Texas report

/ Tuesday 30 November 2010 /
We had a wonderful time in the Dallas area, visiting family for American Thanksgiving.  Our hotel was near a little town called Grapevine.
We were also just down the road from the Gaylord Texan resort, so we went in there to see it all dressed up for Christmas.  Oh my word!
plus-sized ornaments
mariachi band at the Gaylord Texan
Watch out for the wicked witch!
Gingerbread cowboy boot!
I loved these shotgun shell Christmas lights!
only in Texas
It was great to be with family.  My Aunt June loved the Christmas wreath that I made for her.  I almost didn't do it, because I was so busy with work in the days leading up to our trip, plus I felt so guilty for working on something besides all the bee blocks I have in arrears.  But I'm so glad I did it - it made her so happy to have something made by her late sister.  Within the last four years, my aunt has lost her husband and the younger of her two sons - both of pancreatic cancer - and her sister (my mother).  She up and left everything in Tennessee - too many memories - and moved to be near her son in Texas.  I was thrilled to hear that she has been keeping company with a gentleman, a rancher who wears cowboy boots, of course!  My cousin's eldest son had just been married, so we got to welcome his lovely bride into the family.  We did puzzles, played Scrabble, watched Dallas lose to New Orleans, and ate loads of delicious food.
deep-fried turkey
We got lost just about everywhere we went.  My husband says it's because the roads weren't signposted particularly well, but I wonder if we are just getting older and more decrepit.  Next time we are definitely getting a GPS unit with our rental car.  However, one place we did not get lost was the Grapevine Mills Mall, which was right across the parking lot from our hotel.  Eve and I decided we would participate in the great American tradition known as Black Friday by hitting the stores at midnight on Friday morning. It was deadly, trying to stay awake when we were stuffed full of turkey, but once we got there, we perked right up.  We shopped until about 3am.  It was pretty busy!  But the mood was fun and festive - I couldn't see any of the desperation that you hear about with pushing and shoving to get bargains.  I wasn't really shopping for anything - paying duty and overweight luggage surcharges act as a counterbalance to all but the most astounding Black Friday deals.  However, my daughter certainly did quite well.  Nevertheless, we both agreed that we were glad we had done it, but that it doesn't bear repeating!
Ft. Worth Stockyards
We also went to the Stockyards in Ft. Worth and dined at Cattlemen's Steakhouse before taking in the rodeo!  We peeked into the bar at the Stockyards Hotel, but we were in too big a hurry to take advantage of the bucket of Buffalo Butt Beer.
Bar of the Stockyards Hotel, Ft. Worth
This handsome fellow is Elvis, and he was the mount of the current Miss Fort Worth Championship Rodeo.  He had an important job to do at the beginning of the rodeo as the crowd sang the national anthem.
National Anthem
The events at the rodeo included bull riding, calf roping, barrel riding, and a crazed event where hundreds of children chased a sheep around the ring, trying to remove a tag from its tail in order to claim a prize.
At the rodeo
These guys are so much bigger in real life than they seem on television!
Star attraction
I never figured myself for a girl who goes for cowboys, but some of these guys......!
Bull riders getting ready
And they start young!  My pal Jennifer clued me in that the letters on his sleeve probably stand for Professional Bull Riding instead of Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is what I thought!
Junior cowman
These fellows had to stay on the bull for 8 seconds in order to get on the scoreboard.  It doesn't seem like much time, but most of them didn't qualify.  Those bulls were pretty angry!

Bull riding
Bull riding
Barrel riding was the women's event.  These women had to race their horses around each of three barrels and back to end of the ring.  The best times of the evening were less than 15 seconds.

It was an exciting evening!  A glimpse into another world - far from the university where I spend most of my time, for sure!
Isaac's new boots
I did make it to a small quilt shop in Carrollton, TX, but I will tell you about that in another post.  For now, I will leave you with this video of bull riding!

My Mother's Christmas Wreath

/ Monday 22 November 2010 /
I am off to Texas tonight, to spend American Thanksgiving with my Aunt June, and my cousin Kenny and his family.  And I am taking this with me.
Christmas Wreath
Although I do not celebrate Christmas, everyone on my mother's side does.  If you have been reading my blog, you may know that my mother was a quilter, and she left a number of projects incomplete when she passed suddenly in 2008.  Her husband, David, has sent me boxes and boxes of her crafting and sewing supplies.  It makes me feel close to her to use her rulers and cutters, and especially to finish her projects.  I have finished a few of them for her.  This time last year, I finished off this Christmas quilt and sent it to David, so he could wrap up in another quilt she had made.  This year, I finished this little wall quilt/table topper to give to my aunt, my mother's elder sister.
RAiny wreath
This wreath comes from a mystery project in the fall issues of Quiltmaker in 2000.  In one of the boxes that David sent, I found the three issues of the magazine with the clues and a whole whack of Christmas fabric. My mother had pieced the spiky border and the quarter-square triangles that make up the body of the wreath.  All I had to do was make the blocks with the bow and assemble it all together.  Thanks to all the heavy lifting my mother did, I was able do everything in one day.  The bow has a kind of 3-D vibe going on - it had some fancy assembly that makes it kind of poof out (in a good way).
3-D bow has a bit of poof
There were a couple of snags along the way.  First, I think my mother and I differ on what constitutes 1/4" - our blocks didn't line up perfectly all the time.  And I couldn't find, in any of the boxes that David sent, any more of the red-and-green-sprigged-on-white background that Mom used for the spiky border.  There was some other red-sprigged white, although it wasn't the same stark white.  So I used that, and I'm hoping that it doesn't look too odd. You can see the different fabrics in the photo below:
Different background lights
 I quilted the heck out of it to try to draw the eye away from the different fabrics.  I am having second thoughts about the decision to use this red, green and white variegated thread, but it's too late now.
 Second thoughts about the variegated thread, but too late now
I sewed a sleeve on the back so it can be hung, and I made this label using a technique that I have seen on someone's blog.  I can't recall whose, and I apologize if it is yours - let me know if it is and I'll link to you.  But basically, all you do is type it out in Word using a font you like, and print it out on regular paper. Then iron a piece of fabric cut to size to freezer paper to stabilize the fabric during the tracing process, and, using a light box (or window in the sunshine), trace using a Pigma pen.  Since I expect this will be hung and not washed, I just pinked the edges and sewed it to the backing using embroidery cotton and a running stitch.
Label: printed in Word and traced on a light box
I think my aunt will appreciate this little quilt in memory of her sister.  It makes me so happy to turn one of her WIPs into a finished product, and to sew a label on it that commemorates our collaborative work together.
P.S.  We will be in the Dallas area - if you have a line on any good LQS north of the city, please let me know!

My backside

/ Friday 12 November 2010 /
Diamond backsides
I should properly say "my quilt's backside", shouldn't I?  I hope you didn't think I would inflict photos of any other backside on you!

I have been so very busy with work that I've had very little time to do any sewing.  I am working on a draft framework for a set of curriculum guidelines for preservice teacher education in literacy.  My deadline is rapidly approaching - I can actually count it in hours.  So I've not had my machine up and going in ages, but I have managed to get a bit of work done on my hand-sewing project, just to keep my sanity intact.
And I have been sick - I blame my brother, who brought exotic Kiwi germs all the way from New Zealand to infect me with.  I'm feeling loads better today, thank goodness.  And have a look at these:
Marcia Derse fabric
Remember when I came back from the Creativ Festival in Toronto with that set of Marcia Derse fat quarters?  The first thing I did was scour the internet to see if I could find some more.  I did find some here.  So I ordered a bunch.  Look how gorgeous.
Marcia Derse fabric
Marcia Derse blues
Marcia Derse fabric
And she has another line coming out soon - evidently she was at Market, and a couple of people have blogged about her fabric.  I think this one will be the best yet - there are lots of rich reds in it - and you can see it best here.  Yum yum!
Also - in case you are also an AMH junkie like me, Fabricworm now has both the velveteens and voiles for Innocent Crush.  Just saying.....
Beth asked a good question below, so I edited this post to add a link to show what the front of the hand-pieced project looks like - it's more or less the same, only a bit bigger now!

Lest We Forget

/ Thursday 11 November 2010 /
Today we remember those who gave their lives in the service of our countries.

Photo credit:  By Lx 121 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

Kiwi visitors and winners announced

/ Sunday 7 November 2010 /
Apples and pears
I know these are apples and pears, not kiwis, but I refer to my brother, Reed, and his wife, Jan, who came for an all too short visit this week.  They immigrated from Tennessee to New Zealand four years ago.  I saw my brother last at my mother's funeral in 2008, so I was very happy to be able to spend a few days in his company laughing and feeling happy.  The weather was cold and damp, so we didn't do much running around, beyond an obligatory trip to the Lake to look across at the wind turbines on Wolfe Island.
Lake Ontario
We ate at the new burger place, which was very good.  So good I forgot to take a picture until it was all eaten up.
My brother ordered a beer float - pumpkin ale with vanilla ice cream.  He wasn't thrilled, but was glad he tried it.  The rest of us noshed on a s'mores cheesecake with homemade marshmallows.  My husband is giving the thumbs up in this picture, and quite right!  It was delicious!
Thumbs up to dessert!
We stopped at my favourite jewelry store so I could show my sister in law the loot.  I didn't buy anything, but I drooled awhile.
Time to drool
They have a little dog in that store with the unlikely name of Poulet.  He likes to sit in the window and here he is, people-watching.
Poulet in the window of my favourite store
We had a lovely time, although not long enough.  New Zealand is so far away.  I don't enjoy flying one little bit, but I will have to go to a conference in Hong Kong in 2013, so I expect I will take a detour to NZ on that trip.  That gives me plenty of time to lay in a store of tranquilizers for the flight!

Anyway, because I was hanging out with Reed and Jan, I was dilatory in posting the winners of my giveaway, which closed on Friday.  There were 112 comments - wow!  And so many lovely, lovely comments about my quilts.  I found it interesting that each of my quilts was picked by at least one person as their favourite, even the very oldest ones, but the most popular seemed to be Wine Gums.   I wish I could send everyone who left a comment a prize!  Alas, it isn't possible, so without further ado, the winners are:
For the Oh Cherry Oh charm packs, Gigiquilts.
For the Kona solids, Jo Chu
For the pincushion, Brenda,g34
For the Quilt Patis templates, Laura
Congratulations, ladies!  I will be sending you an email asking for your mailing address in the next 24 hours.  

My day job

/ Monday 1 November 2010 /
Academic procession
Thought you might like to see what I do in my day job.  Not that it's always so ceremonial.  Our convocation, or graduation, ceremonies happen twice a year.  This year I took surreptitious photos with my iPhone.
Outside Grant Hall
We dress up in our gowns in one of the buildings on campus and then traipse around to the building where the ceremony is held.  The students go in ahead of us - they are piped in by a bagpiper, who happens to by my next-door neighbour.  (Luckily, she practices with her windows closed).  When the students are organized, we make our entry accompanied by an organ.  I always feel I am marrying the university as I go down the aisle!
After we sing God Save the Queen, and have the benediction spoken and the honorary graduand makes his speech, the students come across the stage one at a time, and the Dean puts their hood on.  The hoods are those strange things hanging down our backs.  Traditionally, they were worn by scholars to keep warm in the middle ages, before universities had central heating, but now they are just ceremonial.  This year I had a good view.
Graduate student being hooded.
Sometimes I get stuck behind someone wearing one of those fancy hats and can't seen a thing.  Our gowns are determined by the university which granted our doctoral degree.  You can't see mine, but it is black with wide red sleeves and red facing down the front.  I also wear a red hood lined with white silk.  It is not our tradition to wear a hat.  At the university where I am now, the doctoral candidates wear gorgeous red gowns with blue and gold trim. You can see them seated in the front row in the photo below.  Undergraduates and MA/MSc candidates wear black gowns with hoods that are coloured according to their discipline.  In the photo below, everyone has been hooded and the class of 2010 is being applauded.  Then it's O Canada, and we're outa there!
Applauding the Class of 2010, Fall Convocation
Sometimes convocation goes on for a very long time.  I amuse myself by looking at the women's shoes - as a result I am always up on the current footwear fashion!
P.S.  If you are looking for the giveaway post, go here.  Comments will remain open until November 5.

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