Friday, December 31, 2010

And a happy new year to all

It is beautiful out today - 47 degrees, sunny, with a clear blue sky. The snow is melting nicely, but I'm sure we'll get more in a day or so. It's an early January thaw I guess. I just rearranged our basement storage closet in preparation for untrimming the tree and putting away the Christmas village tomorrow. I am ready to have a little more room upstairs, but it is always so unfestive when all the decorations are down. I'll keep my Beanie bears with scarves around the necks in the kitchen with me for a while longer.

Wed. night we were invited to Ruth's for dinner. What an adventure - we hadn't been there before, and I had forgotten that she lives far into the hills of Northfield. After dark, all dirt roads begin to look alike, but we did finally make it up her steep driveway. Ruth had won a turkey dinner at the holiday farmer's market and needed friends to help her eat the 31 lb. bird and all its trimmings. Her son Jack did most of the cooking, and we had a nice pumpkin cheesecake for dessert from a new restaurant called The Square Biscuit. We'll have to try it (it's in "downtown" Northfield). Yum.

The driveway wasn't too bad to negotiate on the way down, and we headed back the way we came. Or so we thought. We came to a strange fork in the road with a sign that read "dead end," but it was unclear which way the arrow was pointing. I kept going straight and soon came to said dead end. The snowplow turns around there, and so did we, going down the other way. We did finally end up on Route 12A and then the interstate. The whole trip took about an hour, and we had new appreciation for Ruth's devotion to the Old Labor Hall and its monthly meetings in all weather.

I've been working on a feathered star block from Quilter's Cache in black and white with a hint of red. It ends up being about 21" square, and I hope to surround it with some blocks I'll be receiving later this year in a swap. It's quite a complicated block but, having never attempted one, I thought I'd see if I could. And it looks like a large snowflake, particularly with the white on black print. I will put it aside until after the swap in a pizza box with some other blocks I've made. Next up will be another pieced 16" block on which to applique from Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, vol. 2. I don't know how large the finished product will be but I do like having some applique to do on a snowy afternoon.

We're staying in tonight, and I have a nice roast in the crockpot with carrots and potatoes. I will roast some acorn squash to go with it. Max starts to follow me around as the crock pot smell permeates the air. Every time I go into the kitchen, he races along and then looks a little disappointed to find it isn't for him. We will probably fall asleep long before midnight, but tomorrow is supposed to be just as nice as today. That's a great way to start 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Let the holidays begin

The area below the tree is overflowing, the table has its Christmas cloth on it, the tourtiere is defrosting, and we are ready. Even though I consider myself a non-believer, I still enjoy Christmas, the stories (even the religious ones), the lights, the food, and, especially, the music. There is no more beautiful piece than Handel's Messiah unless it is his Joy to the World. Handel was at his most optimistic and hopeful, and we need that perhaps more than ever now. I do miss my piano at this time of year. The classical radio station has been playing quite a bit of good music lately, and it's great to read, applique and knit to. That's what I'll be doing this afternoon.

This evening, Vicki, Samantha, Polly, and Chris will be coming for dinner - tourtiere, French Canadian pork pie, will be the main course. I have some rolls in the freezer to heat up, and Samantha is bringing salad. We'll have nibblies ahead of time and cake for dessert. Tomorrow, after Chris leaves for his friends, we will spend a quiet day, which will be fine. I will surely be talking with family members throughout the day, and the radio will be on.

It is beautifully sunny out, making the snow glisten. We always have a white Christmas here in Vermont. Best wishes to all who may read this!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Graduation party

Yesterday, we celebrated Chris' graduation from college. I am so proud of him! Four years ago, he said that he didn't want to stay in dead-end jobs forever and that he had decided to go to college. In the course of one week between Christmas and New Year's, I helped him apply to DeVry University online, including applying for financial aid and student loans. During the first year or so, he needed a lot of help with writing but I noticed his writing becoming steadily better. He got some help from Polly with math and statistics, too. An online curriculum is challenging because you don't have the instructor or even other students to turn to immediately to ask questions.

Starting out as a computer science major and then switching to business administration, he plugged along and, on the whole, did quite well for someone who had never done all that well in school and had dropped out at age 16. We knew he was smart because he passed the GED tests on the first tries, but he had to mature and gain self-confidence. I know his dad would have been proud of him, too.

We were so busy at the party that we forgot to take any photos! I got a sheet cake from Hannafords, made cookies and chex mix, and also had cheese, cider, candy, and coffee. It was nice that Chris' friends from Burlington came, as did our former next door neighbors who have been surrogate grandparents since he was two. My parents and sister called, too, and it was a good to way celebrate both the end of college and beginning of the next phase of Chris' life, whatever that may be.

I did make a quilt for the occasion - of course! It was originally one for Camp Agape, but they aren't having the camp this year. So I made it a little wider and put a blue oxford cloth back on. There is some free-hand quilting, too. But it is very fitting for Chris who loves fishing and greens. Here's a closeup. I used Golden Threads Quilting paper to quilt in his name and the year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top "Reads" of 2010

As of today, I read 92 books in 2010, many of them during my period of enforced rest as I got over swine flu and then pneumonia. A lot of what I read was in the cozy mystery genre, and this year I read all of the "Evan" books by Rhys Bowen, all of the Cedar Cove series by Debbie Macomber, all of the Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny (who lives right over the border in Canada), and most of the "The Body in the..." series by Katherine Hall Page. It was impossible to pare my list of favorites down to ten, so I ended up with these 13:
  • Bury Your Dead - Louise Penny (I liked all of hers, but this was the latest)
  • The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry
  • The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
  • Shadow Tag - Louise Erdrich
  • So Brave, Young, and Handsome - Leif Enger
  • The Aloha Quilt - Jennifer Chiaverini
  • The Day of the Pelican - Katherine Paterson
  • The Killer Angels - Michael Shaara
  • Echoes of Vermont - Thomas C. Davis
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen
  • Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
  • The Help - Kathryn Stockett
  • A Mercy - Toni Morrison

Now I see that two of the books were written by neighbors (Tom and Katherine), and about half of the books were published before 2010. It's quite a mixed bag, but each offered a story or ideas that I thought about long after finishing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two finishes

The weather has been very iffy lately, so we have spent most of our time cozily indoors. It snowed hard Sunday morning and then started to rain, continuing into yesterday when we woke to temperatures in the upper 40's. At around noon, temperatures started to drop and it started snowing. For the second week in a row, I had to cancel my usual Monday night get-together with my friends Cindy, Sandy, and Polly due to bad driving. We had about 4" of snow when we got up this morning, and it was in the teens. Winter is back.

Yesterday, I made pancakes for breakfast - with Canadian bacon! - and we trimmed the tree. Then I got busy and finished sewing the binding down on a small quilt. I finished binding this one a few days ago and plan to give it to Kim tonight to take to school for a needy child. In our guild, we have a UFO challenge going, and this was one of them.

I also finished quilting and binding a "Wonky Cats" quilt over the weekend. It used a lot of scraps from a shoebox marked "cats" that I have been pulling from for years. I used scraps for the binding, too, and a large piece of blue plaid flannel that I've been dragging around for years for the back. In fact, I remembered that the flannel came from Gray's Dept. Store in Montpelier, so it has to be over 25 years old. Gray's hasn't been there for a long time and stopped selling fabric around the time Chris was born. Paul's sister Pat used to work there, and when we met years ago, I remembered her from Gray's.

Here is a closeup of the Wonky Cat quilt. Some of the fabrics are awfully cute, and I especially like that Laurel Burch blue fabric. Some child will enjoy this quilt. I am going to offer it to the library for the Friends Chinese New Year's Banquet and Auction in February.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday prep in full swing

Yesterday I felt like I was really in the holiday spirit as I made 2 big batches of Chex mix. I have enough to make a third but I think I'll wait until after Chris' party on the 19th to see if I need more. Of course, we always need more Chex mix! Today I'm going to make some shortbread cookies using a recipe I saw in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. I like that little magazine for its simple, normal (not full of trendy ingredients), family-oriented recipes. Tomorrow, after I get some more shortening, I'll be making Karen's ginger cookies, too. They are the best we've ever eaten.

I washed the grizzly bear throw that I'm giving Chris for his graduation present yesterday. It turned out pretty good but I still need to put the label on. I only have one side left to sew on a binding for little quilt that I'm giving to charity and hope to have it done Tues. so I can give it to Kim to take to school. The little quilt top I started Sunday needs borders around its four sides and then can be quilted. I'm not sure whether to give it to the library to raffle off or to Kim for another needy child. I guess I'll wait and see how it turns out. I still have another batik top to quilt that could be raffled off. If it ever warms up, we'll take a few photos. Right now the thermometer is hovering around zero, after a -6 degree reading when we got up.

Paul and I took two more packages to the post office yesterday. So far, we've sent packages to Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida, New York state (2), New Jersey, Alabama, and the Netherlands. We'll be sending another one to Colorado after Chris finishes shopping. That will make 9 all together! Wish we lived closer to family. But at least doing all that mailing means getting shopping done early. I have most of mine done but still need to look for a few "stocking stuffers."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Paul's stocking

I realized a few weeks ago that I had intended to make Paul a Christmas stocking. Everyone else has one, including Max the dog, so I put one together for him. There's an appliqued banjo, of course! I haven't started decorating the house yet, but it is waiting patiently until I do. The Christmas village usually goes up first. Think I'll get Chris to help me next week. And maybe it's time for the fall doorhanging to come down...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday weekend and more

We had a very nice Thanksgiving with Samantha, Vicki, Cindy and Sandy. Each brought something which really helps spread out the work. On the menu: turkey breast, broccoli, wild/brown rice, corn casserole, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry chutney, pumpkin bread (made with pumpkin I grew last summer), apple pie, brownies, vanilla ice cream. Yum - o! Tonight we finished the last of the leftovers, and I will miss them. I made turkey stroganoff twice and also turkey curry. Hannaford's cranberry chutney is wonderful with turkey sandwiches, even if the turkey came from the deli.

Over the weekend, I packed up all the packages for mailing except my parents'. Chris still has some shopping to do for them. We also addressed all the holiday letters to people far and wide. So today we made the second of several post office trips. I learned that postage to the Netherlands and Belgium is $0.98 per letter but it is worth it as it's my only contact with some relatives and friends each year. Oh - the first trip to the P.O. was Friday when I mailed my sister's package to the Netherlands. I feel good to be on top of things!

Saturday afternoon, after a huge burst of snow made it difficult to see even the houses across the street, we headed down to the Old Labor Hall for two performances of "Monuments Come Alive," a multi-media presentation of stories of monuments in Hope Cemetery. The former HS music and drama teachers performed quite a bit of magic with a group of college students. Les Bartlett, a photographer who we first met as a guest at Maplecroft, gave a little slide talk of his work photographing the quarries here and on Cape Cod and the hands of the stone workers. We helped with refreshments at both showings, which totally benefitted the Old Labor Hall. Estimated attendance: 300!

Sunday night we went to a concert by country-western singer Kathy Mattea. We weren't familiar with her songs but she was great. When she started to sing, I was reminded of Ann Murray, the grande dame of Canadian country music. Her band was wonderful, and, as Paul says, those Nashville musicians are consummate professionals. The Opera House was almost full which was great.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Secret Santa gifts arrive

I belong to a "Friendship Block Swap" group online, and this year we each made Christmas ornaments. We didn't reveal who we were until the person received her ornament. I made a tiny "Star of Hope" block with a snowman's face in the center and sent it to Cindy. My Secret Santa was Angela, and she really went all-out. The hanger for the wallhanging is a giant cinnamon stick, the biggest I've ever seen! There there is a set of pear-shaped pot holders with magnets. Finally there are four wool applique ornaments for the tree. I really feel like I hit the mother lode!

A coupla quilt finishes

It was sunny today although cold enough that the plow people sprayed salt in our driveways this morning. It was really windy, too, which wreaked havoc with the trash and recycling that we set out. I hope most of it stayed in the bins.

I finished binding my Asian Jane quilt a few days ago. It took over two years to finish, but, part of that time, it was at the long arm quilter's. I love the Asian prints with solid black (I used Keepsake's Amish black fabric), and the 4.5" blocks came from Dear Jane, Dear Hannah, and a few other sources. Because some of the Asian prints feature fairly large motifs, I alternated Dear Jane-style triangles with solid black. I love the back, too, which is a teal green Jinny Beyer fabric. Many of the Asian fabrics were gifts from my 2009 Dear Jane Secret Pal, Julia.

I had a lot of Asian fabric scraps left since the blocks are small, so I made a Chinese Coins table topper last week. It has Thanksgiving fabric on the back which goes well with the black binding. It went together very quickly, and I quilted it myself, in the ditch as well as a little free-motion here and there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Calico County Challenge

The Calico County Quilt Guild has met in the afternoon on the second Saturday of the month for many years. I belonged before Chris was born, couldn't fit it into my schedule for perhaps 30 years, and have rejoined since I have been retired. It's a small group that now meets in the basement of Bethany Church in Montpelier. When I first joined, the group was large and had a number of well-experienced quilters in it. Sometimes, it was intimidating to a newer person. Now it is smaller and the range of skills and interests varies, but I enjoy the fellowship of the group.

This year, we decided to try a challenge. Each person was to bring a fat quarter of fabric that she loved and another that she didn't like at all. I brought a multi-colored Kaffe Fassett that I just didn't know what to do with along with the moth and dragonfly fabric that I used for the back of Vicki and Samantha's quilt. We put the likes and dislikes into separate paper bags, and each person pulled one from each. We can add only 2 other fabrics and the final piece should be no larger than 12" square. It's due in February.

Here's what I pulled out of the bags. I loved the blue swirly fabric, but that khaki with beige was definitely outside my comfort zone. The khaki fabric also had some deep red and black. I knew that the traditional patchwork block just wouldn't work for these two fabrics even though I am dying to try the Anita's Arrow block described in the most recent issue of Quiltmaker magazine.

We had a newcomer visiting the group who also got some challenging fabrics, and I sure hope we haven't turned her off from the group. Before we left, though, I realized that my final product, which needs to be no larger than 12" square, would have to be something non-traditional. Elaine said that the last time she participated in such a challenge she ended up making a little bag, with one fabric on the outside and the other (the ugly one, presumably) on the inside.

Not quickly defeated, I thought a landscape would be a possibility. The blue swirls looked like a very bright night sky. Who knows what the khaki looks like! I thought back to a landscape quilts workshop I took at VQF years ago, and I also decided that fusible applique, though not my favorite, would be OK here.

So here is my final product, and I really like it. I ended up appliqueing the swirly hills and stream by hand but the tree was fused. I ran up and down the trunk with rayon thread on my sewing machine to give it a little texture. I cut the blue swirls on the borders out with a rotary cutter and fused them on. I machine quilted the whole thing. This was a fun activity that I would love to do again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Off to the quilter!

My "Red, Red Robin" quilt is finally ready for quilting. It ended up measuring 85 x 86" so was too unmanageable to quilt on my home machine. Friday night, I took it to Mad River Quilting in Waitsfield for some long arm work. Lisa told me she wouldn't be able to get to it until after the holidays, which is fine with me. I have plenty to keep me busy.

The center medallion is from the Piece o' Cake Design book Applique Outside the Lines, and the other appliqued border is an adaptation of a design in the same book. The other borders are pieced, and the whole thing uses scraps from my stash. I pieced the back (90 x 90 or so) from scraps also, and now I can actually close my pink box and almost close the purple one. I'm sure they will be bulging again soon since these seem to be colors I buy and receive as gifts.

The "Live, Love, Laugh & Be Happy" came subliminally from Paul who was practicing When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along on his ukulele this summer when I was starting on it. I made the three robins a little pudgier than the Piece o' Cake bird. It will be a while before I tackle anything as ambitious as this but it sure was fun.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2 finishes and one give away

Yesterday, I finished the big purple and pink quilt top I've been working on for a while. Actually, it's not that big - just 84" x 84" - but it felt that way because the applique took a couple of months. First there was the center medallion with a large flower pot and tulips of all shades of pink and purple. Then there was an 8" pieced border of odd shoo fly blocks. Then there was an 8-10" border of Live, Love, Laugh, & Be Happy surrounded by the Piece o' Cake ladies' inimitable ferns and lolly pop flowers. The final border was a scrappy uneven nine patch. Now I am piecing the back out of purple and pink scraps, and I decided to take it to a long arm quilter since it's now too big for me to handle at home.

This morning, for a change of pace, I made a Secret Santa ornament for an online group I belong to. It will be winging its way to the lucky recipient soon, but I need to take a photo first. It's a horrible, rainy, foggy day, so not good for picture taking.

Yesterday was good, however, so we took a picture of a quilt I made last year that I'm going to give to my dear friend Sonia. It's an Ohio Star quilt with 3", 6", 9", and 12" blocks. I quilted it in three sections and love the way it turned out. I've made a couple of these quilts using a simple block in different sizes, and Ohio Star is by far my favorite quilt block. The background fabric is a warm natural with turquoise, red, caramel, and brown.

Sonia lives in Plattsburgh, and we have been friends for 37 years or so. We met in the Syracuse area when we were neighboring librarians, just starting out in our careers. We kept in touch through marriage (hers), divorces (both), child (me), moves (lots for her, a few for me), new jobs, various relationships. Now we are both retired but we still don't have as much time as we'd like to get together. We try to go to the Jane Austen Society meetings together but that doesn't always happen. Tomorrow we'll meet at the Asian Bistro in Williston, and I'm anxious to hear about her recent trip to Italy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Socks, Heron Island, etc.

Yesterday was a miserable day, with Dutch weather, i.e., misty rain and gloomy. It was a good day to stay in, knit, and read. We had soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch which I always like on a damp day. I did finish my first sock ever, using pink, purple, and gray striping yarn. In the process I learned that my feet are 8.5" long. The sock fits, but the top is awfully baggy. I have set it aside for now since my dark blue cotton/modal yarn arrived, and I plan to make a vest for myself. Paul saw me working on it and requested one, too, so after I finish it, I guess I'll be looking for a men's pattern and more yarn. So far it is working up very nicely because the yarn, from Knit Picks, is very soft.

In between stitches, I finished reading Heron Island by R. A. Harold who read part of her work-in-progress last summer at the Old Labor Hall. Roberta self-published her mystery which takes place in 1903, partly on a fictional island in Lake Champlain, in rough-and-tumble Barre, and in New York City. She obviously did a great deal of research from her descriptions of South Hero and Grand Isle, the life of the rich and the poor, and the labor movements at that time. I am still unclear about whether the main character, Dade Wyatt, actually works for the Secret Service or for his friend Mr. Dodge, but, at any rate, he is scouting the security of the island in preparation for a visit by President Theodore Roosevelt when a murder occurs. Roberta mixes fictional characters with historical ones, and it is fun to read about the Webbs, Carlo Abate, and even TR. I thought it was a little long, but am looking forward to her book signing in late November at the OLH. I think I'll get a few copies for Christmas presents.

I noticed that Louise Penny recently received several awards for her mysteries, and it's about time. I was taking my time with her latest book, Bury Your Dead, because I wanted to savor it. But as I got toward the last quarter, I just couldn't stop reading. Now comes a long wait, no doubt, for her next Inspector Gamache installment.

And last night's first episode of Sherlock on Masterpiece Mystery was just great! It's a modern telling and has some humorous parts, as the old Sherlock Holmes stories had. I'm looking forward to the next two episodes!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fresh apple cake

This fall I've been experimenting with various apple cake recipes. I made one to take to the Friends' potluck early in Sept. It was the kind with caramel frosting and WAY too sweet. I did a little web search for recipes, but finally ended up adapting the one right on the back of my favorite cookbook The Bakery Lane Soup Bowl Cookbook, published right here in Vermont by two ladies who used to own a great soup restaurant in Middlebury. Everything I make out of this book turns out great. I did add the raisins and a little more spice to the original. Also, I use the apple skin and all. Here's the recipe.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease/flour a 9 x 13" pan.

Mix together:
2 1/3 c. flour
2 c. sugar (a mix of white and brown is nice)
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves

1/2 c. chopped walnuts (or a little more)
1 c. raisins

Grate 3-4 apples, skin and all, to come up with 3 c. apples. (Paula Reds, Macoun, Macintosh are all good)
Mix together 1/2 c. oil and 2 beaten eggs
Alternately add the apples and oil mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Pour into pan and bake 45-60 min. til done in the middle. Allow to cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Second place ribbon!

Rainbow Sylvia (at right) won a second place ribbon in the bed-sized category at yesterday's Show and Tell at the Green Mountain Quilters Guild meeting. I was really pleased, especially because my friend Elaine's teal Storm at Sea was just as beautiful and won a third place ribbon. The winning bed-sized quilt was black, white, and bright blue - very effective.

It was a good meeting, with 8 vendors who had some wonderful items. I bought a few batik half-yards, some of which I've already cut into FQs to share with my secret pal, and a couple of other pieces of fabric that I will use eventually. They are already in the wash. I also bought some new iron-on tape that can be used to fuse pieces of batting together. I often zig zag pieces to make larger ones, but this should be more stable.

There were two very interesting workshops. Kim talked about making and working with hexagons. She uses template plastic for hers while I have been using double layers of freezer paper. I guess I will give plastic a whirl. She also uses a paper clip to stablize while she bastes the seam allowances. This is a great, simple method I'd never thought of.

Diane told about the many ways to use computers to print onto fabric. She showed us some lovely things, including a beautiful embellished jacket with "cameos" of her mother and a neat quilt of her dog and his favorite items to chase in the yard. I'm going to have to check on what type of ink is in our printer's cartridges and, perhaps, print some sheets and then wash them to see how colorfast the ink really is. I just printed a label onto June Taylor fabric backed with freezer paper and hope it holds up when washed. Hadn't even thought to check.

It was a pleasant day, riding down with Paula through the last of the foliage (more colorful than at "peak"). We caught glimpses of snow on the mountain tops, and she said she had some wet stuff at her house the night before.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A fun time had by all

I forgot my camera every day, but we had fun with Mom even if we didn't record it for posterity. Her plane arrived on time last Saturday but her baggage didn't arrive until Sunday night. Luckily, she could borrow a few essentials, and she is always a good sport anyway. Sunday, we hung around the house and then met Chris for a play in Montpelier. The Complete History of America, Abridged was hilarious, just as we expected - lots of political humor, mayhem, and even some cross-dressing.

Monday, Mom and I headed up to Stowe because the weather was beginning to clear. Most of the other tourists seemed to have the same idea. The Cold Hollow Cider Mill was full, but we did find a few gifties there before heading to the Trapp Family Lodge. Up on top of the mountain, the views were great. We did a little more shopping before going to the Shed, a Stowe institution, for lunch. On the way home we stopped at the Danforth Pewter, Champlain Chocolates, and Cabot Cheese outlets. Mom bought me some lovely earrings.

After all that running around and using our credit cards, I thought Mom would be tired, but on Tuesday she was ready for more. So after a look at the Old Labor Hall and my garden plot, we headed over to Bragg Farm and, later, Morse Farm for maple syrup and other goodies. The ladies at Morse's told me that they had had seven tour buses that day. High season for sure, as people lined up for maple creemies. Chris and Ivy joined us for dinner which was fun.

Wed. it rained, sometimes heavily, so we decided to forego a trip to the St. Gaudens National Park in NH and head to the Porter Music Box Museum in Randolph instead. It was a fun visit and also a good day to end with beef stew in the crock pot.

Thursday was still rainy, but we went out anyway to visit Lauraine and George Warfield over in Weybridge. It started to clear when we arrived, and the foliage was not at peak there. It has peaked here so is a little disappointing. We were pleased to meet the Warfield's granddaughter Anais Mitchell whose rock opera Hadestown we had seen twice in Barre. Paul ws happy to be able to talk to her about singing The Internationale at the Old Labor Hall next May. It was a very pleasant visit, including our tour of Lauraine's quilting room, full of antiques in need of finishing and TLC. People know she's a quilter, so they send her things to fix. Glad they don't do that to me!

Friday, Mom's last day here, we tried to squeeze in all the sights we hadn't taken her to without getting her too tired: the Rock of Ages visitors' center, Hope Cemetery, etc. Cindy, Sandy, and Polly came over for dinnr which was fun, too. I was glad that she was able to meet these friends with whom I have shared so much in the last ten or so years. This morning, Chris drove us to the airport, and we were sorry to see Mom leave. She is so amazingly vital for age 88, so happy to see and do just about anything, and so enthusiastic about life. She is, I think, especially pleased to see Chris growing up so well and to see Paul and me active in our "retirement."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy Banned Books Week!

Sept. 25-Oct. 2 is the American Library Association's annual Banned Books Week, so I thought I'd check and see how many I have read. After all, I live across the street from Katherine Paterson, one of the most famous authors in the world whose books are often challenged in school libraries. She is a champion of human rights, the winner of the Hans Christian Andersen medal (akin to the Nobel Prize for children's literature), and very nice person. Years ago, when we needed overnight coverage at the battered women's shelter, she took a few turns. My favorite book by her is The Great Gilly Hopkins since I hear her voice in Gilly. I also loved Lyddie, the story of a Vermont girl who goes to work in the textile mills of Lowell, Mass. The Day of the Pelican, her latest book, was the "Vermont Reads" selection last year and deals with Muslim Eastern European refugees who end up in Barre right before 9/11.

The most often banned or challenged items of 2000-2009 include some books I've read, but many of them are children's titles. The Harry Potter series tops the list, but I, of course, loved HP and look forward to reading it again, maybe this winter. When Cindy re-read it, she said she noticed Rowling dropped a lot of clues that foreshadowed the last book. Looking over the list, I see To Kill a Mockingbird, another book I want to re-read soon since 2011 will be the 50th anniversary of its publication. It has been chosen the "Vermont Reads" book for next year. It's interesting to see some of my favorite children's books on the list, though, and I will try to get a few of the ones I haven't read to see what all the hullaballoo is about.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall is definitely here

We took a ride out to Wells River, an hour east and over Orange Heights, earlier in the week. The leaves are definitely turning and we saw some pretty individual trees. We are predicting that the foliage will be at peak when my mother arrives on the 2nd, so I hope the weather is sunny and dry that week.

The reason we went to Wells River was to visit Mary, the long arm quilter, and pick up my Asian Jane. She is a busy and talented lady who created the Machine Quilters' Expo. It started "small" in Manchester, NH, where it outgrew its space and is now held in Providence. Now she's working on a west coast MQX. Her two pugs, one of which is the mother of Mark Lipinski's cover-dog, and big black mutt, Bob Marley, greeted us. She did a simple design on the blocks and then curves on the triangles. Now comes the binding which I sewed on by machine yesterday and will begin sewing down soon. Can't wait to see how it looks on the bed.

I have been making a list of all the quilts I have made and see that the closet is overflowing with them. It is time to give a few more away, but I'm not sure to whom they should go. Everyone says they make quilts for their families, but all of my family members have plenty of my quilts. I am thinking of approaching the new owner of a home decorating shop to see if she would sell one or two a year on consignment. The blue and green quilt I just finished was given to a friend who works at Barre City Elementary School for a needy child, and I have a couple more to finish that I'll give her. But even new outlets will have to be discovered. One can only sleep under so many quilts!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Coupla quilts

Here are two recently finished quilts. Actually, they were done a couple of weeks ago but it has been too gloomy on the days that I thought about taking pictures to do any photography outside. I try to "catch the wave" when Paul is doing banjo photography for advertising items on e-bay.

Baskets for Christine includes blocks made monthly since last fall as part of the "Basket Case Quilt" group on Yahoo. I made one block a month and sometimes the bonus, and they often featured dimensional aspects. I quilted many of the blocks as I went along which presented quite a challenge when I put the whole thing together since the blocks varied in size so much. I did enjoy trying out a few free motion quilting motifs in the process. I will be giving this quilt to Christine, the president of the Friends of the Library. Since I put together the "signed by the author" raffle baskets we sponsor, I hope she will think of me when she uses it.

The next quilt is a blue and green scrappy quilt from a pattern Paula, the chair of the Heart of Vermont guild, showed me. It was an attempt to use up some of my scraps but, funny thing, I still have plenty after putting this together. It was quick and easy. Would look good in Halloween colors as well as red, white, and blue. Hmmmm...

Right now I'm making a large purple and pink quilt using scraps along with 4 yds. of a light lavendar background. The center medallion is appliqued, and then there is a scrappy pieced border. Now I'm appliqueing wide borders which should take several weeks to finish. The final border will be pieced uneven nine patches. All of the applique designs came from the latest book by the "Piece o Cake" ladies.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Busy time

Local politics, new beginnings, and meetings are keeping us running these days. As I write this, Paul is at the post office mailing a banjo to England. Our collection of boxes is diminished slightly since he has been working hard to sell banjos, ukuleles and parts this summer. I can actually find the tool box in the garage now. When he gets back, I'll jump in the car to go to the copy shop to enlarge a pattern I need to applique a border on the new pink and purple quilt. I was struggling with the shapes when I noticed, in tiny print, that each should be enlarged 200%. That should help!

Saturday, I went to a town Democratic committee meeting, then home to make lunch for the folks working on the cob shed roof. I'd been told there'd be vegans, so I included some tabouli, pitas, and hummus along with the chard quiche, zucchini bread, and Oreos. When I came to pick up the dishes after my quilt guild meeting, one of the guys asked if I had made Middle Eastern food to commemorate 9/11. It hadn't even occurred to me, but we had the left overs for dinner later, too. With all the brouhaha about building mosques and burning the Quran, maybe that was just the thing to do. The shed roofing proceeds very slowly, BTW, due to the rain and gloom we typically have in the fall. One of the workers had a hammock that he slept in at the site Fri. and Sat. nights, but it was gone Sun. when it started drizzling.

My Saturday quilt guild met for its first meeting of the school year, and we planned a few meetings ahead. I'm looking forward to the January meeting when we'll each bring an ugly and a lovely fat quarter to exchange and make small quilts with. We can only add two other fabrics for a real challenge.

Yesterday, we went to a family brunch at Pat and Jay's to celebrate Jay's 76th birthday and, later in the day, to a reception at Maplecroft to kick off Tess' re-election campaign for Vermont House. The rest of this week will be taken up by meetings for Paul, a pot luck supper for the library Friends, and a dinner at the Old Labor Hall needing set up/take down/cleaning over the weekend. In between, I'll get my threads in and will be thankful to have opportunities to just sit.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

No photos, still busy

I have purple and pink fabrics along with many colored strips of batik strewn around the sewing room. I am in the middle of two projects. One started with an appliqued center from the most recent Piece 'o' Cake book. That 25 x 26" piece is now on the design wall, and I plan to add a few borders before I make some wide appliqued borders. I plan to put the words "Live, Love, Laugh, and Be Happy" in them along with a robin on a vine or branch. I wasn't sure what possessed me to put those on until this morning I noticed that Paul has been practicing When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbing Along on the ukulele. I guess I was receiving a subliminal message!

The other quilt is a scrap-user that started with scraps from "Rainbow Sylvia" and all the 2" strips I cut for the sashing and cornerstones. I'm just making squares using light and dark batiks in 2" pieces, and I have almost enough made for a quilt. I have about a dozen all cut up and ready to sew. This has been a nice project for the hot weather we've had since I haven't been thinking much, just sewing and listening to George Eliot's Middlemarch on my iPod. I have read it several times before but thought it might be a good one to re-read.

When I don't feel like sewing, I've been reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It is a really great look at life for white and blacks in Jackson, MS, in 1962. Told from the points of view of two maids and a young white woman, the inequality of their lives and the young white woman's growing awareness is very well drawn. I watched Haley Barbour the other night tell about how he grew up in integrated schools, particularly college, and since he is older than me, I know that wasn't the case. My friend Laura says that Barbour plans to run for president so I will keep my ears open.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Louise Penny

One of my best discoveries this summer was the author Louise Penny, recommended by Christine, the president of our Friends of the Library. Penny's mysteries are set in rural Quebec, just over the Vermont line, so Inspector Gamache and his staff cope with lots of snow and ice as well as enjoy lovely vistas as they solve crimes in Three Pines.

A host of quirky villagers reappear, and after five novels, I know them and their village well. There's a green with the three pines, a pond with ducks, and some park benches. The bistro is flanked by a bookstore owned by a "traditionally built" black psychologist who has run away from city life. Also attached to the bistro are a bakery and general store. Poet Ruth keeps a duck, Rose, as a housepet. Clara and Peter are artists who also live on the green. It all sounds idyllic, but bad things still happen. When Gamache and his staff have to stay in the village to solve a crime, they stay at Gabri's B&B and use the firehouse as their command center. A big old house, where several deaths have occurred, looms over the village.

The characters are a mix of English and French speakers, but Penny handles this quite well, making it clear when they switch, but not annoyingly so. I love the way people of various backgrounds speak quizzically about the habits of the others. The French women are portrayed as stylish and well made up, while English ones are sometimes unconcerned about their appearance.

My favorite so far has been A Rule Against Murder, set at a neighboring inn where Gamache and his wife always spend their anniversary week. Penny's next book is coming out in October, and I can't wait to see what Ruth, Peter, Clara, et al are up to.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reviewing my UFO list

I am not a great fan of to-do lists, but I do keep a UFO (UnFinished Object, a/k/a Works in Progress) list. It helps me keep track of the various things I have started. These are stashed in the closet on hangers, in pizza boxes (one is under the bed), and elsewhere. Along with UFOs, I make a list of projects I have completed, and it really is an eye-opener. Yesterday I actually finished two projects. One I started and finished, and the other has been languishing for several months.

Surfing around, I found a very cute pattern for a pin cushion shaped like a little tote bag at Click "shop," and then "free patterns." I couldn't resist cutting it out, and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I was finished. While I was cleaning up after that, I noticed a Christmas stocking I had started in May. Our guild makes them to fill for needy kids, and I had the front of one all done. I cut out a back, but did it wrong, so I needed to cut out another back and the lining. I did this and sewed it all together in about half an hour. Another UFO done!

My finished projects list includes 3 lap-sized quilts, two wallhangings, one more quilt top ready for quilting, a Dear Jane block for my secret pal, and yesterday's two projects. Amazing!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A coupla quilt photos

Here are a few things I've finished in the last weeks. First is a stack n whack using police fabric. I decided to give it to my cousin Nicoline's husband, Piet, who will be retiring from his job as a Dutch police officer at the end of the year.

Next, there's "Willy's Log Cabin," a quilt started by my aunt Willy Baljet. She made the very precise log cabin center. Each block was made on a muslin foundation and include some polished cottons. There were two strips of what I think of as flower pots, too, which Tante Wil pieced entirely by hand. I have been pondering how to put this together for a number of years, since my cousin Nicoline, Wil's daughter, delivered it and a whole suitcase full of fabric and UFOs. Now that it is finished, I'm going to give it to Nicoline.

Cooking today

There was a touch of fall in the air this morning, and it seemed a perfect day for a little marathon cooking. I stopped at my garden plot this morning for a zucchini, a summer squash, a patty pan squash, and some Swiss chard, along with a couple of pretty little sunflowers. The latter look lovely in a Delft vase given to us by Kathleen, a long-ago guest, wife of Larry the magician, formerly known (before 9/11) as Dr. Anthrax.

When I got home, I grated the summer squashes, set some aside in a freezer container, and used the rest for zucchini bread. I'm still using my mother's recipe:

Beat 3 eggs, and add 1 c. sugar, 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. oil.
Stir in 1 T. vanilla.
Add: 1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice
Mix well. Then add 3 c. flour and 3 c. grated zucchini, adding about a cup of each alternately.
Add 1/2 c. of ground nuts, wheat germ, and/or raisins.
Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

I have 4 of these babies in the freezer and they make me smile every time I look at them. They will be great for pot lucks or on a snowy day when we want a treat.

As the zucchini bread was baking, I mixed up 60 minute rolls using the recipe given to me by John, the checker at Hannaford's. His family had a bakery when he was growing up and he says these are never fail. We'll have them with Mulligatawny soup tonight, which has a fresh zucchini in it, of course!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Seven interesting things

On another blog, the person told seven interesting things about herself, so I thought I would follow suit:

1. I love licorice. My old and very proper Tante Pim said this is a sign that I am really Dutch. For my birthday, Paul gave me a box of All Sorts, which I am hoarding but enjoying tremendously.

2. I am afraid of heights - can't climb up more than 2 steps on a ladder, can't climb on roofs, have trouble looking down from towers and high landmarks (although I suck it up and do it usually). At Mesa Verde, I apologized to Paul but said, at the last minute, that I just didn't think I could go on a tour of one of the cliff dwellings because I saw people climbing a huge and very unsteady-looking ladder out of the dwelling at the end of the tour.

3. I love cats even though we now have a dog. I still miss Digger and Shep, my two longest-lived kitties. But I don't think I'll ever get another one since I hate cleaning cat boxes.

4. I was always a closet purple lover until the book "Color Me Beautiful" came out and I found I am a "summer" (as opposed to a winter, autumn, or spring in coloring). I cleaned out my closet, got rid of all the olive and oranges and happily started wearing purple and hot pink. Mom had always said that purple was for old ladies, but I notice she sometimes wears it now, too.

5. If I had to choose one food that I couldn't live without, it would have to be pizza.

6. I would like to travel to Prince Edward Island (home of Anne of Green Gables), Alaska (home of the protagonists in Sue Henry's mysteries), England (home of my favorite authors Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer), and Hawaii (to see the quilts).

7. My family is very important to me. I have two brothers, Axel and Rob, and a sister, Jenny. I wish we all lived closer together, but I do enjoy visiting them or having them visit us here. In 2000, I learned I had two more siblings, Jacqueline and Edwin, in the Netherlands. I was surprised and pleased to have an even wider circle.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy August!

Here it is, August 1, and this morning I had to wear my fleece hoodie to the grocery store. I hate the thought that summer is roaring to its inevitable end. A tree top, visible from our dining room, is beginning to change colors. Paul says it must be diseased but I think it's just an early "bloomer."

Yesterday was a great day. I turned 62 - already signed up for Social Security and, when we go to pay our taxes, we'll both be eligible for Green Mountain passes. We'll pay $2 for lifetime entry into state parks and historical sites. I had calls from Mom and Dad and Axel, a visit from Chris, great presents to unwrap, and a very nice day. Paul and I went to see "Always... Patsy Cline" at St. Michael's Playhouse and had dinner at Lucia's afterwards.

Today I am updating my quilt journal. I have a year's worth of pictures to enter. Looking at my UFO list, I had a productive July, too. I finished quilting and binding "Rainbow Sylvia" on Friday, finished quilting Piet's cop quilt, made two tops for Camp Agape, made a few Dear Jane blocks ahead for my Secret Pal, and finished and delivered three small quilts to the Mad River charity quilt auction. I thought I was stash busting, but couldn't resist Dee's birthday special. Bought 10 yards of fabric!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The parade

My neighbor, Winnie, took this photo as I walked by during Saturday's parade. Ironic that I was in front of the LWE, a place I try to go to 2-3 times a week. Tess couldn't walk with the Greater Barre Democrats because she was with the Vermont Historical Society group. So I said I would carry her sign. It was a long parade, and I'm glad the Dems. were float #25. Next to me is Janna Osman, wife of Donny.

If I look hot, it's because I was! It was about 90 out with high humidity. Afterwards, Paul bought me a huge strawberry smoothie and, later, at home, I drank a quart of water.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Whole lotta quiltin' goin' on

I started this very busy week by finishing a bathmat/small beach towel (using an old Maplecroft towel) for Yve's new grandson Noah. She sent me the fabric with its two-by-two animals, and it turned out really cute. I hope she likes it. I listened to a Librivox recording of Persuasion by Jane Austen while working on this, and it was really fun.
Wednesday, I delivered three small quilts to the Mad River charity quilt auction, to be held this fall. One is from a pattern called "Ivy Twist" and was the "sit 'n' quilt" quilt at the Central Vermont Quilt Show this spring. There were two almost identical 36" square Sunbonnet
Sue log cabin quilts which I quilted a little differently just for fun.

Meanwhile, I've been working steading to quilt the Rainbow Sylvia's Bridal Sampler. I put the blocks together in three strips so they'd be easier to quilt. Now I'm putting the strips together, and it is looking good. I quilted each block a little differently which has made it fun. I used mostly off-white thread for quilting, but some blocks demanded color from my box of varied rayon threads. In one block, I quilted my initials in pink. After I finish putting the strips together and quilting the intersections, I'll sew the left and right side borders on and quilt them using "Borders Made Easy" paper. Then I'll decide whether the quilt needs another border or simply binding. It's about twin-sized now.
I'm squeezing this quilting activity into a very busy week, culminating in the library Friends book sale and Heritage Festival this weekend. Thursday we set up tables under tents provided by the National Guard, and a raft of pre-teens brought the books up from the library basement. Yesterday, I helped sell books for a few hours with Lois, who entertained me with stories about her family. We saw quite a few people we knew, too.

Paul and I had dinner last night under the Barre Ethnic Heritage tent - Vietnamese chicken salad, Mostaccioli with meat sauce, Tourtiere, and Pasta Frollo - to the sounds of French Canadian music in the park. Today I'll be with the Greater Barre Democrats in the parade and we'll indulge in street food before collapsing at home. Tomorrow we'll go to the open house at the Granite Museum. Phew!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heat wave continues

Last week, we had a six day heat wave - officially, 6 days with temperatures over 90 degrees. It was muggy and continues to be so, even though it's only about 80 today. Wednesday, Paul and I went to Boulder Beach in Groton where it was delightfully cool under the shade trees and in the water. Thursday I sat in front of a fan and finished another Inspector Gamache mystery by Louise Penny. They are great, set in a small village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, near the Vermont border.

Monday was slightly less humid so we went for our annual visit to the Shelburne Museum. There were photos by Ansel Adams and ? Burtynski, a Canadian whose emphasis is on industrial photos. Some of those were beautiful, including one of Barre's Rock of Ages quarry in winter. There was a crazy quilt exhibit as well as a special traveling Alzheimer's quilt exhibit curated by Ami Simms. Some of those were incredible.

Throughout this time, I've been working on a quilt for my cousin's husband Piet who will be retiring in January from his job as a police officer in the Netherlands. I bought the fabric by mistake and then was intrigued by the way it looked when I stacked and whacked it. It came out pretty nice! I am going to make a quilt for Nicoline, his wife and my cousin, too, since I just happen to have a UFO of her mother's still hanging around my stash. It is a lovely log cabin in pink polished cottons. Tante Wil did a very meticulous job on the log cabin blocks which will again form a medallion for Nicoline's quilt.

I'm waiting for some fabric from my friend Yve who lives in Rochester, NY. She asked me to make a little quilt for her new grandson Noah and, while I don't usually do commissions, I would never say "no" to Yve, one of our very first guests at Maplecroft.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat wave!

According to the weather people, an official Vermont heat wave involves our having three days of 90 degree temperatures or higher. We seem to be in the middle of one. It was nearly 75 degrees when I got up this morning at 5:30. My question is, what do they call it when we have multiple days of 89 degrees? Suffice it to say, these days are best spent at the mall, in the car with the AC on, or at a lake, not upstairs sewing. This morning, I am headed to the garage (with its AC on) for an oil change. This afternoon, I'll spend a little time at the cool library.

But in between, I will probably be sewing on the second of two quilts for Camp Agape. I finished one yesterday with bear fabric. It's definitely outside my comfort zone, but the top is put together, and I'll wait until it cools before quilting it and Rainbow Sylvia made with Sylvia's Bridal Sampler blocks and finished over the weekend. I'm not sure if I'm going to put borders on it, so I'm letting it rest for a while in three pieces. I don't even know if I'll quilt it or if I'll send it out to Mary to be quilted. No hurry!

On the 4th of July, we cooled off at Pat and Jay's island on Greenwood Lake where we took a dip and had dinner, followed by a boat parade. Our boat had a "Take me out of the ballgame" theme, and we came in first out of the six boats, kayaks, etc. We were sick of the song by the time it all ended. The prize was a gallon of wine from Camp Divino. I think the ladies who paddled their kayak all the way around should have gotten a prize for sheer effort.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cleans up nice!

Chris went to a wedding yesterday. It's been a long time since I saw him in a shirt with buttons and tie. He didn't want his pants to get covered with cat hair so he left them at our house and changed here. Gave me a perfect opportunity to make a photo for Oma!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Riding on a VQF high

I look forward to the Vermont Quilt Festival every year and, although I was sorry it moved to the Burlington area from nearby Northfield a few years ago, I do love the spacious new, aicronditioned facilities. Thursday, I took two classes with Cindy Erickson of Omaha. I had signed up for a class with Gail Garber, but it was cancelled at the last minute. So I ended up taking "Rotary Tips and Tricks" in the morning. It was a bit of review for me, but I did learn a few things and Cindy was really fun and easy going. We discussed whether or not to pre-wash fabric, when to change needles and rotary cutter blades, etc. Cindy showed us how to tape templates on the bottom of our rulers and turn them so we wouldn't have to draw around them and cut. I'm going to try this with diamonds in particular.

I had signed up for Cindy's afternoon class about settings. She had Powerpoint slides with a host of examples and then showed a pile of quilts and tops. She now cuts and sews cornerstones on separately in order to be more accurate and allow some easing of blocks if necessary. I tried that when I got home, and it does work.

Cindy had encouraged us to bring in batches of blocks for us to "play" with, so I brought the 70 or so Sylvia's Bridal Sampler blocks I have made. I would like to move on and work on something else, but I also want to put these varied blocks together. Cindy suggested that with a lot of disparate blocks, a simple setting may be the most effective. Here we are moving the blocks around. Arranging the blocks in a rainbow fashion with matching sashing and cornerstones seemed best. The beige fabric I bought for sashing seemed uninteresting that I will probably just use it as a background for other quilt blocks, or maybe even the back. This was a really fun class.

When I got home Thurs. night, all I could think about was arranging those blocks, which I did... endlessly. The next day, Polly and I went back to the quilt show to see the various exhibits and shop the vendors. I made a bee-line for the batik and hand-dyed fabrics and got some "gradations" from SewBatik as well as two packets of various hand-dyes. When I got home that afternoon, I did a final layout and started auditioning sashing. Saturday, I made a few more blocks to fit, color-wise, into the blank spaces. Today I washed the batiks so I can get busy cutting soon. Can't wait!

Saturday afternoon, Paul and I went back over to St. Michael's College to see the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which was lots of fun. We had a delicious dinner when we got back to Barre at Lucia's - filet mignon with eclairs for dessert. We are hoping to get to two more plays at St. Mike's Playhouse this summer.

Sunday morning, we handled the Barre Historical Society booth at the Vermont History Expo at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds. It was fun chatting with people with roots in Barre and also looking at the other societies' booths. Later in the day, I made my fourth trip over to Burlington in as many days to pick up my 1930's Baby Jane that was in the special Treasures of the Green Mountains exhibit at VQF.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Reading, knitting, quilting

I never mind rainy or snowy days because they present good excuses for my favorite activities - reading, knitting, quilting, and shopping (although central Vermont doesn't have many opportunities for the latter). But yesterday, it was a lovely summer day and I did a little of everything, too. Paul visited a luthier in the afternoon and declared it had been a perfect day. I agreed.

Mad River Quilts was having a sale, so I drove down to Waitsfield and indulged in a little "Vitamin Q," shopping mostly for boy-oriented fabric. Lisa was selling half-yard cuts for $2 and whole yard cuts for $4, so I got a few to make quilts for Camp Agape. These quilts are oddly sized, 39" x 75". This will be my summer project after I finish quilting the moose quilt and the quilts I'm giving to the Vermont Charity Quilt Auction. One of the latter is waiting to have its binding sewn down while the other two log cabins need to be quilted.

I knit a little on my periwinkle scarf but I am finding the flame pattern very annoying. I have to keep reading the directions on every other row and, even then, I make mistakes. The flames are certainly not in line and every once in a while I find I have added a stitch. Ugh! It's not relaxing and I wonder if I should (a) rip it out and start over with a new pattern or (b) keep at it.

I was happy to see Sarah Addison Allen's latest book on the "new" shelf at the library the other night. The Girl Who Chased the Moon has Allen's usual magical elements and tells the story of a teenage girl and a young woman who both are trying to find their places in the world. It has the usual quirky southern characters that I enjoyed in Allen's other two books, Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. These aren't "heavy" books with a message but are light, quick reads for enjoyment.

These are truly the "dog days" of summer - we had potato salad and roasted vegetable panini for dinner!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Among the Moose"

I've been spending a little time each morning and afternoon quilting the throw I mentioned, a wedding present for friends. It's really fun although I'm still not sure what I'll do when it's time to do the four cream center squares. So far, I'm just going around the red shapes and the brown border. I was thinking names, date, place but we'll have to see how I feel when I get there.

Yesterday, I also started knitting a lacy periwinkle scarf. It's another complicated pattern so I have to look at the directions on every other row. Eventually, I hope I find a rhythm and won't have to look so often, just as I did with the pink scarf. Both of these are slim and long, to be wound around the neck twice. This one is bamboo, so it's really soft. I thought I would give Sandy some yarn and the same pattern for her birthday. I downloaded the pattern from Knitpicks which is a great source for yarn and patterns. It's a gloomy day today - perfect for quilting, knitting, and finishing up a good mystery. The house needs vaccuuming - maybe tomorrow!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ready to quilt

I've been working feverishly on a quilt to give friends who are getting married this summer. It all started when I decided to make them a set of place mats. I made a few blocks and liked them, so got carried away. I ran down to Dee's shop and bought a few more fat quarters and other things. I already had 2 yards of brown "Dimples" fabric I used for the border. The "placemats" are all set together in a 60" x 60" square now!

The rest of the brown has been cut and pieced into binding. I love "Dimples" by Gail Kessler because that line blends with just about everything. The warm brown has darker brown/black polka dots.

I put the sandwich together yesterday and quilted one small section. Today, I'll start quilting in earnest, but I plan to take my time as I did with Evelyn's quilt last summer. I get sloppy if I hurry, and I have more than a month to finish. This must be the summr for weddings. Paul and I are going to one next weekend, Chris is going to one July 3, and we have another to attend mid-summer. Chris and I are going to shopping for something for him to wear this week.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

High tea at the Brown Palace

While on vacation in the Denver area, we celebrated my mother's 88th birthday a little early with high tea at the Brown Palace Hotel. We asked our waitress to take our photo afterwards. Don't we look contented? Mom, Dad, and Paul ordered the "standard" tea while I ordered the "chocolate lovers" one. Jenny had a special gluten-free tea with fruits, an assortment of sorbets, shrimps, and humus-stuffed celery. Hers looked almost better than ours. Our three tiers included two kinds of scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, assorted tea sandwiches (cucumber, roast beef, and turkey), and little pastries. There were some yummy chocolate macaroons that I will try to find a recipe for, as well as chocolate cups stuffed with flavored creams and petit fours. Tea was at 3 pm, so we didn't eat dinner later - just snacked around 8 pm. It was an elegant and fun end to a nice week.

Georgetown Loop Railroad

We're back from a quick (one week) trip to Colorado to visit my parents and sister. Last Thurs., we took Mom on a trip to Central City and to Georgetown, about 45 min. west of Golden, to ride a restored mining railroad to the tiny town of Silver Plume. From station to station, it's only about a mile, but due to the loop and curves, it's 3.1 miles via the narrow gauge train. The railroad doubles back on itself in order to have a gradual rise in elevation. There was snow visible on the mountain tops. We went over a very tall iron bridge in the process. Even though we were in a covered railroad car, it was rather chilly and we regretted that we'd left our sweaters in the car.

There are two trains running between the stations, and each stops in the middle to pick off/drop off visitors to the restored Lebanon Silver Mine. We didn't opt to take that tour, having seen a few other mines in our day (and being a little chilly). Here's the other train coming our way. Our conductor, Willie, got off to work the switches.

The stop in Silver Plume offered a gift shop and a museum of older railroad cars. The one marked "sleeper" had wooden siding and a bunch of roll-away cots. Not my idea of comfort!

It was a really fun excursion. Afterwards, we went into Georgetown (population 1,000) for lunch at an Italian bistro and did a little shopping in some very nice gift shops.

Central City, where we stopped before going to Georgetown, is a cute town, too, having seen a boom during the gold rush when the population was 30,000. It now has a population of 450, but many of the restored historic buildings are populated by "one-armed bandits." Neighboring Black Hawk has more casinos, but the center piece of Central City is thankfully still the Opera House where I saw "Tosca" several years ago with my parents and Tante Willy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Feels like summer

Driving home from the mall this afternoon, it felt like a summer Sunday in mid-July. The mall was pretty quiet for a weekend and very few people were on the road. The sky was a pure blue and the temperatures on the warm side. But it is only May and who knows what can happen with the weather. The first year I lived in Vermont, 1978, the heat was on on Memorial Day.

Ever optimistic, however, I planted my tomatoes and parsley yesterday in a new, small bed beside the back porch. It looks good, all mulched, and green. The Early Girl tomato plants are fairly mature and have blossoms, which I hope will lead to an early crop. Downtown, at the community garden, I have planted a long row of green bush beans, a couple of small rows of Swiss chard, hills of summer squash and little pumpkins, and a few small-sized sunflowers. I wanted to have just a few flowers to cut. The garden column in the paper says that all this stuff should wait until June, but I just can't! And the weather prediction is for more days like today most of the week so I think I'm safe.

I started making a special birthday gift for this year's Dear Jane Secret Pal. It's almost all hand-sewn so is good for days like today. I had to go to the mall to get some pink embroidery floss for said project and to pick up my newer Viking machine which was in for its annual check up. Good to have that baby back! I have several quilt tops that need quilting.

Later this afternoon, we'll head down to the library for a friend's book launch and signing. Afterwards, I have a barley salad cooling in the frig for dinner with cold cuts and rolls. Summer food!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gorgeous weather!

All the leaves are out, the temperatures are in the 70's, and the humidity is thankfully low. This kind of weather is what we brave the miserable winters for! I sat out on the porch earlier with my knitting and expect to do so before dinner, too, with a glass of wine. Ah, spring! Yesterday I dug up my community garden, which is about 3' x 6'. Maybe tomorrow I'll spread some manure and plant. I have also dug a place next to the porch for some tomatoes and parsley, and have some thyme and lettuce in planters outside. This is about a week earlier than "normal" for Vermont, or at least the past when Memorial Day was the time for planting.

Today I drove up to Burlington to meet Pauline on Church St. for lunch. We sat inside at Leunig's but they had the windows open to the street, so it was like being outdoors. She has a tan already. I bought a dress at Clay's since we have several events to go to this summer and was pleased that I fit in a "L" rather than my previous "XL." After leaving the city, I headed over to my favorite quilt shop, Yankee Pride. I want to make another Sashiko-style tote bag and maybe some placemats using a line of fabrics called "Dimples," and got some in black and dark brown. Because the lady who helped me had an interesting accent, I asked her about it. Just as I suspected, she is Dutch, so I told her I was, too. We have the same name, which was fun.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Survived the quilt show!

Last weekend's Central Vermont Quilt Show was a real success, despite pouring rain Saturday morning. The Friday night opening ceremonies featured our mayor and his wife who selected their favorite quilt, as did two other celebrities, a state representative who is also on the board of the Old Labor Hall and the president of the Barre Partnership which helped us hang quilts in merchants' windows as publicity for the show. Even though attendance was lower than last year, everything really went smoothly, much to my relief, and it seemed more relaxed and "together." Someone called the show "cozy," which is what I had been aiming for.

Our featured quilter, Kathie Alyce, was very pleased with her reception by visitors to the show and, I suspect, with sales at her booth. I loved the way we arranged her exhibit separate from the vending spaces, because it made her work more visible and offered her a space to talk to people about individual quilts.

The demos were well-attended and sometimes even had people standing around watching. I wish I could have participated but hope that some will repeat at guild meetings in the next year. I would particularly like to learn how to work with hexagons.

For the most part, the vendors were pleased by their sales and the interest of visitors. One told me that last year he sold nothing on Saturday, but this year, things were flying out the door. A couple of vendors didn't do as well, but I was also pleased by the number of raffle tickets we sold, both for the quilt and the Featherweight sewing machine.

And then there were the quilts and totes! We kept saying they were better than last year, but I bet next year we will say the same. They all looked wonderful! The wooden racks we rented were a little difficult to assemble and a little wobbly, but they looked fine with quilts on them. A slide show of the quilts and the show is available at My big purple quilt and my pink "Summer" quilt are hanging on the Old Labor Hall's porch by the entrance. I entered the purple round robin quilt, which won the "Featured Quilter's Award," and my "3 Hannaford's Bags" tote won one of the "Challenge Awards."

Now it is time for evaluation and, I hope, passing the torch to someone else next year. I have a pile of stuff for that person(s) who I hope will shoulder most of the responsibility. It is time for Paul and me to move on to other activities. I am grateful for his help and that of son Chris who climbed many a ladder over three days and brother Axel who came from Wisconsin to help.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Yesterday, while we were having lunch downtown, we looked outside Lucia's window and saw snow streaming down. 24 hours later, it is still snowing like mad, and we probably have 6-8 inches of wet slop on the grass, trees, and street. I went out this morning to knock snow off the lilac bush which has juicy buds on it. I hope it still blooms this year. The crabapple in the front yard presented a bigger problem. I tried to knock some snow off but the branches were frozen and a little fragile. I guess Barre Town is "higher elevation" because that's where the weather was predicted to be. Last night I drove down to the library and found no snow in the city at all.

The library program was fascinating and was part of a state-wide reading of Katherine Paterson's new Day of the Pelican. A panel of four refugees from Bosnia, Burma, Afghanistan, and Congo spoke about what caused them to leave their countries and what they faced when they came to Barre. After leaving their countries, all four made intermediate stops, some of them for many years, before coming here. Marijana from Bosnia told of their five years in a prison-turned-refugee-camp in Croatia. She, her mother, and three sisters lived in one tiny room (cell?). When they came to their host's house in Berlin, they were initially uncomfortable in the two large bedrooms they were to share. Htar Htar, from Burma, was most touched by the parenting she received since her parents are revolutionaries and very busy. Over the years, I have watched her grow into a very confident young woman.

The "Samosa Man" from Congo said that language was the biggest problem for him, but he has certainly overcome it in the 10 years he's been in the U.S. His business, started after he was laid off from his job, is burgeoning, and he's now talking with national chains like Whole Foods to be outlets for his yummy products. Ruhin from Afghanistan was an honor student at our high school, graduated magna cum laude from St. Michael's College, and plans to go to medical school and "give back" to the people of the U.S. All of their stories were incredibly touching, and we are lucky to have them in our community. They, too, reminded us of the value of this small community and its inherent good. It was a "feel-good" night.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Crunch time" is here

This year's Central Vermont Quilt Show is less than two weeks away, and things are pretty much on schedule. Yesterday, Laurette and I spent some time at Shaw's selling raffle tickets, and more are to be sold next weekend at Lenny's. Small quilts by guild members are going in at least 20 downtown merchants' windows by the 29th to publicize the show. We have a timetable for set up and take down, and a bunch of volunteers lined up.

As we wait for the Big Day, I am burning some nervous energy sewing. This past week, I made two small log cabin quilts in traditional blue and red, and Friday I put together a Project Linus quilt kit I'd had hanging around for six months. I need to get up to Joann's later today because I don't like the fabric the P.L. people put in for the border. It clashes terribly. But I hope to be finished by the end of the day. My newer sewing machine needs to be taken in for its annual service, but I'm afraid I might need it between now and the show.

I also discovered a great block of the month online ("In the Pink" - link at right) that I might get ready for. It has tulips and seems like just my style. Quilt therapy is just what I need right now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Big purple quilt finished

I always love putting that last stitch in the binding, which is what happened this afternoon with "The Big Purple Quilt." Many of the fabrics came from my stash and from my Dear Jane Secret Pal. Some also came from a half-bolt I bought from Mary. I really like the combination of beige and purple in this. Quite a few blocks came from Quiltmaker's 100 blocks for 2010, and I especially enjoyed making the appliqued ones. I think samplers - Dear Jane, Sylvia's Bridal Sampler, and more - are my cup of tea. After the quilt show is over, I will get back to SBS, although I have been tempted by a number of magazines' patterns lately.

In the photo, above the bed is a round robin I did with an online group many years ago. I wasn't wild about the yellow when I got my Mariner's Compass back, but I have come to like it. Our first houseguest in our new house woke up at 2 am when it fell down on top of him. Since we've put it back up - on the same nails (living dangerously) - it has behaved.

To the left of the bed are two counted cross-stitch pictures that my sister Jacqueline made. I like having all those nice things around me when I sew. My sewing room is also the guest room, and the first guests to sleep under the Big Purple Quilt will be some from England who are coming for Primo Maggio. It will be cozy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No time to post!

With the Central Vermont Quilt Show only a few weeks away, I am working steadily on all things quilt! Last week, Suzy and I visited featured quilter Kathie Alyce to discuss the layout of her area and look at candidates for her retrospective. I am pleased with what we came up with as it is more of an art exhibit that people can sit and enjoy. Kathie will have a vending table elsewhere near the other vendors.

I've also been making up the little ribbons using our show logo. Judy will come over and help me finish them the week before. Marilyn printed the logo on fabric which I cut and sewed in 4.5" x 4.5" squares. Now I'm writing on ribbon which we'll attach and then quilt the little squares. Writing on ribbon is hard because you have to find a pen that doesn't bleed.

I'm writing to all the entrants, getting an ad together for The World newspaper, and laying out the floor. Paula and I went up to the quilt show in St. Albans Sunday to scout around. I was pleased to see that their City Hall lighting was perhaps a little worse than ours at the Old Labor Hall. We're having a committee meeting today to discuss final details, and next week we'll be recruiting volunteers at the Heart of Vermont guild meeting.

The Calico County Quilters' wallhanging is ready to enter into the show and, afterwards, the Vermont Quilt Festival. (I signed up for two classes at VQF this year - can't wait!) Now I have to sew the sleeve onto my entry into the show.

Meanwhile, Paul is gearing up for Primo Maggio at the Old Labor Hall. He'll be going on "Across the Fence" sometime during the week of April 26, so I'll drive him and Karen over for the taping on Friday morning. Gave him a haircut yesterday and need to iron a shirt! The main speaker for the dinner April 30 is coming from England with his wife, and they'll be staying with us. I have a quilt I'm sewing the binding onto now and hope to have it done for them to sleep under.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Welcome Spring! library raffle basket

I just finished putting together this month's Friends of the Library raffle basket. Every spring, the owner of the Jail Branch Greenhouse gives us a box of essentials and a $20 gift certificate. I add a book related to gardening and put it all together in a basket. This year's basket was one Chris rescued from a friend's trash. Amazing how everyone is pulling for me to keep this project up. It doesn't make a lot for the library over the year, but people seem to enjoy it.

Besides The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Vermont author Ed Smith, the basket includes a garden placque, seed starting medium, tree wrap, wooden lables, a cute flower pot with a face, spray bottle, mini rake, gardening gloves, landscaping fabric, plant foods, and a wrought iron plant hanger. I couldn't get the hanger or the book into the basket. So I put the book under the basket and shrink wrapped them together. The hanger will have to sit under the circ. desk for the winner to claim. But I did put a picture of it on the poster. I'd like one myself!

The last few days have been very spring-like, offering us all inspiration for planting. We grilled the first burgers of the season yesterday for Easter dinner. But it was 33 degrees this morning, so we have returned to more seasonable weather.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Candidates debate at the OLH

Last nice the five Democratic candidates for Governor debated at the Old Labor Hall. We watched on TV as Paul was wisely nursing his cold. He would have joined the crew to set up Wed. and last night, but I'm glad he took it easy. The last thing we need is more pneumonia in this house. Here's a recap, from left to right on the podium.

I was impressed with Susan Bartlett whose hair seemed to have gotten a touch of wind before going on camera. I'm sure she'll be mortified when she watches it back. But she made lots of sense and I was pleased to hear she believes state employees have been cut too much. She seems the least likely to win, but I always found her very supportive of libraries when I attended the Lamoille Co. Librarians' legislative breakfasts. A very no-nonsense sort of person that might make a good member of the next Administration.

Matt Dunne, the youngest candidate and the youngest person ever elected to the state legislature, was very impressive. I think he could really capture the younger voters. He believes that the cost of health care is what is killing state and local budgets, including school budgets. He advocates a state-insured system for all, which is do-able in our small state and to which we seem to have been working since the creation of Catamount Health. He offered some very interesting ideas about what to do when Vermont Yankee closes. Of course, he brought up the need for broadband everywhere in the state which has long been his "issue."

My long-time acquaintance Deb Markowitz, current Secy. of State, seemed not as well versed in the state's fiscal issues even though she has headed her agency for 8 years. Her answers were generic. She got laughs when she talked about her kids and why they don't want to settle in Central Vermont - no jobs, no dates, nothing happening. But that wasn't all that meaty and to the point. I wonder why she isn't showing her smart legal mind more.

Doug Racine, my favorite from several years ago, is still my favorite. He talked about showing respect for teachers and state workers and has a great way of criticizing the Douglas administration and Lt. Gov. Dubie (the Republican candidate) in a direct but kind manner. I like his initiatives on statewide health care. I suspect he will not win the primary because he seems so nice, yet I think he could do a lot to mend the poor morale of state employees.

My old nemesis from closing SERL, Peter Shumlin showed himself to be tough and outspoken. He is in the hot seat when it comes to Vermont Yankee, but he isn't backing down in his efforts to close it. Yet he recognizes that the employees will need help finding new jobs, perhaps out of state. I think he would be a very strong Governor, but not so easy to work with all the time. I remember that, during the SERL hearings, he took me aside to say that I was doing a great job. It puzzled me at the time but I think he believed I was listening to all sides. Last night he impressed me by saying that, while he considers Dubie a friend, he is "not up to the job" of Governor at all.

It will be an interesting summer, and I am looking forward to a debate between Dubie and any of these five people. Any one will be sure to run right over him.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taking it easy

I've been recovering from pneumonia for the last couple of weeks. This is a new experience for me since I almost never get sick. A few weeks ago, while we were having our new floor put down, I had some flu-like symptoms but thought it had to be a cold. After all, I had both flu shots. But things progressed, and last week I finally went to the doctor when I couldn't stop coughing and kept feeling worse. I'm happy to say, I'm feeling much better with antibiotics and lots and lots of rest. I know that overdoing it too soon can lead to a longer convalescence. The doctor said rest, healthy eating and lots to drink are key.

So I've become a "couch potato," reading and napping a lot. I have read almost every Constable Evans book by Rhys Bowen and enjoyed being an armchair traveler in Wales. I'm about to start on Bowen's Mrs. Murphy series and hope it's as good. I re-read a couple of Georgette Heyer favorites - The Grand Sophy and Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle. They were just as good as I remembered them. Yesterday, I got out some knitting and am now well along on a nice variegated blue scarf. Maybe I'll give it to Axel if it's long enough. I ordered some pink cotton yarn to make a scarf for myself, and I also ordered a few more books. You know I'm feeling better when I start shopping online again.

Tonight we are missing the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band concert at the Opera House, but we are happy that our friends Karen & Chet are able to take our seats. I'm still coughing too much and too tired by the end of the day to take a chance. But Paul bought tickets for Beatlemania for mid-April as a consolation. With snow flurries and a stiff wind, I'm glad to be in today. I've also made dinner the last few nights, and tonight we'll have roasted chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, and asparagus - a perfect early spring meal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Our house is in an uproar...

...but the new floor is beginning to take shape. Matt spent most of Mon. and Tues. prepping. By last night, he had the dining room and a third of the living room done. It looks beautiful, but we really are feeling at sixes and sevens. For days, the top step carpet to the basement was ripped up, so I felt nervous about carrying laundry down. I'll be able to do it tomorrow, though, since the new nosing is on. Paul has one clean flannel shirt left - and he wears them 9 months out of the year!

Max, our dog, keeps looking for a quiet place to be and follows us everywhere, including the bathroom. He hates noise and this is quite a noisy job. I usually sit in the living room to applique and read, and there's a painting on the bed in the guest room, so I join him in looking for a comfortable place to be. I am quilting a maple leaf wallhanging for my Saturday quilt guild to enter into the Vermont Quilt Festival special exhibit of the "Treasures of the Green Mountains." I've actually made pretty good head-way, using variegated beige thread on the background and variegated fall colors thread on the leaves (thanks, Karen!).

Through it all, I seem to have developed a cold. I don't have a stuffy nose, just aches and chill. It feels like flu but I had both flu shots, so if it is, it should be a mild case. At any rate, ibuprophen and Vitamin C are keeping me going.