Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spartan Legends

Game Seven -- Santa conducts the SMB during the Pregame Show

Today's game wrote the history book on this year's Spartan senior class as they beat Minnesota and went down in Michigan State University football history as undefeated in Big Ten play this fall.

From a fan's point of view, it has been quite a season.

There were two stadium evacuations due to lightning strikes, one during Game 1 and then again in Game 2. Game 6 against Michigan was played in rainy miserable weather. Game 7, today, was sunny but really, really cold.

Was weather a factor? You bet. Those first two games toughened up a Spartan squad (and the Spartan Marching Band). Players on the field and in the band learned persistence and patience as delays meant that one game lasted beyond midnight and another was played in rain, minus the thunder and lightning.

We fans have made more third down noise this year than in any other year. We've chewed out the refs and cheered for the drumline. We sputtered every time Mr. TV Man strolled onto the field and delayed the game with commercial time.

At the end of the seasons, MSU is first in the Legends division of the Big Ten and advances to the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State next Saturday in Indianapolis. I'm quite a fan, but I will be watching from the comfort of my living room where I will not have to wear two coats and wool socks, a scarf and hat, and double pair of gloves just to watch the Spartan Marching Band in the best college football pregame show in the nation.

Go State!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cold Parade

We stomped our feet and moved around, trying to keep warm while waiting for parade unit #40 to come in the Howell Festival of Lights parade tonight. The cousins got to ride on the 40th float and they had a blast. 

Clever lighting made even the fire trucks seem like magic vehicles. The kids welcomed hot cocoa after the parade and a good time was had by all (even though we had to warm up after the good time!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Messes

We kept the kitchen in a constant state of messiness on the day before Thanksgiving. We made turkey rolls with quinoa stuffing and roasted veggies. We made a goat cheese potato pancake salad. We painted Christmas ornaments. We ate supper. We painted plaster trees. We had ice cream. We ate waffles.

There was stuff everywhere and we had a great time and we are grateful for Thanksgiving messes!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Store Windows

The space that was the Graywood Designs Studio Store in downtown Pigeon got a sprucing up for the holiday season. There are two window displays, some little Christmas lights, and Christmas quilts from my Christmas design collection, Glad Yule, on the walls.

Pigeon's town wide lighting ceremony is this weekend, but I wanted to get the 44 South Main building looking a little festive.

Enjoy the sight, Pigeon and Thumb area people, when you drive or walk by. I hope that it will warm your holiday a little. I know that we all wish there was more retail in our little towns and that spaces like these were active stores once again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Forlorn Owl

He looks kind of forlorn, this little owl from the tree ornament selection at Target. I brought him home to hang on the critter tree that will grace a corner of the sunroom this holiday season.

With his big eyes, crooked beak, and burlap body, this little guy must feel out of place. We will welcome him to the congregation of critters -- moose, deer, squirrels, fox -- that will gather to celebrate a Great Lake Christmas.

WHO knows, he might like it here by the shore of Lake Huron.

And then again, he may not give a HOOT.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turning Nine

Max turned nine years old today. He is a Thanksgiving baby and so we shall celebrate with him on Thanksgiving Day this week. That means that we will get to eat both pumpkin pie and birthday cake.

Here he is, during the 2010 Christmas season, with his cousin Hannah. I love the sweet look in their faces. Photographers would not argue with the natural light effect in this photo either.

Happy birthday, Max!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Bit of Milkweed

Still intact, in spite of autumn rain and early winter wind, the gossamer threads of silk tease milkweed seeds from the pod. Come next summer, monarch butterflies will cling to another set of milkweed pods, thanks to this plant growing alongside my compost pile. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Snow Mower Man

Thanksgiving is late this year but the winter winds came early. Ed and I thought there might be chance to get in one more mowing of the lawns at Cedar Bluff. So Ed brought the big grasshopper mower over from the farm on Thursday and it rained.

On Friday, there were snow showers and the winds picked up.

On Saturday, it snowed.

But. . .the mower was here and Ed had to try it out. We have this theory that grass that is left too long provides a wonderful winter environment for the voles who love to tunnel through the grass on top of the sod underneath the snowbanks.

Ed made three or four passes on the lawn on Saturday morning and then decided that the blades were icing up. He loaded up the mower and brought back the snow thrower.

"At least the snow thrower has heated handles," he said as he came in the house to warm up and change gloves before we watched Michigan State football.

Tonight the outside temperature is 18 degrees and the windchillls are forecast to be minus two degrees. It will be a good night to stay inside and have some chili for supper. The lawn mower is safely stored at the farm and the snow thrower is ready for duty at the lake. And Michigan State won again. A good Saturday, indeed.

Blog post from five years ago -- moving the mower with Finn.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Elevator Sky

Late afternoon sun lights up the Cooperative Elevator Company complex in downtown Pigeon. The November skies, gray with snow clouds, are getting ready to coat the landscape with a white covering. 

Today's winds brought snow flurries and sights like this one. I took this photo from the second story window of my office across from Village Hall. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Power Trucks in Howell

The Detroit Free Press reported that 678,000 Michigan homes and businesses were without power due to the damaging storm that swept across the Midwest on Sunday. When I drove down to Howell on Wednesday to visit my grandchildren, I almost did not get a hotel room for the night.

The hotel, a Holiday Inn Express on the west side of Howell along Interstate 96, has been full due to families who were still without power. Then, too, crews from the companies that were working to restore power were staying at the hotel, too.

Earlier this week there were reports that said it would take a longer time than usual to get Michigan locations back on the grid because so many crews had been called in to help in the tornado stricken areas of Indiana and Illinois. There is no doubt that the aging power grid is no match for these big storms that take out poles and lines with an increasing frequency.

The best advice that I heard this week was the reminder to always report your own outage. Just because your neighborhood is out doesn't mean that someone has called to report the outage. Each homeowner should make a call and report the power loss. That's kind of counter to the neighborhood understandings of twenty years ago, but it is good advice to remember as these storms pop up more frequently.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shoreline Triumvirate

Triumvirate is a pompous word to use for this image, but that's what comes to mind as I view this photo of the Harbor Beach lighthouse, a passing freighter and a flock of geese. Late afternoon light drew me to the shoreline where the lighthouse glowed in the slanted rays of November's waning light.

I drove to town to get some groceries and saw the freighter headed north. By the time I reached Lincoln Park and turned toward Trescott Street Pier, it was late in the day, that time that photographers call the golden hour. I pulled my Chevy Volt into a parking space near the pier where several other vehicles were parked, their drivers watching the majesty of evening light unfolding over Lake Huron and the lighthouse.

I walked along the shore to the pier, framing shots and taking them, but knowing that nothing spectacular was going onto the memory card. Then the freighter pulled close to the lighthouse just as the geese lifted in one great communal, mixed up company and flew toward the shore.

It was a triumvirate moment -- white lighthouse, strong ship gliding north, geese in a frenzy of migration -- that spells late fall in Michigan.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Compost Color


Colorful pumpkins, their autumn orange starting to go dull, ended up on the compost pile this week. Nights of deep freeze caused their flesh to wrinkle and their sidewalls to collapse. 

The compost pile tells the story of good eating. Wrinkled peppers from the garden, grapefruit skins, orange rinds, onion peels -- all join the discards where time and rot and degradation, energized by bacteria and moisture and heat, will create a rich new start for next year's garden. 

Some days, when I walk out to discard the peels and parings from a meal, I will find things scattered and I will know that another creature is benefiting from pile. A deer might sniff and nibble on an orange rind. A raccoon carries an eggshell onto the pathway. 

Most days though, what I see is the subtle change as the color and form of what once was food slowly becomes soil. 

It's quite the miracle, this progression of organisms and molecules and cellular structure into nutrients. From the orange of autumn to the green of spring, the compost pile does its biological job. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Little Piggies

Ed took this photo of me with the bronze javelinas just outside the entrance to Arizona Sonora Desert Museum last Saturday night.

We enjoyed their Midnight Sky event which featured night time walks along the garden paths, artwork for kids, a chance to dine at the Ocotillo Cafe, and some beautiful views of the full moon from out in the Tucson Mountains.

The javelinas are often mistaken for little piggies, so that's what I'm calling this blog post. Actually, javelinas can get to be the size of a medium sheep, much bigger than these little bronze greeters at the museum gate.

Southern Arizona had high winds last week and those high winds followed us to Michigan on Sunday. Our Delta jet did some turbulent rocking and rolling as we headed over the storm into rain swept Detroit. Still, it feels so good to be home.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thanksgiving Blessings

With less than two weeks until Thanksgiving, I'm thinking holidays already. I didn't take the time to straighten and perfect this artwork. Thanksgiving and holidays in general aren't ever perfect either.

That's okay. What counts are all the good things that come our way through life's ups and downs. So if these turkeys are a little tilted, so be it. That's life.

Off center, tilted, and full of blessings.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Birthday Batch

At Grandma Pauline's -- Christmas 2010

The fall birthday batch is in full swing. Clay's birthday is today, but he is in Taiwan, so his birthday was really yesterday. (If you can figure that statement out, you have traveled across the International Date Line at least once.)

Wendy (far left) and Pete (far right) are October babies; Hannah (the little one) joins Finn who is not in this photo as a September baby, and Will (second from left) joins Clay (second from right) as a November kid.

Whew! That's a whole big batch of birthdays, all in a row, and it doesn't even count the myriads of friend birthdays that pop up on the fall calendar, too.

Eat cake! Be happy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Big 4-0

Hard to believe, isn't it, when one of your kids turns a certain age? Whether that milestone is 1, or 10, or like today's child, the big 4-0, your children always shine in your heart, no matter what.

Today's is Will's fortieth birthday and he is working with the crew of Chicago PD, the next Dick Wolf drama that NBC is premiering on January 8th. Will's job as a steadicam operator and photographer puts him plop in the middle of some fascinating situations.

The situation pictured above is of Will when he was almost two, plopped between his parents during the fall of 1975. I was expecting Liesl in February and Ed, like Will, was working away from Michigan in Tennessee that fall. So this photo was taken, we think, in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, or maybe somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Happy birthday, Will!

Last year's birthday post

Fashion note: Yes, I did knit Will's pullover (knit out of Coats and Clark Clansman yarn) and my poncho. A poncho! Good Lord, remember those! And check out the deep hems on Will's homemade pants. I certainly expected that child to grow! And then those navy and tan saddle shoes on a two year old -- stylish!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quilt Max

I should remember the name of this teddy bear quilt that I made for grandson Max, but I don't. I fell in love with the applique bears that look out windows that crisscross the quilt. Their little paws, simple oval shapes, take on a charming look, kind of a "I see you and I want to give you a big bear hug" kind of feeling.

I started this quilt for Max before he was born, before we knew that he would be kid who loves purple. If I were to make a quilt for him now, I would include purple since that has become an absolute, all time favorite color of his.

Anyway, the Max Bear Quilt is a favorite of mine. It is a good example of how a little bit of applique (the bears) combines with a little bit of piecing (the diagonal sashes) and a little bit of quilting (the seashell pattern on the cloud fabric) to produce an enchanting quilt for a kid.

Note to quiltmakers: The pattern for this quilt is from Quiltmaker magazine, probably an issue in the mid-1990's. And, yes, I did use Thangles to piece the sashing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quilts Blooming

A favorite design for many quilters is the Blooming Nine Patch quilt. Here's the one that I made for Will and Wendy's wedding quilt. It is all batiks and it won a prize at the Thumb Area Quilt Guild show in the summer of 2004 (or was it 2005?)

My mother-in-law, Pauline Geiger Eichler, made the same quilt using green and pink print fabrics. As you can see, it was a prize winner, too. Set on the diagonal, this design uses nine-patch blocks that blend from one fabric to the next.

I can honestly say that I have never seen a bad quilt made from this design!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quilt Dairy

The second quilting book that I wrote, "Glad Yule," was published in 2007. My mother died in January of that year and I fell way behind in getting the book done. Danielle Damen came to my rescue and helped with sewing samples, editing, and photo styling of many of the pictures in the book.

Here's "Dairy Stars" from Glad Yule. This quilt uses Wisconsin dairy colors -- cheddar, cream, and butter yellow -- combined with two sizes of eight pointed stars to make a holiday quilt that glows with warm, buttery color. The artful cow in the photo was made by a Fond du Lac area artist. Notice the outline of the state of Wisconsin in the Holstein's black and white pattern.

We had a tough time photographing this quilt. Steve Jias, the photographer, used great digital equipment, but the metallic fabrics used for the block backgrounds turned dull in the photos. So we stopped using a lot of metallic fabric in quilts for books or patterns since it is so hard to photograph them.

This quilt has cow fabric on the back of it, a true salute to my home state of Wisconsin, and to all of the dairymen and women in the Hayes and Luedtke families on my side of the family.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quilt Guys

These guys did NOT make this quilt, but they certainly are proud to be in the picture! The quilt is known as one of the Sharon Quilts, made by my sister MB from blocks donated by friends for Sharon.

I don't even remember the full story of the Sharon Quilts (or remember who Sharon is) but I absolutely love this photo, taken in 1996, of Ed, on the left, and Patrick, on the right, and the quilt which is tacked up on an old chicken coop somewhere west of Washington, D.C, on some acreage along Poolesville Road.

MB quilted at least two Sharon Quilts. She used to say that she honed her machine quilting skills on these wonderful sampler quilts.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Quilt In Progress

On May 2, 2010 the New York Times Lens blog did a project called "Moment in Time" where they asked people all around the world to take a photo at 11 am Eastern Time and submit it to their website. I had a quilt on the design wall in my studio and that's what I photographed that day.

The caption read as follows: "Sunday morning at our lake house and I'm in my quilting studio assembling a quilt for my granddaughter, Hannah Lee, age 8 months, using blocks made by her Great Grandmother, Pauline Eichler, age 82, who has Parkinson's and still loves to sew."

The topic that I submitted the photo under was "Family" and I am proud to say that this photo was published by the New York Times, along with myriads of other Moment in Time snapshots, in the days that followed.

Hannah was featured in a later blog post, along with the completed quilt. What is really cool about this quilt is that it uses secondary colors from the color wheel -- orange, green, and purple. Those are tough colors to work into traditional patchwork, but in this quilt, they work and they work well.

Quilt FO (Finished Object)

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in June of 1994 and one of the remembrances from that celebration was a quilt that contains the names of family and friends who attended their party. Since yesterday's blog post was about a quilt UFO (unfinished object), today's post shows a finished quilt (FO -- finished object) that was started in June of 1994 and finished by December of 2000.

Each block has a center strip that features signatures of people at the party. Those strips were actually pieces of muslin that had freezer paper ironed on the back so that one could write on the fabric using Pigma pens. The writing was heat set with a warm iron and then each fabric unit was pieced into a quilt block.

The blocks became a quilt and the ensuing photo of Stan and Val, father and mother to seven of us Hayes sibs, is a precious image of dear parents and of the quilt that honors their 50th wedding anniversary.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quilt UFO

In getting ready to finish a few quilts for the holiday season, my brain has been churning through the large number of Unfinished Objects (known as UFOs in the quilt business) that are in banker boxes, zip lock bags, or the closet in my studio.

Here's a collection of blocks with an autumn theme, either by color or by shape. It looks like I laid out this scheme in June of 2002, just a minor eleven years ago. The blocks still look good together and, yes, this is still in the UFO pile.

Onward and upward to the sewing machine.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Forgotten Morning

Sometimes I forget just how beautiful the Lake Huron shoreline can be. Here's an image of an October morning in 2010, October 23 to be exact, that was one of those marble mornings with little wind. The horizon was an inky etching that outlined the start of the day. The sun's golden rays spilled out above the dark clouds onto the glassy surface of the water, almost as if the sun could not be contained.

The metadata on this file shows an image taken with my old Olympus. The original image size, 517 kilobytes, betrays my old photography mode of less megapixels and less intentionality. Photoshop was my new friend way back then and I definitely did not have the darkroom skills to manipulate images like I now possess.

Still, this forgotten morning shines. In Michigan we've come to call these images Pure Michigan, after the very successful Pure Michigan advertising campaign that promotes Michigan on billboards and in print and broadcast media. On Twitter they become #PureMichigan.

A marbled morning. A sunrise with a tinge of gold. I'll take that any day.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Winter Wheat

The winter wheat fields are velvet green this time of the year. Their defined rows of tiny plants contrast with the giant wind turbines. In the dull light of a fading afternoon the kettle gray turbines towers fade into the blurred skies of a late autumn day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stunned Chickadee

A chickadee flew against the kitchen windows twice while I was cooking on Sunday afternoon. He clung to the support of an outside lamp for quite some time. I grabbed my art journal and made a few lines that suggested the little bird's dilemma.

When I got to pen and ink and watercolor, the stunned look was gone. Instead this little bird looks quite at home, clinging to the lamp along the stone wall.

For the record, I walked outside after the bird hit the windows, trying to see what the bird saw. A strong reflection pattern, caused by the angle of the sun, must have confused the bird and caused the collision. After ten minutes or so of teetering on the lamp, he flew away.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Apple Tree Doe

Michigan's squirrels and deer are exceptionally fat this fall, thanks to the luscious crop of nuts and apples found along the road sides, in parks and woods, and in the front lawn. A very healthy doe has been showing up on a regular basis in our yard where the apples are strewn on the ground and still hanging in the trees.

There are several apple trees in the naturalized area along the lawns at Cedar Bluff. We don't spray the trees so most years the apples are quite wormy. This year, even with the pock marks on the fruit from the August 1st hailstorm, the apples are exceptional.

I really enjoy walking out to a tree, picking a fresh apple, and eating it. The juice from the white apple flesh just rolls down my cheeks, the apples are so good. So, I suppose that the deer are enjoying apple treats, too.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Artwork: Whoops

The Big Game in East Lansing between Michigan State and Michigan was on my brain when I took a moment last Friday morning for artwork. I knew that I had a stretch of fifteen or so minutes to spend, so I hauled out the big watercolor palette and went to work.

This pen and ink sketch, accented with watercolor, looked pretty good to me at this point. I liked the color and the shapes. "Not bad," I told myself.

In my weekend anticipation mode, I pulled a big WHOOPS when I decided to add a cast shadow in Payne's Gray to the composition. Then I figured that maybe the shadow could be overtaken by a double lined border. Then I thought, "Well, gee, Wanda, just add some background."

After I was done composing, and painting, and talking to myself, this was the end result -- a journal page with a big blob of gray.

It's how you learn, this practicing and knowing when there is a WHOOPS. Maybe I will paste something over the blob. Tissue paper, or a torn chunk of brown grocery sack paper. Even better, maybe that's where my ticket from the game should go, right over the gray blob, since Michigan State's undefeated Big Ten record is definitely brightening up the autumn football scene in this household!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Go State!

If I had my head on my shoulders I could find the MSU band hat that I'm wearing in this 1994 photo. I still have that hat, even though it is a tad bit worn out!

Today is Michigan Day when all of Michigan (well, a lot of Michigan) directs attention toward whichever stadium is hosting the big game. The University of Michigan will travel from Ann Arbor to East Lansing today to take on the Spartans of Michigan State University at 3:30 pm at Spartan Stadium.

It's always a big, big deal for those of us who are fans of both teams. We'll be in our usual seats, just around the corner from the south end zone, cheering for the Spartans and following the SMB, Spartan Marching Band, from their practice field to Spartan Stadium.

Here's hoping for good weather and a Spartan victory. (Sorry, John and Don.)

Go State!

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saints' Day at My Desk

On this All Saints' Day 2013 I'm at my desk that I set up to care for the correspondence that needed to be done after my father, the Reverend Stanley C. F. Hayes, died in early May. There have been cards and gifts that I have responded to, letters for financial matters, pieces of historical information to record, and thank you notes to write.

Most of that work has been completed and I am about ready to move the paperwork into the large shoe box file that now holds all of the sympathy cards and other paperwork from my supervision of his funeral week. It has been a lot to care for, but it has been a wonderful time of remembering, and I have had the support and help of all of my sisters and my brother.

Sometimes I have stopped to move over to my computer and print out a photo from a file that we call "Stan's Slides." My sister, MB Hayes, scanned lots of Dad's 35 mm slides into a digital file. I have called upon those images often as I have written notes to people and thought about how much they would enjoy seeing a photo from the past. The scans date back to the early 1950's, so they are a treasure.

For my father's clergy colleagues, I have sometimes included a copy of a photo of the committal service (for those of you who are not part of a clergy family, the committal service is recited at the graveside by a clergyperson) that we think Dad had memorized. I found it, neatly folded, in one of his little black service books in his desk. Several of Dad's colleagues have even taken the time to let me know how much they appreciated having this piece of Dad's ministry.

When you grow up in a parsonage, you learn that you often come in second. Others come first. Your clergy parent is often out the door to take care of the needs of a parishioner or to write a sermon or to make hospital calls or conduct a service here or there. I grew up wishing that my Dad could be my Dad more often. As a matter of fact, that's why I did not want him officiating at my wedding ceremony. Lots of people could officiate; only one could be Dad.

Those feelings, while they still exist as memory, have been shoved aside as I have moved through the process of dealing with correspondence in these last six months. There are a few notes to write yet; I saved the most important ones for the last. And there are names of people who came to the visitation or sent a gift to the food pantry whose addresses I am still hunting for. That search, with the help of some Wisconsin contacts, will soon be over.

Now comes the saintly part, that of remembering both my mother and my father for the wonderful human beings and kind parents that they were. Those memories, and they just keep coming, will sustain the moments when I still wish they both were here. I think of my mother-in-law who died in September that way, too, and know that for my husband Ed and his sibs, the work of grieving and remembering is only beginning.

So, on All Saints' Day, I can truly give thanks "for all the saints who from their labors rest," these good people who have gone before, those saints who, this year especially, are my saints.

Stan, and Val, and dear Pauline -- I miss you so.