Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Delightful Student

I've had the lovely experience of teaching a young German woman (16 yrs. old), an exchange student living with a friend of ours here in Sun Village, how to quilt.  She had been to Canada on a trip with her parents and saw some beautiful quilts and wanted to learn how to do this.

Marcy asked if I would show her how to quilt, and I was happy to do that.  She took Victoria see some of the quilts I have here and Victoria decided to make the "Picket Fences" quilt.  They went to 35th Avenue Sewing and picked up a large package of 2 1/2" Batik strips in yellows, reds and greens, nice and bright.

We met in the Sewing Room on Tuesday, the 11th and began.  The pattern called for 3" strips, so we had to modify it somewhat in terms of how long to cut the strips.  Victoria is good in math, so that was a big help.  We did some cutting and I showed her how to sew on my Janome portable, with a 1/4" foot.  She took to it right away!

In fact, she finished her first block that morning, after just 4 hours of work, including all the preparatory stuff.  Congratulations!

Doesn't she look happy?

On Thursday we worked together again, with Victoria doing all the cutting, sewing and pressing.  She did excellent, careful work.

At home she finished seven blocks within a few days, and then wondered how many more she should make in order to create a quilt for her bed.  Again Marcy and Victoria came over and we put my Picket Fence quilt on the floor and compared sizes, deciding how many more blocks she would need.  It was daunting, considering that she will leave for home this coming Wednesday.  Not much time!

So that Saturday she came to my condo and sewed for several hours.  She has determination!

But it wasn't going to be enough.  We decided to do an ALL-OUT effort this past Saturday.  She agreed that I should help by also sewing.  We set up a real production line with Victoria (who had cut all the strips needed) choosing the strip sets for each square, pressing and trimming the squares and setting up the blocks, four squares together.  I spent the morning sewing.  Together we worked with concentration for FOUR HOURS!  I spent the entire four hours sewing steadily and fairly quickly.  

In the meantime Victoria had scaled down the size of the quilt from a 4 by 6 block setting to a 3 by 6 block setting.  We actually were a little short of fabric for a 4 by 6 setting, in spite of the fact that they had gone back to the store for another large package of 2 1/2" strips.  She will make up for that by adding borders to enlarge the quilt.

She is a terrific worker, well organized, precise and determined.  I'm very proud of her.

We will get together on Monday and Tuesday this week to finish as far as we can.  Given how well she has worked, I think it's possible that she will go home with a finished top, probably even with the three layer quilting sandwich made, but not yet quilted.  That would be a stretch.  But having seen how hard she works, I might even be surprised again by what she accomplishes!  What a great student!

Thursday, October 13, 2016


I'm referring to the fauna, not the yahoos!

During our evening walk around Pima Lake my sister and I were thrilled to see, in one area, two Canada geese, mama duck, but not here little ducklings, and a blue heron.  The heron doesn't like company and always flies away when we approach.  The geese and the duck are more accustomed to having people around.

Mama Duck is a white bird with some beige feathers in patches here and there.  A few years ago there were always a pair of ducks here, Mama and her mate, a pure white duck.  We had often speculated on which of the pair was the male and which was the female, but really couldn't tell.  The pure white duck disappeared about two years ago.  We don't know what happened to that duck--perhaps he was caught by a coyote.

This year we saw mama duck with a whole flotilla of ducklings following here, all dark feathered with nice yellow bills.  Well, that told us definitely that the white duck with the beige feathers was the female of the pair.  Tonight we didn't see any of her ducklings and that's worrying.

It's worrying because there often are coyotes in the village.  This is rather surprising since our community is no longer the one at the edge of the desert.  The border between urban population and desert has moved north from here over the last decade.  Friends who live north in what was at the time the farthest urban setting once saw a lynx when out for their evening walk.  They quickly returned home.  I've seen coyotes here more than once.  That's surprising also because we live in a walled, gated community here.  But they do come in occasionally.  There are lots of ducks and geese here, and also small dogs.  The rule is that a dog must be on leash at all times, but I've heard of them being snatched off patios in the village.  And there is a population of bunnies running around the village, also an inviting target for a coyote.

Also paddling around in the lake were a pair of coots.  At least, we think they were coots, but rather hard to distinguish in the dark, as they are black except for yellow beaks.

Sometime this week I looked up from the pool and saw a beautiful large eagle flying overhead.  Hawks are a common sight, and also pigeons or doves.  Quite often you can hear beautiful bird song and not be able to see the bird.  They are hidden in the dense foliage of the trees.  Hummingbirds are also a frequent sight.

Our final treat of the evening was a tiny lizard that scampered across the cement sidewalk just in front of us.  Very noticeable on the cement, but almost invisible once he reached the grass on the other side.

Monday, October 10, 2016


I'm referring to the current presidential election campaign in the U.S.  First a disclaimer: I am a U.S. citizen, married to a Canadian citizen and have lived in Canada for the last 49 years, except for a 4 1/2 year interval from 1978 to 1983 when we lived in Oregon.  I do not vote in the U.S. elections.  When we first lived in Canada in 1967 I looked into becoming registered to vote, and it seemed an impossibly complicated process.  Not being a very politically motivated person at the time, I gave it up.  I have the privilege of being a Permanent Resident of Canada.  I grew up in a completely Republican conservative milieu in Michigan.  I have loyalties to both countries and think that both the U.S. and Canada are great countries, wonderful and blessed places to live.  I'm grateful to be here, part-time in Canada and part-time in the U.S.

I've watched the political process in the U.S. decay over the last 20 or so years, and considered the rise of the far-right in the Republican party with dismay.  The same can be said of the rise of the extreme "right" of the Protestant wing of Christianity.  And I think the two are related.  It seems to me that both wings are not grounded in Scripture (by which, as a Christian, I mean the Bible) nor are they grounded in history.  Such ignorance unmoors them, making them, as St. Paul said, "blown to and fro by every stray wind of doctrine," and I would add, every stray lie and controversy.

Along with millions of others we have watched the development of this campaign with interest and alarm.  We've never seen anything like the depths to which the political discourse has descended.  The only thing comparable in politics that I can remember is the whole Watergate schmozzle when the country was appalled by the web of lies and deceit that was uncovered in the highest levels of government.  Bill Clinton's infidelities and lies come a close second.  So you can't blame either the Democrat or Republican side for this atrocity.  There's enough shame to cover both sides.

Last night's debate was a sad, discouraging affair.  I'm very sad that Hillary engaged in the back and forth accusations.  I had hoped that she would, as she said, Take the high road, resolutely refusing to lower to the back and forth accusations that we heard yesterday.  I had hoped that she would absolutely stick to positive statements of her record--she has a solid record of service and achievement--and a solid, positive explanation of her plans to rectify the deep problems and divisions dragging the great country of America down into the gutter, embarrassing all of us before the world.  That's what I look for from those who would lead this country.

So I'm sad today.

The encouraging thing that we find when we spend time in the U.S., a period of months each year, is that the vast majority of people we meet here are wonderful, kind, and even righteous.

If you care to enter this discussion, please post a comment.  If you can't do that, please mail your comments to me at

Thursday, October 6, 2016


I started a pair of socks for my brother-in-law the first week of July and just finished them this past Sunday.  There were lots of other projects in between: dishcloths, 2 pair of mittens, one single mitten (have to knit the second of the pair yet), a scarf, and a pair of socks for the dear grandson who turned 16 in August.  All things that needed doing by a certain time.

Wayne's birthday was the last week of September, but I didn't want to mail them from Alberta to AZ, so I left them to finish in the car on the way here.  I think they turned out quite well:

It bothers me that the colours land in different places on these socks.  They don't seem like a matching pair to me when that happens.  For this pair I used the "Broadripple" pattern, a pattern from the internet--maybe four years ago--which appealed to me initially because it refers to an area in Indianapolis that I visited as a teen.  One of my Dad's brothers and his family lived there, and we were visiting them.  I remember going to a big indoor swimming pool by that name.  

Now I simply like the pattern for itself, as it is just two rounds, one with added stitches and stitches knit together, and the second round just plain knit each stitch.  The combination of those two rounds forms a chevron pattern, just a little more interesting than a plain sock.  It's quite adjustable because the amount of stitches between the chevrons and the amount of stitches in the chevrons themselves can be varied to adjust to the circumference desired.

I finished the second sock in the car on Sunday, and immediately cast on a new pair for Jim.  This time I'm doing a cable pattern that I adjusted to fit a 60 stitch circumference.  Toe up formula again, and I'm onto the gusset increases already.  But the cable pattern will definitely take more time to knit than the chevrons.  I like to make each of his pairs of socks slightly different so that they can be matched up with their mate after being washed.

This has been a very good first week here: went to the pool several afternoons, went to orchestra rehearsal Wednesday morning and to church choir this afternoon.  Only "downer" this week: yesterday the water heater failed.  A new one will be installed on Monday, but in the meantime we need to keep the water supply to the condo turned off, or there is leaking in the laundry room.  We turn it on for just a bit now and then to get some water for washing or flushing, and then try to remember to turn it off again.  One of the joys of owning your own place, I guess.  But I'm glad it happened while we are here and not during the time the renter is here in the spring months.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


We made our three day trek down to Arizona over this past weekend.  We try to time it so that we go through Salt Lake City at a low traffic time, and this year it was between 2 and 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday.  It wasn't too bad.  There are good HOV lanes that we can use to just keep going at a steady pace, without very much in and out traffic (limited areas where you can get on or off the HOV lane).  So that part was good.

But somehow or other, it always rains in and around Salt Lake City.  And, there is always construction on those roads.  This year was no exception.  Here we are approaching Salt Lake City:

I'm calling this "Clouds and Construction"--miles of it.  

The clouds did not just threaten, they loosed a terrific downpour just north of SLC.  It was scary because even with the wipers on full speed, it was difficult to see where the lanes were.  Jim kept his cool and just drove carefully on, and we came through without incident.

What always amazes me at times like that are the drivers in the far left lane who speed along, well above the ordinary limit.  I find that pretty scary!

Yesterday was our first day here, and in the morning I was busy stocking up on groceries.  After a lovely dinner at 1:30, we went to the pool for the afternoon.  That's always so nice!  Sunshine on the palm trees, soft breezes (well a little brisk yesterday) and the water warmed to 82º.  Relaxation for sure!

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Early this summer I started sewing a blouse in a pretty, blue batik fabric.  I used a pattern that had been fitted to me specifically, and was supposed to be absolutely trouble-free as a result.  Well, I had more trouble with fitting that blouse than any other garment I've made in ages.

The bust dart was moved a few times (you can still see the needle holes where it was sewed before), and finally I just thought, Enough!  I was determined to finish the blouse.  But when the first sleeve was sewed in it was evident that the sleeve, designed to end below the elbow, was too short to allow it to be buttoned there.  It will work as elbow length with the cuff turned up, so that's how I'll wear it.

But that additional problem just kind of finished that project for me.  The blouse was shoved into a corner and left to "ripen."  Last week I finally pulled it out again, sewed on the other sleeve, made the buttonholes, hemmed the blouse (by hand) and sewed on the buttons.  It's not bad:

But given the history of struggles in making it, I wonder if I'll ever enjoy wearing it.

Friday, September 23, 2016


My good friend M. gave me a recipe for a Harvest Loaf, that turns out very tasty.


1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin

Cream butter and sugar with the mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir in the pumpkin. Add 1 cup cut up dates (or raisins)

In another bowl mix together:
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger

Stir the dry mixture into the wet ingredients.  Spoon into a 9 x 5 loaf pan lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350º for one hour.  Cool.  Wrap.

Keeps well, freezes well, and tastes terrific.

This morning I made a triple recipe, and used a whole package of dates which had been in the cupboard for some time.  I microwaved them to soften them and cut them vertically and then horizontally.  This worked very well.

This recipe has been changed to reflect the way I bake, viz. less sugar, less white flour and some whole wheat flour instead, and the addition of dates in place of chocolate chips.  I tripled the ingredients, because that uses one large can of pumpkin.  The small sized can seems to hold enough to two loaves.

The first time I used this recipe, I made one loaf, which used 1/2 of a smaller can of pumpkin and froze the other cup for later use.  I've also adapted this recipe to my standard muffin recipe.  Those changes: no butter, but 3 TBS of olive oil in its place and 1/2 cup sugar instead of 3/4 cup.  Bake in parchment lined muffin tins for 25 min.

That adaptation turned out very well also.  I think I used raisins in that one.

Earlier this week we watched a new Ken Burns film, "The Sharps War."  Everything by Ken Burns is excellent, and this film about a pastoral couple who were sent to Poland just before the Second World War with the mission to save as many Jewish people, especially children, as possible.  They were successful in saving quite a few.  It was a difficult, very dangerous task.  Very well done, and very worthwhile to watch.  It aired on PBS, and if past programs are anything to go by, it will be shown again sometime on PBS.