Friday, February 28, 2014

Changes in my Studio Spaces

February is gone and with it days of cutting out new creations for Easter to be listed in my Etsy shop in time for Easter Shopping.  I have also stuffed my sewing baskets full of projects all ready to be stitched for spring. I love to cut and my days aren't long enough to sew all I want to do!

I have also been busy re-organizing my studio spaces.  It seems to have a domino effect; one change brings another and then another.  It all started with planning for a friend to come and needing to make my studio double as a guest room.

Wool bins in storage area.
My bins of wool fabrics got moved into my closed storage area to eliminate any remaining moth ball odor, though mostly gone now that all my wools are sealed in bags. My other fabrics have been re-organized, consolidated and stored in my finished studio/guest room space. This had been an daunting task, though I find that the more organized I get, the more such switches are not as difficult as I thought.

Being a serious sewer, I am finding that I cannot be too organized. My materials are all sorted as to type, color, and special collections. My notions all have bins of their own and are easily accessible.  It has been a work in progress! Even my UFO's (unfinished objects) have their storage spots as well.
Basement studio: Sorted materials.

As I rearrange my sewing collection, my brain whirs with new ideas. Even my sewing books and patterns needed to be a bit better organized to more quickly find what I need and as with any sewer, my collections seem to grow.  I can't help checking out Yahoo's Sew It's For Sale group each day scouting for good deals and am pleased when they find me!
Upstairs sewing room: pattern boxes and books by subject.

I am sometimes overwhelmed by it all! Who in their right mind and at my age up-sizes instead of down-sizes, but as I have said before, I am planning for my family to celebrate my death with a grand estate sale and invite all sewers, quilters and crafts people!  I have learned from other estate sales, that if my materials are planned and cut, I need to include the pattern and notes regarding each project with them, so others can make sense and finish what I have started or at least know what they would be purchasing. I have decided after reading Theresa Rawson's articles on her blog, FabricTherapy that putting my pattern and plan together in a plastic sleeve will be helpful.  I am also going to add my notes so I can better remember where I left off, which will facilitate picking up the project and knowing where to begin again. I am not going to waste my time feeling guilty about the way that I work, hopping from one project to another. Sewing is what is important and I have it on good authority that people who stay engaged in creative activities live longer than others that don't have such plans! I am aiming to live to the ripe old age of 104, which means that I should have 38 more years to stitch away and if not, it will be a sewer's delight to come to my final estate sale!
(Click here for Theresa Rawson's Stash Organization articles)
Pattern, and notes are all kept in a plastic sleeve. Thank you Theresa!
I thought my ideas crazy until this last week, when I found Theresa's special blog mentioned above.  She creates the most beautiful quilts and always works on multiple BIG projects.  She credits her productivity to her organization of her materials.  Her studios are set up in such a way that nothing is wasted-- materials, time or energy!  I am learning much from her and am thrilled to know just how possible it is to finish quilts like I have learned to do with my smaller craft projects! It was self-affirming to learn that others work on many projects at a time and start new projects before finishing old ones.  My trip to Country Treasures Quilt Store also connected me with other like-minded individuals who can't stop sewing and have as many or more UFO's than me!
I am learning to cut using plastic stencils and a rotary cutter!

Some blocks after pressing!

Torn strips ready for pressing, per my quilt instruction before rotary cutters.  
A bin for scraps of odd sizes to be recycled.  I am learning!

Everyday is filled with possibilities and it is such fun to get up every morning to create and sew, in between those other tasks that I am not so thrilled about doing (laundry, cleaning, and cooking). How exciting to have baskets filled with projects ahead, some for hand-sewing and some for machine! Though I am clearly not done yet!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Zombie Artist Plans Funky Day

Maria Wulf posted her Zombie Hen Potholders (see above), and although they are all sold out, they are not to be missed! How fun and silly they look. Interestingly she has posted them on a morning when I seemed to have snapped too! I have been cutting out multiple projects, usually one of my most favorite activities. I treat it like a yoga exercise and enjoy sitting in front of the TV as I do it and "getting into the zone" playing with colors and textures of fabrics.

Today I am out of the zone completely and seriously considering my girlfriend's offer to escape to sunny California. Oh, I forgot, I am still in a treatment that doesn't allow for soaking up Vitamin D from the sunshine. My daughter imitates Madame Mim from The Sword in the Stone, as she giggles and repeats her favorite line to remind me of my plight, "I haaaaate sunshine!" She does it for me to make me laugh at myself when I get Zombie-like from the lack of it!

I have just been to the quilt store and pulled out all sorts of fabric and thought I was inspired enough to make it through the rest of this season's snow storms! I even made my "Sunshine Soup" yesterday, one of my favorite soups, full of veggies, and here I am today, a Zombie Artist....without a speck of creativity and fabric is the last thing I want to see, though it is everywhere! Fortunately this doesn't happen too often, and it might be due to the fact that I have coupled my cutting activities with cleaning out the basement, even though I have planned it to be a twenty-three day project, spreading out this dreaded task into tolerable mini doses!

Time to reference my Cabin Fever Buster list:
1) Nap?...I just got up after a full night's sleep, so onto the next suggestion..
2) a sewing or cutting bee or in front of a good TV program?....Yeuk!
3) Moodle to get new ideas?.... Done yesterday!
4) Pick up house and have a visitor? just done, except for the dreaded basement, and a visitor--Not today!
5) A beauty bath? likely a good choice...what is that I am smelling? Yes, it is definitely time to add bathing to my list for the day, but all day?
6) Exercise? Another need and I just read that too much sitting will lead to disability! Too little knowledge, too late and too cold and nasty out to get to the pool, leaving exercise to an in-house cleaning activity--NOT fun, but definitely needed! OK, a minimal amount of time in the basement added to my list.
7) Clean pantry shelves to make a creative dinner? I still have some Sunshine Soup as I cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday! Too much of the same for today, no way! I think a ham popped in the oven will smell nice. I will add that to the list.
8) Learn something new today? There IS much I want to learn about the quilting I want to do soon and so that will be added to the list too!

9) Pray? Definitely needed to elevate this funk!
10) Do a random act of kindness? Would it be kind to call someone today with the mood I am in? Very questionable, though I do have a friend who is a young mother, trapped in her house with five kids. Perhaps she would consider it kind of me to call and ask about her issues and listen to her, besides which I will feel better in knowing that I am NOT trapped in my house with five kids! I will add that to my list.

So there is my day all planned out: several stints of going up and down steps for exercise, likely to and from the basement's twenty-three day on-going cleaning project, a beauty bath as I smell ham roasting in the oven, learn something new about quilting, pray for my mood to be elevated, and call my young housebound-mother-friend and listen to her issues, a given with her load. Then feeling better about my circumstances, perhaps I can then plung into the more mundane projects of cutting and pressing materials for sewing and quilting to prep for a day that I feel more creative! I will even treat myself to a bowl of my left- over Sunshine Soup for lunch, perchance to dream of sunshine to melt all our snow!

My Sunshine Soup Recipe (for those that are also challenged in culinary arts)
Throw into a pot: browned hamburger, sauteed onions, fresh vegetables (clean out your refrigerator--carrots, cabbage, celery--it doesn't even have to be crisp!) and then clean out your freezer--mixed frozen veggies or whatever sort you have left), peeled and diced potatoes, canned crushed or diced tomatoes, beef broth, and then add spices: salt, pepper, red pepper,a bit of curry, parsley, garlic and Italian seasonings (marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme, savory, sage and basil) and let simmer in the oven until fresh carrots, and potatoes are cooked. Serve with a slice of bread slathered with butter for a soul-warming cold winter's day meal!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Come With Us

Come with Hannah and I as we brave getting out in knee-deep snow to go to Country Treasures, our closest quilt store in Chester, Vermont.  Of course we have already been there and are back home but we will take you all with us there in pictures!

I understand that Florida is the only state that doesn't have snow right now, but many of you don't have as much as we do and we would like to share our wealth of this white stuff with you so that you can also share our great-escape feeling as we traveled over an hour away from our home in Castleton, Vermont to get to this destination. On the way we said hello to the small towns and ski areas that are represented right now in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Remember my Cabin Fever Busters and item number seven: getting exercise by shopping?  Well, I have to admit that this wasn't the place to get much open floor space to exercise as this store is filled with great quilting fabric, notions, patterns, books and even classes and live students demonstrating the old-fashioned art of quilting, but it proved to be a great place to roam and find all sorts of treasures!

Located in Chester, Vermont, Country Treasures appears to be a cute little country shop, but outside appearances are deceiving as it meanders in all directions including upstairs, and every nook is filled with interesting fabrics and fabric kits all rolled up and cutting areas everywhere! Quilters and sewers are enamored with such shops and love to spend snowy or even sunshiny afternoons browsing and doing some serious shopping.  I set my budget and only went $4 over, though, I also came home with their telephone number, fabric names and numbers so I can pick up my phone and order fabrics and have them sent to me!.

It seems like forever since I have pieced a quilt, though it has only been a couple of years, if that.  I wasn't going to allow myself to pick another pattern or more material until I finished the ones I have started, but when "busting cabin fever" with several more months of winter to go, it's important to be real. Serious problems could arise if snowed in without fabric! I have Hannah tied and gagged to prevent her from telling you that my basement looks like a fabric warehouse that years of sewing will hardly put a dent in....BUT I am charged to prepare and cut several quilt-in-a-day quilts, though I am getting older and have become realisitic which means that perhaps weeks from now, I will have a quilt top cut and sewn and ready to do another if I am lucky! 

I must confess that my name is Jane and I am hopelessly addicted to material, cutting and sewing and any withdrawal could be very severe!  Ask any sewer if they can have too much material?   I had brothers who couldn't have enough Matchbook cars when they were boys, and one collects motorcycles now! So it is with me and material!

I am not sure why, but it seems that whenever I go to purchase material, there is someone in the shop that is self-righteous about their material stash, saying that they aren't allowing themselves to buy any more until they use up what they have.  I have to wonder why they are there then, and what pleasure they find in pricking my conscience with the reality that I already have a shop within my own home. These sorts of trips are my great escape and if I wanted reality I would be at home stitching on what I already have. Another quilter assured me that five quilts to finish is quite do-able and that I should start five more at least, before becoming overwhelmed, and assured me that I was a normal sewer/ quilter with my love of fabric and inability to saturate my need for more!

I arm myself with a ready defense to those self-righteous-sort and say, "I love and enjoy my materials and plan to cut up as much of it as I can before I die, though I promise to keep the pieces together so those after me can finish them! I have already planned The-Celebration-of-My-Life-Party instead of a funeral. Sewers and quilters will be invited to my house for a great estate sale, and my treasured collection will be sold and shared with those kindred spirits that love materials and threads as much as me." I then tell them of the greatest estate sale where I was the recipient of 18 garbage bags full of wool for my last $200! I add that  I DON'T plan to downsize, but rather up-size, keeping my head spinning with fabulous fabrics, designs and busy fingers until I die and hope I am like Grandma Moses and live to be 104!  Having perhaps another forty more years to sew, I might run out so, I'd best get some more!

So come take a peak, and enjoy the sites, but watch out for though this shop looks small, it is like Dr.Who's Tardis, in more ways than one. It is much bigger on the inside than the outside! It is a long and skinny building and it is easy to get lost, traveling through time and space as you wander through the rooms so carefully organized, like-colored fabrics or like-fabric types, as well as rooms of like-period sorts of fabrics, from civil war to retro to modern day materials! Specialty fabrics and nooks of notions, patterns and samples abound to titillate your imagination! I got my exercise after all, traveling from room to room and then through them all again!

My cabin fever has been busted! Let it snow and snow again!! With a few new fabrics as well as my old ones to get snowed in with, my world is big and wonderful! Watching the Winter Olympics will satisfy my need for ice and snow as I quilt away! So do come join the fun. Don't sew?  Doesn't matter! Just enjoy the trip in your armchair and come along for the ride!

(Country Treasures has a wonderful blog at Don't miss seeing what they are up to! Be sure to check out their Farmer's Wife Quilts and Dear Jane Quilt Blocks. I have added those to my list of quilts to do as well! You may also be surprised to find a latent quilter gene within you waiting to be expressed!) 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Valentine’s Day Recipe to Warm a Heart

 Opelle Glass Heart by Corning, "an heirloom" gift from my husband (1979)

How does it go so wrong some times?  Instead of loving and embracing the people we love most, we instead find ourselves embroiled in conflict, even shouting hard words that are completely opposite from the loving ones we are wanting to express.  The truth is that love sometimes means honest confrontation and disagreement that can escalate and look quite different than love.

That is the way my morning started. My youngest and I getting off on the "wrong foot" or perhaps it was the "right foot" but unresolved issues still hang heavy in the air. I want close and loving times and sometimes the communication needed for that to occur takes an opposite course.

It happened one week ago when she came to visit and it is happening again. Our conflict is acting like a sore that is festering and not going away, not healing. Who and what needs to change to restore tranquility, peace and harmony? Is the change up to her or me?  I do know from lots of experience that if I think change is needed on her part, it will only come in her time and not mine and with her recognizing the need and then deciding to do something about it. Meanwhile I need to change the only person I can: me.

What do I do when I meet an impasse, when communication breaks down due to my inability to clearly express what I need to say regarding a concern that is growing and not lessening?  I see a problem that she does not see or recognize as a problem, and may not for some time. I pray and sometimes ask a friend to say a prayer as well. I then decide to express my love by fixing her favorite dinner and hopefully she will see my efforts as my love trying to wrap around her.  I will also prepare the Valentine’s card and gift that I have for her so she can take it with her tonight.  It is small but will hopefully let her know that despite our conflict, I love her. This may take time as this morning my words seemed to say anything but that! She's not understanding that my concern and conflict are born of love. She just feels my pressure and non-acceptance of her about what appears to me to be issues that are NOT working well for her.

I am hoping that corn chowder and Valentine sweets with an offered silent prayer will open her heart to understanding what I am trying to communicate. I am continually reminded that love is not just sweetness but honesty spoken in love, commitment and patience.  It is a matter of will sometimes and not just a warm and sentimental feeling. Loving relationships are dynamic and can only grow with care and effort and weathering through the bad times as well as the good.

By evening my prayers were answered.  Both of us felt bad about the impasse and conflict and it seems that her favorite comfort food made a nice communion-sort of meal.  We visited and our words were softer and kinder.  We were both open to listening and hearing each other. Misunderstandings were clarified and forgiveness and love seems to reign again.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my readers. Hopefully it will be an ideal day of fun and celebrating, but if not, know that commitment and working to communicate more effectively is what real love entails and isn't always like a Hallmark holiday. If  this day or other days bring schisms, perhaps surprising your loved ones with a simple heart-warming soup will help to warm their hearts and facilitate good communication!

No Fail Corn Chowder- a recipe for even the most challenged of cooks

1) Fry 1 lb. Dakin Farms Bacon Ends (a special Vermont-made bacon). If you don't live in Vermont, perhaps you know of some other delicious smoked bacon? Crumble or cut into bite-sized pieces--then to put in large pot or roasting pan and set aside.
2) Dice 3-4-5 onions and saute in bacon fat and then add to the above pot. (My family loves onions, so for us, the more the better).
3) Peel and cut about 12 potatoes (more or less) into bite-sized pieces--Boil until thoroughly cooked, but not mushy and add to the above pot).
4) Drain and add to above pot  2-3 cans regular corn.
5) Add to pot: 2 cans creamed corn.
6) Add about 1 cup half and half  to pot. (optional--as may use whole milk, but half and half adds richness  to your soup).
7) Add whole milk (or skim)--to stretch to desired thickness. This soup can be stretched to fit a large family and unexpected guests.
9) Add salt to taste. (I don't salt a lot due to salt in bacon)
10) Add pepper to taste.
11) Cook in covered pot in oven of 325 degrees for about 30-60 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
12) Right before serving add Instant Mashed Potato Flakes to thicken as desired. (about a cup).

This is a hardy soup, guaranteed to become one of your family's favorites. It will warm their hearts and souls. This recipe feeds many or is enough for a second meal and is better the second time around! If you have grown children, like me, there is plenty for them to take home for their lunch the next day.

One of my favorite books that set me straight about love is Love and Will by Rollo May.  I am afraid I watched a few too many romantic movies and this book helped me understand that real love is different!

The hand-stenciled Post Office boxes below are our Valentine's Day tradition.  We post our cards to each other in them and add a few sweet treats as well.  It is a simple, and inexpensive way to celebrate our love for each matter how the day may find us, sweet or sour!
Our first hand-stenciled Valentine's Day Post Office Box

My oldest daughter's hand-stenciled Valentine's Day Box

My youngest daughter's hand-stenciled Valentines Day Box

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cabin Fever Busters

A favorite old picture of my daughter experiencing cabin fever!
This is the time of year when the snow falls and grows deeper here in Vermont. If you are a wimp like me and no longer skate or ski and even fear sliding and slipping, cabin fever sets in and  it is time to focus on busting isolation, boredom and lack of inspiration though these are the months I count on to clean my house, and tackle all those projects that I can't wait to get at.... until its actually time to do them.

Christmas has past, our taxes are done and spring doesn't come for many long months and now I wonder about those pressing projects. Did I really want to complete the quilt I started that I am not so excited about now? Or am I really keen on cleaning out "rats nests" in the basement--piles of accumulated stuff that I still don't want to part with? Goodwill sometimes look good enough to recycle and I am hopelessly frugal? Inertia sets in, along with a bit of seasonal affective disorder, and just like Maria Wulf's chicken coop becoming cramped and crowded, I too find myself feeling equally as cooped-up. What happened to my desire to do all that I planned to do? My do-lists can be overwhelming and knowing where to start is difficult too!

I pause and regroup, and I consider my options:
1) Rest or nap to recharge my battery? Just got up? Think again! Proceed to number two option.
2) Set up to do one of those tedious, boring tasks that I need to complete. Clear out a space in front of a TV or computer and find a program series to distract and help me persevere. Programs that expand my world or brain seem to work the best to lift me right up and out of that "too-cloistered feeling". Watching the Olympics helps me take on a competitive spirit and I even begin to time myself as to how fast I can get the job done! Repetitive cutting or sewing tasks can even be fun, if I turn them into a task-party and include my daughter on the other side of the table doing stuff that she too wants to finish. I think this is how quilting-bees or canning-bees turned cumbersome tasks into social gatherings to make the work get done fast and painlessly!

3) Sort dreaded jobs into piles of smaller tasks, making them easier to face and tackling one at a time with the least pain possible, and with a promise of a fun activity afterwards. Sometimes the incentive I need to take on a "dreaded task" might be reclaiming the space to better use it, or cleaning out and finding materials to cut into pieces for patchwork quilts and kill two birds with one stone, saving space as well as turning my mess into something beautiful!
4) Take a bit of time to "moodle". Pinterest is perfect for dreaming and scheming but I keep my idea and do-list notebook nearby to take ideas to the next level.
5) Need to pick up the living area of the house?  Schedule a friend to come for a simple afternoon visit. As my energies for such "wasted" tasks as cleaning are limited, I plan my monthly get-togethers with girlfriends for after my monthly pick-up and our house-cleaner's two-hour monthly cleaning is done and feel proud that I appear to be a good housekeeper when they come.
6) Isolation can lead to laxness in my personal appearance and grooming and giving into my pj wardrobe. Scheduling myself for a haircut, manicure or massage is often the boost I need. If my finances won't allow it, then a long luxurious shower or bath will do, taking time for the extra grooming and saturating my dry winter skin with lotion is a bit of elegance too.
7) Exercise needed? I combine it with my errands and make myself circle the perimeter of the store before stopping to shop. I even have a special shopping bag where I collect my coupons for my local stores, so all I have to do is grab it as I head out the door and get what I need on discount.
8) Too cold or icy to consider going anywhere? Exercise at home. A bit of cleaning, taking more steps and stairs rather than less. Putting items away provides stretching and reaching and with proper body mechanics can be a nice workout too. No pictures of myself, as my body make-over is anything but complete!
9) No ideas for dinner? I just need to take a bit of time to straighten my pantry shelves. I can easily plan a whole week of menus if I do! My favorite are one-pot meals that can simmer on the stove on a cold winter's day.
10) Too much to do and my mind too scattered? I take time to organize what needs to be done on paper first. This helps me focus rather than to get side-tracked--sadly I am that old!
11) When the walls get too close, its time to read and learn and expand my brain and world. Good TV programs are helpful too. This week I am watching the Olympics and Charlie White and Meryl Davis have inspired me to do a few ballet exercises and dream of skating once again (only in my dreams but being inspired to do few more exercises can't be wasted!) Alaskan wilderness programs, make me count my blessings, like indoor plumbing, and grocery stores and inspires me to make another warm quilt or two!
12) Prayer and reflection time, especially when I am blue, helps to alter my mood and count my blessings and turn sourness into gratitude. I make a point to give to God what is too much for me to carry, as well as pray for others and then move on to # 13.
13) Plan and do a random act of kindness for someone.  It can be as simple as a phone call, writing a note or email or sending a small gift, anything that lets another know that you care. I learned years ago that this is medicine for my own soul.  I also find that my own problems become smaller when I hear of the problems of others and a bit of kindness may brighten their day?

Spring really will come and how nice it will be to have my winter and spring organization and cleaning tasks done early and get out for some fresh air!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winner of the Common Thread Give-Away

And the Winner is...

Catherine Petee!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Epiphanies, The Beginning of a New World!

Epiphany comes in different forms, but for me, it sometimes comes when I am reading and learn something that is potentially life-changing. I suddenly gain insight into myself, and with new clarity about what doesn't work in my life, set about changing my behavior. I had such a moment reading Charles Krauthammer's book, Things that Matter. Such insights, quite literally, expand my world , though it is no accident that Charles Krauthammer's book could have such an effect, as before becoming a syndicated writer and political analyst, he was a psychiatrist and his insight into human behavior is well-trained.

He called the phenomena, a cousin of solipicsism, when a person fails to recognize "the otherness in others". He went on to say that most of us, don't believe that the world is really an extension of ourselves to the degree that we are out of touch with reality...but find comfort in thinking that the world shares a unity of belief, which is just like our own and went on to say that world becomes a warmer and friendlier place when we picture it with (nice) people like ourselves. He also indicated that if stretched, commonalities between people can be found at basic levels, but that our vision can be very narrow when we believe that others beliefs, thinking and cultures are, in fact, the same as our own. This essay went on to express how naive and ludicrous our leaders can be to think that foreign countries all hold to our same western values and thinking as us.

The light bulb turned on in my head. Instead of applying this realization to the world at large, I applied it to my small world  and was almost blinded by my enlightenment. I realized that his description of this "narrowness of thinking" fit me to a tee. I couldn't be more naive myself, in thinking that others think like me and consequently I am often astonished why they don't do what I would have thought would be the only logical and considerate thing to do in a given circumstance. I am often disappointed by others behavior and it seems the older I get the more this is happening and yet this new truth brings with it a new hope, for I realize that my disappointments in others are truly of my own making. Quit thinking that everyone is like me, recognize the "otherness" in others and change my expectations and "Voila!" no more disappointments in others for failing to meet my expectations!!" I am now on my way to Nirvana, joy and peace with others and myself--the beginning of a new world, albeit my own world!?@?

It may not be quite so easy however as I am learning that I have a well-fortified inner system of "shoulds" that I believe emanates from the thorough training of my mother. Her lessons in behavior and thinking ran deep and permanently modeled my ways into the deep recesses of my mind. I learned to think like her and anticipate how I was to act. Her training was so complete and long-lasting enough that when taking care of her in her old age, I carefully instructed others as to what her unspoken expectations were to eliminate "wrinkles" in her care.  A counselor at that time reinforced this behavior by wisely instructing me that "old dogs can't learn new tricks".

Indeed for the first time ever I got along with her famously, with no more mother-daughter hair-pulling battles that had hallmarked our history! I came to accept her for the person she was and no longer expected her to change and be like me.  Her ways were not easy and it took patience and perseverance to work with or for her. Even her house cleaners noted her to be very particular and instinctively learned read her facial eyebrow up and an intent glare left even the most disarmed and naive to know that something wasn't right. I loved and stood by her, much like a parent does with a naughty child and actually came to enjoy her lack of reserve and  blunt frankness that before her decline had been masked with sometimes a coldness that was enough to chill most anyone.

Only years before, another epiphany happened while I was on vacation and picked up Traces of Wisdom, Amish Women and the Pursuit of Life's Simple Pleasures by Louise Stoltzfus. It was about Amish culture and I soon realized it described the way I was raised right down to the sayings that were quoted. My mother, was surprised that I hadn't understood that her ways had come from a Pennsylvania/Dutch culture of her ancestors. I thought they were ways peculiar to just my mother, and in the extreme, might even represent some sort of psychiatric disorder. She could be unforgivably strict, almost to the point of shunning should I not conform to her ways, which were mostly not verbalized as much as lived. It has taken me years to untangle, recognize and appreciate this intricate and complex culture, and thanks to Louise and Charles, I am still realizing that its effects live on in me and can sometimes be less than functional in a community that doesn't aspire to them. I can indeed be "a foreigner" when it comes to living in the modern day "English" world and culture clashes are not infrequent, and I am often the one that isn't "in-line", only I thought just the other way around!

These epiphanies have cracked the thick walls of what I now understand to be well-ingrained Pennsylvania-Dutch ways and light is shining through. I excitedly shared my epiphanies with my husband and he smiled, and confessed that it will be very nice to not be measured with my "Jane-standard measuring stick" anymore! I carry a cane and am wondering if I just need a bigger and more threatening stick to "drive home" my points, as it is still hard to believe that the world wouldn't be a better place with more people that think and act like myself!!??

It is not easy to live as a foreigner in a foreign land where others are in fact very different! The epiphany of realizing that my thinking is NOT like everyone else's is indeed a startling and shocking revelation. What is that saying about old dogs NOT learning new tricks? I truly do see the ludicrousness of my thinking, though it truly will be more difficult to change than I thought. I am so ingrained in thinking that my logic, like that of my mother's, is the only logic! I am learning that changing myself, however difficult, might be easier than waiting for the world to be like me!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Valentine's Day Heart Art Posted in Etsy

There is still time to order Heart Art for Valentine's Day!  Here is a small preview of what is listed in Little House Home Arts Etsy shop: (to view more just click on Little House Home Arts, below Etsy, to the left of this column.

Crazy Quilted Framed Valentine--so sweet and elegant

Wool Appliqued Valentine Coin/Credit Card Zippered Purse
Hand Appliqued and Embroidered Valentine Reading Eyeglass Case
Crazy Quilted Framed Valentine--so sweet and elegant
Traditional Penny Rug Pincushion, a perfect gift for sewer or collector
Framed Valentine Picture, primitive and inspiring
Hand Dyed Wool Button Coin/Credit Card Purse for someone special

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Common Thread Give-Away Artist for February is a "Strong Woman"

This months Common Thread Give-Away Artist is Maria Wulf.  I have written many blogs about Maria: how I met her; and about her streaming and whimsical artwork that I love.  I have also written about her life on Bedlam Farm with her husband, Jon Katz, and their Open House Events and Functional Art Sales. Interestingly enough what I haven't written about Maria, is what I admire most about her. Maria is a "strong woman" which I not only greatly admire, but love how she translates that into her artwork.

I can't write about Maria's "strong woman" image without first saying that I was brought up by a mother who was raised on a farm in Nebraska with her six sisters and one brother during The Dust Bowl days. Being short of boys in the family and with many mouths to feed and not a lot of money, she and her sisters were raised to do "men's work".  They milked cows, fed the pigs and worked in the fields along with their father and older brother and an occasional seasonal hired hand.

Farm stories abounded when her sisters came to visit, and my siblings, cousins and I would gather to listen to them reminisce. We were all envious of their upbringing.  They were fun stories and were all about the making of these "strong women".  My grandmother was a "strong woman" too and stories were told of her taking time from her chores to give birth and then go out and hang up the wash.  She was a well-educated woman for her day and kept wonderful journals during the time she raised her kids.  More stories came as my mother and her sisters aged and they would read their mother's journals aloud to all who would listen and they enjoyed filling in the unwritten details.

My grown cousins and I laughed as my aunt read the entry in one of my grandmother's journals about her brother, Doane, a county judge, "recovering well from being assaulted". My aunt added that he was clobbered over the head with a hammer by someone that didn't like his verdict! The entry read just as my grandmother would have reported it to her family, so calmly and matter-of-fact, like it was an everyday occurrence.  I believe this was the same brother that went on to be a judge at the Nuremberg Trials.

But back to Maria, except for her age, she would have fit in nicely with these country women who could run a farm and farmhouse all at the same time!  From gathering eggs to making clothes and quilts, there was nothing that they couldn't do, and so it is with Maria.

Maria's husband Jon has posted many a photo on his blog of Maria pitching bales of hay into the hay mow in their barn and caring for their sheep, donkeys, chickens, cats and dogs.  She has embraced many a difficult situation as when Minnie, the barn cat was attacked by a wild animal and that tore her leg severely enough to have to have it amputated.  Maria was there to support this cat to becoming independent again.

In another picture, Maria is seen all bundled up, complete with farm boots in freezing cold weather, tenderly taking care to be sure that her sheep were watered and fed and protected from the harsh elements or in nicer weather, and not so bundled, helping with the sheering of the sheep. This is all in the course of her day where she still finds time to remodel her farm house, keep her window sills and house warmly decorated with collected bits of artwork, make quilts and tell her country stories all in the free motion quilted pictures she calls "streaming" in her functional potholders, pillows or even in framed art. All her "artwork" exudes her love of this rich rural country life and values.

In a world  full of superficial and trite, beautiful, but shallow, women, I am delightedly refreshed by Maria, small in stature but strong, practical, and unafraid of rolling up her sleeves and taking on the difficult and hard work of keeping a farm. She is nothing short of being "down to earth" in the literal sense of the word and I admire and love her for it.  Make no mistake that behind her quiet and reserved nature is a "strong woman" and tenacious lady!

Don't miss getting to know more about Maria through her husband, Jon's blog (, as well as her own blog and website,( Visit her and see how she translates her rich and meaningful lifestyle into her unique drawings and fiber art.

In order to register for the drawing below, simply go to her website and leave a comment for her anytime between Monday, February 3rd and Wednesday, February 5th.  The winner will be randomly drawn from those registered on Thursday, February 8th and the winner will be notified.