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Friday, January 26, 2007


It's New Orleans

Last year when my daughter first returned to New Orleans after spending a semester away from Tulane due to Katrina, there was still a lot of damage to housing and streets. Although her apartment has been spared any serious damage, the surrounding streets were full of potholes and on-going construction. As we were returning to her neighborhood one afternoon, she found an access street to her apartment blocked. Without hesitation, she knowingly took a detour the wrong way down a one-way street. As I shrieked in protest, she retorted, "Relax, Mother. It's New Orleans".

The rejoinder, "It's New Orleans", has become our family explanation for the unexplainable. So it was sort of my first thought when I came upon the cockroach earrings.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you: cockroach earrings. Not real insects, thank goodness, but plastic ones that have been nicely gilded and glittered.

It was not love at first sight. Even though they were at one of my favorite French Quarter stores, The Living Room on Royal Street. I had found my treasured Maria Evora soap there, a cameo embossed coal black soap. I needed a replacement since my cat Leo had knocked the last $9 bar into the toilet which caused quite the plumbing disaster.

But back to the earrings. The latest proprietors told us that in addition to the historical connections that New Orleans has to these famed residents, many of the Katrina survivors see themselves as strangely kin to the insects. "No matter what, we survive."

The earrings had been featured, we were told, the day before in the Times-Picayune. Newspaper article or no newspaper article, even I didn't think I could carry them off. So I thanked them for stocking the soap I had been all over town to find, and moved on to other shops.

However, I just couldn't get the earrings out of my head. Since I was already carting home half a van full of groceries (Zapps chips in the little bags that I can't get locally, CC's coffee, large jars of Zat's mustard, lump crabmeat, andouille sausage, king cake) what was another little trinket?

So Sunday when they opened, I was there to get my cockroach earrings. Proud to crawl home, as they say. It's New Orleans.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Baton Rouge Quilt Shops

At Carol's suggestion, we visited two quilts shops in Baton Rouge. Luckily, they were both pretty easy to find, right along I-12. Fabric Krazy, run by Pamela Grigsby, publishes the "Lime Queen News" and proclaims "lime is a neutral color". Her fabulous fabric choices and samples sprinkled throughout reflect her passion for visuals that go "pop!" and lively, inventive piecing. I really, really liked the Oriental jacket that was the sample for an upcoming jacket class. I also thought it was cool that her husband was busily cutting fabric to help speed along the Saturday crush. I was impressed by the fact that her husband could handle a rotary cutter well enough to be the chief cutter at the front of the store.

Any store that calls its Block of the Month "Sweet Tea" has got to be a nice shop. And Quilt Corner is. Down the road a little ways, it was located right next to Cross Stitch Corner. (Do I sense a theme here?) Even though it was late Saturday afternoon, the shop was buzzing with activity. Two ladies were spread out on the floor with a slew of Orientals trying to figure out which they liked with what. ("I hate to buy fabric I'm not going to use," sighed one, "but it's not like I haven't done it before!") As the pair continued to ponder, someone else sought advice from staff about good colors for a pre-teen boy's quilt. Over at the register, a quilter gave the person totaling her purchase the update on a mutual friend's chemotherapy progress. This shop clearly has a large, loyal clientele base. This is a great thing for a shop, but it was impossible for impatient me to wait out the TLC time that this store was providing its regulars. It was my loss, because I really liked the fabric at this place, but I was tired and didn't NEED it, so I wasn't willing to take the time. The winners are the Baton Rouge quilters who can come to a place as friendly and welcoming as Quilt Corner and buy beautiful fabric (even if they aren't going to use it) as part of the bargain!

Baton Rouge doesn't have a lot to offer on a Saturday when it is not football season. The downtown was deserted by 3 pm, and the main attraction seemed to be the state capitol building, which did have quite a few cars in its parking lot. The building itself is very opulently appointed, with lots of brass and marble, and there is an elevator that will take you to the 27 th of its 30 floors where you can go out onto the observation deck. But the real attraction was not the great view of Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River, but the little drama that was played out in the ladies' room.

The grounds of the Louisiana state capitol are beautiful, so apparently many brides decide it's the perfect location for the wedding portrait. However, Huey Long probably didn't have the comfort and convenience of bridal parties in mind when he okayed the plans for the place. That afternoon the handicapped stall at the end of the ladies room was occupied by a young lady who was trying, with the help of a friend, to get herself into her dress. At the other end stood the photographer (a female) who was patiently waiting for her to get hooked and zipped and whatevered into her huge dress while she tried not to drag the garment on the floor of the public bathroom. Exclamations of "Is it fastened yet?" and "This darn thing is really heavy!" emanated from the stall and provided quite an amusement for the other visitors. This process had begun prior to my entry to the facility, and continued through my entire visit to the observation deck. As we left the grounds, we witnessed the bathroom bride posing in several places outside the structure. I hope those pictures are worth it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


New Orleans Forever

We are in New Orleans. When people asked me why I was coming here this weekend, I told them it was because I hadn’t been here since May, and I visit New Orleans every six months whether I need to or not.

But that is another story. We are in New Orleans.

Quilt stores in New Orleans are an eclectic mix, some with all the flair and mystery that one would expect from the Crescent City. There was the one in the French Quarter, that, even prior to Katrina, disappeared overnight. I mean literally overnight. One day it was there; the next, it and the proprietors were gone. None of the locals seems to know what happened. Then there was Material Girls in Albany which we reviewed five or six years ago, that closed then opened and now it’s gone again. Something about divorce and re-marriage and stuff.

However, one of our constant favorites and a stalwart even through Katrina, is The Quilt Cottage on Magazine Street near Audubon Park. So it’s no wonder that one of our first stops was to check in with Carol Shiaffino--- owner of the Quilt Cottage, where we caught up on all the local quilt shop news. Carol had her usual gorgeous selection of “quilts to go” that she offers finished and for sale, along with a wonderful collection of fabric. I couldn’t resist buying bibs for the two newest grandchildren: William’s is reversible alligators and Elizabeth’s is double sided fleur de lys. Carol’s daughter makes these and she always picks the cutest theme fabric.

When talk turned to new products, I gave Carol an abbreviated infomercial for one of my new favorite products, the Oliso iron. It wasn’t as effective as it is with the actual product, but I think it piqued her interest. (She was lucky. I treated my family to a live demo Christmas Eve. But seriously, this is a great iron.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I Have Hijacked This Blog

I have always been a control freak. I was one for many years before I knew there was a name for it. At any rate, I have now commandeered this blog. Perhaps I should say thank you to the previous blogger, but as Bucky from my favorite cartoon “Get Fuzzy” would say,”Why? It’s mine now.”

Some of you know me already. I'm Lynn, and I write product reviews for Planet Patchwork, among other things, including keeping the laundry caught up so some other people can run the company.

I have recently become somewhat obsessed with space. Not outer space, but the space in my house. We are messy people, we have too much stuff, and we don’t have enough space.

I cannot afford to renovate more than I already have. I do have a bedroom that might become a sewing room, but there are issues. The first is that it can be seen from the front door, so it is always visible to the “public.” The second is that it is a 9x12 space that the post-WWII builders thought was an acceptable size for a bedroom. There is room for a bed and a dresser, but I have two machines, a serger, a cutting table and zillions of yards of fabric who think they need to live there.

To help with all this, I have done what our family has always done: I have bought a book. I will update you on my progress to resolve the impossible.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Book Review: Quilt Revival

Quilt Revival: Updated Patterns from the '30s, by Nancy Mahoney

Martingale Press, 2006
Paperbound, 80 pages
Suggested retail: $24.95

In describing what she calls "the softer side of hard times," Nancy Mahoney recounts the consolations of people suffering from the economic disasters of the 1930s, including the comfort they got from the beauty and warmth of quilts. Mahoney describes how the quilting revival around this time, connected to the nation's 150th birthday, led to demands for publication of more quilt patterns, which were fulfilled by the publication of quilt patterns in 400 newspapers across the country. The newspaper patterns were collected by many women and saved in scrapbooks, and this book is based on the patterns in two of those scrapbooks by women in different parts of the country, acquired by Mahoney.

Mahoney features her favorite blocks from these scrapbooks, enhanced using '30s reproduction fabrics from modern manufacturers. The result is a cheerful, scrappy, traditional collection with a fresh new face. My favorite of these is "Garden Steps," made from the Jacob's Ladder block. It looks very complex and syncopated but is actually very easy to make. Another favorite is "Peppermint Twist."

The book contains the usual basic instructions on making a quilt, along with a total of 11 patterns. A great way to raise the sashes and let in the sweet breezes of spring a little bit early this year. Click on the title to learn more about this book.

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