Monday, December 29, 2014


This afternoon Jack, Mardelle's husband, had a "garage sale" of her art supplies and many of her paintings.  I had been hoping to buy a good brush, but was too late for that.  I did buy two brushes, one a good rigger and the other a simple brush, but one that had her name taped on the handle.

At one of our last classes together she was painting this watercolour of daisies as a demonstration for Lois and myself.  Lois did make two paintings following this, but I was working on a different painting and didn't pursue this.  I love this painting for its freshness, because it is one of the last paintings Mardelle did, and because I've always loved daisies.  Now it's hanging in our bedroom.  It needs to be matted and framed, and I will see that that happens.  What a lovely keepsake!

 This afternoon I took up a some quilt squares that were started last summer or fall.  They are for a "Delectable Mountains" lap quilt.  The half square triangles are completed and need to be trimmed to 8" squares, cut into strips and sewed into blocks.

I was delighted to discover that the shelf in my sewing cubby hole is just the right height for a cutting table, as long as the project is small and fits on the 17" by 11" rotary cutting mat.  That's plenty for most blocks.  That "room" is proving very versatile and comfortable!

Sunday, December 28, 2014


I posted about our sewing room here in the village on Wednesday. That morning I finished the quilt I had been working on and cut out 100 2 1/2" strips for this new quilt.  At least I thought it was 100.  This is a pattern from Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville's Quips and Snips.  You can find her at:

Bonnie is a prolific quilter, quilt designer, travelling teacher and blogger.  She has oodles of free patterns that you can access through her blog.  This pattern is called "Scrappy Bargello" and is designed to use up lots of odds 'n ends from your stash.

I don't have a stash here, but we have lots of donated materials in the sewing room for making quilts to donate to The Love House, a home for abused and abandoned children.  That's the favourite charity of our local quilting group.

This is supposed to be a completely random quilt, and I'm not unhappy with how it turned out, but if I make another one I think I'll "edit" the materials and placement a bit.  I think it would have looked better with some gradations of colour, especially in terms of gradually going from lights to darks, and possibly even leaving out some of the darks as being too dense.

The funny part: can you see on the very bottom that the two left strips are one square longer than the two right strips.  I had thought there were 25 strips in each pile, but apparently there were 26 strips in two of the piles.  I'll fix it by removing the bottom square from the two left hand strips.  It gave me a chuckle to see that.

This week I plan to find a good backing, make the sandwich and machine quilt it, probably with a meander stitch.  The last step: binding.  What about a nice bright red material for the binding?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


From our home to yours: We wish you a Blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Lots of folks here in AZ have gone home for the holidays.  We're happy to stay here in the warm weather (comparatively speaking), going for walks and swims, exercise and craft classes, visiting the library and even, once in a while, the grocery store.

I've had the pool to myself this week, as the high temperatures have been in the 60's and sometimes even the low 60's.  However, the pool is always heated to 84º and when the sun is shining it's perfectly lovely and comfortable.  Getting in and out  is a little chilly, but I just put my towel next to the pool and wrap up in it when I get out of the water.

 I finished the latest quilt this morning.  It's for the Love House, the care home for abused and abandoned children here.

This is actually a very simple pattern.  Cut 6 and 1/2"  background squares and 4" accent squares.  Sew an accent square on two opposite corners of the background, sewing diagonally across the accent square.  Sew another seam about 3/8" from the first and cut between the seams.  Press the accent square toward the corner.  With four of the small half square triangles that were trimmed from the corner, make other blocks. There are lots of possible arrangements for these blocks.  I chose to put the blocks of four half square triangles down the center of the quilt and across the center, then arranging the four parts of the quilt to more or less "frame" the center.

I made a similar quilt a few months ago, using similar colours.  That quilt is one our living room couch here, providing a nice bright spot in the living room.

Here's a photo of the sewing room in the village with a few of the quilting ladies.  We get together on Wednesday mornings supposedly to quilt, but actually mostly to visit and chat together.

Monday, December 22, 2014


This is surely the time of year for concerts!  I think each weekend there are at least 10 concerts available, both choir and instrumental.  Too many to choose from!

But we did choose to go to a very interesting concert right here in the village on Saturday.  It was listed as "The West Valley Youth Orchestra" and included a beginning section by the Cadet Strings which is the training orchestra for younger children from age 6 right on up through maybe 15 year olds.  The West Valley Youth Orchestra itself was composed of members from maybe 12 years old through to some adults who helped out here and there.

The Cadet Strings were just darling!  There were four cellists, and on the second stand the boy on the left could just touch the floor with his toes and his stand partner was so young and short that his feet just dangled above the floor.  Both boys were serious and played well.  The second stand of first violins also had two young boys, so cute!  Here the arrangement was the same: the boy on the outside could just manage to touch the floor with his toes and his stand partner dangled his feet above the floor.  The boy on the outside tucked his violin under his chin, not on his shoulder but straight ahead on his chest, lowered his chin to his violin and peered up from under his eyebrows at the music.

Perhaps that's not so captivating to someone who is not involved in string music but to me it was just priceless.  I've taught Suzuki violin for several years and conducted little beginning string groups like this.  It really took me back to those days!

For a beginning group they did a fine job.  They paid good attention to their conductor, stayed together in the music and their last chord was a terrific ending to their performance, vigorous and resounding!

The West Valley Youth Orchestra included a pretty full complement of strings (6 first violins, 6 seconds, 3 violas and 4 cellos and a bass) plus winds, brass and percussion.  They playing was of very high quality and a delight to hear.  Among their selections was a group of Christmas carols which the audience was invited to join in singing.  They ended with the all time favourite "Sleigh Ride" by Leroy Anderson.

This group was also featured in a concert on Sunday afternoon, sharing the billing with the professional West Valley Symphony Orchestra.  We attended a concert by that orchestra last year and really enjoyed it.  They perform just a mile away from the front gate of our village on selected Sunday afternoons about once a month making it a very doable thing for us.  But we passed up on this particular concert since we had been quite busy this past week.

On another note: welcome to blog to the new follower: my cousin Marcia!  You are all free to leave comments, and that's set up so it can be done by anyone.  I like to hear from you! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Yesterday afternoon we went to a lovely Christmas program at Grace Bible Church.  We arrived 30 minutes ahead of time and had to sit in the annex, as the church was already full to overflowing.  This turned out to be an advantage, as there was a large screen so we had a much better view of the performers than if we had been sitting in the main auditorium.

The program began with the excellent small orchestra playing Bach's Sleepers Wake chorale.  Lovely!  There was a large mixed choir, very well trained, and a perfectly wonderful soloist named Sandra Harris.  Wow! could she sing!

There were a few quiet, contemplative songs, but most of them were the sort of music you'd typically hear in a large, evangelical church.  Quite loud, with upward modulations in key toward the end, and building up to a really loud, rambunctious finish.

Altogether enjoyable, and a very Christ-centered program.

This was a notable contrast to the entertainment another choir offered to our potluck dinner meeting at church this past Tuesday.  This was a small choir of seniors.  (Well, the choir on Saturday was pretty much all seniors, also, except for the soloist.)  Now, I think it's wonderful that there are outlets like this for seniors who have always loved to sing.  I'm talking about your average church choir member--not much training, but loves to sing.

It was obvious that they had worked hard on their music, which was all accompanied by taped music.  But it was also striking that none of their music mentioned the Christ of Christmas.  It was all about the trappings of the holiday, with a lot of attention to Santa Claus, Rudolph, sleigh rides, "chestnuts roasting" etc.

I enjoyed this choir, in a sort of "campy" way, and also genuinely enjoyed their love of singing.  Still I went home impressed with how empty Christmas is without the baby born in Bethlehem, the real reason for the season.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


The bathroom with our bedroom is very small, just 5' x 8'.  It needed repainting, and I chose a deep blue that dear Sis and hubby had used on a few walls in their home.  I really liked that blue, and asked him what's the name of that colour.  He said they had almost a whole gallon left over from their painting last summer and I could use some of that, just leaving enough for him to do a few touch ups when needed.

I had painted the ceiling pure white last Saturday, and Monday I had a clear schedule and decided to do it that day.

It was a pretty difficult room to paint as there are small spaces and a whole lot of cutting in.  It took me four hours to finish the job.

Now I think it's too "heavy" a colour for such a small room, especially in view of the fact that there is no window or skylight in that room.

I have to do a few little touch ups where the pale cream colour that was there shows through in a few places, but on the whole it covered very well.  It was good paint--went on well, covered well, and dried to a nice eggshell finish.

I think we'll live with it for a while and then if I still feel that it's too "heavy" for that room, I'll cover it with a lighter shade.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Last night the Sun Cities Chamber Orchestra gave a concert of Christmas Music, both sacred and secular.  It was held in the Advent Episcopal Church, a lovely building, with good acoustics.  The church was packed (a moderate sized sanctuary) and the audience was very enthusiastic.

Among the music we played were two medleys of Christmas music, one sacred and one entitled The Bells of Christmas, which was mixed.  We featured our wonderful trumpet player, Dan Reed, particularly in The Lord's Prayer and Trumpeter's Lullaby (Leroy Anderson).  Masterful playing!  Quiet and moving.  We also played some spirited numbers, including Sleigh Ride and Fiddle Faddle.

At the end of the program the audience jumped up and gave us an enthusiastic ovation.  They had also expressed lots of enthusiasm after each number.  We really enjoyed playing for them.

After the concert there was a little cookie and iced tea reception.  Iced tea is appropriate here at this time of year, and we were thirsty by that time.  I thanked the conductor and said goodbye for now to my section mates, as the next concert is planned for after we leave for home.

It's been a privilege and a joy to be part of this orchestra, which in spite of being called a Chamber Orchestra, has a full complement of winds, brasses and percussion along with plenty of string players.  I remember Mardelle with gratitude, as it was she who introduced me to this talented and warm hearted group.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Last March I started on a pair of "Skew" socks for myself, toe up.  I got as far as the ankle and realized they were going to be too wide, so I "unknit" them completely, cast them on again and knit a few inches.

This Thursday I finished the pair of socks I made for the dear brother-in-law (forgot to take a picture!)  Friday I started on the "Skew" socks again.  This first picture shows how far the sock was at 7:50 p.m. today.  This next picture shows the same sock at 7:54.

Now, why in the world did I "unknit" this sock a second time?  Well, I was up to the part where a gusset begins for the ankle.  But things were "backassward."  The increases were on the wrong side of the sock.  I reread the pattern (find it at, go to the pattern library, click on past patterns and enter "Skew" in the search box) and realized that I had made a mistake IN THE FIRST ROW!!! 

With toe up socks I use Judy Becker's magic cast on, and after the first round (two needles) I hang the tail of the cast on outside the sock and use that as a reference point to determine the beginning of the round.  This pattern said, knit just one needle, then begin the pattern of rounds, which puts the beginning of the round at the opposite side of the sock. Non-knitters, just don't mind the confusion: even knitters will wonder what I mean. You have to understand this strange sock pattern to know what's wrong.

If this were an ordinary toe up sock, I could probably fix it, but these are "Skew" socks.  If you go back in the blog to the post of October 27, 2011, you will find an explanation of the Skew sock.  It's knit flat, on the bias, with some tricky business to create a heel cup.  Because of the unusual construction, it didn't seem possible to "redeem" the sock at this point.  The only cure was to "unknit" the whole business and begin again.

It's times like these that I remind myself: I knit because I enjoy it.  I like to keep my hands occupied.  I like to create things, even if it's just on a craft level.  People like to receive hand knit socks as a gift.  So it's the process, not the end result that's the important thing.

I'm chagrined though.  I went to the Monday afternoon knitting group for the first time this past Monday.  I was finishing the socks for W.  I guess I was feeling a little pumped up at being able to show up one week later with most of a sock completed.  So much for knitterly pride, which like any other, goes before a fall!

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Since we arrived here at the beginning of October we've experienced day after day of beautiful, sunny weather.  Until Monday.  Monday was overcast, not a "pool day."  Tuesday was overcast.  Wednesday was overcast with a few sprinkles.  During this past  night I heard the rain dripping down from the roof, steadily, increasingly, all night long.

This morning dawned, more or less, with a muddy looking, overcast sky and steady rain. Well, we can sure use it!  Any lawns that are not watered had turned completely dry and parched.  In the village the lawns, and the golf course (of course!) are watered every day, but, intelligently watered using "grey" water.  So our surroundings here are always green.

I had planned to use my time today prepping and painting the bathroom ceiling.  But it's kind of hard to be motivated on such a dark day.

Another "job" on my list is the renovation of these two wicker chairs.  I bought them a week ago for just $5. each, from a Lions
club member.  They had been dropped off and he wanted to move them out of his patio.  They're in pretty good condition, but the paint is worn off in several spots, and they need refreshing.

I was trying them out a few days ago when one of my neighbours stopped by to chat.  I told him my plans to make some cushions for them, as they are pretty low to the ground.  He wanted to get rid of a king-sized memory foam pad 2" thick, and I was happy to have it.

I cut out a piece large enough to cover the mattress of our sofa bed.  In the margins I was able to draw and then cut out four rounds 17" in diameter.  I thought that two
together would make a pretty good cushion for a chair.  I took two of the rounds to the patio, put them on a wicker chair and sat down.  I found out that memory foam squishes down to nothing when you sit on it.

The next time I was in Walmart I bought this nice piece of 5" thick, fairly firm foam and cut two 17" diameter rounds from it.  A good knife will slice through foam pretty well.

I had also bought a yard and a quarter of some good print heavy cotton to cover the cushions.  That's as far as I've gotten on that project.  I was planning to scrub up the chairs well today, but it just doesn't look like a good day to do that.

Here's the stack of foam and the fabric, waiting to be made into cushions.  At this point the foam for a cushion is 9" thick.  I think that when it's all sewed, with the foam squished into the fabric it will be the right size.  It will be interesting to find out what happens!

I think I'll call my sister and see if she wants to go out for coffee with me this morning.  That might be a nice thing to do on a rainy day!

Friday, November 21, 2014


On Fridays we have an "Open Art" day at the Art Room here in the village.  Whoever wants to come and work there between 9 a.m. and 12 noon is welcome, in whatever medium.  Sue Elliot, who was in the art class taught by Mardelle suggested to me that we come to that as a way of continuing work on the projects we had started.

Here's the picture Mardelle started me on three weeks ago.  I finished it this morning at the Open Art session.  For a first effort--maybe it's not too bad.  I did take some watercolour lessons in 1991, but haven't done much at all since then.  I feel like I'm starting over at the beginning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


 In an earlier post I showed a small "design wall" in my "sewing room."  Now that I've finished the blocks for a 42" x 54" lap quilt, I needed a larger design space.

I looked here and there for free wall space that could accomodate a 48" x 60" quilt batt.  The wall behind the hide-a-bed was free, but who wants to move a hide-a-bed to use the wall?  The wall behind the living room sofa was free, but again, too much hassle.  The wall in the closet/sewing room was large enough, but that room is PLENTY full already!

I finally settled on the wall in our master bedroom walk in closet.  I tacked up the quilt batt and arranged half of the blocks for the quilt.  Then I took this picture.

I took 18 pictures, trying to get a decent one of the batt and blocks on a wall less than five feet away.  This snap was taken by holding the camera up on a high shelf, aiming hopefully and clicking.  You can just see my hand on the lower righthand portion.

Later I added the other half of the blocks to this design, but didn't like the arrangement.  Last night I rearranged the blocks and now am happy with the design.  This afternoon I opted to stay at home and sew while Jim went to the library.  I finished all the little 4 part blocks.

Here's my nifty pressing arrangement: a small pressing pad, an iron and a spray bottle on a small desk just outside the sewing room.

I got lots of exercise while I sewed: the design wall is 25 steps from the sewing machine.  I picked up each four piece block by itself, took it to the pressing station, reversed the direction of two seams, sewed the block together and walked back to the design wall to hang the block up again.

There are 15 of the four piece blocks in this quilt so that made quite a few steps.  Even more because once in a while I had to go back and check which way to press a seam.

It was a good afternoon!  I will take a photo of the quilt when it's completed.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Last year during the Christmas season Jim and I were watching some of the excellent concerts available on t.v. at that time of the year.  For about a week you can find some wonderful, inspiring viewing.  But it made me sad: I thought, "That part of my life is over.  There are no more opportunities for me to play in a good string group, enjoying the unique high of making beautiful music together."  The possibilities in our small, rural town had simply "dried up."

Yesterday I was privileged to play in a fine, fun concert.  The Sun City Women's Choir, the Sun Cities Chamber Orchestra and Joan Monk, a piano soloist, performed in a very fine concert.  It was dedicated to Mardelle, whom we wished to honor for her life and her contributions.  I was especially grateful to Mardelle because it was she who invited me to play in that orchestra.

The program was mixed, beginning with the Star Spangled Banner, including The Stars and Stripes Forever, highlighting Joan playing the first movement of the Grieg A Minor Piano Concerto, accompanied by the orchestra and concluding with several numbers by the Women's Choir (a very accomplished group of singers.)  Some of the choir numbers were winter/Christmas songs, some were spirituals/Broadway hits.  Sometimes the orchestra accompanied the choir, once a single flute did the honours, and once just the cello section.  Both the orchestra and the choir are composed of mostly grey/silver haired members.  But did we ever make music!

It was just a thrill for me to be in the middle of all that wonderful sound!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Tribute to Mardelle

I met Mardelle Driscoll last April at the Art Show here in the village.  She was the art teacher, a vibrant, interesting woman.  Mardelle told me about the orchestra she belonged to, a fairly large group of retired men and women who met on Wednesday mornings to rehearse for the occasional concert.  She was happy to learn that I am able to play viola and would love to be part of an orchestra.

When we returned in the fall I signed up to take art lessons from Mardelle.  She was able to teach in a variety of media, and I asked for watercolour lessons.  We also talked about the orchestra and she said, "You'd better get out there!  We've already had three rehearsals."  So that Wednesday I showed up at the rehearsal and was warmly welcomed.

After the rehearsal Mardelle asked me if I would like her to accompany me to the Art Supply store, an offer I gratefully accepted.  We had fun!  She guided me in the choice of several tubes of paint and other supplies.

The following Wednesday we did that again!  We both thought it would be nice to have lunch together, but that day I needed to go home.  I told her I'd make arrangements to go the following week.

That next Wednesday the orchestra rehearsal was somewhat shorter than usual.  Mardelle and I went to a small Mexican restaurant she knew of, but found we were about 40 minutes too early.  We spent that time at a ladies' clothing store and had some more fun!  We both found something we needed at a good price, and then we had taco salads at the restaurant.

I said to Mardelle, Tell me about your children.  Well, that started her on quite a story, all about her son and daughter and the life that she had led.  It was a sad story, with lots of suffering, but a happy ending.  Mardelle had found Jack, her third and current husband, through and she was very happy with him.  Indeed, Mardelle was a person who laughed a lot.

When we left the restaurant she said, I don't tell many people all that much about myself.  I don't have many good friends, but I feel like I have a new friend in you.  I embraced her and said, I took to you right away!  We were both happy to have an interesting new friend, and looked forward to spending time together.

This past Monday I received an email from Jack saying that the art class was cancelled because Mardelle was in the hospital.  I wrote her an email, wishing her a speedy recovery from whatever problems she was experiencing.  I hoped to see her at orchestra rehearsal today.

I was stunned when I learned there that she had died of an aortic aneurism on Monday around noon.  I feel a deep sense of loss.  The world is a lesser place without that dynamic, inspiring woman.  The concert this coming Sunday will be dedicated to her memory.  Sometime in the future when Jack is able to handle it, there will be a memorial service.

Mardelle was a very talented, warm hearted person, an inspiring art teacher, an encourager.  I will miss her.  You can see her work at

Monday, November 10, 2014


The sewing room, which I really enjoy now that it's set up, has another use.  With the sewing machine stashed under the shelf, the table with the Ott light (full spectrum) makes a nifty "Painting Studio."

I spent some time today working on a watercolour that I started a week or two ago in painting class.  It proved to be a comfortable working area.  I'm delighted that such a small space can function so well!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Launching the Sewing "Room"

This weekend the sewing "room" got its first use.  Even though it's only 5' x 6' it was reasonably comfortable.  The limited space means that I can roll my chair back from the machine just far enough to stand up.  If I want to move around to cut out squares and press seams I need to put the chair out into the "t.v. room" aka the second bedroom.  That didn't seem to be a real big deal.  The pressing board is a small padded square on the desk just outside the sewing "room."

A shelf at the back of the room holds a small cutting board.  That works just fine for cutting 6 1/2" squares or 4" squares.  I tacked up a bit of the batting that is used in hot pads--I always forget what it's called--the kind that has a metallic side.  It doesn't hold the fabric as well as regular batting.  I'll have to pick up a good sized piece of regular to make a "design wall."

I made a dozen 6 1/2" blocks and 24, 3 1/2" blocks from the extras that were cut off when the 4" squares were trimmed and folded over.  This represents 1/4 of all the blocks for a new lap quilt, very similar to one I made in June.  There are several arrangements possible for these blocks.  I'll play around with them to find an arrangement that I like.

The little fan clamped to the sewing table is a real bonus.  It keeps me comfortable in a room with no air circulation.  I'm so glad I found it at the Swap Meet.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Funny First Loaf

Or maybe I should say, failed first loaf!

Yesterday I baked a loaf of bread for the first time here.  I used the new (second-hand from the swap meet) bread maker to make the dough.  It seemed fine, had good "elasticity."  I treated the dough as usual, rolling it out to a long narrow piece of dough, and then rolling that up into a loaf.

I oiled it a bit and put it in a parchment lined loaf pan.  So far so good.

Then we decided to go out, Jim to the library, and myself to pay a bill and do a little shopping.  If I left the loaf to rise, it would be too high by the time I got back, so I put it in the fridge to "stall" it.

Well, it stalled good and proper.  I took it out when I got home at five and set it in a warm place to rise.  It didn't cooperate.  I turned on the oven and put it on top of the stove, a very warm place.  Still no go.

I oiled it a bit, because the crust looked kind of dry.  No rising resulted.  Finally I oiled it again, and in response this time, the top sank in a little way.

Oh well, I might as well just bake it as it was 9 p.m. by this time.  I took the picture when it came out of the oven--no higher than when it went in!  We've had just a few slices from it, with a bit of cheese.  It's extremely dense, but edible.  Better luck next time!
In our walks around the village we are treated to lots of lush foliage and blooms.  This is a spectacular tree just loaded with very pretty white blossoms.  I don't know what kind of tree this is, but it's typical of the blooming shrubs and trees here.  Just beautiful!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It Works

Yesterday I had time to use the new Bissell Rug Cleaner that I bought at the Swap Meet on Saturday.  I'm happy to say that it works, and works well.

I had bought some Folex Rug Cleaner the day before at Home Depot and used that in the tank.  I pretreated some of the worst areas, and they were BAD!!!, with a spray bottle of Folex and then cleaned the carpet with the Bissell Power Steamer.  There's a big, satisfying improvement in how clean the carpet appears.  I went over it twice, and afterwards it was not very wet.  I did let it dry overnight, even though it seemed quite dry by the time we went to bed.

It's only the dining area that is finished.  Some other day I will need to do the rest of the living/dining area.  Then on to the bedrooms.  The Power Steamer has proved to be a good investment.

In the evening we went to the "Welcome Back Spaghetti Dinner" that was put on the Sun Village Board.  The food was good, but was it ever noisy there!  We didn't linger once we had finished our meal.

This morning I went to the orchestra rehearsal, and we had a good one.  Got lots of work done on the music for the upcoming concert on November 16.  We will share the program with a women's chorus, sometimes playing the accompaniment for them.  We will also perform the first movement of Greig's Piano Concerto with a soloist.  There will also be some patriotic music, related to Nov. 11, Veterans' Day, or Remembrance Day.

This afternoon we went to the pool at 3 to swim and relax on lounge chairs in the sun.  I had made just one circuit of the pool when an employee came by and announced that he had to close the whole area because the pool pump had failed.

This photo shows just half of the pool.  There's another part around to the right.

That was a disappointment.  It's a very nice place to spend an afternoon.

When we got home I dragged one of our dining chairs onto our patio to read out there.  Because our unit faces north we don't get any direct sun.  That's nice in a way because it keeps our condo cooler on
a hot day, but it also means that our patio is always in the shade.

It was warm enough to sit out there reading my latest library book, and here's the view from my chair.  Lovely, isn't it?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Found It!

When I left the painting class this afternoon I checked the bulletin board for items people want to sell.  Good thing I did! I was the first one to clip a phone number for a computer table that I thought might just do for a sewing table.

I phoned, was given the address (here in the village) and went right over.  I wasn't sure it would fit, so I went home and remeasured the area, and it's a PERFECT FIT!!!  Only $20, and my sewing set up is good to go!  I'm delighted!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Setting up the Sewing Room

My new sewing room is taking shape here in a 5 foot by 6 foot walk-in closet in the second bedroom.  Sounds small, but with good organization there will be plenty of room.  I will never have the stash here that I have in Alberta, but there is plenty of shelf space for storage.

There is an active Lions Club here in the village and this morning they hosted a swap meet.  Individuals were able to rent a table for $10 to sell what they wanted to get rid of, and the Lions Club had several tables of donated items.

I didn't find a sewing table, but I did find a few other important items:  an Ott light ($5) for on the sewing table and a small fan ($3) which should come in handy as there are no windows or fans in the closet.

I took my Janome Memory Craft 4900 here this fall and intend to leave it here.  In the future we might want to come by plane, and it wouldn't be easy to take a sewing machine as a carry-on.

The table in this photo is borrowed, and obviously too small.  I'm looking for the right table, possibly a 2 x 4 foot table with folding legs.

An acquaintance here, Paula, inherited a Bernina sewing machine and serger from a friend and has set up her sewing room in an identical space in her condo.  I'll stop by soon and see how she has managed.  She found a "writing table" in Walmart that filled the bill.  I haven't seen that there yet, but will keep on looking.

Another good buy today was a Bissell Power Steamer Rug Cleaner ($20).  The carpet here is an old, dusty rose with many stains and dirty traffic areas.  Eventually we'll replace it, but not right now.  So in the meantime a rug cleaning machine will help keep it looking decent, I hope. The word "Steamer" is a misnomer: it uses hot tap water and Bissell rug shampoo, not steam, to clean.

There was no instruction manual with it, so I got down this afternoon and figured things out.  First I cleaned a large amount of carpet fuzz off the brush roller and that whole area.  Then I figured out how to remove the tank.  I was poking around in that and accidentally popped a filter down a tube.  Yikes!  I turned the machine upside down but still couldn't retrieve it.  Later on it showed up at the bottom of the tube and I was able to snake it back up.  Whew!

I put some hot water in the tank and ran the machine.  It Works!!!  And a few determined passes picked the water back up.  I think when I get the proper rug cleaning fluid it will be a go.

And one more good buy: a Proctor Silex bread maker for $10.  It's smaller than the breadmaker at home, so I will be able to make just one loaf at a time or 6 large hamburger buns.  But then, I don't have a chest freezer here to keep a large stock of frozen goods at hand, so one loaf and 6 buns will do just fine.  I use the breadmaker for dough, not finished loaves, so the round pan and smaller capacity shouldn't be a drawback.

It was a fine day with lots accomplished and I'm starting to feel more settled in here.  Just a few more things to find, especially some chairs for the small patio so we can enjoy the cool evenings there.  Our condo faces north, so we aren't troubled with the direct sun in the windows or on the patio.  In a hot climate, that's a plus!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Few views

Here are a few glimpses of our surroundings.  This first picture shows our view from our patio.  There is a sidewalk about two feet from the patio wall.  Then there is a planted area separating the sidewalk from the road.  We have a nice big tree shading us there, although our view is to the north, so we don't have the problem of direct sun heating up our condo.  The orange pilon is there because the pavement is being renewed with a sprayed-on seal coat.

This is looking left from the patio.  If you walk along the sidewalk to the left and then detour around a row of condos, you come to the Community Center and the swimming pool.  Some days recently the temperature on the thermometer in the sun by the pool read as high as 103ºF in the middle of the afternoon.  That's time to go for a swim or read in the shade.

This is the view to the right.  Follow this road, take a left and then a right to the back gate.  It will open in response to a transponder in your windshield.  Go to the stop sign and turn right.  Soon there's a left turn lane into the Walmart parking lot.  When I was here without a car last spring I walked there for whatever I needed.  It was a comfortable 15 minute walk, and not along a busy street.

Walking to the Maricopa library is a different story.  The first half mile outside the gate is along Bell Road, a very busy road with a 45 mph speed limit.  That's not a pleasant walk, but the library is really good, and so we do go there at least once a week.  Jim will often walk there for some exercise and reading in the afternoon.

This cute Halloween panel decorates the wall of our patio.  I made it last year and it's just the bit of colour we need there.  We did have a potted mum from Home Depot on a plant stand nearby, but that has dried up and was thrown out today.  Time to go look for another nice plant to give colour there.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Last week Tuesday we went to a potluck at West Valley Christian Fellowship, the church we attend here.  Lots of good food and fellowship, a chance to get acquainted with people.  I brought a small crockpot full of barbecued, skinless, boneless chicken thighs.  That's easy to prepare and tastes delicious, and sometimes there's not enough meat dishes at one of these suppers.

Tonight we are going to "Meatless Mondays," a vegetarian potluck here at the village.  I've prepared a Couscous Salad:

Here's the recipe:


Prepare 1 cup of couscous, according to directions on package.

In a large bowl place:
1 cup of zucchini, cut into 1/4" pieces (I like to use English cucumber)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4" pieces (any colour bell pepper)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup broccoli florets, cut small, steamed for 1 minute in microwave
1 medium tomato, cut up
1/2 cup low fat Italian dressing

Stir all these ingredients together until well blended.
Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or basil.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Serves 6.

I'm looking forward to tasting the other entrées that people bring to this potluck.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good Week

It's been a good week so far, with lots going on, but no pictures.

On Monday I went to the first Monday afternoon painting class, a three hour session.  I'm learning how to control watercolour, which is a challenge!  But I enjoy it lots.

Tuesday we went to a potluck supper at church, and my dear Sis gave an interesting half hour slide show and talk about bugs that live in the desert here in Arizona.

Wednesday morning I went to an orchestra rehearsal.  I'm playing at the back of the viola section, and liked the group, liked the conductor and liked the music.  On the way home the art teacher, who also plays in that orchestra (in fact she's the one who told me about it) went to a good art supply store with me and we picked up a block of Arches cold pressed paper, several tubes of paint, etc.  It's not cheap!  But now I can do some practice painting in preparation for next Monday's class.

We got the sofa bed together so I could move that mattress out of the closet that will become my sewing room.  I need to paint it before filling it up with projects.  I also need to set up some sort of table for my sewing machine.  There's a 24" wide leaf from the dining room table stored in that closet that would make a fine table if I can find some drawers to prop it up on.

This afternoon I went to the opera!  Sounds fancy!  What is was: a DVD of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro on a big screen in a small classroom here in Sun Village.  That's only the second opera I've ever been to, and the other one was shown in a theatre when I was in college, many years ago.

So life is full of interesting things to do.  So much so that I've been to the pool only once this week. I guess that's not cause for complaint!

Sunday, October 12, 2014


We finally are hooked up to phone, t.v. and internet!  That took a while!  Too many snowbirds returning at this time of year.

We arrived a week ago now and are still settling in.  It's surprising how many small household things needed to be purchased: potato peeler, wastebaskets, etc., etc.  We still need to put the sofa bed back together, and organize that room.  When that's finished I can organize my sewing room in the spare bedroom walk-in closet.

But I did get a tiny bit of sewing done.  I bought a yard of homespun at Walmart and made six nice napkins for us to use.  They are way better than anything that was offered for sale, and I know from experience that they wash up just beautifully.

Tomorrow I go to a Pilates class first thing in the morning and to a painting class in the afternoon.  There's so much to do here!  But I will try to write about anything interesting that comes up, in terms of sewing, quilting, music, painting, reading--everything except gardening, as we have no "dirt" in which to garden here.  This is as good as it gets:

A lovely mum from Home Depot, brightening up the living room coffee table.

Friday, October 3, 2014

On the Road

We left this morning around 9:30 to travel south to warmer climes.  Had a good trip on a sunny day.  South of Lethbridge the road is all divided highway, not much traffic and a clear, open road.  We had a good drive and found a Motel 6 (after frogging around a little) in Dillon, Montana.

Going by Nobleford, Alberta we called up some memories of our time there in the 70's.  It was a wonderful time in our family: the seven years we were there were the years that all four of our children were at home.  Our youngest was only 2 months when we arrived, and our oldest finished high school one semester after we moved away.  We loved our congregation there and felt very much at home.  It was a little hard to get used to the open prairie with the big sky, after having lived in Ontario, surround by large maple trees.  But after about a year, I loved it there.

One really nice thing about Nobleford is that you can almost always see the Rocky Mountains from there, while still enjoying the openness of the prairie with its neverending sky.  I loved that about it.

The border crossing to the U.S.A. went without any problem, and much less of a lineup that last year.

It was a good beginning to our travels south!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Juice and Jam

I'm wanting to clear the freezer in the house, amalga-mating the contents with what's in the "garage" freezer.  That's where we store all the fruit picked, before it's turned into juice, jam or wine.  So I took three gallon ice cream buckets of cherries into the house this morning and, with the help of the steam juicer, turned them into these 6 quarts of delicious cherry juice.  Nice for with meals, and also available to turn into cherry syrup or jelly.

Then I picked up an ice cream bucket of raspberries, added about the same amount of sugar, set them to boil in a 15 quart pan and turned them into 8 pint jars and 2 one cup jars of jam.  At least, I hope it will be jam.  It's not entirely cooled off yet, and it's still pretty runny.  Well, if not jam, some kind of syrup or topping.

All that activity has, hopefully, made enough room to take what's in the house freezer and be able to fit it into the garage freezer.  One freezer will take much less electricity than two!

Earlier in the day I was able to finish up a project for my friend Med: two dust covers for their monitors and keyboards.

It always feels so good to finish projects!  Yesterday I sent the "Grandmother's Fans" quilt out to the Continuing Care.  I had finished the machine quilting on that on Monday.

Tuesday we had friends visiting for dinner.  Since the house had not been dusted and vacuumed for over a week--what neglect!--I first cleaned, and then cooked.  We had a very nice visit, and then they continued on their way.  It was nice to have warning of a visit, so that I could have a good meal ready, but I also do love unexpected company.  There's always something in the freezer that can be turned into a tasty meal!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Second Finish in One Week!

This coming Tuesday our quilt club will go to the local "Continuing Care" to donate several quilts for the comfort of those patients.  
The quilt I had intended to donate was the one my friend Susan chose this past week. So I realized I needed to finish up one of the other tops I made earlier this summer.  Since this was also intended to go to Continuing Care, this is the one I finished yesterday.

I stitched "in the ditch" between each of the blocks and between the blocks and the border, using invisible thread.  That will hold it pretty well.  But the blocks needed some stitching also.  So, with the invisible thread I stitched the quarter circles around the fans and around the "hand holds" at the corners of the blocks.  That left the full fabric blocks.

Quilting is so much a matter of making decisions: what pattern? what material combinations? what arrangement of blocks? what quilting patterns to hold it together?  I chose to echo the shape of the fans, and then had to make up a method to achieve that?  Here's my solution: use the cardboard template to echo the hand-hold.  Stitch it with two pink threads at the same time, in order for it to be "deeply coloured" enough to stand out on the black background print.

So far, so good.  What next?  Because it was very hard to make any temporary marks on the black background fabric to guide my stitching I came up with this:  I cut a 16" strip of blue masking tape into 1/4" wide strips.  Found a pleasing arrangement to imitate the fan design, and stitched alongside the tape with the same doubled pink thread.  I had to be sure to always stitch of the left side of the tape, or the sections would have been unequal.

I like the result.  Now I have five sections to stitch in the manner, snip a few hanging threads and the quilt is finished!  And it's not even due until next Tuesday 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quilting Fun

In stark contrast to last week when I did no sewing, this week so far has been practically nothing but sewing!  What a blast!

On Monday my friend Susan, who often gives me odds 'n ends of fabric, lots really, asked if I would be willing to make a small quilt for her from some little boy printed flannels.  Of course, I'd be delighted.  She brought over seven different materials.

I thought at first that a sized-down "Turning Twenty" would look good.  But as soon as I had made it, I decided it was a "no go."  The orange and yellow are too dominant!

That was Tuesday morning.  I needed a different idea.  But I had another obligation: I was teaching "Delectable Mountains" at our local quilt club from 1 p.m. to about 8 p.m. on Tuesday, so I had to set aside Susan's quilt.

Wednesday morning I was back at it.  I had actually cut out four of the above quilts.  They would be small lap quilts, finishing at about 36" x 36".
So I rethought the project and came up
a different idea.  This was more like it!  By Wednesday noon I had this top put together.  I took both over to her house, and she agreed that the second idea is totally the way to go.

In the afternoon my friend S. and I sorted material, so there was no sewing done that afternoon.

This morning I finished sorting and "filing" material.  Everything was organized again, and I had time to sew.  I made the "sandwich" and did the machine quilting, using stitch in the ditch, which went very fast and looks good.

Then I did the binding, a 2 5/8" bias strip which I sewed first to the back and then turned over the folded edge and edge stitched it to the front.  I should have cut the binding a little wider as it had to be pulled over pretty tight, but it's good.  It's very rare for me to finish a quilt with a light coloured binding.  I usually feel that they need a "frame" much like a picture does.  But somehow this quilt called for the yellow for a binding.  I really like the way it finishes it.

Here's a close up of that cute print:

The final quilt did not use all the fabrics.  The orange and one of the lighter diamond prints were left out.  They can always go into another quilt, right?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

No Sewing

The past week and a half there was no time for sewing.  Happily, I did manage to finish up several tasks that had been bugging me.

On Monday I cleaned the garage and Jim and I made a trip to the recycle centre.  Wow, I sure like how the garage looks, quite a bit neater.

I also invited S. and her sister and her daughter in law to come and raid my stash of knitting yarn.  It has accumulated over the years to fill several bins in the garage, some drawers in the sewing room and a shelf or two in the sewing room cabinet.  There were some real finds in there: balls and balls of White Buffalo yarn, bought at a bargain in Woodwards in Lethbridge in the 70's and never used.  (There's a lesson here: buy yarn ONLY for a particular project, not on spec.  Same goes for quilting cottons.)  There were a few projects near completion, one in particular: a lovely sweater/coat in beige with intarsia in a varicoloured yarn.  Very pretty, but going to turn out to small for me to wear.  I started that in 2008.  I didn't like how loose the knitting was on the suggested needles and so I moved down a size.  In the meantime I, myself, moved up a size.  The discrepancy was too large to overcome and I couldn't think of a good solution.  Giving it to someone who would finish it and enjoy wearing it was the best way to go.

Tuesday I went to R.D. for my biyearly mammogram.

Wednesday and Thursday I worked on cleaning our car, a 2000 Toyota Camry, which had not had a cleaning for over a year.  It was surprisingly still not too bad.  The exterior had been washed by rain showers a few times.  Plus, it's that ubiquitous silver colour that was so popular about that time, and that doesn't show the dirt too badly.  The mats were the worst part.  I put them on the patio and vacuumed them thoroughly.  Then I scrubbed them with a strong solution of Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover, and rinsed them again and again with a power washer.  When the rinse water was coming off fairly clear, I hung them up on the clothesline to dry, sidewise, with many spring clothespins.  It worked like a charm.  They were cleaner than they had been for years, and were dry before suppertime.  The Folex worked many times better than the Bissell rug shampoo I usually use.

Friday I finally got around to washing windows.  This was a wonderful week to do that; the weather has been super nice.  I had washed windows earlier in the summer but there were the two windows by my sewing machine that hadn't been cleaned for over a year, and one in our bedroom.  What a treat to have clean, sparkling windows.  And especially, to see the white vinyl sills clean again.

This morning I scrubbed up all the bird shit stains on the balcony flooring, and rinsed it all with the hose.  Ahh!  Looks very good for now!

What a lot can be accomplished if I just stay away from the sewing machine for a while!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Abundant Apples

This has been a banner year for apples.  Our trees are loaded.  Here's the Kerr (apple/crab) that is part of the backyard deck.  It produces every other year and you can make very nice apple juice from these apples.

We planted that tree and then built the deck around it.  In the background are some of the raised vegetable beds in the garden.

This next
is a Dolgo Crab Apple Tree.  The apples are small, bright red and oblong.  They make a very nice, deep pink applesauce.
I haven't made any this year because we still have lots in the freezer.

I tend to freeze, not can, most produce because I always have trouble with lids not sealing.  Freezing eliminates that problem.

Also as part of the deck is what we call the "old apple tree" which was in the front when we bought this property.  We had it moved to the back.  We don't know what variety of apple this is, but we do know that you need to wait until a good frost has passed over it for the apples to be mellow.  This is also good for sauce, and I've also used it to make apple wine.

The tree itself is just bowed down beneath the weight of all the apples.  It has already dropped whole baskets full on the deck flooring.

These are just three of the apple trees we've planted here.  There are several more.  One of them near the #1 greenhouse produces excellent apples which we've already picked. I made two batches of apple butter this past week.

Here's a picture of the batch that I bottled yesterday morning.  I like to start by making fresh apple sauce in the afternoon, then packing that into the crockpot for a slow overnight simmer.  In the morning I take off the lid and let it cook down (on medium) to about 2/3 of what went in.  Then I bottle it in pint or cup jars that have been soaking in boiling water, slip on a lid,  and set them on towels to cool.  It's a delight to hear the lids snapping shut, sealed until we need the contents.

Put 12 cups of (fresh) applesauce (unsweetened) into a crockpot.
4 cups of dark brown sugar (Demerara)
6 tsp. cinnamon
3 tsp. allspice
3 tsp. cloves
3 tsp. nutmeg
Cook on high until it begins to bubble.  Cook on medium or low (depending on how hot your crockpot is) for about 12 hours, stirring every now and then.  Take off the cover (or put it ajar to catch the spatters but still let out the steam) and cook until the apple butter is reduced by about 1/3.  Use your judgement according to how thick you like the apple butter.  Spoon into hot, sterilized jars and top with clean, hot lids.  Screw the bands on tight and place the jars, spaced apart, on some towels to protect the countertop.  Listen for the snap.

This is especially delicious on cinnamon/raisin bagels, but I'm sure you can think of many other uses!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Winter? Gardening

I went out to pick what's left in the garden this morning.  It was cold!  Right around the freezing mark.  I found lots to pick, but after I finished I had to warm my hands for about 15 minutes before they stopped hurting from the cold! Here are the peas and beans.

The beans are a little hard to see because they are Royal Burgundy, which are purple when on the plant, but turn green when cooked.
I grow only the Royal Burgundy beans because even when they become quite large they aren't very "fat."  The seeds don't become too large and the bean is still good to eat.

My favourite variety of peas is Green Arrow.  They have fairly long pods and average 8 to even 12 peas per pod.  They don't mind this very cool, wet weather.  There are still plenty pods on the vines, which is a wonder after the deer have munched on the tops of the vines and the slugs have despoiled the bottoms.  We're due for warmer weather over the weekend, so I left the underdeveloped pods in the hopes of another meal or two next week.

I believe that this fresh produce picked this morning to be eaten this noon contains the most health-promoting food stuffs there are.  Besides, they simply taste so superior!

It was a very poor summer for some crops: rhubarb and raspberries, at least here on our place.  I picked rhubarb only once, but used it in a recipe my friend M. gave me.  It's delicious:
Put 5 cups of cup up rhubarb in a 9" square pan.
Sprinkle with 1 1/2 TBS lemon juice.  (I forgot to do this and it didn't hurt the pudding.)
Mix together:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBS margerine
1/2 cup milk
Spoon this mixture over the rhubarb.
Mix together:
1 cup and 2 TBS sugar
1 TBS corn starch
1/4 tsp. salt
Spoon this mixture over top of what's in the pan already.
Pour 3/4 cup of boiling water over all.
Bake at 375ºF for 40 to 60 minutes.

Enjoy warm (with vanilla ice cream, of course!)

Monday, September 8, 2014


Yesterday the thermometer read 24ºC at about 4:30 p.m.  Soon after that a cold front arrived and the temperature fell rapidly.  During the night it rained.  It was raining this morning when I got up.  Some time this morning rain turned to snow.  At times today it snowed heavily.  When our friend Jan came for dinner at 2 p.m. she said there were white-out conditions on her drive from town (just a mile and quarter, fortunately).  Now the snow is falling lightly but steadily.  The greenhouses, sales building, shrubs and trees are all snow covered.

There will probably be some damage to tree limbs as it's a heavy, wet snow and all the leaves are still on the trees and shrubs.  I had hoped to pick apples today, but don't really feel like doing that in this weather.  Better luck tomorrow!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Two Weeks

These past two weeks have just whizzed by!  When I last wrote on a Saturday, I was preparing to play for a church service.  It had been a whole year since I touched an organ.  My friend Jan gave me a key to her church (which we formerly attended) so that I could practice on the organ there.

I was surprised to find a new (hand-me-down) organ there, much nicer and bigger than what they had before.  That was a treat!  Then I had a second, nice surprise: my feet still knew where to find the pedals!  I thoroughly enjoyed that practice time, even though I had decided to simply play hymns for prelude, offertory and postlude, as I hadn't had time to prepare more complicated music.

Tomorrow will be the third Sunday that Jim and I go to Rocky Mountain House, he to preach and I to play organ for the morning service there.  We are usually invited for those three Sundays when their regular pastor is on holidays.  Last year we still did both the morning and evening service, but we both found that was a little too much effort for these senior citizens!  They agreed this year to have us come for just the morning service.  We always enjoy that congregation, and I especially enjoy playing organ for a group that sings so heartily!

Then on Monday, August 25, Dear Son #2, his wife and two daughters arrived for a visit.  We love having kids and grandkids over, but it does make it busy!  We had a really good visit with them, including attending the RCMP Musical Ride here in our little town.  Quite an event!  Even the girls (somewhat blasé teens) enjoyed it.  They visited Bow Valley Museum in Calgary one day, and also spent a day at Heritage Park.  Both are very worthwhile to take in.

And on Saturday DDIL, I and the DGDS went to Cross Iron Mills to do some pre-school clothes shopping.  To say the mall was crowded is an understatement!  So many people!  So many sales!  It was very noticeable to me that Caucasians were in the minority.  There were shoppers there from every corner of the globe, it seemed.  Perhaps the Inuit were the only group not represented.

What was very noticeable also was that, though the mall was crowded, there didn't seem to be any cross, angry people.  Everyone was pleasant and courteous.  It was a good time!

We got home a little too late to make our usual Saturday hamburgers, so we called ahead and the DS ordered pizza, which we all enjoyed.

The next morning we left for Rocky Mountain House at 7:15 a.m. and they left for B.C. at 8:30.

It has been a wonderful year for visit with the family.  I've seen everyone except #1 grandson, who is teaching in Japan.  Next year we hope to have everyone here at once around Thanksgiving,  to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, which happens in June.

This past week I concentrated on the machine quilting I had started before all that.

This quilt is having the binding hand
stitched to the back:

The two folded quilts on the dresser are completely finished.  The quilt on the ironing board has been machine quilted and needs the binding sewed on.

Underneath it are three more lap quilts that need to be machine quilted.

On the design wall is a lap quilt that has all the blocks made but not sewed together.

I wonder how much of this I will be able to finish this month!