Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm Revoltin' (Verb or Adjective)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The Life of Riley

Riley's catch phrase--"What a revoltin' development this is!"--expressed his frustration and became part of the national idiom.

I'm fed up lately. With Blogger (well, with a lot of things, but Blogger will do for starts). Thanks to Deb Geyer's sensational new look I don't need a further push to revolt and leave Blogger behind, saying hello to WordPress or TypePad. But that will have to wait a bit because of a related revolt.

I've left GatesWorld behind (as much as he'll allow us to) and jumped the Internet Explorer ship. I stupidly downloaded the new Internet Explorer 7 (it won't be voluntary come November) and it wrought havoc with my desktop. Some of you might consider me the wee-ist bit perfectionistic, but damn it I want to design my own desktop, thank you very much, Mr. G. With endorsements from Deb and Rian, and encouragement from our itinerant office computer guy ("Great! Everybody should be using it!"), I'm now browsing cyberworld with Mozilla Firefox. It's only been a couple of days (both at home and at the office) so I'm still getting acquainted with the interface. I've had a couple of "Oops! I was making that little feature way too hard!" moments before realizing Firefox is indeed quite simple to use. Once I feel totally at home with it, the look of the blog will be changing too.

Now that the season has changed, I'm thoroughly fed up with my revolting wardrobe. When I gained weight and wrinkles, I lost interest in being a clotheshorse. Besides, it's way more fun to spend $ on fabric to cover my bed than fabric to cover my bod'. So I've let updating my duds fall by the wayside for the past couple of years. When you don't freshen a wardrobe regularly, you feel like a drudge eventually. So I hied myself off to Chico's this week for one of my formerly semi-annual feeding frenzies. (I go in, try on everything in the store, then buy several hundred dollars' worth of stuff—then never darken the door for another 6 months.) Trying to operate on the inventory principal of 1 out for every 1 in, I've been weeding perfectly good items that are unflattering or I simply can no longer look at. (If only the rest of life were so simple.)

I'm a visual chick (as are you), so I'm craving a new look in many ways. That's why I'm revoltin'.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I've Been to the Holy Land

Wonderful local quilt shops are scattered about the country, thank goodness. We all have a favorite, even if "local" represents a long trek for some of us. But there is one shop (if it can qualify for such a diminutive appellation) that seems to have global (okay, maybe just continental) caché: Hancock's of Paducah.

Hancock's Catalog

We all get its fabulous catalog and shop online. The depth of selection plants visions of Quilters' Mecca in our heads, and some of us wonder what it must be like to visit in person. For those who haven't had the pleasure, let me tell you.

I envisioned an old warehouse building near the riverfront of Paducah—despite knowing it was located just off I-24. I saw high ceilings, old wooden floors and counters, and miles of bolts arranged by color like any other good fabric store. It may be relevant to note here that in another life I opened and managed the Nashville Calico Corners drapery and upholstery fabric store. I probably pay more attention to merchandising, customer relations and service, inventory, etc. than the average quiltmaker-customer. So it was with some surprise that I absorbed the distinct character of HOP.

Two large pre-fab, bare-bones buildings, tacked onto over time, are neither appealing nor welcoming, but neat. The parking lot is large and full of broken pavement (we noticed a lot of that in Paducah). Coming in the door I was greeted by ranks of red plastic shopping carts near the 3 or 4 check-out lanes; I was in a fabric supermarket.

Interior ceilings are low (high ceilings would be wasted in a fabric shop) and white, with exposed ductwork and pipes making them seem lower. Concrete floors (poor staff) and a little natural light, but lots of overhead lighting. The quantity of bolts is staggering. In the Kona cottons and other areas, 3 or 4 bolts of a single colorway speak of the sales volume. Large cutting tables scattered throughout the store are manned by 2 or 3 women (or a few men) each. There's no Muzak, just a little conversation between employees; not much service offered, but they are helpful when asked.

There's no Husbands' Room where they can watch telly, read the paper, doze off, or have a cuppa, very surprising because HOP is clearly located to make it easy for traveling couples to hop off the Interstate and hop back on, in the course of a North/South road trip. I joked that it was bad business strategy not to keep husbands happy while wives shop (other husbands were sitting in cars outside, just like mine). One clerk said, "If you see Mr. Hancock, would you make that suggestion? 'Cause he won't yell at you!" Yell??

The casually-dressed, middle-aged-or-older clerks don't wear badges or aprons, so it took me a while to realize these women pushing carts around were not customers. I asked, "How many are there working here?" I was told many are part-time but there are about 50! One mentioned that except for quilt show time, they have little business during the week (that's a lot of down time, folks), so they were grateful for customers like me because they want to keep their jobs. Keep their jobs?

Since I pretty much had the joint to myself, I wondered how they did keep their jobs. Fabrics are arranged by vendor rather than color or type, which is easier for store employees to navigate, but bad merchandising for a flesh-and-blood shopper in a bricks-and-mortar store (imagine a grocery that stocks ketchup in 5 different areas of the store). I realized why I thought many of the clerks were customers: they were pushing shopping carts among the aisles, picking up and putting back bolts from which they were cutting internet orders.

There were no fat quarters offered and all cuts were a minimum of a half-yard. The remnant table looked like a pile of laundry to be folded—jumbled and random. I passed. I asked the clerk (the one afraid of being yelled at) whether charm packs were displayed anywhere. Furtively she took me to the warehouse in the connecting building. Here was the heartbeat of Hancock's of Paducah.

Here were the high ceilings. Neat and well-organized rows of high shelves held dozens of bolts of the same pattern. There were boxes of bundled fat quarters tied in ribbon, sent that way from the vendors. Boxes of bundled 5" charm squares were pointed out for me to poke through. "Mr. Hancock likes to sell these only over the internet," which is why they are not displayed in the retail store. I'd only wanted to look, but somehow I'd been made a conspirator against Mr. H. Now I was nervous about him.

There is an enormous pattern and ruler wall, and of course, every notion ever conceived, though the book selection seemed limited. The batiks selection was too overwhelming. I knew I could spend all day (and every dime) in that one area, so I sailed on by with few backward glances. (But, oh my.)

The home dec section was home ground to me—everything hung on metal pole racks, all grouped by color. Prices are better in Nashville (Nashville is an odd fabric market) on these items, but there is certainly breadth of choice.

Another surprise was that there is no garment fabric sold. No batiste or bouclé or tulle; no buttons or silk. Nothing out of the ordinary to lure the impulse shopper. But it is Quilters' Mecca for sure, with a little home dec thrown in for good measure.

My response to HOP was the same as I'd had to seeing Freddy Moran's quilts in person at the AQS Museum. There's nothing like seeing it in person, because the books just can't do it justice.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Paducah Daydreamin'

Museum of the American Quilt Society

The Grumpy Old Man Waits for Me to Catch Up
I'm just back, fresh off the road from my first trip to Paducah. Reading comments that were left on my last post describing the itinerary, I laughed when I read jenclair's: "... have a great time, get inspired, buy stuff!" She must have ESP.

For those who have yet to visit, the Museum of the American Quilt Society is a lovely facility, though not terribly large. It's informal--no watchdogs--and visitors are allowed to get right up to the quilts, noses just inches away. You just can't touch and you can't photograph (darn it), but it's delightful to examine all those tiny stitches and subtle touches from a perspective you cannot get behind a chain at a quilt show or from a book. I knew I was deluding myself that Don would entertain himself, but he was actually a good sport and an enthusiastic one. It was kind of fun to point out things to him. His first response was, "Man, this place makes you feel like a pair of tennis shoes at a dress ball." Since he is not the quiltmaker in the family, I must infer that I am the tennis shoes. But hey, as I was saying, if the Nike fits ....

When he tired of making like a
Hermitage-nik (the old ladies who guard the rooms at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia) on a folding chair and benches, he moseyed out to the car to find a place to catnap. Before leaving me to continue at my leisure he asked, "You know how most things never quite measure up to your expectations? [Well, they don't usually in his world, anyway.] Did it meet yours? Because I thought it would be good, but I had no idea it would be this good." I smiled and said it had met my expectations, and a bit more.

The Fons & Porter exhibit was interesting in that it showed the evolution of their work over their 25-year collaboration. Whether their sort of traditional quilts are your cup of tea or not, their devotion to teaching the art of quiltmaking, as well as their entrepreneurial bent, have made a significant mark on the quilting world. But the Marston & Moran exhibit absolutely stole my heart. Talk about feel-good creations that made me actually laugh aloud a few times! I see the direction of my next project.

The next stop was a local quilt shop where there was a Little Gracie frame set up, complete with Janome 1600. While I don't harbor much interest in getting a similar contraption, even if I had the room, Don found it intriguing.

Then it was on to Hancock's, a most unimpressive building just off I-24.

Hancock's of Paducah

But, inside?


Whoo-ee! It was stunning.


Again, my sidekick was patient, though he kept running inside to borrow my cellphone, bring me a contraband soft drink, make suggestions to buy (duck-print flannel being his favorite ... uh ... no thanks). Several dollars later


I left, weary of foot and back but resolved to return this morning.

Back at Harrah's in Metropolis,


The view from our window .... Gotta love Mother Nature.

we tried our hands at blackjack and slots, planning the bigger house we would buy when we hit the jackpots ("You'll have a 30 x 30 quilt room."). The closest we came was when I'd pumped $52 into a "Triple Cherry" and ran it all the way down to one last dollar. I grimaced at him and slapped the spin button. The darn thing hit, paying 60-to-1! On the last buck I had left (for slots)! (Darn, just before I was down to the last dollar, I'd been making $3 bets. One spin earlier and it would have paid $180!) But we both laughed and knew it was a sign to STOP, just take the money and run. So 60 more dollars went into the Hancock's fund.

I knew I wouldn't get to do all that I wanted to do with my companion along, so there were no visits to Paducah's art district, no antiques shops, no sightseeing of any sort. But the experience of the museum and Hancock's was head-spinning enough to have made the trip a success.

We learned that once we get out of Nashville (no trivial pursuit), it's only a 2-hour drive on sparsely used I-24. I'm so lucky to live so close to two such inspiring resources, and now that Don knows where and how and what, he'll be happy to send me off by myself for a daytrip when the urge arises. Then I'll get to do the full Paducah experience.

It was a geezer trip--you never saw so many buses of senior citizens. We sat next to a fellow who ate his breakfast cereal from a stemmed glass and clanked it so much, scraping every last morsel out, until we thought we'd have to go kill him. [Note to self: Add plate/bowl/goblet scraping to list of irritating noises, like tuneless whistling, to avoid making after 60.] But you're right about another thing too, JenClaire: it was work to have all that fun when we were younger. Or at least it would be now. I love doing just what I want to do at my own pace. It was fun; I got inspired; and I bought stuff!

The Loot

And I will go back.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Outta Here!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting I've packed my earplugs for sleeping with The Snoring One, and my dependable Israeli clogs (Naots) for endurance-siteseeing.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Got my handwork (Ella's smocked dress) and my reading material (Comfort Me With Apples, a memoir by Ruth Reichl, LA Times and New York Times food critic, editor of Gourmet magazine) to while away the car ride and to defend myself against the Harrah's hotel room telly.

I guess I'm outta here! The Grumpy Old Man and I are hitting the highway this evening for Metropolis, Illinois (for him), and Paducah, Kentucky (for me). Metropolis is only 5 miles or so up the road from Paducah, and he will squander time and $ at the blackjack tables. I'm going to the AQS Museum to see the Marston & Moran exhibit (because I'm a huge Freddy

fan) Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting and the Fons & Porter exhibit (just because it might be fun to see in person the quilts I see them make on their PBS show "Love of Quilting"). Unless it's still traveling, I may get another chance to see the Oh, WOW! Exhibit of Miniatures, featuring Teri's amazing pineapple that I saw at the Nashville show in August. I don't think I'll get to see the Alzheimer's exhibit again, as it's been in California, but maybe I can pick up a CD of the collection, which was sold out at the Nashville show. If all day Wednesday doesn't do it justice, I'll go back on Thursday.

I have a shopping list all made out for
Hancock's of Paducah. (Can I pick up anything for you?) And I hope to look through antiques shops and the like for a jumpstart on Christmas presents.

I'm so ready for a change of scenery (3 of the past 10 days have been spent in the ER with my elderly mother—she's going to live ... if my sister and I let her!), but it seems like such a Geezer Excursion—a casino and a quilt museum. Ah well, I guess if the Rockport—err, Naot—fits ….

Friday, October 13, 2006

Marinated Asparagus

Yesterday Rian solicited ideas for her upcoming brunch, and some of her pals indicated an interest in my suggestion. When you come to my house you might be offered a dish that never fails for me, winter or summer:

Fat or thin aspargus works--you just get more flavor with the thinner pieces. Wash well and snap off the woody, stubby end back to the moist, tender part of each stalk. This dish is not cooked, so if you use the thicker stalks, you may want to steam in the micro (covered with plastic wrap, no water added) a minute or two till crisp-tender. Not too long, though, because it loses its gorgeous bright green color if truly cooked.

I used olive oil once, and that's when I learned that olive oil congeals when chilled. Use a light oil like canola.

Chill at least 4 hours before serving, but this dish keeps for a few days. Great for make-ahead entertaining.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vermont Exposed!!!!

Our friend Dorothy has been taunting us with her photographs of autumn in Vermont. Here in Tennessee we are still using air conditioning, even at night. It's doubtful life is quite as idyllic as it seems there (how could it be?), but the pictures are like a brief rest stop in my day.

So I was devastated when last week's issue of The New Yorker arrived. There on the cover was the ugly truth, exposing the seamy underside of autumn in Vermont. Say it ain't so, Dorothy!

(The white blobs are where I tore the label off.)

Go to my comments section if you need a clue.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I Thought I Was the Only One ...

... who does this:

"After I got in the car, I took the fabric I'd bought out of the bag and stretched it across my lap so I could sneak looks at it on the way home. Before I'd taken the first cut, I'd already transformed it a thousand times."

From The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
(A good read, by the way.)