My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quilt Show 2013, Part 1

Image from Shelterness

When the pumpkins appear in my neck of the woods, it's time for quilts! And this year's 16th annual October Fiber Arts exhibit at our public library was special, since my friend (and quilter extraordinaire) Jo got to attend it with me during her visit earlier this month! That was fun for us both, as I got the benefit of her insights and expertise while viewing the quilts, and she got to see them up close and in person instead of having to press her nose to her computer screen in Michigan to try to study some of the quilt details. :-)
Unfortunately, though there were many beautiful exhibits, we didn't think they were shown to their best effect because of how they were displayed. In past shows, the quilts were usually hung unfolded from the mezzanine railing from as close to their top edge as possible to make nearly the entire quilt visible from below or from across the mezzanine. This time many of them were folded over width-wise before being draped halfway over the railing, so that in many cases just 1/4 of the quilt was visible from any particular vantage point. To show you what I mean, here's an overview photo from a past year's show...

and here are this year's overview photos... 

In some cases you could still see enough of the quilt to get a good idea of its pattern and design, but in several cases hiding that much of the quilt made a big difference. I think were a lot more quilts in this year's show - which was great - but they also looked crammed together (often overlapping) with no thought to color or design placement, so some of the colors or designs clashed with each other. I don't know why they didn't use the stair railing to display some of them like they have in years past, and I wouldn't have wanted to be the person who labored on a quilt for months only to have it folded up and scrunched in a corner. And most annoying of all, several of them were hung very crookedly. I had Jo straighten out one of our favorites as much as she could before I photographed her with it, ignoring the "don't touch" signs because it was listing so badly! Anyway, I was disappointed since they've always been displayed so beautifully in the past, and I wanted Jo to enjoy our quilt show at its best! But we still had fun. I mean, just look at all those colors and patterns! So yummy!...

I'll start with the above section, since I took closeups of four of the five quilts displayed on the wall  (and you'll see more of that red and purple eye-catcher on the railing in Part 3!) As always, I've included, in quotes and italics, the exhibitor's personal note from the quilt's info card whenever I thought it was interesting or informative. And also as always, click on any photo for more detail. And enjoy! :-)

I thought this quilt was quite elegant...

Magical Medallions
Technique: Needleturn Quilting, Appliqué
Artist: Judy Peck
"Begun January 2012, completed November 2012"

And this one was cheerful and summery...

Jane's Flower Garden
Technique: Machine Appliqué
Artist: Jane Rader
Quilter: Janis Farr
"Patterns for the appliqué came from the Kansas City Star in the 1930's.
The fabrics are all 1930's reproductions."

I'm always a sucker for dark backgrounds and bright colors, so you know I loved this one...

Garden Nouveau
Technique: Needleturn Appliqué
Artist: Judy Peck
"Begun August 2012, completed Februrary 2013"

It's a shame they hung this next beauty behind one of the display cases; Jo and I both admired it and I'd have loved to have captured it in its luscious entirety...

Aunt Grace's Circle of Friends
Technique: Machine Pieces, Hand Appliqué, English Paper Piecing
Artist: Maureen Humphrys
Quilter: Virginia Ohr

Jo and I also were really drawn to the reddish one to the left of the mitten tree... 

Its background color was quite unusual - a sort of rich, rusty burgundy - but it gave us both fits trying to capture it accurately with our cameras! No matter how many lighting or angle permutations we tried, it kept turning out too light, too orange, or too red. This was my most accurate attempt in a closeup, which still turned out too light and orangey-red, but which I wanted to include so you could see the details. Because the quilting technique - just vertical lines - was also pretty unusual, and the combination of the quilting and the color made it look like warm, cozy corduroy...

Falling Stars
Technique: Machine Piecing
Artist & Quilter: Susan Baggett

These next three quilts were made by three quilting friends named Jamie, Marcia, and Mary Jane ("JMMJ"). One of them picks a fairly simple pattern and challenges the other two to do it too. Here is the result of their latest "MJJM Quilt Challenge" trio...

L-R: Jamie Leupold's quilt, Mary Jane Collins' quilt, Marcia Suranyi's quilt

I thought they were all lovely and fun, but my favorite was Jamie's, I think because of the unusual colors and the fact it made me feel like I was looking out through the port holes on a ship, embarking on some grand adventure...

JMMJ Quilt Challenge
Technique: Machine Pieced/Raw Edge Appliqué
Artist: Jamie Leupold
Quilter: Becky Stednitz

Some more I admired...

Imperial Diamonds
Technique: Pieced
Artist: Peggy Gable
Quilter: Becky Stednitz
"I make each grandchild a special quilt for his or her 21st birthday. 
This one lives in Texas."

The quilt on the right, though not the main one I was photographing, deserves a mention too, especially since it's a quilt pattern that Joanne has also made!...
Tree's Up, Lights On
Technique: Machine Pieced
Artist & Quilter: Jennifer Golden

Another that appealed to my love of bright colors and whimsy...

Irish-Chained Pin Wheels
Technique: Machine Pieced & Quilted
Artist: Pamela Rapp
Quilter: Virginia Ohr
"Part of a Friendship Block Exhange"

And since tomorrow is Halloween (my favorite holiday!), I'll end this post with this delightfully festive pumpkin quilt!...

Primitive Pumpkins
Technique: Machine Pieced
Artist: Margaret Prout
Quilter: Becky Stednitz

In Part 2 I'll share some favorite non-quilt fiber art pieces from the show, and then will wrap up with Jo and my VERY favorite quilts in the show (and some post-show quilt goodies) in Part 3. But for now, click on the quilt-patterned pumpkin picture at the top of this post for DIY instructions on decoupaging your own if you'd like, and enjoy a happy (and bewitchingly healthy) Halloween! :-)

Click here for Part 3

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AdventureJo's Sheridan Adventure :-)

At long last, we're enjoying some lovely Autumn weather all week before we get belted with more cold and snow on Monday, but at least the cozy days will be more conducive to working on my annual Quilt Show posts! 

Talk of weather, quilt shows and quilts is a perfect introduction to a few of the highlights of Joanne's fun 5-day visit from Michigan a couple of weeks ago. I met Jo (whom some of you know as "AdventureJo" in the comments) in AFROTC at the University of New Hampshire our junior year, so we've known each other for *gulp* 31 years. Not possible! But I have proof of how young we once were...

Me helping pin on Jo's new 2nd Lieutenant bars on May 19, 1984 ~ 
the day we were commissioned and graduated. (Yo Jo, who's the guy?)
I wasn't even wearing my own rank yet, but eventually got it after 
my pitiful parents finally quit arguing over where on the epaulet it should go! 
Dad: "I've been a Marine for 34 years, I think I know where the rank goes!"
Mom: "And I've been sewing for 30 years, I think I know what an inch looks like!"

Jo ~ an award-winning and prolific quilter, member of multiple quilt guilds, teacher of quilting workshops, and aspiring future quilt show judge ~ always enjoys my posts of our library's annual quilt show. So this year she timed her visit to coincide with it so she could see it in person, and those photos will be my next posts. But that doesn't mean this post won't have a quilt or two in it! In fact, let's start with the generous housewarming gift Joanne made and gave to us when she arrived, a lovely wall-hanging from a pattern by my favorite quilt artist and designer, McKenna Ryan (hey, just because I can't quilt a stitch doesn't mean I can't have a favorite quilt designer!) :-) This block is from McKenna's "Faith Hope Love" quilt pattern...

We love the colors Jo chose, no easy task for someone who only had photos of our new house on this blog to go by! We found a few perfect spots for it, eventually choosing a great spot in our upstairs hallway where it's out of the sunlight but is enjoyed every time anyone goes upstairs. (Jo also brought me my birthday gift which she'd created and which deserves a post of its own once I've got it framed and displayed! It's SO PRETTY!)

Though we'd hoped for more nice days than cozy ones since Jo and I both love to go for long walks and had lots of exploring planned, we ended up with some truly abominable weather. So while that was great for all the cooking, baking and Netflix-watching we enjoyed, we had to squeeze in some bundled-up outings between the rain, snow and wind. We went to the quilt show on Jo's first full day here, and afterward walked over to Dragonfly Cottage (whose neighborhood has changed mightily since we lived there, with a house now crammed onto every tiny lot!) and Whitney Commons, across from the library, where Jo posed with Mr. Whitney himself and some fellow book-lovers...

Jo looks delighted because she'd discovered the bronze book her little buddy is holding actually contained some "writing" in it. (The pages were a bitch to turn, though!) ;-)

Fortunately, our nicest day fell on Saturday when BW could join us on some sightseeing around town, an exploration of Sheridan's beautiful and historic cemetery, and a nice long walk to downtown Sheridan with the girls, photographed here by their Auntie Jo during a pit stop in Kendrick Park...

L-R: Josie, Willow, and Tessa. 
Josie and Tess asked me to assure you that they are fluffy rather than fat, 
plus the camera adds ten pounds. Which is 70 pounds in dog weight. :-)

Though most of Sunday was cold and windy with another winter storm moving in, the day began with crisply cold sunshine, so Jo and I took the girls for an early long walk through a lovely neighborhood. Fortunately, Jo had brought her camera and so was able to capture this handsome mule deer buck's photo when I noticed him watching us from a front yard...

I love that she captured his pluming breath in the frosty air!

Not only did our new friend pose this way very patiently for several photos, he followed us when we turned down an adjacent cul-de-sac, bounding ahead and posing for Jo again, this time with the scenic backdrop of the Big Horns behind him (but the lighting was much better in this photo)! This guy's got star quality and needs an agent! :-)

Despite our recent snows, sub-freezing temps, and no sprinkler action since Labor Day, our grass continues to grow and was in need of mowing. At home, Jo works out every day and so had requested a chance to take our reel mower for a spin for the workout it provides. I'd be a terrible hostess if I'd robbed her of the joy, don't you think? :-) So after we got home from our walk, she mowed while I did the edging and photography. She did a great job, but I must say after BW and my summer of very sweaty mowing, it looked odd to see her doing it bundled up in winter coat and gloves! (See those clouds hovering low against the mountains? That was our next wintery storm moving in!)

When the weather drove us indoors and we weren't busy catching up, watching several movies and the first few episodes of Breaking Bad (got Jo hooked on both it and Pinterest during her stay, so we may have seen the last of her online for a while, LOL), we were cooking, baking, and eating. Jo treated us to lunch at the Good Earth Food Co-op's deli in Billings the day we picked her up at the airport, me to a lunch of delicious vegan burritos at Oliva's after the quilt show, and BW and me to a dinner of vegan fajitas at our other favorite restaurant in town, Las Delicias. Yum! But the rest of the time we cooked. Boy did we cook! And bake, because Jo and BW both have major sweet teeth! :-)

Before she came, I'd made Confetti Muffins, Hearty Spiced Cocoa Muffins, and Banana Date Walnut Muffins (they all freeze splendidly), which we snarfed on a daily basis. BW had made chocolate sorbetto, and whipped up a batch of Chunky Apple Oatmeal Pancakes on Saturday morning. Jo and I also made a batch of Pecan Leprechaun Shillelaghs (so what if it's October?) and Chocolate Pudding Cake, and I made a batch of Banana Chia Pudding.

When we weren't eating sweets (like, when we were sleeping, lol) we snacked on fresh fruit, homemade kale chips (torn kale leaves spritzed with tamari, sprinkled with garlic powder, a bit of cayenne, and a liberal amount of nutritional yeast and dehydrated at 160ºF for a few hours till crispy), two kinds of pumpkin hummus, and Smoky-Cheezy Walnut Spread. For our main meals we enjoyed Tempeh Salad sandwiches, Cadry's Lemony Baked Tofu with Rosemary (always a huge hit!), steamed kale with walnut dressing, basmati rice and Roasted Delicata Squash with Rosemary "fries" (subbing No-Oil Oil for olive oil), "Weenies and Gravy" with BW's homemade boule, super-deluxe tossed salads, and even an early Thanksgiving dinner - the only meal any of us photographed! Good thing Jo thought to grab her camera or I wouldn't even have it to share...

Quinoa & Red Lentil Cutlets, butternut squash, smashed organic red potatoes with 
Road's End Organics Shiitake Mushroom gravy, organic peas, BW's basic boule, Girasole's Sangiovese wine for me and Rogue Ales Mocha Porter for BW and Joanne.

Though it goes without saying that we never went hungry, we all wished we'd had time to make even more dishes for her to try. So much yummy vegan food, so little time! (At least we sent Jo home with lots of recipes!)

And last but not least... I know I've yet to share any upstairs photos of our new house (now just over a year old), where the bedrooms are located. One reason is that Jo had said she wanted to see it in person before seeing photos of it, so now that she's gotten to do that here's a photo of the guest room...

I took some photos of the guest bathroom too, but wasn't satisfied with them so will make another attempt next time I think of it. 

The quilt on the bed (LL Bean's "Timeless Floral Quilt") provides a great segue to the first of this year's quilt show posts, coming up next and hopefully soon(ish!) Thanks so much again for making the trip out here to see us, Jo!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Petite Pears

Happy weekend, everybody! BW and I swear this past week had an extra day in it. If only the weekend would, too! :-)

Anyway, just popping in with a quick update. We had a fun visit with Joanne, and photos from the quilt show and other highlights of her visit will probably be my next posts (need to snag a few pics from Jo's camera to add, she got some good ones!) But for now I wanted to share this photo of the adorable wee pears that Jackie and Al brought us yesterday (just a very small sampling of the huge bag full she brought!) They're so sweet! No really - they're so sweet! And juicy! A lot of flavor packed into a very petite package...

I threw the penny on the plate for size comparison - the pears are less than an inch and a half wide. We've been munching on them as snacks, but I plan to use most of them in batches of Res-pear-ation Sauce and Ginger Cinnamon Fruit Salad. (If only Jackie and Al had a pomegranate tree, too!) :-)

And speaking of Jackie and Al and their trees, when she brought over the pears I asked her how their wounded maple tree was faring. She said none of the leaves have died - in fact, the leaves on the splinted branches were turning fall colors just like the leaves on the rest of the tree! They won't really know till spring if their unorthodox first aid method worked, but so far, so good. :-)

Today is a beauty (unlike most of our weather lately), so we plan to do some outdoor chores and take the girls on a long walk on a section of Sheridan's wonderful Pathways System we haven't explored yet. Fun stuff! Hope you're having fun too! :-)

Friday, October 11, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Altas Aftermath: The Beauty

As anyone who visited my last post, "Atlas Aftermath: The Destruction" knows,  we experienced an unusually early, heavy snowstorm last Thursday night and Friday that devastated trees, knocked out power, and was responsible for a fair bit of property damage. (And as anyone who viewed this startling slideshow knows, it was even worse in places just east of here, especially in western South Dakota where they got four FEET of snow and 70mph winds, killing tens of thousands of cows. :'-( And as it continued to travel east this same weather system spawned tornados, record-breaking rains and flooding, and more destructive winds. So our town was relatively lucky!) 

Despite the tragic loss of so many trees (not to mention all the still-blooming flowers), I have to admit the altered scenery wasn't also without its beauty, which I did my best to capture during Friday's storm and Saturday's warm sunshine. It also wasn't without its humor and resourcefulness, as these two photos taken by our friend Jackie illustrate! (Some of you may remember Jackie and Al's beautiful property from my "Accidental Garden" post last summer). They lost a lot of limbs and branches from their many mature trees, and though they're consulting with a tree service to see if a couple of their larger trees can be saved, they took matters into their own hands when it came to the mortally wounded maple by their patio...

Photo by Jackie 

As Jackie said, "We figure duct tape can fix anything!" Especially when it's inventively paired with rebar and twine...

Photo by Jackie 

Jackie also said Al thought her idea was crazy but has been married to her long enough to go along with it (smart man!) :-) And who could argue with her logic that they have nothing to lose by trying? I hope it works! (Thanks for letting me share these, Jackie!)

Meanwhile, back in our neck of the snowy woods, this was the view out our front door early Friday morning before they cancelled school...

Looks like two out of three ghosts were as dismayed by the weather as we were! :-)

Cemetery snowscape

While photographing some of the destruction to Sheridan's trees during the storm Friday afternoon, I drove to the cemetery which has a lot of big old trees (and no traffic or downed power lines to contend with!) Fortunately, most of the trees there are spruces, which are better designed than the poor fully leafed-out deciduous trees to handle the heavy, wet snow and ice...

Snowy cemetery spruce

Early Saturday morning I took photos of the storm's aftermath from our front porch...

One of our garage lights transformed into an avant garde snow and ice sculpture

While photographing the snow from the front porch, this noisy and chaotic flock of Canada geese and smaller birds flew overhead, apparently as disoriented by the early snowstorm as we were - since they were flying north! (They were actually headed to a nearby pond)...

"Screw this crazy American weather, we're heading back to Canada, eh?" :-)

And here are a few shots of the freshly snow-covered foothills and Big Horn Mountains from our porch...

Look closely and you can see the snow blowing off the mountain's upper ridges 

13,000' Black Tooth Mountain is the peak directly beneath the street light 

After I took these, we took the dogs for a walk and saw a lot of the trees that were damaged in some of the nearby neighborhoods. So when we got home I took my camera and car and drove around the surrounding area, photographing them. As I returned home to our own subdivision (which is still new and therefore still lacks large trees), I stopped to photograph this wider perspective of the Big Horns...

And just as I was photographing this kind of interesting thin, horizontal cloud, another flock of Canada geese turned it into a much better photo...

And then obliged and thrilled me by flying right overhead (heading east this time!)...

So beautiful!

There's more beauty to be found overhead - enjoy a big dose of it at...

And enjoy a fun and storm-free weekend!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Atlas Aftermath (The Destruction)

I think The Weather Channel should rename Winter Storm Atlas "Winter Storm Asshat" because of all the damage it did across so many states. As you can see in this slideshow, compared to several places - especially South Dakota with its fierce blizzard and tornadoes - we got lucky with "only" about 10 inches of snow, 45mph wind gusts, and a lot of downed trees and power lines. Despite my pessimism in my last post, I was able to save our own little trees from breaking and am now hopeful they'll survive, and although the school across the street lost power, we never did. But power was out all over town, schools and the local community college closed (that happens very rarely here), as did many businesses and most state and Interstate highways in and out of Sheridan (and Wyoming). But the ever-intrepid UPS was out delivering what they could in the mess (tomorrow will be a delivery horror show again in spite of it) and I was miraculously able to keep my massage and haircut appointments. After seeing some of the devastation on my way to those appointments, as soon as I got home I grabbed my camera and went back out to take some photos, and took more yesterday in the sunshine after BW and I walked the dogs. 

Mine aren't nearly as dramatic as the photos in the slideshow I linked to above and I missed getting a couple of the best shots because it was just too dangerous to try. But I did brave the slushy, icy streets (they didn't plow), downed and perilously-close-to-falling tree limbs and power lines, several non-working traffic lights at some of Sheridan's busiest intersections, and a ridiculous amount of traffic (some of which were utility trucks and emergency vehicles, but most of which were regular civilians - and I didn't see any of THEM with cameras to their faces, so what were they thinking? LOL) to bring you these photos of the storm's local destruction...

These first three were close to home in our neighborhood:

One of several large trees that shade - err, shaded - the front of the elementary school across the street. Most of them took fatal hits like this one. :-(

A neighbor's house by our mailbox bank. Note the garden hose... people were still mowing and watering lawns last week, and no one has had their sprinkler systems winterized yet.

This was a lovely row of large trees along the road leading out of our neighborhood.

All over town there were a lot of close calls...

And several direct hits...

This house was for sale two years ago and we'd looked at it before rejecting it as overpriced and needing far too much work. The people who bought it fixed it up (at least on the outside) and are probably less than thrilled at this huge tree limb crashing into their window! At least it didn't land on their roof.

Doesn't that figure? They're seriously needing that gutter as all this snow melts (which it was already doing with enthusiasm in yesterday's warm sunshine)!

This is the fence around one of our favorite houses in town, part of which is pictured below...

Big cottonwoods, elms and maples all over town were looking like this. They're not supposed to be shaped like weeping willows! (Note the large downed tree limb on the right). At least I was able to shake the snow and ice off our little trees, there was nothing anyone could do for the larger ones except listen helplessly to the loud cracking sounds all over town, now replaced with the sound of chainsaws. Like I said, "Winter Storm Asshat!"

I tried to get into Kendrick Park (where we lived when we rented Dragonfly Cottage), but first was stopped by this tree limb across the road...

... and then by barricades erected by the city at each entrance. I'd heard through the hair salon grapevine that Kendrick Park was a tragic mess with all its huge deciduous trees. :-( In sad irony, there's a sign at this entrance declaring Sheridan's status as a "Tree City USA." 

With the traffic and downed power lines making my photo safari increasingly treacherous I headed to the much quieter cemetery...

And while there, as well as closer to home, I also got some photos of the beauty to try to balance out the destruction, and plan to share those in my next SkyWatch Friday post (I'm burning some midnight oil to make time to put one together before Jo's arrival on Thursday). So until then, enjoy the Fall colors for me if you've got 'em! Because what few we were starting to get around here now look like this...


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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