Saturday, May 31, 2008

Greetings from the Hill City South Dakota and Points Southeast

We spent a day traveling between Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial. I have a lot to tell you about Crazy Horse but will save it for another blog. It was our first trip to the area and I just fell in love with the scenery and the people we met along the way. If you plan to see Mt. Rushmore I suggest approaching through Custer State park on the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Not only is the scenery beautiful but you get a glimpse of Mt. Rushmore not once, but twice through rock cut tunnels. Very cool.

Custer State Park was a great place to explore. Plan on taking one to two days to see everything. The buffalo herd is vast and you run into them in the most unexpected places. We also enjoyed the Needles Highway with it's high lookouts and switchbacks. I did notice my brake pads getting a bit overheated on the way down. Stop often to enjoy the view!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Greetings From the Moon

Okay, It's not really the moon but it sure feels like it. We are in the Badlands of South Dakota. I have never been anywhere like this. It is a very surreal place. The hills are composed of bentonite clay that has hardened and eroded over time. The Badlands hold the fossilized remains of prehistoric camels, horses and rhinoceros dating from 37-28 million years old. It's a great place to photograph. The light and shadow are constantly changing. This is a place you must see in your lifetime.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Greetings from the World's Only Corn Palace

Here are some photos from the first stop of our trip out west. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota has been around for over 100 years. Every May the exterior of this concrete structure is redecorated with a new theme. This year's theme is "Everyday Heroes." The exterior is covered with locally grown corn and grains. 500,000 people tour this facility yearly. Yes, this building does serve as a giant bird feeder. That's me with my Husband Mark on the left. Mark, Matt (my son the ham) and his friend Whitney are in the bottom right photo. One thing that you should know about me is that I love kitschy places. I dream of having my picture taken in the mouth of the giant Muskie in Hayward, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Wedding Day

Here are some photos from the wedding of Jeremiah and Rachel Daly. They were married on Saturday at Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park Colorado. It was a breath taking site. The backdrop in the photo is the Continental Divide.

It was the first time we had a chance to meet our nephew's bride. On top of her never ending effervescent smile was an amazing spirit. Jeremiah is a very lucky man. We met so many wonderful people on this trip. Many of the people I met will never be forgotten. The couple is surrounded by the love and support of amazing families and friends. Here is a shot of the groom's mother, my sister in law, Rebecca escorting their flower dog Fiona to the altar.

Seeing Jer and Rachel together you can tell they were made for each other and their marriage will hold a lifetime of happiness. Oh, did I mention we were honored to give the groom and his bride a lift to the reception?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More Winter Musings

Here is another winter shot of my farm from my work area. You can see one of my stained glass snowflakes hanging in the window. It is time to start making these items again. I was surprised to find out they sell year round. Sales really take off in the Summer and I can't keep them in stock the last 3 months of the year.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Wedding Quilt

We've been waiting for this day for a long time. My nephew Jeremiah and his bride to be Rachel are getting married today. You would not believe how beautiful the setting is for this event. More pictures after the holiday.

They requested a wall hanging in earth tones. This pattern is from Evelyn Sloppy's Log Cabin Fever Book called "Delectable Log Cabins". It is a variation of the deletable mountain block. The quilting was done by a local quilter from Elroy, Jane Wiess.

Jer and Rachel are an amazing couple and will have a wonderful life together.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lovely Dress models

I just had to share these photos with you. I went shopping in Madison with my friends Cindy and Marcella. Here are some shots of the dress mannequins in the window at the local sewing machine shop. What a creative idea.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shady Grove in the Winter

I've been talking a lot about the greening of our land. I thought you might enjoy some winter shots. On New Years Eve day we had a hoarfrost. Hoarfrost forms on clear nights when objects on the ground become colder than the air. I love the hoarfrosts and always look forward to them. On top of the frost we had about 3 feet of snow on the ground. I've added a shot of my tall husband knee deep in snow. The snow started on November 30th and never melted until late March. This is the most snow I have seen in years. My husband Mark had to get really creative with new places to pile the snow. The pile by our mailbox was at least 6' high by the end of the winter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Amazing Jack

Jack is our Australian Shepherd. For those who aren't familiar with the breed, they are a high energy working dog that need a job to keep them focused. Jack has no herd to watch so he is in charge of keeping an eye on us. His other job is to play Frisbee no matter what the weather. If you don't think it's a good idea he reminds you that it is his job and it needs to get done. He is extremely athletic and always strives to perfect his Frisbee playing skills. This is not a breed of dog for a city setting or someone that likes to sit on the couch. They love to run, play and exercise. They are also so brilliant and creative that you will find yourself always laughing at their anticts. Jack keeps us very amused.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dyed Cotton Fabric

I LOVE to dye fabric! It is worth all the time spent and the results are fabulous. I can always think of a dozen projects I can make with the fabric when I am dying. I am disciplining myself to start a journal of these ideas for future use and believe me it takes a lot of discipline. I am always thinking five steps ahead and it is hard to slow down long enough to make a quick note.
Look for my hand dyed quilting fabric for sale in early June. Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rays of Light

Yesterday was one of those days that you know you will remember. I started the day with a trip to town to get some errands out of the way. It was overcast but the sun was still making it through the clouds. What a beautiful morning! I just love the way I feel when I see the rays of sun filtered through the clouds.
On the way home the sky cleared up to a brilliant blue with big white clouds. What a glorious day.
Later that evening we took a drive over to the Mississippi Valley. The most of the farms are being plowed. The dust in the air added a brilliant orange glow and more amazing rays to the sky. The sun was a huge, bright orange/pink orb on the horizon when it set.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In Search of the Perfect White Cotton Shirt

Every spring I scour the local stores (all 2 of them) and look for the perfect white cotton shirts to tie dye. I learned to tie dye in the 70's at camp when dyes consisted of Rit dye on the campfire and bullseye patterns. I hated how fast that dye would fade.

In the early 80's I spent a lot time at Grateful Dead concerts where I saw the art of the tie dye perfected. One of the best sales pitches I heard was at a show at Chicago's UIC Pavillion. The vendor was hawking his wears chanting "Got to have a tie dye. Everybody's gotta have a tie dye." He had some of the worst shirts I had ever seen, but I was still temped to buy one because of the sales pitch. Once my mother told me my sister was lucky to have me around since my she was too young to remember the 60's. But I digress.

I had some leftover dye from a recent batch of fabric dying. Here is the result of last nights experiment (and it looks even better on). This is a low water immersion dying technique using turquoise and dark brown. Dark brown dye contains a deep red in mix and this shirt has wonderful color variations in it.

I will be adding my hand dyed cotton quilting fabric to my Etsy Store in June. Stop back to see a sneak preview coming soon in another blog.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Favorite Project

My girlfriend Jean is a collector of mermaids. For her birthday a few years ago I told her I would make her a mermaid quilt. I thought about making Sun Bonnet Sue mermaids but that just didn't work for me. Two years and 4 ideas later the project finally gelled. I found a picture of a mermaid in a magazine from Carol Mead designs and adapted the picture into a wall hanging design. I then hand dyed the fabrics for the quilt (excluding the border). I was trying to replicate filtered sunlight through water in the top of the quilt. Her hair and the seaweed are embellished with couched yarn and metallic thread. The machine quilting took about 8 hours. The tail alone took 3 hours. This was an extremely rewarding project and sparked ideas for two more projects. I named the quilt after her daughter "Marina was a Mermaid"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Patience Pays Off

Every year we have a brief migration of Baltimore Orioles through the area. The oranges are on the hooks of the clothes line under my office window. I can hear their bird song all day while I am working. I've been stalking the Orioles for three days to get a few good photos. My patience finally paid off. In addition to this male oriole I was able to catch a shot of one of the male red breasted woodpeckers that nests near our farm year round. I never knew they liked oranges but we have seen a few varieties of woodpeckers at the hummingbird feeders from time to time. Here's another surprise visitor to the oriole's feeder.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gray Today on Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to you all. I have to tell you I have one of the best mothers you'll ever meet. When I was young she taught me most of the skills I use today as an artist. She also taught me to be kind, compassionate and how to be a good mother to my own son. I still blame her for teaching my son the good manners he has as an adult. Thanks for being such a great mom and friend!
I've been waiting for a rain day and it's here. I love the brilliant green of the grass and the trees when rain is coming. I can never decide if the color comes from the dark contrast of the sky against the earth or if all the plants are radiating the color in anticipation of the cool rain.

My sewing area is almost clean. I still need to clean up the dog hair left by our ever faithful Aussie, Jack (more on Jack on another day). I have a large wall hanging to bind for my nephew and his bride. I'll give you a peak at it when I have it finished.
I leave you with a shot of the hills from our front porch. It really is impossible to capture the height. The limestone bluff in the woods in tall enough to keep the sun from entering the valley on January mornings.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Well the soon to be Shady Grove....

I thought I’d start my first blog with a view of the sunny side of the our Shady Grove. It’s 7:00 am and my favorite time of day. The sun adds a golden glow to the hills and the trees, casting light and shadow everywhere. It’s still hazy from a cool spring morning. I can hear the wild turkeys calling from the woods. In another week the trees will be full of leaves.

This shot is from my winter work space. The red barn in the distance is my wintertime companion, soon to be eclipsed by an expansive and graceful Boxelder tree. The hilltops are about 150'-200' higher in elevation than our house. Our home sits in a meadowland valley and is surrounded on three sides by 25 wooded acres on the hilltops. It is an amazing place to live and I treasure it.

My husband Mark and I moved to this old farmstead in Southwestern Wisconsin six years ago. Most of the buildings were beyond repair when we moved here. What can be salvaged we are fixing up a little at a time. Many items are finally getting finished this year. Our son Matt started college last fall and our treck around the countryside for soccer games came to an abrupt halt.