Quilts for Sale

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.