Friday, September 24, 2010

My favorite season

Yesterday, it was cloudy but not raining as I drove to work, and I pondered the beauty of Autumn. Here is N WI we are seeing the leaves turning colors and when you look off at the hills that surround my house, there is predominantly green still, but clusters of reds, oranges and yellows are appearing. Sumac is turning deep red--almost a merlot color. Ragweed is brilliant yellow in all the ditches and some fields. There are purple asters blooming here and there as well. The corn fields are nearly all golden and almost ready for harvest and the soybean fields are moving into their brown color and getting ready for harvest a little while after the corn. The hay/alfalfa fields are still bright green and I think the farmers may get a bonus cutting this fall.

Even in the cloudy weather we've been having, the colors of Autumn are shining. On a sunny day, it just takes my breath away! I wish we could have Autumn all the time--clear, intense blue skies, the maple reds and birch yellows against the forest greens of the pines, crisp dry air (warm in the day and chilly at night). When I was a girl, there would be the scent of wood smoke on most days as folks burned their leaves, but that's not allowed now. I've always loved Autumn for it's beauty and for the sadness that accompanies that beauty. You know that the changing colors in the leaves and in the plants means they're getting ready for their death or dormancy and that the world will soon be barren and covered in a blanket of snow. I always feel poignant about life in the Autumn and savor each shortening day to the fullest. In this season, I want to be in my home instead of in my office, so I can enjoy Mother Nature in her last glorious days before the end.

By noon yesterday, it was pouring rain. That continued all day--sheets of rain falling ALL DAY LONG! But it was surprisingly warm while it was raining! When I got home, I checked the rain gauge and we had well over 2 inches with more coming down. I think it stopped sometime last night but this morning, everything was still wet so I don't know if it rained again over night or if that was left over from yesterday. I knw that all the trees and bushes need this rain if they are going to survive the frozen drought during the winter months, so it's really a good thing. We've had 7 years of below average moisture here so I know we need all the rain we've received this summer, but enough is enough! Soon the rivers will be overflowing--one small creek that I cross on my way to work had already broken over it's banks by this morning.

Enough of all this weather talk. Today is cloudy and warm again but windy so I'm hoping these clouds will blow out and we'll have a sweet weekend. Planning on going to Duluth on Saturday and if it's sunny and clear, it will be one wonderful day!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Goodbye Facebook

My daughter was at the house today and she helped me "deactivate" my Facebook account. She made me promise to never complain about Facebook again. I noticed that my account isn't deleted but only "deactivated." So, I guess it'll be there forever--I'll never get rid of it as long as I live. Wow, I think that's as close to immortality that I'll ever get!

I decided to get a Facebook account last winter since everyone else seems to have one and I thought I'd try it out. The problem is that I simply found the whole experience way too invasive of my personal space--it was too creepy when I got hundreds of emails from people I've never heard of, asking me to be their friend. That was just the first day! Yikes! I've never been that popular in the "real"world but suddenly I was the most popular girl in the class--virtually speaking! Occasionally I'd go to my wall and read all the one line comments my "friends" had made and I kept thinking, "Why would you ever think I care about that?" And I saw pix and read entries from my kids that I really don't think I need to see and read! When I was their age, everything I did I kept secret from my Mom!

No. Facebook just did not connect with me. Must be a generational thing--Couldn't possibly be my attitude, could it?

Peppers and quilts

Today, I harvested jalapeno peppers from the garden and put them in the dehydrator. I've never used a dehydrator before but people at work swear by them, so I thought I'd give it a try. Don planted about 6 jalepeno pepper plants in the garden--what was he thinking?--and I didn't have any idea how to preserve them, so we'll try drying them and see what happens. Now the entire house reeks of hot pepper aroma! Fortunately, it doesn't make your eyes water or anything like that. Also, fortunately, I remembered to put gloves on before I started cutting the peppers. I can't imaging how my hands would be burning if I had forgotten to do that!

I also will be drying some carrots as well--I think they will do fine in the soup pot this winter. If I had any tomatoes, I'd try them as well, but my plants all got consumed by fungus this year, the worst it's ever been. Next year, we're using plastic to try to protect them from the fungus. And I have green peppers that will go into the dehydrator as well.

I'm spending the rest of the afternoon being lazy. While I'm watching tv, I decided to make needed repairs on this quilt:

This is the sampler quilt I made in the year-long quilting class I took in 2000 or so. It was held at the local JoAnne Fabrics store in the town where we lived then and my teacher was Sandy, one of the best, in my opinion. There were about 6 of us in the class and we all signed up for a 3 month course, meeting every Monday night at the store. The youngest member was a kindergarten teacher in her early 20's and the oldest was retired and in her early 80's, I think. When the first 3 month session was finished, we took a break for a few weeks and then started another 3 month session, until we had completed the year and had finished the quilt.

Because the class was sponsored by JoAnne, I bought all my supplies and fabrics from that store and I've been fairly satisfied with how they've held up. I used a polyester batt in this quilt because I only tied it. I remember that I couldn't afford to have it machine quilted by a long-armer and I didn't think I could machine quilt it myself, so I tied it. The repairs I made today were to restitch the binding. For some reason, I used a poor thread to stitch the binding and it was all coming apart. So now it'll be good for a while longer.

What I appreciate about this quilt is that it shows how far I've come in my quilting. My points don't match as well as they should, some seams are beginning to come apart, the applique is not very good, and I don't like the colors I chose at all. I've learned a lot since then and I like to look at this quilt sometimes to see how far I've come. Then I look at other people's quilts and see how far I have to go. Always there's the challenge to improve. Regardless of all the errors in this quilt, it's still wonderful to snuggle into on a cold winter's night. And that's what it's about.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Folk Art store update

You may remember that last January, I met with a group of 6 wonderful women and we began to create a folk art co-operative. Here's what's happened to this project over the past 7 months.

Our vision was to offer classes in a wide variety of the folk arts, provide gallery space in our store for member artists to display and sell their creations, open a retail shop selling the raw materials for folk artists, and to provide a gathering space for artists and the community to use. As we worked on setting up the legal parts of the co-op, writing the by-laws and the business plan, and renovating the store for opening day, I began to have serious questions about one of the members' ability to work as a team member. When I spoke with her privately, she laughed and said she did things her way. When I brought up issues at several board of directors' meetings, I received very little support from the other women. Privately, some of them shared that they had concerns about this person as well, but in the meetings, they did not support me as I tried to confront this one person.

By early May, I'd had enough and realized that this person was going to run the business as she chose, regardless of the policies the board set down and regardless of the illegality of some of what she was doing. I resigned from the board of directors and withdrew my membership in the co-op. I was fortunate to get a full refund of my investment. In June, another member also resigned and withdrew her membership and she too, received a full refund of her investment.

I kept in touch with other members on the board throughout the summer and it seemed as though things went from bad to worse. More and more members resigned from the board until by early August there were only 2 members left and the one troubling member who was managing the store and therefore, not an official board member. State law requires that a co-op have a minimum of 3 members on the board of directors and our by-laws require a 5 member board.

I received word in August, that these three members had cancelled the board of directors' elections which had been scheduled for mid July and had gone further to move to dissolve the co-op. This was done without either the knowledge or consent of the remaining co-op members. Both state law and our by-laws require the majority consent of the members to dissolve the entity. When I learned that the co-op had been summarily dissolved, my first question was what will become of the store? The store is a business of the co-op and should have been put up for sale by the board. What did these three ladies do? They "gave" it to themselves. As far as I know, no money changed hands. They simply took over the store for themselves. All the fixtures were purchased with co-op money. The lease is in the co-op name. The goods for sale in the retail part of the store were purchased by the three individuals and were being sold on a consignment basis--not a very productive way to conduct business. The remaining members of the co-op received partial refunds of their investments.

Last weekend, I read an article in a local magazine about the store. There is no mention of the co-op at all and it sounds as though these 2 women have created this store on their own. The third remaining woman isn't referred to at all in the article so I don't know what happened to her.

I was very upset last May when I decided to withdraw from the whole project. I had lots of questions: Should I hang in there and keep trying? What else could I do to correct the situation? Am I crazy for thinking there's a problem since the others didn't support me? What made my decision was the realization that I dreaded going to the weekly board meetings and always came home angry and with a headache. This was supposed to be a satisfying outlet for my creativity and it was becoming a struggle over everything as I tried to hold her to the vision of the co-op and to the policies. Life is too short to spend it on this kind of crap, I thought.

I feel very angry about what this member has done. As time went on, it became more and more clear that this member's goal was to have a store of her own but without having to spend her own money. I believe she used the co-op members and their money to set up her store and in my mind, that simply thievery. To top it all off, this woman claims to have a Masters in Divinity and she goes about preaching in the area churches, while she's robbing people of their money in this way!

I am working very hard to put all this behind me. I try not to think of it because when I do, I become angry again and I don't want to be angry any more about it. When I read the magazine article, I decided to respond and send a letter to the mag to set the record straight. I'm waiting for several days before I send it off--I don't want to write this letter in anger and end up being sued for slander or something!

So, our little group of the remaining 4 women have made plans to gather together to work on our crafts and possibly to start teaching some of what we know. We may create a folk school in the future, but the lessons I learned from this experience will serve me well if we decide to go forward with another venture.

So, that's what happened to the Folk Art co-operative.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anniversary time

Tomorrow I celebrate my 5 year anniversary at work. Seems like only a few weeks ago I started there and it's hard to believe I'm looking at retirement at the end of the year. I'm very fortunate to have the great boss that I have. Char believes in hiring good people and then leaving them alone to do their jobs. Only once before have I had a boss as good as Char. I was speaking with him once about a family I was working with, expressing doubt that I was doing a good job with them. Mark just looked at me and said, "Of course, you can do this. I wouldn't have hired you if I didn't think you were capable." What a beautiful thing for me to hear--that your supervisor has complete faith in your ability! Wow! Well , Char's the same way and I have blossomed under both Mark's and her supervision.

I also have a great team of co-workers by my side everyday. All of us do somewhat different jobs, and we all do them very well. There are a couple of co-workers who irritate me at times, but, Hey! I'm not complaining! To work with a very competent team with only occasional irritants is a very good thing. There's always someone who rubs you the wrong way--we just have to deal with it, right? Most of the time, one or the other is cracking a joke or doing something to make us laugh. I've had other people who work in the building say they wish their departments did things together like we do. We've been bicycling and canoeing together, gone to theater and movies together. We have a pot luck every month and we have some really great cooks! No, I can't complain about my co-workers.

So, to celebrate, I'm bringing cake for everyone. I always make my cakes from scratch and there are several kinds that the gang at work particularly like. For this anniversary, I couldn't decide what kind of cake to bring and then it dawned on me--It's MY celebration so I made MY favorite cake. I've always liked carrot cake with pineapple and pecans and a cream cheese frosting. No calories in that cake! After my first child was born, I was breastfeeding him and was hungry all the time. I knew I had to "eat healthy" so I chose carrot cake. While I was breast feeding him full time, I consumed an entire 9x13 carrot cake every week--for snacks! The best thing is, I kept losing weight like crazy! Well, that all stopped when the baby started eating solids and I kept eating cake! To this day I love carrot cake and every year, I plan on making one for my birthday cake and I never do. So, for this anniversary celebration, it's carrot cake!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School Dresses

Monday and Tuesday I spent sewing for Lily. She wanted a couple of school dresses and I talked her into going with jumpers and blouses instead. (I have never enjoyed setting in sleeves so I avoid it whenever I can.) Here are the finished products:

I also spent some time working on that throw I'm making out of the "cake-thing" bundle of squares I bought last week. It's all together now and I've marked the more intricate quilting designs. Just have to prepare a backing and get it pinned together and start quilting.

I usually just free-hand a stiple or meander design or use Golden Threads paper with the design on it. On this one, I decided to mark the top before making the quilt sandwich. Brother, I know why people complain about marking the quilt top! Boring! Tedious! Hard on the Back! Takes waaay too much time! But. . . (and this is important) I think I may end up with a better quilt when I'm done. I'll post when I'm finished and you can be the judge.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day, 2010--Reflections

I spent the afternoon at my sewing table working on a new school dress for Lily. I always have the radio on when I sew--the "Ideas Network" of Wis Public Radio--and, I swear, every show today had some connection to labor, working, and etc. So, after 4 hours of this, of course, I'm thinking about Labor Day tonight. My family rarely does anything special for Labor Day--no picnics, ball games, weekend at the cabin, etc--that many others enjoy. We usually just stay home and try to get caught up on yard work and gardening.

Today was no different, but I want to express how pleased I am to be able to take a holiday from my job. How pleased I am to have a job at all. For all of the people who are unemployed or underemployed this year, take heart and know that these days will fade and you will be working again very soon, we all hope.

This holiday was created in the 1890's just after a huge, cruel strike at the beginning of the labor movement in the US. Over the past century, it has come to be a salute to the hard working, industrious American worker, to give credit to the laborers who made this country an industrial power, and to applaud the efforts of all those union organizers and members who risked life and limb (in the early days) in order to obtain benefits for all workers.

One of the radio shows today referred to the ILGWU--the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. Do you remember the song they sang in their commercials asking us to buy American? "Look for the union label..." I recall seeing that ILGWU logo in the labels of blouses and and skirts I bought in the 70's. What happened to this union? Wikipedia says that there were a series of mergers with other unions and now they are part of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union. Today, these 2 unions have a combined membership of about 250,000, down from the 450,000 members of the ILGWA at it's height in 1969.

What happened to these workers? It was very easy for employers to move their factories from the unionized North to the South where unions were practically non-existent and wages were much lower. As well, employers didn't have to provide the benefits that unionized workers received. Later, even these jobs were sent overseas in order to take advantage of ever cheaper labor. Leaving too many American unemployed or underemployed.

I don't know how we can bring jobs back home. Or if we should concentrate on creating new kinds of jobs. Maybe the US as a manufacturing country is finished and we need to set a new course, but I don't know what that would be. I hope someone smarter and more creative than I comes up with something, because too many people are out of work or are working way too hard to simply make ends meet.

A hundred years ago, the unions fought for workers and obtained a lot of benefits that we take for granted today. I don't know if staying with unions is helpful in this century or a hinderance. I just hope that we start getting more jobs for Americans, jobs that pay a decent wage, and that this recession will soon end. I hope that the recesson will end in all the countries of this world as well and these unemployed people will be able to provide for their families better than they can now.

All said, I enjoyed my holiday and am looking forward to going to work tomorrow. I hope you do too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A while ago (last May), I posted this pix of my crappy, chipped, broken-handles dishes and announced that since I had made new placemats, I needed to get new dishes.

Well, I got totally fed up with the cracks, chips, and discolorations the other day and ordered the new ones. They arrived Friday and I love them!

This is a place setting and it comes with this MUG instead of cup and saucer! I'm in heaven!

With the old dishes, my tables linens were restricted to colors that would go with the brown and green stripes. With these creamy white dishes, I can use any colors I like! My mind is a whirling rainbow of ideas for placemats and napkins and table runners and quilts--Oh, My!

Now I have to clear out the old dishes and take them to Goodwill for someone else to use and to make space for these beautiful new ones. I believe we will have a FINE dinner on these plates tonight even if it's just mac and cheese. ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Quilting news from Wisconsin

Yes, I sat at my machine last night and began stitching a throw quilt.

I had extra time between home calls yesterday so I stopped in to the LQS and found the prettiest packet of pre-cut 5" squares by Moda. I think the packet is called something--layer cake, cup cake, pancake or something like that. So last night, before I could take a picture of them, I was stitching the squares to plain cream colored 5" squares that I'd cut and was turning them into 1/2 square triangle blocks. I will make the quilt center with rows of these blocks, add a three-strip narrow border with some coordinating fabric and then a 5" or 6" border of a large print coordinating border to finish it off.

Why am I making this quilt? Well, the little squares of fabrics began whispering my name as soon as I stepped foot in that shop and by the time I got to where they were displayed, I could hear them so clearly shouting, "Take us home!" So I had to.

Our neighbor's son is getting married in November and I think this will be a nice quilt to give as their wedding gift. I'm so glad I worked on this project last night. I was beginning to think I was never going to get back to quilting. It felt really GOOD to be sewing again--I think I've got my groove back again--quilt-ily speaking, that is.