Tuesday, December 29, 2009

BLOG SHOPPING!!

Sometimes I sit in the evening and am totally uninterested in what my husband has chosen to watch on TV, am too tired to go to my studio and get productive, don’t want to go to bed yet because I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, but I need something to do. So, probably like millions of others on this earth, I go blog shopping on my lap top computer. Here are a few of the fun things I found last night:


http://thehowtogal.blogspot.com/

In this one I like the idea of the New Year’s Resolutions plan with an Infrastructure. I’m trying to figure out how to make it work with my goal of finishing all my UFO’s this year! Thought provoking, but I haven’t drawn mine up yet! Then I pressed “next blog” and got to this one:

http://thefabricofmeditation.blogspot.com/

This blog is interesting to me because not only is it a textile art blog, but it’s all faces. I like to put faces in my work as well so find this one inspiring and unique. As well, the photos look like a place I’d love to ride my bike! As you read further down, she has changed her blog so if you want to follow her as I will, her new address is:http://talesfrombeyondtheglimpse.blogspot.com/

Again, this is a video about a workshop with Sara Lechner of “Tales From Beyond the Glimpse” mentioned above. It’s worth watching….fascinating stuff she’s doing.
http://videosbysusanlenz.blogspot.com/2009/10/workshop-with-sara-lechner.html

And while there, the video site itself is pretty interesting. http://videosbysusanlenz.blogspot.com/

So now you can waste time and get inspired just as I did!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Memories and Memory Quilts

A couple of years ago my sister, a heart specialist in Children's Hospital, asked me if I would make a memory quilt for the mother of a patient who had passed away.  A 16 year old girl who had Downs Syndrome and a heart condition.  I said I would.  We met at her son's Rugby tournament and she delivered a package of t-shirts that had been worn by the girl.  I just put the package in my suitcase, we visited, watched the Rugby game, went to the needlework and other shops together, and then I came home. 

When I got home I opened the package.  It held 12 t-shirts.  Each and every one was wrapped in pink tissue paper and had a note on top written by the mother.  They said things like "This was her favorite shirt because the cow said Moo."  or "This is the last t-shirt she wore...the holes are from pins holding er IV cords."  I felt sacrilegeous opening the packages. It was put away for several months before I could bring myself to get it out and work on the promised "Memory Quilt".  In the end, my friend Joan helped me by scanning all the notes into the computer and giving me a CD of those files.  I then printed them out on fabric and each T-shirt that I cut to size was backed by fabric printed with the note that her mother had written about that shirt.  It was difficult to cut up those T-shirts and even more difficult to work on that quilt. 

But, when I got going, it seemed to come together nicely.  I sashed each of these blocks in "Reversible Quilting" style as described in Sharon Pedersen's book "Reversible Quilting.  http://ninepatchmedia.com/html/DV01RQ.html  When finished the quilt still looked a little dull so I added appliqued heart-shaped balloons and silk ribbons drifting between the blocks to liven it up.  In the end, it looked great.  I sent it to my sister and she sent me back photographs (not digital) that were pretty rewarding, but heartbreaking at the same time.  The mother was in tears, but thrilled. 

That being my experience with "memory quilts",  I was against doing it again.  But when my friend at work came and asked me if I would do one for her son who had just left for an apprenticeship in another town, I couldn't say no because she is such a special friend!  She gave me all kinds of t-shirts and tidbits that were applicable to her oldest son.  I put this quilt together: 



It is made up of hockey shirts, pyjamas for a little guy, pieces of "Bumpa's" shirt, his ball cap, his crib sheet, his favorite t-shirts, a karate belt and other tidbits from his childhood life.  There is a pocket on the back made out of a crocheted blanket, and it holds a scrap of the wallpaper from his room. 

I couldn't make one of these for my own children because I didn't keep enough to do it with!  What a mistake!  However, my friend did and this is the result.  When I showed her the pieced quilt top, she broke into tears......pretty strong testimony that I did a decent job of it.  She got the backing fabric and the batting and it got quilted and finished. 


But that's not the end of it!  This young man was going to get this quilt for Christmas.  But he announced that he had proposed to his girl (isn't that romantic?) and would be married this coming summer.  So Mum, my friend, felt that the second son should get his quilt for Christmas too.  She apparently spent a week or more pondering how to ask me to rush the second one so they could both get them at Christmas.  When she came and asked me about it, she was pretty close to tears, but I knew it was important to do this thing.  I said I could put the top together so she could present it to him, but would have to quilt and finish it after Christmas.  So she agreed and brought me a bag of goodies for the second son and I put this quilt together:

This one has two pockets on the front.  One from a hockey jacket that is designed to hold the remnants of the original "stuffy" the replacement of which although worn too, is featured top and center.  The "Blue Jays" patch is actually a piece of a shirt that unbuttons and inside there is a cloth book that the boy had.  This one includes a baby sock, his favorite "leather" jacket, sheets from his bed, his grad t-shirt and more.

I found I enjoyed doing these two memory quilts.  I don't know if it was because the mother, my friend, was so pleased, or if it was because the boys are alive and progressing with their life plans and it's all pleasant memories.  It is difficult to work with cotton, stretch, polyester, nylon and fake leather ....and have it all come out square, but I did enjoy working on"" them.

I thought "Mom" should keep the quilts for herself and cuddle in them when she's missing the boys, but  she's going to go through with her plan and give them to the kids for Christmas! 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Old Crock and Koi Fish



Koi Fish are so intriquing.  They are actually trainable and become quite the pet.  They get used to a routine, they know who's coming to feed them and will go to the bottom of the pool if it's someone they are unsure of....like over active children....or a heron!  In the last place my husband and I lived, we did a lot of landscaping.  It's a form of art I wish I'd discovered as a young person.....an aptitude test at school said I should be a forest ranger!  In those days nobody had heard of landscaping......at least not in my family circle! 


But I moved to Vancouver Island and with the combination of milder weather and different plants, I discovered that I love to turn my yard into a piece of art work.  Every place we've lived, we did all kinds of decorative work in the yard and mainly just maintenance in the house!  But our magnum opus was the house where we had the koi pond, stream, water fall and lots of specimin plants and hidden areas of the garden for contemplation.  When we moved from this home, we took the biggest fish, breeding stock, to a friend in the country who had a very deep pond for them to "go wild" in and meet other koi living there.  We left only the smaller ones for the new owners.  These two fish were our favorites.  The pictures do not do them justice....they were taken when were transporting them and they were in plastic tubs that were big...two fit side by side in the back of the van to give you an idea what size the fish were!



Today we don't have a pond.  My husband is happy as he worried about the pump and the water levels and all those practical things. The biggest problem was the heron.  They were hard to keep away, illegal to kill, but stole our oldest fish and a lot of his offspring.  I used to think herons were artistic looking the way they stand on one leg and are so still.  Now I see them with a target on their breast!


But as for the pond, I miss it terribly.  I miss the running water, the birds bathing in it on a hot sunny day, the pet fish and even the frogs that made it their home and sang in the evening. 


But, not to be deterred, at this house I have an old crock.  It's an antique one and rather than make sauerkraut in it, I have it on the patio with two water plants and three goldfish.  Today I have to empty it, store the plants in a safe place, and put the goldfish in a big bowl for winter.  I do this to prevent the crock freezing and breaking over winter.  The fish would be fine in our milder winters, and just go to the bottom whee there is still water rather than ice.  But the crock won't survive so I have to clean it out and bring it inside. 


So, with fish on my mind, I've added a "Feed the Fish" gadget to play with in the side column.  I found it to be fun when I tried it out so there it is for you to try as well.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Baking ....or avoiding Baking?


Thankfully our rain and floods have stopped. Now we have it very cold. Not arctic style cold, and not unbearably cold, but a lovely change from howling winds and rains. No snow, beautiful sunrise and sunset, the beach is gorgeous, the mountains look cold and ready for the Olympic games….and it’s time to bake bread and stay home being cozy.

I’m getting out one of my favorite recipe and making it. It’s called comfort food I believe! Here’s the link to the recipe. http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/seeded_multigrain_boule.html



This is a great site to visit for really good and healthy recipes. I’m not a cooking person, in fact the only cooking I truly like doing is baking bread and cookies. And I've just realized I should have been started on the Christmas baking by now....and haven't.  I'm trying to put it off as long as possible since the sooner I bake it the sooner I'll eat it and then have to bake them again!  Inside this woman is a 300 lb. cookie monster with blue fur trying to get out! 

I wrote to my parents last week and told them about discovering this bread recipe and the experiments I went through with my containers and my oven.  My sister, who also likes to bake bread, came to visit and she read my letter.  Her comment at the end was "Well she went on about this great bread and didn't even send the recipe!"  I've sent it to her now too!  So enjoy!  Baking is an art form too! 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Tiny Cloth Hands

My friend Joan and I have started on the tome page patterns designed by Patti Culea http://www.pmcdesigns.com/tomes.htm. I know .....I’ve mentioned this before. But we are still on Page ONE!!! This page features three women representing friends. You can just follow the pattern of course, but Joan and I have chosen to change it according to our theme embellish accordingly. 



My front page has a secretary, a farm girl, and a grandma since I chose to make my theme about all the stages in my life. So being the sort who likes to jump in at the top and then slide downwards to my level, I decided to have three dimensional hands so that they can hold miniature props… a stenographer’s notebook, a milk pail and my knitting.

I've photographed them on my cutting mat so that you can see what size they are in actuality.

Now you really do need to know that turning hands for a cloth doll is a practice in patience at the best of times, but making them this small is really designed to test your determination – especially if you haven’t done it in a while!



Well… I’ve mastered it…this said after no small amount of time, perseverance, flat-out cursing. Here is the result of my labour! Now, to attach them to the page and incorporate the embellishments. …..




Thursday, December 03, 2009

Survival Quilting


This quilt is NOT my normal style, but it’s got a good story to go along with it. In fact, I considered doing the quilting by writing the story with the sewing machine in the wide blue strips. (I don’t even like blue!) However, the opening in my machine would not allow scrunching the entire quilt in there to write the story lengthwise so I’ve opted to just quilt it fairly normally and then print the story on fabric and appliqué it to the back. This is me holding it up, partially quilted.


In the spring of 2007, we sold our house and bought a new one. The only problem was that we had a six week gap between leaving our home and taking possession of our new one. For that period of time we put most of our things in storage, taking just what we needed for the duration with us to our temporary home. There were piles of boxes to go to Goodwill, stuff to go to the storage unit, and other stuff to go where we were going to be staying.



Luckily, my husband only made one mistake on deliveries of these boxes, and that turned out to be a good one. The place we stayed was with an in-law, who was working in camp and had two tenants looking after his place but he was good enough to give his room to stay in while he was gone and we were transient. However, the different “mentality” of the tenants, their visitors and the living conditions turned out to be quite stressful for both of us. There were oil drums stacked in the driveway. They popped loudly every morning when the sun came up and again every evening when it cooled off again. Our poor cat hid in the bedroom for most of the full six weeks. Our dog was adventurous enough to enjoy the nearby bush, but for me….the tenants were heavy drinkers and were quite often extremely talkative but not sensible. The washing machine made horrendous noises and drained under the trailer. I got yelled at for leaving a teabag in the sink. They didn’t like my alarm going off in the morning so that I would get up for work! They complained about the meals my husband cooked, at our expense, because they were not ready on time for them to go to the pub. There’s more, but I’m sure by now you get the idea.  If it hadn't been for my friend Ang living nearby, and walking with me regularly, I doubt I'd have come out sane!  It was certainly an education in how quickly the human spirit can lose hope of ever having a better life.  I knew I had my new house to go to.....and still I began to doubt it was ever going to happen!



But....luckily I had my sewing machine with me (I always do!) And by now I’d found this box of fabric strips that had been meant for Goodwill and landed with us instead. So I set myself up in a tiny little room at the end of the hallway – little more than a closet actually – and I escaped to that cubbyhole and sewed strips together. I sewed every evening without thought of what I was creating, it was just therapeutic to sew. I just reached into the box, took out the next strip and stitched it to the next. By the time we moved into our home, these chunks of stripped piecing were many and colorful, but I had no idea what to do with them.



This picture is of the squares "in the making" where I had cut and sewed them back together, and was trying out different widths of sashing.  I had taken the big squares to one of our retreats. At “Show & Tell” I told the story and showed them the pieces I had put together rather mindlessly. Everyone enjoyed hearing how sewing had been my therapy, and one girl there came over with a terrific idea; she showed me how to cut the pieces I’d strip pieced and then reassemble them so that they made this pattern. It was great fun because it didn’t require accuracy, just cutting, turning and more sewing! In the end I put it together with other fabric I didn’t ever intend to use in a “serious” project, and a backing of fabric I likely never would have used either. So it’s truly a “use up what you’ve got” kind of quilt!


So now I have the quilt….”Surviving the Summer of 2007”, colorful to the point of garish, but will be cozy as can be and a great one to take on a picnic or put on the floor when the grandchildren are over. Not a piece of art, but a reminder of how much simple sewing can do for one’s mental stability in times of stress, or any other time for that matter. I’ve been eternally grateful to Bob for making that “mistake” in delivering my box of scraps to the wrong place!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

HAPPY 94th BIRTHDAY DAD!

Today is my Dad’s 94th birthday. I can’t even imagine what he’s seen in his lifetime, but I have to say, he is very healthy, and his mind is 10 times what mine has ever been! But a tribute to my Dad....a great father, a wonderful Grampa, a huge influence in my life from day one. A supportive and modern thinker, he encouraged us to be all we could be. I know how privileged I am to have my father still a part of my life, albeit it from a distance. I called him early this morning to say “Happy Birthday and I’ll call again this evening” and he said “You sound a little hoarse. Are you feeling ok?” He laughed when I said “I’m fine....I just haven’t talked much and have only had one cup of tea so far....we’re an hour behind you Dad.” He is a morning person and I am definitely not so we got a chuckle out of that. Here’s a photo of him when he met my mother in Belgium, during WWII.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Quilting Retreat with Friends......Again!!




I have the extreme pleasure of being a member of a group of art quilters who have been getting together for a “retreat” at least twice a year for almost 15 years now. We find a hall that has a suitably large room for all of us to set up our machines and design walls, with rooms to stay for two or three nights. We have done pot luck arrangements where we did our own cooking, and that worked well, but lately we have been meeting at Tamagawa University in Cedar on Vancouver Island, tp://www.tamagawa.ca/about/index.html where all those needs are met as well as the most spectacular meals provided. We have a full course breakfast, coffee break snacks delivered to the hall where we are sewing, a full course lunch, appetizers delivered for happy hour, and a major meal for dinner. All of which are so irresistible that we usually go back for seconds. There are minimum six pounds to be gained at one of these three day sessions!



And along with the spectacular food, is the camaraderie with long-term friends, hearing how their life has been since last time we met, and putting our minds together on projects we are working on. We have a “Show and Tell” where we show and explain the things we’ve worked on since last time we met which is always inspiring. This time the works produced by this group of women were so stunning as to bring tears to your eyes. What a talented group. It was, in fact, so emotionally uplifting to see all this beautiful work that we decided next gathering we will split show and tell into two nights so that we can actually give each participant more time to hold up their work and the rest of us to take photos. Honestly, it has that much affect on you to watch one friend after another hold up two, three or even 6 projects….all of which are breathtaking.





This time I used the time to complete projects that have been hanging around waiting for me to quilt them. I had finished the tops, sandwiched them and pinned them ready for machine quilting. But that’s where the productivity at home stopped. These were folded up and stored in a corner while I happily went on to more artistic pursuits in my textile art! So…..in three days of stitching, eating, drinking, talking and laughing so much that my tummy hurt, here is what I finished! These are quilted and trimmed and I’m now doing the hand stitching of the binding while I watch TV. Christmas presents ready ahead of time….what a concept!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beaded Tower Book


If  by any stretch of impossibility, you are a fibre artist and haven’t connected with Maggie Grey in the UK, you need to do so. She has a number of books in print and they are all unusual techniques and fabulous inspiration. http://www.workshopontheweb.com/ or on her blog, http://magstitch.blogspot.com/


With the purchase of her book “Textile Translations”, published by D4Daisy there are on-line lessons offered for an extra project.
http://www.d4daisy.com/maggiete.htm 

I started this one last spring and had a lot of fun with it. The faces and “head dresses” draped around them are wet paper, applied to Timtex,
 http://www.ctpub.com/showproducts.cfm?WPCID=1117 and then painted over with gesso. From there I inked, painted and dyed until I was satisfied with the shading. I was unable to make the technique offered by Maggie Grey work….probably because our inks are not the same as those produced in the UK. But with a little bit of experimentation and a great amount of serendipity, the project came to life.


The best part was the beading. I sat with my husband watching TV and started beading. It went well. I beaded evening after evening, going from one piece to another. I would do something to one piece and then decide the other needed more and then….well, you get the picture.



I had originally planned to have fabric pages with the verses applied with Steam A Seam Lite, a fusible stabilizer which works with fabric or paper, but the fabric didn’t work as intended so I switched to decorative papers. These worked well. They are stitched together, and then “bound” to the cover so that they ruffle nicely when the book is standing. I’m quite happy with the way it turned out.







As always, the next one will be the best one, but I sure had fun playing with this one!

Yoga - Another Form of Well Being

I have taken yoga classes in the past, but this fall I have been going to a class once per week with a very good friend of mine. It’s called “Gentle Yoga” and is exactly that. A lot of stretches and concentrating on breathing, but not a lot of the traditional “asanas” or strength building exercises. We have discovered ligaments we didn’t know existed, and joints that don’t bend the way they used to, but it’s fun and each time we stretch a little further, we feel a sense of accomplishment.  Refer to this website for poses and benefits of doing yoga....it really does help:  http://www.yogajournal.com/

But what I wanted to share with you is my granddaughters’ reaction to my participation in this class. The two of them, age 11 and 6 had been visiting their father in Winnipeg for the past two weeks. Dad was escorting them home on their flight back to their mother, and my husband was going to pick them up. I couldn’t come along as the vehicle won’t hold five people and a lot of luggage, so I went to my yoga class instead.



This one I can do!!  And the following web site is a good one for practicing at home.  http://www.yogalearningcenter.com/?gclid=CMmCs-bDrJ4CFSReagod9mcUmQ


When the girls got in the vehicle the youngest one asked Grandpa “Where’s Grandma?” He said “At her yoga class.” She looked confused and grandpa asked if she knew what yoga is. The oldest girl suddenly burst out laughing and said “Grandma is at YOGA?????!!!!! That’s hilarious.” Of course everyone in the vehicle, Grandpa, Dad, and both girls had a great laugh over that. Now I ask you, what is so funny about a 62 year old Grandma doing yoga??? Could it be that the two men couldn’t begin to fold themselves into those positions OR stretch themselves in the twists? And the girls obviously need to have their preconceived notions changed…..I believe I’ll be handling a class of young people’s yoga next time they visit…..it will be their payment before we get to any sewing with grandma!

Most definitely NOT Grandma!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bookmark Exchange Beauties


The on-line group I belong to organizes exchanges quite regularly. Our illustrious leader is Patti Medaris-Culea. Patti is a well known cloth doll artist who travels all over the world teaching classes in her various techniques. http://www.pmcdesigns.com/tomes.htm

The members of the on-line group are those who have purchased Patti's pattern to make tomes, a fabric book of textile art techniques. I wonder how many of us have finished the book? I certainly haven’t, but am working on at regularly with a friend of mine.  We hope to learn the techniques as well as have it for reference and a brag-book of sorts as well. After all, it’s not every day that any of us actually finish something!



The theme of the bookmark exchange was Art Deco/Art Nouveau. We all seemed to hesitate on this one and took a while to percolate an idea. But in the end, as always, everyone came up with spectacular work. I have posted pictures of my own bookmarks prior to this post, but here are pictures of the bookmarks I got in exchange. I do believe they’ll be on my display wall rather than hidden in books!

The bookmark my exchange group members received from me is shown in an earlier post. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wind, Rain, Floods, Leaks and Quilting!

Today has been one of those days you think you should have stayed in bed for.  It seemed decent enough this morning.....but not so now.  The wind is howling, the rain is going sideways.  Wind speeds are expected to reach 90 kph.  It's outrageously noisy and needless to say, my oriental gong has been removed from the garden!  The power went out at work and all the administrators had to go out into the halls and outside around the school to supervise the kids that were out of their classrooms.  That was when I was really glad to have my little office with the window.  But what I was seeing out there wasn't great. 

And then we came home to a big puddle on the garage floor.  There is a leak somewhere in the sidewall of the house where there is a little bump out.  Darling husband, who stays SO cheerful during these trials, has removed some gyproc, pulled out the soaking fibreglass insulation, and tried to find the source.  He's been outside up the ladder.....yes in this wind and rain.....to try putting some sealant in the join he thinks is the source of the trouble.  Is this covered by house insurance?  I'll be calling to find out tomorrow!  He is so frustrated. 

I have pictures of the river flooding, but they aren't digital.  However, here's a picture of me wading in the Oyster River last August.  It was hot and I was enjoying the "potholes" and the scenery.  This is my favorite spot on the river.  Bob and I went there for a picnic with the dog - have done many times in the past - but this is the first time with this dog.  However, I wouldn't be sitting there right now.  That river would be over my head twice and running so strongly I'd be gone with it.  It's amazing to see the seasonal differences. 




Check out Angela's blog....she has a picture of a different river in the area, flooding it's banks and putting the city in a state of emergency!   http://www.searchingforartinlife.blogspot.com/
So it seems the only solution to this drastic weather is to hibernate in my studio and work on my quilts.  Three are now quilted and one got a binding stitched on tonight.  Two bindings next evening and then finish quilting one quilt and it will be done.  I've discovered a magical thing about finishing.....four finished quilts leaves a big hole in your storage unit.....it fills up again quickly, but it's a little tidier every time! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beaded Goddess Postcard Class


It is a wonderful experience when you teach a class in something you love to do and all five students are just the absolute greatest combination of personalities. I had that pleasure last weekend when I taught a class in making fabric postcards. These are one of the projects in my recently released book, “Embellishing with Anything” and I had fun doing them for the book, but showing five other people how to do them and watching them learn to love the idea as much as I do was just the greatest day I’ve spent in a long time. Their choice of fabrics, their different styles and most of all, their conversation made the day so much fun. These postcards are theirs, the work of Sue, Margit, Tina, Paula and Nancy.



They all have a story and they are all a delight. We all had so much fun we decided at the end of the day to do a postcard exchange after Christmas. That means we will each make six cards, one for each person in the group and one for ourselves. The start of a new and delightful collection of textile art for each of us!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Sunny Saturday Walk


Saturday was the most delightfully beautiful fall day one can imagine. My friend and I had planned a day together working on our blogs, our photo manipulation skills and just generally, computer art exploration done together. We had tea and with our lap tops side by side, we shared what we knew how to do (mostly her telling me), and made adjustments to our photos and discovered how to cut and collage within an on-line program. We got so enthused about what we’d learned and what a beautiful day it was that we decided to go for a walk and take pictures to come back and play with some more!  Here is a link to Angela's presentation: http://photopeach.com/album/uoemwj

Off we go marching down the middle of a country road taking photographs of trees with canopies of glorious color, leaves trying to outdo one another with their brilliance, rose hips red with their ripened blush, broken glass shimmering in the sun, a manhole someone has painted blue, and of all things, fire hydrants all in a row at the fire station. We ended up at a coffee shop, had a great cup and a great visit, and then walked back again, taking more pictures along the way. Here’s a small sample of what we saw and what we did with it. This is the short slide show I put together:  http://photopeach.com/album/rhkky7

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mortality & Reality


The past week was one that reminded me every day of our mortality. The first day of the week we heard that one of our teachers has passed away. He retired 2 months ago and deserved far more freedom than two months. Still reeling from that news, I received a phone call from my son to tell me that a friend of his has been diagnosed HIV positive. And still disturbed by that news, I’m told of the death of a young person from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Such sad situations for young people and such a loss of a good man in the teacher. To make these situations even more thought provoking, all this is happening at a time which has often through the years, had the school in a state of shock with the loss of one of our students, usually in car accidents.

All this got me to thinking of how none of us thinks it will happen to us today, and of course it seldom does, but all this in one week did make me meditate on the blessings in my own family, the friends I have, the part of the world I live in, and my more often than not, normal daily life!

The photo attached is of a life size metal tree. It was started by one of our students. But before it was finished, he was killed in a car accident. Between the metalwork teacher and his girlfriend, it was completed and installed in the school courtyard as a memorial. At first it was all silver, freshly welded and shiny and didn’t really look very natural. But with time, it has weathered, rusted, mellowed and begun to fit beautifully into its environment, becoming a warm tribute to the student who began the project. I would imagine the pain of loss for the family members will do the same eventually, but I think it’s thought-provoking how this school art project keeps this student in our minds just as much as the memorials on the side of the roads in our area, but in a much more positive and pleasant way. Instead of remembering only the tragedy, we remember what he was like and what he enjoyed. I hope someday my art will serve the same purpose for those I leave behind.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Contemplating Autumn











This is looking up into the Deborah Maple in our back yard. Isn't it spectacular? This picture, taken today, belies yesterday altogether.

This weekend started out to be a typical West Coast kind of weekend. Saturday was the type of day that prompted my Dad, when I put sunglasses on for a snowy day walk in Edmonton, to say "Your eyes have grown dim from peering through the fog." Dad will be 94 this year. At the time, I laughed, but yesterday we were indeed peering through the fog and sunglasses were just something that needed wipers! It was rainy, windy, drizzly, dreary and totally designed for staying inside.....everything that everyone hears about for winter on Vancouver Island and accuses us of being waterlogged or in denial.

I spent the day with a friend in my studio, designing the cover page for a fabric tome, using the patterns designed by Patti Culea. www.pmcdesigns.com/tomes.htm
We had a totally pleasant time snipping and designing and sharing ideas. Joan's tome is going to have an African theme. Joan works with Kitambaa designs (note their blog in my favorites list) and goes to Africa once a year to teach women how to sew in order to support themselves. She has been deeply touched by all she has seen and done there.

My tome is going to be a theme of "Me, Myself & I". Sounds a little narcissistic but my intentions are not at all. I just like to design around the human figure so this gives me the chance to get lots of faces and bodies into the design. The entire project is designed to put various techniques to use. We started it FOUR years ago and never kept it up. We've decided we're going to try to meet every second Saturday and get this one completed.

Now this unbelievable picture, is the Half Moon Maple in our yard. It is also exactly what you see and definitely not touched up in any way. This tree is a favorite of ours, and has lived with us at three different houses now. It started out as a large bonsai, in a pot, but got to heavy and wasn't doing well, so we planted it. I think it likes it's new home! It is lime green in spring, bright green in the summer, has a wonderful round leaf and then gifts us with this in the fall.



And then there was today. Bright, sunny, warm, towels and sheets drying on the line outside and the colors......I could not resist the urge to go outside to take pictures of the colors in the middle of laundry and house keeping! These pictures are of the trees in my yard, and they are not touched up, adjusted or fixed in any way. So just imagine, if this is the color in my own little corner of the world, imagine what I see when I look up and out to the rest of the neighborhood and beyond to the mountains. It is truly spectacular and I'm certainly not peering.

But, if this isn't a quilt from nature waiting to happen, I don't know what would be!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bookmark Exchange


Last summer I signed up with the online Stargaze Tome group to do a bookmark exchange. We were in groups of five, so would make five bookmarks, send out four and get four back, making a collection of five. The theme was Art Deco/Art Nouveau and the deadline was September 15. Lots of time thinks I!


However, back to work September 8 and a hectic first month of school put me behind yet again. I received the four bookmarks from the other participants in my group, they are stunning. And today, I have lots to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend, because I finished mine and will be mailing them out to the four patient participants in my group. Here's a picture of what they'll be getting.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Promotional Sample for Publisher



This story is a typical example of what procrastination and over booking oneself can cause. And by the way, these are two habits of mine that I'm consistently trying to change and haven't succeeded yet!

My book which was published with C&T was released in April....April Fool's Day to be exact. My family and friends got a chuckle out of the appropriateness of that date! Things have been going well regarding the book as I've had speaking engagements, and classes to teach as a result. More to do! And these have to be timed around my day job, in an office at a high school! However, this a part of my "retirement plans" so I'm working on it.

One day I got an email from a representative at C&T asking me if I would mind producing another sample for them to make a big promotion to a new customer in book sales. I said I'd be happy to do that. I was instructed to gear the new project towards the main function of the customer, pictures and framing.

So I pondered for quite some time about what I could do that would be suitable for this presentation. I landed on the idea of using one of my pieces of painted fabric. I was going to quilt it, and make a wall hanging. Then I decided to quilt it and then cut it into three and mount the little pieces as quilts. And THEN I decided to get my husband to make little box frames to mount them on.

As I worked away on the quilting of the painted flower, my darling, who is not known for his fine woodwork capabilities, struggled away in his shop trying to envision what I had tried to describe. I got so frustrated trying to explain it to him that I gave up and said "forget it, I'll make them little quilts to hang together. That will be easier to ship anyways". I continued quilting.

One day that week I came home from work and was presented with one wooden frame, which was exactly what I wanted! I was thrilled and he was so pleased about that. He promised to make the other two frames to my size specifications that week. I looked forward to the weekend when I would mount the quilts and send them off to C&T.

But it didn't happen the way it should. Work and life got in the way and I had to write to C&T to ask if I should continue or if I could have an extended deadline. They, as always, were wonderful and had of course, built in a buffer zone for people like me. I was granted an extension.

When the weekend finally arrived where I would be able to complete the project I was so happy. I mounted both small pieces on the little frames and was ecstatic with how they looked. I added beads to represent seeds at the center and all was well. About that time, my sweetie came into my studio to see how I was doing. I was bouncing around being happy and excited because the "plan was coming together". We chatted while I laid the biggest frame down on the back of the quilted piece. Without a second thought, I marked it and cut the trimmings away. I turned them over to center the piece on the frame and lo and behold.....I had cut to the INSIDE of the frame. Husband offered to make a new frame but I refused as a new size wouldn't fit with the other two. He carefully snuck out of the room and left me to my conundrum.

I pondered a variety of "fixes". In the end I decided to stitch the pieces back on, with piping in the seam as an accent to cover the error. This worked, except for the fact that I had not centered the frame on the piece, I had centered it on the best area of the design. So now the pieces put back on were three different widths...only by a fraction, but to me it was obvious. I was distraught. I scrounged through my stash for something to add to the project to save it. I found some sparkly black ribbon, and when laid out over the seams, it went well with the big black beads I put in the centers. So I cut the ribbon and glued it down over the seams, and then down and around the two outer edges of the smaller pieces as well.
I was not thrilled with the result as I knew there was a flaw in it. But when my friend came over to look at it she said that she thought it was better than to start because the black made the flower more masculine, therefore appealing to a wider market. I hadn't thought of that concept and time was up, so I mailed it away to C&T in California. When it arrived there, I got an email that said "Your masterpiece just arrived! AWESOME, you ROCK!" But the guy who really rocks is my husband, who in times of stress can really pull through. He had to reduce the size of the third frame to allow for the seam allowance I had taken up with my mistake, and he did without ONE comment!

OK!!! I guess I got through that one with my reputation intact....the question is which reputation!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Enjoying my Studio for Thanksgiving


It's Friday! TGIF. A long week to say the least. But now I have three days to spend in my studio. I have done my sewing in many situations.....a corner of the bedroom, the dining room table, the master bedroom in a small house while we slept in one of the small rooms, and now, in this room. I feel I've died and gone to heaven. BUT....there's a lesson learned. Your studio is NEVER going to be big enough. When you get a bigger room to work in, you also collect more stuff to work on. Here is a photograph of my sewing room "cleaned up". How often do you think it looks like this? Nobody I know would recognize it! But now the picture is here for posterity to prove that I actually did clean it up once!



Behind those "design walls" is my fabric stash. They slide sideways and I can access my fabrics, sorted by colors. I thought I'd just show you where I work! At the side is a china cabinet my husband bought at a garage sale for $50. It was brown and horrible looking and to top it off, smelled as if it had been in a house fire. Our son told us to paint it with "Kilz" and then paint it the color we wanted and it would be fine. We did, and it looks wonderful against the side wall. It holds all my wool. It's really a delightful room, especially in the morning sun. And this is where all the projects in "Embellishing with Everything" were created.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fabric Christmas Cards



Since the release of my book, “Embellishing with Anything” through C&T Publishing, I have been asked to teach a variety of classes at quilt shops on Vancouver Island, as well as to do trunk shows. This is a lot of fun and I love the people I meet at these events.

I have an upcoming class in Nanaimo, to teach a Christmas card I designed. This card is created using the technique for the cover project in my book. Only the colors have been changed from the Cherry Tree bark and pink flowers, to a more wintry shade of pale blue with beads and sequins added to represent ice and snow. It was fun making these.


If any of the students who were in the Gingko Leaf class (the project photo at the top of my blog) are in this one too, I know it will be a totally delightful day. That class was two Saturday’s ago and my students were such a great bunch. I was sorry to have to go home! And the best part? When I got home, unpacked my supplies and was putting them away, I found a set of three pieces of fabric that one of the students had snuck into my case. I had admired her fabric and the results and she chose to gift me with some of each one so that I can use it in my own work. What a lovely surprise….Thank you so much Dian!!!!

Painting a Garbage Can!

Now, I have a son who is a bit “out there”. He knows I feel that way about him so if he reads this, he’ll just chuckle. He has such a heart-warming chuckle. But to the reason I write about him…..he has three children of his own, and took in an extra four teen-age boys when their father passed away 3 years ago. That increased his family size to 9. Needless to say, some renovations to their house were made necessary.

One of those renos was to take out a wall between the kitchen/dining/living room areas, and install an island in the kitchen. The top of that island has an extended round end, and it is built to accommodate a full size garbage can, right in the middle of his kitchen! Have I mentioned that I think his wife is a saint? We had a good laugh when I said “Of all the decorating shows I watch, I have never seen any of the designers incorporate a full size garbage can!” He assured me they would if they lived with this many people and had to take a full bag to the curb daily.

For his birthday, my friend Ang and I got together and painted a garbage can. I mean, if it’s going to be a focal point in his home, it should look good don’t you think? We had so much fun painting it. The design is copied from a pasta set I have. It’s bright and cheerful and I can’t wait to give it to him.

Ang took pictures on the day we worked on it, a delightful Saturday, and has created a little slide show of the progress. The picture below is the finished project, with faces on and details added.

To view Angela's photo album: "fat chef weekend" Copy and paste this into your address bar:

http://picasaweb.google.ca/lh/sredir?uname=NewYorkMay09&target=ALBUM&id=5384521412697192673&authkey=Gv1sRgCOy6w97kiKD9ZA&invite=CKXC3PAO&feat=email

To do this we spray painted the garbage can (a plastic one) with paint designed for plastic lawn chairs. From there we sketched the outlines with chalk, using the pasta set as a reference. (It should be pointed out somewhere here that he loves pasta). With that done we began filling in the colors and details. When it was done, we let the acrylic paints dry, and then added the faces and ties on their aprons with Sharpie markers in brown and black. With that done, the entire project was finished with two coats of spray acrylic varnish.

I am looking forward to delivering it to his home and hearing his response to our artwork!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Garment District, New York City


Picture of button

Another adventure during my trip to New York City. On one of the afternoons that we split up to go pursue our separate interests, I went to the garment district. That is the reason I wanted to see New York City….to see the garment district. The excitement I felt when I saw that big button with the needle in it was indescribable. A dream was coming true! But I really had no clue what I was in for. The garment district is a block of streets and avenues all of which contain fabric stores, button shops, fringe shops, feather shops, embellishment specialty shops…..you name it and there isn’t just one shop, there are several.

I spent 4 hours wandering in and out of the stores there. And that was only the ones located at street level! The stores are so very different than what we have here in Canada, or in fact, anywhere else I’ve been lucky enough to shop for fabric! The fabric is on rolls, and the rolls stand on the floor, leaning against the wall, against the row behind them, and against the next row etc. etc., until they are so deep that you can hardly reach the ones at the back. There are little aisles through the store that if you are wearing a back pack, you cannot turn around in! All you can see is the tip of the roll so you have to reach in and try to lift up the roll. The minute you try to do that, the salesperson is there to get it for you, unroll what you were interested in and spread it out for a better view. I was so astounded at the variety and sheer volume that I was on sensory overload and kind of wandered around trying not to look overwhelmed! Gobsmacked as Debbie Travis would say!

And nothing has a price on it. It seems to be decided upon when you ask about it. And then you are expected to barter. Now I know some people love to barter, but I’m not one of them. Therefore, my shock and discomfort to see a customer and a salesperson actually yelling at each other over some fabric for a sari would not be a surprise to those who know me! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing and left the store to go to the next one. In the end, I came back with ONE little bag that had a HALF yard of fabric.

When I walked into the hotel room, where Linda and Ang were waiting for me, Ang could not believe I had spent four hours in the fabric district and came back with one little package. I sat down with my glass of wine and described what I’d been exposed to. Ang was rolling on the bed laughing at the thought of me being so overwhelmed that I didn’t buy fabric by the yards! I told her she was in for it….just for laughing, she had to come back with me the next day. There actually was a piece I loved, but couldn’t bring myself to barter. She agreed.

Next morning, we were there bright and early. We found the store I wanted to return to and found the roll of fabric I had admired. It was already half gone! But I did get two yards and I did barter for it. I don’t know if I got a good deal, but if I’d got it here in Canada at that price, it was a great deal. I just fondle it daily now…..it’s one of those I have to think about before I cut into it!

But I have to admit that I lay awake at night wishing I could go to the garment district when I’m starting a new project here at home. The offerings were utterly spectacular and I will never forget the variety and possibilities. It would be a wonderful place to go with a project in mind and look for specific items. I could do a whole new book on embellishing! I’m so glad I made it there at least once in my life!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Museum of Modern Art




The saying goes "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Never was that truer than when I visited the Museum of Modern Art, not even a block from the American Folk Art Museum. After being astounded at the Paula Nadelstern show at the Folk Art Museum, I walked down and went to the Museum of Modern Art, otherwise known as MOMA.

My first impression was that it was big and empty. The courtyard was nice. I wandered through the exhibits, becoming less and less interested and more and more convinced that "modern" art is not my preference. A display of prints of Marilyn Monroe's face, each a different color. Some sculptures, some drawings, all stark and graphic. And then I came into a room that had some of the work of Robert Rauschenberg.

Remember I have just come from a quilt display that was breathtaking. Now I am standing in front of a hanging that consists of an antique quilt mounted in a wooden frame with a pillow, as if it was a partially made bed, with paint poured over the entire thing. It looked like an accident I would have when I am painting in the house, but to have someone voluntarily take a hand made antique quilt and do that to it......I was incensed. Another piece by this artist was a big painting of slashed colors with a worn tire hanging off of it. I was quite horrified.




When I discussed this with a friend of mine here on the island, she instantly knew it was Robert Rauschenberg and had this to say about him: "He was an odd character but he did art a service by waking us up to the artistic possibilities of assembling odd objects and found objects. Remember in the 1950’s they were mostly painting stuff and doing traditional sculpture. It would have been a very exciting time to be in New York with that particular group of modern artists." Here is a link which discusses the work that so angered me! Copy and paste this into your browser address bar

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-rauschenberg14-2008may14,1,3534489.story

I guess modern art just isn't my cup of tea! But, it takes all kinds and it has certainly given me something to think about when I'm dreaming up new projects!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Paula Nadelstern at the American Folk Art Museum


Another story about my trip to New York City. On an afternoon where I went wandering on my own, I decided I would go to the Museum of Modern Art. And….It was my extreme good fortune to discover before I left, that Paula Nadelstern was having a show of her quilts at the American Folk Art Museum. So this particular afternoon was reserved for those two experiences.

After checking the map, I walked from the hotel. A great experience in window shopping and people watching. The Museum of Folk Art and MOMA are on the same street and the direction I approached from took me to the Paula Nadelstern show first. I walked in, bought my ticket, and stopped right there in the lobby to look at the quilts that were hung there as an introduction. To say I was speechless at their beauty and intricacy would be a major understatement. I sat on the bench in the lobby and just admired what I was seeing. Pictures were not allowed and I don’t have photographic memory, but I have to say what I was seeing put me into a kind of trance but on the edge of tears. Paula Nadelstern’s work is so fine and so perfect that it is impossible to absorb what you’re seeing in a glance! This is a photo of Paula in the lobby, taken from her website:



When I felt like I could walk again, (honest!), I went upstairs to the display they had for the rest of her work. Quilts of all sizes were hanging there along with her description of their inspiration and the process used in creating them. I studied each one carefully and made some notes of what was outstanding. Part of Paula’s kaleidoscope collection was also on display for visitors to look through and be entranced by the color magic they produce. But her quilts were a stunning experience to view in real life. Pictures just don’t do justice to the perfection, intricacy, color, and detail. I would highly recommend that anybody buy her new book, “Kaleidoscope Quilts, An Artist’s Journey Continues”. The quilts in the show are featured in it, and even if you don’t quilt or even quilt that style, it’s a wonderful coffee table book and fantastic inspiration.

Here is a link to pictures of the show on her website. You'll have to copy and paste it into your browser address bar:

http://www.paulanadelstern.com/UserFiles/File/afam_2479.pdf

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Day 4 in NYC, May 20, 2009 bridge & toes in river


It’s our last day the bus passes will be valid and Ang said that’s a good thing because we’ve gone past the same area a couple of times getting back to home base and have had different guides each time. She said she’s starting to feel like adding to their commentary with something the “other” guide said. I laughed and said....I know what you mean, and if I’m not mistaken when we went past Bette Davis’s house today, it seemed to me that it was the same one Kathryn Hepburn used to live in when we went by yesterday.” Linda said she picked up on that one too.

Today we walked the Brooklyn Bridge. It is quite stunning. Not only looking back at the Manhattan skyline, but the construction of the bridge itself. As you walk along with your eyes agog and your mouth trying not to hang open in amazement (paints a good picture right?) the cars are whizzing back and forth underneath you. The walking/cycling deck is above so you see the cables and ramparts beautifully. Having a perfectly sunny day helped the ambience I must say. When we got to Brooklyn, we went to yet again another Starbucks and had coffee, and then walked down to the shore of the river. We wanted to say we’d been able to put our feet in the Atlantic! But it’s the river….but we did it anyways. Ang and I are both rock and stone collectors. We took pictures of the shore, quite different than here in BC, and we picked up a few pebbles to take home to add to our garden collections.



We plan to separate on tomorrow’s tour, as we have different preferences of which museum and/or gallery we want to see. Everyone has different plans. Mine are go to two art galleries, MOMA and the American Museum of Folk Art for the Paula Nadelstern show. I can’t believe my luck that she has a show hanging when I am in the city! We have post it notes that we’ve made lists on stuck to the wall three in a row with what we want to do on it and every time we get back to the hotel room we scratch something off. I wish I’d taken a picture of that! I plan to visit the garment district too!

Ang and Linda laughed at me today because I said the sides of my neck are actually sore from looking to the left at this and then looking to the right at that. I tried to defend myself by saying that everything I do at home is looking straight ahead....work, sewing, TV, stitching etc. They wouldn’t have it and kept laughing. So I gave in and said “What can I say? I’ll tell people to do neck exercises if they are going to come here!”

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tuesday May 19, Day TWO in NYC



Today, Tuesday, we took the express bus down to the Staten Island Ferry, walked to it through Battery Park, which was lovely, and then took the ferry .... yes I went on a holiday and actually took a free ferry ride! It was very much like the little ferries that go to Quadra or Denman. But it went past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We chose not to take the paid ferry that stops there and lets you get out because you can’t go in the Statue and the picture taking is better from out on the water, and Ellis Island isn’t open all the time. But that little ride was well worth it because the statue is really quite striking and you get the feeling of what it must have been like to see it when you were running away from your homeland and getting to somewhere you thought would be better. And the view of the Manhatten skyline from out on that ferry was really spectacular.



When we got back to the Manhattan side, we got on another bus and took the loop tour to Brooklyn. It was a closed bus and so comfy that Linda drifted off and had a cat nap for a little while! Brooklyn was interesting but it too is undergoing “gentrification” and they are tearing down the old character buildings and replacing them with buildings that hold more apartments in the same land space because Manhattan is getting impossible to live in unless you’re Donald Trump or Bill Gates. More and more people want to live in Brooklyn, which is across a bridge. The best part of the whole tour was the brownstone houses that used to be tenement apartment buildings and have been bought up by individuals and made into single family homes. Those streets were so lovely with big trees and cobblestones and I am so ticked off because my pictures of them didn’t turn out. I had to take them through the window of the bus and they don’t stop there or let you out.....I guess because it’s people’s private homes and I wouldn’t like tour buses going up and down my street yakking away over their speakers either!
We got off the bus in a nice little area and had a great lunch in a very busy restaurant, and then got back on the bus to return to Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful. We didn’t go over it. We’re going walk over it tomorrow or the next day. It only allows cars. It was built for traffic that was much lighter and has had to have girders put under it since the invention of SUV’s because the weight of them is more than the bridge is engineered to hold! So the buses go under it, around it and over the Manhattan Bridge which is a newer one about two blocks away. I can’t remember which one it was, but one of them had the piece on the land begin to sink so they had to do construction around it to shore it up!
After the tour of Brooklyn we got off at the seaport. There is a ticket agent there and Angie and Linda wanted to go to a Broadway show. You go there at 11:00 and buy whatever’s left for whatever show is on that night at a fraction of the price. I was with them but I didn’t want to go. I don’t like musicals and am not into drama and the show was “West Side Story”. I might have gone if it was “Lion King” because the costumes in the posters all over the place are pretty incredible. And definitely if it had been Cirque de Soleil. When I said I had seen the movie when it came out Ang and Linda were both astounded......I guess the 10 year difference in our ages was showing then!
So when the bus got back to Times Square, we came to our hotel room and relaxed for a while with our favorite libations. We plotted out tomorrow.
Right now they have gone to the show. I walked there with them and walked back alone. Holy Cow. We were all shocked! I guess we’ve been moving around the streets while everyone is at work and it’s not as busy in the daytime, although I have to say I thought it was…..but little did I know! When we got out there at 6 pm to walk over to the theatre we were all astounded at the press of people. The streets are jam packed and you can’t move other than in pace with everyone. I bet if you stopped, you’d get trampled before anyone noticed! And noisy!!!! Horns, music, announcements, hawkers, buses, you name it. You couldn’t talk to each other it was so noisy! Bob would have found a nook and hidden until it died down and then run for home! I have to say I wouldn’t want to live that way either. Interesting and exciting for a vacation but not something you’d want to deal with all the time.
While we were in the room discussing what to do tomorrow, Angie asked if it was what we expected it to be. I said “No, not really.” Linda agreed wholeheartedly. She said not her either. We are all enjoying the experience of seeing it all, but it’s sort of like Banff. Banff is a Canadian National Park, but it is Japanese people who hardly speak our language in all the stores and restaurants and hotels. NYC is the same thing. Except it’s African, Puerto Rican, or Oriental and they are very hard to understand even tho they are trying to speak English! The people who work in stores, restaurants, the street vendors ....all of them are from somewhere else. So we’re all disappointed not to be hearing any of the New York accent we were looking forward to hearing. I think you’d have to stay with someone in one of the outer burroughs to get much exposure to that. But I have to say, we’ve been met with nothing but totally friendly and helpful people, in the service areas, on the public transit and when asking directions. Not one negative people experience. I wonder could someone say that about my home town? I’d like to think so!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Being a Tourist in NYC



This is the three of us making our way home from dinner at the end of day one in New York City! Do we look happy or what? I didn’t write yesterday at all, and that was because I was suffering from sheer exhaustion and we were all babbling about what we’d done during the day. We ended the day with dinner in a very nice restaurant (a tapas bar again but it wasn’t as good as the one we went to in Pittsburgh) We must have been fairly entertaining in our excited chatter as we ate at the bar....a patron AND the bartender kept buying us drinks and giving us special coffees. Thank you to Roy, the other customer, and to the bartender. We will never forget our time with you. We walked home down "Restaurant Row", stopped a total stranger and asked him to take pictures of us....and when we got to the hotel room....we crashed.

We planned to get up early today but even Linda (who is an insanely early riser) slept till 7:30 so we didn’t get out of our room till 8:30 this morning! Listen to me....like that’s late! But it is when there is so much to fit into so little time.

We started yesterday by going to Times Square and getting bus tickets to go on tours. These buses have no roof and they drive around through all the yellow cabs with a guide explaining the buildings and telling details about each famous building or store. It was incredibly interesting but cold. They are “Hop off Hop On” tours, which means they stop at designated places and you can get out and wander around for a bit and then get on another bus....they come by every 20 minutes. That ticket also includes free passes to get in to things like the art galleries, museums, Empire State Bldg etc. The passes are only good for two days though so we haven’t used them yet as we want to make the best use of them, and so far we didn’t have to pay to get into anything.

As soon as we had those tickets, we got on a bus and got started. We started with the “downtown” tour, which goes from Times Square and out through the different areas and past all the famous buildings. It winds through streets and is a great vantage point to see the city from. We drove past “Ground Zero” and the driver explained what that day was like. It isn’t a memorial at all. It’s a huge space in the middle of the financial district (which is all tall square modern buildings and very very upscale. I took pictures of the area from the bus, but at this point it looks like a major construction site with diggers and stuff behind the high solid fence. The tour guide said that the impact of those buildings coming down damaged buildings around them, and underneath as well.



I didn’t know it but the Federal Reserve of gold was in vaults under those two towers, and because it went down so far, they have to do major work to the ground to get it ready to put anything on after that. Really quite amazing. And I didn’t know either that the federal reserve is a pile of gold bricks that was intended to be backup financing for the country. When I asked why they don’t get it out and fix their economy I was told that it wasn’t enough anymore.....that they have printed so much paper money that has NO backup that they have even taken “legal tender” off the paper money and the gold just sits there because it wouldn’t even make a dent in the debt load. (The tour guide didn’t tell me that.....another passenger did when he heard me say to Angie that they should dig it out and use it instead of keeping it buried. )

Manhattan is an island. I didn’t know that either. And when I said earlier that they were “wasting” waterfront, I didn’t know either that the island wasn’t this big when the Dutch bought it from the natives for 60 guilders. They have brought stuff in and added land and the island is bigger now. In fact one tour guide said when we drove past a particular area that the waterfront was on this street during New York’s golden age, and has since been expanded and another burrough built on it!
It seems there is a lot of “gentrification” as the guides call it. Everywhere you go there are buildings wrapped in scaffolding and netting and they are being re-surfaced, updated or torn down. Some of the tour guides are older people who grew up in New York City and you can tell in their voices and the way they phrase things that they resent these changes. There is no “little Italy” anymore because Chinatown has encroached on it. Chinatown was somewhere we didn’t get off the bus. It is horrible and ...well...there’s no other word for it. And we really saw it too because last Thursday the “famous Hong Kong Market” burned to the ground. There is suspicion about it being a case of arson by another group of citizens is the way the guide put it. But the building apparently blew up, caught on fire, burned to the ground, and a tenement that was beside it fell into the ashes. You could see the top part of the tenement open to the sky, and there was a bent and broken bedstead on the pile of stuff being put into trucks to take it away. Because of all this, the bus had to detour from its regular route and I have to admit to feeling more secure up on top of a bus than I ever would on those streets.

From there we went past Central Park but we chose not to get off there as we want to take the time to walk in there and didn’t have enough time left to do that before the last bus would come by so we just watched it go by and stayed on the bus. In actuality, I have realized that with good shoes you could walk almost anywhere here as it’s actually only 2 ½ miles wide and I forget how long. But we wanted to squeeze in as much as we can with our three day bus passes and then spend Friday doing stuff we wanted to do and take the subway to it (like see Grand Central Station and walk in Central Park).



Another thing I learned is that “Times Square” isn’t just an open square. It is a square of streets and avenues that encompasses the theatre district, has a ton of junky souvenir shops, some very expensive brand name stores and some restaurants in it. The part we all see on TV at New Years Eve is just a little piece in the middle of it all and it’s being changed too. By the end of this year it will be all walking and sitting around space surrounded with theatres and HUGE billboards. There won’t be traffic going through it anymore, which is another thing the local people seem to resent and they call it the “Disneyfication” of Times Square.
And then there’s the billboards. They are unbelievably big. The tour guide pointed out the one for Budweiser and said that it costs FOUR MILLION dollars to rent that for a year. I nudged Linda and said “Now you know where all your money is going.” She laughed at that and agreed (it’s her brand)! Some of them are billboards as we all know them, just like along the highway etc., but even those are about 5 times as big as normal ones. And the rest are lit up and play films so they are constantly changing and moving. They are so big and there’s so many of them that it is like daylight in that area all night.