Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back to Work

I went  back to work recently, giving a few presentations to a couple of quilt guilds.  It's fun to show my quilts because they look so much nicer in person than they do in the books.  I usually start off with the small ones and work up to the larger ones - that always surprises those who think I only make little doll quilts. I guess I have a reputation for that, LOL. (Note to myself: I need to scale back and bring LESS quilts next time! Takes a long time to show all of them.) When I see the guild members' Show & Tell I'm always amazed to see how large their quilts are. Wow, some of you people make HUGE quilts.

At Prairie Star Quilters in St Charles, IL

Here's my Calico Comfort quilt from Remembering Adelia.

My old friend Mary Z was there and it was so nice to see a familiar face. She's actually not that old, LOL. You know what I meant, Mary. She and I met in Jo Morton's very first Little Women Club in 2003. Funny, but I didn't realize it had been that long ago until she reminded me. She commented that she visited my blog recently and was shocked to see that my daughter had grown up and wasn't a little girl anymore. I had forgotten that Mary had met her  - she was about 10 then and I used to drag her along with me to some of the Club meetings at a local quilt shop if my husband was working late and I couldn't leave her home alone. I was trying to expose her to quilting early. Guess what? It didn't work!

Here's Mary's latest beauty - she told me that the blocks were from swaps and she put them together using a design created by Wenche Martinsen. I believe she's still attending Jo's Club this many years later and the fabrics are all Jo's prints. I'm a sucker for that light blue border! Don't you love it together with all the scrappy blocks?

Elaine "Truffle Queen" the Blogger was there too - it's fun to meet people face to face after you get to know them from comments on blogs and I love it when they introduce themselves to me. We talked about how therapeutic and addicting blogging is for us. I'm always surprised people read mine. Sure, technically, I know people read my blog, but usually when I'm typing away I'm often not aware that anyone will remember something I wrote. Someone else approached me yesterday and said "What kind of dog do you have? She's so cute!" How did  she know I have a dog?? And a CUTE one at that! Oh, yeah, the BLOG. It's beginning to follow me around like a puppy.

Favorite blankie and favorite toy bunny

When life gets busy my husband will read my blog to catch up on what I'm thinking about (in my OTHER life) and on occasion will say to me "Are you sure you want to tell that to a bunch of strangers??" Oh, don't worry, I don't think anyone actually reads it . . .

But, just in case, here's another cute dog shot - Yes, I have TWO dogs. This one is waiting patiently for some food to drop.

And TWO kids. But they're growing up fast. See that foot in the upper left-hand corner? It belongs to my son. I didn't realize until now that I was recording a somewhat historical moment with my camera. Oh my. He's WASHING dishes . . . . At least I think it's my son.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Little Help from My Friend

I have been a little more inspired to quilt lately, or at least am thinking about it more, thanks to well-meaning friends. Julia keeps sending me e-mails with photos of antique quilts for sale on eBay - "Look! Isn't this one cute??" "Why don't you buy THIS one?? It's Blue and White!" She's doing it just to keep me going I know.

I've been so sick for so long that we haven't been able to scan the Flea Markets for some time the way we used to . . .

I went over to her house last week, before the storm, and became inspired by looking at some of the quilts she's made over the years and wanted to show you. But then the POWER went out (did you hear??) and not only could I not blog about them I couldn't even sit down at my (electric) sewing machine and take advantage of my new-found motivation.

Many of the quilts in this cabinet are ones she has made from my patterns and designs. Some from before I became published even. My first and truest fan . . .

Here's a picture of my all-time favorite quilt she's made - Julia's Ancient Stars quilt (designed by Sue Garman). I've almost always seen this quilt done in browns but Julia used blue for the border and lots of colorful scrappy prints for the stars. Very inspiring! I remember how hard she worked on it a few years ago.

Totally scrappy, just like a wonderful old antique quilt

Julia loves Log Cabin quilts. This is to show you that, even though many of the patterns for quilts in my books are for SMALL quilts, Julia decided to just keep going with the little Log Cabin blocks in Prairie Children & Their Quilts to make hers much bigger (she made the small one too). Again, with the beautiful blue border. Gotta love her.

A cute little assortment. (Candle mat is not my pattern.)

Julia has made all of the quilts from my first 2 books and is now plugging away on the ones in Remembering Adelia. She broke her wrist last year (walking the dog) and had to take a break from quilting for awhile so that's why she's a little behind, LOL. Hey, Julia, did you hear I have a NEW book out with more patterns?? Better get cracking, my dear!

Small quilt in progress -  free pattern for this one here

Friendship Star quilt, also from Prairie Children - and look! That's my house across the street, where the friendship star points are pointing. I'll be very sad when she moves next year. Did I tell you that we also share a birthday? I believe there are no coincidences. She's irreplaceable, of course, but will I ever become lucky enough again to get a neighbor who quilts??

Friday, June 24, 2011

Power Struggle

Honestly, I had the best intentions. I had a few days this week that were looking promising to resume working on my daughter's college quilt. (Pretty soon you're going to get tired of looking at the same blocks! There's nothing new!) I went grocery shopping on Tuesday and after I got home I was going to try to get some sewing time in and see if working on this pink and brown quilt would inspire me to get back into things a little.

Well, one thing led to another and pretty soon I was over at my friend Julia's house taking some photos of a couple of quilts she wanted to show me (photos of pretty quilts next time on the blog). Then it was time to drive my son over to the bike shop to pick up his spiffy new bike we bought him as a graduation gift and then run by the Post Office and bank.

They're doing some heavy duty construction on two major roads near my house and traffic is ridiculous and backed up at all times. Of course I have to take one of these roads every time I go anywhere, there are no other options unless I want to drive miles out of my way to bypass it all which usually ends up taking just as long. It's sooo frustrating but one of the things you learn to put up with if you live near Chicago in the Spring and Summer I guess. There's an old local joke that says: Chicago has 2 seasons - Winter and Construction . . .  . This time it's almost right in my backyard though and I have to deal with it on a  daily basis, often many times during the day. Tempers flare and tension is high on the streets of the suburbs . . .

Then it was time to make dinner and so no quilting got done. Tuesday night a couple of severe storms came through northern Illinois and our power went out.

( Pause here for a sigh and some major whining - Hey, you have to admit, at least this time I'm not whining about my health. )

It often  takes a small electrical crisis just to make me aware of how lucky I am to live in this century. I stopped to think that Adelia and her family would not have been affected as much. She had a treadle sewing machine and went without electricity ALL THE TIME in the 1860s.

So, anyway, the severe storms rolled through with tornado warnings in our area and we all went into the basement, fearing the worst. Nothing too terrible happened and I know it could have been much, much worse. Some areas near me got hit hard but all we suffered was a few tree branches down in the backyard by the time it was over. Oh, that and the POWER WENT OUT, did I mention that already?

I get CRAZY when the power goes out. You can tell I'm not much of a camper. I like my hair dryer and computer. And reading with a light. (You know I love reading about the 19th century but I wouldn't have lasted a week if I had to live back then.) Now, I know I'm whining here because really, we did not suffer any devastation like some have experienced recently across the country and I cannot even imagine what it would be like to see our house taken out by a tornado. So I know I'm very lucky. But everyone I talked to around here had the same feeling - we are so dependent on our electricity that it almost cripples us when we don't have it.  

Not only do I miss light and television and the computer, but my electric stove, coffee maker, microwave and the refrigerator. Ah, the REFRIGERATOR. Everything spoiled in the 2 days we were without power even though we had kept it shut. And remember, I had JUST gone shopping so the frig and freezer were full. I wanted to cry. I did cry, it was so frustrating. And no, we never bought that generator we talked about getting after this happened when the last storm took out the power . . . Stupid now that I think about it. We usually file a claim with the power company to get reimbursed for the cost of the food that has spoiled but this time I heard that over 300,000 homes were without power in our area these last few days and so I wonder if that's even feasible this time. Some are still doing without. And, I know, I'm whining about a few days here.

Lots of homes around here with fallen trees. The cut  logs piled up are from a tree that had fallen onto their car.

Here's how spoiled I am - the most inconvenient things over the past few days were:

+   Feeling yucky because I could not dry and style my hair.

 +  Having to sit in that horrible construction traffic every morning to find someplace that was open to get a decent cup of coffee. Every McDonalds and Starbucks within a several mile radius was closed because of the power outage. There was a long, long line at the Dunkin' Donuts (Yes! We're OPEN) but I braved it even though the whole process took over an hour to get there and back home. That's how much I love coffee.

+ Competing with others to get a good chair (near an electrical outlet) at the local Barnes & Noble  so my daughter and I  could  charge our phones and I could check e-mail on my laptop. Everyone was there. Trust me, you didn't want to get up or you'd lose your chair within a second.

+  Having to either eat out (Construction! Traffic! Let's just stay home . . .) or rummage through the pantry for non-perishables to eat. Guess how many Cheez-its you can consume if you're hungry and there's nothing else??

+ Sharing the only book light in the house with the rest of  my family.

+ Having to drive to a friend's house (with wet hair) with my hair dryer, curling brush and makeup so I could look decent for a lecture I had to give to a guild last night. They would NOT have wanted to see me in a baseball cap and ponytail . . .

But, as I said, we were lucky. And the lights finally went on last night. You can see so many of the trees that were damaged within a few blocks of us.

 Almost every other house had a tree down.

Sad,  really. Here's a photo of our house taken before the storm.

As I mentioned, we did not get any damage so it looks the same. But see the tree? Every time I walk out my door and look at it I'm reminded that 18 years ago a beautiful old tree in our front yard was destroyed by a similar storm. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time and shortly after she was born we replaced it with a new Maple sapling and named it "Caitlin's Tree" in celebration of her birth. It's been fun watching both of them grow together over the years. I tease her that only one of them grew to be tall.

I'll have to try that quilting thing again soon. I guess that quilt's just going to take me a little while longer than I thought.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

I'm not really weary, just still lacking in my normal energy most of the time. I'm going back to work this week - a few local lectures, one for the Algonquin Quilters' Guild in Algonquin, IL on Thursday and two in St Charles, IL for the Prairie Star Quilters' Guild next week. If you're in the area and would like to see some of the quilts from my books or just want to have a nice time hanging out with me and lots of creative ladies,  you can e-mail me for details.

Peoria, IL, earlier this year

The guild in Algonquin was the scene of my very FIRST lecture/program after my first book was published. Speaking to large groups was not among my favorite things then and I really didn't know what to expect but I made a lot of mental notes to myself afterwards - don't do this, don't do that again, don't forget your reading glasses, bring a water bottle, don't worry if you don't know the answer, someone else probably will, and oh yes  - suck in your tummy if anyone takes pictures, LOL. It wasn't exactly a disaster, but I remember being very, VERY nervous, and yet, 6 years later, they asked me back and didn't seem to mind that I used them for practice that time. Or maybe I didn't make such a stellar impression the first time and they forgot I was even there and that's why they called me, LOL.

While speaking to groups is not my favorite part of my work (and I'm not the only one it seems. A quilter friend recently told me that she threw up in the bathroom before one of HER lectures . . . that hasn't happened to me yet), I do love talking to everyone individually afterwards, answering questions, signing books, showing my quilts and hearing the stories they tell me about their quilts.

This week I'm also going back to work on my daughter's quilt too. The pink and brown quilt (a more feminine version of the Soldier's Cot Quilt in The Civil War Sewing Circle) for her to take to college, remember?

Some pieces are cut.

 Fall will be here before you know it and I only have a few blocks done. It gets mighty cold up where she's going to school so she'll definitely need it.

Fabrics picked out and waiting to be cut

There will be no puppies to keep her warm where she's going . . . no dogs allowed in dorms. I hope to get a few more blocks finished this week and plug away on it the best I can if I have the energy after that. No rest for the weary!

You'll be happy to hear I've actually been a little more inspired lately, with some help from my friends, and I'll give you the scoop on that next time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Shopping Around

I stopped at an antique shop earlier in the Spring on the way home from somewhere, I can't remember now. Lately, it seems, whenever I go antiquing or browsing at flea markets, I never find anything to my liking. Are you finding many good things? Maybe I just have too much junk of my own and feel reluctant to buy more stuff that I really don't need. I'm jealous - my friend Julia is moving and beginning to clean out HER junk and pare things down in preparation. I would love to move too just so I could be motivated to do the same.

As far as quilts go, way too often the quilts I see at antique shops or flea markets around here are not in great shape or else too new for my taste. I lived through the sixties and seventies and do not consider the quilts that were made then "antiques" or that would make me an antique too!

I can't imagine who would buy this one with all the holes. Some quilts are so ugly they don't really need to be preserved, LOL.

I do love hexagon quilts. This one was haphazard, not your typical Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern. A while back, on a whim while I was feeling lazy, I bought some "precut" hexagons in reproduction fabrics. Maybe I'll start on another hexagon quilt someday. Half the work is already done . . .

Mostly, at many of these places, all I see are a lot of old plates and glassware that really aren't very old.

But I did stumble upon some vintage glass salt cellars and instantly remembered some pincushions made from them that I saw on Elaine's blog awhile ago - one in particular that was given to her by Jo Morton. Lucky Elaine! The ones I found were not very fancy ones, but I loved them anyway and they were a bargain too. Surprisingly, I  got 50% off ! when it came time to pay. What a deal. Probably should have bought a few more too. So now I have one more project to add to the list when I start quilting and playing around with fabric again. Surely it can't be long now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nothing to Write About

Most bloggers, when they have nothing to write about, just skip it altogether and don't bother. Life gets in the way, people get busy or, who knows, family emergencies or personal things take over and there's no time to keep up. I know how that goes. But don't you hate it when your favorite bloggers all of a sudden stop writing and seem to disappear for a few months? What happened? How can they do that to us?? Like characters on a favorite TV show, will they ever be back for another season? (Don't get me started on Mad Men and whoever produces THAT show . . . I'm usually fuming when I take time to think about it, wondering:  What will happen to the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency and will Don finally find happiness with his new, young wife??)

You have to admit - reading blogs has become such a pleasurable pastime for so many of us. Even if our own lives become busy we still manage to reach out to others online for that little bit of entertainment and connection. The blogs I love to read myself and keep going back to are those that reveal something about the writer, her life, often through quilts, but sometimes not. A little peek inside the window if you will.

I'm not always necessarily interested in the personal stuff alone, but I like to know, what makes this quilter tick? How does she juggle everything and still find the time to be inspirational? Sure, we all want to see pretty quilts or fabric, but when you begin to follow others' blogs and become involved in their quilting passion don't you also wonder what their life is like on an ordinary day? They become friends and you miss them when they're gone. What do they do when they're not quilting? Do they have the same routines and problems as the rest of us or are they always perfect, the way their quilts are or as we imagine them to be? It's like walking into the restroom at the mall with your mother when you were 9 and running into a teacher. Shocking! Yes, they actually shop and have to use the restroom just like the rest of us!

This blog has become so therapeutic for me lately I can't tell you. I think some of you understand that and I'm sure just click away when you don't want to read personal stuff, and are only looking for pictures of quilts. That's okay and I hope you're not too disappointed and come back. There will be more quilts - someday! Quilting is only a part of my life though. I feel like I've made so many friends from all over the world through your comments and good wishes and I hope at times I've been able to impart a bit of creative inspiration, humor, hope. Or maybe insight into just what makes this quilter tick, or perhaps what makes ALL of us tick, working things out through my ramblings as I go about my daily life.

So, never fear, Dear Readers, I won't disappear off the face of the earth. At least not quite yet. I will always try to be there for you, to entertain and inspire with tales of my dogs' antics, my adorable kids, mundane chores and often boring life . . .

So, if I'm not quilting, what's going on here? I am trying hard to get healthy and resume my exercise regimen. The doctor says I can walk, nothing else, so I've been walking a bit and trying to go a little farther every day. I get very discouraged sometimes but my husband reminded me last night that only 3 weeks ago I still had a difficult time getting up off the couch so walking 6 - 7  blocks (with puppy, at puppy pace!) is actually quite an accomplishment. I guess I need to stop looking at the glass half-empty and get out my gratitude journal again. I will be eating better soon too, less ice cream, more healthy fiber I hope, after I see the doctor on Thurs for my last post-op checkup.

I'm very behind on doing things around the house and other errands. Amazing what a bad year can do to your attempts at organization. I decided, however, not to think about all that and that it was time for some inspiration to keep me moving instead - I need to go shopping for some new shoes today.

These are looking pretty pathetic and I try to walk fast so no one sees the holes in the toes. But they are SO comfortable and broken in and I hate to give them up. Time for some pretty new shoes - That's number one on my Mundane list for later today.

I've also been catching up on reading and my daughter and I are going to the library after the shoe store. She's a little bummed because my son already has a summer job and, although she's applied for a few, there have not been any call backs for her in that department. Getting lost in a book helps.

I've been an Anna Quindlen fan since her NY Times column. I really, really enjoyed this book and want to get one of her earlier books I haven't read yet.

More Mundane

Cleaning up - Why does this take up so much of my time every day? Morning till night. Since my son graduated and has been home I feel like all I ever do is clean up. Never mind the nagging and yelling, I've learned to pick my battles and just do it so it gets done because I can't stand seeing dishes in the sink all the time. He's going to grad school in the Fall and hopes to get an apartment in the city after his summer job is over so I know our time together is limited and I don't complain too much. I'm just happy he's here. Even if he leaves dishes in the sink. And he'll be doing his own dishes soon enough.

We have a dishwasher, how hard can it be??

Making Snacks - This morning I spent time cutting up fruit and placing them into bowls  (LOL) so my kids can grab a healthy snack when they feel like snacking. Yes, I know, they're not pre-schoolers anymore - one is 22 and the other 18! They can cut up their own fruit, but I know they won't, and in the summer I can't help it, I always revert to Mom Mode, taking care of my cubs, enjoying the casual time spent with them at home, trying not to be the kind of mom who gripes too much. I know they can easily do these things themselves but I baby them nonetheless. My own mom used to do this for me and, I'm embarrassed to admit, also ironed my clothes until I was in my early twenties and moved out. Everything in its own time I always say . . . I eventually learned to iron and greatly appreciated everything she did for me when the time came to do it myself. Guess I'm passing on those bad habits.

I'm also back to preparing dinner most days - one regular and one vegetarian for my daughter. Takes time to shop and plan but I enjoy it and my husband is very appreciative after a long day at work. Plus, he does the evening clean up so I don't mind.

We're having pork chops, rice and apricots tonight because I turned to this page and, what luck! That's what's available in our freezer and pantry. The vegetarian meal?  Anybody's guess, LOL. Brown rice, vegetables and apricots perhaps?? Makes it easy on me.

Okay, so maybe I did have something to write about after all. You can't deny that my day is full - even if I'm taking it easy, puttering around, playing with the dogs, not quilting perhaps, but musing on the blog to keep my creative writing juices flowing at least. Has to count for something. But now I have to go shoe shopping and stick to the rest of the day's boring plans. No, not making time for quilting yet. If I get a few minutes later this afternoon, before starting dinner, I'll rest a bit on the sofa with my new Scrabble App to try to regenerate some of those brain cells I think I lost during my recent bout with anesthesia. So far, I'm beating the computer by more than 12 games. Not bad.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bring Back the Past

Guess what?? I have good news for some of you who are newish fans. I just found out that my first book, American Doll Quilts (published in 2004), which has been out of print for a few years, is now available in a Print on Demand paperback edition through Amazon .

This is very good news! You know that it is VERY expensive for publishers to print up copies of a book, particularly a book that is more than a few years old that may not sell as well as a newer book. This is a great alternative for publishers.  I know some of you have already bought the digital version (e-book, which is also still available) because it was better than nothing when you could not find the actual book even though you really wished for a hard copy of this wonderful little book. Wishes come true!

(Photo by Brent Kane)

Unfortunately, there is no way to get a signed copy of the book from me since the copies are very expensive for me to buy myself from Amazon and then resell to you. (FYI - I am not making any money on this whole thing.) But we'll take what we can get, right? The good thing is that the book has been thrown back out there in the world of quilting again!

(Photo by Brent Kane)

Please keep in mind that it was my very FIRST book and when I had the idea and sent it to my publisher, I was more surprised than anyone when they accepted my proposal and said they would like to publish my book. I was not a very experienced quilter but took a chance anyway and was given FOUR months to make all of the quilts, do the research and write the text. Sheesh! Can you get it done in four months? they asked. Short answer to a quilting career: Of course I can! The pressure, please. I had NO idea what I was in for and so while it is a wonderful little book full of small quilts and projects, you can tell that I was almost like a child struggling with learning how to quilt as I went along. I did my very best, LOL.

So forgive my lack of expertise in the quiltmaking. Maybe no one will notice. Often, over the years, I have thought of re-making some of those little quilts now that I finally know what I am doing. But they DO have a certain charm I think, crooked stitches and unmatched seams and all. And anyway, the way I look at it - the past is the past and cannot be redone.

It fits right in with the theme of the book - making doll quilts with a childish hand the way they made them in the past. So many of you loved the  book  anyway and it became a best seller and allowed me to grow and have 3 more books published since then. So now you, my newer fans, who have been following me since my later books have been published, or maybe since I began writing this blog, will have the opportunity to finally collect all four of my books.

I am so happy about this. I am not sure how long this will last or if it will only be available for a certain time period, so make haste as they say.

So here's to simple little quilts and the beginners and children from long ago who made them and got started on a quilting journey . . . and the book that started the journey for me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Proud Mama

Bragging rights! This past weekend we attended the graduation of our son who graduated with a double degree in Philosophy and Psychology - cum laude, no less. And an Art minor. And in four years too! He worked hard. I can't tell you how proud we are. He received an excellent education and I know he has a bright future ahead of him, even if he doesn't have a full-time job just yet, LOL. My son, the Philosopher . . . I told one of his professors I was afraid at times that his head would explode from all of the critical thinking he was doing.

My daughter deserves kudos too - she graduated early from high school this past January and will be attending the same college that her brother attended in the fall. We're very happy about that. She's taking a different path though. Do we really need TWO philosophers in the family?? How time flies . . . . and so many transitions coming up for all of us.

This one's a Philosopher too, always thinking about something . . .

Will I survive the Empty Nest?? (I told my daughter that I will miss her so much when she goes away that I may just have to get another puppy. Shh, don't tell my husband I even SAID that.) The upside to all this is that we have only four more years of tuition payments . . . Yippee - we're halfway there!
*  *  *
I'm still not quilting yet, have been too busy. But thanks to those of you who are still sending me so many words of encouragement (and precious gifts too!). I will respond soon, I promise.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

If I Were to Make Something

Let's say I was inspired to make a quilt. I'm not there yet, so don't get too excited. But let's imagine. I might very well applique these basket blocks and put them together into a small quilt. Think how much fun that would be!

Shirley sent these adorable baskets to me to help keep me occupied (and probably motivate me) while I am recovering. What a sweet gesture! She prepped all the blocks for me - even basted the baskets onto the background squares to make it that much easier. I am amazed at the work she put into them. Sorry, friends, but I have never done anything like this for ANYONE, so you know just how much it means to me. Thanks so much, Shirley!

Let's say I wanted to pick up another quick project. I might take these 1 1/4" strips that I cut a few months ago  . . .

. . . and combine them with these squares to make some simple scrappy blocks.

I have the idea for the quilt in my head, and know the prints I want to use, just do not have the energy to actually follow through. But someday soon perhaps . . . right after I get back to making progress on my daughter's quilt.

Looks like the wheels are definitely starting to turn, doesn't it?