Monday, June 30, 2008

Fireworks

I am such a sucker for fireworks. Luckily my city puts on a nice display every year that can be seen from my yard. While I don't have grandchildren, some of my nieces have young children so a new generation of firework fans joined my family and our neighbors a few evenings ago. The young voice heard in this clip is one of my three year old great-nephews.

video

Mother Nature has been providing fireworks of her own lately with many thunderstorms. Fortunately, we have not had power outages or wind damage, but many in Michigan and throughout the US cannot say the same. Warm, dry weather is predicted for this coming weekend which begins with July 4th on Friday. I am already planning food and clothes to pack for a weekend at a nearby cottage on the lake with another great view of fireworks on both Friday and Saturday!

My outer shell may be aging, but I am still a kid at heart!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Accent? What accent?

I spent a lovely day yesterday with my adult niece from Alabama. She wore a sweater that she had made from the current issue of Vogue Knitting, in the palest shade of pink. We visited two yarn stores where both her sweater and her southern accent (we're in Michigan) drew much attention.

In the first store, we were greeted by a woman with a very heavy accent that was definitely foreign to the US. Nothing wrong with that...but she went on and on about my niece's accent! It was all I could do not to laugh, wondering if she did not hear herself and how different she sounds from most Michiganders. Additionally, one comment such as "What a charming accent. Where are you from?" is pleasant, but telling all your coworkers to listen to the out-of-towner puts a potentially unwelcome spotlight on someone.

Odder still about the visit to this store was the woman's way of asking us if we had noticed various garments around the store. Rather than ask if we had seen the brown wrap with silk lace edging, she asked me if I had seen the $1000 wrap. My niece was asked if she had seen the $800 sweater. The last item she insisted I had to see was a $4000 afghan!

The yarn that I was hoping to find must have been too ordinary for them as they had never heard of it. Their suggested substitution would have cost me approximately $90 which was more than I wanted to spend for the project.

The second store is my down-to-earth favorite. The ladies oohed and aahed over my niece's sweater and asked appropriate questions regarding difficulty and yarn choice. They asked where she was from and that was the end of the accent issue. My niece bought yarn there for a work in a progress, and I found the exact yarn named in the shawl I plan to make, the total cost being $30 and change! I need to finish my son's sweater and get going on this for a wedding we'll be attending in August.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Quilting Inspiration

Yesterday I went on a quilt shop hop with my sewing buddy. The name of this particular hop is the Michigan Stash Dash. We had four women with us who were new to all of this and I relived the excitement of feeling like a kid in a candy store by being with them. I came home full of ideas from what I had seen, and full of enthusiasm that I caught from my travel companions. We visited 7 shops, not an easy task to accomplish in one 12 hour day. Each store worked with the same fabrics, designing their own block, and then combining the blocks from all the stores to create a finished quilt. I always enjoy seeing how different each quilt looks. They could a metaphor for people. We all have common components (two eyes, one nose, one mouth, etc) but we're all assembled differently and we're all beautiful works of art that give warmth when wrapped around someone.

I won't be making any of the large quilts from the stash dash, but I will make a small wall quilt or table runner from small amounts of the featured fabrics. A few baby quilts will be next on my sewing agenda, and then some holiday sewing. The last quilt project for myself is this wall quilt that I call Canned Fruit. I collected fat quarters of fruit prints for over a year with an entirely different project in mind, but a Mason jar inspired me to play with that shape and this quilt was born. The multi-colored border is a mixed fruit print that also backs the quilt.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cards

Making cards is such a satisfying hobby, especially when you have a friend who is an instructor and assembles amazing kits! Meet Andrea, the amazing instructor, here on her blog. The first card is for a bridal shower this weekend and the other two were for my husband on Father's Day. One of our sons used the shirt card, and I gave the one that reads "U are the best". The ribbon pulls out a tag with a message.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Watercolor classes: joys and jitters

Until this past winter, it had been a long time since I'd attempted any serious painting. I signed up for 8 weeks of watercolors on a whim and the morning of the first class had me wondering what the heck I had done to myself! I was a wreck until almost the end of the first three hour class. All the pressure came from within. And why? It certainly wasn't the fault of my instructor (Marilynn Thomas) or the other students. Once I convinced myself I was there to learn and didn't need to produce a masterpiece that day (ha!), I relaxed and started having fun.

I am learning so much more than how to suggest a shape or what colors are in the shadows. The lessons mimic bigger life lessons. If the project looks impossible (the native American woman), remember that it breaks down into areas and you need only concentrate on one area at a time. If you just can't do any more, it is ok to put it away for today, for this week or maybe even chalk it up as a learning experience and start fresh on another day. Fourteen people can look at the same subject, use the same paint colors and turn out 14 different paintings. We all tend to be our own worst critics and the biggest supporters of everyone else.

This is my first painting that I truly liked.






















A sweet little boy eating squeezable yogurt. Artistic license allowed me to leave the plaid out of his shirt.
















This lady was a lesson in class that I didn't think would be possible to complete. Not only is she done, she is matted, framed and I like her!






















The sky and water aren't the same as the small photo, but no one else needs to know that.






















This isn't good, but I'm learning as I practice.

















And just like most of us look better after we've combed our hair, smoothed out our clothes and maybe added some makeup, almost any painting looks better after it has been matted.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Last day of school

My kids have been out of public school for 10 and 12 years, but the last day of school is still fun to witness around here. The older elementary and middle school kids enjoy spraying and spreading shaving cream all over one another, and I do mean all over!

I know some parents get upset by this, but my opinion is that it is done in fun, it washes off, and is so much safer than many other things they could be doing to celebrate the last day of the school year. How much shaving cream you wear home seems to be a badge of honor, perhaps evidence of your popularity. Sculpting the foam into mohawk or beehive hairdos requires an artist's touch.
Doesn't that look like more fun than whatever you are doing at the moment?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Colors come and colors go

Isn't it frustrating to shop for an item that is not in a current "hot" color? Last winter it was a yellow turtleneck that I sought and had to resign myself to doing without. Brown was everywhere, having come out of hiding from previous years when that was the unavailable color.

I've been going through old photographs and reminiscing colors as well as fashions. Those of us who lived through the avocado/harvest gold/burnt orange 70's never thought we'd see those colors return and *gasp* they're back! Some shades or color combinations take our minds back to a specific memory (prom dress? our date's blue tux with a white ruffled shirt with the ruffles edged in blue?) or to an era (coppertone appliances as a newlywed) or something that reaches back even further.

I was birthday shopping for the little princess (6 year old great niece) and found pink and brown coordinated pants and tops for her. Instant flashback! When I was elementary school aged, the Catholic school near me had pink and brown uniforms. Boys from 1st to 8th grade wore brown pants, pink shirts and brown ties. I wonder if any of them have trouble wearing pink shirts as adults?

Pink and brown is a nice combination, but I like pink and black even better which is why a pink blouse with black piping on the collar and along both sides of the button placket ended up on my charge card a few days ago. (Little princesses aren't the only one who need new clothes!) Playing with my beading supplies with that blouse in mind resulted in this necklace, bracelet and earrings.I'll never have just one favorite color, and will probably always seek a color that isn't available in the store but is vivid in my mind or memory. Does that make me out of date or a trend setter?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Birthday cakes

Old hobbies get recycled when another generation enters the family. When my kids, nieces and nephews were little, I baked and decorated many character cakes. As they grew older, those cakes were made less frequently and then not at all. Now that our family has a new generation, the cake making supplies have come out of retirement. Thanks to two of my nieces, I have two three year old great-nephews (they are cousins) and one six year old great niece.


The first birthday this calendar year was one of the boys who wanted a football cake. Rather than cut the cake in the shape of a football, I made a half sheet cake (half yellow, half chocolate) and made and end zone on the cake surrounded by molded chocolate footballs and the birthday boy's name. It even had football shaped candles. They are standing up opposite his name.


Two months later was the second young man's birthday. His request was for a Tigger cake. Wilton makes many cake pans, but Wilton is no longer offered. One of the things that has changed since my previous days of baking character cakes is that one of the cake supply stores near me now rents pans!

<---- Here is Tigger A second cake had chocolate batter (Tigger was yellow) and was decorated with white, orange and black frosting, spelling out birthday wishes for Alex.



Recently, the princess of the new generation turned six. Her request was for a Barbie cake. Uh oh....Wilton doesn't make that pan any longer either, and the rental pan needed a plastic cake topper in the image of Barbie but that was missing.

I bought Disney's princess pan (Cinderella, in my opinion) and at a second shop found the plastic Barbie decoration on the second cake. I altered Cinderella's hair and clothing to resemble the Barbie on the second cake.

Barbie could use a cosmetic make over, but made a six year old smile and was pretty tasty with a side of ice cream. What more could you ask for?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A lazy day and a Sunday all in one


After weeks of waiting for weather that felt like spring instead of winter, we suddenly have mid-summer heat. Is this Mother Nature's joke or God's way of reminding us who is in charge and that we shouldn't wait for something we think will be better? The birds are singing, I have a book at my side, multiple projects to work on and the air conditioner works. Life is good.