Thursday, January 31, 2008

PreParty Excitement & Jane Sassaman's New Blog

Today I am excited for the Valentine Making Party and Potluck that we are hosting tonight. I love, love, love to get together and be creative with friends. The funny thing is that while none of the women attending the party tonight consider themselves creative, we will surely come away with wonderful results. I will be sure to post photos of the party soon.

Another fun thing to be excited about is the new Jane Sassaman Blog. She is one of my absolute favorite designers. I was lucky enough to see her lecture twice. She is even more wonderful in person than she is in writing. And her work is AMAZING! She used to create quilts with designs like you find on her line of fabric by cutting, fusing and sewing. I also love her book. When I feel bogged down in some bad lack-of-creativity spot, I just need to browse her book.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bullet Proof Weaving

Last night during weaving class we finally got to take our items off of the loom. Only two of us were ready, but it was oh so interesting. We both started out with one skein of Noro yarn and a solid yarn of the same size, but our results could not be more different. I loved the way Lisa's came out. Here you can see her piece on the loom and then on the floor. The photo does not do it justice. It is really lovely and flowy. Her weaving style is very light handed so you can drape the piece nicely.

Next we see my piece, the one with the rainbow of colors. I am thrilled with how it came out. When we took it off of the loom the instructor says, "Oh, you are a rug weaver!" I looked at her with a raised eyebrow - what do you mean? She explained and showed us how my weaving style is very dense. As a result my cloth is much thicker and much shorter than Lisa's you could use my piece as an eye cover for a "Hide and Seek" game. Holding it up to the light you cannot see anything through it. My piece is about half the length of hers. We even went so far as to make jokes about how it could be bullet proof. I am okay with all of this. Sometimes you might even wonder if my middle name is "Overkill." I can get pretty intense and into it. I will just have to keep that in mind when planning other projects. This one is a plain weave, also known as a Tabby pattern.

Ellie has already asked for this piece both directly and indirectly. She would saunter up to the loom and say, "Mama, I have a bare bit of wall in my room just about that size." (There might have even been a slight wink added in for effect.) Another time she sat down and said, "Mom, what are you going to do with it once it is finished? If you can't come up with anything I would like to have it." As you might imagine I did not bother to attach myself to this piece, I knew about ten minutes into the weaving who this would be for. The salvage (edges) are not exactly wonderful, not really bad, but you can tell I am a beginner. Thus, I was thinking that I would work this into a quilted piece that was designed around it. That was the edges would be hidden and I would have a use for it. We will have to see what Ellie wants to do with it. I could also imagine just putting on fun, bead studded fringe and calling it good.

The next piece will be for Ethan. He wanted Southwestern colors, but they were not to be had, so I went with more Noro yarn. This time it has greys, greens, blues, yellow (sort of gold, really) a bit of orange and a small smear of pink as it shifts from one color to the other. I have two skeins this time. It will be a twill weave. I am going to try and do it on my own as homework. I will let you know how it goes. Tonight we are getting ready for the party we will have tomorrow evening, so I cannot get started yet.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Techo Breakdown x 3

The last 20 hours have been a little odd. I think I am being followed by a techo gremlin.
Yesterday my overhead projector broke while I was teaching comma usage. (I can tell you that my 10th graders were not too disappointed with that development - oh gee, shunkee darn - you mean we can't continue with commas for today?) Then as I was dropping of Ethan the Scoutmaster says, "Tammy, something is wrong with your antifreeze or your radiator. The fan should not be running like that." (My mechanic will be happy to help me with this for a mere $410.) Finally, during first hour my computer at my desk quietly died. I was reading email and it simply sputtered quietly and when black. It turns out that the coupler needs to be replaced. The IT guys was clever and removed my hard drive so I still have all of my information and bookmarks. My students tried to comfort me by telling me that bad things happen in threes, "Really, Miss, they always happen in threes, so you should be good for a long time. Really!" My kids are sweet. I hope they are also right - three breakdowns is enough for this gal.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lilia Gives Great Presents

Lilia, my husband's cousin's wife (is there a more direct to refer to that?) has the best sense of what to give as gifts. It is always different from the last gift, and they always hit the mark.

When we got together for Don's birthday party last weekend I got a belated birthday present that she got while in Chicago. The photo here does not do the present justice. She gave me three lovely 2 yards each lengths of cloth from an international market. I think they are all fromIndia. My favorite of the three is the one with the large flowers. I am not sure how I will use them just yet. I am kind of thinking they might make nice starts to table clothes for our summer picnics.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Beautiful Film Week

While looking at the blogs other people list on their sidebar I found Abby Trys Again and her entry for Beautiful Film Week. Here she details an interesting film, "Spring, Summer,Fall, Winter...and Spring." It is an intriguing Korean movie that was made available by Sony in 2004. I loved the photos on her entry and the amazingly beautiful website for the movie, so I rented it. It is so different from how we live our lives in America. It made me wonder if people still live like they did in the movie. I imagine that a few still do, though it is slowly becoming lost. It made me think of the student that I had join my class when he was 18 years old. His childhood had been spent in a very rural part of China where he learned to meditate and stay still enough that dragonflies would land on his arm. He spent hours, indeed, days alone in the country. He and I would talk about the contrast between that life and the one he was living in the city. I found beauty in the life he described. I think he was yet too young to find the beauty in it himself.
I looked through as many of the links as I had time for; I intend to go back and finish my perusing later. Another day I will list a film or two of my own choosing. What would you list?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And Finally I Get to Weave...

(A photo is coming soon, I promise - you will have to simply imagine until then.)

I am not always a patient person. I try to be, but sometime it is just hard. I had to be very patient, whether I liked it or not, during the first two and a half of the weaving lessons I am taking. We are supposed to get to three projects in six weeks, so I thought we would be weaving much sooner. However, our instructor is very thorough and so I now know a lot more of the philosophy of weaving technique than I had known existed. We finally got our looms ready to go and I have already all but finished my project. Beyond the impatience, it has been fun.

The first fun part was selecting the yarns I would use. I am very consistent in what I like and one fiber company that I LOVE,LOVE,LOVE is Noro. If there is a single ball of Noro in a shop, I am likely to find it. Finding Noro yarn is like finding the gold egg in an Easter Egg hunt. For this project I selected a really fun fiber that is multicolored and has small sections that have been wrapped with something shiny. Like a crow, I am drawn to shiny things. This ball of fiber just had a hint of it. Enough to add some jazz, but not enough that it is tacky. (Hopefully you can see it shining through in the photo.) While it was really fun, it also presented some challenges. The yarn is very twisty and became stubborn at times. I was not to be deterred, so I told the yarn who is boss. We were fine after that! (The instructor will most likely steer people away from it for their first projects in the future.) The next fun part was to see how it will come out. How yarn looks in a ball or skein all by itself is usually very different from how it looks when combined with another yarns. In this case I selected a teal sort of yarn. I kept going and going while I was working on it at home because I wanted to see how each new color would look combined with the teal. I love it even though I can already see where I need to improve. The edges are not great. One of the goals my instructor has set for me was to keep my hands off of the weaving and let the loom do its part on its own. (I have a desire to fiddle and touch the edges every time.) Thus, I paid a lot of attention to the angle, tension and amount of strength I used each time I put in a new line. My edges are improving. I am trying very hard not to develop bad habit and this would have become one of them.

Ellie already wants it. I think it is too scratchy for anything to wear so I will most likely incorporate it into a sewn piece, like maybe a wall quilt for my girl.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On Turning 83 and a Chantilly Creame Cake, Oh My...

This past week my father-in-law, Don, turned 83. We had a small, wonderful family party to celebrate the event.

He is a remarkable man. My husband and I met in 1983. We have been together ever since. Thus, Don has been like a father to me, truly. And I am enriched because of it. We nearly lost him about 1.2 years ago when he had a stroke, a heart attack and a seizure all in a row while at the grocery store. We had to face what life would be like without his presence and we could not get ourselves to look it in the face. His recovery was scary and rough. I am amazed how he was able to pull himself out of that dark place he resided in for a few months.

When you are 83 there is not much you want, so we gave him photos of the kids.It is a tradition for us to do this. Ellie took over the job of making the Grandpa Don birthday card. I was so proud of her. She dug around in the fabric box and came up with a chunk of red fleece. Then she zipped up stairs for one of her dad's shirts. I was all but banned from walking into the craft room while she created it. I love how the pocket is functional. It has a small "Happy Birthday" note tucked inside. I think that was actually his favorite present.

Mark and Lilia hosted the party at their house. They always do a bang up job of the parties they have. This time they purchased an AMAZING Chantilly Creme cake with Glazed Berries from Whole Foods. It was so pretty we almost did not want to eat it, but alas, we had to. It was as wonderful as it looked. The creme had a smooth texture with a light hint of almond. A flavor I had not connected with Chantilly Creme. Mine is usually coffee flavored. The berries were nice, but not overly sweet. It was a three layer cake with more creme and berries in between. I think that we may see more of these beauties cross our Birthday tables.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bad Dog - No Poop!

If you read my blog from time to time, you will have come to know that the one most excited about our new kitties was our dog, Reisha. She has lived with geriatric cats for eight years. She has long wished for a kitty friend or two, but alas, the old ones just couldn't play much. Now, with the new kitties, it is a new story. I believe that Reisha is so thrilled that she may fancy herself a kitty, too. She runs, frolics and plays. She tries to imitate much of what they do.

This desire to be like the kitties got her into trouble late last week. She saw the kitties play with yarn and bits of cloth. Where they mouthed them and tossed them around, Reisha misunderstood and ate them. We did not know this until we awoke to a soda can size chunk of regurgitated stuff that we think must have been string, yarn and cloth. I was amazed that she did not choke, suffocate or die coughing it up. Then we noticed that she was straining when she was let out to go to the bathroom. Poor thing, she was REALLY plugged up! We became panicked. We consulted out friend, Laura, who is a knows-everything-about-dogs person. She suggested that we give Reisha tablespoons of pureed pumpkin on the hour for at least a day to give her body some fiber to work with. If that did not produce results, there were other things we could try. I was becoming very upset. The vet said it could easily be $2,700 to have an exam, some x-rays and a bit of surgery to remove whatever was plugging her up. We simply do not have that kind of money, so we had to try other routes. We started her on the pumpkin, lots of love and many trips outside. (If the pumpkin did not work we would have to go with Karo Syrup mixed with mineral oil, and prepare for an explosion!)I must have spent a few hours over the course of the day trying to see if the dog would poop. I could not bear to tell the children that I feared that she would die if we could not get her to poop. I decided to not feed her that day for fear of simply adding more with which to plug her up with.

I went home to check on her during my lunch break that next day. There I found ANOTHER soda can sized wad of upchucked fiber. I let her out to go potty and small bits of watery stuff began to come out. She began to drink again. (If a dog pukes directly after drinking it CAN indicate that they are obstructed.) Then she began to skip in her little doggie way. I felt a bit more hopeful. Maybe I could look my children in the eye without feeling guilt of keeping bad news from them. That evening she was able to go a bit more. The next morning she was back to her regular self. Who would ever have guessed that I would be happy to see dog poop.

Now, we simply have to keep those fibers away from doggie mouths...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Valentine Card Making Party Invitations

A few years ago Ellie's friend, Christy, wanted to make Valentine's day cards with us since we have so much fun art stuff. Of course we said, "You are always welcome at our house."It was also logical to invite her mother. Then another friend found out and thus the beginnings of another one of our parties was born. Each year we now break up the end of January by hosting a Valentine Card Making Party & Potluck. Saturday morning I had to wait for the refrigerator repair man, so I set to work. I ended up with something different than I had imagined. I thought I would use the white embossed DCWV paper as a white background, put a strip or two of printed paper and cut out two large paper flowers to host the Valentine's Day round sticker in the middle. I started with the strips and really liked those. Then I began to love the embossed paper, wondering how it would look with a small bit of color. Then I noticed that the dotted lines dropped away. On my way to the bathroom I remembered that I have a lovely shade of brown art glitter from the Martha Stewart line. Next I decided to leave out the cut flowers as they would cover up too much of the lovely background. Than got my head spinning with quilt designs. I don't usually do cute, but I like this paper so much that I might have to make a cloth version of it. We'll see later on. The whole thing felt like the story, If You Give Moose a Cookie. Then I had to decorate the inside and both sides of the envelope. After all, otherwise they would be too naked and plain. This way the recipients will know right away who sent the card. It was a lovely way to spend a morning waiting for a repairman. In the end Ellie and I both worked on the cards. It was wonderful.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Quilts I Love - Valentine's Day Themed Quilts

The Great American Quilt Factory is across town from where I live. It is my favorite quilting store. We have many others that have wonderful folk who staff them, but this one has all of the bright and fun fabrics I love. I can't get there often because of the hours they keep, the distance I live away from it and the rush hour traffic that lies in between. It is both a good and bad thing. Anyhow, I had planned to visit the store for about two months. I was dieing to see what new fabrics they had gotten in. I finally made it to the store last Sunday. I am posting a few of their Valentine's Day quilts. I love them.

I will call this first one "Purple Hearts." What I love about this one is the calm use of color, the two tone stripe next to the hearts and the occasional bit of yellow here and there. Without it this quilt would have a totally different feel. I think this might be one of their own patterns. Great American Quilt Factory is also home to Possibilities, the quilt pattern and book company.

The next quilt we will call "Plaid Love." My daughter would love this one. I think they did a masterful job of using lots of patterns together. I love the use of golden yellow and fuchsia in this one.

The last one, my favorite of the bunch, I will call "Radiant Sun Hearts." I am ALWAYS drawn to this pattern. I am not sure why. I have the pattern and plans to make one that is similar to this one, but done in shades of blue and purple. The triangles on my pattern are longer and more pointy. I am not even sure why I am always drawn to it. It is just one of those consistencies in my life.
On another day I will share more images from that fun trip. And oh, by the way, I had amazing self control and only bought tiny bits of fabric to may small hand sewn hearts as part of a Valentine's Day gift.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Saphira - Ode to a Sweet Ratty Girl

(These photos are of Saphira when she was very young.)
Saphira was our lovely Royal Brown Mink Rat. She came from a long line of great rats. She was a lovely pet that was with us for just over three years. Now, I know that many people don't understand why you would have a rat for a pet, but if you had known any of ours, you'd understand. Saphira was a great pet for many reasons:
* She was very sweet. If she heard you coming into the room she would go to the side of her cage where she could get closest to you;
* She was affectionate. She enjoyed being held once you took her out of her cage. She was good about not wandering too much;
* She was generous with her ratty purring. A happy rat does this wild teeth grinding thing that is their equivalent of a cat's purr. I loved when she did this. It meant to me that she was feeling the love I was sending her way;
* She was so soft and wonderful to pet. That is where the Mink part of her breed comes in. Her coat was amazing;
* She was a trooper who tried to comfort you when she knew you were sad. She would sit quietly and try to nuzzle your arm as a means of comforting you. She was also loving towards her cagemate, Rumpus. I am sure that Saphira became lonely when she passed away.
* She was thankful for her treats. She never complained when we ran out.

Saphira actually passed away Christmas Eve. I just could not post it around that time. The mix of the festive holidays and the eminent death of my beloved Chesterfield made it all just too much. We were sad when she died, but she had a good, extra long life. Rats are lucky if they get two years. She had three and in the end she had a terrible tumor that could not be removed since she was so old. We buried her with Chesterfield and spoke a hopeful, loving prayer for her.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happiness is...

Happiness is...

... a clean machine. I taught myself to sew when I was about 12 years old. I started out with a machine left over from a defunct sewing school. That baby had seen some hard use. My mom took it to a local sewing machine repair shop that I have since been loyal to. Last spring I went to give my machine a little love by getting "bathed" and cleaned at this shop, but I could not. I had closed. I was sad and hoped that the old couple had decided to travel or do something fun. It seemed that sewing machines and vacuums were their life. They loved when they got to clean a machine that was actually actively used. I had to mourn the loss of a great mechanic. I could not get my brain around finding another repair guy. I felt like I was cheating or something like that. Then when I could not longer do a good satin stitch I had to relook at those feelings. Then I was trying to finish my wall quilt and busted 5 needles in one hour. I knew I had to search and find a new repair shop. Luckily I found a pair of funny guys who offer fair prices and do a great job. Now my machine sings along at a new tune since it is not clogged with lint and broken threads.

... A nice family bike ride to Whole Foods for Lunch and Sunshine

Colorado is a wondrous place to live. Where else could you get to go on a gloveless, sunny bike ride on one day and get to go sledding on fresh snow a few days later? Sunday was the glorious day. We rode our bikes on the Platte trail to Whole Foods, a really fun organic grocery store in Cherry Creek. We took turns sitting with the bikes and going in for food. Ethan came out with a chunk of his favorite cheese (aged Parmesan Regianno) and dried pineapple rings. Ellie got cheese pizza. Larr had pizza, too, but his was a bit fancier with olive oil instead of tomato sauce topped with basil, fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (am I makin' you hungry, yet?) I was not so hungry so I feasted on honey roasted almonds. We chatted, we basked in the sun and we rode back home. Ethan says, "Mom, this is a nearly perfect day for me." It is always wonderful to hear him say that kind of thing. He certainly has enough of the angst filled teenager days, too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

My State Champion

Wednesday evening my cutie of a daughter was awarded the 2007 Colorado State Cyclocross Best Cross Racer in the Junior Woman's 10-12 division jacket. This is a very big and exciting deal. She was thrilled with the award and even happier when she saw the new design. She has worn it since then. This is not an award saying that she is the fastest rider, but one that awards her for her consistently high effort and results over the season. Part of what made winning this such a big deal is that she is in the youngest end of the category (having started in this group when she was actually 9 years old) and it is her first year. Her head coach says she could excel in any sport that she focuses on. Who woulda' guessed. I am not sure where that athletic talent came from. I lettered in 5 sports, but was never top in any of them.
I am just so proud of her. :) She can hardly wait for the next season to start in February!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Weaving a Dream...

My husband's Aunt Lynn is an inspiring person. She is a masterful, yet humble weaver. When she comes out from California I always pester her about what she is making. When the kids were born she made each of the special blankets. Those blankets got a lot of use, and a lot of extra care so that they could be used for any grandbabies I might have some day in the future. When we went to northern California two years ago we stayed with them and had a blast. She has two floor looms and one giant one about the size of a four poster bed. She set up the looms so that we could make things while we stayed with them. The kids and I loved it. Originally the looms were just set up for the kids. She used soft yarns so they could make pillows to use on the airplane and take home. This was met with great enthusiasm and focused effort. As a result they got to do a second project each. This time they picked out all of their own stuff. These are some of our most precious reminders of that trip.
I am fiber crazy. I sew, quilt, knit, etc. I have been aching to learn to weave for some time, but thought it would have to wait until I retired. My friend, Karen, knew of this dream and called me last spring. She has stumbled upon a loom at an estate sale. We scoped it out and swooped down. We got the loom and a great book for something like $10 or $20. I tried to take classes, but they conflicted with the kids' races, so it sat in the basement for some time. Then I happened to learn that the local Weaver's shop had Tuesday evening lessons. I was thrilled, and then I found that I could not afford them. I pushed that idea away. I was still thinking about it a lot so I asked for help paying for the lessons as a Christmas gift. My in laws were ever gracious and paid for the whole 6 week session. I just had to make sure my loom worked and pay for the supplies and materials. I took in my loom and the owner suggested just a few small changes. My father-in-law helped with that and I had my first class last night. I was so excited that I could hardly sleep the night before. We learned about the parts of the loom and some about weaving philosophy. We also picked out our yarns and got ready to dress the loom. I look forward to showing you what gets done each week. The photos I've included here are not actually my own, but some that are similar to what I have. I decided that asking the other people in class to put up with my enthusiasm and exuberance was enough. I would not bust out the camera, yet. Actually I asked if they would be okay being on my blog and they all said yes, so next week you can look for live action shots. Until then I will have to settle with admiring the fibers I picked out.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cross Stitched Gift For My Mom

One afternoon last May I was shopping with my Mom. I needed to make a stop at the cross stitch store so she came in with me. While there she fell in love with this pattern by Bent Creek. It is called Autumn Snapperland. It was fun having her pick out her own stuff. I used linen and mostly silk threads. It was a real splurge, but wonderful to do. It is very different from the patterns I do for myself. I loved sitting down for a while as often as I could to work on it, thinking of my Mom and how much I love her. Chesterfield, my departed kitten love, would often sit in my lap and put up with my stitching above her head. There are other seasons in the Snapperland sets. I may opt to do another one. They also have a series I like called Trilogy.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Having a Kick-Butt Fun Time at the BassPro Shop

Okay, it may seem a little strange, but we planned a day of fun out at the BassPro Shop with our friends Laura and Anna. You can always count on Laura to find some thing fun and wild to do. This was no exception. The BassPro Shop is a HUGE extravaganza of outdoor fun. It is a virtual museum of taxidermied animals. We started out with drinks from the Starbucks in the store. As the girls explored Laura and I sat in front of the gigantic aquarium filled with fun fish. You can see the catfish who was checking us out from time to time. The tank is something like 8' by 15' and is glassed in on two sides. Then we checked out the chuck wagon section. Laura bought fun candies. We then ate a yummy lunch in the restaurant in the store. This was followed by a few pretend boat races. Laura taught us the "boat wave." The girls rigged the race by offering us the slower boat that topped out at 60 mph, while theirs could to up to 85 mph. However, being a fictional race, we decided that our maturity helped us navigate choppy storm waters, so we protested that we won. We then went shopping, checking out camping gear, the knife boutique and the "Fine Gun Room." We were there for over 3 hours and did not do everything. Next time we will have to try out the archery range and the shooting gallery. We topped it of by trying out the ice fishing tents. I am told that many people plan their vacations with time to stop off and have fun in the store. I can see why - we sure had a lot of kitschy fun!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Wonder and Beauty...

As a way to celebrate the beauty and wonder of the new year we went snowshoeing. We went to Lair o' the Bear. It is a special park for us because Larr helped plan the hiking trails and began carving them out back when he worked for Open Space during the summers. Ellie was at a sleep over so it was just three of us. As you can see here, it was amazing. It was one of those wonderful Colorado days where the sun shines, warming you up, and the snow glistens. It was fascinating watching the bubbles in the nearly frozen water move under the clear or nearly clear sections of ice. The sound was peaceful. I also fell in love with some of the trees. One tree that grows near the river produces tiny pine cone like features. I took many of these home, sharing them with the children we encountered while snowshoeing. Doing things together like this helps me forget about other stresses. What made it all the more fun was that we were using snowshoes that were made in the factory Larr's company used to own. Even though it was just the three of us, it felt like there were more of the family with us. I can't wait to go again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Years Eve Wedding and a Ton of Fun!

We had an amazing New Years Eve. It was my birthday so we went to lunch and had fun at the Elephant Bar Restaurant. That evening we attended the Bizer-Talbot wedding. It was SO MUCH fun - way more fun than I had expected. It had class and humor - a difficult balance to strike.

The couple both work in theater. Denise is a tech theater person who is in charge of sets and costumes. Peter is a professional Stage Fighting instructor and theater carpenter. It showed at the wedding. They had a forest theme. All around the room they had stands that held tree branches and tea lights. I have included a photo here, but that does not even begin to show how magical they made it feel. On the tables they made little magical forest arrangements. All of the branches were hung with crystals - 2600 of them. At the end of the party they encouraged us to take them home as a memento of their wedding. The bride and groom said their vows on a moss covered platform. They walked on a cloth with a calligraphed sayings. After the ceremony we had amazing and diverse food. Then the dancing started. I danced for 3 hours. I honored them by wearing pantyhose for the first time in two years. After falling twice I removed them so I could dance without worrying about falling. Near midnight they broke out the party hats. We danced until 1:30 and went home happy, as well as exhausted. Their wedding was in inspiring event.