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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quilting the Cat

I am planning a quilt or, more accurately, trying to plane one. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks now, but I’m not getting very far. I saw one design I liked, but it had a zillion little 1 ¼” squares and triangles, and, while I’m a good enough piecer to do it, I’m far too lazy. (I know that lazy seems the antithesis of a quilter because a quilt is fiddly and, as an old friend once commented, “takes the patience of an idiot,” but there are quilts, and then there are quilts.)


My real problem is that my eye for quilt patterns isn’t good. I want to see a pattern made from the very fabric that I choose. When you think about quilting patterns, you have to think in geometrics, and sometimes it's easier than others.

This particular fabric is quite unusual. I bought it in a little quilting store off the central square in Healdsburg in the Sonoma Valley. ( And, no, I wasn’t drinking at the time.) It is bright yellow and has black and white polka dotted chickens with bright red combs and legs running around on it. It makes me laugh and will be a great feature fabric. Not only that, but I had and also found coordinating fabrics in record time. I’ mean, we’re talking within a couple of weeks here whereas the other fabric I just finished finding the coordinating fabrics for, I bought a good year ago.

You'll have to mentally adjust for a slightly blurred, brushed effect to the fabric which is cat hair. I’ve got it spread out on the guest bed in my office where Elaine likes her afternoon snooze. You can see that she's a calico, so no matter what intensity or color the fabric, she has fur that will show up. 

The quilt isn’t going to really be a quilt, but a table topper for the kitchen table. I’d like it to have a sense of movement to it like the chickens are running madly around (which they seem to be to me). It will probably involve black sashing. I don’t have to use all the fabrics (the red flowered and green leaved pieces are from my stash and are under ¼ yard). The thing is, there’s no getting more of the chickens, and once it’s cut, it’s cut. Should I cut it in squares? Or in diamonds? (Yes, they’re the same shape, but they differ depending on which position is “up.”) Octagons would be good, but without a commercial pattern, I think that is beyond my skill level. I mean, the first step would be to use that graphed quilting plastic and draw and cut out a symmetrical octagon. Yeah, for me that’s difficult.

Here’s the great thing about planning a quilt. It’s something to think about when you either (a) have nothing else to think about or (b) have something else you want to avoid thinking about. Right now I’m working on a sequel to my paranormal thriller (Jaguar Sees: The Lacquer Box ( http://amzn.to/hUuFdS ). ( Please buy it if you haven’t already, and make all your friends buy it, too. I used to be too proud to flatly ask people to do things like this, but this is the low to which authorship has brought me.) Anyway, I’m working on the sequel which tends to be an addicting, obsessive activity, and planning a quilt is a great mental relaxation. Or vexation, I’m not sure which.
Anyway, I’m open to all ideas about quilt patterns. Also, come to think of it, all ideas for plot twists. Feel free to Comment.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America - No Spoilers

Friday night, in a twinkle of serendipity, we watched Iron Man on TV. This put us in the perfect mood to go see Captain American on Saturday afternoon. I am in love.

The costumes, make-up and staging were designed so that they did not look strange to the modern eye yet perfectly evoked the World War II milieu. That’s not easy to do, and I appreciated it. On top of that, it had a strong, really strong, realistic female character who was of the era without conceding to our modern notions that women must either be delicate and helpless or delicate and kick-ass.. Peggy was a relief.
I don’t mean to single her out, though. The acting throughout was superb. I mean every   single   role. The all-American (albeit light-haired and blue-eyed) Steve Rogers, was as compelling as the bullied underdog as he was as the national hero. Bucky, the General (was the rank General? I think so), the villain, all the characters were layered and credible.
Unlike so many movies today, Captain America moved right along. There was depth of plot without requiring unrelated sideline action to pad the main narrative. If I had one criticism, I would say that it surrendered to the current notion of thinking that longer is better. While it held my attention throughout, it could have lost ten minutes. On the other hand, those were ten minutes of battle scenes which are probably well liked by males.

Despite the war scenes, there was no unnecessary violence which is all too rare in today’s movies, and since it depicted the 1940s, there was no sex. It didn’t need either to keep your attention, and it means you don’t have to be embarrassed to take your tweens to see it.
We misread the movie times and saw it in 3-D. It is the first, the very first 3-D movie I’ve seen that made full and proper use of the medium. The images didn’t smear themselves into your face or dip and fall in order to make you sick to your stomach. It was as if an entire room opened in front of you. Three-D technology does not make movies better for me; a flat screen is almost always as good as 3-D, but at least the 3-D in this movie didn’t make me sick and, I’ll admit, made some scenes ever better..
The producer and director made the iconic comic book images believable to the modern eye and interwove the comic book spirit into a realism I haven't seen before.  The patriotism depicted was neither maudlin nor rigid -- who knew such an interpretation was possible these days?

Of course in the end they had to . . . nope, no spoilers. Despite the current nonsense going on in congress and around the country, this movie actually – dare I say it? – made me feel proud to be an American.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Q & A on My Jaguar

My friend, Sheila, who writes a great blog, invited me to Q & A on it about Jaguar Sees:  The Lacquer Box.  You know what that means?  It means I get away without having to write an actual posting today, because I can refer you to:  http://www.sheilarlamb.com/2011/07/ann-simon-author-of-jaguar-sees.html  Oh, and Sheila would love to get some comments on her blog, so feel free to write one -- or just let us know what you think your Spirit Animal might be.  Hmmmm?

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's It Mean, That Odd Dream?

I dreamed I got a baby Friday night. She was sleeping in her crib in a nursery when we moved into a new house, one with a bigger yard than our “previous” house, very nice except the old family hadn’t quite moved out.  Their stuff was all over the place as were their children and their baby. (This was a dream, so having a baby ready-made was  natural and right, but even in a dream, having the former residents living in my home was weird.)

But, for gosh sakes, I didn’t WANT a baby. Gimme a break, I have two Perfect Grandchildren, why would I want a new baby? It was a real pain in the neck: the diapers, the exhaustion, the constantly thinking about and being responsible for a baby every minute, all day long.  I did have some  sweet outfits for her, and she smiled like the sun, and I loved her.

Needless to say, though, she took time away from my other children, my older children. The number was indeterminate, but there were at least a boy and a girl. The other kids running around may have been their friends or children from the previous family. Dream-like, they were there and not-there. There was no dream-guilt that I didn’t love those random children as much as the older two and the baby.

So I finally got the stupid diapers on the baby and went out into the Great Room where the previous family was setting up for a birthday party. This seemed a bit nervy to me, but, I don’t know, maybe they’d discussed it with Steve. I didn’t want to be rude. Then my baby woke up.  I went in to change her, but I couldn't get the diaper pins in fast enough, and she piddled on the changing pad. 

Then I woke up and got up. I walked down my very long – who wants a BIGGER yard? -- driveway to get the Washington Post. I stopped to weed a few aggressive clovers and crabgrass from the front garden and came in to get my, please, oh lord, coffee.

*Bolt of lightning descends here.*  Yes, right in the middle of weeding, I realized the Baby is my second novel which I have just begun (Jaguar Sees: The Red Hummingbird.) I love the idea of writing it (I loved the baby), but it's difficult to take writing time into account during the day.  The story continuously lurks in the back of my head, much like a baby’s safety. My real-life children, aka David and Stephanie aren't any trouble ('cause they're grown up), but dance, reading, quilting, travel and friends run through my life much as my dream-children skipped higgledy-piggledy through my dream house. My dream house and family really were just a reflection of reality, energetic and lovable if slightly confusing and crazy.
The other family? The one that half lives in my “new” house? I have no idea.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Obsession of Writing

My experience is that if you don’t write a blog, stories, novels, plays,  you’re somewhat dazed by the people who do. “You wrote a novel!” people say to me as though I grew an elephant’s truck.  They also ask, "What's your blog about?" to which I answer, "Um, er."  I'm definitely batter on paper than I am off-the-cuff.  "You write!"  It's the only time people's reaction to me approaches awe.
Yes, I write. I try to post on this blog twice a week: discipline is good for the character (isn’t it?). I wrote a novel (oh, and if you haven’t bought it, you should – at http://amzn.to/hUuFdS . It’s a fast, fun read and is only $2.99; I’m not above shameless self-promotion). I’m working on its sequel. (In my head, I’ve come to calling it Son of Jaguar Sees which is ridiculous, but then it just joins all the other ridiculous things in my head.) This week I kind of over-extended myself because I’ve been working on an“assignment” to write the story for, research and craft the menu for the Russian dinner that will be one of a gourmet group’s Dinners in History year. And if you haven’t read this Blog before, let me add that I do not love cooking. Or research. (But I do love my friend, so that’s okay.) And I’m so happy to have been asked to do the A to a Q & A about my writing and  Jaguar Sees: the Lacquer Box for another Blog, Pagans, Saints and Potatoes ( http://www.sheilarlamb.com/ ). So, yes, I write.
Then there's the house to clean, the grocery store that desperately needed to be visited (after departure of the Perfect Grandchildren, these things were more needed than usual), dance classes that desperately need to be attended after three weeks of vacation and vacation-eating, and the taking of my friend to Tyson’s Corner. Hey, she hadn’t been to the American Girl Doll store (have to drop all cynicism – it was wonderful), and while we were there, we had to try out the sushi conveyor belt restaurant. Then, Deathly Hallows comes out today, so, well, there’s another couple of hours shot.
But somehow, somewhere I find the time to keep blurfing my ideas down on, well, obviously not on paper. And someone reads them! So maybe it’s only my sister, but still . . . .  Not only do I write regularly, but it’s like hunger at meal times: come 1:00 every day, I find my attention wandering form the task at hand. Invisible beams pull me to my desk. Come 1:00, I begin to write, in my head or at my computer.

And why? Why sweat over word choice, fixate on topics and plot out story lines. Why become preoccupied about when I can sit here and tap, tap, tap on the keyboard? Writing isn’t, for me at least, the blossoming of some sizable talent. No, it is nothing less than a (albeit minor) obsession. I write because if I don’t write, my brain will explode. And, believe me, nobody wants to see that.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Recovering from a Light Saber Accident

It’s a shame about Luke. He lost his head once, about 20 years ago, and he’s never fully recovered. I tried, heavens knows I tried, but Elmer’s therapy was short term and household cement didn’t last much longer.
Star Wars.

Who knew Star Wars would become a phenomena that lasted generations? Our son lovingly consolidated quite a collection of books, paraphernalia and figures. Star Wars was our go-to theme when shopping for birthdays and holidays. When he was 14 and past the playing-with-figures stage, we found the Millennium Falcon at a garage sale, and he eagerly purchased it. Our Luke, as mentioned before, had a precarious head for a number of years. Leia lost her cloak which was replaced by a piece of white flannel. Helmets and lances and light sabers have fallen to the bottom of the stuff two over-stuffed cardboard boxes in our storage room.
Enter the Perfect Grandson, Alan, age three. Alan has never seen a Star Wars movie. It would scare the pants off him, but the story draws him like a moth to a light saber. He looked over all the toys as the store in Disney World, but once he saw the flash-light, noise-making light saber, it was all over but the purchasing. Oh, and the removing from the package, but that’s another post. (I made the sales clerk dot it – I’m no dummy.)

Last time they visited, when he was 2 ½, I brought up the Jaba the Hut platform and three or four figure.
It kept him occupied for hours.  He knows Jabba from the pop-up books weheld on to.  Now he can make Jabba smoke his hooka (he smokes 'cause he's a bad guy) and throw people in his dungeon with glee.  

This visit, now that he’s a big boy (did I mention he's a Perfect three-year-old?), I brought up a box. He lifts each figure carefully, and we label it a good guy or bad guy (of course we make it up; who can remember after 25 years?) I’ve been holding out, but next visit I look forward to seeing his eyes light up when we pull out the band that played in the bar where Obi Wan took Luke.  (On a cultural note, Alan has no self-consciousness about calling these his dolls.)

As for Luke and his unfortunate beheading, I discovered that Krazy Glue holds quite well as you can see below.  Would that we could all keep our minds just as eaily.