rocket tracking


Monday, August 31, 2009

Autumn upon us: Autumn colors at Aullwood

Probably everyone knows the story about teaching the cranes how to fly to their wintering grounds because of the movie which was done about it. Here, Marlene Gustafson from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin has interpreted it into cloth in this piece called Operation Migration: The Flight of the Whooping Cranes.

She's simplified the cranes, as well as the landscape into an effective pattern. At 35" x 28" it was one of the larger pieces in the show.

Here's her artist statement about the piece:

"In 1941, there were only 21 whooping cranes in the world. In 2001, an organization called Operation Migration devised a plan to raise the cranes in Wisconsin and then lead them with ultralight planes to a wintering ground in Florida. Every year since, they have led a group to Florida and every year the cranes migrated back to Florida on their own! My quilt is a tribute to those who are reintroducing these beautiful birds to our earth.

The thread lace "ghost cranes" represent those that have already disappeared from our world. They form a protective circle around the young cranes helping them on their journey.

This quilt just flew out of my brain and fingers. As I worked on it the young cranes were on their way South, a long and arduous trip for both the birds and the humans guiding them on their way. I love the cranes, I love this quilt and I hope the visitors will love it too."

Whooping cranes are native to the prairies of the Midwest. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in southwest Michigan, Rachel Carson's book was making great impact. I had never seen a whooping crane, and had only seen one injured Sandhill crane (which was used as surrogate parents to hatch out whooping crane eggs) at an Audubon center.

Imagine my great surprise when I returned for my 20th high school reunion to see a flock of Sandhills beginning their migration to Florida...and then I saw them IN Florida. While I have yet to see a Whooping crane, I, like Marlene, am very fond of the cranes I have seen.

Nancy Linz of Mukwonago, Wisonsin completed this piece called Autumn Marsh. I love the colors and the dynamic contrasts she's used here. Once again, a heron makes the central appearance. Another reference to birds is the line of flying geese blocks which wind off the side of the quilt.

Nancy used bleach discharge to make the smaller herons you see here. She made a mask, probably out of freezer paper (cut into the shape of the birds), and ironed it to her black fabric. She then put bleach or Thiox (a bleaching agent which is a little easier to work with than chlorine bleach) over the top. This bleached the black out and left the gold-ish color of ground. I've been playing a lot with bleach lately and was very pleased to see this method used in the show quilt.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Texture through embellishment at Aullwood

In the last several posts you've seen texture through embellishment with threads and with thread painting. This time we're going to look at a couple of other quilts which used other sorts of embellishment as well. some of the other quilts used beads and things, but I think you'll get my drift as you look at these.

It seems that along with Great Blue Herons, ravens, crows or blackbirds were also the favorite bird at the show.

Here is another of Susan Nash's works. It's entitled Cross Country Flight. Susan did a masterful job at combining a patterned background composed of traditionally pieced strips, with the crow grasping a coin. Your eye is moved around the quilt by several different points. The darkness of the blackbird draws your eye there first. He is pointing up, so your eye goes there, then you pick up the golden coins (just like the magpie and the crow, our eyes are also attracted by the glinting. Now, were up on the left hand side. The use of the feathers, although subtle, are placed so that they, plus more gold coins brings our eyes around, down to the lighter side where the ginkgo leaves now bring our eyes down and we begin the circuit again.

The gold coins are masterfully used. Not only are crows attracted to them, but the difference in texture (the hardness) against the soft quilt and the suggestion of softness of the feathers offer wonderful counterpoints.

The are a perfect choice as well as they harmonize with the palette of the quilt.

The ginkgo leaves and the feathers floating in space add that wonderful sense of movement which was started with the crow's flight.

Here too, Susan uses large cross-stitched threads to add more texture to the quilt as well as using the blanket stitching along the top.

Look too at her use of the swirling quilting patterns over the bars of the strip pieced background. This is also a fantastic choice in order to emphasize while still softening.

I also particularly like her choice of the fabric for the crow.

Next, we have a whimsical collage by Sandra Charles of Rising Sun, Indiana. Sandra's piece is called Tribute to Alverta. I chose to include this one because of her use of buttons, which like the gold coins Susan Nash used, glint and bring your eye around. Of course, her fabric placement and the shape of the pieces with the viney points also move your eye as well.

Here's what Sandra said in her artist's statement:

"Alverta loved birds and spent a lifetime studying and enjoying them.

She could identify over 300 species by sight. To her, I am very grateful.

Making though provoking art through the medium of fiber and textiles has been very rewarding to me. I prefer to lead viewers to draw their own conclusions about my work as translated by the manipulation of color, balance and texture.

Public benefits of my art come through teaching. In addition to the instruction I offer in surface design foundation and three dimensional piecing, painting, fabric discharge, basic and advanced fiber art classes, I have recently developed an occupational therapy program offered to local agencies helping the disadvantaged. This program encourages the development of dexterity, eye and hand coordination, complex planning and design through the use of various recycled materials. "

Here's a closer look at the bluebird and the buttons.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thread painting at it's best! Aullwood

Vita Marie Lovett painstakingly crafted Birdhouse at Turtlecreek Farm and shared it at the Aullwood show. It is by far one of the best, if not the best examples of thread painting I've seen.

While it is a quilt (3 layers sandwiched together), Vita Marie lowered the feed-dogs on her machine and did free motion work to "draw" on the fabric with different threads in order to "paint" or embroider this image.

Most quilters are at least familiar with the technique. Those of us who have done it can tell you the hours it takes to do this, and the resultant amount of eyestrain it causes.

The piece is relatively small, only 15" x 12". One of the things which makes this really stand out is the fact that there is next to no distortion. Usually, sewing down this many layers of thread causes it to pull and bump in areas. I didn't find this to be the case here. I particularly like her painterly approach to the weathered paint. Some people will sometimes say "well, why didn't you just paint it? It would have been a lot faster."

Most of us who do this type of work are fully capable of painting it. Instead, this is our medium. This is what we choose to do and I think that the threadwork really gives this piece something which you couldn't achieve in other mediums...not to say that doing it in other mediums wouldn't be just as charming.

Art quilters are artists...our medium is thread, cloth and other fibers. Vita Marie used canvas as her ground which of course helped it to stay flat...but none-the-less, it is a great piece of work and I'm glad she shared it.

Vita Marie drew her inspiration from a rusty birdhouse at the edge of a pasture on Turtle Creek farm, which I presume is her home.

I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do. Vita Marie lives in Maryville, Tennesee. Here's the URL for her website so you can see more of her work. Maybe one of these days I'll figure out how to put in a hot button!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Texture: realism in bird quilts at Aullwood

Tonight, I'm going to share some MORE quilts from the Aullwood Nature Center's "winged messengers" exhibition.

I thought these were particularly fun because of their excellent use of specialty threads which created realistic textures in the quilts.

Melani Kane Brewer from Cooper City, Florida did two of the pieces I'm showing tonight, and Merry Havens of Thornton, Colorado did the others.

Melani's Merlin the Great Horned Owl is an elaborate construction of hand knitted pieces, with strips of torn fabric embellished with eye-lash yarn to give the fluffiness necessary to the feathers, and thread painting. Because she prefers a natural look to her pieces and goes to lengths to recreate it, she calls herself "a naturalist in fiber.

In this detail shot, you can see how successful she is in accomplishing the feathers.

In her Morning Hunt in the Everglades you can see her triptych of the cypress trees in her back yard, with an egret coming for his breakfast.

Again, she used a variety of techniques in order to achieve the textures in nature. Couching, thread painting, applique...and more were put to use in this piece.

She particularly liked how she showed you only a part of the egret. I like the little water plants and the thread work around his beady eye!

Here's Melani's website for more looking!

The next two pieces also use heavy threadwork and specialty threads, but they are by Merry Havens. This is her Great Spotted Woodpecker and below is her Quail. Like Melani, Merry also embellished, couched, appliqued and threadpainted. However, in her Quail, she also added beads.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Aullwood Birds in Quilts

It's been a hard day... For the last 45 minutes I've been looking for Elmer's Gel Glue to use for resist....I've been to four stores, to no avail.

So...the first piece up tonight is by Liese Bronfenbrenner of Ithaca, NY. Why? Her blue heron, simply titled Heron, is made with gel-glue resist batik and fabric paints on cotton fabric.

Liese said this about her inspiration:

"The heron is my favorite bird, and I was happy to find a exhibit with a bird theme. Until a few years ago, we lived at the edge of a little lake. Every day we walked down to the lake and often around it to see if we could find a heron in the reeds or flying overhead. As the flock of geese has grown there have been fewer herons.

It is obvious by this show that herons, particularly blue herons are favorite birds of a lot of people.

In this detail you can see the printerly quality that Liese obtained by using the batik method.

Carla Lamb of Cincinnati, Ohio submitted this whimsical bird. Her work is called Raven Evermore.

Here is her artist statement:

"I love story telling with images and words. My environment and experiences fuel these stories. My medium for story telling is Art Quilting. Fabrics I love create the pictures. Embroidery and beading forms words, creates texture and builds layers.

For as long as I can remember, large black birds have flown and nested in places I've lived. To me, their presence has always felt protective. I explored the history of Ravens and discovered my intuitive sense was supported in folklore from around the world. This piece tells the story of my discoveries. "

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Winged Messengers: Masterful use of fabrics

Tonight we're going to take a look at some quilts from the Aullwood Nature center's 2009 quilt show which I feel are masterful uses of fabric. We'll start with these wonderful pelicans by Janis Jagodzinski from Balto, Maryland.

Janis' background is in fine arts, and describes her work as reflecting realism and painterly in application.

Here's how Janis describes her method:

"Construction and application is organic in nature and fabrics are selected specifically for their color , pattern and texture while creating intentional ragged edges."
The shading is guided by me with an irregular machine stitch and therefore creates an abstract quilted look. This technique creates a blending of colors which lends itself to a predominantly to fine art application. Most pieces contain 20 - 25 different upholstery and drapery fabrics. Textile compositions may also be embellished with fine seed beads or ribbon."

You can see on t his detail of the head some of that work, but it is
more clearly evident in this close-up of the eye.

The piece is called Walter and Emma.

Another piece by Janis Jagodzinski is this whimsical bird called Paradise.

You can see more of her quilts here:

Nancy Kimpel of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin did this wonderful heron coming in for a landing. Her piece is entitled Home Landing. Her colors are unusual and her work is really fine.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ohhhhh! I think these are my favorites: Ruth Powers and Ginny Eckley

Without a doubt, my absolute favorite pieces from this show were by Ruth Powers and Ginny Eckley.

Here's Ruth Power's Oriole. Ruth has orioles visit her every year, and here she depicts them with the leaves and berries of the Porcelain berry vine (amalopsis), but she took artistic license and changed the porcelain berries from their improbable but actual colors of lavender and cobalt blue (unripe and ripe colors) to orange.

I just love the crispness of this piece, and of course the way that the oriole pops from the blue background. It is bound in orange which also gives it extra "pop" as well as contains the image. Without that orange binding, the piece wouldn't be what it is, but the eye would run off the edge of the quilt.

Ruth tells me that the director of the Aullwood nature center purchased this piece. Ruth lives in Carbondale, KS and usually works on nature themes. Ruth works with commercially printed fabric, which is becoming unusual in the world of art quilts these days. Many art quilters prefer to dye their own fabrics to get exactly what they want.

I've been contemplating ripping out my variegated porcelain berry vine, and Ruth's piece almost makes me think I should keep it....

Ruth's second entry in the show is "Raven Brings Light to the World." Raven figures prominently in the stories of the native tribes of the pacific Northwest Coast. He is a trickster, as well as the great benefactor for causing the sun to be brought to the world.

Ruth's depiction was done for challenge of mythologically based quilts.

Look at the wonderful use of beads! Sometimes I think that beads are gratuitously used, not in this case! I also love how the pieced background gives such movement and luminosity to the piece.

Ruth's website is:

and is well worth a look!

The other piece which is among my favorites is by Ginny Eckley of Kingwood, Texas. Now, I'm going to give you a teaser...

Ginny uses painted images on her quilts and also silkscreens. Here's Carmine Trio, which I like, but it isn't the one which knocks my socks off.

I do like this, again partly because of the orange reds, yellow ochres and raw siennas....I just love those colors, and yes, I'm a color junkie.

It's also sort of sweet how the birds are feeding their matter HOW big they have grown...sort of like us, I suppose...

Here's a detail. You can see better on this detail the other reason I like this piece. Look at the borders.... they are pieced from a sari-like border print, and another piece which is reminiscent of a border print on a particular type of paisley shawl which was popular in the 1820s. The light wasn't very good, and I didn't want to use flash, so I apologize for the darkness of the shots.

This is my favorite piece of Ginny's, and I'm hard pressed to chose it over Ruth's. It is called City Birds. It's a subtle piece, working in a very neutral palette, yet it just glows for me.

I loused up the shot I took of the wrought iron fence, but it is fabulous! The control and detail she has achieved, and the wonderful texture she has given this piece makes me wish I could sit and talk to her to find out exactly how she did this.

I'm not fond of starlings....but in this case, I'll make a huge exception.

Ginny's websites are as follows:

I hope you enjoy these two artists' works as much as I do. I wish they were nearby....or maybe, if I'm lucky, they'll be teaching in the area sometime soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Winged Messengers Part 3: And sometimes you make mistakes

My last entry talked about recognizable styles by various quilt artists. One of our MVAQN members went to the show and was fooled! She knew that Pam Geisel was accepted into the show and when she saw this piece, Floating Feather which is by Susan Nash, she thought it was Pam's....until she read the label.

I really like this piece because the thread work in the feather makes it appear as if it is a real feather...floating on the surface. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the colors are among my favorites. I love the richness of the ochres, and turquoise...well, that really is my favorite among the three which vie for the favored category.

Susan is from Ohio and I'll have to look at more of her pieces. If you saw my earlier post about're probably scratching your head trying to figure out how anyone could possibly confuse the styles....

Easy. Pam participated in the MVAQN's workshop on The Art Quilt Workbook by the aforesaid Elin Waterston and Jane D'Avila. In the workbook, we were supposed to pick a theme....Pam's was "feathers." Interestingly enough, mine was "things with feathers."

Below is Pam's Threaded Feather , part of her series. You can see the similarity. Check out Pam's website to see more of her "feather" pieces from the workbook.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Winged Messengers Part 2: Recognizing Styles

In my post about Quilt National, I mentioned how some quilter's work is especially recognizable. Do you recognize who did these pieces?

Elin Waterston of course! You can always pick out her fun, simplified style. Elin also tends to use blocks of different fabrics in her pieces.

Look at Elin's website, and you'll see what I mean.

You probably have seen her works in any number of magazines such as Quilting Arts and Cloth, Paper, Scissors. Other sources include publications with Jane D'Avila The Art Quilt Workbook, Art Quilts at Play, and the DVD Elin Waterston and Jane D'Avila teach you Art Quilting Basics, among others.

Here, the little blue birds at Aullwood on the neutral ground is called "Strange Birds, Winter."

This piece, which I apologize for the unevenness (being short is sometimes a challenge) as the piece is actually square, is called Reflecting 2.

Elin uses printing processes and mixed media (often using paper) to achieve her work. Notice how in this piece, and in Strange Birds using a variety of neutrals in the background with different textures gives the piece movement and interest.

I love this one Elin did called Return 2. I wondered if this was one of the pieces which came out of the "Raven" challenge. Elin painted this bird rather than printed it. Elin noted in the label that she gravitates toward deeply saturated, or bright colors and is influenced by folk art.

Elin taught herself how to sew as a child and went on to study costume design in college and graduate school. Perhaps her experience in making costumes and masks is what brings her to incorporate non-traditional materials such as paper, and utilizing whatever media works to make a stronger composition, whether raw-edge piecing, printing, photographic transfers, or whatever happens to strike her fancy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gone to the Birds: Aullwood Nature Center Show

Sunday was a very "art quilty" day. Each year the Aullwood Audubon Center in Englewood, OH sponsors a quilt show. The Miami Valley Art Quilt Network was instrumental in setting this show up with Aullwood many years ago, but moved away from it. Aullwood continues the show with a different theme each year. This year the theme was "Winged Messengers."

I have been meaning to get over there, and thought that it was coming down on Aug. 18. Imagine my horror when I visited the web page to see it was supposedly ending Aug. 9! You have to understand, I live probably within 10 miles of the center...and several of my friends from the MVAQN had quilts in the I'd be really embarrassed, not to mention disappointed if I missed it....I had intended to enter the show myself, but didn't finish my quilt on time.

So, in sharing the show, I'll start with my cohorts in quilts from MVAQN. At left is Fran LaSalle's "Fantasy Forest." Fran does a lot of painting and applique. Fran draws on her background in biology and often paints her pieces. This is a more unusual for her as she really did a "fantasy" rather than some of her more realistic pieces. Fran quilts in Yellow Springs, OH.

Debra Bentley did this loon. Deb is relatively new to the MVAQN, and I love how she used the commercial fabrics. I feel that the ground is particularly good and the color blocking in the sky ads great interest.

Deb drew her inspiration from a trip to Isle Royal National Park, in Lake Superior. I must admit Isle Royal is a place near and dear to my heart as my brother worked there in the summers when he was a Forestry student at Michigan Technological University.

Pam Geisel of Yellow Springs is another recent addition to the MVAQN (that is to say, within the last two years). Pam has been exploring quilt mosaics. Pam lays the backing fabric out, then places the small pieces on top, securing the rest with a net and quilts through the layers to hold it together.

Because these pieces are fragile, she usually frames them and puts them under glass. My original photos weren't very good, because of that glass and because of how I was standing when I took the picture, so these next two photos Pam graciously shared with me and are hers.

The title of her piece is "Early Morning Hermit Thrush." I think Pam's words explain her piece best:

"My husband and I first encountered the Hermit Thrush on our honeymoon in southeastern Ohio. We were interested in its call which sounded like a wind chime to us.

"What interests me about traditional quilting is how a quilt square can look completely different if the shapes which make up the square are in different colors or tones of fabric. I am also fascinated by the secondary patterns that emerge when quilt blocks are arranged together. Lately, I've been doing more exploring with fabrics and making art quilts that incorporate traditional piecing but in new ways."

You can see more of Pam's work on her website,

Kate Burch, who lives in Dayton proper, did this piece called "A Magical Night at the Seven Sighs." Kate's quilt is a recollection of a stay at the Inn of the Seven Sighs in Stintra, Portugal in 1997. She could see the comet Halle-Bopp in the sky. When her husband retired for the evening, they heard an owl call through their open window which overlooked an orange grove.

Kate researched the call and discovered that it was the Eurasian Tawny owl (Strix aluco).

She threadpainted the owl based on an image she found on The border is a commercially digitized pattern from Husqvarna Viking. Many of Kate's quilts include either her own digitizing or commercially available machine embroidery elements.

Here's a detail of Kate's border. Both silk and cotton fabrics were used in the construction.

I plan on covering more of the show in the next several days. I was in a great hurry as Aullwood opened at 1:00 and I had to be at the quilt guild's meeting in Enon by 2:00....and unlike the birds, I can't fly from Englewood to Enon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What a week! Dairy Barn aka Quilt National

On Wednesday of last week, I went to the Dairy Barn (more properly known as Quilt National) in Athens, Ohio with three of my Miami Valley Art Quilt Guild compatriots. I was bone tired as my flight from CT got in at 12:30 am on Tuesday morning and I didn't get home until 2:00....and didn't sleep well Tues. night. It didn't prevent me from enjoying the show, and I didn't have to drive! (thanks so much Deb).

This is the "back side" of the Dairy Barn, and it's actually the side you enter from (the small door you see to the far right). I liked the angles and the pattern of the slate roof. This was a wealthy person's barn, thank goodness they were able to save it. Just before I went out, there was a huge downpour, so the sky is grey and stormy.

I first went to Quilt National in 2007. I must say, this show was fantastic. I liked it even better than the 2007 show and I really liked that one as well. We loved studying the quilts and trying to figure out "How did they do THAT?????"

One of the things which we got sort of a giggle about is that the show is juried and the slides are submitted "anonymously." Well, heck. I dare you to look at a piece by Shawn Quinlan, Pam Rubert, or Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs for example and NOT recognize their work.

The pieces were moving...some for their imagery and some for their message. Kathy (aka Kathleen) Loomis' Memorial Day was particularly moving. She made 4,083 individual flags for each of the U.S. Military dead from the beginning of the war untul Memorial Day, (May 26), 2008, then sewed them "chain piecing style" .

It is hard for me to pick favorites, but I think that Ellen Zak Danforth's Parallel Bars, made out of recycled, felted wool sweaters was one of them. I loved the colors and how she encorporated the button section of a cardigan right down the middle... Bonnie Wells' "Metaphysic", Nelda Warkentin's "Meadow Pine," Anna Hergert's "Summer Day at the Lake: Dawn to Dusk" and Inge Hueber's "High Tide/Low Tide Broadstairs, Kent 1" were also among my "favs".

The quilt which won "Best of Show" created the most buzz. Most everyone was wondering "WHY?" In fact, the woman at the desk pointed us, and a number of other visitors to the book where the judges had written a statement as to why. Certainly, they would have had a hard time to my mind to chose a "best of show", but the judges said that Anne Smith's "Calon Lan" was a shoe in because they kept on returning to it. They marked it's simplicity and directness....

The show was filled with quilts which were breathtaking in their simplicity. Daphne Taylor's "Quilt Drawing #9" and Clare Plug's "Antarctica Series" Out on the Barrier" were two which were very simple, and yet complex...compelling pieces.

It was fun to listen to the people in the gallery...many of whom were traditional quilters. I must admit....I'm still puzzled by Shawn Quinlan's "God Bless America." It is typical Quinlan style...Jesus, cut from a tapestry-like commercial wall hanging (I think I have seen them as throws), on a red/white/blue flaked background. Jesus is wearing a blindfold, blue t-shirt and blue polyester blazer (really!) and is pointing to an American flag lapel pin. His other hand is held in benediction. Shawn's statement is as follows: "I wanted to form my frustration with our political development.

'I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should be my job when I am commander-in-chief....' Barack Obama"

Hmm. Jesus is blind, yet still points to the pin? Obama as savior??? The superficiality of the electorate and the media???? There's so many ways to interpret this...or is it that? That we can chose to interpret what is said however we wish...and there isn't anyone to guide us???

They don't allow photos of the works....and once again, the catalog is available for sale. The catalog suffers from the same problem as usual. The colors aren't terribly true. Many are greyed out, but I have to say that some of the quilts actually look far better in the catalog than in the exhibition. For instance, Aaron McIntosh' "Communicating with the Past" was hung on a bark ground, and since the colors were pretty greyed out, it was hard to see. In the catalog, it is photographed on a white ground, and you can see it much better.

I would recommend that you purchase a copy of the catalog, or get it from your library. I find it really inspiring....even if I was falling asleep in the car on the way home!

The ISBN number is 978-1-60059-423-6. The exhibition runs through Sept. 7. If you can, go!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Holy Courgette! What do you do with all those zucchini and squash?

There's an old joke that says after August 4 you have to leave the doors on your car locked...lest you return and find a bag full of zucchini sitting on your seat.

I don't usually have such a problem. First, I only plant two hills of zucchini and two hills of summer squash. I also try to pick them when they are small...just a tad larger than the one in this picture. I also share with my neighbors.

This week, when I came home from a 5 day trip, I had them coming out the ears, even though the neighbors had picked....though truth be told, they raided my tomatoes more than the squash and I have but one small tomato and a hand full of cherry and yellow pear tomatoes now to show for it.

However, I don't have much trouble with what to do with mine either. For one thing, I will take and dice them up, and briefly microwave it to stop the enzymes from working to age it. Then, I spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. When they are frozen, I bag them. They are loose, then I can add them to any soup or whatever when I want to when they are out of season.

I also have a myriad of ways of fixing them which are very different. While I do pan fry them, I dredge them in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and powdered ranch salad dressing mix.

I also grill them--brush with olive oil, sprinkle with Goya Adobo (or other favorite salt or seasoning). When they are browned in spots, I take them off and we eat them. Any grilled pieces left over I cut up and put in freezer bags...once again to add to whatever I'm making when they are out of season.

One of my favorite quick methods is to use a can of diced tomatoes seasoned either Italian style or with Jalapeno peppers. I first saute onions and sometimes green pepper, then add the summer squash and/or zucchini and then dump the can of tomatoes on. My brother who hates zucchini (too many limp, mushy tasteless blobs when we were kids), loves it this way. If I am doing the Italian tomatoes, I use a little dill for seasoning. This is the way that Nick, the owner/cook at the Wethersfield Diner (Wethersefield, CT) makes it and I loved it and made it my own.

Tonight, I cut the zucchini lengthwise about 1/4" wide, put Kosher salt on it for a bit to draw out the water, then brushed with olive oil and sprinkled a little lemon pepper seasoning and a dash of Adobo (it's a Latin seasoning which is mostly salt and cumin), and grilled it. Then, just before serving, I sprinkled chunks of feta cheese over it. YUM!

I also use zucchini as a substitute for any recipe calling for eggplant. My husband doesn't like it, and my daughter says it gives her an upset stomach. I love oven roasted eggplant.... so, I take a couple of smallish sized zucchini, cut it in slices and put it to drain with about 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt...this takes about 1/2 - 1 hour, 2 pounds of Italian plum tomatoes (seeded and cut in halves or quarters), about 4 cloves of garlic, two onions and put it in a roasting pan. I drizzled it with olive oil...I try to use a light hand, about 1/4 of a cup, and mix it well. I also use salt and pepper and about 1 teaspoon of dried oregano. Put in an oven preheated to 450 degrees and roast for about 30 - 40 minutes, stirring about every 20 minutes or so. Just before you take it out, put in some coarsely chopped fresh basil. Serve over penne pasta, or as is.

This too can be frozen. :)

Of course, I also make zucchini bread with, or without pineapple, and chocolate zucchini bread. With a cup of tea or coffee and a dollop of cream cheese, you can't beat it for breakfast! see, zucchini never ends up being put on someone's seat at my house!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Selling Books on Amazon

For the last 8 years or so, I have been selling used books on Amazon as one of their pro-marketplace sellers....under the name of Michigoosey (Michigoose was taken by the IM name I had at the time....and somehow they were linked).

I started selling books to try to underwrite my quilting habit. At present, I am trying to extricate myself...but I find that I am sort of obsessive compulsive about it and am having to wean myself away. While I started this to fund my quilting, I am spending far too much time on it, and would be able to make more if I went to work at Kohls or McDonalds...and I then would presumably be able to actually get some quilting done.

It has gotten especially thin since the last two postage increases didn't bring any increase in shipping/handling from Amazon.

It's also very tricky. First, I have to obtain the books. I specialize in quilting books, as well as young adult books. I have my niche and I know it pretty well...but every once in a while I make mistakes. I buy the books and have to pray that the price doesn't fall while I have them in the inventory. Book prices are very volatile, and like everything else, it isn't worth anything unless you have a buyer. Currently, books on eBay are selling at higher prices than the same books on Amazon.

One of the things which makes selling books difficult is that sometimes sellers on Amazon list books for astronomical figures...ones which have no basis in reality. I use This website searches all the major book sellers, as well as little ones and eBay. Another struggle is that sometimes the people you purchase books from mis-represent them.

I pay Amazon $39.99 per month for Pro-merchant subscription which gives me the ability to list books without paying individual listing fees, which you have to do as individual sellers. This enables me to have a book listed longer than as an individual as well. I can also add books to the Amazon catalog if the book isn't already listed. Amazon also takes a 15% of the sale price and an additional $1.35 per book fee (which used to be their portion of the shipping/handling fee but they have now renamed it so that theoretically sellers get the whole $3.99 per book that they charge the buyer).

I also buy new bubble mailers in bulk which cost me about $0.50 per mailer. I also pay $99 per year plus the shipping labels to be able to ship them from my home with the bar coding. I usually sell about 90 books per month, so this doesn't work out too badly, and I'm able to purchase delivery confirmations at a reduced rate.

Purchasing delivery confirmation is a must. I was finding that people were claiming that books weren't delivered to them when they were...particularly in the case of college students.

I take great care in shipping my books, and I also ship them out as soon as possible...usually the next day. Each of my books are described and listed individually so that the buyers will know what they are getting.

Sometimes, people don't read the descriptions. Or recently, one of the people who got the book complained in her Amazon feedback that it "reeked" of cigarette smoke....I didn't smell it and I refunded a portion of the books' price. She wrote back saying that she didn't smell it on the first several pages, but did further on in the book, and some quick spritzes of Fabreeze took care of the smell....However, there the review sits....I'm sorry I missed it...but I didn't smell it....and indeed she said she didn't smell it at first either.

Then there are those who try to get more than they ought. My favorite is when people order books via "standard shipping" which is usually media mail. Then they complain when it takes 14 days, or my favorite, when the guy emails me and asks me to send it priority even though he only paid the basic rate.

Today, I went in the hole big time. I had listed a book which was longer than the average book and has to be packaged in cardboard. I automatically put that I shipped it worldwide....and when I packed it today to send to cost me $17.97 just for the shipping. I lost money BIG time on that one.

Then there's Brazil....Brazil either has a lot of people who claim to not receive books when they have, or the postal service is very unreliable. It's so bad that insurance agencies won't insure shipments. However, if you check that you will send world wide on Amazon, you must send to Brazil. Very scary every time I have to ship something down.

Many people look at the seller's feedback, which is important. However, there are some people who only purchase from people who have 100% positive feedback. Most people don't leave feedback. If someone leaves a "3" which supposedly is neutral, it knocks your feedback down. In March, I got a "3" and that will stay there for a year. Sometimes people make mistakes in doing their feedback. I have had a number of people leave glowing feedback...but give me a "4". I recently had a woman accidentally give me a "3". She removed it, thank goodness, but most people don't respond. Some people don't believe in giving "5"s.

I've been away for a while, and this is why you haven't seen any postings...and now I'm trying to catch up on everything...the garden, the house, and the book sales. Maybe someday I'll get around to quilting again. :(

I try very hard to be a good seller...but it is a very hard row to hoe.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Naked Ladies!

The Naked Ladies are blooming... also known as Belladonna Lilies (Belladonna means beautiful woman), or March Lilies, these plants are members of the Amaryllis family...only I usually slip and call them "Bare Naked Ladies".

They earn their monaker because they throw straplike leaves in the early spring, which die away about the same time as the early daffodils die away. Then, about now they throw the flowers atop a long stem.

You really have to be careful to remember where they are planted because I've sent a spade through the middle of the bulbs more than once.

They are natives of South Africa, and are hardy here in zone 5. In fact, I drove by a 19th century house the other day which had a border of them which was at least 50 feet long and just full of these wonderful plants.

The heart shaped leaves you see in this picture are Redbud seedlings....I can't seem to get rid of them although I cut the diseased parent down four years ago.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Quilters have Big Hearts

There's one thing about most quilters...their hearts are very large.

On Thursday night, I received an email from Ed Chamness, the Miami Valley Quilter's Guild's email chairman. Extreme Home Makeover was coming to Beavercreek (Dayton) and the Quilt Guild was going to make quilts for the family who was getting the home makeover. By August 5, Guild Volunteers were to have cut, pieced, quilted and bound one King, one queen, three twins, and one lap quilt for the family.

Above, Kim Gros who arranged for the facility at Prudential One to be used, and Susan Hill, president, press the borders which I had stitched.

Local shops, (Appalachian Quilts, Sulphur Grove Quilt Shop, The Mason Jar, and The Fabric Shack) donated fabric, with Appalachian Quilts donating the batting and backing for the king size quilt as well. Several long-arm quilters were going to take the quilts home and quilt them. The rest was up to the membership.

Work started on Friday, with many people cutting and piecing. I went down on Saturday night as there were fewer people there and many of the jobs had been parcelled out.

I helped put on the 1 1/2 borders on the queen size quilt.

Several of the quilts had already gone to the long-armers, I only saw the pair of "I Spy" generous twin size quilts which were going to the younger twins before they were packed off to go to the quilters. The pink and purple quilt for the young girl had already gone. Here's what I was able to take a shot of.

The red/white/and blue is going to be a King size and it is just fabulous! A Kaffe Fassett print really made it electric!

I worked on this one, which is going to be a queen size once all the borders were added.

When I first heard about this, I couldn't believe that this would be accomplished. I felt that the readily available, poorly made, inexpensive Chinese quilts which have flooded the market had made people think that quilts were easy to pop out....I couldn't have been more wrong.

I should have known that this guild, with its large membership, could accomplish what seemed to be an impossible dream, even on short notice.

Now, after working on some other things, I'm going to turn my attention to making one (or more if I'm lucky) 5" x 7" art quilts for "Hearts for Anna".

Dawn Goldsmith has stepped up to help a quilter in need. Here's the story and what she's doing about it and what I'm going to work on:

Anna Millea, (shown in photo) a longtime Guild and Artful Home artist, is fighting breast cancer - again. The disease has returned aggressively and is now in her bones, requiring an extreme sixteen rounds of chemotherapy. She has no insurance, having been deemed un-insurable due to her "pre-existing condition." When we at The Guild/Artful Home learned of this we knew we needed to do something to try to help her through this situation.What we have come up with is an event we are calling "Hearts for Anna", to which we hope you will contribute and donate a little bit of your time and talent. Artful Home will hold a 5-day online event, "Hearts for Anna", August 12-16, 2009 in which miniature artworks, no larger than 5" x 7", will be sold. The items will be sold first-come, first serve, with all items selling for $100 on Day 1, $75 on Days 2 - 4, and $50 on Day 5. All money will go to a fund that goes directly to Anna Millea to help pay for her medical bills.Requirements for donated artwork: (Deadline: August 7)Participation is open to all artists, both Artful Home members and non-members. The point is to get great participation, and thus give a greater hand to Anna.The artwork can be in any medium, no larger than 5" x 7". Artists in all media are encouraged to participate and donate works.The artwork should be one of a kind, though each artist participating can submit more than one piece.All work should fall within the theme of "Hearts for Anna", however the artist chooses to interpret this.

For pictures and the full scoop, as well as the entry information, please go to
Consider donating, and if you can't whip up a little piece of art, then please consider bidding. I can't imagine facing the bills with no insurance.....Breast cancer is scary enough without it being a recurrence with no insurance.