It's been rather busy here these past few weeks as I try to balance work and family (and cat and guitar wrangling) with getting ready for the Ireland trip. My favorite book thus far on my crash-course in Irish literature is a collection of short stories by Anne Enright entitled "Yesterday's Weather", which I am enjoying even more than her novel "The Gathering", which was pretty fabulous. This is saying a lot, as I am normally not a big fan of the short story genre. And I've had The Frames' album "For the Birds" on the ipod, which I adore, as well as "The Cake Sale", a compilation album done by various Irish artists to benefit OxFam. My new favorite song is "Some Surprise", sung by Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol and Lisa Hannigan - the video is here; it's kinda cheeky but it gets stuck in your head. Or, at least, my head.
One of the many pre-Ireland errands was to buy a new camera. I had been saving up for months, thinking I would invest in an SLR camera, but when I realized what those cameras actually entailed I opted for a higher-end digital camera (a Canon Powershot SX30IS). I haven't had much time to play with it yet, though today I took a nice long walk through the downtown and tried to get a few shots (Meg Hutchinson's album The Living Side was my soundtrack...she's not Irish, but it's lovely music just the same). I'm not really thrilled with the indoor photos - but the outdoor pictures are coming out well. I still have some more fiddling & learning to do before the trip - but hopefully I'll be taking most of the Ireland photos outside anyway!
In the crafting department...I'm still knitting away on an Elizabeth Zimmerman February baby sweater, simply because I wanted to knit one. Eventually someone I know will have a baby girl. Mostly, though, I've been working on a quilt top for my guild, which is a nonprofit organization and makes quilts for the local cancer center. We all make blocks throughout the year, and then a few times a year we get together to sew the blocks into tops, and then the machine quilters in the group finish them up. This was one of the main reasons I decided to join the group, but it was a lot more difficult than I imagined to find blocks that were reasonably coordinated and reasonably the same size. I wound up finding 8 to work with and brought them home, adding 4 more and two borders. I built the quilt around this one appliqued butterfly block that was really sweet and I just loved - I have no idea who made it, it was just in a big pile of blocks on the table:
I was happy and relieved with the outcome (alas, this is one of the first pictures I took with the new camera and it didn't turn out so well...and it wasn't hung very well on the wall...) but trust me, it's way cuter than I could have initially hoped for:
It made me feel really good to take the work of other women, strangers to me, and add my own efforts to make something that will (hopefully) cheer the heart and soul of another stranger down the line who will be struggling with a life-threatening illness. Oh, some of the blocks aren't exactly square, and some of the corners don't meet perfectly, but it's the sort of thing no one but another quilter will notice. I also loved that as I was working inside on this the crocuses were beginning to bloom outside, purple and yellow and white with their green stems. I couldn't help but carry the notion of spring and rebirth in my mind as I sewed, and I hope whoever gets the finished quilt finds a new beginning as well.