Sunday, December 13, 2009

I'm Famous

When I went to the Pioneer Woman cookbook signing I told my daughter I really wanted to somehow get my picture posted on PW's website. I knew it was a long shot, and when Ree didn't break out her camera and snap a picture of me while we were talking I knew it wouldn't happen.

But guess what?

It did!

I logged on to The Pioneer Woman today
and guess what I saw?


Yes, technically it's not a picture of me. But I am in the picture. See me on the left side holding my cute purse? I made that purse. Well, technically my sister-in-law held my hand and stepped me through making that purse. But technically none of that matters. I wanted to be on PWs website, and I made it. Dream big baby!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Pioneer Woman Cooks

This is Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.

About six months ago I was introduced to The Pioneer Woman by my friend Lea. If you're not familiar with this blog, you should check it out. It is now one of my favorites. I check it every day, sometimes twice. It's kind of addicting. And from day one, I felt connected to Ree. I loved reading about her life on her ranch in Oklahoma. I loved looking at the photos of her family, her animals, her world. I loved the story of how she met her husband, Marlboro Man. I loved her recipes. I love her giveaways (and one day I'm gonna win one!). I just loved the Pioneer Woman.

And deep down I knew that someday we'd meet and something would click and she would feel exactly the same way. And today it happened. Ree was in Houston to sign her new cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks". I went, we met, and we are now BFFs.

Can you see the connection? I'm sure she'll be calling soon with an invite to visit the Lodge. I can't wait! I'll probably buy new boots for the trip.

But let me start from the beginning. When I found out PW was doing a book tour I decided that I had to go. I checked the tour schedule to see which cities Ree would be visiting. And lucky me, she was coming to Houston! I was so excited! So marked the date on my calendar and then I waited, and waited, and waited some more. I bought one cookbook, and then another (cookbooks make great gifts). And after finding out they had been handing out line cards all week, I called Blue Willow Books this morning I bought another. This was my way of getting a line card before they started handing them out at 11 at the signing. After all, they had around 1,000 people show up in Dallas. I really did not want to be at the end of a line like that!

So around noon I grabbed my youngest daughter and we drove to Georgia's Market for the signing. We picked up my book and our line cards around 12:30 and waited for PW to arrive at 1:00. I do need to state for the record that my daughter thinks I am a bit obsessed with the Pioneer Woman and also thinks it is pretty weird. But she is obviously a wonderful daughter since not only did she go with me, she put on her most excited face. That's her in the grey sweater.

Doesn't she look excited?

It was finally 1:00, and they announced PWs arrival. We all looked to the spot she was supposed to enter, but there was no sign of her. They actually had to call her twice more before she came out. She told us she was pulling up her Spanx. How funny is that?

Ree answered some preselected questions, and then took a few more from the audience. She is just as funny in person as she is on her blog.

The last question was asked by a mom who had her baby with her. Ree started her response by stating she believed she had forbidden people from bringing their babies to her signings. She then told us she had no idea what the question was because her hormones were raging and that baby was just so cute. I wanted to get a picture of the baby, but I wasn't brave enough to go ask if I could take one. That is my first regret for the day, since that it would be great to include that photo here. My second regret is that I really wanted to see Ree do her Ethel Merman impersonation, but when she asked for questions from the audience my mind went blank. I couldn't think of a single thing to ask her, so I didn't raise my hand. And it wasn't until we were in the car driving home before I realized I should have tried to ask her to sing for us. So I guess I'll have to wait for the book signing of "Black Heels to Tractor Wheels" for my chance see that. PW told us it should be published in about a year. Can't wait for that!

Since we were in the 7th line group, we had quite a wait before it would be our turn to meet PW. So we decided to make the most of our time. We had lunch and then headed to a nearby mall for a little Christmas shopping. We got back to the market just in time for our group to be called. I couldn't believe how perfect our timing was! So we got in line and started making our way towards the signing table.

And here we are:

It was so much fun to meet Ree. She has been on her book signing tour for about 5 1/2 weeks, and I am sure she must be getting tired of hopping from city to city. But you would have never known that. She was just so friendly. She chatted with each person, and allowed us to take several pictures. They even let me take this one Ree holding the stepping stone I gave her.

She told me she'd put it in her garden. How cool is that?

And she gave me this amazing t-shirt.

I told you we were BFF's. I'll let you know when I'm heading to the lodge!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Art the Quilt

This year I did something I have wanted to do for 18 years--I attended the Houston International Quilt Festival. I have been told many times this is a must see event. And since this year was the 35th annual festival, I was assuming that was the truth. But it seemed like every year I had multiple things going on the weekend it was here, and I was never able to make it to the show.

Well, this year I put it on my calendar early and made sure today was kept open. And when it got close to the date, I called one of my friends from church who and gone last year and had told me she wanted to go again this year. Nothing like having someone expect you at something to make sure you don't wimp out and decide it's easier to stay home. And am I glad I didn't wimp out!

Now let me say that although I love to create things, I have never mastered the art of quilting. I have made a couple of tie quilts which aren't very fancy, but nice to wrap up in. Here is one I gave to my oldest daughter:

And one year, with the help my friend Liane, who loves to quilt, I made 2 quilted Christmas card holders. This was my first real experience with strip quilting and applique. They turned out really well, although I must admit by the time I finished them I didn't want to quilt again for quite a while. Here is the holder I kept:

My sister-in-law Michelle is an amazing quilter. I'm the reason for this. You see I gave my second Christmas card holder to her, and it really inspired her to learn to quilt. At least that is what I tell myself. Ok, so I'm probably more than a little delusional about my influence. But she is now a Utah State Fair blue ribbon winning quilter. And let's be perfectly honest, the odds of me ever being able to say that about myself are not good. So I've decided the next best thing is to take credit for hers. I'm sure if you asked her she would confirm this theory. So there really isn't any need to actually ask her. Seriously, you can just take my word for it! Seriously, there is no need to ask her!

Anyway, thanks to my inspiration, ;) , Michelle has created many beautiful quilts. I personally own two wall quilts she has made. Here they are:She has also made graduation quilts for my two oldest daughters. Here the one she made for my college graduate:

Can you see the longhorn?

It's next to the quilt tag.

You should have seen the smile that put on the face of my University of Texas graduate.

So you see, I was not unfamiliar with the art of quilting. Or so I thought. It turns out that I totally underestimated what an artwork quilting is and what artist experienced quilters are. And that point was made at the very first quilt we saw at the quilt show--the Hand quilter's Best of Show winner:

On the Wings of a Dream by Caryl Breyer Fallert

Paduka, Kentucky

As the Best in Show winner, this quilt won a $10,000 prize. I stood in front of it with my mouth hanging open. Wow! This is not what I had expected to see today. It looked like a painting, not a quilt. It was so beautiful and detailed. The artist described it the following way: "After a major life event, a new life chapter begins, and there is freedom to make new choices and try new things. The dancer and the transparent white bird merge together to represent this freedom/ The eagle represents the past, which must be left behind in order to move forward. It was hand dyed and painted, machine pieced, embroidered and quilted. It was the most amazing quilt I had ever seen!

It was hard to pull myself away from this first quilt, but the exhibit hall was huge and there was so much more to see. I was so excited! I had come to see quilts, but as I moved throughout the exhibit I felt like I was in an art museum looking at masterpieces of fine art. Let me share a small portion of what I saw. Here is the next quilt we looked at.:

Hearts and Garlands by Liz Jones

Leominster, Herefordshire, UK

This beautiful quilt won the World of Beauty award and a $7,500 prize. It fit more into my expectation of what I would see at the festival. But even though the design felt more like a quilt to me, the workmanship blew me away. I couldn't even imagine how many hours Liz must have spent on this quilt. She created it to fulfill a long-held ambition to create an original album quilt. She used satin-stitch machine applique and free-motion machine quilting.

We saw some other wonderful traditional style quilts. Here are some of my favorites. I'm including the description that was displayed with the quilt along with the techniques used to create it. To be honest, I don't understand what most of the techniques are. But since some of you might be quilters I thought you might find it interesting. Enjoy!

Building Up by Kathy York of Austin, Texas

1st place Art-Abstract, Small and $1,000 prize

Artist's Description: In an effort to curb urban sprawl, cities are increasingly building upwards, concentrating more and more people into less and less surface area. I love the way modern architecture looks, but I remain weary. It doesn't seem to address the root of the problem, overpopulation and overconsumption.

Techniques: Batik, bleach discharge, overdying, fusing, machine quilting, machine-pieced binding, fused binding.

Garden of Dream by Fasako Takido

Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken, Japan

Winner of the Founder's Award and a $7,500 prize

Artist's Description: In a white footpath of the garden, flowers perform a play. The leading part is the cattleya. Supporting players are wild herbs. With this dream n mind, I made this quilt in the composition of my favorite pattern, Lemon Star.

Techniques: Applique, trapunto

Tuscan Sun by Gina Perkes of Payson, Arizona

Future of Quilting Award, $1,000 prize

Artist's Description: I designed this quilt to hang on a large wall in my home. I dyed over 100 yards of fabric to achieve the proper color gradation.

Techniques: Machine applique and piecing

Clam Session by Karen K. Stone of Beaumont, Texas

The Maywood Studio Master Award for Innovative Artistry, $5,000 prize

Artist's Description: This is a decorative one-patch quilt in that the block shape is a traditional clamshell and the content therein mere ornamentation. As in traditional jazz, improvisation flourishes within familiar structure.

Techniques: Traditional hand and machine applique, machine piecing (some on paper foundations), improvisation.

In addition to these more traditional styles of quilting, I saw many beautiful quilts that reminded me of canvases you might find hanging in an art gallery. Here are some of my favorite.

Snapshot: Shannon's Bantam by Denise Havlan

Plainfield, Illinois

Fairfield Master Award for Contemporary Artistry, $5,000 prize

I love, love, love this quilt. And the artist was actually with it when I saw it. Here she is:

Denise is a grandma, and this is her granddaughter Shannon. I asked her how long it took her to make this quilt. She told me that she worked on it over a 4 year period because life kept getting in the way and she had to keep putting it up. This made things a little difficult for her as she had to keep re-sketching her granddaughter as time passed and her granddaughter grew. But it was definately worth the effort and she was honored to have won the Fairfield Master Award. It was such a beautiful quilt and it took great self control on my part to avoid the booth where they were selling it. One of my absolute favorites of the day!

Artist's description: I love using my granddaughter's image in my work. Here she holds her winning bantam rooster...not for real!

Techniques: Hand and machine applique, embroidery, machine piecing, photo transfer, textile paints, pencil and inks.

Tribute to Tolkien by Sue McCarty of Roy, Utah

Pfaff Master Award for Machine Artistry, $5,000 prize

Artist Description: J.R.R. Tolkein's literary masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, provided inspiration for the quilt. The outer border depicts the enemy, the blocs represent allies , and the centerpiece illustrates Aragorn's coronation and wedding to Arwen. The design was drawn freehand and quilted with a variety of thread.

Techniques: Machine quilting with a variety of threads, painting, embellishments

Beyond the Dream, the Impossible Dream by Joycelyne Leath
Churchlands, Western Australia

1st place Art-People, Portraits and Figures

Artist Description: This quilt was made to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia and was inspired by the uniqueness of the service it provides. It depicts the service's history, its progression, its founder Rev. John Flynn, and the rugged landscape from which it operates.

Techniques: Thread painting, fabric painting, hand-dyed fabric, bleaching, water-soluble work, reverse applique and needleturn applique.

The Calm After the Storm by Inge Mardal & Steen Hougs

Chantilly, France

2nd place Art-Painted Surfaces, $700 prize

Artist Description: There is this special feeling at the end of a rough and busy day.

Techniques: Hand painted and quilted freehand

Close Encounter by Lauretta Crites of Glendora, CA

Artist Description: This quilt was created for a guild challenge. We were required to use the "fishy" fabric, which became the snorkeler's swim trunks. I used my son for the model inspired by a family vacation to Hawaii a couple of years ago when we had such a wonderful time snorkeling.

Techniques: Hand painting, applique, thread painting, embellishment

The Kiss: A Homage to Klimt by Mary Barry

Vacaville, California

Artist Description: Gustav Klimt created many lovely artworks. Though he painted The Kiss over 100 years ago, it is still inspirational today.

Techniques: Applique, painting, layering, thread work, embellishment with beads and metallic cord.

Potential in the Napa Valley

by Sandra MacKenzie-Cioppa of Moraga, CA

Artist Description: I travel to St. Helena each week for the privilege of spending time with my grandchildren. As they grow and change, so do the vineyards. In February, bare vines with mustard busting into bloom makes me think of potential: the children and the future grapes, I cannot keep the little ones little, but this snapshot in time will remind me of this special time in our lives.

Techniques: Machine appliqued and pieced, free motion embroidered, painted woven fabric.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A chuckle on a Sad Day

I found this photo on RomePhotoBlog today. It made me chuckle out loud, which is something I really needed, especially today. For this is the saddest day of my summer vacation.

I don't think I have every really talked about how much I love to travel. I love getting on a plane and praying that I'll make it safely to my destination. I love landing in a foreign country and being a little confused about where to go and how to get there. I love going to places I have never been, and seeing art and history and nature that I have never seen. I love riding on subways and trains. I love hearing people around me speak languages I don't understand, and wishing I had learned at least one foreign language. I dream of the day when I am financially independent, and can constantly travel and see new things.

2007 will always be considered a wonderful year by me as it was the year that the dream of abundant travel was given it's first real boost. That was the year that I was hired by Continental Airlines as a reservations agent. The job was stressful, and at times I wondered why I was doing it, but it came with the best benefits for a travel junkie like me--practically free airfare. Flying standby can be nerve racking because you never know if you are actually going to get a seat on that plane going to your desired destination. But oh it is worth any amount of stress once that cabin door closes and you know the seat truly is yours and that you'll be in new city or country in just a matter of hours!

But now the ride is coming to an end. Thanks to this horrible economy, today is my last official day as a Continental employee. But I will always cherish the memories that came from this job--including the wonderful places I was able to take my family. And am I look forward to squeezing in as much travel as I can while I still have my flight privileges. I know the dreaded day of January 19, 2010 will come way too fast. But I'll do my best to be grateful for how much this job has blessed me and my family.

And I'll try to remember the following quote by Alexander Graham Bell: "When one door closes another one opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." So here's to looking forward to the new adventure that awaits me. I'll do my best to find that open door!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Taking A Break To Enjoy The Art of Living

Instead of creating art the past several weeks, I have been busy enjoying the art of life. It's been a busy, hectic and pretty fun time. Here's a quick run down of what it's included:
I have seen two of my most beautiful creations achieve major milestones in their lives.

A college and a high school graduation

I enjoyed 4 wonderful days in Paris--one of my favorite cities--experiencing the art, architecture and food with my family.

The Louvre

My favorite Notre Dame Gargoyle

The Eiffel Tower

Chartres Cathedral

The Kiss"--my new favorite Picasso

Gardens at Versailles

Escargot tastes better in Paris!
These were amazing!

I spent a week at my church's girls camp, enjoying the art of youth.

There has been quality time with family, and lots of hours on planes and in cars.

We picked apricots off Mom and Dad's trees, which we bottled and made into jam.

We spent a night in the mountains, enjoying the beauty and cool air along with some roasted marshmallows

And the 4th of July was celebrated with a family bbq and fireworks.

And I took care of my oldest as she recovered from having her wisdom teeth removed. See how happy she is to have them out!

And that is just my summer so far. I will continue to travel and spend time with friends and family for at least a month more. But by the 1st of September plan to be back to task of regularly blogging about creating and enjoying art. Until then, take time to enjoy the art of life!

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Cement Dilemma

Yesterday I had to finish making a Texas stone I started last week. I had meant to do it before I went to Austin for graduation, but you know the end of that story. Anyway, last week I had purchased a new bag of cement because my old supply had hardened to the point of driving me insane when I mixed it. So I went down to Lowe's and stood in front of the cement, trying to remember what kind of Quikrete I usually use. I was sure it was a cement mix, but all of them seemed to have a lot of gravel in them. And I was pretty sure I didn't usually have that in my cement. So I called my husband and we discussed it. And after a few minutes we decided that I must have had gravel in my cement, but that it wasn't a problem so I shouldn't worry about it.

So yesterday I opened my cement, and carefully measured how much I was going to need as I really only wanted to make the exact amount I was going to need. I had things I needed to get done, and I really didn't want to deal with what to do with extra cement. I was so thorough--pouring water in the mold to know how many cups it held and then carefully measured out what I needed. I put about half of it in a bucket, and then added what I thought was just the right amount of water for the entire project. Guess what? It turns out my memory of the ratio of cement to water was incorrect. Shocking, I know. I poured in the rest of the cement, hoping that it would make the consistency just right and all would be fine. Yeah, right. So there I was, staring into a bucket of way too watery cement and thinking to myself that not only was it too thin there were way too many little rocks in it. I went back into the garage to get some more cement to add to my mix, and found part of an old bag from my previous projects and wouldn't ya know it--I had bought the wrong kind of Quikrete. So not only was my mix too watery, it was, as I suspected, too rocky. I groaned, but proceeded to add more concrete to my mix until it was the right consistency.

Then came decision time. I had no idea how using such a gravelly cement would affect my finished stone. So I had to decide if I should throw it out and start over, or just gamble that it would all be OK. With the amount of work it takes to make one of my mosaics, you would think I would opt to play it safe. But not me. I was determined to finish this project and not using the cement I had ready would mean another trip to Lowe's and the possibility of not getting it done that day.

So I took the cement, gently shoveled and spread it over the stone and hoped for the best.

Once I was finished, I was faced with another dilemma--what to do with the extra cement. I really need to get over the resistance to just throwing out my extra materials. But that didn't happen with this project. Instead I went to my table and created another mosaic stone. I really do love creating these free-handed mosaics, and this one turned out very nicely. Once it was finished I wasn't sure I wanted to once again gamble on my cement. But I really wanted to finish, and I wasn't sure what to do with the cement if I didn't make a stone out of it. So once again, I put my head down and pushed through it. And after it was all poured, I cleaned up my tools and prayed it would all turn out.

This morning I went into my garage to check out my stones. My free-handed one looked good from this angel:

I like to leave my stones in their molds for about 24 hrs before removing them. But I was so curious as to how this turned out, I just couldn't wait. So I flipped it over...

and removed the mold.

Next came off the contact paper...

to reveal a very promising stone.
Cleaning it up was interesting, as there seemed to be more cement buildup around the glass. But after a few minutes it looked pretty good.
So the verdict is mostly good. I like the design, but wish I had used the light blue throughout the background instead of the white. But that's an artistic criticism. As far as the construction, I was happy to see there was only slight movement of the glass when pouring the concrete. I am also please that although you can see some of the gravel in the concrete, it isn't too distracting. I will not use this concrete again for my mosaics, but I am very happy that I didn't lose all of my work because of my obsession with not wasting materials. Hopefully the same will hold true for my Texas stone, which I am going to give some extra time to cure before I turn it out. But either way, I'll post the results of that later.