Saturday, December 30, 2023

Chookshed Stitchers 2024 Challenge


Ooohhhh, challenges make me nervous.  I feel like I'm being watched.  Held accountable for being ambitious and then guilty for not holding up.  I am not a very prolific quilter.   

The day after Christmas Chooky and Deana came up with a challenge and put it out to the zoom group, which, by the way, it was so nice to see everyone again.  Chooky organizes these zooms and administrates them so she has every right to hold them when SHE can.  Sometimes the time just isn't convenient for me so I have to miss a session.  I do love meeting up, keeping in touch, it's like these people from all over the world are now my quilt community.  

So.  Excuses noted, I had time to think about this challenge because I wasn't on zoom when it was suggested.  Because I had time to think about it I decided I would give it a chance.

Basically, we are to list ten projects we want to work on, name and number them and once a month Deana will pick a number and that's the project we work on for that month.  That was my selling point. I had a month to work on something that could be as small as a single block.  

I say that like it's easy but I still haven't made the block I'm supposed to make for April's retreat and I've had the assignment since October. But for me, normal life comes to a halt in October and goes through Christmas. I can only think of one thing at a time and Christmas is all consuming. 

So. I am not including a photo of these projects but they are piled in a special spot so I know what to do. If I come to regret this I will say so and summer might be a challenge and some of these numbers might have to be moved around because that one block needs to be done by April and the top finished, and Charlie's quilt needs to be done by May.  So some shuffling may happen if number 5 isn't chosen right away.

Anyone is welcome to do this challenge but you must have a blog. 

My list:

1. Charlie's quilt - finish  Done

2. nine patch bird medallion - applique and finish  assembled, layered, pinned

3. Liberty circles - finish least get the top composed

4. Blue quilt - a new start using blue stash  houses - 78 composed but not yet attached to each other

5. one basket square - make the block and finish project for retreat  done

6. quilt top 1  Done

7. quilt top 2

8. Kathleen Tracy basket QAL

9. Kathleen Tracy small quilt almost done in April

10. Lowell map - finish

Notice most of these say "finish" and it wasn't hard to come up with seven things that needed finishing.  But it will feel so good if I DO get them finished.

So, good luck everyone!

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Christmas 2023

 Well, another one in the books.  Ceci is holding the prize for finding the pickle this year.  They arrived in their pajamas on Friday evening and never got out of them the whole day Saturday.  Some people dress up in their holiday finest for Christmas...and some don't.   

By the time everyone left at 6 p.m. on Saturday we had a Friday night ham dinner, opened stockings, played games that failed miserably, made up beds on the floor, couches and spare beds, breakfasted on monkey bread, bacon, eggs and mimosas, ate all day from a cookie buffet, opened gifts, searched the neighborhood for the escaped naughty puppy (and found her,)  ate a dinner of insanely thick rib eye steaks and trimmings and champagne, played cards and finally called it done.  PH and I slept for 12 hours. 

 Christmas Eve was spent serene, quiet and peacefully at daughter's house where Adelaide played carols on her violin, we played hours of charades, nibbled on a delicious spread and Colin read his favorite Christmas poem that always, always makes him cry unashamedly.  We all named our top five favorite Christmas movies and each of our lists contained a tear jerker.

Christmas Day we could have just stayed in OUR pajamas all day but got some air with a nice walk in the morning, since the temperatures are the highest they have been since sometime in the 1800s.  You don't get sunshine, blue skies and sweater weather in Michigan on Christmas day.  We consider ourselves lucky if we don't have a snow storm.   In the afternoon we went to a movie.  

Today I'm taking the tree down and packing it all away.  Done and done.  

This one is number 50 for PH and I and that is a big number when we say it out loud. 

I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas, whether you spent it feasting with family or on the couch in your pajamas.  

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Holiday cheer

 This is the reason I insist on getting the Christmas shopping done early as possible - though I still need one stocking stuffer.  There are just other things pertaining to the holidays that I would rather be doing than shopping or wrapping.  

I stopped over at Friend Aina's and caught her on baking day.  Now, Aina is an old world cook, like me, and the holidays mean one thing - you just overdo it. You make and bake and plan on way more food than anyone could possibly eat so there is plenty for the family to take home with them. I'm not even going to list what she is having for dinner on Christmas Eve because I can't remember it all.  

I absolutely love her Latvian gingerbread cookies, and came away with a hunk of dough to bake some of my own.  That was a timely visit!

I found this mold and thought it might work to try to replicate the Violet Crumble bars Jude sent me awhile ago. I've made sea foam (honey comb) before but we liked the shape of the Violet Crumbles and I've been looking for a mold.  
The recipe needed to be halved because you have to work fast but the shapes held and then I dipped them in chocolate and sent them over to Elizabeth to test.  I am waiting for her verdict before proceeding.  Edit:  Elizabeth said the texture was good and to proceed.  Of course she would, I shared a couple of the Violet Crumbles with her and she loved them so it happy to see me try to make some.

THEN we had lunch with our friends at the most outrageous Christmas decorated place in the area.  This place is over the top with kitsch, corny, fun and noise.  You absolutely can't go in here if you are bothered by any of those things.   On the other hand you would be hard pressed to find a place where people walk in the door with smiles on their faces and share everything from tables to ketchup.
Look at that pretzel appetizer!  Every table is lined with stuffed animals that sing and dance and squawk and they are all going at the same time because everyone at all the tables is playing with them.

The seating is communal, reservations for Christmas start in October and go through January.  We walked in at lunch, miraculously got four seats and were warned it would be an hour before one of the two waitresses came for our orders.  We said we didn't care, we were there to visit and had all afternoon. They kept the drinks coming!
Where else can you go and have the waitress say to you (as she said to PH when he tried to order before I was finished)  "It's not your turn, Bucko."  And laugh for the rest of the afternoon and declare PH now had a new nickname.  And left her a big tip for it. Where else???

Grand Rapids was trying something new this year.  They are trying a Christmas market and we were hearing such good things about it we decided this morning because the sky was blue and the temperatures were nice to go see it.  The only thing we missed was seeing it lit up at night. But we also missed the crowds.
This is the first year but I'm sure the success means it will only get bigger from now forward. There were two 'streets' lined with these huts. 

There was a hut selling raclette sandwiches.  We opted out because, well, because the other guy selling sausages looked good, too.

This is the raclette heater, the cheese melts but the rind doesn't.  As it melts they open a large bread baguette, smear the cheese on it and wrap it for eating.  I told PH we would have had to split it between us, it was quite large.
It was interesting to watch
But we opted for Polish sausage sandwiches, potato pancakes and a huge soft pretzel, which after the sandwiches was brought home for tonight's supper.
PH got a beer in the beer hall and I got a hot chocolate.  It was such a good lunch I'm not cooking supper tonight!  We'll eat that pretzel.
We both agreed this Christmas market will only grow from here.  We talked to a couple of vendors and they said they have been overwhelmed with the business they've had and can only say good things.  If nothing else, it puts their business on the map.

So, yes, I'd rather be doing things like this to enjoy the holidays.  But after coming home from a long day advenuring and a nap I am now back in the mood for more baking, planning, list making because for us, it's coming next Friday and Saturday. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bramble Bloom

 Usually I don't participate in QALs because I tend to fall behind or just not get started in the first place.  But I do love Audrey's style and when she offered to do a QAL I thought it a perfect opportunity to see how the inside of her head works. Her blog is Quilty Folk on my sidebar.  Take a look and wander through past posts.  She does have a plan but her style has a "huh, let's stick this in there for interest" look.  Of course there is MUCH planning involved but I love her quirky free style. 

 In fact, this quilt, which so many of you commented or emailed me about, is my take on one of hers.  I started with the flowers and went from there.  She might not even recognize it as a take on one of hers.

So, when she decided to do what she calls Bramble Bloom QAL I said yes.  

The idea was to go through the stash and pick our oldest fabrics and free form background from three fabrics and then cut some flowers.  Well, I went through my stash and found a combination of  both old and new.  And then I found a piece of old that had some flowers that I decided to try my hand at broderie perse (did I spell that right?)  And there was this perfect coordinate for the vase. I have to find the little pile of leaves I already have cut out and thought I knew where they were but obviously moved.  She doesn't have a vase for hers....yet.   Go check out Quilty Folk.  On her sidebar is a list of people also doing this project so check out some of them, too.  Everyone is different and that's what makes improvisation fun.

Saturday, November 25, 2023


 Jenny asked about our Thanksgiving Day.  If you live in the U.S. you can skip this post, but if you don't well, here's a run down on ours.

First of all, the day began to commemorate the survival of the Pilgrims who came here in 1621.  They survived the first year here with half of their company still alive but they survived with the help of the natives who showed them how to plant and fish and hunt.  The pilgrims were not farmers and had no idea how to.   The idea of giving thanks for survival was not new to the natives of any culture but the idea that there was bounty after a year of starvation was something for the pilgrims to be thankful for.

It took well over 200 years of scattered thanksgiving days here and there and one person, Sarah Hale, to bring the day into focus and fix a date.  Sarah Hale was quite the progressive woman and she had a formidable weapon.  Her pen.  She was born in 1788 and was the first female magazine editor in America and when she wanted people to pull together for a cause she picked up her pen and wrote. 

Well, she did the same thing for Thanksgiving.  People were ignoring Thanksgiving because it wasn't a cohesive event.  So she wrote letters to politicians asking that the day be a national holiday.  She convinced other women to write letters and eventually politicians listened but the day was still not declared a national holiday with a fixed date.   

Sarah went through years of letters to four presidents before she found a true listening ear with Abraham Lincoln. President Lincon saw the value in bringing the country together to give thanks.  It took Sarah 38 years of writing thousands of letters but she finally succeeded.  

Still, it wasn't until Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 that Congress agreed to set the date as the fourth Thursday in November and set the day in stone for good.  

So, while our kindergarteners learn that the Pilgrims 'invented' Thanksgiving and invited the natives to come eat and it's been that way ever since, well, that part is mostly myth with small kernels of truth. 

Today Thanksgiving has become the kickoff for Christmas, it's a day of football games, but mostly, it's supposed to be a day to be with people who matter to you, have a nice meal and just stop and take a breath and be grateful for what's in front of you. 

Ever since our daughter got married and she and new husband moved to South Carolina and PH and I went to spend the holiday with them, she has done the cooking.  When they moved back to Michigan she asked if she could continue to "have Thanksgiving." I had my years before that and was happy to do the dishes now.   

Thanksgiving is a day we use the good china, real table cloth, real napkins, food not from boxes or cans.  While we, in our family, don't dress up our bodies in fancy clothes, we do dress up the table. 
She works for days to fill the table with goodness.  Again, nothing from boxes or cans.  She has learned from me you cook "from scratch." And for this day in particular you go for the effort.  She and SIL do the day proud.  Notice way down at the end of the table by the window, that bowl in front of PH is full of noodles.  It seems to get placed in front of him every year!
                                                                   This says it all.
And this year, as we were sitting at the table laughing and talking it dawned on me we have 4 1/2 teenagers in the family and declared THEY can do the dishes.  Sweeties that they are, they didn't even object!  They split the duties, some cleared the table, two washed and dried, one put away, and I told them I would do the pots and pans.  

We all come home with enough leftovers for at least one meal so we all can take another bite and be grateful.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Noodle Day

 Yesterday was noodle day at daughter's house.  The girls are actually at the point they can do it all themselves while we sit nearby chatting.  But yesterday was different, all hands on deck because it's a big, long, messy job to make the quantity needed for Thanksgiving, Christmas, PH's stocking and enough for the girls to eat them raw - their once in a year treat. Ugh.   The problem yesterday was the pasta machine was breaking down bit by bit before our eyes.

While daughter and PH made two trips to the hardware store for clamps Adelaide mixed the dough while Elizabeth and I kept itkneaded and rested and tried to make the machine work without clamps.  Not.
We were all channeling our inner Pasta Granny as we took turns rolling, turning, rolling, turning

                                                   Until the pasta sheet looked like this. 
There was flour everywhere, on our noses, clothes, the floor, everywhere.  It IS a messy and big job.
This is all done for two reasons.  This was something the mother and aunts in PH's family did as a matter of course.  Don't show up at any gathering without a pot of noodles, and all three pots were different.  So, the torch has been passed, in this family, down to the girls. We have a photo of six month old baby Elizabeth in her high chair watching and fingering a pile of flour on her tray, and look at her now!   But yesterday we took PH from his football game to take a turn at it.  It is, after all, his family's tradition we are passing down. This all happens to remember a tradition in his family.
Even now there is someone in each cousin's family that makes the noodles as a descendant of one of the three aunts and there is ALWAYS a pot of noodles at any gathering and they all taste different.  
Finally, the machine gasped it's last, we couldn't convert the kneading fixture to the noodle cutting fixture because it was running quite literally on one gear notch so turning the crank handle was a trial.  So while daughter worked that, I took a pizza cutter and sliced the noodles.  These noodles will truly be homemade looking!  The pizza wheel wobbled and that may be ok for pizza, it makes a wonky looking noodle. Elizabeth said I was cutting them too wide and daughter said I was cutting them too narrow.  We tried a noodle cutting gadget given by a friend but while those were uniform they were much to narrow.  So, wonky they are.

Talk about soldiering on!  While daughter churned out those dough balls into pasta sheets, Elizabeth and I cut and Adelaide hung them on the drying racks.  We were running on fumes but we had to get it done because no one wanted to get a new machine and drag out this mess any longer.  It was a one day, once a year job.

New machine ordered and arriving today.

We were running behind schedule and were all hungry because the day was to end with son-in-law's birthday dinner.  And cake.  And yes, he is older than four. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

November flowers

 A new finish!  This one makes me smile.  I am sorry the photo shoot wasn't artistic, but we took the clothesline down, all the porch furniture is put away so here it is!  It's a stash quilt. All fabrics I've been unwilling to use because I like them.  I love the batik green polka dot fabric with the shading that batik does for us.  The little flowers are all scraps and bits, their pink flowered background is a piece I bought when the girls were toddlers (they are now teenagers) and I thought would make a cute sun dress - that never happened!  The black stripe border is a VERY old Mary Englebreit fabric that I love, love, love and of course the gingham border.  I love gingham.  

The backing  is a piece I bought so long ago I can't remember when.  A long time, but I thought it keeps the cheerfulness going that is on the front.  I fussy cut that pink stripe to use on the border.
And this.  This is the last rose of summer, picked in the middle of November.  You can see by the leaves she is hanging on for dear life so she now sits on the windowsill in the kitchen where her feet can be warmer than outside.  Our November has been quite mild.  Not unheard of but not usual for some November days to be this nice but this much sunshine in November is quite unusual.   This weekend last year we had a snowstorm so yes, when November gives us sunshine and blue skies and sweater temperatures we will take it with a smile. 

Friday, November 3, 2023

Spare parts

 Well, I thought I would be out of commission for a lot longer than two days!  Exactly a week ago today I had a hip replaced.  Absolutely everyone who has had one, my surgeon, my primary doctor, everyone said it would be a piece of cake and especially so for me because I have had two knees replaced - and knees are the worst.   But still, it IS a bit of a 'major' surgery to take a bone out of a body and replace it with a piece of metal. 

Well.  The first shocker was that I was home the same day. No overnight hospital stay.  I had the use of a walker from a friend but the doctor said I would need it for two days and a friend said "you need the walker for your head, not your hip." And he was right.  By Sunday night it was parked in a corner.  PH has been hovering but I keep shooing him away to go do what he wants or needs to do but I certainly don't need nursing. Mostly the first couple of days I just needed him to put one sock on my foot. 

No pain, no opiods, no walker, no cane, no compression socks, no restrictions on my activities especially since I don't need narcotics for pain - because there is no pain.  The area just feels like a bad bruise but certainly not pain. I could take the stairs with alternating legs by day 3.  I am astounded at how easy this has been. I was even vacuuming on day 3!!! 

So, I guess there are no excuses?  There are weight restrictions on how much to lift, I did have a bone replaced after all. And if I were not retired I couldn't go back to work for 3 months.  But movement? Do what I can handle, that's what they say.

 The ONLY thing that is different and that I forgot about and is maybe a biproduct of anesthesia is the lack of appetite. All of the body's energy is centered on healing the incision and bone and I'm going to let it, so good long naps are the order of the day.  I DO get very tired.

If any of you are ever recommended for a new hip?  Don't run away, run toward having it done.  It could be FAR worse, like living with the pain of needing it, and it's not your knee. 

While on our long car trip the first of September I worked on Sashiko for the first time. I must say it's the perfect car project. I did two larger pieces that became pillows, I showed those in the retreat post, and I did these four ornaments.  The piece of fabric for these was extremely fine, like a finely done linen.  They were together as part of a bigger piece and I couldn't imagine them getting the wear and tear a pillow might so I cut them into four and turned them into Christmas ornaments for the two kids' families.  

Thursday, October 26, 2023



There are many reasons why I enjoy our quilt retreats.  Our small group is scattered, some are fifty miles that way and the others are fifty miles the other way and I am in the middle.  It's a time twice a year we can be together and laugh, talk issues of the day, books we are reading, share quilt ideas and those that are wonders at the craft have over the years nurtured and taught and encouraged the youngest one of us into becoming quite the accomplished quilter herself. And I love that she refers to us as "you ladies." 

But for me, a full half of the reason I would crawl to get there is the Inn itself, the 146 peace filled acres it's situated on, and the calm that blankets my breathing lungs when I walk in the door.  But mostly it's the keepers of the Inn.  The three ladies who take care of us - me - and who have now become our friends. 

They have created a space and a level of care that brings the whole issue of thinking into a calm focus. I find myself preferring peace over noise and calm over chaos and thinking, caring, empathetic people to those who aren't.  And believe me, in today's world, a world that gets scarier and scarier every day, finding that peacefulness usually requires just staying home, away from people.  "Too much peopling" I find myself saying. 

At the end of this week I'm going to be out of commission for a bit. I don't know how long, my disposition won't let me say I can't do something, I'm more of a find-a-way-to-make-it-work person. But I wanted to leave a post that may be up for a little while.  

And so I leave you, and with their permission, the post our beloved innkeepers posted for the month of October, but really, there are no dates for these thoughts.  

Fleeting Temples
A Blog for October 2023

You may find the title of this blog somewhat curious. What is a “fleeting temple” you might ask. I first came across these words in a poem I read recently from the website which is based on the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine Monk. If you have never heard of his teachings, you could do a lot worse in terms of spending your time than taking an hour or so to explore their offerings. The poem from which these words are taken is called “Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Lameris. I share it with you here.

Small Kindnesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down a bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here
have my seat,” “Go ahead-you first,” “I like your hat.”

The beauty of this poem lies in the premise that it’s the little things that ultimately matter and have the potential to turn the tide and help heal what divides us. It doesn’t take much- just a little more mindfulness regarding our daily interactions with one another. We look for meaning and purpose in life, but we don’t necessarily have to go to brick and mortar churches or temples or mosques to find it. We are capable of creating these “fleeting temples” by the way we treat one another. In an era of social and cultural discord, what if the building blocks of our temples, were these small acts of kindness, creating a sanctuary where we could for once trust one another. It’s refreshing to imagine how different we might be, and how different the world might be.

So, in the coming month, I invite you to lay down a foundation of small kindnesses in the world and create a fleeting temple or two on your own. I invite you to imagine a world of fleeting temples popping up everywhere and knowing that a few of them were built with small kindnesses that you extended to someone. We have hundreds of opportunities each day. It is my hope that this reality keeps you inspired.

Take care,
Marcia, Pat, Sharon, and Ryan
Keepers of the Rustic Gate



Wednesday, October 11, 2023



Not quilted but finished as for my part.  There is a lot of open space and the quilter I hope to employ to work her magic will take care of a lot of that.  Charlie chose the design and I chose the fabric.  When he was just a little tot, like 4 years old, he saw the Blue Angels fly for the first time and he's been completely enamored ever since.  He goes to see the air shows every year and it was no surprise to me when he chose this for his graduation quilt.  You would think from the simplicity of the design that I wouldn't have been in such angst over it but you know.  The more I angst the more likely I am to mess it up.  But I'm happy with it. 

Now to contact the quilter I've chose and get on her calendar.  Graduation isn't till June so there's time. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Retreat part 2

More retreat pics.  Now, I said yesterday we had a couple of over achievers but that doesn't mean the rest of the group are slackers.  Oh, no. I am very lucky to call these highly skilled perfectionists my quilt buddies - it keeps me on my toes!

We didn't have everyone participating in show and tell but we did have these

Barb and I are each working on Liberty circles.  She, who is much more prolific than me has hers finished.  It does spur me on to get with it.  
She also said this is her last visit with Minick and Simpson.  She is a red and white or a blue and white or other color combinations but not so much red, white and blue.
Jan.  This was a stunningly beautiful quilt and that gingham border speaks to my heart. Gingham is so fresh.
Now, this one got to me for sure.  For this retreat we each did an 8.5 inch (unfinished square) for each other.  According to our individual specs and using some of the fabric we each provided.  Joyce asked for fall leaves and the fabric she gave was the background of each square.  We exchanged the squares the night we arrived.  By the end of the next day she had a table runner with her leaves done. DONE!
Mine?  They are in their individual baggies.  We agreed to have them constructed into something by spring retreat.  
These are Joyce's colors.  Purple, wine, teal, blue and all batik.
Me?  I just brought the sashiko I worked on during our car ride through the Upper Peninsula in early September.  I have to have something to do when riding and found this to be the perfect car project. I came home and made them into pillows - using my new 120 year old machine - and am convinced when we take another car trip this sashiko is what I'll work.  No special equipment, not even a hoop, just my regular embroidery needle, Number 12 perle cotton and snip scissors.  Done.

So, overachievers unite!

Monday, October 2, 2023

Retreat part 1

We had our quilt retreat this past weekend.  We don't have large group retreats, we are a small group and a cohesive unit by now.  We've all been together retreating for almost 15 years at this gorgeous Inn ( and for more years at a different place ) and are treated like royalty by the innkeepers now friends. Of course it's their job, this is what they do for anyone who hires their Inn but we know, we know. (wink wink)

Again, we were blessed with gorgeous weather and Lisa and Joyce took a 2 mile walk everyday.  I am at the moment incapacitated so couldn't walk my route into the woods and fields.  
I took my new 120 year old crank machine and Sally tried it out by putting a border on the top she was working on.  
She was so impressed she teased about driving the 12 hours up north today to buy one.  Seriously, she is planning take a trip north next summer with a friend and their destination is just past the shop so I told her I DARED her to come home without one, to take her credit card and leave room in the car.  She is convinced. 

We have two high achievers. 
Sally had this pile of itty bitty pieces blocks she was working on.  Sally is the one who works in itsy bitsy blocks and loves it.  It's her thing.  
I walked by her table and took a photo and asked what she was working on.
This is the pattern.  When I looked at this I asked, "Are you CRAZY??"  There must be a hundred billion of these little blocks, they are ALL itsy bitsy blocks and I can't even imagine it.  But she will have it done by spring retreat, I'm sure and it will be stunning.

Then there's Jan. Like Sally, she is also a stickler for perfection - me? not so much.  I'm ok with a mistake, a cut off point, but not Jan and Sally.  
I walked past this table Jan was using to keep her brain and pieces organized. 
Everything was numbered, sticky noted, etc.  A very mean person would have switched some of these labels when she wasn't looking.  Thank goodness none of us is mean!  

She said she wanted a challenge and this is what she chose.  Again, I know my limitations. She worked her little fingers to the bone all weekend because she wants it done by Christmas! Done, done, like in quilted, too.  

So, that's a taste.  I'll post some show and tell next post just to break it up a bit.