Monday, May 29, 2023


 Yes, it's true we just returned from England a couple of short weeks ago but it was PH's birthday this past weekend and he wanted to go to Stratford on Avon in Canada. PH discovered from us it's about a 4 hour drive so very easy. We were there once before but can't remember how many decades it's been. Really. We can't remember if the kids had been born yet so that makes it at least 4 decades. 

When we were in England (very recently!) we went to Stratford upon Avon for a couple of days and even though it was rainy and cold we had a wonderful time and saw a play none of us (PH, me, Brian) ever heard of - Cymbeline.

So maybe that's why PH wanted to go back to Canada's Stratford.  Or maybe he just didn't feel like unpacking his suitcase. But it was his birthday and so we went. 

Unlike the weather we had in England, this weekend the weather was picture perfect. We couldn't have ordered prettier days.  Like Stratford upon Avon, there are swans on this river Avon.

And boats.  Canoes, kayaks, this Stratford doesn't have canal boats but we did happen on this pontoon tour and since we had the time and the weather we took the river tour. 
One thing PH and I do very well together is travel.  We are both willing to pivot, willing to fly by the seat of our pants without reservations.  Sometimes we don't even make hotel reservations, we just go with the flow.  We talk to everyone we happen to be standing next to, we find out where the locals eat, what we should see, where we should go. This time, of course we had a hotel and we had play tickets but there was a lot of down time and we just let things happen and as it turned out, that was to our advantage at every turn.
Our tickets were for Spamalot and King Lear.  If we had not gotten tickets to King Lear, if we were walk-ins we would have chosen not to see it.  Spamalot was superb. King Lear not so much.  Absolutely no one we talked to beforehand had one good thing to say about King Lear...wooden actors who don't know how to "do" Shakespeare, technical difficulties, lighting, you name it, it was wrong.  But we had tickets and thought, "what do we know? Maybe we won't notice."  We noticed. Ugh.  At intermission I even asked PH, "do you want to stick it out or leave?"   It wasn't so bad it spoiled our wonderful time in Stratford, though.
We stumbled on an art fair as we walked the park in the morning.  We chatted with the artists and I even bought something! 
                                                                                  We ate well.  
Again, we stumbled upon a restaurant our first night there as we walked around town getting our bearings.  We walked in, chatted with the owner, got a tip on a marketplace to go in the morning and we said we would return the next day for dinner. He was SO helpful about so many things around town and we did return the next evening for PH's birthday dinner.  When we walked he met us at the door with hugs.

This is the first piece of Wagyu beef I've ever seen in person.  Look at the price (and it was on special!)  PH said, "who would pay $90. for a steak?"  I said, " Look again.  That's $89.99 PER POUND and those steaks weigh more than a pound." But it's beautiful, isn't it?  
We had a great time, we kept saying it over and over. And then I saw this blanket. No, I didn't buy it. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Aunt Sally

 Some people have lots of projects in pieces and parts.  Friend Marilyn used pizza boxes to store her projects in but I don't have that kind of space either in my sewing storage or my brain.  I get itchy inside my head if there are too many things started but not actively being worked toward completion.  I have the mindset that if I can spend lots of time working on little parts and pieces of projects then I can devote that same amount of time and make real progress on ONE project.  Same with books.  I don't understand people who can read several books at once whereas I devote that same amount of time to ONE book and finish it then move on.  Besides, reading more than one book at a time just gets them all tangled up together in my brain. 

So, before I start Charlie's quilt for his graduation next year (remember I work by hand) I needed to clear up the projects laying out on the spare bed in Jenny's room. Yes, Jenny, I still call it your room.  The bed had parts and pieces and piles and I had to clear my brain of them.  So, three are now layered and pinned and yesterday I finished putting together Aunt Sally.

Remember a few posts back when I told you about the bag full of Aunt Grace pieces and parts Friend Sally gave me at retreat?  There was a center medallion possibility.  There were 8 inch squares and 3 inch 9 patches and a bag of spare fabrics.

And that's how I treated them.  I used the center medallion and decided this was going to be a Frankenstein quilt top.  There were three extra flower blocks so I used them to even out the 8 inch block layer.  Then I squirreled around in the pile for a border and found the blue.  Then I put the 9 inch blocks on as another border and they fit perfectly if I did NOT divide the blocks with a sashing.  They just lined up.  Then I hit a wall and the dining room table looked like a kindergarten art class for a few days while I tried to find something to do an outer border.  I knew it had to be pieced.  Blue was my first choice but there wasn't enough of any of the spare pieces.  I had a perfect blue gingham but again, there wasn't enough of it.  I'd audition colors, leave it and come back hours later and take it all apart. Pink wasn't right.  Then I dug around in the bag of pieces and found I had enough yellows of the same depth of color to piece the border in yellow.  I like it.

It isn't ironed here, it's fresh off the machine after the last stitch was put in so it looks wonky in the photo but it isn't in real life. I think it turned out just fine for a Frankenstein quilt.  There are still some nine patches left but there wasn't enough to do a double border so they might become pillows. For now, till I get more batting, it's folded and living with its cousins in the basket. But it's finished to the part I can live with.

The point is I now have a bed cleared of pieces and parts and can begin for real on Charlie's quilt.  My head is cleared.  Well, except for that retreat challenge I'm spending way too much time on. But just one more evening will take care of that. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023


Sometimes someone does something for you that's a complete delicious surprise and yesterday I was the recipient.  Look what the mailman brought all the way from Australia!

 A whole box of Violet Crumble candy bars and a bag of Fruchocs from Judy in Australia.  

When I showed Elizabeth how to make seafoam Judy and I had a couple of conversations about that candy and here came a whole box from her!  Dinner was on the stove but who's going to wait?  Not me.  I had to bite into one and right away put two in my bag to take to Elizabeth that evening. SHE ate one immediately and said, " many did she send, Grandma??"  Looks like they might have to be disguised as, I don't know...a vegetable?

The Fruchocs are really too yummy.  How did Judy know I love dried apricots?  Here they are covered in chocolate.  I made the mistake of putting them in a bowl on the computer desk.  I can see they might have to be moved far far away. 

Delightful surprise, Judy, thank you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

One Note Wonder

 I'm kind of not a one-note-wonder.  I don't like gadgets that do just one thing either with quilting or cooking.  My kitchen drawers are not filled with stuff. In this house it's all about improvising.  And if I had a dedicated, organized, large room with lots of storage for quilting I might indulge in stuff but I don't so I don't. 

Have you heard of Applipops?  Probably you have so you can skip this blog post.  I heard of them a bit over a year ago but saw them as an expensive gadget that did one thing and so resisted.

BUT last week I caved in.  Several reasons.  First, I hand applique and have cursed my needle many times when doing circles that don't end up perfect. I'm not much of one for absolute perfection but an imperfect circle is a spider on the wall...something that's not supposed to be there so it sticks out. (When I FINALLY one day finish my Liberty of London circles don't look too hard at them.) Second, they ARE a one note wonder.  Not much else you can do with these except make circles. And third, I am in the middle of a 'challenge' with our retreat group and I will confess here I'm not enjoying it one bit.  Not even a little.

The challenge was to give each of us a piece of focus fabric we wanted used in the blocks they would all make for us.  Unfinished, just 8.5 inches, finish at 8.  Small squares.  Now, you would think that's a no brainer but for me, who prefers applique to piecing I got just two pieces from people that were big enough to use as background for applique.  I had to purchase something that came very close to one of the girl's, I had to ask for a bigger piece from another.  Actually that one was because I messed up on what I wanted to do for hers.  And another was a math mistake on my part.  No surprise there.   I couldn't make hers, the queen of the perfect 9 patch, another nine patch and she 'challenged' us to do some HSTs.  Oh, great.  Math again.   I am NOT enjoying this challenge.  And I'm spending WAY too much time on it. 

I had to ask for more fabric from one of the girls, the one whose applique I did and hated it in the end. Even as I tore it out a couple of times and left bullet holes in the fabric.

I gulped and ordered the Applipops.  It's not like I won't be making circles another time, right?
If you don't know what they are, they really are ingenious. You choose the size finished circle you want and then take the next larger one, too. 

A piece of fabric is put between them and you push the smaller into the hole of the bigger.
They say to use starch but I don't have starch. I used sizing and it was just fine.  You dab some around the fabric and iron the fabric inward.
Done.  A perfect circle ready to applique.  I'm sure if you are a machine user these could be machine appliqued, but I'm not.
My pile for her block.  She wanted red.  

In the meantime I've layered and pinned three quilts to be taken up when I need a break from appliqueing Charlie's quilt which hasn't been cut out yet because I'm working on these focus squares that I'm spending WAY too much time on.  
And to be honest, the weather has been gloriously beautiful so I've been on the porch a lot come afternoons.  Could I be hand appliqueing while on the porch?  Of course.  Do I? No.  I read.  
I very much like Kate Morton's books and own all of them.  I was waiting till I got back from England to order this one but while in the airport spending my last 20 pounds in the bookstore I saw this on display, her newest book and in paperback!  It just that week came out here in the U.S. in hardcover and I'd have to wait a year for the paperback, but I don't wait for hers.  I buy them right away and savor a long, long story.