Friday, October 30, 2009

My patchwork quilt

There is a story in each square of fabric. Pappa's soft gray flannel pants, Aunt Phoebe's favorite blue blouse, little Teddy's plaid knickers with the knees worn clear through, and Grandpa's old flannel shirt. Not my Grandpa, but someone's. The quilt passed to me from a stranger, it's story unspoken and unknown.

Each piece sewn to it's neighbor, by hand. By whom? Were they young nimble fingers or were they crooked and stiff? Did she sit in the lamp light in the quiet evening the rest of the house asleep and her work done? Was the quilt a gift to a daughter leaving home? Taking with her the memories of family who wore these garments and of the mother who turned discarded clothing into something new and beautiful.

How many shoulders did this quilt warm? Did it rest at the bottom of a narrow bed? Was it spread on a sunny summers field for a picnic? I don't know. What I do know is joy and warmth with this quilt on my lap as I gently add patches of my own, mending and healing the weakened cloth and loosened stitches of a lifetime.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Old Friends

The best feature of my charming old Arlington bungalow was the woman next door who would become my friend. Margaret and I had a lot of fun together. Sitting on my glider watching people drive by. Talking. Helping each other the way good friends do. Margaret came by my house every weekday and let my dog Emmy out in the yard. She brought in my mail. Sometimes I'd find homemade macaroni and cheese in the refrigerator.

We went together to get her Boxer puppy, Topsy. I prepared income taxes for her and her sister Ginny. I took her places when she stopped driving. It was hard to leave her when Bob and I bought a house together. Margaret's daughter moved her to Casper, Wyoming. I visited her there. Now she lives with her son, Lee, in Florida. Last weekend I flew down for a visit.

Margaret was 92 years old in March. She has beautiful blue eyes but she can't see to read anymore or to do those word puzzles she enjoyed. These days what lights up her eyes is Patsy, her pride and joy.

"I wouldn't take a million dollars for that dog," says Margaret. "No one has offered yet," I reply.

This warm and friendly smile belongs to Margaret's son, Lee. He is a dear. He takes her to the Cracker Barrel for lunch, he lays out clean clothes for her every morning, and he takes good care of her darling, Patsy, too.

This is Lester, Lee's 22 lb. cat. I didn't get a good photograph of him, but he gave my camera a good sniff. Margaret, Lee, Topsy, and Lester live in a well-kept senior community.

Leesburg's claim to fame is the annual Bike Fest attracting over 150,000 motorcycles. Downtown there is not a whole lot to see but I got a kick out of this sign.

On Sunday Margaret and I set off to a charming nearby town for lunch. We enjoyed the drive through the countryside and the interesting shops and homes.

We stopped in the Piglet's Pantry to buy gourmet dog treats for Patsy and to bring home for Oliver and Winston. They were trying to find a good home for a beautiful retired greyhound...tempting, but we have a houseful already.

I was surprised to see that Mount Dora has two daily trains.

"My friend Susan is visiting me today, where she is?" Margaret said scanning the quiet street. I looked at her quizzically. "How interesting. My name is Susan." We talked and talked like old times. "I wish you lived closer," she said. She kept looking for her friend. I realized that she didn't know me. Even if the pieces of our lives don't fit together the way they used to, I think she liked me anew and I loved her as always.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Critters

This is handsome JJ. He was my Dad's kitty but when Dad got sick JJ came to live with me. He just walked in the house and took over. When I brought my future husband home, JJ thought Bob was a special gift just for him. JJ is 15 years old and very loud, but sweetness itself.

This kitty hopped into cousin Marla's van while she was feeding feral cats. I visited Marla and fell in love with him. Back home, I asked Bob if he was okay with us adopting another cat. He was cool until he realized I intended driving to Cincinnati to get the cat - he thought I had lost my mind. "There are no homeless cats in Virginia? You need to drive 1,000 miles to get this cat?"

Is he gorgeous or what? We named him after Israel Kamakawiwo'ole or, IZ, the Hawaiian singer we heard in Kauai. We call him Izzy.

On the trails in Palm Desert, California I met hikers with dogs. Standard Poodles, Golden Retrievers, a million mixed breeds. Tall dogs, short ones, curly haired, wiry, pudgy, exuberant, stately, and gentle. Some panting, some barking, lots of tail wagging. I loved them all. "We need a dog," I told Bob. I searched for rescue organizations and came across Friends of Homeless Animals. I saw photos and read profiles (sounds like how I found my Bob on There we found Oliver.

Oliver is an English setter, specifically, a Llewellin setter, bred for hunting. He had lived outside before meeting us. He was suspicious of stairs. But he quickly settled in. Bob bought us a beautiful fence for the yard. Oliver smiled.

One day Marla called. She had found a kitty, a very special kitty. "You don't have to take him," she said, "But he is wonderful and I think you'd love him." My patient Bob said okay. The kitty flew Delta Airlines from Cincinnati to Dulles Airport. We named him Yo Yo Ma but Bob calls him "orange cat."

He has the best temperament of any cat I've ever known. He never scratches or bites, no matter what. He adores Izzy. He licks him, and sleeps near him. They roll and play and chase each other through the house.

Out of the blue, one day last summer, Bob mentioned that FOHA had another homeless English setter and "maybe we should go see him." He's my husband, right? He knows me. Maybe we should go see another dog? "Yes, sweetie, what a good idea, lets go see the dog."

I called FOHA immediately. We brought Oliver with us to meet him. We tried to walk around with him but he was scared and barking and jumping. One of the volunteers told us that he would calm down in the car and in the house. We brought him home. We named him Winston. He's a gentle soul. He's okay with Oliver being the alpha dog. He's a lover, not a fighter. He greets us with pure joy when we come in the house. We love him very much, too.

Five pets and two humans. I would like a goat. A few chickens. A pony, a cow, and some sheep. Bob says the Reston Association won't allow us to keep farm animals. He says that if he leaves this house it will be to a condo, not a farm. We're staying.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Skype Crazy

Have you tried Skype? It's sound and video communication over the internet. It's easy and it's free. Log onto and download their software. Enter the location you want to call. Viola! The first time I used it, I was sitting at the kitchen table talking with my friend, Victoria. It was sunny here in Reston, VA and nighttime in Hong Kong. I saw the city lights through her dining room window. She heard the birds singing in our backyard. Amazing. My husband Bob walked in the room and Victoria said "Hello, Bob." Startled, he looked at the computer screen. Victoria was smiling at him.

The photograph below is a screen shot I took during a Skype conversation with Victoria yesterday. That's my messy desktop with the Skype screen in the center. Victoria is behind the Jane Austen book. Can you see me in the lower left corner?

We are thousands of miles away and we can talk face to face. I can't tell you how wonderful that feels. Does this sounds like a Skype commercial? Maybe it is. I am in awe of the world we live in today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A goose in Mendocino

She had her eye on us. We walked down the sidewalk, looking in shops, considering where we'd eat lunch. We came upon this charming creature. This photo is a favorite of mine.

A few months ago I experienced an unfortunate "incident" with my laptop. After countless hours organizing photographs I was backing them up when the screen went "poof." All my photographs were gone. The repair shop recovered them. Nearly 60,000 images. The shop, of course, could not distinguish between duplicates, lousy pictures I had deleted, damaged photographs, and my heirloom memories. My project is to review the photographs. Delete the bad ones, again. Organize them into events - yes, we've been here before - then copy them back to the computer. It's tedious work, mostly, but a labor of love. What a treat when I come across a favorite, like this goose. I remember the day in Mendocino. The sun. The company of my wonderful husband, Bob, my darling sister-in-law, Lisa, and my dear brother-in-law, Jack, now gone. The memory is priceless.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Playing with Photoshop Elements

This spring I took I took a Digital Photography class through Fairfax county. I learned a lot - I'm not sure if I'm applying what I learned but it was a good process. I know my camera better. I'm on speaking terms with the user's manual. And I bought a copy of Photoshop Elements for my MacBook Pro. This current version of Elements is easier to use and although the software has features I've never tried I find the features that I do use accessible and fun.

The photo below has seven hidden critters, can you find them? The original photograph follows.

Using a technique I found in a YouTube tutorial I darkened the sky in the right photo. I like the original better but I liked learning something new.

I don't remember where these french fries came from but I used this image to practice with layers. I made a black and white layer and using the eraser tool I erased some of that layer to reveal the original color beneath.

The class is over but I'm still carrying my camera around taking pictures.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Squam Art Workshop, Part 2

Choosing photographs to post I yearn for New Hampshire and the sisterhood (forgive me &rew) I enjoyed at Squam Art Workshops.

Our cabin, Kilkare.

Without us knitting, talking, and sharing ideas, stories, and thoughts, our porch doesn't look the same. But the view...

I managed to snap this before digging in!

Did I need this sweet roll with it's flaky crust, cinnamon, and nuts? Just out of the oven, it was warm. My mouth waters thinking about it. Good food is art too, you know.

This simple sign brought me to Maya's class, Botanical Printing. What a dreamy day.

Maya's examples helped us envision what we could achieve.

Her burlap LOVE banner welcomed us.

Maya and me. Can you feel it? We're cut from the same cloth.

One of the prints created in our class.

I wish I could attribute the work with the artists who created them, but I didn't capture names. The work was shown in the dining hall - wonderful creations from the sessions.

This is Liza Hamilton, a wonderful artist and warm human being. Click on the link to see her work.
This is Liza's piece from the three-day Exquisite Lidded Vessel course. I was so tempted to sign up but I needed to experience variety. But next year...

This is from the Block Printing Fabric session. I wanted to attend this class, too. And Creative Characters, Recycled Felting, Nature Inspired DIY Design, and knitting classes, too numerous to mention.

This knitted sweater was casually thrown over a chair. Creativity was everywhere.

It may not look like much, but it's a bag that I made from an old T-shirt in about 30 minutes in Betz White's, Make Your Own Bag class. It's handy and will definitely be used.

Professional looking pieces came out of the Wallpaper Projects class.

Goodbye Squam Lake for 2009.