Wings…Again


Remember the butterfly wings I made for my granddaughters? And how I said NEVER AGAIN? In the back of my mind (way, way back…) I was thinking of how I could alter the pattern to create  wings that would appeal to boys. I have two grandsons with active imaginations, they need wings too, right! 


Four days before we left for California I announced to Gary that I was going to make Dragon Wings for the boys. He said he wished he had made a recording of all the whining I did during the butterfly construction. Not helpful, Gary. 


It’s different this time! I know what I’m getting into. I know it’s going to take four coats of paint so I bought LOTS of bottles– only one trip needed to Walmart. I discovered, in desperation, if you put the wings on the deck in full sun, they dry faster. 


Still, it’s a lot of tedious painting work. Can I just say, NEVER AGAIN, for real this time. 


Trying the wings on. Kids know exactly how Dragons fly. 


Ellis and Bodie had quite a serious discussion on what Dragons sound like. They roar, of course, and breath fire. 


But mostly, Dragons spread their wings and fly!   Hopefully not from the top of the really high swing set in their backyard. 

Cali Boys


Gary and I are in California enjoying some time with our grandsons. 


The cotton candy machine got a big, sticky thumbs up.


Is this the coolest bike for transporting toddlers! 


We all rode down the promenade.


How is this for perfect weather and a fantastic view. 


Down the incline to ride along the beach. 


We rode down to the Santa Monica pier on the beach walk then back home along the promenade. I’m really glad we didn’t have to push up that incline. 

Another Day, Another Refuge


Who knew a Wildlife Refuge was a great area for biking? Add to the list right next to Rail Trails! When I’ve driven to the airport in Philadelphia, I’ve noticed people biking on what appeared to be a paved path right beside I-95. I knew the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum was there, but I had never been. A bit of investigation discovered miles of trails for walking or biking. 


Just to round out a full Philadelphia experience, we packed Italian hoagies from WaWa and had a picnic lunch, sitting on the bench. I can almost see the statue of William Penn on top of City Hall. 


The path parallels busy and noisy Interstate 95 and then turns into a shady dirt-packed trail. 


You quickly forget the urban proximity of metropolitan Philadelphia. The Lenape Indians lived here and called the place Tennakon Minquas, “islands of the marsh.”


When European settlers arrived they drained and filled the marshes, gradually reducing 6000 acres to only 200.  In the 1960’s, local citizens understood the importance of the natural wetlands and fought to re-route I-95 and save the remaining Tinicum Marsh. 


Today the refuge’s nearly 1000 acres of woods, pond, marsh and meadow are dedicated to wildlife conservation and the environment. 


There is a Visitors Center with exhibits and educational programs and special events. 


It’s pretty cool to bike right across a marsh and stop to view water fowl in their natural habitat.


Autumn clematis drapes the trees in white blooms and the scent is beautiful.


I used to have this prolific vine growing on my deck pergola. I wonder if it is considered an invasive plant in the Refuge. 


There are guides and signs explaining the vital roles this marsh plays in so many ecological aspects. It just might be the human species that benefits most. How wonderful to have a place of respit to connect with nature, find relaxation, recreation and peaceful surroundings, right on the doorstep of a major city. Thank you Senator John Heinz and supporters for saving and preserving this amazing wetland area. 

Blackwater


One of the things I love best about living in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is a short drive in any direction delivers you to a different environment. We are spending time with our friends Christine and Mark on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. That’s the Sassafras River behind Gary.

The Chesapeake Bay Area is steeped in history. I’ve wanted to see the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park since it opened in March. The Choptank River Region in Dorchester County is an area of wetlands, rivers and creeks, much as it was over 150 years ago. Tubman used her knowledge of the mazelike paths and waterways to navigate the landscape, and guide over 70 enslaved people to freedom. 

I am in awe of this remarkable woman. Born into slavery, she freed herself and others, served as a nurse and spy during the Civil War, worked for woman’s suffrage and founded a home for the elderly and disadvantaged.

The exhibits at the Visitor Center follow the story of Tubman’s life. It is an illuminating and emotional experience, involving all the senses.  In addition to the Center, there is a 125 mile driving tour documenting over 2 dozen sites and scenic vistas associated with Harriet Tubman. I left wanting to know more. Did Tubman come through Kennett Square, an important stop on the Underground Railroad? I will have to research that another day.

Right next to the new Park is Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and miles of biking.  

Christine spotted three eagles soaring the thermals high above. 

We couldn’t decide if this was an eagle or osprey nest. 

Blackwater Refuge has one of the highest concentrations of nesting bald eagles on the Atlantic coast and is an important resting and feeding area for migrating and wintering waterfowl. It’s a great day to bike through the tidal marshes and loblolly pine forests.  

This could be a problem…  we decided to turn around and ride along the park boundary.

It’s just not everywhere you can stop at a local fruit stand and pick up some chicken necks as well!

Just down the road, we admired a catch of blue crabs, caught with chicken necks as bait. 

The crabs remind the guys that they are starving and seriously in need of a cold beer. Sounds good to Christine and me.

I specified outdoor seating with a view and crab cakes on the menu. Portside Seafood Restaurant in Cambridge was perfect. We were able to watch the drawbridge open for “working boats” returning from the day of fishing or crabbing. 

Two songs are playing in my mind, “Old blackwater, keep on rollin'” and “Follow the drinking gourd.” Landscape and environment, how people live in different areas, the history of place is so fascinating to me. There just isn’t enough time to do explore it all. 

Beach Babes


Surfs up! The Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee actually put down the rotary cutters and turned off the sewing machines at our annual retreat. Some of us put on swim suits and actually ventured into the ocean. I’m not saying who and they made me promise not to put photos on the blog. I can’t figure out why because we all looked smokin’ hot in those bikinis! 

I found this great string-pieced quilt on Pinterest. I’m a firm believer in bringing a project to a quilting retreat that doesn’t require too much heavy thinking. That way you can keep your focus on more important issues, like which wine compliments the entree? Red or white? And which desert to choose? Cheese cake, coconut cup-cakes or chocolate chip cookies?


I had a stack of light and dark strip-pieced blocks that I made at our “Bonnie Hunter Day” a while ago.


I needed to make the light/dark blocks for the star points. Usually in Bonnie Hunter patterns, you cut the dark blocks from corner to corner, parallel to the strips and the cut the light blocks the opposite way, then stitch a light and dark half together. But this design isn’t a Bonnie Hunter pattern and I had a revelation. 

Why not just strip the whole block, half light, half dark? The heck with cutting and re-sewing. 


I did want my center seam exactly on the diagonal. I matched a light and dark strip, right sides together and sewed on a premarked line, a quarter inch from the edge.


I pressed the two strips open.


Strip across the dark side then flip around and strip and sew the light side.


One star done. Yikes– the Pinterest quilt must have used smaller blocks because my star is 28 inches. A quilt set 3 by 3 star blocks would be about 84 inches square. That’s a big square quilt. 


If I set 2 by 3 stars and added a pieced block border, the quilt would measure about 70 by 98 inches. Closer to a twin bed size. I think that would be more usable than a giant square. I’m going to think about different border options. I need another retreat!


Thanks Peggy, for sharing your wonderful beach house. Thanks to all the Bee Buddies for good food and wine, for “therapy” and great friendship. We sorely missed those not in attendance. Until next time, Be happy and sew on.  

Butterflies 

I came across these butterfly wing costumes on the Makeit-loveit.com blog. Who doesn’t want wings? My little granddaughters certainly do!


Why do these projects look so easy and end up being…..aaarrrghhh! The colorful wing on the lower right is finished. The upper wing has the first coat of paint. Key words being first coat. The fabric used is a stretchy black athletic-style knit jersey that soaks up paint like a Hoover.


The very excellent directions in the tutorial suggest using foil underneath the fabric because you need to apply the paint, let it soak in and dry. The different colors of paint– even using the same brand, differ in absorption and coverage. 


I set up wing production in the kitchen. After multiple layers of paint– like 5 coats– 4 days of painting, and 2 trips to the store to buy more bottles of paint– the wings were finished. 


I took this photo at midnight. I still had to complete the sewing and construction at about 6 am the next morning because we planned to leave for the drive to Virginia by 8.  


Butterflies fly free! The wings were a huge hit. The drape of the fabric was lovely and the wings fluttered and the costumes fit well.


I especially like the way the wings can fold down behind when the girls let go of the edge. They can use their hands or easily get in the car or on the school bus. 


All the work was so worth it to see the girls spread their wings and fly!


I didn’t have time to make the antennae. That craft project is up next for this doting MomMom. I’ve gathered all the supplies and read through the tutorial on the blog. 

It looks pretty easy…

Spartans 


The real reason for driving down to West Virginia was to watch son Tanner compete in the Beast Spartan Race. A Spartan Race is a timed obstacle race but also a sport, a community, a philosophy, and a training and nutrition program. Races are run all over the United States and it’s a real festival with 60,000 people, venders and food, music and activities.


Kids can race too and Avarie and Mackenzie wanted to try the course. 


The girls ran a half mile and tackled the obstacles like real athletes– or maybe they were just having fun.


Mackenzie had to swim through the mud! Good thing we were warned and brought towels and a change of clothes.


Medals and treats and “can we do it again!”


It was time to cheer Dad on– he’s in there somewhere. Tanner ran the Beast Race — Fourteen miles through the woods with elevation gain and loss and 30 different obstacles. 


It was interesting to watch the techniques used to tackle the tasks. We could only see the last few obstacles on the course and after 4 hours of running and exertion, the fatigue the athletes had to push through was considerable. 


Men and women, old and young, pros and first-timers all challenged themselves against the course. It was very inspirational to hear the encouragement and positive attitudes from race officials, athletes and spectators.  


We all had a fun day in this gorgeous mountain location. Three really tired athletes and two exhausted grandparents/parents. I was actually feeling ok with being a watcher cheerleader. The obstacle I wanted to tackle was a large pizza. 

Groundhog Day


Different day, same Groundhog Trail, and I am again hiking 2 miles straight up to the Appalachian Trail. It’s not quite like the movie. We are not getting a shuttle from Allen. Heck no! Gary and I could not tolerate another ride with him. Gary has dropped me off at the Groundhog Trailhead and will then drive to the next Appalachian Trail road crossing. He will start hiking toward me and we will meet somewhere in the middle. He isn’t concerned with hiking every AT mile, as I am.


It’s such a beautiful day, almost chilly at 52 degrees but plenty of sweating on the ascent to the ridge. So on the drive here, I was contemplating, will this trail feel more difficult because I now know what to expect? On my own, I just keep going up at my own pace, I know I’ll get there. 


I absolutely love it when the Trail follows a long ridge, the mountain falling steeply down on both sides, a gentle breeze blowing through the clearings.


So many kinds of fungus to admire. 


I like wild flowers better but these mushrooms were so colorful and beautiful.


This one is pretty cute too.

It’s been a lovely hike today. Gary has found a nice spot on the way down to stop for peanut butter sandwiches. I wish I could hike for a few more days. The next 50 miles of the Trail north have road crossings conveniently placed at day hike distances and don’t look difficult to find. I love the Virginia mountains. I can’t wait. And woohoo! With today’s milage, I’ve made it out of the 5 hundreds!

Groundhog Trail to VA 635   8.8 miles

493.6 miles to finish

I Walk the Line


When I backpacked the Appalachian Trail, I hiked from white blaze to white blaze. At the end of the day, I pitched my tent or stayed in a shelter on the Trail.  Now I try to hike with just a day pack, staying in hotels at night. Beds and showers are lovely! It’s not easier, really. Just a different kind of difficult. Day hiking involves lots of research and driving, finding trailheads, roads or remote forest tracts that cross the AT. Then setting up car shuttles, either with friends and two cars or hiring a shuttle driver. 

Sometimes, there are really long stretches of wilderness between roads. There isn’t a single road crossing the Appalachian Trail north from Pearisburg for 20 miles because the path follows a high mountain ridge.  I can’t hike 20 miles in a day anymore. And I really didn’t want to backpack overnight — although in hindsight….  I found a side trail that I could use to climb the ridge up to the AT called the Groundhog Trail. It would add 2 miles to the AT milage and was a 2000 foot, straight up climb. Aaaarrrgh. 


Settling into the MacArthur Hotel the night before, the owner, Allen, assured me that he could shuttle us. I like to start early when it’s cooler and 10 miles is a long day. What time could we leave? “After breakfast, oh, 8 or 8:30.” Hum, kinda late but the hotel has a cafe and the two Trail heads are not too far. We got a table in the cafe at 7:45 and Allen quickly brought us coffee. We are the only ones here and I can’t smell or see any food. A second cup of coffee and chatting about the location of the Groundhog Trail, Allen says he shuttles hikers there occasionally. Great, but um, where is breakfast? “Oh, I’ve already had my breakfast. I’m taking you two to a buffet on the way.” WHAT? 


So we dropped our car at the first Trailhead, 10 minutes, no problem, and got into Allen’s car.  Interesting drive. I didn’t have to worry about Allen texting at the wheel. He was too busy dipping a pinch of Skoal and opening the door to spit while bumping down country roads. Oh dear lord! My plan was to order something quick, to eat in the car, but that didn’t go well. Allen knows all the old timers in the restaurant and has to shake and back-slap his cronies. And then he proceeded to order eggs, bacon, grits, orange juice and coffee. That was all Gary needed — HE ordered sausage, biscuits and gravy. SERIOUSLY? I thought Allen already ate? Oh, and we paid the tab.

I kept my cool by imagining my hiking friend Laura and thinking about what her reaction would have been. Definitely entertaining. When we finely got on the road again, the “cool” didn’t last long because Allen immediately took a wrong turn. We tried to convince him but he says he’s lived here for 72 years and knows every road. Gary and I know exactly where the Groundhog Trail is. Maximum 15 minute drive. AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER, after I’ve practically had a stroke and used some very, very bad language, Gary has managed to guide Allen to the Trail head. 


I have never been so glad to get out of a car and start hiking. See that ridge in the distance? My iPhone App says I climbed 56 floors. I guess that translates to 2000 feet elevation in two miles. 


The good news was that the Groundhog Trail was steep but nicely switch-backed and well marked with blue blazes and cairns. 


Once we got to the top it was just gorgeous! The views were amazing and a cool breeze dried the sweat from the climb. Ahhh. Now I remember why I do this. 


There were long meadows to ramble across.


Stiles to leave the woods. 


For most of the hike, we literally have one foot in Virginia and the other in West Virginia. I can’t get that Johnny Cash song out of my head — “Because your mine, I walk the line” — state line, that is. It’s almost flat for 6 miles and then a gentle 2 mile decent down to the New River.


Down and out of the woods in Pearisburg it’s reward time! Is there anything better than a Heath Bar Blizzard?


After the breakfast fiasco, I didn’t trust dinner to actually be served at our hotel but I wasn’t disappointed. The local town folk joined hotel guests for pork chops, green beans, potatoes and warm brownies with ice cream for desert. Then everyone stayed for a jam session.


Gary and I (and Allen) sat in rockers on the veranda with a glass of wine and listened to surprisingly wonderful mountain inspired music. I was pretty frustrated earlier but I am reminded that I’m not hiking the Appalachian Trail to count off miles in an endurance test. I want to enjoy the woods and nature that I love but also experience the culture of rural small towns in America. The characters you meet along the way just enrich the journey. 

Groundhog Trail to VA 641   10.7 miles

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. 

Enola


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.