I Have a Plan

Gary and I decided to take a walk.

It was 18 degrees.

The Brandywine River was frozen.

So was I.

The End.

Ok… not the end…today we have a snowing blizzard white-out, Nor’easter. Gary got outa town, business trip to India, where it is 80 degrees. I’m home waiting for the howling winds to ramp up. I better not lose power in this storm because I have a plan.

Sew and quilt and long for Spring.

Read. I have 4 library books stacked up.

Finish knitting socks for my granddaughter.

Binge watch Big Little Lies. I have popcorn, chocolate, Oreos.

So that’s pretty much the plan. Oh, and catch up on writing Blog posts. Lots of Blog posts. I’m so behind. Maybe all these diversions will take my mind off wondering why I’m not in Florida.

A Splash of Christmas

For the last several years, Gary and I have decamped to Hilton Head over the Christmas holidays. This year we decided to stay home and we invited lots of friends for dinner parties and get togethers. Oh crap! I have to decorate.

The front door seriously needs a bower of fresh greens draped above the lintel and cascading down. Twinkling white lights would be a lovely touch as well. Not gonna happen, tho. I’m pretty sure I don’t even own any kind of Christmas lights. Last year, in a frenzy of decluttering, I attacked the Christmas stuff and got rid of– maybe everything. Gulp.

Thank goodness for lots of red roses and the Quilt Bee gift exchanges. I love being reminded of my friends when I use the gifts I’ve received over the years. Susie made this table runner.

This year I received a table topper made by Joan. I love the shape and I can use it year round. Thank you, Joan!

I created a low table scape with my nativity set brought back from Mexico. I need lots of room for appetizers.

It’s cold enough for a welcoming fire. St. Nick looks on, reminding me that we live in Wyeth country. I haven’t been to the Brandywine River Museum at Christmas for years. Time for a return visit.

I’ve been happily cooking for three days but doing the flower arrangements brings me to my knees. I always leave it to the last minute then it’s a crazy scramble to find the right vases. I never have enough greens and I grab a scissors– where is the real clipper? Who knows? I’m a mad woman chopping off whatever I can get in the backyard. Lucky for me, it was a good year for holly berries.

The red bear paw quilt can stay up through Valentines Day, woo hoo! I love this quilt. I made the blocks with red fabric donations from friends almost 30 years ago, and it’s all hand quilted.

Michele made this perfect fit table runner. I can’t remember when I started this little wall hanging quilt. I got the top finished then put it in the que to be quilted, maybe 10 years ago. Why didn’t I just finish it? I don’t know, but this is why you gotta love UFO’s. I hauled it out, machine quilted, sewed on the binding, –boom done! Got another Christmas decoration!

The house smells delicious, the table is set, the fireplace is glowing, there are splashes of Christmas in the house. Pop that champagne cork and bring on the friends!

The Child Finder

I think the adjective “really” is so over-used. I try to avoid using it. But I have to say, “The Child Finder” by Rene Denfeld is a really– no, make that– really, really good book.

So I’ve been thinking, what makes a book really good?

1. The first page of the story holds you like a vice grip.

2. Everything gets put on hold, customer quilts needing long-arm quilting, Christmas gift sewing, books you are supposed to be reading for discussion, blogging– (I know, I know…) Everything.

3. No actual meals get prepared because breakfast, lunch and dinner get devoured straight from the bag, wood-chipper style. Cookies, potato chips, whatever.

4. You don’t leave the house at all because you, Can’t. Put. The. Book. Down.

5. Husband. What husband?

6. The last few pages are super hard to read because the tears in your eyes make it hard to see the words.

7. When you finely close the book, you sit in awe for a nano second. Then grab the iPad and relief is palpable when Google reveals other books written by the author.

8. Write an entire blog post about the book. Yeah, it was that good.

Years End

I had such a fun time last week in Fayetteville, New York with the Towpath Quilters. Not enough time! I have given up on trying to take photos during a workshop because it’s too busy and intense. Ok, I mostly just get involved and forget. I want to return someday and ride my bike on the Erie Canal Towpath Trail and be able to explore the area.

Aha…my final lecture and workshop for this year. I just dumped everything in my studio. I’ll organize the stuff and put it away later. I’m so anxious to get sewing on a few quilts I’ve had planned.

Auditioning some silk center squares to add to these blocks. I feel like more flower appliqué is needed.

I’m enjoying lazing about! Cleaning up my sewing room. Starting some new quilts. Reading books. The cleaning and sewing (and cooking and everything else) were on hold while I finished Tana French’s latest novel. I’ve read all the books written by this author and if you like suspenseful detective stories, I highly recommend Tana French. There is new Irish slang vocabulary to learn because the author is Irish and the setting is always Ireland. I love that the cast of characters is familiar throughout the books, but the lead detective changes. I wish they would make a Netflix series with the stories. I’d be binge watching!

Fan Student


Calico Cutters Quilt Guild had a terrific speaker this week. Melissa Sobotka is an award winning quilt maker. She won Best of Show a few years ago in Houston for her quilt, “Chihuly’s Gondola.” The quilt was constructed with a raw edge appliqué technique and viewers had a hard time believing it wasn’t a photograph printed on fabric. 


The slide show was interesting but I was disappointed not to see a single actual quilt. Melissa has sold her quilts and several are in museums and she didn’t have any to bring to the presentation. Wow.


Lucky for me, I saw this amazing quilt, “Silk Road,” at the Lancaster AQS Show in March. I had to get my face just a few inches from the quilt to see the bitty, tiny, fused fabrics and quilting stitches. Seriously? This is not a photograph?

As incredible as those two quilts are, this one of spindles on a warehouse wall, is my favorite. Seeing the depth and coloration of the images in raw edge fabric blew me away and I needed to know, HOW DOES SHE DO THAT?


When I found out that Melissa was coming to our guild to do a workshop I was the first to sign up. I convinced my friend Karen to come too. 


We didn’t have to lug sewing machines to learn Picture Perfect Appliqué. And we didn’t even have to gather materials because Melissa provides a nicely packaged kit. 


We worked from a photograph of a colorful frog. 


We practiced cutting pre-fused fabric shapes and then using a variety of paints and inks to blur and blend the line where the fabrics meet. On the left, I used a pink Derwent Inktense block with a paintbrush on my fabric. Karen brushed Tsukineko ink in white on her shapes. Humm. This technique could take a lot of practice. Controlling the “bleeding” of the paint into the fabric requires a dry brush and experimentation. 


I’ve done quite a bit of raw edge fused appliqué but it’s interesting too see differences in another quilters’s technique. The painting on fabric was new to me and I might like to try this on my quilts. 


We didn’t have time to complete our project in class but got enough of the frog together to understand the process. I applied ink to the frogs eyes and dabbed on white dots to alter the flat green fabric. It made the frog much more dimensional. Ribbit!

I enjoyed the class and being a student for a change. Tomorrow I’m off to New York to lecture and teach my Quilting in Layers Workshop to Towpath Quilt Guild. Learn and teach, it’s all good!

Last Ride?


It’s November already but the great weather just goes on and on. I keep wondering, will this be my last bike ride for the season? Gary and I were just out in Denver, Colorado and woke up to a half inch of ice coating everything. No fun trying to chip ice off the windshield of the car using the plastic hotel room swipe key. Of course, the next day, it was 70 degrees. Crazy. I’m glad to be back in Pennsylvania where you can count on the forecast– mostly.


Last week we rode our bikes on the Delaware and Raritan Canal trail in New Jersey. What? The trail crosses through a golf course– never seen that before. 


No! Don’t even think about it. You know he’s thinking about it. 


I was sceptical about this trail at first. Especially when I saw the dirt path but it was smooth and easy riding. And spectacular, with a lake on one side and the canal on the other. Wow. 


I try to imagine what life was like, living in the small cottage and working the locks for the barges that traveled the canal. Such a different time. 


Beautiful Carnegie Lake. I don’t know if they allow motors but we see lots of kayaks and canoes. 


We rode about 9 miles from Port Mercer to Kingston where we knew there was a nice restaurant, Eno Terra, just a block from the canal path. Ratz! Not open until 4 o’clock. 


Hum… ride on and hope for food ahead? Or turn back, though we didn’t see anything on the way here. Gary better not be thinking about that golf course…


Hey, if we turn around, we can ride up into Princeton from the canal. Gotta be food in a college town. 


I did say “ride up”. It’s always up from the water. It might not look that steep but I got off the bike and walked because it was forever UP.


This is why I love exploring. First we rode through the University, with old ivy draped buildings and then wheeled our bikes downtown. There were street musicians playing guitars and a classical violinist. And we found a nice restaurant for lunch. 


The interior was so cool. I loved this chandelier made from lamp bases. 


One of Gary’s criteria for a perfect bike ride. Yeah, mine too. 

Walking back down to the trail, I learned that it’s pretty easy to guide the bike while eating a double dip heath bar crunch ice cream cone. Makes walking the bike actually pleasurable.

From Mulberry street in Trenton to Landing Lane Bridge in New Brunswick, the D &R Canal runs almost 40 miles. We rode about 9 miles, out and back, from Port Mercer to Kingston. Whoohoo! That leaves about 30 miles of trail to explore! Hopefully there are more gorgeous days left this season for another bike ride. 

My Turn


Fresh flowers and deserts– yep, it was my turn to host the Sometimes We Do Quilt Bee. Those limoncello cheesecake squares from Ina Garten’s, “Cooking for Jeffrey,” book were so good. 


I love Reveal Day! We’ve been working on our latest challenge. Make a quilt using stripes and solids. Karen set the bar high, showing her quilt first. Oh– we decided the quilt didn’t have to be completed– yeah, we ran out of time, even after extending the deadline a few times. We have lives! It’s a good thing!


Michele was very graphic and modern with her design. I can see this in her house so well. 


Peggy needed a baby quilt, so cute pinwheel stripes and solids, plus gift. Good idea.


Go big or go home! Susie knocked it out of the park. I want this quilt on the back of my sofa. 


Joan made not one, but three table runners. And she left them for me to longarm quilt, thank you! The background is a lovely linen-look fabric.


I decided to make my own stripes with inset stripes, using my Quilting in Layers technique. 


In addition to the Challenge Quilts, there was lots of Show and Tell. Patty made a T Shirt quilt. Her friend is going to cherish this memory quilt. 


Can you see the Halloween fabric in Andra’s quilt? You would not believe her collection of spooky prints. Modern and quite subtle for Andra!


Karen was crazy prolific, finishing up a bunch of projects. She’s going to be busy in the coming months and says she won’t have time to sew. Uh huh.


Hey Karen! I’m accepting Christmas presents early! Love this small quilt. 


Can you believe she is giving this away? Not to me, unfortunately.


Ginger just finished this T Shirt quilt for a customer. She captured a masculine feel to coordinate with the motorcycle memories. 


Peggy made this spectacular quilt. How about that piecing! She trusted me to longarm quilt this beauty. Lots of ruler work. 


This wool table quilt lives in Joan’s dining room with a pumpkin in the center. I bet this was fun to make. 


Pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and witches. Andra made this cute dress and top for her granddaughter. Love that bit of ruffle under the skirt. 

Whew! That’s a lotta quilts and all I really want to do is go into my studio and sew stuff! 

Plans Change


I can’t believe I’ve been back from California for over a week. Note to self– schedule in a few recovery days at home following a vacation.  After a wonderful visit with our grandsons in Santa Monica, we got on a plane to SanFrancisco, planning to head to Napa for a few days of wine tasting. We had no idea that fires had engulfed the valley the night before. On the way to pick up our rental car, the shuttle driver mentioned the smoke drifting down from Napa. WHAT! That’s where we’re going! Gary and I sat in the parking lot, listening to the radio and scrolling on our phones for news. This was a serious fire. We were not going to Napa. We couldn’t even cancel our reservations. No cell service there. We later found out, our Inn Keeper had evacuated to a shelter. Wow. 


What to do? Just go home? Heck no! Never let it be said that we can’t scramble up a new plan on a moments notice. But… does it have to involve golf?   Sigh. 



We managed to get a room for the night at Quail Hollow Golf Resort outside of Carmel, and there just happens to be the lovely Folktale Vineyard right next door. 


We could only spend one night at Quail Hollow. It’s amazing how many folks fled the fires or were unable to get into Napa and have now traveled down south. I’ve never been to Carmel and I’m very happy to be right in the village where we can explore this quirky town on foot. Lots of the architecture looks built for gnomes!


It’s an easy stroll down to the ocean.


Can you imagine living with this view from your windows? We walked all around the ocean drive and marveled at the homes, built right up to the edge. They were not huge mansions with security gates.  The homes were all different and historical and had gorgeous, colorful gardens. I took about a thousand photos. 


We visited the church where Father Juniperro Serra administered to the missions he set up all along the coast of California.


Oh my gosh, I’d move to California for the farmers markets alone. And wine tasting was easily accomplished in tasting rooms all over Carmel. We bought a Wine Passport and could stroll to a tasting before dinner.


There is no shortage of wonderful restaurants in Carmel either. My favorite was Casanova. The food was delicious and history dates way back to the 1920’s when Charlie Chaplin ate here.


Of course The Golfer and I took the Seventeen Mile Drive along Pebble Beach. We stopped to buy a golf hat at Spyglass Golf Course… and just casually inquire if there were available tee times.  I think I was played…. a round of golf is $499, not including cart, caddie and tips. Heart palpitations! Nothing available for a week on any of the courses. Hey…. a hat is good!


I totally admit, I loved sitting outside at The Bench Restaurant in view of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. Gary watched the golfers, I watched a whale breaching, flipping his tale and cavorting just beyond.  

Every night we listened to the news of the Napa fires escalating and saw on television the ravaged homes and whole neighborhoods. We heard the stories of lives lost, fighting and fleeing the fires, and heroism. My heart is breaking in sorrow for the people affected. Napa Valley and the surrounding area is a very special place and the community is strong. I hope I can some day travel back there and raise a glass of wine in toast to resilience and indomitable spirit and see the amazing recovery that I know will happen.  

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.