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Hummingbirds and Hollyhocks

Earlier this month I spent ten days in southwestern Wisconsin. The weather was quite lovely–a bit chilly for this now Texas gal–in the low 80’s….they were complaining it was hot and I was thinking a jacket might be nice.

My good friend has hummingbird feeders outside her house up on a ridge in the Driftless Region. She fills those feeders twice a day during busiest season. Her cat and dog watch the show from inside the house, a window, couch, and pillows conveniently placed for their viewing pleasure.

I stood outside watching….and watching….and taking photos….and trying to get a good video. Those feeders resemble O’Hare airport with all the available sites occupied and others hovering waiting eagerly for their slot.

Here are a few of the photos. there is a video editing program on Windows 10 which I may give a try—note to self–take out tripod and focus on area FIRST, then press the button to record.

Another year…as it is time for them to head south and I am back in Texas listening to rain.

Lone Star Flight Museum

What a fantastic display of airplanes!

The last time I had been to the flight museum had been many years ago—a large hanger in Galveston with planes partially dismantled, the smell of oil, tool boxes and wrenches on the floors. Hurricane Ike destroyed that facility. Seven long years passed before this new facility was built—with two runways to accommodate the planes.

Two large hangers display planes. the planes so polished and in pristine condition–it is like visiting a classic car display. There are engines and docents to talk about some of the planes. Only three of the planes in the museum are no longer allowed to fly. Rides in four different planes are available along with two squished penny kiosks.

A gallery of Texas aviators is in the middle of a graphic history of aviation beginning with the Wright brothers.

Then there was the hang glider simulators and the flight simulators—I crashed into Alcatraz and ended up flying upside down. I should probably leave flying to professional pilots!

Paper airplane directions, experiments with air flow and heat, study guides for three grade levels from first to eight grade rounded out the museum.

We didn’t stop at the small coffee shop or visit the gift shop…we were sure our two dogs would be waiting eagerly for our return.

nose art

view of one of the hangers

it was a pleasant way to spend a day.

Contemplation

In May of this year, I decided to ‘retire’ from a job that had increasingly become at odds with my health. Late nights and irregular hours made it impossible for me to plan health related appointments, meals, and participation in a few social events. Despite my efforts to recommend changes to a business that had been failing, holding onto ‘we’ve always’, and staff who were increasingly unable to do their jobs accurately and effectively, they chose not to change anything.

And so the end of May when a license renewal was due, I chose not to renew it. I wished them well, but time will tell whether their continued commitment to ‘we’ve always’ will be effective.

After spending a weekend at a medical school class reunion and some space in time and distance, I re-considered that renewal. It is hard to give up what I’ve worked so very hard for so many years.

And now I am volunteering my time at a local clinic seeing indigent patients a few days a week until they find a new provider.

But my back is not happy with all that time on a cement slab flooring and I spend nights awake with back pain. The health insurance company has denied every request for care not specifically identified and costing over $2…..yes, you read that correctly—$2! And even then wanting me to switch to something even less reliable for medications and cheaper for them.

So now it is time to change course again.

The answer regarding health insurance is clear, but what about my time?

How shall I spend my days with nothing in my day planner but doctor appointments? And those hopefully far and few between.

Our biggest decision during pandemic times was ‘what shall we have for supper’ and ‘who is cooking’. We’ve practiced that for nearly two years now, sometimes relying on a meal service to add variety.

Yardwork? There is always something to do outside in a year round growing climate.

Sorting through years of accumulations of paper and mementos?

Social butterfly?

Taking up a new hobby?

Aspiring to a new career?

Hmmm……..

Another episode of what was I thinking

For those of you who remember the I love Lucy show, one episode featured her returning from a massive shopping trip with Ethel proudly announcing her score of a hundred pounds of dog food ….and they did not own a dog.

So why did I buy a quilt kit at a quilt show ten years ago?

It was batik.

I liked the colors.

It was on sale.

I liked the pattern–it was simple and looked fun..

I took that kit to a retreat with some friends along with a lot of other projects—it is easier to cut out things with a nice big table. Cutting always takes time and once you have all the tools out–the rulers, a nice sharp rotary cutter blade—and folks to chat while you do one of the more boring parts—

so I cut out the pieces. Except I decided to use part of one version and part of another version offered in the pattern. I discovered the quilt store staff did not cut straight; there were some of the dreaded v shaped strips. But I got it done.

Six months later, I pulled out that bundle. Did I remember what I had planned?

Nope.

Thought for a bit; slung a few pieces up on the design wall.

Moved them around some.

Sewed it together–does not look anything like the pattern–either version—but it is together; now it is quilted, trimmed and in the queue for binding. It is destined for the guild’s quilt auction in March.

It’s a Secret

June’s hand-made book was a Secret Belgian Binding. Since I’ve never made a not so secret Belgian Binding, I wasn’t quite sure why it had to be a secret.

However, all was explained in the video lessons.

Belgian binding uses one long piece of thread/twine/string to sew the cover to the spine.

This secret has each set of holes sewn separately, i.e. top cover hole, top spine hole, top back cover hole. New thread for second hole on cover second hole on spine second hole on back cover and so on.

This creates a very stable book with signatures being sewn in after the two covers and spine are assembled.

I tend to watch the entire set of instructions all the way through, then go back one by one and complete each step. Sometimes I stall out on the very last step–afraid I will ruin the whole project. I have discovered though that paper is much sturdier than I thought it would be—not as sturdy or as tolerant of handling as fabric but still re-do’s are possible.

I used a gift bag for my covers; i tried to get out the wrinkle but not so successful. The signatures are Neenah Text paper in a desert sand color.

the hardest part was cutting that small piece of book board for the spine.

And while I was playing with paper I made the July book too. This one was an easy construction–a reverse piano hinge. Of course I had to make it difficult by using mat board as the signature covers and yupo paper as the accordion. The process involves cutting slits through the signatures and folding the accordian accurately. Mat board is stiff and hard to cut; yupo much thicker than Tyvek the recommended paper.

But I did get it done. The mat board had some of my photographs adhered as part of a class I took many years ago. If you are wondering what the photo is—it is a stack of lawn chairs—I know–odd choice but I liked the patterning.

The interior pages are a heavy weight copy paper torn in half. After some thought and because I am just not sufficently experienced to pick up a piece of paper and tell what kind it is—I have started to label the first page of each signature using a stamped letter—for this one it is a capital C with copy paper written in my best printing along with the weight.

Rhododendron Trail

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a live rhododendron shrub/bush. I’m not sure they grow in this part of the country. Just like there are no lilacs here, crepe myrtle trees are the closest…alas no fragrance just a constant dripping of nectar attracting bumblebees and honey bees.

Each year a mystery quilt is offered by Bonnie Hunter who lives now in southern Virginia mountains. She selects a color scheme from something in her travels or now around her cabin home somewhere near the Appalachian Trail. It starts Thanksgiving and ends a bit after New Year’s, something to keep those of us who are not with family occupied.

Last year’s was Rhododendron Trail. Her quilt featured some pieces that suggested butterflies but those pieces were tiny and I opted to omit them. I did include several embroidered magnolia blossoms on a handyed white on white. Sometimes I use the back of a fabric I’ve hand-dyed—the patterning being much more subtle.

For those of you with sharp eyes, yes, those are John Deere tractors in those yellow centers of the lower blocks and a few others as well.

And in an effort to use up fabric I already have and not buy anything I pieced a backing to include a large floral.

Now it is done, bound, labeled, photographed—I don’t do formal portraits for quilts destined for beds and to keep folks warm.

Flying High with a Lotus Blossom

One of my least favorite parts of being an artist is taking the formal portraits and then remembering where I stored the digital images. I haven’t figured out a good process for that yet; it’s probably because I’d rather move on to the next project.

Here are the last two art pieces I have finished. They are not re-sized or cropped or stored anywhere except on a SD card—but then I still have the pieces and can re-take photos. Alas, that is typically what I end up doing as my photo site is rather a mess.

Flying High will be one of my entries for ‘wind’

and this piece was supposed to be a guild challenge. I did not read the rules properly–it is the wrong size and not done in time—it was due January 2022. I’m planning to mount it on stretcher bars—but as of now it is still hanging in my photo studio setup next to Flying High until I process the photos.

Purple and Teal

Definitely not my favorite colors!

Digging through that box as noted yesterday, I found a panel along with some four patches and some strips and lengths of fabric from my mother’s quilting days.

Somehow on social media, I had connected with one of my parent’s neighbor. She grew up next to my parents who treated her with the same dignity and interest as their own grandchildren. She had fetal alcohol syndrome and life was not easy for her.

One day, Mom needed some help in working on a particular quilt. She asked the girl–a teenager at the time to assist her. After some time, the quilt was finished and Mom gave it to the girl.

She treasured that quilt but lost in a house fire.

She is now married with children of her own.

I thought I might give her this quilt—made from Mom’s fabrics, panel, and some of her patchwork.

and the back

I hope she will like it; it will travel to Wisconsin on our next trip hopefully in a couple of weeks.

Frying Eggs

When newspaper reporters were interested in news, one decided to see if it was really hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

It was–but it took most of the day as I recall.

I’m not eager to be outside long enough to try it again–in true scientific fashion….an experiment should be reproducible to believe the outcome.

It is hot here, very hot. Our mini-splits are struggling even though I prefer much warmer temps than most people…rheumatoid arthritis will do that.

Our life has been busy with garden duties, lawn-mowing, tending to a very ill dog—who is now back to her usual naughty self, house improvement projects—garage roof was sagging–had foundation work and then the roof repaired. The RV parked outside the shop is now gone—gone to a new home to be refurbished. The new owner seems eager to take on what looks like a huge piece of junk.

I’ve been working away at projects in my sewing room.

For several years I’ve compiled a list of UFO’s from 1 to 12 with the idea of completing one each month based on a random number drawn. A group I am in is doing the same but allowing 2 months to complete a project. That makes 18 projects!

Instead of sorting through boxes I had stuffed multiple projects in, I put down the number of the box. 1 through 4, two months are binding months–I seem to get behind on that.

This month’s draw was from Box No. 4.

I found these roughly cut diamonds left-over from my mother’s quilting days; I’ve sewn them together and trimmed to even edges—she was accurate in piecing but not in cutting. Although I think maybe my dad might have cut out some for her. She had trouble with her hands after chemo; and he did a lot of marking for her.

I also dragged out an old Art project. I pieced the top together with the idea of a portrait of my maternal aunt along with some photos from her life. Crumb blocks surrounding the main figure are supposed to suggest a lifetime of memories—she made my wedding dress along as well as one of my sister-in-law’s and a niece and her wedding party.

I have two photographs nearly done; on to the main character and a few more memories.

The white is cotton organdy; I use it as a stabilizer to build the applique; it looks rather cruel to have those pins stuck in the middle of their faces—and I’ve since redone the coat on the left and added a tie on my uncle.

I am not expert in applique; this has proven challenging.

Big Bend in Double Coptic Binding

I now have a small stack of blank books filled with mostly nice paper—and they are all of them blank. I’ve worked on understanding the various structures, the mechanics of constructing a book, paper grain, paper weights and a whole host of new vocabulary and techniques.

Using those books has been another matter.

Earlier this year, my husband and I took a long anticipated trip to Big Bend. We had been there several times but it had been years since our last trip. I took a pad of very cheap water color paper, a small water color set, some markers and was determined to spend some time drawing and painting.

I did several marker drawings–harder than I thought to see value and convert it into gray tones. After several days i was brave enough to add water color.

I then had a small stack of drawings/paintings. What to do with them? None were good enough to frame but they were a nice memento of the trip. A few postcards were added to the stack.

A map of Big Bend and a brochure from the National Parks were used as the covers and I bound it using a double needle coptic stitch. Unfortunately I had thought myself more expert in book structure than I am and the first attempt was not good. I took it apart and tried again–this time with some light colored book cloth as the spine—the front cover stitches were loose and I didn’t like the color.

So I took it apart again—made more book cloth and tried again.

I’m much happier with this. I will add some written words and perhaps some more water color to some of the drawings.