Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BYE BYE 2008

Happy New Year!  Now a full year into blogging, I'm still surprised that I have anything to say, and more surprising....that anyone is interested!  I appreciate all of you who've kept me company during our journey through 2008.  As I continue to cut back on my travel teaching schedule, it's a good feeling to know I'm still connected to the outside thank you!

Today seems to be a numbers 10, worst 100, counting down, looking back, and looking forward.  I've become interested in incorporating numbers into my's one of my newest pieces.

This was made as a Christmas gift for our son and his wife.....featuring their new house number of the home they recently purchased.  It was created using felted wool, machine appliqued and quilted and framed. (and shockingly......not one bead!)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Now this is what I'm talking about........role reversal....visiting the kids for Christmas and have them do all the work!

Brunch - served by 'the perfect child' and wife Kelly.

We fell in love with their dog Nali who spent lots of time with us when 'the perfect child' attended Kellogg (the business school at Northwestern) several years ago.  She was a rescue dog that the kids got when they lived in Portland, OR......and she loves the Packers!

She also loves to snoop under the Christmas tree by opening presents....she thinks they are all for her.  Nali doesn't like soap, but managed to find chocolate.....I won't go into the details.....
Luckily, she's okay.

Being a lab, she loves the a visit to Golden Gate Park is a favorite for her.  She'll chase a ball into the water for as long as you'll throw it.  

Another stunning view....though it was a tad chilly for me due to the brisk wind.....I'm such a whimp since moving down south!

The 'perfect family portrait!

Monday, December 29, 2008


Holiday fun in San Francisco continues.......

We trekked to downtown San Francisco basically playing tourist.....seeing the sites.  Christmas trees are so frequently decorated with white lights, this huge tree was covered with all tiny red ones.....stunning!

Within the plaza of the Bank of America building there is a 200 ton black Swedish sculpture "Transcendence" by Masayuki Nagare.  Interestingly, locally it's known as "Banker's Heart".  
The company our son works for has offices on two entire floors of this well known impressive building with million dollar views.

The day was sunny and bright.....not typical of San Francisco so we really were lucky to see the Golden Gate Bridge so clearly.

In the opposite direction, there's a view of the East Bay Bridge.

And yet another famous San Francisco icon......Alcatraz!  Can you image working in an environment where all the outside walls are glass, overlooking this picture perfect city? How can anything get accomplished?

Stay tuned for more CA fun.....

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Folks from all over the area are visiting this amazing holiday display high on Castro Hill which is about 3 blocks from where we are staying.  There's a little Gingerbread house dwarfed by a 30 ft. tree, encrusted with lights and ornaments made from huge plastic beach balls!  Under the trees, gift wrapped boxes are as big as a VW Beetles.  Yet it's all scaled to appear as if it's 5 ft. tall.

The garage serves as a fireplace mantle.  The owners need a 60 ft. cherry picker to create their yearly display and it takes 2 men, 1 week to complete the scene.  Notice how small the viewers appear at the lower right of the photo. 

This details gives you an idea of the amount of lights, but can't possible depict the size of the ornaments.  Pretty amazing!  Hoping not to insult anyone....but can I say??'d find this only in the land of fruit and nuts!!! (OR Wisconsin!)

We are off for a hike in Golden Gate park......Hope your days have been jolly.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Christmas eve day began at 4:00 AM in Crabree....bidding farewell to our house sitters we headed to the Asheville airport for the 1st of 4 flights.  Considering the travel horrors we've all read and seen about airline delays this holiday season.....we were relieved that our first flight to Charlotte was on time.  

AT 7:45 AM the airport was practically deserted......which gave us an opportunity to enjoy the lovely poinsettia Christmas trees scattered throughout the concourse.

Santa was doing a quick practice fly over in preparation for his evening flight.

I won't bore you with the drama of our treks from Charlotte to Chicago then to Denver a finally to San Francisco.  Numerous times we were sure we'd be spending the night in one airport or another, but ultimately with blurry eyes we snapped this photo as we were landing in San Francisco (only an hour late).

After a good nights sleep, we had a lovely Christmas to come.....but we are off today taking advantage of after Christmas sales.....

Hope you all had a happy holiday.....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I'm taking the opportunity today to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year!

December 25th will be my 1 year anniversary of blogging (thank you Sol for tutoring me at the Hayashi family Christmas gathering!)  Frankly, I'm stunned that I found so much to yack about over the last 365 days.  What I have learned is that blogging has given me a new outlook about my daily life.  Little things that I might have spent only a nano second on in the past, have now caught my attention and provided more enjoyment as I've taken the time to stop, look, and listen.'s like smelling the roses.  I hope the good scent has been enjoyable at your end as well.

It's likely my blogging over the next several days will be minimal as we head out to San Francisco tomorrow to spend the holiday with 'the perfect child', his wife and her wonderful family.  Our house sitters have arrived and are vowing that they will be glued to our big screen TV the entire all will be quiet on the home front.

If Internet access is available, I'll be checking in....until then thank you for giving me a reason to document the ups and downs of daily life!

Merry Christmas........Mary

Monday, December 22, 2008


I'm a good finisher of my quilt projects.  It's rare when I don't.  This one is an exception.....but now that I dug it out, I will tackle the quilting and finishing details.

I made it as an example for my beading workshops...basically to illustrate the impact of adding thoughtful beadwork techniques.  The process of incorporating beads took the naked tree motif from with pizzazz!

In the full view on the left - detail right, beading has been completed on the left edge of the 'Christmas tree'.  The motif was fused to a mottled blue wholecloth background, surrounded by red flat piping and bordered with a green plaid homespun.  The white stitches is the basting which secures the quilt top to Hobb's Thermore Batting, which acts as a stabilizer to help support the weight of the beads.

In this detail, the beadwork has been completed.  Orange bead units (2 small seeds and 1 larger one) have been scattered stitched onto the tree and individual snow flake motifs were beaded and then sewn to the tree as well.  I almost succumbed to the common practice of stringing beads in a row to represent garland....but heck, that has probably been done a thousand times. With a little experimenting, I created the snow flake bead motifs instead.  To achieve more interesting results for your projects, I urge you to think creatively when selecting beadwork techniques.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


In years past I always enjoyed spending days decorating our home for Christmas, therefore I've made my share of seasonal wall hangings to display.  We will be enjoying the holidays with 'the perfect' child' and wife this year so I've gotten lazy and skipped the challenge (for the 2nd year in a row) of finding places for all our decorations stored in the garage in many rubber tubs!

But....I thought you might enjoy seeing some non-traditional, embellished wall quilts in the next few days.  Today's quilt is titled, Goose Feather Christmas Tree.  It was inspired by old fashioned German goose-feather table top decorations.  A small tree branch was fitted into a wood base (center tree trunk.  Holes were drilled into the sides of the branch to fit the ends of goose-feathers that had been dyed green.  They were most often decorated with lightweight paper cut ornaments.

I used ultra-suede for the trunk and branches and a variety of beading techniques for the decorations.  The binding seam line is beaded using a technique I created called, 'Garland'. Instructions for these techniques can be found in my book, "Beading Buddy".

Saturday, December 20, 2008


You'd think at this busy time of the year, I'd have something better to do than make a new ironing board cover! now you know, have no life!

Seriously, due to some red dye transfer on my existing board cover, from a hand dyed fabric that I bought somewhere, I wrecked a hunk of off white fabric I was steam pressing.  Yup, the red dye had transferred to my old cover, it dried and I didn't think any more about it.....till.....a few days ago when the darn stuff, up and leached onto this light colored fabric I was pressing. 

So, beware.....  

The new cover was made from two layers of muslin using a pattern cut from the old cover.  I added a narrow corded casing along the edges, which was pulled tight to secure the cover onto the board.

Over time, the padding on the old cover had practically disappeared so I replaced that too with a layer of Insul-Bright.  Its' needle-punched polyester insulating material has a reflective mylar layer which allows the energy (whether hot or cold) to reflect back to its source.  

This product is manufactured by the Warm Company and is often used to make oven mitts, pot holders, casserole covers, table pads, and even outdoor stadium cushions!  

Friday, December 19, 2008


So.....what do you do with your left-voer batting scraps??

This clever idea came from Christine Thres's blog......  She got the idea from looking at a QTip....simply wrap a length of batting on a wooden dowel and dust away!  Quilters are soooo smart!  Thank's Christine for allowing me to share this with my readers.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


When 'the husband' gave me an iPod a few years ago.....well, I was frankly a little dubious about its value.  Of course, part of the hesitation was that I'd need to learn one more darn new techny thing, which often leaves me feeling quite stupid.

Well, now I'm hooked, totally!  Naturally, I have music files, (mostly Blue Grass and Motown). But, it's the podcasts and audio books that keep those ear buds in my ears!

Living nearly at the end nowhere - at 3,200 feet elevation, we have lousy internet.  Our only two options are dial up - NOT,  and satellite.  We have our own dish from Hughesnet which is horribly expensive and has horrible service.  We are getting only about 20% of the speed we pay for....and Hughesnet couldn't care less.  They know up here in the mountains it's them or nothing and that if any other options ever comes our way.....Hughesnet will get unplugged so fast their dish will take wings.  Sorry, I'm venting.

Not only do we have very slow speed, there's too many people using this satellite.  In the evenings, it's almost impossible to surf the web.  I can rarely even get a connection that holds long enough to post to Blogger from about 5:00 PM on.  On top of all this, we have a maxium number of megabits that can be downloaded in each 24 hr. period, and it's VERY easy to go over that number.....which puts you into a penalty box (holding box) where use of the internet for the next 24 hours is almost nill.

Okay....I'm getting to the point now.  Since 'the husband' and I both download some of the same podcasts, we  realized were using a lot of our download capacity unnecessarily.  (The content on an iPod syncs to what's on the computer it receives its data from.  Therefore, whenever I connected to his computer to grab a specific program, I'd lose all of the content on my iPod such as any audio books.)

He found a gadget that eliminates double downloading and loss of data.  It's called mishare  A gadget used to share files and playlists between iPods.  There's no computer or cable needed. Basically, you connect the source iPod (the one with the data already loaded) at one end, and the target iPod (the one waiting for the data) at the a button and ta da!!  Neat....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Beading has so overtaken me, that last month when I was teaching two hand quilting classes for Capital Quilters Guild in Raleigh, I realized just how long it's been since I've hand quilted!

Years ago I solved the problem of securing quilts into a frame/hoop without damaging the beadwork - or other embellishments added to the piece.  (FYI:  I always use a 11" x 17" QSnap frame when hand quilting).   

Notice the clip on the left holds the quilt to the framework without interfering with the beadwork.   Yet, on the other 3 sides, I wasn't able to use clips because they'd be positioned over the beading.  Instead, I pin or thread baste the quilt to a muslin sleeve that's attached to the framework.  

Make a fabric sleeve the desired length....kinda like making a (elastic) casing for a skirt, with a 1-2" extension.  Disassemble the QSnap frame enough to slide it in will pin your quilt to this sleeve to hold it in place....rather than using the clips.   Obviously, you can make one for each side if necessary.

Here you can see the quilt positioned onto the frame and pinned to the sleeve.

Another option I use at times is to simply wrap the excess edge of the quilt around the frame and pin those two layers together as I've done above.  When only quilting a little bit in an area, this is a fast way to secure embellished work into a frame. (rather than attaching a sleeve and pinning to it.) you can see, I need to toughen my fingers!  I don't like covering the bottom fingers with any order to achieve my small perfect stitches, I find that I NEED to feel the needle come through all 3 layers to my touch my fingers on the underneath side.  It's worth the pain!

Monday, December 15, 2008


As blogs become more and more popular, you might find it difficult to keep up with all of them. It's time consuming to log onto your favorites only to find there haven't been any new postings. Well, did you know you can set your computer to automatically download posts whenever there is an update? It will go into your email mailbox for you to read at your convenience.  

Here's how:  after logging onto a blog....look at the URL address bar at the top of the'll see a RSS icon, usually blue and white on the far right.  Click on it.  You'll get a pop up on RSS.  That will open a second window of the blog you are reading....with a menu box on the right.  At the bottom of the list of options, you'll see ACTIONS - click on subscribe in mail.  That's'll have a new mailbox in your email program for that blog.  At first you may get a bunch of emails....delete the ones you've read and from then'll be the first to know when there's a new post.

On my blog....I've also provided a link you can's on the right, just below my header. Just click on the blue text and follow the instructions above.

See ya soon!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


There's nothing like being exposed to a beautifully decorated room to get one in the holiday spirit.  Add some Christmas music and well behaved musical children and, ta da.....

This huge Christmas tree took up a big portion of a very pleasant restaurant in Maggie Valley.

The photo won't give you the scope of this ornament.....but I can assure you, it was at least 6" across.

After a lovely dinner we headed to Stewart Hall at Lake Junaluska for their Appalachian Christmas concert.  The opening act was the Cockman family.  Three generations.

The highlight of the evening was Doc Watson (center), his grandson Richard (right) and David Holt (left).  If you aren't a Blue Grass probably don't know who these folks are.....but everyone around her sure does.  The place was packed!  Apparently, the locals knew to bring blankets and goves, hall was BARELY heated.  The musicians spent a lot of time re-tuning their instruments which they blamed on the cold.  Fun evening.....and we were happy to have the opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I realize my daily 'forced marches' which are "encouraged" by the husband are good for I happy about our twice daily walks??  Nah....  Do I whine?  Yup, sometimes.

Lately we've been accompanied by two companions that live nearby.  The husband is thrilled as he's a real dog lover.  The large lab is named Maggie.....she's probably around 2 or 3 years old....and still acts like a puppy.  She's the ring leader....but the little guy with her manages to keep up on his short legs.  He doesn't have a collar so 'the husband' calls him Gigs.

Notice how they greet him.  The husband carries dog biscuits in his pockets so naturally they are eager to say hello.  We can't figure out how they know when we are going to walk.....but more often than not....they come charging up to us somewhere along our route.

We'd love to dog nap the lab.......but maybe we just need to get our own!

Friday, December 12, 2008


"The husband" hauled out a toy he bought that helped us keep in touch during our move from the Midwest as we drove in two cars to our new mountain life.

It's a hand held rather than making cell calls to each other while in the car, it was just a matter of pushing a button for immediate communication.  Now that we live in a 3 story home....with really steep staircases between floors, this gadget has come in handy.  

I hang out on the top floor in my loft studio....'the husband' is on the lowest maybe this is too much 24-7 togetherness, but there are times that this saves a lot of time!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Our fiber arts group (PTA) had it's annual holiday luncheon today.  Great friends, great food, great show and tell, and our white elephant exchange made this a perfect day.

13 of us gathered.....of course we all talk at's amazing we can actually carry on a conversation!

The meal is pot luck......and we all consider ourselves lucky to have such good eats.....naturally dessert is the highlight.

After show and tell we began our white elephant exchange......we don't seem to be able to remember the sort of complicated process for this exchange which begins with drawing numbers for the selection order of the gifts.  Once your turn comes one may select an unopened gift from the pile OR to 'steal' an open gift from someone.  The stealing part is when it gets fun, because as one gift gets taken, that person then can steal from someone else and so on......  There's a limit to how many times a specific item can be exchanged but we tend to lose track and this whole process gets long and a bit year we will be better organized.....maybe!

We did a similar exchange years ago with our family using two decks of playing cards, each person getting two cards from one deck, the other deck was turned card by card until a match is made....indicating that person's turn.  If anyone out there knows this game....would you please share the rules.  

Mary models a very special item......hummm.... I don't recall anyone stealing it.

Georgia Bonesteel's bag contained a variety of laces.....which she immediately modeled as well!  These treasures got stolen......and Georgia ended up with another gift.

Linda Cantrell is demonstrating a very interesting item.....a NASCAR drinking cup.  We guessed the shape was designed to allow the 'sipper' an unobstructed view of the race track as they hydrate themselves!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Here's a fun website to explore:  Penny Postcards.  It features postcards from all over the United States which cost 1 cent to mail.  They are categorized by states and then regions, so chances are you might even be able to find ones from your home town.
I did....the following are scenes from Sheboygan, WI.....the main street and the harbor.  As we will soon be approaching a new's fun to look back....even if it was before my time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The Alliance for American Quilts is a very whorthwhile organization that does so much to help promote and document the history of our quilt world.  As of Dec. 8, 2008, they've added a new interactive  tool to their website.  It's called 'wiki', and works like the popular online encyclopedia.  Documenation Projects, Museums, and Oral History Index are now linked. Browsing these areas is especially easy, however you must create a FREE user account to access it.  More information can be found at

Additionally, it was announced, AAQ will be the recipient of a $100 donation for each registered participants for Deb Roberts' 13-day "Journey of American Quilt History" starting March 26, 2009.  This tour sounds like a fabulous American experience where the highlight will be viewing rare collections.  To learn more about this tour, connect with Deb Roberts.  for details.

Monday, December 8, 2008


UPDATE:  'The husband' reports the steak was tender, well flavored, juicy, and very delicious.( I don't eat steak so I have no comment.)  Hummmm, we still must do our taste test on the pork sausage and bacon we purchased.....before we can give this meat processor a thumbs up or down.  No matter, it's been a fun experience!

Now....back to stitching.  I've been quietly beading some small projects.....since I am not in charge of the remote in the evening....I might as well keep my fingers busy sewing!

I got the idea to bead sheep after visiting the Animal Fiber Fair held in Asheville this fall. At first I was going to needle felt the motif, but.....ahhhh.....I just wanted to play with beads instead.  And after all, whose in charge of the needle and thread?   ME! (and that's about all I'm in charge with since the husband retired!!)

The piece on the left is a small needle/thread caddy (inspired by a gift from Cindy Blackburg), tx's Cindy!
The other one is a small pouch that fits my ipod/cords perfectly for travel.

I work my design on a stabilized 'main' section of felted wool (slightly larger than the desired finished size.)  After all the embellishing is completed, I cut it to size & line with another section of felted wool.  The layers are attached at the edges with hand blanket stitching.