Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pictures ... as promised

SA's apartment was full of activity as Julia and Daniel's children, SA's children, and T (who also received a machine) and her son all talked, played with legos, watched cartoons.

While everyone visited, SA cooked samosa for us.

Opening her new machine!

Trying it out, and ...

getting a few instructions.

Finally, because Julia's husband is an amazing filmmaker, a little documentary filming.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Funds raised! And more ...

I was going to tell you more about the fund raiser that we launched over at but with delight instead, I'll just tell you that our goal has already been exceeded!  I am so grateful to those who gave to underwrite the cost of sewing machine ownership for our Make Welcome students.

The sewing machine ownership/sponsorship program works like this: each class that a student attends reduces the cost of her machine by $5.  When she has attended enough classes so that the cost has gotten down to $20, the student will then pay that amount and we go and purchase and deliver her machine to her at home.  The surprising thing is that each of the three women who have purchased machines have been so eager to get their machines, that they have paid amounts ranging from $50 to $65 dollars, some of which was earned through their sales of items at the ARTwalk.  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of purchasing two more machines and today we delivered them!  I'll show you some pictures tomorrow because I am heading to bed very soon.  It was a full and wonderful day and I am happily tired.

The morning was spent sewing with my niece. Annsley made a shoulder bag while I worked on her prom dress. I've learned a lot about sewing on satin and I've tackled a redesign of a pattern in order to create what Annsley envisioned.  It's been a fun challenge.  All that's left is the sash and hemming ... and it will all be done in plenty of time for her early May prom.

Then the afternoon was full of seeing evidence of progress and joy in the lives of some of our refugee friends:

-the N family from Nepal (fruitful friends of my sister) have purchased a lovely home with an amazing back yard which I expect will become a bountiful garden.  Their tiny apartment terrace are a was so productive.  I can't wait to see what they do in their new large, sunny, flat yard.

-little Ruth, from Burma, is learning so many new English words.  We read books and played hide and seek during a short, impromptu visit.

-SA and Th, two of our Make Welcome students who now have their new machines.  It was so much fun to visit them in their apartments when we delivered the machines, to meet the rest of SA's children that I hadn't met yet, eat her homemade samosas, and witness the joy that both students expressed upon receiving their hard earned machines!

Home in the evening for a simple field peas and sauteed kale supper with Coty, a little sewing, a little basketball, and now, rest.  I go to bed with a happy, thankful heart.

Pictures tomorrow!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The front garden

I spent most of my day with these beauties ...

Ajuga, planted last spring, has spread nicely.  I will dig and plant clumps in a few other spots.

Yellow dead nettle, dug from a neighbor's garden several years ago.

Azalaeas ...

Dogwoods ...

Carolina jessamine (yes, it's jessamine, not jasmine)

And more azaleas.  This shocking pink azalea is always the first one to be fully in bloom.

Epimedium, with delicate flowers that seem to float on slender stalks before the leaves come out.  The heart shaped leaves have just begun to appear and will fill out nicely in the coming weeks.  It's a wonderful ground cover for dry shade.

Lots of vinca and baby autumn ferns

The English boxwood with her chartreuse flush of tender new leaves.  Some people don't like the smell of English boxwoods.  I once heard it described as smelling like dog pee.  I was shocked because I love their smell.  It is not fragrant, but distinctive.  It takes me back to my great uncle's farm in Sandy Springs, to an ornery pony named Candy that we tried somewhat unsuccessfully to ride. Massive boxwoods flanked the front of the house and Uncle Mark raised them in a field behind the little playhouse that I remember so well.  The two boxwoods by my front steps came from the farm.  I cherish them and breathe their odor with delight.

This beauty ... a flowering shrub called Florida anise that does have very fragrant leaves.

And this, my friends, is our lovely weed patch lawn.  Just keepin' it real.  It's not all order and beauty in this garden ... not by a long shot.  

Tomorrow, I'll be out back with the herbs and irises and bleeding hearts and a whole lot of oak leaves.

Til then ...

Garden or Studio ...

Good morning, friends.  It is a perfect Southern spring morning.  The back door is wide open and the sun is streaming across the screen porch.  The English boxwoods that flank our front steps have sprouted a new layer of delicate chartreuse leaves; the redbuds (my favorites) are pink brushstrokes in the woods behind the house; the dogwoods are starting to open.  I've heard that Memorial Garden is at its peak.  Must make a trip up there in the next day or so.

I'm getting on my gardening gloves and heading outside this morning.  The irises and bleeding hearts are lovely in the lower terrace, but goodness, there are a lot of weeds and garden clean-up to do.  And as it always seems to be around here, there are garden areas to rethink and rework.  The lower retaining wall garden that I had hoped would be my sunny vegetable garden has grown increasingly shady as hollies and oaks have grown.  Cutting the trees is not an option, so I am looking at pictures of shade gardens, imagining ferns and more bleeding hearts, perhaps more irises. And there are daylilies to plant. Some day I'll get it right (hah!) and then just walking the garden paths and pulling a stray weed here and there.  I can dream.

The problem I face these days is that I am quite torn between the studio and the garden.  I want to be working in both places.  There's a prom dress to sew, quilt projects always, ideas to try out for Make Welcome.  It's a good problem to have.

I haven't been in this spot very much lately. I've been posting more over at Make Welcome.  Here and here and here.  We are enjoying our new sewing space, excited that now THREE women have been able to purchase their own sewing machines, looking forward to having a larger stock of items to sell in the weeks ahead.

We are still working out the details of the business side of our work, but if you are interested in purchasing any of the items we already have available, I am able to arrange a direct purchase for you from one of our refugee sew-ers.  There are rice bag totes and pillows ... and more to come.

We have launched a fundraiser to underwrite the cost of sewing machines for our students.  More about that in the next post.

For now, time to get those garden gloves on and get outside.

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In the interim ...

since I last wrote, spring has come and gone.  And come again.  And gone again.  The daffodils have bloomed in full force, faces to the sun, waving in warm breezes, and then bowed low under the weight of heavy, cold rain.

At least it's not snowing.  I expect those of you who have just received another several inches of snow are more than ready to see it melt away for good.  I know I would be.

Thankfully, Saturday was a gorgeous day, as warm and slightly windy as a mid-March day should be.  It was perfect for the ARTwalk in our town and the first sales booth experience for our women's sewing group, Make Welcome. We gathered our embellished towels, rice bag totes, fabric flower hair clips, and headbands; dug out and ironed bright orange sari fabric to cover our table; hastily printed pictures and made a sign for our table; and got it all organized in time for Saturday morning.

Julia and I took turns at the table and enjoyed a day of meeting people and telling them about Make Welcome.  We did pretty well selling, too.  It's exciting to see this venture begin to bear the fruit of some income returning to the women.  In addition, the day at the ARTwalk gave us some exposure and contacts with people who are interested both in volunteering and further purchases!

Today it's chilly and wet.  My in-laws, who have been here for Coty's birthday, are heading down the road. I have a messy sewing room and plenty of projects in the queue.  As soon as we say our good-byes, I'm making tea and settling myself in for a day at the machine.

Friday, February 21, 2014

To my northern readers ...

... my sympathy and apologies. I am about to tell you things you may not want to hear.  If you would rather not know of daffodils already well on their way to blooming, stop reading now.  You have snow on the ground and probably more to come.  Then it will be mud season.  I remember.  I lived in New England for 13 years.  I loved the snow and cold of December and January, but past Valentine's Day, as February drew to a dreary close, I began to long for spring.  But I knew it would still be a long time coming.  So, if you are tired of the snow, dreading the mud, and longing for an earthy whiff of warming leaf mold or the fragrance of lilacs, you have my sympathy.  And my apologies for what I am about to tell you.

Yesterday afternoon, it was 75 degrees. Sometimes this week, when the sun hasn't been shining, a gentle rain has fallen.  This morning, we're having a booming thunderstorm.  But it's warm enough to sit out on the porch take it all in.  Who doesn't love a good thunderstorm?

One afternoon earlier in the week, I sat on the porch, in short sleeves, reading. The cat, who loves the warmth just as much as I do and had spent most of the day exploring outside, jumped up on the chair beside me.  The very damp earth, soggy with snow melt and rain, warmed, and the stream out back flowed. The chorus frogs were singing. The breeze caressed.  I took a deep breath and spring filled my nostrils and lungs.

This time last week, we'd just had a "historic" snow storm.  Weather-caster hyperbole.  8 inches of snow and three days school vacation hardly seem worthy of that designation.  Perhaps our years in the Berkshires, when 8 inches was an inconvenience and the plows might take just a little longer to get the roads cleared, makes me skeptical of all the hype, and gives me a certain nonchalance about what my local weatherman declares to be historic. But, historic or not, it's all behind us now.  The tiny patches of snow lingering in shady spots have all melted away and I am hunting, hunting, hunting for more signs of spring.

 the very last little patch of last week's snow and one brave daffodil

Oh, the cold will be back.  The temperatures will drop and it may even snow again, and we will worry about our early flowers.  But spring is announcing her arrival ... and I am ready.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow day, sew day

The snow started again this morning, coming down in great big fluffy flakes.  So pretty.  I put black oil sunflower seeds in the feeder and on the windowsill, in hopes of luring the chickadees close and beginning the process of getting them to eventually feed out of my hand.  Mary inspired me.

The chickadees came right away, and also tufted titmice, dark-eyed juncos, cardinals, and the little chipping sparrow.  I put seeds on the windowsill (just behind my little space heater) and in the days to come, I'll put my hand out the window with seeds in it.  We'll see how long it takes!

It was the perfect morning to sit by the window, reading and watching the birds.

Then I shifted to the studio and my trusty old Singer ...

I have a couple of major projects, but I've been away from them - and from my machine - for awhile, so I needed something to sew as a bit of a warm up.

This is a piece of muslin which one of the women in our Make Welcome class sewed.  The very first class, I gave them each a piece of this cloth and showed them how to use the straight stitch and vary the stitch length.  Then we moved on to the zig zag and other stitch options on the machine.  Each of the women made a little sampler like this one and I've had them on my studio shelf, just waiting for an idea.

I made the first one into a zipper pouch with lining from a sari I have stashed.  How would you like to open a little pouch and find this bright bird inside?!

 And here's what that sampler above became - a shoulder bag, with sari sides, back, strap, and lining.  It has an antique button with elastic closure and one pocket on the inside.

These "First Stitches" bags will be for sale (somewhere, sometime - we're still working on those details) but if you're interested in either one, you could leave me a comment.  All proceeds will go toward the work of Make Welcome.

By the afternoon, our snow storm was over.  Coty dug out the driveway and I poked around the yard a bit, anticipating this year's garden chores.  There are many.

Then we went for a walk in the neighborhood.  So many snow people on lawns (today was great snow building, snow ball snow), so many people out walking or shoveling snow.  Everyone was cheerful.  Who wouldn't be?  It was 45 degrees, the snow was beautiful, and the skies were Carolina blue again. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

We fed chickadees ...

out of our hands today.

"Simple Aliveness"

"Things have changed greatly and still are changing, can they change much more? ...
And yet I wonder sometimes whether we are progressing.  In my childhood days life was different, in many ways, we were slower, still we had a good and happy life, I think, people enjoyed life more in their way, at least they seemed to be happier, they don't take time to be happy nowadays."   
-Grandma Moses from her autobiography, published in 1952 (she was then 92)

Hoosick Falls in Winter, painted in 1944
Phillips Collection

"For all who suffer from what might be called living strain - and many do complain about the malady - a few minutes' exposure to the presence of Grandma Moses is powerful therapy.  On Tuesday this ninety-three-year-old lady made one of her rare trips from her up-state home in Eagle Bridge, NY, to appear at the annual Herald Tribune Forum.  Some said that she stole the show.  Others were impressed with her astonishing vitality, her mental alertness, her humor, simplicity, graciousness, enjoyment of the occasion, and so on.  The plain fact is, everybody felt reinvigorated while in her presence. ...
While many distinguished persons were appearing before the Forum, a little old lady of ninety-three stepped into their midst and endeared herself to all by her simple aliveness ..."
-New York Herald Tribune, October 22, 1953
This part of the country, this area of eastern New York, just near the Vermont border, is sometimes called Grandma Moses Country.   She began painting here when she was in her late 70's.  She lived to be 101.

I've driven these roads over the last four weeks - over the pass from Bennington looking down across snowy hillsides and rolling pastures toward the ice rimmed Hoosick River, passing old farms with their colonial era houses (white, with dark green shutters, very like my own house in North Carolina!) and red barns and weathered out buildings.  I've watched the colors of the sky change with the weather, brilliant azure on clear days with the sun casting long, undulating shadows across the snow, and gunmetal gray on days when the sun barely manages to pierce the overspreading haze of low, snow-laden clouds.  I've listened to the train that follows tracks right along the Hoosick and watched it slow to a crawl through the village, little boys waiting on the sidewalk to cross the tracks, counting the cars as they waved their arms and stamped their feet to keep warm.  I've noticed birches and sugar maples and old, old oaks.

On a beautiful walk in the woods and then over tea with Mary in front of the woodstove, I felt the sweetness of simple aliveness.  I think a few minutes exposure to the presence of my dear friend is pretty powerful therapy.  She doesn't paint, but she walks and knows the woods and trees and especially the birds, and hand feeds the chickadees as they follow her around the yard and down the driveway.  Anybody that comes to visit can hold out a hand with sunflower seeds and it's not long before a chickadee alights to snatch a seed. That's enough to reinvigorate anybody!

Driving home down the mountain late in the afternoon, the beauty caught me and held me. I imagined Grandma Moses looking at scenes so much like the one spread out in front of me.  The low rounded mountains, the foreground dotted with farm houses and fields and woods, and a winding river. I could understood her love of this place.  I'm very glad she picked up her brushes at 78 and started to paint.

I'm also grateful to Alicia Paulson for mentioning this book, a used copy of which I promptly purchased and have just finished reading.