Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Re-Entry!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

As usual, re-entry to home life after Houston is a whirlwind, as you might gather by the absence of posts here!  Joshua’s birthday is always just a few days after my return, so usually the suitcases aren’t emptied and put away before I’m shopping for birthday dinner and so on.  Life was complicated by the snowstorm which cancelled my flight from Boston, causing me to drive home in the snow in the dark in a rental car.   At least they cancelled flights early, so I got home not much later than I would have had I waited in  Boston for my connecting flight.  In the next few posts I’ll share International Quilt Market and Festival, but first, a little bit of home.  Since US Thanksgiving is in two days, and since there is nothing I am more thankful for than my family and home, let’s start here.

Getting up the driveway the night before I took this picture was entertaining.  Our plow guy had to use his backhoe there was so much snow, and IT got stuck due to soft / not frozen earth and deep, wet snow.  I left my car at the bottom of the drive and walked the last quarter mile uphill to the house.  But it sure is glorious when the sun comes out!

Getting up the driveway the night before I took this picture was entertaining. Our plow guy had to use his backhoe there was so much snow, and IT got stuck due to soft / not frozen earth and deep, wet snow. I left my car at the bottom of the drive and walked the last quarter mile uphill to the house. But it sure is glorious when the sun comes out!

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Aren’t those colors fantastic?

Guess we should have taken the settee and rockers in a bit earlier.  They are now stashed in the garage!

The snowy front porch.

The snowy front porch.

Then, pumpkin pie.  The shopping list for Joshua’s birthday always begins with fixings for his birthday pie, which is what he has wanted since he was about 10.  We’ve kept the “year” / age candles as the boys grew, and keep re-using them.  Joshua is now starting his third decade—how can he be 21????????

Thanks to Eli for getting the shot--mama delivers the pie.  Yes, Joshua shared LOL, but we did send them home with the nearly half-a-pie leftovers, which I expect were gone by breakfast the following morning.

Thanks to Eli for getting the shot–mama delivers the pie. Yes, Joshua shared LOL, but we did send them home with the nearly half-a-pie leftovers, which I expect were gone by breakfast the following morning.  Notice he’s wearing the sweater Eli and I bought him in England?

Then I was sneak-attack with the camera.  None of them were thrilled, but what the heck.  I’m Mama, and I want pictures!

Ashley, Joshua being our goofball, and Paul on the sofa.

Ashley, Joshua being our goofball, and Paul on the sofa.

Eli, muttering because he knows I'm taking a picture, but I love this one!

Eli, muttering because he knows I’m taking a picture, but I love this one!

And the next day, three fourths of the feline contingent:

L to R:  Tyger, Hannah Chan and Zeus.

L to R: Tyger, Hannah Chan and Zeus.

I’ll have a new post tomorrow starting with International Quilt Market.

 

Daffodils and tulips, oh my!

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Well… the garden sure doesn’t LOOK like it has had work done.  As a matter of fact, it looks like we’ve done nothing.  But there are 86 tulip bulbs and 300 daffodil bulbs in the ground!

Planting daffodil bulbs on our "meadow" (i.e. a place we don't mow).  I told Eli, Paul, Joshua and Ashley they looked like a road crew:  standing around looking at a hole, holding tools, one maybe working....

Planting daffodil bulbs on our “meadow” (i.e. a place we don’t mow). I told Eli, Paul, Joshua and Ashley they looked like a road crew: standing around looking at a hole, holding tools, one maybe working….

On Saturday I started in on planting the tulip bulbs near the house.  All the bulbs in fact are fragrant.  I picked Angelique, Tacoma and another variety that is a pale yellow peony style (12 of each) and in landscape (ie smaller, less expensive) 50 (!!!) Orange Princess, this incredible orange with pink and green stripes.  I figure I can get some help deterring the deer from walking Widgeon nearby.  Ahem.

That comment galvanized them (Laughing here!)--they were a huge help.  With my arthritis in my wrists and hands it would have taken me forever rather than 90 minutes to plant 260 bulbs!  THANK YOU family dears!

That comment galvanized them (Laughing here!)–they were a huge help. With my arthritis in my wrists and hands it would have taken me forever rather than 90 minutes to plant 260 bulbs! THANK YOU family dears!

Then Joshua and Ashley came over and we had a belated b-day celebration for me (we had to wait for the bulbs to arrive) and planted daffodil bulbs.  Joshua, Paul and Eli dug about 17 holes; Ashley and I planted.   Then, Joshua fixed an awesome mac and cheese with about six kinds of cheese, oven-roasted grape tomatoes, fresh basil, bacon….can you say heavenly?  Finally, I had fixed sticky toffee pudding, which is this delectable English cake-like dessert with sauce, served with vanilla ice cream.  SLURP.  A lovely family day.

Now every spring when I look out on our hill and see the bulbs, I will remember this day.  Of course, the bulbs are on about 1/9 of the meadow, so I’m thinking we may need to make this an annual event for several years.  I’ve always dreamed of having an entire field of daffs–how happy can a garden get, to be filled with daffodils?

Eli brought Widgeon out, so I decided to get down on the ground and take a photo from pug's-eye-level of him and the view.  Except he immediate galumphed over to me....

Eli brought Widgeon out, so I decided to get down on the ground and take a photo from pug’s-eye-level of him and the view. Except he immediately galumphed over to me….

and this is the shot I ended up with!

A happy, wild-eyed pug ready to smooch his mama (that would be me)

A happy, wild-eyed pug ready to smooch his mama (that would be me)

Then today I planted the last of the daffodil bulbs, 25 for near the deck/entry, and transplanted a peony.  We tried to kill a baptisia plant near the peony  so that we could SEE the peony and deal with the VW-Beetle-sized baptisia shrub and failed spectacularly, so I’ve decided if you can’t conquer it, move the peony!

Widgeon looking regal and dignified.  Well, he thinks so.  Then we all crack up because he is so funny!

Widgeon looking regal and dignified. Well, he thinks so. Then we all crack up because he is so funny! Can you say LOVE THE PUG!

Now to enjoy the winter blizzards and blinding beauty of snow, then endure mud season, and finally wait for spring to spring and see how the bulbs look and smell.  Joshua and Ashley will be receiving a fragrant bouquet (provided they bloom!).  And I can tell you if those Orange Princess tulips are as glorious as they looked in the photo, there WILL be dyeing of fabric and a quilt of ginormous tulips!  I promise I’ll share garden photos in spring!

Dog walkies and Autumn rains

Saturday, October 25th, 2014
When I go on longer dog walkies, we go to the end of the driveway, turn left and head either to this duck pond (no ducks at this moment) or to the corner where the blueberry field is.

When I go on longer dog walkies, we go to the end of the driveway, turn left and head either to this duck pond (no ducks at this moment) or to the corner where the blueberry field is.

Just a quick post to share yesterday afternoon’s dog walkies.  I think many of you on the other end of my ether live in cities, and don’t know how many of you get to hear things like this little video, so thought I’d share the glorious sound of life in Maine when it is soggy.  Here’s the little video, followed by a couple more photos.  I think I need image stabilization in my phone…not as crisp as I’d like in terms of photos.  There is a culvert under the road which you can see in the lower right.  When I pan to the left and zoom, you can see the blueberry barrens at the end of this part of the road (at the corner).

IMG 0032 2 from Sarah Ann Smith on Vimeo.

I head to Houston well before dawn–as a matter of fact I may be taking off as the sun rises!  Will try to Facebook from Houston, and have several posts scheduled to publish while I’m away.  Have fun everyone, and hope to see some of you at International Quilt Festival Houston 2014, the 40th anniversary.

 

My usual view on dog walkies....good thing I love the curled tail!

My usual view on dog walkies….good thing I love the curled tail!

More of the duck pond

More of the duck pond.  Right click for larger view.

Two of Us: published again in Inspired by the Beatles

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Looking back on it, this has been an exceptionally good year for getting published!   It has also been a bit of a challenge as I’ve had to keep three quilts and one watercolor unpublished for an extended time while jurying of exhibits was done or waiting for books to be published.  The first of the quilts was the one of Eli running during Cross Country season, which I wrote about here.   This is the second:  Two of Us,

Two of Us, (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2014.  Part of the Inspired by the Beatles challenge and an anniversary gift for my husband of 33+ years.

Two of Us, (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2014. Part of the Inspired by the Beatles challenge and an anniversary gift for my husband of 33+ years.  Of course, as soon as I gave it to him (late) I then told him he had to give it back for two years because it was going in an exhibit and book!

part of the art quilt challenge organized by Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto.  The recently released book is Inspired by the Beatles:  An Art Quilt Challenge.   You can read more about the challenge here and order the book or read more about it here.  Even better, if you are lucky enough to be going to International Quilt Festival in Houston this year, selected works from the exhibit will be on display there, including mine!

Donna asked participants to choose a Beatles song title, then make a quilt with that same title, inspired by the song perhaps, but careful NOT to use any copyrighted lyrics, images, etc.   I had been wanting to make a quilt like this for Paul as an anniversary gift for a couple years–he is notoriously hard to get gifts as he always says he doesn’t want anything.  I wanted a scrapbook feel to this quilt, similar in some ways to the kimono quilt (you can see it here) that is pictured in one of the photos on the bottom right which I gave to Mother for her 80th birthday.

Detail of Two of Us, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014.

Detail of Two of Us, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014.  These photos include the only two grandparents who were alive for  the boys to know, Paul’s dad and my mom.

I went through our photo albums and boxes of photos, picking pictures of us from the time we met until just recently.  Beginning in the top left corner, you can see photos of Bissau, in the west African nation of Guinea-Bissau, where I met Paul.  A bit of our wedding invitation, a wedding photo, our home on Capitol Hill in DC, from Canada, Bolivia, Machu Picchu, Gabon and our first generation of cats run across the top.  Moving clockwise down the right you can see our home in Arlington, Virginia (I still love this architecture more than any other home we’ve had), me preggers with Joshua, with the boys when they were little, pregnant with Eli, in the hospital when Eli was just a day old then the first ferry ride home, to our home on San Juan island in the bottom right corner.

Moving right to left on the bottom, pictures of the boys when little and life at home.  And up the left side, the boys as they grew,  moving to Maine, Joshua with his beloved guitar (and boy is he GOOD) and Eli, honor student and exceptional athlete.  Can I just say, Life is GOOD!

Here's to book, a 176 page hard-bound whopper.  Each quilt gets its own page (some get two), with a fun and extensive commentary written by Donna from our replies to her questionnaire that tell about our lives, inspiration and methods.  Click on the links in the first paragraph to learn more.

Here’s to book, a 176 page hard-bound whopper. Each quilt gets its own page (some get two), with a fun and extensive commentary written by Donna from our replies to her questionnaire that tell about our lives, inspiration and methods. Click on the links in the first paragraph to learn more.

The quilt is made with fused collage.  For the house, Paul, the pug and me, I sketched us on white cloth with colored pencils.  I hate to admit but since I made this over a year ago, I don’t recall for use WHICH pencils I used–either Prismacolor or Inktense.  I have since learned that some of the Inktense colors are not colorfast, so I HOPE it was prismacolor!  Total finished size, as required for all quilts in this exhibit, is 24×24 inches.

This is a typical two-page spread.  The book is organized alphabetically by title.

This is a typical two-page spread. The book is organized alphabetically by title.

And a shot of "my" page!  Artwork (c) Sarah Ann Smith.

And a shot of “my” page! Artwork (c) Sarah Ann Smith.

And since we are quilters, I must show you the back.  I did the threadwork at the top stage and did simple outlining around the photos.  But it is the letter and photo I want you to notice:

Paul and me on our wedding day outside the church, and a photocopy of the very first letter Paul ever wrote me.  Yes, we wrote snail mail.

Paul and me on our wedding day outside the church, and a photocopy of the very first letter Paul ever wrote me. Yes, we wrote snail mail.

You see, Paul was working in West Africa and I was in grad school at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy near Boston when we met.  The letter is hilariously “State Department-ish.”  Paul was acting Ambassador (Charge d’Affairs, ad interim) for the first time, so for his first letter to me, he wrote to thank the American (me)  for her part in improving morale at post, in particular that of the admin officer (that would be Paul).  Then he added a note saying this would probably be suitably framed in something tacky and hung in the bathroom.  I vowed upon receipt to do just that–in his first apartment when he was back in the US.  Little did I know that in less than 10 months, his first apartment would be OUR condo as newlyweds.  The original letter still hangs in a tacky metal frame from the drug store (which is sorta falling apart, appropriately), over the toilet in our bathroom.  The signature on the letter has faded to near invisibility.

So that’s the “Two of Us.”  Plus kids, cats, pug, and assorted stuff from all over the world.

England 2014: the 13th, Stonehenge

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

This late afternoon visit is one of the memorable moments of my life.   If you stick with me and go through this post, you’ll not only see photos, but two short videos I took while walking inside, so you get to walk along with me!

On the perimeter path at Stonehenge at about 7 pm

On the perimeter path at Stonehenge at about 7 pm.  On a typical summer’s day, some 3000 tourists visit Stonehenge, which is located on the Salisbury Plain.  They must keep to this walkway around the stones because they were being loved to death, with folks compacting the soil so much it was disturbing the structures.  But with our after-hours tour, we got to go inside.

The tour Eli and I took, with Premium Tours and here, visited Bath, Lacock and Stonehenge (first part of the day blogged about here).  For a considerable (but worth it!) sum, a few companies are allowed to bring a tour bus in at either sunrise or sunset, before or after the general public is allowed in, so you have the grounds to yourself.  Since at least when I was in school in England in 1978, you couldn’t walk near to the stones but on a path a distance away (where I took this first photo).  Now, these groups are allowed (in groups of 25) INSIDE the CIRCLE!  Keep reading…the best, longest video is toward the end of the post in sequence.

The Salisbury Plain as seen from the grounds at Stonehenge.

The Salisbury Plain as seen from the grounds at Stonehenge.

Eli on the approach road toward the stones, which are to the left of his face.  The new wonderful visitor's center is some distance removed so you get a feeling for the vastness of the plain and the size of the stones as you approach the circle, as people would have eons ago.

Eli on the approach road toward the stones, which are to the left of his face. The new wonderful visitor’s center is some distance removed so you get a feeling for the vastness of the plain and the size of the stones as you approach the circle, as people would have eons ago. Just to the left of Eli’s head, about the level of his chin, you can see a structure beyond the fence post…that’s it.  Seems small on the broad horizon.  Just wait!

The official sign near the visitor's center

The official sign near the visitor’s center

From that perimeter pathway.  As the sun began to set and the clouds began to disperse, a rainbow appeared!

From that perimeter pathway. As the sun began to set and the clouds began to disperse, a rainbow appeared!

I moved a bit around the path so that it looks like the end of the rainbow is in the middle of the stone.  Just looking at this I am transported to the cool evening air, the rustling of the strong breeze....

I moved a bit around the path so that it looks like the end of the rainbow is in the middle of the stone. Just looking at this I am transported to the cool evening air, the rustling of the strong breeze….the hush as we all stood looking.  There were the 50 people on the bus, our tour guide and two security guards.  LOTS better than a throng of thousands like during the day!

The site allows only 25 persons at a time inside the circle, and you are not allowed to touch the stones.  Luckily, Eli and I got ourselves into the second group.

At one of the signs on the perimeter path--yes, we were really there!

At one of the signs on the perimeter path–yes, we were really there!

Even a teenager could be impressed, getting out his camera and checking the photo.

Even a teenager could be impressed, getting out his camera and checking the photo.

Metering the camera on the sky led to this stunning silhouette as the sun started to go down.

Metering the camera on the sky led to this stunning silhouette as the sun started to go down. Notice the guard on the left, to give a sense of how BIG these stones are!

And Eli, moving away from the path and the circle to get a wide angle shot.

And Eli, moving away from the path and the circle to get a wide angle shot. Just by the trees on his right is a major road, the equivalent of a US interstate.  They are working on relocating that major road farther away from the site.

After the first group, it was our turn to go inside.  The guide (the guy in black pants and white shirt on the left) had the kids go first and pretend to push the stones apart.

After the first group, it was our turn to go inside. The guide (the guy in black pants and white shirt on the left) had the kids go first and pretend to push the stones apart.

From inside the circle.

From inside the circle.  That tallest stone in the center has a nipple on top:  at the top of each of the standing stones is a nipple with a corresponding divot on the under side of the lintel / cross-piece.  Amazing to think considering what tools they had when this was built.  

At the top, where the cross beam rests atop a post, a bird's nest.

At the top, where the cross beam rests atop a post, a bird’s nest.

And about five feet above my head, a stray bit of wool blown from a sheep somewhere, stuck on the lichens.

And about five feet above my head, a stray bit of wool blown from a sheep somewhere, stuck on the lichens.

Here’s the first video, me turning around inside the circle; if you click on the four arrows at the bottom of the screen it will go full-screen (then press escape to go back to regular view):

Stonehenge 1-Inside the Circle from Sarah Ann Smith on Vimeo.

 

Decided to lay down on the grounds--no, didn't feel any deep vibrations or c ommunication from the other side!

Decided to lay down on the grounds–no, didn’t feel any deep vibrations or communication from the other side!

Eli at Stonehenge.

Eli at Stonehenge.

And me, carefully NOT touching the rock!

And me, carefully NOT touching the rock!

The sun begins to set on the Salisbury Plain.

The sun begins to set on the Salisbury Plain.

And the second video, walking around the stone circle.  Remember, if you click on the four arrows at the bottom of the screen it will go full-screen (then press escape to go back to regular view).  Come walk with me and listen to the wind and sigh:

Stonehenge 2–Outside the Circle from Sarah Ann Smith on Vimeo.

 

Then the sunset began to glow…OH MY!

Sunset at Stonehenge, August 13, 2014.   SIGH.  Contentment.

Sunset at Stonehenge, August 13, 2014. SIGH. Contentment.

Sunset, again, at Stonehenge, August 2014.

Sunset, again, at Stonehenge, August 2014.

And it seemed the horizon was ablaze...Stonehenge, August 2014.

And it seemed the horizon was ablaze…Stonehenge, August 2014.

Everyone was just awed–we were all walking around smiling and awed from ear to ear.   It was a long day, and at about 8 pm we began the trip back to London and our hotels.  Worth.  Every.  Penny.   Expensive, but worth it.   A memory for a lifetime, and so glad I got to share it with Eli.  SIGH.   Contentment.