Sunday, October 18, 2009

Travel with the "Other Half"

I am scheduled to log some serious air miles over the next few weeks for several different occasions. There are a few business trips and a few family trips that are all happening in rapid succession. I have a page of itineraries pinned to my wall. It is easy to tell which ones are business and which ones are pleasure. The accommodations are MUCH pricier for the business trips. I am treated to some pretty nice places, with some ridiculous prices, for business reasons. I get a glimpse of how the "other half" lives and it has me wondering about their priorities. I am also fascinated by customer service and what companies will/won't do to keep your loyalty.

I just returned from a trip to International Quilt Market that required a flight to Houston with a stop over each way in Memphis. It seems that no matter where you fly, you have to stop over somewhere. I had never been to Memphis, and all I can tell you about the trip from Concourse A to Concourse C is that the entire place smells like barbecue. Not a bad first impression. I like barbecue and now I have a favorable impression of Memphis.

In Houston we stay at the famed Four Season Hotel. Amazing service, wonderful beds, fluffy white bathrobes and the absolute best lemon verbena bath products. For the discounted rate of $160 per night you get turn down service and free coffee in the lobby, but no Internet connection. If you want to check your email you have to cough up an additional $12.95 per day. When I questioned having to pay for a simple Internet connection that is FREE at Starbucks around the corner the impeccably dressed concierge person informed me that the $12.95 included a complete 24 hour time period. Well, geez, he had a point, a whole 24 hours of Internet availability for just over .50 cents an hour is a bargain. Especially compared to the $6 glass of juice and $18 eggs I had just consumed for breakfast. When another person in our party mentioned that she hated seeing herself in the intense magnifying mirror first thing in the morning, the hotel staff offered to remove it from her room. Dismantle part of the bathroom, no problem. Allow you to check your email for free, no way.

Next weekend I am flying to Florida for parents weekend at UNF. That will require a stop over in Atlanta. Years ago they sold a t-shirt in the Atlanta airport that read "When I die and go to heaven, I will probably have to change planes in Atlanta". All I know is that it doesn't matter if you are headed north or south, if you are leaving out of Pittsburgh you will have to stop somewhere along the way.
Having booked my own accommodations, I am staying at a mid level hotel near campus and I am paying the "parent" rate of $49 per night. For that I paltry sum I am entitled to a deluxe room with in room coffee maker, frig, free Internet and a complimentary breakfast. The sheets will be clean, the room will be comfortable. I know this because I have stayed in this chain frequently and after this stay I will be entitled to a free night. That savings is important because as we all know, Parents weekend really means, take me shopping, take me out to eat and don't forget your credit card.

The first week of November I have to travel to New York City. My travel arrangements have been made for me and I will be staying at a very trendy boutique hotel in Tribecca. I am sure that it will be a nice place. The room will be tastefully appointed and the bath will be filled with spa products that will impress my daughters. My hotel will also be more hip than I am.

Checking their website, you will never believe what special, unique amenity they offer. Go ahead, try to guess.....
complimentary cocktail? nope.
heated towels? nope.

Goldfish. According to the website I can request that a goldfish be delivered to my room.

Can someone explain why? Was there some boardroom or think tank meeting where some hotel expert decided that to maximize profits in this day of demanding customers, goldfish are the answers? If you are away from home and lonely, is a fish really going to make you feel that much better? After an early morning flight and working all day I usually try to squeeze in a bit of shopping and grab some weird take-out and head for my room to enjoy the luxury of having the bed and remote all to myself for the evening.

You know what they say, "You can take the girl out of the Holiday Inn, but you can't take the Holiday Inn out of the girl".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pittsburgh Does Houston

Debby and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to International Quilt Market in Houston! Pittsburgh was well represented at this trade show in several different ways, quilt contributors, the best shop owners, the weather (grey and overcast). The photo above is of the Pittsburgh Project quilt that is the centerpiece of the quilt show section. The quilt is beautifully presented and the shear size of it is amazing. I stood for quite awhile waiting for the woman in the photo to move so that I could get an undisturbed photo, but she was intent on being in my picture. Now I am glad that she is there, she helps you to see just how large this project is! - Beautiful!

The goodies that we purchased are all being shipped home, so I thought that in the mean time I would share a bit of the quilt show with you.

We spend most of our time at the other end of the convention center, sifting through aisle after aisle of amazing merchandise that we purchase for the store, but I always try to take at least one quick walk through the show to see the amazing work from all over the world. This time I actually remembered to take my camera and snap a few shots on my way to the ladies room.

This piece caught my eye immediately. Earlier this month we had a shop display of the One Block Wonder quilts that have been created in our class program. While this quilt, hanging at one of the most prestigious shows in the country, is beautiful. Using those standards, the quilts that were flipped over our railing for customers to enjoy rank as spectacular! I hope this encourages more of you to display your work and enter contests. - YOU can do this!

My favorite quilts in the show are never from published books or patterns. I like to look at the off the wall, optical illusion quilts. This one was particularly appealing because it is part traditional piecing, part illusion, part art, yet it was still a quilt. It is an "art quilt" that was made using traditional methods. I have "issues" with artists that glue, pin, and generally stick stuff to a hunk of wrinkled fabric and call it a "quilt". Fiber Art, maybe. Quilt.... I don't think so.

This type of piece takes a special talent. One with a mastery of piecing, design and color. It is very impressive.

That isn't to say that I don't like Fiber Art. I do! This is a close up shot of a piece that was the first thing I was attracted to. What fun! The texture was amazing. You could stare at this for hours and find something different in every inch. Much of what you would find would make you smile. Candy wrappers, small toys, paper clips, fabric scraps, ribbon and tons of thread. There is no denying the fiber, I will leave the decision as to whether it is "art" up to you.
It had me thinking of that old saying "One mans trash is another mans treasure".

I truly appreciate fine workmanship even when I don't necessarily find the color of the quilt appealing. I marvel at the hours that someone will put into constructing the tiniest of details. This photo is of one of several bed size quilts that were constructed from the same type and style of fabric. My snarky comment is usually that the maker should probably be prescribed some anti depressants. All that work and no "pretty" fabric! But there is no denying the work that went into constructing this beauty.
The style and color pallet is what we refer to as Japanese Folk Art. The fabrics are all shades of taupe with very little contrast, but the results are beautiful. Below is a close-up of just one square and the side border. The log cabin blocks in the border are 1/2 inch strips that were assembled into blocks and then border and then appliqued. Notice that the horizontal sashings are completely different than the vertical ones. The vertical sashing was not only hand quilted, it was beaded too! The tiny flowers and leaves on those odd shaped blocks are all hand appliqued too!

I hope you are inspired to go sew something!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blog Detention

I know, I know, I should be sent to blog detention.

It has been quite awhile since I have had time to sit and write a post. Things have been very hectic around here. Don't worry, I have plenty of excuses. I should probably start with the computer mentdown that required the pruchase of a new laptop. A laptop with Vista as the operating system insead of the next edition of Microsoft 7. MY computer had to breakdown a month before the new version becomes available. That way I have to learn a whole new way of doing things and download a zillion printer drivers just to be able to function for 30 days. Then I get to do it all over again when I upgrade to the new system. I swear I could hear my old hard drive laughing at me just before it died. You may have heard bad things about Vista. You may have even said bad things about Vista. It is all true. Just my opinion.

I also learned that all Geeks are not created equal. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, I whole heartedly suggest that you avoid gthe Geeks in the North Hills Best Buy location. Take the additional 20 minutes and drive to the Cranberry store. Once you are there, bow down to the Geekiest of Geeks on the planet. They are truely miracle workers in my book. They saved my technological life after the North Hills Geek pronounced my hard drive "deader than dead". If I were not so busy with other things I would take my extreemly sharp Ginger sewing shears to the North Hills store and use them to snip that Geeks little black tie right off! Do I sould bitter? I shouldn't. Thanks to the Cranberry Geeks I have all of my info back, a new shiny laptop, a cute little travel laptop, a back-up drive and a much smaller balance in my checking account.
That is just one small part of my list of excuses for not being up-to-date here on the blog. Anothe one is that I spent the entire last weekend on a sewing retreat with customers. Work, work, work. Yes, it was an all sewing weekend at a wonderful retreat center. Yes, we have prepared meals in the dining room of the mansion. Yes, the comapny is fun to be with and we laugh quite a bit. But I sew for a living, so it still counts as work! Someone has to do it.
My new fabric line arrived just before I left on retreat. I hurried to find coordinates to take with me and managed to finish one quilt top and a good size tote bag over the weekend. When I returned home I realize that I took the wrong fabric and ended up having to make the tote bag all over again! That took a whole day. Because it is my fabric line I had to make several samples. Including the large table runner and smaller purse. That seemed sufficient considering that the whole line consists of just 2 pieces. Large and small butterflies.

If making the samples before Market were all that needed to be done it would be easy. BUT, once the sewing is finished I have to write the instructions, photograph the item, create the pattern front, make a UPC code (that involves adding every other number, multiplying by three, adding the other numbers, adding those to the first total and rounding up to get a check digit. Now you know what those engineers did before they created Vista). When everything is finished I have to print, print, print. Then fold and bag..... speaking of bags, I have to pack one. We leave for Houston and International Quilt Market in the morning. Market is earlier than usual this year. That moved deadlines up by 2 weeks! Excuse #23987.

I just returned from shipping the box of quilts to my hotel (to save on additional baggage fees). That means I am finished, done, period. Except for packing, and hemming my pants, and updating this blog.

NEXT week I will have to work myself out of blog detention and find time to tell you about all of the wonderful things we find at Market!