QC Blog: 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yikes, no power, now what?

A couple weeks ago, the power went out for a couple hours at my house due to a giant windstorm. There was no TV, no stove, no microwave, no refrigerator. I couldn't use the computer and my cell service was down as well. The only thing still operating was my non-electric land line phone. All those little lights that tell you every device in the house is charging (or just eating up electricity) were off. There were no lights, no stereo, and more importantly no heat.

Our dependence on electrical appliances is staggering. My camera would still work, until my batteries ran out of their electrical charge, and I can't look at the large photos without a computer. I wouldn't be able to use the sewing machine. I can't make a cup of tea or wash the clothes. As I sat there reading in the fading daylight, I realized this was the only thing I could do with no electricity. (I could be hand quilting, but chose reading instead.) There was no hum of electricity or a heater or a TV through out the house. Except for the ticking of the analog clock in my kitchen, the house was dead quiet.

It made me wonder about what people in the old days did with all the quiet? I assume they worked. Hard. They sewed, read to one another, and talked. No wonder they all went to bed at sunset. What else could they do? Thank goodness the plumbing still works even though I had to use a candle to light the bathroom. The house kept getting a little colder and the clock ticking was an annoying reminder of the time passing.

Suddenly 3 hours later, the house blinks awake - and I mean blinks. The clocks are blinking on the TV, the DVR, the microwave, the radio, the stove, and on all the alarm clocks. I heard the flame of the gas heater click on to reassure me that there's heat. The lights are blaring and the TV roars to life, with Dr. Phil giving advice on how to improve our lives. The noise is jarring and for a few moments very unwelcome. For just awhile there, I knew what peacefulness was. I can't say I am not dependent on my appliances. But maybe we should turn them off now and then to drink in the silence and enjoy the life you're living. Read a book. Talk to someone. Eliminate the distractions. Be quiet with your thoughts.

I'm now at the point in this holiday season where it's too late to send Christmas cards and now I feel guilty. To those of you who send me cards and care about me, I want you to know I love getting your photos and your cards. I display them each year on my quilted Christmas tree. (Look here's a picture to prove it - there is actually a quilted tree underneath all the cards!) I really do appreciate your warm thoughts and wishes. I'm writing this so you won't cross me off your Christmas list next year for being totally disorganized and unable to get it together before the holiday to send cards.

I almost feel like I'm writing a Christmas letter, catching you up on the past few weeks. My own life is taking some exciting turns and twists. I've been quilting a few quilts for my friends on my Voyager V17 machine. Frustrating to be sure. I've also been hand quilting my oldest son's high school graduation quilt (from 1999). I wanted to finish it by the end of this year. Whether I meet that deadline remains to be seen.

I sold my first picture at Imagekind - the photo of the Viking Ship, and joined a Pittsburgh group on there as well, a place to share photos of our favorite city. I made less than 10.00, but I was so excited. It's the first time I ever sold anything (ever!).

To all my friends and family and followers, I'm trying to form a tribe. That means if you tell 10 people you trust about my blog, and then they tell 10 people etc, etc, I'll have a tribe of people following me. So to those of you in my tribe already, thank you. Have a Happy New Years celebration and be safe and take care.

I'll see you in the new decade!

Mary Jane

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Party Crashers

I'm so sick of the White House party crasher story. Watching that couple walk into the party over and over again makes me want to puke. Seriously, if you were going to crash a party at the White House - is that red dress something you would wear? She looks like something out of the 1960's. I think it's interesting that they seem to have a photo with EVERYONE at the party. How is it that no one said "who are these people?"

Have you used StumbleUpon yet? If you install a stumble toolbar on your browser, you can just click on stumble and it will find sites that are similar to the parameters you typed in. It's great when you're bored and want to find new sites on the internet. I am only searching on quilting at the moment and it finds some awesome sites. If you are searching and find a site you like, you click on the thumbs up symbol and it will save it for you and add it to stumble's cache of sites. (Click on "I like it" for my blog - it will drive more folks here) I found a beautiful quilt on the Purl Bee website yesterday. If you click on that link, it will take you to the quilt. It has my favorite color - fuchsia. It's a wedding quilt she made for some friends. Gorgeous.

I decided that I want to travel more. Of course to do that, I need to have more money, so I'll have to figure that part out. But I want to see Ireland and Scotland and Paris and England. My sister wants to go to Norway, and that would be really cool too. My husband has always wanted to go to Hawaii and I'd love to do that. It's time. I'm going to start setting travel goals for myself. Honestly, I want to photograph some beautiful places in the world.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Well, here it is Black Friday. My family and I spent a nice Thanksgiving at my sister's house and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. We listened to Beatles music most of the day and talked about their influence on us as kids growing up. It was very satisfying to give into the tryptophan urge when I got home and go promptly to sleep (a wonderful restful sleep). This morning it I am so happy I'm snuggled in my house, and not out there shopping with the crowds. I watched the Paul McCartney concert that I taped last night and as much as I love him, I discovered something last night I never knew before. He's a Detroit Red Wings fan!! When he was singing "Yesterday," I noticed a Red Wings sticker on his guitar. Oh, Paul, how could you? Don't you know the Pittsburgh Penguins are the best - the Stanley Cup Champs?

I finished quilting one friend's on my Hinterberg and am getting ready to quilt another friend's quilt. My cousin has asked me to teach her how to make a quilt - she wants to make a memorial quilt for her daughter, who lost her father this year. We're going to start on that next week. I'm actually making some slow progress on my oldest son's graduation quilt (from high school-1999). I think I'll be finished quilting it soon, and may be able to give it to him this year. I'm still hand quilting that one and have let it go much too long. I've decided that I'm going to be all about finishing things right now. I'm going to try not to buy any new fabric for at least 6 months, so I can use some of the fabric I currently own.

The holidays always make me happy and sad at the same time. I cry for the people I miss - my mother and my grandmother, cousins and friends I have lost. Even though Christmas is the happiest time, I still miss them so much. When my grandma died, it was the first time I realized what "heart ache" means. And even through the happiness, I cry, because it's there, the missing, the aching, the what ifs.

Take a moment today and appreciate the joy in your life. The family, the friends, the sunset, the snow. Look around and say, I'm glad it's Friday, because I'm here to enjoy it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Autumn splendor

I just finished listening to the October episode of Live From Daryl's House with special guest Diane Birch. I had never heard her before and she's a wonderful singer. I thoroughly enjoyed her harmonies with Daryl Hall. She has a very engaging personality and is very sweet (and so young). I was totally inspired by her voice and by her songwriting. I understand she has a new debut album out. She reminds me of a young Carole King - she has that ability to write those songs that just grab you and the vocal chords to back it up.

This has to be one of the most beautiful autumn seasons in Pennsylvania I've ever seen. The colors on the trees have been magnificent and the leaves have lasted far longer than they usually do, thanks to little rain during this fall season. The oranges, yellows and reds have been so vibrant, and have now turned to several shades of brown. The palette of colors I have been witness to is a constant and varying array.

I took some pictures for a friend recently. She wanted to take advantage of the fall foliage to get a photo for her Christmas card with her dog, Cooper. I thought this picture was funny. The photo session was pretty wild. There were 2 additional dogs that a neighbor owned that are related to Cooper. Finally at the end of the trip when Cooper was in the car and ready to go home, I took this shot. It cracks me up every time I look at it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All You need is Love, not a Blackberry

Based on the searches that led people to my blog yesterday and the Twitter messages expressing disgust over Blackberry using All you need is Love in their most recent commercial, let me explain just a little further why this upsets me specifically. Although I would hate the use of any Beatles song because I know how much they didn't want to be used commercially, this one is particularly offensive.

My kids tell me this is not their favorite Beatles song. I try to explain to them the significance of this song in a historical context. The Beatles wrote this song to represent Great Britain in the first ever World Wide Satellite hookup. What better message could they think of to send than All you need is Love. It may not be the most complex of their songs, but it's simple and to the point.

There are several reasons it irritates me personally. First I hate that Alan Klein was such a terrible manager that he let the Beatles catalog slip away from their control. Second, I hate that Michael Jackson was such a terrible friend that he stabbed Paul McCartney in the back after getting advice on where to invest in music, by buying the catalog out from under him. I hate that Sony owns a piece of it because Michael Jackson was too deep in debt and lost control of the catalog. I hate that every time one of these commercials air it pays money to Michael Jackson's estate.

But most of all, I hate that Beatles music, that somehow stands by itself in an iconic sense of time and place, is sullied in this commercial way. The Beatles would probably never have agreed to using their songs in an ad. Who knows? I just feel better knowing I'm not the only one who hates it.

What ever happened to jingles? Are people so lazy they can't hire someone to write a catchy tune? It would be a lot cheaper than using a Beatles tune.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All you need is .... a blackberry commercial??

I was watching TV and suddenly Beatles music strikes a familiar chord in my ear. I'm listening to All you need is Love in a Blackberry commercial, which made no sense by the way. I kept waiting for the tie in to the song, and there was none. There was the Hello Goodbye Target commercial. Then it was Come Together in a Macy's commercial. Is it a coincidence that since Michael Jackson died, I've heard more Beatles songs in commercials? I think not. The lawyers are doing everything they can to make money for his estate to cash in on the image he died with as opposed to the image he lived with. It actually makes me angry. Angry to know that Michael Jackson's estate and Sony are reaping the benefits of those endorsements. Angry because in my mind that's not what their songs are about. And angry because the artists have no say in it. I think if you write a song, you should be able to say whether you use it to sell a product. And before you say the commercial did its' job because I remembered who the commercial was for and that's the idea behind advertising, I would respond that I remembered so that I won't patronize those people.

My friends and I attended a quilt show last week that was fun. My friend entered one of her quilts that I had quilted on my Hinterberg. It was my first show for my machine quilting. I objectively (?) compared it to others and felt that it was just OK. I have a lot of room for improvement. I bought some pretty teal fabric with daisies. I love daisies. They have a fabric called gradations that includes 4 different shades of a color in the same yard of fabric. I had never seen that before. Of course I had to buy my favorite color - fuchsia.
My sewing room has two skylights and I also use the room to do stretching exercises. As I was laying on my mat the other day, I was staring up at the blue sky and the puffy clouds through the skylight. I started remembering the days as a kid when you laid on the ground trying to make shapes out of clouds. As I lay there, watching the clouds move across the sky, I realized that if I weren't stuck on the floor, I no longer have the patience it takes to find a shape and besides I can't see them right unless I'm looking over the top of my bifocals and how did I spend so much time doing this as a child?

Last week, I was trying to make rice for dinner. I had parts of 3 bags I was going to use and found some of those little rice bugs in the first and second bags, so I threw it in the sink and rinsed it down the drain. I made dinner with the good stuff from the 3rd bag. You know where I'm going with this, right? After dinner I couldn't figure out why the garbage disposal wouldn't work. My husband had to take the drain apart to fix it, and we discovered that rice expands even if you don't cook it. The entire drain and elbow was packed tight with rice. Even more amazing than the fact that it never occurred to me that it would happen, since I've thrown cooked rice down the drain multiple times, was the fact that in almost 32 years of marriage, it's not happened to me before. So, watch out for that rice!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dichotomy of Life

I lost a friend yesterday. My friend was a librarian. She loved reading, taking walks, and being with people. She had a zest for life and loved to spend time with her children and her new grandchildren. I've never met anyone who was loved by so many. When she retired last November, she was looking forward to spending the next years enjoying her family. I'm so sad that her time was so short. And yet, as we often do, I put that away into a compartment for a few hours so I could celebrate the birthday of my cousin, surrounded by family, and carry on with the rest of the day. Later, when all was quiet, the door to that compartment opened and I had to examine the enormous feelings about the loss of my friend. As the tears slid down my cheeks, I tried to figure out how to fill the hole in your heart where a loved one has entered. The quote I've seen on a card came to mind: "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same---."

How true.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Google Youself

If you ever want to see what kind of a presence you have on the Internet, try googling yourself. What an eyeopener! I was surprised to find that my web presence has increased from a few references on page 1 (which used to be related to my Quilt Circle and my Library Board service) to mentions of me all the way to page 5 of my search. It's not that I've increased my presence so much, despite the website and the blog, but that others (like the newspapers) have posted their information on the web.

The references included things I said at a school board meeting that were reported in the newspaper, to my inquires about genealogy at forum websites. Every forum I've posted on is included, meaning every related name. Places I've donated to that list their donors on the web include my name. Comments that I've made on other websites are flagged and of course there's a reference to my Facebook page. The Library's newsletter is now online, so anything I contributed to that publication is online now. My blog and website took up most of page 1 and page 2, and there was even a reference to the death notice of my mother last year (another newspaper article).

I'm not complaining, mind you. Anyone with a website and a blog can't be totally unhappy to find their profile increasing on the Internet. I just find it interesting that everything you put out there is so .... trackable. In Catholic school, the nuns used to tell us that your permanent record will follow you forever...well, so does the Internet.

After googling myself, I then googled the rest of my family. My sons are extremely good at staying hidden on the Internet. I applaud their efforts at staying 'under the radar' in this information age.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What on earth are we talking about?

Did you read the story a couple days ago about a father who forgot his son in his stroller on a corner somewhere? Everything turned out OK, and the father returned 20 minutes later, profusely apologizing, saying he just forgot about his son. There were no explanations as to why. I bet he was on his cell phone. Yesterday, I saw a man at a construction site talking on his phone, and wondered what on earth he was talking about. There was a woman in a shoe store, talking while buying her shoes. Then the man talking on the phone in the grocery store, asking for guidance on the correct thing to buy. There are the folks who are checking out at the bookstore, or grocery store, while talking on the phone. The worst offender is the parent out for their morning walk with their baby, talking, talking, talking. And the absolute worst of the worst, was a father, taking a walk with his son on vacation, holding his hand, talking on the phone.

What on earth are all these people talking about? And can't it wait? Why is the need to talk so immediate? Can't the woman buy shoes and show respect to the shoe salesperson by NOT talking in their face to someone else? Can't the husband make a decision about what to buy in the grocery store, as if he's an adult and not call his wife on the phone? Can't a parent enjoy the outdoors and being with their baby without polluting the air with talking, talking, and more talking? Oh, it's just one of those things that frustrates me to no end.

I'm going through bags of clothes that I had saved to make T-shirt quilts. It turns out I have about 10 bags of clothes and no real direction as to who to make a quilt for. All the high school shirts I bought and/or saved to make t-shirt or sweatshirt quilts for my sons have turned into a mammoth sorting project. My middle son, Eric, suggested I look at them and ask myself who am I making this quilt for and ask if they would want it. After polling all three kids, none of them really desire to have a t-shirt quilt made out of their high school soccer camp tees. None of them are interested in preserving their high school memories or sleeping under them. As my youngest son, Zack, keeps telling me, "think of the kid who might love to wear that t-shirt and give it away." So after watching yet another episode of "Hoarders" on TV, and vowing never to get that bad cause it's gross and disgusting, I'm trying to break the emotional attachment to these clothes (for it's obvious I'm the only one attached to them) and give them all to Goodwill. I needed the pep talk from the kids, as I sometimes get bogged down in the details. Besides the bags are taking up space in my sewing room and I need to get in there and sew!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

QVC tonight

Just a quick reminder that Hall and Oates are going to be on QVC tonight - Sept 21 at 6:00 p.m. They will be performing 8 songs during the one hour they are on. The purpose is to celebrate the new boxed set coming out in the beginning of October. If you click on the widget you can hear songs and see photos. I think there's even a bonus disc included if you preorder on QVC - you'll have to watch and see.

Monday, September 7, 2009

No worries!

My alter ego, aka The Quilting Crusader, has been battling a bad reputation for the past two months. Google has been warning people away from my site, telling folks I could harm their computer, and Firefox was calling me "an attack site." However, The Quilting Crusader has won this battle, and come out on top, with a shiny needle and sparkling clean thimble!! In other words, I (with the help of my kids) have finally figured out the malware code that was lurking on my site and removed it. I am in no danger of doing anything bad to anyone and you can surf on my site with no worries.

I spent part of this holiday weekend with my extended family. So many things make up the fabric of a family. I am lucky enough to have 18 first cousins. We grew up together here in Pittsburgh, celebrating birthdays together (with 19 kids in the family, that means we saw each other almost every month) and visiting one another's homes during summer vacation. We had our phone numbers memorized and my cousins were the first people I called on Christmas morning to share what we got from Santa. There was always an annual Christmas visit (to see your decorations and play with your new toys) and we rang in the New Year together, banging pots and pans. We visited Kennywood each year and experienced some of the most fun moments in my childhood. I can still hear the clickety-clack of the Jack Rabbit, as every year, the youngest cousin would take their first ride on the roller coaster past our picnic pavilion. My grandmother would make iced tea and buy baked goods at Jenny Lee and we would run all day long. My cousins were my playmates and my best friends.

Each of us has a unique position in the cousin relationship, and we range in age from 62 to 24. My position as fourth oldest in the family allows me to see the dynamics in an interesting light. There were 3 born before me (2 of whom are my sisters) then a five year gap before I was born. After me, a child was born almost every year until 1970, when there was a small pause until 1974, then again until 1985. I am part of the "younger" set, but because my sisters were 2 of the 3 born first, I was privy to the older set also. I knew all the "secrets" the older kids knew, and was able to watch most of my younger cousins grow up. Age gaps that seemed large when we were little hardly matter now. We have relationships within our relationships. We've lived with one another, worked with and for one another, and as adults, shared grief and sorrow with one another. Our parents are the thread that tied us together.

As the genealogist in the family, I try to be the one who keeps us connected to the past, as well as the present. I collect addresses and phone numbers, keep track of people marrying into the family and babies who are born so I can create family trees that show how far we've spread over the years. And, of course, I take photos, whenever we're together, of the children, the families, and the cousins. We had one special occasion when 17 of us were in the same place at the same time. I corralled everyone to take a group photo (which wasn't easy). I added my other two cousins to the photo with digital technology from photos taken later that summer. Two of my most prized possessions are a collage I made of my cousins in 1975, when many of them were little, and the photo I made in 1995 with all 19 of us. One hangs in my sewing room, the other is in my living room.

Amazingly, even though there are so many of us, we are all still very close, and keep in touch in various ways, with phone calls and email, and most recently through Facebook. It's an interesting change to our relationships, that keeps us in touch without really conversing, but knowing what's going on by seeing photo updates of our lives.

I always count myself lucky to have such a wonderful extended family. It overflows with aunts and uncles and cousins who have enriched my life in so many ways. As our parents get older, and our own families grow up, the opportunities to see one another are less frequent, but I hope we never lose the ties that bind us.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Back to Real Life

I forgot to mention that we saw Hall and Oates while we were on vacation. Mark and I drove up to Lancaster on Tuesday night to the American Music Theater (gorgeous place, by the way) to hear some tunes. It was one of the best concerts I've ever seen (and I've seen 10 now). I heard Daryl's mom and dad were in the audience - maybe that's why it was special. We drove right back to the beach that evening. H&O have a NEW boxed set coming out October 6. If you go here you can read about it and have a listen to some of the songs.

Do you remember the game Aggravation? That's what this week has been like. I've spent time at PT for my foot because my plantar fascitis is flaring up again. Cortisone shots didn't work for me so we're trying this for 3 weeks.

I've been slow on quilting these past few weeks because my time has been spent juggling workmen-- plumbers (note the plural on that) fixing a leak in the upstairs bathroom that has come thru the kitchen ceiling (I now have a hole in the kitchen ceiling, but have high hopes after two companies, four plumbers and seven visits that the problems are fixed); meeting with insurance estimators who seem to never cover anything (the drywall is covered, but fixing the pipes is not???); and carpet installers who spent the day yesterday installing two new carpets (this was the highlight of the week - at least this went smoothly).

When I was about 12, I used to write letters to comment about things all the time. I discovered that when you complained, the company actually cared enough to send you a free sample of a new product or a coupon for something at the store. I even started "Mary Jane's Complaint Service" and handed a card out to all my relatives (they must have all been very happy, as I got no takers on the service). I was the Consumer Reporter of my time. My time is wasted on the phone talking to customer service people who don't really listen to what you're saying, but keep reading their scripted lines, or dealing with people who tell me they'll call back, and leave me waiting and waiting and waiting. As I get older, I find myself being less and less patient with these people and less willing to let my life be consumed by talking to people who don't know what they're doing. As for the waste of time that is called Voicemail, if I could smash the phone and accomplish anything, I would.

Hopefully (for hope springs eternal) next week will be better.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inspirations and Quilting Lessons

The other night, while I was watching Top Chef, Masters, they asked the Chefs to create dishes that inspired them to become a chef. So I started mulling that over, and thinking, what inspired me to become a quilter? Browsing through the channels on a commercial I saw it - on some obscure cable channel -- Lap Quilting with Georgia Bonesteel. It all came rushing back to me then. I own her original Lap Quilting book, published in 1982.

The cover is quite tattered and torn now. I used to read and reread it, trying to understand how to make a quilt. I would browse the pages, looking at the diagrams, thinking it was like reading Greek. I didn't know anything about sewing at the time, and had no idea what she was talking about when she referred to grain lines and selvages. Georgia included about 25 pages of "patterns for templates" that completely mystified me. What was I supposed to do with those and why were there all those little marking on the diagrams about 1/4" in from the edge? There was a giant section about "tips at the sewing machine" (which I didn't have) and it shows cutting all these x's on the fabric. I had no clue what was going on. And then there were the dotted designs of stencils - pretty waves, and stars, and interlocking loops. They were pretty, but what was I supposed to do with them? I kept turning the pages and returning to the book over and over.

The thing that kept bringing me back to the book were the photos of the quilts. (Keep in mind, in 1982, Quilt World had black and white photos of quilts in it). I loved the Lemoyne Star quilt at the beginning and the Grandmother's Fan with a ruffled edge. There are multicolored baby quilts and a stunning earth tone log cabin quilt. Then there's a photo of Georgia, sitting on a mountaintop with her Lone Star quilt that is just gorgeous. I don't think I've ever wanted to "Learn" something so badly. I wanted to understand this book. I took a class in sewing first, so I could learn how to use my machine. Gradually, terms like grain lines and selvages made sense to me. 'Seam allowance' accounted for the funny lines on the pages of templates.

Next I took a class in quilting, where I learned how to hand piece a full-size Grandmother's fan quilt. After that I took a second quilting class, where I discovered the techniques of template drawing I had recently learned came in handy. I found it easier to hand piece the project than to try it on the machine (I was still a little afraid of the sewing machine).

My next project, at home, was to make a Dresden plate wall hanging. I was doing fine, until I reached the part where I was supposed to applique around the edges. I couldn't understand how to do that when it was so stiff, you know how something is when you leave the stabilizing freezer paper on the project while you're trying to sew it. My directions hadn't told me how to take the paper out, so it was the loudest, crinkliest wall hanging I've ever made.

When I made that first quilt, the teacher picked out fabrics for us. When I made my second quilt, I took my sons (who were about 6 and 2) to the fabric store with me. Having not much color sense at the time, I asked their opinions. They were so anxious to leave the store, they color coordinated my second Grandmothers fan in about 5 minutes (and did a pretty good job).

Thank you, Georgia Bonesteel, for inspiring me to quilt over 27 years ago. Even though I think I have every book that's out there - I can't let go of this one book - it was the beginning of my love for quilting.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sunsets and Ospreys

We got back last week from our annual vacation in Stone Harbor. That whoosh of the ocean seems so far away now. The place we stayed was slightly outside of town, and had a wetlands view. We saw some of the most gorgeous sunsets. Each night the sky was bursting with different colors. There was an osprey nest right across from us and the house had a telescope where we could watch it. The first day we saw the mother and father feeding babies in the nest. Then on Sunday, there was a terrible storm that blew the nest to pieces. For a day or so, we weren't sure the babies had survived. But as we kept watch, we saw the baby again (I think they may have lost one) and the mama and papa (now named Chevon and Ian) were stuffing this baby bird with food. It would try to fly and lift about 2 inches vertically and then come back down. My sister saw Ian bring a dead mouse to feed to the baby bird, who was beginning to look like one of the fat birds in "The Kweeks of Kookatumdee" by Bill Peet, about a bird who gets so fat he can't fly. Anyway, by Thursday, the baby bird (Fergus was now his name) finally flew. We saw Chevon and Ian flying with Fergus, teaching him how to circle and flap his wings. Then he would come back to the nest and rest for about an hour. It was all very fascinating and kept us entertained the whole week.

We tried to do some of the jumping photos I've seen on the Internet. We're not always in sync, but it was funny to keep trying.

I have some exciting news though. My niece, Madeline and her boyfriend, Zach (not to be confused with my son, Zack), got engaged at the beginning of the week. The day they arrived, Zach took Madeline to the sailboats (the end of the island) and asked her to marry him. My sister Chrissie, her mom, has known for about three weeks. The rest of us found out about an hour before he asked her. I was completely taken off guard. It's not like I didn't think it would ever happen, but I was just so surprised that it did. When they came back, we celebrated with kisses and hugs all around. Of course there were tears (they're flowing right now just writing this) because I kept thinking how happy my mom would've been to see Madeline get married and it just breaks my heart that she's not here. But I'm so happy for her and Zach, and I will do everything I can to help them have a beautiful wedding.

So it's back to real life this week, with all its' little problems and strifes. All in all, it's really a wonderful life, though, isn't it?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Shelf paper of life

As I shelf papered my son's new kitchen yesterday, I had lots of time to think, why is it that mothers (and by extension, our daughters) are so adamant about shelf paper and guys don't care about it at all? And while I'm on the subject, why can't they make the stupid stuff so it's the same size as kitchen cupboards? Shelves are all standard sizes I'm sure, and I hate ending up with all these skinny pieces that are useless.

Anyway, I actually get an anxious feeling in my stomach if I think about their cupboards without shelf paper. What is that about? Last year, my youngest son, Zack, had a college roommate who was moving in before him. I took my shelf paper with me, telling Zack that even if the roommate had filled the cupboards it would make me feel better to do the paper. When we got there, I smiled to myself to see that the roommates' mother had already put shelf paper in the cupboards.

When my oldest son, Christopher was in college, he was moving into an apartment, where he and a roommate arrived at the same time. As we unpacked their supplies, the other mother and I both pulled shelf paper our of our bags at the same time, and we laughed. So we split the kitchen and each papered a few shelves.

When I moved into my new house, my mother and sister spent the afternoon shelf papering all my new cupboards. What is it with us women that makes shelf paper seem to smooth out the rough edges of moving in (or moving out)? Why do we obsess over this? Is it a therapeutic way of coming to terms with the baby leaving the nest? Do we just have OCD over the thought of touching a shelf that has touched another person's stuff? And why does it come in such ugly colors???!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Beginnings

My oldest son bought a house today. The final walk through was this morning and he closed this afternoon on a townhouse he first signed a contract on last August. The economy downturn was a positive for him. The interest rate he would've had last year was 6.5 %. Today he got a rate of 4.75 %. My husband and sons moved all his stuff to the house and he's sleeping there for the first time tonight. I can't tell you how happy I am for him. I wish I could bottle the unbridled joy on his face today, as he was seeing the finished product that is his home, for the first time. He was bursting with pride, seeing all the carpets and flooring he chose a year ago come together to make him a home. As we left him there, I had a hard time not crying in front of him. The words I wanted to say got all bottled up inside. (That always happens to me when good things happen in our family - I can't speak without crying) I am so proud of him, for having such a great start to his independence, in such a beautiful home. I wrote a short note inside a favorite children's book, "Love You Forever" and left it for him. When I read the book this afternoon, I burst into tears.

When he was born, my husband made him a wooden sign with the letters of his name and painted it after we brought him home from the hospital. It's been hanging on his door since he was a baby. Each of his brothers have one too. The tough part came when I took the sign off his door tonight before we left for his house. It was that moment of knowing he won't be back, living in our house. It was hard. I had to go into my room and have a private cry before I was able to take it down. Of course, thanks to his brothers, they lightened the moment by humming TAPS as I took it down.

Here's to new beginnings, Christopher! I love you forever, aw, you know the rest.......

Friday, July 31, 2009

Quilt Facts

This is from a card I got at a quilt show at the Meyersdale Maple Festival. There was no source on the card.

"At 10 hand stitches to the inch of thread, there are 360 stitches to the yard. The average quilt has 250 to 300 yards of thread quilted, so there are 90,000 to 108,000 hand stitches per quilt."

Makes you feel more like you're accomplishing something when you look at it that way....

Oh, and here's the first tomato from the garden. It's perfect and smooth and red and ripe and smells fantastic!! I can't wait to eat it.

I'm taking a break for a week, so happy quilting!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Making Cathedral Window Squares by Hand

Ok, we're going start at the very beginning. I used Ecology Cloth muslin as it has a thicker weight. I don't believe it was washed as it was precut, so it was stiffer, which is a definite advantage. Cut a 9 x 9 inch square piece of fabric. It's very, very important that the fabric be square. You might even want to try some spray starch to help stiffen the fabric.

Gather a few tools -- 2 pins, a 1/4" wide ruler, a 2.5" square ruler, and maybe a wooden presser to help give you nice sharp edges. If you have a Cathedral window template ruler, it can help you see the pattern on your fabric that you want in your window.Fold your piece of fabric in 1/4" on all 4 sides. I use the 1/4" ruler to help me with measuring the edges and to press the fabric. You can use the wooden presser or your finger also to make the edges sharp. Try to make all four sides a consistent measurement. As long as all four sides are the same, your block should fold correctly.

Next, fold each corner of the fabric into the middle, again pressing with your hand or the ruler edge. Try to make sure the points meet in the middle and are even. It might help you to mark the center with a pencil dot. Your goal here is to make sure the outside four corners meet in a sharp point. Don't obsess over it though. They don't have to be perfect to work.

The next part is kind of tricky, as you have to hold the four pieces with one hand, while you're folding again with the other hand. I use the ruler to hold 2 sides down while I'm doing this. Again, fold the 4 edges to the middle. The closer your points meet, the nicer your block will turn out. That is why a slightly stiffer material is helpful. Pin the two opposite sides, then pin again. Press the outside edges with your finger or wooden presser. Set this aside and fold two more blocks.

Going back to block one, sew the opposite sides that you pinned (using just one or two threads), then sew the remaining two edges (opposite one another) you have pinned without cutting the thread. Knot this thread and tie it off. Do the same with blocks two and three. Lightly press the blocks flat, so your edges are nice and crisp.

Take two of the blocks with the solid backs together and whipstitch the edges. Make sure you hide your knot on the inside of the folds, you don't want it to show on the back. I have tried the whipstitch many ways, from a tight stitch to a wider stitch. The wider stitch seems to work just fine, takes less time, and will be hidden when you place fabric over it. When you finish these two blocks, whipstitch the third block to the second block.

Choose 2 complementary fabrics, perhaps one with teapots, or gardening tools, and a flower pattern that accents the first fabric. Cut eight 2-1/2" squares from the flower fabric and two 2-1/2" squares from the teapot or garden fabric. Fold all the flower fabric squares in half and press. Leave the other two full size. Lay the fabric on top of your sewn cathedral window blocks, with the folded edge to the outside of the piece. Fold the edges of the fabric over your 2 1/2" square and use a blind stitch to hold the fabric in place. Do not sew through to the back of your square. To finish, sew a piece of lace about 1 yard long to the front of the piece (these threads will show on the back) and attach little buttons or pins to decorate. Buy a decorative hanger and sew it to the top of your piece. You have a lovely gift and you've learned how to make a Cathedral Window. You can use the same technique to expand your window project and make it a quilt.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harvest Time

It's been raining all week here in Pittsburgh. It really did wonders for my garden. Here's a shot of my first big harvest. This is the fourth cutting of lettuce from my garden and the these are the first zucchini I've ever grown. We ate the big one for dinner and it tasted great. The green beans and snap peas were delicious too. Did you know the purple beans turn green when you cook them? I have a tomato almost ripe enough to pick.

You might notice the blog looks a little different today. Zack has been working hard on expanding the size so I can include a few ads in the borders. We also have some different blocks to make it easier for you to follow the blog - you can sign up for an RSS feed, or have it delivered via email, or follow it on your Google or Yahoo home page.

I decided today that I'm going to give small tutorials on the blog. I need to take a few photos to finish it, but I'm going to show you step by step instructions on how to make a Cathedral Window squares.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Photo Untaken

Last week, we saw a car broken down on the side of the highway It wouldn't have drawn my notice except for the words "Just Married" soaped on the back window of the car. Were they in their wedding clothes when they broke down? Were they on their honeymoon? Who rescued them? What a story that couple would have to tell. As we passed, I was wishing I had my camera, even while I realized that in the middle of a major highway, there was no way I could take that photo.
It's one I have to just let go............

Recycling has been on my mind a lot lately. My son and I are getting rid of old VHS tapes, old monitors, computers and printers, and figuring out what to do with old TVs that Goodwill won't even take. Where do I put all this stuff? And how on earth can I be responsible about it when I don't know where to take it? How do I know that the company I give my old computers to is disposing of them properly? How do I make sure that my old information is totally gone from my computer? And why do companies who trash all these things with alarming regularity not seem to feel the least bit guilty about it? What happened to the good old days, when people would actually take your old stuff and fix it to resell at their store? Too many questions with no answers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Firefly, Firefly Burning Bright

You might recall a few weeks ago, I mentioned how much fun it was catching lightning bugs as a kid. Today, I'd only touch them under duress, but my sister and I signed up with the Museum of Science to observe fireflies this summer. Apparently the firefly population is decreasing and they don't know why. If you go to their website, you can learn more about the species and sign up to watch them in your backyard. It's only once a week for 10 minutes. What I learned (that I didn't know before) is that there are three different lights - yellow green, green, and orange. Females are the ones who are usually stationary and males are the ones flying around. Most of the time they are doing a mating ritual, except when an impostor firefly imitates the mating light of another one and eats the males who answer her call. All kinds of things enter into how many fireflies you see (I've always called them lightning bugs) - grass, surrounding light, cloudiness, and temperature. You can get more info at the Museum of Science website, www.mos.org/fireflywatch. I plan on trying to take some photos next Sunday. That ought to be interesting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How does your Garden Grow?

My garden is growing amazingly well. This raised bed garden is the best I've ever had (knock on wood) so far, I'm really impressed. My tomato plants actually have tomatoes on the stems already (that doesn't usually happen until August for me), and my Early Girl tomato plants might really be early. I fed the plants yesterday, so hopefully it'll give them a little boost in production. I always overdo it - planting too many plants for the space they are in. I did thin them out a little (I just hate pulling out healthy plants), but everything seems to be flourishing, even if it is a bit crowded. Don't they look awesome?

After my lilacs stopped blooming, the scent carried inside on the evening breeze is from my honeysuckle plant. It's a gorgeous smell and it seems to have continuous blooms. The only thing I don't know how to do is control it - you're supposed to wrap it around a trellis (which I do have), but I'm not sure if you do that at the beginning of the year, or at the end. Lovely, lovely flower, and it's supposed to attract hummingbirds, although I haven't seen any yet.

Here's what I'm working on in the sewing room. Right now this is in three segments that need to be sewn together. In addition, I'm working on my oldest son's graduation quilt (yes he graduated in 1999). I'm slightly behind on that one, but would like to finish it before he moves out at the end of the month, into his new home.

Enjoy your day!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stanley Cup Champions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow, what an incredible game the Pittsburgh Penguins played on Friday night! It was a nail-biter until the very last second, but it was soooo worth it! Watching Sidney Crosby hoist the Stanley Cup was so exciting and exhilarating. He works so hard and is such a mature, responsible young kid. I'm so happy for him and the whole team. I enjoyed seeing Mario Lemieux getting a third chance to hoist the cup and then hand it over to Sid. The entire team took the cup to the Pirates game yesterday so they could "share" the excitement. Today, there is a parade downtown at noon. I hope the turnout is huge.My sisters and I went on a Rivers of Steel tour Saturday called "Babushkas and Hard Hats." It was fun. We checked out the Clinton Furnace at Station Square, drove to Sweetwater Cooking School and mixed up some poppyseed bread, talked about the Pittsburgh Cookie Table, visited the Bost Building that holds the Rivers of Steel Heritage Center and went to a Pump House where they obtained water for the mills. I did learn something interesting. The Hot Metal Bridges (of which Pittsburgh had three) actually carried molten iron to the mill (get it - hot metal...). Then we picked up our cooked poppyseed bread and headed back to Station Square for lunch. After that we stopped to buy some Penguins gear at Hometowne Sports. We also drove to the Strip District to compare prices, and check out what shirts they had there. These photos are from Station Square.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Three Rivers Arts Festival - Quilts

For those of you who live in Pittsburgh, you might be interested to know that there is an event going on this weekend at the Three Rivers Arts Festival about Quilts. They are showcasing examples of quilts and demonstrating quilting techniques. I wish there were more details about who the actual quilters are, but this is all the info there is. Click the Arts Festival link for a beautiful photo of a quilt and for more info about the events happening this week.

Artists in Action: Quilting

Friday, June 12, 2009 | 12:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Saturday, June 13, 2009 | 12:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Sunday, June 14, 2009 | 12:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Point State Park

What a fantastic win for the Pens last night! We still need to win in Detroit on Friday to win the Cup, but I believe in this team wholeheartedly. Plus I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An Ant Solution, at last

We had our dishwasher replaced this week, and as usual, nothing ever goes smoothly. When the installer looked underneath, the entire floor was moist and rotted, and had to be replaced. We realized that the dishwasher pump was leaking all this time. Guess where all those tiny ants were coming from that I wrote about last September? I had managed to limit them to the dishwasher itself, but couldn't figure out how to get rid of them. Knowing they are attracted to moisture, I would leave the door open and that made them temporarily disappear. Note to self, if you see ants in the dishwasher, check for a leak.

I planted a garden this year in raised beds (a first for me). I have two 4 x 4 boxes, one with tomatoes, the other with assorted veggies. I'm so excited because my tomatoes are growing like crazy and already have some flowers. The funniest part is that the bunnies walk right past the boxes as though they're invisible. It's so cool. My poor husband hates tomatoes and helps me with this garden every year, knowing there's nothing in it he'll enjoy. That's why I opted for the second box with lettuce and zucchini and beans and snap peas so he can enjoy it too. I had one great season of tomatoes about 14 years ago, and have been trying to replicate it ever since. Maybe this is my year. My little sign says "Welcome to My Garden."

LET'S GO PENS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Quilting Pantographs

I own a Hinterberg quilting machine and I mentioned before that I am a master at the loop de loop and the curly-q designs on quilts. I decided recently that I might be ready to move on to the next level and try a pantograph on my machine. For those of you who don't know, a pantograph is a line drawing (either on paper or on a board ) of a quilting design that you can follow with a laser pointer or stylus to make the same design on your quilt.

Once in awhile, I get a lead on a cool website with a new product I'm interested in trying. In this case, I am paid for my time and my professional opinion. That's how I found the Urban Elementz website. There are over 100 pantographs designed for long arm and mid arm machines. They are based on elements of nature and and include several leaf and vine designs as well as flowers and ferns and feathers. I really like the layout and design of the site. It's easy to navigate and you can rollover the designs to see them enlarged. There are downloads of the panto brochure and a sample of a starburst pantograph. The pantos are sold on a design board or on paper.

Patricia Ritter of Urban Elementz also offers quilting services, t shirt quilts, and custom quilts. There are instructions on lining up a panto and on making a quilt sandwich. The gallery includes photos of the pantograph designs on real quilts. I find that extremely helpful in choosing a design. Urban Elementz offers a subscription service called Essential Elementz where you can enjoy discounts on pantographs and regularly receive new pantographs in the mail. Designs are available as digital downloads also. I'd like to see photos in their Helpful Hints section showing how a pantograph or design board is lined up on a machine.

My life is kind of consumed at the moment with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tonight is Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals and I'm confident we'll win, but I'm still nervous. I don't have any poignant observations about life today - I can only concentrate on cheering on the Pens!!

LET'S GO PENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We're going to dance with Lord Stanley!!

I just love Mike Lange, the announcer for the Pittsburgh Penguins. At the end of the Pens Hockey game he said something like "Put a spit shine on those shoes Mabel, we're going to dance with Lord Stanley." In his wonderful, distinctive voice, he manages to come up with a catch phrase that makes you anticipate all the great hockey yet to come. I'm not a big sports nut. Most often when guys talk sports my ears (yes ears) glaze over and I don't hear a word they say. I never thought I'd enjoy a sport as much as I enjoy hockey. It all started because I have 3 boys. When the Pens won the cup in 1991, my kids were 3, 7, and 10 years old. I would read them articles from the paper about the players and discovered that it gave us some commonality to talk about. I'd tell them the trades that were happening and read them articles about what the players did at practice. I'd watch things like the skills competition with them and then realized that those hockey players are cute!! I really became a fan then. Now, I read the paper and we compete (unofficially) to see who has the latest news first to share about the team. Since they read the Internet at work, they usually know all the gossip first, but that's OK. We've found that one thread of sports that links us.

I worked on the cathedral window over the weekend and I was right about the way Quiltmaker made that multi-colored block in their Spring 08 issue. I emailed and asked them how they did it and never received an answer. (Original post Aug 08, and update on April 10, 09) Over the weekend I cut two 9-7/8" block of two different fabrics. Then I cut them in half on the diagonal. I sewed them together and trimmed them to a 9" finished block. Then I folded the cathedral window square and it folded rather nicely. I ironed as I went, and that made the blocks easier to fold. Here are some pics of a traditional CW and the multicolor one.

Traditional solid Cathedral Window squares on right, with a small project completed and sewn on left.
Below is a photo showing the back and front of the CW squares.

Two lines are pinned where you would sew on this multicolor CW. Let me know if you'd like me to post instructions to fold a Cathedral Window. This is entirely a hand sewing project.

Have a Great Day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh, the memory goes first!

How could I forget one of my favorite pastimes as a child - so simple, yet one that kept me occupied for hours. Writing with chalk. When I was a kid, the colorful "sidewalk chalk" of today didn't exist. All we had was simple skinny sticks of white chalk. My house was made of brick and we used to write on all the little bricks on the side of our house. We'd write our names, and then the names of friends, then the names of boys, then boys we liked, and so on and so on. I even took a picture of the bricks where I wrote the words "Class of 74" on the wall before my mom moved from the house.

Of course, the main reason we bought chalk was to play hopscotch on the street. Those skinny sticks of chalk used to wear out so fast. I can recall using that last bit of chalk as you smeared the chalk to finish up the white line of the 12 numbered box. I loved playing hopscotch. Here was a game that taught throwing skills, hopping and balancing (picking up your rock) skills. It was yet another game my sister always won.

When my youngest son was little, I bought him some of the "sidewalk chalk", thick sticks of chalk in a multitude of colors. I let him and the little girl next door draw all over the driveway. The funniest part was when I looked outside and they had each drawn a full body outline of the other person laying on the driveway. You can be an artist for the day and then the rain will wash it away. Lovely.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Childhood Pastimes

My memory has been flooded with the games I forgot to write about in the last post. One of my favorite games was Red Light, Green Light, Yellow Light, Stop. I just love saying it real fast. There were so many running and chasing games we played like "It" tag and Freeze Tag. We played Sugar Baby and Dodge Ball and Stick Ball. I loved Roller Skating. We had the 4 wheeled metal skates with that wonderful little roller skate key (which I still have). There was such an art to getting the skate to fit over your tennis shoe and not be too tight, but not fall off either. And in my memory, I was able to skate like the wind. Of course I lived on a brick street, so I probably wasn't moving too fast, but I have selective recall.

We spent so many hours playing Hide and Seek. What a wonderful game that was. It helped you learn to count as you grew up. And it was a game of trust. Did you really hide your eyes all that time, or did you cheat a little and peek to see where kids were hiding? I never peeked (much). And when you were done counting, you called "Ally, Ally, In Free." I think that's a variation of what the actual phrase should be, but I don't really know what ALLY is supposed to mean.

When nighttime came around, I'd run in the house yelling that I needed a jar so I could catch lightning bugs. I remember being so impatient as my mom hammered holes into a metal jar lid, thinking they'd be all gone if she didn't hurry. Probably my real fear was the kids would tire of the game before I got out there, and the fun would be over. Were you a ring maker with your lightning bugs? Did you kill them just to see them splatter (yuck)? Or did you capture their magic for a time in your little glass jar and after watching them blink for a time, let them go at the end of the night, none the worse for wear?

Magic is a good word for it - childhood memories.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Pens crushed the Capitals!!!

Whew! That series is over. The Pens crushed the Caps last night in a tense 6-2 game. That sounds contradictory, but there was never a moment during the game where you felt you could relax and say the 'Game over.' What a fantastic game Sidney Crosby played last night. He is a one determined young man.

Last Sunday was a difficult day. It's the first time I haven't had my mom to celebrate on Mother's Day. I'm happy that I have my husband and my boys to celebrate with and they treated me like a queen. But I do miss her presence in my life. I spent a lot of time thinking about my childhood and remembering the games I played every day. One of my favorites as a child was "Ring around the rosie". Can you remember when that was a fun game - when the spinning and spinning till you fell down was just the most fun you ever had in your life? How about playing jump rope and mastering the skill of jumping in while the rope was turning and jumping faster than your sister, learning rhymes in the process. (One, two three four five six seven, all good children go to heaven, some fly east, some fly west, some fly over the cuckoo's nest - Cuckoo! and then you'd jump out without missing.) When there were only two of us, we'd tie one end of the rope to the fire hydrant as our third person, so we could play the advanced jump rope games I enjoyed.

I loved playing jacks and getting all the way to tensies and scooping up those jacks with one hand! There were so many hours we spent sitting on our cement front porch catching a ball and picking up jacks. Seven Up was another fun game we played as we honed our bouncing and catching skills bouncing the ball off the brick wall on the side of our house. My sister loved throwing that ball under her leg and hitting the wall, or flipping the ball under her arm and catching it. She was better at most of these games than I was. And she beat me at all of them. She was especially good at cards and at Crazy Eights, a game she taught me after beating me at 500 Rum for the hundredth time in a row. Crazy Eights was a lot like UNO is, laying down cards of a similar suit or number. At the end of the game, you counted up the cards in your hand and that was the total number of smacks you got on your knuckles by the winner of the game. That was a game I lost a lot. As with all things in childhood, we teach these games to one another. One year, I taught my younger cousin how to play, won the game and delivered the smacks on the knuckles. I guess she told her mom (my aunt) and I must've gotten in trouble for it, because I still hear about it today.

Was life ever so much fun as it was when all we did was play games every day? At the end of the day you hated hearing your mom call and say "It's time to come in, the streetlights are on." I remember my childhood and I remember my mother. Happy Mother's Day, Mommy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Let's Go Pens!!

Oh, the agony of sports! The Pens are playing the Caps and since I'm a hometown fan, and not a 24-7 sports fan, watching games drives me crazy. My mom used to turn off the TV at the first sign that we were doing badly. That could have been in the first inning of baseball, the first minute of hockey, or the first quarter of football. Sometimes she would tune in an hour later, and inevitably she often missed the best parts of great games. I do love to win, but the anxiousness of the game drives me crazy. It's easier for me to listen to a game than to watch.

In my save the environment quest, I changed my mind about the stainless steel straw and instead I bought a glass straw (for my daily soy drink) at Glass Dharma.com and after a day of getting used to it, I decided I love it. My family thinks I'm going to immediately break it, but I think I can handle it. The website is offering everyone one free straw and charges 3.00 for S&H. My next goal is to use fewer paper towels. I didn't realize how often I reach for a paper towel just to dry my hands until I started trying not to do it. Small steps. We can save the environment.

I found a great new website called StuckInCustoms. It's the #1 travel photography blog, and each day he posts a gorgeous photo from somewhere he's traveled. They are the most unbelievable photos. Each day I visit to check it out. Try it out.

The lilacs are blooming - don't they smell wonderful?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Pull of Photography

I love to take pictures. Some times I just drive past something and I am compelled to stop and take a photo of it. It doesn't always happen - I might not have my camera, or I can't pull off the road. If I don't have my camera with me, I think about the photo and debate whether I should go back and take it for hours afterward. It literally pulls at me to go back and take the photo. Yesterday was such a day. It was beautiful and sunny and the skies were blue and I'd driven past this dandelion field for the second day in a row, contemplating the photo it would make. Last year, I had the same compulsion and passed by the dandelion field. The following day, the grass had been cut. I had missed the chance. So, after I drove home yesterday, I grabbed my camera and drove back down the road and took this photo. Ironically, today, the skies are gray after a hard rain yesterday and the dandelions are completely closed up.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What are your Earth Day resolutions?

Back in 1970, when the first Earth Day was celebrated, I contemplated becoming part of the movement. As it turned out, I recall thinking I just didn't have enough energy to save the world and fight for Women's rights at the same time, so I didn't sign up. As we celebrated the 29th Earth Day on April 22nd, I'm sorry now that I haven't been committed all along to saving the earth. Maybe if each of us had taken a hard look at ourselves in the 70's, when people actually used to throw their fast food garbage out the windows of their cars, we could have seen this crisis coming.

On Oprah the other day, they reported that one of our ocean garbage dumps is in an area twice the size of Texas that spans from California to Japan and is 90 feet deep. How horrible! This is garbage that comes from as far as Iowa not just California. It is the garbage we see laying on the street or flying out of our recycle bins, that drifts into our sewers, that flows into our rivers, and that flows into our oceans, etc, etc. There are several of these ocean dumps, this one is the largest.

Statistics say we use 1 million of those plastic grocery bags per minute and less than one percent are recycled. Less than 1%! If you truly can't be bothered to use a cloth bag, then at least recycle the plastic ones. They reported that in California, plastic bag usage decreased by 94% when they started to charge $.33 cents for each bag.

I hope I've taught my kids to turn off the water when they brush their teeth. They're saving 5 gallons of water everyday by doing this. And boys, you should also not let the water run when you shave - fill the sink halfway instead.

Stop buying bottled water - most of it is tap water anyway and you'll save 1.5 million tons of plastic. Consider using a reusable container for your water instead.

There's a list of places to recycle things on the Oprah show link. One of my pet peeves are used CD's. I can't throw them away because I can't stand the thought of having all that plastic in a landfill. Finally, there's a place that will take them - Greendisk.com.

Did you know Nike will take back your old yucky shoes (the ones the thrift store doesn't even want) and will recycle them? Here's the link to the Oprah page with resources to recycle http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090422-tows-recycle

My first change is a simple one. I'm going to buy a stainless steel bendable straw. Right now, I use a plastic straw everyday when I drink my soy protein drink. Even though it's small, I discard paper and a straw every single day. Even in this small way, I'm not going to pollute anymore.

What are you going to do?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quilting or Piecing?

I managed to make it to the Three Rivers Quilt Show on Saturday with a friend, and the new place on Hot Metal Street where they now hold their shows is a vast improvement over the fire hall it used to be in. The lighting is superb, the space is unlimited and there is room for quilts, large and small, vendors, food and a flea market all in the same building. Kudos to you, Three Rivers, for choosing such a great place. This is their second year there, and it was a beautiful show. I noticed a lot of big quilts that were hand quilted this year (hand-quilted quilts seem to appear in a larger quantity every few years, probably when they're finished being quilted).

Despite an increasing number of people I read about on the Machine Quilting and Hinterberg lists I read, there seemed to always be two different people listed as The Piecer and The Quilter on most of the quilts. It seems like there are so few quilts that are made by one person. I read a big debate awhile ago about the questions: Are you a Quilter if you never quilt? Is piecing tops the same thing? Can you call yourself a quilter if you only piece? And, do you take credit for quilting the quilt when you show it off to others? Hmmm......

I had fun shopping, using the opportunity to buy some of the Moda jelly rolls and charm packs. My friend was telling me you can make a project with these with no waste involved and it uses up every bit of fabric. That'll be the day when I use up every bit of my fabric. We took the opportunity to walk a bit after the show to the renovated South Side to have lunch. It was a fun day.

My new sewing room goal is to get rid of the fabrics I don't like anymore.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dreaming the dream

You may have seen the big story on the news yesterday about Susan Boyle, the 47 year old woman who stunned the judges, including Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan on 'Britain's Got Talent' TV show, when she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables." I've watched it myself about 8 times now, and am pondering what it is that makes it such a wonderful story. In case you missed the video, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luRmM1J1sfg
The charm of the story is in her unassuming attitude, seeing her dressed up in what appears to be a "Sunday best" outfit, only wanting to wow the audience, and knowing that she shattered everyone's expectations. Knowing she made a promise to her mother to make something of her life, and here she is - a worldwide overnight sensation! Watching the video is certainly aided by the song she chose, as the audience cheers and the crescendos in the music build to the standing ovation as she reaches for the highest note in the song. Honestly, it's one of the best "feel good" stories I've seen in a long time. It's certainly making me cry everytime I watch it and I keep watching it over and over again. I read that on Easter Sunday, her church gave her a standing ovation because they are so proud of her. What a moment - to live the dream.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rainy days and Fridays

Well, it's been an interesting week for me. A week ago Monday, I went the the doctor, had a high cholesterol reading (again, as usual for me) and a high blood pressure for the first time ever. I had taken a vitamin for a few days that had a caffeine like effect on me and felt like my heart was racing. By Thursday, the combination of these factors had me combining all my symptoms and focusing solely on the racing heart I was feeling. I woke Mark up Friday morning and told him we should go to the hospital, I was just not feeling right. So after EKG's which were normal, and blood tests which were normal, and 2 doses of Delaudin and 3 doses of Nitro-glycerin, they admitted me to the hospital for a stress test on Friday. The good news is I passed the stress test - everything was normal - and they sent me home. On Monday, I had an Electron Beam CT scan scheduled from my cardiologist, which tests for calcium in the heart. According to my doctor, the calcium can be an indicator of plaque in your arteries. They called yesterday and told me that I had ZERO calcium, which is great news for me. I can't tell you how relieved I feel. I've been given a clean bill of health (for the moment) and have a second chance to get it right. I can't control the hereditary aspect of my cholesterol, but I can control what I do today. That means that exercise HAS to become a priority for me. Thirty minutes of my day is not too much to spend making myself healthier.

I think I finally figured out how the people in the quilting magazine (see post in August of 08 about baby fabric and Cathedral windows) made that two color cathedral window baby quilt. They must have split the square in half diagonally and sewn two different colors together, then folded it into a cathedral window square. As one who has folded many a CW square, that must make it awfully uneven and stretchy, which is terrible for folding an even square. I'm planning to try it this weekend, and I'll let you know if it works.

I'll be dying Easter eggs tomorrow. I'm hoping for warm weather this weekend and a nice Easter Sunday. I have so many memories of Easter outfits and cute little hats and purses. Oh, and gloves - we actually wore little white gloves on Easter Sunday.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring is here, or is it?

My sisters and I spent the day yesterday in Meyersdale at their 62nd Meyersdale Maple Festival. It was a short bus ride (about 1.5 hrs) but we got a chance to catch up on what has been going on in our lives. When we arrived, we had a pancake and sausage breakfast (I skipped the sausage) and found that pancakes with real maple syrup taste delicious. We watched a play called "The Legend of the Magic Water" which was about the Monongahela people who first discovered the maple syrup in this area. They told us that Kate Smith, the singer, first put them on the map 62 years ago, by declaring Meyersdale Maple Syrup the best in a contest she had on the radio. We watched a real old fashioned parade that featured the original fife and drum corp, established in 1782, and had the First Navy Seal in America as a guest of honor on the dais. One of the fireman in the parade stopped his truck and got out to ask his girl to marry him along the parade route (she said yes). We stopped for dinner on the way home and in general, had a fun day.

I hate this in-between weather. I mean the in-between winter and spring weather, when you can't figure out what coat to wear when you go out in the morning because it's cold and then the afternoon is really warm, or vice-versa. You leave the house in the morning dressed in heavier clothes and a winter coat. By afternoon, it's 70 degrees and you feel like a fashion faux pas in your dark colors and winter wear. I'm also torn between the winter and summer color regime we all followed when we were kids. You know what I mean. You didn't wear white - ever - until Easter. Then, no matter how cold it was, you'd break out the white shoes, white purse, white hat, white dress and brave it all on Easter morning to look like springtime. Luckily my children don't have this color hangup about their clothes. They used to wear shorts to school the first day they knew it might be over 60 degrees outside. They opt for no coat most of the time - I had to insist that if the temperature was 30 outside they had to take a winter coat. It's such a conundrum for me.

I hope you are enjoying looking at my photos on Imagekind. I have many more photos to post, but I'm testing the waters with one gallery to start with.

Have a great day! Hope for spring today!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good News!

I've finally uploaded some of my photos to a web site called Imagekind, so you can see them and purchase them. At Imagekind you can also purchase mats and frames to compliment your photo. My url is: http://sal_16066.imagekind.com/ or you can just click on the icon to the left. On the Photos page, there will be a similar gallery of photos that you can click to view my work.

I'm very excited to show off some of my favorite photos. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Answers to the Quiz

Here they are, as promised, from the website of the National Women's History Project - the answers to yesterday's quiz. I'm sorry to say I didn't get very many of them right myself. I wonder how many of these women knew how to quilt.


1. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955)
2. Toni Morrison (b. 1931)
3. Rosa Parks (b. 1920)
4. Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
5. Jane Addams (1860-1935)
6. Nancy Lopez (b. 1957)
7. Rita Dove (b. 1952)
8. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
9. Alice Paul (1885-1977)
10. Shirley Chisholm (b. 1924)
11. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
12. March Fong Eu (b. 1929)
13. Nellie Bly (1867-1922), real name Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman
14. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)
15. Sojourner Truth (C. 1797-1883)
16. 1923
17. Queen Liliuokalani (1838-1917)
18. Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643)
19. Sarah Winnemucca (1844-1891)
20. Charlie Parkhurst
21. Romana BaƱuelos (b. 1925)
22. Sacajawea (c. 1786-1812)
23. Katherine Graham (b. 1917-2001)
24. 1909, New York City
25. 1974
26. Dolores Huerta (b. 1930)
27. 1976
28. Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)
29. Harriet Tubman (c. 1820-1913)
30. Donaldina Cameron (1869-1968)
31. Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy National Quilting Day!

Did you know it was National Quilting Day? Well, quilt away. I just found the coolest thing. You can find the photo at the HappyCottageQuilter blog under the heading "Dreamin.." Can you believe it - it's a quilted car cover!!

March is also Women's History Month. I am presently reading the book "Not for Ourselves Alone," which was also a TV special by Ken Burns. It's about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and their pioneering fight for women to achieve equal rights and the right to vote. Ken Burns mentions in the book that he was surprised how many people he asked didn't know anything about these women except to say Susan B. Anthony was on some coin, and they didn't even know why.

I grew up in the 70's when the fight was on for the Equal Rights Amendment, and when I did book reports in high school, they were always on a leader in women's rights. I feel like I've always known who these women are. So, I experimented and asked each of my sons, separately, if they knew either of these women. I'm sad to admit they had the same answer. They knew Susan B. was on a coin, but didn't know why, and didn't know who Elizabeth Cady Stanton was. When I say sad, I mean because I haven't done my job as a believer in women's rights if I haven't taught my sons about these women.

So I decided that as I read the book, I'm going to insert little tidbits here and there about women. In the meantime, You can read President Obama's Presidential Proclamation on "Women taking the lead in Saving Our Planet" at the National Women's History Project website.

I'm posting this quiz from their website also. I'll post the answers tomorrow. Their slogan is "Our History is Our Strength." I love that.

Test Your Knowledge of Women's History

1. Who founded Bethune-Cookman College, established the National Council of Negro Women, and served as an advisor on minority affairs to President Franklin D. Roosevelt?

2. What woman was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. ?

3. What Black woman refused to give up her seat to a White man, in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, thus sparking the civil rights movement of the following decade?

4. Who was the first woman to run for President of the United States (1872)?

5. Who opened up social work as a profession for women, and also won the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize for her anti-war organizing work?

6. Which Mexican-American woman has repeatedly been the leading money winner in the Ladies Professional Golf Association?

7. Who was the first woman Poet Laureate of the United States?

8. Who was the first “First Lady” to have developed her own political and media identity?

9. Who wrote the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment, in 1923?

10. Who was the first Black woman elected to Congress?

11. What leading suffragist was arrested and convicted of attempting to vote in the 1872 election?

12. Who was the first Chinese-American woman ever elected to hold a statewide office in the United States?

13. What journalist traveled around the world in 72 days in 1890?

14. What woman was turned down by 29 medical schools before being accepted as a student, graduated at the head of her class, and became the first licensed woman doctor in the U.S.?

15. What former slave was a powerful speaker for the rights of women and Black people?

16. When was the Equal Rights Amendment first introduced into Congress?

17. Who was the last queen of the Hawaiian Islands, deposed because American business interests wanted to annex Hawaii to the U.S.?

18. Which woman was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for holding religious discussion meetings in her home?

19. Who spoke out for the advancement of American Indians’ rights from speaker’s platforms nationwide and before Congressional committees in the 1880s?

20. Who drove a stagecoach across the roughest part of the West without anyone knowing until she died that she was a woman?

21. Who was the first Hispanic woman to serve as U.S. Treasurer?

22. Who was the Shoshone Indian woman who served as guide and interpreter on the Lewis and Clark expedition?

23. Who was Chair of the Board and publisher of The Washington Post and Newsweek magazine, and also oversaw six broadcasting stations?

24. About 20,000 women shirtwaist workers staged a strike for better working conditions. Their action was called the “Uprising of the 20,000.” When and where did his strike occur?

25. When did officials of Little League Baseball announce that they would “defer to the changing social climate” and let girls play on their teams?

26. As vice president of the United Farm Workers, what woman has been vital in speaking for civil and economic rights for farm workers throughout the U.S.?

27. When did Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 go into effect, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded school programs and activities?

28. What woman was invited to teach nuclear physics at Princeton University, even though no female students were allowed to study there?

29. What woman served as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, freeing hundreds of southern slaves and leading them to safety in the North? A $40,000 reward was offered for her capture.

30. What woman is credited with helping free more than 2,000 Chinese women and children smuggled into San Francisco to be sold as slaves?

31. Who was the first African-American woman poet to have her works published?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Savor Each Moment

I can't help but be somewhat subdued tonight after hearing the news about actress Natasha Richardson, who died after a fall while taking a beginner skiing lesson. I hope they know that tons of people give them their love and thoughts of hope. This is the kind of story that just makes your heart break for the entire family. I admit that death, in its many forms, seems to make me cry easily these days, whether I see it in a program I'm watching, or just hear about someone who died. Being with my mother when she passed away gives me a picture of each person keeping their bedside vigil, hoping their loved one will survive, or waiting for them to be out of their pain. I supposed the numbness of my mom's death in June is wearing away, replaced by a sadness that pops up when I least expect it. Life is so short, and you really do have to savor every moment.

I am still working on gathering photos for my website page titled "Photos."It's not an easy process and I guess that's a good thing - it means I have lots of photos I think are good. I think I might go out this weekend and take some new city pictures if the weather is nice. Blue skies are coming to Pittsburgh - today was a gorgeous day.

I was on the Quilting Friends site today and they asked about our favorite tools. Mine is my Martelli Ergo 2000 Rotary Cutter and the Martelli Quilter's Edition Mat, called a Round-a-bout. The round-a-bout is so cool. It has a spinning base so when you need to trim, you just turn the mat, not your block. The ergonomic cutter is wonderful for your hand. I never use my old one anymore.

Carpe Diem.

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