Tag Archives: music

All in a day’s work….

The Pacific Ocean north of Trinidad, California; “New Young” by Josh Rouse.

Spent a few days last week in Humboldt County with my hubby, Little Miss, and her mum, and the weather was glorious!  Sunny days and cool, starry nights made that brief holiday quite spectacular, not to mention sharing that beautiful area with family.  It was good to get home, for I have projects in need of attention.  There’s The Hawk, some quilts, and just the business of life.  I saw my doc this morning for a physical, and now that I’m in my fifties, it’s time for lipid tests and various other blood work that will follow (but not dog) my steps for the next couple of decades until I’m too old to be bothered.

Recently I joked about this with my neighbor, who is about ten years my senior.  There’s this window from fifty to seventy-five where we undergo pokes and prods, then it truly won’t matter.  My doctor nodded at my observations with mild eye rolling; this is his profession after all.  But it’s the truth, and for most of it I’ll gladly acquiesce, starting tonight by fasting until morning.  There’s so much I want to accomplish, best to be as fit of a fiddle as can be.

Another quilt on the wall; “Dove sei” by Neffa.

There are future family vacations, watching the nietos enter school, attending graduations, perhaps even weddings, and possibly cuddling a great-grandbaby.  There are heaps of fabrics waiting to be sliced then sewed into myriad comforters.  And there is the notion of noveling, which is how I began this day, editing the first two chapters of The Hawk: Part Thirteen.  I’d mulled over actually writing, but I had to be at the doc at half past nine, so instead I pulled fabrics from the stash for another plus quilt.

When I returned home, I put on the tunes (Neffa, Josephine, Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Josh Rouse, Hollie Cook, Belle & Sebastian, Jose Gonzalez, Luna, and Kurt Vile, whose song “All in a Daze Work” is the inspiration for today’s title) and began to inspect low volume and navy prints.  I didn’t get around to lunch until nearly one p.m., then went right back to sorting fabrics.  Fifteen blocks are now arranged on the little quilt wall, pluses set aside for another fifteen, with a stack of fabrics still to be cut into large and small squares.  I’ve finished the first plus quilt, just need to gift wrap it.  I so enjoyed this pattern and look forward to making it over and over as the years pass.

A post about this quilt is forthcoming; “Teardrop” by Jose Gonzalez.

In order to do that, I need to manage my health with as much attention as I give the crafts. Fortunately I have no problems, assuming blood tests come back clear.  My husband finds this process somewhat invasive, and while I agree that it’s more micromanaged than maybe it has to be, we still have our right to say NO to this or that procedure.  Sometimes I think if I can just finish The Hawk, I’ll die happy, hehehe.  But while listening to various tunes, I didn’t feel aged, rather youthful actually.  Music makes the years slip away; I’m not as young as the grandkids, but there’s no way I’m someone’s abuela.

My daughter, granddaughter and hubby along the North Coast in Humboldt County; “Moments of Pleasure” by Kate Bush.

Well, you get what I mean.  Or I hope the vigor of life rings through this post, in that age is merely a number.  I may not be so sprightly when Little Miss and The Burrito collect their high school diplomas, but I sure better be able to applaud their efforts.  And if that’s not the case, at least I’ll have done all I can to make each day count, be it through book chapters, quilt blocks, blog posts, doctor appointments, and the most meaningful manner of sharing love with all whom I encounter.  I heartily encourage you to check out the tunes associated with each of the photos; I’ve included those by Kate Bush, Neffa, as well as “Last Minute” by Josephine.  These are the joys that make up my life; time has no bearing when love (and melodies) is involved.


Big Bright Quilt Top

Sewing this project has been a lot like writing The Hawk; both have required faith and perseverance, while the sense of fulfillment waits for when each is finished.  Today I completed this quilt top, and while much remains for it to turn into a quilt, I had to write a bit about why it means so much.  And that as behind the scenes a novel is produced, how similar these processes are.

When sewing, it’s a matter of making sure pieces fit together.  Yesterday I fashioned the bottom row, big squares of fabrics used in this quilt, then edged with a sash of Kona Sprout.  I attached that section this afternoon, then photographed most of it after getting laundry off the clothesline.  About a foot of the quilt hangs out of sight; it’s a large piece, measuring about 80″ long, 76″ across at this stage.

I’d been toying with the notion of adding sashes along the perimeter, sort of tying up the whole kit’n’kaboodle.  A little math led me to believe I had enough fabric left to do just that, so I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting strips, sewing them together, ironing flat the seams, then pinning those long pieces to the sides, top, and bottom.  Lots of minutes were spent at my ironing board, during which time I listened to a most apropos band, called Quilt.

My fave tune currently is “Cowboys in the Void”.  This is from their 2011 album, also called Quilt.  My husband introduced me to this Boston band, and along with some Mozart, I had plenty of good music to keep me in the mood.

By a quarter after five, I pressed the last seams, then started some dinner for my hubby.  After we ate, he and our son held up the quilt top in the backyard so I could snap some pictures.  I hung it back on the line, then draped it over the sofa, while my husband watched the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder.  Now I’ll take a few days to ponder this quilt, The Hawk, and various other matters.  Next week I’ll make the back, then we’ll see how and where I baste this sucker.

It’s now a vast 85″ X 81″, and I’ll spend the summer hand-quilting it.  I wanted a blanket that I could wrap around myself, maybe one that the nietos will make forts with, or snuggle with me under its vibrant quilty goodness.

And best of all, its story is only beginning.  Once it’s perched over the back of the sofa, then the tales truly begin.

For now it’s folded on my sewing table, much like The Hawk is percolating in my gray matter.  About two parts remain for me to write, just a matter of knowing when the time is correct that the words will return.

For now, have a listen to “Cowboys in the Void” while I head into the living room, basketball and baseball on tap….

Quilts and hawks and the new normal….

Help me get my feet back on the ground….

If I was to make a timeline of the last five or six weeks, I could qualify my life musically (The Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, and Big Star).  Or I could chart it via sport (Warriors clinch the Western Division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Giants start the year well, then lose eight straight games).  Or I could call upon parties held and attended for my eldest, her husband and their upcoming offspring (but don’t forget about Buttercup please).

But truthfully the best way for me to align the last month and a half revolves around my father’s medical care.  Somehow I know those dates like the back of my hand, from the last time we saw his oncologist on Wednesday, 4 March, to Dad’s death at the beginning of this month.  From the day heart failure was diagnosed, Dad had less than a month, most of that spent in two different care facilities.  I feel like I’ve earned an honorary nursing license, which hopefully I can shelve for a good while.  I possess more knowledge about morphine and dilaudid than I ever imagined I would require.

Setting that information aside, I have returned home to sewing, writing, and what my sister-in-law so correctly coined as the new normal.  When someone so loved dies, a transitional period emerges.  But what I didn’t foresee was how that transition would forge an altered reality for yours truly.  Or maybe I was being naive; how could my world ever be the same, regardless of quilts and books, sport and music.  And what about grandchildren?  Not only did my father die, but I’m still coming to grips with being an abuela!

Whoever said that aging was boring has nothing on my life.

I’ve been back in my Silicon Valley realm for nearly a week; in those days I’ve sewn two baby quilts, published a beta-version of The Hawk (part one), and listened to a LOT of Belle and Sebastian’s new LP Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance.  I’ve also endured the Giants’ losing streak, thankfully halted last night, as well as Golden State starting their bid for the NBA championship in a victorious fashion.  And I’ve thought heaps and bunches about my dad, both his last days and those from ages ago.  I’ve written some poems, although I was sure I would bail on NaPoWriMo.  Thankfully two of my sisters gave me the kick in the pants so necessary for healing to continue.  Yes, I love to sew, but writing, especially poems, best assuages my heart.  And believe me, after a week of baseball losses, I sorely needed that literary lift.

I’ve also soothed my soul in tunes; I cannot fully express how music eases memories, also permitting this new normal to not feel so damned strange.  Dad introduced us kids the right way, The Beatles permeating my childhood.  But it’s a Scottish band to whom I’ve turned all week, letting Girls In Peacetime lead me along the ironing board path.  So as I gingerly reenter this sphere, I’ll close this post with the final lines from what has become my tune of the moment, ironically entitled “Enter Sylvia Plath”.

And when things get tough for you

As they did when you came up through the ranks

You can borrow from my faith

From my faith….

An ever-evolving life…

Aside from the Hollie Cook show, which still tumbles through my brain in songs that I cannot shake, I’ve been indulging in some vintage 1970s melodies, especially “Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers.  Somehow that song evokes the autumn which attempts to make its point here in California.  The evenings are cooler, as are the mornings.  Darkness pervades my waking hours, sunshine casting long shadows, trees finally dropping their leaves.  The end of the World Series is nigh (Oh please let it be tonight!), Halloween is days away, November knocking on the door.  Listening to The Doobie Brothers reminds me of the past, which at this time of year is still tied to National Novel Writing Month, although I won’t be participating for the second straight year.  NaNoWriMo came into my life just as we were saying goodbye to England, but as leaving Yorkshire taught me, not everything last forever.

But the writing continues; daily I’ve been reading a couple of chapters of The Hawk, enjoying it immensely.  My husband asked if I read for pleasure, or with a critical eye.  I laughed; I always read my own stuff in a discerning manner, but the revisions aren’t heavy, mostly because these relatively early chapters have been read a number of times.  Yet even as I read, and occasionally alter, the prose, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy this story, which makes me ache to get back to the writing, even if my time is squeezed beyond belief.

Which some might say is all the reason needed to jump into the NaNo pond to pound out another 50,000 (or more) words, regardless of all that looms.  But no longer am I that sort of writer, which is a lot to admit.  But it’s not 1974 anymore, it’s (gasp) forty years later.  Jeez!!  Four decades since “Black Water” was a hit, and now I’m a fan of tropical pop.  “Milk and Honey”, by Ms. Cook, has been making me sway around the kitchen, or tapping my feet as I iron fabrics.  I’m cutting what will be my goddaughter’s Christmas present, but not in reds and greens.  Perhaps hues more for an island, in warm blues, aquas, and a tad of periwinkle.  Not colours I often use, but I sure like them, and they blend well with my latest fascination with reggae.

Life is a journey, taking us to new and exciting places, with intriguing songs and fabric shades that don’t remain static.  About the only thing right now I’d like to remain the same is the Giants’ hold on the even-numbered years’ World Series victories.  We’re one game away from continuing in that vein, which to my liking could stay as a constant, although I’m sure other baseball fans wouldn’t agree.

Not sure what Buttercup thinks; if it meant more belly rubs for her, she’d be all over San Francisco taking tonight’s game.  In Buttercup’s world, there is little room for evolution, but my realm isn’t that of a beagle/basset.  It’s words and music and cotton, baseball and family and whatever lies ahead.  Revisiting the past is unavoidable, in music and memories, hopes and dreams.  But some pieces were only for that time, those moments.  I’d *LOVE* to dwell on the 49ers’ glory years, and seeing shots of Joe Montana at AT&T Park was a pleasure.  However, it’s 2014, ages away from the 1980s, and even a good stretch from when I began writing.  Now I quilt, whoa!  And my heart is firmly stolen by a different Bay Area sports team, whether I want it to be or not.  I can’t help rooting for the Giants, what I do right here and right now.

As I age, I need to keep moving forward.  I don’t know if abundant technology assists in that endeavor, or tropical pop.  And I wonder if my long-passed away relatives felt so inclined.  Is my generation better equipped to seize the future?  I’d love to ask those grandparents, aunts and uncles, but that’s impossible.  I should have done it years ago, but years ago I didn’t consider these queries.  I was too busy being young.

I’m not so young anymore, although not as old as Ms. Buttercup, who at somewhat over seven is a tad older than me.  But again, she doesn’t care what happens, as long as there is food and water in her bowls, walks when her folks get home, and much attention paid to her exposed belly.  But then Buttercup doesn’t know the joy of tropical pop, she can’t reminisce about “Black Water”, and she certainly won’t experience the thrill of one’s team winning the World Series (Oh please let the Giants win tonight!).  She’s content to lie on her rug as people croon her name, snapping pictures of her, then scratching her belly.  No time for writing, quilting or any other such nonsense in her world, thank you very much.

And certainly not a free moment for such introspection.  But occasionally a free moment should be turned just a wee bit inward, if only to acknowledge the change, be it in the weather, the writing, the quilting fabrics.  Life never stops changing, and it’s good to grasp those alterations, especially when they are pleasant.  Sometimes they’re not so warm and fuzzy, but we can’t look from those either.  Before tonight’s baseball I need to clean (ugg), perhaps cut more aqua fabric, definitely get to the store.  No writing, maybe some sewing, then loads of hand-wringing as my beloved Giants go to bat.  I’m sure some Hollie Cook will waft from speakers, either at my PC or in the living room from the turntable.  It’s just another day, 28 October, 2014.  It’s also the only 28 October 2014 any of us will ever see.  May this day bring plenty of joy your way (unless, of course, you’re a Kansas City fan).

Tropical Pop Quilt

I confess; the name for this quilt is pinched from the genre of music made by English singer Hollie Cook, of whom I had the very good fortune to see live on Thursday night in Oakland, at Leo’s.  Ms. Cook’s music could also be termed reggae pop, or reggae, but names aside, she RAWKED the intimate venue, in her lovely British manner, and I highly recommend her two albums, Hollie Cook and Twice.  And if you like dub, pick up Prince Fatty’s Hollie Cook In Dub.  All three records are fantastic, and we were lucky enough to actually purchase the vinyl of Ms. Cook’s music.  Maybe the next time we see her, and I’m sure there will be a next time, we’ll get the Prince Fatty LP.

But back to quilts; it’s for my sister, this blanket the mate for the Brother-In-Law quilt.  He’s doing very well, post-surgery, and she’s been too busy to ask about her quilt, so I’ll get to surprise her with this offering.  Not a sort of peace pie appeasement, merely a gift, and hopefully completed well before the holidays.  The bulk of the prints are Hawaiian shirts (she LOVES the Islands), with a few random squares of camo thrown in for good measure.  (Like her hubby, Sis likes to hunt.)  The solid fabric is Kona Ash, which I used for the Bestie Far Away quilt sashes; I adore this hue, it goes with anything!  Especially vibrant prints, which dominate both of these quilts.  But the Tropical Pop quilt seemed easier to sort, making every other square a solid.  Not so hard on the eyes, you know.

The binding will be scrappy; some of the prints mixed with solid Kona blues.  And the backing is a charcoal flannel sheet.  I’m curious to see how soft this quilt comes out, as the shirts were well weathered, but the Kona ash is not.  Still, the flannel sheet has been through the wash more than a few times, so odds are it will be a very snuggly quilt from the get-go.

Currently it's in the washer, but I had to make sure it was suitable for snuggling.  Indeed, it's perfect!

Currently it’s in the washer, but I had to make sure it was suitable for snuggling. Indeed, it’s perfect!

And after I spent last night under the Bestie Far Away blanket, flannel-backed quilts are definitely my faves.  I was testing the snuggle-factor, and that comforter passed with flying colours.  Wish my Giants were riding that high; tonight’s game will be definitive.  Either they’ll be tied two all with Kansas City, or on the brink of elimination.  An intriguing kettle of fish I’ll say, but then, so is the Tropical Pop quilt.  Can’t wait to get those rows under the presser foot!

Some personal quilting essentials…

As with writing, every quilter has their own methods.  Now, I’ve been writing for over seven years, so I know how I prefer to go about it; early morning for the actual writing, revising anytime but late at night, for by then I don’t have any useful brain cells remaining.  But quilting, or piecing then quilting, well, that’s a work in progress, in the figuring out what makes me happiest.  I do know that I like a clean sewing machine, which means under the needle plate.  I mucked that out this morning, for yesterday I put the finishing touches on the Fat Quarters Quilt.  Next time I complete a quilt, I’ll snap a picture of the Magnolia’s easily accessible innards, for it was a fuzz-fest.  Now it’s tidy, ready for the next quilt in the queue.

Washed, puckered, and waiting to be used

But that’s the nuts and bolts of equipment.  What I mean are the quirky touches that only I can bring to the sewing table.  Music is a mainstay, mostly on the stereo when I’m piecing in the living room, then on my PC when quilting in the sewing grotto at my big table, as I did with the FQ Quilt.  Which is due for another name change, for I’m not keeping it, bequeathing it to my eldest and her hubby (and Buttercup the basset, of course).  It will be the Mijos Quilt, abbreviated Spanish for my children, but it has a personal significance for me, which if you’re interested you can read about here.

But still, I’m digressing, something I’m good at in real life.  In quilt life, well, I’m still so wet behind the ears that other than copious tunes, and a clean machine, I don’t yet have a rhythm, although I also prefer a new needle for machine quilting.  Fortunately needles aren’t too expensive, and perhaps as I go along, I’ll not be so fussy.  (My sister doesn’t replace her needles until they break, which when our mom learned about that, Sis was immediately chastised to change that needle more frequently!)  I do like a less-quilted quilt, which is going to be important for the next project, a big summer quilt for our bed.  I’ll tie that baby, as it’s going to be queen-king bed appropriate, and I’m still sorting just exactly how and where I’ll do that tying.

Flannel backing in blue and coral...

Something for later, surely.  Today I know music matters, and when in the living room, it’s the albums that rest against the cabinet upon which our turntable, amp, etc, sit.  The Mijos Quilt was pieced to Ryan Adams, Endless Boogie, Linda Ronstadt, Miles Davis, and Cat Power.  The quilting however was dependent upon R.E.M., Patsy Cline, Cracker, Josh Rouse, the Oscar Peterson Trio, The Cramps, and Josephine.  What was nice about quilting near my computer was I didn’t have to get up to flip the record, just sew endlessly (and mostly) straight lines while songs filled the grotto.

Another presence hovered as I sewed that quilt, but that had little to do with music, more about what I’ve been reading during lunchtime.  And as I consider that influence, I wonder how future quilts will be affected by outside matters.  Especially quilts that I won’t keep, which will be most of them.  I only need so many quilts.

Perhaps that seems like blasphemy, but our house is small, and we don’t live in the frozen tundra.  However, last night was chilly, and the Mijos Quilt was getting a trial run.  I thought it was fantastic, but will give it to those children in a few days.  Until then, I’ll give it another go tonight, making 100% certain that it’s acceptable.

My husband snapped this during a commercial while we suffered another baseball loss...  Thank goodness for a comforting quilt!

My husband snapped this during a commercial while we suffered another baseball loss… Thank goodness for a comforting quilt!

And maybe tonight, the SF Giants will win, making the evening not quite so dismal.  I’d give my kingdom for an offensive onslaught….

Endless Boogie or: How I learned to stop worrying and embrace indie publishing

Endless Boogie in Santa Cruz, California  February 2011

Endless Boogie, February 2011 in Santa Cruz

Two years ago a couple of intriguing things happened to me.  I decided to go indie, and I met Paul Major, lead vocalist and guitarist from the New York rock-jammers Endless Boogie.  The latter occured in Santa Cruz, but not where my husband and I had first seen the band, opening for Yo La Tengo a year before that in a comparatively posh Santa Cruz theater.  This was in some divey industrial section of town, where we learned that Boogie, and the other bands, would be restricted to twenty-minutes sets to avoid breaching the local noise ordinance.  My husband and I laughed with Major and Boogie’s then bassist, whom I believe is known as Memories of Reno (which I gleaned from the band’s Last.fm page, as it’s hard to come by information) as all four of us stood in the cramped second floor hallway, waiting to use the bathroom.  We got to tell them of first seeing them with Yo La Tengo, and it was probably one of the most enjoyable restroom queues of which I’ve been a part.

Now, what does chatting with a Canned Heat-like bunch of rockers have to do with independent publishing?  Well, Endless Boogie’s third album was just released, and while previously I wasn’t a big fan, listening to Long Island has turned my head.  And made me consider just why people of any age (Major is fifty-eight years old, and guitarist Jesper Eklow looks at least my age) decide to let their hair down and make art, be it musical or written or whatever floats one’s boat.

As Major tells this month’s Uncut Magazine, describing Eklow’s talent: He’d been in bands before, but for the love of music, not with the ambition of ‘we’re gonna make it’.

Major further describes the rhythm guitarist as Danny Witten to Major’s Neil Young front-man status.  Now, that’s pretty rock nitty-gritty, but then so is Endless Boogie.  The new album is one I can enjoy while editing, endless guitar jams with Major’s growly vocals or just the hypnotic musical wave.  And on the new record Major employs his incredible voice more as gong, reciting names from the past in “The Artemus Ward” and “The Montgomery Manuscript” as if recalling history in a Ken Burns’ documentary.  If I was Robert Christgau, I’d give Long Island an A-.  Nine out of ten stars if I was reviewing for Uncut,  four and a half out of five if for Rolling Stone.

The new album cover, quite intriguing, I believe.

The new album cover, quite intriguing, I believe.

But this isn’t just about rating an album.  It’s about how letting it all hang out changed my writing life.  Major and Eklow aren’t looking to be rock and roll superstars, they just love jamming, their guitars as extensions of themselves.  Long Island is the band’s third record, but they’ve been playing together since before 2001; in 2001 they performed at the Bowery Ballroom, but their first full album, Focus Level, didn’t come out until 2008, when Major was then fifty-three.  Age is irrelevant when it comes to the heart.

The heart of an artist is ageless, just waiting for the right time to do its thing.

I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Endless Boogie over the last week, since Long Island was mailed to our house, along with a bonus EP, what my husband was trying to record onto the laptop recently.  Right now “Coming Down The Stairs” from their first album is pouring through my computer speakers.  It’s never too early in the morning to rock, although I do need time to warm up for the writing.  But once I was ready to start letting my own hair down, boy, there was no time like the present.

Taken from the back of the room; to the left is where we paid.  The stairs to the loo were just to the right of that little table.

Taken from the back of the room; to the left is where we paid. The stairs to the loo were just to the right of that little table.

Everyone has their own reasons for how and what and why they write; the same can be said for publishing.  Maybe it’s the performance artist in me, as if I was Paul Major on a stage, letting those long brown locks fall where they may as a guitar conveys my pounding heart.  Except it’s a pen in my hand, fingers on the keyboard, a cuppa close to provide sustenance.  Size of the stage matters not; Endless played with just as much tenacity for hundreds as well as in that tiny space where maybe a dozen people wandered.  Yes, the second time we saw Endless Boogie there were probably twelve others wafting through the room.

Sometimes the crowds are big, sometimes not so much.  But the rock and roll emerged without regard to capacity, except for obeying the noise ordinance.

Two years ago I cut myself loose from queries, baggage much heavier than I had imagined.  A blessed lightness graced my shoulders, or was it freedom?  I have a hard time distinguishing as that seems like a distant past.  Now it’s a lively endless riff that weaves in and out of my ears, all in prose.  And hard work too; Endless Boogie played their short set, then dissembled their equipment, no roadies or stagehands nearby.  An indie author does their own grunt work, but even the most tedious formatting doesn’t feel like backbreaking, soul-crushing, good for nothing drivel.  It’s done while celebrating artistic liberty, accomplished from the sheer love for writing.

Time to close up shop, don't want the Santa Cruz cops on the tail.

Time to close up shop, don’t want the Santa Cruz cops knocking on the door.

Now, this is just how I like to publish.  Endless Boogie isn’t for everyone; it took time for the guys to grow on me.  Or maybe it’s my love for jazz that opened my mind to traveling rock riffs, an appreciation that life moves in unpredictable ways.  Did Paul Major think he would be fronting a rock band when in his fifties?  Maybe he dreamed about it when younger, but sometimes dreams stay trapped under lock and key.

Sometimes dreams are just simmering for the precise moment when they are fully formed, like butterflies escaping from their chrysalises.  Indie publishing freed my inner butterfly, and now listening to “The Montgomery Manuscript”, I’m feeling about ready to close this post, start adding to my own WIP.  Music gets made, books are written.  If these pieces of art, these parts of our souls are to be shared with others, no longer is that path long and treacherous.

It’s just a matter of unlocking the chest and letting the dreams fly free.