This and that on the farm and leaving town!!!

We had a huge storm a week or so ago and after it was over we were missing a hen so I got four 10 week old pullets on craigslist. Mixing chickens is a pain and so am going through all the drama of introducing new chickens.  Even though the old hen is outnumbered 4 to 1, she can't help herself and has to terrorize the poor new girls.  I have to keep her penned separately so they can eat without being harassed.  Then after she lays her egg I put her out in the garden and keep the young ones penned. It's like a carefully orchestrated ballet.  Not sure how I will explain all this to the house sitter.  They won't be laying for another month and hopefully by then will work things out with the old hen... 
Our Molly dog is having age-related mobility problems and now we have a ramp to make it easier for her to get in and out of the house...She wouldn't walk on the hard surface so now she has a red carpet.  She's needing a lot of extra attention now.
Remember my favorite neighbor?  The one with all the garbage who sits on his deck and shoots at owls and hawks... Well now his pigs are always getting out and coming over to eat our apples on the ground and chase each other around the garden.  He does not think it's a problem as they eventually  do go home but they come and go whenever they please.  Morris stays on the porch to bark at them...pretty wise move on his part.
Have you ever mislaid something and it drives you crazy looking for it.  One of braces on the stand for my magnifying lamp wouldn't stay attached and I put it somewhere SAFE until I could drill a hole and put a bolt in it.  That was weeks ago and I have even crawled around on the floor with a flashlight looking under everything to no avail.. This is not small...about 12" long with a caster the size of an orange and heavy..  I keep thinking it will turn up but I really need it as without it my beloved lamp is not only not mobile it is not stable.  So with the frustration of my eye problems, the heat, the unstable lamp, the chickens and the rampant pigs I'm glad to be leaving town...although feeling a bit guilty leaving our lovely house sitter to deal with all this.

We are going to Ninilchik Alaska Wednesday to visit my son.  He has a fishing lodge and hopefully DH will get a fish or two.  I love hanging out in the kitchen with the chef and have delicious meals cooked for me and they even have a masseuse (although I have never used her).  And even better than that, they have an espresso machine so I can have a white chocolate mochas whenever I want... decadent.   It has been seven years since I had been there...and this will probably be my last time as I'm not traveling well and getting there requires three different planes and the last hour by car.   It has been in the 90s here and it looks like it will be rainy and in the 60s in Ninilchik.  It will feel so good to be cool and pampered.... 


Block Talk - Hot and steamy CQ

Our very first retreat was only attended by about 10 of us from CQI and we slept in every nook and cranny of Leslie Ehrlich's house and had a grand time.  It was there I first met Lauri Bergesser and from that time on this is how I see her... Lauri, Lauri in all her glory...

And she stitched a block that  is my all time favorite for over-the-top theme... a cover  of romance novel....

The focal point is hot and steamy indeed.  Of course his shirt is open...flesh against flesh...hot stuff.....well not too hot by today's standards.
I can remember as a teenager reading one of these and was so disappointed that the story didn't live up to the cover...but I did have fantasies about the cover.

Lauri uses color (all colors) in wild abandonment and her pieces are heavily embellished and this piece is no exception...

And as many times I have pointed out the paths for the eye to move around the block, can you find them here?

But I especially want to you to notice is that even heavily embellished, there are plenty of quiet areas in this block... Without these quiet areas it wouldn't be possible to see all the details.  There is a fine line between heavily embellished and junky and its having the quiet areas that is the difference.

And there are details aplenty.  Besides the passionate couple embracing, there is a knight in shining armor, a dragon, a castle wall with a swan in the moat, a crown, a castle, several cupids, a new day dawning, somewhere over the rainbow and most importantly a pair of rose-colored glasses.... you MUST not miss those. 

I hope you enjoy this theme as much as I have over the years.  It's always a reminder not to take everything too seriously...

Lauri has masses of red curly hair that suits her perfectly, a wicked sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye...and she also has a fabulous coat of many colors.. I am delighted that I will be seeing her in September.

Here are  other pieces of her work....

I hope to get another block talk done before I go to Alaska to visit my son, but they take a fair amount of time to write.  


Photos of your pets for me to paint!

I have an offer in Etsy to a paint a personal portrait of your pet on a mother-of pearl button but it is easier and the results are better if I have   good photos to work from. 

If the pet to be painted is deceased then send multiple photos as I can create a composite using the best of each photo.  One shot might show the coloring better and another may catch the personality in eyes.
But if your pet is alive and well here are some tips to gather the best image.
Get down to their level…this is the most important tip.  
 Most people create images looking down at their pets as that is actually the way we see our pets most of the time. 

 Get down to the pet’s level to capture an image.  If you can't get down on the floor, raise the pet to your level by putting them on a bed and you sit on a chair by the bed.  This is much more eye-catching angle and really draws you into the character of the pet.

Get your pet’s attention….. Call his or her name, make sounds they respond to, and talk to them to get them to look at the camera.   Sometimes when you make a sound or talk to them they will cock their head or perk up their ears. You can also use treats! Pets will almost always look right at the treat or toy.

But sometimes staring straight at you is not the best. It is actually a nicer shot if they are just looking over your shoulder.


If you have an assistant, even better! Have them hold the treat or draw their attention where you’d like the pet to look.  

 Also an easy way to photograph a happy pet is to have a quick play session and then they are relaxed and happy when you get out the camera.  If you are ordering a portrait on a button, sending the photos to me via an email attachment is the easiest.


CQ Theme blocks for the bold and the brave.

Using one or two bold graphic fabrics in a block is a challenger but to do a entire CQ block with bold prints and make it work is something to behold...  Not only did Cathy Kizarian do one block with bold prints but an entire quilt  "African Images"...and it works beautifully.  The quilt speaks for itself but I do want to point out just a few things.

The orange is obviously the power color and the color that moves your eye around the block...and again there is a lovely quiet space around the focal point...the black around the giraffe....

but Cathy has actually used the directional patterns  in the print to also work a path around the block.
There is one bit of clever whimsy that I don't want you to miss.  The patch upper left of the giraffe repeats all the colors of giraffe patch and Cathy has cleverly put in the little vine that connects the two patches and a bite for the giraffe.. I love it.

And as you look throughout the quilt notice how the embellishments work beautifully with the bold fabrics they are paired with....
This next block has patches that coordinate....perfect harmony
The linier elements are repeated throughout the block..  I picked just a few.
Besides the fabrics with lines she chose elements with bold graphic shapes such as the ones I circled plus the band of fringe which echoes the headband on the woman.

See how different the block would look without these additions.
Here is the entire quilt... You can see more blocks at Cathy's blog by typing in African in the search box and the entire quilt on this link.


Prep Day

Today is prep day.  I got out my very best sheets reserved for company and washed and ironed them.  Likewise this lovely vintage cotton coverlet is saved for special use...

I cut a bouquet of flowers, mainly lavender and calamintha.... both very fragrant and soothing.

I also downloaded 8 audiobooks from the library..Probably only two will be good.  Why all the preparations...  tomorrow is my monthly injections day.  Last month he put 2 shots in my left eye and 3 shots in my right eye.  It was 11 hours before I could bear to open them and the next day before I could focus.  So I just plan on missing a day and come home and go straight to bed in  a dark room and listen to audio books.

I keep reminding myself that I'm lucky there is medication and I don't have anything life threatening... So no posts for couple days..

On a brighter note....last Friday I finally had enough squash blossoms at one time to stuff. I stuffed them with a mixture of ricotta, parmesan,  egg yolk, shrimp and seasoning...

Then they were dipped in batter and deep fried.. known in Italy as fiori di zucca.  They were absolutely delicious..

 Today I have so many blossoms I could feed an army and DH is stopping on the way home to pick up more ricotta.  Also found a recipe for squash blossom risotto, squash blossom pizza, squash blossom soup and a squash blossom frittata.

Block Talk - Kathleen's "Fire"

Just a recap of the design elements I look for when I do a block talk
  1. Contrast -  light/dark, rough/smooth, shiny /dull, soft/hard, quiet/bold etc. 

2. Echoing - repetitions and variations

3. Movement including directional elements and rhythm. 

4 Focal point and/or theme.. not all blocks have either a focal point or theme..

And my definition of a harmonious block is when all parts complement  each other and the whole. 

There's a lot of elements to look for in this piece by Kathleen Klein with the theme of "Fire" And indeed the two hottest spots on the entire block are the yellow/orange in her hair and in the flame.  There is no doubt as to the theme here with fire,flames, embers, sparks etc.

The next thing to notice before I go any further is the nice quiet area in the center that showcases the phoenix.  You may remember this same technique used by Lauri ... nothing is better to highlight a focal point than to surround it with a quiet area.

Next the colors choice.. Liza's block (previous blog post) went from the hottest colors on the color wheel to the left with the coolest color being the green. 

Kathleen's colors also start with the hottest colors on the color wheel but go right instead to include the cool purples.  Again all her colors are touching on the color wheel.. Some people are lucky and just have an innate sense of color but for those of us who don't the color wheel can be a useful tool.  There are unlimited books and articles on color theory and it can be confusing... but just remembering touching colors and complementary colors are be one of the most useful tools....

Now to the design elements  1. Contrast -  light/dark, rough/smooth, shiny /dull, soft/hard, quiet/bold etc. 
 There is the lovely texture of the roving in both the hair and in the bonfire.

There is the silky and pleated texture of the shibori ribbon in the dress and in the bonfire. You have to look closely to see how expertly Kathleen fused the ribbon, roving and beads in the bonfire.

The beaded leaves are 3-dimension...woven off block and attached.  Across the bottom is a highly textured patch with embers of glass beads.  A beautiful contrast between hard/soft.

Then there are the bullions which are also 3 dimensional and add even another texture.  This entire block is a symphony of textures.

2. Echoing ( repetitions and variations) and 3. Movement  (directional elements and rhythm)

It is the echoing that provide the movement in this block... First the start shapes that move right around the block...

and the all the graceful curves in the flowers, hair, dress, and fire keep your eye rising.
And one final point... the importance of the icy lavender accent in the block..  It pops and makes all the colors pop.  Below you can see the difference without it.  Those little accents spots of colors add excitement to the block.
And I hope you have enjoyed my block talk on Kathleen's wonderful block and that it has helped you to look closer and see things in a different way.   Personally I love working with a theme on a block and will soon share a couple of my favorite "out of the box" theme projects before I quit block talking for a while...



Block talk - Lisa Boni

I was asked to feature a block with bright colors and this incredible block by Lisa Boni certainly qualifies.

No laces, trims here, just vibrant color, beautiful stitching and beads...

Before I talk about the colors I want to point out that in all this busyness  of this block that Lisa left that wonderful quiet space in the center patch.  It perfectly accentuates her floral focal point.  If she had filled in that area with stitching the focal point would have been lost all together...

If you looked at these colors separately you might not think to choose to use them together but they are definitely WOW and there is a reason.  They are all touching colors on a color wheel and all relate to each other....harmony right?  The green and pink are the last colors in this section of the wheel to have a warm element in them...

It's no accident that the blue accent on the block stands out.  It's the only cool color and the complementary color of orange. Nervous about color?  If you only picked any three touching colors on ANY part of the color wheel you would be guaranteed to have a harmonious color combination.  Lisa repeated these colors in her choices of threads and beads...

As to repetition (echoing) the most recurring element is an arc and it is everywhere.

And these arcs carry your eye right around the focal point in the block...

And again there was a linear repetition in the stitches she chose.

And last but not least these little yellow beads hop along like little musical notes.

This block was part of a year long CQJP project for Lisa and she used the same colors all year.
In one of her posts she did a critic of her own block which you will find interest to see how the artist looks at her own work..

Since I pointed out using touching colors on the color wheel I should also mention you cannot go wrong using two colors that are across the wheel and complement each other... ...here is an entire block using two complementary colors -blue and orange..  This block is by Claudia Weinwurm in Austria.  She used to blog but hasn't recently.  This was part of her cqjp2012.  She does all types of embroidery but these under the sea blocks were my favorite...  Look at all the movement and activity in the center of this block!!!!

So when you are feeling stuck on a block and looking for the right thing to add....remember contrast, repetition, movement.
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