Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's PIQF time again!!!

Well, almost... PIQF won't actually happen until October, but I just heard from them this morning, letting me know I got into the three classes I was hoping to take. I had to miss the festival last year because of taking care of our sweet Diana, and, let me tell you, I REALLY missed it!! At first I wasn't planning to go this year, because nothing in the class schedule jumped up and said, "Hey! This is It!" Then I decided I couldn't bear to miss the festival again. By then, it was too late for Long Beach, and Houston won't cut it, since the only reasonable way to get to Houston is to get my butt on a plane, which, alas, will never happen... >8-/ ... so, PIQF it is.

Recently, no matter how wonderful a class is, or how much fun I'm having, with my degenerating physical condition, I've become thoroughly sick and tired of schlepping a sewing machine around, so I was hoping for machine-less classes. That seriously narrowed my choices, and Dierdra McElroy's disappearance from the class list in recent years, hasn't helped matters either. So I started looking at teacher websites, and when I got to Sue Dennis... POW!! The decision was made in a heartbeat! Sue's work is eye-popping exciting - wonderful colors, textures and concepts, with lots of amazing and imaginative free-motion stitching, and tons of very cool surface design techniques. Be sure to check out Sue's Gallery pages on her website... and prepare to be dazzled!

When I first started going to PIQF in the mid '90s, they offered classes in fabric dyeing and painting, printing, and other surface design procedures. Then, for whatever reason, those classes disappeared. Someone told me the hotel got pissed because the carpets in the classrooms were being damaged by spilled dyes and paints... but who knows. Anyway, I've been hoping for a return of those kinds of classes ever since. A couple of years ago, we did some painting in Esterita Austin's classes, and I got hopeful. Sue's classes will involve working with oil paint sticks and doing some leaf printing... and... fusing... which I love! Piecing will always be my first love, but any new technique of surface design and embellishment always grabs my attention.

From this day in July, October seems years away, but, from past experience, I know it'll get here eventually. I'm seriously stoked!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Volunteers in the Garden

If it weren't for volunteers, I wouldn't have much of a garden this year. I haven't been at all inspired this time around, even though I've really tried to get enthused. All I've done in the back yard is fill a couple of wine barrels with tomatoes, and thrown enough water at the strawberry pot to bring them back to life. I tossed some potatoes I discovered sprouting in the pantry into another barrel a few months ago, and they're just about ready to dig up. Oh, yes... one sage plant and one thyme plant have survived the neglect as well.

We put out a lot of birdseed for our feathery friends, and they toss the black oil sunflower seeds all over the place, thereby guaranteeing themselves some fresh "seed on the stem"...

Once again, we have a survivor from last December's wild storms, in the form of a tomato plant. Last year's survivor grew insanely and filled up a hundred square foot area of the yard, and gave us hundreds of tomatoes. Hopefully, this year's survivor will do as well!

A bean somehow managed to hop across two other barrel planters and make a home with the tomatoes...

Since everything seems so determined in spite of my neglect, I guess I really should help things along a little more. Okay. I'll get busy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My New Toy

I recently had the misfortune of having both my "workhorse" Pfaff and my Serger crap out on me at the same time. Since the shop where I take my machines for service also sells new machines, and, since I've been lusting after a new, more specialized machine for quilting anyway, I decided to take advantage of my machine-less state and dive in and get the new machine sooner, rather than later. My primary interest in a new machine was to acquire a larger work area to make the quilting process itself less confrontational. Although I seldom make a piece larger than 5-6 feet square, the effort I had to expend to cram even that small a piece into the small work area of my beloved 7550 and then perform some actual quilting maneuvers went off-scale regularly, leaving me a sweating, irritated, totally frustrated wreck, and, ultimately, resulting in the embarrassingly large number of UFOs I find myself trying to justify every time I start a new piece.

My new Pfaff Expression 2.0 has a 4-inch larger work "desk" than the 7550, which, Pfaff claims, is the largest available on non-long arm machines. In addition, it has lots of other bells and whistles I appreciate on my 7550 (plus a bunch more I may or may not ever use) - built in walking foot with even feed (so necessary for quilting), two really bright lights to illuminate the sewing area, automatic tie-off, needle up/down at stop positions, adjustable sewing speeds, needle threader, extra-large stitch plate, as well as a generous selection of basic stitches - plenty for me since I seldom do much except straight ahead stitching anyway. I set everything up last night and it all came together well... I even put in a half hour's work on the quilt that's been hanging on my quilt wall for far too long, and which I'm thoroughly ready to finish!

Browyn is as excited about "our" new machine as I am! Nanuq, looking through the extra-large work space, thinks it's pretty cool too!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Iris Apfel - My New Hero

Whenever I see the word "Irreverent", it grabs my attention; doubly so whenever I see that word in connection with a woman. Now, when it's connected to an older woman - I don't care who or what she is... I definitely want to know more! I saw this book in a used book store a few months ago and just about dropped my laundry as I thumbed through the pages. I was headed for the cash register with it when I checked the price... it was HIDEOUS!!! Waaaaaay above the published price. Surely, I thought, this can't be the only copy left on the planet... where do they get the nerve trying to gouge a customer for such an outrageous figure?! I reluctantly reshelved the book, came home and checked on Amazon, and, sure enough, their price was totally reasonable. Only problem was, they didn't have any copies in stock, and politely requested I place my order anyway and they would notify me when they received more copies. Good luck with that... I'd be waiting forever. However, they had a number of private vendors with copies to sell and I found one who wanted even less than Amazon's list price. And it was brand new. (The copy in the used book store was more than a little shopworn.) So... it arrived yesterday and I've barely put it down since.

Iris Apfel is totally amazing! She is, in my opinion, a doyenne, a genius, a maestra, a wizzard, a prima dona (stop me before I embarrass myself) of fashion! At 88 years of age, she's a legendary style icon who continues to challenge visual culture with radical juxtapositions of disparate influences in spectacular, unexpected and playful wardrobe combinations. Her garments are fabulous, but her jewelry just knocks my socks off. If I had the $$$$ to be able to dress like her, I'd spend it all in a hot minute just to be able to dash headlong into my 70s in my idea of fashion perfection!

Enough!! Have a look for yourself:

Iris at home (she furnishes her house like she adorns her body...!):

I rest my case!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Returning from The Journey

My computer blackout (advertised in the previous post) lasted the intended week, but my blog blackout has gone off scale. The reason being... I simply wasn't in the mood. My BWO (Blogging Without Obligation) certification allows me that luxury and I decided to exercise it. Life has been on hold for the last few months as we helped one of our beloved felines transition. Diana left us on June 17th after nearly a year of intensive nursing care and total dedication from my awesome husband and co-cat parent. There aren't enough words to express my feelings of love and gratitude for Martin's total commitment to the task of caring for Diana. He literally put his own life on hold for the past few months in order to dedicate himself to her care. If we were to go by test results and other medical statistics, Diana should have died sometime last year, but, test results and examinations be damned, she lived for months beyond that medical prediction. I'm absolutely convinced it was due to Martin's love and care. Until her dying day, she appeared to be pain free, comfortable, interactive with both us and the other cats, affectionate, playful, and interested in what was going on around her. She loved lying in the sun, or in front of the fireplace, and especially enjoyed sitting in Martin's lap on a suny day out on the patio. Behind the scenes, Martin was feeding her four times a day through her esophageal feeding tube, dealing with the preparation (measuring, grinding, blending, diluting, mixing and orchestrating) of a dozen drugs, administering twice-daily sub-cutaneous fluids, dealing with daily dressing changes, at least twice-weekly vet visits in Vallejo, and bi-weekly vet visits at UC Davis, and countless other ditzy details that would have driven me bonkers. I wasn't totally idle throughout all of this - there still remained the care and feeding of the 21 other cats, preparing Diana's special food, keeping Martin and me fed and in clean underwear, shopping, keeping the garden presentable, and occasionally vacuuming up the substratum of cat fur from our beleaguered carpets.

People who don't know us well and/or who don't appreciate cats, or who think parenting human children is the only worthwhile act of sacrifice, would ask us why we elected to denigrate our health and sanity for the sake of one feline. "Why don't you just put her down?" they would ask. Why? Because that's not the way we do things. It most likely would have come to that sooner or later, but as long as she appeared to be enjoying her life, we had no intention of opting out for our own convenience.

Life is slowly returning to a reasonable accord around here, as we clear up the enormous collection of medical paraphernalia we've amassed over the past year, and rearrange the houses and our life habits to a semblance of normal. (Normal... us???) But the big void that remains after Diana's departure will be felt for a long time to come. We miss her enormously, as do a number of the other fur kids. It bordered on mayhem and chaos a lot of the time, but neither of us would wish it any other way. Life is nothing without our experiences, and Diana gave us one hell of a ride! Thanks, our brave, sweet little girl.