Monday, December 26, 2016


We had a lovely Christmas Eve Day and a lovely Christmas Day.  Dear Son #1 is with us. It's unusual for us to have kids or grandkids around at Christmas.  During the times we are in Alberta for Christmas we tell them not to come visit at that time of year.  Kind of cross, are we?  A Christmas grinch?

No--this started over twenty years ago when D.S. #2 and wife came for a Christmas visit.  They were supposed to arrive around 6 p.m. and didn't actually arrive until 2 a.m. the next day.  We were frantic!  We called the RCMP around midnight and asked whether there had been any traffic accidents that might have involved them.  The explanation: they had stopped in Calgary (coming from B.C.'s lower mainland) for supper and gotten mixed up in their directions.  They turned around and headed back toward B.C.  In the dark it took them some time to realize that.  They reversed and came back into Alberta, heading north on Hwy#2.  They had to negotiate Edmonton, and spent a good deal of time there before that was straightened out.  They still had two hours to drive to get to where we lived north of Barrhead, AB.

That was one bad experience.  Another time they were travelling home by bus in a bad snowstorm and experienced several delays and misdirections.

After that we all agreed that the highways--and the airports--were "high hazard" areas during the Christmas holidays.  July is the best time to visit us in Alberta.  The roads are clear and our landscape is at its best.  The weather is good for outdoor activities.  So that's when we get together.

This is our third Christmas in Arizona.  So far we've done minimal Christmas decorations here.  No Christmas tree in the condo so far.  I was determined to have one this year, and made sure to take along the boxes of Christmas decorations.  But--another miss!  Here's our Christmas tree for this year:

I hung two pine cone wreaths outside and put this basket of cones with a little greenery on the patio.  Not much, eh?

Well, there was a very good reason:
Last Monday morning these fellows arrived.  They pulled up the old carpet in the living/dining area.  They hauled it out the door.  Goodbye, and good riddance!
They hammered out the old tile by the door:
And they installed the new "honey oak" laminate:

When they finished late in the afternoon they moved the furniture out of the bedroom into the living room:
That allowed me to finish painting the bedroom.  The extremely heavy armoires on either side of the bed were bound together by a "bridge" over top of the bed with pot lights for reading in bed.  I think they had never been moved since the bedroom furniture was installed--possibly as long ago as '87.  The amount of cobwebs and dust clinging to the wall and to the backs and tops of all that was astounding.  The rest of the room had been painted in the past two weeks, and now I was free to finish the last wall.  That made me happy!

We had planned to sleep in my dear Sis's guest house on Monday night, but late in the afternoon she called that they discovered a leak in that bathroom that had soaked the whole place.  So the Kenny and his helper sweetly set up our bed in the living room.  It was surprising how well we slept that night!

This story will continue--there's more carpet to be replaced!

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Yes, I'm still here, just have been super busy this month.  I'll start with yesterday and go backwards for a while.

We had a nice visit with my sister and her husband last night.  Dear Son #1 is with us for a while also.  Wayne and Joanne wanted to see our new flooring which was installed this past Monday and Tuesday, so we made a little bit of an evening out of it and had a good visit too.

Joanne also choose the yarn for her socks for this year.  By tradition I give Wayne and new pair of hand knit socks when we arrive in October (his birthday is the end of September), and give Joanne a new pair when we leave.  She choose a lovely Brown Rose Marl yarn--in my favourite yarn for socks, Patons Kroy Socks yarn.  I got started after they left.
It always seems so strange to me that such a ridiculous little thing surrounded by four needles will actually turn into a sock.  Here's the beginning last night:

Here's the sock this morning (11 a.m.)  You can see that I've spent some time on it:
I needed to have some quiet time after their visit before going to bed.  This morning is a quiet time also.  The three of us (Dear One, Dear Son and myself) are just sitting around quietly reading.  Nice way to spend a morning.

Especially nice to have a quiet morning because later this afternoon I will be singing (in the choir) and playing violin solos in two Christmas Eve church services.  I like doing that, but need quiet time to prepare.

Wednesday my friend Marcy and I spent the morning together working on sewing projects.  I was simply trimming some squares for a quilt (I'll post that later) and she was making potholders for Christmas presents.  I think they look terrific:

We spend time together about once a week, working on sewing projects.  But it's less about the sewing and more about visiting.  Always a good time!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I was at church this morning to practice on the pipe organ and thought I'd share some pictures so you have an idea just how grand this organ is, and how exciting it is for me to have time on it.

The organ has three manuals, each of which has its own section.  Here's the "great organ":

And the "swell organ":  The swell and the choir divisions have expression pedals, meaning you can "swell" the sound or diminish the sound.


Behind this grid is the "choir organ."  I learned just this past week that it's called that because it faces the choir.

These "divisions" of the organ are not always in these relative positions.  Sometimes one of the divisions is up in what we would call the balcony at the back of the church.  Sometimes the console is there also.  This is a pipe organ, so all the sounds come from these pipes.  An electronic organ would have speakers placed strategically around the sanctuary.

This is the console at which the organist sits and makes music! The console sits on a movable platform so it can be placed off to the side or in the center, for instance when an organ concert is given. 

This is a view of the "choir loft" in this particular church--not a very "lofty" loft.  This is where the choir sits during the service, and that's where you'd find me on a Sunday morning.

There are three major choirs in our church, the A Capella Choir, the Celebration Choir and the Chancel Choir.  I sing in the Chancel Choir.  There is also a bell choir and a "visitation" choir that goes to sing in care homes.

On the weekend there are three identical (almost) services held, one at 5 p.m. on Saturday, one at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday and a third at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.  Chancel Choir sings at the 8:30 service the first two Sundays of the month and at the 10:30 service the third and fourth Sunday of each month.  If there is a fifth Sunday perhaps one of the choirs takes the service or other "special music" is provided by a small group or a soloist.

There is a lot of music at each service.  We begin with a prelude, usually organ, but sometimes an accompanied solo or a piano solo.  I've played preludes on the violin and viola, accompanied on piano or organ.  We have a nice way of presenting a prelude: shortly before the service begins the pastor comes out and makes the announcements.  Then the pastor asks that all cell phones be turned off and says, Now we will listen to the prelude.  Everyone sits quietly attentive while the prelude is played and then the service begins.

This part begins with a "gathering" song from the hymnal.  Then because this is a liturgical service there are sung responses.  These are followed by the "special music" interspersed with the three readings from the Bible.  There is an offering with an offertory of some sort, a sermon, a "hymn of the day" and a communion service.

For the communion there are four "stations" at the front of the church, each consisting of someone who hands you the communion wafer with the words, "the body of the Lord for you."  Next in line is someone with a chalice of wine.  You dip the wafer into the wine and are addressed with the words: "the blood of the Lord is shed for you." There is a third person with a chalice of grape juice if you would prefer that.

The ushers conduct the people by rows to the front of the church where they are served the communion, which we immediately eat while we return to our seats.

Both pastors are good preachers and give us something to think about beyond just the morning service.  The senior pastor is particularly adept at looking at a text from a fresh point of view.  We are blessed to attend these services.

This coming Sunday, for the first time, I will play the organ--just for the postlude.  I was supposed to play during the communion also but backed out of that.  It was a little too intimidating!  I haven't played organ in church services regularly since we retired, seventeen years ago.  I feel I need more practice before I'm up to that.  But a postlude is the least "nervous" part of the service.  People are leaving and chatting.

I will play "Shepherd's Noel" by J. Wayne Kerr.  It's a very bright, cheerful piece, and short--just three minutes worth of music.  Short because although it's four pages with several repeats, it goes by very quickly.  I hope that I can just relax and enjoy playing it!

Friday, December 2, 2016


Today I received a lovely, meaningful gift from my friend Nan.  It's a frame with two of Mardelle's pictures in it.  Mardelle was a very gifted artist, teacher and musician.  I met her in April of of '14, and started taking watercolour lessons from in October of that year.  She also invited me to join the Sun City Chamber Orchestra, to which I still belong.  We were becoming good friends and I liked her immensely.

It was a great grief to me that she died suddenly that November.  I wrote a memorial to her on this blog on November 12, '14.

Later her husband had a sale of much of her art equipment.  My friend Nan helped set up the sale.  I was blessed to be given an unframed watercolour of daisies that Mardelle had painted.  Nan is going to help me mat and frame that watercolour.

We have a perfect place for that picture Nan gave me today:

I think it looks great here, and it's where I will see it several times a day.  Many thanks, Nan!

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Since we're in Arizona we get to celebrate Thanksgiving Day along with friends and my sister and her husband.  If I had to list all the blessings I'm grateful for, this would be a very long post.  Heading the list: the Dear One, followed by the kids and grandkids.  I've been very blest in family!

Last night we had a combined Thanksgiving Day service at the church we attend here (Lord of Life Lutheran), along with the Methodist Church and the Jewish Synagogue that are both on the same block as our church.  We had a joyful service, the highlight of which was the combined choirs singing "We Sing the Mighty Power of God."  After the service there was a pie social, and that was also very enjoyable.

Today we are going to a potluck dinner here in Sun Village.  What a good idea!  Lots of us here don't have relatives nearby; our kids and grandkids are far away.  So we will eat together.  You know how those potlucks turn out: tons of delicious food, dishes that each one kind of specializes in.  So my contribution will be:

Peel and slice 2 large Sweet onions (to make 6 cups)
Sauté in 1/4 cup butter until tender.
Spoon into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish

1 can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Pour over onions

Top with 1 1/2 cups croutons.
Sprinkle with 3/4 cup grated Cheddar

Bake at 350º for 30 to 35 minutes.

I doubled this recipe.  I added 4 large mushrooms, chopped with the onions in the sauté.  Had no Worcestershire sauce, so used Soy Sauce.  I don't add the milk.  The onions make enough moisture when sautéed.  For croutons I'm using part of a package of stuffing mix.

I'm also bringing:
Melt 1/4 cup butter in a pan
Add 1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 TB curry powder

Boil slowly for 5 minutes
Drain 3 or 4 14 oz. cans of fruit
Chop up the fruit
Pour the boiled mixture over the fruit
   in a buttered casserole dish
Bake at 300º for 20 to 25 minutes.

I added a bit more canned fruit, but kept the sauce the same.  That cuts down on the amount of butter and sugar just a bit, which I think balances it out better.

So, all is ready.  It just needs to be popped into the oven sometime soon.  Dinner is at 1 p.m.  Enjoy and be thankful.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


It's a cold, rainy afternoon, dark and dreary.  We had the perfect lunch: chicken soup, warm bread with cheese.  Now how to occupy this afternoon?  Get out the sewing machine--the cute little Singer Featherweight--and put the final touches on a donation quilt.

There was a small stack of 6" and 4 1/2" flannel squares in the sewing room, ready for someone to make something of them.  I sewed the 4 1/2" squares together into four patches and then trimmed them to 6" on an angle.  They were sprinkled throughout the 6" squares and formed a nice flannel quilt top for a child's quilt.

At Bob's Variety there was some "just right" purple flannel for backing and binding.  Didn't it turn out well?

I did a meander machine quilting on this one, but chose pink for the top thread and variegated for the backing.  The pink was not a good choice, as it disappeared on the pink squares.  I had a few accidents: places where the loops of the meander crossed each other. Do you  think a child would notice that?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Yesterday and today I had the great treat of playing on the wonderful pipe organ at the church we attend here.  I'm working on a few pieces with the encouragement of Gloria, the church organist,  preparing them for possible inclusion in a service some day.

One of my favourites is a very perky setting for The First Noel.  It's sparkly and cheerful and is a lot of fun to play.  Another interesting piece is a Partita on "St. Anne" a well known hymn by Paul Manz.  It includes a Theme, Adagio, Canon, Presto and Pastorale.  There is also a final Fugue-Finale, but I haven't learned that one yet.  The others still need practice before they would be ready to use in a service.  The Presto would make a whiz-bang postlude.

I am also working on a Trio Sonata by Bach that is a great favourite of mine.  We have a recording of it, a vinyl record, that I've played many, many times.  I love to listen to it while sewing.

The chorale prelude on Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen, by Brahms is a supremely meditative piece.  According to the lack of dating on it, I've never used it in a service.  A quiet flute setting on the choir manual and a geigen celeste on the swell make a nice quiet contrast between sections.

For two hours on Monday and Tuesday I lose myself in this music, this wonderful pipe organ and go home spiritually refreshed, and somewhat tired from concentrating so intently.  It's a privilege to be able to do this!

Friday, November 11, 2016


Well, this one is not so exciting to me as the Featherweight was, but, boy, was it necessary!

A while ago as we were eating our dinner we heard water running.  No taps were on, so this was a puzzle.  I went to investigate and found a pipe sticking out from the laundry room wall at the back, no faucet on it.  Water was pouring from the pipe into an open black plastic pipe, a drain.  It went on and on, no pause.  What in the world was going on?

There didn't seem to be a way to turn off the fast running water that was being totally wasted.  We used the shut off valve for the condo, out in front.  Of course, that meant we had no water available.  For the rest of that day we turned on the water when we needed some and went outside to turn it off again afterwards.  We started looking for help.

A friend who is a knowledgeable handyman stopped by and diagnosed a failed pressure valve on the water heater.  He also gave us the name of another handyman who could fix the problem, a handyman who had done work for us in past years.

So we called up Sam and he came and had a look.  The diagnosis: you need a whole new water heater (which was what Ron had thought also.)  We don't know beans about that, so we gave Sam the go ahead.  The following Monday he was able to come, along with the new heater.  This is the old water heater going bye-bye.

The laundry room here is a small 5' x 5' "closet" off the kitchen.  The washer and dryer are a very large, stacked pair in there.  There is also a water heater and just enough room for a set of plastic shelves to hold all the cleaning utensils, etc.  That shelving unit had to be moved out to make room for taking out the old water heater and putting in the new.

That wasn't too bad.  I just gently dragged it into the kitchen.  Then Sam got to work.

When he removed the old water heater we found that at some time tile had been laid around it, but not under it.  It was very wet and dirty underneath there.  I cleaned that up and we put in a spare tile that we had found in the storage closet out by the carport.

Here's the big new water heater ready to be installed.

We enjoyed having Sam around that day.  He's so cheerful!  He worked so hard!  He told us that he just loves working.  We happen to know that he is 82 years old, still going strong as ever.  Jim asked him where he lives, and it is not in our village.  I jokingly told Jim, Well, Sam's too young to live here! (Age requirement: 55)  Sam relished that joke.
Here he is wrestling the water heater into position.  He worked so hard and fast that he was dripping sweat down his face.

So the new water heater is all hooked up and works just the way it's supposed to.  I think the hot water is a little too hot, but Sam says that it's factory set at 125º.  Still, when I take a shower now, I have to have the shower faucet (one of those round ones) set quite a bit lower than before.

It's only when you lose one of your modern conveniences that you recognize how easy all these conveniences make our daily lives!

Sunday, November 6, 2016


A year ago today I took a photo of a "trimmed" shrub in front of our home here.  We do not take care of the outside of the condo, the association does that.  Periodically the landscaping crew comes along and "trims" the shrubs.  The gorgeous shrub covered with orange blooms was "trimmed" down to this sad remnant:

Growing shrubs, and much of nature for that matter, have wonderful abilities to heal and replenish themselves.  

We were very happy to see how recovered this same shrub was when we came back this year.  

Butterflies and hummingbirds love these blossoms!  I hope it is left alone to bloom like this all winter.  It's about as tall as I am, and is just resplendent.  What a treat to look out our bedroom window and see this beauty!

Monday, October 31, 2016


Quilters love Singer "Featherweight" sewing machines because they sew a very good straight seam.  That is all that they can do, but they do it extremely well.  Plus, they are extremely durable machines.  They are a basic, mechanical model, manufactured from 1933 to 1968.  Approximately 3 to 3.5 million of them were sold.  AND they are cute in the way that small things are cute.

I have long thought I'd like to have a Featherweight.  A really fortunate person might find one at a garage sale for $10 or so, but for a machine in good condition $300 is pretty much the going rate.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend in church choir who is also a quilter.  I asked her about her sewing machines; she has seven!  She mentioned that one was a Featherweight which she had for some years and just never used it very much.  She would like to sell it.  I told her I might be interested and she brought it to the next choir rehearsal for me to try.

This particular machine was manufactured between December, 1948 and May, 1949.  It's in excellent condition with the original decals (the gold decorations) intact.  It runs smoothly.  It was pretty much irresistible.

Here in AZ I have a Janome portable, an electronic machine that works very well and is very versatile.  At home in AB I have a Janome Horizon 7700, a large machine with an 11" throat, to accommodate a large quilt for machine quilting.  At home is also a Janome "SchoolMate" portable machine, a mechanical built to stand up to hard use.  This is the machine I bought when I first joined a quilt club and needed a portable machine.  All three of them are excellent machines.  I did NOT need another sewing machine, but I did desire that lovely Featherweight.

The Dear One was a little flabbergasted that I simply "wanted" this machine, even though I had no need of it.  But after a week of contemplation and a few discussions, he agreed that this machine could come home with me.  He's a sweetheart!

So here's the new member of my sewing family:

The blue masking tape marks the guideline for a 1/4" seam.  At home I'm pretty sure I have a magnetic seam guide that can be used with the mechanical machine.  But for now the tape with be a sufficient guide.

I'm just delighted to be a quilter with a Featherweight!  And I'm looking forward to stitching many, many squares and blocks on this little beauty.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


We went to an organ concert at the church we attend this afternoon.  A young woman, Ilona Kubiaczk-Adler, performed on the wonderful Glatter Gotz pipe organ there.  Originally from Poland, she now lives in Arizona.

In 2015 she traveled to Poland to make a recording on an almost 300 year old organ there. As part of the concert she talked about that experience and showed slides.  It is an old tracker organ meaning the action of the organ, pressing down the keys to producing the sound, is accomplished through a series of wooden links so that the person playing can control how the sound begins, gently or with more of a punch at the beginning of the note.  What a fascinating concept.  On a modern organ, the sound is either being produced or not.  It doesn't matter how you press the keys.  You can "pounce" on them or feebly depress them; it won't alter the sound.  So different from playing a piano!  Your fingers can tremble with nerves, but the sound is not affected.  So different from playing a violin!

Another difference is that this organ, when it was restored, retained the bellows, as well as having the air produced by an electric motor.  A modern organ has a motor that produces air for the pipes.  The pipes in an organ actually work much like any wind instrument.  They need a supply of air to produce sound.  Before electric motors, organs had bellows (like a blacksmith) and someone, not the organist, had to physically work the bellows to produce the air supply necessary for the sound.  I have never seen the actual bellows of an old pipe organ.  This was very interesting!  Three young men, friends of Ilona, were recruited to pump the bellows.

Here's how it works: There are fairly large, sturdy wooden spokes that need to be depressed to make the bellows move.  The men step down on the wooden spokes with all their weight to move the bellows.  As far as I could see there were two spokes for each bellows operator.  He stepped with all his weight on first one then the other.  That action opened the bellows.  They fell back of their own weight, sending the air to the pipes.

The organ was beautiful, with the surrounding of the pipes ornate and decorated with leaves, vines, cherubs, in greens and golds--real gold that is.  There were just two keyboards and a pedalboard.  The stops, which are the pistons that open or close the different ranks (voices) of pipes, are arranged on either side of the keyboards.  But they are really, really big, and too far from the organist to be reached.  So the organist needs helpers to pull out the stops and push them in, as voices are needed or not.  Fascinating.
On a modern organ the player just reaches over and pulls out a stop or flips a tab.  Also, a modern organ has couplers, which link the voices on one keyboard to another keyboard.  And it also has pistons, by which the organist can preset a combination of stops and activate all the voices chosen at once just by briefly depressing the piston.  An historic organ, such as this one in Poland, does not have these "conveniences".

Two famous organ works were on the program, Bach's "Toccata in d minor" and Widor's "Toccata."  Sometimes these, the Bach in particular, are referred to as "Dracula music."  It's pretty safe to say that each of you reading this has heard the opening bars of Bach's Toccata!  Both of these pieces also help a person understand the phrase, Pull out all the stops (Give it all you've got).  The volume of sound produced by a large pipe organ with (most of) the stops out is more than impressive!  But what great fun it is to be playing an organ with both hands, both feet, and all the brain circuits you can summon, producing as much sound as a full symphony orchestra!

I bought her CD after the concert.  I'll be listening to it in the car on the way to orchestra and choir rehearsals.  Mainly because the CD player in the car is the only way I have to listen to recorded music here in AZ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


We finished Victoria's quilt last night about 8:30 p.m.  I think she was pretty worn out.  She had spent the whole afternoon doing the machine quilting, and her arms were tired from hauling the whole quilt around on the machine.  We chose to use invisible thread on the top and a rayon Sulky marigold yellow on the back.

Monday she was able to finish sewing all the blocks together into the top.  We also cut and sewed on the narrow inner border and the wider outer border.  We planned to start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday by cutting, sewing and applying the backing.  But I wasn't able to help her until about 10:15 because of a "crisis" at home in the Dear One's use of the internet.  I function as his "techie" but this was beyond me.  The problem was in the site he was using, and that was finally straightened out.  So Victoria and I got a late start.  By the time we broke for lunch we had the three layer "quilting sandwich" put together.

She spent the whole afternoon machine quilting in the ditch.  By 5:30 we were almost, almost finished with the machine quilting.  We stepped ahead a little bit and sewed the binding to the back of the quilt.  We broke for supper and all went out to the Golden Corral, a buffet restaurant just outside the gates of our community.  It was a good break, and I think she needed it.

After supper we pressed the binding around to the front and doubled it under, ready to be stitched.  I offered to do this topstitching and she gratefully accepted, because her arms were really tired.  So I had the honour of doing the last sewing (for now) on her quilt.

Here it is finished--with a few things to be done to it when she gets home to Germany.  Just in time, as her plane left at 11 a.m. this morning.

I salute Victoria!  She was completely committed to finishing this project and worked unbelievably hard to get it done.  At the same time, she did very careful, precise work and radiated happiness at how her choices turned out.

What a lovely, cheerful quilt!  What a lovely, cheerful quilter!

Sunday, October 23, 2016


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

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

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

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

Doesn't she look happy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 10, 2016


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

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

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

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

So I'm sad today.

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

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

Thursday, October 6, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016


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

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

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

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

Friday, September 23, 2016


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


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

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

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

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

Keeps well, freezes well, and tastes terrific.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016


I love to read!  I begin every day reading and end every day reading.  And sometimes I read for several hours in between.  But I love BOOKS--not e-readers.  I tried one once and thoroughly disliked it.  There are better ones now, and maybe I'll try one sometime again.

Most of my books come from the library.  We have a small library here in town, but we are able to order almost any book through the extended library system.  One book I ordered recently was The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding, subtitled, One House, Five Families, and 100 Years of German History.

Thomas Harding's grandmother recalled with great fondness a summer house on a lake near Berlin that her father had built.  The family spend idyllic summers there.  Thomas became interested in that house and visited it, finding it in great disrepair.  He tried to interest his extended family in purchasing the house and restoring it, but wasn't successful.

Through dedicated research and several visits he unearthed the history of the house and wrote this interesting and well documented book about the house, a book which also gives an accounting of the political history of that small town and the country that surrounds it.

One interesting detail is the building of the Berlin Wall which ran right through the property, between the house and the lake, leaving the house in East Germany.

I heartily recommend this well-written book to anyone interested in a family-based history of the last century in Germany.

Two other books I've enjoyed recently are by Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.  The narrator is an Asperger-syndrome adult man.  Doesn't sound too promising, but this is very well done and there's lots of good humour in the writing.  Not a heavy or deep read, but certainly enjoyable.

I'm always looking for good books to read.  If you have any books that you've enjoyed recently--or that you found interesting, stimulating even though perhaps on difficult or serious subjects, such as Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, please make a recommendation!  You can leave it in a comment, or you can email me at  THANKS!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


My friend S. has been busy knitting and cross-stitching in preparation for a trip to visit a new grand baby.  She does really beautiful work and agreed to let me show her work to you.  First up is the very lovely cross stitched wall hanging celebrating the new baby.

Then there's the sweater for the new baby boy.  Made with very high quality yarn, and beautifully knit.

  She also made a very nice winter sweater for the new baby's big brother.  I think he's about 2 1/2 years old.

She also made this very attractive centrepiece for her daughter-in-law.  What a nice early Christmas present!  And what a clever pattern.  S. says it wasn't difficult to make.  It's very crisp and that comes from the "batting" being a sheet of foam.  I'm very interested to learn how that's made.  She's promised to show me.  There are lots of photos of these center pieces on pinterest, but I don't know what they are called.  But doesn't it give you ideas?

And last, but not least a very pretty sweater for her youngest granddaughter who is just over one year old.  This pretty pink yarn has a small, shiny thread wrapped around it, so it gives a very nice sparkle to this little sweater.  This was knit from the top down and needed only the ends of yarn woven in to complete it.

Congratulations to S for these beautiful works.  I'm celebrating her talents today!

Monday, September 12, 2016


Today was another day for processing apples.  Shirley picked, together we cleaned and cut up several buckets of apples, and I cooked and "milled" the sauce.  It was a labor-intensive day, occupying me from about 10:30 this morning until 5 this afternoon.  It takes a lot of time and effort to create your own food supply!

But wasn't that worth it!  Oddly enough the total of apple sauce is the same as the last time: 13 quarts and then a bit extra for eating right away.  All these 13 quarts will go into the freezer for now.  The white lids are not sealing lids, but a handy sort of plastic lid to use after you've removed the sealed lids.  I'm not planning to can these jars, just store them in the freezer until we need them.  The four plastic containers are what we usually use for freezing applesauce, etc.

The three rosy pink jars are apple juice.  That's all the juice we got from the Kerr apple/crab this summer.  That's an every other year tree, and this was supposed to be the year for it to produce.  Unfortunately the -7ºC temperature we had while the trees were in bloom got rid of most of the apples from that tree for this year.  The plums all disappeared in that one heavy frost also.

The apples we sauced today were from two trees in a heavily treed area and were somewhat protected from the frost by that amount of growth surrounding them.

The garden is pretty much all finished.  There are still carrots and turnips out there, waiting to be dug and stored for winter.  We do have a frost advisory tonight, so it's becoming urgent to finish digging them also.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Saturday often becomes a day of baking here.  Today was no exception.  Here's the haul:

The Saskatoon muffins are my regular recipe, which I call "Better Blueberry Muffins," originally from a bag of Rogers flour but I added ingredients.  This basic recipe can be adapted to other fruits and also makes a very nice pumpkin/date muffin.


Place in a large bowl--
1 cup of quick oats
2 cups of white flour
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon.
Mix all dry ingredients well.  Add:
1 cup of low fat yogurt
Mix a tsp. of baking soda in with the yogurt.
 2 eggs,
3 TBS olive oil (light tasting)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries (or Saskatoons)
enough skim milk to make a fairly thick batter.

Spoon into muffin pan lined with parchment muffin cups.  (Parchment muffin cups peel off the muffins very easily.  No comparison to plain paper muffin cups!)
Bake at 350º for 25 to 28 minutes.
Makes 12 fairly large muffins.

These muffins freeze and thaw well.  Parchment muffin cups can be reused if removed and shaped again.  If you lay them flat, they're pretty hard to get back into the muffin tin.

The Boston Brown Bread recipe is from the More With Less Cookbook, published by Herald Press in 1976.  This is the first cookbook that I was ever interested in.  I still use certain recipes and this Boston Brown Bread is one of my favourites.  It uses no sugar, no fat and no eggs.  Sweetening comes from molasses.  If you'd like the recipe and can't source it, let me know by email and I'll add it to a post.

The loaves of 50% brown bread are from my own recipe.  I load the ingredients into the breadmaker and run the short dough cycle.  If you use the longer dough cycle the texture of the bread is a little finer.

(Load in order suggested by your bread machine.)
12 oz. lukewarm water
1 egg
3 TBS Canola oil
Combination of whole wheat and white flour to add up to 4 cups.
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup of flax seed, ground in a spare coffee grinder  (Leave some seeds whole.)
(2 TBS wheat gluten -- to help the bread rise.  This can be omitted.)
2 tsp. bread machine yeast

When the dough cycle is complete, divide the dough into two equal parts, form the parts into loaves, grease the loaves and place them in parchment lined glass bread pans.  Let rise for approximately 45 minutes.  Bake in a 350º over for 30 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.  When cool, store in plastic bags.  Freezes well.

I grind my own whole wheat flour from organic Hard Red Spring Wheat, using a Whisper Mill that we bought in 1996 for $400.  Have used it for pretty much all our bread since then.  I find that whole wheat bread (even 100% whole wheat) rises significantly better if the flour has just been freshly ground.

Now cut the "heel" off your fresh bread and spread some butter and home-made raspberry jam for a mouth-satisfying treat--no matter what time of day.  ENJOY!

Friday, September 9, 2016


This week I pulled up the rest of the Fava bean plants and made another one of those veggie stews.  While I was at it I pulled up all the soy bean plants that the deer had been grazing on, preventing them from ever bearing any beans.  Next to them was a row of other beans, kind of yellowish and tough.  I pulled them up also and added them to the green stuff laid out on the beds to decay and add to the soil.

Later on I happened to look at my garden notes and realized, THOSE WERE THE BLACK TURTLE BEANS!  OOPS!  I went to the garden and picked all the pods off the discarded plants, took them into the house and shelled them.  Well now, this is kind of sad, isn't it?  Here's the harvest of what are supposed to be Black Turtle beans:

Just a few had turned black, some were beginning to turn, but the majority were very small and green.  They should have been left to mature and dry in the garden.  Maybe next year!  I popped the green Black Turtle beans into the stew pot, and they melded right in with the rest of the veggies.  The stew was delicious!

Monday, September 5, 2016


Well, here we are on Labor Day, one of the last weekends to go camping for the summer of '16, and the weather is COLD!!!  Got up yesterday to +2º, got up this morning to +4º.  For this morning's walk I wore: a hoodie, and a Goretex shell, a knitted wool toque, and a pair of acrylic gloves.  That was just right for the temperature and the wind!

After the walk I went to the garden and harvested the remaining Broad Beans (aka Fava Beans).  Here's the haul:

I pulled up all the plants and pulled off any broad bean pods.  When I shelled the beans I separated the smaller ones for immediate use.  The larger ones will be processed and put into the freezer.

I also picked whatever tomatoes were ripe, some little WallaWalla onions that were obviously not going to get any bigger, having lost their green tops to deer, and whatever Pattypan squash were big enough to use.  

In the house I prepared them for cooking and combined everything in a large pot.  I added some parsley (fresh), some basil (already dried and crumbled), the tomatoes (cooked and put through the mill to remove the skins).  Also added some chicken and beef concentrate and a mild Italian sausage, cut into very small bits.

So here's dinner today.  We'll add a slice of homemade, whole wheat bread to that, a glass of white wine and have a lovely meal.

This is what's left of my attempt to grow soybeans.  You can see how the deer have consistently sheared off the tops of the plants.  Makes for good, compact plants, but no soy beans.  Oh well, in AZ at Sprouts there are lovely, frozen soy beans, Edamame, that we enjoy at least once a week.

Shall I try again next year?  Also missing from the harvest: any sign of black turtle beans. Never came up, evidently.  Try again next year!

Friday, September 2, 2016


Yes, we have lots of turnips ripening in the garden!  Most of the veggies in the garden did very poorly.  Only three beets came up.  The deer ate the tops of all the onions.  They also polished off the soy bean plants.  The lettuce flourished but not the spinach.  But the turnips!  Oh, the turnips came up as thick as could be.  I thinned them a few times, and now there is a row of fat, round turnips all ready to be used.

Most recipes for turnips say: peel them, cut them into cubes, boil them, mash them and add some butter.  That gets a little boring.  But this week I came across a recipe for CRISPY TURNIP "FRIES."  You can find it on  It involves cutting turnips to french-fry stick size, oiling them and combining them with Parmesan cheese, garlic salt, paprika and onion powder.

I substituted garlic powder for garlic salt, used some celery salt and paprika and skipped the onion powder because there was none in the cupboard.  This was an excellent recipe that gave the turnips a completely different taste.  Delicious!

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Yesterday I gave myself permission to "take a day off"--except for cooking, dishes, etc.  Instead I started a new knitting project.  I had received a free pattern for a cowl and was itching to try it.

From the stash I chose a beautiful variegated blue/green/purple yarn that I had bought a year ago just because it was so lovely.  I cast on 156 sts. using both ends of the ball of yarn.  With a long, long piece of yarn for the "tail" you can cast on a huge amount of stitches and for large amounts that's far easier than trying to guess how long a tail is needed.  I put yarn stitch markers at every 24 stitches to keep track of where in the pattern I was.  The pattern was given as a chart and knitted in the round.

One of the nice things about this pattern is that the number of stitches is reduced by 13 every eight rows so as you knit you progress faster and faster.  What fun!

At the end of the day I had a completed cowl.  But it was very curled up!  Both the beginning and the end tried to meet at the middle.  The rest was a nice, puffy cable-patterned cowl.  Even though I knew better I heated the steam iron and steam-ironed the cowl flat.  The yarn was acrylic and I knew what would happen so I have no one to blame but myself for the flat thing that resulted.

It's just 4 inches long.  The picture with the pattern showed a much larger cowl.  And the pattern explained that the first eight rows of the pattern were repeated.  You can source this pattern at  The name of the pattern is "Welter".  The free pattern was a special offer to blog readers.  Her blog is called Violently Domestic.

This cowl will be repeated sometime soon, and probably paired with a hat.  I think the pattern could easily be changed to become a hat pattern.  Start with a good sized ribbing, and then figure out how many repeats of the 12-stitch pattern are needed, and go from there.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


I'm home again from my trip to the east, and had a terrific time.  Among the visits: four days with my BFF from college days, including two of those days at Lake Michigan with just perfect summer weather; four days with my cousin Joan and her hubby and those days included a cousins' reunion at which I saw four cousins whom I hadn't seen for over 40 years, one of whom was recently remarried after being widowed, and two adult children whom I had never met; and finally a week with #1 daughter who was recuperating from a burst compression fracture of the L1 vertebra that happened the middle of May.  Such a rewarding, worthwhile time!

While travelling I was able to knit a pair of socks for DGS#3, who turned 16 this past week.  They just need to have the threads woven in and to be mailed.

I've often noticed that variegated sock yarn, even from the same dye lot, does not produce identical socks.  That's simply beyond a knitter's control.  The Dear One received his new pair of black socks that I had been saving for the sock knitting class, which is now postponed until next February/March.

The next sock pair, for my brother-in-law Wayne, are well on the way.  From toe up, the first sock is up to the top cuff.  And this morning I caved to the temptation to begin another project: An attractive cowl.  I'll show pictures pretty soon when there is a bit of length to it.

It always seems that the first few days after a holiday are just chock full of "catching up."  This was no exception.  I drove Jim to three different appointments, two for preaching in Rocky Mountain House and one to the oral surgeon in Red Deer to have a molar removed.  That amounted to a total of 10 hours on the road in just 8 days.  Seemed like we were always on the go.

But this week our helper S. and I dealt with apples and corn.  She picked them all and then helped me wash them, cut off the blossom and stem ends and cut them in half.  After that
they went into Dutch ovens and were cooked to a mush, and then put through the French mill, producing a lovely, sugar and additive-free applesauce.

The total: 13 quarts for the freezer and some to eat with Monday's dinner.

I didn't take a picture of the corn, but there are now 20 cobs of corn in the freezer for enjoyment later on.

There are not so many appointments left on the calendar before we leave for Arizona again.  Jim is preaching in Red Deer this coming Sunday.  We need our prescriptions updated and pick up 6 months worth before we leave.  The car needs to go to the mechanic for a complete check up.  There are two meetings of the quilt club, and then we're off!