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 84ยบ 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!