Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hey, Bing! We've got what you're dreamin' of!

The snow is falling again; 'snow on snow on snow!' We're having a White Christmas, for sure. I hope it lets up in time for our children and our childrens' children to arrive safely! We will have four generations of my family here. And a storybook landscape. Our neighborhood looks like Currier and Ives designed it.

Looking out toward the street lamp, the snow is falling so heavily, it looks like a hard rain. The snow is starting to bend the lighter branches down. My husband said the streets were as slick as he's ever seen them as he came home.

We are all tucked in for the night now. The dog has been walked. The snow will not be a worry to us until tomorrow.

I'll probably not post until after Christmas, so I do wish you and yours a lovely holiday, whatever you may be celebrating.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The first day of Winter...

The shortest day is here. Winter has begun, tho' it began for us when the Big Snowfall came... the one worthy of capital letters. It has been wintry cold since then, so our roads are an icy mess.

The birds sit in a queue under the feeder, waiting their turn, and reminding us to refill it on a regular basis. We are happy to oblige.

Gus lurks behind the curtain, waiting for some unsuspecting person to open an outside door so he can run out and pounce, sending them all in a lovely winged flurry off to other feeders. I think catching one of them is beyond his indoor imagination. He just dreams of scaring them away.

I'm sending warm thoughts out to you all on this winter solstice. Scarves and mittens and wooley caps are very much wardrobe necessities here. And winter has just now begun....

Friday, December 18, 2009

a LOVELY escape!

Make yourself a cup of coffee. Dress it up however you like. Then go here and sit back and relax while a delightful gentleman of your choosing reads to you....

What an amazing and perfect ad campaign! ... A simple fantasy come true, don't you think? I hope they keep it up!

(I listened to Jane Austen today, and look forward to more coffee escapes when moments of time come my way.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Heigh ho, heigh ho...

I have been frantically trying to clean house, decorate for the holidays, and catch up with laundry and errands before holiday guests come on Friday. With an attendant puppy at my heels since late summer, things have been piling up on me. So now, he is helpfully trying to keep me from catching up.

I can't blame all of my household neglect on Booker, though. I have also had a lot of painting and weaving, which I consider 'my work,' that has needed my attention since he came. For quite some time, I have put the studio work first. But now the housework, etc. has to come first, and I feel that I am neglecting my studio work! I have a tapestry design begging to be begun for the Enchanted Pathways exhibit, and I have several paintings that are partially done, plus several more I really want to begin.

Isn't it funny that one 'job' seems to make me have to ignore and neglect the other? I just can't seem to keep up with both at once. At least not now, with the 'help' that I have on my heels at all times. I'm sure this is probably a common conundrum for those of us who have in-home studios, and who often find ourselves running behind, trying to catch up with where we believe we should be.

I took the above photo in a main street diner. The man was doing business over coffee on his cell phone. Ah, if only I could get my cell phone to clean the house, while I sat and sipped coffee and watched shoppers trudge through the snow! But I clearly must have a cheaper cell phone than he has. I can do very little of my work with my cell phone.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fa la la la la.... la la la la!

I am cleaning and decking and trying to get into some kind of spirit. I'm listening to some holiday music. I have to admit, though, that the old classic songs seem to be basically just to whistle along to in the malls, anymore. Whistling helps your family and friends find you. That's how we've always found my Dad in malls, and now it is also how I find my son, a certain friend, and how people find me. I don't realize I'm whistling, until someone says, "I knew it must be you; I heard you whistling." It is a fine family tradition. My grandfather could whistle in harmony with himself! It is a talent I aspire to.

The above video is of my very favorite all time holiday song. It cannot be beat in sentiment, and must also be sung along with - it's not a whistling song. I also really like The Weepies' new holiday song, "All That I Want." Other than that, I can tolerate the music for about a month, hearing each song a few times, then I'm glad to let it go for another year.

The tree is up, the mantle decorated, and my little cabins out for the grandkids. My parents are coming in a few days. 'Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...'
(Oh,yes, and I like any holiday song that the Muppets sing, including that one!)

ps. Speaking of holiday music, iTunes has a Holiday Sampler album free this week: 21 songs ranging from Mannheim Steamroller to David Archuleta to Aretha Franklin and Stephen Colbert. Go there. Get it. Sing or whistle along.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A quick warm-up...

It is warming up here, and the snow is turning to slush. It was supposed to warm up to the low thirty's (F), but it's already into the mid-forty's! And it has been raining. Quite a change in weather...

The little painting above is 4x4". It is in the miniatures show and sale at the Blue Pig Gallery. It was the same cup of cocoa and one of the same ornaments from the larger still life painting I did for our card.

Today I am finishing up the last sweater, so I can start cleaning for the holiday company tomorrow. We put the tree up, and it is still up, despite the fact that Gus is using it for a hide-out from Booker. Soon I expect Booker will figure that out, and the tree will be come a battle site. They love their battles, but there are frequent casualties, all being things that belong to me. I put very few ornaments on the tree, and none that are easily broken. I'm not as dumb as they think I am!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Oh, Christmas card...

Yesterday Booker was at the vet all day, getting that necessary surgery. Without his 'help' around, we tackled the big job of cleaning the living room, entryway, and stairways wood floors. (I know - it's a dumb thing to do when there's a foot of snow on the ground to be tracked in, footprint by pawprint, but I just couldn't stand them anymore.) I have this rule for myself when I decorate the house for the holidays: the house must be clean underneath all that 'decor.'

So now, I'm down to the last grandchild's sweater, and am ready to tackle the cleaning and decorating. I guess it's time! My parents will be arriving a week from today.

The above is a painting I did on masonite. It is 10x10", and I am also using it for our holiday cards this year. So, if you aren't on my mailing list, I give you permission to print it out and hang it with your cards, as my holiday greeting to you. Sign it for me, 'With Love from me to you!' I do appreciate all of my blog visitors and friends, and I wish you all a joyful holiday season!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter magic...

"Our snow was not only shaken from whitewash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees;

...snow grew overnight on the roofs of houses like a pure and grandfather moss,

...minutely white-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards."

The above was from my favorite Christmas book, in fact it is among my top few favorites books of all-time; A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. Get it. Read it. If possible, get the edition illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Thomas's words are pure delight.

What can one do when snowed in, but bake Maple cookies?

All that was yesterday. Today the sun is shining, but it is -6 degrees F outside, so I'm not going out today either! (Yes, that was a minus six!) I believe I'll make Spicy Chocolate Shortbread today (the spice is cayenne pepper.)

The sun is making beautiful shadows on the snow. But I am only taking photos right now from the backdoor, and those I am taking quickly. It is warm and toasty inside. Outside, it is not.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow update...

The snow kept coming all night, and in fact is still coming down. Officially there are 10-12 inches, which hasn't happened here for at least 20 years. I know there's a foot of snow on our picnic table in Booker's yard. Booker is loving it. It covered all his holes, so now he has something new to dig in.

I put my star in the window up, to help cheer neighbors who are shoveling and the few people who are out slogging by. Schools here have a snow day! I think my boys had only one snow day when they were in school here. Must've been that storm 20 years ago! It would be a lovely day to be at the loom, but I'll put some soup in the crockpot and finish up some holiday projects. Happy winter to you all from snowy Colorado! Today it actually looks like people think it always looks here in winter... like a Colorado postcard scene.

"The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow...

Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below."

This is looking west from my sitting room window, at 4:00 this morning.

And this is looking east. Soon I'll need to get out in it and shovel, but for now, I'll just sip a cup of chamomile tea and enjoy the view!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Beginning to deck... slowly, very slowly...

No, this beautifully arranged mantle is not in my house. It was in a shop in Maine. I took the photo to inspire me, but so far, I have not been brave enough to deck my own halls much. Booker is anticipating many new toys being put out, as he is quickly devouring all of his old ones.*

My husband put the lights on the outside of the house over the weekend. And this morning I went so far as to hang the holiday wreath. I made this wreath a few years ago, by taking all of the smaller ornaments that seemed to end up at the bottom of the storage box, and hot-gluing them on. I really love all of these ornaments. Some of them are vintage, some from friends, and some were on packages. They got lost on the tree, but decorate the large wreath very nicely. It has an old feel to it, I think.

* Speaking of Booker, he 'graduated' from his first eight-week obedience class yesterday. He was the youngest in the class, but he did pretty well. Here is what he is currently doing to all of his toys:

This is his giant squeaky rat, which he has always really liked. But one day he decided he would like it better without a head. It still squeaks. Makes me glad he still sleeps in his crate, as I can see him deciding he'd like me better headless at times, too. I could, after all, still feed him.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday and sick leave cancelled!

My muse has been trying very hard to walk out on me, requesting early holiday leave and even sick leave. I have decided I can't afford to give it to her this year - times being as they are.

Actually, I have had quite a rough week. I don't know if it's the seasonal storms passing through or the darkness coming on, but I have had a headache that has caused me to lose most of my sleep for the past week, and has resulted in a depression that doesn't want to lift. I realized yesterday that I also have not been spending any time in my studio or sitting room, which are the two brightest rooms in the house. Almost century old Arts and Crafts houses do not have a great deal of light, in spite of a having a lot of windows. We have very deep eaves, and darkness is the prevailing result. I decided this morning to sit in the brightest spots, with extra lighting on, to see if that will help. I also drug my muse back, kicking and screaming, so I could do something creative, even though it is a very small something.

One of my grand-daughters is getting a dollhouse from Santa. The dollhouses of today are sturdy and nice, but not very colorful. So I am on a mission to add some color to make it more of a 'doll HOME.' This morning in the sun, I crocheted a 'rag rug' for the house, and painted a 'portrait' of their family dog, to sit on a little easel. Keep in mind that the painting is about 2x3 inches, so is not terribly detailed. But the goal was to be colorful, not to be precise.

I will sit in the sun several times a day through this grey time, to try to avoid SAD-ness, and I will also try to keep my muse active, even though I won't have time for large projects for the next month or so. The holiday sweaters are still being knit, as well, and I think I'll move my knitting out of the basement (ultimate darkness!) up into the light, as well. The biggest reason for avoiding the two lightest rooms has been Booker, who always seemed to get in trouble in there. But he was pretty good this morning, so there may literally be light at the end of that tunnel, too!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The holly and the ivy....

Lest you think I am a total Scrooge, I am posting part of the Winter Seasons tapestry today. It is a bit from the lower border, which I've also put in the banner above. You can click on this detail to see the weaving better, if you like. One of the things I do when weaving a 'background' area is to choose slightly different yarn blends each time I have to add a new butterfly. It's not a big thing, but adds interest to the process for me, and I think it adds a bit of interest to the background, too. You can see the slight variation in this detail.

The song, "The Holly and the Ivy" sung by the Mediaeval Baebes is one of my favorite holiday songs. I got my monthly email update from The Metropolitan Museum today, making me want to go to the Cloisters to see their holiday decor, and to revisit the Unicorn tapestries there, which includes this one with the holly in the upper branches.

I'm probably silly to post my work with such an amazing piece, but I think it is a wonder that I am inspired by some of the things that inspired the designers and weavers of such work. Though I have yet to weave a unicorn.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tis the season?....

As is the case for most of you, I'm guessing, Christmas is creeping up on me. And some of the things that are included in the holidays really give 'creeping' a literal meaning! I heard Bob Dylan singing "The Little Drummer Boy" on the radio before I could cover my ears quickly enough. Don't get me wrong; I love Bob Dylan, but "The Little Drummer Boy?" Really, Bob? It just shouldn't be.

My enthusiastic and non-Grinchy neighbors already have the lights on their houses all lit up.

Some of you might remember that last year, Gus climbed our tree and knocked it over, so we had to tie it to the stair banister. He climbed it more than once. I can't even imagine what Booker will do to a tree, or any holiday decor. So it won't go up until the last minute.

I am particularly drawn to the photo above that I have been playing with. I took it in Maine. It is of a pile of ropes and net and lobster traps and an upside-down boat, all set off by a pile of Christmas lights. I don't know what the lights were doing there, but I kind of like the idea of just taking a mess of lights out and tossing them in the yard, then plugging them in. I think it might make a spectacular statement. After all, if Bob Dylan can sing "The Little Drummer Boy," anything is permissible... Perhaps I will make this photo my holiday card. Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dealing with UFO's

In the knitting world, UFO's are 'unfinished objects,' and some of us have many UFO's floating around the house in various states of un-doneness. I have been trying to get some of these done. I finished the first of four grandchildren sweaters. I figure I need to knit sweaters for them now, while they are young, before they reach the age of dreading the Christmas sweater. This one is done in angora. All the ruffly edges are actually crocheted, so this knit up pretty quickly!

It is to have one button at the top neck. I have several big tins of buttons from various grandmothers, and from my mother-in-law. I may wait until the kids come and will let them choose their own buttons from the tins. These button tins have been a source of joy to my oldest grand-daughter, especially. When she was younger, they were her favorite thing to play with, and she would scoop them from the tins into bowls, stirring them into 'button soup.' There are buttons from a number of eras in the soup, some even of bakelite. Some are truly vintage treasures, and some are just recycled shirt buttons, as my mother-in-law never turned a shirt into rags without first saving the buttons.

On the other hand, I can see the kids parents' horror if they chose some of these buttons from the past. Some of the most shiny and appealing could turn a sweet sweater into gaudy and appalling! So maybe I could pick out a special pile for each to choose from.

... Or maybe I'll just make my own choice and sew it on, then tell them the button came from the Grandmas' button soup tin.

I also finished the Project Linus blanket, and will take it out to the gallery (which is a drop-off location) this afternoon. It is 36"x 36", and of a washable acrylic, which is what they request.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

For the beauty of the earth...

...for the glory of the skies...

...for the love which from our birth over and around us lies;

...For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower,

...For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind's delight,

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!

Happy thanksgiving, today and every day.

(Words from the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliot S. Pierpoint
Images from my camera at various times and places, except for the old photo, which is of my mother's family.)

Monday, November 23, 2009


The Blue Pig Gallery is doing a portrait exhibit in January and February. Gallery artists were given a local personality to paint. The person I was paired with is deceased, or I would have gone and taken my own photos to paint from. However, his wife gave me an old photo to work from which is her favorite image of him. It is from WWII, and is a pretty dark photo. I figure that painting a person's widow's favorite picture is quite difficult, at best. So I have just decided to paint it loosely; make it look like a 'painting,' rather than a painted copy of a photograph, and to not allow myself to stress over it. It is not a commission, so there is not that added pressure to please someone who will be having to put out money for it. Anyway, I did an underpainting in about an hour, then put in about another hour today, and I think I'm about ready to let it dry and see if it's 'done enough.' It's not large or small, at 12"x 16". I do think it captures the fun-loving expression his wife loves about the photo, at least.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


18"x18". Wool weft on cotton warp, sett at about 8-9 epi. The inspiration photo can be seen here. (As always, you can click on the image to see it larger.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Illustration Friday: Music

The IF topic today is music. Music has a big role in my family. My father is a musician, he can play the piano and just about any other instrument he might want to play. Most of his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren have inherited his love of music. We sing. We love to sing! One of my greatest joys is to sing with my grandchildren or to have them sing to me.

The tapestry, "Prairie Polka," is one of my Heritage Series tapestries. It was inspired by these two small contact photos of my dad with his parents (my grandparents) when he was young . They lived in Kansas, thus the wheat fields and distant grain elevator in the tapestry. This is the smallest of the Heritage tapestries, at about 36"x36" square. It is still in my collection. In fact, it hangs in my studio.

Technically, this was a challenge for me to weave. It was woven sideways, so I could do a lot of eccentric weft work in the prairie. That was a lot of fun! The sky then, which was to be a gradation, had to be hatched, instead of the color blended gradation I could have done if it was woven bottom to top. There was also, then, the long vertical line of the bottom border, which I had to use a join on, as a long slit would have caused problems. And then the line work in the wheat bundle in the border was also going up the warp, so was woven in the 'weft-wrapping' technique I frequently use, but which is also a slow technique. All of those technical issues had to be decided before I began weaving, as I was making the choice whether to weave it bottom to top or from side to side. I prefer to always weave bottom to top, unless there is a very good reason not to. In this case there were very good reasons to weave it either way, but I chose to do it 'the hard way' so I could do the prairie in eccentric wefts, in shapes that would be vertical when the tapestry is hung. Weaving it sideways also made the accordion easier to weave. (I know a lot of this is complex technical gibberish to many of you, so just pretend it's not here.) I learned a LOT from weaving this tapestry. It's good for me to remember it all today.

(Also, to continue the music topic, Booker's official AKC name is now "Booker T Sings the Blues." I thought it should have been "Booker T's Mama Sings the Blues"!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A beautiful backside...

Isn't this cool? I may just frame it, and forget what's on the other side! This is the back of my "January" tapestry, which I just flipped over to trim all these ends and sew slits, so I can block and mount it. But I like the Rya-looking back so much, I hate to destroy it by trimming all those pretty ends down! It has that all-over fur look because of the many, many little pieces of yarn I had to use to create all those many, many tiny shapes! I don't think I've ever done a piece with such a pretty backside! (So, was this NOT the beautiful backside you were hoping for? Perhaps you are on the wrong blog!)

I am keeping this up high to work on, hopefully out of Booker's reach, though it is getting harder to find such places as he is getting so much bigger. We had a bad day yesterday. He ate one of my favorite handknit socks. I have not yet forgiven him.

ps. As my reward for not killing Booker yesterday, I am treating myself to Norah Jones' new album from iTunes today! Not a big enough reward, but it's a start.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fiber Remnants...

When we were in Maine we were along Highway 1, which is known as the 'Antique Highway.' Just about every other building housed an antique shop of some sort. Though we didn't really go to shop this time, we did go in and, if it was allowed, took photos of 'still life objects.' And a few of those objects did find their way back to Colorado. One of the things I couldn't resist was this small Turkish kelim portion. When I buy something I have a hard and fast rule for myself; I have to love it and I have to know where it will fit in my house and life. This small kelim fit both those qualifications, plus it was on sale and very affordable and it would fit in my suitcase! How could I not buy it? It is part of my small collection of handwoven pieces from other places, other looms, other hands. I have a backstrap woven piece from Guatemala that my husband brought me, a tapestry from Honduras that one son brought me, and some kente cloth from Africa from the other son in my 'collection.'

This Turkish kelim fragment fits beautifully across the back of a Morris chair my husband made for the sitting room. It has become a favorite perch for Gus since I put it there.

This final fabric remnant looks like it should be retired to a museum! It is Booker's handknit puppy blankie.... or what's left of it. Especially when he was very young, he drug it around the house with him, like a security blanket. He still loves his blanket, especially when he's tired. He drags it out of his crate and hauls it somewhere to lay his head on. Bits of the treasure have found their way into the anthropological dig that is our backyard. (Need I say that the blanket was NOT in this condition when it was first given to him?)

Anyway, just a bit from the fiber archives at the Spoering Museum to start off the week! Now I must go see what the two 'boys' are doing... it has become much too quiet, and that is rarely a good thing!