Saturday, March 28, 2009

another rainy day

Here is a photo of the little creek behind my house. When we have a good rain, the creek turns into a raging river. Pretty impressive, isn't it? That big log was washed down our way during a previous rainstorm. Luckily, the river is not nearly as close to my house, as it appears. There is a steep bank (maybe 50 feet down to the river), so my property is perfectly safe.
This morning when I went out as usual to pick up my Washington Post newspaper, I found the carrier had only used one plastic bag and the paper was wet all the way through! (Our papers are thrown from a car, so they must be bagged. We never know where they will land, although often it is actually on my sidewalk!) I will admit, upfront, that I am a news junkie, but only as related to written news. I don't watch news on TV. Since retirement, I have gotten used to reading the paper at breakfast. So today, I had to do something with this very soggy paper. You're gonna laugh. First I tried putting sections of the paper over the hot air registers in the kitchen. However, that was a very slow process, as my heat pump seldom puts out really hot air. In desperation I got out my hair dryer, taped it, pointing to the floor, to a step-stool, and laid the paper on the floor beneath the stool. It worked! It was fast! Of course, the final product was a dry, but wrinkled paper. It really needed ironing. However, I did NOT iron it; I just read around the wrinkles!
I don't really mind that today is rainy, as I have many indoor things that I need to do. Number one is the income tax paperwork. I filled it out last week, but need to review it to ensure that it's done correctly. I made some errors on previous years (in the government's favor) and the process for correcting errors on past years is VERY CONFUSING and time consuming. So I'm trying really hard to get it all right the first time. Also by staying in today, I could be cleaning my house, which really needs it. Of course, neither of those things is fun, which is why I am still on the computer, playing around in blogland.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

rainy day blues

It's raining today (not very hard at the moment) so I thought these pictures, that I took the other day when the sun was shining, would add a bit of cheer to this entry. The daffodils (the minature kind) bloom right beside my front steps. The are sheltered there and are the very first of my flowers to bloom in the spring. The pansies are some I just purchased the other day. I usually don't buy pansies in the spring because they only last until the weather gets hot - usually in May. The love the cold, but hate the heat. However, I yearned for more color out front, so indulged in a few. I have some in the pots on the steps also. They will look much more impressive in a few weeks. By the time the hot season comes, I will have other flowers and won't mind too much discarding the pansies. By next week, I might have a photo of my flowering plum tree to post. All it needs is a couple of warm, sunny days to reach full bloom.

Here (below) is one other photo - something of a joke. This is the closet where I will keep fabric and other sewing things. The saggy white shelves used to hold books - several hundred of them. That's why the shelves are sagging. A few days ago, I finally cleared out those books - discarding about 100 of them and moving the remainder to the basement 'library'. I found some things in that closet that I didn't know I still had, including two hats from the military school my son attended in the '80s. I was also keeping a pile of sheet music from the various musical groups I have sung with. Most of that I threw away, although I kept a few classics. Also in the closet were yearbooks from high school and college. Those I will keep, though I don't really know why. Maybe the grandkids will enjoy looking at the hair and clothing styles from long ago. And yes, that is a guitar case on the left side of the photo. I used to play guitar, back in the 70s and 80s. Never got very good at it, just strummed chords to go along with folk music. I can't bear to part with the instrument, although I no longer play.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

another buying spree

At least nobody can say that I am not supporting the economy!! I stopped by JoAnn's just to get a fabric cutting board, since I had a coupon. (Turns out I didn't need the coupon, as the boards were on sale.) So there I was in the fabric department and I thought I would just take a glance at the sale fabric, especially the blues, since the last time I bought fabric it was almost all green and brown. I'm sure you can guess what happened. I'd better find some sewing project to do now that I have all this lovely fabric. I bought a couple of sweat shirts at a thrift shop last week, so may try decorating them. Or maybe I'll try to make some fabric postcards. I don't need more pillow covers, so that is out. If and when I do make something, you'll see it here.
So far the only down side to buying all this fabric is that when I wash it, it ravels badly along the cut sides. I think Kate doesn't have this problem, as her washer is a front loader, which is gentler than our American ones. I asked the girl at the fabric store about the raveling and she said that there is some stuff you can buy and apply along the cut edges (like wax). However, I think that would be more trouble than just trimming off the ravelings after washing. Maybe it I had a piece of very special fabric, i.e., expensive, I would use something like that.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

sad news

As I may have previously mentioned, every Friday I eat lunch with a group of long-time friends. Once upon a time, we all attended the same church, which is how we met and became friends. Yesterday, at lunch, one couple told the rest of us that the wife has pancreatic cancer. This is devastating news for all of us. Somehow, we managed not to cry while we talked about it, but inside we were all crying and screaming, "unfair!" This woman has always taken care of herself. She exercises regularly and plays tennis. She and her husband are world travelers, often going to places where they have to rough it, having wonderful adventures. We are all praying that she may have many more years and adventures before she leaves us.

Here's irony for you: One of my book clubs has been reading Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture". Pausch died from pancreatic cancer. My friend is also a member of this book club, but has not read the book and probably won't be at the club meeting tomorrow. Just as well, I think. Pausch's book is actually not depressing. He focuses on telling his children about his life and gives much good advice for living and achieving one's dream. I finished reading the book last night and sat there crying for Randy Pausch and his family and for my friend and her family.

As I write this, I realize that I have three friends with (incurable) cancer. There are probably others, whom I don't know about. I can't help wondering how I would react if I were diagnosed with a fatal disease. These women are so strong and brave. I think of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Dark Night" and John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud." My friends will not sit back and wait to die. They will fight with all their strength to stay alive. I am so proud of them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

a wonderful new supermarket

I had an interesting day. After my morning of working in the church library, I decided to go for a walk in Columbia before I went home. I stopped for some lunch, which I took with me to Lake Elkhorn. Ate lunch listening to some little birds singing their courting songs and then walked around the lake. It was a great day for a walk - sunny, but cool with a bit of a breeze. I saw many turtles, sunning themselves on rocks and floating logs. It's odd, but I never see really little turtles. Maybe the little ones stay hidden close to shore.

After my walk, I decided to stop in at a new supermarket that is less than half a mile out of my way, going home. It's a Harris Teeter - a store I've never been to before. I think perhaps it's a southern chain. Anyway, it is a fabulous store! The store bakery has bread to die for - lots of artisan breads. And they were offering samples of about 8 of them. Yum! I found a very nice selection of cheeses imported from France, Italy, Germany,Greece, England, Ireland, and other countries. When I'm in England, I love that there are so many different cheeses. It is great to find a good selection here in the US. Unfortunately, they are NOT cheap! I didn't buy any today, as I have two pieces of cheese in the fridge now, but I will splurge occasionally and get some special ones. The produce was extensive and looked good. There is a large selection or organic produce, too. The store is huge and has a far greater selection of almost everything than does my usual store. I'm sure it is also more expensive, so I won't be shopping there every week, but maybe once a month as a treat. When Kate and Geoff come to visit, they will enjoy Harris Teeter, since one of their major complaints about the US is that we don't have much good cheese or bread in our stores.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fabric and ceramics photos

Nothing much has been happening lately, but I have some photos to share. Today, at pottery class, I spend the entire 2 hours reorganizing the many, many items which had been taken off the old shelves and needed to go back onto the new shelves. I volunteered for this job because it had been driving me crazy that there was no proper place for brushes, tools, slip, molds, colored clay, etc., etc. When our teacher mentioned that there used to be someone who kept the supply room in order, I decided that I would take a crack at it. Of course, I know that it won't last. In a few weeks, things will be all every-which-way again. I know this because, at the studio where I teach, I sort and straighten about once every couple of months and the order hardly lasts a week! I sometimes think that most truly creative people (at least in ceramics) are not organized. Maybe the artistic mind doesn't function in an orderly fashion. It takes those of us who are only mildly creative to keep things in order.

Above is a photo of the two pillows that I started (with Kate's help) while I was in England. They are finally stuffed and sewn up and on my sofa! The photos below are of some recent ceramic pieces that I made.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

the old songs

Last night, I went to Toby's Dinner Theater with some 'old' friends. The show was called 'My Way' and, as you might guess, featured songs that Frank Sinatra had sung. It was a wonderful show! There were only 4 singers, but the choreography was very well done. The voices were very good and they were also good dancers. The songs were presented in little vignettes, rather than having any kind of overall plot for the show. Four of us at our table are singers and we knew just about every song in the show. The audience was invited to sing along and we did, but very softly, so as not to spoil the professional singing. As usual, at Toby's, I ate too much. It's a buffet and I try to just take a tiny serving of my favorites, but somehow I always end up with more food than I need! Luckily, we don't do this very often.

Today is cold and wet again - not dreadful, but not very nice either. All my daffodils are in bloom and the trees are showing a tiny bit of color in their buds, despite the chill. I'm sure we'll get some nice weather - maybe late next week. I'm ready for it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

start of a stash

I went to JoAnn's Fabric and Craft Store yesterday to check prices on cutting boards and other stuff I will need for quilting. They were having a big sale, with some cotton as low as $2 a yard. I started picking up bolts that I liked and pretty soon had to get a cart! I only bought cheap stuff (none more than $4 a yard, because I'll be experimenting with this fabric. Who knows how my first attempts on my own (i.e., without Kate's guidance) will come out. Anyway, I probably overdid it, but Kate will get half of each piece, so it isn't quite as much as it looks. I also picked up a few little items, just because they looked cute. I have no specific plans for either the fabric or the bits. As you can see, the fabric is mostly browns and greens. Just what happened to appeal to me and was cheap! I'll be looking in thrift stores for garments that I can take apart for fabric. I already have an expensive hobby (ceramics) so I'm trying to keep this one under control. Craft and fabric stores, like JoAnn's, are so tempting. There is so much cute stuff!
Today is another warm day, although the sun is behind clouds just now. I'm going out now to clean up the back yard a bit. All those tall plants that I didn't cut back in the fall are still there, waiting to be trimmed. Gardening is my other passion, but I'm going to try this year not to buy so many annuals. (I can hear my neighbors laughing. They know how irresistible I find the flowers that bloom in the spring, and in the summer, and in the fall.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring is here - maybe?

We've had two days of lovely spring weather with temps in the 70s! Today seems to be another one with blue skies and sunshine. I don't expect it to last. We'll no doubt get at least one more cold spell this month, but right now it's wonderful. I have little daffodils blooming out front as well as a couple of crocus. (is the plural of crocus 'croci' or 'crocuses'?) Over the past couple of days I have replaced all the winter pictures and the black, white and red items ( except my amaryllis) in my living room with spring things. This means the art glass now displayed on the bakers racks at the front windows is purple, green or yellow. I bought a lovely new lavender piece at Covent Market, so that is on display in a place of honor, i.e., on a small table without competition from the many houseplants that vie with the glass for space on the bakers racks. If you are thinking that I have too much stuff, you are absolutely correct! Even rotating things seasonally, I have more things than I can display. As Kate keeps telling me, I need to get rid of some (make that many) things. Too bad neither my son or daughter wants any of them! The next time they both come to visit, I plan to make them look at my stuff and take some back with them.

Yesterday, I went to an art exhibit at the Montpelier Arts Center. This was an open show by the Laurel Arts Guild. It was interesting, although most of what they were showing was paintings and photographs. There was very little three dimensional art, which is what I really like. Two pieces of fiber art Nothing ceramic. I have toyed with the idea of submitting one of my ceramic masks. Maybe next time....

Last night was the meeting of one of my book groups. This group reads very interesting books - ones that stretch the mind and require some effort to understand. In other words, not at all like my usual choices for relaxing reading (mysteries and romances). Last night's meeting was one where each of us talked about a book we had read. Luckily, I had read something at Kate's that I could talk about. It is called 'Homestead' and is by Rosina Lippi. It is a series of little stories about people (mostly women) who live in the mountains of western Austria. The stories span the years from 1909 to 1977. Many of the women are related and the reader can trace relationships, although it isn't necessary for enjoyment of the book. Lippi lived for two years in a village in the area, studying the dialect of the area, teaching and talking with the women. Her book is fiction, but she says that the women she talked to might recognize some aspects of themselves in the characters of the book. It was fascinating to read about lives so different from ours today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Home again

Here I am, back home after an uneventful flight. My luggage came with me this time!
I got home Tuesday night to find that my lovely neighbors had shoveled my sidewalks. How nice of them! It was a good thing, too, as we still had about 6 inches of snow. It's been melting ever since, and will probably be gone by Sunday, as temps in the 60s are expected on Saturday. The squirrel in the left photo is eating sunflower seeds that I put out for the birds. Squirrels have to eat too, although usually I try not to feed them. It will take the birds another day or so to find that my feeders are full again. You can see that the snow is still pretty deep on my deck. Perhaps tomorrow I will get it cleared off, or perhaps I will wait for the sun to do it!
The photo on the right shows my amaryllis in full bloom. It was budded when I left and I figured it would be finished before I returned. Lucky me - it is at peak right now. It has FOUR blooms on the single stalk! It's nice to have something in bloom when everything outside is brown and/or covered with snow. I have to admit that I bought three bunches of daffodils yesterday at the supermarket, so I have a lovely bright yellow bouquet in the kitchen. It reminds me that spring is just around the corner.
Today is my day to work at the hospital gift shop, so I must get going.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I'm quilting!

The other night Kate and I went out to dinner with two of her online quilting friends. In the course of the conversation, one of them asked Kate why she hadn't gotten me into quilting. She gave her standard answer about the advantages of having a mother who loves fabric, hates sewing and thus gives her daughter all the cool fabric she buys. I gave my standard answer of being afraid of my sewing machine and not needing another addiction (playing with clay is enough). However whenever I am here at Kate's, I am intrigued with the wonderful things she is creating and the photos in the quilting books she has around. This visit, I told her I wanted to do something very simple for the front of a pillow cover - something that was actually quilting. So yesterday we got out the fabric and began. First she sketched some simple (well, simple to her) pattern ideas. My initial idea was just a bunch of squares in different fabric - now that is simple. Anyway I chose a pattern I liked, although somehow we ended up with two, and then we looked through her stash for appropriate fabric. I had brought with me two yards of fabric that I wanted to use for the back and also have on the front in the pattern. One pattern had a square in the middle with rectangles of increasing size bordering it. (log cabin)I actually did all the sewing on this one. Kate did have to do a bit of trimming in order to correct where my seams were not quite even. (I have never been able to sew a straight seam!) This piece ended up larger than I had planned because when we had it 'done', the center block looked out of place, so we added a border of that color. It's a large pillow, that I will stuff with soft filling - very comfy. The other pillow case is about 12 inches square and is a zigzag pattern. (rail fence) I really liked this pattern and will probably do others using the same idea, but arranging the rails in different ways. Kate actually sewed this one, because I am very slow at the stitching and we were both tired and hungry. But I understand how we did it and can do others that way. Kate has photos of these items on her blog and I will put them up here if I can find where on her computer the photos are stashed. TADA!