Friday, November 11, 2016

Getting Down to the Wire

We have been experiencing an incredibly mild fall. As a result, it came as a shock to me last week to realize how little time is left before the holidays. Since it has also been a very busy year, I have had to revise my plans for making things as gifts. There are two that I still hope to make before our larger family celebration, but I will have to buy most gifts this year.

We did manage to get out to my quilt guild's show. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures. This is by no means a significant sample, but should give you an idea of what we enjoyed there.

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Friday, October 28, 2016

What Constitutes a Good Life?

I've been thinking about what it takes to live a good life in retirement. My husband is considering his options for after he reaches retirement age and has been concerned about whether or not we will have enough income. It doesn't help to see all the guidance that claims one will need enormous amounts of money in retirement accounts and that Social Security won't be enough.

My concerns about the environment, too, led me to look at My Make Do and Mend Life, again. One of the comments on her October 13th blog entry led me to Shannon Hayes' writings. In her book, A Homespun Mom Comes Unraveled, she talks about people using their purchases to "vote for the kind of planet and society they wanted to be part of." She also discusses what she calls "radical investing," which really speaks to my issues with the idea that one needs to have a large income in order to live a happy life. For us, that means that we have reduced our cost of living by eliminating our debt, purchase only what we really need, and that we take care of what we have. We have also set aside an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses, regularly add to savings (including a dedicated fund for property taxes and house insurance), keep track of where we spend our money, budget for regular expenses (including "mad money" we can spend as we wish), and we try to make gifts and some of the things we might want.

While we do have my pension, which was built up by an 8% contribution from my income and a matching amount from my employer, since I worked for a public university, my Social Security income will be reduced, even though I paid into the system there in other jobs. There is a movement to have that law changed, but I don't feel I can count on it happening. (The law was set up to prevent public employees from "double dipping," even though people who work for corporations can have the same type of set up for pensions through their employers and get the full amount of Social Security for time they paid into the system.)

Beyond the pension and Social Security income, we have a small amount in annuities, which will provide additional funds, and we have medical insurance coverage. Altogether, however, our totals are well below what the "experts" say is necessary. Given the fact that we have been tracking expenses, I have calculated we will be fine, even though that is the case.

We will continue to vote for a planet and society that cares for the earth and other people, as well as ourselves. As with the choices we made that enabled us to create a certified wildlife habitat with our suburban property, we consciously decide what is most important to us. That does include the idea of downsizing in retirement, as well as continuing the practices that have allowed us to live well on considerably less per year than the experts see as necessary.

What do you think? How do you vote with your purchases?

Until next time, I wish you peace.

(Note: I provide links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply affiliation by me with any site.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Finally Organized!

I realized last week that I am finished - finally! - organizing the new studio. It has taken me about four months, due to everything going on around here, but it's done. While I still have to go through magazines, filing, and sort out some small containers, I can use the space and know where to find what I need. With the holidays approaching, it is just in time.

Even though it still looks messy due to the paper and containers that need to be processed, I thought you would like to see the new space. It includes not only my sewing studio, but all of my art and needlework supplies and doll-making materials. To my delight, I finally have a design wall. I was also able to fit in my books. All of this is a real blessing, since I no longer have to go to different levels or rooms to access needed items.

In the process of organization, too, I was able to identify the WIP's I am interested in pursuing, cull patterns and books that no longer work for me, and set up projects so that I am more likely to get them done. It bodes well, and I am looking forward to a creative and productive season. I hope you have one, too.

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Seems Like Constant Motion

The grandchildren have now flown back home to be with their parents. They return to school in a couple of weeks. During the last few weeks they were here, we made the trip to the zoo. We also had another chance for a fishing trip, where each of the kids caught fish, which we then had for a late afternoon snack.

I have made a little more progress in organizing the studio, going through two sets of magazine subscriptions, and working on finding places for the things I need to keep. Additionally, I am working on an autograph quilt from the wedding. An example of the basic blocks, which my son's MIL, Jan, made from fabrics in both of our stashes, is shown above. (The example is not one of hers. I found it at Strawberry Patch Quiltworks.) I am making a center piece with embroidery that will also contain a picture of the bride and groom. Once I have that done, I'll piece the top and hand it back to Jan for backing, quilting, and binding. (She has a long arm machine.)

Seems like it never slows down around here.

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Projects and Plans

The grandchildren are still in town, so we have had a couple of additional visits and hope to have two more before they fly back home. Grandpa wants to fish with them, again, and have their catch for lunch, if possible. We were able to meet up with many family members for lunch and a visit to a petting zoo (at the restaurant complex), where the kids got to feed the goats and llamas. A trip to the regular zoo, which has been put off twice due to the weather, looks like it will finally happen.

Our own yard continues to provide constant sightings of a variety of wildlife. The fledgling birds are beginning to learn to eat seeds. The new generation of squirrels is fighting over territory, and I am learning more about the way various species communicate.

On another note, I am carrying on with writing my mother's story. Earlier this year, one of my cousins' children gave me a wonderful gift. She had been sending me pictures from her mother's collection and included two of my maternal great-grandmother. Since I had heard stories about her sitting in her rocking chair and greeting the children but had never seen a picture of her, I was overwhelmed not only to see her for the first time, but also to have a picture of her in that chair.

I am persisting in my work on the studio, too. The new project cases are set up, and I have been putting away fabric that had been stashed for a project that changed. Some of the pieces I hadn't seen in years, and I am delighted with how beautiful they are. My hope is to be done sorting things out by the end of this month so that I can get to work on Christmas gifts.

I hope you enjoy the season and, as always . . .

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Celebrations, Visits & Living Life

It has been quite a year, so far. The wedding was beautiful. Everything fell into place, and the weather cooperated. The wedding party was composed of all the attendants the bride and groom had hoped for, including the grandchildren as flower girl and ring bearer.

Since then, we have had a few visits with the grandchildren, including a few days while their parents were in town when they stayed with us. Grandpa got to have them help him feed the birds and there was the obligatory fishing trip. We are looking forward to another couple of visits before they return home with their other grandmother.

The garden has been going through its paces. We have milkweed growing and hope to entice some monarchs to our yard. The lilies, both day and tiger, have been blooming profusely. In addition, we have a volunteer trumpet creeper that is blooming and will, we hope, attract the hummingbirds. (We do have feeders, but the volunteer is a nice addition.) The gooseberry bush produced an enormous amount of berries. The cherry tree was also prolific. Now the raspberry bush is beginning to set fruit.

I have slowly been putting my studio to rights. I've made some progress since the picture above, but not enough to call it done. One thing I am trying to organize is specific projects with the hope that it will help me to tackle them sooner. In addition, I have been thinking more lately about mending, both to take care of items and get more use out of them.

I've been reading a lot about the latter at pages instituted by Jen Gale. She has a blog at My Make Do and Mend Life. She had a Facebook page associated with a decision she had made to blog about mending for an entire month. While I was unable to fully participate in mending during that time -- it was right in the middle of the preparations for the wedding -- I did follow it and was able to contribute some, I hope, helpful tips. Now, I am thinking more about the issue, especially in light of my continued interest in downsizing and not having more than I need. I expect I will talk more about the subject in future posts. For now, it seems enough that I have finally gotten back to the blog.

I hope you are having a wonderful season. Until next time, I wish you peace and all good.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sprung into an Empty Nest

The last month and a half have been surprisingly busy. Our youngest decided he was ready to move out. The move was accomplished by the middle of this month, though he still has a few things here that he needs to clear out. Once that is finished, we will be remaking his room into my new studio, and my current studio will become a dedicated guest room. It means I will, hopefully, finally be able to have all of my studio tools in one place, though some materials will need to be stored elsewhere.

In addition, he and his fiance have finally set the date for their wedding - in June of this year. That brings another set of challenges. Obviously, there is the scramble to get all of the details taken care of, but I have not had to be involved in most of that beyond giving advice, especially on where to find information. However, I do need to find an outfit, and prepare our home for guests! Our older son and his family will be traveling back to town for the wedding and a short vacation. They will be staying here part of that time. As mother of the groom, of course, my outfit is supposed to complement that of the mother of the bride.

In addition, the grandchildren will be staying for the summer with their other grandparents. That means we will be able to spend more time with them over the couple of months following the wedding. So, I have been trying to plan things we can do with them that they will enjoy.

In the meantime, spring has been starting to make an appearance here. Our forsythias have begun to bloom, as have the hyacinths and daffodils. The lilacs are budding, and the grackles have arrived en masse. We have been talking about what to plant in the garden and are adjusting to being empty-nesters.

All told, it hasn't left much time for working in the studio, though I have done some organizing in preparation for the move to the other room, and while I have been working on my book, I haven't taken time out to blog. It may be hit and miss here for a while, for which I apologize in advance. I hope you will continue to check in, and I will try to get back to a normal schedule as soon as possible.

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Informal survey

Japanese Dreams - framed quilt

Butterfly brooch (about 2 12" wing tip to wing tip)

Butterfly pincushion (The ruler is not attached.)

Table topper

Table runner

Baby quilt - butterflies

Priority quilt (Approximately 8 1/2" x 11")

Baby quilt - stars

Bookshelf quilt (about 4' long)

I am going to really put myself out there this time. Each of the items above is a piece I have designed and created. I am curious to know if you would be interested in purchasing anything similar to any of these pieces, and if so, what you would consider an appropriate price for it. If you would, please respond in the comments with identification of any piece and a price range. If you would not, please let me know why not. Thank you, in advance, for your help.

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Making a Difference

The wild weather we have been experiencing around the world has me thinking about climate change and ways we can do something about it. I've come across some very interesting articles recently that illustrate possibilities.

Most urban trees grow yards; they belong to individuals, but we all benefit from them. Rain falling onto branches and leaves is dispersed, meaning gradual absorption into the soil as opposed to sheeting over the ground that causes erosion and flooding.

Likewise the sun’s rays are intercepted (shade), foliage absorbs air pollutants, and beneficial root fungi take up phosphorus and heavy metals that would otherwise pollute ground water. During major storm events Gainesville’s abundant tree canopy intercepts the winds, deflecting damaging force away from homes.

Home Sweet Home by Carolyn Pearce - this has sparked some ideas for pieces focusing on places and peoples that have not received a lot of attention in the artistic community nor the media.

Making Do . . . - reminded me of the times I sat with my grandmother while she darned socks or sewed on buttons.

And then, there was this from a book I've been reading:

[O]ld quilts made from recycled fabrics reminded Japanese needlewomen of the past, of the days when their mothers patched clothing or made household items from scraps. It didn't matter that these quilts had tears or worn patches in them, this was part of their charm. We Japanese have traditionally cherished old fabrics, and the idea of creating something artistic and useful from scraps appealed to our ideal of beauty.  (Japanese Quilts by Jill Liddell & Yuko Watanabe (c) 1988, p ix)

It ties in, of course, to using recycled, found, and vintage materials in my work.

What do you think? Is there something you would like to suggest to others?

Until next time, I wish you peace.

(Note: I provide links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply affiliation by me with any site.)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Goal Setting and Other Thoughts - Part Two

Knit ear warmer

As soon, it seems, as Christmas was over, I found myself excitedly working on my year-end inventory and goals. Still, it took a while to be able to work through everything, which is why I have been so quiet here. 

I used a slightly different method this year. Before I got started, I had written a list of things I felt I should consider as I determined my goals for 2016, letting it simmer in the back of my mind for a few weeks. When I finally sat down to work on the inventory and goals, I listed the things I had accomplished in 2015 and wrote down everything I thought I might want to do in 2016. One of the books I had been reading about goal setting suggested creating a "pie" with wedges indicating areas of your life that you want to focus on. The categories I arrived at were: Financial, Health & Exercise, Creativity, House/Housing, Intellectual Stimulation, and Family & Friends. My next step was to divide everything I want to do into those categories. Then, I cut them down to a maximum of five items per category. (I may need to reduce that further, however.)

After working with those items for about a week, I realized that I needed to be more specific in a few of them. In particular, I needed to decide how to implement the Creativity goals with a focus on the business. As I mentioned back in September, I decided that I could create for myself. What that means to me is that I am free to experiment with techniques and styles without as much concern about the marketplace. In keeping with my concerns about our world and its future, I returned to the idea of incorporating the concepts of simplicity, functionality, and beauty into my work. In addition, my goal, as always, is to use recycled, found, and vintage materials where possible, expressing the concepts of global equity and sustainability.

Finally, while I am very pleased with the things I managed to create in 2015, like the ear warmer (which was a big hit!), I was disappointed in how few there were. In addressing the issue, I began to come to terms with the difficulties I have in sticking to my schedule when people around me request my time. After coming up with a more definitive schedule, I made some decisions about how to handle those requests. Only time will tell if I have finally come up with the answer, but I am hopeful that 2016 will prove to be a much more productive and satisfying year.