Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Last night I decided to work on a quilt. I worked on "piecing" it together and finished in one go. Oh, okay, so it was a quilt puzzle.

I used to do a lot of puzzles. Sometimes alone or with my kids while we watched television in the evening, sometimes with my mom out at her place. But since my mom has moved away and I quilt, which I think has a lot of similarities to puzzle making, I don't do puzzles very often. I don't have the time. Or rather, if I'm going to spend that sort of time on something, I'd rather piece together quilt blocks and end up with something permanent for my efforts. But last night I was feeling a bit "under the weather" and so it was pleasant doing nothing much useful. They do say that puzzle making is good for keeping one's brain sharp as we age though, so I guess it was a teensy bit useful.

I've been working on my tan and pastel scarf and I finished it tonight while watching American Idol. I was a bit apprehensive when I first started it that the yarn wasn't really right for scarfmaking, but it ended up very soft and comfy. I like it.

It's a nice size, thick and wide enough to wear with a coat but not actually as large as it looks in this photo and so it's nice to wear inside (it was -4 degrees last night and supposed to be just as cold tonight!) because it's not so long that it will fall forward into the sink or my coffee or whatever I'm trying to work on. The green of the bathroom walls skews the color a bit, it's more accurate in the photo below.

I wanted something in brown and beige neutrals. Adding the pastels makes it less flexible in my wardrobe, but I like how it came out. I like how knitting it horizontally made these unusual vertical rows. I switched colors somewhat randomly and I also left the fringe in random lengths to add to the raggedy look.

I still have to make something in only neutrals. Maybe a darker brown. I just couldn't find any browns I liked at the time. I also want to find a really fuzzy, soft white and make a white scarf. I haven't worked on the gray mohair scarf because I decided to rip it out and start over again on the circular needles I used for this scarf and make it a twisted cowl instead. So, that's next.

Oh, and being a night owl has a few perks. Late, late, late at night.... or if you'd prefer, early, early, early in the morning, I discovered our cable channel DIY airs a show called Knitty Gritty. Check it out, they have patterns and videos of the shows online. They also have a quilting, general crafts, and a scrapbooking show as well. I don't want to stay up so late on a regular basis, but I'll try to set it up to video tape so I can watch the shows at a more reasonable hour.

Friday, January 25, 2008

York Minster Gargoyles

I'm trying to finish up the Photolog of our trip to Europe. It's coming up on two years this May so it's time to wrap them up. Originally I was showing the more artsy photos here and the touristy ones over on Beach Treasure but the last handful of posts I've just put them all up over there. You can find them all on Beach Treasure by typing in "Holiday Photos #" and they should all pop up for you. I put some up about a week ago and more today. I hope to remember to post them even more often in order to get through them all. Go see.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's been snowing on and off, on and off, for what seems like forever. I posted a couple of photos and waxed on about it on Beach Treasure yesterday. I can't remember what a sunny day feels or looks like. Still, I'm not complaining. Some winters I feel the need to work with bright colors to offset the winter gloom. But not this year. At least not yet. I'm sure I'll be yearning for green eventually but for now I'm enjoying these soft, monotone landscapes. In fact I'm feeling compelled to do a small quilt piece based on the muted colors of the season. To that end, I turned the heater on in the studio this afternoon so that it would be warm enough to work in when I got home tonight from dinner out with the family.

I did get into the studio and it was warm enough (with a sweater) but I hadn't realized I'd left it in such a mess still from all the holiday visitors. There was no way to even reach my fabrics, much less a clean surface on which to spread them out or do any cutting. So, unfortunately, my enthusiasm was thwarted.

The good news, I didn't just turn off the heater and go watch television. No, I stuck it out, sorting and cleaning. (Well, I did turn on the television in the studio while I was working.) Got almost everything organized into piles. I still have an hour or two in front of me getting each of these piles into the appropriate storage boxes. I might not have actually done any art but at least I'm moving in the right direction. Even though it's not perfect, once everything that's sorted is stored away, I'll at least be able to reach most everything in the room, including my fabric.

I don't have any photos of my cleaning efforts, but I can share these I took this evening.

This little fellow was all fluffled up against the cold.

I particularly like the very subtle changes in background color behind the lace foreground of lacey branches.

Monday, January 21, 2008

If you pop on over to Beach Treasure for a minute and check out the photos I put up today, you'll see why our family is mostly lounging about, cuddling in our new Minkee blankets.

Charlie and Mongo have the right idea. Keep warm.

I haven't been doing much creatively. This whole month I've just felt like hibernating with that aforementioned new blanket, a stack of books, and a big pot of tea wrapped up in it's own warm cozy. So that's mostly what I've done. Oh sure, I've done some grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, even some cooking. I've got the holiday decorations almost all packed up and ready to be dragged back out to the garage. As you can see, I haven't done much blogging.

It just hasn't felt like the beginning of a new year bursting with creative possibility yet. It feels more like a time to lay fallow, a time to wait for it to get a bit warmer before trusting any seeds to survive the germination process. Creatively, I've settled for snapping a few photos and then wrapping back up in my blanket to do a bit of knitting. Totally basic stuff.

I started this fuzzy, gray mohair scarf and then set it aside, perhaps to finish, perhaps to pull apart and use the yarn for something else. Or maybe pull it apart and try it again on smaller needles. It's looser than I wanted it to be.

Instead I started this. Not sure if you can see it well all scrunched up on the circular needles. It's a cotton scarf knit horizontally instead of vertically, if that makes sense. I'm using the two yarns to make an uneven vertical stripe, making it up as I go along. I almost pulled it apart after the first six rows or so as it felt too stiff, a bad choice of yarn for a scarf and the reverse of the gray yarn, knit too tightly. It was hard to tell since I couldn't stretch it out, so I decided to treat it as an experiment and keep on knitting. I'm thinking now it will be fine, it's more pliable than it was, but it's certainly different than a fuzzier, softer yarn. When these two skeins are used up, that's how thick the scarf will be. We shall see.

Monday, January 07, 2008

With the BIG STORM (see news coverage of your choice for Northern California) and all the power outages we've been having, I've got a hankering to do me some knitting the last few days. I mean, one can only read by candlelight for so many hours. Knitting by candlelight isn't completely easy either but I figured as long as I didn't attempt anything with a pattern, it wouldn't matter.

So, a scarf. I've discovered I'm lacking a few colors in my scarf wardrobe - purple (although since I rarely wear purple, this is probably not a problem - although now that I've said it outloud I think it will bother me that I don't have a purple scarf - damn), beige and/or browns, and white. Yellow too, now that I think about it. Double dang. Moving on. I had a skein of fluffy white yarn I'd bought a couple winter's ago to make a scarf and hat (I know, I can't make both a scarf and hat from one skein - I was going to make the scarf and go back for more yarn for the hat) as a gift for someone. But then that someone went and bought themselves a matching white scarf and hat set so that blew that idea out of the water. I kept the skein anyway because it wasn't worth the trouble to find the receipt to bring it back for a couple of bucks. I decided to find this skein of white yarn and make a scarf for me.

Looking through a monster pile of craft supplies for ONE white skein of yarn in the dark with only the pale, low battery light of a cheap flashlight isn't a particularly useful way to find anything. (Note - one of my 2008 resolutions is to get all my craft supplies organized) I didn't find the white skein but I did find a bag of beautiful mohair yarn I bought in assorted colors to make all the girls ponchos a few years back when ponchos were in style. Of course I never got around to making all of them and now ponchos seems to have gone back to the style archives where things like shoulder pads and midriff shirts are lurking (and waiting - shudder) - although surprisingly enough, leg warmers seem to have come out of hiding again. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, so I didn't make the ponchos. Well, I did finish one and then my mom said "If you're pretending you made this for Lisa and you're saying we're about the same size so you can measure me for her but you really are making it for me, well, I'm sorry honey but I wouldn't wear something like that." So. Uhm. Yeah. And I've got one started for myself and halfway through hit a point where I could take a left or right turn and make a shawl or scarf instead of plowing straight ahead and making a poncho and I can't decide and so there it sits at the intersection of indecision. But ANYWAY, I have all these other lovely colors, including three multi-color skeins in a white/gray/black palette. I don't have a gray scarf either. I pulled it out, found myself a pair of pretty wooden needles and started a scarf.

I've started it twice now. First time I realized after several rows that it was wider than I wanted it. Ripped it out and started over. Now I'm about five inches into it and think that it's a looser weave than I'd like. I'll probably start it over again tonight on smaller needles. Or maybe... now that I think about it, maybe I did eventually return the white yarn and maybe I'll go back to Walmart (only place in town that sells yarn, sorry to say) and buy myself some fuzzy white yarn and make a white scarf after all. It will be easier to see in the dark if, knock on wood, the lights go out again.

I just did another daylight dig through my supplies, both in the studio and garage, and I'm pretty certain that I did return that yarn. What a mess. What a lot of stuff. This leads me to the uncomfortable thought that maybe another resolution for this year should be not to buy any new supplies until I've used all the stuff I already own - a noble idea that I know to be doomed even as I type this, and which I would pretend to start after going and buying a skein of white yarn anyway, but which might still be a good resolution to make with the understanding that the objective is to see how few times I can break it rather than trying not to break it at all. Hmmmm.

Well, anyway. I'm off to Walmart to buy some white yarn.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Back in November I discovered a lovely new (to me) blogger, Susan, of Black Eyed Susan's Kitchen . She was having a little.... well, not so little actually... raffle. All you had to do to enter was leave a comment. Well, I was going to leave a comment anyway but LOOK! I won the raffle!

She sent off this entire box of lovely books and magazines. They arrived before the holidays went into full swing but I've been so busy that I only tonight had the opportunity to pull them out and start browsing through them. The Tiffany Table Settings is very retro, fun to browse just for the "history" of it. Crafting Vintage Style has several craft patterns in it that I'd hoped to find online and now I don't have to go to the bother to find them. I'll probably read the magazines next - I've never even scene a Canadian House & Home magazine before - probably because I live three states away from the border. And I'm saving the best for last, I love flea market and junk crafting - LOVE it. Thanks Susan!

You might think you've seen this next photo before but, au contraire. I did show you my holiday mantel earlier but I've added something to it.

The VERY large candlesticks. It's really hard to get a proper perspective on the size of them here. They're really more like pillars than candlesticks - about 28" tall. They aren't specifically holiday themed but they were in the clearance sale of holiday items at my favorite decor shop in town. Even on sale they were pricey but I really loved them and they're perfect for the mantel. They look fantastic with the decorations but they'll stay up after I take down the rest of the glitter and gold. They're too tall to put candles atop them - I'm thinking of adding glass balls or maybe drape some fake grapes over the top.

The angels face each other. This one looks left.

And the other one looks right. There really isn't any of the gray this photo shows, I think it just looks like that from the flash reflection. The color matches my tall new lamp perfectly. Aren't they beautiful!?

Another winged creature to show you, this sweet little fairy. She was a teensy bit pricey before Christmas so I waited and got her at half price after Christmas.

Our holiday family/company have all finally departed and soon it will be time to dismantle the decorations. I used to take everything down on New Year's Day but for the last decade or so I've waited until Jan. 6 so we could relax and enjoy everything after the crazy activities were finally over. Some years even later. Somewhere I read that it was tradtional to burn the holiday greens on Imbolc, known to most folks as Groundhog Day, so nowadays I figure I've got until at least the end of the month before it becomes an urgent task.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I wanted to put up a post over at Beach Treasure with my New Year's reso...I don't like the word "resolutions"... let's use the word "goals". Resolutions have a bad reputation for being forgotten, abandoned, and embarrassing. Goals on the other hand seem more a useful and helpful selection of purposeful direction. Not only is it a new year, but in a week's time it will be my birthday, I'll be 51. I've always liked how my birthday falls neatly in the start of each year, no troublesome need to keep track of calendar years and biological years separately. I decided a year is long enough to figure out the territory in the second half of a century, it's time to start working towards some new accomplishments over here.

The problem is I've had a house full of family and activities for weeks and weeks on end and I haven't really had any down time to speak of, in which to reflect and choose some new goals and directions. Sometimes I feel like Pooh Bear, who finds thinking requires great effort, and who is easily distracted by pots of honey and visitations of friends and fearful thoughts of heffalumps and woozels. I am very much in need of some uninterupted peace and quiet at my very own thinking spot.
Until I find that time, I thought I could at least make a list of creative goals I'd like to throw into the arena for consideration. How much I'll acomplish this year will depend greatly on which directions I choose to go. I'm still undecided how much time I want to spend hanging out with WORDS and how much time I want to buddy up with IMAGES. It's like having two very dear friends battling to be given the title of BFF (Best Friend Forever). I don't want to choose. But I don't know how to split my time between them and they tend to bicker and wrestle between the two of them. About midway through last year I'd had just about as much as I could take and I made a pronouncement that I wasn't going to allow myself to be pressured to make a decision just yet. I would spend my time as I pleased with both, or either, or neither, with no expectations. I'm still in that floating undecided place.

But let's pretend, just for this one night, that I have unlimited time. A time turner perhaps, like Hermione, so I can take all the classes at Hogwarts and I don't have to choose. With a time turner I could make all sorts of grand goals.

A Wish List of Visual Art Goals for 2008

I want to spend less time buying supplies and more time using them.

I want to get my supplies organized enough so I can actually FIND them when I need them.

I want to finish UFO's.

I want to join a few online swaps or challenges that will help me stretch and reach out beyond my comfort level. Just enough swaps to be fun, not so many that I'm stressed for time or lose sight of personal projects.

I'm not at a point in my life where I feel the need for an organized artist's group but I would love to have a half dozen or so scheduled days or evenings in the year to get together with a friend or two and create together. My daughter-in-law is usually up for this sort of fun. My friends Shelly and Shirley would be fun to create with too, if only we could fit our schedules together somewhere!

Still going with the fantasy "anything is possible" goal, I'd love to create a body of work large enough to show at our local county arts council. On a more realistic level, I'd like to create enough work to at least participate in a group showing by the end of the year.

I'd like to select, enlarge, and frame some of my favorite photography.

I'm not much of a class taking type, but I'd love to go on an artist's retreat.

I'd like to feel free to create simple crafts without guilt that I should be making something "fancier" or more "sophisticated". Just plain ol' FUN time - bring out the pom poms, Elmer's Glue, poster paints, charm squares, and popsicle sticks.

I'd like to finish (finish being a relative term as a home is always an evolving space) the decorating changes and upgrades I started in 2007. (This fits as both a creative goal and a more general, practical life goal.)

I'd like to learn some new techniques.

I'd like to make time to visit more art museums and galleries. Since I'm fantasizing, I'd love to visit artist's studios as well.

Of course the time turner would make it possible for me to visit all the inspiring blogs I wanted and still have time to shower, clean house, and cook delicious and nutritious meals every night for my family. (snort! now we're really talking fantasy!)

I'd like to get back into sketching and painting.

I'd like to paint some murals in my home.

I'd like to knit, quilt, make textile art, photography, collage and assemblage art, altered books, garden art, and art dolls. Oh yeah, I don't want much. And of course, write a novel or two and travel extensively and remodel my home and gardens and read all the books I want on, ad infinitum.

I'd like to (ideally, magically with no effort whatsoever) learn how to use Photoshop. If that doesn't work, I'd like to take a class at our local community college that helps me learn to use it.

I want to make at least two fantastic costumes for myself for the Faerieworld Festival.

I want to spend more time reading my art books and magazines instead of just stacking and restacking them after cat attacks.

I want to have more work to show and share here and I want to create an ever more inspiring and welcoming blog that will keep me in touch with all the wonderful artists in the Blogging world. Yes, each and every single one of you. So, like, now I'm like Santa, with magical powers to visit the entire globe in a single night. Only unlike Santa, who only attempts it one night out of the year, I'd like to do it at least once a week or so.

Okay, now I'm just being silly. Time to call it quits for the night. It's getting late and my brain is becoming even more Pooh-like.

So. What are your creative goals for this bright and shiny new year?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I made myself a pot of tea this afternoon. Chocolate orange truffle black tea, one of the many wonderful blends I brought home this summer from a little shop in Ashland, Oregon called Alchemy Botanicals. I spent a happy hour browsing their wall of bulk teas, filling little bags with samples of Chocolate Orange Truffle, Redwood Chai, Moonlight Spice, California Fields, Leaves of Provence, Pear Caramel, Rose White .... I'd give you a link to the tea but unfortunately I don't remember the company name and the little label stickers on the bags only have the name of the shop on them.

I discovered the shop a few years ago on one of our trips to the Shakespeare Festival and the moment I walked through the door I felt like I'd passed through a time portal. It smelled like the classrooms and gardens of the California School of Herbal Studies, where I spent a lovely summer apprenticeship many long, long years ago. Talking with the owner of the shop I discovered it wasn't a coincidence, she had also studied there. Ahhh, good memories. Anyway, back to this afternoon's tea...

I needed it to stay warm for awhile since I was cleaning and puttering, so I used the new tea cozy my mom sent to me. Isn't it pretty? I really like the style. I've never seen anything like it before. I've seen the old fashioned "toaster cover" style that simply sits over the tea pot but not under it, like the ones shown here. And the popular gathered version that you have to "dress" your tea pot in, like these. This one is slightly different. It has a bottom and is pulled together on the top like the gathered version, but is less fussy to fit. You simply set your tea pot inside the two sides and slip the elasticized band over them to keep it together. It seems to keep the tea warmer than the toaster style but is easier to use than the gathered style. My mom said they came in two sizes, I think this is the smaller of the two sizes.