Friday, September 21, 2018

One Cool Lizard: Spikey, 2011-2018

Spikey, our Bearded Dragon, died yesterday after a long illness.  The vet believes that he was born with a virus that made him quite sick this past year.  After seeing him deteriorate over the past months, it is striking to look at old photos and see how vigorous he used to be.   

He was just a lizard, but he had a great personality.  He liked to climb....

... to look out the window...  

... and find cozy places to chill out.  

He started off as Paul's pet but after we moved to Boulder I set up his habitat in the living room where he could be in the middle of things and keep an eye on us, and he became a family pet.

He liked to keep me company in my sewing studio.

 And often made us laugh with his funny positions.

He loved raspberries and once licked at Dawn's toes, thinking they were the red berries!

He was a good traveler and seemed to enjoy the car trip from Maryland to Colorado.  (We love this photo of him looking at himself in the car door handle on that trip.) 

He got along okay with Fetcher.  They mostly ignored each other, which was just fine.

As a pet he had many virtues;  he didn't bark, wasn't emotionally demanding, didn't require extensive vet bills (since there's not much that a vet can do for a lizard), and he was generally a blank slate onto which you could place your own feelings and thoughts.   His main vice was his love of live crickets, which meant we had to keep live crickets in the house, which was a pain. 

He was one cool lizard and a pretty darned good pet.   Rest in peace, Mr. Spikey.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Winding up the Summer

Our hot spell is about to end, with temps in the 80's forecast for the next few days.  Up in the mountains it's been much cooler and the aspens have been changing color.  That Handsome Dog Gus stayed with us a few days last week and we took him up to Indian Peaks to hike up towards the Arapahoe Glacier.   We enjoyed seeing the pretty gold canopies of the aspens along the roads where just a month ago they were all green.  The colors aren't as vibrant this year, I guess because of the dry summer we've had.  But it's still quite pretty.   

We hiked three miles up a steady but gentle ridge.  Above the tree line there is a viewpoint from which hikers could see the several lakes that form the beginning of the water supply that starts at the Glacier and ends up in Boulder.  It was interesting and lovely. 

One summer activity I've been wanting to do for a couple of years now has been to enjoy the beautiful patio up at the Flagstaff House restaurant.  In my opinion this is one of the two best "fancy" restaurants in Boulder, you know, the type where you go for a special celebration.  We've been there twice since moving here and I really wanted to go again, this time in the summer so we could sit out on the patio with its fabulous views of the city.  So we did, and it was a great evening even though we didn't have anything special to celebrate!  


Paul's band, The Fists of the Proletariat, played their last gig for the season up in Nederland.  It was an outside venue at a fun coffee shop and Ben and I enjoyed hearing them before we headed off to Crosscut Pizza for dinner. 

 Another end of the summer event is the Porchfest in the Mappleton historic district.  About twenty different bands, mostly blue grass, play on the beautiful porches of the host homes.  People walked around to check them out while enjoying the music and the interesting neighborhood.  I liked kicking back and watching my friend Sara's husband play the bass guitar in his group, the Dwarf Planets.  It was a relaxing way to spend a hot September afternoon. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I Like Thursday: Lazy Summer Afternoons

After a brief spell of cooler days, Boulder is back to having hot summer afternoons.  I find myself giving into the heat, hanging out in the my non-air conditioned but still cool living room to escape the sun. 

I'm not the only one.   Fetcher is always up for a little nap.  

That Handsome Dog Gus is staying with us this week and we're glad to see that he doesn't mind joining us for an afternoon snooze.  

When the temps climb to above 90 in the afternoon, you have to plan to walk or hike in the cooler mornings or evenings.  It's so worth the effort to get outside, not only because your body loves it, but because there is usually a good view as a reward.  

And sometimes even some art!  Loved the surprise of finding this wonderful sculpture by Steve Jensen at Lake McIntosh in Longmont the other day.

 Back home there's plenty of quilting, gardening, and cleaning to do, but they're not getting done with any speed. 

I had to laugh when I saw this sign on the taps at the Boulderado, where Ben and I had lunch today.   It about sums things up! 

Well, those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer will be gone before we know it, so we might as well enjoy them now. 

Linking to my friend Lee Anna's weekly I Like Thursdays at Not Afraid of Color.

Monday, September 10, 2018

"After Midnight"

In April my little art quilt group issued a friendly challenge: Create an art quilt inspired in some way by a photo used to make a jig saw puzzle of Times Square in New York City.    

I put the photo up on my design wall and just looked at it for a while.  Eventually I decided that three sections were the most interesting to me.

I liked the strong values of the red, yellow and blue colors, the contrast of the dark night sky against the bright city lights, the simple shapes of the buildings in the center photograph, and the crosswalk in the first and last photo. Could I add the crosswalk to the middle photo?  Yes, I could, at least on paper!

I also decided that I wanted to use this challenge to practice some of the techniques for making a realistic image that I had learned in several workshops I'd taken last year.  Making an abstract would be a lot of fun and fairly easy for me, but I challenged myself to try try something new in this piece.

I don't usually make any kind of preliminary sketch, preferring to simply start cutting out shapes from fabric, but it was clear to me that this image with so many straight lines would need a drawing.  I also wanted to try using a mylar overlay to get the shapes planned and positioned correctly.  I put a photo of the image into Photoshop and used a filter that emphasized the building lines.  I simplifed the drawing, saved it as a b&w image, and took the file to a local print shop which enlarged it and made two different sizes of printouts.  Once I saw the large printouts, I picked the size that looked best to me.

Then I traced the enlarged drawing onto mylar.  I'd never done this before but it was fairly easy following instructions in Susan Brubaker Knapp's book, Point, Click, Quilt, which I had bought after hearing her presentation to a local quilt guild.

The next step was to find a good "canvas," a fabric to which the fabric buildings and signs would be attached.  After trying out several fabrics I decided to hand-paint the "canvas" by taking some white cotton fabric and painting it with a mix of black and deep metallic blue fabric paint.  It was so much fun that I painted two other pieces before I stopped.

Then, using the aids of the drawing and the Mylar overlay I began to select fabrics for the buildings and to position the pieces.  To affix the pieces to the canvas I tried a product I hadn't used before, Steam-a-Seam Lite 2, which allows the pieces to be placed temporarily, moved around, and then finally permanently affixed.   I thought this product would be great on this image where the shapes and signs had to be so carefully placed.   But I had trouble with it and had to spend a lot of time learning how to use it by reading instructions, watching videos, and experimenting.  It was frustrating but I did finally figure it out and was able to use it effectively in trying out different fabrics for the buildings. 

Here's a photo of the work once the big shapes were applied.  I used a variety of fabrics; cottons, batiks, silks, and upholstery fabrics.  The crosswalk at the bottom is from an old silk tie.

Comparing the above image to the one below, you can see that I continued to play around with the placement of the various elements.  Paul showed me how to put a photo of the piece into Photoshop and use the Perspective filter to make sure my lines were straight before I started stitching down the buildings.  

In the photo below I've also tacked up a paper image of a yellow cab I found on the web to see how it would look.  To copy the cab and signs onto fabric which could then be stitched into the image, I used an "image transfer" method involving a cleaning product called Citrasolve, following instructions in a very well- written tutorial by quilt artist Lyric Kinard which you can see here.   

I began to stitch lines on the buildings to define them better and played around with the marque over the Kodak sign.  I'd never done this type of thing before and every step was nerve wracking!   Several times I had to take a break and leave the piece for a while.   

The moon was a good touch, don't you think?  

As the piece evolved I painted in the night clouds and the curved lines of the building above the Kodak sign, stitched down the cab and the signs, and used paints and Sharpie pens to add the shading that gives more dimension to the various elements.  I backed the quilt top with batting and a backing and quilted it simply with a few lines around the buildings and around the night clouds, and I added some paint and stitching to make the little light on the right glow.   


In the above photo you can see two problems that I had to fix.  The right hand side had an uneven edge that I hadn't painted and the yellow clock wasn't fitting in well.  I painted the unfinished edge and trimmed up the piece so it measured correctly all the way around, and finished the edge with a black cord.   It took longer to get the clock right.   I found a great one on the web and played around with it in Photoshop for a while before I got it the right size and facing the correct way.  Then I realized the clock was flat and wasn't matching the perspective on the buildings.  Clever Paul again helped me, taking the clock image into Photoshop to add a "Warp" filter  which gave the clock the same perspective as the buildings.  I was pleased; it can be so nice to have teen around the house!

Here's the finished piece, which measures 15"x17"'.

And here's a detail of the clock, showing the time as just "After Midnight."

I was pleased with how it turned out.  And actually, I ended up making three different pieces related to this challenge.  This one and two abstracts, all of which were inspired by the colors and shapes of the original photograph.  But how I made the two abstract quilts is a story for another day! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tuesday Morning Thoughts

One of my goals in retirement has been to have a relaxing hour in the morning with a cup of coffee, the paper, and then some time to think and reflect before getting the activities of the day underway.  You'd think meeting this goal would be easy since I'm not rushing off to work, but it's surprisingly difficult.  Each day offers up so many wonderful possibilities that I'm often off and running as soon as I'm out of bed.   But this morning I'm making the time to start the day off in a more leisurely way. 

We had a busy and fun long weekend which included several dinners with friends, a trip to Ft. Collins to see an art quilt exhibit and a fun bike race, movies and a cookout with John and Dawn, a couple of good hikes, and a walk downtown to check out Boulder's Labor Day festival.  

The only photo I have of the fun evenings with friends is this somewhat blurry image of Paula's fabulous homemade peach pie.  Colorado peaches are still in season and we are getting our fill of them.  Paula's pies are legendary, and this one was a real treat.    

For the art quilt exhibit I show you these two modern renditions of the traditional "9-patch" quilt block.  Here's a sample; 3 patches across and 3 down.     

Here's Bob Mosier's gray and white version.  His background as a sculptor is clearly shown in this 3-d piece created with thread and batting, rather than fabric.   

You might see that better in this detail.

 Here's a completely different use of the 9-patch idea, a colorful piece made by Elena Stokes from silk sari remnants.  At first I saw twelve sections, but then realized there actually nine.

Here's a detail showing how she sewed narrow pieces of silk together to make the quilt surface. 

The show was the 36th Annual New Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts at the Lincoln Center in Ft. Collins, which is about an hour north of Boulder.   One of the great things about living in this area for me is that there are so many opportunities to see and learn about modern quilts.

While in Ft. Collins we were amused to see some of the many participants in the Tour de Fat, which we read later is  "hilariously ridiculous bike parade sponsored by New Belgium Brewing...A day-long celebration of bikes and community fundraiser."  It was funny and interesting to see large groups of people dressed up in costumes riding around the city streets. 

On Sunday Dawn and I walked downtown to check out the classic car show which was part of the city's Labor Day festival.  

And later we all went to see Crazy Rich Asians which I highly recommend.  Great fun for everyone! 

The background to the weekend was the news coverage of the several services for John McCain and I was struck by this statement by Barack Obama: 

 "So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty. Trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that."

It was a good reminder to me that kindness and respect are still qualities to strive for each day, regardless of what the actions of our current President would lead us to believe.