Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Here it is the last day of 2005, and I have to say the year just flew by. Yesterday I spent the day sewing with my fun SIL Diane. We are good friends as well as relatives by marriage, and we used to have these get togethers often before she and her husband John took off on their retirement travels. They are shipping their boat from Australia to Florida and are in town for a while before the next round of trips. The good news is that they are back in the U.S. and we will see them more often.

Last night we had yet another family gathering, and tonight we are off for dinner out and a little New Year's Eve party. We plan to toast the New Year on Eastern Time (9pm here) and then get home safely and into our pj's before the rest of the party goers hit the road. Wild, aren't we? It has been raining steadily all day, and so added to the likelihood of drunks on the road is the undisputed fact that Southern Californians don't know how to drive in bad weather. Seriously.

Tomorrow I will take down all the decorations and pack them away, using the time to reflect on the year that has passed and the one that is to come. Being a part of this ring has been terrific. You all have given me laughs, inspiration, ideas, enrichment...all I can say is thanks! I'm looking forward to seeing what next year will bring!

Have a safe and Happy New Year's celebration!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Under the Tree

Several people have been sharing what they gave and received this year. Besides my special and lovely quilt (see below) , some super-fantastic gifts I received were (drumroll, please) :

a new Elna sewing machine
I actually bought this myself after going around test-driving them all over town. I personally liked this one the best, AND I got a good price. I am still learning all it can do, and have the option to take a class if I want to. My favorite features so far are the start/stop button, the thread cutting button, and the presser foot knee-lift. There are tons of fancy stitches, including a couple of alphabets. The main feature I was after was the enlarged quilting space on the sewing bed, and that is nice and roomy for FMQ

EQ 5 Quilting software OK I realize I may be the last quilter in America to own this software. I have no idea what to do with it, but I bought the "package" which includes Blockbase and five (count 'em -5-) books of instruction. Surely I can master it in short order with so much instruction available

AN IPOD NANO! Yes, I am shouting, I am so excited. This thing is tiny, light, and has wonderful sound. The BEST part is that Jerry has already loaded over 500 songs on it (from our own CD collection). Here is another thing I haven't learned how to do yet, but I will in short order. The other gifts I bought for myself, but this was a wonderful surprise. Well, it wasn't a complete surprise since I saw Jerry messing around with the downloads, but it is WONDERFUL.

Alas, I was not as clever in choosing a great surprise for Jerry. The clothing I bought for him was entirely predictable. The other Christmas gifts were of his OWN choosing and purchasing since they are things I haven't a clue about. He got a new HD video camera, and special underwater housing with lights and so forth for filming while scuba diving. Turns out this entailed purchasing a new computer and new software for HD editing purposes as well.
He is really, really happy.

My son already had an iPod he was given for his birthday in November, so his gifts included a pre-paid download card for music. He was as happy with that as anything else. His other gifts included clothes, books, and cash.

Let me just add that this was an exceptionally generous Christmas, and we aren't usually this extravagent. We had both been planning the big purchases for quite a LONG time.
The best gifts I gave, and the most appreciated, were, without a doubt, the quilts I made. One was actually a family project and went to my neice, and one was for the annual quilt exchange (extensively covered in previous blog entries).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Light and Warmth

I feel like I am finally catching my breath after what has been a wonderful Christmas celebration lasting, oh, two weeks or so. Since I wrote last we have had several more family gatherings, some where I was a happy guest, and some where I was the busy hostess (not less happy, just too busy until AFTER the party to notice). We had our largest family party early this year since several people had plans to leave town. On Christmas Eve we had a more intimate gathering of ten at my SIL Jane's house. Jane has a passionate interest in cooking, and she reads things like "Gourmet" and "Bon Appetit", so you know when you go there you are in for a treat. Jane raised only boys and none of them have an interest in cooking, so I think she was delighted when our neice Colleen turned out to share her passion. (Our nephew Jeff also is an epicurian and a fine chef in the making, but he was out of town.) The two of them worked all day together in the kitchen. Here is what we were served: A lovely creamy crab bisque soup, a tender filet mignon with savory mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes flavored with horseradish, european greens lightly dressed in vinagrette, and freshly baked rosemary bread presented in a Christmas tree shape. We had wine, water, and coffee to drink. For dessert we had a lovely layered sorbet creation topped with fresh mango and rasberries. Just in case that was not enough, lavish platters of cookies, peppermint bark and truffles made the rounds.

After all that good food and wine, perhaps I can be forgiven for nodding off periodically during midnight mass. I took the precaution of telling my nephew Kevin (seated next to me) to nudge me if he saw me fading fast. My favorite portion of the service comes at the end when the lights are lowered and we light our candles, passing the flame one to another, until the church is filled
with a glowing light. While we do this, we sing "Silent Night", and as the voices swell and the light grows, it gives me chills every time. I can feel the memories of Christmas crowding in and feel the presence of all the family members I loved and lost standing with me. Tradition brings life to memories.

At our house, the food is usually basic, but it is homecooked, tasty, and plentiful. On Christmas morning we brought Jerry's father over for a breakfast of omelets, homefried potatoes, bacon, sausage, and lemon poppyseed muffins. We had classic Christmas carols (think Bing Crosy and "White Christmas") playing in the background, and a lovely fire in the fireplace. Despite a wet fog early in the day, we had to run around opening windows to get the place cool enough for a fire. Jerry trekked up the hill to the woodpile for just the right logs, but it was worth it to see how much his dad enjoyed the fire. Clyde is 90 years young, and we treasure the time we have with him. He has a story or memory to share for every occasion. After a nice visit, we took him home for his nap.

Yesterday I made lasagna dinner for Clyde, my nephew Kevin, and his girlfriend Deb. We packed the whole lot up in laundry baskets and took it to their house. Along with the lasagna, I fixed a pretty salad and some steamed asparagus. I picked up some hot french bread from the handy Von's bakery, and I made a fast peach cobbler for dessert. I don't use a written recipe for my lasagna, but I always use fresh herbs, chopped mushrooms and veggies, and a nice red wine in the sauce (you know, one glass for the dish, one for the cook. ) After dinner, I packed up the leftover lasagna in single serving boxes for their freezer.

Today I am grateful to be home with no special plans. I may very well remain in sweat pants all day, spending some quality time at the computer or in my studio. I should at all costs avoid useless television, but it is possible I will find a schmaltzy old movie to watch. The best part of all this is that it is GUILT FREE because I have a whole week of vacation left. The house cleaning, closet cleaning, decoration packing, can wait. And that planning for the remodeling project, that can wait too.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Last of the Party Quilts

Here are the last of the quilts from our annual Christmas quilt exchange. The top quilt (a bullseye) is a great one to use up "ugly" or outdated fabrics. Once you get the quilt together you never notice them. A fun idea for a quilting group is to get together and cut up all your "uglies" and share them to make bullseye quilts. It's also one of those scrappy quilts that can look completely different depending on the border.

The middle quilt has lots of Civil War reproduction fabrics, heavily featuring pink and brown.
Joan was delighted with it since she loves these fabrics and they go perfectly in her newly redecorated bedroom.

The last quilt has a country picnic sort of look in the blues that Diane loves. Our friend Diane nearly died this year following a botched surgery (in Mexico) and resulting infection, so we are grateful that she is still with us.

Today I finished the last of the shopping (including grocery shopping) and wrapping. Tomorrow we are not the hosts, but we will spend special evening time with family. Christmas day we will spend some time with Jerry's dad and also have some quiet family time. Whatever your observance, may you be blessed with a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More quilts

Here are a couple more quilts from the exchange. It's hard to see in the picture, but the pumpkin quilt has alternate blocks of half log cabins. Both quilts have traditional (turned not fused) applique. There are lots of scrappy burgandy/red pieces in the top quilt.

Yesterday was pretty hectic. Somehow I managed to schedule major medical appointments 3 days before Christmas, what was I thinking? So the morning was spent enduring assorted indignities, being poked and prodded and squashed. Gotta love those mamograms. Ouch. More fun to come as I now need to call and schedule a colon cancer screening. Ah, the joys of turning 50... all this on top of those annoying mailings from AARP.

I rewarded myself by stopping by the fabric store, but I didn't bring home too much, just a little black fabric, a piece of something very textured looking, and a tiny bit of stripey stuff.
I went to work in the afternoon, and it passed quickly. All worth it because now I'm ON VACATION. I hope to get outside and do some fabric painting during my time off after Christmas. I do this indoors as well, but it is a much more lady-like process with smaller quantities of fabric. I am feeling the need to really FLING some paint, and soon. Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

the Oh My Gosh quilt

Here is another quilt from our quilt exchange. For obvious reasons, this quilt is called "Oh My Gosh". The version my friend made has over 4,000 pieces, and if you make it as large as the pattern, it has over 6,000. I think we can safely add this one to the list of quilts I will NEVER make. I do love the scrappiness of it, but I find that it is a quilt that needs to be appreciated up close.

Other happenings: oral surgery for my son this past Friday (he'll be fine), completing the binding on another gift quilt (basic but made with pretty Christmas fabric), a fun family Christmas gift exchange party on Saturday, a visit from my SIL Diane who is back from Australia (yeah) on Sunday. Now I'm finishing up various things at work before having vacation next week. Hope you all are surviving the holiday madness...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hans Hoffman

"Art is to me the glorification of the human spirit, and as such it is the cultural documentation of the time in which it is produced.."

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.."

A few of Hoffman's students: Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Larry Rivers, Fritz Bultman, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Wolf Kahn.

Hans Hofmann was born in Weissenburg, Germany in 1880 and studied in his home country at Munich. He came across the influence of the Impressionists, the Fauves, and the Cubists in Paris in the early 1900’s. He began his own school in Munich in 1915, then moved his school to New York in 1931, where he taught his technique of improvisation. Hofmann’s work is insistent upon color, texture, and form, his experimentation with these aspects helping to develop Abstract Expressionism in America. He died in 1966.

See more here.
Read "Is Modernism a Classical Form?" at

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More Quilt Party Pictures

Thanks to everyone who commented. I thought I would show you a few more "quilt party" pictures. Hey, there were thirteen quilts exchanged, I can get at least a couple more days of blog mileage out of it!

For those of you who asked, I received the beautiful quilt done in fall colors and I made the red and tan two color quilt. Now you know it was a labor of love (done FOR the other person) if it was only two colors!

A word or two about the quilts pictured here. The top one was the quilter's first large quilt (she just joined our group last year). The second one with a "prarie point" border was made by a mother for a daughter. If I ever think I want to make something with points like this, just have me committed. The third bright one in red and yellow was so far out of the quiltmaker's comfort zone that she agonized over it for months (she doesn't usually make bright colored quilts). Whether you are making traditional quilts, or quilt art, I think that working outside your "comfort zone" can be a rewarding experience.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Quilty Christmas Party

It's the time of year for parties. As of yesterday, I have been to four, one of which was a somewhat impromptu dinner for nine at my house on Saturday. They were all family members, one in from out of town. I am lucky that Jerry is a fine cook, so when we entertain it is a team effort. This time he fixed some tasty smoked salmon and grilled chicken. The Christmas lights and candles filled the house with a beautiful glow, and we had a wonderful time.

My absolute favorite party of the year is the one with my small group of quilting friends. It's the party just for us, the one where we all feel special. For a little while we let down our hair and don't worry about husbands or children, or anything else for that matter. I love this group of women. Over the years we have had plenty of comiseration, coffee and laughter. It's the best therapy you can imagine.

One of our traditions at Christmas is a "quilt exchange". In January every year, we draw names, make quilts for each other, and exchange them at Christmas. Each quiltmaker works very hard to create something that is "just right" for the recipient. Most of us give quilts but don't receive them, so this is special and wonderful for each of us.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wintertime Andy

More Andy Goldsworthy for your admiration and inspiration. I thought these wonderful winter time pieces were appropriate for December. Besides the beauty of the forms in the environment, the thing about Goldsworthy that just grabs me is the intentionally temporary nature of his art. I know that is all part and parcel of his statement, of what he does, that temporal quality. Then I thought about what it would be like for me as an artist, if I knew at the outset that my work would be very temporary. Quilters have a strong notion of "heirloom" and passing things from generation to generation, and I love that. How different from the notion of creating something "temporary"...

I've been working, shopping, and preparing for Christmas, so not a lot of art is happening in my work room. One gift quilt is partially bound and maybe a third of the gift ornaments are finished. I dashed into Kohl's and found a couple of silky shirts with just a hint of metallic thread to give some sparkle. Paired with black pants or skirt, they will do nicely for Christmas parties. When I lose weight again I'll happily cut them up for the fabric stash.

I love seeing the creative output, artistic process, philosophical discussion, and even family chat from you all. Hope someday soon to make it all the way around the ring!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

'Tis the Season

Well, it's that crazy time of year, lots and lots of holiday activity. I have been busy working on finishing two "gift" quilts, both of which are traditional and both of which need binding (ugh) this week. I am pleased with them, though, because I know they are just right for the recipients. I am also making some small ornaments to be enclosed with gifts. (sorry, no pictures, have to keep that surprise factor).

It's been really, really cold at night (seriously, it hit the 30's last night), but nice during the day, highs in the 60's or low 70's. I truly love California at this time of year, crisp fresh air, bright sunshine, and no snow unless I decide to go visit it.

This weekend I will be attending two parties and I'm excited about both of them. There's another at work next week. It's dawning on me that I have nothing festive to wear, maybe an after work shopping trip is in order? I hate shopping for clothes when my weight is up, but I think I need to bite the bullet. If I were as amazingly talented as Lisa, (or some of the rest of you) I would make something stunning to wear, but that's not going to happen. I don't want to invest a lot of money in a big size, so this will be a real challenge.

I see that some people are working on exercises from "Color and Composition" by Katie Pasquini Masopust, and I hope I can find the time to join in. Aside from holiday prep, there's that pesky day job cutting into my available time. I might have to do this in January after things slow down.

Hope everyone is having fun with their holiday prep. 'Tis the season.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson, Russian-born American Abstract Expressionist Sculptor, 1899-1988. If you have time to browse,
see more here.
Read a facinating 1972 interview with Louise Nevelson here.