Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy April Fool's Day!

Groupon's got an extensive section on April Fool's...including some tricks you can use for playing tricks!

For me, this day has extra meaning, though: it's my dear Pa's birthday. He's been gone more than two years now, and no doubt, is getting salt in his sugar bowl up in heaven...again.

    Happy Birthday, Dad -- I love you. See you soon.

An Archaeological Find

Early Christian books discovered in a cave...some experts suggest they may be the most important Biblical era discovery since the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Great Links

*The Awkward Dollar -- a weekly Q&A column on questions people would rather not ask! (Or, I'd posit, rather not hear a truthful answer.) This week: a girl who doesn't see anything wrong with dating one guy "seriously" and accepting dinner and entertainment from another. After all, she's not serious about Mr. Moneybags! Part of Money.com's Bundle program -- worth stopping by. (One of my guilty pleasures: paging through their 'My Confession' posts.)


*Mark Bittman's food column. Bittman has put out several books that are downright practical, emphasize simple techniques and using fresh food. Shoot, he's refreshing, on his own.

*Simple Dollar's biweekly 'Mailbag' post: wherein readers wrestle with questions that range from practical to downright chuckleheaded. I always learn something, but in addition, gain some sympathy for the boneheaded choices people make -- then try to get themselves out of. Don't miss out on the reader comments -- they're often the best part.

*And something you and I may both regret: hooking up with Seattle Pastry Girl, a blogger who posts the most incredible chocolate-based pastries, cookies and other yummies -- photos and recipes. Her latest post features a ganache-style chocolate cake, and connections with Chocolate with Francois. Oh boy.


Off to the races -- the wind is blowing up...but not a storm. Just our typical spring weather. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hmmm...

An old guy is busy stitching on a quilt -- made of women's panties. His favorites are the ones he's wheedled out of women friends, giving them what he calls "weird sentimental value." Sez he:
     As long as they're nylon or acetate, rayon or silk. No polyester! I don't want them CHEAP, dollar-store, not-sexy, farmgirl panties. I want classy. Silk or nylon. You know, sexy. Victoria Secret.

Okayyyy....

I did see an absolutely gorgeous quilt top-dressed with lacy women's underwear. It's maker told me she stitched on the frilly, elaborate stuff she'd always wanted to wear -- but could never fit into. (She was quite slim...perhaps we women never feel small enough.) This was a great piece -- and it won a number of national prizes.
    I also came across a funnier version, paper-pieced, of 'tighty whitey' style blocks.
    This guy's quilt is more a part of the National Department of Weird. (Although this piece, commissioned by Frank Zappa, leaves his in the dust.) The man himself looks like he might be a charter member of that august institution...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

See if You Can Read This...And Not Laugh!

Read my other post today, and you'll see why I'm getting a kick out of ChildWild's comments here. Long story short: kid comes up, waving a toy sword that is obviously not hers. She notices one of Mom's friends, who has hurt her knee and is temporarily using Friend #2's wheelchair:
    

“Why you rolling?”
“Well, I injured my knee and…”
Points at chair. “That’s Bonnie’s.”
“Yes, well, I borrowed it from her. That sword belongs to another kid. Did you borrow it?”
“Yes. I borrowed it.”
“See? Sometimes we borrow things from our friends.”
“Did you have to punch Bonnie?”

Behave Yourself!

...more snow when we woke up -- it's gone now. Chilly air, blue skies.

I just got done doing an appraisal for an older gentleman...who wasn't. He's come here before for appraisals, and is very funny and engaging -- but by the time he left, it was clear --
    he'd been hitting on me the entire time. 
    Flirting, not-so-subtle invitations to lunch, dinner...grabbing my arm, saying he'd do anything for me (and he emphasized the word anything again, just in case I didn't get it.) Where was the nice, polite man who'd showed up here before?
   Whoa.
   Luckily Husband wasn't here. He takes a dim view of such things, thankfully, and usually takes care of the matter for me. Forcefully. While I was fending off this guy (and trying to finish up the appraisal), I kept thinking, "Who gave you permission to behave so badly?"

It's not just him. Airline people can treat you horribly. Like this mom, who was told her five-year-old would be perfectly fine, sandwiched in between two strangers. Ditto her two-year-old. By a U.S. Airways flight attendant. (Thank God for Southwest -- I love those guys. They really seem to understand that we're just regular people, trying to get somewhere with a modicum of discomfort. I travel quite a bit, and have never been treated any way but politely. When Husband got sick and I had to cancel my flight at 2 a.m. in the morning, they were completely understanding. Hooray for Southwest Airlines!)
     Someone can shove in front of you in line. (My favorites were while waiting to get off the ship during a cruise. A family literally stepped in front of the Mama and my dad, pushing them out of the way, then acted surprised when I called them on it.) The deli, popcorn at a movie theater. They'll run red lights or swerve around corners, then shrug when you (hopefully) miss them.
     Or my own favorite, the kids who are acting bratty in the restaurant. (Sorry, Momotics. I've had to eat my supper in the car, because Daughter #1 wouldn't stop screaming and thrashing around. It goes with the territory. And they do grow up eventually.)


Back to work. Who ever knew appraising could be a (near) contact sport!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Green Chili Fries, The Fighter, and Dealing with Crazy Monday

...we woke up to snow on the ground. But it was gone as soon as the sun came up. We flatlanders don't have much to say about it; the mountains have had snow off and on for the past week. 
   Don't tell that to my peas -- they may not want to come up.

   Went and saw The Fighter last night, with Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, etc. Other than the constant use of f----, the totally unnecessary sex scene, and the boxing (ergh - blood, snot and sweat everywhere), it was an amazing movie. The story was good, and inspiring, but the real surprise was Christian Bale. I have never seen a man (other than maybe Russell Crowe) so totally reinvent his speech, mannerisms, even the way he walked and looked. He made himself over into Dickie -- and we liked him, in spite of ourselves. Wow! No wonder he won an Academy Award for this performance. (Wahlberg's "mom," Melissa Leo, did, too. Although Wahlberg's own performance was good, he was essentially the same guy he played in Invincible.)
    Come on. Ask me why, if I hate boxing, I went to a boxing movie! It was my friend's birthday present -- she got to choose the movie. Her next request: go see The King's Speech. I am puzzled how such a basic idea was made into a movie -- and why in the world would it have beat out such amazing pieces like Inception. But hey, life's short. I'll go.

Aunt Purl's dealing with some craziness in her life right now, and is asking for advice. (Don't miss the readers' comments -- they're the best.)
   One of my favorite ways to deal with it: green chili fries. They're crispy, crunchy...and at least you feel like you're getting SOME nutrition -- not to mention all the Vitamin C generated by those chilies. And a big pot of green chili comes in handy for several other dishes. I may have to make some now for supper! (A later P.S. -- I did. It's simmering now.)


GREEN CHILI FRIES, COLORADO STYLE

1 1/2 - 2 cups green chili (try a canned version -- Hatch brand, from the area in NM famous for its chilies, is terrific. Or make it yourself. A classic version is here. Some purists like a little tomato added, for color and flavor -- others say it has to just be chili verde.)

2-4 cups already prepared french fries (baked or fried)

1 cup cheddar cheese
chopped onions
sliced jalapenos

That's it. Have the french fries and green chili piping hot. Quick, pile the fries on a platter, and pour the green chili over. Throw on the cheese and garnish with onions and jalapenos. Eat with an icy Coke, or a beer. (Or do it Elvis-style, and substitute cream or sausage gravy for the chili.)
    A batch of these, plus a good movie (or, in Husband's view, an NCAA basketball game), and life is worth living again. Even on Monday.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

See the Birds -- Tuppence A Bag

Want to see an eagle pair raise their fledglings...live?  Go here. Amazing.

I enjoy the Excel Energy live bird cams, too, because they show the nests at night, as well as in the daytime. Kestrels, eagles, owls, falcons, ospreys in multiple locations.  The only drawback: these are live photos, refreshed regularly, versus the live stream of the other cam. Fascinating, nonetheless -- especially at night, with the owls. (They do it with infrared cameras.) These nests have been documented for a number of seasons.


The wind has been getting more blustery by the minute, and the air is sharp. I figure there will be snow on the ground when we wake up tomorrow morning.
  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Updates

Things are getting worse in Japan. A breach in one of the nuclear reactors has definitely been confirmed. What would we do if this was happening in the U.S.? I can tell you one thing -- a heck of a lot of people would be headed to Peoria to stay with Aunt Betty...

The fire near us has been 70% contained. (I know -- as if you care. But it's important to a lot of people in Colorado.) I wish I could say the same for the fire in Golden, not far away....it's still burning, but seems to be staying away from people's houses. (The current policy is to let 'er burn, if possible, if it's in wilderness.) It is sooo dry here right now. We're supposed to get rain and/or snow tonight. Still really windy. As in 30-50 mph gusts.

And I'm going to a salvage store!
   I'd heard about Palumbo's Friday Store from a news report on salvage places. However, it's in north Denver -- and it's only open on Fridays and Saturdays. I'm headed north to see Daughter #1 in Denver, then on to Boulder for lunch with Daughter #2, whose boyfriend's mom is in town for a visit. I'll stop at Palumbo's on the way home, and give you a report.

Oh yes, and Lindsay Lohan is still in big trouble, what with smacking staffers with phones (now a reopened criminal investigation), and 'borrowing' expensive necklaces.

I realize none of these have anything to do with each other -- but hey, it's been that kind of disjointed week. Talk to you soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fire!!

Daughter #1 just called: "Are you ok??" Turns out there's a HUGE grassfire just a few miles away, and it's moving west. See more about the Franktown fire here, including dramatic video.
    I haven't been outside much, to notice any smoke. Besides that, it's very overcast for the last hour or so. Hard to see much of anything.
    Thank God the wind, which has been rattling anything and everything, has died down. And it's beginning to rain.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Part Two

...but it's closer to this here in Colorado. At least, for now!




Our trees aren't spring-blooming yet, but they're definitely getting interested.
Promising clumps of leaves are popping up all over...I just noticed the first strawberry leaves peeking up. (Weeds too, darn it.) Peas have been planted since St. Patrick's Day, and the replanted (thanks to Charley) spinach bed is doing ok. Baby plants are poking through in the greenhouse -- think the tomatoes will stay in there all summer long. (Our nights are just not sweltering enough to make them happy in this high 6250 ft. altitude. Not that I'm complaining about that.) 
    If you enjoy gardening too, try Dirt Du Jour, the compilation of a group of gardeners who post about everything from petunias to lawn art. (They focus a bit too much on California and upscale stuff for my taste, but I still learn something every time I visit -- so it's worth it.) Some practical articles, from gardeners who are out there digging now, can be found in the Denver Post section on gardens.
I found this bushel of tips from readers helpful, too.

   It's looking sunnier today, both inside and out. Yesterday, I felt the weight of the world bearing down. (Did you guess that?) Not that much has changed, but today, somehow, it seems better. Maybe it's the daffodils smiling out from the blue glass on the worktable, or the straw Easter bunny nearby Husband seems to think psychotic. (He does stare a bit.) Some chores done. (More to go). I don't want to end up like this troubled guy.

   No matter. Life goes on. Thank God, it goes on.

Cherries in Snow

The Mama tells me her part of Michigan (near Grand Rapids) is looking like this right now...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sobering Advice

Some interesting (and terrifying) comments for the Japanese, from one of the few surviving 'cleaners' at Chernobyl:

What message do you have for Japan?
Run away as quickly as possible. Don't wait. Save yourself and don't rely on the government because the government lies. They don't want you to know the truth because the nuclear industry is so powerful.


Read her full interview here.

Another Quilting Friend Gone

Judy Hopkins, of Douglas, Alaska, died earlier this month.
     You may not recognize her name as quickly as some, but you've been influenced by her work -- she was one of the first to really highlight the advantage of the rotary-cutting technique in quilting. She published with That Patchwork Place/Martingale, and was a good friend, teacher and mentor to quilters since the 1970s. Find out more about Judy, and get a free copy of her mystery quilt pattern, Blockaid, here.
    Thank you, Judy. We'll miss you.

Toting Up the Small Stuff

It's Spring Break around here...but Husband, who works for the school district, can't take time off. Three reasons: some important work that needs to get done, still-lingering bills from his hospital stay back in September, and the worst cut of all -- when the district made budget cuts a year ago, Husband was in the rank of employees who automatically lost any kind of paid vacation.
   That makes for a lot of days staying in the office, working -- even though you'd love to be anywhere but there. And the break would do you good.
    He feels restless. Heck, I feel restless. There are so many little things to finish up and take care of...and I would rather be hanging out on the beach in Panama, or heading to Ireland. Why in the world are we still acting like responsible adults -- when we would both much rather cut and run?


    It helps a little to go through the bits of progress we've accomplished over the past months:

*all our bills paid (except the hospital one, which we continue to whittle at)
*regular payments (not huge, but regular) toward Daughter's college loan, and an IRA
*payments to the missionaries we support, as well as our 'son' through Compassion
*the tires and computer we needed to buy -- all paid for. Ditto car repairs.
*enough in the emergency fund to cover a month's expenses
      (I would rather beg for nickels on the boulevard than touch this money)

On the small side, we have plenty of food...including just-purchased packs of yogurt which were close to free, thanks to marked-down prices plus doubled coupons. (Score!) The garden's begun -- and if Charley can keep his paws out of my newly-planted spinach, we should have fresh greens in a few weeks.
    A beautiful tapestry club chair, snagged during the local thrift shop's 50% off sale -- $17.50 total. A down jacket, high end label, found during same:  $5. (You'll find some especially helpful thrift shopping ideas here, including clearing away your own flotsam and jetsam.)
     A huge batch of incidentals, including a metal display case ($5) and electric stapler ($2), gathered during the last day of the Great American Quilt Factory's sale. (I haven't stuck with my recent 'no-buy' resolve...but it's been due in part to incredible sales like this.)
    Steady book sales from Brickworks. Especially Hanky Panky, with many customers ready for the soon-to-come sequel. (Nothing to sneeze at -- whenever we have any kind of national disaster or world catastrophe, our sales automatically go down. Katrina didn't just devastate the South.)
    Both Husband and yours truly are currently healthy. We don't need any new clothes or shoes. Our families are reasonably ok right now. No one's in a crisis, or trying to borrow money.


All good things -- and in the long run, comforting. But I would still rather be in Panama.
How about you? Are you feeling the same way?




Monday, March 21, 2011

One of the Strangest (Delicious) Recipes Ever

Want an easy fix for tonight's supper? I adapted this from the Phony Gourmets, on a dare. Ridiculous. No way this could taste good, I thought -- I was wrong.


CHICKEN SUB ROSA

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped chicken, cooked or not (or one large breast, cut up in chunks)
2 tablespoons chopped onion
small can mushrooms (or 3-4 fresh ones, sliced thinly)
1 1/2 cups water, plus a chicken bouillon cube (or 1 1/2 cups chicken broth)g
Totino's pizza (I like the 'three meat' kind, but whatever floats your boat)

Saute the chicken and the onion in the olive oil a few minutes, then dump in the mushrooms and water/broth. Let simmer a few minutes; pour in the bottom of a pie pan or 9" square pan. Place the pizza upside down on the chicken mixture, then cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.; uncover and bake 10 min. more for a crunchy top. Serves 2; double for four.

What you get is a crunchy, savory sort-of potpie that does not taste like pizza. Veggies can be added to the chicken mixture...or serve them on the side. Husband loved it! I am amazed to be saying this, but I'll be making this dish again. And again.
(P.S. The PGs used snapper, instead of chicken, but that sounded fishy to me. Ork, ork.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gold for Sale

A 100-ounce gold nugget is going up for auction...want to own it?

They're saying it could sell for as much as half a million dollars. In case you're wondering, it was found last year by a man in Nevada County, CA...who happened to be grading a road through his property.

We just got our own gold -- our first daffodil bloomed yesterday, a bare 24 hours after a snowfall. Charley celebrated by digging up a garden box full of spinach seedlings that were doing wonderfully -- the little bugger. Only a few plants survived. That means replanting and putting the box up even higher -- hopefully that will do the trick.

As I've been typing this, the news is saying that at least one of the nuclear reactors in Japan is now "out of control"...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

Two interesting sites on the Internet this blowy, breezy Friday --


A before/after set of photos from the earthquake in Japan -- courtesy of ABC News. (thank you)
   (The 'after' photos are there...just run your arrow over the photo, and the 'before' photo shows up. Unsettling.)

and on a much lesser scale: 9 uses for Coke...besides drinking it! 
(Thanks much, Money Crashers)

I was especially surprised by its grease-removing properties. She poured a can of Coke on a very old grease stain, let it soak -- and the stain came out. I've gotta try this!
    She didn't mention the explosive properties of Diet Coke and Mentos, though.  :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Me Irish blood would not be appeased without a mention of this special day. The corned beef and cabbage is simmering away in the slow cooker, and we'll have a bate of Irish tea with it for supper. (Not the soda bread --  I am not a fan of mucky cooked raisins.)
     If you're looking for a wonderful book, try Brendan O'Carroll's The Mammy, an often-funny story of a stall keeper and her seven children, and how they fare. (I just laughed and cried my way through The Chisellers, which follows the family as they grow up -- downright terrific. The Granny is next.)
    Or an Irish-themed movie might be just the ticket, if you don't have the funds to head to Galway or Dublin to celebrate. A huge list of possibilities is here -- though we'll settle down with my own favorite, The Quiet Man.

An Old Celtic Blessing

May the blessing of light be on you—
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great peat fire.


Doing It for Free

     Yesterday, I emphasized the importance of getting what you're worth. After I wrote the post, however, my guilty conscience reminded that Sunday's lecture at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum didn't gain me a cent. Was I talking out of both sides of my mouth?
      Nope. The difference is that you should be choosing when you do your work for less -- or nothing at all.
      In the case of the museum, I believe in it very much, both as a (new) board member, and as one of its appraisers (also done for reduced fees). I've been doing volunteer work for it since the mid-90s, as well as some teaching now and then.
      If you're in the Denver vicinity, take a look. You'll love the exhibits (currently it's a wartime quilts one curated by Sue Reich); there are also books and other goodies. And a great Chinese restaurant and bikers' bar is only a block away! More about the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum here.

     The point is: if you choose to work for little or free, you're 1) giving your skills and gifts to a good cause, and 2) you don't feel taken advantage of. Also, the people you're doing it for -- especially when you emphasize how much you'd normally charge -- tend to actually be grateful. (This isn't always the case if they come looking for you.)
     It's not bad to do it -- just do it on your terms.

* * * * * * * * *
The last day of business for that wonderful quilt shop, the Great American Quilt Factory, will be Saturday this week: March 19. (Ironically, it's also National Quilting Day.) Fabrics and such were down to 50% discount when I visited on Sunday...there's not much left.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting What You're Worth

If you do a job for others -- writing, teaching, babysitting, cleaning, whatever -- are you charging what you should? This post argues that we (especially women) often shortchange ourselves...and then sigh about how we're underpaid. And put up with it. (Thanks for starting me on this, Personal Finance Advice.)
    I had to learn this the hard way when starting my business, Brickworks. I would take any job, and when asked about my fee, gave them the lowest amount possible. (And I didn't ask to be reimbursed for mileage, room or meals, either.)
    Result: I was constantly behind on my own bills, and had to take from our family bank account to pay for business expenses.
    Ami Simms, a good friend and colleague, came to stay for a visit -- and I poured out my sad tale of woe. She looked at me strangely and said, "People understand money. If you charge little or nothing, you're saying that's what you're worth. People expect to pay for quality." She then urged me to double my fees!
    I would have said she was nuts -- that no one would hire me if they had to pay so much. How in the world could I keep on teaching, if I didn't get any gigs?  (Bear in mind that I wasn't a rank beginner at this point. I'd spent years teaching and writing in the quilting world. Four years at Quilter's Newsletter were under my belt, and I was getting ready to certify as an AQS appraiser. My first book, the Fabric Dating Kit, was close to being published.)
    In the next few years, my teaching gigs -- and income -- roughly doubled! Ami was right.

It's not that I've become Little Miss Perfect in this department. What I charged as a quilt restorer was way under what it should have been. However, I've been doing better on that recently. (I rationalized the lower fees on the grounds that I was teaching, and needed to 'keep my hand' in the techniques, totally ignoring the fact that I'd been doing it for more than 25 years. An appraiser buddy who also restores rebuked me -- and I deserved it.)

Take a look at what you charge for your hard work. Are you experienced? Are your skills better than average...or expert? Do you have certification, training, references? Are you asking at least the average of what people in your area or region are?

If not, then ask yourself why.


   

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aimless...Sort Of

I'm here...having trouble concentrating. But (slowly) keeping on with what I need to do.
     I washed Buck's least-worn blanket, so Charley can use it. As Buck's other blanket and pad went into the trash, a little part of me whispered, "Bye, puppy." It's hard. I'll be ok. So will Husband and the girlies, and even The Mama, who loved Buck, too. But right now, it's hard.

Heading to the quilt history group who meets monthly at the Creative Needle in Littleton, CO. A bunch of us get together, analyze styles, look at samples, and talk our heads off about quilts, blocks, and textiles in general. It's wonderful...and strangely comforting.
     If you live in the Denver area, you'd LOVE this group. It's free, thanks to the kindness of Marge, Creative Needle's longtime owner. I don't get to be there as often as I'd like...other guilds and groups meet on the second Tuesday of the month, after all. But it's worth it to get there when I can. You should, too!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Puppy is Gone

Buck died this morning.

    He has been slowly failing for the past few months. We almost lost him while I was in North Carolina teaching -- but somehow he managed to keep his shaky limbs going. He even seemed to be getting a little better, though it was clear he couldn't see much, and heard even less.
    Last night, he kept asking to go outside -- and wouldn't come back in. Finally, Husband sent Charley out to fetch him back. (Charley's been acting as nursemaid, helping Buck find his way around.) I think now that he was wanting to die out there...we both heard an odd thump early this morning, but I thought it was just the boys wanting go outside. (They don't go by time changes, after all.)
    Husband found Buck laying on his side by the coffee table, one of the places he's accustomed to sleep. He didn't look as if he'd struggled, thank God.

    We buried him in the herb garden, not far from Goonie. True to form, I plan to plant two 'green' puns: I'll transplant some mint, because Buck was "worth more than a mint." And eventually the raspberries will reach his grave -- because he was "the berries." (He would just look disgusted at me for being so silly.)
    Charley seems to understand that Buck is gone. He sniffed Buck's last rest over carefully -- then the spot where he laid outside while we were digging. Finally, he went and checked the grave over. ("Just as long as he doesn't try to 'rescue' him," Husband said.) While we were talking, Charley came over and pushed his head between us, asking for loving.
     We needed it, too.
     Buck was somewhere past 15...16 1/2, I think. Ancient for a Weimaraner -- they rarely live even to 15. He had been in poor health. He was tired. But he, along with his housemate Goonie, was a loving part of our lives for almost fifteen years. We will miss him so much.
     Sleep now, Mama's baby puppy. We love you.

 Buck, considering his quilting options.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Husbands, Beware!

...Husband just marched through the house, setting clocks and announcing it was "now 12:30." This, from Mr. Night Owl, who enjoys the thrill of staying up even more than I do. It's the annual time change, and he wants to Go To Bed.
   Well, fat chance -- I still have work to get done, dishes to load, and I need to pack for tomorrow's lecture at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. Wanna come? It's going to be on handkerchiefs and hankie quilts. Meet me (and everybody else) at 3:00 p.m. at the museum -- stat. The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum is in Golden, CO, just a hop, skip and jump out of Denver. Click on the name to get the address for directions.

Speaking of Husbands, you might find this little trip to the Doghouse very amusing -- and instructive!  (Here's Part 2, when you're ready.) I never got a vacuum...but I did receive a humidifier once for Christmas. (Based on the shape, I thought it was a sewing machine. Silly me, expecting that from an engineer type!) Have fun.

Welcome Home

See if you can watch this and this reunion without crying -- I couldn't. I am so proud of our servicemen and women who serve our country -- they give up a lot for us.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Need a New Desk?

One of the nicest (and easiest) desks I've ever seen -- made out of old post and pallet wood!



It's eminently practical, too -- those boards are easily moved to route cords, etc. through. WOW.
   Here's the how-to...and take a minute to read more of Donna, aka Funky Junk Interiors's, posts. She's incredible.
   And if you're still feeling creative, take a look at this -- making bows out of magazine pages. Easier than you think, and boy, are they cute! I rarely use that word, but it sure applies, in this case. (Thanks so much, How About Orange.)

Praying For Japan...and the IRS

No, I'm not advocating praying for the IRS. But we need lots of prayer when dealing with that august institution!

    If you've been online today, I'm sure you've been watching the results of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and elsewhere. If you are a person of faith, take a moment to pray for these people. I believe strongly that our combined prayers can comfort and aid them. (And if you can do more in other ways as well, of course, yes...)

* * * * * * * * * * * *
And -- an easy online tool, thanks to you-know-who, for checking on the status of your tax refund. Go here, and put in your pertinent info -- voila, you'll know if it's on the way.
    Not that we're even close to having the taxes done yet! But hopefully you are...

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another Quilting Friend Gone

Jean Ray Laury died on March 2nd. She was 82. 
    I only knew Jean from a distance until recently. Her quilts had a huge influence on those of us who began quilting after the Bicentennial years. (It was 1984 for me.) But what I found most refreshing was her range of talent, her creativity and willingness to experiment, without getting all hepped up if it didn't gather the glitzy approval of her past work. Best of all, her honesty and lack of pretension.
    She was, quite simply, who she was. 
    When my book, Quilts of the Golden West, was in progress, I couldn't help but think of Jean's painted/stamped quilt, "Girls of the Golden West," which I had loved for a long time. Could it be included? Sure, she said -- and went far out of her way to make sure we had a publishable photo. Then, after the book came out, she wrote the kindest thank-you note. I was the one who needed to thank her!


Her obituary, from the Fresno Bee:

Fresno artist Jean Ray Laury, a key national figure in the renaissance of quilting during the 1970s and 1980s and an internationally known fiber artist and author, died Wednesday. She was 82.
The cause of death was respiratory complications, said her husband, Frank Laury.
A memorial service planned by Mrs. Laury will be held in the near future, he said.
Mrs. Laury's work was a staple of the local arts scene for decades.
She had two solo exhibitions at the Fresno Art Museum and participated in numerous group shows throughout the area. More recently, she had a retrospective exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in 2004.
Jean Ray Laury Born: March 22, 1928
Died: March 2
Occupation: Artist
Survivors: Husband, Frank Laury; son, Tom Laury and his wife, Ritva Laury; daughter, Lizabeth Laury and her husband, Mike Brown; and two granddaughters 
Her most recent local project was an installation at the new headquarters of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust: five 9-foot banners that depict, in alluring colors, the array of plants, wildlife and other inhabitants of the river region. The project took two and a half years.
"I can't imagine any commission that could be more fun or more rewarding than this one," she told The Bee.
A graduate of Stanford University, Mrs. Laury developed an international reputation in the world of quilting and fiber arts, and traveled as a guest lecturer, including to Australia, Belgium, France, Norway and South Africa.
In 1999, her work was included in a Houston installation titled "America's 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century."
She was one of "30 Distinguished Quilters" selected for inclusion in the 2002 International Great Quilt Festival in Tokyo.
Mrs. Laury wrote more than 30 books, many about the fiber arts. But her interests were wide-ranging. She wrote and illustrated children's books. And in a 1977 work titled "The Creative Woman's Getting-It-All-Together at Home Handbook," she tackled a pertinent issue among female artists.
One of her suggestions: turn the family dining-room table into an artistic work space.
"She was an instigator in getting women to realize they could do their own creative work while still maintaining a household," her husband said. "Many women wrote saying how much that book made a difference in their lives in terms of doing creative work."

    Thank you, Jean, for your influence on my life -- and many others. I'm so glad you were here.

In the Heat of Passion

 That title got your attention, didn't it!!
   Actually, I'm talking about the excitement of Buying Things. This blogger is starting to realize that the thrill of the chase (and subsequent purchase) is more important to her than the actual item. (Go here for her post. Thanks, Liberal Simplicity!)

   I seem to go through boom-and-bust periods in this department. I won't buy much for weeks, except groceries and dog food, then BOOM -- in just a few days, I've purchased quilt tops, sets of blocks and some books 'for research purposes.' (How often that excuse gets trotted out, I don't want to admit.)
   Sometimes it really is needed, like an antique postcard for a book illustration.Or the glass tiles destined for our kitchen backsplash. (They were on sale. Okay...I admit it. They're still sitting in the delivery box.)

   Sometimes it's business stuff. Books to restock inventory and fabrics for kits, for example. We need the books to sell -- and we'll need the fabrics eventually. I'm being sensible in the latter: Cotton fabric prices are rising, due in part to drought and crop failures in the Far East. By the end of the year, they'll really be up. An informal report's here; a more formal one, here. (When ABC News is warning consumers to 'brace themselves,' I get a little worried and stock up.)
     This was only reinforced during my North Carolina trip last week; during a visit to Mary Jo's, one of the local hangouts, the store owner told me their prices were all going up 50 cents a yard in the next few days. That doesn't seem like much, until you realize that fabric prices have been steadily creeping up for the past few years, with no end in sight.

     The crux of the matter, though, is that item may be a great buy -- but do we need it? If there's a great sale at King Soopers or Safeway, is that so important if my freezer already is stuffed with 'great buys' that, if pushed to the back, will just get freezer burn and be thrown away? 
     So, unless the price is fall-down-incredible, I've been avoiding the stores. Or trying to. It's hard to put back a 75% off Valentine's box of chocolates, or walk away from a silk shirt at the thrift shop. (In case you're wondering, I bought the chocolates -- but put the shirt back.) There's the battle in my Hollander heart: how can I not buy it, if it's a 'bargain?' Isn't that the plan -- to save money? (The fact that you save even more by not buying it seems irrelevent in the heat of the moment.)

    March and April are perfect for a challenge. No birthdays in our family (with the exception of Dad, who will be celebrating April Fool's Day in Heaven). No travel plans, except business. No expensive commitments. Can I keep my purchases to a bare minimum -- groceries (and not a lot of those, the freezer's still full), dog food...and maybe underwear? (Those cotton prices, after all.)
    I'm going to try. Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Feel Boingy Today??

This zany t-shirt war may be just up your alley.

Or if you prefer pillows...

The Sun Is Out!!

...not that it doesn't do that about 300 days of the year here in Colorado, but we were starting to wonder.

    Pretty much all of the snow is gone, as is our woodpile. The daffodils are poking out inquisitive green leaves. The dust has turned to mud, a welcome change. And the spinach in my greenhouse is sprouting like great guns.
    By this weekend, it's supposed to be in the 60s around here. Go figure.
* * * * * * * * *
A post-on-the-way-to-another-post eventually led me to this one: on how to make -- and keep -- promises to yourself.  (Thank you, Pick the Brain blog.) It got me to thinking about the deadlines, and commitments, I've tried to set for yourself. When I put a date on something, am I really taking it seriously? Have I honestly thought about how much I need to get done each day, in order to accomplish that goal?
   I have a big writing job in progress -- deadline: April 1st. Instead of dithering until the 20th or so, then working day and night to accomplish it, I am trying to set at least one hour aside every day -- without fail -- to work just on this project. I've also been:
    *Keeping cooking easy (like making double the amount, and freezing some for later)
    *Trying to tidy up as I go (so no big messes get in the way, and need extra time to clean up)
   *Minimizing my trips out to do errands and such (doing three tasks in one trip means time saved traveling)

Hey...this might also lead to good use-of-my-time patterns all year round!
   Back to work. Here's hoping your world is coming into spring, too. Finally.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Notes -- On the Way to Other Notes

I've just got a minute between jobs, so thought I'd update you on what's happening around Chez Brick.
    Got home at 1 a.m. Sunday morning, after a fulfilling (but computerless) time with the Charlotte, NC Quilters Guild people. (Hi guys! Pat and Alice, thanks for schlepping me around the fabric stores and thrift shops!) They were so gracious and kind to me.
     One of the big college basketball tournaments was in town, which made for interesting hotel mates. I have never sidestepped so many overly tall guys in the hallways before.
     The trees in North Carolina were bursting with bloom, like big oversized snowballs. Beds of daffodils, too. Lucky they're not here -- we've had snow the past two days. They'd be freezing their pistils off. 

     Note on the previous post (about talking extra loud, if someone's not speaking your language): Daughter #2 had a Japanese lady interrogate her for an hour at the boutique where she works in Boulder -- but the lady, with the exception of "This discount price?" spoke only Japanese! When Angel didn't understand, the lady just spoke louder! (I guess Americans aren't the only ones to take this approach.)

     I'm trying to catch up with unpacking, laundry and biz stuff...our staffers were off most of last week, which meant things waited for Yours Truly. Am slowly making progress.
    Our beloved Weimie, Buck, has been terribly sick. He has some sort of vertigo problem, although in the past day, he's gotten better at wobbling out the door to do his business. He isn't eating or drinking much, and sleeping a lot. At 16-plus, I don't expect we'll have him much longer.
    Life goes on, doesn't it.

    It's about time for a new giveaway! It's about dingdang time. See you tomorrow

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

'Quilt Fever:' A New Video

Some of the prettiest quilt animation work I've seen in a long time...but even better, it gives you ideas for new designs. Take a look -- but be sure to keep a pencil and paper nearby, so you can take notes.

Gotta Put On My Travelin' Shoes

Tomorrow, it's off to Charlotte, NC, and the Charlotte Quilter's Guild. I feel the usual mix of restlessness, excitement...and a twinge of regret for having to leave Husband and the boys behind, even if only for a few days.
    I think I'd feel antsy today, anyways. Spring fever has hit, with a vengeance. So many places to go and do...so why are we sticking to our usual schedule of work/commitments? Because we have to act like adults, darn it.
    Donna Freedman's in England, learning more about 'hostel' Francais. (Tip: reverting to Spanish -- or speaking English extra loud, as if they were deaf, isn't going to help much when communicating. I tend to revert back to German, which is a big waste in places like the Baja.)
    Candace Freeland, who normally does wedding photography in Hawaii, has been on an off-and-on again trip around the world...oh, wondrous chance! Here's her video take on a taxi ride in Mumbai.  Check out her blog for photo visits all over, including Italy and Bali.
     And J.D. of Get Rich Slowly just got back from three weeks in southern Africa.
    North Carolina certainly qualifies in the 'Getting the Heck Out of Here' category. I only wish Husband could come with -- he grew up in Jacksonville, near Camp LeJeune, and loves it there. Hopefully the azaleas will be out and blooming.
     The sun is shining here in Colorado, but only a few iris have been brave enough to poke their leaves out yet. The mountains have been plastered with snow, giving them an iced-over effect, like a sugar cookie. But down here in the Flatlands, it's dry as a bone. The dogs give off clouds of dust when they're patted, and the dirt tracks its way into strange places. Ergh.
    I should be able to check in now and then from North Carolina...but just in case I can't, have a good week. I'll be back late Saturday. In the meantime...