Thursday, September 22, 2022

Socks On

                                                                        And so it begins.

I think today is the first day of autumn (or maybe it was yesterday?) and overnight it turned cool enough that I am wearing socks. My weather  barometer is  measured by socks on or socks off.

For the most part  today the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the temperature is way down and there's a light breeze to keep things just cool enough to close the windows part way.  We have a strict rule that the heat doesn't get turned on before October first. No matter what. Our concession to cooler temperatures is to close the windows part way.

                                    Everything is pumpkins, cornstalks, scarecrows and  mums
 Except for Christmas. From July the stores were stocked with fabric, decorations, cookie cutters, Advent calendars, cards, craft supplies so by now Christmas is  fully hip bumping  autumn out of the way. Everyone says they love fall the best, it's  pretty, the humidity is dropped, the temperatures cool, heartier fall food tastes so good again but  go into a store and you have to wade past Christmas to get to Halloween. 

I'm prepping for retreat, making piles of projects and tools I'll need. I'll take the churn dash to begin quilting on it - the clock is ticking on that one.  And the Liberty circles for when my fingers get tired of quilting. That will be enough, I think.  A few sharing snacks but not much, the Inn feeds us so well.
 For now I'm just cleaning up little things,  quilting the baby quilt, making Christmas ornaments (see what I mean???), finishing up a pillow idea, trying to figure out a border for something, it's just this:

Friday, September 16, 2022

Something new, something fun

   We did something totally new to PH and I.  The Grand River and Lake Michigan are such a backdrop to our lives in West Michigan we tend to take them for granted, especially as we get older. They have just always been there, and for 90% of my life I lived across the street from one or the other.  But still there are activities I only knew about peripherally, (especially because we aren't  particularly sportsy.)  They were there but never explored. Last night we explored.

A group of friends went to the Grand Lady Riverboat (not our Lowell Showboat) and took a ride while listening to  sing along (because you just couldn't help it) music from a Lowell family group.  This group are family members, father, brother, sister and husband.  They have a following and always play to sell out crowds. Always.  Well, PH and I have been here eight years and  the stars just never aligned for us to take in one of their concerts even though we know one of the group and are becoming acquainted with his wife.  Funny how that happens, right?  Something is right there in front of you.

We boarded the Grand Lady  - it's not this big boxy white thing in front of us, but behind it.  It's a riverboat that glides by paddle wheel down the river toward Lake Michigan and at the halfway point of the evening,  turns and comes back. 
Last night was picture perfect.  The weather, the view, the river, the friends, it was  so wonderful we could only keep repeating that all evening....when we weren't singing along.
Here's us.  The woman in white  next to PH is the family wife in the group.  I refer to four of these people as "lifers."  They've lived their entire lives in Lowell, they know everyone, know the history of everyone and everyplace.  Of course they all left for college, some live in a neighboring small city nearby, one in California, but they are lifers, their life still revolves around Lowell, and personally, I think that says something about a  community.
The  group.  You can't see the patriarch at the end but the guy closest to the camera in orange shirt is the  guy we know best. His wife is there, her brother next to him.  If you weren't singing along you were in a coma. Like Friend Don said, if they were supposed to sound like the original artist, they did.  The test for me was when they sang one of the songs by Jay and the Americans and one single high note had to be held for a very long time...and  he did it! Whoa.
It was a perfect evening, one we grabbed with friends, enjoying the perfect September evening. We know there might not be too many of these days left, we're sliding closer to  what we call real weather but till then, what could be better than this?
It's been busy, too busy sometimes and I've not been quilting much but did start the quilting on this baby quilt, it's kind of a mini I Spy for a boy and yes, the photo is upside down.  I'll save the bigger one, the churn dash, for retreat coming up. The churn dash has a deadline so it jumped to the head of the line.  That and my liberty circles.  If I just pause on those and take them to retreat I can clean up some of the little piles in the meantime.

Saturday, September 10, 2022


 Well, we're back.  We think this might be PH's last selling trip to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) For those not familiar with Michigan's layout, here's a map

Now, I know distance is relative.  We are in Kent County, in the bottom third of the state, just east of Grand Rapids.  We drove across the bridge that connects the two peninsulas to the U.P.'s farthest corners. We crossed the bridge and turned left.  By far the most beautiful and rugged  is the Keweenaw peninsula, the little bit that sticks our at the very top. And to get to that tippy top is about a 12 hour drive from home.  Now, as distance is relative, we were the farthest you could go and still be in Michigan.  If we went south we'd drive that long and be in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It sounds like  in Australia, a 12 hour drive gets you to your doctor appointment (small exaggeration there!) and in Europe you could pass through several countries in a 12 hour drive. We didn't do it all at once but if you did that's how long it would take. 

We've done this trip for 6 years  and the route is the same so while PH must make the same sales stops each time we try for doing something different just for us.

We were told last year by people who shared the same motel we always stay at that this is the place to be on Friday night for fish. It's just a food truck on their front lawn.  The husband of the couple who live here is a commercial fisherman in Alaska so they operate this just in May and September when he's home.

I ordered the ribbon fries. They look like potato chips but they were soft and  melted in your mouth. But the fish!!!  All we could say was, "Mmmmm" over and over. SO fresh!!
You can see their front "yard" was huge and while we got there right away, by the time we left the tables were full and families shared empty seats with others.  It was hold-onto-your-hat windy and truly, some food flew right off the plates.
At Fitzgerald's, still on the Keweenaw peninsula just south of Copper Harbor, you needed a reservation if you wanted to eat there.  We stopped one evening to make a reservation for the next.  We had a choice of 4 p.m. or 8:45 p.m.  We chose the first.
Look how close the restaurant on the right is from the lake.  Lake Superior is the  largest, deepest and coldest of the five Great Lakes and the saying is it doesn't give up it's dead.  There are hundreds of shipwrecks in this lake because the storms can be viscious and  can and  does sink ore freighters.  If you go down, you don't come back up.  It's frigid, deep and  rough.   Except for  while we were there. I've never seen Lake Superior this calm, the  whole time we were there!   Barely a ripple.  I sat on this deck and  tried to imagine the November storms and what they must do to this restaurant each November.
See what I mean? Calm.  Unheard of.  This was our view on Tuesday while we ate our pasties for a picnic.
Coming home on Thursday we stopped at Cross Village, at the very tip of the hand of Michigan, just west of the Mackinac Bridge on the map, and ate at Legs Inn.  It's a Polish restaurant serving Polish food and served by a wait staff from Poland.  The owner brings college age students here from Poland for 6 months to work at the restaurant, improve their English and have a couple of months to travel the U.S.  Of course on such a beautiful day we ate outdoors.

I turned around and this was our view of Lake Michigan.

While we drive, because it's so many hours in the car, I   have to do something to keep busy.  I'm not a good passenger, I get bored and antsy.  So this time I knit.  And  by the time we were a couple of hours from returning home I realized my finger joint hurt and when I looked I saw that I  had poked a hole right into my finger with the knitting needle. It was a stiffer yarn and needed some encouraging  with each stitch and eventually a hole wore in to my finger. This wasn't an indent, it was a real hole.

Upon getting home and checking a thousand emails I was so glad to see that Chooky scheduled a zoom session for Friday evening (my time) and since it was another nice day, I sat outdoors zooming for four hours till it got too dark to see my stitching and my battery ran down.  We paid homage to The Queen, pinpointed on  maps exactly where we all lived, had show and tell, caught up.

My work station.  I'm  appliqueing Liberty circles onto backgrounds for a circle quilt.  Friend Barb and I are each doing one and I'm sure she is probably finished with hers.  

And I'll close on this note just to show you how bad it can be here. We joke about not getting  people upset because, as I say, "they'll just pull out their gun and shoot you."  While I say it's a joke, it really isn't, as you can see every single day on the news. 

This is what's wrong.  Notice this fund raiser and the "prizes."  The first prize is  an assault weapon, the kind that is involved in the mass shootings going on every single day in the U.S.  This raffle means any Tom, Dick or Harry nut job out there can purchase a raffle ticket and potentially win an assault rifle. And then use it.  Somewhere. Sometime. Potentially on Someone.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Churn dash progress

 Chooky wanted us to show our progress on the churn dash SAL  so here's mine.  It's  layered and pinned and I decided to use big stitch quilting because it seems to fit the quilt.   In keeping with not buying any fabric till I use what I have, I found this red print in the stash and went for it.  It's busy but I like it and it's the back.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Ice cream and circles

 I like ice cream.  I love ice cream. I have a friend who says she only eats it in the summer. What??!!??  

We had a meeting last weekend and  wanted to make it special for the people attending so who do you call?  

The ice cream man!  When this truck pulled up the elders in our group all ran to have their photos taken with John and his truck and told stories of how they stole chips of ice from the milk trucks when they were kids.  We all had milkman stories. 
Our ice cream man didn't drive a milk truck for a living, he is a retired teacher who  fixed up an old truck and now makes ice cream. Occasionally he will make a batch of vanilla and attend your  party.  He's fussy about who he does this for because he is retired, after all, and  only wants to do this for fun but we were the library and the library always gets respect, doesn't it?  And ice cream.
John brought everything we would need, chocolate, caramel, strawberries, sprinkles, cups, spoons and even maple syrup.  I've never had maple syrup on my ice cream before but I will now!  I'm imagining it lightly drizzled over buttered pecan.

                      All we had to do was line up!  This sure beat a platter of cheese and crackers! 

Why do we seem to save our favorite and special fabrics because we don't want to use them?  I'm working to get past that. I've said before that when I die my kids would rather have the quilt that a pile of fabric. So.  Friend  Barb  and I are working on a quilt of circles using Liberty of London fabrics.  I  already cut for a flying geese quilt so I had  pieces that  would  fit  3 inch circles.  We both purchased some fat 16ths for variety and started cutting.

I chose neutrals with a bit of a pattern but not much.  I  added in some creams with the greys because some of my Liberty will read white. 

  Over  300 circles. Liberty Tana Lawn is so fine this pile doesn't look like over  300 but it is.  I took Barb's advice and purchased a thread that will disappear in the turn under but it's like sewing with angel hair and I'm having a bit of a time getting used to that.  After this normal thread will feel like  stitching with  yarn.

I have a few done, not many, but it is mindless sewing so good for TV watching.  Barb works faster than I do so we agreed this is no race.  

Speaking of race, the churn dash quilt is pinned and waiting for my mojo to kick in. I let it sit for awhile before deciding to  do big stitch quilting on it.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Busy weekend

 Well, Friday night was a bit of a first for the Lowell Museum's fundraiser.  It was held on the showboat instead of the museum's ground.  The Showboat is such a beautiful venue and it was a treat to be there for a party instead of just a walk through. 

Friends Marge and Harry were with us as they have been since we've moved here.  It's a tradition for them as well as us.
From the third deck the view is so peaceful.  Those islands in the river, I've learned recently, are the by product of the lumber mill that was on the shore where our library is now.  When the lumber had been milled the resulting sawdust was dumped in the river and gradually over time the islands were formed.

Our crew. Each of the restaurants that donates food to the event needs someone to manage the tables and our girls have been tapped as more than capable.

The Easy Idle String Band is a staple at this event.  We love them!!
As you walk in the door you get a glass that you fill over and over and over (depending on how many  'overs' you can handle) with beer and wine throughout the evening.

The food was over the top as usual.  The restaurants who participate donate their foods for the evening.  We had  the mini sandwiches from Miss Pea's,  three kinds of quesadillas from the new restaurant in town, a  favorite beer dip and chips from another, fruits and pastries from another, pizzas, and wonderful cheese platters.  If you left hungry it was your own fault.

Saturday Friend Laurie and I made our annual trek to FiberFest.  If you knit, weave, spin, felt, it's the place to be on this weekend.  I was astonished when I got home and saw how few photos I took this year!  Chooky, you probably want to stop reading at this point since this is old hat for you.

                        Talk about tactile!  I just love to run my fingers through everything I see. 
There were shearing demonstrations.  This was the first of the lot.
After her hair cut she was put back with the others and they all crowded around her like they were protecting her, or checking out her new do or just offering  support. 

There was much to see, much to touch, much to smell, and all of it interesting.  I bought a hank of yarn to work on the sweater I've been  working on for over a year while driving on our long road trip in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Beach or Lake?

 After my last post I got some questions about what we consider a lake or a beach.  You can't see across the Great Lakes.  Lake Michigan is approximately 120 miles across so no, you can't see across.  Along the eastern coast of the lake, in West Michigan, the sand is like sugar.  Fine, smooth,  it makes for beautiful beaches.  Along the thumb of Michigan's mitten, along the west coast of Lake Huron (there are five Great Lakes - Michigan, Huron, Superior, Erie and Ontario)  the coastline is stony, good beaches are hard to find.  This makes West Michigan a vacation destination in the first degree attracting people from  all over Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and much further. Up north along the little finger of  Michigan's mitten there are quite a few celebrity sightings.  Mel Gibson parks his boat there.  We are so very lucky to live here we sort of take it for granted.  Sort of.

We usually say we are going to the  beach.  There are so many inland lakes in Michigan someone would surely ask "which lake?" if you said you were going to the lake. But there is only one beach.

 PH and I decided yesterday to go to the state park I grew up going to.  We packed our chairs, hats, a small cooler of drinks and  headed off.

We stopped for lunch at the place we've been going to since the kids were little. It's almost like we can't come to Grand Haven without eating here.

One of the covid concessions many restaurants made was to close off streets to traffic and provide outdoor seating with space. Grand Haven closed off a whole block.   I am pretty strict about choosing to eat outdoors in the summer because we have so little time to do it. Michigan is definitely a state with all four seasons.

When you go to our state parks it's just a part of the day to walk the piers. Just about everyone does it. It's good people watching.  Lots of thongs.

 There were quite a few people fishing yesterday, too.  Like I said, you can't see across the lake.

The water was cold yesterday, too cold for PH to go in for a swim and he's not a beach sitter so as usually happens when we go to Grand Haven, after we've walked the pier we left.  We laughed because it just happens this way at this beach.  We plan for it, pack for it but don't sit the  beach.  Instead he has to listen to me tell stories about when I was a kid and every single summer Sunday of my life was spent here with my  family and aunt and uncle and cousins.  

In those days we would arrive on Sunday by 9:30 a.m., set our  coolers filled with our burgers and hot dogs on a picnic table under a tree and head across the parking lot to the beach.  We'd  play in the water, walk the shore to the pier, nap and build things in the sand while the adults played cribbage. At 5 p.m. we'd walk back to our picnic table in a median in the parking lot and,  those were the days, our coolers would still be there waiting, not pillaged, and we'd grill.  The adults would play cards for awhile longer and by 8 we'd leave for home.  Every.   Single.   Sunday.   I don't think it ever rained on a Sunday in the summer when I was a kid.

We've had a stretch of beautiful humid free weather and it's very hard for me to be inside so not much quilting has been happening.  I did cut for a  baby quilt and after this was taken it's sewn together but not bordered.  It's supposed to rain Sunday so probably then.  Oh, and the churn dash quilt is  basted and waiting to be quilted.