Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Christmas!

It's snowing like crazy yet again.  I have the Christmas tree lit and music playing.  Later, Chris will be coming for gifts and brunch, if he can get here.  Can you smell the bacon that I'll be cooking?  The road crews have been busy already today; they know everyone will be out and about this morning.

Today's miserable weather reminds me very much of a funny part in Jane Austen's masterpiece, Emma, in which Mr. Woodhouse gets it into his mind to dine at the Weston's despite the snowy weather.  I may just have to get my copy out today and re-read Chapters 13-15.  You can read about it hereJane Austen's Scrooge ends up not being the weather-obsessed curmudgeon Mr. Woodhouse.  And, on the way home through the snow, the plucky but somewhat clueless Emma manages a difficult situation as she rebuffs a proposal from the very creepy Mr. Elton.

However you spend the day today, may you be surrounded by warm thoughts and memories.  May the coming year bring you peace and happiness.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Looking back at 2017

According to, I've read 72 books this year.  I think there were a few that I didn't finish, but it was a good year for reading.  I discovered a new author I like - Kelley Armstrong - whose mysteries have a lot of suspense and a hint of fantasy.  She is more known for her fantasies.  I read more cozy mysteries than in the past and read the latest by some favorite authors featuring endearing characters like Kinsey Milhone, V. I. Warshawski and Inspector Gamache.   I'm looking forward to Elly Griffiths' new book this spring and have Jennifer Chiaverini's newest - The Enchantress of Numbers - queued up on my Kindle.  It is great to have good books to read when the news is so depressing.

I got a lot sewn and quilted, too, including 14 quilts and lots of littler items.

I enjoyed making a little wallhanging for Cindy's friend Taylor who graduated from Cornell Veterinary School.  While I don't generally enjoy paper piecing, I will do it when necessary!

I was relieved to finish hand quilting my Atlantic Crossing wallhanging after two years and to call a pink scarf I was knitting done, too, after about as long.  Now I'm knitting a white scarf - how long will it take me and will I forget the pattern as I did with the pink scarf?
I learned several new techniques, including David Taylor's invisible applique (done with that icky plastic thread I don't enjoy using) and wool applique embellished with embroidery (I'll be doing more of that).

I sold two bed-sized quilts, entered a quilt into my first art show, and had a one woman show complete with artist's reception and gallery talk.  All were pretty successful.  The two quilts I had for sale at the florist's downtown didn't sell, so I swapped them out for two others.   I'll probably change them out for others this spring.

I wish I could find homes for more of my quilts now that the Parkinsons Quilt Project is no longer giving them to Parkinsons patients.  I did give three quilts - two small and one large - to a family fleeing the hurricane in Puerto Rico.  I know they'll be cold settling in Vermont.

In 2018, I hope to quilt the three tops hanging in my closet and I know there's a t-shirt quilt in the offing.  Drew, Paul's greatnephew, will be graduating from high school and his mother is gathering up all his wrestling shirts for me to put together.  I'd only do this rather boring job for Drew.  I have a couple of round robins and swaps I'm participating in and will again be making a concerted effort to shop my stash.

Wishing you all happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Roots/Blockheads sampler

I finished putting the "Back to our Roots" swap/Moda Blockheads sampler quilt together over the weekend and even made the binding.  After I took some photos, I hung it and the binding up in the closet in my sewing room.  I can't decide whether to quilt it myself (it's about 60" x 75") or has Marie to use her long arm on it. 

If I do it myself, I'll need to take it to the Old Labor Hall to pin-baste, and then I'll do every block individually.  With the black sashing and borders, I guess I would use gray thread to do the whole thing.  If I have Marie do it, she'll use an overall pantograph, but she is very careful and likes to pick something that would complement the quilt.  So it will come down to how much time I feel I have.  This makes three quilt tops hanging in the closet which is about my limit.  It makes me uncomfortable to have too many just waiting, although I don't have any particular people or places to give them to at the moment.  I still have to piece backings for all three quilts.

I would like to come up with another name for this quilt, too.  My online swap group is an international one, and every year we do a swap that nearly everyone joins in on.  We started as a group swapping blocks from Jennifer Chiaverini's Sylvia's Bridal Sampler, and some of these blocks come from that group that did a "Back to Our Roots" swap this year.  Some of the blocks not in that book are blocks of the week by designers from the Moda fabric company.  Some of them were quite difficult so I made a few 9" rather than the usual 6".  When I laid the blocks out the three star blocks seemed perfect accents.  Maybe a star-related name will come to me as I give myself a little distance.

My Elna machine is going to be going in for its much-delayed annual service and cleaning, so I am working on a wool applique project for the next few weeks.  My old reliable Viking 100 is good for basic sewing but probably won't fit into my new sewing table.  The holidays will help me avoid work-arounds!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A work in progress

My online Friendship Swap group had a "Back to Our Roots" swap this year, recalling our founding around Sylvia's Bridal Sampler, a pattern by Jennifer Chiaverini.   The group started swapping those 6" blocks some years ago, and occasionally we swap them again.   Most of the blocks aren't too hard, although there are a few appliqued ones with tiny pieces that I have never attempted.  2017 was the year for us to run the swap again, and coincidentally the Moda fabric company also had a free online 6" block of the week called "Blockheads."  Some of these were very complicated, so I made some 9" blocks instead.  The one closest to the foreground was made at 9" just because I wanted to fussy cut a William Morris charm square.

I really shouldn't do blocks of the week because I hate having to get the project box out for a half hour and then putting it away again.  I generally end up doing 3-4 weeks at a time and then get impatient to finish before the year is out.  As it is, the Blocksheads project is still going on but I dropped out several weeks ago.  I'm glad to combine these two projects to get a larger piece anyway.   I combined some Civil War fabrics that my Mom gave me from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum with the William Morris charm pack and other scraps from my stash.  The swap blocks were all different fabrics, making a colorful quilt.

Now it's time to put all these blocks together, and I laid them all out over the weekend with a black print fabric for the sashing.  I dipped into my orphan block box and then made a few more blocks to get it all to the 48" x 60" size.  As you can see, the 9" blocks are interspersed and will end up being focal points with a little wider sashing.  Because it's so busy, my plan is to add a smallish print border all the way around instead of adding a scrappy pieced one.  Will have to see when it's all put together.  I have only put the vertical sashing in on about half the blocks so far, and when I finish that process, I'll figure out the size for the cross pieces.  Matching the blocks up so that the rows align a bit of a delicate operation.

As I put it together, I think about how I'll quilt it.  Should I do it in two halves or all together?   Should I do an overall loose stipple (hard for me to achieve consistency) or do a different overall design or quilt each block individually (a little better)?  Or should I simply ask a long armer to do an overall pattern?   

Friday, December 8, 2017

Westview talk

Wednesday I gave a little talk at Westview Meadows retirement community in Montpelier, where I have some quilts on display through January.  They routinely have an artist's reception for their changing gallery space, and I was surprised and impressed that they had coffee, wine, and yummy snacks on hand.  There were about ten people there all together, including Priscilla, who I had shared an office with for many years and who was my witness in court at my divorce.  Also, Katherine, my former neighbor and world famous children's author, attended.  It was good to see them both again.

Talking about each quilt in turn gave me an opportunity to discuss various techniques and materials, including the swaps and round robins I join in, machine quilting vs. hand quilting, where I get my ideas, etc.  They all asked good questions, and in the middle of my talk, Santa breezed through.  I just happen to know him when he isn't Santa, so that was a big surprise.  He's coming to our library this Saturday along with the lovely Mrs. Claus.   I assume the two of them are pretty busy these days.  At any rate, it added an unexpected touch of whimsy to the talk.

I brought another quilt for show and tell, and encouraged everyone to look at the backs of the quilts with the gloves I have provided so that they can see the quilting more distinctly.  (This photo is from that other show)

Afterwards, one woman wanted my advice about finishing and quilting a Grandmother's Flower Garden, and some friends. Almuth and Peter, arrived to support me and see the quilts.  They had the time wrong, but I gave them a personal tour.  It was so nice of them to come.

Looking at the quilts in the show, the Blue Orange Peels, and my current Storm at Sea project, I feel I have used enough blue for a while.  I'm now able to say that I can finally close the lid on the tub holding blue scraps.  In 2018, I'll try to work on some other colors.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Mug rugs

I temporarily suspended my work on Storm at Sea in order to put my walking foot on the machine and make a few mug rugs for neighbors, our yoga teacher, a friend, and a gift exchange at an upcoming party.  They are so easy to make, yet people who don't quilt find them unique.  I always attach a little note telling what they are ("Enjoy your new mug rug!  Add a cookie for a complete meal, or use with wine and a snack!").
Here are four I made using orphan blocks.  One is a test block from Dutch Treat for a friend whose favorite color is blue.  I made another quilt as you go with 2" scraps and chili pepper fabric.  Now on to those Christmas letters!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I have all the component parts of the Storm at Sea quilt finished and may even end up with a few extra.  This will be fine as I've been moving various colors around to get a good mix.  Each block has small and large square-in-a-square blocks and diamond blocks.  The points need to meet fairly closely, so I've made the squares a little oversized and then trimmed them down.  I still have to fudge to fit, but after doing two blocks, I think they will go together OK.  I will need to remember to press the rows in opposite directions or they just won't fit together easily.   It all takes some concentration, so I'll take it slow.     

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sisters Choice

I can't remember when I started this - sometime this spring - but I finally finished it at the end of October.  I used my Go Baby! die cutter for the Sisters Choice blocks, so the blocks went together quicker and more accurately than if I had cut them myself.  The quilt grew and grew so that I needed to buy more fabric (the yellow pin dot mostly) and dig into my scraps, but it all started with a fat quarter bundle of "Dutch Garden" from Boundless. 

It took me a while to quilt as I went very slowly and carefully, using a stencil for the on-point plain blocks, free motion in the pieced blocks, and a 1" grid around the edge of the center.   I kept waiting for a sunny day to photograph it - no luck!  November has been exceedingly gloomy.  But here is a photo from our recent show and tell at guild.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


This week, I spent a little time taking apart a quilted jacket that I really liked but never wore.  I had made it using some hand dyes that I bought from my friend Jenny H. some years ago.  It was too warm to wear inside and too light to wear outside most of the time.  And the sleeves were tight.  So I turned it into a vest.  Paul said it didn't look quite right, so I took it in here and there and also made it a little shorter.   It looks OK now, and it will keep me warmer this winter.

I can turn the leftover sleeves into a tote bag, with the bottom part of the jacket as handles.  But I have set those aside for now.  I really need to get back to my Storm at Sea.  I realized that I made a mistake cutting, which isn't bad as I have plenty of scraps to cut up.  My blue box is overflowing.  I've allowed myself to get distracted because it requires fairly precise sewing.   Intense concentration can be hard at this time of year.

Meanwhile, I've been knitting a little scarf for myself.
It's a very light acrylic yarn with little gold threads throughout that I got on sale last year.  I made up the pattern and it's actually working.  I discovered a couple of years ago that I just don't have it in me to knit a whole sweater or even a pair of socks.  Scarves are good for just vegging out in front of the TV on a gloomy afternoon.  I do have to count a little to maintain this pattern, but a stitch counter attached to a needle has proven handy.  It's not a Christmas gift, so I can let it keep me busy (or not) all winter if I feel like it.  :-)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pre-holiday busy-ness

It seems "The Holidays" are almost upon us, and I don't feel ready.  It snowed yesterday - just big wet flakes, but enough to remind us that winter is on our doorstep.  I just planted spring bulbs last week!We put the bird feeders out, and I did some online gift ordering.  Some books just a few days ago have already arrived, and I'm expecting a few more packages soon.  Amazon is right on top of things (My NJ brother's company works for them, so I know they are!). 

I ordered three copies of one new Vermont title and then a few books that I have enjoyed this year for various relatives who seem to depend on our [retired librarian] suggestions.  I like to mail holiday packages out early - there are at least six each year - and that means anything I want to make for Christmas needs to be finished soon.

My WI brother (at left) has been in the hospital and rehab for three weeks, and I have been putting together recipes for a cookbook to give him this season.  He has diabetes and a number of other health issues, so I'm trying to concentrate on easy and healthy foods he can make after work or on weekends. 

He says he doesn't have time to cook so I'm including some things that can be made ahead and frozen, like the following chicken recipe.  I haven't made it for a while, so I tested my recipe the other night, and Paul pronounced it excellent.  Phew!  Here it is...

Amazingly Useful Chicken

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking pan with sides (I using a roasting pan).    Cut 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves in strips and pile in the pan. Mix together:  

2 T. olive oil
2 t. chili powder
1 ½ t. cumin
½ t. garlic powder
½ t. oregano
¼ t. salt

Sprinkle over chicken.  Sometimes I prepare a while ahead and “marinate” the chicken in this mixture for a while.  In a bowl mix:

One or two green or red peppers, cut in strips
One sliced medium onion
Any other vegetables you would like (zucchini, green beans, etc.)

Pour into pan and mix with the chicken.  Bake 20-25 min., stirring once or twice, until chicken is done.  Serve hot or cold, over rice, on top of a tossed salad (like taco salad), or in taco/fajita shells.

Along with the cookbook, I've ordered him some cooking utensils and will make him a couple of new potholders using orphan quilt blocks.  Other than that, I'm not planning to sew any more gifts for Christmas, but those are famous last words!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Little purses, etc.

Yesterday, I finished making 8 "run around" bags using a pattern by Lazy Girls.  I've made several before, include a couple for Paul's sister Pat.  She wanted some to give to friends in Florida who keep admiring hers.  When I asked her what colors or styles, she said, "Florida."  I hope she likes what I picked out!

One of hers is a little less busy than "Florida" because I thought perhaps she might have a more conservative friend, and I kept two others very similar to the above to give as gifts myself.  They're going in the mail today.  Pat and her husband have been living in a camper in their driveway since the recent hurricane pretty much gutted their house.  I hope these little gifts brighten her day.

And speaking of brightening a day, when I go to the post office with the purses, I'll also step across the street to deliver some quilts to a lady who is getting an apartment ready for her niece and small great nieces.  They are re-locating here in the frozen North from Puerto Rico.  Apparently, Elizabeth lost five relatives in the recent hurricane there and doesn't want to lose any more.  I have been looking for people to give quilts to as my etsy shop doesn't really get much action.  I'm so glad to be able to do this for them!  Here are two of the quilts.

The other is a teal and purple child-sized quilt I made before we got the new computer and lost some of my photos.  My quilt rack still has plenty of quilts on it, just waiting for homes, and during 2018 I hope to keep giving them away until there's a manageable number!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Westview Meadows show

A few months ago, a former neighbor who has since moved to a senior residence with assisted and independent living asked me to display my quilts in their gallery space.  While my brother Axel was visiting, he helped me choose some of the quilts, but the space turned out to be a little longer than we had figured.  The quilts are to be up throughout November and December, and Paul, Chris, and I hung them last Thursday.  It all went rather quickly because of their nifty hanging system which is meant for paintings but works well for quilts, too.  Here are the photos I took with my phone.

In a little seating alcove, we hung the Australian Christmas quilt made with fabrics sent by some Aussies in a swap.  I used the fabrics in a row by row swap to surround a panel of floral wreaths.  I love the subtle colors.  I had brought some Christmas stockings for the show, which we looped over the ends of the rods.  Next came The Blue Bird of Happiness which usually hangs over our guest bed in my sewing room.  It's adapted from an Edyta Sitar design.

To the right of these there's a little jog in the wall with a small wool appliqued vase of flowers which I forgot to photograph.  Then there's a long wall with all the rest of the quilts - Bloom Where You're Planted, E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One), Civil War Sampler, and Atlantic Crossing.  The latter I just finished hand quilted (after two years!) a couple of weeks ago.  It's a Deb Tucker design.  You can see one of the residents taking a closer look at it - using some of the white gloves I brought along for just that purpose.  I was worried about touching because the gallery space opens out into the dining room where oil, chocolate, and other stains might be lurking.

I'm so glad we managed to get the exhibit up quickly, and I'll be doing a short presentation at the center in December.  Here's another photo of Atlantic Crossing.
I love making those "migrating geese"!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Scenes from the museum

The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado, currently has an exhibit of modern quilts, which I saw about a week ago with two online quilting friends.  Many of the quilts were riffs on Log Cabin and Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.  Here are a few favorites.

The rest of the story

Our last days in Colorado were busy but more laid back than Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday afteroon we went to the movies to see The Battle of the Sexes, about the rivalry between tennis stars Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, although it was about so much more than their famous match.  The acting was great.  Late that afternoon, we attended a book signing at the Golden History Museum.  Mom's friend Andi Pearson has written her first novel, and it's set in Colorado, so I can't wait to dive into it.  We had dinner at Purple Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant where Dad has his 80th birthday party.  I love the food there. 

On Friday, we woke to snow!
I met online quilting friends Cindy and Karen at the Blue Sky Café for lunch and then a visit to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum for an exhibit of modern quilts.  It is truly amazing how quilters can be strangers one minute and friends the next, just because we talk the same language and have so much in common.  It was fun touring the museum together as we dissected each quilt and talked about how they were quilted.  Cindy has a long arm machine which was helpful.    We asked the volunteer in the gift shop to take our picture.

Saturday, we accompanied Mom to a luncheon of Indo-Dutch people at a Vietnamese restaurant.  I think the group of 35 overwhelmed the staff a bit, but I enjoyed seeing all the various Indo-Dutch people.  Sunday morning, while Mom went to church, Paul and I visited Buffalo Bill's grave and museum for the umpteenth time.  The view from the top of Lookout Mountain is fantastic.  It was quite windy, so I spent quite a bit of time in the gift shop looking for tchotchkes to take home.
We were going to visit Leadville on Monday, but the weather report (snow and ice) kept us in, which was fine.  We all went to see Victoria and Abdul, starring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, and it was a delightful end to a very nice vacation!

Wednesday in Colorado

Last Wednesday, we got up early to explore Lamar before heading to Bent's Old Fort outside of LaJunta.   The visitors center has a large statue of the "Madonna of the Trails, " one of 12 erected by the D.A.R. to honor the women who traveled the Santa Fe Trail.   As you can see, it was a bright, sunny day (as many Colorado days are), so I couldn't get her features.  Paul said her face looked a little like George Washington's and she had combat boots on (which I would wear, too, if I had to traverse that trail!).
The Visitors Center in Lamar is an Amtrak train station that has been very nicely renovated, and the volunteers there are very enthusiastic about sharing their town which has a somewhat sad downtown with many closed shops.  Up the street, a large truck stop is being built and, they said, will employ 90 people, a welcome economic improvement perhaps.   Also up the street is "the oldest building in the world," a former gas station made of petrified wood.
From there, we headed to LaJunta and Bent's Old Fort.  Along we the way, we passed a farm with a number of zebras feeding.  They were protected by some emus or ostriches (I don't know the difference), and there appeared to be a number of smaller critters (zebra babies?) walking about.  Jenny took a picture, but my phone wasn't up to the task.  When we arrived at the old fort, which has been lovingly renovated, we were greeted by a horse and an ox grazing in the field.  The path recommends watching for rattlesnakes.  Yikes!

At any rate, Bent's Old Fort is the oldest settlement in Colorado, having been built in the 1840s as a trading post.  Our tour guide was in costume and told us about preparing buffalo hides, the experiences of various guests who stopped for the night, and life on the plains.   Two hours flew by.  
From there, we drove to LaJunta for lunch at a small café that seems to attract locals and specializes in home cooking.  The pies sounded great, but we opted for salads.  This sculpture greets visitors, and Paul really liked the dog in the center.  I'm sorry my picture doesn't do it justice.  From there, we headed home to Golden.  More later!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Our Colorado trip, part 1

We were there ten days, but they flew by.  Still, it feels good to be home, sleeping in our own bed, working in our own kitchen, etc.  We arrived in Golden on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 21.  It was good to see Mom again - it's been a year but she seems just as vital as ever, at age 95.  On Sunday we accompanied her to the ballet in HD at the movies.  Live, from Moscow, the Bolshoi presented Le Corsaire, a drama full of pirates and Turks, with some lovely pas de deux and ensemble dancing, notably an "animated flower garden."  Watching in the movies, we get to see the dancers' faces, which is fun.
On Monday, Mom, Jenny, and I did a little shopping - the Dutch store with cookies and cough drops to take home; a wonderful Mexican market with delicious bread; the post office; and the grocery store/pharmacy.  It was a nice day to rest before Tuesday and Wednesday when Paul, Jenny and I headed out to explore the Plains in the eastern part of the state. 

The landscape is entirely different from the awesome Rockies and we passed through some sad, small towns along the way.  Farming and ranching are big here, but Jenny said that many young people have left for Denver and other places to look for work.

We visited three National Park Service sites, with our first stop at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre, which is eight miles over gravel roads from the main highway.  It was sad to learn that so many Native Americans were slaughtered here.   Our park ranger, Jodi, gave an excellent talk.  We went up a windy hill to a monument and overlook.  As you can see the sky was brilliant, but it was very windy.

From there, we continued toward Granada and the Japanese-American Relocation Center called "Amache."  It was a large site with barracks and common buildings which are no longer there except for a few rebuilt structures and lots of cellar holes.  There is a museum in Granada but during the school year it's only open with an appointment.  We could drive through and were impressed (not in a positive way) by the sheer size of the "center."  The map shows all of the sites around the country during the 1940s.

I have read quite a bit about the Japanese relocation, including Tallgrass
by Sandra Dallas (which I plan to re-read since she based the story here), Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida, The No-No Boy by John Okada, and The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  This tour really brought the sadness to life for me.  I was impressed by the cemetery we stumbled upon.  It contained the bodies of men from Amache who volunteered to fight for the US in WWII.

From there, we headed to a motel in nearby Lamar and dinner at a Thai restaurant which was quite good.  More tomorrow...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Quilting challenges

Our speaker at guild Tuesday night spoke of challenges and how they can help you grow as a quilter.  I must say that Dear Jane was a personal challenge that helped me grow a great deal and, as a bonus, introduced me to quite a few like-minded quilters all over the world.  Usually, I participate in at least one swap and/or challenge in my guild each year.  This year, I'm doing three of the five, and I may even do one more.

Tuesday night, we chose three paint chips from a bag and have to make something out of those colors.  The majority of the fabrics in whatever we choose to make have to be those colors, so today I did a little digging in my stash.  I had chosen lime green, light blue and a medium blue, and I have quite a few scraps in those colors which go so well together.  Another person I was talking to chose red, purple, and brown, so I'm really feeling lucky.  I hope to make a mini pineapple quilt.  We'll see how it goes!  I don't think it's due until June, so I have everything in a baggie waiting for a snowy day (which could of course be in the next couple of weeks, but I hope not til January).

The next challenge will be an Ohio Star block swap in any colors we choose.  We need to make 21 blocks, which shouldn't be hard at all.  I love that block.

I also signed up for a "block robin."  This will result in a sampler, which I enjoy making.  We each put fabric into a bag with a request for whatever size blocks we want.  We make three blocks a month for the other people.  Here's a sneak peek of what I made for Marie who included one challenging print that wasn't quite straight with the grain.   I needed to fussy cut the centers of the 12" blocks, but they - Cake Stand, Cypress, and Maple Star -  turned out pretty good.

This year, I chose a bunch of black and white prints, oranges, and yellows.  I'll be doing the guild's "blocks of the month" in the same fabrics while my bag goes around so that I'll end up with at least 25 blocks in the end, and maybe more if I feel like making more in between times. 

I have plenty of UFOs so may also join in the UFO challenge, which we can begin at any time.  Tuesday, several people showed their UFOs that they hope to complete this year, and it was sort of like an old fashioned "altar call."   One lady showed the blocks from last year's "block robin," but mine is already finished and we're sleeping under it.  I felt smug!

Monday, October 16, 2017


According to "Good Reads," I have read 59 books this year so far.  My year's goal was 62 books.  But I think they count the ones I didn't read all the way, which is fine with me as some of those took quite a bit of time to get to the point where I couldn't stand reading anymore.

Recently I have been embroiled in a number of books by authors who all seem to publish their books in the fall each year.  Sue Grafton's Y is for Yesterday was just terrific.  I will miss Kinsey when her series is over, and I am curious to see what Grafton offers for her in Z is for...  I also loved Jan Karon's To Be Where You Are, her 14th Mitford book.   Somehow, I found the writing more delightful than the past few books.  A reader can get frustrated by her switching characters between chapters without telling you who's narrating, but about mid-way through the book, you get used to it.  Father Tim always saves the day, in his own way.

Louise Penny, who lives just over the Quebec border from Vermont, came out with an excellent Glass Houses this fall.  A mysterious being arrives on the village green and silently watches.  Who is he/she/it after and why?  Again, the wise and kind Inspector Gamache handles it all.  Penny has a wonderful way of building suspense and, although I try to savor her annual books, I find myself turning pages quickly to find out what happens next.

I enjoyed Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner, a light romance about a young woman who leaves busy London and sets up a traveling bookshop in Scotland.  I would love to visit Scotland someday, and small village cozies set there really are fun for me.  And I discovered a couple of new-to-me authors this summer that I will keep looking for.  Dawn Lee McKenna was recommended by Karen and writes about a rural part of Florida that I am intrigued with, and Kelley Armstrong, known for her fantasies, has also been writing mysteries set in an off-grid town in the Yukon that shelters people who don't want to be found for one reason or another, beginning with City of the Lost.  I can't wait for the third book in the series.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lots done, nothing to show!

Some time ago, I started making the weekly Moda "Blockheads" blocks.  They're six inches and some have been quite challenging.  I even converted a few to 9" just because of the challenge.  I think I've made 25 or so, and, as is typical of me, I'm tired of working on them. 

Last week, I swapped out six inch  Sylvia's Bridal Sampler blocks from an online swap I hosted, and that garnered 25 more blocks.  Together, I have about 60, with some orphans I've had hanging around.  I laid them all out, and they look great with the black and red print I bought for a thin (one inch or so) sashing.  Yesterday while I was at A Quilters Garden, I noticed that the bolt is getting low, so I bought another yard "just in case" (famous last words!).  I'll get them all together after we get back from Colorado on Halloween.

Meanwhile, I finished hand quilting Atlantic Crossing, the Deb Tucker wallhanging I started in the summer of 2016.  It really didn't take me that long once I got going, and now I'm stitching the binding down onto the back.  It looks good, but I think I'll hang it once it's done to get the wrinkles out before I hang it at Westview Meadows in November and December.  We're hanging that show November 2, so I have everything else ready to go.

The photo is a sample for an international swap I'm participating in during 2018.  I made a couple for the group to choose a Missouri Star pattern from.  But I also made one to go in my guild "Block Robin" swap bag this week, too.  That one has a black on white background with orange and yellow accents.  It's a small group, so we'll each be making three blocks per month as the bags go around. 

We're leaving Saturday for ten days, so if I am at a loss for something relaxing to do, I'll stitch the binding down on Sister's Choice.   I don't really want to start something new before we head out to Colorado.  I'm looking forward to doing some sightseeing, meeting some old friends for lunch, and meeting up with someone I've been swapping with for a few years.  I know the time will just fly by.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wrestling with a quilt, helping a neighbor

Looking through my quilt project journal, I noticed that I started making Sisters Choice on June 1.  I have tried to keep up with blocks of the week for the Moda Blockheads program (sometimes 3 or 4 at a time), and a few smaller things.  But mostly I've been working on that quilt all summer.  It took three weeks to quilt the center, and now I am finally finishing up some log cabin borders that I'll need to quilt.  I rue the day I decided to quilt it in sections as it seems so unwieldy now.  I will be adding the last border and then will add more batting and backing fabric to all four sides.  Only then will I be able to quilt it.  Next time, I'll try to quilt the whole thing once it is put together and,  perhaps, not do the tedious 1" grid crosshatch that took me so long in the center.

My online swap group has decided to swap 12" Missouri Star blocks in 2018, and I volunteered to write the guidelines.  There are several methods of making this block, so I've been testing them out.  The one at is paper pieced, which I'm not wild about doing, especially if we're making 15 or so blocks.  But we found several rotary cut directions that may work, and my trusty Judy Hopkins Around the Block Again book has one, too.  It's a nice block.

For the same online swap group, I swapped 6" blocks from Sylvia's Bridal Sampler out over the weekend and took two trips to the post office to mail them back to people.  The blocks are really nice, and mine should go well with the Moda Blockheads blocks.  As I've been working on the Sisters Choice quilt, I've been thinking about sashing and settings.  Navy blue?

Most of yesterday was spent helping neighbor Manny with a PowerPoint presentation.  He and Paul are doing a program on the earliest settler of Montpelier, Col. Jacob Davis, on October 16.  I've already transferred Paul's photos to .ppt slides, so I have become more adept at using Microsoft's Picture Editor feature.  I spent the morning putting Manny's photos into .ppt format, and then we spent some time discussing what to keep/take out and how to use PPT itself.  It's been interesting.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My first juried show

"The Fabric of Our Lives" officially opened on Sunday afternoon with a reception that was quite well attended.  I had no idea how many pieces were chosen for the exhibit; there were 12-15, so my "Blue Orange Peels" (beyond the crowd in this picture) had a lovely spot just as you walk in. 

The historic Waterbury Grange hall is slowly being renovated, and the owners plan to leave many of the features as they are.  The stage is small but high enough for a band, and the walls have been stripped down to plaster.  The light is great due to the tall windows.

There were some interesting pieces, including a couple of quilts made of old sweaters and fleece jackets; very realistic stuffed animals made of fake fur, canvas, and embroidery; an intricately woven throw; and some abstract canvases made of pieces of Aran sweater and of straight pins interestingly arranged.

Paul took several nice photos, and I do think the blues look great against the rough walls.  The show continues through November.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The teal mini swap

My friend Sonja told me about a swap in support of ovarian cancer research.  The organizer of the Teal Mini Swap sends each participant a small piece of teal fabric and the name of another quilter somewhere in the country and Canada.  We are to make and send a mini quilt or mug rug to our partner some time during September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.  Some of our $15 contribution goes toward this worthy cause which is also a fun way to meet quilters around the country.

I was matched with Valorie from Oregon, and her package arrived a couple of days ago.  Wow!  Here's the mini:
Funny - I was thinking of using the exact same pattern for her mini!  Guess we were well matched.

Valorie also sent me some other goodies - a lovely knitted tote bag with felted wool accents and bright buttons; a mug rug; a little "Quilting" book; and a very cute, colorful pincushion.  The pincushion is made of ribbon sewn together - very cute.

Here's what I sent to Valorie:
I had fun choosing colors of the rainbow for this (one of the star pieces is lime, not yellow), and while I did some machine quilting, I added some accent hand quilting in the star.  What a fun swap, and for such a good cause.

Last Tuesday walk of the season

The Tuesday morning walkers went out of the Town Forest yesterday to go up the Grand Lookout Trail.  It's a relatively easy walk with a slight incline and an amazing view at the end.  It has been hot and humid for the last few days, so the morning fog has been slow to burn off.  From the Grand Lookout, we could still see very low hanging clouds and not as much fall foliage as we had hoped.  Still, there are some amazing trees turning red, losing their chlorophyll.

After we reached the parking lot, we had a little tail gate party.  One of the walkers, Pam, often says when we reach some nice spot, "this would be perfect if there was a cappuccino bar."  Paul and I produced a cooler with some "Frappacino" drinks (very sweet) and gluten-free muffins (two of our walkers are GF).  It was the perfect end to a very nice summer of walks!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Nothing to show

I have been quilting the Sister's Choice quilt center for several weeks and finally the end is in sight.  It's crazy because it's not very big - only crib sized at this point.  The 20 blocks are set on point with plain blocks in between.  I did some curvy quilting in the Sister's Choice blocks along with stitch in the ditch, and then I did a 1" grid in the setting triangles, which was tedious.   Now I need to mark and quilt the plain blocks for free motion quilting.  I will clean my machine while I'm at it. 

After I finish (this week sometime?), I will set the quilt aside while I work on a few other projects:
  1.  a row robin that just arrived from Pat
  2.  the guild block of the month
  3.  the Moda Blockheads blocks of the week I have missed (3 or 4)
  4.  appliqueing the borders for Sister's Choice by machine using David Taylor's method
  5.  hand quilting the Atlantic Crossing wallhanging for the show at Westview Meadows in November

I sometimes wonder where my time actually goes, but then I remind myself that quilting is a hobby and doesn't need to be done at top speed.  I can take my time with some projects (even though it's nice to finish one once in a while).  Meanwhile, I've been engrossed in several good books lately, including Y is for Yesterday (Sue Grafton), Glass Houses (Louise Penny), and the latest Jan Karon (on my Kindle so I forget the title!).   Chris helped me wash all the windows in the downstairs inside and out on Saturday.  I also packaged and mailed quilts to my former mother-in-law and to an old high school friend who has weekly dialysis.  I have another to pack and mail to my nephew.   I'm happy to be slowly down-sizing - translation... making room for more!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Doing the math!

I have mentioned that I've been invited to show my quilts at a senior residence in November and December.  While my brother was here, he helped me pick out quilts to show.  However!  at that time, I thought I only had 9 ft. of wall space to fill.  Hence, I chose three wallhangings for that space.  In re-reading my notes (thank goodness I took some!), I see that I have 19 ft. to fill.  OMG!  That is 228 inches!

I decided to add the Civil War sampler (65") and another small quilt (37") to the mix.  And luckily, they have sleeves all sewn on.   That will allow about 6" of space between each quilt, which I had forgotten to take into account. 

I've made good progress with hand quilting Atlantic Crossing, partly because it's been quite sunny lately.  It's actually too hot to quilt out on the porch, but just fine inside.

Now to buy a couple more curtain rods and some picture hanging wire.  I will have to rummage around for wire cutters and write descriptions of the quilts for labels, too.   This show is a lot more work and worry than just hanging three quilts up at the library.  I'll be glad when everything's hung and I can quit obsessing!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Waterbury Grange show

Last night we braved commuter traffic (so many cars heading toward Stowe!) to deliver my Blue Orange Peels quilt to the old Grange hall in Waterbury Center for the "Fabric of Our Lives" show.  What a nice surprise to see two people I knew, also dropping off pieces.   I am still puzzled about why they chose the more traditional of the two quilts I entered, but I guess I'll find out more when I attend the opening reception October 1. 

It looks like the hall is still a work in progress, with unpainted walls and new stairs.  Paul said the floor looks great, though, and many old Grange halls show a lot of wear from dancing and various gatherings.  Artwork will be hung from the ceiling, which has a suspended grid and will work well for quilts on dowels or curtain rods.  Now that the quilt has been delivered I'm really feeling excited about being chosen!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Yet another rainy day

I don't really mind rainy days - I have lots of good books to read and quilts to make.  And because it's nearly fall, I have things I'd like to cook.  I started the morning making a Greek orzo salad for the Democrats' picnic tomorrow.  Here's the very easy recipe:

Cook a box of orzo, drain, and cool slightly
Chop and put into large bowl:
    1 c. tomato
    1 c. green pepper
    1 c. onion (or scallions)
    1 c. feta cheese
    a goodly amount of fresh parsley (if you don't have any, some dried will do but not the same)
    any other vegetables
Mix and add in 2 small cans of sliced black olives, and then the orzo

Mix up the dressing and pour over:
     1/2 c. lemon juice
     1/2 c. olive oil
     salt and pepper to taste
Chill and serve.  It makes quite a bit and is even a nice vegetarian meal on a hot day.

Then, for something more in keeping with the season, I made a large pot of spaghetti sauce with meat.  It has lots of spices, including thyme, rosemary, basil, bay leaves, oregano, and marjoram and will cook most of the morning before I put some in the freezer for later.  In order to do that, I then cleaned out the freezer to make room.   It's only the bottom part of the refrigerator, but stuff can sure get buried away.  I even took out a Dutch pastry that I saved for Christmas and never got around to serving.  I hope it tastes OK but am not going to bank on it!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Getting ready for shows

I entered two quilts into an art show called "The Fabric of Our Lives."  I had no idea what to include
in the Artist's Statement which was kindly returned to me by the show organizer because I really didn't say how my pieces fit the theme.  I realized what I had said was all the mechanics of how I put the quilts together, what patterns they are, etc.  I moved that stuff, so important to me but not to viewers, to a space for "other information" and wrote 75 words relating each quilt to the theme.   This one I renamed E Pluribus Unum, "out of many, one," which is quite appropriate for a mashup of scraps.  I think that was somewhat of a stretch, but apparently what the organizers are looking for.  They will contact me by Sept. 10.  Meanwhile, I have sewn hanging sleeves on both quilts.

Then there's a show I will be doing at a senior community in Nov. and Dec.  Today I sewed a few more hanging sleeves on.  It isn't difficult but just takes some time.  Luckily, it rained all day, so I stayed cozy on the couch sewing and watching cooking shows on TV.  I have a few smaller pieces that need sleeves for dowels, and I'll have to get some picture hanging wire for them, too.

And of course there's hand quilting and finishing my Atlantic Crossing wallhanging for the show.   I'm half-way around the alternating geese border now.  Will I be able to get the burgundy I need for the binding?  Hope so!  I want to have all of this, a price list, and an artist's statement ready for the hanging before we head to Colorado in mid-October.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Life is short

I got word yesterday of another high school classmate's passing.  Our class was large - 618.  But L. stood out for his excellent academic record and his athletic prowess.  Sixth in our class (I was #24, right ahead of the guy who was voted "most intelligent"), L. did well in football, basketball, and baseball.  He was a quiet, private person.  I asked a friend what happened:

Turns out L. died in his sleep, sitting on his favorite recliner. Between us, please, L's life was rough with alcoholism being a contributing factor.  L. died pretty much a pauper. Such a brilliant man reduced to such a humble existence. Breaks my heart.  But L. had such love and hope in his heart. Always positive. Always encouraging others. Very religious all of his life.

I always thought that L. went off to college in PA on a full scholarship. Turned out, it was a football scholarship, he got injured his freshman year, lost his scholarship, returned home and worked to put himself thru the UMD to earn his degree. Later, he earned a Masters at UNT. I can't help but think that, being 6th in our class, he could have easily gotten an academic scholarship, for sure. But L. was so self-effacing, he probably didn't give that a thought.

...He came from very humble beginnings, and all of us in West Rockville knew that his parents were poor, but he was a leader among us. We looked up to him and his quiet dignity and would have followed him thru Hell.

A long time ago, I had a form letter from L., asking for money because he was down and out.  I was a single mom at the time, trying to make ends meet in my fixer-upper.  So I couldn't help him.  I thought at the time how sad it was that he felt he had to do that.  He had appeared so capable and had such promise, but  deep inside he was just like the rest of us.  He was married a few times, had three kids who seem to be doing well, and was friends with his ex-wife from whom he rented a room.   I imagine his strong faith got him through a lot of ups and downs.   But his is still a sad story, and I am counting my blessings.  Mine may not have been the most exciting life, but keeping my head down and going about my business have worked for me.   My health is good, I have love and friendship, and lots of food for the mind and spirit.  What more, really, do we need?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Walking in the forest

We haven't had as much rain lately, so for Tuesday morning's walk in the town forest, I proposed taking a trail we haven't used this year because it tends to be wet.  Going along the Mainline trail to look at the tree identification signs put up a few years ago, we ended up taking a slightly backwards route to the Empire Lookout.
This is a little dark, but we had nine people, including six from our neighborhood.  Nancy, Suzy, and Chris live elsewhere in the city or town, and we are a fairly congenial group which welcomes new people.  You can see that most of us wore jackets because the mornings have been in the 40's lately.  But the sun came out on the way back to the parking lot, and it got fairly warm.  We took a winding route back that climbed up past the Little John Quarry, and then walked along Pierre's field to a part of the VAST trail we rarely use. 

I will be sorry to see the walks end at the end of September and wonder where we can go to get such great conditions.   Even though we have to watch for tree roots and stones in the forest, the dirt trails are cushiony underfoot.  The mall is dull and its tile floor is hard;  downtown is OK except for the traffic; the neighborhood or the treadmill get old really fast.  

Next week, weather permitting, we'll try Rauli's Run, a new trail for beginning bikers.  Should be interesting.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Late summer company

My Wisconsin brother, Axel, was here for 9 days, and we've been keeping him busy most of the time.  Now that he's gone, he's keeping me busy with laundry and chores that didn't get done while he was here.  We visited a variety of museums and galleries, shopped for souvenirs a little, had some good meals, and walked in the town forest, albeit slowly since he uses a cane.
We watched his intake of food as he needs to lose quite a bit, so tonight we're treating ourselves to some peach-blueberry pie.

While Axel was here, he helped me figure out which pieces to include in a show at a Montpelier retirement community this November and December.  There are two walls, one 10' long and the other 19' long.  The shorter one has some furniture in front of it, so I plan to put only one quilt there.  I'll put three smaller quilts/wallhangings on the longer wall and then three mini pieces on the support part of the wall that juts out between the two walls.

Now that those decisions are made, I have to finish hand quilting my Atlantic Flyway wall hanging and put hanging sleeves on a couple of the quilts.  I also decided to enter two other small quilts in a different show, "The Fabric of Our Lives," in Waterbury Center Sept. 27 to Nov. 21.  One of those needs a sleeve, too.  And I'll have to inventory my collection of curtain rods and dowels.  Wow!

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Another UFO got finished last week.  This is the pinwheels quilt I made using a couple of "Boundless" charm packs and some leftover white fabric.  I like the striped binding best of all, although the striped yellow flannel back is very nice, too.  I quilted it very simply and sturdily so that it can be washed frequently.  If I don't take it to the library to raffle off, I'll take it to the flower/craft shop downtown for sale.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Quilters' bus triip

Saturday, I was up and out the door before 6:30 am to meet Jan and Marilyn at the Park 'n' Ride.  I drove Jan's car to Lebanon, NH, where we met a group of other quilters bound for Massachusetts.  The trip was arranged by the Northern Lights Quilt Guild, and it left slightly early.  Guess we quilters are an eager bunch. 

Our first stop was the Quilted Crow in Bolton, MA, where we were greeted with coffee, lemonade, goodies, and a free fat quarter.  The rather large store offers a variety of styles, from Kaffe Fasset to Jo Morton, including a great selection of hand-dyed wool.  We were all like kids in a candy store, and the line to cash out was long but offered a nice opportunity to chat with some of the people we were traveling with.  I got some fat eighths and a scrap bag of wool before heading out onto the lawn to eat a sandwich.

Our driver ably navigated what looked like a very busy highway to get us to Lowell, MA, and  the New England Quilt Museum.  The town was the site of many textile mills and still retains some cobbled streets and abandoned brick factory buildings in its downtown.  The museum used to be a bank and has enlarged its exhibit space since I was there about 20 years ago.  Its two shows were fabulous. 

First was an exhibit of the best quilts from various guilds throughout New England.  Viewers were asked to vote on their favorite, and next year the winning guild will be invited to show there.  Most of the quilts were fairly traditional, so I loved them!  This New York Beauty features a lovely border design.  My favorite quilt was a sampler, mostly paper-pieced, of Cape Cod, but it was difficult to stand back far enough for a photo to do its justice.

The other exhibit was called Threads of Resistance and depicted some very creative, yet often angry scenes related to our country's current political situation.  One consisted of many colored squares with a hot pink pussy cat hat front and center.  Another showed an American flag with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, noting that patriotism means supporting the country but not necessarily the president.

After the museum (which has a great gift shop!), we wandered down to a couple of art galleries which had special quilt-related exhibits, including one with quilts on the theme of "the little black dress." 

The National Park Service Visitors Center offered an overview of the sites, which are all fairly walkable, including the artist Whistler's home, now a museum.  Jack Kerouac, who also grew up in Lowell, was featured on a panel, and I was pleased to see several familiar books about nearby Lawrence's Bread and Roses strike.  I would have enjoyed a full day in Lowell, but we had to board the bus at 3:30 to get us home before 7 pm.  All in all, it was a very fulfilling day, a true quilters' holiday.

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Be My Neighbor" quilt

It's finished!  What follows isn't the best photo since I took it with my phone indoors. 
But I'm pleased with the way this swap quilt turned out.  Each person made two blocks, which were somewhat large so fairly easy to do.  Several of the 16 blocks have birds, others have simple flowers, and all have just a hint of yellow in them.   The pattern was a block of the week from Moda.

I used cream fabric between the rows and as borders and then used a yellow binding to tie all the other yellows together.  I need to measure it, but it is a good-sized throw, simply quilted, mostly in the ditch.  I did use some of my machine's fancy stitches here and there for fun.  I tried a couple of houses before settling on fabrics for swapping, so there are two extra blocks on the back with signature blocks of those participating in the swap in the windows.  I wrote the block numbers on the signature blocks so I have a key to look at later.  I love the fabrics everyone used.

My Moda Blockheads blocks of the week have piled up in the meantime, so this afternoon I made this week's block.  Tomorrow I'll try to catch up with the two or three others I have missed while working on Be My Neighbor.  It's so nice to finish something!