying about you," I texted.

The phone call this afternoon was from a number in San Francisco. Turns out it was Marilyn's number, but it was her son calling to tell me she'd died in her sleep, probably not long after playing "BA" for eighteen points.

Like I say, it's complicated. One lunch together, about twenty years ago. And so much more: laughter, blocks, wisdom, camaraderie, faithful friendship. And an unfinished Scrabble game.





Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trick or Treat!

As a kid, I loved Halloween. Back then we used to write Hallowe'en. That seems to have fallen out of favor.

Anyway, I would start planning my costume very early, and usually my father was the one who would help me. One year we had a Howdy Doody facemark, and Daddy cut a couple of holes in a big brown box so I could be Howdy Doody on TV.

I enjoyed helping my kids plan their costumes and often Joe was the one who made them happen. I was okay with making the bunny-out-of-a-pillowcase costume for two-year-old Andrew, but it took Dad's expertise the year Sherry was the bag of groceries.

We moved into our current home back in 1999 and the first year we had approximately three callers on Halloween before the big, uncostumed teenagers showed up. There just weren't little ones on our block. The next year, and a few years after that, we went to the Philadelphia Orchestra Halloween performances, and when those ended, we just started going to the movies.

A couple of years ago we noticed that the neighborhood was changing. There were young families moving in, and they were reproducing! So for the past couple of years, I would pick up treats and stop at their homes to deliver them on Halloween afternoon, and then we would go to the movies. This year, for the first time in so long, we're staying home and open for business! I can think of twelve potential guests from our very own block, and I imagine there will be more. We have a big bowl of Snickers, a couple pair of strategically placed mustache glasses, and Joe outdid himself carving perhaps the finest punkin ever. Bring 'em on!





Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kaffe-ish Baskets


More baskets have been born to join the first two that I made at Black Rock.

I don't know how many more there will be. Enough so that it isn't immediately apparent that there are two of each. But not so many that it turns into a great, big bed-size quilt.

I love basket blocks. The first two are my favorite from this batch. But more will come.

As I think about these baskets, it occurs to me that I really like the "base" -- what the basket sits on -- for the first two baskets (the ones at the very bottom of the photo) and I believe I'm going to remove the other six bases and make the base consistent throughout the quilt.

I've got an amazing leader-ender at present, too. The Queen Bee for November designs paper-piecing patterns, and when she gave us the papers to piece the blocks for her, she generously gave us extras plus the recipe for completing the blocks.  So I'm trying this as a L-E for a while. It is an easy paper-piecing pattern, otherwise, well, you know how I feel about that technique. I'd rather give a cat a bath.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Black Rock, October, 2015

I spent the weekend in Quarryville at the Black Rock Retreat Center with seven other women. Each of us worked on her own project(s), and most of us accomplished quite a bit.

Not long before we went away I discovered a bunch of CW F'sW blocks that I had made during my Civil War phase. I'd even begun to set them, but then the war ended and the blocks got packed away. I finished setting them and arranged them in rows and columns earlier in the week, and even got a couple of rows assembled.

So the first thing I did after setting up was to finish this quilt. It will measure about 60x60 (there will be no borders but just a nice brown binding) and will go to a friend who is going through a tough time and needs a reminder to take naps!

After getting that top completed, I pieced a couple of backs and made four bindings. These are tasks I'm not crazy about and never get around to doing at home. Being in a group of chattery colleagues means I need some projects that don't require intense concentration, and backs and bindings certainly meet that requirement.

Last autumn when I was Queen Bee I requested red, orange and yellow CDs on black-on-white fabric and just the opposite. Most of the participants followed directions. On a sewing Saturday a few weeks ago, I managed to get the sides on these blocks and was so exasperated at the completion of that step that I could go no farther. I laid the blocks all out in our work room at the retreat, and it didn't take any time at all for me to turn them into a quilt. This happy project doesn't have a designated recipient as yet.

Someone did me a big favor by purchasing something for me that I couldn't get locally. She wouldn't let me reimburse her, so I decided she should be compensated with a nice, large, shopping bag.

Actually, I made two bags almost identical. The other is a dark gray fabric with a limey lining. I have one more pay-it-forward to complete for 2015 and this is going to be it.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks these bags will be in the mail on the way to their recipients.






Having accomplished everything on my list by the start of day on Sunday, I decided to play! My friend Julie had sent me a collection of gorgeous cool-colored hand-dyes, and I knew they would make superb backgrounds for these baskets that had been whirling around in my head. I was right.

You all know that I never met a basket block that I didn't like, and these are no exception. This is going to be a very, very fun project.

It was wonderful to be away with girlfriends. In the workroom next door to us were a group of scrapbookers; one of them came over to tell us they had booked a massage therapist and were any of us interested in a session? Half of us responded in the affirmative and the masseuse gave us her card for future getaways. Honna and I stopped at a diner on the way home for a light lunch. Joe and Blackberry were both happy to see me return.



Monday, October 12, 2015

Ohio Weekend

We spent the past weekend visiting people we hadn't seen in a long, long time. On Thursday afternoon we left Blackberry at the kennel and drove to University Park, Pennsylvania, where my brother-in-law is a professor at Penn State and his wife has just retired from a demanding job in social work. We were greeted by their whacko golden retriever, Myka, who entertained us by discovering again and again and yet AGAIN her own tail which was of the utmost fascination to her. Bob served us a delicious dinner that included a grown up version of the old favorite green bean casserole; his featured fresh beans from his garden, cremini mushrooms, and goat cheese, topped with the famous french fried onion rings. Golly, it was delicious! The meal was topped off by Pat's yummy chocolate chip cookies.

After breakfast on Friday we continued on our way to Kent, Ohio, our destination. We'd lived there from August of 1971 until July of 1975 and again just two towns further east, Cuyahoga Falls, from July of 1980 until September of 1982. We stayed with our dear friend Roberta, and spent time both with her and with her sweet husband Lloyd, who is presently residing in a residential care facility following a mysterious febrile seizure several months ago that left him weak and debilitated. Lloyd has been an important figure in my life, and not only because he baptized all of our children. It was hard to see him so weak, but the essential parts of the man -- the terrific smile, the captivating laugh, the reflective mind, all are still functioning just fine, and we spent several hours together during the two days we were in Kent.


On Saturday evening, we went out to dinner with our friend Guenveur; I first met her when we were in a training class to serve as volunteers at a help line/suicide prevention center, and she proved to be a dear friend and role model over many years. Guenveur's an artist, and a couple of years ago she did a series of paintings about the Amish area of Ohio. When she posted them on her blog, I was just smitten. I especially liked the one of the Amish people gathered under a tree and was delighted when she said I could have it and I might also choose another from the series. I picked the group of Amish men at the auction. When we got together this weekend, I got to see the entire series up close and personal, and brought home my two. Guenveur's the kind of person that even when several years have passed between visits, you just pick up right where you left off. We had a nice meal together and when we took her home, her son was there and we spent time with him. I hadn't known her husband who had died too young, and hadn't seen son John in decades. We visited for a while and I had the distinct feeling that John is much like his father: thoughtful, calm, committed, reflective, inquisitive. It was hard to say good night, but we had to because . . . 

. . . we got up at 4:30 on Sunday morning!

Another friend, Bob, serves a congregation in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, not terribly far out of our way traveling home. We wanted to attend his church and we arrived just in time. After the service Bob, his wife Dawn (a spectacular quilter and all-round good person) and their youngest daughter went out to lunch with us. It was wonderful to spend time catching up and learning about each others' families.

We got home late in the afternoon and picked up one very enthusiastic springer spaniel who hasn't left Joe's side since.



Thursday, October 08, 2015

Birthday Party




Birthday Party. Made by Nancy. Named by Janet. Quilted by Mary Ellen. Finished yesterday. Could not wait for a more formal portrait (which will happen later on, I imagine). Had to get it On The Bed.

Each block was designed separately. The center square for each block came from a piece of Kaffe's "Plink" fabric with white background (apparently no longer available). The colors for the rest of the block were determined from the colors in the center motif, and arranged sequentially around, if that makes sense. For example, if the center color in the motif was orange, and the colors around that were green, purple and blue, then the four squares around the motif would be orange, the triangles green, the next squares purple, and the next triangles blue; the outer small triangles were sometimes from the next colors around the motif, sometimes just what I liked there. I used lots of fabric from scrap bags sold by Glorious Color and FQs from my stash. The sashing is grey Guinea Flowers (Guinea Flowers show up in the blocks in a couple of other colors -- it's a favorite of mine) and the outer triangles and cornerstones are shot cottons.

I loved making this quilt and can't wait to sleep under it!


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Baby Blues


Someone I know is expecting a baby boy any day now. 
Blue batiks and polka dots. 
Baby Blues.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Autumn Clean-Out

Here's the responsible landlord hard at work. Finally.

We have been terrible landlords. It has been two years -- possibly three? -- since we cleaned out the birdhouses.

Each autumn, by the time we think of it, some of our sparrows have begun using the houses for winter shelter. And we never have been able to tell exactly when that phase ends and the nesting phase begins.

So today was the day. We have a generous half-dozen residences hanging under our deck, visible from the broad window in the lower level. The red house, in particular, is near to the window where I sew, and I monitor the comings and goings all through the nesting season. We get either three or four sets of baby sparrows from that house each year. And there's no reason to think the occupants of the other houses are any less prolific.
Prime real estate: The Red House.


Here's what we cleaned out of the houses.
Here's a close-up from the red house nest debris

Some of the nest builders used feathers from blue jays and from cardinals to feather their nests. There was a lot of clear cellophane mixed in with each nest. We have a place where we hang yarn and some very small fabric scraps, and most of the builders went for the navy blue yarn. Only one had any fabric scraps.

When each house was cleaned out, I put some batting scraps in the bottom, thinking the sparrows might like the softness and warmth it would provide in the coming winter.




Some of the other residences

Such a satisfying afternoon! I know His eye is on these sparrows, and it's great to help Him out!