Sunday, April 17, 2011


I have a new blog.  It's Bohemian Journey, and I wont be posting here anymore.  I just put up a new post today at the new site. It is still under construction, I have a lot to learn with this new blog, but I hope to get it looking smooth pretty quickly as I plan to post a lot more frequently.  I will be selling my quilts this year, and featuring more on our homeschooling,so it behooves me to make it a place where you'll want to come back often.  I hope you'll continue to follow me there, and that you will pass my blog on to your friends.  So see you at:  WWW.BOHEMIANJOURNEY.COM
I promise to keep you smiling, help to foster creativity, share fun and useful ideas, and to perhaps take you away for a bit to take a break from regular life.
For me blogging is a way to let the SunShine in. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

I was brought up by Non-Conformists

Neva Fiaschi Roberts

 This is my Grandmother. She, along with my Grandfather, pretty much raised my brother and me.  Here is Grandma in Torre del Lago, Italy, in approx 1942 at age 20. Wasn't she so beautiful?  Che bella!  Below is Grandma on one of the trips she and Grandpa made back each year for 3 weeks.  Perhaps this was in 1990. My Grandparents' story is amazing. Stay tuned for more.  One of the reasons I am such a free-spirit type of artist, in my folkart, the reason that I am a 'Bohemian' artist, but also in my everyday life, is because of Grandma and Grandpa Roberts.
Grandpa, Donald Hugh Roberts, was an artist and an acclaimed architect as well as a dean at Howard University in Washington, DC.  My Grandpa went home to God's glory last November.  I am saddened to my core that he is gone, but Oh Death! Where is your sting?  I rejoice because I can imagine my Grandpa rejoicing at the face of His Lord.  And he got to not only walk again, but to leap and jump and sing.  Grandpa was not only an artist, who studied and lived with Frank Lloyd Wright (yep, that's the truth) he painted and drew, he had his own 'font'...his handwriting was legendary.....I've got to make it into a font someday, and he was a photographer extraordinaire.  He always used Canons.  The combination of him and my Grandma helped to make me who I am, especially the non-conformist part.  Just look at them!  You may not be imagining what life was like when they married and came back from Italy to live in Dayton, Ohio.  You may not know that the Italian people loved my Grandpa, he respected them enough to quickly learn their language and not expect them to only communicate in English (plus, he was extra smart to learn it so fast), but they had no issues with him being a black man and Grandma being white.  But just imagine Dayton, Ohio in 1947 when my father was born.  Just imagine that.

Look how HAPPY they are here all those years ago.  Do you think they let the ideas and racism of the times hinder their marriage?  They had three children. My father was the first.  Their boldness and non-conformity is what got me here.  The house where I grew up in Washington, DC was my Grandfather's design, as well as the two houses next door.  What a great environment to help my art, to grow up in a house that was designed by my Grandfather, and inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

When I see Grandpa with my Italian family, I am moved at how people have the chance to just be who they are.  They are not defined by their race or their color, but that certainly enhances and colors who they are.  I am so proud to have my Bohemian spirit fostered by my marvelous grandparents, Donald and Neva Roberts.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eliza-Jane Grace Fogg

....and here's the ELEVEN year old of the year....I used this girl's camera the other day to take a couple shots, and when I uploaded it to my computer, lo and behold, I found 20 some odd pics that she had been taking of herself from day to day.  This girl is her own best fan!  Eliza-Jane is a music theater kid, if you can't tell by now. This coming Sunday, February 13, 2011, she has the biggest audition of her little life so far at The Kennedy Center, here in Washington, DC.  She'll do a 2 minute monologue and a piece of an age-old song, Lean on Me.  Say a little prayer for #5 kid.  She makes me smile everyday in spite of clouds and rain mostly because she never stops seeing fairies, magic, joy and wonder around each and every corner.  Eliza-Jane, I know you'll break a leg on Sunday no matter what.

You are gorgeous.  The world was just waiting for you to be born. Your songs make me know that life is worth every minute that God has given us. Your biggest fan,  ~mom

Friday, January 28, 2011

I have been challenged

Challenged by beloved quilterly friend, Joanna, of Applique Today, that I can not write a short blog posting.  Imagine the NERVE this woman possesses to say such a thing!  Joanna, read and weep.

what 13 looks like in our house

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Fogg "Seven from Heaven"

~~In lieu of a Holiday Card~~
I present & here they are, my life's work!  My piece de Grande's that for Italian and French in the same swatch; I am definitely a cultured lassie.  From left to right and in order of their ages (and that happened quite by accident because we are NOT an orderly type of folk!) you can see my homeschooled, homegrown geniuses:
Jade, 21, Zach, 19, Noah, 17 (next week), Nadia, 13, Eliza-Jane, 11 front row Summer, 9 & the littlest but oh what a spit-fire, Sarah Rose, coming in at 8 years old.

Jade is the oldest at 21, she works full-time at KOBA as the Assistant to the Compliance and Contracts Director as well as with the Director of Education to facilitate the implementation of the education of the enrolled youth. She spends a lot of time perusing tons of details and keeping the books/records straight to insure that the facilities have all their ducks in a row so as to be legal, she reviews the individual notebooks and cases of the kids, incident reports, etc and etc! I can't even write down all that she does and she will often have 12 and 15 hr days. She is in school full-time at Thomas Edison enrolled through a wonderful program called College Plus  which coaches students personally through their own program.  How does she do both?  And with aplomb.  Jade is an exercising fiend, she runs and lifts weights, is always trying to perfect herself and eats well, organically when she can, knows how many calories and fat and protein she consumes daily.  She is the proud owner of her fabulous, most amazing Thoroughbred, The Taggerung, or just Tagg, if he knows you.  Jade's been riding since she was 8 years old, and Tagg is her 2nd horse.  Jade is also a writer and is working on her first novel.  You can keep up with her musings at  She's been teaching piano since she was 13, and currently has 5 or 6 students.  Jade is a hard-working firstborn who is much more than the sum of the parts her father and I put into her.  God has blessed.

Zach is 19, and lives in Tennessee where he is the Systems Administrator for The Bulk Herb Store.  He is the proof positive that home education really works, almost completely educating himself since he was 6 years old.  By the 11th grade, he had already accrued 32 credits with straight A's. Most students in Maryland graduate with 24 credits by 12th grade, so he had an extra 8 credits a year early. Zach excelled quite young with computers and was often seen teaching himself  CSharp at the age of 15. He has been fixing other people's computers for years now.  In Tennessee, Zach lives in his own 3 bedroom place in a small little town with the creek at the end of his drive. "God willing and the creek don't rise" was never more true when last June the floods in TN brought the creek almost to his front door, ruined his neighbor's house with the scum line at 6 feet, and washed out a portion of his road. He told me, "Mom, the power of water is amazing."  Zach also plays guitar and he and Noah can get on skype and play together.  I am amazed at how his skills have evolved. He is quite good, and I know I'm biased, but if he keeps up with this he will be choosing computers or his own band. Or both. 

Noah is the the quintessential outgoing extrovert.  The most important thing in his life is music theater, and 2010 saw him in 4 lead roles.  Talk about a conceited stage Mama!  That was me, I can not lie.  He was the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz with Catonsville Youth Theater with Director Chuck Dick, he played 
The Cat in the Hat doing his own choreography in a musical written by his voice teacher, Lisa Shaw at The Levine School of Music, he was Cinderella's Prince in Into The Woods through DC Theater Lab and he played the evil, suicidal cop, Javert, in Les Mis, with Act II at Levine under Director Kevin Kuchar.  2010 marked the year that proved to Noah that a career in the theater is not only viable, but that it may be his destiny.  He is also a skateboarder and spends a lot of time perfecting his tricks, jumping over banisters and leaving skin on the sidewalk. He and his father know every single solitary skatepark within 40 miles of our house.  Noah also taught himself guitar this year, he can be heard at times, through the vents, strumming at 2 am!  Which is why he can't often be seen awake at 9 am!  Editing and making videos is another passion, he's done quite a few, and he took a photography course from one of the best professional photographers around as well as one of the best homeschool co op teachers on the planet, Mrs Chris Schaeffer. She also teaches: Shakespeare each spring, world-renowned geography for all levels, political science & literature and the silver screen. Amazing.

Ok, I still have 4 more kids to review!  Yikes! 
I will be kind and spare you and save that for my next post, leaving you with the rest of that Impromptu Seven from Heaven photo op.  And mind you, Jade was on her way out the door, the babies were in their pjs, Zach was impatient, etc.  I hope I didn't bore you too much, though the grandparents are probably happy with me.  

ps  Forgive me but I just had to stick in a little knitted piece, stitched this up in a couple hours for the new baby, Penelope Jane of Zach's bosses.  Used gorgeously dyed wool, added a swinging pom-pom. Cute!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The "FINALLY" Quilt for Zach

Finally .... I finally finished a new quilt for my son, 19 year old Zach.  That's him right there, Zachary Harrison Fogg. The last quilt I made for this 2nd of 7 child of mine was when he was 2.  And that was 17 years ago.  That is a very sad admission for a quilt designer and instructor such as I am, it really is, but to thine own self  be true. And it's the truth. We were living in Chicago when I made Zach's first quilt, and this was the age before the glorious Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner fabrics that we quilters have the privilege to hoard and collect.  Back then, I had to make do with Joann Fabrics & Crafts, and I had to drive 40 minutes to Indiana to get to it.  I used a Mickey Mouse sheet for the backing, and in my mind using that Mickey sheet was the very ultimate and quintessential idea of how quilting began, the way my fore-mothers made quilts 200 years ago. Remember this quote?   
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."   
I was broke basically, and pregnant with kid number 3, Noah, and I needed a quilt for him too, so the sheet was the only choice I had for a large enough piece of fabric to make the back.  And I 
wanted to be connected to my historic fore-mothers,  I am full of wonder and I mostly look at life through my permanent rose-colored glasses....but in reality, I was just broke!   I sat in the community room of our apartment house and stitched and stitched and then I quilted it by hand on a frame I borrowed from someone once my next one Noah was born, little by little.  It was only the third quilt I ever made, and was made up of various squares of kiddie-printed cottons and seersuckers, just a dumb arrangement of squares that didn't make any sense when I see them now, don't know what my mind was seeing back then.  I am giving amazing credit to  Zach for his unending patience and great sense of self-esteem as he has continued to use that Mickey Mouse- backed quilt most of his life and through all his teenage years.  

His virtuous patience has finally brought him a just reward.  And a big one, too. On Christmas Day, 2010, he opened his FINALLY quilt, an 86" x 90" token of my affection for this brilliant son of mine who now lives 12 hours away from me in Tennessee. His quilt is made of batiks that I collected for six years from at least 8 quilt shops from California to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  They range in tones from teal (my all time favorite color) royal and soft dusty blues to dusky purples and plums and then some subtle taupe-like browns, which help to settle down the blues.  I free-motion quilted with a bevy of paisleys, florals and curlicues, and there are several sayings and feelings stitched into the fabric.  And the backing?  

Nope, it's not that squeaky mouse again, but it is a sheet.  I am nothing if not frugal and 
remember, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." 
In my quilting stitches, Zach will find his name and nicknames, hiding among the patterns, and my name, the date of the quilt, and one special saying....
"This quilt hugs you when I can't"....because this quiltin' Mama misses him so much.    

And why such a big quilt, you ask.... I decided that Zach would have a queen-sized quilt this time because perhaps, let's hope not, but perhaps, it could quite possibly be 17 more years before he gets a new one out of me, so this one will have to last him!   

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Learned to Crochet When I Was 10

Thanks Mom! Learning to crochet was just the beginning of my lifelong foray into crafts that require needles.  Big needles, pointy sharp quilting betweens, hooks, bamboo or steel needles, I need them in my world.  My mom, who is also known as Dr Roberts, passed on her passion with needles to me.  She is a higly-skilled seamstress, and she learned in Catholic boarding school, of all places. For much of my childhood she made my clothing on a burgundy and silver sewing machine from Montgomery Wards. I learned to sew on that machine as well.  I was pregnant with my 2nd child, Zach, and we went out, bought patterns, and because of her great teaching skills, and my comfort with creating, I made a maternity outfit that day.  I bet a couple hundred garments came from that machine.  At some point, she began to put tags in my garments because none of my friends ever believed that she made my coat, she made my ball gown, that she made my velvet knickers and the satin clutch that perfectly matched my outfit.  

A few months back, needing a new project to inject a bit of creativity into my world, I decided to crochet myself a bag to hold my yarns. Because of the years and the familiarity of my fingers with needles and hooks, I picked up some new wools by Debbie Stoller and cranked out this bag in a day or two.  I realized just how lucky I was to have the inspiration when I was young.  Train up a child in the way he should go....if you know any Hebrew, you'll know that that type of training means to guide a child in the way he's naturally bent.  And when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs, 22:6, KJV.  And I'm 42, a mom of 7, and I still see that I have hundreds of stitches yet to learn, many sweaters, quilts and dolls are yet to come from my needles. 

My mom, Romaine, as she's also known, crocheted when I was young. I vividly remember the green and ecru baby doll blanket she made for me. One day I saw her pick up the hook, and I hadn't even known that she could do that!  Somehow, through the magic of genes and osmosis, I began to crochet. She didn't teach me, per se, I just kind of caught it from her.  She also has done, and whatever needlework my mom does, it is done with perfection, macrame, knitting and needlepoint. Her needlepoint is worthy of any museum display. My children have their stockings needlepointed with Santas so detailed, you'd think he'd just hop off the mantle....the stockings are lined with poi de soie, and back with ultra suede.  What a joy it is to fill these dynamic stockings with candies and treats on Christmas Eve.

In the last couple years, I decided to become a 'real' knitter like my mom, not just one who makes patternless scarfs and hats, but I want to make any item I see so I needed to delve a bit deeper into the knitting world.  (*note - you can join Eliza-Jane and me on Thursday nights at Borders Books in White Flint to knit w/my Meet-Up group and at The Yarn Spot in Wheaton)  My mom is my inspiration to me to continue to make my work "handmade" versus looking homemade. This is what she always told me.  "Take the extra time to block your work," she would say, "you spent all that time making it, make sure it looks great!"  "Iron those seams" and "Install that zipper properly".  My mom's work is always impeccable and the example I needed to inspire me on to greatness.

And my mom is the reason my 5 girls can all do something with needles.  It is my rule and requirement that these girls acquire skills and make projects in several disciplines.  Some of them may never sew or knit or crochet perpetually like my mom and me, but learning these skills are the perfect learning mechanism to train one's hands and brain to accomplish anything.  Learning to knit socks will join my girls with women and men of the past who never imagined a walmart with zillions of choices of knitted objects.  A genuine satisfaction comes from the knowledge that most folks today can't even begin to know a knit stitch from a purl, much less realize that the fibers their garments are made from originated from either an animal, a worm or a factory.  Because of my mom, my 11 yr old, Eliza-Jane, sees a shawl in the store window of H&M in the mall yesterday and immediately imagined what size needles were used to obtain that gauge, are there in any 'yarn-overs' in the pattern....she sees herself not only knitting that garment, but spinning the fibers first.  My mom sat Eliza-Jane down when she was 8 and guided her little hands to understand the basics of knitting.

Mom, you rock. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This Orange Bouquet has a Serious Story

Sometime early Summer I planted one of my favorite flowers in the universe, Tithonia (Tithonia diversifolia) or the common colloquial name, Mexican Sunflower.  It is a glorious specimen, the cultivar I planted has blooms a minimum of  4 inches across, and because of its native country of origin, it needs little water. Tithonia diversifolia is very hardy, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds like nobody's business, and grows enough flowers to make a bouquet weekly.  The flowers are not known for their aroma, but the smell is soft and distinctive, and can add a nice scent to a small room.  I have grown Tithonia in years past, so I thought nothing of it, took no special care or anything.  The seeds germinated easily and the plants grew in the starter plastic food container I use.  After a couple weeks, I decided to plant just two Tithonia seedlings in the garden because I expected them to be 6 feet tall and as wide, and space was diminishing in my beds.  And I was right about the space they'd occupy.  They grew tall alright, and then they grew and grew and grew.  I actually began to wonder if someone was sneaking some seriously off-limits chemical fertilizers in my natural organic garden while I was sleeping because by month three, the taller of the two was 11 feet high!  Whoa Baby!  I was getting my vases ready for some real lovliness to bring in to decorate my kitchen.

Despite this record height, though, and unfortunately for the flower-loving soul that I possess, there was only foliage.  Thick and lush foliage albeit; it testified heartily to the copious amounts of horse puckey I'd put in that earth, BUT not one single, solitary bud.  Pooh.  I waited another month. Pooh.  I waited patiently.  Then I waited really really Paaaatiently.  I was rewarded with better character for it and nothing but even lusher leaves and a ridiculous stem, the likes of which I'd never seen, almost as thick as my wrist.  I began to visualize my orange and glorious Tithonia flowers after being picked in an artsy glass vase on my nightstand. I would water those plants a bit extra each time I was in the garden.  I caressed Tithonia's fuzzy leaves.  I told her that she was exquisite, unique, just the most elite shade of green ever. But still, Pooh.  Nada.  Mrs Tithonia understood 'nada' because she's from Mexico.  The worst part for me was that with a plant that huge, one can only imagine how many flowers it could hold.  It was tortuous. 

One day a brisk windy storm came through, and Mrs Tithonia fell over almost like Goliath;  that's how big she'd become.  By this time, I wasn't actually all that sad.  I had begun to berate Mrs Tithonia at times; I had now given up hope on seeing any Tithonia flowers for 2010.  I noticed that at the base of the fallen 'trunk', the roots came through the earth in a circular plate, at least two feet in diameter. Wow! It looked just like the base of the trees one sees toppled over when the power goes out, pulling up the earth along with its exodus from Mother Earth to keep itself company I suppose.  And I was sad to notice, still, not one single flower.  I couldn't figure out what had happened.  I have an uncanny way of recognizing seeds, so I knew that I had definitely planted the Tithonia variety, which come to a triangular point at one end, and have fuzzy bristles at the other. Perhaps, this was some sort of hybrid, accidentally packaged up?  I was desperate to find Mr. Burpee seed catalogue's express direct hotline to figure this thing out. 

Perhaps my Tithonia flower could be in a record book?  "Tallest dang useless flower to never grow a single solitary flower" would be the proper entry if Guinness should ever call.

Five months had passed now, and I had planned to chop up the foliage and trunk-like massive stem of Mrs Tithonia for the compost pile come November when - OH GOLLY GEE - and lo and behold, this very week, this very late in October, my fat, mutant gargantuan Tithonia plant was covered with blossoms!  My Summer Girl walked all around that sad giant plant as it lay down on the Fall rested there as if it needed to languish a bit to finally bloom (maybe that was why?) and Summer Girl counted 23 flowers, huge and sunny in color, looking like the tastiest shade of bright lollipop orange, with over 100 buds ready and waiting their turns to burst open. Those buggers are waiting to put on a show for me!  Despite the roots uncovered to the air and the prone position of that 11 foot tall plant, it is blooming right now crazily.  Suppose I should call Mr. Burpee now?   Usually in the Washington, DC area, we get the first freeze a week after Halloween, but there have been years when my flowers continue to bloom until almost Thanksgiving.  I am hoping that this will be one of those years.  I plan to cut luscious bouquets, ambrosial and touched by God, daily as new blooms open so that I can enjoy every picture perfect blossom for as long as possible.