"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, December 10, 2012

I just posted a tutorial for the above quilt on my longarm quilting blog if you are interested!  I hope to start quilting the top, tomorrow, and will post photos of how it turned out.

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quilts, Cones and Babies on the Way

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

It hasn't been a spectacular fall in terms of color, compliments of the two year drought, but I was quite pleased with how our baby Caddo Sugar Maples behaved.

I wouldn't be surprised if we had birds nesting in one or more of them, next year.

I've got plenty to be thankful for, this year, not the least is my health.  At this point in my life, I have the typical garden variety aches and pains but nothing particularly worrisome or surprising.  Feeling darn happy about that.

Also thankful about the spectacular news that I have two granddaughters on the way and expected to arrive in March of next year!  No,  not twins - Grandson Charlie is expecting a little sister and my younger girl, Katie, is expecting her first baby about a week later.   I am absolutely delighted, as you might imagine.

So Katie asked for a Dr. Seuss quilt that I whipped up to surprise her husband when they were in town for Thanksgiving.

Here's Katie:
She's just glowing.  So is her husband:
It is a joy to see them so excited about our little Ladybug.

Here's the Dr. Seuss quilt (not the greatest photos):

The fabric design was inspired by Seuss' book (and recent movie), The Lorax.  Robert Kaufman put out a line of organic fabric I picked up at the Fat Quarter Shop.

 I used a fat quarter bundle that contained a panel to make the top.

The colors were BRIGHT.  It was almost frightening but I was happy with how it turned out.

I was trying to quilt something that looked like the Truffala trees but it ended up looking a lot like a hurricane symbol.  Which is appropriate, I suppose, since I was working on it about the time Hurricane Sandy slammed into NYC.
 The backing is white and includes all the titles of Dr. Seuss' books.
I have quite a few other quilt ideas floating through my head for the little ones and need to get started if I have any hope of finishing them prior to their birthdays.

When last I blogged in September, Pearly was still struggling with the auto-immune problem that impacted her eyes.  At the beginning of August, both eyes started watering and she developed significant stains under her eyes.
The good news is that for nearly three months, her actual eyes have been rock steady - no sign of inflammation or anything of the kind.  She is seeing, if not perfectly, then close enough that you wouldn't know otherwise.  Her monthly labwork continues to look great and the plan is to either take her completely off the prednisone in December or, alternatively, cut the dosage in half to a minuscule 2.5mg every other day.  She'll still be on the azathioprine (immune suppressant).  As you can see from the photo, she still has significant stains from watery eyes but we think that is probably a result of the cyclosporine drops she takes.  With any luck, when she goes back to the eye doctor in January, he'll reduce the number of drops per day and the staining will improve, also.

Poor Evelyn.  She developed a problem with her, ahem, lady parts.  It was like a hot spot but no UTI.  Because Pearly is on immune suppressants, we don't like to expose her to other dogs if we can avoid it.  Accordingly, Mr. Wonderful took Evelyn to the vet and I stayed home with Pearly.  Evelyn had to take some antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for a week but she is all better, now.  They gave her the biggest cone of shame I've ever seen.
When they walked back through the door with that ridiculous cone, I didn't know whether to cuss or laugh.  I mean, seriously.  They told us to put that on whenever she wasn't being directly supervised.  Who would leave that on a dog when they were alone?  Poor thing kept tripping over it.  If she were outside and a gust of Oklahoma wind caught it, it would be bye, bye Evelyn.  Needless to say, it didn't get much use.

I finally got around to quilting a Christmas wall hanging top I made back in Virginia, three years ago.  The top has been hanging on my design wall out in the studio all this time and I finally threw it up on the longarm to finish it.  I still need to put a binding on it but am happy it's done.
I can't say I am all that wild about it but it is okay to put some holiday color on the wall.  The important thing about this wall hanging is that it was my first attempt at applique.
I also finished an orange and black pineapple quilt as a surprise for my friend (and avid Oklahoma State University fan), Kim:
Those kind folks who have followed my blog for a long time may remember that Kim lost her boy to brain cancer.  September is brain cancer research awareness month and the symbol is a gold ribbon.  This is what I put on the back to remind Kim that we haven't forgotten her beloved Caleb:
And while we're talking quilts, although it is a little tardy, I was delighted that I did so well at the State Fair Quilt competition this year.  I entered four entries, one in each of the following categories:  wall hanging, machine quilted quilt, pieced quilt, and art quilt.  I got a third place for the wall hanging and blue ribbons in all three other categories.  I was so pleased!
This is the photo used as a basis for the art quilt:
This is the art quilt:
 It was fun.
You'll note I used my embroidery machine, a little bit.

Hmmm.  Machine embroidery.  You know, the biggest new trend I've been seeing in quilting has been the explosion of using embroidery, often in place of piecing or applique.  That isn't how I make quilts but I hadn't thought about it much, one way or the other until a woman recently brought a lovely embroidered quilt top into the shop.  I oohed and aahed over it.  Usually, a quilter getting this sort of reaction will just melt into the floor like a delighted puppy.  If we could wag our tails, we would.  But in this case, the woman actually looked sheepish.  She insisted on telling me that it wasn't anything "she" did, rather, she just turned on the embroidery machine and walked away.  She didn't seem to have much pride or even ownership of the quilt.  She actually seemed embarrassed to get credit for it.  It wasn't a false modesty - it was that she just didn't feel like it was "her" work, apparently.  So like I said, Hmmm.  I have to think about that.  If that is how it "feels" to make a machine embroidered quilt, it is a completely different experience from what I have when I make a pieced or appliqued one.  I have to say, this woman's confession was kind of disturbing.  Perhaps that is just her individual experience?

And on a final note - Hurricane Sandy.  All three of my kids live in NYC and of course were affected by the storm.  Two of them lost power in their apartments for nearly a week.  Bill stayed with good friends on the upper east side, and Windy stayed with her sister, Katie, in Brooklyn.  Happily, they're fine.

I can't really describe my dread as I monitored the storm as it approached the city.  I had images of them drowning, or getting electrocuted, or attacked by looters, or freezing, or getting hit by a flying piece of glass or a tree (less likely in Manhattan than in Oklahoma, admittedly), or being trapped in apartments with no power, no elevators or bathrooms (or food).  The fact that two of my three girls are pregnant, and Charlie is just a toddler made me all the more concerned since they are especially vulnerable.   I even worried about their dog, Martin.  Would they take her down twelve flights of stairs to go to the bathroom?  And then back up twelve flights?  Would pregnant Amy be hauling Toddler Charlie AND Martin up twelve flights?  Would she collapse on the 8th floor, all alone with no way to summon help????  OMG!!  WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO CHARLIE????  He could wander around and BE KIDNAPPED!!!  I worried that Windy would get caught out in the storm and hurt.  Or ATTACKED!!!  What if Kate and Chris (who don't live in a flood area but are on the storm side of NYC) were flooded and drowned!! (They live on the second floor).  What if Bill or Chris went out to get fresh batteries and THEY were attacked!!???  What if Windy ate food from her refrigerator and it was spoiled and she died of food poisoning?  Or got sick and there was no one there to help her?   If there was something to worry about, I worried.

It is what I do.

I was wondering if I needed to just drive up there and get them.  Seriously.  It crossed my mind.

I am so thankful that they were spared the worst of it but my heart goes out to the ones who suffered the most - and their families who prayed the same way I did but whose prayers for their loved ones' safety weren't granted.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearly

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer's End

August has come and gone.  It remains one of my favorite months not only because all three of my children were born then, but because - like February - it is deceptively active in the natural world.  We've been collecting seeds from our Caddo (Sugar) Maples and Bur Oaks in hopes of getting some seedlings in the next year or so.  The wild animals are changing their patterns, sending their young off to fend for themselves, and the days are swiftly shortening.  Our neighbors have bellowing cows, next door, and I suppose they are weaning their calves.  The last of the fledglings have come and gone and I saw a migrating Yellow Warbler, last week.  Periodic shotgun blasts in the distance remind us that Dove Season has arrived.

As the summer ebbs and the night lengthens, I am far less likely to miss the sunrise.  I can sit on the patio with my morning coffee and no longer have to rush to beat the sun coming up in the east.   The August days are typically blazing hot (and this year, we set a record), but just when you think you can't stand it anymore, the cool winds start breaking through a few days, here and there.   Moreover, the shorter days mean that even when the temperatures remain high, the longer nights send the scalding sun to bed a little earlier.  As brutal as the summer can be in Oklahoma, when I lived in Virginia I actually missed the shudder of relief when the fall rains arrived and things cooled down in September.  It is like a good meal after going without - you know how delicious anything tastes when you've been hungry for awhile.
I recently began working at a LQS about a day and a half a week.  I've enjoyed the pure physical work that starts the instant you walk in the door.  Seriously, other than about a 10 - 12 minute break to gobble down lunch, you are moving for 6 - 7 hours - restocking, cutting fat quarters, straightening, waiting on customers, etc.   95% of the time, you are on your feet.  I am getting callouses on my fingers from folding fabric and was trying to figure out why my forearm was dry and scratchy (am I getting eczema? - OMG!) before it dawned on me that I rest my forearm on the table while I'm doing it.  The skin is just dry.  Duh.

I'd all but forgotten what it was like to not be the mistress of the moments of my day.  As an attorney, I had time to check the internet, head to the bathroom any time I felt like going, decide when I wanted to eat lunch, sit, prop my feet up, etc.  Retail is different and I haven't had this kind of job since I was a girl.  The first day my feet nearly gave out but since then it has been fine, although I am tired by the end of the day.  My knees aren't what they once were but bending and standing has got to be good for them, seems to me.

It has been an eye opener to talk to the owner and realize just how close the profit margin lies.  A theft here or there (and it happens, sadly), small by most anyone's standards, can wipe out her entire profit for a day.  People don't realize.

The customers have been a delight.  It is so much fun to see people come in smiling and enjoying themselves, often in semi-large groups or with a daughter or girlfriend.  This is the sort of stop ladies include when they plan a day out with the girls, treating themselves to lunch,  pedicure, etc.  Nice!  On a regular basis, you hear snippets about the sadness they might have going on in their lives - an ailing mother or husband; problems with a daughter; a son in trouble with the law; a grandchild caught in a custody fight, etc.  But the LQS is a place they come to leave that behind for a bit and recharge their batteries.  My very favorite is when a mother and daughter/two sisters come in who genuinely like each other.  So much laughter and affection!  I figure the mental health benefits of working with happy people, coupled with the physical exercise of being on my feet instead of, ahem, constantly in front of the computer, will pay off in health benefits no matter that the pay barely covers the price of gas to get there and back.

Over the Labor Day weekend, someone broke in by throwing a large rock through the front door.  They destroyed the cash registers to get the money and broke the lock on a storage cabinet, but didn't touch the fabric (are you SERIOUS???).  They left video equipment, a credit card left by a customer, an ipad and a laptop.  Go figure.  Although the front door was smashed, they took the trouble to relock the stubborn back door when they left.  Their take ended up being just over $200.00 and the owner had to replace the two cash registers and the door.  She also opted to contract with a security service.  Cost of doing business, unfortunately.
Pearly is doing moderately well, these days.  In August, she started getting stains under both eyes, for no apparent reason.  The eye doctor shrugged - no answers there but he wasn't concerned.  Then, she had a flare of her auto-immune disease when she was on 5mg of oral prednisone, daily, so the eye doctor increased her drops.  Within about ten days, her eyes had quieted back down so they reduced her oral prednisone to 2.5mg, daily.  For a few days, her eyes stayed very quiet but then, the little turd ate a dead toad and vomited for two days.  We believe she threw up all her medicine at least one day and perhaps two.  At any rate, her eyes went buggy although they didn't get red and angry looking.  The photo above is what she looked like.  It didn't seem to affect her vision and she has been in great spirits.  Her very high spirits have all but made up for the bad parts!  I fretted a bit but the internist said to keep her on the same dosage of oral prednisone.  After about three days, her eyes settled back down and look close to normal, again.  
They are still a little buggy but vastly improved from even two days ago.  Sometimes I wonder if this will ever end - will she ever get well or, for that matter, will she just go blind and the battle will be over?  God forbid.  We'll keep fighting for her sight.  So far, she's winning.

Evelyn went back to the doctor to have her thyroid tested after being on medication for a couple of months.  It was WAY high so they reduced her dosage to 0.5 mg, twice daily.  She's looking fantastic and the bald spots continue to be fill in.  Moreover, her coat - brittle, yellow, broken and dry not too long ago - feels so soft!
Awhile back, I bought some OSU fabric thinking that I might make some pajama pants for my youngest daughter whose husband graduated from Oklahoma State.  I changed my mind and decided to use it in a medium sized lap quilt for a friend who is a big OSU sports fan.  I'm making my favorite - pineapple blocks using the OSU fabric and a variety of blacks and whites.  Still have a ways to go but here are some of the blocks, in progress:
It has been a quiet draw down to summer in these parts.  The daffy weather from the past few years has affected other parts of the country more than us, at least this year.  We still struggle with extreme drought but the farmers tell me it was forecast two years ago so I can't say it was unexpected.  With any luck, we'll start to pull out of this dry cycle, this fall.  Fingers crossed! We actually broke a decades long record for a low temperature, yesterday morning.  Now, if the rains will just show up...

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl