Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Weather Outside is Not at All Frightful!

A belated Merry Christmas! The weather reports indicated we might have some snow but it never materialized. Snow is rare here on Christmas Day. We are far more likely to get it in January or February. We got a little dusting and enough for John to put together a snowball, but that was all. Now it's raining. I went to the market and bought eggs and milk as well as noodles for the turkey noodle soup I'm making. I'm also baking a couple of loaves of bread. I made the pea soup from the last of the ham yesterday. I'll be sending boxes of food home with Owen, Gavin, and Hugh.

Tonight we are visiting with John's parents and going out for Chinese. Gavin and Hugh are heading home afterwards. Hugh has to go to work at 4 am tomorrow. John 's vacation is also over and he's back to work tomorrow as well. I'll be driving Owen and Sarah to Salem and then visiting with Merrialyce at the Oregon State library. I'll be interviewing her for an article I'm writing. Friday night Jack catches his flight to NYC. By the week-end it'll be just me and John once again and we can relax by the fireplace with tea and cookies and oranges.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

And Yet More

No baking pies yet. Instead John and I made another little trip to town to finish up the shopping. I bought several types of breads to make turkey and ham sandwiches, a bag of dried split peas to make pea soup from the ham bone later this week, bananas, cheeses, a salami, crackers, various types of drinks, marmalade, sweet onions, and lemons to make lemon curd. John also went shopping but he went to a different store and I don't know what he bought.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just a Bit More

Yesterday we went to town. I bought a ham and a turkey (both small), oranges, celery for the stuffing, some nice buttery rolls from the bakery, chocolates, a red poinsettia, tea, wild birdseed, and the like along with a few small stocking stuffer type gifts. John is the one responsible for buying gifts now although I have no idea what, if anything he's gotten.

Today I baked more cookies and a pan of brownies and made the chocolate covered cherries (which should have been made last week). John and I are going to town today where I'm getting a few more small gifts, we'll go to the library, do the recycling, and then go out to dinner to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary.

Tomorrow: Finish decorating the tree, and the house, and bake the pies!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Birthday Gift

John gave me a new bird feeder for my birthday and set it near the snowball tree. Now I'm just waiting for the little birds to find it.
I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.
~ Emily Dickinson

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gilda Radner Tribute

My birthday is the day after tomorrow and I've already peeked at one of my presents. It's the complete first year of Saturday Night Live on DVD. I can hardly wait.

I love Gilda Radner best of all. She makes me laugh so hard I cry. And that she died so young makes me just cry. I miss her.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Spirit

Each year I wait for it. The one little sign that Christmas is truly here. I don't see it on the pinched, anxious faces of people at the mall or scurrying down busy streets. I don't see it in the yards bulging with a gaudy, over-blown excess of decorations and flashing lights.

I see it in the wreath hung on a church door. I see it in the snow falling down, even if it doesn't stick. I see in the glimpse of one small pine tree lit with a few strings of lights at the end of a long country driveway. I see it in the apples hanging like golden ornaments on a leafless tree. I see it in a little child, singing a Christmas carol, his face lit up like a bright candle. I see it when looking up in the sky at a cold winter moon.

I haven't seen it yet this year. I'm waiting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
~ Luke 2:19

Here we are, in the the season of Advent, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is a time of silence and peace, a time of acceptance of grace. As Mary became aware of her son’s purpose,she “marvelled at these things.” And she “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

I ponder as I think about my four young-adult sons. I am not much like Mary and my sons' destiny is not like Jesus’, yet I find myself watching and marvelling as their own callings unfold.

For more than twenty years I repeated phrases to them, phrases like "take care of each other" and "remember to say thank you".

This year all four of them will be home for Christmas and now, it’s time to be quiet. This year I am in the role of having them come home to me for Christmas. I am the one fluttering and feathering, cleaning, decorating, and planning favorite dishes. And, like Mary, I will watch and pray and wonder.

This is the time to listen and love and cook more food, but not to talk. As Jesus’ calling unfolded with time, so will theirs. One son lives in New York City, a place I can only imagine. Another will marry this summer. The third is going to university and the youngest is working. I've watched my children grow and now, as their futures unfurl, will see what they'll become.

Christmas has come over me gently this year. I'll read the familiar story in the Bible, reflect on the presence of God in my life, the message of the angels, and Jesus' gift of peace and know that for all the mysteries and unknowns in our family’s lives, the good will is toward all of us, and ours is again the wonder and hope and joy.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas Break Reading List

Oh! I've discovered a publishing site, Persephone Books , unfortunately for me in England, which reprints old books. I've requested the following through interlibrary loan.

My Christmas break reading for this year:

**Hostages to fortune, a novel
**Good evening, Mrs. Craven
**Few eggs and no oranges
**The children who lived in a barn
**William: an Englishman

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

My heart is overflowing with gratitude for so many blessings.

The turkey is defrosting, the pies are baked, the living room is vacuumed, the kitchen floor swept and mopped. Two of my sons will be here tomorrow for dinner. The other two will be with people they love. Life is good.

Blessings to you and yours. And let's give thanks for all we have before the frenzy of Christmas preparations begins.

Love to you all!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

Black Cat

I was taking some pictures of the snowball tree in the backyard this morning when I spotted the neighbor's black cat sitting under it. I snapped a few photos of him too.

Isn't he beautiful?

And this is what he was waiting for!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007


Yesterday was one of those beautiful, crisp autumn days with clear skies and a cold wind. I remembered to bring my camera when I went to the Oregon State University campus and took this photo of Agriculture Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Bit of Friday Fun

We all need a bit of fun on Friday afternoons. Here's Snowball, a crested Eleanora cockatoo, who loves to dance and sing to the Back Street Boys. With the encouragement of a little applause at the end, he takes a bow or two or twenty. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Flowers for the Front Porch

I've cleaned up the two large flower pots on the front porch and hung the wooden Autumn Greetings sign with the pumpkin near the front door. Every time I drive down Peoria Road to Corvallis I'm reminded that I need to stop in at Gingrich's and buy some flowers. They'll be protected a bit on the porch and I may not have them long if the weather goes below freezing for too long, but I'll have a bit of color on the porch for a while, anyway.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Straight Into Winter

Fall didn't last. It's become colder and the wind and rain are here. Often we ease into winter with a few days of rain, then a day or two of sunny weather, then rain again. Last fall we had a wonderful run with that intermittent weather lasting well until the end of October. But no, not this year.

There's a fire in the fireplace, the down comforter is on the bed, and I've taken a few extra quilts out of the cedar chest just in case. The birds are gone to a warmer place. I loved summer so and now it's gone.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007


I had put bread out in the snowball tree for the birds and watched them eating from the open doorway. One robin came up to the very doorstep, looked up at me, and then flew away!

The rains are beginning and soon all the robins will be gone until spring.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Sign of Fall

John and I have both come down with the stomach flu and are now being forced to survive on the kind of foodstuff you see in the photograph. I forgot to include bananas. And bottled water. I came down sick Tuesday and could manage nothing but sips of water for two days. This morning I dared drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea. It was well worth the risk. I'm getting tired now. I think I'll go lie down for a bit.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Last of the Summer Flowers

Summer is over. These pinks are the last of them. Pinks are members of the Dianthus family, a group of over 300 species, and are very easy to grow. They have a nice scent too. This group of flowers includes Carnations, Baby's Breath, and Sweet William.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More Signs Fall is Coming

I see the school buses traveling the highway now, as the new bus drivers learn the routes before school begins in a few weeks. The buses look like big, fat yellow beetles, scurrying down country roads. When school begins they'll pause just long enough to gulp down the waiting children and then be gone.

And this morning I saw this spiderweb after I watered my flowers.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Signs of Fall

The end of summer is coming. I can feel it in the breeze which is a just a bit cooler in the mornings. I see it in the patches of fog above the water when I drive near the river and a few leaves are turning yellow. And now the apples are appearing in the stores.

Our little grocery store carries a variety of apples grown by local farmers. These are William's Pride, a small and crisp apple. One or two fits well in a pocket and they taste wonderful.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Feminists and Quilts: Note to Ms. Greer

I owe a great deal to the feminist movement which, forty years ago, pushed the boundaries of defining what it is to be a woman. Still, I've never called myself a feminist in large part because I had no wish to identify myself with the women icons of that movement who struck me as strident, angry and bitter and, in many ways, appeared not to have a clue about what it meant to be a woman.

Freedom is far more than being able to work, or being independent and having a life (or a room) of one's own. It's about having a choice about how to live one's life and having that choice, whatever it may be, honored and respected. Sadly, those who chose to be housewives and mothers were viewed as refusing to join the Great Cause and as being cowardly, oppressed or in need of re-education, or, if it was done as a real choice as it was for me, a university educated woman in her 20's who could be or do anything she wished, as being a traitor.

Now comes an article in the UK Guardian by Germaine Greer,author of The Female Eunuch , considered one of the classic feminist manifestos.

Writing about quilts in a commentary entitled "Making pictures from strips of cloth isn't art at all - but it mocks art's pretentions to the core", she writes

What could be the point of such an exercise in futility? The work of art is supposed to defy time but fabric is bound to fade and rot, even when it is kept in between layers of tissue paper and shut away from sight. There's nothing new in this kind of heroic pointlessness; women have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand ever since vicarious leisure was invented.

Sigh. Where do I start? If it's true that "the work of art is supposed to defy time" then what do you call art that has defied time but was never designed with that in mind and did so only by chance, such as the prehistoric paintings on cave walls in France and Poland or the graffiti and murals on the walls of Pompeii? Do you realize that canvas is made of fabric and fades and rots too? Do you truly believe that time spent creating something beautiful and unique is just time frittered away? Ah, my dear, dear Ms. Greer, after all these years you still do not understand.

The quilts you are writing about, those which are pictures made of bits of fabric and which you describe as having pretensions of being art, really are art. They are just not "Art". You know, Art with a capital "A". Art as defined by men. You ask: "Why didn't she just paint them?" Did you ever think that perhaps women didn't have access to paints and canvas, but did have access to fabrics? You might have inferred that when you wrote about the artist, yes! the artist, Edrica Huws :

Five children later, and living in rural Anglesey with neither electricity nor running water, she turned her hand to poetry and began collecting fabrics for her patchwork. She was 51 when she began her first patchwork picture of a greenhouse. It took her a year.

Edrica Huws was trained at the Chelsea School of Art and at The Royal College of Art where she worked under a professor who was a specialist in murals and after graduation her works were shown in several London Galleries. But marriage, a war, children, and a move to North Wales changed the circumstances of her life and she never painted with paints again but instead used fabrics. Did the change in mediums make her any less an artist?

Do you understand, Ms. Greer, the intense need to create something, and doing the best you can with the materials at hand? Edrica Huws was a trained artist but not all quilters who make fabric pictures are. (See my comment on outsider art.)

Can you see the difference between paint, which is stiff, hard, cold and monotone and fabric, which is soft, warm, with prints that can represent so much more with variations of color, scale, and design?

And then there is the fabric itself. Fabric is tactile, it connects us to generations of women before us (especially for those of us fortunate enough to inherit the rag bags of great aunts or grandmothers so that just seeing the fabric remnants bring back memories), and it brings comfort, both physical and emotional.

I did note, Ms. Greer, that you differentiated between "art quilts" and patchwork quilts, writing

There was a time when women made patchworks together, in quilting bees, and chatted as they worked. The materials were worn-out clothing and aprons; the pattern was a variant on a stock pattern, learned from the older women and modified to fit the circumstances. Such quilts are dignified, dense and often very beautiful objects. They have no pretensions to being works of art....

Oh really? Please take a look at these quilts , then, made by the women in Gee's Bend in just the way you describe in your quote,and tell me they are not Art!

You may be surprised to learn that many of us still make patchwork quilts, although most of us use new fabric and work by ourselves. You may also be interested to learn that patterns were and still being constantly modified, have different names in different parts of the country and the world, and that women often add their own touches by using unusual fabrics, modifying the pattern, changing the size, or choosing a different setting .

Some of us have worked on quilts to help us through grieving and through hard times. A quilter from the 1800's who homesteaded in the prairies and made quilts to help her family survive the brutal winters in a soddy house wrote in her diary:

I made quilts as fast as I could to keep my family from freezing and as beautiful as I could to keep my heart from breaking.

Baltimore Album quilts, African-American quilts, Hmong quilts, Hawaiian quilts, Seminole pieced quilts, Molas, and the simplest, most homely nine-patch pieced quilts are just as much Art and, perhaps more so, then are canvases splattered with paint.

Ms. Greer writes:

You could end up profoundly depressed by yet more evidence that, for centuries, women have been kept busy wasting their time.

I am profoundly depressed that after all these decades,Ms. Greer, you still have an oh so very limited understanding of what is valuable and important to women.

P.S. And I'm not the only woman who believes Ms. Greer hasn't got a clue. See here and here .

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hey There, Cupcake!

That's the title of a book and a website . I found the website several months go, but only came across the book at the library last week.

The decorating is a bit much for me (at least until I have grandchildren), but I like the recipes for chocolate-caramel, citrus, and pineapple cupcakes. I also have a tip for those who like the "classic" chocolate cupcake with cherry icing and a maraschino cherry on top: use maraschino juice from the jar instead of the liquid for the frosting and you'll get both a delicious cherry taste plus the perfect shade of pink!

And if you're really, really into cupcakes check out this blog , which promises "all cupcakes, all the time"!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Summers of Our Lives

In the early mornings, the sky is getting brighter just before dawn and I go outside to admire the moon and bright stars. I drink the last of my morning coffee and stand at the front door, watching the sun rising above the horizon, coloring the few wisps of clouds a glorious shade of pink.

The town I live in is not small, it is tiny. I only have to go several blocks and I'm out in the country. The vast flat fields change from green to a rich tan as the tall grass becomes piled and windrows are cut and left to dry in the sun. Then they are harvested with huge combines driven by people who wave at me as I go by. I sometimes stop by the road for the sheer joy of absorbing the smell of harvest, an indescribable fragrance, dry and seasoned yet tangy and sharp. I watch the red tailed hawks swooping over the fields looking for their dinners of mice and snakes.

After the combines whine down the road to other fields, red and yellow balers take over and efficiently bundle the leftover straw into neat bales as the setting sun lights up clouds of dust behind them.

Between me and the fields the wild roses bloom first, then teasel and Queen Anne's Lace take over, waving like passing neighbors, and then, finally, the blackberries ripen in tangled profusion in the fence rows.

The fresh tastes and smells of summer are almost divine, as well - field-ripened strawberries are first. Fat blueberries from the farm on Peoria Road. Peaches from Hentze's. Scents of fresh basil and tomato vines cling to my hands when I work in the garden. And when I make the first blackberry pie of the season the flavor is so rich and delicious that I don't even mind the sticky purple drips on the bottom of my oven.

Summer is the season of expansion. Fragile petunia plants in hanging pots balloon into green velvet clouds studded with bright purple jewels. Gardens reach in all directions, the corn leaping upward after a sluggish June. The zucchini are just the right size to be cut into slivers the size of coins, dipped in egg and then a mix of flour and Parmesan cheese and fried in butter, but if I turn my back for a couple of days they are huge and good only to be fed to sheep.

When I drive anywhere now,I need to watch for the slow moving tractors going down the highway in convoys onto the next field. I see the trucks, loaded with fresh green beans heading for the cannery in Salem. Soon those trucks will be filled with corn. Then, in autumn, will come the beets and that will be the end of this summer.

Realizing that the summer will pass soon is what makes it so precious. Maybe this taste of heaven is meant to whet our appetites for eternity. I don't know.

I just know that this summer, while the grapevines climb up into the tree branches and the sun shines through the haze of rye grass dust in the air, I think, "Oh! But we just started! Don't let summer end! Please, not yet, not yet."

"Nobody needs to pity the farmwife, however scratched and
bedraggled she may look, coming out of the blackberry patch.
She has got something more than blackberries from the time
out there. There is no better place than the blackberry
patch for that hour of solitude every farm woman craves now
and then."

Rural Free: A Farmwife's Alamanc of Country Living

August is one of my favorite months for now there are times and places when I have an excuse to be outside, by myself, to think my own thoughts and dream my own dreams. These are rare and special moments, even for women of a certain age who live in small towns.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Fascinating Mix

I am enchanted by this blog, Postcards from Cairo , written by an Australian quilter currently living in Egypt. The photographs of the people and of her quilts are gorgeous and her posts about the cultures and ceremonies are marvelous.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sign of Summer

Not only are the little birds back, singing their hearts out every morning, I am noticing more and more butterflies in the garden as well.

Truly, it is summer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Folk Art Quilts

Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once he grows up.
~ Pablo Picasso

There was a story in this morning's New York Times entitled
Handmade Alabama Quilts Find Fame and Controversy . The story is about the Gee's Bend Quilts , quilts I'd first read and heard about when I first began quilting, although at the time they were called Freedom Quilts.

These quilts remind of Henri Matisse's paper cut-outs . I was struck by this last month when I saw the Gee's Bend Exhibition at the Walter's Museum in Baltimore and then, the next day, went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and saw an exhibition of Matisse's cut-outs .

The New York Times story describes the history of the quilts and the lawsuits filed by two of the quilters against Bill Arnett and his sons, claiming they had been cheated out of thousands of dollars in proceeds from their work and copyrights. This seems to be a fairly regular occurance when dealing with folk or outsider art, but it's unclear if that is the case here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blueberry Season

Blueberries are the first food I remember eating. I must have been about three and-a-half. We were living at Minnow Lake. I ate a bowl full of blueberries with brown sugar and milk. I'm sure that blueberries must exist in heaven. After all, what else would angels want to eat?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flower Garden

I have a hexagon flower garden quilt on the long list of quilts I want to make, but in the meantime a flower garden with old fashioned flowers will have to do.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jack!

I hope you have a wonderful birthday, Jack! This photo is from your fifth birthday party with your grandpapa. I wish you love and happiness forever and that you always have that happy look in your eyes. Love ya, Jack.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Gavin!

I hope you had a great birthday, Gavin! I wish you love and happiness forever. And that you always keep your sense of fun, Mr. Oreo Eyes! Love ya, G-guy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Longing for the Beach!

Library school is year around but I do get about two weeks off in December and two in August. I'm looking forward to my "time off" although, as usual for me, I will be spending some of that time on library school related projects. Still, I'd like one (or maybe even two) days at the beach, walking hand-in-hand with John, feeling the sand between my toes, and breathing the salt air. Well, we'll see.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


I've checked the weather reports and see that we are expected to get temperatures near 100 on Tuesday and Wednesday. I love summer, but I don't like it when it gets this hot. Perhaps I'll spend those days studying at the Oregon State University Library . They have air-conditioning!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

We're going to have a quiet holiday at home. I'm fixing barbecued ribs, baked beans, cornbread, coleslaw,lemonade and iced tea with flag cake for dessert. This is one of my rare days of real vacation. I'm not going to work on assignments or study or do research. I'll knit a bit, read a chapter or two in a mystery novel, maybe take a nap, water my flower garden, feed the birds, go for a walk. Today I'm just going to play.

P.S. I've decided to start a new blog about my play-time. It's called Small Comforts .

Saturday, June 30, 2007

And Best of All....

Better than going to the conference, better than the seafood, better than the trip to Washington, D.C., better than the quilts was seeing Jack.

The Wall

Going to the Wall was a very emotional experience for me, but I'm glad I went.

Washington, D.C.

After the conference was over, John and I took the train with Jack to visit Washington, D.C.


I discovered that the Walters Art Museum, only a few blocks from the hotel where we stayed, had an exhibition of the Gee's Bend Quilts . Click here to read more about them. They didn't allow photographs to be taken but I did buy a book of postcards, some small magnets, and best of all, a two-compact-disc compilation that was recorded over 60 years ago (but never released) and newly recorded music performed by quiltmakers who had never before been heard outside of Gee’s Bend, mainly gospel music. John put them on my i-Pod and I listened to them all night on the long flight from Chicago to Portland.

I also visited the Maryland Historical Society . They had an antique Sorrows Quilt for sale for $250. This is what the sign next to it said "Using fabric scraps from the clothing of loved ones,19th century quilters crafted quilts made to commemorate someone who had died. Usually blocked with black alternating pieces, these quilts are also known as sunshine and shadow."

The only other quilt on display was this one, a Baltimore Maryland quilt made almost 150 years ago.

Architectural Details