Monday, June 27, 2011

Architecture: The 12 x 12 Challenge

Women Against the Grain!  I'm a newbie with this art quilt group, and two months ago, I was one of the members who rose to what's known as a 12 x 12 challenge.  Participants in a 12 x 12 challenge each produce a 12 x 12 quilt inspired by a challenge word.  In this case, the challenge word, chosen by one of our members, was the word architecture.

For me, thinking of a subject was a no-brainer.  I have a favorite architectural style--the bungalow--and a pile of books about them.  I chose an image of a bungalow in St. Helena, CA, and produced this 12 x 12 quilt:

But whoa, wait 'til you see what the other Women Against the Grain produced!

It's a pleasure and an inspiration--and, okay, kind of humbling--to rub shoulders with these talented ladies.
Brava, Women Against the Grain!

The word for the next challenge, which is due at the end of August, is a little intimidating:  chemistry.  Holy test tubes!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hair Today: Another Rite of Passage

Hair Today:  Another Rite of Passage

When you have three girls, you have to deal with their hair.  On school mornings, they would sit on these stools,  decide the hairdo they each wanted that day, and wait for the magic.
Mom's Hair Salon

Pony tail?  Two pony tails?  Topsy tail?  Half pony tail?  Two braids?  One braid?  French braids?  Two French braids? Half French braid?  And there I (or occasionally Joe) would be, with a comb and a brush and a pile of elastics, doing their hair, trying to get them out the door so they could walk to school, a block and a half away.

We built up quite a stock of hair supplies over the years.  Here's a sample:
Rat tail combs, scrunchies ranging from puffy to minimalist, assorted barettes ranging from corny to sophisticated (including a pair of brown and orange ones to go with a Brownie uniform), hair ribbons, a headband for a baby (upper right), a personal favorite.  

All these things lived in a desk drawer in our kitchen.

Until now, that is.

The girls have left the nest:  Julia to graduate school in New York City; Leah to a creative job with the Meredith Corporation, also in New York; and Lucia to the University of Vermont.

My hair is too short for this stuff and Joe is bald.  So we don't need it any more.  Today I emptied the drawer make it a receptacle for Joe's papers, which usually reside in an aesthetically-pleasing pile on our kitchen counter:


So another page is turned in our lives. 

Am I sad?  Naw.  I just want that pile of papers off the counter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Today's bouquet--6/23/2011

Stokesia Blue Danube, Agastache Honeybee Blue, Nepeta Walker's Low, Hosta Sieboldiana Elegans

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wh don't more Americans use all their vacation time?

A week and a half ago, one of the editors of the AARP Bulletin offered me an assignment to write about why Americans don't use all their vacation time.  Fun fact:  I got to work on this story while I was on vacation in Eastham, MA.

Here's a link to that story, followed by the full text.

Click here to find out more!

Scared to Go on Vacation?

Workplace competition, money worries cause many Americans to forgo their days off

Mike, a story artist for the Disney Channel, hasn't taken a vacation in three years. Last time he did, he wished he'd stayed at the office.
See also: Laid-off workers settle for part-time jobs.

He and his family traveled to a remote area with bad cellphone reception. He tried to keep up with goings-on back at work, but couldn't as closely as he wanted. "When I got back, I found that one of my coworkers had been undermining me while I was away," Mike recounts. "It took me a long time to repair that damage."
Employees with beachball in the office lose vacation time often out of fear for their jobs
In this down economy, many employees fear losing their job if they take a vacation. — Garry Owens/Gallery Stock
"We get six weeks to produce an episode," explains Mike. "And anyone who leaves during those six weeks is out of the loop. That can bode ill for a career in a cutthroat industry."
Mike is hardly an exception in the American workplace. Just 54 percent of American employees took all their vacation time in 2010, a survey by Right Management and World at Work found. Similarly, an August 2010 poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that 57 percent of Americans were likely to take all the days coming to them.
What's going on here?
"It's a down economy," says John de Graaf, executive director of Take Back Your Time, a Seattle organization challenging what it sees as an epidemic of overwork and overscheduling in the United States. "There's far less job security here than in Europe, and people worry that if they take time off they might not seem as dedicated to the job — and might be targeted for layoff."
Tom Richardson, senior director of strategic planning and business development for the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, knows the pressure.
"I felt guilty taking more than a couple of full weeks off in a given year, as if doing so equated to my not working hard enough," said Richardson. The workplace culture "implied that I had to prove that I was indispensable — which I couldn't be if I indulged the luxury of time off."
Presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich had a similar experience when he went on a cruise in the Greek isles against staff advice. He returned in June from the two-week vacation to find his staff questioning the fire in his belly — and more than a dozen of them quitting en masse.
Next: Why don't employees use up their vacations? >>
Putting off the beach
Employees cite many reasons why they don't use up their vacations:
  • Bare-bones staffing. In today's slimmed-down workplaces, there may be no one to cover for vacationers. "So many people have been laid off that when someone gets back from vacation, it's going to be hard to catch up," said Dan Ryan, principal at Ryan Search & Consulting in Nashville, Tenn. "The email will be unmanageable. People just say, 'I'll avoid the stress and stay here.' "
  • Affordability. "Gas is expensive, plane fare is expensive, accommodations and meals are expensive," said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. "That's why we're hearing more about 'staycations' and 'daycations.' " He says that for some employees, especially those in their 30s, vacations can conflict with responsibilities involving children, spouses and parents.
  • Husbanding the off days. "Many workers choose to work instead and 'bank' their time for when they have enough savings to spend on a vacation," said Leonard Sanicola, senior benefits practice leader for World at Work, an organization focusing on compensation and benefits.
  • Cashing out. Some folks would rather cash out the unused time when they leave the job. According to a survey by the World at Work group, 91 percent of employers with traditional vacation plans pay for unused vacation in cash at the time of separation.
Connected by smartphone
In today's work culture, even people who do make it to the lake may not really be on vacation. Email and cellphones keep them tethered to the office.
A February 2011 study by, a coupon discount website, showed that a third of Americans take work calls or read work emails during vacation, with a quarter of those admitting that it's a cause of arguments when away from home.
"It's hard to decouple life from your BlackBerry," said Ryan. "I brought mine on my anniversary vacation in Hawaii with my wife."
American vacation habits contrast starkly with those in other parts of the world.
Next: Checking email while on vacation? You're not alone. >>
"The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a minimum annual leave statute," says de Graaf. The European Union requires a minimum of four weeks of vacation in all of the bloc's 27 member countries. Many exceed that and mandate five or six. When workers were asked in the Reuters/Ipsos survey whether they would use all their vacation days, France topped the list, with 89 percent of respondents taking every day.
One American who has worked for an international company in Basel, Switzerland, for 13 years describes an office culture that values down time.
"We get minimally four to five weeks of vacation every year," she says, "and we're encouraged to use it. … I already have three vacations scheduled for this year and will certainly fit one more in before the year's up."

Working hard, burning out

By some views, vacation resistance is part and parcel of a work ethic that historically has made the American economy strong. Japan, another hard-working and affluent country, tops the list in the world: Only 33 percent of employees take all their days, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
But other people see a social cost in the never-slow-down attitude. "When people don't take time away from the workplace to reenergize their batteries and recharge, it's neither good for the individual or the business," says Sanicola of World at Work.
It may ultimately lead to employee burnout, absenteeism and health or safety issues, he believes: "Vacation time is essential for work-life effectiveness and overall health and wellness."
And with the economy no longer in the fearsome depths of 2008 and 2009, some studies show that Americans are starting to reclaim their time off. A 2009 survey by Right Management found that about 65 percent of Americans weren't taking their allotted days. In 2010, the figure had fallen to 46 percent. Says Douglas J. Matthews, president of Right Management: "It may be that our latest finding reflects a somewhat healthier workplace mind-set."
Diane Cadrain is a Connecticut-based attorney and freelance journalist who writes frequently on employment issues.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Grape Almighty!

Dyeing fabric with grapes!
That's what the members of Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective did today.  What else would a bunch of fiber maniacs do on a Saturday in June?

Mary Lachman and Diane Wright putting fabric in the grape dye bath
Who knew you could do this with a can of grape concentrate and a little water?

 We used fresh grapes, too, but the process takes twice as long.

While we were waiting for the grapes to dye our fabric, we experimented with discharge techniques, using bleach and dark fabrics.  Diane Wright made this one by folding black fabric and securing it with clothespins and elastics.  How cool is that?
We also tried a shibori-like discharge process, using a piece of PVC pipe, a piece of silk, and some string.  Carol Eaton, Cher Hurney, and Diane Wright are experimenting with that.

Toni Torres got a mossy look using discharge technique on green fabric.

I made this one using a discharge technique on blue fabric.

The results of the grape dyeing process:  grape concentrate on the left, fresh grapes on the right.

 Then we had lunch!  Roz Spann, Cher Hurney, Toni Torres, with Mary Lachman in the background.

Many thanks to Carol Eaton for the use of her lovely home, and to Carol and Diane Wright for their expertise at dyeing and discharge techniques. You ladies are awesome!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts

I'm in some august company this evening, having had a piece selected to hang in the 100th annual exhibit of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, a show hanging at the Mystic Art Center in Mystic, CT. Tonight, June 9, 2011,  was the opening reception for the show.

Here I am with my small piece, titled "Entrance," which is a small quilt mounted on top of another small quilt.

100th Annual Juried Exhibition?  How honored am I to have a piece chosen for that show?  

But the best part was having a pizza at Mystic Pizza after the reception.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ripples in the Sand, Part 2

Today, I was able to sneak away from my current free-lance writing assignment and spend an hour or so painting some fabric in an attempt to make it look like ripples in the sand.  Like these ripples:

I'm working from this photo, and after having sewn channels through which to draw cording to create the ripples, I was ready to paint.  I painted silvery white highlights on the crests of the ripples and silvery lavender shadows in the troughs.  Here's the result:

So, next, I'm going to draw cording through the channels in a technique called trapunto.  Then I'll embed the photo above in the quilt, and sandwich the resulting product together with quilt batting and backing.  Then I'll quilt it, probably on the lines of the purple shadows.

That's about it.

In this piece, the sandy background, with its ripples, is a microcosm or closeup of the low tide sandy scene in the inset.  In that photo, the tide is so low there remains only a skim coating of water on the rippled sand, and in that water, the sunset sky is reflected.  With the sky under the feet, heaven has come down to earth.

That's the name of this quilt:  Heaven on Earth.

Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective: Hitting the Ground Running

The Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective, a group of dedicated art quilters, had its first meeting in March and already we've had our first show!  Small Quilts for a Sacred Space went up in May at the Unitarian Society of Hartford, 50 Bloomfield Ave., Hartford, and will hang until June 19.

Here are some photos of the work in the show and the folks at our reception.  And P.S., look for our work along the Connecticut Wine Trail come harvest time!
L-R, Diane Cadrain, Carol Vinick, Roz Spann, Diane Wright, Toni Torres, and Carol Eaton  at the reception for Small Quilts for a Sacred Space, Unitarian Society of Hartford, Hartford, CT 

L-R Wave Dance by Rosalind Spann of Waterbury, CT; The Watering Can by Carol Eaton of Shelton, CT

L-R, Water Queen by Antonia Torres of Waterbury, CT; Vegetable Harvest by Jeanne Landry Harpin, Hamden, CT

L-R, Peaceful Asia by Jeanne Landry Harpin of Hamden, CT; Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (Buddhist Temple, Thailand) by Diane Cadrain, West Hartford, CT

L-R, Trout Brook by Diane Cadrain of West Hartford, CT; Kissed by the Sun by Carol Eaton of Shelton, CT

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rite of Passage Frittata

Recipes from home.  They were an important part of Lucia's game plan when she moved into her first independent apartment this summer, in Burlington, VT, the college town where she spends September through May.

Lucia, our youngest, will leave her teen years behind when she turns 20 on September, 11, 2011, and this move is a major rite of passage for her.  She's thrilled at the prospect of holding two two jobs (Dunkin Donuts and Coldwater Creek), looking forward to living near her best buds in nearby student digs, and experiencing a little frisson of possibility from furnishing her first student kitchen.

In all that novelty and scary independence, Lucia asked for a tether to home: copies of our best-loved family recipes. I rounded them up, copied them, and put them into a binder for her. Veggie pesto pizza.  Ginger-lentil soup.  Orzo with feta and cherry tomatoes.  Spinach pancakes.  Tabbouleh.  Chocolate cake.  Bruschetta with white beans and walnuts.  Peppermint bark.  Brownies. Frittata with corn, potato, and scallion.

Then we packed her up...

...and drove to Hinesburg, VT, where some of her stuff was in a storage unit that had once been a barn, standing by this roadside.

We unloaded the storage unit and got Lucia and all her stuff into her new apartment, the one on the right, 60 Loomis Street:

Then we took her out for more stuff. Nightstand from Goodwill.  Mattress cover.  Sheets.  Frying pans, pot holders, spatulas.  Dishes and flatware.  Olive oil and granola bars.  Orzo and scallions. Dish soap and cereal.

After Joe and I left for the four-hour drive home to West Hartford, Lucia and her roommate, Bridget, made their first independent meal in their first independent apartment:  Corn, scallion, and potato frittata.

This frittata makes a perfect brunch or lunch — it works especially well for a picnic. And on a steamy summer night, it may be all you need for dinner. Adding a green salad and a nice piece of bread is an easy way to round out the plate.
Yield: Makes 4 (light main course) servings
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts sliced separately
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large russet (baking) potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cups corn kernels (10 oz), thawed if frozen
4 large eggs
4 oz mozzarella, coarsely grated
Cook white part of scallions and garlic in 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add potato and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add corn and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, about 1 minute for thawed corn or 3 minutes for fresh corn.
Preheat broiler.
Whisk together eggs, mozzarella, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in potato mixture and scallion greens.
Heat remaining tablespoon oil in cleaned skillet over moderate heatuntil hot but not smoking. Then cook frittata without stirring, shaking skillet once or twice to loosen frittata, until underside is golden but top is still wet, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.
If skillet handle is not ovenproof, wrap handle in a double layer of foil. Broil frittata about 3 inches from heat until top is just set and golden, about 2 minutes. Slide onto a plate and cool to warm or room temperature