I find myself on quite a birdhouse kick lately--and it is showing up in everything from my whimsical birdhouse cushion to this simple little painted cutie above.  I have a birdhouse wallhanging in the works at the moment, and there are  a couple of unfinished wooden birdhouses sitting in my workroom that are patiently awaiting embellishment.  Oh, the possiblities.
Apparently I am not alone in my love of these diminutive dwellings, and I was delighted to turn on CBS Sunday Morning this week and find a segment on the talented Thomas F Burke and his fabulous birdhouse replicas
According to his website biography, "Tom Burke spent 25 years building custom  homes with his  father in Delaware. He still builds houses but now his business  card reads: “Builder of Fine Bird Homes.”

Burke combines his craftsman’s  skills with  an artistic bent to create replicas of historic buildings or a client’s home. “These birdhouses are whimsical, not architectural  reproductions,” says Burke,  whose custom work can be spotted in yards all  around Wilmington."
His fanciful creations depict everything from Martha Stewart's Bedford, NY home to George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch and can take months to make--and can come with a price tag of upwards of  $20,000.  They truly are miniature works of art, and it is well worth watching the interview here on the CBS website.
It is when I see amazingly detailed and intricate woodworking projects that I regret never learning how to construct things with saws and nails...  I may just have to take a course of some sort, because I am quite intrigued at the possiblity of a project like this!

I hope you're all staying safe during this crazy weather we're having--I was horrified and saddened to see the breaking news of the Oklahoma tornadoes just this afternoon, as I have been through natural disasters (several times, in fact), and I am well acquainted with the sick feeling of resignation that comes when the evacuation siren starts up and you see danger advancing.  There is nothing to do but round up the things that mean most to you--usually people and pets--and head to a place of safety.

My heart is with any of you who have been affected. 
Books have always been a huge part of my life.  I am a self-proclaimed bookworm--and proud of it!  From childhood onward I have been the girl with a book (or two) always lurking in her bag.  I read in cafes over a good strong Americano, on the train during the morning commute, while waiting in the Doctor's office... anywhere and everywhere.  For me, reading the first page of a new book is like slipping into a warm bath--comforting and relaxing.  The start of personal time well-spent. 

Some books stand out among the others, and this week I had the pleasure of enjoying one of them.  I finally received the copy of 'Orphan Train' that I had requested at my local library.  My husband picked it up for me and it came into my posession on Tuesday night.  I threw it in my bag yesterday morning and headed out to a series of appointments with waiting periods in between... which of course meant perfect reading time!  I became totally  immersed in the story and finished it last night at bedtime.  A thoroughly good read.

I won't bore you with all the details of the book (as I am sure not everyone is interested in the subject of the 200,000 children rounded up in NYC and shipped out on trains to the mid-west during the early 1900s), but you can take a look here on Amazon for the full publisher's summary. 
There is a great post about the historical background of 'Orphan Train' on (the author) Christina Baker Kline's blog, if anyone is interested.  I have to say that I really enjoyed this author's writing style and I think I may just look into her other four novels. 
To totally switch gears, I have been very busy on the projects front--and simultaneously too lazy to photograph and document my endeavors in a post.  I plan to remedy that this weekend and share my creations very soon!  Let's just say that I have rediscovered my love of seersucker and am finally getting around to sewing up something that I cut out over a year ago (right before the big flood disrupted my entire year)!

Happy (almost) weekend!
We've had one heck of a day here weather-wise--torrential rain, a possible tornado, and widespread flooding.  Thunderstorms have been churning around and around all day long, and it was the perfect weather for a bit of crocheting. 

I don't know why I always associate rainy, inclement weather with handwork, but I think it goes back to my days in theatre.  On rainy, horrible summer days in the wardrobe workshop we would put on old jazz cds to drown out the driving beat of rain on the corrugated tin roof above our heads.  We listened to everything from Cole Porter to John Coltraine while we stitched away, and to this day I think of a rainy day as an 'old jazz day'.
Today I took up my crochet hook and some pretty yarn left over from my Happy Flowered Garland project and set out to make a cat toy mouse.  I looked online for a bit of inspiration, but in the end I just made it up out of my head.  There's my continuity issue popping up again.  Oh well... 
Pussito is inside due to inhospitable weather conditions so I decided to treat him with the catnip-laced toy.  He was so sleepy that he bit and kicked it for about a minute and fell back asleep with his paws resting against it.  I guess that's his half-hearted seal of approval.

I think he's annoyed with me that he is wearing a girly pink and brown collar (I used one that I already had on hand until I can go pick up a suitably manly replacement for the one he lost earlier this week), but with Oliver, who can ever tell?  At least he got the blue catnip mouse... I'm going to make a pink one now for Sophie Puss.

If anyone is interested in crocheting a cute mousie toy for their feline companion, here is a whole page of links to free patterns. 

Happy Crafting!
Look who arrived home this morning looking all bedragled with his collar missing and his little white-gloved paws streaked with dirt after being out all night...
He ran out of the house sometime yesterday afternoon in a snit about something...  with Pussito you never know exactly why he is so disgruntled--he just is.  There's a reason why they call it 'cattitude'.

He was nowhere to be seen when I called him to come in last night, which is very unusual for little Oliver man, who, although he enjoys his outdoor pursuits and his stray look-alike friend, quite enjoys the creature comforts of his own soft bed and dish of yummy chow. 

First thing this morning he was also notably absent, which was a bit worrying as he never strays very far from home and hearth.  I'm not sure what he was up to, but he appeared a short time later sans collar and looking very tired and rumpled.  I would love to know what he gets up to outdoors--this is the third collar he has lost so far this year!
He has now eaten an entire tub of Market Selects and has taken up residence in my workroom on Sophie's little blanket and is snoring away...  after a tantalizing flash of floofy belly that I dare not touch for fear of retaliation. 

Aah, the furries. 

How I love them.
I've been prettying up my new workroom with little pops of handmade color since I painted the walls a simple white and moved everything into it several weeks ago.  Despite my usual love of bold, vibrant color I decided to leave the room itself white because there is always such glorious sunshine flooding through the window and balcony door to transform the walls to a lovely warm yellow.  It lessens the need for so much extra artificial lighting and makes sewing and close-work a pleasure.

For ages now I've been eyeing the flower garland creations made by Claudia from Mockingbird Hill Cottage.  She has a variety of different colored garlands available for purchase in her Etsy shop, so head on over and take a look if you're interested in having one of these beautiful garlands of your very own--she will even use specific color combinations upon request.
I've actually been working on this garland for a while, not due to any great degree of difficulty but because I only work on it when I sit down for a few minutes in front of the TV.... and that hasn't been very often lately!  I have finally managed to amass nine of these little beauties, and they've found a place to call home on one of my pristine walls.  Aren't they happy little things?!  I really love the combination of rosewood and light turquoise, and I even ran across a fat quarter with a floral pattern in similar tones--which I plan to somehow integrate into the garland at some point soon!
Now on to the next project...  photos to follow!

Happy (almost) weekend, everyone!
For the past week I've been seeing the most amazing pink flowers littering the sidewalk under a group of tall shade trees that Charlie Dog and I pass on our daily rambles.  Their spiky pink extensions are so unusual that I marvelled at how they can look so sharp and yet feel so soft to the touch.  I guess I had never looked up into the tall trees to see them hanging with these whimsical flowers and never noticed the 'bottle brushes' until they started falling to the sidewalk below in a carpet of pink fuzz.
A bit of research tells me that they are Callistemon citrinus and are more commonly known as 'bottle brush' flowers.  Nature really never ceases to amaze me!  Aren't they beautiful?

Is spring popping through in your corner of the world?
There are so many talented crafters and creaters out there in the blogosphere!  I confess that I have a computer file entitled 'cool stuff & ideas' and whenever I see something that inspires me, I shove it in that file for future reference.  This fun project falls into that category...
I fell in love with this little quilt from Carolynn at Chenille Cottage--isn't it adorable?  She was featuring her guest bedroom and this little beauty was peeking out from the top of a dresser where it was part of a display...  I love the mix of colors and patterns, and the quasi-log cabin perimeter. 

You all know how I love my modified log cabin pattern!  You can click on the photo and it will open a link to her post so you can see it for yourself!

I drooled over the quilt for about a week and decided that I needed to attempt something similar, so one morning I sat down with a cup of coffee and my ideas and drafted out my own version of the pattern...
Yet another project to use up some of my favorite fabric scraps!  For this project I actually took the time to draft the pattern, add inlays, and keep a copy of it so I could replicate it at some point in the future.  Something you need to know about me is that I often start out a project with just an idea in my head and no set pattern.  I play around with fabrics and make things... handbags, coin purses, accessories, you name it.  More often than not I don't have a solid pattern.  I've done that all my life--and it's a bad habit that I really need to break for the sake of consistency.
And here it is!  A sister for my modified log cabin cushion to cover the world's ugliest pillow #2.  They're happy to hang out together side-by-side on the sofa in my new sewing/work room, and they add a bit of color and charm to my workspace.  I am so happy with the way the pattern turned out!  I may just make a wall hanging using my pattern and add in a little appliqued birdie...  stay tuned for a creative update on that!
The finished result is a combination of traditional piecing, hand applique, machine quilting, and hand quilting.  If anyone is interested in trying the pattern for themself, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll share my pattern with you. 

Happy Tax Day!
I'm almost there!  After much relocation and rearranging of my many stashes (fabric, beads, yarn, paper.....) I am almost settled into my new sewing/work room!  I really have to get everything into its proper place and then take a few decent photos--the above pic was snapped with my cellphone, so forgive the quality.  Better to come!

See the panel on the worktable?  I was completely inspired by a quilt I saw online and decided that my next pillow cover (to cover the world's ugliest cushion #2, brother to the world's ugliest cushion #1) would be birdhouses.  I sat down, drafted a pattern, tweaked it, added inlays, and broke out my fabric scrap stash.  Have I mentioned recently how much I love my fabric scrap stash? 

Notice the stepladder that I'm currently using as a stool?  Yup.  A stepladder.  I have to find a stool that is just the right height for the worktable, so I'm improvising for the moment.  As I said, this is a work in progress...  but I love it!
My worktable was just over 8' long and flooded with natural light from the big windows. My sewing machine and serger had a permanent home at one end and I used the other to do everything from cut out patterns to wrap Christmas gifts.
The beautiful windows were bigger than they appear in these photos, and my kitty girl Bingy could usually be found lounging on the wide window ledge of the left hand window--her blanket stayed there permanently. The squirrels in the overhanging trees were constant entertainment for all four kitties!
Many of you will remember me talking longingly about my sewing room in my home back in Canada.  Sadly, my house was contaminated with furnace fuel in a flood a year ago and the beautiful old lady who was built well over 150 years ago had to be demolished. 

It broke my heart.


When I think about that house my eyes well up and I feel a heaviness in my chest.  It's something I work on every single day.

The above photos were taken after everything was cleaned out of the house shortly before it was demolished.  I had the room custom-built into an existing attic space above the kitchen, and my carpenter worked with me tirelessly to create a workspace exactly as I wanted it.  There were custom storage cabinets built into the space under the eaves where the ceiling sloped down to almost meet the floor.  The space under the eaves of the opposite wall was empty...  waiting for cabinets that would never be built. 

My carpenter's name was Jim and he was the most marvelous man--a tireless worker who carefully and quietly constructed amazingly beautiful pieces with his calloused hands.  His father had been a builder as well, and he took after him in his ability to take rough wood and nails and create spectacular pieces of furniture and cabinetry constructed from the blueprints in his mind.  His talent was astrounding and yet he was humble.  Such great ability in such an unassuming individual.  If anyone asked Jim how he was doing on a particular day, he would smile and say, 'The very best!'  His love for his wife, children, and grandchildren was as well-known as his love of Pepsi and Worther's Originals candies.  He was truly a lovely human being. 

Sadly, we lost Jim to a tragic hunting accident in late September, 2010.  The loss was shocking and the event sent a ripple through the whole community.  Everyone knew and loved Jim, and his death made us all stop and evaluate our lives.  Our reality can completely change in a split-second, and that is a frightening realization. 

On a sun-drenched Friday afternoon I spoke with him for a few minutes before he walked out to meet the weekend head-on.  He was looking forward to heading out with his wife and friends for a weekend spent in the woods--hunting season had just opened.  I wished him a happy weekend and we said we would see each-other on Monday.  The next morning a friend's truck pulled into my driveway, and he came walking up the pathway with tears in his eyes.  The unthinkable had happened... Jim was gone.
I honestly think that everyone in our circle was in shock.  I walked through the house, touching the cabinets made lovingly by his hands just months before, feeling the cool tile of the bathroom that he had laid just that past month.  I stood in my almost-finished sewing room and looked around me, pictured him standing by the window painting the woodwork carefully, his hat casting a shadow down over his face as he concentrated on his work.  

I cried uncontrollably and wondered why...
There was a box sitting in the corner where the last set of cabinets should have been until the day more than two years after his death when I cleaned out that room before demolition.  Jim had left the paint for the room in a box with other odds and ends that he would use later to finish and touch-up everything.  I couldn't bring myself to move it.  Silly, but somehow with that box still sitting there Jim wasn't really gone--he would be back to finish my room. 
The box contained half a can of pale yellow wall paint, a container of ceiling paint, woodscrews, a paintbrush, a cloth rag...  and an empty Pepsi can as well as an assortment of shiny golden candy wrappers.  Simple little reminders of the man he was, and the legacy he left behind.
The very best, Jim... you'll always be the very best. 
"I have always looked upon decay
as being just as wonderful and rich
an expression of life as growth."
Henry Miller
A note about my photograph:  I took this shot in June last year while wandering the streets of a little beach town in Choroni, Venezuela.  We arrived in the midst of an amazing religious festival complete with a procession through streets draped with colorful bunting and lined with chanting, jubilant locals.  The buildings were all old and Spanish-style with huge front doors tall enough for a rider on horseback to enter into the central courtyards.  This particular building stood between two splendid neighbors and was in a state of semi-demolition with not much other than this door and surrounding frame still standing.  I love how the wall opens up for a peek at the metal and wood structure beneath the plaster... 

Happy mid-week!
Sharing with:
A Favorite Thing