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Yay! It’s Quilting Day!


In honor of National Quilting Day today, I’m going to bring you up-to-date on my long arm (really mid arm) quilting adventures.

If you’re a regular reader of ARHtistic License, you know that last November I got a HandiQuilter Moxie. Then I had six private Zoom lessons with a HandiQuilter educator to learn how to use it. I made a practice piece to try out free motion quilting and also the ProStitcher Lite robotic quilting software. The piece was not good enough for a human being to use, but I thought it might work as a quilt for Ralph.

Ralph's quilt

Ralph was not impressed. (Yawn.)

Ralph with his quilt

At the same sewing and quilting festival where I ordered my Moxie, I’d bought some fat quarters of designer fabric. I added some fabric from my stash to it, and I pieced a top for a lap quilt. This was to be my first “real” quilt quilted on the Moxie.

Andrea's lap quilt

Man. I had a time of it. I knew what quilting pattern I wanted to use, but I couldn’t get it to run. The error message said the pattern was larger than the frame area, though it didn’t look like it was larger on the screen. I couldn’t figure out how to make the design a little smaller. I tried setting it up multiple times, but I couldn’t get it to run, so I tried a different quilting pattern.

I didn’t realize how much smaller this new pattern was until I began running it. I didn’t like it, but I figured it would be a good lesson. It was, but not in the way I expected.

I did two passes of the pattern, and then it was time to advance the quilt (shift it so that I could work on the next unquilted part). It was then that I discovered the bottom tension was all messed up.

Tension problem

It’s funny–as the design repeated, the tension improved, but it was still not good. I decided to take it all out and start over. The only good thing about bad tension is that the stitches are easy to pull out.

While I was pulling out those bad stitches, I had plenty of time to ruminate, and I realized that I had watched a video about resizing quilting patterns. If I could find it, I could use the pattern I originally wanted.

But first I had to fix my tension. I reread the section of the manual on tension, and I watched a lot of videos. I followed all the instructions, but no matter what adjustments I made, it didn’t seem to affect the tension at all. I worked on it for days. I must have tightened the little knob 30 rotations, and I still had what looked like couching on the back of my quilt. (It looked like a thread lying on the surface, held in place by small stitches.) One instruction on one of the videos made no sense to me: the instructor said that the thread should snap between the tension discs. I couldn’t make it do that. So I took a picture of the tension discs and texted it to the store technician I’d ordered it from. He told me the discs were too tight together, and I need to loosen the knob at least 10 rotations.

Yep. He was right. I loosened it severely, and then I was able to snap the thread between the discs. It still took a long time until I could get the tension to look acceptable. It’s not perfect, but much better.

I figured out how to tweak the quilting pattern so that it fit within the frame area, and in one day I quilted the entire lap quilt. I wish I could say everything went smoothly; it did not. I forgot the “drag and drop” sequence when I advanced the quilt, and I had to figure out how to make the machine start quilting at the right spot again. I don’t even know how to explain the problem and the solution, but if that ever happens to you, watch this video, starting around the 5:30 mark. (I don’t have the same machine or the same frame or the laser light, but by following his “drag and drop” directions, I got my machine properly lined up.)

I just have to finish hand-stitching the binding to the back of the quilt, and then it’s ready to be my new TV-watching quilt. (Yes, I like to be all snuggled up in a blankie when I watch TV.)

So here’s a sneak peak at my next quilting project, some blocks for quilts for our new granddaughters:

Blocks for a baby quilt

The babies came over on Tuesday.

Me and Etta:

Grandma and Etta

Greg and Robin:

Grandpa and Robin

Do we look like we’re at all happy to be grandparents?

The Stool

The Stool

When my father was young, all the boys at his school were required to take a class called Wood Shop, where they learned to make things out of wood. The project for eighth grade was to make a stool, for which Dad earned a coveted A+.

When I was growing up, that stool occupied a place of honor next to the hearth. Every night before bedtime, I sat on that stool while Dad relaxed in his armchair and asked me questions about my day. What was I learning in school? What was my happiest moment of the day? What’s one thing I did that I’d like to do better next time? The questions were often adapted to particular circumstances, but they usually involved expressing gratitude for blessings received, and acknowledgement of areas to focus on for personal growth.

When I left for college, the last item squeezed into the trunk of my vintage Buick was that three-legged stool, with the fatherly instruction to spend five minutes at the end of each day celebrating my accomplishments and thinking about the path toward becoming a man of character.

A few years after finishing my degree, I met the woman of my dreams, married her, and soon we started our family. The stool stood across from my armchair in the living room, and from the time they were very young, each of our three children took their turns sitting on the stool and answering my nightly questions about their day. I found their answers sweet, and at times troubling, but I strove to affirm their successes and their struggles without inspiring guilt, and they rewarded me with disarming honesty and sometimes hilarity.

As my children left for college, I kept the stool at home, and reminded them that it was always available if they wanted to come and talk. And that’s what they did when they had something to share—a disappointment, a milestone, a problem that needed another person’s perspective. I like to think they understood they would always be welcomed and safe.

After sixty years of marriage, my wife passed away. The house felt empty and cavernous. I knew it was time to downsize. I found a little condo in a retirement community, and I said goodbye to most of my possessions.

The final item to relinquish was the stool. My oldest son came to claim it. I walked him to the car, and he turned it upside down to place it on the back seat. “Wait—did you see this, Dad? There’s something written here.”

I squinted, trying to make out the faded, penciled letters written in a childish scrawl: “To my future son. I hope I listen to you like my father never did to me.”

Note to my readers: This is a piece of fiction. My other ideas for today’s post were just too daunting, so I searched a Writer’s Digest PDF called A Year of Writing Prompts for something I could finish quickly. The prompt for February 9 went like this: Your father made the chair when he was a boy, and it’s gotten rickety. Preparing to finally throw it away, you flip it over to carry it to the trash, and notice a message etched in with a knife. It reminded me of a stool my husband Greg made in Wood Shop, which eventually got thrown away when it was too rickety to use anymore. This is the story it inspired.

Haydn in Plain Sight

Haydn in Plain Sight

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period.

His brilliant Trumpet Concerto:

Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family. Being isolated from other composers and trends in music forced him to be original. Yet his music circulated widely, and for much of his career he was the most celebrated composer in Europe.

Haydn Piano Trio no. 44 in E major:

He was a friend and mentor of Mozart, and a tutor of Beethoven.

The Lord Nelson Mass:

Haydn wrote 107 symphonies in total, as well as 83 string quartets, 45 piano trios, 62 piano sonatas, 14 masses and 26 operas, amongst countless other scores. He was instrumental in the development of chamber music such as the string quartet and piano trio.

Cello Concerto No. 1:

The musicians who performed with him called him “Papa” Haydn. The nickname became increasingly meaningful as Haydn’s 30-plus years of service in the Eszterházy court went by; with each year, he became increasingly older than the average musician serving under him. Clemons Höslinger says, “Papa arose as a term of affection, commonly used by the Esterházy players … for a father figure, somebody who willingly gave advice and who was generally respected as a musician.” Eventually, musicians who called Haydn Papa expanded beyond the Esterházy court and included many who admired and acknowledged his work.

Piano Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. XVI/52, L. 62

Another sense of the term “Papa” Haydn came from his role in the history of classical music, notably in the development of the symphony and string quartet. While Haydn did not invent either genre, his work is considered important enough that the labels “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet” are often attached to him.

The Creation, an oratorio on the scale of Handel’s Messiah:

Perhaps more than any other composer’s, Haydn’s music is known for its humor. The most famous example is the sudden loud chord in the slow movement of his “Surprise” symphony; Haydn’s many other musical jokes include numerous false endings (such as in his quartets Op. 33 No. 2 and Op. 50 No. 3), and the whimsical rhythmic play in the trio of the third movement of his string quartet Op. 50 No. 1, movement 3 (Menuetto):

According to Bachtrack, Symphony no. 45 in F sharp minor, “Farewell,” was composed while Haydn’s patron and his court were at the summer palace at Eszterháza in 1772. Their stay had been longer than expected and the musicians were anxious to return to their families back in Eisenstadt, so Haydn sent a not-so-subtle message. During the finale, each musician stopped playing, snuffed out the candle on his music stand and left the stage until only two violinists, Haydn himself and concertmaster, Luigi Tomasini, were left. Message received; the court returned home the following day! 

Building Your Writing Community

Building Your Writing Community

If you’re a writer, you can choose to see other writers either as competitors or as colleagues.

I urge you to make at least some writers into colleagues. (Save competitors for your golf game.)


Firstly, because writing can be a lonely occupation. Unless you have an extraordinary ability to ignore distractions, you probably spend lots of time alone with your writing implements. You need to make some friends, build some relationships.

Secondly, because writers have a commonality of experiences. They get you. They’ll be your allies. They won’t report you to the FBI when they see your browser history because they will understand that your how to make a bomb search was just research for the thriller you’re writing.

Thirdly (and most importantly), because writers have a wealth of information and insight to share with you, and you with them. This won’t happen if you treat them like rivals, so become their colleague.

In your day job, you have coworkers, who are your built-in colleagues. But unless you work for a publication or you have a collaborator, you might have to scout out some writer colleagues. Fortunately, the internet has made it very easy to connect with other writers. But how?

Photo by Christina Morillo on
  • Twitter. Yes, I know, Elon Musk took over and it changed. Lots of people dropped out. But writers are working very hard to keep Twitter a place where writers can interact with one another. Searching the hashtag #WritingCommunity is a great way to find interesting writers to follow. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media platforms also enable authors to find each other.
  • Blogs. So many authors have blogs. They post articles about writing topics, and their publication experiences, and even about their personal lives. A few of my favorites are Ryan Lanz’s, K.M. Weiland’s, and C.S. Lakin’s.
  • Writer’s groups. The internet is wonderful, but face to face interaction is even better. In 1990, when I didn’t yet have a computer, I found my first writer’s group by reading the community calendar in the local newspaper. Now it’s as easy as googling writers groups near me.
  • Writer’s conferences. Conferences are great for learning about the industry. Not only can you meet other writers there, but you can also make connections with agents and editors (and pitch stories).
  • Book festivals. Whenever people gather to celebrate the written word, you will find other literary people. There’s probably a festival near you, or in a place you’d love to travel to. Again, your search engine can hook you up. Here’s a list of book festivals to get you started. Some have already passed, but they’ll probably come around again next year!
  • Readings and book signings. Check the blogs and websites of authors you admire to see if they’ll be appearing at a book store near you. Better yet, sign up for your local bookstore’s newsletter and support your local writers by attending their events.

Every writer needs a community of diverse partners who help each other with advice, information, and ideas. Most writers I know are generous about sharing their expertise and are willing to make recommendations and introductions, especially if you reciprocate. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned professional, you can benefit from cultivating a community of writing colleagues.

I’d Rather Be Dancing Sacred Circle Dances


According to Roots to Wings:

Sacred Circle Dance is a worldwide movement originating from the work of Professor Bernhard Wosien, a German ballet instructor and Master Teacher at Munich University. He believed that our earliest and most profound impulse to replicate the creative powers that we sensed within ourselves and our world was through movement. These early “dances” enabled us to identify with the eternal round of creative force in the cosmos while acknowledging the rhythms and cycles of nature and daily life in community. He traveled extensively throughout Europe seeking to retrieve and preserve these early dance forms, specifically in the small, often oppressed villages that continued to hold the dances as sacred. He referred to his work as “Heilige Tanze” or the highest or holy form of dance.

Sacred Circle Dance offers an integrative approach to healing, relaxation and to some, a deeply moving spiritual experience. It differs from folk dance through the sacred intention that is held for each dance. In circles, lines and spirals we join hands to learn simple village dances to traditional, folk, classical and world music. Through our dancing, energy is activated. We consciously intend this energy to heal ourselves, one another, our planet earth and the people, places and situations throughout the world in need of healing grace. Each dance offers its individual blessing and we open to receive it. It is believed the impulse to dance is encoded in our DNA. When we dance in Sacred Circles the encoded message is activated, we remember. Sacred/Circle Dance is used as a healing modality to diverse populations throughout the world in many health and holistic settings.

In studying the information online about sacred circle dances, I’m finding that they are practiced among many traditions, including Asian Indian spirituality, Wicca, churches, and Jewish temples. The dances often promote meditation. Some of the dances are also done by international folk dance enthusiasts, but somewhat differently, because they’ve been adapted for sacred circles. Often an arrangement of plants, flowers, and/or candles is placed in the center of the floor to dance around.

Here are some dances practiced by sacred circle dance groups.

This Welcome Song borrows from Native American tradition:

Omonoia is a Greek song that references a square in Athens where refugees gather; it’s about the plight of Syrian refugees in Greece. The dance was choreographed by Leslie Laslett.

The song Tanulo Eno was written by Ugandan songwriter Samite Mulando. The choreography is by Stefan Freedman in the USA/British sacred circle tradition.

The music for Isolation is a Russian hymn. It was choreographed by Leslie Laslett in response to the quarantine protocol during the Covid19 pandemic. The arms-out posture refers to personal distancing.

The music for La Vida Total comes from Chile. It was choreographed by Pablo Scornik in the Inca style.

São como os meus comes to us from Brazil, choreographed by Lena Mouzinho.

Scarves aren’t mandatory for Wind on the Tor, but they’re a nice touch:

Bajo la luna del Cuervo, also known as Beneath the Raven Moon. Choreography by Pablo Scornik:

Introducing: Our New Granddaughters

Robin on the left, Etta on the right

On Valentine’s Day, our daughter Erin and her husband Dave magically turned Greg and me into grandparents with the births of their identical twins. Robin Magdalena (named for Dave’s mother and my mother) was born first at 4 lbs 8 oz. Two minutes later, Etta Lyn (actually Henrietta, because Dave’s recently deceased “uncle’s” middle name was Henry, and he was born on Valentine’s Day; Lyn was Dave’s grandmother) emerged, weighing in at 3 lbs 14 oz.

Though Mom was released four days after delivery, the babes are still in the Special Care Nursery (NICU), although they may be home by the time you read this. They are all doing well.

Before they were born, Erin thought she might paint the babies’ toenails different colors to tell them apart. I suggested that an unobtrusive tattoo might be wise. She nixed that idea, even though she has at least one tat that I know of (a Fibonacci spiral on her shoulder–she has a degree in mathematics). Last week I asked her if nail polish was still the plan, and she told me no, because she knows who’s who. I can’t tell. Robin’s 11 ounces heavier, but that will change.

As you can imagine, we are over the moon with joy.

The Grammys 2023: Best Song Written for Visual Media


Once again, all the songs in this category were unknown to me until yesterday. I also haven’t seen any of these movies, which kind of puts me at a disadvantage in judging the category.

“Be Alive,” from King Richard. Beyoncé and Darius Scott Dixson, songwriters; performed by Beyoncé:

“Carolina,” from Where the Crawdads Sing. Taylor Swift, songwriter; performed by Taylor Swift:

“Hold My Hand,” from Top Gun: Maverick. Bloodpop® and Stefani Germanotta, songwriters; performed by Lady Gaga (whose real name is Stefani Germanotta):

“Keep Rising,” from The Woman King. Angelique Kidjo, Jeremy Lutito and Jessy Wilson, songwriters; performed by Jessy Wilson featuring Angelique Kidjo:

“Nobody Like U,” from Turning Red. Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, songwriters; performed by 4*Town, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O’Connell, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo, and Grayson Villanueva:

“We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” from Encanto. Lin-Manuel Miranda, songwriter; performed by Gaitán—La Gaita, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz, and Encanto cast:

I have to say this is my favorite category yet. I absolutely love the first five songs. And all these videos are wonderful. I think it’s fair to say that the songs work very well in their movies (even though I haven’t seen them).

One stands out to me, though. I could not take my eyes off the video for “Nobody Like U.” I am guessing that the melding of story + song is perfect. I know that if I were still teaching, my elementary school students would all be singing this song. I hope it wins the Grammy. (My second choice would be “Carolina”–that song will haunt my dreams for sure. My third choice would be “Keep Rising.” What a great song! Fourth would be “Be Alive.” It fits Serena and Venus so well.)

Now it’s your turn. Which song do you think should win the Grammy, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Grammys 2023: Best Global Music Performance


Again, I never heard any of the songs in this category before this week. I’ve only heard of two of these performers before.

“Udhero Na,” Arooj Aftab and Anoushka Shankar. Shankar is the daughter of sitar royalty Ravi Shankar and a virtuoso in her own right. Arooj Aftab won the Grammy for Best Global Music Performance last year for “Mohabbat”:

“Gimme Love,” Matt B and Eddy Kenzo:

“Last Last,” Matt B and Eddy Kenzo:

“Neva Bow Down,” Rocky Dawuni featuring Blvk H3ro:

“Bayethe,” Wouter Kellerman (flautist), Zakes Bantwini (keyboardist), and Nomcebo Zikode (vocalist):

The musicianship in “Udhero Na” is phenomenal, but the intro is two minutes long, and keeps us waiting for Arooj Aftab’s voice. Despite the lovely rhythms in “Gimme Love,” the lyrics and melody are annoyingly monotonous. I love the syncopated rhythms in “Last Last.” I like the reggae vibe in “Neva Bow Down” and I like the message (but I find the video very intimidating).

In my opinion, “Bayethe” has it all–a polished performance, beautiful blend of instruments, great rhythm, and nothing that detracts from all that. I think “Bayethe” deserves the Grammy.

Now it’s your turn. Which song do you think should win the Grammy for Best Global Music Performance, and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The Grammys 2023: Best American Roots Song


Once again, I hadn’t heard any of the songs in this category before yesterday.

“Bright Star,” performed by Anaïs Mitchell; Anaïs Mitchell, songwriter:

“Forever,” performed by Sheryl Crow; Sheryl Crow and Jeff Trott, songwriters:

“High and Lonesome,” performed by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss; T Bone Burnett and Robert Plant, songwriters:

“Just Like That,” performed by Bonnie Raitt; Bonnie Raitt, songwriter:

“Prodigal Daughter,” performed by Aoife O’Donovan and Allison Russell; Tim O’Brien and Aoife O’Donovan, songwriters:

“You and Me on the Rock,” performed by Brandi Carlile (featuring Lucius); Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth and Time Hanseroth, songwriters:

Wow. Is it just me, or is it tough picking a favorite in this category? “Forever” is a good song. “Just Like That” just about undid me. What a powerful message. And “You and Me on the Rock” is adorable.

But “Prodigal Daughter” delighted me. O’Donovan’s gentle guitar picking is such a perfect accompaniment.

I first became aware of Aoife O’Donovan a decade ago, through this song from the Goat Rodeo Sessions (which also launched my obsession with Chris Thile, if you want to go down that rabbit hole, and yes, that is Yo Yo Ma rocking out on the cello):

Now it’s your turn. Which song gets your vote for Best American Roots song, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Grammys 2023: Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song


Once again, I hadn’t heard any of the nominated songs before this week. They’re a nice group of songs.

“God Really Loves Us,” performed by Crowder featuring Dante Bowe and Maverick City Music; Dante Bowe, David Crowder, Ben Glover & Jeff Sojka, songwriters:

“So Good,” performed by DOE; Chuck Butler, Dominique Jones & Ethan Hulse, songwriters:

“For God is With Us,” performed by for KING & COUNTRY & Hillary Scott; Josh Kerr, Jordan Reynolds, Joel Smallbone & Luke Smallbone, songwriters:

“Fear Is Not My Future,” performed by Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin; Kirk Franklin, Nicole Hannel, Jonathan Jay, Brandon Lake & Hannah Shackelford, songwriters. There are several videos of this on YouTube and I chose the shortest one for this article:

“Holy Forever,” performed by Chris Tomlin; Jason Ingraham, Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, Chris Tomlin & Phil Wickham, songwriters:

“Hymn of Heaven,” performed by Phil Wickham; Chris Davenport, Bill Johnson, Brian Johnson & Phil Wickham, songwriters:

It took me a few listenings to choose a favorite. I think the best of these is “God Really Loves Us.” The chorus is so good. I am pulled into worship. I can just imagine a congregation belting out, “Hallelujah! We are not alone! God really loves us! God really loves us!”

And “Hymn of Heaven” is a close second.

Now it’s your turn. Which song do you think is the best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song? Why is it your favorite? Share in the comments below.