Alpaca Fun Day and quilt update

Last weekend my pal Sam invited me to go to an Alpaca Fun Day event at a local alpaca farm. I didn’t even know that there WAS a local alpaca farm! It’s called Isabella Alpacas (no web presence that I could find). I was pretty excited to see what it was like.

The alpacas were SUPER CUTE, of course. They had some who were young and had just been sheared for the first time this year, and others who were older.

Alpaca Fun Day

One of the folks there handed Sam a bowl and the nearby alpaca was VERY enthusiastic about eating the kibble. He also made some really cute snorting noises that reminded me of Coraline.

This weekend I also made a beeline for CraftyTown and worked on my current quilt project. Hooray! I haven’t been making enough time for it lately so I was really happy to have several consecutive hours to give to it this weekend.

Day off means quilting and podcasts #joy

I’m working on the background of the quilt in quadrants which are six squares (each 3.25″ square) square. I find that I have a neater result when I do it this way, though in the case of an art quilt like this I’m not 100% upset if things aren’t perfect. I have my sketch drawn out on graph paper (you can see it on the left side of the photo above) and this helps me to know what fabric I want to put where.

Quilt in progress

Having the 36 squares laid out, I then match them up so I can do smaller sections and then attach them to each other to make the whole 6×6-square quadrant.

Quilt in progress

I’m using a non-traditional seam allowance on this quilt. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to do this – it’s been ages since I started this project – but when I picked it back up, it was obvious that’s the seam allowance I chose, I’m going with it.

Quilt in progress

Not too long ago, Susan hipped me to these Wonder Clips, which I now adore. They make piecing SO EASY! I love that they’re red on one side and clear on the other, so I can use that to remind me which was is up, if I happen to jumble my clipped squares. They’re also a lot easier to put on and take off than pins are – though I will often use pins along with the clips to designate the position of various sections so that I remember which way it goes throughout the transport from the cutting table to the sewing machine and back.

Quilt in progress

I’ve also started to use chain piecing, which for a project like this is saving me all kinds of time. Thanks to the Wonder Clips and my pin “labeling” system, I can sew a bunch of bits together in one go and not worry about forgetting which piece goes which way.


a grand time

We recently went for a mini-vacation weekend in Grand Rapids. It’s not a long way from where we live, but we haven’t made the time to head over there in quite a while.

Grand Rapids Public Museum - Lego exhibit

We went in with a goal of visiting several museums and we met that goal! Our first was the Grand Rapids Public Museum, which had a special exhibit of LEGO buildings. There weren’t as many buildings as we’d hoped to see, but the ones in the exhibit were indeed impressive and, as you can see, on a pretty large scale.

why is Troi carrying a purse?

Having been through the standing exhibits in the not too distant past, we just visited a few highlights including their collection of American toys throughout history. This ST:TNG scene is terrific.

Karl is playing pinball. I am helping

In addition to cultural stuff, we also made time to experience a few recommendations from friends, including happy hour at the Pyramid Scheme. It’s a bar and performance venue with a pretty decent collection of pinball machines. Continuing my fangirl appreciation, I did the best on the ST:TNG machine and spent most of my time playing that. After this we walked over to HopCat for a delicious dinner and brews. Best of all, we were seated right away when we arrived and noticed that a large line formed practically moments later, so we super lucked out on that.

Andrea Kowch - Sojourn, 2011

The following day we went to the Grand Rapids Art Museum after an amazing breakfast at Sundance Grill and Bar. They offer Tex-Mex food that was SUPER delicious and the portions were huge. We definitely felt well-fueled for a day of walking around. The Art Museum was showing works from last year’s ArtPrize, which was cool since we didn’t make it over to see anything during last year’s competition. This painting is Sojourn by Andrea Kowch. There’s at least one Margaret Atwood novel in which a woman paints things that this made me think of – I may be thinking of descriptions from more than one story.

Elizabeth Brandt - BodyMap, 2012

The last couple of pieces we came to happened to be the thing I am most interested in: art quilts! This one is BodyMap by Elizabeth Brandt. The vibrant colors she used are really appealing and really highlight her construction. I like that she used different stitch techniques on different sections of the quilt.

Ann Loveless - Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore, 2013

This, Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore by Ann Loveless, was almost the last work we saw, and it was a great finale. It’s really four large pieces, framed and hung in a sequence that creates one visual whole. This was the first place people’s choice grand prize winner in last year’s ArtPrize competition.

Ann Loveless - Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore, 2013

The detail she put into this piece is really impressive.

Ann Loveless - Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore, 2013

I love the colors and how well she captures the look of a sunset.

selfie at Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids

We also visited Frederik Meijer Gardens for the first time. It was SUPER hot and muggy by the time we left, but we still quite enjoyed walking through the greenhouses and the grounds. There were a ton of weddings happening that day (I’m sure it’s a popular summer wedding spot) and I felt thankful that I wasn’t enduring the humidity in super dressy clothing.

Roxy Paine - Neuron, 2010

The outdoor pieces are really nicely arranged with walking paths and frequent benches that are placed so that you can appreciate whatever piece of sculpture is nearby. We didn’t take time to sit as the humidity was making us feel as though if we stopped, we’d never get started again. This piece, Neuron by Roxy Paine, was one of our favorites. There are lots more pics on my flickr of the various artworks we saw on this trip.

With a well-formed appetite after that exercise, we headed over to Founders for lunch. Sitting in the beer garden, we met some nice folks from downstate with whom we enjoyed our sandwiches and brews. Following that, we visited with some dear friends we haven’t seen in far too long, and of course we were having too much fun to remember to take any photos. We had dinner at Brewery Vivant, which was decadent and delicious – duck nachos! – and then listened to our pal Dan play dueling pianos at the BOB. It was a jam-packed weekend but totally fun and really refreshing. And almost everything was within walking distance of our hotel! We’re such homebodies a lot of the time, so it’s good to be reminded of how refreshing it can be to find some new surroundings every now and then.

you’re older than you’ve ever been

and now you’re even older!

In these sage words from They Might Be Giants, there is truth. I’m going to be 40 in a few weeks, and I’ve been thinking this year about age and aging and time and how it passes.

I’m not really too fussed about turning 40. It’s a nice milestone and it’s pretty difficult for me to believe that I have been kicking around for that many years, but I’m not upset about it or particularly bothered by it. Like a lot of things in life, it’s sort of weird, but it just is.

There are things that I don’t particularly care for, though, such as the fact that it means that everyone I care about is also older than I expect them to be, which means that we all have fewer years left than is particularly comforting to think about. I don’t want to live to be super-duper old – I’d rather not spend too much time struggling because my body and/or mind can’t keep up anymore – but that day better be way far off in the future (same goes for all those I care about).

When I look at myself, I realize that I have a lot more, as I like to think of it, silver hair than I used to. Again, I’m not particularly upset about this. It’s kind of like having highlights, and these days I’m too lazy to keep up with dying my hair with any regularity. But it does mean that I feel like I look my age more than I ever have before. I’ve pretty much always been told that I look younger than I am and it feels a little weird to think that this might not be true now. And of course, if anyone is going to judge me based on my silver hair, then screw them and their unreasonable beauty standards. I hope one of my silver hairs pokes them in the eye.

Mostly, approaching this age milestone is encouraging me to make the most of my time, since I’m theoretically approaching the point of having less of it left than I have already spent. I am always thinking, “I should write about that!” and then not making the time to do it, and I’m officially making a concerted effort to actually do it. I’m also hoping to be more resistant in the face of potential stress – I don’t HAVE to choose to give in and run myself ragged, just because it’s an option. Setting boundaries and making wise choices is the name of the game. Finally, I’m looking for opportunities to do good things, even (or especially!) small things. An awesome friend of mine started the Be Excellent Project and I’m super excited to share it here, so more people can get in on it.

Michelle’s husband Andy held Be Excellent To Each Other as his motto and lived his life with that at the core of everything he did. Michelle is now encouraging and inspiring us to do the same – to honor Andy’s memory but also because it is a thing we can do to make another person’s life better, even if in a small way, and those things matter. Working in a customer-service-based industry means that I go to work every day expecting to help others all day long, but how often do I consciously think about helping others when I’m out and about doing my own thing? The Be Excellent Project is helping me to remember to look for these opportunities, and I hope it will for you, too. Just seeing the things people having posted so far has been a great motivation. Plus, Bill and Ted! George Carlin! Time travel! Who could possibly resist?

on forgiveness and drawing lines

[please do not cross the line]

Please do not cross the line by rhinoneal

There have been so many stories in the news lately about people making choices, being faced with the consequences of their actions, and then being forgiven without having shown much if any remorse and/or suffering actual punitive consequences. On the surface, this forgiveness seems fine and maybe even noble. But there’s something about these particular stories that keeps bugging me: the ease with which we forgive and forget when the circumstances make it convenient to do so.

Just this week in my small town, a college football player took a plea deal after being charged with three felonies. And just like that, he’s back on the team. Because OF COURSE he is, because football=money and we all know that’s much more important than a person actually taking real consequences for their choices. It’s so disappointing to see my alma mater make this kind of choice. I expect better of them than I do of the NFL, for example (though I’d love to see the NFL improve on its laughably poor handling of its latest debacle).

It seems that we are especially willing to forget when the crime/poor choice was a man doing harm to a woman or any form of misogyny.

For instance, most of us remember that Chris Brown beat the crap out of Rhianna. He pled guilty and was given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist (this brings up another element of these stories – we all seem to take it for granted that, if you’re a rich guy, there’s no way you’ll be held to the same standard of consequences as someone who isn’t), and now it’s like, oh, whatever, never mind, that was awhile ago, now he’s fine. Websites that I usually respect, like the AV Club, still review his new album as if nothing ever happened. I’m not in favor of never giving anyone a second chance, but I don’t think we have to do it automatically, and I think that forgiving people for awful, criminal acts just because time has passed is really shitty. Where was his apology and amends for what he did? I don’t think it ever happened. I’m sure the AV Club wants to have a wide range of reviews, but it would be easier for me to respect them if they chose not to review works from artists who are known misogynists.

Those are just a couple of examples out of many. It’s so tiring to see this happening over and over. I don’t think it’s probably even possible to participate in contemporary culture without separating artists from their art at least a little bit, BUT I don’t think we have to completely look away from these things, either. If you love a Woody Allen movie, at least be aware of the almost-unbelievable things he’s done in his personal life and the way his actions have affected the people in his life. There’s more awesome art than you can shake a stick at being created by good people who aren’t guilty of misogyny/violence/predatory acts/etc., so why not choose to fill your life with that? Or at least more of it? If I hear a song/see a piece of art that I like, I’m likely to try to find out more about the creator(s). At least then I’ll KNOW who I’m listening to or appreciating, and I can determine whether or not that affects my appreciation for the thing they made. As ever, problematic military toy G.I. Joe’s PSA writers had it at least a little bit right when they said, “Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.”

This all leads me to a thing that is happening right now in my profession. Two women who called out a man for sexual harassment and predation are now being sued by that man. We work in a female-dominated profession, but that doesn’t stop one of the relatively few men in that profession from doing horrible things (and, worse, AT THE SAME TIME being lauded as an industry leader). And then trying to intimidate those who called him out into silence with a ludicrous lawsuit. People get away with a lot of terrible behavior – was the CMU football player’s arrest the first time he did something criminal? Had Chris Brown ever abused a woman before he was caught? I don’t know the answers, but it sure seems possible. We look away from things that are difficult to deal with, and in doing so, we enable the perpetrators to keep on doing those things and, probably, to escalate. We should all be holding one another accountable, which sometimes means doing the difficult thing. Those with less power especially need to support each other and call others out on their behavior.

As someone who works with/for the public, I try to have empathy for everyone. The person who comes in the door with a terrible attitude and shouts profanities at me because the computer isn’t cooperating is probably just having a really shit day. I don’t take it personally and I look forward to future visits when they won’t be in such a bad mood, because it usually is truly just a bad moment for them (and we all have those). I imagine that the football player at CMU was motivated by wanting more – it seems plausible that he gets his room and board covered by a scholarship but might not have much in the way of running-around money, which would totally suck when all his friends are going out to a party or for food or whatever. However, he still made the choice to commit a crime, and his possible desperation does not justify that. It’s a little more difficult for me to find empathy for a man who beats or harasses a woman, but I still try to understand where that person is coming from and hope that they get the help they need along with the punitive consequences for their actions.

I wish I had some solutions to these problems that would really make a difference in our society. Rather than feel hopeless, though, I’ll choose to continue to make good choices in my own life, to try my best to call things out when I see them, and to support those like #teamharpy.

Hallowed Grounds

Last weekend we went to see the current exhibit at the Baber Room: Hallowed Grounds, the work of Michelle Wilson.

Hallowed Grounds - exhibit of Michelle Wilson's art

“Through this collection of fiberart, the artist explores historical and ecological links, examining how social and environmental justice often go in unison.”


Infrasound II, 2013

Infrasound II, 2013

Wilson makes her own paper from invasive plants that she clears to create room for native plants. How awesome is that? She uses a variety of techniques to create her art, including collage, drawing, printing, shaping, and hand-stitching.


Chacaltaya, 2011

Chacaltaya, 2011

This paper cutting was done by hand!


Listening, 2013

Listening, 2013

I love the multi-layered look of this piece. It reminds me of a book cover from when I was a kid, though I can’t place the book. The outline figure and silhouette of the cat especially stand out to me.


Kasha Katuwe, 2011

Kasha Katuwe, 2011

This piece is one of a five-edition set, each one hand-stitched. The stitching is precise and yet retains a natural feeling.


Solastalgia II, 2013

Solastalgia II, 2013

Though the artist doesn’t live in this area of the country, this piece reminded me of here.


Accord, 2012

Accord, 2012

I like the effect the three panels have in this piece: two figures walking toward one another but with a large – even more significant due to the separation of the panels – distance between them. The cool blue colors really work to set the tone, and I find the contrast between the dark figures and the lighter background very effective.

This is yet another exhibit of art at the Baber Room that I quite enjoyed. I feel so lucky that we have a number of art spaces with rotating collections here in Mount Pleasant.

S-A-TUR-DAY Afternoon!

Yesterday was just the kind of day I love. We woke up and had some delicious scram with spinach and ham (courtesy of awesome K) and had a leisurely morning doing laundry and catching up on reading and social media. Then we headed out to see some exhibits! We saw the current exhibit at the Baber Room, which I’ll post about separately later this week. We then hit the new exhibit at the Clarke Historical, which is entitled Photography: Process, People & Preservation.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

This exhibit is really nicely curated. The graphics and displays are eye-catching and convey a lot of information without overwhelming you.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

Check out this print of the Marching Chips before they were the Marching Chips. Quite a far cry from the 250+ people I marched with when I was a student.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

The exhibit has a lot of information about a variety of photographic techniques and formats, with examples of many types of prints and negatives.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

They even included some nostalgic examples like these flash cubes, which I remember just a little from when I was a young kid.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

Also included are some neat vintage and antique cameras and, like in this case, advertisements and information about them. I love the image of this person being amazed by the photo they’re taking while they’re taking it.

Things have been so busy lately that it was really nice to just have a day to do exactly what we wanted to and not have other obligations or deadlines looming. I recently did a professional thing that I worked really hard on and which came with a lot of nervousness and anxiety, and I am so glad that I did it (and that it’s over). I accomplished a thing that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t even get the chance to do, and it feels good to have done it. I’ve also had a variety of other things going on that were weighing on me (huzzah for mammograms! But even more for follow-up mammograms that turn out to be nothing!) and it feels so good to just be. Anyway.

After the photography exhibit, we attempted to see the current faculty exhibit at the art museum, but apparently whoever was supposed to work there today didn’t show up, as the doors were locked and no one appeared to be around. Too bad, as it was CMU and You day and campus was packed with people who could have enjoyed seeing the art. We’ll try again another day.

Then we did a little retail exploration, including picking up some seasonal brews at a local liquor store (verdict: their selection of craft beers and ciders was okay, but nothing to write home about. We’ll try another shop next time – locals, any recommendations?) and some sausages at the local meat market (verdict: YUM. The market is attached to the meat processing facility, so these were made on site and you can really tell that they’re superior quality). Then on to the fabric store to pick up some crafty bits and fabric as I work on putting together my Halloween package for the Blythe Swap Group. After lunch, I sewed and crafted some of the goodies for that swap package and I’m so pleased at how everything is coming together. It’s not even halfway through the month and I’m almost finished! I’m truly not sure how that happened.

Followed up by an evening of chilling and enjoying some good TV (new Doctor Who!) and the company of each other and Coraline the Wonder Snuggler, it was a really nice day.

Art Walk Central

We took some time this weekend to walk around and look at some of the art happening and on display for Art Walk Central 2014. There is some NEAT stuff to be experienced.

Let’s start with the Art Walk Central competition. There are a whole bunch of pieces of all different kinds of art on display around town. Most of them are inside businesses on Broadway and Main Streets, but there are also some in the art gallery on campus and in the university library, and a few outdoor pieces downtown as well. Anyone can sign up to vote online or via smartphone!

Art Walk Central 2014 entries

This piece, untitled by Velvet Underwood, is a raw edge fabric collage (on display at Art Reach).

Art Walk Central 2014 entries

I love the detail in the tone-on-tone fabric she used.

Art Walk Central 2014 entries

I would 100% love to hang this piece, untitled by Laura Coffee (also at Art Reach), in our home. Who doesn’t want to see a giant robot stalking downtown Mount Pleasant?

Emiko Screams by Corby Blem

This collage, Emiko Screams by Corby Blem (on display at the University Art Gallery), caught my eye right away, and THEN I realized that (EVEN BETTER!) it’s inspired by the scene of a woman seeing Godzilla for the first time.

August 6, 1945 Revisited (Hiroshima) by Sally Rose

One of my favorite pieces is this one, August 6, 1945 Revisited (Hiroshima) by Sally Rose (also at the UAG). After looking at it for a few moments, I realized that I took a weaving class from this artist my sophomore year in college. I loved that class! I would love to take another class or a workshop from her sometime.

Summer Reading: A Study in Greens by Ann Kowaleski

I was delighted to see a piece by one of my favorite local artists, Ann Kowaleski. Entitled Summer Reading: A Study in Greens, this piece is also at the CMU art gallery. The vibrant colors are so striking, and of course I’m also drawn to the subject matter.

Filed by Kim Kleinhardt

Finally, this is Filed by Kim Kleinhardt (also at UAG). Each section is a file folder, collaged and containing papers from each of her thirty years as an art teacher. You can open each folder (there’s a note encouraging this) to see the contents and read about that year of her life as an art instructor. SO NEAT.

Members of the community were also out and about downtown painting the crosswalks at the intersection of Broadway and Main.

painting the intersection crosswalks

You can see the Mondrian-inspired design in the middle of the intersection, which was completed earlier this month. This weekend, they were painting the crosswalks. The one above will look like a piano keyboard, I think!

There were also artists creating chalk paintings on the sidewalks on Saturday.

chalk art on Broadway

So fun! I feel so lucky to be in a community that places a high value on art – and even more, on art that anyone can participate in. I hope to enter an art quilt in the competition next year.

FO Friday: DFTBA yarnbomb in full awesomeness

The yarnbombs went up in downtown Mount Pleasant last week and they look amazing!

DFTBA (my yarn bomb)

Here I am, being super proud of my reminder to everyone to DFTBA. I got really prime placement, too! It’s right on the corner of Main and Broadway, the intersection at the heart of downtown!

2014 Art Walk Central yarnbombs photo 2014artwalkcentralyarnbombs_zps4cfba3f6.jpg

Of course all of the projects look terrific and they really add a neat feel to the area. It’s also neat to see those made by friends of mine, some of which I saw in progress during knitting meetups.

 photo Twitter_MidMichDevCo_hankgreen_realjohngreen_seen__-_2014-08-05_114435_zps8cface4f.png

Even before I had heard that the yarnbombs were up, someone from the Middle Michigan Development Corporation did and tweeted about it! Such a neat way to learn that they were up!

Chalk graffiti piano for Art Walk Central 2014

Art Walk Central is a big deal, though, and includes a lot more than just the yarnbombs. There are a couple of chalk graffiti pianos on downtown streets, and every time I’ve been downtown recently someone has been drawing on and/or playing them. It’s so nice to hear a little music in the air. There’s also a big art competition going on, which I’ll post about more soon when I’ve had a chance to see more of it. If you’re local and haven’t registered to vote yet, do it now!

DFTBA (my yarn bomb)

Meanwhile, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome!

let’s hear it for the sisterhood

Last weekend, I went with some lady friends to a cabin up north for some rest, relaxation, and grrl time.

Shade Monger

We went to the beach one morning, which I actually enjoyed, thanks to lots of shade, a good book to read, and great company. (While we were up north I finished the final book in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series, which I heartily enjoyed. They are the coziest of mysteries, featuring a fictionalized imagining of Beatrix Potter’s life in the Land Between the Lakes, where she in real life purchased and maintained a couple of farms. I’m a little sad to be done with them.) As you can see, I am under a beach umbrella, under a canopied chair, and wearing a large sun hat. Plus lots of SPF, of course, should any stray piece of myself have managed to encounter the sun.

@shinyinfo 's Zen garden

I watched Kristin create a mini zen garden on the beach and enjoyed people-watching as well. There was a BT far down the shore, and someone was paddle-boarding with a boxer/mix! It was lovely.

Cool moth

There was lots of my type of communing with nature (meaning, for short periods of time and without a lot of direct contact) and this moth hung out on the screen for almost the entire weekend. I thought it was quite pretty. Anyone know what kind it is? (We took a group promise to not look things up on our phones for the weekend – we’re all librarians and tend to be the one who seeks out the answer to any question posed, so it was nice to give that a rest for a few days.)

Being outdoorsy, tried and enjoyed a smore #personalgrowth

I also attempted some personal growth in the form of being outside around the campfire each night and expanding my taste to include enjoying a s’more. I’ve been averse to marshmallows for years, but I decided I’d try one since it’d been decades since I last did. Turns out, it was alright! Not a taste I’ll probably pursue on the reg, but when in Rome, I can hack it.

The best part of the weekend was just getting to spend time with some of my closest female friends. We don’t get together often enough! We danced, we sang, we imbibed, we talked about body hair and the patriarchy – what more could a woman ask for?

 photo 10593321_514110358689751_1369144211_zpsb3a0c2d9.jpg

Thanks, ladies! I can’t wait to do it again!

Happy Scrabble-versary!

My lovely sister and her husband recently celebrated their wedding anniversary. My lovely husband and I had an idea for a neat gift for them, which turned out even better than we anticipated.

Anniversary Scrabble gift

Both of them are big fans of Scrabble and are among the most aggressive/skilled Scrabble players you’re likely to meet, so we felt that a Scrabble themed gift would be perfect! I acquired a basic Scrabble game online and picked up a shadowbox frame at Joann. A little E-6000 and drying time later, it was done! K gets the credit for doing almost all the work on this project. He’s just so good at precise layout projects like this one.

Anniversary Scrabble gift

I’m so pleased with it! I think it will be a lovely thing to be displayed in their home and will hopefully bring good thoughts and memories with it. Happy Anniversary, Susan and David!