Charley Harper Mural

When my sister Carrie, her husband Doug, and my mom came to town in August, they had a list of a few things they wanted to do. One thing on Carrie’s list was to see the Charley Harper mural at the John Weld Peck Federal Building in Cincinnati. Thankfully she provided a link, because huh?

It turns out that in 2015 the U.S. General Services Administration launched a database of public art held and on display in federal buildings around the country. (Carrie works at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, so she’s kind of tapped into government things.) She searched the database and learned about the Charley Harper mural.

So after a day walking around Findlay Market and Washington Park, we went in search of the Federal Building. After only a little bit of trouble, we found the building, and the other piece of art: an American Eagle on the outside of the building. Then we went in and came to the realization that we were actually in a federal building. So we were asked our business (“To see the mural.”) and went through security.

The mural consists of two panels, each about 13 feet x 18 feet, that are tucked behind a bank of elevators. The right side of the mural is shown above. And you can sort of get the scale from the photo below.

Me, Mom, and sisters Brenda and Carrie

Both panels are just filled with super cool tile animals.

We spent so much time there it was kind of crazy. But there were keys on the wall identifying each of the animals, so that was fun. And we couldn’t get over how each animal was so artistically rendered with simple squares and triangles. Talk about ready-made quilt inspiration!

So, watch out Traveling Companion. Now in addition to checking for local fabric stores whenever I travel, I’ll be looking for potential stops on the federal art database, too. I’m sure there are many more hidden treasures out there!

Star Wars and the Power of Costume

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Star Wars. I remember seeing the first movie in the theater, and I have seen all the original movies and the latest ones, too. I remember being very, very scared of Stormtroopers (or the White Guys, as I called them). But when I started hanging out with Greg, Star Wars became much more a part of my life. He was a total Star Wars kid. He had/has all the toys. He has watched all the movies many times (including the prequels). He inserts a Star Wars quote into normal conversation at least once a week.

So when the Star Wars the Power of Costume exhibit came to the Cincinnati Museum Center, there was no doubt we would go. And because Greg’s parents were very much a part of his Star Wars history, the four of us went together.

It was pretty great. The exhibit included actual costumes that were used in the filming of the seven episodes: the original three, the three prequels, and 2015’s The Force Awakens. Many of the costumes were in open displays so you could get a close look at them without glass in the way. And it included just about everything a fan like me would want to see.

It was so exciting to turn a corner and see old friends.

And new friends, too.

It was fun to see the Princess Leia costumes and have a better sense of just how tiny Carrie Fisher was.

Even though I never saw the prequels, I always enjoy looking at pretty dresses, so I spent a good bit of time admiring all the Queen Amidala costumes they had on display.

I love the buttons on the sleeves of this one.

I saw this one from the back first and admired the single line of stitching. Then I saw it from the front. Beautiful.

Her wedding dress was made from an old Italian bedspread. The costume designer spent the whole night before filming adding pearls to the dress to make it extra special.

This wonderful dress was worn by one of the handmaidens. The fabric accordions so it clings to the body and then expands down at the floor.

The exhibit included many of the bad guys, too, of course, including the scariest in my mind: Stormtroopers and Sand People.

The exhibit made nice use of platforms. In this example, they show how Emperor Palpatine went from good guy to bad guy.

My favorite part of the exhibit was the concept art that was sprinkled throughout. Amazing stuff.

Like this original art by John Mollo for the Cantina scene.

And the evolution of a Wookiee images.

The exhibit was light on creatures. I guess foam rubber doesn’t hold up well over time. But Chewie was there, an Ewok, and of course, Yoda.

At the end was a bonus exhibit of Star Wars toys! Kenner, the company that made all the figures and play sets, was based in Cincinnati, so this exhibit included a history of the company and lot of toys, many of which we have in our basement.

I was pretty sure I needed a photo of Greg and his parents at this point.

The exhibit is at the Museum Center until October 1, 2107, and I highly recommend it. There are interactive elements throughout to keep the kids engaged. And if you’re as lucky as we were, you might get to see the look of awe on an eight-year-old boy’s face as he stares up at a towering Darth Vader. Pretty cool stuff.

EnterTRAINment Junction

ej_9Greg and I were looking for something fun to do the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. He had the afternoon off, and we hated to waste it. In brainstorming, the fact that I needed to get my glasses adjusted came up. My eye doctor is up in Mason, so it’s a bit of a trek and not that fun. But then I remembered the signs I see each time I go for a place called EnterTRAINment Junction. Now that sounded fun!

Since it was our first time, I purchased the Do-It-All package, which included the Train Journey, A-Maze-N Funhouse, and the special Christmas events.

We started out with the Train Journey, the main attraction of which was an amazing model train setup. It was huge. There were three separate displays showing different time periods in train history.

ej_14The first period was the 1860s. The displays were filled with interesting details and there was a list of items to find in the displays to encourage you to really look at them closely.

ej_1I loved the color of this little house, and that bear on the rock in the river was one of the items to find. The trains are all G-scale (1/24th of actual size), so all the houses and features were nice and big.

ej_2The next time period was the 1940s and 50s. I loved the views down the city streets. The street cars that you see were all running, too.

ej_3The details were really very cool. That Woolworths is full of figures and merchandise!

ej_10Here’s my attempt at showing the scale. Seriously huge.

ej_6The final time period was the 1970s. The buildings all looked more modern, and I liked the sculptures they included in the cityscapes.

ej_13A large portion of the display was bluffs and tunnels. Red buttons, like the one you see here, were scattered throughout the display. When you pressed them, you’d hear the noises that you’d hear in that place and time.

ej_8The whole time we were there I was keeping an eye out for a Milwaukee Road train car. My grandfather worked for them, and in one of the last scenes, I finally found one.

ej_11Signs like this were on the floor in some areas to give visitors a bit of an idea of what went into this. It took over a year to build, and it’s continuously updated.

ej_5The Train Journey also included some history about the railway system in the United States. I can’t pass up a picture of old travel posters.

ej_12Separate from the timeline, there was a replica of Cincinnati’s Coney Island as it appeared in 1965. All the rides were moving, including those tram cars you can see in the sky.

ej_7This display also included photos and memorabilia from Coney Island’s history.

ej_4Next we made our way to the Christmas train displays, which were not as impressive. Greg said that they were what he feared the whole thing would be like. That area did include Neil Young’s traveling train display (yes, the singer Neil Young). I liked his use of driftwood for this desert scene.

The funhouse was next, which included a lot of things that I’m sure a kid would enjoy. I insisted we go through the Mirror Maze, and led the way for a while, but then I got freaked out, so Greg had to take over to get us out of there. That’s the way things go with us sometimes.

Finally, we took the North Pole path that ended up in a kitchen with Mrs. Claus, where there was the promise of cookies. However, there were only three cookies left and three kids in the room with us, so guess who didn’t get a cookie. We bailed before we actually got to Santa.

It ended up being a really fun and kind of wacky way to spend the afternoon. Greg and I were both super impressed by the Train Journey. It is just really well done, and I can definitely see coming back when we have guests in town.



Wisconsin Fabric Fun

olivejuice1Last week was my somewhat annual fall trip to Wisconsin. The weather was gorgeous, and while the leaves had only begun to turn, the bright blue skies helped it feel very autumnal.

While I was there, Mom and I managed to work in some fabric fun. First, we traveled the hour down to Ripon, Wisconsin, and went to Bungalow Quilting and Yarn. Mom had been to the shop once before and thought it would be one that I would like. Wow, was she right!

bungalow5The house was packed with yarn and fabric. I liked that the fabrics felt very curated, like someone took time to purchase just the right ones. Most of them would be considered modern fabrics, but there were a few batiks and novelties thrown in there, too.

bungalow6 And I couldn’t help but love the Wisconsin quilt they had on display.

bungalow2Even the bathroom was a feast for the eyes, from the sewing pattern wallpaper to the bathtub filled with yarn.


bungalow4I was so overwhelmed by the choices (and the fact that we were a bit pressed for time) that I ended up purchasing large cuts of a couple fabrics that I like to have in my stash along with a few new pieces.

bungalow1(I put that green Lizzy House cat fabric in everything.)

Later in the week, we made our way to the western edge of the state, where our first stop was at Olive Juice Quilts in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

olivejuice2This super cute shop was actually huge inside. The fabrics, again, were primarily modern, but they had sections for Christmas prints and reproductions, too.



olivejuice6And they had fat quarters cut of a vast majority of their fabrics. I find I really appreciate having fat quarters available, especially when I’m visiting far-away shops, because I often don’t have a specific project in mind and just want to try a little bit of a lot of things.

olivejuice7(Although my choices do look pretty coordinated, don’t they?)

While we were there, we picked up our reserved copies of Kaffe Fassett’s Bold Blooms (a book I actually worked on for ABRAMS) because that evening we were going to a lecture with Kaffe and Brandon Mably. We even boldly interrupted Kaffe while he was working on some needlepoint there at the shop to ask him to sign it.


boldbloomsinterior After bumming around La Crosse a bit, enjoying the lovely day, we headed back downtown for the lecture. Olive Juice Quilts had a nice little shop set up with Kaffe fabrics and books, and we even got goodies for attending the lecture: a magazine and fat quarter.

Brandon gave a short introduction and Kaffe came on and talked about how he moved to England and got started designing. Then he narrated a slide show that included a lot of interesting inspiration photos, behind-the-scenes shots from photo shoots, and finished projects along with some that are still in the works.

Afterward there was a signing session, and Mom got another book signed. This photo was taken right after Kaffe complimented Mom on her jacket (!)—a great way to cap off fabric fun with my mom.


Dressing Downton Exhibit

edith-flapperAnother dress exhibit came to town! Am I a lucky girl or what? This time, the exhibit was at the Taft Museum of Art in downtown Cincinnati, and it was titled Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times. Because it was all clothing from the television show Downton Abbey. Yay!

I loved Downton Abbey when it first came out—that first season rocked. But I have to admit that I lost interest after (spoiler!) Cousin Matthew died. However, I did continue to keep loose tabs on the story lines—and the costumes.

So it was still pretty exciting to see the clothing up close, along with, in many cases, still photographs of the actors wearing the costumes.

The majority of the pieces were in the main exhibit space, where the photographs could be posted. But ten more outfits were scattered throughout the rooms of the museum, placing them in context in the Taft home. The peach dress, worn by Lady Edith, at the top of this post, was displayed in the Taft Music Room.

dowager-purple-fabricThe first dress I saw was this one worn by the Dowager Countess. The fabric and trim are exquisite.

mary-riding-coatIt soon became clear that I loved all of Lady Mary’s coats. This is her riding coat from the first season.

mary-red-coatSorry for the bad photo of this one, but I had to show it. Look at the placement of those buttons!

mrs-hughes-keysThis is Mrs. Hughes’ uniform. The keys on her belt were the only “accessory” she was allowed to wear.

matthew-bootsHere are Cousin Matthew’s boots as part of his military uniform. I love all the buckles.

edith-jacketNext was Lady Edith’s bicycle riding outfit (you can kind of see the still photo behind the mannequin). I really dig the pocket detail on the jacket. And in the background are clothes worn by Lady Sybil and Branson, back in his chauffeur days.

cora-embroideryHere is a beautifully embroidered piece that Cora wore.

edith-embroideryAnd speaking of embroidery, here’s a piece worn by Lady Edith. The thread colors look so pretty on the darker fabric.

There were 36 pieces in the exhibit, including evening wear worn by Lord Grantham and some of the later pieces worn by Rose. I’d tell all my Cincinnati friends to check it out, but I saw it on one of its last days here in the city. The tour has been going since February 2015, and it looks like it’ll keep going until January 2018. Check out the full Dressing Downton tour here.

The Art of the Brick

I love the traveling exhibits that come through the Cincinnati Museum Center. Thanks to them I’ve seen real mummies, ruins from Pompei, memorabilia from Princess Diana (twice), and artifacts from the Titanic. And having gone to the latest exhibit, The Art of the Brick, I’ve seen a ton of really cool Lego art.

All the pieces in the exhibit were created by Nathan Sawaya. The pieces at the beginning were re-creations of artwork done in other mediums. While some were completely flat, others had a bit of dimension to them.



Many of the pieces used typical Lego shapes and colors, but this mask included some specially made tan people around the outer edge.


The exhibit included re-creations of larger, three-dimensional pieces of art, too. I love how he interpreted the necklace on the piece below.



Some of the pieces were really, really big. The Easter Island head was as tall as a person. And it was created with layer after layer of Lego bricks.



The exhibit also included some of the artist’s own sculptural pieces.


I liked how you could see all sides of the bricks in the piece below.




At the very end, the artist pulled an element for another artist’s photography and re-created it in Lego bricks. This was my favorite piece of that group. Who would have thought you could make a Lego towel?





Wisconsin Fun 2015

Hartman Creek

October is a beautiful time of the year to go home to Wisconsin, and last week, I did just that. The main purpose of the trip was to spend some time with three friends from high school. We met in Appleton on Saturday, went to the farmer’s market, the Trout Museum, had a tasty lunch, got some cupcakes, and did a little shopping at the mall. It was a lovely time.

I have photos of none of that. But I did take a few shots of some of the other fun I had while I was up there.

On Sunday, Jenny and the kids came to Mom and Dad’s to visit. It was a warm day, so while I was waiting for them to arrive, I got out the sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk

My design looked even better with the addition of a cute girl.

Sidewalk chalk 2

Mom and Dad were feeling under the weather, so Jenny, the kids, and I decided to check out the changes that have been made at South Park. They’ve really fixed it up nice, with new shelters and a great playground area. We spent some time on the fishing pier, too.

Shadow Lake

Back at Mom and Dad’s, we did a little painting and dyeing using some dark sunflower seeds Jenny had gotten. The seeds looked black, but when they got wet, they were actually purple. Jenny soaked them in water, and I used the color as a wash behind my doodle.

Sunflower wash

Mom was feeling a little better on Monday, so we took a walk at my favorite park, Hartman Creek State Park. The hike around Hartman Lake (aka Turtle Lake) was windy, but pretty.

Hartman beach

On Monday night, Mom didn’t want to spread her cold germs around at the quilt guild meeting, so we stayed home and did some improv sewing. Mom gathered up a pile of scraps, set up two sewing machines and an iron, and we just sewed.

Improv with Mom

Mom made an improv cross block.

Mom improv

I started making an improv Log Cabin to get loosened up.

Log cabin improv

Then I decided to make a piece that said “Mom fabric” to me. Her scrap pile has more reds and blacks than mine ever will.

Mom fabric improv

Finally, I wrapped up my session with the beginnings of an improv Halloween wall hanging. I’ll cut out a silhouette of something spooky and put it in the middle.

Halloween improv

Next week, I’ll share the last big event of the weekend: gifting my Sawtooth Star quilt to someone very special.


Rankin House, Ripley, Ohio

Ripley OH

This past Labor Day weekend, Greg and I took a road trip on Hwy 52 east of Cincinnati. The road follows the Ohio river, and within 50 miles of the city, you hit some pretty significant historic sites.

Our first stop was the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant. He was born in a one-room home in Point Pleasant, Ohio, and lived there only a year before the family moved to nearby Georgetown, Ohio. The home had a few personal artifacts that were donated by the Grant family including the leather-covered chest he brought to West Point and his presidential stationery. The tour guide pretty much forced me to take a photo with this life-size cutout of Grant. He was my height but thinner during the war years before adding on all that “presidential weight.”

US Grant

Grant Memorial Bridge

The Grant Memorial Bridge, shown above, is on the street in front of the property.

About 30 miles further down the road was Ripley, Ohio, the site of the John Rankin House, which was my primary destination on this little trip.

Rankin plaque

The Rankin House was a stop along the Underground Railroad for over 2000 escaped slaves. The house stands high atop a hill overlooking the Ohio (the first photo was taken in the backyard of the house). The family would put a light in the window each night to guide those crossing the river to safety. From here, the family members would take the slaves to their next stop, usually in the same night that they would arrive.

The Rankin House is my favorite kind of historic home—it has a good story and lots of pretty decorative touches. As soon as I walked in the house, the painted linoleum on the hall floor caught my eye.

Rankin painted linoleum

The hallway led to the sitting room. The people who restored the house were able to dig through the layers of paint to determine how the room was painted while the Rankins were there.

Rankin living room 2

The brother-in-law of John Rankin built the fireplace mantles in the home. Each had decorative cutouts along the top edge.

Rankin living room

All of the furniture and decorations in the home were period pieces, not from the family. But they were still pretty. Here’s the rug in the sitting room.

Rankin living room 3

The bedroom featured another brother-in-law-made mantle and more stenciling on the walls. The restorers found a section of the original painted walls and replicated it throughout the room.

Rankin bedroom mantle

There was a third mantle on the first floor in a second bedroom. I love how each one is a bit different, and it’s the notches in the top that tie them all together.

Rankin dining mantle 3Upstairs there were two large bedrooms: one for the boys and one for the girls. The Rankins had thirteen children, and at least some of the grown children lived there with their own families at times; at one point there were nineteen people living in the home. Here’s a rug from the girls’ room and some pictures tacked to the wall of the boys’ room.

Rankin girls rug

Rankin boys room

On our way home, we took a different route that took us past the Ulysses Grant Boyhood Home and Schoolhouse in Georgetown .

It’s pretty amazing all the history there is to see in areas not too far from Cincinnati. Watch out, Honey, I think I see some more road trips in our future.

American Sign Museum

Sign Welcome

I’ve been meaning for years to visit the American Sign Museum here in Cincinnati. It opened in 2005, and finally, this past Friday, thanks to Super Summer Hours, Greg and I went. And we loved it.

The museum’s sign collection includes pieces from throughout sign history, starting with hand-carved wooden letters and going through the neon age.

This sample was in the lobby of the Beverly Sign Company. It showcased some of their gold leaf fonts. I love the descriptions in the arrows: “Nice for a bank,” “Pretty popular,” and everyone’s favorite, “The husky one.”

Sign Beverly samples

In our history lesson of signs, we learned about trade signs. These signs featured imagery that would indicate to someone who couldn’t read what the business did. Shoes were a popular motif as were watches.

Sign trade sign

These art deco neon signs were two of my favorites.

Sign Art Deco

While there were a lot of Cincinnati-centric signs, the signs have come from all over the country. The satellite came from a mall in California, I believe.

Sign room shot

I was dying to flip through all these lovely letters.

Sign lovely letters

One of our favorite examples was this salesman’s sample. The letter R glowed purple in an art deco box, but it was really just a white R illuminated by a red and a blue neon light.

Sign purple R

The R above by itself looks like this D.

Sign letter D

I meant to take a photo of the cool salesman’s suitcase, but in a sign museum, you get a lot of extra stuff in your pictures, too.

Sign signs

We signed up for the 2pm tour, as the tours were highly recommended by the museum web site. And I’m glad we did. Oddly enough, there weren’t a lot of signs about the signs, so the tour guide really helped put it all in context, and he told great stories about the signs, too. As a bonus, at the end of the tour, we were given a demonstration by a neon sign maker whose business is housed in the museum building.

It was truly one of our best Summer Hours Adventures. I would highly recommend a visit to the American Sign Museum if you’re ever in Cincinnati.

Sign for Kara


Wisconsin Fun

Herrschners fabric

Earlier this month, I spent several days up in Wisconsin, at Mom and Dad’s, hanging out with family and friends. The day after I got there, Mom and I headed to the Herrschners warehouse sale. She and I went a few years ago, and I was excited to go again. Everything, including yarn and fabric, is nicely discounted, and you never know the treasures you’ll find.

Herrschners yarn

I didn’t find any yarn that caught my eye this time (which is fine since I’m still working through my yarn from last time), but I did buy a bit of fabric. It’s hard to pass up fabric at $4.99 a yard.

Herrschner fabric purchase

The first fabric on the left is for a Quilts of Valor project I hope to start soon; the next two are great boy fabrics for charity quilts; and the rest are just for me.

Moms next quilt

It wasn’t long after we got home that Mom started planning her next quilt with some of the fabrics she picked up at the sale and some from her stash.

The next day my sister Carrie and her husband Doug and my sister Jenny and her two kids came for the weekend. I noticed my niece Stella (age six) was carrying around a book she had made. She’d thumb through it every once in a while at Mom and Dad’s.

Fashion bookFashion book 2Fashion book 3

It turned out to be a fashion book. The top photo is the cover; the next one is my favorite drawing in the book (I like the lights and the pattern on the dress); and the last one is one of Stella’s favorite drawings (her other favorite drawing is also of Elsa from Frozen). It was so fun to page through it and see all her creations. She’s got a great sense of color already.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Waupaca without at least one hike around “turtle lake” at Hartman Creek State Park. Near the lake is a small outdoor amphitheater that we always stop at first.

Ivan on stage

There Ivan performed a song from The Aristocats, the play he was in recently at school. Ivan played the head dog, and when he performed for us, he started with a bit of dialog to set the scene and then launched into his song. It was just like on a recording of a musical! For the play, the kids passed around a microphone, so that’s what Ivan is holding here.

Jenny on stage

For the last twenty years, at least, any time we come to this stage, Jenny performs a stirring recitation of the poem “Queen Anne’s Lace.” She first read the poem in one of our old Childcraft books.

Stella on trail

We didn’t see any turtles on the lake. But there were lots of dragonflies on the trail. And a silly six-year-old.

Hartmans spider

And a dam with a gigantic spider on an old piling.

Hartmans ferns

A few days later, Mom and Dad and I went back to the park to take the Allen Lake trail. I love the gorgeous ferns!

Birthday fabric

Finally, the weekend included a bit of a birthday celebration for me. My sister Carrie gave me a compact, absorbent towel for my car (with a “Don’t Panic” label on it, for all you Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy fans) and a lovely scarf. My sister Jenny let me select a piece of vintage fabric from a treasure trove of fabric she picked up at a yard sale. I selected this border print. I can’t decide if I’ll make a skirt or a quilt with it, but the piece is large enough for either.

It was a great trip, as usual. And I’m a lucky girl to have an awesome family I love hanging out with.