30 Dec

New Year, New Plan?

It’s that time of year for reflection and plans for the next year. I’ve been contemplating my plans, or lack thereof, for a while though. Life is pretty good. I’m OK referring to myself as middle-aged (although if 30 is the new 20, then is 43 really middle-aged?). I live in Hawaii and I have a devoted husband and two kids who so far seem to be pretty well balanced, nice little people. They’re cute too. ­čśë We have a roof over our head, a gorgeous house that we are renting, and hubby’s got job security and a steady paycheck that provides us a comfortable lifestyle. I’m happy with our place in the world.

But I’ve been thinking about my own ambitions lately. My accomplishments are essentially in the same place they were five years ago. I have no plans for where I want to be in another five years, let alone ten, and not much of an idea of what I want to do with my art (or career if you want to call it that).

The part of me that needs validation really, really wants something invitational. It’s great to be accepted into a show or publication one has applied to, but for me it would be particularly validating to be invited to be part of something. Of course, I would need to have some sort of presence for the right people to know of my existence in order to then invite me to be a part of their show or a feature in their magazine. And I readily admit that I have done next to nothing in the last year to promote myself or my art.

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Although I’ve been a lifetime crafter and I have a degree in graphic design, about five years ago I discovered that I loved to sew art. Over the next few years, I had a show (right place, right time), I had a web site and blog created, and I began to share my art by teaching locally. I was “emerging.” Today I still feel like I am in that same place on the edge of something. I’d like to say that I’m completely satisfied making what I want to make, when and how I want to make it purely for the joy of making it, but there’s that nagging part of me that still wants outside accomplishment.

Blogging has been good for me in that respect — I get feedback on what I post and that, in it’s confined way, validates what I do. I can also feed off what others are doing. That is a double edged sword though. For all the inspiration I gather, I also find myself comparing, as a wise friend once said, “My insides to other people’s outsides.” I see so many shows I coulda, woulda, shoulda entered, so many peers getting work published and I wonder why no one is knocking on my door. Of the 37 blogs on my sidebar, 21 have been published and there’s ten blogs not listed that I read regularly all of which have been published recently too. Some bloggers have been at their craft a lot longer than I. I look up to the maturity of their vision. I hope that I can be like them when I grow up. Others I consider to be my peers, and I wonder what makes them more appealing than me. I debate, “Should I be writing proposals to magazines and publishers, entering shows, participating in swaps, and maximizing my Flickr account so that people actually know I’m out there?” Yes, there’s a bit of jealousy there, I won’t deny it, but mostly it’s kick in the pants to me that says, “look, if they can do it, so should you — so get in your sewing room and do it!

Now, I know that there isn’t one answer to success or validation and I know that whatever today’s answer will be, it will likely change tomorrow or next week and continue to evolve for the rest of my life. I also know that I need to define what success is for me and not worry about anyone else’s definition. I wonder though, at 43 shouldn’t I be “grown up?” Where’s my maturity of vision? Perhaps I need to learn to make better use of my time to work on those fine art quilts that should be filling my online gallery and eventually a brick and mortar one. I’d love to make a body of work worthy of Quilt National or Visions. That takes time and sweat equity and I know it. So why do I splatter my attention elsewhere? Do I use my status of a nomadic, oft geographicaly single, mother of youngish children as a way to subconsciously hamper my opportunities to be more? If so, that’s lame because there’s no shortage of single mothers with major accomplishments.

I worry that my schizophrenic interests might be hindering my impression as either an artist or entrepreneur: too many mushroom pincushions and tales of shave ice taste-testing do not a serious artist make. On the other hand, my lack of monthly how-tos or a robin’s egg blue studio (we’ll call mine “gallery white” instead of “it’s-a-rental-white, OK) keeps me from being noticed in the crafty circles. That’s who I am though and I don’t want to change it just to be a popular blogger or respected artist. I like the conversations about local foods and travel and cute things to make as well as beautiful quilt art that we’ve been having since I started blogging.

So that’s where my head is at right now: half of me wanting to keep it “pure” and just do what inspires me, be it cutesy crafting, quilting with a deeper message, or just sharing our adventures; and the other half of me thinking I should change my on- and off-line presence so I can be seen as a contender.

As I’ve been writing this post over the last few weeks, I’ve contemplated changing my blog, but I like it as-is. It reflects well who I am (or at least the cheery side of me — I rant more in the privacy of my own home than I do here, though the occasional deep thought or laundry tantrum does sneak in from time to time!). I thought maybe I could use my web site to focus on the art (and hope to have more to add in the next year). Then, as it seems that Flickr is a gateway to other projects, I could use it more. Photography is not my focus or goal, but it seems to be increasingly important as a self promotion tool. I wanted to put my crafty stuff there and not on the blog, but obviously that hasn’t worked since my last few posts have been of craft projects and not art quilts (I won’t link yet to my Flickr site as there’s some stuff there that needs to stay secret from a regular reader for a little longer). I probably also need to do more of the obvious — write proposals and apply for things (I actually did write two proposals in November). Sure, some of the people I admire have been invited to be published, but I’m confident the majority have submitted a request or 500 of some sort. The teacher doesn’t know you have the answer unless you raise your hand.

OK, I’ve said it out loud. It looks like this could be the year I start raising my hand again (oh, and I need to get studying so I actually have an answer to give).

26 Dec

Surprise Gift

I’ve been moderately successful in editing my pottery collection. Enough pieces sold via my blog and eBay to pay for the fees and the postage I underestimated. Most importantly, There are fewer pieces in my house. I will admit that the Franciscan set and the wedding china I listed on Craig’s List were too nice to take to the thrift shop so they got tucked away in the corner of a cabinet. In the end, I’ve probably cut my collection by a quarter to a third, rather than the hoped-for half, but that’s better than nothing. One of the pieces that didn’t sell was the cute squirrel vase. It was also too unique to be tossed aside.

It does however, remind me of my friend V, who has/had a lovely collection of white art pottery and is also pretty crafty. So, I decided to surprise her at Christmas with an art pottery pincushion!

According to her email, she really likes it!

She sent me a pretty awesome gift too. The two fat quarters below are her design, which she printed through Spoonflower. I think they look great and can’t wait to use them (I may even have something that the blue/green one will work in). I’ve been eying Spoonflower for a while and wondered what the quality of the printing was like and how the “hand” of the fabric felt. It’s great! Now I just need to come up with a project that needs my own fabric design.

Other things that have lived up to the hype are Stitch and 3191. My mom got me a subscription to Stitch and if the rest of the issues are as good as this premier one, I’m going to be one happy sewer. The pictures are beautiful and the variety of topics and projects is great.

3191 was a gift from my quilt mom, Gerrie. It is filled with the spare, thoughtful photography of her daughter, Stephanie and Steph’s blogging partner Mav. This is the kind of book I’ll leave out and enjoy a few pages here and there when I have a quiet moment. The last chapter of the book has a month by month “summary” of the photo diptychs and some of the comments from the 3191 blog. This section adds so much to the enjoyment of the book as it brings home, at least to me, how it’s not just about Stephanie and Mav taking pictures, but also about us viewers coming to see them and making those pictures a part of our day.

Thank you everyone for the great gifts given and received.

23 Dec

Thanks!

First the Christmassy stuff. Gerrie sent us a surprise package, and you probably can’t see it well, but in addition to the luscious orangey/red hand dyed fabric and three wrapped presents, there’s chocolate peppermint bark AND Sharfenberger chocolate! Delicious!

Katrin sent us a box too — filled with three varieties of Lebkuchen and Speculatius PLUS cute mushroomy napkins (paper napkins from Germany are the best) and red and white star napkin rings to make our every day cloth napkins more festive.

Thank you both SOOOOOOO much!

Katja and Opa have finished their Christmas baking: a modest four treats (ginger snaps, Toll House Cookies, Lemon Pecan Dainties and fudge) and some are now packed to gift to a modest three neighbors.

OK then. Christmas stuff out of the way, we have an antidote to all the snow in blogland (not that we don’t love all the snowy pictures, we just don’t have any of that here).

At the kids’ insistence, we started at the ├╝ber touristy Dole Plantation and spent over an hour in the maze. Great fun so we didn’t even bother doing anything else there.

Next we continued on up to the North Shore for an OK lunch at Cholos and a quick stop at North Shore Swimwear where I found a perfect bikini (thanks Noni, Tavaner and Megan are my birthday present). Then on to Pupukea Beach where we were pleased to find calm surf so we could scramble over the a’a a bit.

We took the long way home via the Windward side of Oahu because I hadn’t seen much of it yet and took a little detour out to La’ie Point. Awesome. Thanks Jean for telling me about this lesser known point of interest.

View to the left.

View to the right.

From La’ei we continued south past beautiful farm land, beaches and homes. Many were for sale and we just couldn’t understand why anyone would not want to live there. I intended to take us back to our side of the island via Pali Highway and Lookout, but took a wrong turn and ended up on Likelike Highway. Oh well, that gives us an excuse to go out again and take pictures of the dramatic green mountains instead of the beaches I seem to gravitate towards. I need more practice with my new camera too. I seem to unknowingly, or forgetfully, change the settings on it and my colors are all off. My life is not quite as blue as these photos suggest.

22 Dec

Odds and Ends

Which seems to be an acceptable blog topic.

First off, I finally made the sandwich wraps I saw ages ago on The Small Object blog. For some reason her tutorial has disappeared, but it’s pretty easy to figure out how to make these. I was seduced by the coated Hawaiian fabrics at Fabric Mart, so these have wipeable hibiscus on the interior and coordinating fabrics on the exterior. Robin made some too (us lunch-packing parents have a lot of the same things on our to-make lists!) and went the extra mile using friendlier PUL fabric on the interior. I’ll do that for the next go-around and probably put regular Hawaiian print cotton on the outside. Duh.

In update news, our worms seem to be doing fine. I suspect we’re feeding them a bit too much right now, so I’ve been putting some of our scraps in the freezer for later when we’ve got fewer people in the house or more worms in the bin. It looks like there are more castings at the bottom of the bin so I think they are accomplishing something. They seem pretty active too, so that’s a good sign.

The terrariums seem to be holding up too, despite no flies for the fly trap in my son’s room and overzealous watering from my daughter. I pronounce these good kid-friendly projects.

I am NOT happy with the 100% PLA fiber batting I used for my son’s bed quilt. It condensed in the wash and lost most of it’s soft puffiness. It really doesn’t seem to like going in the dryer as the quilt seems a little more supple when it dries in the sun. I would not buy it again. I still have the 50/50 PLA/cotton batt slated for daughter’s quilt. I’m hoping I’ll like it better. I’ll look for bamboo batt the next time I’m shopping for batting

In touristing news, we went to see BODIES: The Exhibition (no photos allowed) which was absolutely fascinating — even to the kids. What a great way to get them interested in how our bodies are made and work. After that, we visited Iolani Palace, the only royal residence in the United States (no photos allowed) which is modest compared to European royal residences, but quite beautiful. The next day the sun finally showed itself and we went to the water park (no time for photos). We bought season passes and I’m sure we’ll be getting our money’s worth. Even Opa deemed it great with rides for everyone from teeny kids through teens and a visiting football team to senior couples, plenty of shade, nice landscaping, and an all around happy environment.

Speaking of no photos, I received wonderful goodie boxes from Katrin and Gerrie (lazy blogger that I am, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve their generosity, but I’m very thankful as the gifts are delicious). I owe pictures of their contents but haven’t felt like uploading yet.

18 Dec

What we’re up to

On my birthday, my dad (Opa) and I went to the Marriott at Ko’Olina, a lovely resort on the Leeward side of Oahu, not too far from our house.

He was impressed by the freshness of the pineapple and papaya. Well yes, this IS Hawai’i.

This restaurant is fun because not only do you eat on the lanai with a view of the pool and then the ocean spread in front of you, but they also have two decorative pools, one with rays (or skates, I don’t know the difference) and one with sharks!!

After lunch, we walked around and took in the views.

Yesterday, we visited Sea Life Park, which is passable except that because of it’s small size, you can get up close and personal, plus, our military rate made general admission very affordable. We got to pet a baby turtle which the kids thought was very cool. The staff appear to be mostly students from the Oceanic Institute next door, so they were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We drove there past Sandy Beach, the Blowhole, Makapu’u Lighthouse (scene of the most complained hike) and then took the long, scenic, way home on the Windward side of the island, (at least up to H3 if you know the area) via Dave’s Ice Cream who’s Coconut Macadamia Nut and Chocolate Macadamia Nut ice creams are now deemed Best Ever!. The dramatic mountainsides impressed Opa as well.

In addition to touristy stuff, we’ve also fixed some sprinklers, hung Christmas lights and shored up the big furniture so the TV and components can live there instead of on the floor where they’ve been since we unpacked. More touristy stuff is planned for next week after the torrential rains predicted for the next two days pass.

14 Dec

Christmas meme

(My mom, my hubby and I finally got me the new camera I’ve been wanting/needing for the last year for my birthday and I’m slowly getting to know it. I can take pics in low light now, and can download the photos to my computer. Yea me!)

We put up our Christmas decorations today, so it seems like a good time to jump on the Holiday Meme train like fellow Bloggers Gerrie, Terry and Diane:

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? What about Gl├╝hwein? It’s not Christmas without Gl├╝hwein. (Wassail and Glog count.)

Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree?
Santa fills the stockings with wrapped presents.

Colored lights on tree or white? White, but I’m often out-voted.

When do you put your decorations up? Decorations can come out any time after December 1st, but I won’t put the tree up until the weekend closest to my birthday (December 15th). This was a family tradition since it meant that the tree would still be reasonably fresh on Christmas. We have a fake one now, but the tradition has stuck. We’ve adopted the German tradition of taking the tree and decorations down on Three Kings Day (January 12th).

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? We usually have turkey, but I did a roast with Yorkshire Pudding one year and that was pretty tasty.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Like Terry, I played along long after I knew Santa was really my parents. And my parents played along long after they knew we knew!

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Presents with my mom’s side of the family Christmas Eve and presents and Brunch with my dad’s side Christmas morning. At home it was one present the eve of, and the rest in the morning. After my parents divorced we had multiple Christmases with all the varied parts of the family.


How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Growing up it was always eclectic handmade, then I collected enough to do themes, now I tend towards a combination of red, straw ornaments, and painted European figures.

Snow! Love it or Dread it? If I’m going out I dread it (unless it’s just to walk to Weinachtsmarkt to drink Gl├╝hwein). If I can stay at home warm and cozy, then I love it.

Can you ice skate? Forward and backward around the rink and stopping, but that’s it.

Do you remember your favorite gift? They are all my favorite!

What┬ĺs the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family, traditions.

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Gingersnap cookies from our secret family recipe.

What is your favorite tradition? Stocking Christmas morning. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving? Mostly giving, but what’s not to like about receiving too?

What is your favorite Christmas Song? Any German Christmas song, but probably Kling Gl├Âckchen the most. I even wrote a post about my love of German Christmas songs here.

Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yum, but not too many of them.

Ever recycled a Christmas present? Not that I can remember — certainly not from or to any close friend or family member. Wrapping — now that we recycle for years!

And because I seem to live between cultures, as I wrote this, the Christmas music on my computer got changed to Hawaiian and we’ve been practicing Hula in between answers (type type, uehe, type type, kaholo, ami, ami, ami, ami).

13 Dec

Mele Kalikimaka..

…which can’t literally mean Merry Christmas in Hawaiian since the Hawaiian language existed long before the arrival of Christians on the islands, even if only in spoken form. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it’s simply a Hawaiian transliteration. So here’s our melding of influences:

Gingerbread Hula dancers — some with poi-colored skirts!

While the kids were decorating gingerbread people with Opa (German for Grandad), I went to the Hawaii Quilt Guild’s annual Holiday party. We had lunch overlooking Kaneohe Bay, ate homemade cookies, raised some money for the guild with both a live and a silent auction, swapped gifts and sang a silly, on-the-spot version of The 12 Days of Christmas. Each table had to come up with a quilting related gift from Tutu (Grandmother). After much giggling, the final verse of the song ended up like this:

Number twelve day of Christmas my Tutu give to me:

Twelve Handi-Quilters,

Eleven finished bindings,

Ten yards of fabric,

Nine spoo-ools of thread.

Eight pairs of scissors,

Seven Fat Quarters,

Six quilting hoops,

Five Fea-therweights.

Four quilting baskets,

Three Jelly Rolls,

Two quilting needles,

and one Bernina underneath the tree!

Not a bad Christmas if you ask me.

I bid on a set of fat quarters partly because they were “modern” Christmas prints, of which I have none in my stash and could maybe make some cute gift bags or something next year, and partly because they were folded up so cleverly and we all wanted to de-construct the package. I won the bid, so now we can all learn to fold a Fat Quarter Tree.

To start, fold each of your fat quarters in half lengthwise and then in half again so you have a long rectangle. Fold one in half cross-wise two or three times to make a “tree trunk.” With each of the remaining fat quarters, fold the lower left corner up a little at about a 60┬░ angle. From the left side, take that folded angle and fold it down to match the lower edge of your rectangle. Next, take left side and fold it up to meet the upper edge of your rectangle. Then, fold from the left again, to meet the lower edge. this is just like folding the American flag if you’ve ever done that.

Keep folding until you don’t have enough fabric to make a complete triangle shape. Tuck the last end of fabric into the pocket on the right side of your fabric triangle, folding up the bottom right corner if necessary.

Stuff the trunk you folded earlier into the pocket at the bottom of one of your fabric triangles.

Stack the remaining fat quarter triangles on top to make a tree. Wrap your tree with some ribbon so it doesn’t fall apart (there’s an X of ribbon on the back of the tree). Gift to a sewing friend!

The trees had stickers from Mad Hatter’s Quilt Box, but I don’t see the trees on their web site, so I don’t know if they are sending out holiday fat quarters like this, or if someone from the guild made these cuties after purchasing the fabric.