Saturday, April 30, 2011

So Much to Celebrate

Who doesn't love a good wedding celebration? Throw in Britain and a fairy tale as well into the mix and I'm a sentimental fool. I didn't quite make it up to watch the Royal Wedding in "real time" yesterday but recorded the whole thing on my DVR, made myself a big cup of tea and then watched it at 7 a.m. I made my husband and daughter re-watch it with me in the evening but I FF through some of it to spare them.

I don't usually enjoy hoopla much, but this was different. Nobody does pageantry like the British - and I sure would have loved to have been there for this hoopla. I watched Diana's wedding - and funeral. My heart broke for those boys then and I'm so glad we finally got to watch a good celebration, even if it meant having to see Camilla sitting up there. It was so much fun wasn't it?  I feel very lucky that I was able to visit London years ago and actually see Westminster Abbey up close.

Oh, the lovely, silly hats! The church bells! Her Majesty's Chapel Royal choir! And Kate's dress - I have to say I was very pleased because it was so romantic, traditional and old fashioned. I guess I expected something strapless or off the shoulder, more modern. It reminded me of my own wedding dress - simple with long lace sleeves, except mine had a higher lacy neckline. I preserved mine with the silly thought that my daughter might someday want to wear it but she's always laughed at it and said she would never wear anything as old-fashioned as that. Who's laughing now? Maybe 26 years ago Mom was in style after all . . . Or maybe Romantic is always in style.

Almost every bride feels like she's in a fairy tale on her wedding day, doesn't she? We didn't have a Cinderella coach/carriage, just a Honda, but hey, I still felt just like royalty on MY wedding day. And I married a Prince too . . .

*  *  *

More to celebrate - I received a wonderful gift on Friday afternoon. I took my dog to the Veterinary Specialist hospital for a recheck after his last visit and round of medications. The news was good! Very good, in fact. The "cancer" in his lymph nodes turned out NOT to be cancer after all. Two months ago the nodes were enlarged, and the biopsy report said there was a "suspicion of cancer." I found out that  Vet # 1 read that report as stating that there DEFINITELY was cancer in the lymph nodes. And so when he passed on the news to us, that's what he told us.  

Rigby's ultrasound was read by a different doctor yesterday and it was determined that the nodes were no longer enlarged and had almost returned to normal. Vet # 2 said that if it were cancer, the enlarged nodes would not have diminished in size that quickly. So I was right all along - he had a serious infection with inflammation and the drugs (and my own special treatment) did the trick. The Vet who originally examined him and referred us to a specialist for more tests had a dog that recently died from cancer and she said it looked like Rigby had cancer too - she recognized the symptoms. She was wrong, however.

Does this dog look sick to you? Tired, maybe, after his latest exam and ordeal.

The latest Vet's report: "Rigby seems to be doing well, is healthy and playful after treatment. His prognosis is GOOD." Poor Rigby - he has no idea what has been going on all these months. He has selective hearing: Blah, blah, blah, Good Dog, blah blah, blah, Sit, blah, blah, blah, Daddy's home, blah, blah, blah, Walk?, blah, blah, blah . . . . He must have thought he'd already died and gone to heaven because of all the chicken and hamburger he's been getting recently, LOL. There's more of that to come - so much to celebrate now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do You Doga?

After last year I told myself, when I got to feeling a little healthier, I would consider doing some yoga. Everyone I know does yoga, it seems. I saw my nephew for Easter and he's looking great. He is totally hooked on Bikram yoga - which is yoga practiced in a room that's heated to over 100 degrees. My reaction when I heard this was - "You have got to be kidding." I would pass out after about a minute.  So I Googled the different types of yoga and in my quest for information, I found out about something that's a little more suitable - DOGA! Uh oh, should I have been doing Doga with my dogs?? Is this in my future?

Are my pups suffering because we do not take yoga classes together? Tell me - does that little dog look relaxed to you?

My dog has been doing yoga on his own for years. He does his stretches religiously every day. Look at him - he's never even taken a single class! (This particular photo was taken a few years ago when he was much slimmer and had just gotten his Spring haircut, LOL . . . ) I ask you - who does a downward dog pose better than  . . .  a dog??

 I wonder if  a part-time career teaching yoga would work for him?  At 9, he's mostly retired now but it'd be a great way to earn a little extra money on the side. . . . for all those rawhide chewies he loves so much.

He's already sparked some local interest!
Chipmunk:  Sign ME up for a class, guy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring is Springing

~ A late Easter,  a long cold spring. ~ 
       - French proverb

The French got that one right . . .

Spring looks like it may have sprung already or at least has started to "spring." Here's what I'm up to this afternoon:

We used to make coloring eggs  a family tradition but the kids are mostly grown up now so it seems I'm the only one who's interested in carrying on the tradition anymore. If your kids are old do you still give them Easter baskets?? My daughter is 17 and yesterday she requested that her Easter basket not have too much candy, but things like makeup and gift cards instead. Uh oh, I guess I'll have to run out this afternoon and buy some things to fill that basket after all . . . LOL.

The spirit of Easter is all about Hope, love, and joyful living.     
      ~ Anonymous.
Speaking of hope -  a possible sweep by the Chicago Bulls in  Game 4 of the NBA playoffs?? Game on today after my favorite day-before-Easter lunch:

Do you have one of these cool egg slicer thingys? It's so old I don't know if they even make them anymore. I bought mine when I got my first apartment in the '70s, can you tell? About all I knew how to cook at the time was egg salad sandwiches! It still comes in handy. One of  my favorite things about Easter is the hard boiled eggs . . . We try to go easy on the chocolate but yes, there's definitely some of those chocolate eggs too.

The strawberries are looking pretty pathetic, but my family ate all the good ones and left these for me . . .

We'll be going out to Easter brunch tomorrow but I may make a Lamb cake - one of my sister's traditions - if I have time.

Happy Easter, Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Library at My Fingertips

One of my favorite places in the world is the library, any library, and I can get lost in one after just a few minutes and then realize I've spent hours browsing. I used to be embarrassed when I was a teenager and they called me a "bookworm," like it was a bad thing, but now I'm proud to be one. Also, I'm not 100 % sure, but I think I'm the only one from my high school graduating class who can call herself an author, so there, LOL.

My library. Heaven, to me. I spend a lot of time here.

I've always been just a little bit behind on anything new in the digital gadget craze, preferring to sit back, observe and then let them work out the kinks before I jump in and spend my money. Well, I said I never would, but I finally broke down and recently bought myself an electronic reader thingy - the Nook from Barnes & Noble. Yes, I know, everyone else has had a Kindle for years while I resisted. I bought a Nook because it was pretty cheap and I had a few B & N gift cards sitting around. I can't afford an iPad right now  - we're looking at 2 kids in college later this year - and since I have a newerish laptop and iPod anyway, there didn't seem to be a good reason to spend the money for something that does what both of those gadgets do anyway. 

While I resisted, I told myself I loved the feel of paper pages too much to use one of those things when I read. I still read real books, but I have to admit, the Nook is fun. Fun for travel and for when I'm in waiting situations - i.e., the doctor's office or the fitting room at any store in the mall with my daughter, while she's trying on clothes. Perfect.

I love that it's white and bright instead of dull gray and that it easily slips into my purse too. Unlike the Kindle, the Nook allows you to download e-books from the library for free. You know I love a bargain and the first thing I bought at the B & N store was a collection of 25 classic novels for $.99! Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Wuthering Heights, Emma. There are also hundreds of other free e-books out there.

Of course, I couldn't let it get scratched and because I didn't really fall in love with any of the ridiculously expensive leather cases for it, I made my own.

This is just a variation of the letter case/needle case in my book The Civil War Sewing Circle. I adjusted the pattern for the length and cut it an inch wider than the Nook on either side. Added a piece of batting instead of interfacing for more padding. Again, a perfect and cheap solution. I need to get a small piece of Velcro for the inside flap and then sew the decorative button on the front.

This was so easy, I think I'll make a few of them so I can coordinate them with  . . .  my daughter's outfits, LOL. I'm not the only "bookworm" in our family.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Few Special Little Trifles

In 1847, Betsey Wright opened a thick envelope addressed to her. She carefully unfolded a lovely quilt block with this inscription:

"Accept this trifle that I send,
Not as a stranger, but as a friend."

                      - Charlotte N. Follett,
               Hubbardson, Mass., 1847

You can imagine what a special gift that was to her and how it touched her heart, to hear from a dear friend who lived in another state. When my mail came today, I had a similar experience, but 50 times over! Fifty signature blocks from members of my Yahoo group arrived. Oh my goodness - you have to see this.

Aren't they beautiful??

We held a signature swap/exchange a few months ago and there were 50 in my group. So I made and signed 50 blocks, most of them different, and sent them off to the Swap Hostess. And today the blocks from others from all over the world came back, beautiful as can be. I apologize for not being able to show all of them to you. You'll surely be able to see the quilt someday whenever I finish. it. Even though the group focuses on our love of small quilts or doll quilts, this quilt made with these blocks (4 1/2") will be anything but a small quilt!  I may add sashing or setting blocks or embellish it a little with some applique, who knows? What a wonderful addition to my growing UFO collection and I really hope I am able to get to it soon.

I love signature quilts and the stories they tell. According to the book Remember Me by Linda Otto Lipsett, besides names, the quilts often held loving messages from friends and family. In 1853 Susan Tenney wrote on her signature quilt - "To Mrs M -- , "Remember all who love Thee and all who are loved by Thee.' "

Sometimes Friendship blocks came with wonderful long verses: 

"Accept my friend, this little pledge
Your love and friendship to engage
If ere we should be called to part
Let this be settled in your heart
That when the little peace you see
You ever will remember me."

                                 -  M.E.A.

*     *    *

On a little depressing note - Spring is still not here yet in northern Illinois if you can believe it. I ran out to do some errands early this afternoon and was very upset that the trees STILL do not have any leaves and hardly any buds. Look at that sky - very gloomy.

When I finished doing some grocery shopping and walked out to the car, I couldn't believe it - it was snowing!

C'mon already. I do love snow but . . . . in NOVEMBER or December, not mid-April.

Looks like rain, but trust me, it was definitely snowing this afternoon. Have a great weekend. Yuck.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Fun Quilt Guild Program

Lucky me - part of my work is visiting guilds, promoting my books and showing my quilts to others. Last night I got to put on a show for the Village Quilters in Wheaton, IL.

Getting ready. Looks like I'm saying a little prayer but I'm just obsessing about the order of my quilts in preparation for my Show & Tell after the meeting . . . .

Susan brought some of the quilts she had made from my books. Doesn't the little signature quilt look great with a blue border?

You doll fans will love this - Darlene from the guild makes Gail Wilson dolls and brought one to show me. It matches the one that Gail made and which appears in my first book - American Doll Quilts. Isn't she sweet? I should  have photographed her on the same quilt that was in the book but didn't actually think of it until now . . . .


Speaking of  Wheatens in Illinois . . . weren't we?? (You knew I had to figure out a way to get in a picture of one of my dogs, didn't you?) Rigby the Wheaten Terrier seems to be doing really well. Thank you all so much for your comments and concerns about his health. He seems happy and healthy and just about normal so I can't believe he is really sick. The medication he's on is helping him to feel better and we will repeat the biopsy test and see if the results were skewed because of some inflammation from the infection. I know I may be grasping at straws here and hoping against hope but sometimes doctors make mistakes and I will make sure he is rechecked.

Last year when I was in the hospital for such a long time they told me that I might have uterine cancer. Or possibly  ovarian cancer. Then one day they thought it could be colon cancer. You can imagine the  roller coaster ride that I was on for days until all of the proper tests were done and the results came in. Turned out I had a very, very serious infection and none of those diagnoses was accurate. I had a colonoscopy last week in preparation for the final surgery I have to have in May. I needed to wait at least six months for the infection to heal before  they could complete it and the doctor says I am now clean as a whistle. I'm not looking forward to more surgery as you can imagine but I am looking forward to moving forward and putting illness behind me and just getting on with things already. Maybe take that yoga class . . .

Around here we are calling the dog "poodle leg" since he looks so silly because they had to shave his leg for the IV when they gave him anesthesia for his biopsy. The neighbors think we are just grooming him funny. I love this photo of him and sat here and waited until he was panting a bit to take it so you could see his cute teeth. He comes from a long line of pedigreed Wheaten Terrier show dogs (or so the breeder told us right before she took our check . . . ) but  cannot be considered one himself because he has a double row of teeth on the bottom! Disqualified from the AKC show ring as soon as his baby teeth fell out and the new ones came in, just like that! That's okay, we love him exactly the way he is. Please keep keeping those good thoughts for both of us.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

1800s Conversational Prints

A few weeks ago,  here,  I mentioned that I was incorporating small conversational prints into the background of the quilt I am making for my daughter. She's a true animal lover and it just seemed to fit, particularly since she wanted me to make it using mostly 19th century reproduction fabrics.

I already had a kitties print designed by Judie Rothermel from her Classic Conversationals line and then found a similar print with doggies. Shaggy doggies, just like our puppies at home.

I went to my Post Office box yesterday and found that Karan had read my blog and sent me these wonderful animal prints, also by Judie Rothermel, but ones I had never seen before. Aren't they just the sweetest things?? My daughter loved them and they will make a nice addition to her quilt.

Don't you just love the hare riding on the turtle LOL??

We typically think of novelty prints as dating from the 1930s but they were actually first produced much earlier, in the later part of the nineteenth century.  Usually, these were white or off-white shirting fabrics printed with themes of animals or small objects, and were sometimes also called object prints. Some of them are often whimsical in nature. Cats and dogs were a common novelty theme because more of these animals were being kept as pets in late nineteenth century Victorian households. Daily life reflected in fabric.

They're not looking very whimsical, are they? Must be the long walk we just took.

My backyard that is a puddle right now. So now ducks have been added to the menagerie . . . .

I'm falling in love with these prints but there do not seem to be many available. I feel the wheels turning and need to make a small something using these fabrics soon . . . . No time today, but maybe I'll sew these together tomorrow.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Powerful Stories of the Civil War

Last Sunday I watched the first episode of  The Civil War, the documentary film by Ken Burns which was  rerun this week on PBS. The documentary was originally broadcast in 1990.

I missed it then because I rarely had time to watch TV, much less think, with a 2-year-old running around. I wasn't a quilter then and I wasn't really much interested in history either. Barbara Brackman hadn't written her books introducing us to quilting during the Civil War and reproduction fabric had not caught on yet to give us even more inspiration.

I've seen a few episodes over the years but this time I saved them all on my DVR so I can re-watch them at my leisure. I know it's a little late telling you now since I think PBS is airing the last episode tonight, but if you have not seen this excellent series, check to see if it's being rerun in your area or try to get it from your local library. Better late than never. According to Christine's comment below, the series is also available now through Netflix.

I am also excited because I just found out that the movie about Lincoln's assassination, directed by Robert Redford, is coming out next week. It's called The Conspirator and stars Robin Wright Penn as Mary Surratt, the  lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln.

According to a press release, "Robert Redford focuses on the chaotic moment in history directly following President Lincoln's assassination to tell the story of the proud mother charged with committing the monumental crime, and the ambitious young lawyer who reluctantly becomes her defense attorney. As the whole nation turns against her, she is forced to rely on her reluctant lawyer to uncover the truth and save her life." I can't wait to see it. Too bad Redford himself isn't in it . . .

The Conspirator opens in theaters on April 15, the anniversary of Lincoln's assassination in 1865.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Life Goes On

"Awake, thou wintry earth-
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!"
   ~Thomas Blackburn, An Easter Hymn

It's supposedly Spring here in the Midwest but you could have fooled me. When I was walking the dog earlier I spotted some fresh growth in the front garden. Encouraging, but I'd still like to see the sun soon . . .

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day."
~Robert Frost

"Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again." ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

If there's one quilty thing that reminds me of Spring it's a basket quilt. Baskets have always evoked the simple life and remind me of the past. For some of us, baskets are a great way to decorate our homes in a primitive or Country style. Long ago, there were so many uses for baskets, and they were especially such a part of nineteenth century life, that it’s really no surprise that they found their way into quilting patterns as well.

In earlier times, every home had numerous baskets and every basket had a role – there were egg baskets and berry baskets, laundry baskets and sewing baskets. Quilters in the nineteenth century had sewing baskets that had to be large enough to hold needles, thread, scissors, buttons and perhaps a small project or scraps of fabric. Along with baskets, everyone needs a basket quilt or two.

The Pinwheels were really making me crazy and I've had a hard time concentrating on one single project -  my brain is still flitting all over. So, I thought, today I'll just make a basket quilt to make myself feel better, LOL. Who cares if everything else goes unfinished and nothing gets done? Like the season, I'm just moving on and creating as I go along.

I already had these scrappy little pink and blue basket blocks that were made years ago and just never put them together into a quilt.

Originally, they were intended to be for the little Prairie Baskets quilt in Prairie Children and Their Quilts but somewhere along the line I changed my mind and went with indigo and yellow for that one.

Out from my hoarding drawer came the lovely blue wavy fabric again . . . I have gotten many e-mails from fans asking about this Marcus/Judie Rothermel fabric that I used in the cover quilt for Remembering Adelia. I'm so sorry to those of you who cannot find thise fabric ANYWHERE and have requested my remnants, but I only have a little bit left and am hanging onto it just for quilts like this. You'll surely see it again. It seems to really go with everything I make.

I think someday I'll quilt a nice little flower motif in the plain blocks.

There will be more talk about Basket quilts as I show you how to make those curved handles from bias strips for the little Civil War Baskets quilt in my book Remembering Adelia on Wednesday, April 6 when I am guest blogging again on Madame Samm's blog Sew We Quilt. There will also be a nice giveaway of Remembering Adelia, so be sure take a look and post a comment if you don't have this book. Think Spring!

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
~Anne Bradstreet

Life goes on . . .