Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Quilting Project

This time I'm entering a contest; it's called a "challenge quilt." My quilt guild has one of these challenges each year at its February quilt show. You pay $10 and for that you receive a half yard of two different fabrics that you have to use in the quilt. This year's theme is Mardi Gras on the farm. One of the fabrics has the wild looking roosters; the other was the smaller colored blocks. I added the more normal type farm buildings and animals. The block is a variation on the Tic-Tac-Toe block. I got purple for the sashing and have ordered some fabric for a border from a company in New Jersey. The fabric has more of a human Mardi Gras theme. I'm also going to add some feathers here and there. We have to turn them into the guild by February 1. The members vote on them at the meeting that month. All the "challenge quilts" are displayed at the big quilt show the end of February with the first, second and third place winners in a special area.

I figured this was a way for a newbie quilter like me to get something in the show. Right now it measures 32 inches by 21 inches. It will get a bit bigger with the border and binding.

It's another beautiful day here so I'm going to fertilize my bulbs. I have an iris that is starting to bloom. It's one I transplanted; I guess it likes the new location.
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Death In The Family

These wonderful people became part of our family on July 4, 2004 when Charlotte, on the left, married my baby brother Richard. Her mother Nan is on the right and her baby brother Don is in the middle. Don died last night in a group home at the age of 48. His mother loved him dearly despite the problems he had dealing with life.
I never met him; he almost came to Richard and Charlotte's wedding but then decided it would be too much for him. I like this picture because of the look on Don's face. He's got his arm around his mom and that's all he needs to be happy. I'm not sure how he got to a group home, but that was where he spent the majority of his life.
My brother, who is the wordsmith in the family, wrote a wonderful eulogy for Don on his blog. Visit I stole the picture from there. Richard and Charlotte are in the air as I write on there way to Cincinnati to prepare for Don's funeral. In the end cigarettes did him in.
This is someone who never really had a chance; he had a family who loved him dearly but despite that there was something that kept him divided from the rest of society. He lived in his own cloistered and troubled world.
He will be laid to rest in the family cemetery in London, Kentucky. He went there a few months ago with his mom and picked out the place he wanted to be buried; right next to his dad. The family knew he was dying; his lungs were simply giving out. It happened on a Friday night about 10 p.m. The staff checked on him and he was fine, 15 minutes later they came back and he was dead. It was a quiet death; his roommate was not awakened by it. He deserved so much more in life, but at least he had a peaceful death. I hope all of you will say a prayer for Don and his family. Nan shouldn't have to see one of her children die. Children are supposed to outlive their parents.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Very Expensive Tootsie Pop

I just got back from the dentist, and I'm still alive. Bless his heart he had nitrous oxide. Once we established my total fear of his drill he trotted it out and I slipped into a blissful state of relaxation. He's also really good with the Novocaine needle. I didn't feel a thing. He drilled the old tooth down to a nub, put on a temporary crown and charged me $945. I get the real thing on Nov. 19th. He did one thing I've never seen before; he gave me sunglasses to wear so the glare of the light wouldn't hurt my eyes. Turns out they are also safety glasses. What a nice idea. So I'm heading out to my knitting group tonight for good conversation, an occasional bit of knitting, good food and some wine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'll Never Eat A Tootsie Pop Again

Here's the completed quilt hanging on the wall between our bedroom on the right and our sitting room on the left. I bound it with the red fabric that is in the quilt; Kerry got a piece of bamboo from our bamboo grove and we hung it on the wall. I sewed a sleeve to the back of the quilt through which the bamboo pole passes. I know you have seen it many times in many different stages, but now it's finally done. That's Nora in the lower right hand corner.

Now for the Tootsie Pop. We ate at Lucille's last night. It's a rib place that offers you Tootsie Pops as you go out the door. I took one, ripped off the wrapper and proceeded to suck on it. It was grape. I thought to myself just suck slowly, no need to break a tooth. Well, I did anyway. My upper right hand side molar is half gone. This is not the first time for me. I see my dentist on Thursday at 2 p.m. I am a big wimp when I go to the dentist. This is my new dentist, which means I've been there twice a year for the past four years but all I've needed is a cleaning.

My old dentist in Lafayette who took care of my teeth for 31 years always gave me nitrous oxide when I had crowns done. If this guy doesn't use it I will be tempted to drive for two hours to my old dentist.

In the meantime, I am wearing my retainer which encloses all my upper teeth. That way my tongue doesn't keep running into the ragged edge of the tooth remains and I can eat and drink without pain.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Latest Quilt...Sorta

The quilt guild that I now belong to is having a quilt show at the end of February. They need lots of signs that tell people not to touch the quilts on display. I took home the white sign in the middle and created the rest around it. I think I'm going to get another one. I've never started from scratch, especially with something in the middle whose size I couldn't control. I need the practice.

Halloween is a great time to be searching for scary fabric. I'm going to put a very somber gray binding around the whole thing.

My quilting buddy, Linda, and I took another class at Cabin Fever Quilt Shoppe last week. This one was about binding, which is the last step in making a quilt. I learned a great technique that really gives the quilt a nice look. I've now completed four quilts and done the correct binding on two of them. Like I've said before, it's a learning process.

Linda and I signed up for an applique class on Nov. 8. Right now she's running the flu clinic for the local Kaiser facility so she's sort of tired at the end of the day. The Nov. 8th class means she has to leave work early. I convinced her, rather easily, that it was the right thing to do. Then I don't take anything until Jan. 28 when I take hand quilting. Not sure Linda will join me.

Quilting seems to be consuming my life these days. I also got some bulb fertilizer and tulip bulbs. I have three good-sized pots that I'm going to put the bulbs in. The weather is beautiful right now; it's supposed to hit 82 on Wednesday.

I guess the quilting, I've been consumed by the "sturm und drang" of Creamy Silver's house purchase. I think her realtor should be horse whipped. That's all for now. Another wonderful week awaits me.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Sewing Machine Is Home Again

And it works fabulously. The technician said it just needed some TLC which translates to cleaning and oiling, something we all need from time to time. I finished what I have to do for class tomorrow.

Today I actually didn't feel well for a while. First I was cold and then hot and then my stomach hurt. As soon as I found out my machine was ready, I was cured.

Kerry went with me because he is curious about sewing machines and where they fix them. I actually think that he could be a fabric artist. So no more prayers are needed, just kidding. The house is once again whole: a man, a woman, two cats and my sewing machine.

Class tomorrow is on quilt binding. We are making potholders as a way to learn. I can hardly wait. I pick up Linda at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Sewing Machine Is In The Hospital

Yes, it has to stay overnight. Here's what it looked like as I was preparing to put the case on so I could carry it to my car. The young man who looked it over said it could be fixed and I could pick it up Wednesday right before closing (7 p.m.). That means I still have another 24 hours until we will be reunited. Hopefully my manual will come by then so I can better understand the machine.

To compensate for my loss, I went to Joanns Fabrics, walked around and felt fabric. I did get the Insul-Bright for my binding class on Thursday. It's a type of batting that you use in pot holders, which is what we are making on Thursday evening when we perfect, or in my case learn, binding techniques. I got home and looked at the empty space on my sewing table and didn't quite know what to do. This should tell you just how hooked I am on this. It's not that I wanted to quilt this afternoon; with the machine gone I didn't have a choice, I couldn't.

So I took a short nap, wandered into my sewing room, discovered it had not magically re-appeared and then went back to bed to read a fiction book on quilting; the Elm Creek Quilt Camp series.

My quilting buddy Linda hasn't had much time for quilting because she's running the flu clinic at Kaiser in Lincoln. She's a retired R.N. and does this each year. The first day they had 500 but the second day they were swamped with 1,000.

I did buy a book of iron-on quilt labels so I think I'll spend tomorrow making some labels and coloring them so I'm ready to quilt again and finish a couple of quilts.
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Wedding Vows And A Calliope

My good friend Susan's daughter, Jennifer, was married last Saturday at the Amador Harvest Inn which is deep in the heart of the Amador County/Gold Country wine growing region. Jennifer, as you can tell, was a lovely bride. She married a young man named Paul who has a son, Jacob, by his first marriage. You could just tell that this couple plus Jacob are marked for success. When the couple exchanged rings they also had one for Jacob. He was so pumped up to have his own ring (he's in second grade).

The sun was out, the weather was warm, not too much of a breeze and lots of happy people. The rose petals you see behind the groom, well, there is a story behind them. Susan was appalled by how expensive rose petals were. All the rest of the flowers were silk, but because of the wildlife in the area anything you had on the ground had to be biodegradable. Susan bought $30 worth of rose petals and then set out to find the rest on her own. Any rose bush that looked like the petals were about to drop became fair game for Susan. I told her I would have joined her; we could have hit all the cemeteries in the area. She looked at me, smiled and said, "You were always so resourceful."

The family who owns the inn also owns Deaver Winery, which is right next door, so we had great wine with dinner.

Before I get to the calliope, one very important serendipitous thing happened. Kerry and I noticed a bunch of older Porsches in the parking lot of the winery. Kerry went to talk with the Porsche owners and discovered that they are a car;the owners have the kind of old Porsche that he has. Great discussion ensued; we are going to their monthly breakfast at Marie Callender just before we leave for Palm Desert next month for a week. These guys assured him they would come to the house, help him get it started and basically get us on the road so we can ride around in a very hot red convertible. I can hardly wait. He could get rid of the rest of his vehicles and just keep this one and I would be very happy. A Prius and a bright red (and newly painted) 1962 Porsche 356 convertible.

Now for the calliope; we stayed in nearby Sutter Creek for the wedding afterparty (pizza). Sunday morning we went in search of breakfast. The Days Inn had no trace of protein in its free breakfast so that wasn't good for diabetic Kerry. As we were coming out of the breakfast place in Sutter Creek we heard the sounds of a merry-go-round. There was a glorious calliope (sans merry-go-round) across the street that was thumping out some great polka music. There were two calliopes and three organ grinders in the downtown area. As with everything, there is a club for calliope owners. The one pictured was built in 1895 in Germany and then came to the U.S. at the turn of the century. It was part of a merry-go-round for many years until this couple bought it.

We got home Sunday afternoon and headed out for game night at 6 p.m. Being popular can be exhausting.

Today I couldn't get my sewing machine to work so early tomorrow we are heading for the doctor. I did manage to find a manual for my machine on line. It was listed under sewing machine relics (sigh). Hopefully the doctor can fix it up tomorrow because I have a class on Thursday evening with my quilting buddy Linda. I'll keep you posted on the health of the machine.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Mighty Acorn, Al Gore and The Flattened World

Our remaining oak is a blue oak and this is an acorn from that tree. They don't put out acorns every year but this year they are putting out a bumper crop. Sometimes it sounds like popcorn popping in the microwave. I've been hit on the head a few times and they definitely hurt. If everyone of them became an oak tree we would have thousands of trees. They are very slow growing because they are drought resistant.

Now we come to Al Gore and the flattened world; if you voted for Bush in 2004 and consider him a good president, you might want to stop reading right now. But come back another time. I rarely get political.

Al Gore's new book "The Assault on Reason" is a real page turner or in our case a CD inserter. We listened to it on our trip to Washington.

New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote in her review, "In 'The Assault on Reason' Al Gore excoriates George W. Bush, asserting that the president is 'out of touch with reality,' that his administration is so incompetent that it 'can't imagine its own way out of a horse show,' that it ignored 'clear warnings' about the terrorist threat before 9/11 and that it has made Americans less safe by 'stirring up a hornets' nest in Iraq, 'while using the language and politics of fear' to try to 'drive the public agenda without regard to the evidence, the facts or the public interest.'"

It is a truly scary book. Our constitution is being eroded on a daily basis by the Bush administration. Mr. Gore's central argument, according to the reviewer (I agree with her), is that "'reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way American now makes important decisions' and that the country's public discourse has become 'less focused and clear, less reasoned.'" This is the assault on reason.

Now for the next book, Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat, A Brief History of the 21st Century." He's a columnist for the New York Times. The reviewer in the New York Times for this book was Fareed Azkaria."The metaphor of a flat world, used by Friedman to describe the next phase of globalization, is ingenious. It came to him after hearing an Indian software executive explain how the world's economic playing field was being leveled. For a variety of reasons, what economists call 'barriers to entry' are being destroyed; today an individual or company anywhere can collaborate or compete globally." The first barrier was the fall of the Berlin wall. The book is a hard read so I highly recommend listening to it in small doses. One of the Friedman theories that I like best is that countries with McDonald's don't get involved in wars. It's shorthand for saying that countries who have a stake in the world economy don't want to mess it up by doing something stupid like going to war. Countries without McDonald's include Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just so you know that I'm now becoming some intellectually elite snob, my next book is a murder mystery by Elizabeth George and then a book by Jennifer Chiaverini, "The Christmas Quilt." See I'm not a snob afterall.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

I Won Something; I Never Win Anything

Went to my first quilt guild meeting tonight and walked away with a Rowenta travel iron valued at $55. I bought $5 worth of raffle tickets and won. I almost left because my asthmas decided to rear its ugly head. I went over the the raffle table and asked the woman what would happen if I won but wasn't there. She asked why I had to leave. I told her I was having an asthma attack and didn't have my inhaler. "You use albuterol?" she asked. "Yup," I replied. "This is your lucky day, use mine," she said as she handed me her inhaler. That enabled me to stay until I'd won the iron. Now you have to love an organization where people will lend you their inhalers. I immediately went to the membership table and paid my $25 to join. I figured with the $5 plus the $25 I was already ahead plus I now know who else has an inhaler with them if I forget mine again.

There were 125 people at the meeting (two men, not to mention Hector who is a great quilter but is somewhat of a recluse so doesn't come to meetings). I got there 45 minutes early and was amazed to see a full parking lot at the church where they meet. Quilting is almost like a religion so why not meet at a church.

They have a section on the agenda called "show and tell." I was in awe of the quilts that people showed us. The speaker for the meeting was a woman known for her scrap quilts. That's code for someone who can't throw any scrap of fabric away and needs to do something with what she saves. The quilts she showed us were beautiful. She confessed that she never saves anything smaller than two square inches; but then her caveat was "unless it's a really interesting fabric."

I agreed to all kinds of things while I was there; people were so nice you just couldn't say no. I entered a contest with the theme of Mardi Gras on the farm. I got two fat quarters (that's another bit of quilting jargon; sort of reminds me of the French Quarter in New Orleans) and am supposed to make something out of them for display at the quilt show in February in Auburn. I have no idea what I will do. I also signed up to make a "Do Not Touch" mini quilt for the same quilt show. Everyone wants to touch the quilts so they hang these quilts between each quilt to discourage the fingering of fabric.

Also, as a member I have to make a name tag for myself by my third meeting or I have to pay 25 cents each meeting that I don't have one. I wish I'd had my camera so I could've taken pictures of all the name tags I saw tonight. I'm feeling creatively challenged and happy; very happy.

How many people in blog land think that I am hooked? Raise your hands, shout out "quilt block and walking foot" and than say amen. That's all from Lincoln, CA tonight.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

This is a walking foot; a strange name for a sewing machine foot that allows you to stitch in the ditch. This is what happens with any new craft; you have to learn the lingo.

The walking foot moves the fabric forward in sync with the feed dogs (sigh); those are the teeth in the plate under the needle. You probably aren't interested in the translation anyway. You just want to know why I'm showing you this foot. Well, I've gotten to the quilting part of my quilt. Until you put the quilt top (the pretty part), the batting and the backing (any old cotton) together and start to sew on them you don't have a quilt. To me this is the challenging part. Some folks just turn their quilt top, batting and backing over to professional quilters, but I didn't want to do that without trying it first.

I did the easy part, stitch in the ditch. Basically you just follow along as close to the seam as you can get. You start from the middle and work out. And you use safety pins rather than straight pins to hold the whole thing together.

The fancy part is called "free motion quilting." And I'm terribly intimated by it. It's the art in arts and craft. My Thursday class taught this technique; I've been practicing, but I'm certainly not ready to a do this to my quilt top. I'm going to work through this but it's going to take a lot of practice on muslin (it's hard for me to not write "Muslim"). At the fabric store I asked for a yard of Muslim. I'm sure I wasn't the first to do that.

Despite the age of my sewing machine (born 1976) I have been able to find all the attachments I need to quilt. For a nanosecond on Thursday I thought I might have to buy a new machine; then I found the quilting/darning foot. Does anyone remember darning socks. I do. I wonder what happened to my mother's egg.

I finally feel like we are back to our usual life; I got on the treadmill today after a 12 day absence. That's when I knew things were back to normal. Plus we are having leftovers tonight: meatloaf and potato salad that was leftover from the Red Hat Ladies barbecue.

The only thing that is not normal is Kerry's health. He had a blood test prior to our trip, but we didn't get the results until mid-trip. His platelet count is 24,000; at 20,000 doctors worry about bleeding out. You are supposed to have upwards of 250,000 platelets. This is the lowest his count has ever been. He's now having his blood tested every four weeks. Scares me to death. Also, his glucose level was over the top so now he's taking insulin pills. I'm much more worried than he is; that's my job in this relationship. He may have to go through another chemotherapy treatment for the platelet disorder (ITP). Until we figure that out we are not venturing very far from home.

I'm going to my first quilt guild meeting tomorrow night. My quilting buddy, Linda, is out of town so I'm going alone to scout it out.
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Friday, October 05, 2007

We Are Back

Before we went to Kerry's family in Burlington, WA, we stopped at Crater Lake in southern Oregon for a night. The lake was formed when a volcano imploded and collapsed into a huge crater that is 1,900 feet at its deepest point. Over time (like 7,000 years) it filled with rainwater and snow. Not outlets or inlets so the water is very pure. The average snowfall at the lake is 533 inches per year. It holds 5 trillion gallons of water. The color is amazing.

The second picture is the deck outside the Crater Lake Lodge. It overlooks the lake. On the far right in the background you can see Ranger Dave giving a history lesson on the lake. We couldn't get into the lodge but did get to have dinner there on the deck just as the full moon was rising between two crags. A bit chilly out there for dinner but definitely worth the cold to see the beauty of the place. You just had to eat your soup relatively fast. In the morning it was 34 degrees F.

On our way to Burlington, we met our friends Steve and Janet in Roseburg, Oregon for lunch at Applebees. They were coming down Interstate 5 after a couple of months in Alaska. Thanks to cell phones, we talked and found a place to meet. We hadn't seen them since early July when they left for Alaska.

Then we headed for Burlington where we had a great visit; Susan turned 60 as planned and it rained every day.

We headed south to Portland where we stopped at a quilt shop in Wilsonville, The Speckled Hen ( It is in the list of Top Ten Quilt Shops put out by Better Homes and Gardens recently. Great place. I got a calendar that has a different quilt block pattern, including directions, for each day of the year. The calendar only has the date so you can use it year after year. I think 366 quilt block patterns will keep me busy for a while.

After Wilsonville, we headed for the Oregon coast to visit our friend and wonderful artist, Charlotte. She is having some health problems so continued down the coast to Bandon, rather than stay with her. In Bandon the weather finally cleared so we could see the beautiful southern Oregon scenery. We arrived home late Wednesday night after a marathon 11 hours of driving.

The cats were very glad to see us. I woke up Thursday morning to discover that the two of them were wedged in behind my knees. I moved a bit and they moved right along with me.

My quilting buddy, Linda, and I had another quilting class yesterday. This one was about free motion quilting, which allows you to use a regular sewing machine (with a special quilting foot) to quilt the quilt top. I'm going to spend this afternoon practicing on some muslin.

It is wonderful to be home. Tomorrow my Red Hat Ladies bring their spouses to our house for our annual fall barbecue. Hopefully it will be cool enough for a few rounds of croquet.
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