Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Surprises and More!

I've been having a lot of fun lately and encountering a  lot of surprises.  I'm working on another project so I was going through my stash more thoroughly than I usually do.  I used to pride myself on never duplicating a fabric purchase because I knew my stash so well.  No longer!  Those brain cells aren't as active as they used to be so I didn't remember a lot of the fabrics I have.  What fun it was and how many great surprises I encountered as I tore though the stacks.

It reinforced for me that I have ENOUGH fabric!  Before Christmas I'd decided that I needed to clean out my email addresses because I was getting too many emails to keep up with them on a daily basis.  Most of them weren't spam, but were email alerts I'd subscribed to for various reasons.  One was a toy train site that my son loved when he was 5, which was only 8 years ago!  How much time have a I wasted deleting those emails all these years?  Way too much time that's for sure!

So, I unsubscribed myself from everything except a very few sites.  It's taken a while but I'm down to about 10 emails a day from over 50, which is a nice change.  I'm also glad I did it before Christmas because I was able to clear out a lot of those once a year email messages, I won't get them next year!  I also unsubscribed from all of the online fabric stores, (fabric.com, fabricshack.com, and hancocks of paducah....sorry!).  It was just too tempting getting all of those emails with luscious fabrics in them, not to mention the sales!  

A couple of posts ago I wrote about how so many of the styles nowadays are so similar.  I think I have enough of the current crop so I'm going to give it a rest for a few months to see if anything interesting and different comes up.  I think it's time to focus on what I have!

Also, I got a lovely email from Cindi at http://www.seamstobeyouandme.com/ who had wanted to post a comment but couldn't because of  Blogger restrictions.  I've had other folks email me with a similar problem which I wish I had the power to correct.  Anyway, since I don't, if you want to contact me you can do so via susan@gillygaloofus.com.  I'd be happy to post your comment in my blogpost if you want me to, or maybe I'll save them up for one post every few weeks?  Anyway, if you don't want me to post it just let me know and it can be just between you and me.  I'm very careful about sharing other people's info so there are no worries there!

It's getting stormy out here in California but nothing like you folks back East are dealing with.  Hope everyone is safe and warm, and quilting!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

The Jerk Dance

OK, I admit it.  Sometimes I'm a jerk.

I'm willing to fess up because it's one of the things I don't like about myself and would like to change.  Now, don't get me wrong,  I'm not some mean spirited nasty human being.  Frankly, I think I'm just like almost everybody else, except that I'm getting tired of feeling bad about behaving like a jerk.

What exactly is a jerk?

Meaning: A dull stupid fatuous person

Which means someone lacking in liveliness or animation, not very bright, and devoid of intelligence.

Hmmmmm, how honest do I want to be?  I suppose that I do lack in liveliness and animation.  Most of the time I'm either writing or sewing, not particularly active pursuits, and physical exercise is not my thing, (hence, my thighs).

As for not being very bright, that applies as well.  For some reason since I've hit menopause, my response time is down.  I can hear you, but I'm not quite sure what you're saying.   Could be I'm so ancient that I'm expecting you to use terms like "thee" and "thou."  Oh, and if you use terms like "hecka" I have no idea what you're talking about.  Lately I've noticed  I'm not so quick on the uptake, and those clever quips don't formulate themselves as well as before. I used to be a 100 watt bulb but now I'm barely hanging onto 60. Dim?  I'd say so!

Devoid of intelligence, now that's a tough one.  I do have a lot of knowledge, most of it useless.  I can recognize many famous artists' work at a glance, figure out a fabric repeat, and even make dinner without using a recipe.  However, remembering where I put my keys and/or glasses is beyond me and I even had to look up the meaning of "jerk."  I'm not sure if I'm "devoid" but there's definitely a "void" and it's growing!

Synonyms: dork; jerk

Dork?  Yeah, I guess I could be considered a dork.  I know I dress like one, and the fact that I don't particularly care that I do probably doesn't help matters.

Hypernyms ("jerk" is a kind of...): misfit (someone unable to adapt to their circumstances)

Misfit?  Whoa, that's me in a nutshell!  I've never felt like I fit in anywhere and for years it was a problem.  Now I've reached the point where I don't care if I do or not, but I'm not sure if that's entirely a good thing.  Tends to make you a little anti-social, which doesn't help the jerk thing....

OK, so it looks like I'm a jerk and I'm not happy about it.  Of course I can blame a lot of it on menopause, (which is handy for that), but there's also always been a tendency in me to not suffer fools quietly.  For years I was too shy to speak up, but now I'm not, which isn't necessarily a good thing.  A big mouth on a menopausal woman is a scary thing and really should be outlawed.  We should at least have to wear some kind of sign or give some warning, this look might do:


I can't really point to a recent incident of "jerkiness" but I suspect I may be giving out an overall vibe.  I find myself getting snappy, and have lost what little patience I had before my son was born.  If anyone messes with me I have no problem telling them off and I'm beginning to avoid situations where I feel I might not be able to control myself.  My son's basketball games are minefields, especially since the coach's wife is videotaping the game and she sits nearby.  If the refs are terrible or someone fouls my son in an awful way, who knows what I'll do....and it will be on film!  Yikes!

So, number one on my list of New Year's resolutions is to scale back the jerkiness and start behaving like a non-menopausal woman for a change.  It doesn't help that I have a 13 year old, (at least he'll be 13 in February).  He's a very gifted child, mostly at getting me in a foul humor.  I also have my fabric stash calling my name, it's very persistent and is starting to get downright angry.  I'd better attend to it soon or it's going to get ugly around here.  I may just have to dance:

                   
                    How to Do the Jerk Dance
                    Uploaded by Howcast

Nah, probably not a good idea. 

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mark Lipinski's Fabric Trends Winter 2011

Right before the holiday I had a chance to pick up the latest issue of Mark Lipinski's Fabric Trends. 

In September I reviewed the first issue and wasn't thrilled about it.  At the time I thought there wasn't enough Mark and too much "press release" in the articles.  I also had some reservations about how the "digital" fabric looked in the quilt mockups, although I understood the reason behind using the digital images.

Anyway, I liked the newest issue much better.  The quality of the magazine itself is high, and for the price, $6.99, you will get a lot more for your money than from other similarly priced magazines.  This time around I thought the digital quilt mockups looked better, I actually had forgotten they were digital at first.  Very well done!

There's a lot more of Mark in this issue, which makes it a better read.  Last time around I thought it was too "informative" and not as interesting.  I also liked the featured fabric designer articles, and an article about color trends. 

The one issue I had is with an answer Mark wrote to a reader who was having problems with the "sameness" of the fabrics and designs currently available.  I've addressed this issue before, and Mark had essentially the same answer; that manufacturers are following trends and therefore the diversity of styles aren't what they could be.  He also lamented the lack of "originality" out there, noting that his and other's ideas had been copied, and that others weren't being as original as they could be.

I agree with him on all of these points, but there was a hint of bitterness about it that didn't go down well.  I'm sure that he and the others who are being copied resent it, and I understand that it affects them.  However, there's not a lot you can do about that, it's going to happen as long as there's no way to take the copiers on legally. 

I've worked in an environment where my work and the work of my colleagues was copied unmercifully by competitors.  My boss actually avoided publicity because she was so paranoid about the copycats.  Any field that is creatively driven, and even those that aren't, are subject to trends and fads.  I used to tell her that instead of worrying about being copied you should be moving towards creating the next trend.  In any creative field it's dangerous to rest on your laurels.  Due to the fact that the public is used to constant change, we have to work hard to set trends, not follow them. 

Of course, the "business" end is only interested in profits and will ride trends they didn't create till they oversaturate the market, (hence making the trendsetting artists obsolete).  I understand the resentment of the artists, but unless your copyrights are infringed on you can't own an "idea" or a color scheme.  It's a compliment when you're copied, although it is frustrating.

However, moving forward as Mark is doing is the right way to handle this kind of thing.  Sure, you're going to be copied if you do something well, there's no way around it.  But, if you're smart and talented, you can keep the copiers working overtime.  The point is to not let them catch up!

All in all, I'd recommend this magazine and I'm only about half way through it.  I hope you'll give it a chance as well.

Happy Quilting!

Susan

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After Christmas Blues

Well, it's the day after Christmas, which means....I survived!

Actually, things could have been a lot worse.  As it turns out my husband finally made it home from Europe.  What a nightmare he had!  Tuesday morning he left his parent's house about 4am, and actually got onto a plane at Dublin airport.  This was after a couple of hours delay in the departure lounge.  Once on board they waited for 3 hours before the decision was made to close the airport.  So, here he was, on the coldest day ever in Ireland, stuck at Dublin airport.  Via family members he was able to get ahold of his niece, who was able to get to his sister's house and wait for him.  He finally got on a bus out of the airport and once in the city centre of Dublin realized that the cabs had stopped running.  Luckily a cab that was on it's way home spotted him and since he was heading the same direction offered to take him.

So, he ended up at his sister's house at about 6pm after one long hellish day.  The next morning he went through the same process, back at the airport before dawn, long wait in the lounge, then 4 hours on the plane.  Finally, the de-icing was done, only 20 minutes before they closed the airport again.  He was on his way to the States finally! They took off just in the nick of time.

He arrived in Philadelphia late at night and was put up in a hotel.  Finally, he got a smooth flight home and made it back to our home about 2:00 on Thursday.  Of course, he wasn't feeling well when he got home so we missed the Christmas Eve festivities at my parent's home, (we had no idea what germs he was harboring and my parent's aren't as young as they used to be!).  Anyway, he's slept as much as possible and we were able to get through Christmas day before he faded in the early evening.  Fortunately, his office is closed all week so this will be the week of recovery...I hope!  Travel has become such a nightmare.  About the only thing that didn't happen to him was a full on TSA body search, although they did spray his hands looking for explosive residue.

Needless to say, although we were all worn out by the week's traumas, we had a very grateful Christmas, especially when we heard about all of the trapped passengers in Europe.  He was lucky to get out when he did, he just happened to be on a plane during a very small window of opportunity.

Other than that we had a very nice Christmas.  My husband got me a Nook, which I'd been wanting, and my son was overwhelmed with gifts from his family here, and gifts sent with his father from the family in Ireland.  We had a lovely Christmas Day with my parents, brother, and brother and sister-in-law.  All in all everything went off very well and today we've spent the day recovering, with a small amount of shopping mixed in.  I'm so looking forward to tomorrow when I can enjoy all of the sewing related gifts I got, (Thanks Kendall!) and maybe finally get some quilting done.  Would be nice!

Hope your Christmas was Merry!

Happy Stitching!

Susan


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Twas a few days before Christmas....

I don't know how many of you have seen this sign before.  Supposedly, it was posted in London during the Blitz during World War II.  It's so very "British" isn't it?

The way things have been going around here, this is the sign I'll be posting:

Yes, it's another calm and quiet Christmas at the ol' Cranky Quilter's house.  Actually, it's way too calm and quiet, although I'm not sure if I'd use the word "calm."

It's now almost 2:00 pm California time and I have no idea where my husband is.  He was in Belgium last week for a business trip and on his way back stopped to pay a quick visit with his family in Ireland.   He was supposed to leave yesterday morning but after waiting 3 hours in the plane on the tarmac, the flight was cancelled and the airport closed.  Fortunately, his sister lives in Dublin so he wasn't scrambling for a hotel, but as of now we have no idea when or if he will be home today.  He called late last night saying he was headed to the airport to see if he could get "Out of Ireland."   He has no internet or phone access and told me that I would probably not hear from him again until he was either in the US or at his sister's house.

So, now it's 10 pm in Ireland, the possible flight numbers he gave me are "unknown" on the online tracking, and I've heard nothing from him.  This could be a good sign, but then maybe not.  My hope is that he's on a plane heading to the US, but if he is and it's this late, he will probably be spending the night in an airport terminal somewhere.  Oh, the joys of Christmas travel!

The last couple of days have been eventful for me as well.  My teenage nieces came to visit and yesterday I took them to The Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum in San Francisco.  What a fun day we had!  They had never been to a museum of that caliber, and it's in such a beautiful spot, right at the tip of San Francisco Bay looking out over the ocean. 

It was so much fun for me having the opportunity to take them around the City.  I went to college at San Francisco State, and also lived there for a few years afterwards.  So, to say I know my way around is putting it mildly.  My older niece loves SF but gets so nervous driving there, I think I impressed her with the way I zipped around, bypassing traffic whenever possible, and giving them a compact tour at the same time.

Since the most scenic way to get to the museum is to take the last SF exit heading to the Golden Gate Bridge, we decided to stop and enjoy the view.  It was a beautiful day as we had a short break in our stormy weather, so the views were spectacular.  The wind had cleared the fog out and you could see the entire bay.  I then took them to one of my secret spots that I discovered when I was a student.  It's a small, difficult to find road in the Presidio, that takes you behind some bunkers onto a bluff where you can look directly down onto the bridge. 

We then proceeded through the Presidio and then through the very high-end Sea Cliff residential area.  We were all oooohing and aaaahing at the beautiful mansions, what a way to live!

 Then it was off to the museum!




I hadn't been there in years and was so impressed with how well designed it is and what a fabulous collection of European art it held.  We were spellbound by gallery after gallery of masterworks.  My nieces both love art, and the older one just finished a college course in art history.  She was excited to see the work of artists she'd been studying!  It's one thing to read about it but another thing to see it up close.  They also had several rooms from old French houses that had been reassembled inside the museum, complete with chandeliers and furniture.  It was almost like being in Paris!

We had lunch in the cafe, where the menu items were in French, (which I massacred with my horrible flat California accent).  As were enjoying our French inspired food on the patio, (it was warm enough to eat outside!), we overheard a group of people speaking French near us.   I told my son and the girls to close their eyes and imagine that they really were in France. If you imagine just right you can get there, even for a moment!

What a great day we had, beautiful scenery, great food, art, shopping, and to top it off we stopped by the Cheesecake Factory for a slice of cheesecake.  Ahhhhhhh! 

Now if my husband would just get home safe and sound....

Hope you're all having a great buildup to the holiday,

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back in the Day

Do any of you remember the 1960's?

I love the term "back in the day."  For me it denotes that "the day" was a special time, distinctly different from today, at least in memory.

I suspect that I have many readers who weren't even born before 1970, so the Sixties are something you can only imagine based on what you've read and seen about it.  Last night I watched a film on Netflix on Demand, (love it!), called "Following Sean."  It was a documentary about a 4 year old boy whom the filmmaker befriended in the Haight Ashbury in 1969.  He had done a movie about the child and his family at the time and was going back to San Francisco to see what had happened to them.

The scenes of the era were very familiar to me, having grown up during that time.  I also lived in the Haight for about a year in the late 1980s, actually on Ashbury a block up from the famous Haight/Ashbury intersection, so I knew the area well.  The little boy was absolutely charming, his parents were free love hippies who lived in an apartment with an ever-changing cast of roommates, and he had the run of the house and the street.  Scenes of him running barefoot down Haight Street were evocative of childhood innocence, but he was anything but.  He talked about smoking and eating "grass," asked why there had to be cops, and seemed much older than his age of "four and a half."

The filmmaker genuinely liked the child and his parents, but he had doubts about whether or not this was the right way to raise a child.   Anyway, the first film "Sean" became a big deal when it came out in 1969, and the filmmaker left the Haight, (without regret), to pursue his career.

What struck me about the whole thing is how romanticized the Sixties have become to many people.  The filmmaker seemed to recognize that it wasn't as wonderful as people made it out to be, but even he had a hard time escaping the memories of it.

At one point he said to the grown up Sean that the people "back then" wouldn't have approved of some of the things Sean was doing, (namely working to make a living).  Sean's response was, "How many people really lived that lifestyle?"  His point was that at the time most of the nation was going along with their regular lives, making a living and taking care of their families.  They weren't living in communes and practicing open marriages and giving grass-laced baked goods to their kids.

It was the first time I'd seen a film that addressed that aspect of the era.  For me and my family, our lifestyles weren't so different from what they would have been in the fifties. We went to church on Sunday in frilly dresses with gloves and hats, my father worked, my mother stayed home, we had square meals and wore flannel jammies, and played Monopoly when we couldn't play outside.  We lived our regular lives whle all of this chaos was going on around us.  If anything our lives were negatively affected by Sean's childhood world, crazy people like the Manson family were roaming around, the Zodiac killer was threatening schoolchildren, and we couldn't go to our local park because the stoners had taken it over. 

Since that time I've met many baby boomers who were teenagers during the Sixties.  They talk about how wonderful it all was and what a great time they had and about how it changed them for the better.   I wonder, now that I'm older, if what they aren't feeling is nostalgia for their youth, for they were young then and their lives were ahead of them.  I still get nostalgic for remnants of my teenage years, a song will come on the radio, or I'll see an old movie I enjoyed then.  It does make me feel like those were very good times.  Of course, they weren't, the economy was a mess, we had gas lines, and cold war threats, and our own group of serial killers and nutcases. 

In a previous post I mentioned having the revelation that all of the stupid things I'd done when I was young weren't because I was "stupid," I'd done them because I was young.  I think the same phenomenon is at work here. People romanticize their youth, they forget about the bad, and only focus on the wonderful times they had.

The saddest part of the movie for me was the struggle that grown-up Sean was facing.  He seemed to be a very good and decent guy, but was struggling to do what he had to do to survive and support his family while still trying to live up to the ideals of his parents.  It was an impossible task, but he seemed to be approaching it with a lot of love, and doing the best he could.  I respected him a lot for that, for not giving up on what he felt was the right thing to do.

So, how does this apply to quilting?  It doesn't and I don't even want to stretch some analogy to make it apply.  I just thought it was interesting how we all view and deal with our world, as we find it.  And I suppose you could say that it does apply to our artistic pursuits as well.  Finding that space inside you where you can enjoy the past and your experiences for what they were, and where you can learn lessons from the less enjoyable experiences, is an important part of growing as a person and an artist.

I'm actually working on a project right now so I'm going to get back to it.  Hopefully, I'll have something really quilting-oriented to share in a day or two.

In the meantime,

Happy Stitching!

Susan 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thoughts on the Creative Process

I've written here before about creativity.  I believe that it's important to understand how that part of you works in order to get the maximum benefit of it.

There are a lot of people, even serious quilters, who don't think they're very creative.  For most people creativity is something "artists" and "inventors" do.  I suppose that's understandable because those people make something "new" when they use their creativity, their results are more visible and easily identified as acts of creation.

However, everytime you take a new route to avoid traffic, or put together a meal with whatever's in the freezer, you're being creative!  We create constantly, everything from putting on makeup in the morning to figuring out the cheapest way to feed your family off a fast food menu.  Humans by nature are creative or we wouldn't have moved from caves to huts, or from huts to castles.  It's our nature to build, and then tear down and rebuild because we're constantly innovating.

Today I had the opportunity to do something I haven't done in a while, work on putting together a project with one of my clients.  This particular client is also a friend I used to work with, and that I know very well.  Today we were putting together a presentation box for her to give to her customers as a holiday gift.

You'd think that making a box look good would be easy, heck we wrap packages all of the time!  However, when you're designing a box to hold an assortment of food including brownies, cookies, and assorted nuts, it's a little more challenging.  Fortunately, my client, who also worked in design, had picked out the boxes she wanted to use.  She Fedexed me one that I used as a starting point for my design process.

I was able to get the interior packaging design done easily, created a motif she loved for the front, and then could not come up with any idea I liked for the interior lid.  I'm sure you feel this way sometimes too.  I came  up with design after design, and everytime there was something just not right about it.  Too much of one color, too much background, the motifs weren't the right color, I didn't like the size of the logo.  It went on and on and on.

My friend was happy with one of the first designs I did but I knew it wasn't right.  It's one of those things I just can't explain, it looks OK, but it isn't perfect, and that drives me crazy.  I know in my heart that the right design is out there, I just need to find it.

So, today was assembly day.  My friend knew I hadn't solved the interior card problem but she had more confidence in me than I did and was sure I'd figure it out.  When she arrived we immediately started "playing" with it.  Discussing what we liked and what we didn't like.  Before she arrived I had been playing with some lengths of ribbon and it occured to me that we didn't have to wrap the box in ribbon, (that's too predictable), but there's no reason we can't wrap the interior box with ribbon.

This turned out to be the turning point.  My friend loved the idea but we kept hitting snags about making the card work with the ribbon across it, and also with making the card coordinate better with the outside motif.  So, after multiple design changes, (thank God for Photoshop Elements!), we finally ended up with the ribbon wrapped the other way, and a design we both liked.  It took several hours but it was loads of fun and it made me realize how much I enjoy the whole process.

Since my business is very slow my skill set of thinking outside the box all of the time had become rusty.  The experience today opened that door again, I guess the old girl's still got it!

It also made me more aware of something I keep telling the young people I know, that art doesn't come easy, and that creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum.  You have to have some give and take, even if it's just yelling at yourself.  You need to question and experiment, and not toss an idea away because you think someone might think it's stupid.  If there's one time you can give a stupid idea a chance it's when you're in the midst of the creative process.

It's easy to give up when things aren't going your way, but that's exactly the time when you shouldn't.  Those niggling doubts are a sign that you might need to take a shift in your thinking, and those shifts often lead to major discoveries.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times I made a shift in direction that took my work to a whole other level.  My favorite example is the quilt that  made it into Quilting Arts' 2003 Calendar,  I'd started off with one idea that wasn't working and I was just about to give up when an odd thought hit me, and before I knew it I was off and running.  The same thing happened with the Mojo Doll that just won first place from Quilter's Home.  It was not my first doll.  The first one was a disaster, but I persevered and worked my way through it.

Creativity is all about perseverence.  Remember, never retreat, and never surrender.  You never know where that may lead you.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Phoebe by Wendy Slotboom for In The Beginning Fabrics

Once again, it's been a week since my last post.  It's hard for me to believe because it seems like yesterday that I put up the last post, but we all know how time flies, especially around the holidays!

My hubby is in Europe on a business trip for about a week so I'm off my normal schedule.  At first I kind of like being able to stay on the laptop or work in my studio until 2am, but now it's been three days and I'm regretting the loss of sleep.  I'm too old to stay up that late on a regular basis and I should know better, but it's so tempting to just throw caution to the wind when the opportunity presents itself. 

Last night when I should have been keeping up with my posting, I started looking at Hancock's of Paducah's  Presale selections.  I fell in love with the one above, it's called Phoebe and is by Wendy Slotboom for In The Beginning Fabrics.  It's expected in stores sometime in January.

It's perfect timing for this fresh and cheerful fabric line.  Everyone can use a bit of cheering up in the depths of January, even out here in California, (it's been very dreary around here the past few days....don't get me started).   I particularly like the zinnia print in blue, it has a graphic look up close, but at a distance it looks more realistic.  I'm really liking blue again, I'm actually trying to get my client to accept it as a border for a holiday card!  Here's a closeup:
Isn't it cute?  I really love the dots in the flower centers and the little red lady bugs.  The other patterns are just as cute, and although some are a little too bright for me, I really like many of the others.  Too bad I have no more space for new fabric until I start using up the old, (and too bad this won't be out until January as not buying any more fabric is my New Year's Resolution....that and losing 25 lbs, we know how long those will last!).

Well, I'd better get going.  My client is coming over tomorrow so I need to clean my house.  I hope she doesn't need to use the bathroom near my studio, it's my 12 year old son's....you know how nasty that is!  I will be cleaning it again tonight but it doesn't take him long to make it look like it's been used by a platoon of  mud spattered soldiers, (with very bad aim, if you catch  my drift!).

Hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season!

Happy Stitching!

Susan



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What a Difference a Professional Photographer Makes!

A few months ago I sent away a sample to C&T Publishing as a member of their Creative Troupe.  One of the great things about it is that they will professionally photograph your work and send you the files so you can use them for your portfolio.  The top photo is the professional's photograph, below is the one I took and posted on this blog.

What a difference! The professional's shows the detail and texture that my photo doesn't show.  Here's another detail:
It was worth the time and effort to do this project to get these photographs!  Professional photography is very expensive so this is a major bonus. 

If you're interested in getting involved in the Creative Troupe, here's the link:

http://www.ctpub.com/client/client_pages/creative_troupe.cfm

I've been fortunate to have my work professional photographed about a half dozen times and am never ceased to be amazed at how much better it looks.  It's almost like when I take the time to put on makeup, even my own child doesn't recognize me!

Speaking of which, (and this is a very poor segue...), I've hinted in previous posts about my adventures in contact lens land.   As someone who is nearly old enough to join AARP, (the operative word is "nearly"), my vision was becoming a problem.  I'm nearsighted, which is great for quilting, but not so hot for just about everything else.  I've been wearing bifocals, but they just make me dizzy, and I'm always leaving them somewhere.  Which would be OK if I could see well enough to find them.  As it stood, my son had a growing revenue stream as I had started paying him $1 to find my glasses for me.  He was doing it for free, but became unmotivated after the 5th request one day, so I decided I couldn't take advantage of what good nature he has left, (he's nearly 13), and started incentivizing him.

Anyway, my doctor thought I might be a good candidate for contacts so off I went to get fitted.  I've always been very nervous about anything to do with my eyes, so I was leery going in.  During the fitting I did great, and I loved how much better I could see. 

That happiness didn't last long.  Two days later I thought I'd put a lens in and was desperately trying to remove it.  I couldn't get it out, which is understandable since it was never in!  I had to go to the doctor again, who told me to stay off the lenses for a week and gave me a replacement for the lost lens.

Once my eye was healed I tried it again.  The right one went in easily, the left drove me crazy!  It was very thin and when I did get it in it was moving around and making my eyes water and sting.  It also kept popping out.  When I went for my follow-up appointment it turns out the lens was defective and it wasn't my poor lens inserting skills as I had feared.

I had to go and get refitted and now I have a set that fit and work, and I'm able to get them in and out easily.  I discovered when I had the defective lens that I could function just fine with a lens in my right eye for distance, and no lens in my left eye for handwork.  So, now I'm doing monovision most of the time, and inserting my left lens when I need it.  I was wondering if I'd ever get used to this contact lens thing, but now I'm loving it.  It was especially handy last night when I went to my son's basketball game.  I was able to really enjoy it for the first time in a long time.

I'm off to "see" what quilting I can get done.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, December 6, 2010

Time to Quilt?

Finally!  The decorating is done.  I spent most of Saturday working on putting things out, (and then putting away all of the empty boxes). 

Above is my Christmas village on the sideboard in my dining room.  Of course, this is Christmas in California so you can see the bougainvillea blooming in the background.  We've had enough warm days interspersed with cold and rain that they're still thriving!


Above are some detail shots.  It was a real pain pulling each house out of its' box and disrobing it of its' styrofoam packaging.  About half way through I just wanted to give up.  But then, once they were all out and I was arranging them it was really fun.  Especially when I saw them lit up for the first time!

This is my suburban village.  The first one is downtown, and this is where the tiny people live, (it's in a another room....quite a commute if you're 2 inches tall!).  Unfortunately, we couldn't find another power strip so these aren't lit yet.  Oh, and if you look carefully you can see an angel's head behind the house on the left.  She's not some giant avenging angel....she's supposed to be on the top of our tree!

The reason she isn't is because my husband refuses to trim off one of the branches on the top of the tree.  If I put the angel on, "as is," she looks like she's been on the sauce and is about to keel over.  So, instead of arguing about it I just left her off.  I figure the fact that there is no tree topper will bother him more over time then the "disfigurement" of the tree.  It usually works out that way....

I tried to take photos of the tree but they were all fuzzy, something to do with my flash and the flashing lights, (or it could be that I'm not very good with a camera!).  Anyway, I did get one detailed shot.  As you can see there's a doll tucked in between the boughs.  It's one of the Madame Alexander dolls that I collected as a child.  Years ago my mother started tucking them in the tree and now it's become a tradition.    This tree has nice thick boughs so the dolls sat nicely tucked inside.

I did manage to get one decent photo of the tree by accident.  This is my front hall and you can see the tree, (with it's offending top branches....now, you tell me how you can stick an angel on that?).  The front hall table is well used in our home so it has to be practical as well as decorated.  It's also where we put our nativity scene so we can set the "Reason for the Season" first thing.

My mantel is very simply decorated.  It's not very wide and I don't like the look of wires coming down, so we just keep it symmetrical and simple.   Actually, this year I've kept the decorating a lot simpler than usual.  I only put up half of the tree ornaments, decided not to light up the entertainment center, and am only decorating downstairs.  It took me half the time, and frankly, we've decided we like it better.  It's festive but not too fussy.  Considering that we're in a clearing house frame of mind it's a good thing.  

Now, the true test....will I find some time to quilt today?  Geez, I hope so.....

I hope you do too!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Decorating Madness

It's hard to believe that it's already December and once again it's time to get the house decorated for Christmas.

I'm not a Bah Humbug kind of person but this decorating thing is starting to get out of hand.  Last year it took me a week to put everything out and a full day to take it all down.  I'm not going there again!  The house looked great, but it wasn't worth losing all the quilting time.

This year my husband is going to be gone every weekend before Christmas so we picked out our Christmas tree on Sunday  I've been angling for one of those prelit fake trees (yeah, I know, I'm lazy about it), but I really hate putting on the lights and every year my hubby says he'll do it and every year he has a reason why he can't.  So, once again I spent 2 hours putting the lights on an 8 ft. tree.  I checked all of the lights before putting them up and then when I had them on the tree they wouldn't work.  Four times I put the lights on before I got a complete set that was blinking randomly and  had most of the lights lit.  The amazing thing is that the tree is still in the house, as I was very close to tossing it, all 20 sets of lights, (most of which are dead...why we still have them I don't know!), and a few choice words out the window.

This afternoon I finally finished decorating the tree, my mantel, and front hall table.  The biggest challenge is setting up our Christmas houses.  Every year I set up several vignettes in different parts of the house which used to be easier as I had taken photos of where everything is supposed to go.  However, when my computer crashed, I lost those photos!  Yikes!  Now I'll have to figure it out somehow.

Oh well, it won't be too bad as I decided that this year I wasn't going to do as much decorating as I usually do.  I only used about half of the ornaments I have on the tree and decided not to switch out my everyday china with my Christmas set.  The house is still going to look great but I'm determined to make some time to actually finish some Christmas gifts this year. 

I'll post some photos tomorrow so you can see what I've been up to.  In the meantime...

Happy Stitching, (and decorating!)

Susan

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Just Got Back From Vacation So Why Am I So Tired?

Yesterday afternoon we got back from a short trip up the California coast.  We usually try to get away after Thanksgiving for a couple of days, it's a great way to get ready for the holiday season, and by the time Thanksgiving is over, I'm ready for a break!

The holiday went well.  Dinner was on the table on schedule.  We survived the famous "crunch time," (when everything has to be ready at the same time!), and the food was gobbled up in no time.  I had decided that I didn't want to have any leftovers because we were going to be gone, so I was pleased to have just enough to fill up some containers for my folks and sister-in-law (she loves my sweet potatoes).  Now I have an empty fridge and no desire to go to the grocery store ever again.  I think I'd better get over that!

Friday we headed up towards the coast.  For us that means a trip through the Sonoma Valley and the beautiful vineyards.  Harvest is well over, but the leaves on the vines are now red and gold, and although it was overcast you can't beat the scenery.  We stopped in Ukiah to visit with my sister-in-law's family and had a lovely time with them.  Then we headed up through Boonville to Mendocino and on to our hotel in Fort Bragg.

We stayed at the Surf Motel and Gardens and although the rooms were a little faded, they were clean and quiet.  They were also willing to accept our little dog Indy and had a great dog area outside our room, including a fenced in doggie park.  He loved it!  All of the sniffing he was able to do made up for the fact that it rained a lot.

Saturday morning we took Indy for a walk on the beach.  I wasn't sure how he'd do but he loved it.  We took him off his leash and he explored everything.  Fortunately, he wasn't interested in getting near the water so he played in the sand and ran around like he'd never been outside before in his life.  He also got to meet some other dogs, always a huge treat!

Afterwards we headed up to Mendocino to check out the Headlands scenery and do some shopping.  I absolutely love Mendocino!  I used to go up there a lot but it's been about 5 years since my last visit.  For those of you who don't know about it, Mendocino was the setting for the series "Murder She Wrote."  It's very like a New England village but with a distinctive North Coast Hippie vibe.  The folks here are really politically correct, which usually rubs me the wrong way, as I don't like feeling like I'm being told what to do or think.  However, they're pretty mellow about it so it's more endearing than annoying.  Besides the food is great, (the Garden Bakery has the best peanut butter cookies I've ever tasted!), and you can't beat the scenery.

Our favorite shop is called "Out of This World."  It's been there for many years and has a great selection of telescopes and fun games and science type things for kids and adults.  My husband has been considering purchasing a good telescope for years so it's always his first stop.  Of course, my son loves the Lego section, and I just enjoy hanging out with the owners and their employees, who were sweet enough to allow me in with Indy and even gave him a treat!

If you're ever visiting California the North Coast is definitely worth seeing.  The scenery is spectacular, there are lots of wonderful restaurants, and it's unique enough that it doesn't feel as touristy as other areas can.  If you love steam trains, the Skunk Train runs out of Fort Bragg which is only about 8 miles from Mendocino.  We didn't go on it this time, but we've been before and it's fabulous!

The North Coast is also one of those places where it doesn't matter that much if it's sunny or rainy.  We had some severe squalls come through, and then the sky would clear and the sun would come out.  It was definitely the best of both worlds.

The only downside is that there isn't a great quilting supply store in the area.  Fabric Indulgence is located in the Boatyard Shopping Center in Fort Bragg, (at Hwy 20 and Hwy 1).  It's a great little shop for buttons, beads, dyes, and paints.  It also has fabric although the selection is small.  The fabrics are well chosen, however, and the uniqueness of some of the embellishments make it worth a visit.  There's also a Yarn shop down the walk from them, and a great supermarket with a wonderful deli, bakery, and wine section.  It would be a great place to pick up a picnic lunch before heading out for the day.

All in all we had an enjoyable trip, but as I said in the title to this post, I'm very tired today.  It was great to get away, but now all of the things I have to do and want to do are staring me in the face again.  I have a very messy studio to clean up and a guest bedroom to clean out, but I'm most dreading putting all of my Thanksgiving stuff away and getting out the Christmas stuff.  Now, that's a big job!

So, I'd better get to it!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday weekend.

Happy Stitching!

Susan




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So Much To Be Thankful For!

I was hoping to get a few more posts in before Thanksgiving but considering the groceries I bought yesterday and the chaos my house is in....well, it's not looking good!  Especially since I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.

So, I thought I'd spend my last post writing about all of the things I have to be thankful for.  There are so many that I can't list them here.  Suffice it to say that family, friends, country, and God are in the top four.  And, of course, the fact that I can afford to bring home tons of groceries and have a home to bring them too are also in the top ten.

Since it's impossible to list all of my blessings, I decided to focus on the quilting ones and hope you have some more to add.

So, here goes:

1) Okay, so this probably goes under the heading of givens, but I am grateful that I have the physical ability to quilt.  I can operate a foot pedal, use my hands to guide the fabric through the machine, and have the vision to see what I'm creating, (except when my left contact lens falls out!).  I'm also blessed with a high level of manual dexterity for hand quilting and embroidery.

2) I'm grateful that I've been able to accumulate a stash of fabric and supplies so that when the quilting mojo hits I can jump right in.

3) I'm grateful for the ongoing support of family and friends for my quilting endeavours.  Sometimes I think they get more joy out of it then I do, but then I get joy from their joy, so I guess we're even!

4) I'm grateful for all of the wonderful quilters-in-arms out there who are willing to go down "that" road with me on occasion.  You know, when I get on one of my crank-o-ramas about one thing or another?  Thanks for not giving up on me and hanging in there.  It may not be always a satisfying journey, but at least I don't think you'll fall asleep at the wheel!

5)  I'm grateful for the quilting industry.  All of the clever and creative men and women who've been making us salivate over quilt related goodies for years now.  What would we do without them?  I tell you, I love seeing what they're up to and then beating myself on the head because I didn't think of that nifty idea first.  "Stupid me, stupid me, stupid me!"  Hey, are those stars or did my left contact lens fall out again????

6)  I'm grateful to all of the wonderful quilting writers and the magazines that publish their work.  Special thanks to Melissa and Jake at Quilter's Home who have been so sweet and generous to little ole' me, (and who can forget those silly emails about my husband's odd predilictions? ... not what you think, by the way, all will be revealed in time...).

7) I'm grateful for the few successes I've had and the many setbacks I've experienced in my quilting life.  Whenever I get frustrated about something not working out my 12 year old pipes up with a comment about how many times Thomas Edison discovered how not to invent the light bulb.  (Why does he have to be right when I just want to whine?).

8)  I'm grateful for my studio.  It's a sometimes well organized space that I know I'm very fortunate to have.  It's also got a great little red chair that my little dog has made a bed in.  It's great to be stitching away and then look up to see him sleeping peacefully there.  Kind of gives me some perspective when I really screw something up.  He'll love me anyway....

9)  I'm grateful for my computer.  Even though my last one crashed,  I've been enjoying getting used to having a laptop and it's not such a bad thing.  I'm sitting in my comfy chair in the family room right now, typing away to the smell of fresh baked bread, and avoiding making my son his breakfast, (one more paragraph, sweetie!).

10) I'm  most grateful that I saw those quilts in that old 1960's issue of McCall's Needlework and Crafts.  I was just a kid then, but I'll never forget how happy those quilts made me.  They still do!

I'm not sure if I'll be posting again for a few days.  I have a lot to do to get ready for the holiday and then we will be heading up the North Coast of California for a few days afterwards.  I'm looking forward to enjoying  a long walk in Mendocino on Saturday, it'll be great to recharge those batteries.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Thanks for everything,

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tossing It

As I've been mentioning lately, it seems like things have gotten a little out of control stashwise at my house.  Tonight my hubby wanted me to explain all of the stuff I have shoved into the guest bedroom closet...Yikes!

It was kind of embarrassing because at least half of it was stuff that I had when we moved into our house over 5 years ago.  I shoved it all up there and I haven't looked at it since.

The same thing is going on in my kitchen.  I've been cleaning out my cupboards and am embarrassed to find things I didn't even remember I had.  I mean, I know I'm getting older and the memory isn't what it used to be, but this is getting ridiculous.  I found 3 containers of dishwasher detergent under my sink, two of them nearly full.  Which means that I bought 2 that I didn't need.  I'll be tackling my dishware shelves next and I'm fairly certain that I'll find baby dishes in there, (and my son is nearly 13).  I actually threw bottles away when we moved into our house 5 years ago, when he was 7....why I hung onto them I don't know.  It wasn't like I was going to have another baby at my age.

I joke a lot about the show "Hoarders" although it isn't particularly funny.  The fact is that many people have a real problem getting rid of stuff and I'm one of them.  Of course I don't have newspapers stacked all over my house, (I put them in recycling as soon as I finish them).  I also get rid of old clothes, magazines, and sell my old books to the used bookstore. 

However, if it's the tiniest scrap of fabric that I think I might need, or a few beads, or some art supplies....

It's a whole different story!

As a child I always wanted more art supplies, (I used to wish I was Samantha on Bewitched so I could wiggle up some Scotch tape).  We weren't poor but I don't think an endless supply of Scotch tape  was in our family budget.  I'd be very surprised if there wasn't more than one occasion when there wasn't any tape in the house to wrap a birthday gift.  I had a real Scottish addiction, (go figure, I marry an Irishman, not a Scotsman....what was I thinking?)

Anyway, now I have all of the art supplies in the world, or at least more than I'll probably ever use.  A lot of that is because of the business I'm in.  Making custom presentations means that you need to have all different kinds of supplies on hand, and since I did I was able to make things happen and happen quickly.

However, that business is very slow right now, (more like nonexistent), so a lot of the art supplies I purchased for projects, (and that my clients paid for), I don't need any more.  Maybe it's my Scotch Tape deprived childhood that makes me hang onto this stuff, or maybe I have the old artist fantasy, that someday I'm going to get inspired and wouldn't it be awful if I didn't have what I needed right there and then?

Frankly, those scraps of fabric, dried up art supplies, and odd beads could very easily be donated or tossed and I probably wouldn't even miss them.  Now that I've been called on my "tendencies" I'm going to have to do something about it.  At least if I clear out the closet and the cupboards I can start pointing a finger at all of the fishing magazines and boxes of old cassette tapes....

So, I'm going to be starting my Spring cleaning before Christmas, and hopefully will be able to clear enough space that we won't have to pay the deductible on our homeowner's insurance for stubbed toes, (boxes sticking out from under the bed), or concussions, (from falling soup cans).  

Who knows, I might find a few rolls of Scotch Tape, (or a cute Scotsman)!

Happy Stitching!

Susan   

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Coat of Many Colors

Well, it's about time!  I finally finished a project, just in time for the first big storm of the year.

Above is my little dog Indy in his new coat, very snazzy!  The original pattern was very simple, and it went together, (once the patchwork was finished), in a few hours.  I'm very excited about how it looks, it suits him, and with the fleece lining and little fur collar, is also very cozy.

He doesn't usually like coats very much, but he seemed to take to this one.  It gives him a lot of freedom of movement so that's probably why.  Of course, the band around his tummy doesn't interfere with his boy parts so that makes him happy as well.

Here's a detail.  You can see the fur collar and the covered button I used to secure the front.  The part around his neck is attached by velcro, but it was a little long so the button holds it in place.
He's looking a bit pensive in this picture, I think he was just waiting for the photo shoot to be over!

Here's an overview of what the coat looks like.  Ignore the dirty rug, it's right by our back door. This little guy tracks in all kinds of stuff but I guess it's better that he does his business outside instead of on our new wood floors!

That's it for now.  It's so wonderful to have this done and it's inspired me to tackle more projects around my house like cleaning out my kitchen cupboards.  I cleaned under the sink today, (yuck!), and am going to be moving some other things around tonight.  It will be nice to have things in better order before Thanksgiving!

Happy Stitching!

Susan




Friday, November 19, 2010

Multi Tasking


Wow, what a difference a couple of days off can make!  I'm just amazed at how much I've accomplished yesterday and today so far.  I guess I was right when I thought a little "time off" might do the trick of amping up my mojo. 

Yesterday I actually finished piecing my little dog coat.  I ironed it on to some fusible fleece and am going to do a simple machine quilting so I can speed up the process.  I'd thought of doing the quilting by hand but realized that with Thanksgiving coming up, it would be nice to have the coat finished before I get caught up in the holidays.  I don't want this to end up in the WIP pile!

So, if all goes well I'll have more to show tomorrow.  Who knows?  I may actually finish this thing today....woo hoo!

I called this post "Multi Tasking" because I've been tackling a lot of projects the last few days, not necessarily quilting ones.  I'm sure that all of you have things you have to get done, especially with the holidays coming.  My husband is heading to Europe in mid December and will be able to stop and visit his family in Ireland on the way home.  So, I've been putting together small gifts for his nieces and nephews.  They have to be small and light due to luggage restrictions.  He's going to be on a business trip so he can't travel with too much baggage, so it's been a challenge finding appropriate gifts that will fit. 

I'm also going to be hosting Thanksgiving at my home this year so I'm starting to get ready for that.  I try to get a headstart on putting things away and cleaning out cupboards, etc.  It's a good time to do that kind of thing because I'll then have space for all of the holiday food.  And it makes it less embarrasing when guests are trying to help in the kitchen....if they opened some of my cupboards today they'd get hit by flying soup cans and packages of pasta.  Probably not a good way to treat your guests, especially the helpful ones!
 
Since I've been out and about shopping for family in Ireland I always have an eye out for things for my own family.  Today I had a chance to go into one of my favorite bargain stores, Fallas.  Everything is inexpensive and some of it is really cheap in more ways than price.  However, that's part of what makes it fun, trying to find the "real" bargains.

I got lucky today.  My son has been wanting a Giants shirt, they're a local team for us and we've always rooted for them unless they were playing the A's, (it's so handy they're in different leagues).  I guess you could say they're our favorite National League team.  Anyway, because of the world series win, Giants stuff at a reasonable price is very hard to find.  Imagine my surprise when I found this Giants long sleeved thermal shirt for only $3.99!

Of course, as is often the case at Fallas, there was a reason it was so inexpensive.  The "I" and the "A" had been damaged by the ink rubbing off onto the shirt from the tag, (you can see the pattern of the waffle weave on the tag).  Under closer examination I realized that the ink was only sitting on top of the vinyl letters, so I took a chance that I could clean it off.

Well, a little Goo-Gone on a paper towel and some brisk scrubbing got the black ink off and now I have a perfectly beautiful shirt that my son will love and that only set me back $3.99.  Woo hoo!!!

The other thing I love about Fallas is that they have very low priced bead jewelry.  These strands were only $1.99 each, a huge bargain because they cost a lot more in the craft store.  It will take me some time to take the necklaces apart but the pink and purple beads are colors I don't have, and the quality looks good.  So, it looks like I'll be spending part of this upcoming stormy weekend sorting beads!

I'm going to head off and quilt the patchwork for the dog coat and put on my new pair of contact lenses. Now, the contact lenses are a story, but one I'm saving for a day when I don't mind looking like a complete moron!  It's classic me....

Hope your weekend is productive and happy!

Happy Stitching,

Susan