Friday, December 26, 2008

Winter Holiday 2008 & wool batting quilt

We are having a wonderful visit with our daughter Allie who is with us for Christmas. The snowfall just before Christmas was incredible, as seen in the photo below. Every branch of every tree had 2-3 inches of snow on it. If you click on the photo, you should be able to see amazing detail. Fortunately, the roads cleared by Christmas Eve so Allie could drive down from Bellingham after digging the car out of a snow bank.

For her present this year, I made a lap quilt with wool batting. This is the first time I've used a wool batting so of course, I asked on the quiltart list for advice on using it. I got the usual expert advice and proceeded to make what appears to be a quite cozy quilt. Allie is sensitive to the cold, and Bellingham gets colder winters than we do here in Bellevue, so I thought a nice wool lap quilt to cuddle up under would be just the thing. I also had bought the Betty Boop on motorcycles fabric intending to make something cute for her. I decided to pick up the black and white check motif from the Boops and used an asymetrical log cabin style block. I think the Boop side came out nice.

For the back, I had intended to run to the quilt store and buy some stylish retro black and chartreuse fabric as she loves those colors. The snow kept me from going shopping so I had to fall back on my stash. Looking at the black and white cat fabric (visible in the closeup photo),

I decided to use the Burch cats, and the green polka dot fabric that went with it. I wanted something quick as I was running out of time and didn't want a complicated quilt. The big strips of fabric (5.5" wide) worked well and gave me a good idea for some quick quilting.

I didn't quite get the quilting finished before she arrived, so I wrapped it up, put it under the tree, and included a note promising to finish Christmas Day while we did our traditional lounge around & watch videos marathon. I got it finished by dinner time and she slept with it last night. A great finish to a wonderful day.

Here's hoping your winter holiday was as satisfying!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hummingbird in the snow

Okay, we're getting even more snow. I'll have to check what the record is, and see if we've broken it. So, more pictures which won't impress anyone who lives where there's real snow every winter but for those of us who live where 2-3 inches is a lot, this is impressive. The picture below is from the street side of our deck, looking downhill toward the stop sign (barely visible at the end of the clear snowy part that is the street) and encompassing what's called "territorial views" in the local real estate ads. The tree covered hills in the background are locally known as the Issaquah Alps.

I took the hummingbird feeder in the night before last, and overslept so it wasn't out there when Bob, our backyard hummingbird, came looking for breakfast yesterday. He didn't show up all day so I was worried about him. Fortunately, I was up early today and refilled it with the sweeter wintertime solution and got it hung outside in plenty of time. He's pretty much sitting on the feeder most of the time today giving me an excellent opportunity for pictures. These are taken through the glass in the french door leading to the deck so I am amazed at the clarity of them.

This is the corner of our deck where the feeder hangs, mostly in the shade so the solution doesn't go bad when it's warm. Not that we have to worry about that right now...

And this is Bob, being so kind as to pose for a nice snapshot. The light is overcast and dim enough that it's not easy to see the colors on his head but the darker head part is the iridescent part of his coloring and it changes colors in the light when he turns his head.

I'll probably be snapping lots more pictures over the next few days as I have a quilt design bubbling in my brain about all of this. Not sure just what form it will take so better to take more pictures than I'll need rather than not enough.

Hope you're warmer than we are!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowfall and cookie baking - Happy Holidays!

Today is the day after a huge snowfall for the Bellevue area. We got 7 inches according to a neighbor's measurement of the snowfall in her yard. This is the largest we've had since we moved here in 1999. While I was baking the extremely tardy gift cookies today, I snapped some shots of the backyard and the hummingbird who is guarding our feeder zealously.

This shot of the backyard is taken from our deck which is on top of the garage. The yard also slopes downhill from the house so it really is as down as it looks from the photo. I particularly like the look of the ferns and the oat grass covered with snow. I'm going to have to go out and check how the hardy fuschias have done once the snow clears but I don't hold out much hope for them as the forecast is for more snow and icy rain on Sunday with unusually cold temperatures through the next week. (We're spoiled and used to it being in the 40's or 50's this time of year.)

We have year round hummingbirds here but it's clear they treasure the feeders in the neighborhood when we get the serious cold spells in late December and early January. Here are 2 shots of our bird, sitting in the plum tree in the backyard. He's seriously fluffed up so he'll stay warmer. I wish I'd been able to get a shot of him when he buzzed me this morning. I forgot to bring the feeder in last night, so it froze up and I had to bring it in and microwave it to thaw it out this morning. He was not amused. This one was taken through the greenhouse window in the kitchen.

This one was taken from the deck at more of an angle.

We'll be celebrating Solstice tomorrow and then Christmas later in the week. I'm looking forward to happy time spent with my family and I'm wishing you the same. Happy Winter Holiday of your choice!

Friday, December 12, 2008

test driving the Zap Zebra electric car

This has been an eventful couple of weeks here. I had surgery on 11/25, 2 days later was Thanksgiving, 3 days later our daughter got cut off on the freeway and totaled one of our cars. Somewhere in there, my husband and son came down with a bad coughing cold but that's background. So, once we got past the immediate "are you okay?" panic (she's fine) and the initial insurance phone calls, we started thinking about what we really needed in a second car.

We live within 4-6 miles of Jeff's job, the grocery stores, the drugstore, and a small shopping center so the thought of trying out a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV in the trade lingo) was just too tempting to pass up. So, this last weekend, jeff and I trotted off to the Green Car Company (now in downtown Bellevue) and test drove the Zap Zebra. It's a three wheeled vehicle, with a back seat, fully electric and recharged by plugging into a regular outlet. If I were even 15 years younger, I'd probably have bought it right then and there. Pro's: It's cute, zippy, fun to drive, all electric, and can go just fine in regular traffic around town. Cons: It's small, doesn't heat up the interior very well on a cold, wet day, can't handle really steep hills without upgrading some of the equipment, and the pedals are a little to the left of where both of us expected them to be. Jeff found it uncomfortable to turn enough to use the pedals. I was fine with it, but I'm shorter and that may have been a factor. Jeff was also concerned about the safety factor as it hasn't passed vehicle crash tests. Well, technically, it's a motorcycle so it doesn't have to. I do have to say, though, if we lived in a warmer climate, and we weren't living on an extremely steep hill, I'd have been tempted because the list price is $12,000.

If you've been thinking about it, go give it a test drive. For half a car, it's a good idea. And just think, no more gasoline, ever...

Monday, December 1, 2008

My life, new art, and relocalizing reference list

I'm through the first of the kidney stone surgeries I'll probably have. It went well, the largest stone was disintegrated but doing so required the maximum usage of the zapping machine so the smaller stones will have to wait for next time. After several days of sleeping and a nice thanksgiving dinner provided by the effort of friends and family, I'm raring to get back into my studio. I hope to have some new things to show by the end of the week.

Part of recovering from surgery is reading a lot. One of the blogs I follow (Relocalizing Vermont by Carl Etnier), posted a request for books to put on a reference list and gave a short list to start. I've read several of the books he mentions and thought the list was worth sharing. Click here to see it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hope & optimism

I go in for surgery tomorrow so I'm looking for hope right now. This quote is from the author of one of the most hope filled books I've read on the topic.

“Climate change says we should change, whereas peak oil says we will be forced to change.”
-- Rob Hoskins, author of The Transition Town

I also thought I'd share this link about health care myths. I firmly believe we should be copying the French or Canadian systems where the health care systems are designed to keep people healthy rather than make the insurance companies profitable. This is an article from the Washington Post, a very center of the road, fact-based paper. I found this very worth my time.

Read about the myths here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cars: green electricity, not natural gas

Today's email is from, an organization focused on building a sustainable future as well as providing a plan for how to get there from here. Maybe it's because I live in the Pacific Northwest where hydropower is plentiful, but I think they're right about going toward electricity which can be generated from wind, sun, and waves. To read their thoughts on why we should go toward plug-in electric cars rather than natural gas (which T. Boone is promoting) go here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Transition Town: Sandpoint Idaho

Today's email brought a link to an article in the London Times about Transition Towns. This is a movement begun by a permaculture professor in Ireland (Rob Hopkins) that has grown to over 700 towns in 2 years. His book is a step by step handbook on building local resiliency and organizing the community to be as independent as possible.

Read the full article here.

I particularly liked the quote I've copied below because I'm a firm believer in doing what I can in my little corner of the world:

In Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia, people started readying themselves in June. Their two-year low-carbon diet is under way, they have met state Anna Bligh, the state premier, and are consulting on a Queensland Government report entitled Towards Oil Resilience. Bush tucker trees are to be planted around the city.

Maggie Johns, a Hervey Bay Transitioner, signed off her e-mail to me thus: “Before, it all seemed so futile. What was the good in changing a few light bulbs? There are ice-shelves breaking off, for goodness sake! But when you know that more and more towns are coming online with Transition, and each has an army of dedicated volunteers, it seems much more do-able.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

National Security & Oil

I know I'm always talking about going green and that's because I'm a long time tree hugger. Not everyone shares those values so for those who don't, here's another perspective on why reducing our dependence on foreign oil is a good thing. This is quoted from the Wall Street Journal, from the first in a series of articles about dealing with our oil addiction. The article continues with recommendations for action and is worth reading. The following is a quote from the article by Stacy Delo published November 12.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett
(R., Maryland)
Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Defense Energy Working Group and Congressional Peak Oil Caucus

DIAGNOSIS: American transportation is more than 95% dependent upon oil, a proportion virtually unchanged since the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Americans will have spent $700 billion on oil imports in the last two years. That is more than we spend annually on defense. If that money stayed here, it would generate $7 trillion in economic activity. Clearly, lower oil prices are better for Americans and worse for the governments of OPEC countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela as well as Russia's military resurgence.

If we reduce our dependence upon oil imports, we eliminate our greatest self-imposed threat to Americans' future economic prosperity and national security. Especially in the absence of price signals, we need leadership at all levels to inspire Americans to continue conserving oil and to innovate to shift our transportation and manufacturing sectors off oil.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The importance of green activism

I've read Bill McKibben's book, Deep Economy, and found it insightful and optimistic while discussing serious issues. So I'm pleased to post a pointer to a column he's written in Orion magazine, Multiplication Saves the Day. I'll also echo his plug for websites to pay attention to:, and I believe president-elect Obama is correct in saying that we're just starting the hard work and I'm pleased to see someone laying out how individuals can contribute.

On a more personal front, I'm scheduled for surgery for the kidney stones on November 25, just in time to make sure I don't bake pies this year. Here's hoping this surgery resolves my medical problems.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kidney stones, not much better the second time around

I haven't been blogging much over the last month. I thought it was because of a couple of kidney infections and then just an overwhelming sense of fatigue afterwards. My doctor, given my previous history of giant stealth kidney stones, thought it might be good to have a CT scan and see if there was any damage. So, I did that today, and I have a couple of good size stones starting to obstruct one kidney. Hence, the fatigue. I'll write about anything I'm actually doing, other than watching TV and sleeping, but for now, let me just remind everyone - nag your doctor until they find out what's wrong, especially if the symptoms are fairly subtle. Next week, I get to harass my urologist until he reschedules my appointment to sometime in the next month rather than the first part of December... Either that, or find a different doctor. I really don't want to spend November sleeping. Or have to start dialysis.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 reports new legal rights for Nature in Ecuador

from What's next, legal rights for trees? *grin*


We Hold Its Value to Be Self-Evident
Ecuador approves new constitution granting inalienable rights to nature

Ecuador approved a new constitution this weekend that, among other things, grants inalienable rights to nature, the first such inclusion in a nation's constitution, according to Ecuadorian officials. "Nature ... where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions, and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community, or nationality will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies," the document says. The specific mention of evolution isn't accidental; besides being an activity nature arguably likes to do anyway, evolution as we know it has close ties to Ecuador's territory of the Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin formed his famous theory. Ecuador's constitution grants nature the right to "integral restoration" and says that the state "will promote respect toward all the elements that form an ecosystem" and that the state "will apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems, or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles."

sources: Nature, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quilt Labels and clipart

I want to first off apologize for not blogging for so long. I have a good reason - I've been recovering from a kidney infection and haven't been up to much more than watching an excessive number of DVDs of television shows (Bones, StarGate, Nero Wolfe). I seem to be better now, so I'm back...

I'm almost a month late in shipping Quantum Lake off for its exhibit. The holdup was getting the label done and printed. I got the label(s) done today so I'm sharing my process as I've always gotten good comments about how nice my labels are. If you want to see a picture of Quantum Lake, I posted one on June 9 here on my blog.

I do my labels in Word using ClickArt from Broderbund to create the art around the label. Here's the 2 different labels I came up with for Quantum Lake so you can see what the end product is before I start talking about the details of the process. The backing fabric is various blue stars, so one version of the label is done on light blue fabric with stars around the text.

Quantum Lake itself has a combination of nature photos printed on fabric and a batik fabric that has spirals on it. So the second label echoes those design elements.

How did I create them? It's actually quite easy if you have some clipart borders available. The key thing to remember is that I create the text first in a Word document. Then I add the art that goes around it. I've never been able to edit the text once I add the art, so it's important to get the text done first. I often use a sans serif font because that's easier to read once it's been printed on fabric. I center the text, have the top line down about 2 inches from the top of the document so as to leave room for the surrounding border, and I generally size it at 18 or 20 for the font size. Once I've typed in the label text, I save the document so I can delete any art I add and get back to the basic text.

Next, I browse my clipart disk. Once I select a border or other art that I want to use, I insert the art by clicking on Insert on the top menu bar. I select Picture, and From File, then click on the image I want. (Side note: I got ClickArt 125,000 as a Christmas present years ago and have never felt the need to upgrade. There are several versions reviewed on Amazon and available for quite reasonable prices. ) Once I've inserted the art, I click on it and select Format, then select Picture. The options I always use are Behind Text, and Center because I center my text. Invariably, the art is the wrong size, so at this point I click on the lower right corner and drag it the right size. Then I reposition it if needed. If I like the result, I save the file and I'm done. Otherwise, I delete the added art and go look for something I like better.

This time, I did 2 versions and I'm still deciding which will actually go out on the quilt. Total time today to create the 2 label files, fuse the fabric to wonderunder and print, then blog about it: 2 hours 45 minutes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yes! magazine for Fall 2008

I'm back from a two week vacation, out from under the accumulated pile of mail, chores, and souvenirs, and I ended up taking a week to recover from a kidney infection. Not fun. The last couple of days I've felt good enough to get caught up on reading the magazines that have been patiently waiting for me and I wanted to recommend this issue of Yes! magazine. From the many articles dealing with Purple America and where we can agree on many things to the final tidbit about how to pick an electric bike, it's packed with interesting and informative and upbeat, even optimistic, good stuff. Check it out online if you haven't looked at it yet. Go to

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wind power in Colorado

Having just returned from a 2 week vacation in Colorado, I was pleased to see this article about renewable energy, specifically wind power, becoming mainstream there. That the power company not only met the 10% renewable energy goal but urged the governor to double it for them says a lot to me. I think this quote sums it up:

"We've reached this critical point where we're seeing the deployment of these technologies accelerate," said John Nielsen, an energy analyst with the nonprofit environmental group Western Resource Advocates. "There was slow progress over the last decade, and you're now seeing this tipping point."

To read the full article, go here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Do-it-yourself Electric Cars

Today's email had a report from EVWorld about the Plug-In 2008 conference and, as usual, there were little articles mentioned along the side. One caught my eye - the DIY Electric Car options. Turns out these are pay someone to do it for you options to convert your gas car to electric, but hey, it's a start. If you're interested, read the article here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

YouTube ad on going green

I get a weekly email from TerraPass (among many, many others) and today's had a story about an ad on YouTube from, a national organization that's pushing for all of us to unite in getting clean energy as soon as possible. I liked the ad so I'm making the link available here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Slow Food Nation coming up

I'm digging myself out from under all the mail, email and chores that accumulated while I was on vacation (why does it take several days to recover from a vacation? but I digress...) when today brought a link to a SF Chronicle article about the Slow Food Nation expo coming up. We already get almost all of our produce from a local CSA, and most of our meat from a local ranch so we're way ahead of most Americans in eating locally. And given that a huge amount of the fossil fuels used in the US are used in producing or transporting food, I can only hope more people make the transition to locally produced food (simultaneously eating healthier, reducing climate impact and reducing our reliance on foreign oil. Serious multitasking!). The article has a short list of things to do and links to lots more internet information on this issue. I'll just note that while prices have gone up at our CSA ($1 per box of produce), the price increases I'm seeing at the supermarket are higher.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Denvention3 - The World Science Fiction Convention

If you read science fiction, you've probably heard of the Hugo Awards. They're given out by The World Science Fiction Convention, henceforth called WorldCon, and this year, my husband Jeff and I were 2/3rds of the subcommittee that administered the awards. We were part of the Hugo subcommittee this year with Mary Kay Kare being the head of the committee. Yes, this meant she had minions.

As Jeff is fond of saying, the Hugo Awards are one of the 3 officially required things done at a WorldCon. (The other two are holding the business meeting and the site selection balloting for the convention to be held in 2 years.) So there's a big ceremony on Saturday night for presenting the awards. And a practice run through for the volunteers doing the work on Saturday afternoon. And a large group of volunteers carrying the awards from Mary Kay's room through the convention center to the theatre somewhere in there. Basically, it took all of Saturday for us but the people attending the con got a nice show on Saturday night.

Here’s a picture of the artist who designed the base for this year, Lee Kuruganti, and Mary Kay (to her right facing the camera) in the Green Room at the reception before the ceremony. The other people in the picture are some of the nominees, socializing and sharing their nervousness.

I worked backstage with Mary Kay, handing out awards and escorting nominees on and off stage, so I missed the speeches mostly but got to see the workings of the process. This was interesting to me as the first time we administered the Hugos, for the Atlanta WorldCon in 1986, the process was less elaborate.

Here’s a link to a close-up photo of this year’s Hugo award along with the list of awards.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vacation day #8 - green legislation in Boulder

While I was catching up on my online reading during a rainstorm here in Boulder, I ran across an article on about legislation in California that will help homeowners finance energy efficient improvements such as solar panels, new furnaces or insulation, etc. The next day, there was an article about similar legislation being put on the ballot in Boulder county this fall. Since this is one of those ideas that seems obvious to me, I was delighted to see that some places are moving forward on this. You can read about it here.

Today we head to Denver and the World Science Fiction Convention, Denvention 3. Jeff, my husband, and I are 2/3rds of the Hugo Subcommittee responsible for running the Hugo awards. This makes the convention partly business for us, but the rest will be socializing with friends and enjoying a weekend without children. I hope your weekend is also fun!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Vacation day #3 - today's bird is a red-tailed hawk

Today was a relaxed and quiet day with 2 walks to see birds. The early morning walk went down the block, past the big vegetable garden of the neighbor who has a daughter at Bastyr in Seattle, and across a field and an irrigation ditch into an area that claims it's a park but doesn't seem to have a name. This was where my husband took pictures of hot air balloons and I took pictures of a red-tailed hawk sitting in a tree. I'm thinking I'll use the bird photos I take in future quilts, but then I always think that...

Later in the day, Mary (my sister-in-law) and I went for a walk on the Bobolink Trail. It goes along a creek that's pretty full right now so there's lots of cover. We were there just before lunch time so the only birds visible were swallows and flickers. I'm thinking I'll go back tomorrow morning and see what else is around because it's a wonderful bird habitat.

When the rain rolled in (while the sun was still shining, welcome to Colorado...) we headed home and after lunch, a group of us went to Barnes and Noble, and my teenage niece Amy and I hit JoAnne's for some fabric and other sewing needs. She's really into making purses and bags right now and I have promised her some help with a sewing problem she's experienced. I also worked out a quick pattern for her to use a leftover quilt block as the center of a triangle shaped pillow. It was fun to be the family expert on this stuff and I'm looking forward to spending tomorrow doing sewing stuff with her.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Vacation day #2 - Visiting with lifelong friends

We had brunch today with Chris and Barb who've been friends of ours for close on 30 years. We've always stayed in touch no matter where we lived, but we were in frequent contact when we lived in the same spot. Now, we're in Seattle, and they're in Boulder, so it's been mostly email, some phone calls, and annual newsletters. It was great to see them in person and have a chance to catch up on what they've been doing.

It made me think of how many friends I have kept over the years, and how much I value the people who have known me so long. It's easy to forget how much change there's been over a lifetime. These friends help me get the perspective I need to see the change and the continuity.

We're going to be visiting with other long time friends later in the week. Not to mention the number of people we'll see at the WorldCon. It's going to be an interesting trip down memory lane in some ways.

When we work out the cable connection to my husband's phone, I'll have a photo of the 4 of us outside the cafe we ate brunch at.

And we fixed the sending email problem. Turns out that connecting through the household comcast connection required a different port number... Technology, you gotta love it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Colorado vacation - read only email (day #1)

So we're here in Boulder, Colorado visiting relatives before going to the Denver WorldCon next weekend, and I can read my email but haven't been able to send any mail to anyone. This is frustrating, as I have several people I chat with every day and I was counting on being able to do this even while traveling. That's the point of lugging the laptop and accessories along, at least as far as I'm concerned. Tomorrow, I'll try and debug the problem - whether it's the house network not staying up long enough, or my mail server being down with some sort of problem, or some other possibility I haven't thought of yet.

As for Colorado, things have changed a lot in the 10 years since we lived here. There are more houses, more roads, and more people. Other things I noticed: people riding motorcycles without helmets. That was a shocker, at least the first one I saw. Then I realized he wasn't wearing leathers either, and on a highway with a 70 mph speed limit. But, given that it was about 90 F at the airport when we landed, I can understand why someone would rather not.

Here's a view from the second story deck at my sister-in-law's house. They live near Baseline Reservoir so there's water nearby and mountains in the distance. Seems ideal to me at this point, but then I live in the PNW, with ocean and lakes nearby and mountains to the east.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I am in Love with Sailing!!!

I'm back from a week out of town taking a sailing class with my son James and our friend aspen. I have always loved the water and being near it or on it whether a river, lake or ocean. So spending several hours a day learning to sail and actually in a boat was bliss. And we all got our light wind certification out of it. We leave on vacation the end of the month so I probably won't get to schedule more sailing time until mid to late August which is disappointing but I'll survive by thinking of how great it will be to spend a whole day out on the lake.

Here's a couple of pictures of the small boats we learned to sail in. The model is called a Clancy and it was designed to be a boat someone could build in their garage over the winter then use to teach their child to sail. A great size to learn the basics in. These boats were built at an alternative school in Seattle and then donated to the organization that teaches the classes.

Here's a closeup view of the boats which are really only about 8 feet long.

The people in the class were all newbies, except for aspen, and I was pleased that we all focused on learning things well enough to be certified on Thursday. This meant we went out just as a group of friends on the instructors' boats on Friday. We spent time just sailing around, changing crew from boat to boat while out on the water (a fun but tricky experience) and had a glorious end to a wonderful week.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Setting up the studio cutting table

Kim L. on the quiltart list asked for suggestions/recommendations for a cutting table. For quilters, this is a big deal. We need a space to cut the fabric into little pieces, and then a space to sew all the little pieces together again in a different way. Also a space to iron the resulting fabric. And of course, a place to store the fabric that we're going to cut up someday. I'm a fan of Alton Brown (on the foodnetwork, if you're not familiar with him) so I thought I'd share a picture of my new multitasking solution for these things.

I have 3 wire basket holders (17" wide, 22" deep and 7 runners high which is about 30", I think). This makes a nice size desk surface on which I've put The Big Board ironing board. It's meant to be put on a regular ironing board but I found that a tad unstable and awkward for my left handedness. Not to mention I had to have a separate bit of floor space for it. I had a flash of brilliance and realized it fit perfectly on top of the wire basket ensemble so I moved it there. Then I noticed that my big cutting board could go on top of the wire baskets too, if I didn't mind a bit of overhang at the back. Since I rarely cut the full width of fabric, I generally don't need the full cutting surface so that worked too. So my cutting board can slide under the Big Board and I pull it out when it's needed. Then I realized I was just one step away from having a giant flippable board with a cutting surface on one side, and an ironing surface on the other. I've always liked the smaller version of that and used it when taking classes so I've asked my son James to cut some plywood for me and we'll be fixing that up after we finish our sailing class this next week. I have this setup at right angles to my sewing table so I just pivot and depending on what I'm doing I can iron, cut, fuse or try various layouts, all on the same work surface. So far, it's also had the excellent side benefit of forcing me to keep the surface cleared off so I can get other work done. Since I have a problem with not putting things away when I'm in a creative flow, this has been a benefit.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Solar power & relocalizing

I'm heading out of town tomorrow for a week of sailing, so I wanted to leave you all with a nice meaty link about solar power. I had left the newsletter from in my mailbox the last week of June, intending to blog about it then but of course, I forgot. READ IT HERE is working to be a central info and networking center for people working to build sustainability in their communities. This newsletter focuses on solar power, where we are with it, what needs to happen to make it grow, and there's even a link to a solar oven. I personally think we need to switch to decentralized solar, wind or wave power as those are completely renewable resources and decentralizing means we don't have companies like Enron deciding to manipulate prices by squeezing the production of energy. But that would be my hippy roots showing again...

Have a great week. I know I plan to!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More about alternative energy & Germany

I've spent a lot of time sailing the last week, so I have a new appreciation of wind power. It was a nice coincidence to go to and find THIS ARTICLE reporting on a Wind Power Conference that just happened in Ontario. I found this paragraph in the article particularly encouraging:

Germany shattered the theory that renewable energy is a niche player by achieving a 14% share of renewables in its electricity market in 2007. Germany’s vision for renewable energy reinvigorated rural communities throughout the country through the creation of 249,000 jobs and generated $38.8 billion USD in associated economic activity in 2007 alone. After achieving its target 12.5% renewable share of total electricity three years early, the country revised its future targets to 27% renewables by 2020 and 45% renewables by 2030, according to its Federal Ministry for the Environment.

To read the article, go to this webpage.

I hope you're having some summer fun too...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Germany drops oil use 18% in 10 years

While resting my knee from the mild overuse I got sailing yesterday, I've been catching up on some online reading. A pointer to an article about Germany switching to sustainable energy sources caught my eye. They've been doing a concerted push from both private and government areas to convert to renewable energy and improve fuel efficiency. I found THIS ARTICLE heartening for several reasons. First, they've made significant strides in 10 years without going on a crash program. Second, Germany gets about as much sunlight as we do here in Seattle. Yes, I know, we have those grey clouds but we still get sun through them. So, it's a good comparison for my geographic area, at least when it comes to solar power.

I'll list here the part of the article giving the sustainable factors the author thinks are important. If they can do it, so can we, so this might be a good list to work from for those interested in doing so. I'll only point out that several of these require government action.

Sustainable Factors (some more sustainable than others)
- People using mass transit and high speed rail
- People buying more fuel-efficient cars and driving slower on the Autobahn
- Government incentives for using renewables, insulating homes, subsidies for commuting reduced, road pricing for trucks introduced.
- High take rate up for wind and solar due to feed in tariffs
- Heating fuel switching to solar & wood/pellets
- Heating technology switching to CHP (Combined Heat & Power or cogeneration) and heat pumps
- Stable and aging population, less consumption growth and less growth in commuting
- Mindset to save costs, people heating and lighting their homes less and desire to help environment
- Sadly, warmer than average winters due to global warming
- Expertise in producing energy efficient technologies and bringing them available to market

And yes, the sailing was wonderful. We're finally into summer weather here in the Pacific NorthWest and being out on the water, with sun and warmth was fabulous.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Electric Vehicles display at Seattle car show

We're getting our house ready to sell so I've been busy decluttering, painting and giving away stuff on freecycle. I've not kept up with the blogs I normally read so I didn't see this article in the Electric Vehicle blog I follow until last night. The car show in Seattle today will have a special display of all kinds of currently available Electric Vehicles both commercial and personally done conversions and creations. Including scooters. If you're going to be in Seattle, and you're interested in transportation that's not gasoline powered, this would be something to check out.

Unfortunately for my interest in these things, I already have plans to go sailing. *smile*

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Three graduations this last week... busy, busy, busy

Last weekend was graduation weekend for all our kids: my son James in high school, my daughter Allie's second university degree, and our "adopted" son aspen's long-time coming university degree. In addition to driving to Bellingham for the university graduation ceremony, we had relatives in town for the high school graduation. So, there was time spent cleaning up before and after the relatives arrived and left. I did get some work done. I did the piece below for aspen's graduation. (And yes, aspen has shown up before as he's the owner of the three wheeler that I've posted about.)

He's been getting his degree while working full-time so this is a long awaited achievement and I wanted to celebrate it with him. The trees on the sides are aspens, as are the golden leaves. He wrote the words printed in the middle so this is a very personal piece of art. I hand dyed the fabric the words are printed on as well as the green and yellow that I used for the leaves above and below it. I'm pleased with how well those fabrics coordinated with the aspen pictures I got from wikipedia.

In addition to all the running around to get everyone ready for graduation, and get the house ready, James and I went into Seattle and bought his graduation present, an electric bicycle. We got him a folding bike version which has much smaller wheels than a regular bike. And it's lower powered than the other electric bikes available from the dealer. The advantage is that he can fold it up and take it on a bus with him. (We overheard talk about the bike racks filling up on the buses in Seattle. ) He's enjoying riding it around, and having his own wheels rather than having to negotiate with us for the use of the car. Not to mention no money spent for gas. :-) Here's a picture of James with his new bike.

We bought it at Electric Bikes NW. They also do a whole selection of folding bikes in addition to the electric bikes. Part of why we got the folding one is that it's the only one they had in stock. Everything else is on order, and there are waiting lists for the bikes they've ordered. So, if you're thinking about doing this, I'd do it soon if I were you...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Quantum Lake: newest completed fiber art

Having mentioned this piece, Quantum Lake, in another post, I now feel obligated to post about it. Even though I'm not thrilled with the photo I've got, I'm posting it because I've been busy with other stuff for the last month and haven't gotten to taking a new one. I took the photos I used in this piece and pushed some artistic limits for myself in improvisational cutting when it came time to put the pieces together. It's a new direction for me and I'm pretty happy with how it came out.

Part of the motivation for posting this piece is that I wanted to talk about another personal victory that I experienced on Saturday. During my morning walk at the greenbelt referred to by Quantum Lake, I met a nature photographer who does mostly birds. In order to continue in the new direction, I need more detailed shots of birds to use. So, I got my nerve up and asked him if he was interested in collaborating. I gave him my webpage address and went home to await his response. Not only did he agree to let me use his photos, but he was very complimentary about my work.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Practice piece for FM quilting

I have a couple of pieces in the works, one of which has already been accepted into a show and I'll post about that later. I'm still working on my larger piece, finishing the quilting with hopes of submitting it to Houston later this week. Last night, I did some practice stitching using spirals and 2 different types of thread. I wanted to use 3 different threads, but the Signature polyester, size 30, kept breaking even with the size 100 needle. The picture below shows the different background fabrics with the sulky variegated rayon on the left, and the Signature variegated cotton on the right. (The smaller spirals on the turquoise fabric on the top are different Signature cotton that I decided not to use because it was too red.)

I'll have to work on getting the spirals smaller which is not surprising. Due to my medical issues, I haven't done serious FM quilting in several years so there's lots of rust on these skills. But another couple of practice runs, and I'll be ready to step up the real piece. I'm still trying to decide which thread to go with when I start the quilting on the piece today. The rayon is prettier, but I don't want the background quilting to pop out too much as there's already some quilting elements on the quilt. And those elements are done using rayon so there's one part that says match the thread and the other side that says, use the less obtrusive thread to highlight the other figures. Decisions, decisions...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beads! I learned to make glass beads!

It's been a month since I took the weekend course in making glass beads. I had another course the next weekend, so I brought home my beads, put them in a container and stuck them in a drawer. And of course, I couldn't blog about the beadmaking without a picture of the beads, so, they stayed stuck in the drawer until I got my camera out this weekend to take some pictures of things to sell on craigslist. While I was shooting, I realized I could just do a quick shot of the beads and finally talk about the course.

The 2 beads in the foreground were made by the instructor as demos during the class. My earliest beads are the little misshapen blue ones at the top with the rest mostly in order by when I made them in the class. As you can see, my bead making progressed quite quickly. I was applying the principal that we learn by doing so I made as many beads as possible. And by the end of the class, I was balancing and shaping the bead without having to think about it. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to afford to buy the bigger torch setup like the teacher had us working on... She had us working on a 2 tank setup which burns much hotter than my little one tanker at home. And of course, it uses a different torch head. The total cost for the new tanks and torch would be about $500.

My motivation for taking the course was to duplicate some earrings I bought at a craft fair in the early 80's and have been unable to find anything like since. These earring have a large flat disk on them so I was wanting to make the disks from glass and do some interesting things with frit or stringers to give the disks some surface design. Unfortunately, what I learned is that the disks I want are too thin to do in glass. So, now I'm left with the desire to do even bigger things in glass. Either as sculpture, or as a major design element in one of my fiber art pieces. Only time will tell what happens... One of the other members of the quiltart list recommended taking a beginner class in a different medium to spark creativity. I have to second the suggestion. I got a lot out of the class besides learning to make beads. Talking to the instructor about design, marketing and the local craft markets were among the highlights.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Car free? Or Car-lite? How to choose...

As part of my family’s ongoing effort to reduce our carbon footprint, I’ve been investigating alternatives to having a second car. It has always seemed silly to me to pay for a car for my husband to drive to work where it sits all day in the garage on campus and then drive home where the car sits in the driveway. A whole 4 miles each way. But there isn’t convenient bus service where we live. (Perhaps someone at the Metro Bus management can explain to me the point of doing park & ride bus terminals without feeder routes that basically require you to have a car so you can get to the bus… But I digress.) So, we’ve had 2 cars that between them go 13000 miles a year.

A friend building his own 3wheeled motorcycle started me thinking about alternatives. And a search through the library yielded a very useful and interesting book: How to Live Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish. While giving good reasons to not own a car (from finances to health to environmental), mostly this book covers how to make the mental transitions necessary to not need a car. Or at least to not need a second car. If you’ve ever felt trapped by your car, or hated spending the $8000 a year that the AAA says is the average, well, you will find this book full of solutions. With real-life examples on almost every page, Chris gives tips for every aspect of life and how to do it car free. But this isn't a one size fits all book. The author gives a good way to evaluate the true cost of owning a car, along with a way to go car-lite, using only as much car as you really need. This is probably the route we'll be going, at least as long as we live over a mile (up and down some very steep hills) from the nearest bus stop for a bus going the way we need to go. This weekend, we'll be taking a second look at some alternatives to the second car, and possibly making a decision on which way to go. I'll keep you posted on what we decide.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Volunteering and new links to interesting organizations

I'm doing some volunteer work for as part of my being involved and working with what skills I have. I used to be a computer programmer, and I've done all kinds of volunteer stuff from being Troop Cookie Mom to being an Executive Director of a non-profit, so this was an easy way to begin finding local groups and maximizing the effect of my efforts. I spent this morning adding links to the page you can see here.

There are some national organizations that looked really interesting: for one. They're focused on getting national legislation moving by 2010 with the intent of fighting climate change, and improving our energy independence. And I was very heartened to see what great strides local groups in the Bellingham area are making. was the most notable of these.

I've organized the links into several categories which seemed like a good way to split things up to me. If you like going through lists of links, give this one a look and I'd appreciate feedback. Or some suggestions too. We do have a regional focus, but particularly noteworthy national or international links would be welcome too. And if your organization wants to link to us, feel free. The more the merrier...

Friday, May 16, 2008 ten tips for individual action on going green

I'm feeling pretty bad today so I'll have to wait on my post about going car free or car lite. Instead, I'll point you all at a quick and easy read from grist. org,
on what individuals can do right now to help move their cities into a more sustainable and climate friendly zone. Two of the ten quotes say to use your car less, or not at all so I guess that post is a good idea.

Other ideas basically boil down to get informed and get involved. I'm working on helping others with the first one (hey, I got a haircut this week and even my hairdresser was asking what she could do) and doing the second. This is definitely something where we all need to work together.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Alternative Transportation, or yet another way to go green

I went down to the Columbia River this last weekend, to help a friend re-assemble his custom 3-wheel motorcycle. I guess it’s officially a motorcycle, even though it’s made using a diesel engine from a Mercedes car. We had a lot of fun bolting all the pieces together, and when it’s finally finished, he’ll have an efficient, fun vehicle that gets 75+ miles to the gallon and can run on biofuel.

This is a picture of the work in progress. There are still some pieces that need painting and then should be added on to what’s here. Aspen, the friend in question, is planning on using this as his primary form of transportation. The back platform is 9 square feet and will haul a substantial amount of stuff. He’s also put a trailer hitch on the back so he can pull even more. And with the MB220D engine, he’s got the power to do it, too.

His father, John Price, built the first one pictured above. I got a ride on his and it was as much fun as a motorcycle without being nearly as scary in the turns. He's got close to 10,000 miles on it so he considers the design well proven. If you’re interested in learning more, check out John’s webpage,

To add the obligatory art interest to this post, I'll just mention that I made 2 patches for them featuring the art John has used on his webpage. This was an interesting challenge, using heavier materials than I usually work with (canvas rather than quilting cotton, or silks) and I learned some things about stitching on leather. My brain is now scheming for ways to use the rest of the leather needles I bought...

Here's the patch on the back of aspen's vest. It's 9 inches square, roughly. Canvas fused to canvas, edge stitched with polyester thread in a satin stitch, and then fused to the leather with heavy duty wonder under and then stitched down around the edges with polyester top stitching thread using the leather needles with my big Bernina. The only trouble spot was the seam in the leather vest down the middle behind the patch which caused my machine to hesitate on a couple of stitches. Otherwise, it was a fun and fairly quick project.

Friday, May 9, 2008

National Geographic Greendex: what's your score? had a story about the National Geographic Greendex in yesterday's email letter so I went and checked it out. Solid information is always good to have, and being now 2 months along in the going green process, I was curious how we'd do comparatively. I used the calculator they provide and got a score of 68. This beats out all the countries they ranked so that makes me feel good in a way. In another way, knowing that we're only doing the easy, frugal things right now, it's a bit depressing to think that, on average, everybody else is doing less. On the third hand, the more room there is for improvement, the easier it is to make a significant change. So, what's your score?

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Gospel of Consumption (Orion magazine)

I've been doing a lot of research lately on going green, and still am to a certain extent. Besides Yes! magazine which I've reviewed earlier, I'm reading Orion magazine. ( I like the way their articles cover various perspectives on Nature, Culture and where we belong in both.

This article covers the history of the deliberate creation of the Consumer Culture which is, in my absolutely not at all humble opinion, destroying us here in the States. I particularly like that the author gives the example of the Kellogg company which gave employees a shorter workweek in the 30s mostly in response to the Depression. It didn't last company wide after WWII and the great push to turn us all into busy little consumers, but it did persist in some departments at Kellogg until the mid 80's. My own experience (30 years worth) as an employee is that 30 hours a week is a very livable pace leaving room for connecting with family and friends, pursuing other interests and having a full and better quality of life.

While I look to Yes! for things that people are doing and ways to create the changes I'd like to see, Orion gives me the broader perspective which helps with seeing how all the pieces fit. Check it out, see if it would be helpful for you. They have back issues and some of the current issue online so it's easy to do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Yes! magazine and optimism

Sometimes the news is depressing. So I'm glad I've discovered Yes! magazine, which focuses on what solutions are working in different areas of life. (Their phrase on the cover is "Building a Just and Sustainable World". Yes, my hippie roots are showing.) The lastest issue, #45, is focused on Climate Solutions and I am really happy to see an article aimed at the mainstream family and how to completely reduce reliance on fossil fuels in 10 years. Baby steps, that I can do. There's also an article by Pete Seeger, and another about plug-in cars. This is the 3rd issue I've read and I finally subscribed. Normally, I don't subscribe to magazines as they're usually just a vehicle for lots of ads for stuff we don't really need. (See, hippie roots... ) This one is aimed at building community, solving problems and spreading the word. That kind of optimism and can-do attitude is exactly what I needed right now.

Check them out at

Friday, April 11, 2008

Life runs over me...

The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic. I took a glass bead making class last weekend and spent 2 days creating over 20 beads. the first few were pathetic, and the last few were pretty darn nice. But more about that later...

The last week has been spent taking care of our cat Cloudy (unofficially called FluffyButt). She had what appeared to be yet another bladder infection so off to the vet we went. Yes, there was an infection but there were also lots and lots and lots of teeny tiny stones in her bladder. Which required surgery. She came home today and will be on special food from now on so we don't do this again. The picture above is of the stones which are about the size of large grains of sand. Well, okay, a couple of grains of sand clumped together. She has my sympathies for the pain she must have had.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Permaculture analysis applied to social network

I finished a piece for submitting to a show this weekend, and I've been catching up on chores and reading. Since it's spring here in the PNW, I've been doing some gardening and thinking about what I want to do differently. This led me to where I found the article I've put a link for at the end. It's about using the permaculture concepts of areas and zones to analyze your urban (or in my case suburban) environment with an eye to understanding energy use and interactions with other social entities. There are great sketches and a nice example from the author with links to things that he found helpful in changing his life to consume less energy and be more locally oriented without feeling deprived.

One of the things I'm looking for is what others have already figured out about how to cut fossil fuel dependency and to relocalize without moving to a farm and homesteading. (Not that I would mind that, but my technology oriented husband might have a few objections.) This looks like a good tool for figuring out what needs to be changed. If you know of others, please post a comment and tell me about them.

Check out

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inkjet printing on fabric - stabilizing options

I've been working with printing pictures on fabric as part of my new direction for my art. One of the issues in doing this is stabilizing the fabric so it will feed smoothly through the printer. I've traditionally used freezer paper, ironed to the back of the fabric, but this has always had a certain failure rate due to lack of adhesion of the fabric, the printer head ruffling the edges of the fabric, and just a tendency to slipping. Now that I'm doing photos rather than just some clip art, and I'm using the photo setting on my printer, these tendencies to problems have gotten worse. Someone on the inkjet transfer yahoo group suggested full size labels instead. So, I tried them out. They certainly feed better, but there's a tendency to distort the fabric when the label is peeled off. I also found a noticeable adhesive residue on the silk that was printed with the full size label.

Below are 2 images of pieces done each way. The top fabric in each picture was ironed to freezer paper. The bottom fabric was printed using the full size label.

This is the fabric straight out of the printer with the stabilizers still attached. Notice the darker edges on the freezer paper one which is where the fabric crumbled somewhat.

This second shot is after removing the stabilizers. Notice the curling on the one done with the full size label. I fixed this problem somewhat with some ironing but you should keep in mind that ironing too soon after printing can degrade the image.

Next time, I'll be trying printing on fabric with wonder-under as a stabilizer as I usually fuse it anyway...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Organic honey, or what about free-range bees?

Have I mentioned lately? I get an environmental news email from them regularly and I love them. They’re amusing, informative and local to Seattle. So, the last week of February, when I was getting ready to do some baking, and wanted to use honey instead of sugar, I ended up writing a letter to their advice columnist. It got published the next week, so I share the link with you.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Progress is slow sometimes

I've been trying to print a picture on fabric using the multipage poster capability of my epson. This usually works fine, but this time, for some reason, the fabric is not sticking to the freezer paper like it normally does. This means wrinkled corners, jamming, all the joys of technology being sulky.

And I'm having to focus on getting ready for running a fundraising auction at a science fiction convention this weekend. It's a great convention, and a good cause, but it's the first time I've done it so, of course, everything is taking longer than expected to get ready. Check out to see what I'm doing this weekend instead of working on my art.

Friday, February 22, 2008

starting a blog

I've done fanzines and amateur press associations (think of them as paper blog rings) for close to 30 years, and I'm now finally ready to move to the clouds with my chat, book reviews, and info on the progress of my art pieces. As I explain on my webpage,, I can't publish pieces until they've been accepted to a show/gallery as some of them won't accept pieces already out there on the web. So, instead I'm going to talk about my experiments with new techniques, or trying out a new idea. Whatever I'm working on that isn't a finished piece. That means more frequent updating than my webpage gets which will allow friends to keep up with what I'm doing since I'm notoriously bad at staying in touch. *grin*

This next week, I'll be trying out some inkjet transfers to fabric, and some digital printing on fabric. Look for some pictures to show how it goes.