January & February 2014 reads

My attention was divided this month:  books on quilting and sewing, and books on watercolor painting. I was happily reading away, when two days from the end of the month, four fiction novels from favorite authors arrived. I foresee some late evenings into February, reading them before I have to surrender them to the next person on the list.

So since my reading spanned two months, so will this list.

I have books on watercolor painting all over the house, in the upstairs bathroom, on my nightstand, and leaning up against the stereo cabinet in the living room. These books are so beautiful and fun to read, and full of techniques to learn and practice. The goal of all this reading is to choose the couple that fit my style, and buy them. That may be harder than I think.

This is my short list:

David Bellamy | 
   Watercolour Landscape Course
   Skies, Light and Atmosphere in Watercolour
   Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting

I've read these books cover to cover several times, and love his style, his approach, his eye for a scene.

Richard Taylor | Watercolour Landscapes. Not an impressive book at first glance. It's not a big colorful hardcover book like most. It's the size of a large trade paperback. But open it up, and wow. Chock full of techniques and tips and ways to mix color and scenes to practice. Definitely a book to have; I could probably practice from just this book for months.

Terry Morrison | Complete Guide to Watercolour Landscapes. I mainly got this book for all the detailed lessons on creating different types of trees.

Al Stine | Watercolor Painting Smart. Full of drawing practice, how to look at a scene and decide what to paint and what to leave out.

Carl Purcell | Painting with Your Artist's Brain. A very cool book, learning to paint what you see, not what you think you see. Lots of interesting studies in seeing light and dark, shapes instead of specific objects, and using different techniques to interpret.

Sterling Edwards | Creating Luminous Watercolor Landscapes. Love his style, his approach to teaching others how to paint. There are lots of exercises for learning to paint everything from rocks to trees to old weathered buildings.

I'm searching for books on ways to use orphan quilt blocks. These are the blocks that didn't make it into a quilt, or ones I made to test out a pattern. I could just turn them into potholders or coasters, but is there a better use? I also have a lot of antique quilt blocks, purchased years ago on eBay when you could snatch them up for pennies. Those days are long gone. I've found a few ideas, but nothing great yet.

I'm also looking for books that show how to use fabric pre-cuts. Pioneered (I think) by Moda, pre-cuts are collections of fabrics that are cut into various sizes. Jelly rolls are 2.5-in. strips, one from each fabric in a collection. Layer cakes are sets of 10-in. squares, and charm packs are sets of 5-in. squares. They're beautiful, and a simple way to own a bit of each fabric in a collection.

This is my short list:
Kathy Brown | Strip-smart Quilts. This one I'll buy; it has beautiful quilt designs that use jelly roll bundles of fabrics.

Moda Bake Shop | Fresh Fabric Treats, and Sweet Celebrations. Two books from Moda, both have projects I'd love to make.

Camille Roskelley | Simply Retro. Her second book on using precut fabrics, and most of the projects strike my fancy. I may need to own this book!

Other sewing/quilting books
Connie Duran | Quilted Projects for a Country Christmas. Just thinking ahead...
Martha Stewart | Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts
Barri Sue Gaudet | Quilt a Gift. I've ordered this book. What can I say... everything in it is wonderful.

Ann and Nancy Wilson | Kicking and Dreaming

John Sandford | Storm Front

Joseph Finder | Paranoia. Book was great; reviews of the movie made from the book weren't so great. Maybe they should have stuck with the story line, and not gone off on a tangent? Just saying.

Preston & Child | White Fire

Michael Connelly | Gods of Guilt. The latest in the Lincoln Lawyer series; wonderful.



Duke's and Georgetown

Tonight we headed for Tacoma, where we're meeting friends for the Georgetown Brewing dinner at Duke's Chowder House. We've done quite a few special Duke's dinners the past four years, and our very first was here at the Ruston Way restaurant. We've grown to love these gatherings with friends, and tonight was great fun. What could be better than Bill Ranniger's amazing food paired with beer from one of our favorite local breweries? It was the perfect combination. And at the end of the evening, I scored a growler of Chopper's Red. It was my favorite beer of the evening.

This weekend we're heading for the mountains for some fun in the snow. Good friends, good food and wine, some cross country skiing... the Chopper's will be the perfect way to kick off a winter weekend.


Rainy day thoughts

It's been raining hard for days, and snowing equally hard in the mountains. Skiers are ecstatic about powder snow at Snoqualmie Summit, a pretty rare occurrence at this altitude. Snowfall has been measured in feet these past few days, not inches, and the snow levels are already up to normal for mid-February (after a very late start to winter around here).

Since January 1, we've had more than 8 inches of rain at the farm. Down here in the foothills, our creek has overflowed its banks, burying our county road in 6 inches of swift flowing water. Where the creek goes back into the park, the water is so high it won't flow under the bridge, instead it flows around the bridge abutments and over the road at both ends. Down the hill from our place, the creek in flood used to close the road. A few years ago the county raised the road to remove the low stretch of pavement, and we don't get trapped by high water anymore.

Today I took a break from quilting, and met a friend for lunch. The last time we planned a lunch date was the day her mother passed away. She got a panicked text from her father, saying simply "Come now." She called me to cancel our lunch, and grabbed a flight to Ashland where she met up with her three brothers. On the flight down, she knew the moment when her mother was gone. That was a few months ago, and she's come to terms with losing her mom to Alzheimer's.

We spent a good couple of hours together, planning to get together for a yoga class in a couple of weeks. As we stood outside our favorite Mexican restaurant, we looked across the parking lot to where a new Trader Joe's is going in. Finally, we're getting a store close to home.

That brought smiles, laughter, and hugs as we said goodbye. Sometimes it's the little things.


Forcing forsythia

This is something I look forward to every year: bringing in armloads of forsythia branches, arranging them in vases, and putting them throughout the house. This is one of the most satisfying gardening chores for me. Better than pulling weeds, better than spreading bark. Maybe even better than buying new plants for the garden.

The vase of branches has only been inside for a couple of hours, but the buds are already turning green. Soon the bright yellow blooms will open up, brightening up dark corners and making it seem like spring is just around the corner.


Winterhop 2014

Is there anything better than a weekend with friends?

Winterhop in Ellensburg has become an annual event for us, a chance to spend a weekend in a place with snow on the ground, when it's usually just raining at home. This year the fog spread across much of the state, and there was no snow. But it was cold and frosty as we wandered around town, checking out the different breweries in storefronts and museums and art galleries in town, where we'd warm up in between walking through town. The beer was excellent, and the company was wonderful... a perfect day.

Adding extra layers of fun throughout the long weekend were our usual Christmas in January exchange, comfort food like pot roast with all the fixings, playing with our friends' Lab/Golden Retriever puppy, and sitting around the firepit after dark, bundled up in blankets to stay warm.

It took me a while to download my Android photos and write this post, so this won't be posted on event day in January. Please forgive my procrastination.


Vintage quilts

I've never written about how I learned to love vintage quilts (thanks to Linda), or photographs of my own small collection.

My own tale began as a child, really. My mother inherited a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt that was made by her grandmother, Katherine Lilley. She would bring it out occasionally to show us girls, then carefully pack it away again. It has a lot of damage, unfortunately. When our parents passed away, I found some photographs of me as a baby, lying on the quilt. They're some of my most prized possessions.

My friend, Linda, was the next catalyst between me and antique quilts. She started buying them at yard sales and antique shops in the 1980s, before they got expensive, and has acquired a fairly large collection. Every so often we'd spend a few hours and pull out all her quilts, spread them out on the carpet in her bedroom, and admire each one. The colors, the fabrics, the applique and traditional blocks, the amazing (and not so amazing) number of stitches per inch. All of hers are hand quilted, and I love examing the wonderful craftsmanship of these works of art. When they downsized before moving to Ellensburg, she sold a few of them to me. I've also purchased a few at yard sales and antique shops over the years, and bought a number of quilts, quilt tops, and quilt blocks on eBay in the 1990s.

My favorite is this Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt I bought on eBay, and it's been hanging on my living room wall ever since. The seller was kind enough to send along the history of the quilt, which was made by her mother and two sisters in the 1940s.

If you're interested in learning more about antique quilts, the Alliance for American Quilts is a good place to start. Besides providing information on historical quilts, they maintain an index of quilts.


Ross the bear

Ross is the first teddy bear (of two) that I ever made. I had plans to make jointed bears and sell them, but never quite got around to doing that. This was in 1992, when Boyds bears were all the rage, and it seemed that every town had a bear shop.

Ross is a simple bear, with no joints. I guess you could call him my test bear, to see if this was something I wanted to do as a part-time profession. I used a commercial pattern, and made him from pale yellow fleece. He was very easy to make, and I loved the way he turned out.

You might wonder how he got his name. Ross was made during the presidential campaign when independent Ross Perot ran for president, stirring the patriotism of many Americans. I couldn't help seeing just a bit of resemblance. But maybe it was just my imagination.


Last day

The youngest member of our Aussie family has been with us the past month, along with her boyfriend. It's the first month of a 9-month American vacation, and we've loved having them with us. Natalie and Anton have been busy. Dave and I helped them shop for an RV (they ended up buying a used truck and camper), get repair work done, and shop the thrift stores (and Ikea) for the necessities like bedding and kitchen wares. Natalie took over the sewing room and made new curtains and cushion slipcovers for the camper. And we all loaned the extra things we had, everything from dishes and pillows to a spare set of tools from Bob, for "just in case."

Anton, Natalie, and Dave at Snoqualmie Falls

It's all come together, and they're ready to hit the road. This morning we went to breakfast at one of our favorite places, the Fall City Roadhouse, then drove up the river to check out Snoqualmie Falls. They'd seen the falls a few days ago, on the way to visit friends in Carnation. But today it looked like a different waterfall, with the water roaring over the top, and the spray and mist rising from the river almost as high as the falls. I'm glad they got to see it this way, in full force.

Between the spray and the brilliant morning sun, it was nearly impossible to get a good photograph. But I like it anyway... it's just what we saw this morning, and it will be a good reminder.

Tomorrow morning they head out on the next step of their journey. For the next couple of months, it will be all about skiing. First stop is Spokane, where they'll ski 49 Degrees North and Mt. Spokane. Then they head east to Bozeman, Montana for (maybe) a couple of weeks' skiing at Bridger Bowl and Big Sky. From there, they'll chase the best snow. Maybe Salt Lake, maybe Jackson, Wyoming.

After that, who knows? They'll have all the roads of the West to explore, and months of time to do it. How cool is that??


Break time

I'm taking a blogging break for a couple of weeks, the better to completely enjoy the company of my niece and her boyfriend, who are visiting from Australia. Soon they'll be leaving us, off on their journey to ski the best of the West, then visit as many national parks as possible. Then I'll be back (and may play catch-up with a few posts that I've drafted, but haven't had time to complete).

See you soon...