Sunday, January 31, 2010

When images from the past are painful

DH and I just returned from a short trip to check in at his mom's house.  The house has been empty for about 3 years since she died.  We made a commitment to his dad, who lives elsewhere, that we would visit the house once a month to make sure all is well.  Dad does not want to sell the house - it's the economy, stupid! - nor does he want to rent it out.  So, it sits empty in a lovely little seaside town above the Pacific Ocean.  Sad ....

Part of me enjoys going to the house, especially if we are escaping the summer heat in Menifee!  The phone doesn't ring, the temperature is always comfortable no matter what time of year, there is no mail - it's a great getaway for a day or two.  We do maintenance, say hi to the neighbors, order take-out dinners, watch movies, and just relax.

Except when the memories and ghosts appear.  Doug's mom had Alzheimer's.  She was most likely ill with the disease for years before the family was aware of it.  Most families have "stories," and this one is ours.  During the last ten years of their marriage, Mom and Dad lived apart.  Mom was quite adept at hiding her illness from Dad and from us because we saw her intermittently.  By the time we realized how ill she was, she had trashed both her life and her house.

Over the last year of Mom's life, I drove to her house two or three times per week to visit, interact with various health agencies, run errands, and clean - clean, clean, clean - clean out, clean up, and clean after.  I wish I had been blogging at the time!  It would have been cathartic for me (and a bit overwhelming for you!)

The house is now free of junk, filth, every check written in an 80+ year lifetime, over 40 boxes of sewing projects, and 320 pounds of laundry that had to be professionally cleaned (really).

It is not, however, clear of Mom.  And it never will be for me.  In her heyday, Mom was the most meticulous housekeeper I have ever known.  So, before I leave her house, I make sure that everything is in its place, the kitchen counters are wiped clean, the beds are made, the trash is out, there are fresh towels in the bathrooms.

She deserves nothing less.  It is still her house.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I feel a rant coming on!

Big problems rarely get to me.  Pesky little irksome problems sometimes hit me so hard that I fixate and can't get back on my normal track for days.  Here's my latest fixation:

DH and I use our Mastercard for most of our charge purchases.  We are in the habit of paying off the bill every month.  If we do use another retail charge card, we also pay the balance off when the bill arrives.  With a difficult economy, we are fortunate that we can do this and avoid the high interest rates you face if you only make minimum payments.

We used our Macy's charge over the Christmas buying season to take advantage of the extra coupon savings.  (By the way, another pet peeve of mine is that these "extra savings" coupons have dozens of exceptions.  You have to be Sherlock Holmes to find something you actually want to buy for which the coupon can be used!)  I got the bill this week.  At first glance, it looks like I owe Macy's $167.30.  That amount appears in bold print on the top of the statement under New Balance.  It also appears, again in bold, on the payment slip under "New Balance."

I dutifully check all my receipts and find that I actually only owe $164.07.  Back to the statement.  Oh - there's a line item for Interest Charges of $3.23.  Interest charges?  I haven't used my card in 6 months.  There couldn't be interest charges, could there?

Back to the bill.  Here is what is written, in very small print, on the statement:

To avoid Initial Interest Charge:  If you pay your New Purchase Balance of $164.07 by Feb 6, 2010, your Initial Interest Charge of $3.23 on your Revolving Account will be refunded on your next statement.

My first reaction, other than confusion and anger, was that I had to pay the $167.30 then wait to get a credit of $3.23 on my next bill.  Since I don't plan on using my charge card for the foreseeable future, I would carry over this small amount for month after month after month until either (1) I used the card, got both the credit and ANOTHER Initial Interest Charge entering an endless circle of purchases I really did not want to make; or (2) Macy's finally gave up on me and sent me a refund check or, more likely, a credit slip that could only be used against a charge purchase!

On reflection, and many hours of internal ranting, I decided to pay the $164.07 and prepare my attack when the next bill comes showing that I "owe" $3.23.  Now, there is a chance that my next bill will show a 0 balance, and I'll have a clean slate.  The evil part of me hopes that the $3.23 shows up as an amount due - maybe even with a finance charge on top of it! - and I'll be forced to go into attack mode.  Imagine a senior citizen on the brink of Medicare eligibility cutting up her credit card in the middle of the Macy's business office!  Delightful .....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Road to California - Take 3

Just a quickie tonight - I'm recovering from 4 days of visitors!  Thought you'd enjoy another view of the "Quilting Makes A Difference" exhibit at Road to California.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Male Logic - or When did I say "yes"?

We are now the proud owners of a brand new 42" Toshiba HD LCD TV.  I'm not quite sure how this happened, so I guess I'll blame it on one week of nonstop rain which pretty much kept us housebound. My DH had all of his meetings cancelled, couldn't hike or birdwatch or work in the yard.  For the man I love, boredom leads to research on the Internet which inevitably leads to "what can I buy and how can I get her to agree?"

This is a strange purchase for people who don't watch a lot of tv.  DH watches the nightly news because (1) I have it on during the dinner hour, and (2) frequent attempts to get me to turn it off have led to various threats none of which he particularly likes.  It's one of those "you knew this when you married me" kinda things.  I am a news junkie.  Deal with it!

I record and watch sewing shows like Sewing with Nancy, America Sews with Sue Hausman, Fons & Porter, Martha Pullen, etc.  NFL football is a given - any day, any time, any team.  A woman is entitled to her passions!

And, we try to have a weekly movie night.  Our son calls us Netflix' favorite customers.  We've gone as long as six or seven months without watching any movies although there are always 3 rentals in the house.  Pretty expensive movie!  Anyway, one of our New Year's Resolutions was to reinstate the weekly movie night with the agreement that either one of us can walk away if the choice just doesn't cut it.  (Note:  He'd watch classics every week whereas I opt for the new releases.)

During the first rainstorm this week, DH mentioned that he's enjoying movie nights and wouldn't it be nice to have a bigger screen and HDTV.

While I was looking for the emergency flashlight during the second storm, DH gave me a rundown on his research and listed the "finalists."  Huh?

By the onset of the third storm, he told me which stores had 12-months-same-as-cash.  He knows this makes or breaks a deal for me.  If we can't pay for it out of monthly income, it ain't gonna happen.

DH saved his best for last.  In the middle of the fourth storm while watching the horizon for signs of tornadoes, he said, "You'll have your new tv in time to watch your games on Sunday."

How does he do this?  How did a vague idea (his, not mine) become both a reality and a gift for me?  Gotta love the guy ....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seems it never rains in Southern California ....

... but girl, don't they warn ya, it pours man it pours!

Remember this great song, written by Albert Hammond, and sung by the Mamas and the Papas in the 60s?  I've been humming it off and on all week as the rain has continued to pummel Southern California from the beach to the mountains to the deserts.  The storm today, the fourth this week, has been the most severe.  As I write, we are under a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch.  Pretty unusual for us -- we're used to sun and heat and are weather wimps at heart.

Such downpours cause problems all over the world, of course, but particularly for us since we are also prone to raging wildfires.  The burn areas from last fall's devastating fires were evacuated early this morning in the San Gabriel foothills.  All we can do now is wait to see if the oversaturated earth will hold or begin slipping down the slopes into whatever stands in its path.  Once the slippage begins, it'll take out everything - homes, businesses, freeways.  The pounding waves of the Pacific are threatening several homes along the coast.

I ventured out yesterday to run a couple of errands but quickly decided only to do the necessary ones - bank, milk, bread.  The freeways here are bad enough when the weather is good.  They are deathtraps when the weather turns ugly!  We usually only get rain a handful of times per winter; the raindrops evaporate before we can remember how to turn the windshield wipers on.  The youngest drivers on the road today were learning how to skateboard the last time we had this much rain in such a short time back in 2005.  Inexperienced drivers more interested in texting than driving = deathtrap.  Time to stay home and hunker down!

We really need the rain, but not all at once!  Let's just hope that the storm passes without further damage.

In between listening to weather reports and watching the color of the sky change, I've done lots of sewing, listed a few more items at my Etsy shop, and baked peanut butter cookies.  And hummed a few more songs from the Mamas and the Papas!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Road to California - Take 2

Road to California had a great exhibit which was an eye opener for me.  I am, and always have been, a visual learner, so this exhibit had a huge impact.  It was titled something like "Quilting Makes the Quilt."  (Again, I apologize for not taking better notes.  I will improve next year!)  Taking the same large quilt block in the same fabric and colors, various quilters experimented with a variety of quilting styles and techniques.  Wow!  What a difference the quilting makes .....

Feast your eyes on just a sampling of the two dozen or so samples:
The example on the left is beautifully done and somewhat traditional.  But look at the sample on the right - colored threads, a little glitz - totally different impact.  These are the only two pictures that I took, but I was fascinated by the exhibit.  Trapunto was featured in several of the blocks, and many had heat-set rhinestones and metallic thread.  One or two used thread couching as embellishment.  Whoever thought of this exhibit is a genius!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Road to California

I went to the Road to California quilt show on Thursday with four of the ladies from The Oasis Quilt Guild.  We had a blast!  This is the largest quilt show that I have ever gone to; I've attended each of the last four years.  The quilts are exquisite, and there are a lot of vendors to tempt me.  The show runs from Wednesday night through Sunday at the Ontario Convention Center, about 1 1/2 hours away from me depending on traffic.  Some year, I'm going to plan ahead and actually take a class!

Quilt in a Day had a booth, and Eleanor Burns was holding court.  It's amazing how many people wanted to have their picture taken with her!  Alex Anderson was and Ricky Tims were also manning a booth for The Quilt Show.  (Note:  Guess the man at the show with Alex was her husband, John, and not Ricky Tims.  Must work on my accuracy - and watch more tv!) Alex is just as pretty in real life as she is on tv!  I'm not really a celebrity watcher, but it was fun to spot these quilting heroes.

The real heroes of the show, though, are the gorgeous quilts on display and the quilters who designed them, created them, and quilted them.  Here are some of the ones that spoke to me:

I kept coming back to this one again and again, probably because it is so striking.  My photographic skills are minimal, even with these wonderful digital cameras, but I hope you can imagine the impact of this quilt.  What you cannot see from this photo is the intricacy of the quilting.  By the way, I made a huge mistake in not jotting down information about these quilts.  I apologize to the artists!  The background of this quilt is black.  I can't even stitch a hem on black without cursing!  Here's another picture showing the beautiful quilting:Many of those viewing this quilt stood at the back just admiring the detail.  I know because I kept coming back to this quilt over and over.  A few more that caught my eye (if you click on the picture, you'll get an expanded view):

And, lastly, here's a ribbon winner that I really fell in love with.  This quilt won for Best Pictorial Quilt.  Don't you just love her eyes?  Has to be a female, don't you think?

All You Need is Love - and Lots of It!

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday had an interview with Ringo Starr.  Fun, entertaining, nostalgic - great way to start a Sunday!  By the way, Ringo has seven grandchildren!  If you were ever a Beatles fan (and who wasn't?), listen to the interview.  You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This ....

If you've been a football fan any time during the last 20 years, you know that this is a phrase used often by John Madden - player, coach, analyst, and NFL broadcaster for many years.  But the phrase can be used in so many ways.  Even though I am a diehard football fan (and am watching the Baltimore/Indianapolis game even as I write), the phrase means most to me as a grandmother ... it really doesn't get any better than this!

I finished a couple of projects for "the girls" (my granddaughters, ages 4 and 1) who have upcoming birthdays in early February.  Loved this project!  I bought the patterns during our trip last year to Utah, the Grand Canyon, etc.  I fell in love with the fabric in St. Georges, Utah, and discovered the patterns somewhere along the way on our trip.  Fortunately, I was able to squeeze two outfits out of a single purchase of fabric and two patterns bought along the way.  I seem to do that often - hoping that I'll be able to figure out how to finagle the fabric and the pattern to get matching outfits!

Here is the dress for Talia.  The pattern is the To Tie For pattern from olive ann designs.  Really easy pattern and so adaptable for some of the incredibly cute fabrics on the market today.  I elected not to do the giraffe appliques on the reverse side, but I may do that on a future project.  The onesie conversion for Tasha was a bit more challenging.  The pattern, One-zee Conversions from Vanilla House Designs, gave me a few stressful moments.  I think the end result will be fine for a one-year-old who has a pretty relaxed momma.  But I'm not sure that it came out as well as I had hoped.  I don't think I really understood how to attach the skirt to the onesie.  I tried the fusible tape - and failed.  So I just opted for trying to ease the gathered skirt onto the onesie - me thinks I stretched a little too much.  We'll see when we go to see the grandkids for Super Bowl weekend, which is also the girls' birthdays.  Maybe it won't be as stretched out as I think it is!

It is cute, though, and Tasha is only 1.  She won't remember this outfit at all!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kinder and gentler - who me?

Doug and I drove to Redlands Sewing Center today to take the Bernina to the repairman (repairperson?).  A quick look told him that I need a new front plate which has to be ordered.  Supposedly, I was not gentle enough while pushing the buttons in and caused the problem myself.  Hmmm .... I'm really careful with this baby and don't think I am the culprit.  I smiled softly and promised to be a gentler, kinder sewist.  It will take several weeks to get the part in and then the 640 has to stay in Redlands for a few days to be fixed.  At least I can still use the machine and sew until the part comes in.  My sanity is on the line!

Let's hope I can schedule this when I'm due to be away anyway, maybe for the girls' birthdays and/or Super Bowl.

I browsed, of course, while waiting in the shop for the diagnosis.  They're going to have a trunk show in February by quilt artist Marilyn Fromherz.  They had several of her pieces on display.  Quite interesting and very colorful.  Click here for a little preview of her work.  The quilt on the left with the fish was actually on display at the Redlands store, and it is stunning.

Finally got back to Etsy and listed a couple of the caftan-style blouses.  I'm hoping my sales pick up a bit with these new listings.  I have 3 more blouses and 4 scarves to list then it's on to the wraparound skirts again.  Remember Resolution #3 - this stuff is sold or gone by December 31!

As for Resolutions #1 and #2, I give myself a great big "F" for failure two weeks into the New Year.  I have not done any free-motion quilting.  I downloaded one podcast of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me."  Does that count?

Monday, January 11, 2010

I feel a martini night coming on ....

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter got all excited about something one of her Moms Club friends had purchased at a boutique.  It's a cover for the infant/toddler swings that they have in public playgrounds.  Quite a neat idea.  The cover is basically two pieces of fabric sewn together with batting in the middle and a couple of snaps on the end.  You can easily snap the cover around the swing front to keep little hands (and mouths) clean while playing on the swing.  There are probably many places where this cover would come in handy.

So, I whipped one up using pieces from my stash and decided to embroider my youngest granddaughter's name on it.  Oops - big mistake!  I forget that things are not the same as they were when I raised my children in the 70s.  Personalized clothing, accessories, etc., are frowned upon by today's parents due to the fear of abduction and other equally scary things I'd rather not even think about.

I worked around the problem and embroidered "Toodles" on the cover.  That's what we called her before she was born.  I like the way the cover came out.

The next day, I went back to my trusty Bernina 640 to work on some sewing projects and noticed that the four buttons to the left of the screen (needle position left and right, needle up/down, and pattern end) were recessed into the machine!  I can only surmise that the vibration of machine embroidery (and that baby really works hard during embroidery) caused something to go out of kilter.  So, I've been wrestling with what to do about a repair.  Can I just keep sewing carefully and nurse her until she's due for her cleaning in April?  Do I dare take a chance that things will get worse?  I tremble at the thought of being without her for days at a time.  The term obsessive comes to mind, doesn't it?

Yesterday, I tried to move the needle over to do some edgestitching and the machine went berserk.  I couldn't stop the needle from moving back and forth!  So, it's off to the repairman tomorrow.  We'll leave early and hope that it is a small fix that can be done while we wait.  Fat chance.  I see myself going through sewing withdrawal and forced to find something else to do while my Bernina is in the hospital.  I might even have to clean the closets.

Yup, definitely a martini night.

I won't give up, I won't give up ...

I worked through the entire Sharon Schamber video on her binding technique and followed it step-by-step.  You should have seen me running from room to room!  The computer is in the sewing room, the ironing board is in the great room, and the sewing machine is, of course, back in the sewing room.  So, I would watch a minute or two of the video, run to the ironing board with glue bottle in hand, follow the instructions, check back with the video to make sure I was doing it correctly, then drag the TLC quilt to the sewing machine and complete the sewing step.  All went well until sewing the second side of the binding.  I just can't seem to get this part right.  Here are pictures of the finished binding from the front and the back:

Can you see where the stitching in the back is not really right at the corner?  This drives me mad!

There are many parts of this technique that I like - especially how she does the mitered corners - but I'm certainly not happy with the total result.  Practice makes perfect, I suppose, but I am displeased with the number of places where the binding is not solidly stitched on both sides.  To be fair, Sharon's video ends with a detailed explanation of how she hand-sews the second side of her binding.  This is the part I was trying to avoid!  To satisfy finicky me, I will probably go back to doing the same.  What's the point of putting all that work into a nice project and then trashing it with the last step?

I'll probably try machine binding again on small projects.  I'll refer to this video for all the tips on glue-basting, ironing, etc., to get those crisp mitered corners.  But I haven't yet found the definitive way of machine binding a quilt that satisfies the perfectionist in me.

On a positive note, I took the finished quilt to my guild meeting this morning.  The gal who does all her bindings this way said mine looked very good, especially for a first timer.  Made me feel better!  She suggested trying 2 1/2" binding rather than the 2 1/4" suggested in the video.  I'm never going to enter quilt shows, so maybe I should relax my standards and be satisfied - not easy for a finicky Virgo to do.

I'd be better off concentrating on free motion quilting, right?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hello? Are you out there? Anyone?

One of my daily pleasures is to the read the newspaper.  I'll sometimes skip over the front page if the news is terribly upsetting.  I've already listened to NPR for the morning update by the time Doug brings in the papers, so I feel up-to-date on events.  At some point in the day, no matter how hectic it gets, I'll take time to grab the papers and read.  I always start with Sports, then move to Business, the main section, and finally Calendar (as the Los Angeles Times calls it).

One of my favorite columnists for the Times is Sandy Banks.  She writes several times per week on a variety of topics, many related to living in L.A., others about raising 3 daughters on her own or balancing work, family, and a social life.  On the surface, Ms. Banks and I don't have a lot in common.  I'm from another generation, Doug and I raised our children together, I'm retired (yippee!), and I'm not African-American.  But her words resonate with me so often that I like to think that we'd have a great old time having coffee together and just yakking.

Last Saturday, Sandy's column was about a letter written by her mother, Ruth, in 1941 to a younger sister.  The letter was recently discovered by a family member and mailed to Sandy.  Ruth chats about daily life, socializing, looking for work, all things important to a young girl of 19 - fourteen pages of words!

Somewhere in the letter, Ruth wrote the following:

If you don't want to bother about reading all this it's alright; I'll never know the difference.  But it was on my mind so strong, I couldn't help writing it.

That's a bit the way I feel about this blog.  I love knowing that, somewhere, people are reading my words.  I see the names of cities, towns, and countries on the Live Traffic Feed and wonder - who is the reader, how did they stumble on my blog, will they return to read more?  Will they leave comments?  Please, please let them leave comments .....

I hope someone, somewhere is reading what I've written.  But if no one reads, that's okay, too.  I write because I like to write.  It helps me think.  It forces me to be creative.  It keeps the old brain cells oxygenated!  It proves that something was "on my mind so strong" that "I couldn't help writing it." 

If you'd like to read Sandy Banks' column in its entirety, and I encourage you to do so, please click here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yes - my house is back! And Resolution #3 ...

Doug and I spent most of the last three days undoing Christmas.  As much as I love to see the decorations come down from the storage bins in the garage, I smile broadly as they make their way back up into the rafters for another year.  I'm sure there are those who are saddened when the season is over, but I'm not one of them.  I'm no Scrooge, however.  I love Christmas and the joy of spending special time with family and friends.  But I'm a neatnik (some would say I border on the fanatical), and the extra "stuff" in the house starts to get to me after a week or so.  Today is a happy day - the house looks normal again.

One of our traditions is to watch the Albert Finney version of Scrooge at the end of the holiday season.  We saw this movie in Michigan in 1970 - our first Christmas as a married couple - so it has special meaning to us.  We watched the DVD last night after dinner.  I still smile at the "Thank You Very Much" scene!

I started the binding on the TLC quilt yesterday using Sharon Schamber's method.  So far, it's going well.  I definitely like the way she joins the binding strips and how detailed the video is (see this post).  The binding is on; the true test will come tomorrow when I try to sew the second side on by machine!  Normally, I finish binding by handsewing it to the back of the quilt.  With Sharon's method, the binding is completely sewn on by machine.  I tried this a couple of weeks ago following another blogger's method and was not particularly successful!  Sharon's method is more time intensive, uses glue, and is highly recommended by one of my quilting friends.  Keep your fingers crossed!  As the arthritis in my thumbs worsens, I'm looking for more ways to use the Bernina instead of doing handwork.

Now for Resolution #3.  About 30 years ago, my inlaws went on a trip to Asia stopping in Sri Lanka along the way (it was Ceylon then).  My mother-in-law fell in love with batik clothing and purchased dozens and dozens of skirts, blouses, dresses, saris, etc. to bring home.  We think she intended to sell them at the College of the Desert Street Fair but never got around to it.  When MIL passed away several years ago, I inherited this clothing as part of the "big clean out" of her house.  I've managed to sell a few pieces on eBay and Oma's Closet and at a The Oasis holiday boutique in 2008.  I even cut up three of the skirts and made handbags out of them!  But I still have two big plastic boxes of clothes in the garage.  Resolution #3 - by the end of 2010, all of the clothing will be sold, recycled into new sewing projects, or given away.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year - and Resolution #2

I hope everyone had a great New Year's Eve and Day.  We had our usual subdued New Year's Eve celebration.  For more years than I care to remember, we have stayed home and treated ourselves to a special dinner, a bottle of champagne, a movie, and toasting the New Year on Eastern Standard Time - 9 p.m. California time.  We don't party anymore!

Last night, we had crab legs (a first for us), rack of lamb, roasted asparagus (yum!), and baked potatoes.  Believe it or not, this was the first time either of us had had crab legs.  My sister and her hubby have them on a regular basis.  Doug and I enjoyed them and will probably spring for them again for a special meal - he opted not to make Beber's homemade mayonnaise so we just did melted butter.  The lamb was yummy, though it took a bit longer to cook than the recipe called for.  We opened a bottle of pinot noir and never got around to the champagne.

It isn't always easy for us to find a movie that appeals to both of us.  I like the new releases (and special effects never hurt).  Doug leans towards classics and war movies - the ones we've seen countless times and can recite all the lines.  Anyway, we agreed on the newer version of  "The Thomas Crown Affair" and did enjoy it.  How can I object to spending two hours watching Pierce Brosnan in custom-made suits?  Works for me ...

Spent most of today taking down the holiday decorations.  As much as I love seeing them go up, I adore seeing them come down.  This is part of the New Year tradition - let's clean up, clean out, and get organized!  Tomorrow we'll take down the tree and the Dickens Village display above the fireplace, get all the boxes up into the rafters in the garage, and breathe a sigh of relief that our house is back to normal.

No sewing today.  I really expected to start on the binding for the TLC quilt using Sharon Schamber's binding method.  Maybe tomorrow ...

Resolution #1 has gotten off to a pretty bad start.  I did not do any free-motion quilting today.  Let's hope that the other resolutions have greater success.

Resolution #2 is to listen to NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" every week.  The show is fabulous and I cannot understand why I got out of the habit of listening to it.  Try it - you will really, really like it!