As you can see by this video:
As you can see by this video:
…which is a nice way of saying that I have neglected this blog in favor of the faster blip of Instagram posts. The original purpose of the blog was to document my garden so that I could learn from my mistakes and notice changes. Of course, over time I’ve included travels and quilting, but in the original spirit of things, here’s a whirlwind tour of what happened this spring.
When Your Plan Actually Works
The ‘Tête‑à‑tête’ daffodils did just what they were supposed to: add color to the early spring garden in front. As a bonus, they bloomed with the grape hyacinths, great color combo. These were perfect and I may get more to add under the maple tree next year.
I love the English bluebells with the pale yellow daffodil ‘Sun Disc.” Every few years they actually bloom together the way they are supposed to, and this was one of the years.
When You Had No Plan and It Still Works
These pink tulips (French single late from WFF?) beautifully echoed the pale pink viburnum ‘Judd.’ I did not realize I was doing this but will take all the credit for it anyway. Will they bloom at the same time next year? We’ll see.
The yellow hostas and yellow ‘West Point’ are another striking combination for which I will also take )unwarranted) credit.
Old Favorites Do Well
These are Tommy crocuses caught in just the right amount of sunshine.
And these are my favorite lily-flowered tulips, ‘West Point,’ that go on year after year. I hope these do the same even though they’re in a pot.
Echoing Ruth Krauss, daffodils are to give everybody enough.
Sometimes There’s a Mystery
The ipheion in the walkway bed seem to have petered out, so I ordered more. Here is one, looking a bit different from the originals, in the bed by the sidewalk. So I think it’s ipheion ‘Constellation of Blue Stars’ but maybe not?
For next year: more anemone blanda, especially under the maple tree. I also added more trout lilies and English bluebells under the oak tree, and that was a Good Thing.
Wow, so much to see that it was overwhelming. I had to intersperse looking at quilts with visiting vendors and attending demonstrations. Here’s some of what I saw.
Political quilts by Thomas Knauer, Chawne Kimber and Colleen Molen. Notice how each one inserts text in a different way.
Churn Dash quilts, an old favorite reinvented. The top two are traditional, the bottom four are all taken from the Charity Challenge exhibit.
The Modern Traditionalism category: the top one is by Virginia’s own Mary Kerr. I loved the detail of the old-fashioned print used in just a few triangles in the second quilt. The last one (salmon-colored) was upcycled from thrift store shirts.
These next few caught my eye because of playfulness or use of color. The “lobstah” quilt is by Shelley Brooks, one of our founding members before she moved away. Well done!
Minimalism along with spectacular quilting:
My two favorites were both low volume. This is “I Know the Stars are There Beyond the Clouds 2” by Heidi Parkes. It was huge, beautiful, detailed, and it gor my vote for Best in Show (though it didn’t win).
Here’s a closeup of the hand quilting and her use of red thread which is almost invisible until you look closely.
My other favorite is this one, which won first place in the Quilting category: Ode de Yoshiko by Marilyn Farquahar.
and a closeup:
Wow, so much inspiration!
In between classes, and all day on Saturday, I wandered through the exhibits. So much caught my eye, but I promise you that this is not nearly a majority of the quilts on display. First up, a challenge taken up by a number of modern quilt guilds. “This year’s challenge requires participants to work collaboratively to create completed quilts using a predetermined color palette while crafting a design that plays with scale.” As you can see, the palette leaned heavily towards blues. The playing with scale was particularly fun to see.
I’ve always been intrigued with this “Comb” effect, sorry I didn’t record which guild made it. Nice quilting, too.
The Lancaster guild played with the classic Amish bars quilts found locally and created this. Again, the quilting is striking.
A couple entries played with the word “scale.” This one is entitled “I thought you said scales!”
That finny fish at the bottom intrigued me, and I think I can see how she did it. Lots of pleats and carefully placed stitching.
Finally, quilt playing with flying geese. This is called Migration.
Love the flying geese in the left-hand yellow section.
The modern quilt movement has been on the scene now for at least
five eight years, and it’s going strong. The annual conference/show, QuiltCon, has been a smashing success, and members are alerted that if they want to register, they need to have their hands poised over the keyboard the moment registration opens. Yes, it’s like getting concert tickets.
I was obsessed enough to do just that last June and ended up registered for three classes at QuiltCon to be held in February in Savannah. I was a bit relieved that one class was eventually cancelled, because it gave me a full day to explore the exhibits and vendors.
Jennifer and I rented a house in Savannah on the edge of the historic district. Crape Myrtle was perfect for us; two bedrooms, two and a half baths, kitchen, porch, high ceilings, on a quiet side street.
We started off Thursday morning with an architectural walking tour, which I can highly recommend. The tour guide, a young architect, seemed to know everything possible about the history of Savannah as well as the provenance of the buildings we saw. I realized afterwards that “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which I was reading on this trip, never did come up, but some of the history he told us helped me to set the scene. Note to self: find out more about James Oglethorpe, colonizer of Georgia and an Enlightenment philanthropist who founded Savannah as a utopian community.
Then it was off to the show, which we got to by walking down to the riverfront and taking a ferry across the Savannah River, a trip of about five minutes.
You get a nice view of the riverfront from the ferry.
My first class was “Sew All the Curves” with Jen Carlton Bailly, aka BettyCrockerAss. She is known for her curvaceous quilts, one of which I spotted in the exhibits. This is her “You and Me” quilt, created with what she calls “chubby squircles.” This was entered in the Piecing category. Here’s a closeup that lets you see how she constructed it with a combination of curved and square blocks. And yes, we learned how to do this! I bought her templates for the larger circles and made an imperfect set, but I think I can do better. The key is glue, people. She was a very engaging instructor and I enjoyed her class and her quilts. Here’s a slideshow of a few she shared with us in class.
The next day was a class with Alison Glass, a designer whose fabrics I love. You can see from her shop that she loves saturated colors. You can also see from this photo, taken from her site, that she has a strong sense of design. Just yum. Her class was about translating a photograph into a quilt, and I wish I had taken pictures of her examples. Starting with a fairly simple photo of her daughter standing against a plain gray wall, she made three different versions in fabric, the first fairly realistic and the succeeding ones increasingly abstract. She encouraged us to divide our photos into blocks or strips and work on one at a time. She came around to critique and offered insightful suggestions. I was so absorbed in the class that I didn’t even visit the mini-shop she set up in the back and wish I had picked up some of her gorgeous fabrics on the spot.
So here is my original photo, taken in the M’dina in Gozo last fall.
She encouraged me to straighten the bottom edge to give a the viewer a better way to see the curving street. She also emphasized working in vertical strips so that I could piece in the windows. Boy, did I struggle with this, but it was totally engaging. The result so far is below, but I have since decided that I want to play with constructing the buildings out of pieced fabric strips to add more interest. As it stands, I find the batik too massive. The hardest part was getting the street to angle correctly, but I think I’ve got it.
In process, not finished! More to come.
I first noticed some blooms at the end of January. I still remember (or think I do) when seeing winter aconites in February was unusual…
January 25: yellow crocuses under the oak tree
January 29: winter aconite (in bloom for a week or more by this point) and crocuses
February 6: white crocuses (and notice how dry the soil is)
And today, February 19: Tête-à-tête dafodils in the front garden, hellebores front and back (in bloom for some time), and more of the delightful Tommy crocuses.
These crocuses, opening up in sunshine, always make me think of Sara Teasdale’s poem “Barter,” invoked by a long-ago children’s librarian about storytime: “children’s faces looking up/ holding wonder like a cup.”
It’s not even the end of February, but we’ve already had several days in the 60’s, and today is predicted to be in the 70’s, for heaven’s sake. Meanwhile, the ground is as dry as dust, as I know from having seeded a few favorites yesterday and today.
I’ve had mediocre luck with the incredibly easy sugar snap peas the last few years, but I’m trying yet again. I have Sugar Ann left over from last year (Roxbury sells loose seed, and the smallest amount you can get is a quarter pound @ $1.50). I sowed it very thickly in the raised bed in hopes that half of it will germinate. Here’s what it will look like if all goes well.
The rest are annuals that like cool weather, too. California poppies ‘Buttercream’ at one end of the sunny border, Shirley poppies in shades of pink and red by the mailbox, and sweet peas ‘Cutting Bouquet’ in the same bed as the sugar snaps. They may all look like this. (Thanks to the web for these images.)
Thanks again to Adrian Higgins who recommended sowing poppies in February. It certainly worked last year!
We had a tour today with Context, a company that we have enjoyed for its knowledgeable, intellectually stimulating guides, and small groups. Our first was a fabulous food tour of Paris, and to this day I am Facebook friends with one of the participants. Since then we have visited the food stalls of Padua, met Rembrandt in Amsterdam and learned history in Venice, and enjoyed each one. Today’s topic, “The Mean Streets of Caravaggio,” was led by Dr. Lauren Golden (left), an excellent guide and a force of nature. She was dressed in a long skirt, an elegant scarf and golden sneakers. Besides being glamorous in an artsy way, she was incredibly knowledgeable and full of great stories. She also had a remarkable ability to get us to SEE the pictures and tell each other what we were seeing.
We met in the Piazza de Popolo, a large square with striking statuary at each end. In the middle was yet another Egyptian obelisk,
moved here in 1589 from its original location in the Circus Maximus.
There was just one other person joining us, Deborah from California who was small and smart and quiet. As the only Catholic in the group, she had secret inner knowledge about what we were seeing and was often told by Lauren not to answer the questions because of her advantage. 😉
We started out at Santa Maria del Popolo, which features two stellar Caravaggios, The Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Way to Damascus.
Lauren encouraged us to look at where the light came from, the muscularity of the figures, the angles of the composition, and not least the man’s behind brilliantly lit at bottom left. Facing this incredible painting is this one:
Again, the light, the angularity, the muscles and not least the horse’s behind. Is it just by chance that the behind is facing the third painting in this altar, The Assumption of the Virgin by his rival Carraci? It is powerful in its own way but much sweeter and more pastel, everything Caravaggio hated, so perhaps he really was making a statement. I wouldn’t put it past him.
The northern end of the piazza is anchored by one of the original gates into Rome, while the southern end leads to the “trident,” three streets which angle out from here into Rome. Rather than the ancient Via del Corso, we followed the Via di Ripetta, a street where Caravaggio lived and painted. He was a difficult, violent, wildly talented man, easy to characterize as a bad boy but more complicated than that facile assessment. I had read Graham-Dixon’s biography, so it was wonderful to see the building where Caravaggio had, according to his landlady, poked a hole in the ceiling to get more light. Lauren spoke movingly of the few details we know from public records about him, including the number of books in his library that was left behind and sold after he was evicted – if only we could know just which books they were!
As we walked along Lauren pointed out the simple fountains that are found everywhere in Rome, along with the bigger and more famous ones. To this day, Romans are proud of their clean water that is still transported into the city via aqueducts. This everyday fountain is the kind called nasone, or big nose.
Do you see that little hole at the top of the spout? The trick is to put your finger on the spout, and the water will come straight up from the little hole, just perfect for bending down and drinking! Otherwise, you can fill your bottles from the spout, and enjoy fresh, clean, free water. (And notice the SPQR that is found on each fountain to this day.)
As we walked, we went by the Mausoleum of Augustus,
and the Ara Pacis, or Altar of Augustan Peace, enclosed in a glass box, but we just strolled by these great momuments on our way to the next church.
Sant’Agostino was on the list because of this painting of the Madonna of Loreto.
This is such a classic Caravaggo: the elegant Madonna in the doorway of a broken-down building, her delicate features and velvet top contrasting with her bare feet and the dirty soles of the feet of the pilgrim. Lauren made us really LOOK at the painting, again where the light comes from, the contrast among the figures, the lines. Stimulating!
San Luigi dei Francesi, or the church of St. Louis of the French, was our last destination. Our main interest was in the trio of St. Matthew paintings. First is The Calling of St. Matthew, with this dramatic lighting and diagonal lines. Lauren let us through an interesting discussion about who’s who in this painting. Is Matthew the bearded man, or perhaps the boy slumped at the end of the table? Theories differ.
Lauren managed the churches really well, chastising those who used flash or were too noisy but never quite being obnoxious about it. Along the way, she showed us where Caravaggio probably worked, railed against the Italians who are constantly on their mobiles (she’s right, even security people and guards are looking at them all the time) and envied us for our Malta trip and our Caravaggio views. You know it’s a good tour when you are still talking about the ideas and opinions at dinner that evening!
After an afternoon rest (our MO on this trip), we walked up to the Trevi Fountain, which was TEEMING with people on this sunny Saturday afternoon. We just gave in to the good-natured crowd, forced our way to the front and snapped away. Here’s an idealized photo
and here’s the reality. Lots of selfies and selfie sticks, women throwing coins over their shoulders into the fountain, and generally the teeming masses enjoying themselves hugely. Us, too.
Dinner was in the Campo again, fish again, delicious again. Notice the little votive inside the tomato.
We had a leisurely start to the day, with no tours booked, so we took our time with coffee, news and breakfast. Then we walked through the Campo to buy dinner for this evening – eggs, sausage, bread, arugula and a strange green called puntarelle that the nice vendor taught me how to cook with garlic, oil, anchovies, salt, pepper and aceto (vinegar, pronounced ashetto, not achetto).
There were lots of other delicious vegetables we could have bought,
but we tried to keep it simple because, by the end of the day, we have no energy for major cooking.
Today is a church day, because churches are where the art is. We started with Bernini’s famous St. Teresa in Ecstasy in the high baroque church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The sculpture depicts the moment when the saint was pierced by the sword of an angel as she was overcome by the love of God. Whew! Tucked up in a chapel, it was not as visible as I had hoped but still filled with delicate tracery, a gold smile and throbbing joy. I can only imagine that the photo is a bit blurred because of the ecstasy.
The baroque ornamentation is just as gold and frou-frou as can be, as you can see from this view of the ceiling.
Dazzled but not tired, we walked on quite a way to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The highlight here was seeing a few planks from Christ’s crib – just imagine! You can see the humble planks behind all the gilt. It was right up there with the holy blood that we saw in Bruges.
Other highlights were Bernini’s tomb and more beautiful tile work. Roman tiles really deserve their own post, but here’s a good one for now. After so much art and religion, we were ready for lunch. We stopped at a cafe just across from the church and enjoyed watching the clericals go by – men in robes, women in habits, the real significance lost on me. Oh, that Uncle Buzz had been with us to explain it all! We enjoyed our delicous salads and for me a Campari soda, for Alison an Aperol spritz. Refreshing for the weary art-lovers.
We had stopped earlier at a mosaic tile shop near our apartment, and the artist there told us that if we liked mosaics we should visit St. Maria in Trastevere. We taxied over to the other side of the Tiber and enjoyed a very old church with beautiful gilt mosaics above the altar. You can also spot them above the portico outside.Much as I love the baroque, a little bit of sparkling mosaic was refreshing after our morning travels.
Walking back home across the Garibaldi bridge we had a great view of St. Peter’s looming above the river. We’ll be there in a few days…
Dinner was our market catch. I have to confess that this picture makes it look slightly disgusting. But in real life it was warm, fresh, and comforting. Yum!
Today began with a crisis: because there is no cell service inside the apartment, Alison tried to open the front door to go outside to the courtyard and check her messages. The front door was locked, of course. Uh-oh! The long elongated key broke off inside the lock, leaving us locked in with no way out. And having no cell service made it impossible to call Lucia. First we emailed her, and then we had a brainstorm: we went up to my room, which overlooks the courtyard, and leaned out the window, where luckily Alison (but not me) had cell service. We tried to explain on the phone what had happened, and the wonderful Lucia promised to come as soon as she could. However, she was afraid that only the locksmith would be able to help and he was not available until 8:30 or 9:00. Meanwhile, this morning we had a Colosseum tour starting at 8:30. We frantically emailed the tour hoping to be able to reschedule.
Lo and behold, Lucia turned up in about 30 minutes and just put her key in the lock from the outside, which caused the broken bit to slither out and fall on the floor. You can see the remains at the top of the picture, and the truncated key on the left. She gave us a replacement key, carefully explained how to use the key CORRECTLY and with no recriminations whatsoever left us to get ready asap for the tour.
We arrived at the Colosseum Metro stop via taxi (too worried to wait for the bus, which we just barely missed) and it turned out that we were the only ones – a private tour! Andrea had a heavy accent but was very knowledgeable and friendly. He led us into the Colosseum and, well, there we were. Looking down at the arena, we could see the reconstructed floor over part of it, while the underground areas where performers and animals stayed until needed were just beyond. (An underground tour of the Colosseum is available and would be interesting for those who want all the details.) I was glad I had read Mary Beard’s book about the building, its meaning, and how it actually worked. What I remember most, aided by Andrea’s commentary, is that it was designed for quick exits (literally a vomitorium); that women could sit only at the tippytop; that there was a nineteenth century fad for visiting the Colosseum by moonlight and reciting poetry; that the life of a gladiator was not a pretty one; and that the logistics of obtaining, transporting, and maintaining wild animals was, to say the least, daunting. Andrea filled in the blanks and gave us enough time – but not too much – to linger over a few details, including this section of original brick flooring. There was only a little bit of danger:
Leaving the Colosseum we made our way past the Arch of Constantine, the last triumphal arch built in Rome and, like so much in Rome, made up partly of bits from other monuments. From here we walked up the Palatine Hill, which is one of the earliest inhabited places in Rome, but now home to the ruins of imperial palaces (plus some sort of temporary art installation). We wandered along, seeing very few other people but some beautiful trees (maybe an Atlas cedar?). We headed downhill to the Forum, where it all made so much more sense than reading about it ever could. First off, the Arch of Titus, commemorating the siege of Jerusalem. See the menorah?
Then one monument after another (but not in a boring way), including the lovely garden and temple of the Vestal Virgins (they took a vow of chastity, and those who strayed would be buried alive). The temple of Antoninus and Faustina is quite imposing, and it has a striking bronze door. At the time it was used, they say, the door was at ground level but excavations later have left it suspended in space. One reason so much of it survives is that the temple was turned into a church in the Middle Ages.
This beautiful doorway is from a neighboring temple… We enjoyed walking and talking with Andrea, but it was time to say goodbye. It had been a bit drizzly all morning, and we were stripped down in anticipation of the Colosseum’s new rules about no backpacks (exaggerated, as it turned out). Plus, it was not supposed to rain! But rain it did: as soon as the tour ended it began to stream down. We darted here and there trying to make our way out of the Forum, buying an umbrella on the way from one of the men who magically appear in Rome when it rains, but it was our second trap of the day. Every path was a dead end. Hither and yon we struggled in the rain until FINALLY we found the exit and took refuge in a nearby restaurant for restorative vegetable soup and a margherita pizza. It was not photo-worthy, but it hit the spot and gave us the strength to go on, or at least have a rest.
Since the nearby churches were closed for another two hours, we took the bus home and had a little lie-down to restore ourselves. After that, we valiantly bussed to San Clemente, which is famous for its many layers of religion. One of the earliest is the Mithraic Temple, from a cult much favored by soldiers (there are Mithraic remains in London, for example). The remains are, of course, underground, with many stone corridors, steps and mysterious stone altars. Unfortunately, the signage was not very illuminating but we checked it off the list. (This would have been a good candidate for a guided tour.) I was most taken with the tile floors on the main level. More quilt patterns!
From here we trudged up a small hill to the church of St. Peter in Chains. This is famous for housing the actual chains (!) that held St. Peter when he was jailed, as well as the Michelangelo Moses. The latter was covered in scaffolding while we were there so we had to crane our necks, but here’s what it looks like normally. (Both photos from the web since I failed to take any pictures.) From here we walked down to the Via Fori Imperiale for the bus home, the 76 as I remember, which has become our old friend.
After a quick drink and a peek at the news (CNN International, so we cannot escape Trump), we meandered over to the Campo for dinner and some delicious fish.
And so to bed.