Monday, July 26, 2010

Thunderstorms and RAIN!

The monsoon season is here. Every day we are getting huge dark clouds building up. For the last week we have gotten dumped on with torrential rains. Our neighbors have a rain gauge and measured two inches of rain in one week. That's crazy for Arizona! There's one spot on the side of the Big Road that tends to flood into the road when it gets really bad and it was that way yesterday. Huge puddles mark the low spots of our uneven road. I called our neighbors and asked how much rain we got. They said we got 1.5 inches in 1.5 hours! And one of them was out riding horses with a friend five miles from home when it started.

The first year we lived here, we could practically set our watches by the coming of the rain. Every single day for nearly two months the clouds would roll in and the rain would start around 1:00 in the afternoon. Sometimes it was Noon, sometimes around 1:30, but never far off from that. And it always came from the southwest.

This year, it's coming at random times of the day and night. Sometimes it's at 6:30 pm, sometimes at midnight, sometimes at Noon, sometimes at 4:00, sometimes at 10:00 a.m. It's been crazy.

But every day the clouds build up and the skies turn dark grey on the horizon. They've been surrounding our little patch of earth, swirling around to encircle us on all sides except the north. The clouds seem to be racing up from behind the horizon, stretching their menacing turmoil closer and closer throughout the day until they finally let loose with either torrential rain or fierce thunder and lightening.

Everything is looking so green.  Sunflowers are starting to show their color.  Soon there will be flowers everywhere. 

The rain is wonderful.  I would prefer it to come a little more gently and spread out over many more days than it's been coming.  But it's great.  Even if it's starting to come in the basement again....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Breathtaking Stained Glass

I think this is my favorite stained glass piece ever.

Picking up where I left off on a recent post about getting side-tracked by a couple of volcanoes, a clear day, and a Russian Orthodox church...

When I finally got to Homer, Alaska I went into the studio-shop of a stained glass artist named Marali Seargeant-Smith.   She had some unusual pieces that I really liked.  She was working on an impossibly detailed piece inspired by jazz music.  She doesn't have a website, darn it, or I would surely give you the link. She told me she had a piece commissioned and installed in the hospital chapel in Soldotna

The next day, I went to see it.  It is stunning and I am in love with it.

I find it both rugged and peaceful at the same time.  It speaks "Alaska!" in a way that is both bold and soothing.

The colors are so true to Alaska. The Kenai River changes colors with sun and cloud, going from aqua to turquoise to blue on any given afternoon. Purple Lupine flowers are everywhere as are grey-white trunked Birch trees and tall thin Spruces.  It seems she kind of combined these two tree species to create this piece, taking the white trunks of the Birch but matching them with the conical shape of the Spruces.  I think I like her bold move in this because it represents both so beautifully that I didn't even notice it until just now.

The chapel is very small with walls finished in the natural color of wood seen in the first photo.  The room is beautiful, simple, and soothing.  The glass piece is the focal point.

Marali soldered some of her tree pieces on 3-dimensionally which makes the piece breathtaking. 

The mountain here is Mt. Redoubt, mentioned in my last post.  Along with the turquoise and aqua waters of the Kenai River, Redoubt is a local icon of the city of Soldotna.

She did a beautiful job of capturing the color of the Kenai River.  I love, also, how she put that one reddish brown piece of glass between the water and the mountain.  Now, that's the kind of thing that simply baffles me about artists far more talented than I.  How did she know to do that?  How did she know it would work?

Aren't her 3-D leaves striking?

Being a chapel, she told me that she wanted to have a cross in the piece but not in an overpowering way since the chapel would serve people of a variety of faiths.  I love how she did it.

I am so glad I stumbled on these photos today while looking around for something else.  I had forgotten how beautiful and amazing this piece is.  I wish I could have it in my home.  I love it.  It reaches right into my heart and squeezes it with such pleasant, excited-but-restful appreciation that it almost hurts!

It was a tough call changing my header photo.  I really wanted one of these but it is much more fitting to have the summery white fence with flowers.  Watch out, though.  This stained glass piece is bound to end up being shown off in the header someday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alaska On My Mind - Bleeding Hearts

I have been thinking of Alaska a lot lately.  Getting into my photo files the other day for another project brought many beautiful images before me.

I had never seen a Bleeding Heart other than in a flower shop before I found this plant. 

I found it on the barren side of a Post Office in a small town on the Kenai Peninsula.  All that was there was grass and this lonely Bleeding Heart.

What an outstanding flower this is!  I can hardly believe such a flower exists.  God is so creative it blows me away!

I suppose, after all, that that's His job.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Memory

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."

I first heard this verse when I was about 10 or 12 years old. 

I didn't hear it in church.

I didn't hear a Sunday School teacher say it, or my parents.

I didn't read it in a Bible on my own.

I didn't hear it from a friend's family.

I heard it on TV.  I heard it at the end of "the broadcasting day" back when every TV station ceased broadcasting shortly after midnight and didn't resume again until about 5:30 or 6:00 a.m.  One of our FIVE channels at that time put up a photo of the American flag and a man's recorded voice spoke this verse. 

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."  I hear that verse and suddenly it's way past my bedtime and I know the TV is soon going to display that circular diagram that will be there until morning.

It's hard to believe, today, that Christianity and God were once a comfortable, accepted given in our nation.  No more.  It seems much of the country hates God and sees Him as the enemy of their happiness and rights to do whatever they want without any accountability for their lives.  I think that's what it is.  People simply don't want it to be true that they are accountable to God.  So they deny, pretend, and ignore the reality that lies deep inside their own hearts: that God is real and yes, we are each accountable to Him.  What they don't know is that He is the best good they could ever imagine, that He loves deeply, and His call to them to believe in Jesus' death is so that they can receive the forgiveness that takes care of that accountability ...and that His love is what gives freedom and full life.

I love the memory of hearing that verse quoted unashamedly on TV at the end of the broadcasting day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A REAL Quilt in the Making

I think I told you that when I wandered into that quilt shop earlier in the summer that I fell in love with a quilt in their back room and that it was the source of inspiration for me to finally learn how to quilt.  It was so different and so beautiful.  It also looked easy since much of the design was top stitched onto the blocks.  It made me believe I could actually make a quilt.  It has a bit of a rugged visual feel to it because of the casualness of the top stitching and how the edges fray a little bit.

So I signed right up for my beginning quilting class and have been learning how it's done.  My heart wasn't really in my first project...maybe that's another reason for my many, shall we say, "imperfections" with it.  What I really wanted all along was to start a quilt in the pattern of my inspiration.

I've started!  I've decided to do it in all batiks. They are so gorgeous that I want to go right for the gusto.  I chose my color scheme - turquoises, purples and greens - and I bought a bunch of "fat quarters" (quarter yard pieces cut in a "fat" rectangle instead of the traditional quarter yard strip). 

Here they are, in all their glory....

Closer looks.....

And closer still.....

Yes, I'm going to show you them ALL! 
They're just too pretty not to.

Seeing them close-up and in their detail, it makes it appear like they couldn't possibly go together.  So here's the general view again to boost your confidence in me.  Still pretty wild, though, eh?

I'll put up another post soon and show you what I'm going to do with them!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quilted Quilt

I really should have called this post:  DOH!
Since the Log Cabin pattern doesn't really lend itself to fancy quiting patterns, or diagonals, I decided I should use the Stitch In The Ditch method.  It's where you stitch in between certain selected seams, the idea being that it won't really show.  Unless you're me.  Then it shows.


I wasn't sure what color thread to use.  If I used a rust colored then it might look funny on the blues.  If I used blues, it might look funny on the backing which is rust.  So I defaulted to using a basic off-white and hoped I'd be a good ditch stitcher.  But....


Lovely precision sewing.  NOT!




Oh, and puckers.  Not supposed to have them.  DOH!

Bobbin Blobs are always nice.....Doh!


And the best Doh!,
 the worst Doh!,
 the funniest Doh!,
the final, saving-the-best-for-last Doh!,
the Double Doh!..........


I've just got to laugh.  It's pretty funny.  Maybe I'm not cut out to be a quilter.  Maybe I don't have the patience for the precision required.  Or, maybe, it's just my first quilt.  I think might be a matter of both. 

But I do plan on attempting a monster "real" quilt after I (if I ever) get done with this little one.  It's a scrappy looking quilt with lots of top stitching and frayed edges.  When I start cutting out pieces I'll begin letting you in on the progress.

One thing that's exciting to me with this little project is that it FEELS like a quilt now.  When I was examining all my goof-ups, it FELT like a quilt in my hands and on my lap.  THAT's a neat feeling.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

White Picket Fence Header Photo

I love this white picket fence!

 I took the picture in Ninilchik, Alaska a few years ago.  The Fisherman was working and I headed out on a short road trip by myself.  I was aiming for the town of Homer which is a very artsy community with lots of galleries and artist studios.  As I was driving down the highway I caught such a grand view of Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna that I realized I needed to stop and take some pictures.   A gorgeous clear day in not easy to come by in Alaska so I had to take the opportunity to stop.

First I took some photos of the volcanoes across the water  and also the sign that describes them. 

To my left was Iliamna  ( ill-ee-ahm-na)

In the middle was the sign

And to my right was Redoubt

The first time we drove to Homer, way back in 1998, we were treated to a clear view of these two giants standing over 10,000 above the water.  There are taller peaks in the world, but the thing about these two is that you see ALL 10,000 feet of them because they are at sea level.  They're not in the middle of a mountain range with lower peaks all around.  You see them from the ground to the peak.  It's spectacular.  You can see Redoubt from the town of Soldotna when it's clear enough.  Just look straight up K-Beach Rd. (Kalifornsky Beach Rd.) and it'll be there.   If you're ever in Alaska driving to Homer, (which, if you're ever in Alaska, I highly recommend you doing) make sure you look out the passenger window and keep a watch out for Redoubt and Iliamna.  They will take your breath away.

Next I saw the sign for the old Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik (Ne-nil-chik).  I decided to stop there, too.  It was a beautiful setting against the bright blue sky.  I stayed about an hour taking photos.  Everything was white: the church, the fencing, the graveyard crosses.  It was beautiful.  This is where I took the white picket fence header photo I just switched to. 

Here are some of the photos I took.

I know I posted this photo before. 

I remember explaining the unique cross the Russian Orthodox Church uses. I'll tell you again for convenience sake. I asked a  woman who tends to the chapel about the unusual cross. She explained that there is the traditional cross representing the cross to which Jesus was nailed. The small bar across the top represents the plaque above Jesus' head which Pilate ordered to be inscribed with the words "King of the Jews". The bar on the bottom represents the two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. One mocked and scorned Jesus to the end. He is represented by the side that leans down. The thief on the other side of Jesus came to belief while they hung on their crosses. This is evidenced by his request that Jesus remember him when He entered into His Kingdom, and Jesus' reply, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise." This believing thief is represented by the upward tilting side of the bottom bar. The directions of the bar represent the eternal destinations of each thief, the believing thief going up to heaven and the unbelieving thief going down to hell.

On with some more photos....

There's Iliamna in the background.  A photograph simply does not capture the magnitude of what the eye sees when standing at this spot.

A closer shot starts to give you the impact, but still pales in comparison to standing there drinking it all in live.

I took this next photo with this crop in mind.  There was much more sky and much more grass in the original.  I liked how the church barely peeked out from behind the Queen Anne's Lace.

I love this shot of the enclosed yard, the different angles of the fence, the huge Queen Anne's Lace towering over the fencing at the back, and the splash of purple in the foreground.

There's nothing quite like a white picket fence with flowers in front of it, is there?

One parting shot

I turned around for another shot of the church and graveyard after  I had worked my way in a circle around the church and headed back to my van.  In case you're curious, the photos of Iliamna were taken from the back side of the church toward the right side of the property.  The church sits high on a grassy cliff overlooking the water of The Cook Inlet/Gulf of Alaska.   

 It wasn't really worth my continuing on to Homer since I'd spent so much time enjoying the beauty along the way.  I decided to go on anyway and once I got there I only had an hour and a half to visit the galleries along Pioneer Rd. Still, I enjoyed my rushed visit to Homer and went back another day when I had more time.  The highlight of the trip, though, was definitely my stops along the way.  Proof that it's not all about the destination but that some of the best parts of life are along the journey!