Thursday, January 31, 2008

Week of shame, entry 3

A close-up view of some of the shelves from yesterday's photo of the left-hand side of my closet disaster. Helen asked me if she spotted "polystrene baubles" and I'm wondering if that's another way of saying "styrofoam balls"? That's what they are, in any case, and they could go downstairs in Dean's craft closet. Well, yes, at this point his closet is nearly as bad, but I do take the time to clean his out a couple of times a year. But I'm not going there now, I'm just trying to stay a little focused.
And then this beauty is the right-hand side of the same closet. I've appreciated the advice about not getting caught up in projects and ideas as I clean. For me, the place I get stuck is when I pick something up and then have absolutely no idea what to do with it and end up walking around in circles. Even though it means greater pain before any gain, I think my game plan will be to take everything out and sort it into piles, decide what should be in this closet, put that stuff back in an orderly way, and with luck end up with a big pile of stuff to get rid of and hopefully a smaller pile of stuff that just needs to go elsewhere. Learning to get rid of stuff is big for me; I hang on to the "someday I may need this" mentality and forget that "someday" I may never be able to find the thing, or that my energy for making stuff is sapped by the mess so I'd be better off clearing stuff out and facing the possibility of replacing something I once had at the point I do need it. Another issue is that I feel I truly need a filing cabinet and yet I need to find solutions without one (no place to put it, and I'd rather not spend the money). With this project, too, I don't want to end up buying stuff to put stuff in (especially plastic stuff -- I honestly don't want more plastic coming in to my house) so I'm hoping to make use of what I have.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Week of shame, entry 2, some progress, and a giveaway

We move from one side of the room to another, this time to the closet, and the spill-over on the floor in front of it. A number of years ago, we had this closet totally fitted out with shelves, for me, so I could get "organized" and store my craft supplies. Yes, it IS as bad as it looks -- stuff in there willy-nilly, little or no organization at all, and of course the mess on the floor in front. I *may* spend all of my cooperative work day with Helen (see below) on the closet; haven't decided yet.
Now, this updated photo from yesterday has both good and bad points. The good, if you can see, is that I did go through and totally organize my rubber stamps -- there is now order to the shelves on the right. But now you can see what's under and around the table. Not good. Helen made me laugh out loud, really, with her comment yesterday ("I do query how many pairs of scissors with coloured handles a girl needs"); those are scrapbooking scissors and each cuts with a different blade for different decorative edge and they were a Christmas gift from Ken last year so there you go. But maybe I should check to make sure that they ARE all different....
Meanwhile, I've decided to use this opportunity to share the wealth (or get stuff out of my house, depending on your point of view). As I clean up and out, I will give away various bits and pieces. If you leave an encouraging comment on this post by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on this Saturday, February 2, I will draw one winner for this VERY eclectic assortment of rubber stamps. Some are cute, some are not, all are used, but all are still usable. I really appreciate the kind comments so far and I do hope you'll keep checking back and that you'll stop by on the big clean-up day which is February 9. You'll also want to hop over to see what Helen's working on that day as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Week of shame, entry 1

Helen is making me do this. Really, I am fortunate to have her friendship, because she is the kind of friend who is pushing me in the way I need to be pushed. She has worked out this great transatlantic method of getting me to get my act together so that instead of merely telling her all the time how impressed I am by how productive she is, she's going to get me in shape so that I can be productive, too.

Here's the story: last summer, I posted about a quilt I'd started years ago that I really wanted to finish. Helen gave me some friendly prompts -- how's that quilt coming along? Well, I did get a different project completed but sewed nary a stitch on that first one. And Helen was good enough to remember and to remind me about it recently. So I had to come clean: my craft room is such a horrific, out-of-control mess that I can't even find the fabrics I need to get going on that quilt. Helen proposed a cleaning/WIP day -- we'll pick 5 or 6 hours on a given day when, with the time difference, we'd both be home and able to work on our projects. We'll check in regularly via email on our progress, chat a little during some break times, and see what we can get accomplished. She thinks I'm exaggerating my mess. I said I'd start posting pictures here of JUST how awful things are so that I'd have the added pressure of public humiliation to push me forward.

This week, then, I'll show you the mess. Up there is my scrapbooking/card making/collage making table, and I've yet to show you the rat's nest underneath it. No surprise that I can't find supplies when I need them nor that I need to spend time pushing piles of stuff around just to scrape out a few inches of open space on the table before I can do anything. It's like that for every craft -- supplies scattered to the four winds and completely without organization so it's a chore just to find what I need, no space to do any work, and effort required to make room to do anything. It means I mistakenly buy things I already have (although less of this lately, since I haven't been buying) or finding too late the perfect thing for a project that's come and gone. But mostly it means years and years worth of WIPs, since if something doesn't get finished then it and its attendant supplies get pushed away in so many different places that it's almost impossible to bring them together again.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back to "a"

Can you see the "A" form on this tree trunk?

"A" is for arborvitae.

Although I'd posted these on Flickr at the ABC-Along 2008, I never did post them here, as Natalie pointed out! I do wonder with my "found form" letters (where I am attempting to find things in nature/outdoors that suggest the form of each letter) if it's just me -- is my "A" made of veins or my "B" rock as obvious to you as it is to me, or am I seeing things? The second photo for each letter will be something that starts with that letter, and I'm hoping through that exercise that I learn more names of things as I go.

We were so fortunate to get out last night to hear a local symphony and have a lovely dinner out with friends while Dean had a great time with Olivia, who came over to watch him. Aside from the joy of hearing professional musicians perform, I especially love the way a particular program introduces connections and relationships between seemingly unrelated pieces of music; I imagine that's the real passion for the conductors and directors who develop the programs. They teach us to hear music in new ways.

Friday, January 25, 2008


The "B" rock

"B" is for birch

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Countdown to Valentine's

Ken and Dean both love this little blue doggie that I made about a year ago as one of Dean's countdown to Valentine's Day lunch box treats, and Ken urged me show him to you. I made him from the still perfectly good part of one of my most favorite pairs of socks that became too worn out to wear, and I made him up as I went along (which was a little harder to do than I thought it would be). I'm thinking about getting started on this year's treats -- Valentine's is getting close and there are 4 days in that week to count down.

I'm working on the "8 things" meme for which Natalie tagged me -- 8 things I am passionate about is easy, but 8 things to do before I die is taking a lot of thought.

Thanks to the ABC-Along, I discovered exactly how I want to spend Mother's Day this year -- how great does the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival sound!?! Yup, I thought so too! Someone posted photos she'd taken at the Festival last as part of the ABC project. Hmmm. Theoretically, we will have a real dog by then (we've been in family discussions for a long time, and it seems as though for Dean's birthday in April we will be finally making his dream come true). Probably not a sheep dog, though....

Friday, January 18, 2008

Make peace

Dean, center there, reading his part in his class' presentation on Mahatma Gandhi, given during our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly at school. We honor Dr. King's work by not only teaching all children at our school about King and the civil rights movement, but we also honor him as a peacemaker and pacifist, and explore the contributions of others who made a difference to the world on either civil rights or peace issues. It means so much to us that our school makes this commitment to what "education" includes. And having seen Dean grow over the years from the child who didn't want a speaking part and who always managed to somehow stand behind a classmate to a boy who can read his part loudly enough for everyone in a crowded gym to hear is also thanks in part to our school that puts social and emotional growth right up there with learning math and writing. Monday is a national holiday here in the US, honoring the work and the sacrifice of MLK. I ask you to take a moment to think about peace, and to honor the work and the life of a man who changed things for the better. If you've never heard his voice, I direct you over here so you can listen; you will never forget his words when you hear him speak them.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Just fine over here!

So sorry -- that was thoughtless of me! I go on about snow and power loss then disappear for the week. We're fine, power's running, but I've been so busy at work that I haven't had a chance to keep up here. Blogger is having one of it's rare weird moments and doesn't want to let me upload a photo, so I'll save up the post in my head and say more tomorrow. Stay warm, or cool if the case may be, be good, and we'll chat soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Welcome to Narnia

Ten new inches of snow yesterday, the marshmallow kind that comes down wet, heavy, and sticks to everything. Enough to keep us all home for the day which, if it IS going to snow, is the kind we like best. I heard on a weather report yesterday that our area gets an "average" of 15" of snow annually and that we're already at nearly 40". What's incredibly deceptive about that average statistic (and kinda why I so dislike/distrust statistics) is that our winters are really feast or famine in terms of snow; we gotten more than 100" in the recent past, and then have also gotten something like 5" total for the season. So it's not a matter of a little more than a foot of snow most years, which is what the average makes you think.

My little test for finding out what your experience has been with this kind of weather is to ask what you first think when you see snow like this. People who are used to it would first wonder if we lost power -- the kind of snow that sticks to and pulls over trees usually means electric wires go down. These are the kind of people who can appreciate the beauty after knowing that we did not, thankfully, lose power (though we kept our heat up a little higher than usual, just in case). When we lose power we lose everything: water (ours comes into our house via an electric well pump), heat (our oil furnace runs on electrically powered thermostats), the ability to cook (electric stove). The snow looks just as beautiful to me today, given that we've got power....

Thanks for all the button help! I'll work on that this week.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jumped right in

I often hear the siren call of swaps -- and I made some wonderful friends last year by participating in a couple -- but I try to be very disciplined about not joining many. With all my other projects and commitments, I really need to not spread myself too thin, and I am careful about the financial side of swapping (postage, often international, putting together a nice package). Still, it's January, and my desire to make some new connections and try new things pulls hard.

I bundled a lot of this energy up and sprung it on joining Vicki's ABC-Along 2008 project. Each member interprets each letter of the alphabet in photography every two weeks, with no other strict guidelines or requirements aside from that the work reflect the individual. I am challenging myself to come up with 2 photos for each letter -- one that is something in nature/outdoors that begins with the letter, and one that is the letter form itself found in nature. This project also got me, finally, to join Flickr and so I'll be figuring all of that out, which I've been meaning to do for ages.

One thing I can't figure out yet, though, is how to make that button, or the text below the button, that I've added to the left over there on my blog, act as a link to the project. Vicki has posted the button photos themselves but not the html, and I don't see an option in Blogger to add a photo and a link. Any Blogger users out there know how to do this?

Friday, January 11, 2008

As seasons fleet

Sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;

and after the summer evermore succeeds

Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold;
so cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.

Wm. Shakespeare
The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth
Act II. Scene IV.

These lines could be my most favorite of all his work.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

True confessions

I am much better at decorating for Christmas than un-decorating from it. We are still days (days!) away from being able to eat dinner in the dining room, giving that it's covered with ornaments. The tree itself is now out, but the vacuum cleaner sits there in its place and the place still looks like a total disaster. Santas all over the place just aren't that cute anymore.

This time last year, and every other year in recent memory, I was making much more of an effort to exercise and eat right. I need to get back on the exercise bike, back off the cookies. It bothers me that I haven't been more attentive to this -- if I'm slacking off in January, what is August going to look like? Hmmm. I realize that the exercise bike itself could be the problem and perhaps if I can walk 5 days a week instead of 3, I'll feel better about this. Hey -- I'll take my camera with me!

Natalie's CD of music she'd been listening to recently that she shared with me reminded me how much I love the tune Simple Gifts. (She sent the Yo You Ma, Alison Krauss version that is breathtakingly beautiful.) I'm using Ken's guitar sheet music to try to learn it on the piano, but given that I kind of have to fake the process since I don't really remember the right way to play the piano, I'm feeling like I need to have a version of the sheet music that includes the words so I don't keep losing my place. Worse still, the only reason I can hope to learn it (as I did, much to Ken and Dean's relief, finally learn how to play Jingle Bells last month) is that the electronic piano we have includes a display that shows you what key you're hitting, so I can hunt and peck until the picture of the note on the display matches the note on the sheet music. What was kind of weird, though, was that Ken HAD the sheet music and had been playing it but I didn't know -- he only plays his guitar in the basement and won't let me or Dean listen to him. Time to suggest a duet?

And yet I am quilting, and I feel very active in other ways. Why is it always such a challenge -- why does it seem so impossible to do more than just a couple of things adequately at any one time? Oh, I'm not depressed or upset or anything, just curious. Busy, active, engaged, thinking about a lot of things in ways that make me happy to be alive and to be curious, but still feeling a bit off-kilter.

Finally, with thanks to Helen:

Your Superpower Should Be Mind Reading

You are brilliant, insightful, and intuitive.

You understand people better than they would like to be understood.

Highly sensitive, you are good at putting together seemingly irrelevant details.

You figure out what's going on before anyone knows that anything is going on!

Why you would be a good superhero: You don't care what people think, and you'd do whatever needed to be done

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Feeling even more isolated than you do now

Monday, January 7, 2008

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

...that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Ah, heaven. Are you with me? Jane Austen's novels are incredible, accessible works of art, and if you've not read one yet I must passionately ask you to read Pride and Prejudice. But hey, if you're already an Austen fan, or if maybe you need a little convincing, how's this for magnificent? I have one question, though, if anyone can help me figure this out. The Boston PBS station will air Persuasion on January 13 at 9, but I can't figure out if they are running the same 90 minute program 3 times in a row, or if these 3 installments of 90 minutes each comprise the whole. I think it's just the one, 90-minute show being aired repeatedly, but that seems kind of crazy.... If your local PBS listings make the situation any clearer, I'd love to know about it.

Now, more than ever, you need this.
I am Anne Elliot!

Take the Quiz here!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Gone to the dogs

OK, so here's what happened. I went to the New England Quilt Museum today with my friend Lisa. (Hi Lisa!) Getting out, being sociable, doing some things that I like to do are all there on that resolution list. Check, check, check. Well, the museum gift shop does have a nifty selection of books. And I did know that I shouldn't even pick this one up, because of course once I did, it was over. I've never needle-felted, but so many bloggers have made it sound so fun and so easy, and I'm already addicted to the making of little animals (esp. dogs!), so I had to buy it. When I tried putting it back down on the shelf for all the right reasons, I knew I would just keep thinking about it and regret not buying it, so I stopped playing games and just got it.

ISBN 978-1-57120-433-2, and published in the US by C&T. Even has a nice tool and wool resource list in the back. I will NOT start any needle-felted dogs until I finish Dean's quilt. I promise. And who knows? Maybe there's someone out there on Craig's List who is desperately trying to unload a lot of wool roving and related supplies -- maybe she's desperate to try quilting, and wants to do a trade....

I did start quilting his quilt today, even. More to feel good about. And folded just a little more laundry. Dinner will be our weekly homemade pizza. Do you have a bread machine? Making pizza dough in them is just heaven on earth. If you do not have a bread machine, dollars to donuts you can get yourself one for free, just like I did. Bread machines were one of those big gift items -- what? -- 10 years ago? -- and a lot of people who have them don't use them. The thing is, you really only want to make dough in them, you really don't want to bake the bread in them; it makes it tough to clean the machine and the shape is all weird. So start asking around, and if you have in-laws/parents to ask, let them know you are looking to adopt someone's machine that's not being used. If you have a church bulletin, or a school newsletter to publish your request in, go for it. You'll be amazed at how quickly you will have a free bread machine. Let me know if you want my pizza dough recipe.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Done and done

Well. All right then! Pretty pleased with myself here, if I do say so. Set out today to baste Dean's dog quilt and to make a gift for him to bring to a birthday party and I got. both. things. done. And I even did some laundry and ran the dishwasher and folded a (very) little laundry. Ahem. Could just be the whole big start of something here. Or, rather, the whole big actually finishing things here.

So the darling little bag is the birthday gift; Dean said the person wanted "things with horses." I grabbed the horse template from Martha (when Anna Marie Horner was on!) and the reversible bag tutorial is here (a fun blog to explore with some lovely photography).

The background fabric is a richer purple than shows here ) and it needs a little more ironing....

And then Dean's doggy quilt, on which the paper-pieced dogs will look more dog-like after I quilt it and sew on the button noses. The backing fabric has some great dogs on it, and I plan to randomly quilt around the outline of some of those dogs, and to quilt paw prints and some details on the paper-pieced dogs. Having some layout problems with so many photos to show; I'll work on figuring all that out tomorrow!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Making tracks

It is 2 degrees (f) outside right now, although with wind chill, apparently it feels like -13. The high today will be 14. Ah, winter. The snow is too hard now to accept footprints; the ones that are there are preserved, like the footprints on the moon. We delight in examining the animal tracks, identifying which creatures have been traveling through our yard, and wondering how the neighbor's cat managed to leave this particular set of tracks that make me imagine he could suddenly extend the size of his legs (like a cartoon character) and, from a great height, split his trail in 2 different directions at once....

So there's my noble resolution, and then all the usual health-related ones, and finally my creative resolutions. I'm going to baste Dean's dog quilt tomorrow and I hope to put some quilting stitches into it every day until it's done. I have a serious backlog of WIPs to attack, which makes me a little uneasy knowing that what I'm most thinking about is learning how to crochet. It's my nature to be thinking about new stuff -- not thinking that these new things are destined to end up as more fuel on the WIP (work in progress) fire. Discipline. Organization. These are the things I need. Maybe some kind of reward incentives are in order; finish Dean's quilt and then I can start something new. Hmmm. Well, and seriously, I've got to clean up my craft stuff before I buy a single new thing, and somehow have to break my habit of "cleaning up" by opening a closet or drawer and simply stuffing things inside. I'm awful that way. I also keep waaaay too much stuff. Sigh. But now it's time to get ready to go to work. Yeah, Dean and I have got to go out and face that cold....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

3, 2, 1....

Wishing you a joyous, healthy, safe, peaceful, and fulfilling 2008. Make it wonderful.