“Garden of the Gods”

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Two Christmases ago I gave my husband a card with a repeating pattern of camping tents on the front. Inside, I confidently announced my Christmas gift to him: a road trip to the national parks of southern Utah. It was on our bucket list! It would be our first road trip since our kids have grown up, leaving us on our own! We could start a new tradition!

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What I neglected to note as I wrote that card, however, was the actual fitness of my trip-planning skills to the requirements of the task. Was I confusing myself with someone else? Oh, THAT’S RIGHT. While this skill-set does exist in my household, it does not belong to me. It is my husband’s.

Hubby’s M.O: Go online and plan the trip.

My M.O.: Read a little, brainstorm (with hubby), go look up more stuff, bounce ideas (off hubby), write things down, float possibilities, write things down in multiple places, lose track, get overwhelmed, make impulsive decisions. Give hubby the impression that the plan is shaky. Does this sound even remotely Christmas present-ish??

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My guy was tremendously patient with me and allowed my slow, uncertain method to still be a kindness to him. I fumbled around just about as described in my M.O. above, with him providing only enough structure for my halting efforts to actually bear fruit. (I’ve mentioned before what a gift my husband is to ME.)

And in this manner it finally came to pass that we indeed took our two-week road trip to “The Mighty Five” national parks of Utah in September of last year. Two heads are better than one, and all that.

But about those parks! Have you been there? Do you live near there? IT’S MAGNIFICENT. The landscape makes you feel tiny but at the same time fills you up and enlarges you (somehow!) with its glorious spaciousness.

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In September I blogged an overview of the trip, including a handful of our photos. Then this last weekend we had some friends over for dinner and to see our pics from the trip (they’ve been asking!). And I realized I needed to share this blanket—a wedding gift and offshoot of our Utah road trip.

En route from northern Illinois to southern Utah, we stayed a night in Colorado (worth its own road trip, of course, but that will need to wait). We arrived at the end of a long day of driving, and our friends in Colorado Springs popped us into their car at dusk and drove us about a mile from their home to a favorite spot of theirs, the Garden of the Gods. It was our breathtaking introduction to the rich reds and vibrant greens we were about to see throughout the next 10 days. So as a very belated wedding gift to them and as a way for me to express our joy with the place and with them, I made a small throw/large lap blanket.

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My aim was to represent the land, the space, the juxtaposition of the brilliant colors that we stood over and under and among at all times. I experimented with some free-style stitching to capture the line and texture of the monolithic stones. And if you look just left and below the cloud, you can see my nod to Pike’s Peak, whose eminence is constantly felt in Colorado Springs.

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GO, friends. Look up The Mighty Five. Look up the US National Park Service. Look up AAA and get some old-school road maps that will rewire your brains. And if you need some trip-planning advice, you know who to call. I will hand my hubby the phone ;).

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“Garden of the Gods” (45″ x 55″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home.

Name That Blanket…Results!

Thanks, everyone, for stirring up your creative juices to help name this blanket! You guys are great. This is the blanket that got packed up in an Operation Christmas Child box a couple of weeks ago. But as I was writing the blog post about it, I suddenly realized it had been sent out without a name. But names matter! Many of you came to the rescue, adding ideas on Facebook, Instagram, and this blog. A couple of you emailed me.

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These are the wonderful ideas that came in. Making the final choice was difficult!

Blanket of Love
A Bright Beginning
Christmas Child
Promise
Pastel Peace
Colors of Love
Quiet Rainbow
Heaven’s Hues
God’s Perfect Promise
The Christmas Rainbow
A Rainbow of Love
Vibrant Love
A Box of Sherbet
Ribbon Candy
A Rainbow Promise Pocket

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After much deliberation, the WINNER IS…

    ♥ THE CHRISTMAS RAINBOW ♥

I realized I wanted it to be a name that worked from a child’s perspective, so I tried to think like a little one. “The Christmas Rainbow” rose to the top because 1) I could imagine a child thinking it; 2) both “Christmas” and “rainbow” hold all the significance of the promise within each one of those; & 3) the blanket is not REALLY rainbow colors or rainbow sequence, but it is unusual, like a rainbow at Christmastime would be. Credit for “The Christmas Rainbow” name goes to Melissa Dugan.

And now this blanket can find its proper place in the world, since it has been named :)

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[Click here for the full story of “The Christmas Rainbow.”]

“Summer Solstice”

Summer Solstice

[If the colors in this blanket make your heart beat faster, you may also like S.W.A.K., seen here.]

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Summer solstice.

The longest day of the year.

Luxurious, lazy, warm, seductive.

“Don’t you want to stay up late?” it whispers in my ear. “Don’t you want to eke every bit of loveliness out of this evening? You can!” When I was a young mom these summer days would murmur, “Of course you can feed your kids dinner at 8:30 p.m. There’s still an hour-and-a-half of light! They’ll be FIIINE!” (We lived in Michigan, where, thanks to hanging out at the western edge of the eastern time zone, we had light until 10 p.m. )

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I gave in to it then and I give in to it still. My (poor? lucky?) kids got to play outdoors way past a sensible bedtime. I was slow to call them in, slow to feed my family appropriately. But I think it was my way to keep summer summer, even after the time came for my husband and me to be adults, to go to work and be responsible and make money to, you know, live off of. It was a way to be a smidge irresponsible while generally keeping things together.

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Because I think so highly of this time of year, I recently gave myself an astronomy refresher to relearn what causes this delightfulness. (Wait! Wouldn’t “this lightfulness” be far more accurate?) Anyway, if you need a review too, allow me to give it a try–

Summer solstice marks “one of earth’s major way stations on its annual journey around the sun.” (From www.space.com.) Those four way stations are summer solstice (our first day of summer), fall equinox (first day of fall), winter solstice (first day of winter), and spring equinox (you’re on it, right?). For each one of those, the earth travels a quarter of the way around the sun. Earth’s tilt makes the sun’s rays hit at ever-shifting angles and levels of intensity.

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Note: Of course, the earth is the object doing the moving as it takes a turn around the sun, but since it looks to us like we are stationary and the sun is moving around us, our earth-bound terminology leans toward speaking as though the sun were running its course.

I appreciate this helpful illustration from timeanddate.com:

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In the drawing, see how the sun’s rays are directly shining onto the northern hemisphere? (Hint: Follow the direction of the arrows!) They are pointed at the Tropic of Cancer, 23.4 degrees above the equator. Earth’s angle of lean toward the sun creates summer solstice for us in the northern hemisphere. Hoopla! Merriment! Delight!

Now imagine Earth at its exact same tilt 6 months from now, on the right side of the sun in the drawing. Since Earth takes a year to move around the sun once, 6 months will take it halfway around. Imagine those arrows pointing directly off the right side of the yellow sun-ball — there they will be pointed at the Tropic of Capricorn, 23.4 degrees below the equator. Those rays will shine onto our southern hemisphere neighbors and it will be their turn to party while we are all battening down the hatches against the coming snow.

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For you wordsmiths: In Latin, sol = sun; sistere = to stop or stand still.

The summer solstice is the poetic p-a-u-s-e before the sun begins its travels back down toward the southern hemisphere. The sun will hang right there at its height–the closest it ever gets to the north pole–it will PAUSE, and then it will begin its southward trip until it crosses the equator (that will be our fall equinox) on its way to summer solstice for the other half of the earth.

Has anyone stayed with me here? If not, no biggie. I have enjoyed myself.

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One more tidbit. Did you know that the morning and evening twilight also last longest in the days around the summer solstice? They do. Just one more enchanting thing about this time of year.

To my northern hemisphere friends, happy summer solstice! Enjoy the gift of these long and leisurely days.

To my southern hemisphere friends, congratulations on soon confronting the shortest day of the year and winning! It only gets better from here.

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“Summer Solstice” (60″x78″)
A wonderful mix of lambswool and cashmere make this a very soft blanket.

This blanket has already gone to a good home.

 

 

 

The one whom my soul loves

Elsewhere I have mentioned what I like to call my day job (you can find little bits here and here and here) — as an occupational therapist in a busy outpatient neuro rehab clinic. But “busy” doesn’t quite capture the character of the place. 017a

We deal daily with people who have just gone through something generally sudden and traumatic — a stroke, an accident, cancer that has appeared in the brain — and life is often completely different than it was just an ordinary handful of weeks ago. This can make for a huge emotional component during the time we spend with a patient. I believe we try to reserve the best part of ourselves for this.

But on top of that, we muster the resources to cover a lot of other territory: writing documentation that is meaningful to doctors, insurance companies, other therapists; cleaning up equipment after treatment or organizing our ever-changing clinic space; consulting with our fantastically adept case managers on a particular insurance plan or an out-of-sorts family member; juggling last-minute schedule changes…

…and not least of all, trying to care for each other in the crumbs of time we might have left.

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One of us recently got married. The relationship was a happy surprise to both She and He, coming as it did after each had raised their children and spent many years alone. And in the midst of a harried, frenetic clinic day, one of my creative colleagues brought up a great idea with which to honor our marrying friend. Since it involved felted wool, she brought me in on it.

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The idea (which may have been influenced by something on Pinterest) was this: stitch up a table-runner/wall-hanging  with a pair of birds to play the parts of the bride and her groom, add a tender verse from Song of Solomon, and have the varied lot of us on staff fill out the rest with fanciful flowers of our creation.

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And we ARE varied…and colorful and complementary and sometimes cacophonous. All of these came out when we gathered one rare relaxed evening to complete the project — sharing scissors, fabric scraps, wine, and pizza.

We think the outcome illustrates the assortment of us pretty well ;).

Happy Ever After to Donna and Darrel! We love you both.

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“Sunshine and Happiness”

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This blanket makes me think happiness! every time I look at it. The colors are fantastically WARM and luscious and gorgeous together.

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It’s like the wild California poppies in the empty lot next door to the house I grew up in.

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And the spring-green tumbleweeds across the red-dirt desert of northeast Arizona.

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It’s the jumble of marigolds and cosmos in my Midwest garden.

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And shopping in a Mexican market.

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It’s the hot sleepy feeling of lying on the beach in August.

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And chili-smothered pork, roasting in the oven, to be shredded and eaten with tortillas.

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It reminds me of just about anything with sun and heat involved.

How about you? What does it make you think of?

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Sunshine and Happiness (Size: 55″ x 68″)

This blanket is no longer available for sale.

“Pumpkin Patch”

I’ve seen some crazy lovely pumpkins this fall. These sat at the back door of the Wisconsin B&B where Elder Daughter and I stayed on a weekend art studio tour:

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The pumpkin in the lower corner looked like it had empty peanut shells stuck all over it. But it didn’t.

And these colorful rows of pumpkins were at an apple orchard my Hub and I stopped at in northern Door County while camping at the end of September:

Gorgeous gourds.

All of these colors inspired my new blanket, “Pumpkin Patch.”  (I’ll be bringing it to this weekend’s holiday open house!)

I had this blanket, minus its appliques, along for the college campus modeling session:

This is Younger Daughter, above, studiously observing the boys’ apartment building and, below, meandering in the garden. What are we paying for again?? Just kidding.

Today, back at home, I added the finishing touches: leaves drawn from a pumpkin vine (although I took some liberties with their color).

Our leafy yard made a good backdrop today!

And finally, I captured a shot of “Pumpkin Patch” and “Night Garden” together, keeping sweet ones warm after a rain:

“Pumpkin Patch”  (70″ x 82″ )

(This is no longer available for sale.)

“It’s Getting Cooler”

Last week, Lauren, one of my daughter’s college friends, asked if she could come see my stash of blankets.  She was looking for a birthday present for herself with money from her 18th birthday and had her heart set on taking a blanket back to school.  I pulled out my inventory, and she found this graduated-color experiment I did over a year ago.

It was plain when Lauren saw it, no flowers.  “I like this one, Mrs. O–.”  (I believe all of our kids’ friends still charmingly call us Mr. and Mrs.  It warms my heart, even as I use my first name with them so they might feel comfortable making the switch.)  “Can you put some flowers on it, like the one with the marigolds?”  And then she pointed out what color she’d like the flowers to be (actually more green than these photos show).

When I originally made this blanket, I named it “Getting Warmer,” for obvious reasons, I think.  Not only do the colors go from cool to warm, but also the phrase reminds me of that childhood hide-n-seek game (“You’re getting warmer…warmer…now you’re BURNING UP!”).  I seem to recall playing that game a lot as a kid.  So there was that.

But as I sewed the flowers this week — by open windows with cool breezes, listening to honking geese, and watching college kids leave home again — I realized “getting warmer” was no longer appropriate.  And so it became “It’s Getting Cooler” — a fall theme that still respects the graduated color pattern.  And Lauren’s flowers are like autumn’s chrysanthemums, just with reversed colors.

Lauren: I had fun working on this for you ♥.  May it bring you lots of joy at school and beyond, and may it also remind you of the people at home who love you.  (And, of course, you can call it whatever you want!)

“It’s Getting Cooler,” aka “Getting Warmer” ;) —  Size: 62″ x 75″

This blanket has already gone to a good home.

Just a peek

It’s just about March.  March means spring (at least to those of us here in the northern hemisphere–sorry, Peter!).  It means a few more days with lighter jackets and, here in Illinois, a few more days of rain instead of only snow.  And, for a lot of us who haven’t seen much grass through the past months, it means dreaming about gardens.  So I figure it’s time to give you a peek at my latest project, a spring blanket.  It’s not finished, but it’s close.

Anyone care to have a guess at what kind of flower it is?

“The Painted Piano”

When I was 5 years old, I started taking piano lessons.  I can still picture my red John Thompson (I believe) book, circa 1965. I think I could pick a couple of those pieces out on the piano from memory if I tried.  The piano and its eagerness to step up and be just about anything that’s needed — rhythm, bass, melody, percussion, or simply embellishment — has won the place in my heart of ALL-TIME favorite instrument. So when I saw this little stripe in a pink sweater, I knew I had to make piano keys out of it.  Hmmm…how about packing a summer picnic, spreading out this blanket and listening to a symphony at the local outdoor amphitheater?

The Painted Piano (Size 51″ x 65″)

This blanket has been modified as “J Loves J” and has gone to a good home.