Sunday, October 30, 2005

Unexpected Talents

I think from time to time of one of the interviews Roger and I had with the social worker before we adopted Caroline. (By way of explanation, when you adopt you have to have a home study by a state-authorized agency, which means that a social worker gets assigned to you and comes out and interviews you a bunch of times both before and after the adoption. ) Our social worker was a down-to-earth, friendly woman named Judith who was herself the mom of two adopted kids. She took all the anxiety out of the home study process for us.

Anyway, early on she asked "So, what sorts of activities to you envision doing with your daughter?" In retrospect, the question seems ridiculously broad and even silly. But back then, as a mom-in-waiting, I answered eagerly to describe my idyllic view of motherhood: I'd read to her, play games and cards and dolls with her, we'd bake cookies together and lie on the grass and stare at bugs together...i went on and on. I had quite a vision.

And now, some 9 years into our life with Caroline, I think back to the conversation and think about the things I simply couldn't imagine myself doing. Not because they were bad, or things I didn't want to do -- but because it just never occurred to me that I'd be doing them. And that's not to say that we haven't done the stuff I described to Judith, many times over: we read a ton and play games and dolls (although I didn't know that Caroline's doll play most often involves some form of tying the doll up in odd bondage style and then having horses come to the rescue. Finding Barbies staked to the furniture legs around Caroline's room does make me wonder about her impending adolescence... Hmm, the bondage thing didn't come up in the home study.)

But there are just things I couldn't have imagined myself doing. One of the big lessons of motherhood, for me, is the well of resources you discover you have... patience, humor, inventiveness, and sheer tolerance for little sleep and child wailing. And drool...tolerance of drool is another. I actually stunned myself once, when we were at my folks' house and Caroline (at about 1) suddenly started to vomit and I held out my hand to catch the vomit so it wouldn't hit the couch. Did you get that? I HELD OUT MY HAND TO CATCH THE VOMIT. As an impulse. (Hmm, is that a good mom impulse, or a good daughter impulse, protecting my parents' couch? Or both? Until now, it didn't occur to me to think about that angle.)

I didn't know that, when Caroline was a baby, I'd regularly sit her in the kitchen sink with the water fawcet on to let just a small stream of water fall out. That water mesmerized her, and she'd sit, transfixed, moving her chubbing fingers in and out of it. It was the only thing that would quiet her after a vaccination or when she was really cranky with teething.

I didn't know that I'd become an expert at building under-the-dining-room-table forts with blankets and pillows and upturned chairs, to transform our small living space into something new and exciting on a cold snowy day where we were housebound.

I didn't know I'd be peering into buckets of snails (EUUUUU) after Caroline had painstakingly collected them from the agapantha bushes to make the snail families she adored. (My second quilt for her was a Snail's Trail block quilt. No surprise there.)

And I didn't know I'd be sewing Halloween costumes for horses. Yes, you read that right. FOR HORSES. That's what I was doing yesterday. Uh huh. Read that again. FOR HORSES. The woman at the fabric store looked at me like I was crazy. "Well, that's a new one on me," she said, shaking her head.

Caroline rides (rode, rides, will ride -- all tenses, with great enthusiasm) at a riding school that puts on a kids' horse show every October. The show features a costume class -- actually, usually two or three as there are so many kids who want to participate they have to double up on the ponies -- where the kids and the ponies dress up. Last year was Caroline's first year...She was a Pony Ninja Princess, a role of her own invention. She was quite specific about the costume requirements. My part involved making a red silk-like (or, a hunk of silkish polyester from the bargain bin at Joann's Fabrics) blanket with gold tassels and fringe, rein and bridle decorations (gold fringe and tassels), and a gold organza veil for Her Highness the princess. Caroline won 3rd place and I was inordinately proud. I mean, that fringe on the bridle looked AWESOME.

This year, Caroline has opted to be an EPS (that's European Pony School) cheerleader. So we found her an inexpensive red cheerleading costume and I applied EPS to the front in white felt letters (We LOVE Wonder Under)...and with red felt and white bias tape, I've made a blanket to cover the pony's flanks and say "GO EPS!" on either side....And a red breast-plate thingy that will attach to the saddle and say EPS. (Who do we love? WONDER UNDER! Give me a W! Give me an O! Give me an N!) And Caroline and I spent last evening dismantling actual pom pons (did you know it's pom PON and not pom POM? According to the package it is, anyway) to take smaller clumps of pom pon strands, attach them to those little claw-like hair clippy things which we will then attach to the pony's mane and tail. I even have more red and white bias tape (a very cheap way to get colored trim) which we will wind around the reins for more spirited color.

Everyone will look stunning and festive and spilled with Pony School Spirit. Of course, Caroline has been strictly lectured several times to NOT wave her pom pons too aggressively, for fear of scaring the ponies and causing a stampede.

This will be an interesting afternoon. Pictures to follow.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Going Inside the Block

It amuses me that, when so many artists talk about working 'outside of the block' to stretch themselves and open their minds to new ideas, my Practical Design workshop is asking me to use a traditional block as the starting point for creativity. Hence the "inside the block." I'd guess that for many art quilters, using traditional block structure is a new, if not scary, approach. You all can work through the inside/outside the block analogies yourselves.

Anyway. Here's the starting point block, known generally as the "Star of Bethlehem" or "Dutch Puzzle."

And here's the block's grid structure:

Notice all of those triangles?! We're not allowed to change the direction of any triangle lines but can combine them to form squares and parallelograms.

I digress to say I LOVE Electric Quilt 5. Do you have this software? If not, ask someone to give it to you for Christmas or your birthday, or treat yourself to it. (It's pricey. Around $100. But very fun and actually useful in all sorts of ways.) EQ allows you to use traditional blocks, or draw your own. You're not limited to blocks, either. You can draw any shapes you want, in any kind of setting or on any background you choose. You can set up blocks or chunks to form a background for an art quilt, or work with any shapes you want. (Strangely, one of the things I especially like it for is deciding on proportions...without endless and repeated sketching, I can fiddle with a diagram to test out different proportions of shapes before I move to fabric.) And it has "stashes" of fabric swatches so you can color designs with fabric colors and textures and even import REAL on-the-market fabrics. Very fun and cool. I've actually designed quilts on EQ and then decided, for the moment, that designing them and seeing them laid out there was enough for me at that stage so I could move on to something else. I've also used EQ to memorialize something I want to make in the future. Some time ago, I saw a tv show setting where a quilt hung on the wall in the background. I loved the quilt, and drew a hasty sketch as I was watching tv, then I designed it on EQ while it was fresh in my memory. Now I don't even remember what the TV show was, but I have the quilt all designed to remind me of what I want to do.

But anyway. As it happens, EQ is perfect for this sort of exercise. I was able to find the block in EQ's block library, then reduce it to the grid above. And rather than spend a lot of time trying out colors and layouts by hand-coloring (which has its own appeal for those of us who miss coloring with crayons but is a bit time-consuming and slow), I'm able to fill areas with color as I choose. Here's one variation:

You can see from the blank grid how many possibilities there are for design with this structure. I've decided to give myself two goals in this task: One is to use more muted colors for my final block, to force myself away from the brights I always head towards instinctively; and two, to play with the notion of transparency.

I've been fascinated by transparency in quilts since I stumbled onto Ruth McDowell's book "Pattern on Pattern." Simply put, that's where you use color to create the illusion of overlapping shapes. Here's an absolutely awe-inspiring example by Priscilla Bianchi:

So, I've started fiddling with EQ to see what transparency effects I can create in this block. Here's a first example:

You'll notice that I'm playing with bright colors, but for now I'm just finding the overlapping shapes in the block to get the transparent effect. I'll figure out the fabric later.

Here's another try:

So, that's how I'm approaching this exercise. It's very fun. I've got Itunes playing in the background and I'll just click-and-color.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Work? What work?

I have been shamelessly celebrating my lack of work. (To be honest, although my biggest case settled and eliminated the nastiest projects on my to-do list, I still have work on the list. Just nothing pressing. So I can pretend like it's not there, for the moment. You know how that lawyerly procrastination thing works. If I ignore it, it really might go away.)

Anyway. Yesterday, I had my art group meeting, followed by the second "Practical Design" workshop with Marilyn Felber. At the art group, we revealed the "brown bag" challenge quilts we've been working on for the past 6 months. The assortment of small quilts was wonderful to see. You can see them all here, on Gerrie's blog.

The design workshop with Marilyn was thought-provoking and very interesting. Marilyn has such a calm, careful presence about her. One of the big themes I'm taking away so far is the sense of doing whatever it is I do in my quilt art with deliberation. Why am I doing this? Why am I choosing this technique? Marilyn throws out a lot of questions to think about, with the basic premise that usually it's the process of asking the question that is more useful than actually answering it. So, for example, we talked a bit about the skill and craft that goes into making an art quilt, and learning the techniques (and confronting one's fear of what one cannot do) so that the inability to do some aspect of the craft won't impede your progress on a partular piece of art.

Many in the group were startled, to say the least, when Marilyn presented us with the next challenge: to use a particular complex traditional block (the Star of Bethlehem), reduce it to its basic structure, and then redesign a block that is true to the structure of the original but different in appearance from it. The diagram of the block flat out stunned some folks. All those triangles! All those points! (The group did not call itself "the Pointless Sisters" for nothing.) But many of us are enthusiastic about the process of taking an existing structure and making it our own.

And today? My sister and I tried out a new hamburger stand in town (with gourmet hamburgers and serving sweet potato fries...this IS Healdsburg, after all, where gourmet food rules and wine is served with everything) and then went home to watch a fluffy movie and happily tear inspirational pictures out of our old magazines. I"ll tell you about my inspiration notebooks another day. Now, all this leisure activity has worn me out and I'm headed to bed with a good novel.

Ooh--bathroom report-- the painters finished today, the toilet is now reinstalled (and not perching along side the bed, which is a refreshing improvement in the bedroom) and there are only a few minor things to be fixed before the master bathroom is ours again. I see a long bubble bath in my future...

Monday, October 24, 2005

In which I get good news

I am LEAPING around my office with glee.

I sat down at my computer this morning with dread, not to mention a queasy stomach and throbbing head. The queasiness was both literal and figurative: literal because we've all had some mild stomach thing this weekend where we don't want to eat and if we do we feel nauseated, and figurative because despite said literal queasiness I needed to make SERIOUS progress on a big old fat motion to scare the pants off the other side in a case I'm working on so we could get them thrown right out of court. And the throbbing head thing is because Caroline was up and down from bed all last night, complaining of various maladies (including itchy bumps, a stomach ache, wrinkly sheets, and other night-time disasters) so I didn't get much sleep.

Nevertheless, I poured myself a large cup of coffee, read my email, then figured I'd better call Bob the Wonder Boss before I dug in to see if there was anything vital I needed to know before I launched into work.

And LO, the angels are smiling on me because THE CASE SETTLED on Friday afternoon!

Hah! I'm happy, happy, HAPPY! Now I can go back to feeling queasy and sleepy with impunity. And with a child home sick from school, which means that the day won't exactly be fun and easy...but heck, at least I won't be trying to write the most brilliant and convincing summary judgment motion in the universe.

Things are looking up around here.

I love it when icky cases settle. And I'm not even the one getting the settlement cash.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Cottony Way to Die

Hey, you friends of mine:

You guys who are with me when we end up in fabric stores? And you guys who run into me at quilt shows? You all know who you are.

I have an order a request for you: If you see me holding fabric and standing near a cash register, DO NOT let me buy it! Rip it out of my hands! Push me away from the register! Yank my wallet away from me! Shove me to the floor, if need be...but do not let me come home with more fabric.

It's not a money issue...although I don't even want to try to estimate the value of the fabric crammed into my closet.

It's a space thing. I have fabric in every nook and cranny in my office, and I've used up the under-the-bed space, and I've got some on a closet shelf in the bedroom, and I've use the drawers in the hallway....

Simply put, it is TOO MUCH.

"Woman Dies After Fabric-Stuffed Shelves Collapse" is not a headline I want my family to have to see. (Although suffociation by fabric wouldn't be a totally horrid way to go...My last thought would probably be something like "I love that Kaffe Fassett print too much to cut into it" or "I forgot I had that piece that Melody Johnson dyed!")

This is a cry for help! Stop me before I buy again!

(Can you tell I'm putting away my stuff from PIQF?!)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Hi, Pod

Here's my pod, finished. I decided to crop it and add the border to bring the focus back to the pod.

You know how much I love my Ipod? That's why I named this "Hi, Pod."

Hey, I'm tired. But it's a challenge finished.

Retreating and Returning

There's nothing like a mini-vacation in your own home town. I spent the last few days enjoying a quilting retreat at The Bishop's Ranch right here in Healdsburg. It's probably less than 15 miles from my house, but I feel like I'm hundreds of miles away when I'm there.

The ranch is a retreat and conference center owned by the Episcopal Diocese of California. There are lovely old buildings like this one, which is the main house:

There are other buildings... some woodsy cabins, some more modern meeting rooms, a lovely chapel with the most beautiful and artistic stained (or painted?) glass windows I've ever seen. But it's the setting that is truly magnificent... It's all nestled in the hills, with views of vineyards and rolling hills, oak trees clustered around the property, and wildlife (besides the quilters, I mean) strolling through from time to time. The essence of peace just floats through the air there.

There were about 40 women at this retreat, I'm guessing. We were divided among three different buildings: the main house (where there were 21 people), St. John's Room, where I was with 5 others, and Harrison House, where there was a group of perhaps 8 quilters of the more traditional persuasian. We visited each other frequently (to see what everyone was working on, to share snacks and wine, and to otherwise tease and joke and be silly) and we share meals together in a common dining room.

My sewing crowd consisted of my buddies Rita, Janet, Pat (all of whom you've seen here before -- they're members of my art group and my guild, as well as especially wonderful friends)...and Pat's sister Mary Lou who comes out from Massachusetts to include this retreat in her annual California vacation. This year, we had a "newbie" in the room, a pleasant woman who came from several hours away for a quilting get-away. She kept strolling off to read, take naps, and check out movie times...I suspect that when she signed up for a quilting retreat, she didn't realize she'd be in with a bunch of loonies who were happy to hang out in the sewing room, talking incessantly, from morning until as late at night as we could manage.

Fellow blogger, AQ ring member and buddy Gerrie was there, although she wasn't in our room... She's enough of an old-timer at that particular retreat that she has a guaranteed spot in the main house. So, we visited often and saw each other at meals. Here she is, looking happy and busy.

Down in our room, we did a lot of sewing, although you wouldn't know it from my complete lack of sewing action pictures. Janet and Pat worked on challenge projects for our art group. We cheered Mary Lou on as she moved from using her subdued New Englander fabrics into wild brights and high contrast fabrics... She knows she'll get a shocked reaction when she shows her work to her local guild back there. She's had a hard time finding contemporary quilters in her area.

We laughed and joked almost incessantly. And we listened to good music, too. Oddly enough, when we pooled our CDs we found that we had quite the international assortment... Gypsy Kings, Beau Soleil, Andrea Boccelli, a singer from Brazil whose name I can't remember but whose voice was very nice) and more. Indeed, spontaneous outbursts of dancing occurred from time to time. Here's Pat:

And Mary Lou and Rita demonstrated proper ballroom dancing technique (although I never did see a dip):

Yes, I did get sewing done! I decided to use the time to work on my Karen Stone "Cinco de Mayo" blocks. These are the complex New York Beauty style blocks with something like 11 different fabrics in each block and lord knows how many points. They're fun, but slow going. I figured having a hunk of time to just plug away on them would be good. And it was, although I was a bit frustrated as the quilters around me were whipping out a quilt top a day while I was proudly announcing the completion of ONE block every 5 hours or so. Still, I was happy to get seven of them done at the retreat. Here they are, with the two I'd done before (in no particular arrangement):

I'm not sure how big I'm going to make the quilt. I'd envisioned something rather large, but geez, these blocks take a lot of time. I'm going to take a break for a while, then make a few more and then see how it goes. I'm thinking I want at least 16 blocks and probably more.

The other thing I accomplished at the ranch was that I did most of my "Brown Bag Challenge" quilt. Remember that challenge? About 6 months ago, everyone in our art group brought a brown paper sack with an unidentied object in it, and we put them on the table and each picked a bag. The challenge is to make an 18" square quilt inspired by the what's in your bag.

Here's what I got:

In case you can't recognize it, it's a seed pod from a Liquidambar tree. (I never knew until I went to link the tree name that it's all one word. Hmmm.)

As I was sewing on my Cinco de Mayo blocks, I was complaining outloud to my sewing roommates at the retreat that I didn't know what I was going to do for the challenge.

Pat gave me a bemused look. "A rounded shape? With points? Whatever could you do?"

I looked down at my blocks. Oh yeah. Round. Pointy points. Well, duh. So, I thought about doing another block and making it the center of an 18" square quilt.

But those blocks take so dang long! I opted for the fusing method (or, as we started to call it, the "slap and glue" approach). Here's where I am so far:

I'm gonna crop this way down so only the edges of the leaves show. And I'm thinking of doing some Gabrielle-type shading. We'll see.

I love how the pod turned out, especially the weird curly points. Here's a close-up:

So, now it's back to home and real life and work and laundry and such. But it's also back to husband and daughter and puppy and cats, so life is good.

It wouldn't be a retreat if you didn't have home to retreat from and return to, eh?!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Read this book...

I am just back from a lovely quilt retreat, and as soon as I unpack all my stuff and transfer photos from camera to computer, I will tell you more about it. But in the meantime, I want to recommend an absolutely amazing book that you will surely want to read.

It's called "gods in Alabama" by Joshilyn Jackson. Here's one of the opening paragraphs:

"I made a deal with God two years before I left [Alabama]. At the time, I thought He made out pretty well. I offered Him a three-for-one deal: All He had to do was perform a miracle. He fulfilled His end of the bargain, so I kept my three promises faithfully, no matter what the cost. I held our deal as sacred for twelve solid years. But that was before God let Rose Mae Lolly show up on my doorstep, dragging my ghosts and her own considerable baggage with her."

It's hard to know how to describe this novel. It's amazingly well-written, with wise-cracking humor and charming descriptions of crazy Southern folks, a southern girl's perspective from life in the north. It's absorbing drama, and a plot with a some surprising turns.

Really, this book will delight and engross you, and keep you thinking after you put it down. It wouldn't surprise me if this ended up as an Oprah pick (and I mean that in a good way).

What's more, you can get a taste of Joshilyn Jackson's writing on her blog Faster than Kudzu, which is wonderful fun reading.

I'm not kidding. Go find this book and read it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Quilt Festival Frenzy

I am home after three days devoted to quilts, viewing, making, and otherwise being immersed in, at PIQF in Santa Clara. One of the great things for me about this is that it takes place about 20 minutes from my parents' house. So, I stay with them and then get to enjoy the show for a few days. PIQF is so huge, with such great things to see, that I'd hate to try to do it in one day. As it is, I get overwhelmed seeing this many amazing quilts in one place.

There were scads of gorgeous quilts. I quickly became overwhelmed and didn't take as many pictures as I probably should have. Plus there were wonderful quilts that just always had people crowded around them, so I never did get a clear shot.

Here is one of the ones I consider among my most favorites:

I find that I am drawn to different sorts of quilts each year. I admire, but tend not to look at closely or take pictures of of the traditional or big applique quilts. Baltimore Album quilts leave me cold, although I am awed by the time and patience that making one displays. I'm also, at present, sick and tired of the heavy surface design know, things stamped and printed and layered with fabric bits and organza on top of that and then layered more with stitching and different thread work and beads and other stuff attached. I know those techniques are probably fun to do and the look is trendy right now, but I find most of those very jumbly and not very interesting. There was a fair amount of that sort of work this show, and I didn't see any one piece that struck me really terrific. (But that's just me, and hey, I know my quilts aren't fine art either.)

By the way, I also noticed that heavy, heavy quilting is IN. I can't believe how many quilts I saw that were so heavily quilted that you noticed the quilting before you noticed the quilt itself. It made me admire all the more the quilts that used the threadwork and quilting to compliment but not overwhelm the quilt content. Anyway. I don't mean to sound nit-picky. There were lots and lots of gorgeous quilts.

This time, I just wandered around and looked at the stuff that caught my eye for whatever reason. Mostly, the factor that pulls me in is color. That, more than technique or content, is usually what gets my attention and causes me to look more closely. I did find myself drawn to the animal quilts, for some reason...Not for realistic portrayals of animals...This dog one was so colorful and full of detail (not to mention amazing applique) that it warranted a lot of close looking.

This dog quilt also captured my attention. I love how it is about the dog, but it is so colorful and has so much to look at in it. Very whimsical. I recall that it was made for a "blue" challenge...and I suspect that this dog was/is either a blue heeler breed or named Blue. (You can tell I pay way more attention to the quilt than the information on the card.)

Here are more favorites, for no other reason than I found them exceptional. I'm afraid that I didn't notice who made them, so my apologies. I guess being happily overwhelmed by the artistry of the quilt is my excuse.

Oh! Look at this! A group of quilt artists took a picture of Paris, cut it into strips, and made this panel of strips. Apparently there was one fabric that each artist had to use. My friends and I were guessing that it was one of the terra cotta colored bits which most of them used somewhere in the bridge stonework. I was especially amazed at this, as most of these group projects that I've seen turn out ugly and disjointed looking. I thought this was surprisingly cohesive.

I took this picture for Caroline. I will never make this sort of horse quilt, but I can admire it.

For some reason, I found myself noticing interesting and unusual borders. This was a pretty, but not wildly interesting, broderie perse type quilt. But I love this border, with the black buttonhole stitching highlighting the pieced edges.

Another intesting quilt and border treatment. You can just tell that this is a Japanese quilt, can't you? The detail was really amazing.

I also was interested in the border treatment on this. I thought this edge treatment really made a good (but not great) quilt into something much more interesting.

One of the special exhibits was a collection of small quilts (all about 18 or 20" square) by a group of artists from New York State. There were lots of interesting small works in that assortment and I spent a long time enjoying them. Here's one of my favorites. I loved how these narrow strings (each maybe 1/4 inch wide or less) made such great texture.

I have much more to say about PIQF, but of course I can't close this first entry without showing you how my first day ended: with margaritas with Melody Johnson and Gerrie Congdon at El Torito. After a long day of walking around on concrete floors (resulting in "Disneyland Feet" as my family refers to that tired leg/sore feet feeling), nothing is as reviving as a comfy booth, laughter with friends, and of course a large margarita on the rocks!

Our waiter kindly took this shot (notice how Melody is gazing at him with interest?). I'm still figuring out how to smile in just doesn't feel normal yet. But it was a very enjoyable dinner!

Oh, I have to add one more thing. I walked through the show on Thursday and Friday. Starting Saturday, the convention center was hosting other activities besides the quilt show. In the halls adjacent to the quilt show area was the "Bay Area UFO Convention." I'm not kidding! It was totally entertaining to sit (to enjoy a rejuvenating cup of coffee and rest the Disneyland Feet) and watch the folks coming in and going out. I actually saw one very serious fellow with a rather large wad of aluminum foil on his head. Seriously, I did.

I bet that the thought of a quilt convention was just as odd to them as the UFO convention was to me.

Can't you just see THAT as a quilt? "Quilt and UFO Convention"?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Quilty Travels

Ooh! I have earned this week, let me tell you!

I am leaving momentarily to drive down to Santa Clara, to spend 3 days at PIQF. I'll view amazing quilts, shop a little teeny bit (ahem), visit with friends, see Miss Melody, take a workshop with Robbi Ecklow, and have a grand time.

Then, I dash home, spend a day with husband and child and dog, then turn around and head off to Bishop's Ranch for a quilting retreat with a wonderful group of women.

So, basically, I have a vacation from real life and responsibilities for almost a whole week.

I shall return looking well rested and smiling!

Happy quilting!

Monday, October 10, 2005

I interrupt this blog....

... to make an important announcement. I've been reading blogs on the Artful Quilter's Web Ring, and I just have to say:


(No, I'm not drunk. Okay, I'm mildly nauseated from all the obnoxious legal pleadings I've been reading lately... but still, I'm overcome with the urge to hug my computer monitor because of you all.)

Truly, this is an amazing group of artists and women. Did you realize that the ring has 105 members now?

I'm absolutely blown away by the creativity and diversity of the women in this ring. If you hop through the ring, you can visit world-famous quilt artists and teachers. You can see work that you KNOW will be big, prize-winning work one day, while it's actually in the process of being made. You can see people making quilts for their kids and their friends and people they don't even know. You can watch as quilt artists explore still life art, color, design. You can get great inspiration, and you can receive feedback and encouragement on your own work.

And, even beyond the quilts and art shown on these blogs, you can glimpse the lives of 105 different and delightful women, from all over the U.S., the U.K., Scotland, Australia... You can see (or be linked to) virtually every quiz on the internet to find out what wine you are, what old movie you are, what movie star you are, what rock band you are, etc. (Ahem! I'm not naming names here but you quiz-linkers know who you are...and we love you for it!)

I love having you all appear on my screen and I thank you for everything you share with me through your blog!

Halloween Housez

For those of you who asked about how to make something like my little Halloween neighborhood quilt, here's the pattern that I used in making mine. It's by Jan Mullen, of Stargazey Designs.

You can purchase it, and others by Jan Mullen, here or here. I love her crooked, free-form style, and they're really fun to make.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Why lawyers don't like lawyers

I'm a lawyer myself, as I've mentioned before. But I've spent the last several days immersed in a case which is reminding me why I was so eager to get away from full-time courtroom litigation. It's not the clients (although they can be difficult). It's not the judges, although there's nothing more annoying than finding a judge who will do whatever he can to avoid making a decision. It's not the courtroom drama -- heck, that's a big part of the fun. Frankly, it's the lawyers.

Yep. I always said that practicing law would be great if you could choose your opposing counsel. Which you can't.

At present, I do the written work for my good friend and "boss" Bob back in New Hampshire. I'm a member of the NH bar, where I practiced "in person" for many years. Now, I write pleadings and briefs and deal with documents ... whatever I can do from this far away, at my computer, at any time of the day. It's actually a very nice arrangement, and usually it means I spend my work time doing the legal work I like best: the intellectual legal analysis in briefs and memoranda.

But these days, I'm spending my time writing about ridiculous skirmishes over discovery, which is the process by which lawyers exchange information about a case to prepare for trial. This ought to be a relatively straight-forward contract case, involving some machinery that my client wanted to buy and the other side wanted to make and sell.

But in the hands of this other lawyer -- known affectionately here as "The JERK" -- it has deteriorated into a procedural nit-picking contest. Here's an example of the sort of thing I've had to waste my SUNDAY (ahem! a day of rest! fun with family! quilting!) dealing with:

We sent them "requests for admissions." That's a document where you make a bunch of statements and the other side is required to either admit they're true or deny them. You can use them in all sorts of useful ways at trial. Anyway, here's a typical request for admission:

"Smith invited Jones to bid for the job of manufacuring a prototype machine."

And here's a typical answer from the JERK: "Smith objects to this request as worded, in that Smith is not sure what is meant by the terms "invited," "bid," or "job."

AARRRGH. Makes me wanna whack the guy upside the head with a very thick dictionary. I had a bit of entertainment imagining replies:

"Your objection to Request #2 is specious. (Feel free to look that word up in a dictionary. You DO know what a dictionary is, don't you?)"


"Here are the definitions of invite, bid, and job.I am happy to add three new words to your vocabulary. Knowledge is power, you know. Now, please respond to the request."


"How did you get beyond 4th grade, with such a limited vocabulary? Was your law degree issued by an accredited institution?"

Sigh. I'd really rather be quilting. Or cleaning my sewing area. Or cleaning the toilet, even. Feel free to post your suggested response to this jerk in the comments. It'll cheer me up. I have more of this to deal with.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Another UFO Off of the Pile

I love making crazy log cabin "kid quilts." They're fun, a great way to use up scraps, and they make bright, cheerful quilts. I've made a bunch of these for the local charity I support, the Valley of the Moon Children's Center.

On Monday, I was scheduled for my second lesson on my friend Veronica's Gammill Long Arm Quilting Machine. (She has not yet named hers, unlike those odd ladies on the tv commercial who are apparently better friends with their machines than with their human friends.) I'd practiced on a scrap hunk of muslin last time, and decided that this time I'd work on an actual quilt top.

So, I pulled out one of the crazy quilt tops I'd put together last fall. Yep, another one from that same batch of Halloween fabrics. (Funny, how far that pack of Halloween half-yards will stretch--and I've got enough left to make another quilt like this, probably.) Anyway, here it is, completed:

I just did a looping meander all over the quilt. I figured I'd start with something easy and get fancier from there. I apologize for the less-than-sharp pictures, but maybe you can see a bit of the quilting here:

Or, maybe not. Anyway, trust me, it's a looping meander that looks fine. I did get brave enough to write "Boo" a few times in the border, but that was as brave as I got.

This took me probably three hours to do on her machine...You have to bear in mind that changing the bobbin and stopping and starting and burying threads as I go is all new to me, so that probably slowed me way down...Still, I was delighted to have this done in one morning.

My view of the long arm quilting so far? It's a heck of a lot of fun. Threading the machine isn't as hard or tricky as I thought it would fact, it's very much like threading your typical industrial type machine. The loading process isn't a fast one, but then again, neither is the basting process when you're going to quilt on a regular machine. I can see that if you take the time to make sure it's all straight when you put all the layers on the rollers, then all goes smoothly as you quilt sections and roll it up.

Also, it's clear to me that if you've done a fair amount of free-motion quilting, then the long-arm won't be that hard. I think a lot of what people have a hard time with is figuring out how to get an overall continuous line pattern to cover the area uniformly, and how not to get backed into a corner as you're quilting. Those are the same issues you deal with regardless of what machine you're on, so if you've gotten good at that stuff, then the long arm stuff will be easier. Veronica, who had done no free-motion quilting before she got this, said that she found that the hardest part, and she's amazed that it's not hard at all for me. Another one of those practice issues, I believe.

Am I eager to rush out and buy one? No. This is suiting me fine to be able to use one from time to time. I'm not sure if it's a function of Veronica's particular machine or my novice status or what, but I find the machine hard to control when you move it at certain angles, so precision quilting right now wouldn't come out well. But maybe that's a matter of getting a feel for the machine and getting a lot of practice. We'll see. I have another donation quilt I'll take next Monday for my next practice session.

By the way, I was thinking to give this one away. But Caroline has pointed out that the crazy quilt I made for her some years ago is getting very worn and she needs THIS one to snuggle with on the couch. So, it looks like it's staying here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


About 2 years ago, just after Halloween, I came across a great sale on Halloween fabrics and bought a bunch.

So, a year ago, I spent some nice quilt-retreat time making a fun Halloween quilt. I used a combination of Gwen Marston's and Jan Mullen's crazy houses, and made a quilt top, which sat in the closet all year. This past week, I decided to get it finished, so here it is. This is small, about 38 x 38 inches.

I had such fun with it, especially the crooked fence. My friend Rita contributed a piece of her wacky witch fabric, which allowed me to add a few cranky witches to the neighborhood.

Here's another.

I did a quick quilting job (so it's not the tidiest) but I experimented with quilting spiderwebs on the border, and I like how it turned out. At least you can tell they're supposed to be spiderwebs!

It feels good to finish something that's been hanging around in the UFO pile.

I think this will live for the season on the dining room table (with a centerpiece cleverly made of a hurricane glass lamp filled with candy canes -- I mean, corns! -- and holding an orange candle)...or maybe on the wall in the family room?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

And I thought parenting was hard...

Who knew that baby penguins were so cute?!

I saw March of the Penguins this afternoon. (I couldn't get Caroline and Roger to come with me, so I went alone, party poopers that they are.) What a fascinating movie!

Penguin parenthood makes raising a human child look like a piece of cake. After all, we do it while living indoors, in comfort and warmth, with 3 meals a day. Of course, penguin babies don't talk back...

Goal: Organization

Yesterday was consumed by Caroline's riding lesson and a family gathering at my brother's house to celebrate his wedding. (It was wonderful to see my aunt, uncle and'd been too long since we'd been together.)

So, today is a designated tidying and organizing day, with a reward at the end of it.

My goal is to tidy my office, the laundry room, and the hallway. In the hallway leading to Caroline's room (and opposite the door to the laundry room) we have a section of cabinets where linens and other miscellaneous things are stored. I tend to use the counter to fold laundry and put stuff that is on its way out (all those clothes Caroline is rapidly out-growing) and the piles accululate with amazing speed. It's astonishing how much better I feel about life when that area is all clean, so that's my plan.

We'll all head out to see the March of the Penguins this afternoon. I have been wanting to see this, after my friend Pat has raved about it so. You can see the wall quilt she made inspired by this movie here, on Gerrie Congdon's blog. It's been ages since we've had a family movie date.

Incidentally, when we got home last night from the family gathering, Caroline went straight to bed and Roger and I flopped down in front of the tv. Flipping channels, we stumbled across the movie "Sunset Boulevard," just beginning. Although we'd seen the famous scenes before ("I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille") neither of us had ever seen the whole thing. We sat, entranced, for 90 minutes. I do love old movies and thank goodness for Turner Classic Movies channel, which airs them without commercials.