Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Anne with an "e"

Today is my firstborn's 35th birthday. I find it near impossible to clearly recollect my world without an Anne in it. Or more precisely, in the center of it. Imaginative, independent, thoughtful, artistic, smart, brave, unique, beautiful.
Thank you Anne for gracing my life with your love and for the sacrifices you've made to join me on my quest to live my farm life dream. If I could give you one gift on this your special day it would be contentment with your life choices, freedom from ever being sorry you didn't try to follow your heart's desire. 

Happy birthday, sweetie. Many more.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

postcard from Monaco

I have been waiting for my postcard daily since I sent mine on March 7. Where would it come from? What would it look like?
Well, this afternoon Sandy, our mail carrier, delivered it to the door. I think even she was excited that I had a package from France.

The stitching is dear, the colors are soft and comfortable, the old papers are interesting for their unknown history. It is from Johanna in Monaco. I love it,
Thanks, Johanna. And thanks Beth, for organizing the swap. We'll have to do this again some time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

daylight savings time

It's funny how changing your day by one hour has such an impact on your life. Since Sunday morning I haven't been out of my pajamas before 10:00. And it's so lovely to eat our supper and do our kitchen cleanup without needing to turn on the lights! Last evening, because the sky was only partly cloudy, the light lasted a long time fading to that marvelous shade of violet blue that hugs the horizon just before slipping away.
Technically there's still a week til spring, Our forecast for the foreseeable future suggests days in the 40s and 50s. That should mean an end to our snow and ice prompting walks around the grounds looking for what's new. Green, how wonderful. Can you feel actual hunger for a color? Once summer has your full attention, can green not even register anymore?

Yesterday, our attention was caught by both Redwing Blackbird and Robin voices while we were eating our supper. We hopped up to dash out onto the back deck and listen... birds calling from tree to tree "What about this place? A good place to stop? What do you think?" and this morning the robins are all over the exposed lawns, with their speed walking and their laughing calls, so robin-like. Welcome back. Yes, this is a good place, please stop here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

a trio of quilt shops

At Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I traveled to the city house,  I took Dovey along to visit with Mya. Because Anne was staying at the farm while I went for the flower show, and I was only going to be gone 3 days, Dovey stayed behind to help Anne with her projects. That left me free to make stops along the way. And between the farm and the city there are many lovely quilt shops to visit.  I hadn't been to any of them for months so they'd have new quilts exhibited and lovely new fabrics to look at (and stroke!)
Tuesday morning my plan was to stop at Mill House Quilts on the way TO the city. The map showed it to be an easy jaunt off my normal route. It turned out to be a shortcut in time and distance around the city of Madison. That will make it easy for me to stop more often!
My sweet RAV4, purchased May 1 2009, was my first new car in 38 years. I love this car! To celebrate and log our travels together I started taking pictures of her wherever we went. Here she is parked in front of Mill House Quilts the summer of 2009. (The handicap sign was for the parking space nose to nose to mine, so please don't think ill of me!)
Mill House Quilts has fabric, wool, felt,  threads for embroidery and applique, patterns, tools, gadgets and an entire second floor for classes. The first floor shop has a very high ceiling so it is literally packed with sample quilts. It's on Rt. 19 in Waunakee, Wisconsin north of Madison, only minutes west of 90/94. If you continued east on Rt.19 you'd come to Sun Prairie, WI which is the birthplace of Georgia O'Keeffe. Sun Prairie is also the home of J J Stitches and will be hosting a marvelous quilt show April 3-5. I hope Anne and I can get there for it. If we do I'll put a stop at J J Stitches on our list.

Thursday morning's agenda was carefully orchestrated. My plan was to be on the road out of Illinois by 11:30 since I had another Madison area quilt shop to visit and I wanted to be back at the farm before 5. First Trader Joes (organic produce, nuts, dried fruit)  then  JoAnn Fabrics (yarn, cross stitch fabric, clothing patterns and yardage for baby clothes to go with the sweaters I had crocheted.) Then a "not too rushed" stop at Quilters Destination.  These 3 are within less than a mile of each other, so getting to all of them in quick time would be easy.  I even squeezed in a quick, early lunch with my sister Terri before hopping back in the car for the farm. (She had brought me a bouquet of tulips to take back! A taste of spring, which I needed as it had snowed in Wisconsin several inches on Wednesday.)
I've taken several classes at Quilters Destination and feel very comfortable with Patti, the owner.  It's the nicest shop and the closest to my city house. I was happy to see Patti and chat briefly with her while I was there. She was just about to teach a class so I couldn't hold her up, but I promised to visit when in town later this month and I did purchase several nice things.We must keep our quilt shops in business after all. And her Janome sewing machines tempt me terribly! Patti's shop is magical. Once inside the front door, which says Welcome Home, the tiny physical size amazingly expands with everything a quilter could long for. Her choices in fabrics are very fine.

Over the years we've taken day trips and a few overnight trips to Madison. We've often spent our wedding anniversary there, visiting Olbrich Botanical Gardens. There's also Allen Centennial Gardens  the University of Wisconsin campus and its art museum, and towns and shops along the way. We discovered a shop several years back which moved 3 times since then as it has grown. It's called
Stitcher's Crossing . You can find fabric, yarns, cross stitch supplies and patterns, and more. Fortunately, it's just minutes off the route so it's easy to fit into a drive between city and farm.

My friend Barb teased me that I know cities by their quilt shops. I countered that she knows cities by their golf courses. I would say that would be true whatever your passion. My souvenirs of choice have always been art/craft supplies. Only in the past couple years have I made a concerted effort of keep track of where I've purchased things. I now have an index card for each fabric I buy with a small piece of the fabric and whatever information I have about its origin and manufacture. It took me a while to record all the bounty of this trip, not to mention laundering and pressing each piece. Dovey enjoyed the remaining warmth on the ironing board when I had finished.
As I drove north of Beloit toward Janesville I began to notice there was new snow on the ground. By the time I was to Madison the snow was pretty thick. When I drove up the driveway at the farm I found a few deep drifts near the road and in front of the garage where the wind had once again done its decorating. And saw that the plow had added a few more degrees of tilt to our mailbox. Perhaps for the last time this season??
Well, I had a marvelous and full couple of days. I had spent time with my two favorite fellas, visited with my good friend and my baby sister, had taken in a flower show, put in  a few licks at the city house, stood in my city garden in the pouring rain and cut a box full of pussy willows for a wreath for my new front door which will be installed as soon as we return from Anne's birthday trip later this month, and shopped at several of my favorite shops. My sweet, comfortable, fantastic car had performed magnificently once again. The only item on my list that went unaccomplished was a complete car wash, wax, and vacuum, but the weather was not good for that and I'll be going back to the city the end of this week, so she'll get her spa treatment then.
As always, the nearer to the farm I drove the more relaxed and happy I felt. This week's weather prediction calls for warmer temperatures, so we should see the end of the snow that has been here since the beginning of December. I am eager to pull on my boots and do a complete walk of the grounds and a full study of the flower beds. I'll let you know what we find.

Friday, March 11, 2011

on the pier

Chicago's  Navy Pier is a great place to spend a day.  It is home to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago's Children's Museum, an IMAX theater, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, a 150 foot ferris wheel, a musical carousel, an 18 hole mini golf course, boat rides, seasonal events such as the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, many restaurants and shops, and a most beautiful view of the loveliest city on any of the great lakes.
Navy Pier juts out into the lakefront eastward from the city's edge. Wednesday morning the fog was rolling into the city off of Lake Michigan so thickly you could barely see the city skyline. This first photo was taken from the second floor on the pier, just outside the flower show exhibit hall, taken through rather dirty windows looking west toward the city. Can you just see the buildings in the mist?

This next photo was taken from the second story conservatory looking east toward the giant ferris wheel.

Barb and I were a little disappointed with the flower show this year. There were fewer walk through displays, fewer high impact flowers, a lack of big name exhibitors, and many fewer vendors. Still it was a lovely show, it helped us to forget the winter outside, and gave me a chance to shop for a few lovely things to bring back to the farm including seed potatoes, onions, seeds, bulbs, a purple addition to my streptocarpus collection, and some flavored cashews for Jerome. The pergola above would be a great addition to our farm house back garden...
There are lectures, seminars, workshops and many asides to the show which we never have taken the time to attend. You'd have to spend much more than the few hours we were there to take in everything. We go for the displays, the shops, dream building for our own gardens,  and the visit with each other. Barb likes to quietly stroll through the show, but I can't help stopping to chat with folks. I talked with several very nice people including a few vendors from Wisconsin and 2 very nice young male African American teenagers who helped to design and construct the exhibit by the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Each year this high school has a first class exhibit, equal to and even better than many of the others at the show. Hurray for the city's youth and the good work their school is doing. I also chatted with fellows from the Shedd Aquarium, the Soldiers' Grove garden center where I bought my pussy willow branches several years ago, and a woman who was as much in awe of the stained glass windows in the museum as I was. I discovered she was a quilter too when she overheard me say to Barb "Wouldn't that make a lovely quilt?" and she spoke up that she too was a quilter and had been thinking the very thing.
Here are a few pictures I took in the stained glass window museum. It was hard to eliminate all the reflected light as the whole museum fairly glowed, but I think you can get an idea of the absolute beauty of the old windows collected here and lit from behind.

It's fun to stay on the pier for lunch, too. We really enjoy a restaurant called Bubba Gump's. 
You can add shrimp to just about any dish on the menu. I had a pear and raspberry salad that is served with chicken but I requested shrimp instead. There were candied pecans and raspberry vinegrette dressing. Doesn't it look delish?? It was. And since it was Barb's birthday lunch we split a dessert. bread pudding with caramel sauce, ice cream, whipped cream, and a sprig of mint. I should have taken a photo of it too but was so eager to eat it that I didn't think of it til it was too late.

The wait staff always does a bit of Forest Gump trivia with you, and I'm happy to say Barb and I aced the questions this time, though I've only seen the film once, a long time ago. Guess Anne and I should add that to our list of movies to watch.
 My 2 day Illinois trip was a whirlwind of activity. But some of the rest will have to wait for another day. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

a peek

I leave tomorrow for a short visit with Jerome and a trip to the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show with my friend Barb on Wednesday at Navy Pier on the lakefront. The weather here and there is supposed to be horrid, but I wouldn't miss this flower show for anything.  This will be just a quick trip, since I'll be back by Thursday.  But before I go I wanted to share just a glimpse from my postcard, which was mailed today to Jan in Vancouver, Washington.
The overall theme for the postcards was love, which could be depicted in any way using some sewing technique. My mind's unifying idea was "Love is living and sharing your passions." I decided to represent many of the fiber crafts that I so enjoy. One of the elements of what eventually became a sampler just had to be a quilt. Below you see the paper pieced bird on a branch quilt I made which measures just 2 1/2 inches square.  

Some of the other elements you can see in this upper right hand corner are rubber stamping (all the tiny flowers of the central wreath) calligraphy, and crocheting (the hand made "lace" trim.)
I thoroughly enjoyed sewing this tiny bird! 
I'll have a more thorough posting later, but I just had to share this little bit.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

stitched postcards and fabric tulips

Anne's chili is simmering on the stove, my cornbread muffins are in the oven, and so we are ignoring the damp, grey, windy day outdoors while we happily distract ourselves inside. We are working toward the deadline for our postcard exchange. We've received our swap partners names and addresses and by Monday we are to post literally and digitally. People from 14 countries are participating. It's so much fun watching how Anne is interpreting the concept! And to see her pushing to try new techniques. It's positively delightful.
And though frustrating at times, it's been enlarging for me to go through the process of planning and adjusting and rethinking to where my work has brought me today. I can't share it just yet, but  because I have to walk away from it to keep me fresh and to give my ideas some gestation time,  I've also been working on a new project that has been more than a year in the making. This I'm happy to talk about!
One of my current obsessions is patchwork. I find it hard to call myself a quilter since most of my pieced tops are still waiting for their quilting, but that doesn't stop me from continually planning and making new ones. I learned how to hand piece blocks by watching the Jinny Beyer video series. She is truly amazing. Her block of the month quilt, Jinny's Garden, was available for downloading last year, one block per month, on her Jinny Beyer Studio website. Her colors are always deep and rich, what I call her signature colors. The blocks for this quilt are set on point, which turns the squares off of their flat sides onto their points so they look like diamonds. Her pattern calls for the blocks to be joined with a lattice sashing. All of the flowers are on black backgrounds. Jinny's color choices remind me of Amish quilts.  Our farm is in Vernon County, the county of Wisconsin with the highest concentration of Amish population. Having Amish in my community helps this quilt project to speak to me on several levels.
Here is my first block, the tulip. (Sorry, my poor photography skills cut off the points, and it's too dark now for a photo that captures the true purples, grrr!)

 Here's a look at Jinny's entire quilt. Do you see the tulip block, center of bottom row?

It is constructed using the paper piecing method I posted about a few weeks ago. I have no idea whether or not I'll do all 13 of the flower blocks or the quilt as shown above. But I took a class at Quilter's Destination where I learned how to quilt each individual on point block as it is completed and then attach the blocks with sashing. (It's the idea of putting a whole quilt top under my sewing machine needle that scares me, but quilting small blocks at a time is fun.) So I actually believe this pieced top will get quilted and finished. And it's nice to be sewing flowers when flowers are so much on my mind these days!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

1st of March

Dawn, 3/1/2011.

Today is the 35th anniversary of my turning the calendar and thinking "Before I turn another page of this calendar  my life will change forever." On the first full day of spring that year my first child, a daughter, was born. Every year since, when the calendar calls for turning from February to March, I pause and recall that young mother to be, her hopes, fears, excitement.  But now I also think on the beautiful woman that daughter has become and I'm filled with joy and gratitude. Happy March, Anne.