Saturday, May 31, 2008

All Things Birdy

Textile Bird by Michelle Bonds

My friend Michelle Bonds began her blog at about the same time I began All Things Quilty. Michelle is an amazing artist who specializes in recycling found objects like bottle caps and even toilet paper and paper towels into jewelry, postcards, quilts, and other objets d'art. Anyway, I loved Michelle's birds when she posted pictures of them on her blog. Much to my delight, I received a package in the mail this week containing my very own Bond-Birdy! She is made of a dyed fabric that has been stamped and painted. The wings are made from a map of North Carolina that has been painted and stitched. They gleam and glitter! Thank you, Michelle, for such a generous gift that truly brightened a rather bad day.

Hummingbird, Felt-tip markers, by Kyara, age 9

Bird #2 was created by one of my third grade students. She made it to illustrate a story she wrote about a hummingbird. Kyara traced the outline of a bird from a calendar picture, and then went wild on the plumage! I think her Mexican heritage is showing through in the bright colors and swirls. To me, it is reminiscent of a Mola. I would have to say her variety of bright colors may be because she loves my scented markers, and wanted to use as many "flavors" as possible. The kids in my classes often walk around with little colored dots on their noses from smelling the markers a little too closely!

Six baby bluebirds

Last bird's-eye view of the day is this brood of baby bluebirds that live in my front yard. I don't remember ever having six in the box at one time. I think they are about a week old now. When they first hatched, they looked like little fuzzy thumbs with beaks. Starting to look more like birdies now!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here's to Us!

Today is my wedding anniversary. Charlie and I have been married thirty-seven years! Yikes! We met in college at N.C. State University in Raleigh, and started dating in January of my sophomore year. We were married at the end of my junior year. He dropped out and worked as a loan collector until I finished. That job was enough motivation for him to go back and finish his degree. It was a lot of fun being married while in college. We had lots of married friends, and we loved going to each others' apartments for dinner or a party. Both of us made much better grades. We were poor, but happy. Now we are no longer poor, but still happy! I am so thankful for the years we have had together. Now we have two handsome grown sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and two perfect grand-babies (and more to come some day, right, Dave?) Life is good!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Older Quilts

Since I returned to teaching school in February, I have not had much time for quilting except for the online class I took with Pamela Allen. You might enjoy seeing some photographs of some of my older quilts that I made before purchasing my Gammill long-arm machine in 2003. These were all quilted on just a domestic sewing machine.

The first one shown above is a wedding quilt that I made for my brother Tim and his wife Beth. I used bright colors for the stars and sashings. The centers of the stars include novelty fabrics reflecting some of their interests. For example, Beth is a great cook, and I think I included some fabric with peppers. Tim used to do engineering work for NASA/ Jet Propulsion Labs, so the stars were an appropriate theme. The last star on the lower right has a picture of their combined family in the star.This is the back of the same quilt. I like to use up extra fabric with pieced backs, and add a little "back art" if possible.This little wall-hanging is from an Internet swap, back in the days when Al Gore first invented the Internet. Each block has a quotation in the plain center strip. Some are humorous, some inspirational. One of my favorites: "I wonder how deep the ocean would be if the sponges didn't live there?"And here is a look back to my nieces' graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rachel had just earned her doctorate in Pharmacy, and Amy had finished pre-med. She is now a dentist. Too bad no one in my family enjoys hamming it up for the camera!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

A lovely long weekend in the mountains of North Carolina. Sunday night was a bonus night to extend the weekend, watch the sunset on top of the mountain and sit out and watch the stars. We are fairly confident that we spotted the International Space Station orbiting above us. It looks like a steady bright white light.

Here is Charlie and Maggy outside of our cabin, which sported the American flag for this national holiday.
And here is a perfect lady's slipper that I spotted in the woods in front of the cabin.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Juno and Pamela

I have bought myself two presents in the past few days. One is the soundtrack CD from the movie Juno. We watched this delightful comedy on Pay Per View the other night, and I went to the mall to get the CD the next day. I loved the story, the fresh young actors, and the music. It all sounds new and happy. The soundtrack actually includes oldies by Buddy Holly and The Kinks, as well as a very different-sounding cover of The Carpenters' SuperStar by Sonic Youth. The other artists are all unknown to me, but they feature a lot of guitar music and clever lyrics.

When I got home yesterday, my July 2008 copy of American Quilter magazine had arrived. I was staring at the eye candy from the AQS Show winners in Paducah and slobbering all over the pages. Then I discovered another article by Pamela Allen, my online teacher from the Think Like an Artist workshop this spring. This one was about a project of making a school quilt. They made portraits similar to the ones we made in the workshop.
That inspired me to order a copy of Masters: Art Quilts: Major Works by Leading Artists. The central image on the cover looks like Pamela Allen's work. She is one of forty artists featured in this book. I am looking forward to inspiration from this book, and also to having some time to create once school is out in June.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dancing With the Stars

I must admit, my DH and I are big fans of the US television show, Dancing With the Stars. Last night was the finale, with my favorite dancer emerging as the winner! Kristi Yamaguchi has consistently been perfect in her dancing routines, just as she was in her figure skating. And she makes it look so easy! I predicted she would win from the very beginning.

There has been a lot of buzz about her locally, since she and her family live right here in Raleigh, North Carolina! Hubby Bret Hedican is on the local NHL Hockey team, the Carolina Hurricanes. My husband has experienced a Kristi-spotting in the Chick-fil-A near his office. He could not believe how tiny she is. Apparently the family has their Raleigh house on the market, and are planning to move to California.

With all the excitement of Dancing With the Stars, my husband and his partners jumped on the bandwagon for their latest client appreciation event. Last night we had a wine-tasting combined with ballroom dancing lessons in a country club ballroom. The instructor and his partner performed three dances: rumba, western swing, and tango. Yes, she changed dresses for each dance. Nothing approaching the daring tummy and torso-baring of an Edyta or Cheryl, but she looked lovely! Then the couples who wanted to try got free dancing lessons. It was fun to watch, and the couples who tried it made admirable progress in just a short time. We stayed on the sidelines, but might try some lessons in the studio.

This all takes me back a few decades. I started taking ballroom dancing lessons in sixth or seventh grade. All the eighth graders in my school in New Jersey took lessons on Friday nights. By the time I was old enough to go dancing, we moved to North Carolina, where "shagging" to beach music was about the only dance in town. After I got married, my husband and I took lessons from my parents out on their patio. I neglected to mention in my recent tribute to my mother that she and Daddy were fabulous dancers-ballroom, square, and round. My husband is a good dancer, but just doesn't like it. The only exception was when he played trombone for Raleigh's Little German Band, and he would do the polka with me at break time. That's after many beers, folks. Now it's mostly one slow dance at weddings to appease me. I'll take what I can get!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Good Old Mountain Music

What a great time we had last weekend! A real family get-together to celebrate my nephew's wedding two weeks ago. The picture above shows me on the bottom row with my brother Chris, John, and John's son Ryan. The standing row is my brother Tim, sister Katy, brother Pat, and my Dad. Really fun to have all of the siblings there except one, who lives in Southern Florida.
I mentioned that I was busily working on several projects last week. One was ordering these two posters with pictures of the wedding. You can actually just upload your digital shots to and order the poster. You can add as many photos that you like to the collage poster. They were a big hit, especially for those who were not at the actual wedding. The wreath above the posters is adorned with flame azalea that I picked on the mountain that morning.
In addition to picking the pig, there was another kind of picking going on...the pickin' and grinnin' type. My brothers always provide guitar/banjo music when they get together...but the younger generation took over at the party, with various ones taking turns on guitar or mandolin. Above are my son Dave on guitar, and friend Big Mike (6'9") handling the mandolin.

The other project I made last week was a DVD of all the wedding pictures, set to three different songs by the country group Alabama. If you have a computer with Windows XP, it probably has Windows Movie Maker. It is a rather simple procedure to import your pictures and drag them to the storyboard. Then you can adjust them to go along with the lyrics of your songs. I have very successfully used this for rehearsal dinners and other picture shows.

Finally, here is a parting shot of one of the hillsides on the mountain in the late afternoon sun. The trees have leafed out and are in many shades of greens and pastels. We often see deer playing on this hilly meadow.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Frogs and Swans

Someone on one of the long-arm quilting mail lists provided a link to this You-Tube video , and I absolutely loved it. I would say this performance is part ballet, part gymnastics, and part circus. I thought the frogs were very clever, but the last part amazed me. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ah, the power of blogging! I wrote about this topic once before, when I posted about being invited to speak at the Piedmont Quilt Guild after one of their officers read my blog. This time, apparently my blog posting about my mother was powerful enough to move several people to tears, and create a flurry of e-mail among my relatives. As I mentioned, I have a large family, but our e-mail exchanges have been pretty quiet since Christmas. Since Sunday, I have heard from most of my siblings, my father, my Uncle Jerry, two aunts and several cousins. Thanks to everyone who has responded to that post in my comments or e-mailed me.

This week is very busy, as I am still working full time and trying to get ready for a mountain trip this weekend. This Saturday will be the big party to celebrate my nephew Jason's wedding. Nothing like a good ole' Southern pig-picking! I've been working on a few surprise little wedding gifts, got a birthday present for my sister, and will have to decide what to cook as side dishes at the party. My son Dave will be riding up with us, and several of my siblings who have not been to our mountain place will also be joining us. Great fun!

Here is a cute little story from school. My third graders were reading a selection about growing a vegetable garden. There was a photo of an eggplant on one page. I asked if anyone could identify that plant, and one little girl raised her hand wildly. She blurted out: "Eggnog!"

Sorry about no "quilty" news again. I am trying to plan a quilt "show-and-tell" at school before the year is over. It sure will tie into our curriculum in math as far as measurement, patterns, and geometry! Our annual end-of-grade testing program is next week, and after that it will be fun to do something a little different. Maybe inspire some future quilters!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Still Missing My Mother

On Friday afternoon, I was in the computer lab at school, supervising a group of "challenged learners" who are enrolled in a tutorial skills program. Many of the students came in that day with tissue paper flowers, cards, or other projects they had made in school as Mother's Day gifts. One of the fifth grade girls asked me, "What are you giving your mother for Mother's Day?" I replied that I had lost my mother many years ago. The girl next to her poked her with her elbow and chided, "Hush up! You will make her sad!"

I was rather touched by this demonstration of caring for my feelings, a trait not often observed in this particular population who know me only as the lady who circles the lab to make sure they are not looking at rap music web sites instead of their educational program.

But, it did start me thinking about my mother, and how sad I actually am that she is no longer with us. It has been twenty-four years since my beautiful, healthy, vibrant mother succumbed after only six months to a particularly nasty form of cancer. She was sixty years old. She had raised seven children and had ten or eleven grandchildren. She and my father had been married for almost forty years.

My father and mother both grew up during the Depression in Washington, D.C. My mother, Betty Lou Donovan, was the youngest of four girls in an Irish family, although they got a surprise baby brother when my mother was twelve. She and my father became sweethearts after meeting at a dance in junior high. She reportedly told her sisters that she had "just met the man that she would marry." Indeed, they dated all through high school. Their dates often meant roller-skating in a park or taking little brother Jerry along on a walk or to the movies. When World War II came along, my father was off to England and then Italy in the Army Air Corps, the earlier version of today's Air Force. I wrote last year about my father, Pete Turner, a successful commercial and fine artist. We were allowed to read their love letters when I was growing up. My father called her "Botts," and all his letters were filled with wonderful little cartoons and drawings. When the war was over, they married and moved immediately to New York, where my father could begin his career as an illustrator in the midst of the big city's advertising and publishing mecca. They started out in a tiny apartment in the Bronx. When the babies started coming, they moved to a new apartment building in Stuyvesant Town, which was built for returning veterans to have affordable housing. By the time they had their "Irish triplets," or three babies within four years, it was time to move to the suburbs. But I have a photo album of pictures to prove that despite raising three little ones in a high-rise apartment, we went out to play in the park every day, and I seem to be wearing pretty little starched and ironed outfits every time.

We stayed in the suburbs of New York and New Jersey until I was fifteen. By then our family had increased to seven children. The last three were boys. I, too, had a baby brother twelve or thirteen years younger than me, but there were four others in between. Have you ever seen those old maternity outfits of the fifties and sixties? Before the onset of spandex, the maternity pants and skirts just had open holes with ties around the waist, where the big belly just kind of hung out and was covered by a tent-like maternity top. I guess I remember my mother the most wearing that sort of get-up. She remained beautiful despite all the pregnancies, and the difficulties of a being a housewife before all the modern conveniences of today. Here is a picture of her dressed up for her brother's wedding (yes, that's me as a flower girl, shortly before my cousin spilled a glass of ice water right on my dress). I found out later that my mom, the ultimate bargain hunter, had bought the whole outfit, lace dress and all, for about ten dollars. Money was always a little tight in our family with so many mouths to feed, but she could squeeze a dollar harder than anyone I know. We always had fabulous balanced meals for dinner. I don't remember ever going out to eat dinner as a family until we moved to North Carolina when I was fifteen. That's right, every single meal cooked at home. When my husband was talking about my mother at my nephew's wedding a couple weeks ago, it was all about how she always made him something special when he came to dinner, even if it was a special bowl of turkey gravy with no "giblets" or mushrooms. Nothing was ever wasted by letting it linger too long in the refrigerator. And here is a memory I treasure: a line of eight brown bag lunches every morning, with names written on each one, from "Pete," my father, to "Patrick," the baby. Why did they have to have names? Why, because they each were different according to our preferences. Creamed cheese for this one, peanut butter for that one, white bread for some, pumpernickel for others, Oreo cookies for this one, Hydrox for that one.

It does make me sad that my mother never reaped all the joy of being a grandmother and great-grandmother. Fortunately for her and for us, she did adore babies. When my first child was born in 1977, I had a fairly difficult recovery due to anemia. At the time we were living only eight miles from the family home in Cary. My mother came every single day to stay with me. When I was able to get up and around, I noticed all the small miracles she had performed around my house. The old kitchen sink in my fifties-style ranch house was sparkling white! The dining room windows were sparkling clean! That was just like my mother, just noticing what needed doing and quietly getting it done with no fanfare. Here is a picture of her holding my son Bryson at his first birthday party, in April of 1978. My mother died in 1984. It hurts me that my children do not remember her, or how much she loved them. She would now have fourteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, including the two new ones who joined our family when my nephew married last month.

I miss you, Mom, and now that I have raised my own family, your accomplishments astound me. I don't know how you did it. I guess the answer is love and self-sacrifice.

Thank you for being my mother.

That is all that I can give you for Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Whacky Ladies Quilt Bee

The other day I mentioned that I belonged to a local quilt bee, The Whacky Ladies. I have been in this group about twelve years. Our membership has changed greatly over the years, as members have moved or developed other interests. We meet in each other's homes one night per month. I try to never miss these meetings. There is something so comforting about being with other women who share my passion and "get it" when it comes to love of quilting. My group is very supportive of each other, no matter the skill level or preferred technique. Some of these ladies have brought me tops to quilt for them, but many are skilled hand or machine quilters as well.

We do not have many group swaps or projects, but two years ago we outdid ourselves with the quilt pictured above. The Capital Quilters Guild in Raleigh asked for bees to make a project that could be raffled for Safe Child. This Raleigh organization's mission is to stop child abuse. This cause is rather dear to my heart, since as a special education teacher for sixteen years, I worked with a population that was exceptionally vulnerable to abuse. Anyway, we decided to do this quilt that was featured in Quilters Newsletter magazine. We each brought in four or five fat quarters of batiks to a meeting. Then we had a cutting party. We piled all the batiks on my kitchen table and set up cutting stations. Everyone went home with a kit including the instructions for their chosen blocks. Two months later, we had a sew-in day to assemble the completed blocks. I had made a trip to Mecca, also known as Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia, NC. Never been there? Plan to stop next time you are on I-85 between Virginia and Atlanta. It is just past Charlotte, NC, and is a former grocery store turned fabric/thread/notions paradise. And at great discount prices! Anyway, I bought some fabric there for the sashings, borders, and backing. The machines were humming. We found that some of us preferred to piece, one LOVED to iron, and one was a former engineer for GM who was in charge of figuring out the math. When we got it assembled, I quilted it on my Gammill with variegated thread. I used a leaf stencil for the sashing, and some Nichole Webb ferny designs for blocks and borders. Carolyn volunteered to do the binding. Our quilt won first place in the Viewers' Choice at the guild meeting. I never heard exactly how much money it made at the raffle, but I hope that our contribution made a difference.

At the bee meeting, Janice related a tale about finding a frightened, lost, standard poodle who had run away from a trip to the animal clinic. She found him in her back yard, and spent hours trying to lure him close enough to eat some food, and managed to contact the owners to come get him. She refused the offer of a $1,000 reward- and the owner told her to name her charity. Sure enough, the one that popped into her head was Safe Child. The owner loved the idea and sent the check in her name. Isn't that fabulous! She also got a nice gift certificate in the mail as a thank you.

Speaking of rescuing animals, my husband astonished me this morning as I was pouring my cup of coffee by coming in the house with a baby bunny about six inches long! He had found his way into our garage. Well, we have had many incidents of wildlife in our garage over the years, but this is the first little rabbit. I prefer him to the various rodents and reptiles who have sought warmth and bird seed in my garage! And every summer, we have to rescue hummingbirds who find their way in, but can't figure out how to get back out. Their little hummingbird brains can't figure out how to dip down under the garage doors to the opening. They circle the ceiling, endlessly poking their little beaks up in search of the way out. Sometimes we can scoop them up in a fishing net on a pole when they get tired. Sometimes they get so exhausted that they fall to the floor, or go into a state of torpor. When that happens, I do hummingbird CPR by wrapping them in a dishtowel and sticking their beaks into the hummingbird feeder. Twice I have done this and watched the little dimwit birds happily fly off after revival, twittering like mad to their mates who are waiting in a nearby tree. Ah, Mother Nature!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Getting in a Beachy Kind of Mood

Last night, it was so cool and beautiful outside that DH and I spent a few hours on the front porch. We caught the last of the sunset, and watched the bluebirds and hummingbirds. We have one bluebird house that has four eggs inside, but they don't look like bluebird eggs. Of course, no one went in the house while we were watching. When the crescent moon came out, it looked just like the smile of the elusive Cheshire cat.

Sitting on the porch with a nice breeze made us long for our upcoming week at Sunset Beach, NC.
We always go and stay in the same house in June. It is now one month away. I can hardly wait! As much as I love the mountains, it is very therapeutic to spend a whole week by the sea. This year we will be leaving the day after my last day of school.

Maybe I will have time soon to work on some other projects. We are staying home this weekend, so if I can get the house straightened and some weeds pulled outside, I might get some sewing done.

Tonight my quilt bee, The Whacky Ladies, meets. Always fun and inspiring!

Finally, happy birthday to my wonderful, generous, beautiful sister Katy. Love you, girl!

My Dad, sister Katy, and me at Katy's son's wedding April 26

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Art Quilt Inspiration

Photograph copyright Walter W. Leach

In my last post I alluded to a new project that I am excited about. Okay, it's not even a project yet, just an inspiration. Our local newspaper has a feature that publishes readers' photographs and the stories behind them. When I saw the photograph and story by Walter Leach in the North Raleigh News section of the News and Observer, I just stared and stared. Then I cut it out and started trying to contact the N&O to find out how to get in touch with Mr. Leach. After about a month I got an e-mail address, and about a week later I received permission from the gentleman to make a quilt derived from this picture.

Here is the beautiful accompanying story:

In October of 2003, I had the opportunity to take my wife, Elizabeth, to the Grand Canyon (her first visit). As we were enjoying the magnificent views for the south rim, this old and twisted tree caught my attention. This lonely sentinel in such an exposed site, showing such determination and strength, moved me. I took the one picture and moved on. When I saw the results I was so taken with this symbol that I have a copy hanging on my family room wall.

My wife had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997 and fought it courageously with an upbeat outlook on life until she no longer had the strength to continue in August 2006. This picture reminds me of her faith, strength and love.

Walter Leach

With his written permission, Walter commented to me that he was sure his beloved wife, Elizabeth, would be proud.


I hope that I will get this right.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What's in Bloom-Mountain version

Just back this afternoon from a three-day weekend in the mountains. It was beautiful and relaxing. Even did a little fishing this morning in the pond the guys built last summer.

Everything is in bloom up there, from dogwood to wild azalea to woodland violets. All the trees in the woods compete for sunshine, so it is not unusual to see one branch of a dogwood blooming up high.
And here are some fern fiddle heads readying themselves to open.
Lots of these yellow clusters of flowers were blooming by the creek.
Here is the Man Tree by the creek, looking like something from Tolkein...
And at it base, a clump of purple violets blooming in a little hole in the wood.

Here is a pretty spot along the creek.

When I first spotted these little white bell-shaped flowers, I thought they were Dutchman's breeches. But they are growing on a shrub. Not sure what they are called.

I took a hike with just my faithful dog Maggy to the top of the mountain. Here is a view from my sister's bench about halfway to the top.

The hummingbird feeder was quite popular after I moved it from a hemlock branch at the edge of our property to a hanging basket pole that I can watch from my kitchen window. There was never a time when there was not at least one little hummer having a sip.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Carolina Springtime

Sorry about not posting much recently. I have been out of town three weekends in a row, and we are leaving again tonight for a three-day weekend in the mountains. No, I am not playing hooky from the elementary school where I teach...tomorrow is a teacher workday, and we are allowed to take vacation days if no meetings are assigned.

I have obviously not done much sewing, with the wedding last weekend and all our traveling, but I have a new project that I am very excited about. I will write about that next week.

It has turned very green here, with lots and lots of rain to make up for a two-year drought. Everything is blooming and makes me LOVE living in the south at this time of year. Unfortunately, both of my native dogwood trees next to my azaleas were severely damaged by the drought, and only a few branches put out any blooms this year. I think some pruning will help.

Here are some pictures of my back yard, taken before school one morning recently.