Sunday, June 29, 2014


We've spent a few days visiting Tom and Anastasia down in Richmond. Tom needed help painting the outside of the house, and I needed to indulge some grandchildren. Barnes and Noble was our destination the first day where we bought Legos and "Frozen" books. Another day we stopped at Quilting Adventures before going to Build A Bear and finishing the day with an after dinner treat at Sweet Frogs. Oh, it's been wonderful. But then, I haven't been up on a ladder in the Richmond sun.

At Christmas time, T&A gave us a gift certificate for an elegant B&B located in the Fan District, and we added a couple of nights.

Grace Manor Inn was built in 1910 and the interior architecture and furnishings are opulent. No effort has been spared to keep the place beautiful and welcoming. Each of the four rooms has a private sitting room; downstairs there are multiple elegant and comfy parlors.

Breakfast is exquisitely prepared and served with Frank Sinatra crooning in the background. Complimentary bellini or mimosa (or orange juice) is offered first, then a special fruit course followed by an individually prepared hot dish -- one memorable offering was the Grace Manor version of Eggs Benedict which included seared asparagus, tomato slice and prosciutto -- oh my! The final course is a cupcake, the flavor of which changes daily as the proprietor's wife owns and operates a cupcake business in nearby Carytown.

The innkeeper/chef, Albert, is personable and knowledgable with a penchant for saying "Enjoy!" when sometimes we are at a loss to determine precisely what the reference is. And the sheets on our bed are past their prime -- a bit "pilly."

But would we stay here again? You bet we would. Himself has finished off his days as housepainter for Tom by taking a dip in the lovely pool. We like to have some time to wander around the neighborhood and perhaps even get to know the three friendly Yorkies who live in the kitchen area. I'd like to ENJOY more of Albert's cuisine and experience more cupcake flavors. It's a beautiful and hospitable place and I'd recommend it very highly.

And now, if you'll excuse me, we've grandchildren to go and play with.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kissin' Cousins

I have five cousins, two on my paternal side and three on the maternal side. As a child, I was jealous of friends who had dozens of cousins and anguished for a friend who had none.

Of my five cousins, four are girls and one is a boy, though actually by now they are women and a man. Four are my seniors and one is younger than I am (but not by much). Three live in far-away states and I see them rarely. Two live nearby and I don't see as much of them as I would like. The oldest of us is not far from 90 and the youngest is, I think, 67. When I think about those who live far away, I am increasingly aware that we don't have enough contact and that possibly I have seen them for the last time. So, to sort of make up for that, I try harder to see and spend time with the two cousins who live nearby.

Today my sister and I went to have lunch with one of our cousins. "Phyllis" is unwell. She has been diagnosed with something none of us had ever heard of before: Lewy Body Disease. Turns out it is the second most common type of senile dementia; it is similar to Alzheimer's without the mood swings, but with troubling hallucinations and a tendency to fall. It has features in common with Parkinsonism and is often mistaken for that disease.

Phyllis has always had a sunny disposition and that hasn't changed a bit. She's a bit forgetful, but, heck, aren't we all at this point? She has the endearing capacity to laugh at herself and even invites us to join her. She gets distracted but still has her fine sense of humor. Sometimes her dates are mixed up (she laughingly told us we were 45 hours late for lunch, as she'd expected us two days ago), and she's having some trouble with days and nights. She's a bit on the clumsy side at this point and her problems are compounded by something mysterious going on in her back that makes it hard for her to stand erect. All of this is plaguing Phyllis, but she is still our cousin, the same cousin that we have always loved.

It won't be long, I think, before Phyllis needs to move to some sort of a facility where she will be safe all of the time; her family has already begun investigating options. Today we had a wonderful time with our sweet cousin. My sister brought sandwiches and I splurged on dazzling cupcakes from Whole Foods; Phyllis introduced us to a delicious blueberry beverage. We ate and laughed and told jokes (some of them a bit on the colorful side) and remembered family times. We're already planning to do it again next month. And will continue as long as we can.

Just before we left, Phyllis -- who had always been closer to my sister than to me -- asked specifically, "Nancy, do you think people know when they are getting close to dying?" I said that I thought in some cases this was true. Her eyes filled up a bit as she told me, "I keep thinking about my Daddy and how I wish I could see him. I wonder if that is because I am close to dying." Mercifully, my instincts provided an answer: I told her, "I think you know there is something going wrong with your body and with your mind and you know that your Daddy would take care of you if he were here. I think you wish you had your Daddy to take care of you. I don't think it means you are going to die soon."

I hope I was right.

Monday, June 23, 2014


The neighborhood where we live has a high canine concentration. Many families have a dog or two, and most of the time we live together in peace. There's practically no time when you don't see someone walking a dog down the street, and there's almost a ballet that takes place when one dog walker going North spots one going South in the same block. Someone needs to reverse direction or cross the street, and without any conversation or signaling, somehow we know when it is our turn to yield. Many of the dogs absolutely dislike other dogs; ours is one of those, although he has developed a certain tolerance for Max and Zero, a pug and a ball of fluff that live at our one corner, and Kiki, a yellow beauty who resides at the other corner.

Walking is manageable. We all seem to adhere to the same code of behavior. But there's another issue. Yup, barking.

The people across the street are the most unfriendly neighbors on the face of the earth. In fifteen years, they have not only never had a conversation with us, but actually turn and go inside or walk to the back of their house if they see us come out the front. Guess they never had a daughter needing to sell Girl Scout cookies; guess they never needed to borrow that tall ladder that somebody on the block always has and is willing to lend. After two years of being deliberately shunned by these people, we dubbed them The Nonspeakers, and most of the time don't give them a second thought.

The Nonspeakers have two small balls of fluff of their own, and in recent times have had two large, vociferous guest dogs, a Lab and a Shepherd. Whenever The Nonspeakers are out, these two big dogs stand at the front window and bark. If someone walks down the street with a dog, they bark. If someone walks down the street without a dog, they bark. If we go out our front door to pick up the mail or get in our car, they bark. They bark if a dog across the street barks. It is annoying.

But it gets worse. It is summer and we have our windows open. So do the neighbors. And Lab and Shep are early risers who must be on duty beginning, apparently, by six o'clock. After a few mornings of rude awakening, I decided that Nonspeaking was to be a thing of the past and I put on some clothes, crossed the street, and for the first time approached the front door. Ringing the doorbell repeatedly yielded no response. So I began banging on the front door. The barking intensified to a frantic pitch and pace. "Roxie!" exclaimed Mrs. Nonspeaker, but did not come to the door. I persisted. Eventually Mr. Nonspeaker responded (he used to also have the nickname "Pretty Boy," but as another neighbor pointed out, "He's not so pretty any more!") and I drew his attention to the problem. He seemed a bit dull witted and said they were his children's dogs that they were keeping for them on weekends. When I said I that while the constant barking during the day was one thing, being forcefully wakened so early in the morning was another thing entirely, he responded that, actually, they couldn't sleep either. He guessed he'd have to put the dogs in the back of the house. I left the doorstep, feeling a confidence that the issue isn't over yet.

I suppose that more early morning neighborly visits are in order. Or perhaps a phone call to the local police department.

But, you know, I can't help asking myself, "What would Walter White do?"

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Getting By with a Little Help from my Friends

At the end of the month, my daughter will be going to Melbourne on business. She'll be staying for two weeks.

She tells me that when the people from Melbourne come to the States, they bring their coworkers little gifts from their country. She wants to do the same.

Someone told her that Opi nail polish, of all things, is a prized giftie as are USA candies such as Skittles.

I can't go to Australia with her, though I sure wish I could. But I thought I could check with my Down Under blog friends to find out if there are specific gifties from the USA that they would like to receive.

How 'bout it, TraceyLorraine, and Peg, and Tazzie, and Donna and Little Mysteries, and anyone else I haven't tagged, any ideas?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

93 Yesterday

Here's an update on Ninety Degrees in the Shade.

You can see that the three blocks to the right have their final borders on them and there are just three that lack their first borders.

I'm ready to be finished with the Civil War, fabric-wise, but I'm liking this quilt. To me, it has a contemporary feel, despite the geriatric nature of the fabrics.

It was 93 yesterday. Today it is a bit cooler, though still humid. Bobbi and I drove out to a LQS for a bit of retail therapy. I decided not to look at the price per yard, being as accustomed as I am to the prices in Lancaster County. It's important to support the LQS and, apart from 3/4 yard of purple CW to bind Ninety Degrees, my purchases were to make a couple of little tops and dresses for granddaughters.

I really don't want to put a border on 90 Degrees, but I guess I won't know until the blocks are assembled whether I'm right about that. Or not.

The Uvulati have decided that one of our summer projects will be lap quilts for wheelchair-bound patients at the VA Hospital, so those CWs will get used up that way, and I shouldn't worry if it turns out I need to make a purchase to finish 90 Degrees.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bag for Bobbi

At a Guild meeting a few months back, each of us received F8s of a line of fabrics by Michael Miller for a challenge. We were told we could make anything we wanted, but it had to be quilted. We could add one solid or any other MM fabric.

As it happens, back in January I offered a Pay-It-Forward through FB, and one of the people who signed on for it is in the Guild. I decided that a giant bag for Bobbi to haul projects (or perhaps her grandson or pug) around in was just the thing. 

Clicking on the photos will enlarge them, and I hope you will. The front of the bag, pictured above, shows off some of the prints and has embroidery and some buttons.

The back is in this picture, and has a generous outside pocket. Inside, not pictured, are two additional pockets.

The entire bag is hand-quilted using big stitches and Perle.

Bobbi liked it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

90 Degrees In The Shade?

Here's what's on the wall here, Near Philadelphia. A dozen blocks made from yellow, gold, orange, brown, and green CW fabrics. Dunno what the block is called. Here you can see four of them with their first borders on. There is a second, less frenetic border for each of them, too, once the rest of the blocks all have their first borders.

Needing a bazillion HSTs, I dug into my drawer where I found a pack of Thangles in the right size, and used them to make the HSTs. Removed the paper in front of the television (yup, we're watching OITNB, just one episode at a time, thank you).

This quilt, as so often is the case, has no intended recipient. But it will turn out to be just the right thing for someone or some occasion. I saw the block somewhere on the net, dunno where, drew it on graph paper and then pieced the dozen. I like it.

It doesn't have a formal name at present (prolly because it isn't being called "Gretchen's Quilt" or "the quilt for the school raffle"), and I'm thinking back to my childhood when my mother (somewhat prone to exaggeration) would exclaim of a summer afternoon, "By Gosh, it's 90 degrees in the shade!" So there you have it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

3T X 2

Here are the two little girls wearing the dresses that I made for them. First up is Sophie, two years and five months. She and her father live Someplace Else Near Philadelphia, but I've not had the opportunity to meet her. Yet.

It was Sophie's great-aunt, my cousin Emily, who initially said to me, "I have a piece of Liberty of London fabric; do you want it?"

She was visiting her great-grandmother when this photo was taken yesterday.

And here is dear Aberdeen, two years and one month. She lives in Richmond and I don't see anywhere near enough of her.

Aberdeen's photo was taken in a room where she is currently spending a great deal of time. Apparently there is a new method of potty training that involves putting the child on the pot every twenty minute in the hope of catching something. Her dad sounded fairly discouraged when we spoke with him yesterday.

I had such a good time making these two little dresses. The other day I found a different pattern for another little dress and one for a summer top. I'm thinking I have just a couple of weeks before I see Aberdeen next; I'd best get hopping!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sewing, Near Philadelphia

Isn't this just the best picture!

I lifted it from a blogger who said she'd lifted it from a blogger and I didn't go back to find out of she had lifted it from a blogger. I just wanted to share it.

After I finished the second little dress for my granddaughter, I used most of the remaining Liberty to make a dress for the great-niece of the cousin who'd given me the fabric. She's promised to get a picture of the little girl wearing it and I look forward to posting pictures of both little ones wearing matching dresses.

I'm sewing a lot, but just don't have much to share at present. Some of the time I'm making little Tula Pink 6" blocks out of Kaffe Collective fabrics without a clue as to what will become of them. Some of the time I'm working on a kind of bright Civil War project; it is a dozen blocks modeled after one I saw someplace and figured out how to make. The blocks will finish at 16", huge for me. They contain a lot of yellow, gold, orange, brown and green and I look forward to sharing them before too much longer.

I delivered to the machinist yesterday a baby quilt that someone asked me to make as well as a flimsy I made several years ago without a recipient in mind. Now there's a recipient: The autistic school housed at the church where I work has grown to the point where they have to move to larger quarters and they are holding all kinds of fund raisers to finance the move. I offered them a quilt to raffle, and they accepted. So, again, photos in a couple of weeks.

Our little hand sewing group, the Uvulati, generally does some sort of charity project during the summer (many of our members are teachers). We've decided, I think, to make lap quilts for wheelchair patients of the local VA hospital, and we're looking into whether the hospital would like some very tiny quilts for babies who are stillborn or live for only a very short time. I've collected some ideas for the VA quilts and want to get started on them. I would love to do three -- one a month for the summer, and June is flying by.

And then I need to line up a bit of handwork to keep me occupied when we do a few very sort getaways this summer.

So, yes, I'm sewing. But have really nothing to share at the moment. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Jazzy Cats

If one little 3T pinafore dress is good, then two should be even better.

I had bought this amazing jazzy cats fabric because it was on sale and I had to have it, though I'd no idea what for. Actually, I don't do that kind of thing all that often.

Go ahead and click for the full effect.

Finished a couple of blocks for a swap yesterday, too. Off to the Mailboxes place tomorrow. But now I'm going to go down and start the other Liberty dress for Aberdeen's third cousin, once removed (with gratitude to Marsha for figuring that out!).

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Family Stuff

A couple of months ago, one of my cousins asked if I would like a piece of Liberty of London fabric that she just happened to have around. Well, you know, I didn't have to think twice!

It's not a very good picture of a very, very cute dress that I made this weekend for Aberdeen, my 2-year-old granddaughter. I'll be sending it to her in the mail tomorrow. I have two other pieces of fabric designated to become summer dresses for her, and I think it wise to check the size before proceeding.

A group of many of the women in my family gathered today. Another cousin, sister of the fabric donor, is moving South, and I hosted a brunch in her honor. Eight of us had a lovely time, laughing, eating, carrying on. We had such a good time; we really should do this kind of thing more often for no good reason!

The cousin who is moving has a little granddaughter of her own, just a couple of months older than Aberdeen. And there's still a yard or so of that Liberty fabric left. I feel another little dress coming on as soon as the size is confirmed. I like the idea of these two little cousins, who prolly will never meet, having the same dress that one family member provided the fabric for and another family member made.

I looked at one of those cousin relationship charts to see if I could figure out what Aberdeen and Sophie are to each other. It was very complicated but it appears that they are third cousins, four times removed!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

No Apologies

There was a bit of a scuffle on Facebook today after I posted a thought about the Bergdahl brouhaha. I suggested that a lot of people were taking strong positions based on what stance their favorite news sources were espousing. I have thought and thought about Bowe Bergdahl and what he may or may not have done and I have thought about the circumstances that now have him on U.S. soil; I have read a lot, and I still don't think I know enough to take a strong stance. Right now I'm inclined to trust the President and allow for the likelihood that there is far more to this story than the public is aware of.

My FB post yielded some comments and an email that suggested I was apparently a Liberal, and went on to say that this didn't seem to mesh with my role as a hospital chaplain.

I don't have any idea what to do with the second part of that other than to point out that a lot of intelligent people -- my seminary professors, some of them -- are fond of saying, "Jesus was a Liberal."

As to the first part, I am sorry that there was any doubt at all that led the writer to write "apparently," as though applying that label would bring some sort of shame. Because, most certainly, I am a Liberal.

For almost as long as I've had this blog, there have been two quotes either in the sidebar when I had one, or down at the bottom.  They're there because the resonate with my core values. They are almost as much a part of me as my dancing ladies.

One's from a fictional character:

“Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things – every one. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, ‘Liberal,’ as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor.-- Matt Santos, The West Wing

The other is from a real person:

          "If, by a liberal, they mean someone who looks ahead, and not behind ...
          Someone who welcomes new ideas, without rigid reactions...
          Someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools,                 their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties...
          Someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us...
          If that is what they mean by a liberal, I am proud to be a liberal." --John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I don't automatically subscribe to the Liberal viewpoint on everything. I think about the issue and decide for myself; more often than not, I find myself in the Liberal column. I respect that others have also considered the issues and come out in a different place; I have no interest in arguing viewpoints.

I believe in a woman's right to choose but I wish the death penalty would be outlawed. I think marriage equality has taken far too long to become a reality and that lack of gun control laws has given birth to way too many tragedies. 

And I believe that many Americans might wait a bit until more actual facts are known before rushing to judgment on Bowe Bergdahl and why and how he is no longer a prisoner.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Scrabble Rant

I'm all worked up. About Scrabble, no less.

I play Scrabble on line via Facebook. And I love it. I have had as many as 14 games going at once.  So it's serious.

On-line Scrabble is different from regular board Scrabble in a couple of ways. One thing, which is just lovely, is that the game provides you with a handy-dandy list of all of the two-letter words known to mankind. Which kind of levels the playing field to a certain extent. There's also the fact that players don't have to worry about how long it takes for them to figure out what word to play. That's nice.

Then there's the serendipitous opportunity to do something amazing without having to make eye contact: I once played a very, very bad word on a triple word score spot and earned 39 points while at the same time using up one of those pesky C tiles. Yup, that word. 39 points is 39 points.

There's a certain amount of integrity required that comes into play. I have it on good authority that there are websites where one can go and enter one's rack of letters and just like that it will give you all the words possible from your letters. If I'm playing with an ordinary person and he starts throwing in words like the name for a five-cent piece in 15th century Romania or the leaves from a shrub known only to grow in Paraguay, I get to suspecting that he's using, and don't play with him again. My linguist friend is exempt from suspicion; she actually knows these words and I've learned a lot from her.  And because in a previous life I was a medical transcriptionist, I can drop words like "hamate" and "fovea" in good conscience.

Another thing that's problematic is the putting together of letters into what might be a word and playing it. In the board version, one wouldn't be likely to do that because the opponent might challenge. But on line, if it's not a real word, the game won't accept it and if it is, well, how about that! What I'm getting at here is that there seems to be a great deal of playing by hunch rather than by knowledge. The other day an opponent played UNLIMES, and I think a blank was involved. In any event, it yielded more than 90 points, and I just turned right into a COW*.  UNLIMES, for crying out loud. What are they? Lemons? Sheesh.

My second son is a Scrabble purist who longs for the days when playing a Q was a real challenge. One had to sweat it out until a U came along and then hope there was enough else to get the darned thing on the board. Z wasn't quite as bad. Now we have QI and QAT and, truth be told, I find I play one or the other of them almost automatically. And I don't feel good about it. Andrew exacts a promise of non-QI non-QAT play before he accepts an invitation to play on line, and I'm thinking his way really makes the game more fun.

I'd like to continue this rant. To go on and on and ON. But I can't. Because I have to go deal with IAYSZCD before Marilyn gets impatient. DAISY looks promising, but then there's that Z . . . .

*Cranky Old Woman

Thursday, June 05, 2014

About the Quinoa

It's about the quinoa.

On the infrequent occasion that I go to the salad bar at Whole Paycheck Whole Foods, I get a portion of a delicious grainy cold salady kind of thing that's labeled "quinoa." It tastes good. I know of quinoa as something that gluten-free people espouse, and after eating it at WF, I thought I might make it at home. So I bought a small bag and a few months ago made something-or-another (I can't remember what it was, so it couldn't have been spectacular). The other day I came across the half-full (or half-empty) bag of quinoa and decided to use it for dinner.

My Pinterest board listed a couple of options and I went with a version of quinoa with mushrooms and roasted garlic. Anything with mushrooms and roasted garlic would have to be terrific, right?

Not so. I taste-tested it before serving and upped the amperage on the parmesan cheese. Added some salt and parsley, too. Himself peered at it and said, "What's this? I think it's alive." I looked at it again; the whitish collar-things around the grains had, in some cases, separated from the grains. It didn't take a lot of imagination to perceive them as wiggling about.

It was not a huge success. I  served it with some grilled chicken and a nice fresh green vegetable. I wanted to like it. I really did. Each of us ate it without a lot of further comment.  I'd like to say that was that, but, you see, the recipe had a massive yield. A mother load of quinoa with mushrooms and roasted garlic.

A day or so later, the quinoa, weighing heavily on my mind in my fridge, came to the surface in conversation. We agreed that it was neither of our particular cup of tea, not to confuse things metaphorically. Yet it wasn't horrible, and it would be wasteful to throw it out. I started thinking of ways to improve it. There were still a couple of pieces of the grilled chicken. I thought out loud, "Well, I could throw in a whole lot more grated cheese. And perhaps some onion. And I could cut up the chicken and mix that in . . . .  " and at this point he cut me off, crying out, "Don't sacrifice the chicken!" And I started to laugh because all at once I was thinking of Lynne and how if she were here she'd jump up and start working on her next quilt, "Don't Sacrifice the Chicken!"

More better I should sacrifice the quinoa.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

New York Beauty

Well aware that my blog posts of late have been full of serious stuff, today we return to quilting, to less somber topics, to a bright and cheerful quilt.

The New York Beauty class was taught by Sarah Bond, a famous Philadelphia quilter, through the Mt. Airy Learning Tree; the classes (four Monday evenings from 7 until 9) were held at Handcraft Workshop (a terrific place). It was an excellent experience. From the ease of signing up to the convenience of the location to the charming classroom, the close-in parking, and the spectacular teacher, all was excellent.

I struggled with some of the elements. Others went into place so easily that I was convinced I'd done something wrong! Some of the blocks are prettier than others.

It is done, it has reached flimsy stage. And I'm pleased with it.