Archive for February, 2010

The Fragrance of Memory

When I was little my mother wore deep red lipstick and Chanel Number 5.

It was fun to watch Mom put on makeup  because it meant she and Dad were going out, or people were coming in. It was exciting either way.

She’d stand in front of the mirror and begin by stroking the lipstick three times right in the middle of her upper lip. Lipstick to the right, then to the left, a quick schmear on the bottom lip, and then she’d move both lips together a few times to even out the coverage.

She’d blot with a piece of toilet paper and that was the extent of her “toilette.” There might have been some eyebrow pencil going on but I mostly remember the lipstick. I can see her now in my mind’s eye. What a good memory.

My family didn’t air kiss. You got kissed on the lips or on the cheek. And if you got lipsticked somebody was always there to rub it off, taking two or three layers of skin with it.

Mom only wore perfume when she dressed up. And it was always Chanel Number 5. She’d spray it on one wrist and then rub both wrists together. She smelled so good.

When I find myself by a perfume counter I always test the sample. The aroma carries me back to Mom. I hear her high heels on the wooden floor and the jangling of her bracelets. Funny how we have a mind’s “nose” and a mind’s “ear” too.

This past Christmas when I was mall-walking and Macy’s opened early for holiday shoppers I think I made a pest of myself at the perfume counter. I hoped  the Chanel Number 5 would go on sale; it never did. They probably had to break out a new sample bottle.

Recently, I finally got up the energy to clean out more of Mom’s things. She’s been gone over a year now, but I haven’t been in any hurry to tackle the stuff left behind when she moved out of my house and into Assisted Living in 2006.  To  my great surprise I found three bottles of Chanel Number 5! She hadn’t worn perfume for a really long time. I think she was saving it.

So, for the last few months I’ve been wearing exorbitantly expensive  perfume around the house. I’m not saving it. I squirt it on one wrist and then rub both of my wrists together just like Mom did, even if I’m wearing jeans and sneakers. And throughout the day I sniff my wrists and bring back Mom to my mind’s eye. She’s young and healthy, and she remembers my name, and I tell her how much I miss her. And that I will always love her.

Thanks for the perfume, Mom.

February 25, 2010 at 3:48 am 84 comments

The Captain

There is a remarkable film called “The Captain” that you need to watch. It will take less than four minutes, maybe a little longer if you have to run for a tissue. Heartwarming doesn’t begin to touch it.

It was narrated by Allison Janney, the actress who portrayed Press Secretary C.J. Cregg from the television series The West Wing. (I have watched all seven seasons on my iPod, multiple times. There. I said it. ) Were Ms. Janney to read a few pages from the phone book, I would be enthralled, but hearing her speak the words of the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley went far, far beyond that.

The Captain stars a young man named Daniel Long. He is terrific.

A little bragging here: I went to college with his parents, Patti and Tim Long. My Steve (and her Tim) were roommates.  If you’ve heard me tell the story about hand quilting  on a long car trip, my 32″ oval hoop wedged between my chest and the dashboard of our Chevette, the part I left out was that we were on our way to Tim & Patti’s wedding. Now you know.

Turns out that Daniel’s brother Aaron, who is also mentioned in the credits (get out your magnifying glass), is friends with Allison Janney.  Well, I’m not incredibly well versed on how this “six degrees of separation” stuff works, but I have a big enough mouth. I asked Tim to ask Aaron to ask Allison (see we’re on a first name basis already) if she would autograph some fabric for a Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilt.

Long story short, she said yes!  And she signed SEVERAL pieces of fabric! I get dibs on one, but I’m opening it up to anyone else who would like to create a Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilt with the other four.

If you are interested, convince me that you are worthy.  Just so you know, we only need one quilt with gold fish and a flamingo but anything else is fair game.  No particular time limit, but sooner rather than later. Comment away…

February 27 Update:  The first four volunteers who commented to the blog were selected to receive one of the Allison Janney signatures. Thanks to everyone who volunteered.

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February 22, 2010 at 2:54 am 21 comments

Dog Gets New Job, Economic Recovery Sure To Follow

Hello! Madison T. Dog here, blogging because Mom is hip deep in striped fabric from the previous blog. Thank you for your help, by the way, she was driving me nuts.

I’m here with good news. I got a job. It’s kind of a volunteer thing. I don’t get a kibble increase. But I came up with the idea on my own. I believe in showing initiative.

You see sometimes I get to go on errands. I’m not allowed to get out of the car much because I’m not allowed in too many places besides pet stores and the vet. I highly prefer the former over the later even though I get more treats from my doggie doctor.  They love me there, but I digress.

Mom went to buy office supplies and I waited in the car. Mom sets her watch for 10 minutes because she’ll only let me stay by myself in the car for that long, and never during the summer. The anti-theft device is locked onto the steering wheel, the doors are locked, she takes the keys, and then she shakes her finger at me and says, ” And don’t hot wire the car like last time.” This is for the benefit of people who might be exiting  their cars on either side of our car. They usually laugh.  Mom’s so funny.

So anyway, back to my job. I often walk to the back of the car and make sure she gets to wherever she is going. Then I lay back down again. This time I sat on Mom’s seat instead. I just like being near her. And when she is not there I like being near where she used to be.

I curled up in a little dog ball and when she came back to the car and sat down (I moved out of the way first) she said it was all toasty warm! Mom has been wanting heated seats in the car forever, and now she has them, courtesy of me.

Now when she takes me to a parking lot she asks me to Up-Up on her seat and lay down so it will be warm. (I may ask to pre-heat the sofa for her, but I don’t think she’s going to go for that.)

I live to serve. Or, if I figure out how to hot wire the car then I will live to swerve.

Yours in fur,

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February 19, 2010 at 1:25 am 35 comments

Dancing Spools – Time To Vote

I’ve got a new pattern in development and a new workshop to go with it. Trouble is I’m stalled. I need just a little kick in the rear to move into high gear and I’m counting on you to give it to me.

When I get an idea in my head for a new design I am laser sharp and totally focused. That lasts until I start cutting fabric. Then I go into “what if” mode. What if I turned it this way? What if I used this instead of that? What if it were bigger? Smaller? Brighter? Quieter? This? That? The other thing?!

The maiden voyage of Dancing Spools is on April 14th, just 2 months away! I’m done percolating and I’m chomping at the bit to make some quilts already. All the answers are set in my head except one: Closer together? Or, farther apart? I think I know which I like, but with all the second guessing, I’m putting it to a vote. That’s where you come in.  One, two, three….VOTE!

Which do you like better?
Use the comment section on the blog. Click the word COMMENT below. If you get this in an email do NOT hit reply. Click the word COMMENT instead.

Closer together? Farther apart? If you can’t tell the difference or I’m too foolish to care, let me know that too. I just have to stop obsessing and move on. Make quilting history! Vote! Tell your friends!

Thank you!

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February 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm 1,039 comments

Thank you, Tiffany!

You have proven...The words embroidered on the top and bottom inner borders of the quilt I just finished say:

“You have proven that the actions of a single person can make a profound difference in the lives of others. Thank you!”

I pieced the quilt and embroidered those words during the 27 days that my mother was in hospice last year.

This quilt is a gift for the young woman who took such very good care of my mother at the Alzheimer’s facility where she lived for the last three years of her life.

Tiffany cared for my mother amidst very trying circumstances, with kindness, compassion and devotion. It was Tiffany who “brought her back to life” on more than one occasion, getting Mom to eat, and to move again after falls that would have surely ended her life hed Tiffany not have been there.

Tiffany stayed at Mom’s bedside after Jennie and I were summoned from Houston, so she wouldn’t be alone until we got there. She did this on her own time after her shift had ended, off the clock, as a friend.

Tiffany's QuiltThe names of  18 of the residents who lived with Mom are inked on the wrong side of 2″ x 6″ purple fabric in the middle of Tiffany’s Quilt. They are sashed and bordered with fabric that my mother hand dyed. I used the pillowcase from her bed as the backing. The embroidery floss was my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s.

I quilted funky feathers in the outside border, hanging hearts in the sashing, and various meandering stitches among the names.

Thank you!I gave Tiffany the quilt top after Mom died and, in typical quilter fashion, told her I had to have it back to finish it. Embarrassingly, that was more than a year ago!

It is finally finished and I get to give Tiffany her quilt today!

Between the piecing and the quilting, Tiffany now works  part-time for me at Mallery Press, is a volunteer for the AAQI, and a caregiver for a gentleman with Alzheimer’s. In her spare time she goes to college, races cars , and works at Ba Doy Ow! I am honored to have her as a friend.

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February 8, 2010 at 2:09 am 39 comments

February 8th is “Miso Soup Monday”

Miso SoupI’m predicting that Monday, February 8th is going to be cold and miserable. I think I’ll want soup for lunch, just to warm me up.

I’ve already made plans to go to Ba Doy Ow, my favorite Taiwanese restaurant in Flint to have miso soup.  Actually, it’s the ONLY Taiwanese restaurant in Flint, but let’s not split hairs. Grab a quilt and come along. You are all invited!

Yi-lan has extended the “Take Your Quilt To Lunch Special” to include our visit on February 8th. And I’m bringing a very special quilt to present to a very special person that day at Ba Doy Ow. Please come and join me for lunch and for the quilt presentation. If you don’t like miso soup, there are lots of other delicious things to pick from on the menu.

If you don’t want to drive in from Colorado, well…. I understand. We’ll miss you!

February 5, 2010 at 12:56 am 19 comments


All I have to do is just hear the name and I begin to drool.

I’ve shopped for quilting fabric at Yoder’s Department Store in Shipshewanna, Indiana since 1976. I was fresh out of Kalamazoo College and working  towards a Michigan teaching certificate as a 5th-year student at Western Michigan University.

Ami in 1975The year before I had written my thesis (The Old Order Amish: Compromise & Contradiction), after hanging around with a wonderful Amish family who lived between Middlebury and Shipshewanna.

Ida taught me how to quilt. That’s me, dressed Amish (except for the Earth shoes) and that’s probably what I was wearing the first time I went into Yoder’s, totally clueless. 

My goal had been to learn about the Amish by participating in their culture, of course with permission,  and with lots of guidance. Ida and her daughters helped me make my Amish outfits and took me wherever they went so that I could do whatever they were doing. I dressed Amish, ate Amish, did farm chores (poorly), and learned to speak about 14 words in Pennsylvania Dutch.

One particular phrase got a lot of mileage: “Nay dange, Ich bin urshtum gooka.” (“No thanks, I’m just looking.”)  That was my response  when Mennonite shop clerks and local Amish would strike up a conversation with me in Dutch thinking I was Amish too!

I remember Yoder’s before they had a Quilting Department and when most of the yardage on the bolts were polyester: blends, knits, and double knits.

That’s what the Amish were wearing at the time and that’s what they were making quilts with too. I had never seen so many solids in my life.

I bought fabric for my first dozen quilts at Yoder’s, all polyester blends, convinced that Michigan didn’t have appropriate quilting fabric!

Amish Farmyard by Ami Simms (22" x 22")I’ve learned a lot since then, visited many a quilt shop, and bought more fabric than I’ll ever use, but I still love shopping for fabric at Yoder’s.

I’m heading over to Kalamazoo on Thursday night after my lecture with the Lansing Area Patchers to see our daughter. After she heads off to work Friday morning, I’m driving south to “Shipshe” to buy some batiks for a few new Rag Fur Jackets!

This is your official invitation to join me in the Yoder’s fabric department  on Friday morning, February 5th. Don’t be shy; come and find me. I’ll be the one messing up the bolts, unfurling, squinting, petting, and making piles of my favorites. I will be there for hours. For lunch let’s go to the Essenhaus!

Can you come?

If you’re my friend on Facebook see who just happened to be there too.

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February 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm 41 comments

Ami Simms

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