Monday, April 30, 2012

Makes My Monday: Prom dreams

Nothing, it seems, is going to hold back the tidal wave of time.  My kids just keep growing up no matter what I do.

Drama Girl is a sophomore in high school now.  I think I still have some 4th grade art projects on the wall of the garage.  I'm pretty sure she still has stuffed animals on her bed that are older than that.

But this little girl, my little girl, got asked to the prom not once, but twice.  I wasn't privy to the details of the poor boy who got rejected, but I do know that the boy who is taking her is one of her friends from Improv team.  Juniors and seniors are allowed  to ask underclassmen. Apparently he had a friend lure her to the quad at school at lunch time where he was waiting with flowers and a giant poster that said "Prom?"

Prom!  I'm not ready for this!  He asked her just 10 days before the event, which plunged us into the scary world of shopping for a prom dress.  I vacillated between sticker shock and telling myself that this is a big important day for her and then telling myself "hey, she's a sophomore, and they're just friends, not boyfriend/girlfriend."  Still, I was ready to fit her needs into our budget.

But sometimes blessings come when you least expect them and most need them.  She was hired  to babysit for a woman who was throwing a party and needed some teenagers to watch over the children of the guests.  Somehow in the course of the evening the topic of the prom came up and this incredible woman opened her closets and offered Drama Girl her choice of dresses!  She brought home five to show me and picked a simple, modest, lovely dress that is appropriate for a 15 year old.

I'm so happy for her.  Now I just need advice from moms who have been there on what to expect about prom night. 

Being just a little bit ready for the next big rite of passage makes my Monday.  Visit Cheryl at Twinfatuation for more Monday makers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

That Girl

Just when I think I can't be more proud of one of my kids, something happens that just takes my breath away.

Wasabi Girl is amazing.  She is conscientious, diligent, hard-working, and dedicated - in everything she does.  I have seen the results in her championship gymnastics medals.  I have heard her play the saxophone and seen her band win the highest possible honors.  I see her perfect grades.  I am so proud of all of her accomplishments.

But this morning, as I opened my email, I wasn't prepared for what I saw.  A note from her math teacher.  She is being honored by the local high school as one of the top two 8th grade math students.  I had no idea!  I am thrilled beyond words.

Congratulations Wasabi Girl!  Maybe next time we're at that gift shop I'll let you get ONE of the goofy pink stuffed animals.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Design Wall Monday: William Morris block 1

I picked up a beautiful book of William Morris applique patterns.  Since I have a lot of batik fabrics I thought I'd try some of the blocks using batiks against a black background.

The shapes are pretty fussy to cut out and I'm glad I'm trying this one by machine, and not by hand.  It would be very slow-going for me with all those curves and points.

Here is a close-up.

The stitching goes very very slowly, but I like the effect. 

Design wall Monday is hosted by Judy Laquidara at Patchwork Times.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our Exchange Student

The Tour Guide

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The Tour Guide

That comic is a true story (all my toonlets are).  Only the sad part is, Drama Girl believed him for quite a while.  I wasn't with them on their whirlwind tour of San Francisco but apparently my husband jumped at the chance to give money to some random guy at the pier with a fishing boat.  They went under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz.  I have no idea really what our French exchange student thought of the whole thing.

It's been an interesting, challenging week.  His English isn't advanced to the conversation level yet, and he turns to Drama Girl to interpret almost everything.  They whip out their phones and use a translating app to "talk" back and forth.  I think he probably gets particularly lost during our inevitable rollicking conversations around the dinner table.  As much as I try to steer conversations back to being inclusive, the kids are used to chattering on.  Hopefully he will get an impression of how much we enjoy talking together.

Like any 15-year old boy, he has a real sweet tooth and the kids have bonded over various forms of candy, my homemade cookies, and pastries they buy downtown.  He was excited to see a shop called "The Boulanger" and insisted on speaking French to the employees.  He was amazed that nobody there understood him. 

My husband started a conversation last night about going to the beach at Ano Nuevo to see the elephant seals.  Drama Girl started laughing as she described "seals" by spelling out the word in French.  "Oh F***!" blurted out our French student.  Yep, that's the word for "seal" in French.  The laughter around the table didn't die down for 10 minutes.

This has been great fun for all of us, and I look forward to cramming in a lot more attempts at American culture into his next week.  So far I have him hooked on peanut butter and watermelon.  Could be worse I guess.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Needlework Tuesday: Crows

I'm almost done with my Henrietta Whiskers quilt.  I had to add the final borders before I can attach the last few applique crows.

Here's the top half, with the crows and stars pinned on.  I really don't like crows in real life - they seem to bully the songbirds out of the yard.  One of my kids told me they can recognize a human face up to two years later.  That's just creepy.  I'd hate to have a crow mad at me. 

I'm also stealing moments at my sewing machine to continue making blue stars for the patriotic quilt I started.  It's amazing to me the fabrics that I can find in my stash that I've forgotten about.  Luckily these stars only require very small pieces so I'm able to use up some of the scraps I have around. 

Stealing time to sit and sew is certainly therapeutic for me.  I learned yesterday that an old family friend passed away in his sleep.  We never expect to hear bad news, but it is so good to have comforting things to turn to to keep the mind and hands busy as we work through life and grief.  When my brother died, one of my sisters-in-law prepared pot after pot of tea.  It wasn't necessary, but it was comforting, and it was something to do in those hours of sadness.  Today I'll make tea too I think.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Design Wall Monday: Flower Pot

I finished my applique project that I started at my quilt retreat.

The original pattern had very traditional reds and greens like a Baltimore Album quilt.  But then I found a scrap of focus fabric in my stash for the pot and the whole bright color scheme followed.

I learned a lot about machine applique!  I spent many hours carefully stitching each piece.  There is even some reverse-applique.  I'm so happy with how it turned out.

Some of the circles, like these red ones below, were really tiny.


I also learned how to quilt feathers.  I've never been brave enough to try them before.  Don't look too closely, they're a little wonky, but I love the overall effect.

I'm linking up to Design Wall Monday and also Makes My Monday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Suitcases coming and going everywhere

Every time I turn around I see a different suitcase either being packed or unpacked around here.  My husband travels frequently for work so I trip over his in the bedroom every other week (because seriously, I can't look down and brush my teeth and walk around texting my kids at the same time - I've tried).

Wasabi Girl and Jungle Boy have packed up and joined the school band for a whirlwind weekend at Disneyland.  I have fingers crossed for them that it wont rain. 

And the newest suitcase around here belongs to our exchange student from France who has just arrived.  He's 15 and will be going to high school with Drama Girl and living with us for the next two weeks. 

I'm so excited to have him stay with us, but at the same time I'm worried - are we normal enough?  What should I cook for him?  Drama Girl insisted that we have hot dogs for his first evening here.  I think that's rather a lame dinner, but it sure is American.  At least I could offer fresh chocolate chip cookies for dessert. 

I speak a little French, Drama Girl speaks a little French, and he speaks a little English, so there's a fair amount of "Franglais" and plenty of gesturing and synonym-searching going on around here.  Drama Girl fell over laughing when I tried to describe Alcatraz as "the place where the gangsters were imprisoned" while I made my hands act like a machine gun. 

Drama Girl and I tried to describe the redwoods by asking if he'd seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  After much gesturing and some google-translate help we determined that he had not.  So we tried Star Wars.  Oh yes! Everyone has seen Star Wars!  But he didn't remember the forest scene.  Then my husband came home from work and somehow we got onto redwoods again and he started trying the exact same movie references.  I'm pretty sure our exchange student thinks we're either crazy or movie-obsessed.

I've started a list of places near San Francisco that I think he might enjoy.  I'd really love to get ideas from you of places that a tourist might want to see.  What do you associate with San Francisco?  Or if you've been here, what did you enjoy seeing?  Thanks for your help!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Views of Asilomar (image heavy)

Full moon at sunrise over the rooftop of one of the lodge buildings.  The ocean can be seen in the lower left.

Asilomar is a beautiful serene conference center on the California coast.  I took a lot of pictures - the weather was just beautiful.  I wanted to share a few with you.

I was particularly thrilled when I stepped out in the early morning on Friday and saw the full moon was huge and beautiful.  I ran upstairs to my room to get my camera and chased the moon down the path to the beach as I snapped a bunch of shots.

Lots of wild windswept trees and unfortunately, some dead spires.  The rare local pines have been affected by a parasite that was introduced into the area in some firewood a few years ago.  There is a very aggressive effort underway to repopulate these trees that grow nowhere else on earth.  Squint hard and you can see the full moon and ocean again.

Phoebe Hearst Hall.  Like most of the buildings, this was designed in the early 20th century by Julia Morgan, a pioneer of California architecture who designed many famous buildings including Hearst castle.  Phoebe Hearst was William Randolph Hearst's mother and benefactor of Asilomar when it was a YWCA camp.  If you're unfamiliar with William Randolph Hearst, he was a newspaper baron and subject of the movie "Citizen Kane."

 The beautiful porch of the main hall.  I could sit here all day and listen to the ocean and sip wine.  Or make yo-yos.  Or both.  By happy coincidence, they sell wine just inside the door.

 To me, the rustic natural surroundings were incredibly serene.  In the background here you see part of the stone wall of the dining hall.  To complete the rustic atmosphere, there were no televisions or telephones in the guest bedrooms.  It felt great to be completely unplugged for a week.  There was free wifi available in the rooms for those who come to the conference center for business meetings and such.

A wild iris growing near one of the guest buildings.  Love the color.  There were also a lot of Monarch butterflies around because just up the street is Pacific Grove, where over 25,000 Monarchs gather every October during their migration.  I guess a few stick around in the area all year.

Surf, white sand, beautiful dunes.  In the foreground you see the railing for the boardwalk that has been constructed over the dunes to help preserve their vegetation.  It's a beautiful, wild, unique ecosystem.  A short way up the coast I was able to see sea otters playing in the kelp offshore.  Note to self:  buy a telephoto lens!

I even loved the patterns and colors in the debris on the sand.  Hot pink seaweed!

One more shot of that full moon over the ocean at sunrise.  I'll spare you the other hundred pictures I took.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Day Without Quilts

I just want to say, to begin with, that the comments on my last post really meant the world to me.  I sat and thought about every one of them and really listened to your advice and support.  Thank you for your words.  It reminded me that I should comment more.  I read a lot of blogs quickly on my Kindle and don't comment but those small gestures can mean a lot to the person who wrote the post.

I think somebody tipped off my husband that he should read the post.  He called a family meeting and we had quite a talk about mutual support and taking mom for granted.  Then the talk took a surprising turn for me as it turned to what quilts meant for each of them.

At that point, the house was bare.  Without quilts around, it was cold and generic and really didn't even feel like our house.  The kids were looking around at the bare walls and the window seat where we keep a stack of quilts for watching television.  I hadn't taken the quilts off their beds, just all the ones in the common areas. 

I cried as they talked.

Drama Girl said when she brought friends over they always asked about the quilts and she was so proud to say her mom made all of them.

My husband talked about how he loved to watch them evolve on my design walls.

They each talked about how they loved them and different quilts reminded them of different times in their past and how they liked to watch the seasons change in the house by the different quilts I brought out.  I was really crying at this point.  I never imagined they felt that way.  They had never said anything.

Then Drama Girl made a confession.  By this point she had tears in her eyes too.  "Mom, that one quilt you made for my bed that's really soft?  The reason I always put it with the bottom towards my pillow is so I can keep the label on the back close by and read it."  On the label I had written how I will always love her.

Quilts are love.  I think they have learned their lesson now on how much it means to the quiltmaker to say thank you and I love you back.  And how even though quilts just show up from time to time, it's important to admire them and acknowledge the effort involved.  Most importantly, they realized that there has been a lot of support flowing in one direction around here, and some of it needs to flow back to mom.

So I'll put the quilts back out.  Here's a little bit of the new quilt as I was working on it.  My feelings are still a little raw but I will probably move forward on this one and pick up my hobby again.  Thank you for all of your kind words.  It's been a rough few days.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I'm Cured

My quilt retreat was amazing.  The teacher, Sue Nickels, was probably the best quilt teacher I've ever had.  She kept up a brisk pace and I learned so much.  Every minute was a joy.

I managed to almost finish my quilt top for the class project.  It's probably the best work I've ever done.  I worked some mornings from 6AM and stayed to laugh and work and chatter with the other women until 11PM.  I picked colors that sang to me.  I got so much out of it in return.  People showered me with compliments that made me feel so good.  People told me I inspired them.  People told me they were proud of me.  Strangers asked to take pictures of me holding my quilt.  It was the greatest week in my creative life.  I was really proud of myself and what I was able to accomplish.

Then I got home.  Nobody bothered to greet me when I walked in.  I tried to pull out my finished piece to show my girls.  Drama Girl took a quick glance and said.

"I guess the people at that place would like it."

I cried.

I have been deluding myself for so long that what I found joy in would have any interest to my family.  There is nothing that would make them proud of me.  Even after I told my husband about how I thought it was my best work he wasn't curious enough to ask to see it.

I try to support all of them wholeheartedly in every thing they do.  I guess I was expecting some support in return.

For the first time, it made me ashamed of my efforts.  I have clearly been wasting my time doing something silly with all of this handiwork.  I'm going to leave the sewing machine packed up and not work on quilts or needlework or anything else any more. 

I've taken my stupid quilts off the walls and couches and packed them away.  I'm cured of my stupid hobbies now.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Letter From Quilt Camp

Hello kids,

Mommy is having a fabulous time at quilt camp. All the other kids are really nice and friendly. I have made many new friends.

Our counselor is very nice but she makes us work very hard! We have to learn stuff and sew all day. Last night many of us stayed up until 11:00 at night to finish our homework. Remember how I told you never to walk around a hotel in your pajamas? I'm afraid mommy broke that rule and was quilting in her pajamas last night.

The food here is quite good! But they make us eat dessert like chocolate cake after both lunch and dinner. Mommy is very polite and doesn't refuse dessert.

Mommy brought along a lot of fabric to make her new quilt. Unfortunately, mommy totally changed her mind about the colors and had to buy lots and lots of new fabric. Please tell daddy not to look at the credit card bill.

I hope you are being good and brushing your teeth and minding daddy. I might be home soon.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Show and Tell

While I'm enjoying the quilting seminar this week, I thought I'd share with you what I brought along for Show and Tell.

Of course, I reserve the right to totally chicken out of the show and tell period when I see the truly amazing quilts that some people are bound to bring.

The first time I went to this Empty Spools seminar at Asilomar, I was so incredibly star-struck by all of the famous teachers there that I ran around and got autographs from a lot of them.  Also some of my fellow classmates.  Probably even the janitor emptying stuff into the garbage behind the mess hall.  I was that giddy.

I took all the little white squares home and designed this quilt on an early version of Electric Quilt.  I just love the happy memories it evokes.  I also have some not-so-happy memories of fitting all those triangles together.  Just because blocks fit together on a computer screen doesn't mean they'll be easy to assemble in real life.

That same year at Asilomar, I took a class from Jean Wells.  I had grandiose plans to create a huge 50x50 inch quilt using this technique.  I would have to make millions of flowers.

I got a great start in the class, then took the blocks home and put them up on my design wall.  Then other projects came along and the flowers got pushed over to the side of the design wall.  For years.  I finally realized that I needed to change my expectations and just make a smaller quilt.  I love this one too, even though it's very small. 

For some reason my model decided to hold it up over her pretty face.  Not sure why.

Are you the brave show and tell type?  For all that I'm happy to display things on my blog, I get pretty shy about them in person.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Art in the Family

My husband dabbles in watercolors.  He also sketches and paints from time to time.  He keeps a frame in the family room and switches out his latest works.

I think this one is my favorite.  I thought you might enjoy it too.  It would make a pretty quilt I think...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Post by Drama Girl: Myths in the Media

    I would be the first to admit that Hercules was probably my favorite movie when I was younger. In this Disney film, you got your comic relief, in the form of the adorable minions Pain and Panic, your romance, with Meg and Hercules, and of course, the villain--Hades.

    But why does Hades always have to be the villain? In this film, he is portrayed as a power-hungry maniac, while sarcastic and witty, still wants to rule the world and overthrow the gods of Olympus. But besides going against the very basis of Greek Mythology, this depiction of Hades is only one of many that have sought to use him as a scapegoat for all that is evil.

    The first problem with this film is obviously the title. Anyone who knows the tale of this hero knows that the Greek form of his name is spelled Herakles, or Heracles. While this wouldn’t normally bother me, it is the fact that this mistake is so easily rectified that makes me wonder who got dropped on their head at birth to come up with the title.

    But back to Hades. He is obviously the villain, with his ominous blue fire hair and villainous voice. But all of his motivation throughout the entire movie is based on something that while interesting, is nowhere near anything resembling Greek mythology.

    While there are always differences in every myth, such as how many brothers and sisters Cronos had or the exact pronunciation of Menelaus, there are basic storylines that must be followed.

    The Hades in this film breaks not one, but two of these widely accepted myths.

    The first is his motivation and sense that he has to overthrow Olympus and rule the world. Say what you will, but Hades certainly does not want to overthrow Olympus. Besides his loyalty to his brothers and sisters, however unapparent, there is the fact that his sense of duty keeps him in the Underworld. He is content to bring the outside world to him, in his kidnapping of Persephone, his wife who is never mentioned in the movie.

    It is this same sense of duty that would never let him release the Titans. Their imprisonment in Tartarus goes back before his birth, and that is truly his primary purpose in the Underworld--to keep them there. Along those lines, the depictions of the ancient Titans in this movie is shudderingly inaccurate. They are portrayed as puppets at the hands of Hades, a strange sight indeed since they were once in a war against him, and all.

    In the end, I feel that although this film does need a villain, as every story does, Hades is far from the perfect candidate. The fact that he was chosen is even more agonizing for us myth junkies, because let’s all think of the story of Heracles--doesn’t he already have a driving force, in the form of a demented king who sends him on impossible tasks and may or may not go by the name of Augeas?

    But that is not my only beef with Hollywood at the moment. It has come to my attention that in the soon-to-be released film The Avengers, the main villain is Loki, a trickster god of Norse mythology.
    Before I go into his part in the film, let me tell you what I think of Loki. He is unique in the way that he does not have a direct counterpart in other mythologies. What other tale describes the story of a half-Chaos ball of fire, blood brother to the king of the gods? The fact that Loki is so unique makes it so much worse for me to see him become the villain.

    There is also the fact that, while unlike any other god, Loki is not black and white. In fact, his primary quality is that you do not know whose side he is on, or if he is even on a side. My opinion of Loki is based on a quote I read in a book whose name I have forgotten; “He made even the goddess Skadi laugh, as she was mourning for the death of her father.” This is a story I have seen echoed in various places--Loki, while he plays tricks and irritates the gods of Asgard, is at heart a playful comedian, despite the fact that his pranks may sometimes take a turn for the worst.

    But again, we see a complex character made into a villain. Though I have not seen the film Thor(because I am sure I would talk through the whole movie) to my understanding, The Avengers features Loki as the bitter villain from that film, bent on ruling the world. Oh, that sounds familiar.

    All this is leading up to my opinion of myths in the media these days. I believe that if a director or screenwriter chooses to base a character off of one in mythology, they do so for two reasons--the first is to tell the tale as it is in the myth, a simple matter of storytelling. But the second is to use the character, and the popular ideas centered around their name, to avoid coming up with original characters with their own backstory. In this case, the writers simply draw from popular belief, such as that Hades is evil because he deals with dead people or that Loki wants power because he stirs up trouble among his friends, and they take those beliefs and expand and exaggerate them to fit whatever story they are telling.

    The fact of the matter is, the characters of mythology are never black and white. The writers have two options--they can either use the names and stories associated with someone in mythology with proper respect to their story and complexities, or they can simply get off their lazy butts and come up with their own villains.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Road Trip Mom Style

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Road Trip Mom Style

Design Wall Monday: Seeing Stars

I've had a million things going on this week so why not just start a new project as well?  I saw this pattern called "Celebrating Freedom" in the latest issue of McCall's Quilting and I had to start it.  Thirty-six scrappy blue stars and a pretty red and white border.  This one will be done by summer hopefully. 

I have several quilts just about ready to be basted.  Once I get them all ready to go, the quilting usually goes pretty quickly for me.  I just need to call in my team of junior assistants to crawl around on the floor with the pins and put those quilt sandwiches together.

I'm packing up my sewing machine tomorrow morning to head off to quilt camp at Asilomar.  I can't wait!  Did I mention that the on-site quilt shop lets you run a tab?  Do you know how dangerous that can be?  "Oh I just need a little bit of this green fabric ...and this book...and this thread...and this cute tote bag.

Also, there is a wonderful quilt shop just down the street from the retreat center.  I would like to think I haven't spent a lot of money there - it's really pretty far from home - but I have gift certificates from them for being one of their big shoppers.  I can resist anything, except the possibility that I wont see a piece of beautiful fabric again.

Running a tab, spending money at a great quilt shop - I'm willing to face these dangers.  I'm brave like that. 

Design Wall Monday is hosted by Judy Laquidara at Patchwork Times.

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