Monday, August 31, 2009

A Couple of Plagues

I think I've mentioned previously that I'm not much of a television watcher. I seldom think to turn it on at all. In the evenings, however, when I finish sewing down in my studio, I come upstairs and join Himself in front of the screen and we put on whatever Netflix has sent us recently.

Of late, however, here's been a variation. About every ten or twenty years I have a "baseball year." I never really know when it is going to strike (beg your pardon), but for a season I'll learn the names of the players and follow the Phillies with a fervor. This year I've even learned that there are times I should put on my "rally cap" when things are looking bad.

I've also noticed the commercials seem to be for Levitra, Cialis, and Viagra. It appears that there is a plague of erectile dysfunction in the Philadelphia area. I'm just sayin'.

The other plague is far more personal. It involves Bodacious and his propensity to catch locusts and bring them, still a-buzzin', into the house. As far into the house as he can get. Joe swears the cat was smiling yesterday as he passed through with his prey in his mouth, wings waving furiously.

There are things about the end of summer that I've always appreciated. The Jersey corn, tomatoes and peaches, for example. And the cooler nights. And seeing The Nonspeakers'* dogwood trees beginning to turn color. I'd forgotten about the locusts, however.

*Our very strange neighbors across the street who in ten years have not only not said a word to us but actually look the other way when we see them outside.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yo, Donna! My Blocks Are Done!

And so is my human design wall. He's going to pursue other opportunities. Fortunately my regular design wall should be available after this weekend. Neapolitan is close to being all put together.

I didn't purchase the finishing kit for this quilt, but I know how to do it and my dear friend Sherron has some of the fabric I'll need, though I'll prolly have to purchase a little more.

If you're a subscriber to this particular BOM, you'll note that the block in the model's left hand is not one of the ones in the series. I was missing directions for one of them and decided to make a block I discovered this year and am very fond of to take that place. I used the scraps that Pam so generously shared with me.

The first three blocks of the next quilt have come and I'm determined to get them made before the fourth one arrives on September 10.

So, Donna, thank you for challenging me. It was a pleasure. For me and my design wall. Not to mention the cat.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A [Moral] Dilemma

Back in the '80s, my women's Circle at church sponsored a family living in poverty in rural Mississippi through The Box Project. We sent a box each month for several years and developed a warm relationship with the family. When the youngest child became a teenager, and the older children were working, we stopped our sponsorship and moved to local charity projects. A couple of years ago, we decided to support another family through The Box Project.

We paid our fifty dollar membership fee and received the information for a family headed by a young single woman who I'll call Jennifer. At the time we "met" her, Jennifer was in her mid-twenties and had three or four children under five. Members of the Circle took turns pairing up to send her a box valued at about fifty dollars each month. The first month was December and I remember buying pajamas for each member of the family, and someone contributed a copy of Goodnight, Moon.

Each month we receive a brief thank-you note from Jennifer in response to our box. She keeps us up-to-date on things that she needs, on the children's sizes, and every once in a while something that is going on in her life. She told us when she moved to a different home, when she joined a church, and -- to our surprise -- when she was expecting another baby. When that baby arrived, she wrote that she was not going to have any more children, that she was going to get her GED and then enroll in the community college to study early childhood education and try to get a job in a day care center. We were delighted to receive this lengthy communication and hear of this goal, which seemed possibly attainable, and encouraged her, asking how we could help. We anticipated that her mom, who by this time had moved in with her, would provide child care when she went to school. We believed that at last a real relationship was developing.

But a year passed, and there was no further mention of the GED or of her aspirations. And then came the concerning news that she was, once again, expecting.

My Circle sisters and I have a dilemma. There are members who are not eager to continue to support a lifestyle we disapprove. There are members who don't think we have the right to disapprove of a lifestyle. The word "enabling" has been mentioned. So has the word "abandon." No one in the group feels any real sense of connection to Jennifer, the way we did with the family we cared for years ago.

We've now received our annual renewal statement from The Box Project and have a decision to make. The issue will be resolved at our September meeting, and I imagine that each of the Circle members has her own question to answer regarding the Jennifer situation. Mine is this: How important is it that I have a personal feeling of satisfaction from giving? The need is there, whether I have that feeling or not.

"Daddy, Can I Have One of These?"

We've been hearing about "the economy" for a long time now, and it is visible in so many ways. At the school where I'm employed, the staff is receiving a one percent pay increase for the coming year and we're grateful for that because we know that some other independent schools have no increase at all. In fact, I know of a school where employees were "asked to take" a decrease in salary.

Joe's work started to fall off a year ago, and is only just now starting to show some signs of recovery. Like everyone else, we've had to think hard before spending money. We certainly would not have gone on our March cruise had it not already been booked and paid for. A blogger friend has taken an additional job; I've inferred that it is because her husband is "between positions." When I asked a woman I know about her summer vacation plans, she said that they were not going away this year. "Philip isn't working right now," she said.

Yesterday I stopped at my favorite local grocery store to pick up some odds and ends for dinner. All three cash registers were open, and being in a bit of a hurry to get home, I got into the shortest line and quickly realized why there was no one else in it. Ahead of me was a young father with three little ones in tow. On the counter were piles of quarters, dimes, and nickels sorted out; there was a mixed heap and the cashier was counting out another dollar or two (or three) from it, trying to avoid the pennies. The small stash of groceries was further down on the counter; nothing was going into the bag until it was clear that there was enough cash to cover the purchases. The cashier seemed frustrated; she wasn't used to having to count that much change.

"I'm sorry," the man said to me. And all at once my impatience vanished. "Take your time," I told him. He counted, she counted, and I waited, silently hoping that nothing would have to be returned to the shelf. It took a while, but I really didn't care anymore.

At the end, all of the groceries went into the bags, and there was enough left over to add a Cow Tale for each of the kids.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teddy's Gone

My friend Chez has the words that I lack.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Catching Up

Somebody asked me where my design husband was and whether I'd managed to make any more of those BOMs. Well, he's alive, well, and currently at work, and no, I haven't.

I've been busy. And tired.

Saturday we went to a wedding and had a lovely time. Later that night I finished binding the last of the quilts that I had machine quilted this summer -- there are four or five of them -- and I suppose I need to have a show and tell about them. With no further handwork in the basket, I reached for the handquilting. After my spring enjoyment of handquilting baby quilts, I asked my local machine quilter if she'd machine baste a couple of quilts for me, and she did. I thought I'd like to have a larger hand-quilting project to keep on hand for times when there was no smaller handwork to do. So I've begun hand quilting my CW baskets quilt, and am on the third block already!

Also over the weekend, I swapped out the blocks that I'd received for A Quilt for Melanie Wilkes. I've not been brave enough to do the math, but the swapout involved 18 times 240 blocks plus 36 additional blocks plus 19 additional blocks. I worked at swapping on Saturday before and after the wedding, and on Sunday Honna came over and helped me finish. We both had lint-lined lungs at the end and had some real "Lucy and Ethel" moments in the process.

The past two days I've been at an administrative retreat that we hold annually prior to the opening of school. Last night when I came home I was so tired that I actually went to sleep at 8:30!

So, no, I have not done anymore on the BOM. Except, she confesses sheepishly, I've signed up for the next set!

Friday, August 21, 2009

He's Back!

My favorite design husband returns, sporting the latest two blocks from the languishing BOM. He claims this is his last modeling gig; we shall see.

I made a cutting error on one of the blocks and dug into the scraps I had on hand and cut new pieces from a slightly different fabric for two sets of HSTs; I think it looks nice and prolly no one but the designer would know what happened. The other block, the Rising Star, went together very cooperatively.

Pam's care package of scraps and left-over fabric came in yesterday's mail. I hope that on Sunday I'll have time to do some perusing and cutting and event some stitching. I know how I want to set them, but I don't want to order the fabric until I see how they all look together and am sure that what I have in mind will work. I like the browns so much and want to use them with perhaps a gold for the lattice, cornerstones and borders. The pattern calls for reds and greens and golds, but I think I'd really like the browns.

Stay tuned!

And -- Donna -- how's your progress? Or are you too busy drinking champagne to care?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Club Meets Tonight

Maggie remembers how many years we've been in existence, but I don't. There are at this point six members present and one reading along in Massachusetts, and we gather on the third Thursday of the month at one another's homes to discuss the book we selected the month before. It's a terrific thing for those of us who tend to read the same types of books all the time. We expand our horizons (kind of like making a quilt block out of orange fabric because a friend needs one).

Tonight we're discussing The Secret Life of Bees, one of my all-time favorite books. We generally try to avoid books that are political or religious, but we'll be fine with this one.

I've got the picture of the Black Madonna to put on the door. Last night I made a 7-up cake (remember how May talked about being kissed after baking one?) to serve, and this afternoon I'm going to make some honey cookies. And of course there will be tiny portions of Coke with salted peanuts to augment our regular "red or white?"

I'm so ready.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Regular Model Being Unavailable,

With my regular model being unavailable (he's up in Princeton meeting with a potential new client and perhaps will pick up some good New Jersey corn and tomatoes on the way home) I pressed Bodacious into service as a stand-in to help display the next three blocks. You can see how absolutely thrilled he is with this assignment.

Two of them went together quite quickly and easily. The more intricate one took a little more time, but wasn't difficult. The important thing was keeping track of when to press in and when to press out.

With these three behind me, I moved on to Block Number Two in the series (I've just been reaching for a baggie and doing whatever was inside) only to discover that I'd made a cutting error for that block! There's not enough of the "solid" red to make up the pieces that I need, so I'm setting that block aside until Pam's Care Package arrives and see if that will help. If not, I suppose improvisation will be the name of the game and my quilt will be unique.

Well, it will be anyway. I didn't buy the finishing kit that contained the fabrics for setting the blocks. It was funny, the design I'd been thinking of using is actually very similar to the recipe in the kit. But I plan to use different fabrics. I want to get all of the blocks finished before I order them.

I've had so much fun these past few days that -- hanging head in mortification -- I'm actually considering subscribing to this year's series!

I'm hopeless.

Drooling, Near Philadelphia

Between putting in time at his current household project of remodeling our formerly mint-chocolate-chip powder room and serving as a model for my quilt blocks, the love of my life somehow found a couple of hours yesterday to go to the movies with me.

We saw "Julie and Julia," and absolutely loved it. Streep is spectacular and very, very tall. Amy Adams is her usual perfectly adorable and credible self. We laughed and laughed and laughed -- in my case until the tears came -- and yet none of the humor felt forced. It wasn't all funny, however; there were moments of poignancy over Julia's childlessness, if you'll pardon a bit of a play on words.

This is a movie that I predict will become part of the canon, much like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

If you haven't seen it, do.

One caution, however: Before going to the show, purchase the ingredients you'll need for Julia's boeuf bourguignon. Because when you come out of the theatre, all you'll want to do is go home and make it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"We Have to Help Each Other"

Having a vague recollection that at least one person on one of my regular on-line quilting groups had subscribed to the Peace On Earth BOM and had perhaps even completed the quilt, I sent out an email to the list asking if anyone had any scraps from this line of fabric. I explained about needing to make up two blocks to go with the ten that I have. I was optimistic that sometime this week someone would see the post and dig out a piece or two and send it off.


Within ten minutes of my post, my phone rang, and it was list member Pam, approximately 3000 miles away, calling to say that she had made this quilt, had bought the finishing kit and the backing, had saved all her scraps from everything and was putting them in the mail to me on Monday. Furthermore, she was sending me a picture of the finished quilt, the instructions from the finishing kit complete with yardage. And she offered to PDF the directions for the two missing blocks.

I was absolutely blown away! This afternoon the files arrived as an attachment, and she's off to the post office tomorrow with the package.

I was so exhilarated that I finished two more blocks today, shown to the left on the back of the design husband. Donna, watch out! I'm on a roll!

When I thanked Pam for her kindness, I said, "Now what can I send you in exchange for this bounty? I have batiks and Civil Wars in abundance. And can get just about anything else."

And she said, "Nothing. We have to help each other."

Indeed, we do. It's funny. I try to help people, to go out of my way for them, to give without expecting in return. And I like living that way. But when someone gives so generously to me, with no expectation of return, it just blows me away.

We have to help each other.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Progress, of a Sort

Today was Quilt Day at church, one of this semi-annual adventures where 12-20 women with sewing machines invade Fellowship Hall and each works on her own project with lots and lots of input from those gathered. We serve a nice breakfast and a nice lunch; everyone does a chore and we have a jolly good day.

Mindful of my vow to tackle those dratted languishing BOMs, I left Bernina to home and took the packets for the BOMS for the two series. For the pieced series, I've got ten of the twelve packets. With the one block done, I spent the morning cutting and marking the remaining nine packets. When I got home, after a pleasant nap, I returned to the system of sewing the Neopolitan blocks together and using the pieces for one of these blocks as leader-enders. Another block is finished! Hooray! You can see it on the design wall -- erm, husband -- to the left! I'm about ready to open the next packet.

Now as to the two that I can't find, here's what I'm thinking. There are pretty many good sized pieces in the scraps. I will see if I can make two different 12" blocks from those scraps and use them where the missing two might have been. If there isn't enough fabric to piece two blocks, I'll pick up a FQ or two of the line of fabric and that should yield enough to piece two. I've found yardage on Ebay and at Hancocks, and I think I should order a bit so I can get these blocks set once they are finished. I've got an idea in my head of how to set them (No, I didn't order the finishing kit so I've no idea what the mystery design set actually is). My quilt won't be like those that others who subscribed to the BOM make. I'm liking the blocks so far. This one today was a challenge!

Now as to the applique BOM, I have eleven of the fourteen packets (are you getting some sort of an image of my filing system?) and friends, when I opened up the first one after lunch, I was filled with dismay. I don't want to make this project! It is one of those impulse purchases that seemed a good idea at the time. It will require hours and hours and hours of time and, you know what, I don't want to invest my time in this project. I'm not sure while I'll do with 11/14ths of a quilt project, but I'll ponder that while I'm working on the first BOM!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Eating My Words

Before the joy of Summer Hours comes to a close a week from today, while things at school are pretty quiet, my colleague Polly and I came up with a scheme to work an hour and a quarter longer each of four days this week and then take the fifth day off. I offered Polly Friday, and I took Thursday.

It has been literally years since Susan and I got together for lunch and fabric fondling. Susan came into my life when I was 16 and at that time she was my niece. All too soon she was 16 and I realized that anyone who had a 16-year-old niece had to be very old indeed, and she then became my Relative and has stayed my Relative ever since. We've even on occasion found "Happy Birthday to a Dear Relative" cards. Now Susan has a daughter who is 16 and if I was old when she was 16, I don't know what I am now. But enough of that.

We'd agreed to meet at Kling House in Intercourse at noon, and I managed to leave early enough to stop at Log Cabin fabric shop in Bird-in-Hand (no website, unfortunately, but it's at that location where the place that sold those green rulers used to be). There She Who Doesn't Buy Much Fabric Anymore met her downfall.

But tell me please just who could have resisted these bundles (at 8 FQs for $15 no less) and coordinating yardage? Not me.

And then, just as I thought I had a grip on myself I turned around and ran smack into Bill. Yup, the William Morris Workshop in yardage. I've got the stack of FQs from the Fat Quarter Shop and haven't untied them, but fondled them mightily. I want to make a quilt for our bed out of them and haven't decided exactly what. But, you know, a person is going to need lattice and borders, isn't she? And at $6.98 per yard ($9.98 at Hancocks of Paducah), what's a gal to do?

I thought so too.

I got to Kling House on time, but Susan ran into traffic and was delayed and the consequences of that was that we just had time for a super yummy lunch and lengthy catch-up time and no opportunity to go to Old Country Store.

Which is probably just as well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Meet My Number One Son

At one point, about 30 years ago, people used to say of my children, "Why, they all look alike!" They don't say that anymore.

My children are all the same in the important ways -- they are communicative, sensitive, intelligent, innovative, warm and, most important, funny.

My children are all different in other ways. My daughter works on a website at a financial institution; I don't really understand what it is that she does but apparently she does it very well and I'm so proud of her. She's also an excellent mother to her two children and finds time to bake glorious treats.

My younger son is a Congressional aide and has been instrumental in enacting public policy to make life better for poor people; I'm incredibly proud of him. He's the one most likely to come up with a zinger when it is needed and is superb at strategy games.

Which brings us to my older son, my number one. He's a violist by profession, and a hard worker; I'm awfully proud of him. He's a new homeowner and mastering various arts of home repair. He's tender-hearted and makes me laugh more than the other two. Which is really saying something.

I bet he could make you smile, too. Here, meet Tom, and get ready to do just that:

Okay, Donna, Here's the First One

As I promised before vacation, I'm starting on those two BOMs that have been accumulating. Donna challenged me to get going and so I have.

But in a somewhat unorthodox way (what, me worry about being orthodox?). I have all the blocks for the quilt I'm calling Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry up on the design wall; there are 120 of these little 6-inch babies and they all need to be sewn together.

So I reached into the storage for the one BOM set, the pieced one, and drew out a packet at random. It was block number eight. I cut all of the pieces and did the marking that was required. And then, using this BOM as a leader-ender, I started putting Vanilla, etc. (perhaps I should call it Neopolitan!) together and block number eight is finished! Since Vanilla, etc. is hogging the wall, I needed to press Himself into service to prove to Donna that it is done. He looks a bit sheepish as though he's afraid someone might deduce that he'd made the block. He didn't.

I wonder if I can use this system to get two more together? Perhaps I'll go down and cut the next one now!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Heart from Across the Pond

Will you just look at this adorable mini-quilt? Isn't it just lovely? And won't it be perfect to hang in another month or so when the leaves turn color and tumble down?

No, I didn't make it. I don't do that kind of itsy-bitsy machine quilting. And my embroidery isn't that terrific. And I've no idea how that puffy center was managed.

But Anne does. Because she made it. For me. Yup. Partly because I sent her some batik scraps for her Jewel Box. And partly because she's just a sweetheart herself.

Thank you, friend. I like it so much.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keeping Time

I started out more than 40 years ago with those little paper calendars that the greeting card stores would give out for free each year. And they worked mighty well for me for a long, long time. Somewhere along the line, I switched to a larger calendar book that had weeks on display, rather than months, with a pretty quilt on the facing page. Again, those worked well for a good many years.

Kids began to grow and get involved in their own activities, and during the Cub Scout years I got my first Day Runner. It was the 5.5 by 8.5 size, and had tabs and categories and accessories and all kinds of wonderful things for a person who fantasizes about organization. There were actually more categories and tabs than I needed (expense account, for example), but I improvised and hauled that Day Runner (and the more intricate and complete ones that followed!) around with me for probably fifteen years.

In 2001 I went electronic and got my first Palm Pilot and for a few years was faithful at keeping it synched with the computer at work and the computer at home. And it fit in my purse. Which was a plus. Over the past year or two, though, I've noticed that I don't keep it synched. And what's more, I don't enter things in any of the locations very faithfully. I've tended to make handwritten lists of dates and commitments and keep them in my pocket.

I didn't even take my Palm Pilot with us on vacation last week. But I did do a lot of thinking about it. I thought about liking to handwrite my engagements on a page. I thought about turning pages to see what is coming up next. I thought about how much of my life I wanted to carry around with me.

And yesterday I went out and bought a pocket calendar! It is about 4" by 6", only a little larger than the old greeting card store calendars. It has monthly pages and weekly pages. It has room four ten (count 'em!) contacts! And that's about it. Last night I sat and entered my information for the next couple of months and started entering the birthdays. And this morning I stuck a few post-it notes inside the back cover so I have something to write on. I still have the Palm Pilot for addresses, but I think I just might pick up an old-fashioned address book sometime this fall. Something I can keep at home with the stamps and the cards.

If this little book turns out not to be sophisticated enough, I can go back to the Palm Pilot. Or I can get a more elaborate organizer with the categories and the tabs.

But my hunch is that this is going to be just fine. And I find myself sighing with gentle relief.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Getting Old?

I dunno. I think I'm getting old.

I buy my bras at Lane Bryant. Have done so for a number of years now. They usually have good sales, products that last a long time, and are comfortable. There are a couple of basic styles I stick to and can usually get in and out of the store pretty quickly.

This spring I bought a dress that I liked a lot. (Mine is the taupe color, not the cerise, and I regret to say I paid full price for it. That should show you how much I liked the dress.) I like the feel of the dress, the color, the ease of caring for it, the whole nine yards. But the neckline is a bit lower than my other dresses and tops, and when I wore it, the edge of my bra would show. At least I could see it, looking down, and I presumed others could see it. I didn't want this to be the case.

So off I went to audition bras that might be concealed by the dress. When I got to the store, there were no other customers, and only one sales person. A guy. About twenty-two. I went over to the lingerie department and began a lengthy and systematic study of the bras, trying to imagine if one or another would do what I needed (I'd come to the mall on impulse and had not brought the dress along to try on with the possibles). And the guy came over and offered to help me. I declined. He followed me around, suggesting that if I didn't see my size in a particular style, he could look in the back. I was uncomfortable. I didn't like it. I said as little as possible, but he persisted in offering me help after help after help. Just before he reached the point of suggesting a matching panty, I said to him, "I wish you would leave me alone. I am uncomfortable discussing lingerie with a man."

He left me alone. But he was miffed. I hadn't wanted to say that. I would have thought that he would have picked up on my discomfort based on my lack of conversation. It was a bad experience. By the time I'd finally reached the conclusion that I'd found a bra that would stay hidden, a female employee had come in, and I felt a little better. But when I got to the register, Mr. Helpful was there, smirking.

Am I getting old? Am I stuffy? Who, me, stuffy? Prudish? My friends would laugh out loud at that thought. But tell me, female readers, would you be okay buying a bra from a guy?

PS: It did work, so I was spared the unpleasantness of having to return it and provide him with a reason!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Summer Vacation: Part Two of Two

Tom and Anastasia (left, looking silly) had spoken about a "cute town" in Virginia that they love to visit. When we asked them the name of the town and they said "Lexington," we were happy that it was on our route south! They were right; it is a wonderful town, home to two universities -- VMI and Washington & Lee -- and has a darling downtown section and beautiful homes and gorgeous campuses. We arranged to stay there both traveling south and traveling home.

That first Friday night, not knowing anything about the town, we had a bad-to-dreadful meal at a local Mexican place. The next morning, wandering the shops before we got on the road, I asked for a recommendation for the following Friday. We had dinner this past Friday night at The Red Hen. The meal was exquisite, and surely I would say this is one of the ten best restaurants I've ever enjoyed. If you go to Lexington (and I think you should), you must dine there. And another thing you should do is visit the local coffee shop -- an urgent email from Mrs. G when she realized we were there directed us to the place and Mrs. Heatley's blend in particular and she was right on both counts. On our second visit, Himself purchased a pound of same to bring home!

Now you know I had to visit some quilt shops while on vacation, don't you? The first one was far and away the best. Both of the quilt pictures in this post were taken there. I thought they were very nice quilts. Material Things in Hendersonville (not far from Brevard or Asheville) was easy to find and had lots and lots of fabric. I was delighted to see yardage of the new William Morris line (yes, I have the fat quarter set, but oh the joy of fondling the stuff still on the bolt!). I didn't buy any of it, but took note of how wonderful it was.

What I bought was some tone-on-tone red that I need for the back of a quilt top that is a finished flimsy but not yet a quilt.

The other thing I bought was the dresden plate tool that people all over blogland have been raving about. I've seen these dresdens popping up on blogs I admire and know that it is just a matter of time before I succumb!

The shopkeeper and her assistant were so friendly and so helpful and didn't mind a bit when I asked if I could take pictures. I'd happily revisit that shop again.

In Tennessee we visited two shops. One was in Gatlinburg, and had some very nice fabrics and lots and lots of packs of cut FQs. A very fine inventory. But, you know what? The owner never said a word to me. She was engaged in a lengthy and rather loud conversation with the only other customer in the shop and told her, "All of my business is tourists." So I guess she doesn't expect repeat business! And she didn't get any business at all from me.

In nearby Sevierville, I visited a good sized shop that had some very nice fabric. But no one said "hello" or anything else, and I left pretty quickly. This was odd; I usually think of quilt shops as friendly places anywhere, and in the South, I had pretty high expectations.

I guess I'm glad we went there, though, because it enabled us to have a very strange experience. A coffee shop on the corner was next to another store-front that was a "wedding chapel." We had seen a couple other "wedding chapels" in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville; we'd never seen anything like them elsewhere (though I understand they are prevalent in Las Vegas). After a really delicious lunch (I wish I could remember the name of the shop), I went to the back to use the restroom. And it turned out that the back was common with the wedding chapel. There came a knock at the door and I called out "just a minute." When I emerged, there was this young gal -- she must have been 18 or 20 -- carrying a plastic bag and a white dress. She went into the restroom after me to change into her wedding apparel. When we left the coffee shop, we peeked into the waiting room of the storefront chapel and saw an equally young and mighty nervous fellow in a blue suit sitting in a chair, apparently waiting for his bride. We scurried away then, a little apprehensive that we might be called in as witnesses!

But back to our vacation. When we weren't at the bed and breakfast, we stayed an rather inexpensive hotels. We figured we didn't need ambiance because we were going to be so busy that we'd only be sleeping there. The place in Asheville and the one in Gatlinburg had swimming pools and hot tubs and we really enjoyed using both amenities.

The second night in Asheville it was rainy and we were tired and didn't want to go wandering around to find a dinner spot. Adjacent to the hotel was a bluegrass and barbeque place, the Fiddlin' Pig. Neither our normal choice of music or cuisine, we went across the parking lot to have a most enjoyable evening. I hadn't had hush puppies in years, honey, and by golly did this place have good ones! Joe had barbeque and I had fried catfish and coleslaw and we had a lot of fun listening to some good bluegrass music and clapping along. Would we go back there again? Sure we would!

I wrote earlier about Brevard and what a terrific town it was. In addition to the music festival, it is also the home of Brevard College and sits just outside the Pisgah forest in Transylvania (seriously) County, the "land of 100 waterfalls." People were so friendly! The shops were so cute!
And one of our neighbors had this terrific Holstein on the front lawn. I just had to take a picture for Helen!

It was a good vacation, and, as always, it is good to be home. On Monday I'll pick up Bernina, who has been in the shop for a tune-up, and get back to work. I've also got four quilts to bind -- yes, I took them along on vacation, and stitched a total of 45 minutes!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Summer Vacation: Part One of Two

We spent the past week on vacation "Down South." Tom and Anastasia are on the faculty of the Brevard Music Festival in North Carolina, and for Christmas our children all put together and give Joe and me a gift of two nights in the most wonderful bed and breakfast in Brevard so that we could visit them. We stayed at the Red House Inn in this room and were so comfortable. Our hosts were gracious, the area was pretty, the two concerts we attended (Elgar Variations and Beethoven's Ninth) were marvelous, the waterfalls we saw were beautiful, a dinner at Hobnob was memorable and delicious (Anastasia and I started with a fried green tomato and fresh mozzarella salad!), and best of all, we had lots of time with our kids!

The picture is of downtown Brevard. The actual place is more charming than the photo, with cute shops and lots of nice places to eat. Brevard is just outside the Pisgah National Forest and we traveled around there, visiting waterfalls and a trout hatchery. We were both sorry to leave Brevard. But we did because . . .

. . . our next scheduled stop was Asheville, which isn't far at all from Brevard. In fact, the first night T&A drove up at met us for dinner. Our purpose for going to Asheville was to visit The Biltmore. Joe knew quite a bit about it already, but neither of us was prepared for the scope of the place. The outside was just gorgeous and the inside opulently decorated. No detail was overlooked. There were 43 bathrooms, in an era where most family homes had one or none!

Joe also toured the gardens and I toured the shops, picking up a couple of things to bring home. We lunched in a courtyard between the house and the stable, and drove around the property to visit the working farm and pass the inn (yes, one can actually stay on the property).

The extravagance was thought-provoking. The Quaker lurking inside of me got to wondering what other ways that money could have been used, what good it could have accomplished. (Then, of course, the rest of me got to thinking about all that I have and whether I give away enough.)

We were both happy that we went to The Biltmore.

After leaving Asheville, we went west to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We drove and drove through and over mountains, stopping frequently to take photographs and to take in the beauty of the views. The temperature would go up and down as we went down and up the mountains. At one point we saw a mother elk with some young grazing in a field. We saw lovely wildflowers. Apart from the elk, we didn't see animals. But we saw trees and mountains and clouds. We drove through clouds (making me think of Judy Collins who'd looked at clouds from both sides now) and paused at the cabins erected by early settlers. We spent the better part of two days in the park and probably could have stayed longer.

Our lodging was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a place we'd heard about for more than 40 years. It turned out not to be the Appalachian arts and crafts community that we'd hoped for, but a strip, longer than we could see in either direction, of "attractions."

At the risk of sounding judgmental or like a snob, frankly, not much of Gatlinburg was to our taste. We wandered out past Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood which we did not visit) to Sevierville one afternoon to visit a quilt shop, and the kitsch went on and on for miles and miles. All of these horror houses, wax museums, believe-it-or-not establishments seemed so incongruent with the beauty of the mountains.

And now our summer vacation comes to an end. Both of us return to work on Monday, refreshed, rejuvenated, and with some new perspectives. I'll write one more post about some details of our trip, and then be back to Business As Usual, here Near Philadelphia.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Three Weddings and NO Funerals: Part Three

He's always been one of my favorites of the Good Guys' kids. Once, when he was about eight, he said to his mom, "Mrs. S. is almost as funny as Robin Williams!" How could I not be smitten with Ben? He's the same age as my Tom and for a while played the 'cello. He grew up in our church and was his mom's right-hand man as she produced the annual Festival of Santa Lucia during Advent. He's awfully cute, very bright, and has been highly successful in his career with a major company. He's a star.

And then he met Mia. Obviously I don't know her very well. But she must be a star in her own right to have caught Ben's attention. Ben and Mia are to be married in New England this autumn.

A few years back we had a swap that Carolyn suggested. We used black and batik fabric and made 12" Sawtooth Star blocks. But instead of using a plain six-inch square for the center, we picked blocks that we liked and made them in six-inch size. I liked the blocks so much that I'm thinking of doing this swap again, only using white for the background.

Anyway, when I got the top together, it was right around the time that Ben and Mia were getting serious about each other. And I just somehow was convinced that they would be permanent. And designated this quilt for them.

So, much happiness young friends. And thanks again, Ben, for that lovely compliment way back when . . . .

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Checkbook Cover Pattern Back on the Give-Away Block

Well, friends, it's been a week, and I've not heard from Micki, who won the checkbook cover pattern.

And now I've found a picture of it. So it is up for grabs once again.

Anyone else want it?

I'll be going to the post office on Monday to mail some other things, and could quilt easily send this off to someone.

Leave me a comment, please, and be sure to provide a way for me to get in touch with you.

Update: No sooner offer than grabbed! Anya, darling, please email me your mailing address!