Pierce’s Woods


I miss being outdoors in the woods. Four days is not enough hiking, though my knees are telling me different. Two days of steady rain has kept me inside. A walk at Longwood is in order. Those foxgloves are 6 feet tall!


I do love how rain makes the color contrast so intense.


I turned in the path and caught sight of these ferns. Oh my gosh.


After years of walking in Pierce’s Woods, the oldest part of Longwood Gardens, I know where to look for Jack-in-the-Pulpits. My favorite Jacks have purple-brown stems and colored stripes on the bloom. 


I love the translucent, pale green Jacks too. Now I just want to race home and start sorting through my green fabrics. How many quilts do you make in your head? Millions?


It’s mandatory to check on the trilliums. Oh my gosh. Again…


Red ones!

 

Purple ones!


Pale green ones! 


I walked along the Flower Walk, expecting to see beds of blooming tulips. There are a few left but they’re mostly finished. What! Done already? This is such a crazy spring. I looked back at photos from previous years and the tulips were in bud and bloom on April 30 and the first week in May. No matter, I’m deliriously happy to see all the wild flowers, my longing for the woods satisfied for a bit. 

Visiting


Another reason I like hiking in Virginia– visiting with grandkids! Tanner and family actually live less than a mile from the Appalachian Trail in Daleville. I need to hike a 90 mile section that includes McAfee Knob and the Dragons Tooth but I’m saving (avoiding) that for another day. It was cool how well this cotton candy machine worked! 


A mountain valley has to be a great place for a kite festival.


Amateurs and professionals were flying all kinds of kites.


This might be a balloon instead of a kite. 


Of course we had to buy a kite and try to get it flying. My job was to hold all the drinks and festival food.


Success! Now show us some fancy tricks, PopPop.


Everyone had a great time. Corn dogs, ice cream, and donuts for dinner. Cotton candy for desert. What? Apparently you can’t get your fill of cotton candy. 


Avarie and Mackenzie are growing up too fast. I sure wish they lived closer. I miss them already!

Down and Done


Gary has dropped me off at the Trailhead on the ridge above Burkes Garden. He will drive to the road crossing at the bottom of the mountain and start hiking up towards me. I’ll have about a 2 hour head start due to driving time, and I get to saunter down most of the day. Sounds good to me! The views into Burkes Garden aren’t as good as yesterday because the Trail quickly starts to leave the ridge. 


Hiking the Appalachian Trail has taught me many lessons. Never expect one side of the mountain to be the same as the opposite side. If there are steep, rocky sections with lots of mud and water drainages, the other side might be all open breezy meadows. And you can’t really tell from the maps. Sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised, sometimes, sucker-punched. Just like real life, huh. No views of endless mountains here. Today is all about rhododendron tunnels. And numerous signs about recent bear activity. Yikes! 


Lots of squaw corn popping up.


These flowers are tiny– smaller than a dime and I can’t think of the name but I love the intense color. 


Gary didn’t have a difficult trek up the mountain because the last mile was a nice old, forest road. Trail Magic! I peaked inside to find a bunch of different kinds of Mountain Dew. I left  the cold drinks for ThruHikers. Who knew there are flavors of Mountain Dew? Learned another thing!


I took this photo from the bridge. There’s the road, right across Laurel Creek. This is the way to end a wonderful hiking trip. I stopped for a moment here, listening to the water and bird song, letting the peace of the woods settle over me, reminding myself why I hike. I’m so grateful to have this experience. In the car, I’ll be plotting my next section and wondering when I can get back to the Trail again.  

VA 623 to VA 615 Laurel Creek   8.9 Miles

37.9 Miles hiked    545.8 Miles Remaining

Burkes Garden


Isn’t this an amazing photo! The Appalachian Trail follows the ridge for several miles along the left, or eastern side. I didn’t take the picture of course. I found it on the internet, along with an explanation of the geography of Burkes Garden. How was Burke’s Garden formed? There are more than a few theories about its geological origins. Some people think the valley was once a lake. Some say a meteor hit it and flattened it out. Still others suggest the area was once part of a volcano. Geologists say that this bowl was a 6,500-foot-high mountain largely composed of limestone, but with a sandstone cap. Slowly, that sandstone cap eroded, and the peak of Garden Mountain collapsed into itself. 


If you were a Thru Hiker, you would see this beautiful view from the Trail but might not understand how unique Burkes Garden really is. Often called, “God’s Thumbprint” the valley is 3,000 feet above sea level and the weather is alpine, low humidity and summer temperatures rarely reach 80 degrees. The flat valley floor is only about 4 miles wide and 9 miles long and is completely surrounded by mountains. 


We had to say goodbye to Tim and Laura today but Tim bravely agreed to drive us up to the Trail head and drop us off. I say “bravely” because there is just one (mostly) paved road between Burke’s Garden and the nearest town, Tazewell, 30 minutes away. The road switchbacks sharply up the mountain and then back down into the valley. 

I’m so happy to be a section hiker, experiencing another aspect of the Appalachian Trail. I think I have gone back in time. Due to the remote, high-altitude isolation, only about 300 people live here. Some are Amish, farming and raising live stock, totally off-grid. There is no newspaper delivery, and no cable television; no stoplights and no working post office. Now, across the valley, Tim has to negotiate another switchbacked, not-so-paved road, up the opposite ridge and the AT trail head. 


The first few miles along the ridge are bumpy-bump, up and down. Can I just say again, how much I appreciate Trail Crews building these lovely stone steps. 


You know you’ve reached the top when you finely catch sight of the shelter. Whoohoo. A peanut butter sandwich never tasted so divine!

This is one of the most beautiful sections of the Trail I have ever hiked. After 3 miles of climbing up, we now have almost 8 miles of gentle, meandering down. I haven’t hiked the famous Balds in Tennessee yet, but this surely must be what it is like. I keep calling out to Gary to stop– a circle turn has me awestruck with views of mountains, unfolding in all directions. Purple mountain majesties indeed. I might have broken out in song…


Just one more. 


Laura, I did see 2 small garden snakes, sunning themselves. 


And Dutchmans Britches. 


Whoa– did I say gentle, meandering down? The last mile was a steep descent that had my tired legs protesting, but log stairs helped a lot. Another good thing about section hiking. Sometimes, like today, I get to choose whether to hike up or down the mountain. And tomorrow, I choose to hike down the other side! 

VA 623 Burkes Garden to USFS 222.  10.7 miles 

Virginia Day Two


Have I mentioned how much I love hiking the Appalachian Trail in Virginia?  The Trail actually   goes through fourteen states and each one has a different “feel.” Certainly the terrain, foliage, vegetation, weather– all those kinds of things are different. But the way in which the Trail is constructed and maintained is also very different. In Vermont, for instance, you might need to hike almost vertically straight up a mountain. In Virginia, you can count on lovely, long, gradual switchbacks, gently winding up the same scale of elevation. I dearly love switchbacks!


If there is a river in Maine, guaranteed — you will have to rock hop across, or worse, hold onto cables, get wet and pray a lot. They believe in bridges in Virginia. Big rivers, little creeks, you will find a luxurious, well constructed bridge. 


In Virginia, even crossing a small spring, a Trail Crew has thoughtfully lined up and leveled slabs of rocks, almost like pavement, for you.  I so appreciate southern hospitality. 


We might not have minded getting wet on this hot day though. We decided we needed a boots off and cooling feet kind of break. Tim was searching for crawdads and actually found a big one that decided to latch onto his finger!


Gary called the peanut butter sandwich break at what he thought was the summit. Still 500 feet to the top. Grrrr. Give me that map.


I saw these tiny white flowers but I wasn’t sure what they are called. The leaf shape will help in identifying when I look them up.


I think this is the only wild flower that Gary can name. Sometimes there are acres of trout lilies, but I only spotted a single bloom. 

VA 625 to VA 742 Holston River Bridge   8.1 miles

Another 40 AT Miles


Many times, hiking the Appalachian Trail, I wish I could look back in time. Or find a source that would tell me more about the area I’m walking through. I read that this mill dates back to the Civil War. I wonder about the people who lived here long ago. Was it corn they brought to be milled? Did sons, brothers, husbands, join the army to fight for the rebel cause here in Virginia? 


I think about the folks who live along the Holston river now. How inconvenient for them when the river floods over this bridge. When the water is high, hikers have to walk a blue blazed  trail over a mile to get to a road with a higher bridge, but no problems for us today. 


Gary and I are hiking with our friends, Laura and Tim, near Atkins, Virginia. 


Driving south from Shenandoah on Interstate 81, the red bud trees were in magnificent bloom against a backdrop of lacy green leaves but here in the high ridge elevations, the woods still look like winter.


In this section, the Trail is a narrow corridor, sometimes only an easement a few feet wide through private property. I love meandering across green meadows. 


How many stiles did we have to climb over? Maybe 5 or 6? Only the first one is fun….  definitely enough to appreciate this type of livestock barrier that is easy to walk through for humans. Not so easy for the cattle, goats and sheep to negotiate.


I did spot some early bloodroot flowers.


It’s wonderful to be out hiking on this warm April day. The Trail is a series of gentle climbs and decents over high meadows and through rhododendrons in the woods. I have such a feeling of “coming home.”


I don’t miss that heavy backpack though. Not. One. Bit. 

VA 742 Holston River Bridge to VA 617 Davis Cemetary    10.2 Miles

AQS Lancaster Quilt Show


We are so lucky here in southeastern Pennsylvania. There are several large quilt shows to attend every year. I always look forward to the AQS show at the end of March. I think I took enough quilt photos to blog for a week but I’ll just share a few of my favorites. 

This quilt is by Cynthia England. I fell in love with her landscapes many years ago and made two of her patterns. I just received the American Quilter magazine and this quilt is on the cover. There is also an interview article with Cynthia.  


This quilt had so much texture. Isn’t it enhanced (bet the maker thinks so, too!) by the shot of color in the red ribbon.

Skinny spikes pieced perfectly (say that 3 times…) and gorgeous machine quilting. 


Then this quilter took it up another notch with detailed embroidery on the peacock’s feathers.


There is something so interesting and haunting about the multiple portrait images. The photos are actually by Edward S. Curtis, famous Western photographer. The quilt won a ribbon in the “Stationary Machine Quilted” category. I wish I understood the judges thinking. The quilting is a very simple, zigzag stitched grid. Hummm.


Now this is stitching. The blue ribbon is for First Entry in an AQS Show. The quilting was done with a “movable machine.” AQS is now separating quilt entries made by “Stationary Machine,” meaning the quilter moves the fabric under the needle. Or “Movable Machine,” meaning the quilting is done by moving the machine head over the quilt. 


I love this flower garden. I need a new hand appliqué project and I wonder if I could do something similar.  All trillium flowers, of course. 


I always love the quilts in the Special SAQA exhibit. This small quilt gets my “Best Composition” award.

Can you believe this is a quilt! “Silk Road Sampler” by Melissa Sobotka is based on her photo and is fused appliqué, enhanced with Tsukineko Inks. 


Oh my gosh…the detail. There is not a lot of stitching on the quilt and the fused edges are left raw. I really wonder what the quilt looked like before ink was applied. The subtle shadowing is so realistic. Melissa Sobotka is coming to speak at Calico Cutters, my guild. I can’t wait! I need to hear all about her process. 


There was also a Special Exhibit of Sobotka’s quilts. I’m such a fan! I love this quilt. First, I am drawn in by the color and I am mesmerized by the repetition of the circle shapes. Then I look at the bricks and the background and I realize, this is not an abstract composition. I’m looking down on spindles on a board. That, “Oh! I see!” recognition is what I really love in any art form. 


The close quilting over the raw edges was wonderfully accomplished.


Lastly, I was Blown. Away. by the Lion King Special Exhibit. In this competition, quilters had to use 4 colors of Cherrywood fabrics. Viewers were invited to vote for their favorite quilt. What! This is only 1 of 3 or 4 panels of incredibly stunning little quilts. No way could I choose. 

Select quilts will be displayed at the Minskoff Theater on Broadway for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of The Lion King.


I saw The Lion King (quite a few) years ago with my daughters. I think we should go back, to see the quilts and the musical.

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!