Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's a small world after all ...

A few months ago, I battled my way through Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat.  The battle had nothing to do with Mr. Friedman's book or his writing style.  The battle had to to with my advancing age and decreasing ability to read non-fiction for a sustained period of time with any level of comprehension.  I take it slow --- very slow --- and stop reading when I realize that for the last 3 pages, my brain has been on the dim setting.

This is a great book, and I highly recommend it.  It may not be the book you want to take to Cabo San Lucas, but it is something that you should put on your "must read" list.

Although the book focuses on the global economy, business, government, and how technology has contributed to the flattening of the world, I couldn't help but be reminded how each and every one of us is affected by these changes.  I have an etsy store where I am slowly, but surely, selling the clothing that my MIL purchased in Sri Lanka over 30 years ago.  In the past week, I have made the following sales:

  • to a lady in Germany who lives near a town we will be visiting in September
  • to a buyer in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, the town where I was born and raised
  • to another buyer in Sterling Heights, Michigan, the city where DH and I bought our first home
Pretty small world, isn't it?  In each of these cases, I was able to instantly communicate via the Internet and share stories, memories, a piece of my life, with people who had been absolute strangers until our lives connected through technology.  Pretty amazing stuff.  It wasn't all that long ago that communication was via sailing ship or wagon train or pony express and took months and months.  Now we gripe if the download takes more than a few seconds!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Martini Nights

Last Monday was definitely classified as a "martini night" in our household.  After the shock of arriving at the Carlsbad house and finding the first floor flooded and the hours spent with contractors and insurance people learning how to deal with the problem and getting all the steps lined up, we were certainly ready for a Bombay Sapphire martini when we arrived home at 7 p.m.  Dinner was "fashionably late" - maybe 8:30 p.m.? - and consisted of a Bertolli skillet meal and a quick salad.  I love having these quickie meals in the freezer!

It was probably fortuitous that there was a great story on NPR on Sunday about martinis.  How timely.  If you have a minute, listen to this story.

DH has made many drinks for me over the almost 40 years that we've been married, but if you are someone who enjoys a good cocktail, there is nothing quite as soothing as a martini made with quality gin by a bartender who knows what he is doing - and my DH definitely knows how to make a good martini.

My dad was a martini drinker.  Mom always made his martini at 5:00 p.m. and placed it (in the glass) in the refrigerator to chill.  When Dad arrived home at 6:05 p.m., on the dot, he would give Mom a peck on the cheek and then go to the refrigerator for his martini.  Then, they would sit on the enclosed porch and go over the details of the day until dinner was served at 6:30 p.m. (never earlier, never later).  I guess part of the reason I enjoy our "martini nights" is remembering how comfortable my parents were while having these few minutes alone before kid time set in - baths, homework, etc., etc.

I'm pretty sure there will be a handful of martini nights before the Carlsbad house is back to normal!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The ABCs of Me

CJ has just shared her ABCs, so here is a little more about me.  This should be fun ...

The ABC’s of ME…………….
A. Age: 64… can't believe it.  When Mom was 64, I thought she was an old person.  I'm just beginning to fly!

B. Bed size: Queen - perfect size.  I have my own space, but it doesn't take a lot of effort to cuddle.

C. Chore you hate: Gardening.  I want a beautiful garden without getting my hands dirty

D. Dog's Names: Chelsea - gone to the great beyond!

E. Essential food item: Nuts - preferably cashews, but I'll eat any kind.  I'll sneak them into the house and hide them then I tell myself that I'll just have a few.  Hmmmm .... suddenly the whole jar is goneso.

F. Favorite color: Never have had a favorite color.  Am I bland or what?
G. Gold or Silver: Gold - have you seen the prices lately?  Hello?

H. Height: 5'3 1/2" (maybe)
I. I am:  the luckiest person in the world.  Loving husband, terrific kids, most beautiful grandchildren in the world, happy and healthy with a lifetime of wonderful memories ....
J. Job: Retired!  Hip, hip, hooray - I earned it and I'm going to enjoy it!

K. Kids: Matt & Sara - thank you for being the most wonderful part of my life!
L. Living Arrangements: DH and I live in a 55+retirement community in Riverside County, California.  Love not having to do the front yard landscaping - love even more knowing that my friends and neighbors understand when I can't remember their names!
M. M is for married - even after 40 years, being married to my best friend makes me smile.
N. Nickname: Have never had one.

O. Overnight hospital stay(s): Emergency hysterectomy = yuck!
P. Pet peeve: Ignorance.  Enough said.
Q. Quote from a movie:  Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
R. Right or Left handed: Right.
S. Siblings: One younger sister.  Much younger ....
T. Time you wake up: 5 a.m. if it's a good night.  2 a.m. if it's a normal night.

U. Unique thing about your car:  License plate says "GO R8DRS."  What can I say?  I'm a died in the wool Raider fan.  Doesn't go with my personality, but we all have our querks, right?
V. Vegetable you hate: Okra.  It's soooooooooo slimy ....
W. Ways you run late: Never.  Not in the genes.
X. X-rays you’ve had: Many.  Hope to not have many more.

Y. Yummy food you make: Homemade applesauce.  The whole house just smells so good ....
Z. Zoo animal favorite: Otters.  Aren't they just so playful?
And now - will YOU share your ABC’s?

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #5

I really like the way this one came out.  What do you think?

I had the grosgrain ribbon in my stash which matched very well with the fabric.  I used Wonder Tape to fuse the tiny, tiny edging to the back of the ribbon in order to get it placed correctly.  Then I used the Wonder Tape once again to place the ribbon down the center of the dress - edgestitched it all in place on both sides of the ribbon using my favorite Bernina foot, the #10.  (This was all done after the dress body and sleeves were appliqued to the block fabric.)  The decorative stitch on the ribbon is one of the built-in stitches on the Bernina 640.  I should have started the decorative stitch at the very top of the trim; but instead, I decided to do a couple of straight stitches before the first pattern.  After it was done, I didn't like the look so added the pearl button on the top.  I needed this simple dress after the apron fiasco!

Now I have to come up with another idea before the end of this week!  At our Oasis Quilt Guild meeting on Monday, we will be sharing the two dresses we made this month.  Then we get two more pieces of fabric the following week.  Fortunately, I was lucky to purchase a great book on sewing for children, The Complete Book of Sewing For Children, by Elizabeth Travis Johnson.  I will never sew any of these elaborate outfits for my grandchildren, but it is lovely to look at the pictures.  I've garnered a number of ideas for the doll dress quilt, plus it is a fantastic resource.  I find as I age that I want to take the time to do things right - I don't have to rush to finish a project.  I can enjoy the technique and the finishing touches now that time is not of such great importance.  Ah, bliss ....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why I love the USA - Reason #62

Today, I had a Greek pizza at the New York Upper Crust Pizza shop which is owned by a Korean immigrant.  The pizza was made by an Hispanic man, sliced by an African American, and brought to our table by a blue-eyed blond surfer dude.  Isn't this country great?  I think I love our differences more than our similarities.

Note:  Don't look for the first 61 reasons on my blog.  Just trying to catch your eye!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some days are just icky ....

We took off this morning for the Carlsbad house to fix the 3 toilets.  Not a pleasant thought ... but I took lots of reading material and some hand sewing with me since I don't do plumbing!  I was prepared for Doug to do a lot of mumbling as he replaced the innards of the 3 toilets.  Plumbing is not his favorite activity!

Doug's mom and dad had two houses - one in Palm Desert and one in Carlsbad - for many years.  The Carlsbad house was "her" house and the Palm Desert house was "his" house.  Since Mom's death 3 years ago, the Carlsbad house has been mostly empty.  We visit at least once a month - more often in the summer when we are trying to avoid the summer desert heat.  Dad has been reluctant to either rent out the house or sell it.  He just doesn't seem to want to take any action!

So, today we paid the price for his reluctance to have someone in the house full time.  We arrived at the house about midday.  As soon as the garage door went up, I realized that there was water in the garage.  The lower level of the house was totally flooded.  Apparently, a pipe broke in the laundry room and water poured into the first floor - who knows how long it had been flowing?

We spent the next several hours on the phone with the insurance company, flood specialists, etc.  We moved all the furniture out of the first floor.  The flood specialists will extract the water, remove the carpet, and start some sort of process with fans and dehumidifiers to get the moisture out of the house.  Then the big work begins.  They need to remove the baseboards, some of the wallboard where there has been moisture damage, insulation where moisture exists, etc., etc., etc.  This is not a pretty picture!

We'll never know when the leak started.  Thankfully, we chose this day to visit the house!  I think this process will go on for weeks if not months.  The good news is that the house will be recarpeted which it desperately needs.  The bad news is that we'll be in charge of all this work.  Oh, well.  This is what families are for, right?  You do what you have to do ....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind ...

Health care reform ... yippee!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Question: When is enough enough? Answer: Maybe never!

Like most avid sewers, I have more than one sewing machine.  My Bernina 640 is my machine of choice, but I also have a Featherweight (that I do not use nearly enough) and my MIL's Pfaff 130, which is actually only a decorative piece in our home - shame on me.  Note to self:  Get Mom's sewing machine cleaned, oiled, and use it!

Then there are the machines that I lust after:  the Bernina 830, a really good serger and someone to come and teach me how to use it, my Bernina 150 that I never should have sold ..... sigh.  Oh, and every antique sewing machine that I see with a sticker that says "works great!"

Check this out:  This blogger has lots of sewing machines!

If I had (1) a huge house, (2) my own sewing room with a door that could be locked, or (3) a separate sewing studio (you dreamer you), I would definitely be a sewing machine collector.  I especially like the machines dating before 1950.  They have so much character!  I did own a treadle machine once.  I "inherited" it from the Peace Corps volunteer who lived in my house in Zinder, Niger, before I did.  She sewed on it a lot and tried to teach me how to use it, in vain.  I wonder if that machine is still there?

My daughter decided not to have a living room in her house but to use that space instead for a playroom since she has 3 children under 4.  A living room would be unused.  Hmmmmm ...... we only use the dining room once a year at Thanksgiving.  Wonder if I could convince DH that an expanded sewing room made more sense?  Not likely .....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Hope you are enjoying your corned beef & cabbage (and green beer, of course)!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This is not my Africa

We went to a travel lecture the other night.  The speaker went on a trip to East Africa several years ago and took 1200 pictures!  Fortunately, she trimmed her photos to 600 for this lecture and slide show.  She is probably a better traveler than photographer, but I enjoyed the photos nonetheless.

Over 40 years ago, I served for two years in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Niger in West Africa.  I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to a handful of countries including Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Chad, Senegal, Sierra Leone.  (Note:  Some of the names are different today due to political changes since the 60s.)

My experience as a Peace Corps volunteer altered my life in so many ways.  It made me a better human being, better citizen, better wife and mother, better friend.

It also made me quite sensitive to how little the average American knows about this HUGE continent!  So, when the speaker spoke in general terms about "Africa" and "Africans" based on a visit to three countries in East Africa, I was one unhappy camper.  Imagine how we would feel if someone visited New York City and Washington, D.C. and decided that those cities represented all of the United States?  YIKES!  Do travellers who come here to see the magnificence of Yosemite and Yellowstone believe that all of the U.S. looks the same?  Of course not!  So, why do people continue to talk about Africa as though it is only game parks and LandRovers, elephants, gazelles, lions and cheetahs???  This is not my Africa .... this is my Niger.

Look at this map.  It's a very large land mass, isn't it?  Yes, the game parks must be gorgeous and seeing animals in the wild quite a thrill.  But there is also the Sahara Desert, the exotic city of Casablanca, the gorgeous high-rise buildings of the Ivory Coast towering above the shoreline of the Atlantic, the pyramids of Egypt, Lake Tanganyika, Mount Kilamanjaro ..... and on and on and on and on.

We are all Americans, but a New Yorker is not the same as a Texan.  A farmer from Iowa is very different from a casino dealer in Las Vegas.  And a nomad crossing the Sahara is far different from a banker in South Africa.
Okay, off the soap box for tonight.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #4

Adding the ruffle on the last dress gave me a great feeling of success and accomplishment.  So, what did I then do to myself?  I immediately decided that making an apron would be a cinch and just oh-so-cute.  Others in our group have made aprons and pinafores - even little vests.  How hard could it be?

Not really hard, but not really easy either.  The biggest problem is that it is LITTLE.  This project brought back memories of making doll clothes for my daughter's Barbie 30-some years ago.  It was  difficult enough to do way back then, but now that the arthritis years have set in, working with something this tiny is not a piece of cake.

I can just about guarantee you that this will be the only apron on my quilt!  I think I may even have used the wrong side of the white eyelet fabric, but I'm not taking this baby apart.

The next dress will have simple embellishment.  I need to wait for another burst of energy before getting into something complicated!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #3

So far, this is my favorite of the dress blocks that I've completed.  I've got the system down for white collars - use fusible interfacing under the fabric then fuse both those pieces to the dress.  There is still a little show through, but not nearly as noticeable as it would be without the interfacing.

I almost gave up on the ruffle!  Getting the steps to the "process" was the hard part for me.  I'm a visual learner, so I often have to actually work through steps before I discover what the problems are!  I'm also a perfectionist (darn) and insist on no unfinished edges.  I cut the ruffle twice as wide as I wanted it to be, folded it in half and ironed it.  In order to finish the short edges of the ruffle, I turned in a very scant 1/4", ironed it flat, then carefully opened up the fold and used fusible tape to secure the ends.  Then I gathered the ruffle and pinned it to the dress, right sides together, exactly as I would if making an actual dress.  (The dress already had the fusible webbing on it, and I had cut out the pattern.)  Then I attached the ruffle to the dress.  Only then did I fuse the dress with ruffle attached to the block fabric.  I used the buttonhole stitch along the purple fabric to applique so that the ruffle remains free from the background fabric.  Gives it a little dimension, I think.

There will be a total of 15 blocks.  I don't know how the heck I'm going to come up with 12 more designs!!!!  By the way, the January/February issue of Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting magazine features a doll dress quilt using pre-printed dress block fabric from Anna Lena.  I may have to adopt some of these embellishment ideas for future blocks.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sad news for a news junkie!

ABC News recently announced that all of its bureau offices in the US would eventually be closed with the exception of the Washington, D.C., bureau.  As noted in an article in the Los Angeles Times, the number of correspondents will be halved and the network will instead rely on "digital journalists."  This saddens me.  I love technology and would be unhappy without my computer, cell phone, digital camera, GPS, and computerized sewing machine!  But I am disturbed at the continuing changes in news reporting both in print and on the air.

How many magazines have closed up shop?  How many smalltown newspapers are no longer published?  How many radio stations are now silent?  I know enough economics to understand the "bottom line" and that profits are necessary.  Except for NPR and PBS, subscription and advertising funds are fundamental components of the news business.  When viewers and readers disappear, so does advertising revenue.  Cutbacks are inevitable often followed by going-out-of-business sales.

Those of us who still get our news in a non-digital way, i.e., holding a newspaper in ink-smudged hands, are left with fewer and fewer sources for news.  This is not good for a free democratic society.  It limits the amount of coverage a story receives and certainly has an impact on the "voice" of the coverage.  We currently subscribe to two newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Press-Enterprise.  More often than not, the coverage of the identical news event has a different tone in each paper even if the base source is The Associated Press.  A critical reader gets a more complete picture by reading both papers.

Now we'll be getting our news from "digital journalists."  They won't go to an office and brainstorm with other reporters, editors, and columnists in the newsroom.  They won't have the benefit of staffers - the researchers, copy editors, and assistants who form the backbone of a news organization.  They'll be freelance writers unable to collaborate with other reporters on investigative reports closely monitored by editors who insist on verified sources and corrected errors.  Are we in danger of seeing these virtual reporters clammering for ratings and modifying stories to make their pieces more marketable?  Are we likely to see reporters join the rash of book authors whose tales are questionable, untrue, or plagiarized?  (See this article on Charles Pellegrino's "The Last Train From Hiroshima" the latest book to be challenged for its veracity.)

The news tonight is not good for news junkies out there.  Stay tuned.  It might get worse.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #2

One of the more interesting aspects of this project is watching what the other gals in my quilt group are doing.  Most of us have the newer sewing machines/computers with great decorative stitches, so a lot of the dresses showcase these stitches.  Members who love to do hand embroidery are exercising their skills and putting cute little flowers and vines on the collars of the dresses or stitching along the hems.  A few have made vests, aprons, or even purses of their own designs.  We're not ready for Project Runway yet, but we're having fun!

I  had a great time with my next attempt at dress design.  First, I really liked the pink fabric.  Then, one of the ladies brought in scraps from another project and offered them up for grabs.  I think the tiny red flowers go perfectly with the dress fabric.  Adding the red heart buttons gave it an extra splash.  So, I'm feeling more confident as a designer.  My dresses won't be too "cutesy" since that's not my style, but I'm trying to push for creative thinking.

What I really, really like doing is buttonhole appliqué by machine.  It suits me to a "t" - precise, even, controlled.  Makes me sound pretty dull, I know.  Oh, well.  I yam, what I yam, what I yam as Popeye used to say!

The best book I have in my library on machine appliqué is Harriet Hargrave's Mastering Machine Appliqué.  I bought the 2nd edition used, and it was a terrific investment.  I highly recommend this for your library if you are a quilter or even someone who might put a cute appliqué on a child's or grandchild's garment.  There are lots of pictures for all types of appliqué techniques.  The step-by-step instructions for turning corners and curves are invaluable.  It's even spiral bound so that it can sit right next to the sewing machine as you work.  Check it out from your local library to see if it appeals to you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #1

My Oasis Quilt Guild decided to undertake this quilt as our group project for 2010.  I knew from the get-go that this would be a challenge for me.  I follow directions very well.  Creativity and imagination, however, are stretches for me.  But, what the hey?  If I don't stretch myself now, when?  There are only a couple of decades left for me to be stretchy, right?

So I signed up for the project.  We all agreed to use the small scale fabrics that are so popular now.  Each month, two of our members purchase fabric and give pieces to each of the 15 who have signed up for the quilt.  On the month you purchase fabric, you do an extra block to contribute to the quilt that we hope to raffle off at the Temecula Quilt Show in October.  We'll give half the money to charity (as yet to be determined) and keep half for our coffers.

I decided to do the fusible applique method for my quilt.  Just the thought of 15 blocks of needle turn applique made my thumbs start to ache!  Not going to happen.  I have used fusible applique on a couple of small projects successfully.  I wasn't prepared, however, for the challenges of using fusibles on a project that depends on embellishment.  I've spent hours and hours figuring out what goes on first, where to put the fusible, etc., etc., etc.  Not to mention my renewed acquaintance with "unsewing."  Hmmmmm ....

There are several patterns on the market for doll dress quilts; I chose the Darci's Dress Up pattern from Quilted Quickies.  Here's Dress #1:

The pattern has 3 applique pieces available:  the body of the dress, the sleeves, and a collar.  I actually made the dress for the group quilt first and had a bit of a problem with "show through" on the collar.  (Forgot to take a picture of that one.) I've since learned to use a fusible interfacing on light-colored fabric to prevent show through.

I decided to go without the collar for this dress.  I like the bows on the sleeves, but I'm not too happy with the rick rack.  Others in my group have used the baby rick rack which seems more appropriate in scale.  And the clear buttons don't show up too well.  But the dress is done, I learned a lot, and I'm keeping it!

By the way, I love doing the buttonhole applique stitch on the Bernina.  This dress was finished before the Bernina went in for her repairs.  I had played around until I had the stitch specifications exactly perfect for this project and saved the stitch to my personal program - the one that got completely wiped out by the replacement of the S board!

If you want to see some really cute doll dress creations, take a look at the Freckleberry Farm website.  You'll be awed!