Monday, May 30, 2011

gasp


I gasped when I spotted this vintage wooden block puzzle at MCC thrift shop. I may even have looked furtively to the left and right as I clutched it to my person and rushed to the til.
"Start the car! Start the car!"

Friday, May 27, 2011

throwing down the gauntlet

Another guild challenge.
Challenges always come with restrictions.
Certain colors or patterns must be employed.
Rather than restricting, they tend to narrow the focus and actually make it easier to select an idea out of the swirling, numberless directions quilting can go.
This time I was the one who threw down the gauntlet.
"Make it small," I urged.
"And botanical, oh, and no pattern. It must be original."
I was greeted by blank stares of disbelief and the odd muttered oath.
As the calendar days flipped by, my own challenge remained unstarted.
True to form, as time picked up speed heading into the home stretch, I knuckled down and made a small, botanical quilt with out the aid of a pattern.
It was very freeing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

all the better

When my joie de vivre skips town I've wished that I could join it.
My fight or flight response tends to default to flight.
The cure lies very close at hand though.
In fact, it involves my hands.
The wisdom of another era, busy hands- happy heart, is a truism.

Feeling the cool silkiness of fabric as it slides through my fingers at the sewing machine.
Dipping a paint brush into pooling color, a picture emerging out of whiteness.
Chopping carrots, onions and celery.
Turning the smooth pages of a book.

When hands create, the mind joins in.
We were created for meaningful work, and when our work is creative, as most work is, all the better.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

love is deaf

Decades ago, I was a flower girl. A tiny peach princess.
I need to point out that as a preschooler I was a combination of shy and stubborn. I had refused all previous opportunities to bask in the limelight of Sunday School concerts and Christmas Pageants.
Somehow though, like a miniature Cinderella, I was transformed into a regal member of a wedding party.
I found myself standing at the front of the church gazing with interest and enjoyment at the assembled crowd of guests attired in their own wedding day finery.
My reverie was abruptly interrupted by the stage whispers of family members and their rude gestures. "Turn around," they hissed. "Turn, turn around."
I looked anxiously to my left and noticed with confusion that the bride and groom were standing with their backs to the audience. How strange. What kind of performance was this?
"Around," gasped my desperate family, their faces strained with shame.
"But," I wailed...."I want to see the peoples."
Heads were shaken.
I lifted my voice and wept.
"Shhhh, shh, shh," my family fussed. I cried harder.
"Don't cry, shh, shhh," they pantomimed. I cried on undeterred.
The sound of my crying changed eventually from one of chagrin and took on the hollow sound of someone who no longer remembers why they were sad, but feels that they must cry anyway as a matter of principle.
The wedding droned on and on and so did I.
When the minister asked if anyone objected to this wedding, my crying added just the right touch of solemnity
Mercifully, the bride and groom were at last pronounced man and wife and rushed from the building, relief etched on their faces.
"I always wanted someone to cry at my wedding," was the amazingly gracious response of the bride. Love is blind but sometimes it helps to be deaf as well.

corrective lens

In a small town, friends are neighbors.
In the Blue River of my childhood, the house next to ours was as familiar to me as my own.
The living room had an amazing two foot tall ash tray; a silver bucking horse. Our neighbor loved to smoke. He always had a cigarette clamped firmly in the corner of his mouth and it was fascinating to watch it bob up and down as he talked.
Once in a fit of nerves brought on by his wife's driving, he fumbled for a second cigarette, lighting it up, completely oblivious to the fact that he was already smoking one.
It's funny that even the foibles of friends are viewed through the corrective lens of kindness.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

pieces of my mind

I tend to jot vital, irreplaceable information on small scraps of paper that then waft off into space. Some are unearthed from pockets on laundry day and others suddenly appear months later for no apparent reason. In the past they were likely to be lists. Lists of things I needed to remember to do, or remember to buy. Sometimes they contained grocery lists that make me recall special meals shared. Sometimes they contained cryptic messages that make me squint and ponder.
I have noticed that writing a story blog has altered the content of these little pieces of my mind.
Now I love to pull a paper from my pocket and jot down a word or two to help me remember a story I want to write about, a phrase that sings. Finding them later is always a revelation and I have learned a very important thing, something so vital and yet so simple: I need to print bigger.
My daughter bought me a tiny book to record my thoughts in for safe keeping but I'm not sure where it's gotten to. When it turns up as I'm sure it will, I will be delightfully reunited with some lost thoughts. There is an element of suspense in a disorganized life, but there is also the joy of rediscovery.

pink

Pink snow.
It looked like a blush of freshly fallen pink snow, on cars and sidewalk and street.
The flowering trees have been robed in splendor; puffy pastel clouds.
Rain has hastened the spent petals to the ground and created a surreal, pink winter wonderland in May.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

advice

"Ouch," I gasped as a pin harpooned my finger.
"Don't bleed on your quilt," my mother cautioned.
So much for tender words of comfort.
Quilters have priorities it seems. If you must bleed, for goodness sake step away from your handwork.
I stood in front of the band-aid aisle at work today pondering the merits of round versus rectangular, water proof versus cloth. I used to tell my husband that it would save time if he just put on a band-aid before he went downstairs to carve. I may have to follow my own advice. Break out the band-aids.

gesundheit

As I squinted at the sun through the car window this morning, I could feel a sneeze building in my chest. I was eventually overpowered and grimly gripped the steering wheel while trying to keep at least one eye open. Are you supposed to steer into a sneeze?
When my father sneezed he sounded like he was yelling, "Russia, Russia." You could hear him across town. My mother, on the other hand, has become a legend in her own time for her genteel sneeze. "Ahhh, ahh, uhhh. Ahhhh, ahh, uhh," she begins like a ritual. "Ahh chew who." She has endured a good bit of mocking from family for her technique.
I tend to sneeze in batches of three or four.
"If you sneeze three times it means you need sugar," my coworker advised.
"What?" I croaked incredulously. "That's all I've been eating."
A coworker once told me, to my delight, that I had a sexy sneeze.
I'm sure she meant to say that my sneeze was feminine, but the English language can be elusive to those not born with it.
Who says sneezing is a near death experience? It can apparently be a mating call.

Monday, May 16, 2011

like a rock

A couple decades ago, crafters were painting anything that didn't move. The country look fueled a preoccupation with clutter, cute clutter, and I had my share of cow light switch covers and duck towel holders. In an endless search for new surfaces to paint, and artist named Lin Wellford struck upon a brilliant idea.
Rocks.
Painted rocks.
She knew there was an unlimited supply of smooth round rocks awaiting the ministrations of a brush wielding woman.
I was pretty delighted to have another reason to add to my collection. I skulked along river beds and lugged prime specimens home to paint. Under the kind tutelage of The Art of Painting Animals on Rocks, curled up creatures emerged. They have endured while other country inspired decor reached its best before date and disappeared. I suppose that's because art is art and is timeless. Like a rock.

time and eternity

I love rocks. Almost all of my jackets pockets have a small stone nestled in their dark depth. I love to feel the smooth cool comfort of them.
Rocks have been sorted into antique canning jars that line my kitchen window.
There is a jar of agates; golden translucent nuggets.
And a jar of wafer thin stones; round skippers from the Oregon coast. I gathered them as they flipped over and over, following the retreating waves like hopping frogs.
Another jar holds small stones of such surprising color; warm plummy purple, avocado green, sienna.
There is a wooden bowl of stones in my dining room; amethyst, crystal, fossil and petrified wood.
Striped stones and heart shaped rocks spill out of the edge of a flower bed and I even have a  small slab of slate from my parents old home in Birch Island; A piece of the "rock."
If I were to travel the world, pebbles and stones would be my souvenir of choice.
They represent both constancy and change, time and eternity. And mystery.

Romans 9:33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock of offense, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

together

Four year olds are like walking encyclopedias, filled to overflowing with amazing facts Out of this rich repository of random information, play emerges.
My grandson has learned about the Peregrine and now loves to pretend that he is a falcon. This of course means by default that I am a pigeon. A pigeon pursued. A rather one sided game of tag ensues with me fleeing for my life.
This week by some miracle I was briefly transformed into the falcon, to my grandsons terror and delight. My talons grazed him several times as we swooped and veered. He will when the time is right, move on to other interests and excitements, but for now we patrol the skies and scan the horizon together.

mug rug

This is a sneak peak at our guild challenge for May. A mug rug.
Who thnks up these names?!
We were instructed to make a small quiltish/coaster. Sort of a green replacement for a paper plate and napkin combo if tea and cookie are on the agenda.
I thought a fish would be perfect for a rectangular project.
Batik is very watery and I even had some fabric in my tiny stash that had pebbles for the background.
It was meant to be.

vintage star

There are alot of shortcuts and quick techniques for quilters now; Rotary cutters and specialty rulers, plastic templates and online tutorials.
One hundred years ago, woman traced paper patterns and cut each piece of fabric by hand.
When I came upon this star block in an old magazine I knew I had to try to make it. There was a photo of an antique quilt from the late 1800's and crudely drawn paper templates. There were no directions for assembly. Working from paper templates was challenging enough but I loved the additional puzzle of which went where and to what and how.
Amazingly, there are no set in seams, only straight lines.
I started off a little shakily, but by the time I finished the outer star I was imagining a whole quilt of vintage stars.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

are we there yet

 Another month, another guild challenge. This time, flying geese. Arrrrhhhh. Pastel flying geese. I turned to google images for reassurance. Sure enough, there were quilts aplenty featuring flying geese as there raison d'ĂȘtre. One caught my eye. A circle of Flying geese created using foundation piecing. I had never tried foundation piecing so that would be just perfect. An extra challenge thrown in as a bonus. It came together without a point missing just as one would hope, and I bravely added a smidge more machine quilting in keeping with my goal of developing some proficiency in that regard. The name of this little quilt makes me smile. If you're geese, flying in a circle, someone is bound to ask, "Are we there yet?" 


only red

I didn't know I liked red.
We were instructed to make a quilt using the Monkey Wrench block and red fabric. Only red, which of course meant, red, burgundy, pink, scarlet and any other member of the family.
I made a mini quilt, and whacked the fabric pieces up willy nilly without taking undue time to measure. Hence, the three blocks with three different size strips. Still, it went together like clock work and has a certain charm about it. I sewed vintage buttons in the centers as a visual distraction. I tried abit of machine quilting, very tentatively and pronounced it complete. Quilts like any artwork are only finished when nothing more needs to be added. The end.

irresistible

It is possible to be competitive with yourself.
This is the only way to explain my passion for Guild Challenges.
Each month, a member of the quilt guild I belong to issues a challenge. We must make a quilt incorporating a block and color of her choice; Monkey Wrench in reds, Rail Fence in purples, Flying Geese in pastels. There are no prizes for participants nor shame for those who decline to join and yet I find the invitation irresistible. Not only that, but I find myself adding my own additional challenge. I must incorporate a technique that is new to me. Be truly challenged. It has been exhilarating.
Learning is such a delightful thing isn't it.

hoping for the best

On a woodland ramble with my husband I spotted a little wild rabbit. Or I suppose I should say, it spotted me, and froze on the spot which is a picture takers dream come true. I aimed the camera in the general direction of the rabbit and hoping for the best, clicked.
I have a hard time getting used to the whole back of the camera being the view finder. That combined with questionable eyesight ensures that the quality of my pictures are never taken for granted. This one is practically miraculous.
My difficulty with cameras is a long standing one.
Pre- digital, I once shot an entire roll of film, some truly legendary shots, and then found my camera was empty.
I have rewound a partial roll, and accidentally thrown out a finished roll.
I once took my last shot of the bridesmaid so that my camera very noisily rewound as the bride was gliding breathlessly up the aisle.
It seems that I have nowhere to go but up and I have noticed that my digital attempts are less blurry than they once were.
I'll just keep aiming and clicking and hoping for the best.

Friday, May 13, 2011

goner

My sister had just headed off with her tiny dog for a brisk walk in the forest when suddenly, a wild rabbit darted out of the woods and paused on the path ahead, its brown eyes unblinking
Her little dog rushed at it barking madly before she could reel him in.
The bunny keeled over and lay without a twitch on the cold ground.
How shocking.
Was it playing dead? Was it just holding its breath?
They hastened past into the shadowy woods. When their steps were retraced, they came upon that "fallen creature of the forest."
The bunny was a goner.
Felled by fright.
Sometimes a dog's bark really is worse than its bite.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

mountain momma

Mountain Momma could have been my mother's nickname. She grew up in the shadow of a mountain although the towering peak was out of sight. When you get up close to something so big, you can't see it.
The wooded hills and valleys were full of blueberries and my mother grew up picking them by the syrup pail full. She even sold blueberries to the trains that passed through Blue River. It's no surprise then that we picked blueberries every summer of my childhood.
Berry picking is hard work. Wild blueberries were for the most part, the low bush variety. You had to crouch or bend by the hour while mosquitoes hovered in clouds around your face, buzzing up your nose and into ears.
I can still see my mother dressed in the ugliest, oldest clothes she owned. Her berry picking ensemble included old patched pants tucked into thick socks. A long sleeved shirt, always long sleeved, tucked into the pants and a netted hat tucked in around her collar. The rest of us were clad in similar raggedness.
Then we would be doused in insect repellent.
This last step really didn't make any difference. The insects just licked it off and went for the jugular. If I had a dollar for every bite I had as a child I would be on Forbes list of the very wealthy.
Still, for all its misery, blueberry picking outings were a big deal. I loved the plink plink of berries filling a pail; The inevitable praise, the laughter.
Arriving home at last, weary and bug bitten and stained, the real work lay ahead. The ironing board would be covered with a flannel sheet and the berries would be rolled down it into a large bowl. Leaves and twigs would cling and the little white ghost berries and shrivelled rejects would be patiently culled out before the fruit was canned or frozen.
When Blue River lay locked in winter's icy grip we dipped into the stash of summer's bounty. Blueberry cobbler bubbled and browned in the oven. Crisp golden waffles were smothered with steaming purple fruit. The fruit of our labour.
Thanks Mom. I couldn't see then. I was up too close. Thank you Mom.

in her eyes

Childhood recollections and my mother are intertwined. It would be hard to know which memory is the earliest. I remember squeaking in protest as she dried me after a bath. Those line dried towels were always abit rough. She teasingly scolded me not to be a mamby pamby.
And I can still hear her shriek when she discovered the little boy next door and I merrily shoveling brown sugar and oatmeal into our sand pail and all over the counter and floor.
When my sister and I had a scrap, and I bit her on the arm, my mother called us heathens and did her best to prune that type of behaviour by spanking me on the spot. I was saved by the thickness of my winter coat.
The overriding memory though, when I think back to early childhood is one of security and love. She was always there, often in the kitchen, wearing her soft cotton house dress, a welcome smile in her eyes.

Friday, May 6, 2011

inspiration abounds

I have always loved pattern and color, especially on fabric. It begs to be pinned and stitched and pressed.
There is a scene in the Sound of Music that makes me laugh with self recognition. Fabric deprived Maria seizes her bedroom curtains. Her vision has suddenly cleared and she sees them for what they really are; Yards and yards of fabric for the cutting.
I've been mentally cutting holes in curtains and dresses and shirts of complete strangers for years. Usually, the unsuspecting soul is sitting in front of me at some event and I am comforting my bored self with thoughts creative. Inspiration abounds.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

thank you

When I began blogging, I had no idea that 'stats' were available for my viewing pleasure. My blogging friend tipped me off.
I've discovered that there is a graph that looks like an erratic heart beat, chronicling reader visits.
There's a world map that lights up like a geography lesson.
I have had to look things up.
I have had questions.
Where is Moldova, for example. And how in the world did they stumble upon my blog.

The world is full of friends we have never met.
Thank you, thank you for reading my stories. I see you in my blogs heart beat.

who knew

Following links on the computer can lead you down many an interesting rabbit trail. A wonderful labyrinth of creative and winsome people beckon. "Jump in," they seem to call. "The water's fine."
When I began this story blog last February, it was with the single minded plan to receive free books from a publishing company. Followed a link on my friend's book review blog, I had been ushered into the waiting room of Book Sneeze. Read, review and post, were their requirements and free books would wing their way to me.
My patient and techy daughter helped me get started and I was off.
I would write about books of course. And post my reviews. That was the plan.
But like so many other times in life, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley."
Free books soon slipped from mind and I discovered an unexpected passion.
I stumbled upon an amazing source of joy.
Writing.
Who knew.

The One who has "numbered the hairs on my head" and "counted my tears in a bottle."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the sound of stress

From down the hall and around the corner I can hear the sound of stress. My husband is watching the hockey playoffs and he is sighing.
During the first round of playoff games, his sighs built to a crescendo. In the last few minutes of the tie breaker, overtime tension became unbearable and he turned off the television to preserve his mental health and lower the risk of sudden death. His sudden death, not the Vancouver Canucks.
The second round of games is well underway. Tonight is game three.
The sports announcer's running commentary reminds me of an auctioneer. When does he breathe?
The crowd it seems, is wearing its heart on its sleeve. Their screaming and shrieking would melt a heart of stone.
Thousands of hockey fans are clenching their fists and grinding their teeth. They are leaning forward and twitching. Their faces are grim in the flickering light of their television. Hooray, it's Hockey Night in Canada. Someone has just scored a goal.
The sighing has started in the other room.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ring bear

I love weddings with small children. They add a counterpoint to the formalities; spontaneity, the unexpected,.... comic relief.
I was delighted to learn that my daughter and son-in-law would be including two nephews and a niece in their wedding day; Two tiny ring bearers and a flower girl.
When the children came to try on their finery, one of the little boys seemed concerned.
"We don't look very much like bears," he warned. "Maybe we should wear ears."
It took his mother and I only moments to realize he thought he was going to be a ring bear. He had never heard of a ring bearer before.
On the wedding day they each carried a ring pillow; A small cream colored bear.