Friday, December 28, 2012

A Bowlful of Health

Every morning when Jim gets up he spends about half an hour cutting up fruit for a fresh fruit salad.  I really appreciate his doing that; I'm not that wild about spending time in the kitchen.

I eat a salad bowl of the fruit; he eats a serving the size of the bowl you'd serve salad to a family of four to six people.  (He eats it throughout the day.)

You hear more and more about the health benefits of fruit and vegetables, especially of berries.  Now fresh fruit, especially berries, can be very expensive this time of year, and if you live in Alberta where the landscape has been covered with snow since the middle of October, you have to forget about the 100 mile diet, and buy fresh from California, Mexico or Chile.  We try to have a light carbon footprint, but fresh fruit is our exception to that "rule."

The blackberries are especially yummy!  There are also bananas, strawberries, blueberries and mangoes in that salad.  As I said, expensive, but so good and so good for you.

On the other hand we do not buy potato chips, candy bars (any candy), donuts, prepared foods, etc.  Plus we very seldom go out for a meal (more his idea than mine!)  When we do go out, one of our favourite places is the local Chinese restaurant for a huge bowl of Wor Wonton Soup.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Days of Leisure

I am greatly enjoying this holiday from all my usual "duties."  The first week and a half I read several books.  One very enjoyable one was "A Christmas Blizzard" by Garrison Keillor.  I had actually heard that whole book (it's a small paperback) read on CBC FM last year about this time.  I was sewing on a lap quilt for the DDIL at the time.  That's such a wonderful combination: sewing on an interesting project and hearing something interesting on radio at the same time.  I used to listen to CBC FM from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.  Their programming included a great deal of classical music, along with some commentary, and a few news breaks.  A few years ago they cut back severely on the amount of classical music and started broadcasting jazz, which I don't care for.  Just a matter of personal taste.
They now broadcast classical from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., which is not prime sewing time.  Plus, I just don't care for the host, Julie Nesrullah.  Now I often put on a CD to accompany my sewing time.  Lately I've been listening to the West Coast Mennonite Choir CD, "Carols to the Infant King."  What glorious music for the Christmas season!

I did finish one project early in December, but couldn't post a picture on the blog at that time.  Now whoever is in charge is letting these pictures slip through.  I never did sign up for paid picture space.  But I've reduced the size, just in case.  I believe if you click on the picture you can see it full size.

So this is a lap quilt that I started some time ago, just to see if it would work out.  These are paper foundation blocks.  That's not
paper-pieced, which is pretty "fiddley" but strips of material sewed
onto 6 1/2 squares of phone book paper.  It's totally scrappy, made with almost any materials. I just controlled the colours a bit.

I started each square with a strip of red diagonally across the paper backing.  Then strips of scraps are sewn on either side.  This photo shows the start of the second half of the square being applied.

Here's the pile of scraps I was using.  A Purrfect place to relax!  I think scraps actually multiply when you are not looking, much like wire coat hangers replicate themselves in the closet when the door is closed!

When you have four squares completed, sew them together to make a block.

The red fabric is from one of the first quilts I made.  It was bought in 1986.  A friend who was a quilting instructor helped me cut out the squares for that quilt, a Pennsylvania Hex design that has been on our bed since January of 1997.  Yes, it took me 11 years to make that quilt, one that is completely hand appliquéd and hand quilted.  It's coming to the end of its useful life, as the fabrics have faded completely away, and even have rips, due to exposure to sun while on the bed.  The quilt I'm working on today is intended to replace that old quilt.  Either that or become a gift quilt for a DD.  We'll see.

There was enough of the red fabric to make 16 squares, and that's what determined the finished size of this lap quilt.  I quite like it, and have decided to keep it for ourselves.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


It was -32ºC when we got up this morning.  There's only one sensible way to handle that kind of weather and Dickens has it down pat.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

O Christmas Tree!

We have several hundred Colorado Spruce growing in the triangle field south of the dugout.  Early in December we go there and pick out one that appeals to us and tie a red ribbon on it.  A week and a half ago Jim went out with the tractor and a saw, cut the tree down and loaded it in the tractor bucket, a much easier way to get it to the house than dragging it by hand!

A week ago we took it into the house and set it up.  It wasn't quite straight so he propped up one side of the tree stand to create the illusion that it was completely straight.  Over the weekend I added the lights and started hanging ornaments.

I like to limit what I use to create a kind of "theme" tree.  This year I first hung about 18 little brass coloured drums.  Then up went about 3 dozen hand crocheted snowflakes that I made a few years ago.  They were followed by a few dozen (fake) red apples.  Something more was needed, and that gap was filled with plain gold balls.  But I had only 5 of them.

Yesterday I found a package of 24 bright gold balls, unbreakable plastic, and placed them on top of the branches.  We think the tree looks great!

Jim takes care of watering it regularly so it won't drop its needles soon.  Last Monday he lay down on the floor to reach under it and poured a whole container of water into the tree stand.  He still couldn't feel the water rise to the top so he got another container full.  Still didn't reach the top.  He couldn't figure out what was going on.  Until, OOOPS!!!  There was a growing lake of water spreading under the tree.

Because we had shimmed up one side, the side nearest the room, the water was simply running out the back side of the tree stand as quickly as he was pouring it into the front!  What a disaster!  What to do?

We pulled the tree away from the railing into the middle of the living room and started mopping up the mess.  When the floor was dry I got out another plastic tablecloth to put under the tree to protect the floor.  We managed to slide the tree, stand and all
onto the new cloth and gently slid it back into position.  Several apples and snowflakes had fallen from the tree, not to mention lots of needles.

Eventually all was restored to its proper place and we've been enjoying our tree ever since.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Breaking News

New definition of "breaking news:" news that breaks your heart.

Today Jim and I watched with horror and deep sadness as the details of the mass murder in Connecticut came out.  I can't call it a mass shooting.  It is simply mass murder by someone who had guns (note the plural) and crates of ammunition.

How many innocents (both young and old) must die before the people rise up and say, "Enough!"

Who can deny that if he did not have guns, the toll of lives taken could never have reached these levels?

When will all the survivors, not just the wounded, but all those whose lives are wrenched into the depths of sadness will unite and demand an end to the supply of deadly weapons in the hands of anyone with the money to buy them?

Can you imagine the despair of those parents when they hear the seasonal carol, Joy to the World!

The world is weeping!

Another Christmas Concert

On Wednesday evening the violin students and the string ensemble gave their Christmas Concert/party to which we invited parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, etc.  We had a good crowd, about 40 to 50 people came, so the little old church which now houses the Arts Academy was nicely filled.

The concert began with the littlest students, seriously and with utmost care playing Jingle Bells (at about 4 times slower than normal) and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.  They were darling.  There were three other more advanced students, all students of the other violin teacher there because I hadn't taught my students Christmas music, other than what we did in the ensemble.  One piano student joined our concert and that gave a nice touch of variety to the program.

The ensemble then played four carols in very nice arrangements, after which the pianist joined us for a rousing rendition of Joy to the World, which the audience was invited to join in, singing along with us.

With the pianist helping we then played a medley called "Angels, Shepherds, Christmas, Kings" and we ended with "The Bells of Christmas" for which two brothers joined in with percussion instruments.  Before we played the final number I said to the group, "This is the last song before the end of this season.  Let's give it all we've got!"  And did they ever!!!  It was totally the best they have ever played anything, and they just thrilled me with what they accomplished.  Our audience, inclined to be appreciative anyway, was also delighted and thrilled with what their children and grandchildren achieved.

We then had a social hour with lots and lots of delicious goodies the families had brought to share.  Some of the students helped by stacking all the chairs to the side, storing the music stands downstairs and sweeping the floor when most of the guests had left.  There are always lots of willing hands to help with set up and take down, and that's a blessing for those of us who organize and are responsible for running the show.

Now I have 2 1/2 weeks off with the only things on my schedule being playing for church services the next two Sundays.  This Sunday Jan and I will play organ/violin pieces, and next Sunday I will be alone on piano.

I'm really looking forward to this time off.  I want to get pictures back up on the blog and I want to expand my email "inbox."  I've received messages about every other day that my boxes are too full, and the truth is they are almost totally empty.  I'll have to get that straightened out.

For now here's the wish for each and every one of us: May we be blessed with peaceful hours, an ability to focus on the spiritual meaning of this holiday, and a real experience of the coming of Christ into our lives.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Christmas Concert

On Saturday we went to Red Deer for the second concert of the season, this one titled, "A British Isles Christmas."  It was given in the Gaetz Ave. United Church, rather than the auditorium at the Red Deer Community College, as is usual.

We arrived early as we know it fills up well ahead of time, and seating is a little tight.  There were some people who came later and had trouble finding a seat.  Perhaps even some of them were turned away, which must have been a very big disappointment.  But it seemed to us that using ushers would have solved a lot of the problem.  People had to wander in and find their own seats in the pews.  At one point a young man made a request for people to create whatever room they could and raise their hands to indicate an available seat, but this was not followed up on.  There was room for another person in the section of pew where we were sitting, and also two rows ahead of us.  A little organization would have gone a long way toward solving this problem!

The concert featured the Calgary Boys' Choir and began with the beautiful setting of "Once in Royal David's City" which begins the Service of Lessons and Carols performed by the choir of King's College, Cambridge every year.  A very young boy, perhaps 8 years old, with a beautiful, pure voice sang the first verse solo, unaccompanied.  The choir remained at the rear of the auditorium for this entire song, and then processed in singing the Hodie of Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols.  The rest of the Britten was sung from the platform.

I was not familiar with this music, and I think Britten needs familiarity to be really appreciated and enjoyed.  But I did enjoy it on this first hearing, particularly the harp accompaniment, and the harp solo number in the middle of the series of pieces.  It was unfortunate that the audience there is not as sophisticated as it is enthusiastic: they clapped after each piece in the Ceremony (well, except for the harp solo).  Quite disruptive to the flow!  But the conductor just waited with his back to the audience each time, arms raised to begin the next movement, not acknowledging the applause.

Gustav Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter" was listed second on the program, but they sang it after the Britten.  The audience loved the Boys' Choir, but I was a little disappointed.  In the Britten I could decipher only about 9 words, all in Latin.  The rest I couldn't make out.  I think the acoustics in that fairly large church (seats about 550 and is tall with a wooden ceiling) must have changed dramatically from the (I'm supposing) afternoon rehearsal, when the church was empty, to the concert when it was packed with people in winter coats.  Usually boys' choirs have excellent diction, and they may well have had that, but at the performance it was not evident.

They gave us an extra number just before intermission: Choir and small orchestra in four spirited verses of Joy to the World.

After intermission the orchestra played a traditional Irish carol, Curoo, Curoo -- Carol of the Birds, which had a very interesting rhythm.  It seemed to be in 6/8, but with the occasional 9/8 measure, plus 4 measure phrases with a 5 or 6 measure phrase thrown in every now and then.  Very chipper and bright.

Then came the most interesting (to me) music on the program: an original composition by the conductor, Claude Lapalme, written as accompaniment to Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales.  The Red Deer Mayor (last name of Flewelling, which I believe is Welsh) read the text and did it masterfully!  The orchestra accompanied him.  It was superb!  I think the music deserves to become a classic.  I loved it!

For the final number the orchestra played "Auld Lange Syne" and the audience was invited to sing along when the brass entered.

A memorable evening and a really fine and enjoyable Christmas concert!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Summer Meal on a Winter Day

Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time know that we grow a large percentage of our food.  Among the vegetables we stored for this winter are some very fine, small beets.  I had pretty much forgotten about them until Jim reminded me last week, so one of our "hot" meals featured beets, boiled, skinned, sliced and served with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper.

Eating those beets put me in mind of a salad that I've been making for about two years, but usually in the summer.  I got a yen for that salad, so today, in spite of -18ºC temperatures, we had a summer meal.

Here's the recipe (basically just what I decided went well together):
For two people as a main course:
1/2 head of Buttercrunch lettuce
chopped celery
diced onion
some cooked and cooled quinoa or couscous
1/3 cup of corn kernels (preferably Peaches & Cream)
a sprinkling of pine nuts
3 smallish beets, boiled, skinned and chopped
lots of imitation crab pieces
one lovely avocado, diced

Sprinkle a bit of lime juice over the avocado and crab before adding them to the bowl.
Drizzle some good olive oil over the mixture.

If I had some focaccia I would have served that also, but instead heated some stew to round out the meal.  Jim had a good helping of stew after he finished the salad, but the salad was plenty for me.

Cold Weather & Warm Socks

The concert on Sunday also went very well.  Some thought that the little string group did an even better job on their two numbers.  The whole experience was very rewarding, and I'm so pleased with the enormous progress they have made since September.

On Wednesday I took them to a local Seniors' Residence for a 45 minute afternoon concert.  We were missing two of our good violin players, but the group played well.  We were also hampered by a low ceiling just in that particular area, a very "sound absorbing" ceiling, so we never sounded very loud.  But the audience was really appreciative.

Wednesday was pretty warm, hovering right around the freezing point, and that's a help when you are transporting instruments and stands, etc.  But Thursday the temperature started dropping.  Jim and I bundled up well and walked into town to visit the post office and the library.  The wind was from the northeast as we walked in (mainly on our backs) and we were fortunate that by the time we walked back the wind had almost completely died down.  It was really cold on the way home!  Time for hot chocolate when we got there.  This morning our official temp is -24ºC, but the thermometer on the balcony is registering -29ºC.  We are almost always colder than the official temp because we are at a low spot on our road.  

These days I'm finding that my mind is too occupied with all my duties, and I have no space for the sweater that I've been trying to finish.  It involves following a chart closely to get the colour work right.  But I do like to have something handy to knit while watching t.v. or just sitting relaxing.  So I picked up two balls of sock yarn that had been given to me.  They are the same kind of yarn, Paton's Kroy Sock yarn, a nice yarn to work with, but are different colour ways, both striped, with some of the same blues in each ball.  Since it takes one whole ball (50 gram) to make one sock, I decided to make a pair using the two different stripes together in each sock.  I do have pictures, and will post them when the picture upload thing gets straightened out.

On my first attempt I was knitting three or four rounds in one yarn and then switching to the other, but the joining area where the two yarns met was not nice.  It just wasn't working well.  And then I remembered something I had read once about knitting stripes and decided to rip out what I had knit and start over.  The new method is working like a charm!

It works this way:  at a certain point, introduce the new yarn and knit two of the needles with the new ball, which I am thinking of as the right-hand ball. Then go back, pick up the first yarn, or the left-hand ball, and knit one needle.  Switch to the r.h. yarn and knit one needle, switch to the l.h. yarn and knit one needle.  You never have the awkward switch from one yarn to the other!  They just chase each other around the sock seamlessly.

By the way, I always use five needles to knit socks in the round.  That means the stitches are held on four needles and can be evenly divided, two needles for the sole and two needles for the top of the foot.  The fifth needle is the active one used to create the new round of stitches.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Joy

We live just outside a small, rural Alberta town, population around 3,500.  It supports a surprisingly active and effective arts community with wide participation.  I served over five years on the Task Force and then the Board of the volunteer organization that seeks to support the arts here and to connect the artists with the community.

One organization in town is the Arts Academy.  This non-profit was started by an individual in 1993, and some years ago became a self governing society that seeks to provide arts education and live, artistic productions for the local community.

Last year and this year I am teaching Suzuki violin lessons there and leading the small string group.  At the beginning of the season in September we lost four of our best players, who were too busy that semester or had moved on to more advanced groups, and we gained five players who had no experience in group playing which involves several skills not needed when playing solo.  So we had a bit of a struggle for the first few weeks.

Since I knew we would be involved in the annual "Community Christmas Celebration" that the Arts Academy has staged for several years, we immediately began working on music for that program.  In the last few weeks we've been joined by some community helpers: two on violin, two percussionists and a very able pianist.

Last night we gave the first performance (of two) of the Community Christmas Celebration, a free program to which the whole town is invited.  We had a good crowd, an almost full house.

The program was wonderful!  It included polished performances in dance, a clever and amusing dialogue on the season, a community choir that did a great job, a combo (two guitars, banjo, drums, piano and voice) that performed two highly enjoyable songs, a bell choir, and our little string group.  All of the performances were of high quality, and the audience was delighted.

I was even more delighted with how the string group rose to the occasion and delivered a stirring rendition of our two songs, both medleys of Christmas music.

This afternoon we give our second performance, and I am just hoping that we give as convincing a performance as we did last evening.

Friday, November 30, 2012

More Troubles

I tried deleting all post from '09, February and March.  But that was a no go.  I still wasn't able to upload any pictures.

Then I tried creating a new blog, simply titled "Grammilou" but was not permitted to upload any pictures for that either.

I'm stymied!  What do I do now?


Yesterday I was all set to write a blog entry with lots of pictures about the latest finished project.  However, I am informed by Blogspot that all my "storage" have been used up.  I have no idea what they are talking about, and I don't intend to buy more storage.

It seems that my options may be
1.     Erase some of the earliest blog entries to see if that creates "room" on my "storage."
2.     Simply close "grammilousgarden" and begin a new blog.

I intend to try #1 first, and if that doesn't work to try #2.

Keep tuned to find out where I've gone!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nearly Gone

When we moved to our acreage in '99 there was a lot of work to be done.  The house had been built 20 years earlier, and nothing had ever been fixed, so far as we could see.  None of the rooms had been repainted; the carpet was still the original 70's orange and brown shag, and the leak in the kitchen ceiling was dealt with by means of an ice cream bucket placed on top of the cupboards to catch the drips.

There was an old garage about 150 ft from the house, crudely built by placing the walls directly on the ground.  An old ramshackle barn worthy of being demolished was dealt with when we hired someone to push it over with their bobcat.  An old workshop had a cement slab floor so that was worth saving.  We reshingled the roof, insulated the walls, put in a ceiling and covered the walls with rough sawn spruce.  That became our Sales Building.  The old garage received a foundation, was divided into two rooms, double insulated with no windows, the "car" door removed and replaced with one "people" door.  That became our cold storage building.

We built three greenhouses over the years, plus a good sized quonsett and a workshop.  The place is unrecognizable.

The only landscaping on the place was a shelter belt with four rows of Saskatoon bushes and three rows of about six foot high spruce trees, set several yards north of the house.  The lack of landscaping was a good thing, because it allowed Jim to gradually evolve a landscape full of trees, shrubs and perennials that now looks attractive in any season.  Even today, with the snow covering the ground, the spruce trees, the red and yellow stem dogwoods and the silvery Russian Olives lend lots of colour and interest to the grounds.

The house went through extensive renovation: a new roof, new floors and new windows, a solar space added beneath the exterior balcony.  One of the additions was a new garage, sharing the north wall of the house, but without direct access.  Jim really didn't want to knock any holes in the walls!  And a small addition to the garage is a little lean-to garbage shed on the north side, well away from the back entrance.

Living in the country means recycling.  We compost all our organic waste, visit the bottle depot to redeem all our beverage containers, and a few times a year we go to our local recycling depot with our glass, tin cans, newspapers and magazines, and most plastics.  The few things we can't deal with in those ways are deposited in our garbage shed, where there are four big plastic garbage cans.

Once or twice a year we have to make a trip to the dump to get rid of whatever has landed in the garbage shed.  It was time on Saturday to make that trip, so Jim got out the van (a really dirty old thing that is used to transport trees, etc.) and loaded up.  Just before he left he asked about a bag in the back hall, and I said, Yes, that needs to go along, and also those boots.

About three years ago I bought a cheap pair of winter boots from Walmart.  Last year the zipper came apart, not just unstitched, but the coil of the zipper parted company with the tape.  Unfixable, unless you are a shoemaker and have the right sort of sewing machine to replace the zippers in a pair of boots.  I was still using them, not having any others for walking in deep snow.  Thursday we were in the city and I bought another pair of cheap boots from Walmart--these don't have zippers, they just pull on.

I also have a few pair of very good, leather boots, including one pair of Reikers that I bought last year for $145.  I really enjoy those boots.  They fit perfectly, look elegant and, being just above the ankle, are very versatile.  I wear them a lot this time of the year, provided I'm not going to be walking through much snow.  They were also in the back hall, and, significantly, were on the dryer right beside the bag of trash.

I was busy at the sewing machine, working on finishing a project when Jim left.  Suddenly I had a thought: Did he take the old boots, on the floor by the door, or my dearly loved Reikers?  I went to the back hall and saw the dreadful truth: The Reikers were gone, and the old, broken boots were still there!!!  I quickly slipped into my clogs and RAN down the driveway, hoping, hoping, hoping he hadn't left!!!

Thank goodness he was still there, brushing the snow off the van!  The Reikers were on the front seat.  I was able to retrieve them!  If he had left, it would have been curtains for those boots.  He doesn't carry a cell phone, and would have been unreachable.  I felt quite shaken for the next while, thinking how easily that mistake was made and feeling very grateful that I was able to catch him before he left.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


October 25, Thursday
There's not much more to tell about our trip.  Leaving Yosemite we traveled northwest on 120, a really twisty road that descends to the valley with a series of spectacular views.  Turning north on 49 we found another narrow, twisting highway without the safety aspect of a good paved shoulder.  I was glad Jim was driving.  There was a double, solid yellow centre line for at least 90% of the way.  Then we turned east on Hwy 50 to the Tahoe area.  I drove most of that stretch.

Driving north on 89 along the west side of Lake Tahoe we were treated to some very beautiful scenery, with deep snowdrifts.  The road, fortunately, was clear.  When we reached I80 East we drove to Sparks, Nevada where we took a room at the motel 6.  On the advice of the girl at the desk, we had supper at Rail City, a casino with a restaurant.  I had asked about nearby family restaurants.  This was about as far from a family restaurant as could be.  It was incredibly noisy, and we were glad to leave.

October 26, Friday
We continued east on I80 for the whole day, stopping in Winnemuca around 1 p.m. for a bite to eat and a visit to a Walmart for some groceries.  I hopped over to the yarn department, still looking for some sock yarn, but instead bought some yarn by Lion Brand (new to me) called "Amazing" in Constellation and in Glacier Bay.  As soon as I finished the current pair of socks I started on a scarf using these two close colourways.

That yarn was a delight to use, and turned out beautifully.  This looks a little washed out compared to the real thing.  It was going to be for a daughter or daughter-in-law, but when I saw how good it looked with Jim's navy fleece jacket, it was earmarked for him.  I finished it at home, and he's wearing with the jacket these days.  The socks went to my dear Sis in Arizona.

October 27, Saturday
Another day on the road.  Came to Helena, Montana about 7 p.m. and checked into the Motel 6 near I15, which we are following north to the border.

October 28, Sunday
This was a dark, overcast day.  Most fields were snow-covered, and the temperature was brisk, as was the wind.  Crossing the border back into Canada we had only a 5 minute wait in line.  As soon as we crossed the border the sun came out and the sky turned blue.  There was a lot of snow on the fields here.

In Lethbridge we went to visit our elderly friend Hilda.  The last we'd seen here was November of '11, when she didn't know us at all.  I wrote about that sad visit then.  This time she seemed much more responsive, but did say she didn't know us.  After a short visit we were saying goodbye when she cracked a joke, "Don't forget to close your eyes when you go to sleep!"  I laughed out loud and told her it was a good joke.  She smiled broadly.  How much nicer to end a visit this way compared to the sad ending of last November's visit.

Stopped in Strathmore for a few groceries and some chili at Tim Horton's.  I looked for some more of the Lion Brand yarn at the Walmart, hoping to make Jim a toque to match the scarf, but there was none.

We got home around 6:30, just as the day turned into night.  Wow! the house was cold after having the heat turned down all that time.  S. had kept everything in good order, and even put some fresh milk in the fridge for us.  Dickens was delighted to have us home, and we were glad to be there!  So that completed our little holiday for this year.

Some Projects completed since then:
I am just in a "snit" to complete some old projects, both quilting and knitting, so I got out this finished quilt top, single bed size, made my three layer sandwich and meander quilted it.  I found this a difficult project because I used a polyester batt that didn't hold as firm as the Warm and Natural.  But I got it done and here's the finished

This quilt I will keep for use when all the kids and grandkids visit.  We need lots of bedding for the whole gang then.

Here's a nifty, quick way to make a folded binding:  Cut the binding to 2 1/2" flat, place long
straight pins on the ironing board, and pull the
binding through the space between the pins and
the board.  You can just leave the iron steaming
flat down between two of the pins, and by
pulling the binding through, press it easily.  I just couldn't pull and take a picture at the same time, so you don't see the iron on the bindings.  This works just slick!

This week Tuesday I was busy at our town club showing how to make the blocks for our "club quilt"--a quilt that we all make blocks for, pay a fee to the kitty, and then draw to see who wins the quilt.  The president of the club and I had chosen the background.  The blocks are to be made using all batiks against the beige background.  The inner two strips are to be the darker fabrics and the outer two strips are to be lighter.  In that way the star design in the centre of the block shows up.  This is my sample block, and the lower left hand square shows how using too dark a fabric obscures the star in the centre.

To facilitate my teaching I made some another
sample block, using Christmas coloured fabrics.
This is a simple, practical way of turning a sample into a completed project.  To illustrate the method I sewed four of the squares at the meeting.  The four then are put together to make a complete block.  Yesterday at home I finished the third block and put the table runner together.  Today I put the binding on, and I will still do some machine quilting in the background areas to add a little sparkle interest with some gold quilting thread.  I'm not sure who will get this nice, seasonal runner.

I also finished up two clothing projects this past week.  The cute little pink cotton jacket is for our
youngest granddaughter.  It went into the mail this week.  Of course, she can't wear it as a jacket now that it's winter, but perhaps can wear it to school as a kind of "overblouse."

The black and gold knit top is one I bought for myself on sale, even though it was about three sizes to big.  I cut along the seams, cut the pieces down to size and resewed, using the serger.  It's very stretchy and will be a really comfortable, somewhat dressy top for the many times I wear black slacks or a black skirt this winter.  The gold thread is actually quite sparkly.

Well, now I'm all caught up on blogging.  Next thing I want to accomplish is quitting Facebook.  I've never liked that site much, and have found it difficult to navigate.  Maybe that's just my age!  But I love email, and this blog keeps me in touch with our friends and relatives, and even some folks I don't personally know.  I always am looking for some feedback in terms of comments or emails.  The person who comments most frequently is a friend right here in town.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

More Yosemite

October 22, Monday
Monday dawned dark and drizzly, just as predicted.  The Dear One went off early to the Lounge where internet was available, and found that it didn't open until 8 a.m.  So off he went again at 8, but this time used the car to keep dry.  I cleaned up the room and settled down to knit on my "travel" project, a pair of socks, originally meant for Grandson #2, but because the colours are quite feminine, now redirected for my dear Sis.

Dear Son #1 arrived around 11 a.m. and we had coffee together, and the Dear One came in again.  We three decided that since the rain was pretty steady and general we would do indoor things today.  So that afternoon we went to the Visitor Center to see the displays and watch the excellent film about Yosemite.  What beautiful photography!

We also visited the Indian Museum where a Native American was busy making jewelry from pine nuts, patiently shaping the end of a pine nut with a pumice stone.  He showed me a lovely bracelet he had made.  Displayed were some really amazing woven baskets, true works of art.

Then we went to the Village Store to purchase some easy fixings for supper: Three Thai Noodle Bowls (need only some hot water) and some cooked chicken, which, combined with the leftover veggies from last night's supper made a satisfying meal.  We had a good long visit in our cabin and wrapped up the day by 10 p.m.

October 23, Tuesday
Although the sky was still cloudy and there were a few scattered rain drops we decided this was a good day to visit a part of the park we had not yet seen: The Hetch Hetchy Dam and Lake area, in the Northwest section of the park, not far from where we had stayed in the West Gate Lodge on Saturday night.

We parked near the Dam, an impressive sight and hiked up the trail a ways.  I had forgotten my camera and used D.S.'s but I've had a terrible time getting those pictures from Jim's laptop to mine, hence the week-long delay since my last post.  The problem is still not completely solved, so I will just post a few pictures.  This is the dam, seen at the centre of the photo from a ways up the hiking trail.  And the next photo is the opposite view from this one, looking to the left over Hetch Hetchy Lake.  It was a very beautiful area!

The dam was built early in the last century, really in response to the San Francisco earthquake, to provide a reliable and clean supply of water to the whole San Francisco and valley area.  Because the lake and dam are so high in elevation the whole system operates without pumps, and the water travels entirely by gravity.  There are two other reservoirs in the system and besides providing a reliable water supply, all from snow melt, the whole system also provides a significant amount of power through its turbines and generators.

One very interesting "tree" or "shrub" (I'm not sure which) is the Manzanita, with its dark orange bark and convoluted limbs.  Its wood is very hard and was a
favourite of the original inhabitants of the area.

On our way here we saw the only bear we encountered in the park, a park famous for lots of bears.  It crossed the road right in front of us as we drove the narrow way to the dam.  I quickly grabbed the camera, but was too late to get a good picture.  All I managed was a little brown bump next to the tree as it disappeared down the slope next to the road.  I just tried now again to import that photo from Jim's laptop, but it just won't work.  I'm just glad I manage to get these here.

We planned to have dinner at a nice restaurant near the dam, but found out it opened for dinner at 5 p.m., and this was only around 3.  Instead we stopped at the Park Entrance gate and ate some chicken wraps we had bought earlier in the day.  There was a very cold wind that swept through the area, and we were thoroughly chilled.  It felt like about +38ºF!  Found out later that the high had been +40º that day.  Unseasonably cold.

 Back in our nice warm cabin we had some hot chocolate and ice cream.  Jim enjoyed reading a N.Y. Times newspaper that DS had brought, and we again visited until the evening was spent.

This was our third trip to visit DS in Yosemite, the first in 2003, and again in 2008.  I do have one little correction to the last post: DS is responsible for 40 buses ALONG WITH THREE OTHER MECHANICS!  I guess I inadvertently gave him a promotion!

Right in front of our cabin was this sign warning about bear damage.  Bears in Yosemite Valley have come to associate easy food with cars, as people often leave food in their vehicle.  There is a very strict prohibition against leaving any food in a vehicle, but nevertheless about 100 cars, trucks or vans are practically demolished there each year by raiding bears.  If you leave food in your car you risk having it impounded, or wrecked by a bear.

The strange thing is that there are snack machines in various outdoor places that the bears have not bothered.  So the conclusion is that one bear learned to trash a car for easy food access and actually imparted that behaviour to other bears.  They just haven't caught on to the snack machines yet!

October 24, Wednesday
We followed our usual morning routine, Jim to the lounge to use the internet, I cleaned up the room, trying to keep things neat and then sat down to knit for a while.  DS came around 11 a.m.  We had something to eat, bought at one of the cafeterias, and then set out for Happy Isles and Mirror Lake.

There have been some big rock slides at Happy Isles, and rock slides are actually a "usual" thing in Yosemite Valley, because of the geology of the place.  But that particular rock slide killed one camper and injured several other people.

Couldn't get a very clear view of the slide area, but all the white rock shows where the slide was, a huge area.

There was this bit of beauty alongside the trail where it crossed the Merced River on a small wooden bridge.

The shaded area just to the right of the "nose" in this picture shows the route DS and his climbing buddy were planning to tackle in the next week.  They were figuring on spending possibly three days on the face of this cliff.

Mostly we don't know when he's climbing and that's a lot more comfortable for us.  On the other hand, knowing that he's spending his days and nights on this rock face, really concentrates our prayers for him!

That was a few weeks ago now, and he is safely on the valley floor again.

Here's an unusual shot of Half Dome.  I didn't even recognize it from this point of view.  When we were here in 2008 I took a lovely picture of Half Dome from the Glacier Point Lookout.  Later I made a watercolour painting of that scene.

We had hiked up to Mirror Lake and, to our surprise, found this scene:
Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake, and this time of the year, when there is no snow melt going on, it's a large sandy area dotted with huge boulders.  It reminded me of a Japanese garden, and needed only the marks of careful raking to complete the picture.

Other hikers were similarly confused, thinking they should hike farther up the trail to find the lake.

Well, this pretty much brings us to the end of our visit with DS in Yosemite.  Again, we ended the day with some purchased food eaten in our cabin and topped off with a good long evening visit.

Because we planned to leave promptly on Thursday morning we said our goodbyes this evening.  It has been a very satisfying visit, and we are sad to leave, but very happy we had this time together.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Movin' On

Continuing the account of Friday, October 19, we drove on to Death Valley.  I have a similar picture taken in 1972, but that time we were leaving Death Valley.  We stopped at the first inn, Furnace Creek Inn.  There we discovered that you need reservations to stay there.  However the clerk at the counter was very friendly and helpful. She said they did have just one room that was not taken for that night, we could have that.  It had a King-sized bed, but no view.  We asked what the senior's rate for that room was, and after a few calculations she said, "$300. plus tax."

Well, no thanks.  We thought that was a little too steep to pay for one night's sleep.  She very helpfully called all the other accommodations in the valley (I think there were three others), but there was not a room to be had.

Since it was only 3 p.m. we decided to drive on to Lone Pine, a small town outside the park, on the west side.  We had planned to visit some of the attractions in Death Valley, but this turned out to be a "Drive By" visit.

In 1972 we made a thorough visit to the various interest points there, so we didn't feel too badly about having to skip them this time through.  This second photo shows some of the roadside scenery nearer to the west side.

We reached Lone Pine around 6 p.m. and got a nice room at a Comfort Inn for a little over $100.  The Comfort Inn is two miles south of town, which was probably a good thing, because when we went into town for some supper we found it full of tourists, motels, restaurants and souvenir shops.  There were lots of people roaming the streets, and, of course, a casino, maybe more than one.  But we had a lovely meal at a local restaurant, the Mt. Whitney, and a nice quite evening at the Comfort Inn.

October 20, Saturday
After a good breakfast at Comfort Inn's Breakfast Room, we drove to Bishop, California, where we stopped for some groceries and gas.  We were headed for Yosemite Park, and there is no gas available in the park, so be sure to tank up before you go there.

Here you see some of the colour at the eastern end of the Tioga Pass Road.  I wasn't quick enough to capture the amazing, all orange tree that livened the right hand side of the road.

Tioga Pass Road transverses the park from east to west (or west to east, of course).  The highest point of this road is just under 10,000 ft.  There's no way to keep it open and safe under winter conditions, so when it snows, the road is simply closed to traffic.

The day we came was a wonderfully sunny day, just gorgeous!

The night before I had reserved a room for us at the Yosemite West Gate Lodge on Hwy 120.  So we followed the Tioga Pass road (Hwy 120) and where it split at the west end, we stuck with 120 right out the park gates.  Our hotel was another 12 miles along that road, and it was the closest one to that gate.  What I hadn't realized when I made the reservation was that this northwest gate is quite a long way from the valley of Yosemite, where our dear son #1 lives and works.  But it all worked out fine.  We were at the hotel by 3 p.m., had a lovely large room and a relaxing evening.  Went for a little walk and had a cheese sandwich for supper.

October 21, Sunday
After breakfast at Buck Meadows Restaurant (pancakes, sausages and eggs) we drove into Yosemite to Curry Village where we had arranged to meet DS #1 at noon.  He had previously made reservations for us at a cabin there, and the staff at registration kindly put us through early, so we were able to settle in.

This day was also a lovely, sunny day, so we took advantage of it to go see some of the park.
The main tourist area is the valley itself, where the accommodations are.  They range from simple campgrounds to luxurious hotels.  We were in a fairly simply cabin--really quite old, with two double beds, a dresser and a small bathroom.  Really everything that we needed.

The big scare this summer about the Hanta Virus centered on Curry Village, but the problem was in their newer hard wall tents, which were double walled and provided a perfect habitat for mice who could chew their way into the space between the walls.  That is all being cleaned up, and we felt we were in no danger whatsoever staying there.

One of the iconic sights of Yosemite is this awesome rock face, El Capitan.  Because it was was a lovely day, there were lots of climbers out scaling the cliffs around the valley.

I was able to get a telephoto shot of a small group:

Dear son #1 first came to Yosemite about 10 years ago to climb there.  When he ran out of money he applied for and got work at the garage that services the park vehicles.

Because the roads are narrow and congested the management prefers that you park in the valley and take the free public transportation that they provide.  They have a fleet of vehicles, mainly busses to transport people around the park.

These busses are cleaned and serviced every night and that is what DS began to do.  Because he really enjoyed that work place he took classes and became a tow truck driver there.  Some years later he took training and now is a senior mechanic, responsible for something like 40 busses in that fleet.  He really enjoys being there and was glad to show us around and introduce us to his fellow workers.

I had bought fixings for a meal in Bishop: pork chops, stuffing and veggies.  But when we reached the park we found out there is NO COOKING in Curry Village, so I was wondering what to do about the food.  I had no refrigeration so it needed to be used.  D.S. volunteered the facilities in the "Break Room" at the garage, so that is where we cooked our supper.

One of the fellows has a small George Forman grill and a hot plate, and he kindly helped with the cooking and provided a pan to cook the veggies in.  Supper was ready during the staff's "Lunch Break" around 7 p.m., so we joined them while they ate their meal.  What a bunch of ebullient and friendly fellows!  What a good time we had that evening, getting to know them a little bit!  The finishing touch was watching "Sharktopus" with them while we ate.  (At least, I think that was the name of the movie--it was anyway what that fearsome version of "Jaws" was called.)  We had a rollicking good time with them, and our food problem was taken care of in the best way possible.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Home Again!

We reached home yesterday evening, 6:15, a full day ahead of schedule.  In fact, everywhere we went on this holiday we arrived a day early.  Well, better that than a day late.  The foggy cold weather and bad road conditions today throughout Alberta made us pretty happy that we came home early!

I will try to catch up on my impressions of our holiday over the next few days.  But just for now here are a few pictures from the last week or so:

This is a waterfall feature beside the escalator in the Palazzo hotel, Las Vegas.

Our #2 son was there to speak at a convention put on by SAP, the multinational software company he works for.  He had invited us to join him for a few hours on Thursday, and since Las Vegas is just over 4 hours drive from Phoenix, we decided to include that on our trip.  We had such a good visit with him, even though it was for just one evening.

It was also interesting to see the lavish scale of this hotel.

Does this look like an Italian town square?  That's the idea but it is entirely contained within the hotel.  In fact, that hotel is joined to another one, with many floors, shops, restaurants, public places such as this, and even includes a "Venetian Canal" that meanders by this town square.  For a fee you can ride a gondola down the "canal" and back, and your gondolier will even serenade you as he poles you down the "canal."  It's really quite "Disneyish!"

We left the hotel around 9 a.m. Friday morning, and easily found our way out of Las Vegas, thanks to looking up and printing a map of the area from Google Maps.  

Our next stop was Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge, located between Las Vegas and Death Valley.  This is a stretch of the boardwalk that takes you through the area and at the same time preserves the fragile desert environment.

There are several springs here, producing many gallons of fresh water every minute.  

At one time this area was being developed for farming, and a sub-division with swimming pools and a golf course were planned, with a view to taking advantage of the supply of fresh water from the springs. 

Pretty soon the springs were running out of water, and the whole ecosystem was collapsing.  Fortunately the development was reversed, the springs protected and the Wildlife Refuge created.  Just three species had been lost: a small snail, and two others (I've forgotten which and have lost the pamphlet.)  The rest of the flora and fauna recuperated.  It's quite amazing to see the beautiful springs in the midst of the desert!

Right beside the Wildlife Refuge is a small part of Death Valley, not contiguous with the main valley.  This part is protection around a unique feature: a very small pool at the base of a rocky cliff.  In this picture you are looking down about 45 feet through the cleft in the rock to the pool.  Sorry there is no frame of reference to give you an idea of its size.  It is not big, and again I don't have the pamphlet anymore.  You can look it up online, I'm sure.  It's called "Devil's Hole." 

The interesting thing about this pool is that it seemingly has no bottom.  It has been explored to a depth of 500 feet and no bottom has been found.

The other interesting thing about Devil's Hole is that when there is an earthquake, even quite far away, but deep in the earth, this calm, small pool becomes terribly roiled.  Waves up to 2 feet high slosh back and forth for some time.

In the visitor centre there is a film of this phenomenon, caught
on film by someone who just happened by very rare chance, to be there where it was happening.

The whole place is extremely well fenced.  This is the walkway leading to the viewing area.  The reason for all the security is that in 1965 four young men from Las Vegas breached the fence and went scuba diving in the Hole.  Two of them were never found again.  So the Park Service is doing its best to prevent a tragedy like that from ever happening again.

O.K.  That's enough for tonight.  Tomorrow (or later this week) we will travel on to Death Valley.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Catching Up....

One week ago today we left Kanab, Utah at 9 in the morning for the last leg of our trip to Phoenix.  We had told my sister that we would arrive on Sunday in the afternoon.  Now it appeared that we were way ahead of schedule.  We emailed her from Kanab, and that worked out fine.

From Kanab we drove south on 89A, the scenic route which went through some beautiful scenery.  It was a high mountain road, and took us through a wonderful Ponderosa Pine forest.  Later I learned from Sis that this is the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine left in the U.S.  Beautiful!

South of there we caught Interstate 17 south from Flagstaff.  That was an interesting drive, descending by thousands of feet.  There were markers beside the road, telling you the rate of descent toward lower elevations.

There was lots of lovely scenery, including these red cliffs along the way.

We hurried a bit because they were scheduled to go to a work bee at their church at 3 p.m.  We figured we'd get there just before they left.   But we had a surprise when we registered at the gate of their community: it was only 1:49 p.m.  We had forgotten that Arizona does not go onto Daylight Savings Time, so we had just gained an hour.

We had a nice little visit with them before they went off to work.  Then we settled into their guest house, and started on our list of what had to be accomplished.  First off: we visited the small condo we recently bought in their gated village.  I was very pleased by what we saw, though I had seen lots of photos on the net earlier.  The furniture was of high quality.  I tried out the bed, and found it had a very good spring and mattress.  The sectional couch is nice and firm.  Everything is in fine shape.  We are very pleased with our purchase.

The next few days we worked hard on arrangements: cleaning the mouldy fridge (that had been left closed when the power was turned off), getting the electricity turned on, making arrangements for the real estate agent to find a renter for this winter.

All too soon our time was up.  The last evening I gave dear Sis a perm, and that turned out very well.

Thursday morning we left and headed for Las Vegas where we planned to see our #2 son who was speaking at a huge conference there.  Thanks to Google Maps we had no trouble finding the Palazzo, the hotel where he was staying.  This is an enormous fabulous hotel.  Here's the front desk and the fountain in the lobby.

More catching up tomorrow, hopefully!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Change of Season

Snow fell steadily all day Wednesday, but not much was sticking, as the ground was still quite warm.

Thursday morning we got up early, even before the 6 am alarm clock rang.  We had packed most of what we were taking along on our trip the night before, and just added the things from the fridge in the morning.  Made sure to unplug the coffee pot, etc.  Turned off the water and turned down the heat.  By 7:45 a.m. we were ready to go, precisely on schedule.

The roads were not so good, slushy and messy.  By the time we were south of Vulcan, the roads had cleared and were fine from there on.

We stopped in Lethbridge regarding a bit of business for about 45 minutes, and waited at the U.S. border for about 40 minutes in a slow moving line.  Finally cleared and headed south on I 15.  That's a good, divided highway all the way, with not much traffic through Montana.

Making good time, we kept on going, and finally stopped at Idaho Falls, Idaho at 8:15 p.m.  We'd been driving in the dark for the last hour, and that was not too comfortable, especially when signs saying "Wild Game Crossing" kept popping up. But we were blest with a safe drive, and made it safely to Idaho Falls where we checked into a Motel 6.

Motel 6 is one we often stop at--very reasonable rates (this was only $59 for a room for two seniors, with two beds, and all the necessary amenities), and a handy book that gives you precise directions for finding the motel in an unfamiliar city.

We had a good rest, very quiet overnight, and after a breakfast of homemade muffins which I had brought along, set off again about 8:30 a.m.

Today we had rain off and on.  Approaching Salt Lake City the traffic increased significantly.  I am thankful that Jim is comfortable driving in that situation, and I help by reading the map, the roadside signs, and letting him know where we need to change lanes, or look for an exit, etc.  We did take I 215 around Salt Lake City, and that worked quite well.

We did find that throughout Utah there was a lot of obstruction of lanes on the highway.  Many miles went by with certain lanes closed off, but without evidence of active construction going on.  However, the traffic usually moved quite well.

South of Salt Lake City I drove for a while, but that was the time of a really heavy downpour.  The windshield wipers went full speed for about 45 minutes.  In spite of a speed limit of 75 mph, I was usually driving about 55 or 60 mph, just because of the heavy rain.

After about two hours Jim took over the driving again, just as we turned east onto
I 70.  The rain had let up quite a bit, and was now just showers, sometimes light, sometimes heavy, sometimes even sun.

We turned south onto Hwy 89, and soon came upon this very unusual mountain:
Look closely at the sign, and you will see that this is "The Big Rock Candy Mountain!"  Do you know that delightful kid's song?  Well, here, apparently is THE REAL THING!!  Too bad the sun wasn't shining to reveal the beautiful bright yellow colours!

Hwy 89 south of I 70 has lots of beautiful scenery.  It's not a fast highway, although there were several drivers who wanted it to be quite fast, including on double unit fuel truck that rode our bumper until we moved over and simply let him pass.  It's safer that way!

Here's the first snow on the mountains that we saw, going south on Hwy 89.

We had showers, light or heavy, and some sunny breaks all day today.  Our wipers got a workout!

But, my, what terrific cloudscapes there were at times!  It was a good drive, and we appreciated being closer to scenery on a lesser highway than one of the Interstates, though they are very good for getting somewhere in a hurry.

We got as far as Kanab, Utah where we found a nice room in a Comfort Inn at an exorbitant price: more than twice as much as last night at the Motel 6, with really not much more in the way of amenities.  Oh well, we'll enjoy it here, have a good sleep (hopefully) and, after a hot breakfast provided by the Comfort Inn be on our way to Phoenix.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Missed Goal

I mentioned earlier that one goal for September was to finish the sweater I was knitting.  Well, I missed that goal by a mile.  At that time the back and two fronts were finished and I was starting on the first sleeve.  That sleeve is only about three inches long today.  It seemed I was too preoccupied while I was getting the violin program and group going again to do much knitting.  Instead, I read several books and did lots of crossword puzzles.  Those are good activities for "smoothing out the brain" before going to bed!

But I also resolved that I am going to finish several quilting projects before beginning any new ones.  And yesterday I took the last stitches in this beauty.

This quilt was a block of the month our local club did two years ago.  I bought all new material for this, and keyed it all to the background.  The background is quite yellow, which is not at all my usual choice, but it's good to do something outside your regular boundaries once in a while.

Most of the other women put the star blocks into sashing, making it a very "blocked off" quilt.  I had decided I wanted the stars to "float" on the background, so I made the sashing the same fabric as the backgrounds in each block.

Because this is a quilt for the Dear One, I planned to hand quilt it.  After hand basting the whole quilt in about 6" squares I found the background fabric was too dense to hand quilt.  I could get only one or at the most, two stitches on the needles at once.  Usually you aim for at least four, possibly five or even six stitches on the needle before you pull it through.  I had to give up the idea of hand quilting.

Since the quilt was quit carefully basted in small sections, I thought to go ahead and machine quilt it without further preparation.  I stitched by machine around the outline of each of the 12 stars.  Then I turned it over and was dismayed to see the back wrinkled badly.  UNACCEPTABLE!!!

I laboriously picked out all the machine and hand stitching.  That took several hours.  Then came a period of neglect.

Recently I took it out of the "pending" file and spray basted the three layers together.  Once a quilt is spray basted (it's a glue spray) the layers will not shift; it's very secure.  So I took it to the machine and quilted, following (without thinking!) the seam lines of all the sashing.  When that was finished I laid it on the dining room table and had a look.   DISASTER!!!  Also unacceptable!!!

Why?  Because machine quilting it along those lines made the blocks stand out again.  The stars no longer "floated" on the background.  What to do?

Well, if you're really anal about how your quilts turn out, and I was determined that this was going to be special because it's for a special person, you simply start the process of removing all the stitches you just sewed on.  And, yes, it took many hours of peering through a magnifying glass with an Ott light illuminating the field of stitching.  But in the end, the stitches are all removed, including all the little stray bits of thread.

Now it was ready a fourth time for the quilting process (as distinct from the sewing blocks process).  This time I outline stitched around each star, checking once in a while for wrinkles.  There were none.  When all the stars were outlined, I took a deep breath and started meander quilting between the stars.  That process went surprisingly well, and in two sessions of a few hours each, the quilt was completely quilted.

The last step is sewing on the binding, pressing it over to the back side, and hand stitching it down with invisible stitches on the back.

It's FINISHED!!!!   I'm so glad!  Now to get busy on the next project from the stack in the sewing room closet.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Few Odds 'n Ends

This month has seemed super busy, but then most months feel that way!  Violin lessons and group started again the first week of September, and they always require great amounts of time the first few weeks, until everything is in place and rolling along, which is the point we've reached now.  That's relief!

Quilt club also started up again, the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of this month, and Carroll and I introduced this year's Club Quilt at the first meeting.  There was a lot of preparation involved in that, including drafting a paper pieced pattern from a 2 1/2" strip pattern.  We wanted paper piecing because that demands and results in much more uniform blocks.  Here's the sample block that I made.  And wow! did I learn a lot from making samples.

We are making a somewhat controlled quilt.  We purchased the background to keep that uniform and are requiring that the fabrics used with the background are "autumn coloured" batiks.  Some of these fabrics don't fit in very well, which provided a good illustration of what not to do.

Everyone pays $25 to the kitty because this is a fund raiser for the club.  We each make a block and one of us sews the top together.  We then have a draw and the lucky winner takes the top home to finish.  We will be sewing these blocks together with sashing between them--a way of avoiding the sometimes painful chore of making the points meet.

I think this will be a particularly attractive quilt, and you will see pictures when the top is completed.

Jim was working out in the garden this month and was puzzled as to why this bed of gladioli had no blossoms.  The plants looked healthy.

But a closer inspection reveals what had happened.  See the snipped off ends of the stems in this photo?  The blossoms provided "dessert" at the deer buffet.  Well, at least that means the bulbs benefited from this year's growth and will be bigger and better for next year.

This is the first year that our pear tree has produced a crop.  In fact, it was overloaded and the ground beneath was dotted with pears it had already dropped.

I picked several, ones that came off with a gentle tug.  Pears should actually be picked fairly green and left to ripen, as these small yellow fruits showed when they were cut up for the morning's fresh fruit salad: They were already brown in the centre.

Here they are with the potato for dinner, a Russet Burbank.  Scrubbed up, sliced in half and baked in the oven, it was delicious!

And since the oven was on anyway, we also halved, seeded and roasted this lovely acorn squash at the same time.  All accompanied by a small piece of pork with some garlic/honey dressing.

Nothing is as delicious as food harvested 50 feet from the back door and served hot a few hours later!