Saturday, March 31, 2007


OK, I admit it. While writing and thinking about cutting back, buying less, making do (all of which I DO believe in), I've nonetheless succumbed to the siren call of Japanese craft publications and bought two. My justification was that I will use them to use up more of my supplies, and that I'm getting more in touch with what's out there these days. So there you go.

I'd been leaving comments and sending emails to a couple of the people whose blogs are all giddy with these Japanese publications, hoping to get a sense of how easy (or not) the directions were to follow. No one responded to me (and I suspect those bloggers got that question so often that they were tired of answering it). I'd like to give you the skinny on my experience, in case you, too, were wondering if you need to jump on the bandwagon.

First, the buying experience. The Cotton Time magazine, which is the March 2007 issue, came from Superbuzzy. Total cost with shipping was $24. Turn around was amazing -- I had it two days after ordering (and that was with standard shipping). I would buy from them again. The magazine is 98 pages long and has a mini-book within it with 19 pages. At the center of the magazine is a pull-out pattern sheet with full-sized patterns. The magazine is substantial -- I wish it didn't cost $24, but I don't feel I've been had for spending that much on it. One important lesson I learned: I'd seen another blogger touting this issue -- she posted lots of adorable pictures from the magazine of projects that really caught my eye. I am sure it wasn't intentional, but she showed a number of projects that are photographed in the magazine but which do NOT have patterns or instructions -- they are ads for kits you can order, or they are simply part of companies ads, or they are previews for what's coming in the next edition. If you see something you love from a Japanese magazine on someone's blog, do try asking them to tell you specifically if that pattern is in the magazine. It's not always easy to tell -- I spent quite a while looking at the magazine and the patterns before I got a handle on this. I don't regret my purchase, but I wish I had known that what I saw was not exactly what I got. Certainly, though, having the photograph sparks the ideas, even without patterns....

The book, ISBN 4-8347-6348-x, came from Sasuga Books. They are right here in Massachusetts, as it turns out. Service was quick -- my only complaint is that the shipping and "handling" charge for a $6.95 book was $5. I almost didn't order it because of this, but checking the prices for the same book on eBay made me realize I'd be spending at least $12 anyway for the book with postage on top of that, so I went ahead. I would say that the instructions in the book, even more than in the magazine, are designed to be understood pictorially -- there are steps in the magazine patterns that make me really wish I could read Japanese, but the book seems very straightforward. All patterns are included full-size. The book, interestingly enough, opens and reads left-to-right, as a western publication would, while the magazine opens and reads right-to-left.

If you have any questions for me, I'd be delighted to answer. And just because I'm so excited about it, I'll report that the baby quilt will be finished today!

Friday, March 30, 2007

What I get out of it

My second and final swap package arrived yesterday; a big warm thanks to my partner, who did a great job and sent plenty of extra fabric and a lovely spool of ribbon. I didn't do a great job on the scan, but do you see that red fabric in there? -- Scotties! I'm going to use some of it to make a bed for the Scottie that I'm making for Dean. And the guitars -- perfect for a little something for Ken, our very own Guitar Hero. The other fabrics have "softies" written all over them, just as I had hoped.

I was reading through the open swaps, trying to decide if I should capitalize on my wonderful experience and try another one, but realized that I need to finish that &$@#! baby quilt, get through Dean's birthday, and Easter, and Dean's birthday party, and then perhaps consider taking on new projects. I feel foolishly proud of myself for seeing and responding to my own limits (maybe I am learning, after all).

A friend commented to me recently how amazed she was that I was managing to keep up with blogging -- she's intrigued but doesn't know where she'd find the time (she has two children to my one child, and works more hours farther away from home than I do, so I can sympathize). What I've been thinking about is how much blogging (especially seeing what others around the world are up to) has expanded my thoughts and creativity. The time I put in is paid off in spades when I walk around smiling, thinking about projects and ideas and people and opportunities and connections -- this whole other side to myself that's been missing for a long time has opened up again (do you remember how much time you had when you were, oh, 15 to 25 years old, roughly, to ruminate? to consider your own ideas and to ponder the ideas and opinions of others of which you were just being made aware? to carry around a journal to write it all down? to dream up things to do with your time?). Sure, right now what I need to do is tear myself away and get some things done, but the bits of time I put in online are making my truly, purely happy. That's worth the investment, don't you think?

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Somehow, while traipsing through blogland, I got the idea that chocolate Altoids are a rarity. Now, it may have just been that they are hard to find where that blogger lives, but when I spied them at the store I had to pounce -- thinking that I had made a remarkable discovery. I still don't know -- ARE they rare? I hope not. They are deeply, significantly good. I'd been picturing that the mints themselves would be a dusty cocoa color rather than white, that the chocolate would be within the mint, but they are in fact regular Altoids dipped in chocolate (and, yes, I do now see that it says so right on the box). Eating mints is a guilty, out-of-the-house pleasure for me because both Ken and Dean have an intense aversion to mint and I can't even sneak just one at home without being found out and criticized (Ken says the smell makes him sick). So I carry mints around in my purse and when I remember that they are there and while I am far from home, I indulge. There's a classic Gary Larson comic where two fire-breathing dragons are just waking up in the morning -- one says in utter disgust from the other side of the bed to the other dragon (who is sheepishly covering her mouth and looking embarrassed) "Ugh, your breath! It's so fresh and minty!" JUST like me and Ken after I've brushed my teeth....

Dean and I have tomorrow off; a planning day for teachers so no school. My goal is to cut out and apply the binding to that blasted baby quilt that I vowed to finish by the end of the month. What I'd rather be doing is sewing the kimono-top shirt that I cut out, or just about anything else, but I have to get that quilt monkey off my back. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring dog

It is a staggeringly beautiful morning here on the eastern side of central Massachusetts. My computer is next to a window, and I had to open it up to hear the birdsong which is now rich with many, many voices. At this time of the morning, the owls are still hooting, joining in the song birds with their low bass notes. The air is crisp -- probably about 43 f. or so, and the quality of light is such that you would know, even without knowing, that it is spring.

If you don't have Jenny's scottie dog pattern yet, you need it. I am using my re-felted felt to make this little guy, who's intended for Dean's lunch box next week as a birthday countdown treat. (The felt is pretty stiff and thick -- it's working, but again I would NOT recommend felting felt.)I thought I was so on top of things when, yesterday, I heard Dean coming up the stairs so I stashed the doggie under a pile of fabric left out just for that purpose. But Dean looked down at the table in front of me, saw the pattern pieces all cut out and with pin holes in them and said, "hey, who are you making the dog for?" I just gave him the look, the "boys who have birthdays next week should not be poking around and asking questions look," which he understood. In as much as I intended to be surprising him, I cannot tell you the joy it gives me that my son can glance at pattern pieces and discern their purpose, AND that he's at the stage in his life where he gets what I mean by my looks and just smiles and walks away happy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring Chicken

Circa 1965, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago. Me, and my big brother Tony. Posted in honor of Tony's birthday, which is Thursday. Happy Birthday, Tony! I'm not sure why I look so wary in this picture -- I have always adored and gotten along with this brother (Chris, if you're out there, I think you're hip to being up front about our, ah, not always getting along as well as we do now). Anyway, here's to a guy who's still a spring chicken.

Dean is waiting for me to join him in the family room and read him a few chapters of Pippi in the South Seas, so I'll go do that now.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dumb luck

How great is this? I asked my mom if she had any old apron patterns she could send me, and in a box filled with frog and mouse parts (the fabric kind, along with those patterns) she sent me this. Tie One On Apron fans, do you see that rick-rack? Right in the pattern -- it calls for rick-rack! While I've yet to make an apron, this business has been a one-thing-leads-to-another challenge that has me a little hung up. (I find a big, juicy hunk of nice, heavyweight cotton purchased from Laura Ashley years and years ago and think it's a nice weight for an apron, but then am loathe to cut it because it is such a nice coupla yards of material and I think -- is this how I most want to use it, to make an apron? -- then I start imagining the thing I'd really like to make from it [a kimono-style top] and I find a pattern for same [although not exactly as I had pictured it, but close], then I wonder if this top with this fabric is too ambitious -- will the linear pattern of rows of perfect little tulips show off my lack of precise sewing skills so that I end up with no apron and a kimono-style top that I'm embarrassed to wear because I've made such a hack of it? And at this moment on my dining room table is the fabric with half of the kimono-top pattern pinned to it and I have to make a decision because we're having company for dinner tonight and I STILL haven't made an apron. Plus I never accurately measured the hunk of fabric so I don't even know yet for sure if I have enough of it for the top.) Ah, the dark side.

And I have all these dark thoughts particularly because I have been under one of my dark clouds of stupidity the past couple of days. I did some weird mixes of laundry, even thinking to myself, "hmmm, should I really toss all of this in together?" and then I do it anyway and of course now I have a tablecloth that's been dyed, unintentionally, a really weird shade of pink/red. I *think* that the dye transfer was even enough that I can still use the cloth (you know what I mean? how sometimes when things over-dye they look all splotchy and horrible and sometimes you do manage to get a nice, even coat of the color?) but every time I see it I will remember that I knew I shouldn't have washed it with that other jacket and that I did it anyway. To my family, I will pretend it was time for a change. And this one -- yesterday, I bought a yard of white, 100% wool felt (I was at Joann's for the kimono-top pattern and had a coupon that expired yesterday so I HAD to) and I brought it home (drumroll, please) and threw IT in the washer and dryer thinking I'd felt it -- but it already WAS felt. Oh please. Re-felting felt is, ah, not recommended. And oh, did it smell awful when I pressed it with a too-hot iron, trying to bring it back to some usable condition. It'll be interesting to see what I come up with for that. Don't try this at home.

It's not so much that I mind when I make mistakes. That seems human enough. But when I stop before doing something to consider if I really should do the thing or not, and then I go ahead and DO the stupid thing anyway -- this drives me insane. "I knew I shouldn't do it!" I moan, and I have the depressing knowledge that this will continue to be my story -- if I haven't stopped by now, I don't expect there's hope. I think I have this inner sense of luckiness -- that I can do things and get away with them because there is a measure of truth there, too -- but I wear it thin. Here's hoping today goes better.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Separating what we want from what we need

Still under construction (can you see all the pins?) and constantly evolving, I give you the hamster family update. Working with 100% wool is an amazing pleasure -- the warmth, the hand -- but very, very different from cotton and I've definitely been learning along the way. For me, anyway, the lack of crispness in the fabric has led to a lack of precision in the results (as does working without a pattern or a definitive plan) but given that I've been trying to loosen up it has been a great exercise. I also wanted this to have a storybook feel to it, and in thinking about what 'storybook' means to me, I've found that letting go and letting a softer, naive, imprecise piece emerge does bring me where I've wanted to go. It's fun, that's all.

My one-a-day clean out project has also really come along -- an entire cabinet cleared out of its accumulated wreckage and reorganized. The pantry cabinet is next. (Yes, sigh, all those moldy old condiments were in a cabinet other than the main pantry cabinet -- I did tell you that I had too much!) The not-buying-more part is going to be really hard, and I'm trying to figure out what is reasonable on that front. For example, Hamster Head Portraits has made me really want to go to the thrift shop to mine for more wool. When is it reasonable for me to buy more crafting materials; do I have to use up everything I have on hand? [I won't live that long.] And Dean has been asking if we can check out a local flea market, which turns out to be pretty famous, pretty big, and barely 3 miles from our house. It opens next month. Then there's Anime Boston coming up -- should we go even though going is simply going to guarantee some buying? It comes down to figuring out what's a reasonable amount of pleasure to derive from shopping and buying things that fall squarely outside the category of 'need.'

On the 'want' front, take a look at Felicia's critters made from recycled clothing.

By the way, am I the only one who has a hard time getting right on the first try the business of "type the letters you see" when attempting to post comments on blogs? The style where the letters are black and gray on a distressed background really make me squint and guess (usually wrong) about the letters. The groovy style where the letters are big and wavy are a little easier -- there, the problem isn't not being able to read them but rather getting my brain to see what's really there in the patternless jumble when it wants to see pattern and predictability. Dean did some language evaluation testing and on one of the results it was noted that he had a difficult time reading and making sense of nonsense words and I thought -- well that's kind of a foolish test. I think he and I share a trait of wanting to see and make sense of things and since he wasn't told "these are going to be nonsense words and you have to try to read them as though they were real words" he struggled to try to make sense where there wasn't any (just as I would do) but that wasn't the "right" way to do the test. There's just no one right way to see the world, no one right way for a brain to work. Thank goodness.

Friday, March 23, 2007


All of the ice has finally melted off of our roof. This is major, because it means no more waking in the middle of the night to the ungodly, gut-wrenching sound of a large, heavy sheet of ice falling off the roof and sounding for all the world like half the house just collapsed. Dean wanted to practice some soccer when we got home yesterday, but the lawn is still completely covered in snow and the driveway is crisscrossed with rivers of run-off -- for a boy who doesn't want to deal with a ball once it's soaking wet, muddy, and coated with sand and grit, this isn't a good way to start soccer. So we took a walk to the end of our street instead, listening for birdsong and wagering when we'll hear our first spring peepers. The emergence of those tiny frogs with HUGE voices from the muck and mud is always a reason to rejoice. Be inspired by wish jar to explore what's happening in the world around you and be sure to read her list posted on 3/18.

I found out that my nephew's wife Erin crochets; she's working on a blankie for the baby she's expecting in June. I sent her this link to tempt her into the world of crocheted softies. They don't live close enough to us, unfortunately, so that means she can't teach me to crochet (and also means I don't get to babysit, which is heartbreaking). The older I get, the more depressing the whole family-spread-across-the-country business becomes.

A perfect kind of jumping-the-gap between winter and spring recipe is this Slow Cooked Beef and Cabbage; lest you be put off by the word "cabbage," let me tell you that Ken is solidly anti-cabbage himself and yet could not stop eating THIS cabbage and has asked that this earn a place in the regular rotation:

About 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast (I hate the fact that cuts of meat get called all different things all over the place -- this is a decent cut of meat; not the stringy, tough kind that calls for stewing)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

4 cups beef broth, heated

Allspice and tarragon, garlic salt and pepper, in amounts that make sense to you

4 Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes, quartered

1 small head of green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges

Brown the beef in the olive oil on top of the stove in a heavy pot over med-high heat.

Pour the broth into a slow cooker, add the spices and transfer the browned beef to the slow cooker. Add the potatoes, and work the wedges of cabbage in around the beef. Set the cooker for 8 hours and go have your day. (I did turn the meat at about the 4 hour mark just to feel useful, but I don't think it's necessary.) Carefully remove the roast and shred it lightly (it WILL just fall apart). Serve with the potatoes and cabbage (which have taken on a quality of rich, buttery, deeply flavored goodness) and be comforted, filled, and delighted. (Unless you're a vegetarian....)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The music man

There are certain parenting decisions I regret, but I keep making them anyway. Last night, listening to the -- millionth? billionth? -- play of the Crazy Frog CD I had to acknowledge that I had only myself to blame. (If the words Crazy Frog do not strike terror into your heart it is because you are unfamiliar with Crazy Frog and the only downside to being unfamiliar with it is not realizing how lucky you are. I'll say quickly it is the "music" based on cell phone ring tones that originated in Europe -- the novelty of something so crass, commercial, and totally without redeeming value coming out of somewhere other than American would delight me more if I weren't so familiar with the outcome.) Dean, of course, loves Crazy Frog. And that's why I, uh, bought him the CD. I bought it knowing full well what it was. I also bought him the Pokemon Christmas CD (painful), both soundtracks to both Shrek movies (not painful initially but after the zillionth play...), and from iTunes purchased Ghost Riders in the Sky, which he'd heard on the radio and loved. I also bought via iTunes Holiday by Green Day at his request -- a very big mistake given that even though I bought the version without the "explicit" rating, it still contains language that makes me cringe every time I hear it. Dean heard the song while riding in another family's car on a school field trip -- I can ask "what was THAT mother thinking?," but given my own record I have to admit that she probably got herself there in much the same way I did. Dean loves to dance, loves to have music on to parade to, to act out stories to, to surrender himself with abandon to rhythm and catchy words. I remember myself as a child listening to the same music over and over and over again, although it was records with songs about learning the days of the week or the soundtrack to the Sound of Music, so my family only had to feel tortured but not have their political and personal sensibilities threatened.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Such riches

I think that because I uploaded the image to the Swap-bot gallery and wrote an e-mail of thanks, my brain thought that I had posted here about the wonderful first swap package I received -- so, later than I should be, I'm showing the package contents and announcing just how delighted I am with my first swap! 3 adorable cat fabrics, a little tote bag made of a vintage-look, sewing themed fabric, ribbon, and vintage note cards -- such riches! My only dilemma is that I'm not sure who, on the list of swap participants, sent it -- Kristen Mary, if you're reading this, tell me what name you used in the swap so I can give you a great rating!

I also received a great, long letter and box of chocolate bunnies and eggs from Helen, to whom I sent a swap package. Having a mailbox does not get any better than this. The magic of this whole swap business are these connections to wonderful people, eager and willing to connect and communicate and care. If you have no idea what this swap business is all about, I encourage you to go to Swap-bot and take a look around. You can do something as simple as choosing to send postcards from your hometown to a couple of people (and thereby expect to receive a couple in return) from anyplace in the world. And the rating system helps keep everyone on the up-and-up -- I think that for the vast majority that's unnecessary, but for those rare few who seem out to take advantage it helps provide some assurance. But try it, on some level that you're willing to gamble, and see if you don't connect with another like-minded soul or two from some other time zone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy last day of winter!

And today we officially change over, and believe wholeheartedly in spring. Although the big snowstorm last Friday left us under a very solid 7 inches of snow (solid as in you can walk right across the top of it and not break through), you can absolutely see and feel the difference in the quality of light, and as I sit here typing at 6:48 a.m. I can hear the birds chirping outside.

I hope you'll take a look at Helen's project; she's turning the energy of swapping into an opportunity to help those truly in need. Her Swap-a-Goat is essentially an opportunity to make a charitable contribution in a swap partner's name; she's recommending the kind of organizations that will buy a goat for a family (or provide other essential items) but appears to be open to any kind of legitimate charity. I love her idea and I signed right up. I have experience donating through Heifer International, which is exactly the kind of place that will use your money to buy a goat, or a flock of chickens, or other life-sustaining thing, for a family whose lives can and will be transformed by the resource. Beatrice's Goat is a beautiful children's book about a girl and her family who receive a goat like this -- it's a wonderful way to introduce children to the concept of this kind of giving. Helen has inspired me to add another item to my year's list of incremental change. I'm on this mission (described a little in my previous post) to continually add small but positive change to my life and to my family's lives/routines. It can be difficult and discouraging to attempt large-scale change overnight -- doesn't matter if that change is about a diet or breaking a poor habit or whatever -- feeling that whatever "it" is can't be tackled gives us license not to make the change. But I'm trying to add small changes to our lives that reduce our footprint, that help turn the tide on global warming, that make the world a better place and that make our own lives more meaningful. So this one's about looking at my list of December gift buying and picking at least one gift that I will change from buying "something" to instead making a donation in that person's name -- I can think of several people on our list who would be delighted to see that we've donated a goat in their honor.

I've also started working to reduce the amount of disposable plastic we use in our kitchen. Plastic wrap, plastic bags, that sort of thing. I make pizza every single Friday (with few exceptions) and started this week covering the bowl of dough that sits in the fridge rising all day with a damp towel rather than a sheet of plastic wrap. A simple thing, it takes only a few more moments to do, and nothing is wasted. What are your great ideas?

Monday, March 19, 2007

And there goes the day

No, it's not shrinking and I'm not obsessed (really) -- but just going ahead and showing the next step on the hamsters (rick-rack for all). And no, I haven't attached the head patches to the background yet, so they aren't lined up nicely and the baby one's really isn't wobbly -- just the impact of the scanner. Yesterday I also managed to find the right fabric (and plenty of it) to bind the baby quilt WIP; just have to cut the strips and get going. I hate binding the most which is a shame since it's the last thing in between WIP and DONE. I was determined to find fabric in my stash for the binding and I'm glad that I found something that doesn't feel like a ridiculous compromise -- I probably would have been stubborn enough to go with something rather than spending a little money on the right thing. My motives are good -- making use of the outrageous amount of material I have on hand -- but even I see the stupidity in ruining the thing after finally getting this far.

Along with being inspired to tackle my supply of WIPs, I'm also very much inspired by the people who are making a commitment to make do with less. I don't want to keep buying stuff. Ken feigned a heart-attack the other day when I said I wanted to do everything I could NOT to buy any new clothes for myself this year and to make an effort overall in the house to clear things out and not buy anything more. (As a proponent of the Japanese/minimalist look, Ken has been waiting for this for 18 years -- no wonder it nearly bowled him over.) My "throw out an old container of mystery condiment from my cabinets per day" project is coming along nicely and soon (perhaps even today) I'll rearrange two cupboards to take advantage of the new real estate. I felt a little guilty buying a fresh bottle of cider vinegar today (this was where the whole thing started -- I'd pulled some out to use in a recipe and discovered that the "use by" date had gone past by, well, several years) BUT I reasoned that it's very cheap and it really is itself (I mean, you can't just go substituting white vinegar for it) and maybe I'll just have to make apple pies and raisin bars more often. But I don't need any more coffee mugs or blue jeans or sweaters or candle holders or rick-rack (here's hoping Gail does put in her request so I can send her some) now or any time soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Dean says I can't go changing what kind of animals they are and that I said they were hamsters, so hamsters they are. He and Ken also want rick-rack around their "faces" (I'd been thinking a band of fabric, but no, they want rick-rack) so that needs to be added (deep gold for Ken, or Papa Hamster, and a medium blue mini-rick-rack for Baby Hamster). I think I'll still do some beads around in the background area, but may drop the idea of the words ('once upon a time') and may even drop the top and bottom borders, but I'll see once the portraits are finished and attached.

We've a busy Sunday in store for us -- Easter cards to make, Easter/birthday decorations to put out, some housecleaning to finish and laundry (always) to catch up on. And that's just my agenda. Or, my group agenda, I should say, since I'm also hoping to find some time to dedicate to the quilt and to general puttering in my room (a little cleaning up in here wouldn't hurt at all -- my arms are reaching across a sea of pens and small scissors and thread and toy patterns and stickers and Pokemon cards as I type this). One of the many benefits of throwing over my corporate career for a more simple job is that I got my Sundays back. It used to be that work was so busy and so stressful that Sundays were given over to worry and planning and strategizing -- the demands of the coming Monday overshadowed the peace that should be a Sunday. Of course, the added benefit of usually not having to work at all on Mondays helps, too (and I still manage to forget that almost every week and find myself, like now, suddenly delighted at the thought of the additional time to tend to my own things!).

Saturday, March 17, 2007


It's funny to me to hear people (or at least Martha Stewart, anyway) refer to St. Patrick's Day as the time to plant peas. We're more than a month away from our last frost date, and today we've got a fresh 8 inches of snow being pounded down by a fresh few inches of ice and sleet; gardening still seems forever away. But perhaps Dean and I could get out the seed starting stuff and get some tomato seeds in or something, in the spirit of the thing. We'll celebrate our St. Patrick's Day here at home, more in the manner it's celebrated in Ireland -- a quiet holiday with family and a nice meal, and not the rowdy, over-the-top mess it's become here in the U.S. No green food coloring at our place, thank you very much. Dean wishes we were having salmon for dinner. Don't we all?

With the snow and a day at home yesterday, I did manage (trumpets, please) to finish quilting my work-in-progress quilt. Today the basting comes out and with any luck I find suitable fabric on hand to use for the binding. I see the light, and I thank the world of fellow crafting bloggers for the inspiration to get the thing done. I'll admit that I'm still fighting the constant urge to start MORE new projects, even as this one teeters on the brink (I spent time yesterday, too, on the mini-quilt mentioned last post) but I really am trying to behave. Dean's dog quilt will be the next WIP I tackle, although I still haven't found those buttons for the noses and may have to (sigh) buy new ones. At least that's the guaranteed way to have the old ones suddenly appear. And realizing just now that it's just 3 weeks til Easter lights a fire to get some bunnies made, quickly -- Gail's chocolate dinosaurs make me think of the chocolate rabbit mold I have, and I've seen, somewhere, a woman who makes soft-toy rabbits that look JUST like the chocolate ones.... New ideas are planted every single day.

Just did this "brain test" and am not surprised to see that the results have me working about equally in right and left brain mode:

Brain Lateralization Test Results
Right Brain (46%) The right hemisphere is the visual, figurative, artistic, and intuitive side of the brain.
Left Brain (48%) The left hemisphere is the logical, articulate, assertive, and practical side of the brain
Are You Right or Left Brained?
personality tests by

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Loosening up

So now I'm thinking 'bears.' Not that you were wondering, and not that I've gotten hamsters out of my head, but this mini quilt project is now feeling like a 3 Bears kind of thing. I managed
to sketch out, roughly, what's been playing around in my head since last night and I'm liking it even more now that I have something down.

One change that really strikes me in quiltmaking, that was starting a while back but truly blossomed while I wasn't looking, is the freedom quiltmakers now feel. So many quilts I'm seeing these days are exuberant, scrappy, sometimes raw, and rarely precise -- people are simply making what they want to make. Not that those people haven't been there all along, but so much of the quilting world back when I took my first class (1978 or so) was SO bound by rules and precision and exactly this but never that. I'm delighted those chains are off but I realized this week that somehow I haven't taken them off myself yet. This is true of my quiltmaking, and I know why I've felt those boundaries, but it's true in other ways about me too and I want to work on letting go and loosening up a little more. A lot more. Opening up more to experimentation and even failure along the way. As I write it, I realize that's the big one for me -- I've always held myself to such a particular standard that I haven't allowed myself enough opportunity to flounder and fail so my artistic path has been pretty straight. Ultimately that's not much for art -- being safe, being predictable. I know that freedom and exuberance is in me. I just have to let it out.

Dean is over at a friend's house this afternoon and is even staying for dinner (he's been talking about wanting to try duck and they are having it at his friend's house tonight -- how lucky is that?). When he's away like this it hits me hard, how much my life, and Ken's and my life, is wrapped around our life with him here. I'm a little lost when he's not here. Adjusting to his growing up means making some adjustments for myself, and with Ken, so that we know how to be "us" again, too. The deepest, richest pleasures of parenting include these journeys you take right within your own self.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I'm still playing with these little hamster head forms (or, are they bears? mice?) that were spurred on by all the softie stuff going on out there at the moment. Dean saw me adding rick-rack to the lastest pink one, over there, and suggested I make a quilt. I mulled it over and decided to work with his idea and instead of making another pin, I'll make a little (very little) wall quilt to hang in our kitchen that shows us as the three hamsters (bears, mice, whatever). As the only 'girl' I've been assigned the first one, and I've just finished cutting out the papa one, for Ken. I think Dean will want blue, and his head will have to be smaller, but it feels nice to be making something for a specific purpose, frolicsome as it may be. My kitchen feels too masculine to me so this will go a long way to lightening things up (you'll see what I mean -- I'll take pictures once this project is up). There's not much wall space, so a little strip of hamster heads will be juuuusst right (say it as you would if you were Goldilocks).

Still fighting the wretched cold and still going to work every day, but now I have a tiny sewing project to carry in my purse tomorrow so I go to bed happy. Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


As much as I didn't enjoy the onslaught of a cold, the benefit to feeling lousy on Sunday was that I spent most of the day working on the quilt I've vowed to finish this month. And for the first time, it seems possible to finish it! I've been a little frustrated with myself for all that I seem to have forgotten during my long quilt-making hiatus -- all those little tricks that are second nature when you're deep into a craft that make life so much easier are the things that, for me anyway, make me slap my forehead and roll my eyes at myself as I stumble along re-learning. The delightful Heather Bailey has a great quilt binding tutorial on her site that's helped me remember the right way to attach a binding, so I've figured out why my recent mini-quilt bindings have been bothering me. Oh, hurray again for crafty bloggers!

This blindingly red fabric swatch picture does not remotely represent the true color of this fabric -- it's a rich, deep magenta -- but reds are particularly difficult to reproduce electronically. It's a small piece -- 7" x 9" or so -- that I bought in 1980 in Paris. At that time it was nearly impossible to find quilting materials in Europe (or at least it was for me, as a traveling college grad who didn't speak anything other than English and a little German) and the few things I did find were way beyond my backpacking budget. This is one of my rare purchases, from a place that I believe at the time was quite well-known for home decorating fabrics. I think I'm going to work it into the center of a mini-quilt to keep for myself, even though the design doesn't lend itself to that -- I just don't want to lose it, or have someone someday just toss it out simply because I couldn't bring myself to cut it or make use of it elsewhere. It reminds me of all the quilts I still need to label....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Slogging ahead

Whatever it is we are going to be doing today, springing ahead is not an option. Daylight savings has us losing an hour -- at risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I'll admit that I despise the twice-a-year time changes. Just leave it alone! (No one listens....) But anyway, we all seem to have lost the battle overnight to some nasty colds after having had a fairly healthy winter. Today will be spent trying to rest up so we're in better shape for our Mondays.

On the delightful news front, I've heard that both my swap partners received their packages and both seem pleased with what I sent. Helen's package included some African-themed fabrics (I managed to distort the first image here; sorry about that):
While Dawn's package was more on the whimsical side:Again, without a digital camera I am at the mercy of my scanner, which gives the idea but doesn't do much for presentation. Both packages included some other treats and trinkets as well. I haven't decided yet if I'll keep swapping, but am glad I made this venture out into that aspect of the blogging world. I'm considering an entry to the latest tie one on project (I hear the siren call of rick-rack) but want to be careful that I don't line myself up with lots of reasons not to finish up on and move ahead with my own projects. Ah, the lure of distraction! In and of itself, a component of spring for all animals, I believe. I hope I feel well enough today to do some project work so it takes my mind off of not feeling very well.

Friday, March 9, 2007

One a day

We moved into our house 17 years ago; that seems impossible to me, but there you have it. We've gotten to that "stuffed to the gills" point, as can happen when you live in a place a long time and acquire more than you should. It's my kitchen cabinets, lately, that have me feeling overwhelmed and driven to change -- I've recently pulled out some specialty ingredients to use (I do love to cook) and been horrified by how many years past their "best used by" dates they were. I guess I should qualify the "I love to cook" statement to also say that I love to find new recipes and stock up on the new and intriguing ingredients called for, but I (1) don't always get around to making the thing that I bought the ingredient(s) for and (2) don't necessarily repeat the reccipe often enough to make use of what I've bought.

The point of all this is that I started a campaign to toss out something every day. I would not, of course, throw away anything still useful to me or to someone else (I'd give something away before throwing it out) but I'm talking about those mystery bottles lurking at the back of the cabinets that have gone years, and years, and years past their dates. We accumulated a large collection of certain kinds of items (supremely hot sauces, for example) because of what friends and family knew of our eating habits back before our son was born. We just don't have the opportunity (or to some degree, the stomach anymore) for the most fiery cuisines, and so sadly some items did go unused for so long that they turned funny colors.... But having all this stuff crammed in my cabinets doesn't help, so out it goes. The McCormick spice company ran a great series of ads last fall and into the holiday season about how to determine how old your spices might be (and how therefore it was time to pitch them and start fresh) -- I want to say it was something about whether Baltimore was listed on the label as their headquarters, and whether the packaging was tin or glass. I thought it was inspired, and wondered just how many tons of ancient spices are lurking in kitchen cabinets out there.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Next week, another nephew joins the ranks of adulthood -- 21. I'm not sure if anyone in my family (other than my mom!) appreciates getting handmade cards from me every year; I know the nieces and nephews are generally pretty pleased to get the birthday check that's inside the card, but my rule has been that the last check gets sent for the 20th birthday and that 21 is "welcome to grown-up land, where our relationship changes a bit in a number of ways, including what isn't in your card anymore." Honestly, if I had the extra $$ I would keep sending the gifts. But these days, sending the money means taking it from someplace else. And there's something to be said about that changing relationship....

I've been thinking about the birthday cards I sent religiously every year to far-flung friends -- do they like getting them? Not many of them reciprocate, though that isn't my point in sending cards in the first place. I think just too many adults get conditioned to think that they aren't supposed to like having birthdays anymore, which is so sad. If you can't be delighted, once a year, to be you and to be here on the planet, then it seems to be you're missing out in a way that affects you every day of your life. You don't necessarily have to have the kind of hoopla that comes with a child's birthday (although I say that if you're up for it, go for it!) but it's important to allow yourself the enjoyment of celebrating yourself once a year. There's a trend here in the US which I deplore -- birthday parties for children where "no presents, please" is specified. Ah, "no presents" is what an adult's birthday celebration can entail, but to deprive children (as recipients OR as gift-givers) is, I believe, mis-guided. If your children are getting too much, then you can give them less or invite fewer guests or whatever, but please -- don't make children be adult in the way they celebrate!

Ah, and that brings me back to my nephew, stepping over that line into adult birthday time.... I hope he likes his crazy card and learns to appreciate being remembered every year -- maybe that's the real point.

Monday, March 5, 2007

On a Monday

On Mondays I don't go to my job-outside-the-home, usually. I drop Dean off at school and prepare to see the next 6 hours rush by, in a mix of housework and errands and some time for myself to play. I cut the dashiki scraps to make two mini quilts today -- one for Dean's classroom teacher and one for the art teacher who oversaw the batik project. This sample is from the piece for the art teacher, quickly and simply string-pieced after having done a more formal piece for the classroom teacher (I'll post a scan after it's a little further along). I wish I'd done string piecing for both -- this one's a lot more fun (although the more formal piece does reflect, I think, his teacher's personality more). Anyway, it was one of those things that just consumed me; I'd meant to just give the project a little bit of a start and then -- wooosh! -- it took up my day. So instead of getting much housework done, I made more of a mess. It's the power of "flow" -- the way doing something you truly enjoy just pulls you in and makes time irrelevant. I wish I'd understood flow back in the day when I was thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up, and then when I spent all those years doing all those other things that made Mondays drag like stubborn toddlers.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Feel the power

A significant amount of time was spent today nailing down the details for Dean's upcoming 9th birthday party, and then getting the invitations made. He'd had an uncharacteristically hard time making up his mind about where to have the party (bowling alley or home, bowling alley or home?); last year was indeed a bowling party and past years' had been at home. Ken was rallying for another bowling (or other, 3rd party location) party, since he doesn't like dealing with the whole thing at home. But I was pleased with Dean's choice, being partial to home birthday parties myself (and I do take on the preparations regardless). I also like having the excuse to get the yard and house all cleaned up since it is, alas, a rarity for us to have the yard AND the house all looking good at the same time. And my gosh, to have the basement and basement bathroom, the first floor, AND the second floor all clean at the same time -- we don't even manage that at Christmas! Dean picked a Power Ranger theme and I was fortunate to have taken a picture of him with a Power Ranger at Disney World so that made the invitations pretty easy. Gotta love Photo Shop! You can laugh at me now, since the date of the party is April 28 and yet I just HAD to get this taken care of today or I wouldn't be able to sleep well with it hanging over me.... Priorities.

While printing out the invitations I sewed the bias trim around the neckline of Dean's dashiki. It was pickier a job than I was picturing and I now regret so quickly volunteering to help with getting the other children's done, but perhaps if we split it up among the other sewing moms it won't be too bad. I just wouldn't really want to have to do the remaining 13. But maybe then I'd really be a pro at it by the end.... Again, having no quick option other than to put it on my scanner, I'm hardly showing it to its best advantage, but you get the general idea. I will get some pictures of Dean wearing it, which will give better credit to his batik work and his sewing (the children hand sewed the seams for the sleeves and sides). I'm going to use some of the pieces of leftover fabric from the children's cloths to make a small quilt for their teacher as a memento of the project and the year and will post how that comes out.

I've packaged up by two swap boxes and intend to mail them out tomorrow; I think I'm more eager to hear how the recipients like what I've sent than I am, even, to receive my own mystery packages (although that will be quite wonderful, I'm sure!).

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Why starting is easier than finishing

Smooshed unceremoniously unto my flatbed scanner, here's a portion of the poor quilt I can't seem to bring myself to finish. I must -- must -- finish it. I am soooo close. The quilting design was overly ornate (and is a bear to do on along the edges, as I decided foolishly to do it) and the patchwork pattern is no longer my taste, but after the hours that have already gone into it, it deserves to be finished. I hate to think of it ending up on eBay someday, unknown and unloved, waiting for someone else to take it on. I read a great article years ago (wish I'd saved it) written by a guy who did a lot of woodworking. He wrote about how easy and great it was to start new projects, and how nearly impossible it felt to finish them (much to the consternation of his wife, who really WANTED the bookshelves and the cabinets, etc.). He said it came down to this: a new project is full of hope and opportunity. Someone sees the thing you've started and they are so impressed -- gee, I wish I knew how to do that! -- and the idea is there that you are going to make something really good. But finishing. Finishing means you are saying to the world -- this is it, this was the best I could do, this is my completed work. That resonates with me and I do think that's why it's so hard for me to finish what I start. Because, then, there it is and there are no excuses to be made. But I hate the feeling of all the unfinished work around me, and so I will finish. I will. There's even a space above our bed where this quilt (which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I tell you now is baby sized!) could hang. I wonder if I could even knock off the whole thing (quilting, binding, label) this month.

So that's my goal, then. Give me the strength to finish, and to be comfortable saying yes, I made this, and it was the best I could do.