Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guess Who's coming to Dinner?

When we lived in Lubbock Steve took part time Job at Dimba's Chick-n-Sea. That's how we came to know Stellah and Alex Dimba. They were born and raised in Kenya, but both emigrated as young adults and met each other in America. We lived only a block apart, so Stellah and I started exercising together every morning. We grew to be good friends those 3 years we lived in Lubbock and so now whenever we pass through Lubbock we stop at Dimba's for a bite to eat and a chance to see our old friends. This summer was no exception. Zach and I had gone to Lubbock to spend a day shopping and we stopped in to see the Dimba's and that was when we made plans to join them for dinner at that their house when we went back to Lubbock a week later to pick Steve up at the Air Port. They have cousins who live in Lubbock and they were coming over for dinner too. We had gathered around the kitchen helping to prepare the meal when we saw the cousins pull up in their car. Little Kia, pictured above with Stellah and her daughter Connie came tearing into Auntie Stellah's house. She turned to look and saw me, Steve and Zach standing there and she shrieked "There's White People in there!" and ran right back out to her mother. There was a pregnant pause in the house as what had happened soaked in and then almost as if on cue we all busted up laughing! Poor Kia, somebody really ought to have warned her. She was quite traumatized and cried for several minutes, I think more of embarrassment than anything. Once the shock wore off she was dancing around the house as if nothing ever happened. I bet she remembers us for a long time, I know I will never forget her!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where the Buffalo Roam

Growing up on the flat, crispy eastern side of New Mexico I got used to people complaining that it was ugly. Mind you, the locals never said that, it was always coming from somebody who grew up around trees and running water. They had a fixed notion of beauty and to their unaccustomed eyes the beauty of the llano estacado was not readily apparent. But those of us raised on the high plains knew there was beauty to be seen in all 360 glorious degrees. What I could not have realized until I left the plains was how much I would miss being able to see all around me, my view never impinged upon by a mountain or forest. I could not have known how very claustrophobic I would feel when my line of sight was slashed to ribbons by trees zipping by as I traveled down a road, or how frustrated I would get when I would catch a glimpse of something I wanted to see better but never could because the road led me down into a valley, the object of my curiosity cut off every time...

When I go home I revel in the austere landscape. The beauty there is sublime, and always rewards the one who bothers to look, a sunflower caught in the last rays of the sun, Johnson grass silhouetted against a variegated sky are easy even for the uninitiated to recognize as beautiful, but consider the chartreuse buffalo gourd nestled in velvety taupe colored leaves, that is also the beauty of the llanoEstacado. Its there, just waiting for you to open your eyes and see it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Let me count the ways

Ok, this one is pretty much a no brainer and I will thank those of you in the peanut gallery to stifle your snickering. Yes its a crazy quilt block but it actually represents me on many levels, not just the obvious one; let me count the ways...

1.The center block features Keys, my nickname is Kee, so there.

2. Each seam is embellished, I am and have always been a Lilly guilder, if a little is good, more is not nearly enough, any of you who have seen my Christmas tree know that I am speaking truth and light.

3.My first real attempt at quilting was a crazy quilt.

4. My first brush with quilting greatness was Judith Baker Montano and a Crazy quilt Conference in Omaha. I could not afford to attend, but a Friend got me through the door because I volunteered to be a gopher...I got to chat up Judith for a while, we talked about kids, not quilts interestingly enough. JBM by the way literally wrote the book on crazy quilting. Another name well know in the Crazy quilt world is Betty Pillsbury, she lived across the street from me for 4 years while we were stationed at Offutt AFB in Omaha. I actually got to sit in on her class on ribbon embroidery at the conference, and that is about all the time I spent with her in all those 4 years. We waved from across the street when we were outside at the same time but nothing more...

5. And of course there is the crazy thing...both the good kind and the bad. The good kind that lets me cut loose and have a good time, and the bad that riddles me with anxiety over the dumbest things...

All in all its probably the most accurate of all the blocks I chose for myself, but in the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you that I had to actually make another crazy block for my quilt. The one pictured above would have been perfect but in a fit of distracted zeal I trimmed it too small, slicing the seam allowance clean off...making the do-over block that will actually be in the quilt even more an accurate representation of me, since "oh crap" seems to hang in the air around me as I sew almost all the time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I was going through a period of self discovery several years ago and was talking to Steve about what I ought to focus my attention on. I have dabbled in so many things that I enjoy I was not getting really good at any of them. I have tried to learn something new everywhere we go, its just a way for me to keep stretching myself. Some of them have stayed with me and others I have let go. Its been a good plan pretty much, giving me a great breadth of experience, if not so much depth. But if I were to master something, what would it be? That's the question I put to Steve and what he said really resonated with me " You always come back to quilting." He was right, no matter what I dabble in, I always come back to quilting. So a block in my diary/family tree quilt about my love for quilting had to make the cut. As I was looking through the Diary quilt book at the quilts pictured in the book, all made by various quilters I laughed at how many of them included a pin cushion block in their own quilt. I guess it's a motif that speaks to all quilters, even fresh, new aspiring quilters.

This summer I had the pleasure of coaching my niece Brandy through her first quilting project. We went to the store to lay in supplies and headed to the notions department, a place I have loved all my life. There we pored over all the notions, the tape measures and seam rippers and hem gauges choosing the things a beginning quilter would need. Then came time to choose a pin cushion...there were two choices, the classic tomato with strawberry emery, or a new design, a big colorful five petaled flower. I waited and watched while Brandy made her choice, I really did think she would go for the big bold flower, but no...much to my delight she opted in on tradition and went for the classic, that bodes well for the little grasshopper, she chose well!

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Return of the Swamp Thing

Those of you who did not grow up in the desert southwest ( that's pretty much just you Junie) may be unfamiliar with the hulking contraption pictured above. In the vernacular it's known as a Swamp Cooler, but is more properly called an "Evaporative Cooler" When I was growing up all the houses had one perched on the roof. Forget Memorial Day as the start of summer, for us it was the servicing of the swamp cooler that heralded the months of summer fun. Its a pretty simple machine; a pump pumps water up to a six armed manifold called a spider that then drizzles the water over fiber mats that line the walls of the cooler, a belt driven fan then draws the air cooled by evaporation down into the duct work of the house and out blows nice cool air. In theory it works...but mechanical failures are frequent, and low humidity is a must. Back in the day we knew how to fix our cooler ourselves and often did, replacing the pump, pads, float valves, spider and belt as needed...but years of living away, I had thought I lost my mad swamp cooler skills. But that proved not to be entirely true, I still managed to replace some parts and I would have been able to claim a complete victory, but the belt was slipping and Mom had to call in the repairman after all, but I got 2 out of three! Still the days of the swamp cooler are numbered. More and more people are installing refrigerated air units and even though I will miss the ego boosts that come from vanquishing the Swamp Thing I am looking forward to an A/C . Those trips up the ladder and onto the roof are getting scarier with each passing year!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sunshine and Shadow

Now that I have done blocks that represent my ancestry, and my extended family, Its time to move a little closer to home...well a lot closer actually. This is the first block I chose to do to represent me. Its called Sunshine and Shadow. I chose it because my life has been a pretty good mix of both good and bad. As I was thinking on it though I came to realize there are not many in this world, if indeed any at all, who could not say the same thing. We all have our sunshine and shadows. For me, my biggest shadows were losing my dad way too soon, and then an ongoing decades old relationship with cancer. Of course that one also falls in the sunshine column, for who when once diagnosed with cancer would not want to have decades to deal with it, rather years or months. But there are things that land solidly in the sunshine camp, things like my family, my friends and my marriage to a very good man, and our son who makes us proud on a daily basis. I had 14 years with Milford, the best dog ever and a chance to travel the world and live in some amazing places, so when it all shakes out, I can happily say I have had more sunshine than shadow, and hope that is true for all the people I love.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Epic Journey

A view of my Command Module in the Clubman

Anyone who knows me even just a little knows I don't like to drive. Being a one car family for most of my married life, I did not log a lot of hours behind the wheel and consequently my skill and confidence slowly deteriorated. That all began to change when after five long years we bought the car I had been jones'n for. (or should that read "for which I had been Jones'n)

My little Mini Clubman has got me back on the road and in a big way! Of course it helps that my family is almost all the way across the continent from where I am. That is about the only thing that would motivate me to get behind the wheel of my car and start my epic journey. I drove all the way from South Cackalacka to New Mexico all by myself, a huge undertaking made even more monumental by my deep seated aversion to doing it.

Steve tabbed the road atlas and punched in my addresses in the garmin, I packed up the Clubman including a celebratory bottle of beer to be enjoyed in the hotel in Memphis after my first leg of the journey and off I went. I did fine, not a single glitch or wrong turn. I have to say the weirdest part of the whole journey was stopping for meals and eating by myself...If that's all I have to dread, who knows I may do it again! But for now, I have my eyes on a quilt shop in Charleston. I will just leave the beer in the fridge though and drink it when I get home.

Friday, September 3, 2010

For Ireland

When I was deciding on a block for my Irish roots naturally I thought "Irish Chain!" But the thing with Irish chain blocks is that they really need their neighbors to get the full feel of the pattern. I worried that nobody but me would know that it was an Irish chain block, since it would be standing alone. So what do you do when you want to make something look more Irish than it already does? You slap a shamrock on it of course! I had just learned how to paint on fabrics using oil pastels and I was eager to try it and this provided the perfect opportunity. Not bad for my first time.

Now on to our Irish roots. We have Irish blood in our veins to be sure. Granny said her grandfather was a "full blooded A'rshman" And on Papa's side of the family are the O'Neils, but the family I have been able to trace back the farthest are the Rileys. Grandma Gertrude was a Riley, and this particular branch traces all the way back to the very first Riley's who settled in Colonial America in the Chesapeake bay area. We all knew we had plenty of Irish blood, and we've got the freckles to prove it and I would not be surprised if there are some late comers; refugee's from the potato famine dotting our family tree, but most of our Irish heritage goes back much much further. The family lore that I heard from Uncle Bob, who heard it from his Grandpa Ez Riley was that the Riley's were miners in Ireland and they were recruited to come to America to take advantage of the huge coal deposits. Most of them settled in Kentucky, so perhaps there is a grain of truth to the story. Of course Ezra is also the man who says he was such a skilled Horse trader that he was asked to depart (read banned) from Kentucky. Thats what brought him to Missouri where he met and married Nell Banta. If Grandpa Ezra was such a smooth talker it actually lends more credence not less to the stories of his Irish ancestors. After all, isn't that what we are know for?