New River

What are we looking at here? Well, I tried to get a picture of this raccoon playing peek-a-boo with me but he wasn’t cooperating. He ran across the trail and scampered up to the V in the tree branch. I’d take a step and he would check me out. When I stopped to I snap a photo, he’d tuck back in. I don’t usually hike in August because it’s way too hot but opportunity knocked and Gary and I drove down to Pearisburg, Virginia, where I left off on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. 

After driving for 6 hours, Gary dropped me off on a woods road so I could hike back down into Pearisburg. It feels great in the shady trees but this road walk up to the bridge is hot and a real sweat fest. 

You rarely see a white blaze on a real stairway. I’ve been looking forward to walking over the New River. Our family went on a raft trip down the New/Gauly River years ago. What were we thinking, bouncing our 4 children in a rubber raft through huge rapids? I remember watching other rafts flip and toss everybody into the churning water and paddling for my life and praying for survival. 

I can’t even get a good view with this chain link fence spanning the bridge walkway.  

The New River is one of the longest rivers in the U.S. that flows South to North, I do love rivers. Gary and I met up on the bridge and I followed him back to the car. Just a short 4 mile hike today, but the start of a big 90 mile section.

Last time I was here we backpacked the Trail but tonight we are staying in Narrows, Virginia in the MacArthur Hotel. I have no idea what that pig is about. 

Clendennin Road Va 641 to Lane Street, Pearisburg   4.1 miles

High Grade

Another perfect Sunday, go for a bike ride! For 30 miles the towpath trails of Pennsylvania’s Delaware Canal State Park and New Jersey’s Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park parallel the Delaware River. Gary and I have biked both sides of the river on the trails many times from New Hope, riding sections going north. Hey, let’s see some new Trail and ride south this time.

Starting from the parking lot at Scudders Falls in New Jersey, we bike right along the towpath. The canal is beautiful, full of water, the path, even and flat. The air is cool, the sun warm and a light breeze promises easy pedaling on the way back. Gary reports we are cruising along at 9 miles an hour. It doesn’t get better than this. 

In about 4 miles we come to the tiny town of Washington’s Crossing, on the Pennsylvania side. On Christmas Day in 1776, General George Washington led his troops through a blizzard across the ice-choked Delaware River and on to victory against the Hessians in Trenton. 

I took this photo years ago, watching re-enactors row large authentic Durham boats to relive the crossing. The river was treacherous that day, the rowers couldn’t compete with the swift current and a power boat had to rescue and tow them to safety. Who knows how history might have changed course had Washington not made it in 1776?

The Canal is more recent history. In 1830 construction began on the canal to move freight between Philadelphia and New York. Before the canal, goods were shipped by boat down the river, around Cape May, then up the coast of New Jersey. I always read every interpretive sign. The locks fascinate me. I’m so glad states have funded the re-watering of the canal system so we can see the engineering of the spillways and hydraulics. This modern lock replaces the old system, originally at this site. 

The lock keepers cottage still stands but it is a private residence now. There are locks, barges and historical homes, refurbished to preserve the heritage and culture, all along the canal. 

After 10 miles of riding, just about lunch time, the Station Pub in Lambertville is a welcome sight.

My chopped salad is delicious.

Gary worked up an appetite and doesn’t hesitate to order short rib eggs Benedict. 

We could have crossed the river in New Hope and ridden on the Pennsylvania side, back to the car. In fact, there are at least 5 loop trails, using the bridges in the 30 miles between Frenchtown and Trenton. That’s so cool! But If we stay in New Jersey, we’ll have a shady ride back to our car. 

So we watch the full flowing Delaware River on our right, and the placid canal on the left, power boats on one side, kayaks on the other, setting a leasurly pace.

There is so much to explore with this trail system. We haven’t even ridden a single mile on the main canal trail that runs from Trenton, north to New Brunswick, another 30 miles. I can’t wait! This trail receives a High Grade, absolutely A + in every category. We’ll be back!

It’s August. Zap!

Is there anything better than the bounty of August? We have been feasting on fresh, local produce every day. 

My daughter Kira suggested this zucchini gratin recipe from the July issue of Food and Wine magazine. This is before baking. Isn’t it pretty?

I was concerned that I would lose patience with that coiling design so I had my sous chef work on it. Actually it was surprisingly easy. 

Super delicious. Tastes great with a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio, I might add. 

I’ve also spent some time reading on the porch with a big bowl of cherries. The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It’s mostly a love story but also about the disturbing allure of virtual worlds and the isolation of computer gaming. I’m almost finished and so hoping for a happy ending.

I was really looking forward to today. I was up early and decided to just do 30 minutes of gardening then take a shower and go to Calico Cutters Guild meeting. Linda Poole was the speaker and I wanted to hear about her painted appliqué. I started to cut back some phlox and zap! wasps stung my hand, which now resembles a stubby-fingered football and throbs like a mother…..sting. I developed a bad attitude and missed the meeting. But it is such a beautiful day, I recovered my perspective and took a long meadow walk at Longwood, on the watch for those death-wish August wasps. 


Was there 10 minutes yesterday when it wasn’t raining? I knew the storm was coming, so on Sunday, Gary and I headed out for a bike ride. It was cool and overcast, perfect for this rail-trail that promised no shade.  

I was browsing around on Trailink, wondering how far I could entice Gary to drive, when I found a trail I had never heard of pretty close to my house. What? A trail that starts at Atgle and goes 27 miles to The Susquehanna River? Atglen is a little village right next to Christiana, Pennsylvania, home to The Quilt Ledger, my local quilt shop! Too bad it’s Sunday– closed. This trail travels through Chester and Lancaster counties and is maintained by local townships. That translates to varied surfaces and conditions. We found a rutted, grassy path at the Atglen Trailhead so decided to drive on to Quarryville, where the reviews promised crushed limestone. 

Smooth riding and absolutely flat. 

Occasionally we got a view across the fields. We both questioned how this ridge can be so perfect. 

It wasn’t always. The Pennsylvania Railroad re-shaped the landscape for the optimum freight road, removing 1.3 cubic yards of rock and earth and  building 12 bridges to span streams and roads– all in 7 miles. 

We rode 8 miles out until the ballast turned into the rutted tracks. I’m sorry to say that the uniformity was a good workout but– boring. The interpretive signs gave no clue as to why this section is called Enola but I would have to give it a low grade, pun intended. 

Yep, the Trail could have been more scenic and interesting but it was a nice day in August for a bike ride. And we finished up with a chocolate milk shake. No complaints from me!

Where’s This Going?

I just put the final stitch in this really old top. It’s huge– about 96 x 96 inches. I’ve been working on the turned edge appliqué– well, it seems like forever. There were years that I forgot about the blocks and everything sat in the box. I like having a project always ready to be taken out and worked on. I remember buying the background fabric but the rest came from my stash. So the top is really old, not my style now and screams “Kutztown Folk Festival” but I still like it. I’m looking forward to trying some over-the-top quilting with my longarm machine. Here’s the thing about finishing  WIP’s ( works in progress.) Now I need a new appliqué project. 

I so admired my friend Joan’s beautiful quilt. She quilted the blocks with the Quilting in Layers technique and then fussy cut circles to hand appliqué. I wanted to try that!

I didn’t want to copy-cat Joan’s quilt — ok, honestly — I really did want to copy exactly what Joan did. To be a little different I decided to cut leaf shapes to appliqué. 

I selected my background blocks and started quilting. I have never actually planned out the entire block fabrics first, for a quilt this large, because I need to see how the colors will work with the image fabrics, as the quilt progresses. But this is supposed to be more spontaneous. Balance the design later when the appliqué is done was the plan. Already I’ve deviated from Joan’s process and slid back into mine. 

I tried appliqueing one block. I kinda hate it. Decision time. Make a whole bunch more to see a bigger picture or chuck the idea and admit I can’t walk in Joan’s shoes. (I did try to think up a better metaphor, really.) I do love the background all planned out on my design wall. 

I sewed together nine blocks. My new plan is to be inspired by the leaf foliage I see on my walks at Longwood gardens. These trillium leaves are turned-edge, just lightly tacked down with a bit of glue. I like it but the process won’t work overall because I don’t have the backing on yet and I can’t figure out how the quilting will get done. This is going somewhere– I’m just not sure where yet. No clear direction, issues to resolve, stuff to ponder, much more my style. 

And I still don’t have a hand appliqué project for evenings. 

Trunk Show

It was so nice to sit in the audience and see the fabulous quilts made by Laurie Simpson, of Minick and Simpson, at the Ocean Waves Quilt Show. Laurie and her sister, Polly Minick, are fabric designers for Moda and have many quilt patterns available in their Americana style. 

This is the new “Flag” quilt. I’ve made the stars and bars Quilt of Valor several times and I have at least three patterns to make quilts languishing in the “some day” que. 

I absolutely love the appliquéd borders. 

This quilt looks doable. It would be a good stash-buster in scraps. It would only bust my stash if I made 40 quilts, tho.

I’m never making this quilt. Nope. Never. 

A star a day! 365 stars. I wonder how far I would get with that?

Laurie said this quilt pattern was her best seller ever. I’m pretty sure one of my friends, Andra? made this quilt. Or else I have the pattern and that’s why it looks so familiar. I better re-visit my  project pile. I’m motivated to start something traditional and I really need some hand appliqué.

Quilts in July

It’s been a beastly hot few days. Perfect timing for a nice air conditioned quilt show! I have been down in Lewes, Delaware to give my presentation and teach a workshop at the show. 

Gosh there has been lots of commercial development in this area but the ocean view hasen’t changed. 

I have fond memories of coming to Rehoboth with my husband and four children. After a day in the surf and sand, we would stroll the boardwalk and always go home with salt water taffy.

Of course I had Grotto pizza for dinner! I sat on the boardwalk bench after a walk on the beach and enjoyed the sea breeze and people watching. 

I thought I’d show just a few of my favorite quilts.  I loved the way Harriette Tuttle explored her original design for the Heron Shadow 1and 2.

Debbie Coverdale celebrated Friendship with her machine appliqué quilt. 

She chose and cut her fabrics so wonderfully. This cowboy boot block drew my attention right in for a closer look.

Perfect title– Happy Little Churn Dash, by Elaine Conroy, quilted by Irene Chandler, made me smile. I really like the modern quilting look.  

This quilt by Susan Dammeyer, also quilted by Irene Chandler looks modern, too. I bet she had fun selecting fabrics.

Unusual colors in Bernadette Ernakovich’s quilt used to evoke memories of her son and daughter-in-law’s time spent in Adelaide, Australia.

I like to encourage my students to create depth by repeating colors used in the image, in the background. So effectively accomplished by Sandra Friant in her quilt Night Stalker.

I even found some “Quilting in Layers” Tulips blooming among the peach blossoms, this lovely quilt by Patricia Kost. 

Congratulations to Rhonda Adams for her quilt, asking, How do you take your tea? “With Milk and Sugar?” And a close group of friends. 

Rhonda brought home a well deserved Best of Show ribbon.

Bravo! A standing ovation and a huge round of applause to all the Ocean Waves Guild members, volunteers, spouses, children, friends and everyone who worked so hard to put together such an inspiring and pleasurable Quilt Show. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your quilting fellowship. 

Ca Ra Zy

Unpack the car. Repack the car. Repeat. That has been my July but it has all been good. I have been crazy busy with Guild engagements, Mid-Appalachian Quilt Conference and today I’m heading to the beach.

I’ll be giving my “Inspired by Adventure” Lecture and teaching a Workshop at Ocean Waves Guild Quilt Show in Lewes, Delaware. Laurie Simpson of Minick and Simpson will teach a class and do a trunk show of quilts. I’ll be in the audience for that!

I haven’t had much time to walk at Longwood but I did check on the water lilies. Amazing, of course. I have so many ideas for quilts in my head. I come back from teaching classes so inspired by the students. All I want to do is sew and quilt. Crank up the air conditioning, I’m quilting in August.

Tidying Up

Massdrop is a dangerous thing. I had to discontinue receiving notices because the quilty offerings were too tempting. A few years ago I just had to have the full line of fat quarters from Lotta Jansdotter fabrics. When the bundle arrived, I had no idea what to do with it so I made up a log cabin block surrounded by squares. I didn’t like the blocks and didn’t like the fabrics either. So not my colors. 

In keeping with my plan of action — finish something old before starting something new — I pulled out the blocks and sewed them together. I’m surprised to find I actually like the quilt! 

I sewed the few remaining squares together and will combine the strip with the backing fabric. I cut the scraps into strips and added them to the Bonnie Hunter scrap basket. Another UFO out of the closet, I do feel very righteous! I neatly folded the top and placed it on my towering stack of Tops To Be Quilted pile. Not feeling so righteous about that….

The three step stool is proving it’s worth. 

A cold glass of iced tea and relaxing on the couch on the screened-in porch is a nice reward  and motivates me through my reading list. The Enchanted Islands is a book about two American navel spys during WW II stationed in the Galapogos, keeping an eye on two German spys, also assigned to the island. Not enough about Galagos and kinda boring story but I loved the book’s cover. Season of the Dragonflies was more interesting with a bit of fantasy woven into a tale of generations of women owning a perfume business in the Blue Ridge mountains. Not enough about the mountains. Clearly, setting is important to me. I haven’t started Wonder yet but I loved Room by Emma Donohughe. Didn’t care for Frog Music much, so we will see. 

I am trying to listen to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but it seems like a lot of falderall involved in getting the job done.  

I don’t have time to hold on to crap to decide if it continues to give me joy. I just dump everythig out, keep the good stuff, toss the rest in the trash. 

I do agree that decluttering and organizing can give you a new lease on life. 

Tidying up is cathartic and I’m hoping for some magic with a new project. Now these are my colors. 

Full On Summer

We have had several absolutely perfect summer days. The sky has been deep blue with no humidity and the sun felt warm but a lovely breeze was cool. Black-eyed Susans are surely the official summer flower and the meadow at Longwood Gardens is all abloom.

Red Wing Blackbirds must be protecting nests because they kamikaze dive right for me. I love hearing their conk la ree call.

Longwood’s grand reopening of the refurbished fountains happened while I was in Spain and I’m finely getting a look at the changes that have been years in the making.

The passageway into the Grotto is dark and mysterious, promising a surprise.

I wasn’t dissapointed! A fine curtain of water flows in thin ribbons from the circular opening in the ceiling, shimmering like diamonds in the sunlight.

The ferns and mosses are tiny now but I’m looking forward to watching them grow and fill in among the rocks.

To celebrate the renovation, there is a 12 minute fountain display, treating visitors to a taste of the nighttime show. It’s just magical to see flowers bloom in jets of water to the music of Vivaldi.

We haven’t seen fireworks in over three years because the fountains were shut down. There will be a fireworks show on Sunday for the Fourth of July. Yea! I’ll be waving a flag!

It’s Never Easy

If I had to choose a favorite “tool” that really contributes to quilting and sewing, I’d pick my design wall. I used this design wall for years and really loved it. It was made from two panels of Homosote and covered with thick gray felt. When my longarm machine moved right in front, it was hard to get around to put anything up. 

So I made another pin board on the opposite wall. I used Homosote again because it was the perfect pinning surface, not hard and not wimpy. Well, who knew there are different grades of Homosote? These panels are so dense you practically have to drill a pilot hole to stick a pin in. It’s taken me 5 or 6 years to bend or throw away thousands of pins.

So I’ve been working on a commissioned quilt and I promised myself a reward. When the top was finished and came down, I was treating myself to a new design wall. I had a great plan, no need to remove the old Homosote, just put two new panels on top. Easy and quick, right! The old wall had a microfleece covering. Great for holding fabric, awful for drawing paper patterns.  I ripped that off first.

 I want to note here that the ladder was surely constructed in the 1800’s and weighs about 500 pounds. I keep threatening to pour gasoline on it and flick a match but Gary has some kind of attachment…  broken… rickety and scary…  and heavy. 

So I took some pins with me to Home Depot and decided on styrofoam insulation. Getting these flimsy sheets home taped to the top of my car was not fun. Then, the darn blue logos showed through my thin white felt so I had to paint over everything. 

You know that thing about how it’s a 2 hour job if you do it yourself and 3 days if you ask your husband for help?

Whoo hoo! Check out that beautiful new design wall. Oh my gosh, sticking a pin in is deeply satisfying. The studio has 9 foot ceilings and I like to make big quilts so I struggled for 5 or 6 years with that 2 step stool, couldn’t get a quilt block up towards the top without stacking something wobbly. So I treated myself to a new 3 step stool. Life is good.

I considered dragging that horrible old wood ladder out to the yard and making good my threat. But Gary insisted on hauling it to the garage. What do you want to bet that the only ladder he will ever use is my new step stool? Maybe he won’t notice a small fire…

Kaffe Challenge

The Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee met at the Four Dogs pub for our end of the year lunch. Since our children are grown and not underfoot all summer, we don’t actually end our meetings in June anymore. But lunch is always good and it’s time to reveal our challenge quilts. Karen set the only challenge rule. Make something using Kaffe Fasset Fabrics.

Oh my gosh is Karen’s quilt beautiful! She had to construct the fabric by piecing together different colored sections of Kaffe striped fabric. Can you believe she is going to give this quilt away? Not to me unfortunately.

Andra had fun choosing fabrics from all the color ways but brought it all together with the burgundy solid. Simple quilting on my longarm was all that was needed.

Susie was the overachiever this time. She actually made three quilts!  Our next challenge is to use solids and stripes. This quilt could make a repeat appearance.  Against the rules, tho. No double dipping allowed. 

Susie also made this soft colored quilt for a new baby gift. These are all Kaffe fabrics too, but what a different look.

We all lusted after Peggy’s beach bag. Love the shading light to dark. I could use a bag, Peg. When are you teaching us how to do it? We promise to behave ourselves. (Not!)

Michele did a great job with the contrast between light and dark. Not so easy with Kaffe fabrics which always seem so similar.

Joan’s quilt just blew me away! She used my Quilting in Layers technique to quilt all the black and white background squares. 

She fussy cut circles from the Kaffe fabrics and hand appliquéd them onto the blocks. Her appliqué is incredibly perfect and each circle is so beautiful and interesting. I could look at and admire this quilt for a long time. 

I think Ginger’s quilt used the Kaffe fabrics beautifully. My favorite colors, too.

Nope. Not Kaffe fabrics. Patty didn’t have time to participate in the challenge this time but she brought Show and Tell. 

I quilted this gift for her niece. Lucky niece! Patty pieced those zig-zags with impressive precision.

So this is my Kaffe challenge quilt. Purple is not usually a color I would select, but I do like the way the quilt turned out. 

I was short on time and clearly copied the pattern from SpringLeaf Studios pretty exactly. This was one of those instant download patterns I found on Etsy that you print out at home. It was a fantastic pattern! Super simple, clear instructions. Yardage for 4 different sizes. Optional versions of the quilt. Different design variations using value and color variations. And a black and white layout of the quilt to color in for exploring choices. Wow. All this for a measly $8. 

And the pattern seller graciously refunded my money when I accidentally hit the ADD TO CART button multiple (like maybe 7 or 8… whoops) times. 

U. S. A.!

It’s great to be back home! I almost burst into tears when I saw my container garden lettuce. Salad and more salad, I’m so excited! I thought the little seedlings would be dead from lack of water or bolted 3 feet tall. Apparently there has been a lot of rain while I was gone. 

I jumped on doing laundry right away but other than that, I’ve been lolling about, ignoring the gathering plume of “Stuff I Have To Do After Vacation.”  I was way behind before I left and now I’m hopelessly way behind.

The Piper must always be paid. Sigh.


We are taking the long way home– by way of Germany. Gary has a chemical conference to attend. After a really long train ride from the airport, that involved getting off the train to board a bus due to some “track incident” — do you see a pattern here? We checked into the hotel and headed for the nearest beer garden.

I considered various options for touristing around Munich the next day while Gary was working. Walking in this beautiful park in old town was relaxing. I found a park bench, a frozen chocolate coffee drink and read my book. So grateful I didn’t have to train into town! Or anywhere else. 

When Gary got back, we walked the few blocks into the old section of Munich, looking for a dinner restaurant. We just missed seeing the figures dance around during the chiming of the hour on this glockenspiel. 

A whole lotta years ago, Gary and I were in Munich on our honeymoon trip.  He says we had a beer at this iconic Hofbrauhaus. I don’t remember! Maybe because we had a lotta beers in a lotta hofbrauhaus’es.

This is a busy place with a great Oom-Pa band and dirndle costumed Fräuleins serving steins of beer. 

You would think this gorgeous ceiling would trigger a memory. I’m checking my old photo albums at home– was I really here as a newlywed or has Gary made it up?

Spätzle for dinner, the German equivalent of mac-and-cheese comfort food. And a salad. And a pretzel. Ahhhh….no meat! Now if I can just find a gelato for desert. 

Bye Bye Bocadillos

Our last day in Spain, we both want a final taste of our favorite foods. Check out those sandwiches, or “bocodillos” in Spanish. In the U.S. you would buy a paper cone of French fries to accompany your sandwich. In Spain you get a cone of different kinds of sausage slices! They are crazy for meat and seafood here, haven’t seen a green vegetable or salad in weeks. And whole grain bread? Forget about it.

In this shop you choose the ham, “jamon iberico” for your sandwich. The longer the meat is cured the greater the depth of flavor and the price. I have trouble looking at those hooves…. Since Gary is asking so many questions, and the server doesn’t understand a word he is saying, we both get a tiny sliver of each to taste. Delicious! Gary ordered the expensive one– hey, it’s our last day. Just wishing for some lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard and mayo on mine tho.

Gary is looking longingly at these hams for sale. Don’t even think about it unless you want to gift the Customs Agent at the airport. Even if it was possible, that hoof is not going in my suitcase. 

While The Carnivor is in ham heaven, I’m heading for desert. Oh my gosh! The gelato! I need another week to work my way through all the flavors. 

I always go for the straciatella, vanilla with shaved chocolate bits. 

The way they display the ice cream is so pretty. I intended to get a picture of my dish, gelato scooped into a flower shape, but I started devouring it before I remembered. 

We walked down La Rambla, looking into the expensive shops, people watching, listening to music from street buskers, playing cello and flute, enjoying our last tastes of Barcelona.

To cap the evening, we went to a flamingo concert. The stage and audience was small and intimate, the performers intended to represent members of a gypsy camp, singing, clapping and stamping feet, playing drums and guitar. The guitar music was just amazing.

The dancers!  It was impossible to capture a photo, their feet moved so fast but mostly because I was completely mesmerized. I kept thinking, the next dancer, I’ll take a picture, then I was enthralled and too caught up in the passion and music. I even tried to take a video but I kept watching instead of filming. 

A perfect end to our trip to Spain. I have had a wonderful time in this fascinating country and I hope I can return someday. 

Adiós España. Muchas gracias. Ha sido fantástico.