Quilts for Sale

Monday, December 31, 2007

At Year's End

Instead of greeting the new year by partying, we're spending a quiet evening at home. My husband is a little under the weather, so is resting on the sofa with Numa at his side. I've been in an appropriately reflective mood as 2008 draws near.

We've been blessed with good health and good friends in 2007. I have so many, many things for which I am grateful. Just a few of them are:

1. My family - the most precious thing in the world.

Ellen, Bill, Matthew, Suzie, Numa and Darby. Christmas 2006.

2. That we're all relatively healthy.

3. That the kids are so happy together.

Matthew and Suzie

4. That they have jobs, a pay check and benefits.

5. That Suzie's brother Rob arrived safely home from Afghanistan.

A very tired Rob arrived home in August.

6. For the three new babies in our families - Addison, Gideon and Wesley. Every baby is a gift from God.

7. That I have three amazingly supportive sisters who love me.

Sue, Sharon, Patty and Me - 1967

8. For the great good fortune of finding members of our family who have been separated from us for decades. Our lives have been so enriched by meeting and getting to know so many relatives who are such a rich part of our heritage.

9. Peace Moravian Church, our minister The Rev. Dr. James Doss and our amazing church family.

10. That we are so blessed in the things which really matter.

My greatest hope for the New Year is P E A C E!

Love and blessings to all.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Foster Parents' Report

I wrote last summer about Numa, the black Lab we are keeping temporarily for our son and daughter-in-law. Numa is still with us, but we haven't become attached at all. Just because she and I have started to dress alike doesn't mean a thing. We can give her up anytime she needs to go home. Really..... we can.

Christmas with the Kids

Sweet Basils - a favorite new restaurant in Greensboro NC.

Bill and I drove to Greensboro Wednesday to celebrate a delayed Christmas with our son Matthew and his wife Suzie. Suzie's brother Rob, safely home from Afghanistan, joined us.

Our first night we all enjoyed a lovely dinner at a new restaurant the kids wanted to try. Located in a transformed old house, the just opened Sweet Basils serves all organic food in an innovative New Orleans/Charleston style. We thought it was divine!

A dark bread with peppered goat cheese in olive oil was served prior to the first course of baby spinach salad with pecans and raspberry vinaigrette. As an entree, Suzie, Bill and I chose crab cakes with black bean mashed potatoes and creamed greens. Matthew and Robbie enjoyed shrimp and grits with sherry - a southern classic. Happily full to the brim, we declined even a peek at the dessert menu!

After a good night's sleep we awoke to find Matthew and Suzie preparing a gourmet breakfast of pecan waffles with banana butter syrup, ham, scrambled eggs, OJ and Cafe Du Monde. Oh My! Truly delicious. And it gave them a chance to try Matthew's new Cuisinart waffle iron!

We lounged and visited while the kids played on an ancient NES (Nintendo) Suzie's brothers had bestowed upon her. Suzie and I took a break to indulge our favorite passion, thrift store shopping. We were thrilled and yet disappointed (who knows what treasures we missed early in the day?) to find Carolina Thrift was having a 50% off sale. Suz scored a classic turntable for Matthew, who has a growing collection of vintage vinyl

For dinner (yes, we were eating again), we were treated to a very healthy dinner of baby spinach salad with pecorino cheese and pecans, couscous with tiny sweet peppers, whole steamed green beans and grilled salmon. Yummylicious!!!

Our lovely spinach salad.

Matthew serving up a plate.

A beautiful presentation.

Rob, Suzie and Matthew relax after a scrumptious dinner.
Black Lab Numa snuggles close to Rob.

We had a marvelous two days with the kids. Being around them is such a joy. As always, it was difficult to leave. I delay saying goodbye by watching those I'm leaving until they are out of sight and then holding the vision in my heart all the way home.

A Moravian Christmas

The many pointed Moravian Star is reflected in the window.

My husband's mother's family has been Moravian for hundreds of years. When we met, I had no concept of who and what the Moravians were, as there is just one Moravian church in my home state of Illinois. But I have come to love and embrace the beliefs of the oldest protestant faith: In essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, in all things love.

We spent Christmas Eve serving two of the three Lovefeasts at our church, Peace Moravian. There was no better place to be.

Dieners (the German word for one who serves) observe the service.

A Moravian Lovefeast is a shared meal, signifying union and equality, of a sweet bun and cocoa or coffee. The service concludes with worshipers being given a lovefeast candle - a beeswax taper wrapped in fluted red crepe paper. One by one the candles are lit as the church lights dim. As Joy to the World is sung, candles are raised high. It is a beautiful and moving sight.

Seen through an outside window, costumed Dieners stand ready to serve the Lovefeast buns.

The Moravian Lovefeasts are a popular Christmas Eve tradition in Charlotte.

A young boy, holding a Lovefeast candle, seems struck by the beauty of the service.

All photos: Bill Guerrant

A Tree at the Corner

The wonderful farmers' market at the bottom of our street becomes a Christmas tree lot in December. It is so great to have a source for fresh North Carolina frazier fir trees so near. My favorite image is the lighted Happy Holidays display. If you click on the photo and look closely, you can see the pointed top of the Bank of America building under the second P in happy. We are fortunate to live just 3 minutes from uptown.

Photo credit: Bill Guerrant

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas at Our House

After 35 years in the same house, we've finally decided we like our Christmas tree best in the entryway. There is ample space for a tall, chubby tree with lots of room for many of our vintage ornaments including treasured German ones from my husband's grandmother's home in Old Salem. This year we added lots of American flags in honor of our daughter-in-law's baby brother who was serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.

Our little goose feather tree is authentic. I literally found it while hitting yard sales years ago. The young man who was cleaning out his grandmother's house had discarded it along with other old things he'd placed on the curb. He obviously thought only the newer things had value.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Big Bird on Steroids

This incredible Amish rug has served as a welcome mat for our home for 15 years.

I love the plethora of colors!

I found this amazing rug when my sister Patty and I traveled to the Pennsylvania Amish country several years ago. I fell in love with it instantly while my sister was incredulous, asking "Wait - you're actually BUYING that?!?"

Its presence on our front portico never fails to bring comments from visitors. Everyone wants to know where I found it. Most are surprised that it is Amish. My husband dubbed it "Big Bird on Steroids."

This detail shot gives a glimpse of how the rug was made. Dozens of band-aid shapes were cut from polyester double knit, overlapped and stitched in rows to a backing.

Photo credit: Bill Guerrant

Monday, December 3, 2007

Baking for a Good Cause

Our church, Peace Moravian, held its annual bazaar Saturday. Top selling items are always the hand-made Moravian chicken pies - dozens of which sold out early - and the famous Moravian cookies and sugar cake. I wanted to contribute something to the cause, so baked nearly ten dozen chocolate chip cookies. It was such a great feeling to deliver most of them to the bazaar.

A double batch of cookie dough mixed and ready to go.

Oh my - that's a lot of cookies!

Six plates of chocolate chip cookies packaged for delivery.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Collections

When we had our wills done, our dear friend and attorney asked "Ellen........what are you going to do with your........uh.........collections?" Nancy had been to our home many times over the years, and was familiar with my tendency to hoard. Only half kidding, I told her "As soon as you hear I've died, get to the house, as it will all be on the curb."

I've read there is a Protestant purgatory, where one floats until able to let go of worldly goods. I'll probably be there for years! Although I've made much progress culling, there are certain things I hold tightly to my heart. Most dear to me is my 35-year collection of vintage Christmas ornaments. Secondly, are my buttons. I'm rather obsessive/compulsive about my tender buttons, as they are sorted by color and type - two button, four button, shank etc. My "Austrian tinies" are in special glass topped little trays. My late Mother and I spent several evenings together, years ago, visiting, sorting buttons and stitching them to cards. It is one of my fondest memories of her.

Calico and stencil buttons are favorites in my collection. A few are shown below.

Button photographs by Suzie Guerrant (avocadophoto.com)

There is hope for me yet. I sold my vintage thread collection on eBay, keeping only the spools which had belonged to my parents.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Preserving Family Recipes

Four Sisters Farm Cookbook, a Collection of Recipes and Memories from the Illinois Prairie

For the first few years after I left home, there were frequent calls to Mother for her recipes. And I wasn't the only one; my three sisters did the same thing, requesting instructions for Aunt Esther's candied yams, Aunt Marion's popcorn balls, or the delectable divinity our father made at Christmas - a candy none of us, including our cousin Jean who burned out a Kitchen Aid mixer in her attempt, has ever been able to duplicate!

Fifteen years ago I decided to write a family cookbook, preserving recipes from Mother, my grandmothers and aunts. Included are stories about the recipes, their origins and when they were used, old texts from our 4-H days and family photos.

The title is the same as the farm where I grew up: Four Sisters Farm. Each book is in a 3-ring binder I covered in batting and fabric. The cover from my beat up copy is shown above.

The Menu

At holiday time, I used to be the lone midwesterner lobbying two southerners for food preferences from the Prairie. Then our son had the great good fortune to marry a wonderful woman from Ohio. So I have a compadre!

Our menu has been set for days. We're forgetting our quest for healthy eating and indulging in:

Roast Turkey
Mashed Potatoes (yeah - the midwesterners won!)
Gravy - Yum
Cornbread Casserole - our newest favorite recipe
Asparagus Casserole - a Guerrant family tradition from Aunt Fairy's cook book
Deviled Eggs
Green Bean Casserole
Salmon for my DIL Suzie
Sweet Midgies - our son Matthew's favorite pickle
Whole Cranberry Sauce
Lemon-Lime Salad - Matthew's favorite
Virginia Rolls from Great Harvest Bread Company
Stuffing Bread from GHB
Chocolate Pecan Pie - also from GHB
Mother's Pumpkin Pie

For special meals, I'm usually a purist and want everything made from scratch. But in order to have more time for Matthew and Suzie, I opted to order rolls, bread and a pie from Great Harvest Bread Company. We're lucky to have one just a block away.

Here's the recipe for our favorite new casserole. It can be tweaked easily to suit your taste. I have reduced the oil significantly from the original 1/2 to 2/3 cup called for.

Aunt Linda's Cornbread Casserole

2 cans creamed corn
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 C. oil
One 4-oz. jar pimientos - drained and chopped
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
Minced onion to taste
1 C. or more grated cheddar cheese

Mix together well. Pour into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, uncovered. Casserole should be done in the center and lightly browned.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Childhood Traditions

On Thanksgiving we'll be using my Aunt Alda's Spode Buttercup china. I have loved it since I was a little girl and feel blessed to have it.

As the holidays approach, I'm always conflicted. My anticipation and excitement are tempered by the fact that my family is far away. Growing up in Illinois, I never imagined that my sisters and I would be separated by thousands of miles as adults. We are indeed bi-coastal, with Sharon and Patty in California. Only Sue remains in our home state.

I've always been sentimental and am becoming hopelessly more so each year. I long to have holidays in our home exactly as they were in my childhood. Consequently, our Thanksgiving menu is very much like the one Mother used. As a midwesterner, I do have to lobby for mashed potatoes instead of rice; pumpkin pie instead of pecan. I have learned to like 'stuffing' baked in a pan as opposed to the moist 'dressing' Mother cooked in the turkey.

My parents worked along side one another for as long as they were married. They weren't into "gender specific" rolls. Daddy could do nearly everything Mother could do and vice versa. This was not uncommon for farm families in the midwest. So it was not unusual to find them both in the kitchen preparing the Thanksgiving feast.

They would arise very early to put the birds in the ovens to roast. Because my father was German, we had goose AND turkey, both raised on our farm. Almost everything on the menu came from our garden with the exception of special store-bought olives, butter and Libby's pumpkin for the pies. Yeast rolls were always home-made.

I don't ever remember a Thanksgiving without tons of relatives around. We cousins were never bored as we waited for dinner, as there were many areas to explore in our outbuildings - especially the haymow. If there was snow, Daddy would hitch a team to a sleigh for rides. I can close my eyes and still hear the jingle of the sleigh bells on the horses.

When the meal was finally ready we'd rush inside, shedding our wet mittens and coats. The warm air, heavy with deliciously tempting aromas, met our cold, rosy cheeks. Our eyes were wide as we glimpsed the food-filled tables which stretched from one end of our connecting living and dining rooms to the other.

Almost time to EAT!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Letting Go

Some of my stash of Somerset Studio magazines I'm selling on eBay.

I have a very hard time throwing things away. It requires a lack of sentimentality and a ruthless conviction I do not have. It literally hurts my heart to get rid of something which still has a use and a purpose. And I'll do almost anything to keep from adding more stuff to the landfill.

I am a collector and a hoarder. I also buy and sell vintage items, meaning I have accumulated quite an inventory over the years. And then there's the quilting/art side of my life. What to do........what to do!

My concentration has turned to the many books and magazines in my stash. Most are being donated, but several are being listed on Amazon and eBay. It's such a good feeling to offer these things to others while also getting a few dollars towards my studio revamp fund!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Beautiful North Carolina Blue Ridge

Several times a year my DH goes to the mountains to hike. This photo he shot last weekend shows the autumn leaves in front of the beautiful Blue Ridge.

Photo credit: Bill Guerrant

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Playing with Photoshop

I want to use digital imaging in more of my work. To that end, I need to become at least competent, if not good, at Photoshop. While playing around with PS yesterday, I came up with this image. Beginning with a black and white photograph, I went under adjustments and just played. I love the result. My husband tells me it looks like a mezzotint.

My Aunt Janet as a young girl. Click on image for a larger view.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Can This Studio Survive?

After 35 years in the same house, I'm rethinking my use of space. I'm committed to getting my studio in good shape so that I can WORK! It is so full to the brim and cluttered that I must shift piles and boxes each time I enter. I close my eyes and imagine a very clean, zen-like retreat; a place I can enter in peace.

Here's a glimpse of what I've accomplished so far.

Fabric is stored in four bookcases on the west wall. In the center is a small chest topped with a faux stained glass window which helps diffuse the afternoon sun.

Detail of the second bookcase.

With the addition of the small chest in the center, my bookcases fit perfectly two by two. The stained glass window was a thrift store find. I've had the little chest since the late '60's.

This is the second pair of bookcases.

I've found I can fit so much more fabric on my shelves by lining it up vertically. And I really like not having to disturb a huge pile of fabric by grabbing the piece from the bottom. This system keeps things somewhat tidy.

Can this studio survive, or more correctly - can I survive this studio revamp? Now that the outside of our house has been completed, it's time to get cracking on the interior.

My present studio is 12x12' with the great northern light I prefer. I considered moving into the 12x15'room across the hall but its southwest exposure makes it hot in the summer with a harsh light. Although I could gain an extra 3' by moving back to what was my original studio, just looking at all the mess I'd have to deal with is a great deterrant.

The solution? Get rid of things I've held onto but have little probability of using and make better use of the space I do have.

I've been going through fabric off and on all summer. Two or three boxes of early calicos were donated to a church with a quilt ministry, some really "questionable" stuff went to the thrift store while I've saved a small box for ebay. The rest of my stash is being organized, refolded and arranged by color on laminate bookshelves.

I'd love to hear how other artists arrange their spaces. Feel free to share your organizational tips. I, and I'm sure my dear readers, would welcome them.

Progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go. I'll post updates and photos as things are accomplished.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Finally Finished!

The postcards are finished! Although it has been a real jump-start to my creativity, making 25 postcards has taken a long time! But the exchange has been fun and I'm glad I participated.

Here are the last three cards in the group:

Painted cotton, vintage lace scrap and imprinted twill tape from Moda, pigment powders, vintage buttons.

Painted cotton, shredded newspaper, pigment powders.

Hand-dyed fabric, rubber stamping, sewing pattern tissue, pigment powders.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Latest Postcards

Work on my postcards continues. Below are a few of my most recent creations.

Hand-painted cotton, embossing powder, glue, Japanese maple leaves, gold pigment powder and Golden gel medium were used in this card. The leaves were collected and dried last fall from a tree our son planted years ago.

Tissue paper from a dress pattern and gold pigment powder were layered over hand-dyed cotton. I once again used Golden gel medium. If you look closely you will see the peace symbol rubber stamped under the tissue. Unfortunately, peace seems to be getting more elusive all the time.

I laid cotton over a Sushi mat and then applied Lumiere paint using a brayer. Rayon chenille cording was couched on as a decorative element.

Hand painted Peltex was decorated with squares of cotton, beads, silver metallic powder and quilting.

This time I used my hand-dyed perle cotton on more Sushi mat fabric.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Art Once More

I spent most of the weekend working on postcards for my Art2Mail group, completing seven. With my travels and other commitments, I hadn't been able to create in quite some time. It felt wonderful to poke around in the studio for inspiration. My challenge for these cards was to use only what I had on hand.

I experimented with Golden gel medium for the first time and was able to get wonderful results using pattern tissue paper, Japanese maple leaves and pigment powders. Watch for photos of those soon. For some reason, shots from my camera appeared cloudy even when taken without flash. So I'll let my dh shoot them with his Nikon D80.

I had a great assortment of paper scraps purchased at Random Arts I wanted to use. The image of the boy and the word 'write' led to the addition of the pencil nub. Note: He is left-handed. Ever notice how many lefties are extremely good at math? I'm not, which explains a lot of things. But all five of my husband's nephews are. Ask me how many excel in math!

A scrap of fabric I'd resist dyed was the base for this card. I added a piece of rubber-stamped cloth as well as recycled buttons.

Pigment powders, rubber stamping, paint and beading were added to a Bounty paper towel I'd painted. I'd hoped to retain a lot more of the wrinkling, but most disappeared during the fusing process.