Something good from COVID-19?

Something seems wrong about the title of this post. How could anything good come from the ongoing pandemic?

Even though I didn’t have extra time during the lockdown, for some reason, I have had tons of time this summer. Part of this is because of the new paradigm that I initiated in 2019, where I am using blocks of time to accomplish my goals. Part of it is because of the many gatherings that have been canceled and part is because our usual overseas travels have been curtailed!!

Because of this extra time, I have been able to finish many of my ongoing projects and am ready to try some different techniques and just do a little bit of playing!! So on Saturday, my goal was to look for inspiration…..

……for future projects, especially thinking to expand my knowledge of drawing, painting, and surface design.

But first, I wanted to get my studio cleaned up again, including cleaning and oiling my machine…..

It looks SO clean!!!

When Kaitlyn and I were both sewing a few weeks back, I had put up my Viking and enjoyed having both machines up. But, once I took the machine down it seemed like a nice area to leave open for other tasks…..like inspiration planning…..

The first thing that I did was watch a video that I bought many years ago featuring Jane LaFazio and her ideas about drawing, watercolor and keeping a journal……

This video ALWAYS inspires me and encourages me to start trying some drawing….something that I don’t really believe I can do.

I pulled out my art supply box and was pleased to see that I have all of the tools that she talks about, plus a few others…..

So starting on Monday, I am going to try to draw something at least 3 times each week.

I decided to do a quick run around the yard to get ideas of things that I could sketch and ran into some pretty butterflies along the way…..

Next I pulled out a stack of books about art quilts and design techniques, found a comfortable chair and started working thru them one by one. There were two that stood out to me….

“Art Quilt Workbook” contains exercises that might help to get me thinking in a different way, and “Fabric Art Workshop” has lots of surface design ideas. I am thinking that I may try to do some of these exercises as well.

BUT, all of these are designed for making Art Quilts and honestly, I don’t see myself as an art quilter. However, I am sure that trying new techniques will give ideas for future projects.

Finally, I remembered a book that I bought at a Quilt Show some years ago…..

The idea behind this book is to first layer and stitch a lot of textures onto a background piece that is only in whites and creams. Then you paint over the texture that you have developed and add the featured designs on the top. This sounds really interesting and something very different to anything that I have ever done.

So, I am planning to make this quilt……

I really don’t like copying designs that someone else has already done but I will follow the instructions for this quilt and use it to learn this technique.

The final thing that I thought thru was whether or not I needed to make more quilts that weren’t necessarily meaningful to me. What will I do with any new found inspirations? Do I want to put them on ETSY and see if I can sell them? Maybe put them in the member’s boutique at the next guild quilt show?

Or maybe it is okay to just make art pieces without having a reason? Can that be right? It sure doesn’t fit with the way I think but it seems that this may be a good time to take a chance and change that thinking!!!

A rite of summer…..

There are several things that tell me that summer is here and one of those is making Pesto!!! For some reason, basil LOVES our herb bed and we always put at least 5 plants into the ground.

Today was the day to harvest the Basil and turn it into creamy Pesto. Michael compared it to hog-killing day on the farm!!!

So, here is the day in photos…..

THE HARVEST…..

CLIPPING……

WASHING…..

NOW THE CHEF (MICHAEL) TAKES OVER…..

AT THE END OF THE SESSION……

We had fun working together to make these delights and will sure enjoy them in the middle of winter!!! It will be a sweet reminder of the warmth of summer!!

It’s Monthly Audit time!!

Well, July is over and, oh my, has it been a crazy month. I had lots of goals and, fortunately I did accomplish a few of them.

One goal was to publish at least 10 posts. On this front, I outdid myself by publishing 23!!!

Another goal was to cook something new each week and I really funked out on this one. I did enjoy using the ice cream maker, especially the luscious chocolate recipe, and I did pull out one old recipe and we found that we had forgotten how much we enjoyed “Mexican Beef and Cornbread”…..

Don’t you love the iconic Corning Ware bowl that we have had for 43 years!!!

It was a great meal when paired with a salad with Thousand Island Dressing…..

July was a heavy month for accounting work and I soldiered thru, getting almost everything finished by the 31st.

I did have one quilting victory when I “LET IT GO” and got rid of a UFO that had been on my mind for a bunch of years!!

We had our hurriedly planned trip to Texas which proved to be an amazing and much needed getaway!!!

Finally, my major quilting goal was to get the final corner of the Color wheel quilt appliqued so that I can put the top together. And I did TRY but honestly ended up spending more time writing blog posts at night than appliquéing!!

Toward the end, I was “Sewing like the wind”……

….but I went to bed on Friday night with 7 more circles to finish!!

Now that I have used the phrase “Sewing like the wind”, I am reminded of this clip from “Three Amigos”…..

But, honestly, if I am going to talk about “Three Amigos” I have to add this scene…..

Steve Martin is a hoot!!!

Our son, Brian, used to LOVE this scene and would howl with laughter when it came on.

I actually used this technique to get Michael’s attention one time….I was in the library on the second floor of a hotel in Shanghai and it was open to the lobby below. I saw Michael walk in the front door and wanted him to know where I was, so I started calling “lookuphere….lookuphere”. After a few seconds of puzzlement, he looked up and gave me a big smile!! I am sure that the other Chinese students in the area thought that we were crazy!!

All in all, it has been a sweet month, even if I didn’t do lots on my “to-do” list. Today, as I plan for August, I am excited about the things to come!!!

Returning to the Motherland!!

Michael has a meeting in Austin on Wednesday and Thursday so we decided that we would return to the Texas (fondly known as the Motherland) for a couple of extra days. If nothing else, it would get us out of the house for a bit!!

The traveling was a bit eerie as the airport was completely uncrowded and of course we were all wearing our wonderful masks. Compared to our trip to China two years ago, the smiles were the same although you can’t really tell…..

We had booked a hotel in downtown Austin and were able to drive there easily and get checked into our room. The first thought after hotel was food…..and Mexican in particular!! We found an Abuelos (one of our favorites in Abilene) so headed over for lunch. Within 1 hour of touchdown, we were sitting in the restaurant enjoying chips, salsa and Margarita’s……a personal best…..

As we were driving back to the hotel, we realized that the Texas State Capitol building was only a few blocks away from the hotel so we decided to go and pay our respects. As with everything in Austin, it is closed to the public right now but we did enjoy walking around the area and taking photos of the beautiful capitol grounds…..

The Capitol building was built in 1888 and is comprised of Red Granite quarried from Burnet county in Texas. The interior walls are Texas Limestone while the roof is made of Copper.

I have always thought that it was a beautiful building and made me proud to be a citizen of the great Lone Star State….

Speaking of stars, the fence around the compound was replete with thousands of stars…..

The grounds are beautiful with large trees of every variety. We would have loved to get to this sculpture but had to enjoy it from a “more than social” distance…..

After leaving the Capitol we tried to visit the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk but unfortunately it was gated and closed. So the next best thing was to drive around the University of Texas. Although, since we are alumni of Texas Tech University (Go Red Raiders!!), this is almost a sacrilege…..

We did enjoy seeing the campus, especially liking this sculpture…..

We also photographed the infamous University of Texas Tower…..

…..where, in 1966, Charles Whitman took rifles and other weapons to the observation deck and proceeded to fire indiscriminately on people on the surrounding streets. Before he was killed, he shot and killed 14 people and wounded 31 others.

Sadly in today’s world, this is not unexpected but in 1966 it was unheard of. Even though I was only 9 years old at the time, I knew the story of the UT Tower!!

To end this post on a happier note…….

I saw this sign for a Korean Chicken Wing shop and thought that the logo design was so ingenious. Someone had on their creative thinking cap when they came up with this…..

I loved this railing……

….and to continue in my collection of interesting hotel carpet designs, I really like this brightly colored paisley outside of our room……

I especially like this “quilting” design…..

More to come from the great state of Texas!!!

A Quick Fawn Update

Two nights ago we found the twins relaxing in our back yard…..

…and this morning we found them leisurely strolling past the house. We even stood outside and watched them and they never spooked!!!

At this point, we are fairly sure that they are orphaned but they are healthy and seem to be doing okay for themselves!!!

Wildlife viewing

During this time of “social distancing” and “abundance of caution” (two phrases that I would love to never hear again), we have noticed that the wildlife seems to be overly active in our neighborhood.

Before our gym opened Michael and I would walk every morning and enjoyed seeing foxes scampering across the road, deer standing on the side of the road watching us and even a family of ducks…..

In the past few weeks we have been seeing lots of deer, including this one feeding out of the bird feeder just outside our kitchen window…..

Michael and I felt sorry for them and bought a protein block for them to feed on. One morning as Michael was walking into his office at the back of our house, he saw 2 twin fawns hiding in the taller grass. Later that day he videoed this sweetie in the rain…..

This is one of the things that we love about living a bit out from a metropolitan area!!!

Summer Week 3 – Audit

Well, the third week of summer is officially in the books and it was a fun one!!!

On Monday we had a special family come for dinner. They are parents to sweet Bo and 9 month old twins, Patrick and Ellis……

At one point I asked the parents if it was EVER quiet in their house!!!

Tuesday was my birthday and we made our traditional trip to Atlanta to have dinner with all of our kids. It was the first time that we have all been together since Christmas!!! I was given some sweet gifts including a gorgeous necklace and two “anti-fatigue” mats for my studio……

I have already seen an improvement in my lower back pain!!!

Claire and I spent a fun afternoon together working on a charity quilt that will go to the local Battered Women’s Shelter….

She started this quilt about 18 months ago and then we got side tracked with other projects. It was encouraging to see that her technique has improved greatly in that time.

My new recipe for the week was inspired by a birthday present that I gave to myself….. a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker!!!! It is fun how it works…..there is a bowl that has a double wall which is filled with some sort of liquid. You freeze the bowl completely and then add the ice cream mixture to it…..

for the next 20 minutes, the bowl spins around while a paddle scrapes the frozen portion from the side of the bowl…..

I pulled out the dasher and the entire block of ice cream came with it…..

It was creamy and scrumptious….. especially with a chocolate chip cookie……

On the house repair front I was pleased to find new cushions for our deck furniture…..

AND, I replaced the telephone jack, although there is a bit of paint touch up still to come…..

This may not seem like a big deal, but it was a pain!!! In all of the videos about the subject they show the jack pulling out from the wall with 12+ inches of wire. This one only had 3 inches of wire to work with so it was a VERY tight squeeze!!! But it is now done!!!

One night this past week Michael and I watched two foxes playing in our backyard, and while we were enjoying their antics, a big deer walked across our yard!!! It is wildlife central out there!!!

Finally, I discovered a fun podcast hosted by Alan Alda. It is called “CLEAR + VIVID” and is primarily about communication. Alda has been a favorite of ours since his M*A*S*H days and I have really enjoyed listening to him. One of the first recordings that I listened to was an interview with Itzhak Perlman. I loved his comment that when he teaches he never tells the student to “DO IT THIS WAY”. Instead he tells them to try it his way and see what they think, always leaving room for the student to disagree!!

So it was a fun week, although I am a bit sad that the Summer Solstice has come and gone meaning that the days start getting shorter again!!!

Weekly Audit

Oh how quickly this second week of summer has passed, but I am once again pleased with what was accomplished.

I had one friend over for lunch, had coffee with another friend and Michael and I had dinner with some friends at a local restaurant…..that’s right, we went in and sat at a booth!!!

We were able to enjoy our first “in-person” worship service at our church……

Despite socially distancing, there was a fair amount of hugging going on!!!

I spent some time sewing with sweet Claire and continued to work on my Color Wheel Quilt. I was NOT happy when I started placing the third corner on and realized that I had basted all of the circles on backwards!!!!……

Fortunately it didn’t take too long to re-do the basting…..

My new dish for the week was an Italian Zucchini Casserole which was a wonderful accompaniment to fried pork chops…..

Finally, as an early birthday present, my friend Katie made these two cute boxes…..

I am having SUCH fun figuring out exactly where they will go in my studio. I am thinking about using them on my new rolling cart….

All in all, it was a great 2nd week of summer!!!

This upcoming week should be fun as it includes a Birthday, a meal with good friends and another with our kids….

AND, I cant wait to see what this tomato plant produces…..

Bring it on!!!!