Sunday, July 12, 2009

Quilting and jamming

I've spent a lot of time this past week taking my time, quilting "Incense and Peppermints." I'm taking it slowly in order to do a good job, particularly outlining the center medallion. If I hurry, I get sloppy, so I'm doing a little on the center and then working on the straight stitching with the walking foot. So far, it's going well. I decided to sew the binding on a few days ago since I got sick of catching the edges of the batting every time I put the quilt on the machine. I have one more side to go and then it will be back to slowly working on the center again.

Yesterday, my package of Dear Jane Spring Fling swap blocks came in the mail. I now have 20 more blocks to add to the 17 I have made. I laid out 35 to make a pretty crib-sized quilt, with 1.5" sashing and cornerstones made of various scraps of 1930's fabrics. I won't start the sashing until I've finished quilting "I & P," though. It is fun to look at those little blocks in the meantime.

This morning I made a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam. I love the sparkly look of the colorful jars when they're all sitting on the counter. I'll make spiced pear jam later in the fall and, together, they will make nice gifts for the holidays.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Wisconsin Fourth

We didn't see any fireworks this 4th of July but we did hear some when we visited my brother Axel in Madison, Wis. This was his only 3 day weekend this summer, so we decided to share it with him, arriving Thurs. evening and leaving Mon. morning. Thurs. we had an unforgetable dinner at Madison's Indonesian restaurant, Bandung. The rendang (spicy beef), eggplant curry, and ikan rica rica (sweet and sour mahi mahi) were enhanced by a delicious Wisconsin white wine, a bite of loempia (egg rolls), and pisang goreng (fried bananas) for dessert.

We got up fairly early Fri. to head north to Appleton, childhood home of Harry Houdini. The local museum is in what was a Masonic Temple that looks like a castle. The A.K.A. Houdini exhibit is small but very hands-on, explaining how some of his favorite tricks were done. There are handcuffs to unlock, a box to disappear in, and other illusions to understand. The 2 1/2 hr. drive each way took us through some lovely countryside. Wisconsin has had a lot of rain this spring and summer, so everything was very green. For dinner, we were invited to Axel's friends Ken and Brian's in Mt. Horeb for a tour of their house, full of antiques. They saved the house from demolition and moved it to a new site a few years ago and have done some lovely landscaping. Our salad came straight from their prolific garden.

Saturday morning saw us on The Square for the amazing farmer's market, followed by a trip west to Spring Green, site of Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and school of architecture. Our guide explained Wright's architectural principles very clearly, and it was fun to have lunch where we had celebrated Mom & Dad's 25th wedding anniversary many years ago. In the small family graveyard, we found the grave of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, Wright's mistress who was murdered at Taliesen and about whom Loving Frank was written. On our travels around the countryside, we saw quite a few fireworks stands, and it was obvious that evening that Axel's neighbors had visited them.

On Sunday morning, Axel took us on a tour of Madison's west side. It has really sprawled since our family moved there 47 years ago. Then we went to Johnson Creek, mid-way between Madison and Milwaukee, for a delightful brunch at Hi-way Harry's with old friends Henry and Gay. So we had a jam-packed weekend - lots of fun!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Authors at Aldrich" are terrific!

Last night we went to this week's Authors at Aldrich program, featuring Gordon Hayward, a landscape and garden designer who has written a number of beautiful, useful books. He talked about growing up on a farm and having to prune fruit trees from a young age. His father would work very hard all day and then read in bed from 9 pm to about 1 am. At breakfast, he would share what he'd learned with his sons. He had very focussed reading habits, confining himself to one topic or author a year or two - from the Civil War to Shakespeare (twice) to Compton's Picture Encyclopedia. The boys got quite an informal education.

Hayward became an English teacher and then met and married Mary, an Englishwoman. He worked in England's Cotswolds as a gardener and then began writing for Country Journal and then for Horticulture magazine before embarking on writing books. Many of his books discuss designing a garden in great detail with photographs and sketches, and then include how-tos, based on his experiences with his Westminster West garden and others he has designed around the country. Intimate Gardens is of particular interest to Vermonters because it includes lists of plants for specific settings and their blooming periods for our climate. Warm and welcoming, Hayward talked for about half an hour and then fielded some very interesting questions from the audience.

Hayward's presentation was the fifth of 12 this summer, held on Wednesdays at 6:15 pm in the library's Milne Room. All that I have attended so far have been very different from each other, but fascinating. I also particularly enjoyed Gareth Hinds' discussion of his graphic novels and his process of putting them together. All the programs are being videotaped so that DVDs may be borrowed from the library, they will air on Channel 7, and they are accessible on the library's website. People can come to the Farmer's Market, move on to the library program, and then head to Currier Park for the concert. Barre is very lucky to have such an excellent package of activities every Wednesday night!