Sometimes We Lounge


Warm sun, palm trees, deep blue sky, heated pool. Ahhhh! After lunch at the “other swimming hole” we all relaxed in lounge chairs, working on the tans. (Slathered in #75 sun screen, with hats, sun glasses and SPF 50 cover ups) We’re old. And wise. 


I’ll spare the bathing beauties photo and just say, the hot tub was popular.


The “A Team” cooked a delicious dinner. “B Team” was on clean up. Yep, we are a well oiled (or should I say lubricated!) machine. 


But did we SEW? Heck yes we did. It’s a Quilting get-a-way, after all!


We were not ready, but had to return home after a fantastic few days. We all decided a month is the right amount of time next year, Andra! Susie took this picture at the airport. You can’t believe how many comments we got, carrying our machines through the terminal.  Fellow travelers bonded because they are “Bernina People” too! Notice the machines are OUT of the cases….   Susie’s case was too large for the overhead bin so she took her machine out and carried it on.  Then, the airline lost the checked machine bag! It has since been found after a considerable hassle. 


I thought I was pretty darn clever, 1 bag, everything I need, clothes, project and machine. Fits in the bin, carry on, SWEET.  Note to self: NEVER BRAG AGAIN. 

I sailed through security outbound, no issues at all, even with a rotary cutter and blade! Coming back home, FIASCO.  Sometimes you get the cheese, sometimes the trap snaps on the back of your neck. 

My traveling companions, ahead of me, darted through security. I got a full body pat down. 

Then they grabbed my bag. And UNPACKED everything. Dirty underwear, slightly damp swim suit, draped over my sewing machine– everything out of my meticulously, tightly packed bag, strewn about the security counter. 

It took a long time (nervous because we were late) to swipe the bag and sewing machine for explosive dust– or what ever it is they swipe for. Then there was the pin cushion. Let me say right here. I am seriously concerned with airline safety. And I want the security agents to do their jobs well. 


I do not understand the fascination with these two items. The agent especially looked and looked at the plastic insert for my sewing machine– completely ignoring the foot pedal and machine itself. It’s clear plastic! He turned it every which way, inspected the top, the underside. For a long time. If anyone understands how this could be used for harm by a terrorist, I genuinely want to know. He took the pins out of the pin cushion, but then put them back in and sent machine and pinchusion separately back through the scanner. 

Then I was free to stuff the clothing back in the bag, grab the machine by the handle and run like O.J. Simpson for the gate. 

I remind myself that travel has always been a challenge. Wether by stagecoach or jetliner. Keep a positive attitude, work the problem and roll with the punches. And most importantly, plan the next adventure.

 We had a wonderful trip. Thanks upon thanks to our host, Andra, and to wonderful quilting and adventuring buddies. Sometimes We Do!

Sometimes We Kayak


Peggy named our group the “Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee” because when we get together, we don’t always quilt. In the early days, a whole lotta years ago, sometimes we would just sit and talk, help each other solve problems, laugh, and for a few hours, put cares and responsibilities aside. We can always count on each other for support and encouragement and to keep it real. And now– for adventures! Woohoo! Kayaking down the Ichetucknee River!


Show us how it’s done, Peg. 


Jane and Andra chose a canoe.


It was a perfect day for a paddle down the river. Some ducked under the tree trunk, some went around– it’s all good!


Living on the Brandywine River in Pennsylvania, we’re all experienced but this was a different, incredibly beautiful environment. The water was crystal clear, sometimes the river was narrow and shaded, lined with cypress trees.


Sometimes the waters broadened and we paddled through sun warmed stretches, admiring live oaks draped with Spanish moss. 


Andra promised we would see wildlife. Some of us were worried (scardy cats) about meeting alligators and  the manatees have moved on to warmer waters, but turtles were everywhere!


We saw herons, egrets and these black anhingas. No gators, darn.


I didn’t want this river ride to end but we needed to return the kayaks and canoe and drive up to the source.


If you are certified for cave diving , you can scuba dive into the chambers of the Blue Hole, the spring fed source of the river. 


We were very content to jump in, stare down into the clear spring and get the heck out. It would be refreshing during Florida’s scorching summer, but the water is always 72 degrees and chilly enough to take your breath away. 


We know the right way to recover from a cold plunge! What a fantastic day. 

SWD Southern Edition


I had a great few days vacationing in Florida with Gary. Now for the real fun! I drove back to Orlando airport to drop Gary off for his flight home and to meet 6 of the Sometimes We Do quilt Bee members, arriving for a get-a-way. We were invited to Andra’s beautiful horse farm near Ocala. 


Check out that big van, fondly called “the short bus.” Susie got behind the wheel and squired us around safely in style and comfort.


First up was a tour of house, stables and paddocks. 


Peggy made us all glasses (so we could keep the wine straight) and gifted Andra with glasses with the farm name, Barrens Edge. 


Andra made these fun pin cushions with color matched pins. Mine turned out to be a jinx but more about that later.


After we all received our room assignments, got settled in and had some lunch, we took the short bus over to the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit arena. 


Andra’s daughter, Melissa, is a Grand Prix rider. Her horse is named Charmuer Ask, “Charmy” for short.


Nervous mom, Andra, with cheering section. Can you see we all have fingers crossed for Melissa and Charmy!


Gosh, it was beautiful to see these amazing horses and talented riders jump right in front of me. Charmy jumped clean, didn’t knock off a single rail and Melissa brought home a prize and ribbon.


Proud (and relieved!) Mom. Quite time to get back to the ranch and try out our glasses with a toast to the champions and to friends enjoying time together.

Sweet Ride


There are three bike rental shops right on the West Orange Trail. How awesome! This Trail runs 25 miles from Killarney Station to Apopka and is one of the top 10 Rail Trails in Florida. 

It’s so beautiful! Really wide and paved the entire length. Someday the trail will connect other trails with over 200 miles total. I’m on a mission to find the nicest, bike friendly, walkable community. 


This huge live oak, all draped in Spanish moss was impressive. 


I can’t tell you what this is about. No clue. 


The town of Winter Garden routed the bike trail right down the center of Main Street!


I took a break to admire the flowering wisteria and fountains and what did I see, framed in the photo?

 

See that green store front? Seriously! Can this get any better?


THAT’S what I’m talking about! While I shop, (and ask the shop owner what’s the best lunch spot?) I have sent Gary to find a Real Estate Agency. I might be in love with Winter Garden, Florida. 


I brought this fabric with me (and lugged my sewing machine) because tomorrow, eight members of the Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee are gathering in Ocala for a Quilting Retreat. We plan to sew if we can tear ourselves away from kayaking, swimming, sun bathing and sight seeing. You know that panicky feeling that you don’t have enough quilt projects for your retreat? Um… I don’t have that feeling anymore. Thanks to Nancy’s Quilt Shop.

Get Outta Town

Snow Storm Stella is in the weather books. And I am so happy to say I missed all the drama. I took this photo from my deck a few days before, thinking, what is the deal with March snow storms?


I think we made a wise decision to trade views! I’m reminded of the lyrics to a song by Judy Collins (whose title I can’t remember.) “When the winter finds you, fly to where it’s summer.”   Works for me!


Gary had no objections and quickly signed up for a spring tune up at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy. 


Gary and I are not big fans of The Mouse and usually don’t go in for Disney experiences but we heard there was an Irish Pub at Disney Springs. Good music, step dancing and a (few) Smithwicks. 


It was such a nice evening, a sundowner on the dock was in order.  Whaaat? Seeing this car? boat? Carboat? Boatcar? I swore off all drinking…  Gary tried to convince me this was an actual vehicle. Hah! Gotta be a Disney ride. 


Confirmed. I might be seeing things through a Smithwicks haze, but these are real cars… or boats.  Whatever. 


Here is my question.  If they decided to create an amphibious car, going all James Bond, why didn’t the make it look cool? Although Gary declined a ride, you know he wanted one!

February?


Can I just say, I do care about the polar ice caps melting. I do, really, but a string of 70 degree days in February! Awesome! I’ve been enjoying walking at Longwood Gardens in short sleeves, seeing and hearing signs of Spring everywhere. I know, I know– we might have a bomber snow storm yet, and pay the price of flowers blooming too early. But I’m riding this high for as long as it lasts!


These tiny blooms are only an inch high. The larger crocus are are just starting to send up green shoots. 


Crocus blocks are blooming in my studio tho.  I’m working on a commissioned quilt that I can’t wait to share. It’s got a ways to go yet. 


It’s a good thing I have colorful flowers to work on because I am so tempted by these snow drops. Remember I can’t let myself make another white flower quilt until I complete a project with colored flowers. Workin’ on it! Snow drops are everywhere at Longwood, I’ve never seen so many. 


Linda Kemshall painted this lovely watercolor of a snow drop. She is an amazing fiber artist as well. I wish she would make a quilt with snow drops on it. 


Walking the meadow yesterday, my eyes scanned the tree line for that first faint wash of pink bud color. Surely it is at least a month away! I saw an eastern bluebird, scouting for a nesting box. I listened to a red winged blackbird sing and heard what I call, The One Note Bird– that I have never seen so can’t identify. I saw blades of skunk cabbage, camouflaged deep in brown leaves. I bet the peeper frogs are getting ready to tune up. I can’t wait!

Quilting Hearts


I found this fun quilt on Pinterest. It was made by Wendy Williams and she sold a pattern to make the quilt, although I’m not sure if it is still available. Wendy’s quilt is big — 50 by 50 inches. I wanted something much smaller to hang in the entry in my house. Also, the appliqué hearts are a mix of wool and quilting cotton, embellished with embroidery and couched threads. I wanted a quicker project. 


I blocked out 24 by 27 inches so I could sketch a heart in my finished quilt size. 


I traced the heart shape onto newsprint and cut it in half. I also made a little paper pattern for my first piece and pinned the fabric to the paper.


I cut a few strips and chunks of fabric in very random sizes. My plan was to paper piece in strips, working on both sides of the heart so that I could control the color, as the rounds progressed. Actually, control is not a good word because I don’t have much control since I suck at paper piecing! But this is supposed to look whimsical.  I’m just going with it, winging my way!


Round 1 sewn and pressed. I used a size 14 Jeans needle and shortened my stitches a bit. It makes it easier to rip away the paper. I could have also stitched to a foundation piece of fabric with the heart drawn on it. No paper to rip.


When the paper heart was covered with red strips, it was time to switch to my light gray background fabrics. I just kept adding strips until I reached the size of my quilt outline dimensions.


I sewed the two halves together, layered the batting and backing and quilted on my home machine. It’s actually faster than taking the time to load such a small quilt on my longarm but gosh, my free-motion quilting skills are rusty. 


I cut and fused a bunch of hearts. 


I don’t really like to leave fused edges raw. My first try was to straight stitch on the inner heart edges. 


A tiny zigzag in a matching color thread worked better. I switched to a size 8 needle and used Superior Thread’s Bottom Line. 


I fused the layered and stitched hearts onto my quilt and finished the outermost edge with the same zigzag stitch. It wasn’t all that fun turning the quilt under the needle, but I quilted at the same time and hey, the rest of the background stitching was already done. Yea! I used skinny green ribbon for the heart “stems.” I tucked one end of the ribbon under the heart point, fusing them down together. Then I applied a thin line of Elmers School Glue on the ribbon underside. With my iron, I forced the ribbon to curve the way I wanted it to and tacking it with the glue so I could zigzag it down with stitching. 


Finished! Before Valentine’s Day! Woohoo!

Tease


I know– it’s way too early to start looking for signs of spring. 


I found these tiny flowers blooming at Longwood Gardens. Winter Aconite, maybe. We have had some crazy weather here in Pennsylvania. A few days ago, I was sitting on my deck, drinking iced tea, warm sun on my face–65 degrees!


My intention was to check out the Orchid Show at Longwood, but it was such a nice day I decided to walk outside first. I found some surprise “art installations.”


This “structure” has small brass bells woven in the vines and the tiniest whiff of breeze sets off lovely music. I really want this. Do you think Longwood would notice if I carried it out under my coat?


Another artwork, all natural. This reminds me of Girl Scout camp on the wooded shore of Lake Michigan, where I grew up. We would compete in teams to turn old tree stumps into fairy castles. We could only use natural decorations to transform the stumps and the creativity was amazing.


Look at all that texture. My mind just boggles at what the Longwood artists could do with a stump. Of course, they would have incredible choices for materials!


I did see the orchids. 


These long, trailing sprays are huge.


The conservatory is all purple, pink and white, this year.


This could be a quilt. All the composition and design is perfect. Just add fabric and stitching. Boom! done. 


Do I have enough fabrics in those gorgeous colors? Road trip to the quilt shops! I do this every year…


So now it is back to February reality. It could have been worse… we only got about 4 inches of the possible 10 forecast and tomorrow it will be 50 degrees. Bring on the melt!

This Weekend

The Art Show at Malvern Retreat House is in full swing. Gary and I attended the wine and cheese reception on Thursday. I am always inspired to see the diverse styles and media offered. So many folks come to enjoy the artwork and generously support the work of the Retreat House. 

Legions of volunteers work hard to make the show successful. I absolutely love the way they showcased my Ravens and Trilliums in the Miniature Room. Quite a few have been sold but there is still a selection if you get a chance to drop by this weekend. 

Is It Spring Yet?


No, these gorgeous sunflowers and roses did not come from my garden….(what garden?) My mother sent them for my birthday. She knew I’d need a serious dose of color, returning to gray, dark winter days, after the vibrant fiesta of Mexico. I’ve been carrying the vase from room to room with me,  I love them so much!


So what does a quilter do to ward off a bad case of “the grays?” Get Thee to a Quilt Shop!


Karen and Susie and I headed to The Old Country Store in Lancaster for a FART. That’s Fabric Acquisition Road Trip, in quilt-speak. 


The next challenge for the Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee, is to make a quilt using Kaffe Fasset  fabrics. The Old Country Store has an entire corner stocked with crazy riots of colorful “Kaffe’s!” I was completely overwhelmed.


Not Karen and Susie! Lookout customers– fabric started flying all over the place! With laser focus they both pulled out patterns and started selecting bolts and blending colors. No purple was overlooked, no striped fabric ignored. It was impressive to watch as I stood by, empty handed, slack-jawed, breathing through my mouth. 


So I didn’t buy a single Kaffe Fasset fabric.  I’ll go back another day when I can focus on that collection. I’ve been commissioned to make a quilt and I had the client send me paint chips to help match her colors. 


Those little squares were cut into the chips and the “windows” made it easy to audition fabrics. It was a good day! I found just what I needed and I’m excited to get started cutting and sewing. I had fun shopping and lunching with friends and I have another FART to look forward to.  Once I figure out how to select those crazy Kaffe fabrics. 

All Good Things


Our time in Quintana Roo has come to an end. Gary thinks 2 weeks is the perfect length of time for a vacation. I’m pretty sure I could vacation full time, forever! I managed to read 4 books while relaxing by the pool. “At the Edge of the Orchard” by Tracy Chevalier, “Lone Wolf” by Linwood Barclay, “The Lake House” by Kate Morton and “Kindred” by Octavia Butler. Is there anything better than lazing and reading with a tall, cold drink?


It wasn’t all sloth, however. We needed to work up an appetit for the guacamole and chips, you know. We kayaked and snorkeled down the river and also paddled up the rivers from the beach. The current in all the rivers at Tres Rios is so strong that I can’t swim against it for long but I was surprised to find that we could paddle the kayak up. 


Imagine floating on your back, looking up through palm fronds and mangrove branches, sunlight warm on your face and the cool water current floating your body effortlessly to the ocean. I think about ancient Mayan people, taking a break from all that temple building. 


The Yucatán peninsula is porous and the rivers flow underground. Sometimes they carve a hole in the surface rock– a cenote, Spanish for “swimmin’ hole!” The guides say this Cenote Orquideas, is covered with fragrant blooming white orchids in June and July. I would so love to see the flowers cascading down towards the water!


Standing at the edge, the water was so crystal clear I could see the deep, sandy white bottom, steep sides and silver fish darting. I stood on the rocks and dove in. The water is refreshingly chilly at first. How amazing to be in this lovely spot, enjoying a swim, all on our own. I’m grateful there were no bystanders to watch us getting out! Exiting a cenote is much harder than diving into a cenote! After several unsuccessful attempts, Gary and I were gurgling and splashing and laughing hysterically. I’ll just say the final technique got us out of the water, but it wasn’t pretty.


We said good by to our new friend. I’ll miss this coatimundi, hoping for a bite of breakfast every morning. It’s back to the real world today.

Name Game


What’s in a name? A friggin’ lotta work. That’s what! Several years ago I invested in a professional stand to hold my portfolio pieces at art shows. They want your name “prominently displayed” so every time, I experimented with attaching some kind of paper sign. They all tore off before the end of the show.


Well heck. I’m a fiber artist, right? I should make a permanent, tear free, name tag. Added bonus, that would be a clue to what the art is about, for those good enough to browse through the portfolio. I grabbed some strips and flip-sewed them onto batting, adding some quilting lines.


I loosely traced the printed letters onto freezer paper. 


I ironed the letters on fabric that was backed with fusible web. Yeah, I KNOW — spell my name right, for pity sakes!


Job done! I used black fabric and Velcro to make a tab that attaches around the gap where the handle is. How can such a small thing take so long? I didn’t even dither and obsess about it, but the afternoon was gone before I finished. Oh well, I won’t have to do it again. 


On to much more fun things! I am finishing up these ravens on cradled wood frames. They are to hang in the “Mini Room” along with the trillium pieces I’ve already done, at the Malvern Retreat House Art Show in February. 

2017


Hiking The Balds on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee? No, actually this beautiful nature preserve is less than 10 miles from my house. I do have “Hike the Balds” on my short list for this year, tho. 


My friend Andra told me about Cheslan Nature Preserve. Sunny and 50 degreees on New Years Day called for a walk to start the year right. There were lots of folks out with the same idea. Those stacks of hay blocks were huge. 


There are numerous trails at Cheslan. Gary and I chose a loop that dipped down into the woods and winds along the west branch of the Brandywine River. 


Then back up the hill into the sun for sweeping views of the countryside in all directions.


Cheslan Preserve is one of the largest private nature preserves in southeastern Pennsylvania. How is it I didn’t know about this?  Starting a new year is contemplative. I used to make Resolutions, but year after year, they always seemed to be the same old things. It works better to think about what I would like to accomplish.  You know, concrete goals and all that. I do have a list of things but I also want to think about how I want to live. I want be adventurous, learn things, seek new areas and experiences, and explore-starting in my own back yard. 

Old Dog, New Trick


I can knit. I’m not an accomplished knitter but I enjoy easy projects. Some might think that socks are difficult but they’re really not. My friend Christine, a truly awesome knitter, pointed out that knitting socks requires two, ten minute periods of concentration. Once to turn the heel and again to shape the toe. The rest of the sock is pretty mindless. I can manage that! I made this pair of socks for my granddaughter, Avarie. 


Since she lives in Virginia and I didn’t know what size to make, I had her trace around her feet and send me the drawing.


Before I could finish the first sock, we paid them a visit and I was able to try it on her, in progress. She thought this was hysterical! 


I had a ton of yarn left and I can’t knit a second pair for her sister. Mackenzie requested pink and purple yarn, please. Of course we had to draw her feet, too. I was pretty bored after the second sock, anyway. I thought I’d make a hat for Avarie but the only ones I liked were crocheted. 


Have you seen these hats that are all the rage? They’re called Messy Bun Hats and they have a hole in the top so you can have your pony tail or bun stick out and look cute. I found this free pattern on Daisy Cottage Designs blog in a child’s size and it looked the easiest. 


I don’t know how to crochet past the slip stitch, but hey, how hard can it be? Notice the blog title isn’t “Old Dog LEARNS New Trick.” I am seriously stuck in the learning part. It took me hours of watching YouTube video to figure out how to crochet over the hair scrunchie. That I finely got it done might be mostly a fluke. Then, more hours on a refresher course on single and double crochet. I thought the hat was going swimmingly until I realized a had a whole vertical row of fairly sizable holes where the rows join in the seam. Rats. I don’t know what the pattern means by, “1 dc into the same stitch” which is supposed to eliminate holes. So I un-crocheted back to this point. 


Then I went to Starbucks for a Grande Latte. And the library. I’m going with the old dog, old fashioned way. I can’t listen to that YouTube women’s voice, One. More. Time. 

Merry Christmas


Those arched windows in the Longwood Gardens conservatory are a dead giveaway that this beautiful Christmas tree is not in my living room. 

Real red roses! I touched them and couldn’t believe there wasn’t a tiny vase of water keeping them alive. One of the Longwood volunteers explained the roses were treated with a glycerine preservative. They were so beautiful in the dark green trees with the white branches. 

I loved these branch and ice-cycle chandeliers.

It was so fun to “hike” around Longwood Gardens with my friend Laura. Usually we’re on the Appalachian Trail together. 

I haven’t had a minute to blog in the past few weeks. Quilt Bee was at my house so I got out my Christmas dishes. Our Christmas lunch was at Peggy’s and her creative holiday decorating makes mine look like chump change! We did something different this year.  We bought a new cookbook, cooked an appetizer, desert or drink from the book to enjoy at the lunch. The cookbook was wrapped and a terrific steal and be-stolen-from, round of gift exchange ensued! It was fun and I ended up with Ina Garten’s new book, Cooking for Jeffrey. Yippee! I love the Barefoot Contessa. 


Gary and I traveled to West Virginia University to see our son, Tanner, receive his Masters in Business Administration Degree. Avarie and Mackenzie pinned the Alumni Pin on their Dad– and kinda stole the show!

 

We went to People’s Light and Theater Company to see On the Road with John Denver. That was fun! We’ve had lots of company and Gary and I have collaborated in the kitchen, cooking and eating dinners with friends. 


For the past few years, our Christmas has been spent in Hilton Head, South Carolina. We are at home this year and it has been really nice. I even decorated the house a bit and got out my little Santa collection. I have been crazy busy longarm quilting for customers and for Christmas presents. I’m now enjoying reading and knitting by a warm fire in the fireplace with a glass of wine. I wish everyone a relaxing and joy filled season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, have a wonderful holiday!