03 October, 2016

A Layer A Year

Six years ago this spirited little one entered the world, waiting for no one; she was four weeks early!
She hasn't slowed down since then, nor has time; the birthdays just keep piling on... 
...like layers on a Doc McStuffins birthday cake.
Happy Birthday, Lucy Ann; you grow sweeter each and every day.
Life is Good!

30 September, 2016

Simple Math-- It's A Process

The simplest of math functions: addition and subtraction; I've been occupied with both when it comes to putting together blocks accumulated over the last several years. Most of these are blocks made in two separate block-of-the-month sessions at my local quilt shop, with a few orphans thrown in for good measure. The bin that held these, plus all of the other trial blocks and odds and ends made up in reds and lights have been kept together for someday quilts. Well, someday has arrived at long last! The bin's contents were emptied and everything was placed on the design wall at one time.  
There were too many disparate elements; from this point plenty of subtraction took place-- the eliminations went back to the bin. After that, slowly, blocks were added back in; one at a time until they all fit together (above, left), some coping strips were added as needed.
The first border was attached. A neutral "floating" border, a place for the eye to rest.

I wanted to bring red back to the outside edges, but not another single shade. I began a half square triangle border, equal in width to the first border and incorporating many reds and backgrounds for variety. I liked it.
This is where I ended up. Simple math: adding, subtracting, adding some more. The solution to the problem is pictured above. I have enough blocks still remaining in the bin to begin this process all over again; plus, I still have four more months to go with this years' block-of-the-month sessions (can you guess the colors chosen?)! A friend told me a while ago that when she tests blocks she always makes them in the same color family, I listened and followed suit. Oh, for the record, I have a bin of blues and lights too; I keep tossing them in and they continue to add up. How's that for simple math?
Life is Good!

23 September, 2016

Tightly Woven

Today's my birthday~ yep, they just keep coming!
I received this beautiful handmade birthday card from my friend Julie in yesterday's mail. Julie is a blogging friend, we've never met in person but we share many, many things in common and have spoken on the phone on numerous occasions; we're almost like long-distance sisters. Julie lives in Tennessee and we will meet... hopefully before more birthdays roll around, although that keeps happening faster and faster!  This is a very small world that we live in; God has us all woven together in a web made up interconnected strands of love and friendship, all part of His plan that we can never fully understand but that we can accept through faith. So, back to this lovely birthday card. I turned the card over to find a label attached to the back.
The sender had no way of knowing that this is the very church where my daughter-in-law's Daddy currently serves as pastor! One of my favorite columns to read in Guideposts magazine has always been "God's Mysterious Ways".  There is always an article that proves how God is present in an otherwise unexplainable occurrence. I find these stories to be affirming, they warm my heart. This card is one of those occurrences in my own life.  Small world? Yes, indeed, it is! I am deeply grateful to be part of God's tightly woven web!
Life is good!

19 September, 2016

A Tale: The Old Lady and The Leggings

"He She was an old man woman who fished shopped alone..."  
with apologies to Ernest Hemingway.

I have a birthday coming up. But, before that could happen, I had to catch up on a certain birthday that occurred at the end of July, our daughter's; I had promised her a mother-daughter birthday lunch. I made good on that promise last week, we had a delicious lunch together in the Capital City. While we ate she told me that she wanted to take me to her friend's house who sells Lularoe clothing. Lula who? Lularoe. It's big right now, I had heard about it from friends and family. Our daughter has been wearing the cutest skirts and Lucy Ann has shown me some precious dresses from Lularoe. The fabric is oh-so soft. I was excited about going to look at the clothes, any line that advertises "when fashion meets comfort" has my full attention; plus, I hadn't been shopping with Marcia for a very long time, it would be fun!  "I want you to try on a pair of leggings" she told me, that's when I almost dropped my fork. "Absolutely not", I responded. I tried to explain my reluctance abject refusal through logical reasoning: "leggings are not pants, they are not meant to be worn on legs over ~ahem~ a certain age (6?), they are too revealing".  She wouldn't listen, she shook her head and smiled,  "I want you to try a pair on" she said, while smiling. "I would like to get you an outfit for your birthday".  "I'll go" I thought, "I'll try them on" I smiled to myself, "but, no, I definitely won't come home with a pair; not me". Marcia's friend has devoted her living room to Lularoe. She had racks upon racks of tops, skirts, dresses and... oh, yes, the ubiquitous leggings. I chose a really cute top to pair with a straight, black skirt that I had at home. In fact, I bought it and wore it to church yesterday (top photo), I just loved the fabric and the cut the instant I tried it on. It's extremely comfortable and versatile, it will look nice with slacks or jeans too. I also bought a pretty knit skirt with a flared hem that I can wear anytime, it can easily be dressed up or down. Marcia and her Lularoe friend were very convincing about the leggings: "you need to try a black pair first", the friend was putting them into my hand as she explained, "everyone needs a 'starter' pair, see what you think". I chose a plain tunic-style swing top to try on over the leggings, it seemed long enough to satisfy my need to cover*. I knew that the chatter wouldn't end until I took a deep breath and got it over with. I retreated to a bedroom with a full-length mirror to scrutinize the appearance of my aging body in the non-pants. I wasn't hopeful. First of all these tights-without-feet are "one size fits all"; we all know what that means.  I wiggled myself into them and tugged them up. They stayed where I put them. Hmmm. The weight of the knit was substantial enough to not be see-through. Hmmm. And, truth be told, as much as I hated to admit it: the super-soft knit was strong enough to actually be somewhat flattering; they didn't look that bad! Hmmm. The top that I tried on wasn't right though. I went back to the living-room-turned-Lularoe-marketplace to choose some different tops. There were cheers from my daughter and her friend when I entered; "don't you love the leggings?" my daughter asked? She could already tell that I did. I tried on a few more tops and settled on this combination, I honestly did not want to take the leggings off. My now ecstatic daughter told me that she and her family wanted to give me this outfit for my birthday. I felt happy and confident with the choice and agreed.  "I'm not sure I will wear them out of the house though", I told her with a wink. Change is hard for me. I learned a lot last week though this experience; to not be afraid to open myself up to something new and different, to accept the opinions of others as valuable resources that can balance my own and to simply trust more.
She was right; I am now a dyed-in-the-wool cotton-knit-convert. Who knew? 
I have to admit this old dog lady can still learn a trick or two, as long as I keep my mind open. I did assure my daughter though, that these solid black 'starter' leggings are as far as I am willing to step outside my comfort zone. I won't be asking her to pick me up a pair of bright orange hibiscus print anytime soon! I have to draw the line somewhere, right? So, what do you think? Should I leave the house? 
Life is Good!
*For the record: I am no stranger to 'tops' of this length, when I was in high school this would have been considered a dress! That was then. This is now.

16 September, 2016

EPIC Road Trip-- Wrap Up!

There were quilt shop stops that I couldn't fit in to the previous five installments; we can't forget those. I will attempt to place this wrap-up post in a timeline that is logical and makes sense without appearing too disjointed. The stop at this shop, The Quilter's Corner in Sacramento, CA was on Saturday, the 13th of August. I found this shop to be well-stocked, bright and organized. The owner was highly energetic and friendly, she recommended  a wonderful local restaurant for a pizza lunch that lived up to the billing. Later on this day we learned that our daughter-in-law had been admitted to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy! I don't know that I had ever felt so far from home. We were worried about my mother-in-law before we took off, but never had even considered that one of our children would be hospitalized and in need while we were gone. She did just fine, although the appendix did rupture upon removal which, sadly, added to her recovery time. The troops were called in to help from near and far to help with the children. Certainly, for me, this was the low spot in our adventure.
This is "Grass Lake" somewhere in the Wilamette National Forest, one of the most scenic rest areas I have ever visited. There were benches situated beneath large shade trees where one could sit and gaze out on this peaceful scene. If we hadn't been on our way to another stop (Crater Lake) this day it would have been the perfect picnic location.
This is Quiltmania in Richland, WA. This small shop was literally crammed full of fabric bolts, filling every square inch of space. I helped them clear out a bit by taking some with me! A longarm machine was located right up front near the cash register, occupying the remaining floor space. This shop stays busy with their quilting service. Something that I had not seen before: Quiltmania had an alcove filled with precut extra-wide backing fabrics of every shade and hue, customers for the quilting service can choose backings right on the spot when dropping off their quilt tops. 
Also on this day, we drove for a long time between Oregon and Washington alongside these trees: planted in perfectly straight rows, perpendicular to the highway and identified as Pacific Albus. I found the sight noteworthy and looked it up after returning home as I was curious as to the purpose of this intentional forest. You can read more about it here. (Photo credit to the indicated website.)
This is Quilting Bee in Spokane we were here on the 18th of August. This was not my first visit here, it is an absolutely beautiful shop in every aspect. I was impressed to find both the Bernina longarm and the Bernina 16-needle embroidery machines being demonstrated while I was there, that was fun. This shop is a destination in and of itself. 
On the 23rd of August we traveled through Theodore Roosevelt National Park very early in the morning, we were traveling between Glendive, MT and Minneapolis, MN that day and were already homeward bound at this point. This National Park is one of our favorites for the rugged landscape, abundant wildlife and peaceful serenity (especially just after dawn).  

Passing through some areas called "Prairie Dog Towns" these energetic critters are everywhere! When we stopped to view them they alert each other with a chirping cry and scatter as they dive and disappear into their burrows. I know this is a rodent, a kin to my nemesis squirrel; I shouldn't love them but I do. Who can resist that face?
We had visited this park two years ago and one of my most vivid memories from that time were the Pronghorn and the large herds of feral horses. This time we saw only a lone horse and no Pronghorn at all, they must have been hiding. 
The Bison were not in short supply however! 

The drive home was direct and without a lot of stops from this point forward. Two overnights: Minneapolis and Indianapolis along the way before we rested our weary heads on our own pillows again. Dorothy was right: "there's no place like home".
The wrap-up stats and the low-down on traveling with a pup-- 
Miles traveled: 9, 221. Quilt shops visited: 9. Days gone: 23. National Parks explored: 8. State Parks/Memorials/Monuments visited: 9.  States traveled through: 22, countries: 2.  Pies consumed: 2. State Forests traversed: countless. 
I kept track of each days' details through a journal. Constructed years ago, this journal cover holds a composition notebook making it the perfect size for travel. There are two large "pockets" front and back where the cover slips in which accommodate the maps, brochures and literature accumulated along the way; it secures with an attached tie keeping everything contained, neat and easily accessible.  We stayed exclusively at La Quinta Inns and Suites; they are pet friendly. No, we did not camp along the way! The corporate policy of LQ is two domestic pets per room, unless prohibited by law. We never found that to be a problem and all of our room reservations were made prior to travel, we only needed to adjust on one occasion because we drove farther than anticipated and rebooked that nights stay in a different location. Sadly, dogs aren't allowed on the trails in National Parks, he was carried on occasion. However, leashed pets were welcomed in every State Park we visited. We normally managed dinner by picking up carry-out and bringing it back to our room after we checked in for the evening, that way Hannes wasn't left behind; likewise we alternated getting our breakfasts and bringing it back to the room each morning. While in the car he rode in style, securely harnessed, on his elevated platform in the back seat. 
This was the last road trip for this car. Our 2000 model Mercury Marquis has served us well over the past sixteen years. We traded it in on Tuesday this week with this staggeringly high number on the odometer: we like to drive!
Yes, that is 342, 166 actual miles. All good things must come to an end. We are grateful for the service. 
Here's the odometer reading on our new car: 7.4 miles! Time for new adventures and more memories!
Thanks for riding along~
Life is Good!

12 September, 2016

EPIC Road Trip- Installment #5

~ The International Selkirk Loop, Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes Provincial Park~

We left Spokane, WA in the morning bound for Sandpoint, ID via the International Selkirk Loop. The "loop" encircles the Selkirk Mountain range. We headed north on the western side along the Pend Oreille River and happened upon the Box Canyon Dam; it has an incredibly fascinating history.

We continued on to (and through) the Canadian border where we loaded our car onto a ferry to cross the beautiful and scenic Kootenay Lake; a magnificent black bear crossed the road in front of the car on this route before we got to the ferry. We slowed to a stop and watched him continue down a driveway(!) and disappear out of sight. (Wouldn't you know it, my camera was out of reach!) The ferry crossing took approximately thirty minutes, we drove off and continued on our way around the loop and the panoramic lake.

Kootenay Lake - British Columbia, Canada
We arrived in Sandpoint, ID in the afternoon; we have been there before and loved it. As we had done two years earlier, we passed through Bonners Ferry on the way to Sandpoint and revisited the Bread Basket Bakery for Marionberry pie. This local delicacy tastes like a combination of raspberry and blueberry; it is THE BEST. And, even better, this pie was half the price of the Olallieberry pie in CA!
The next morning we left bright and early for Glacier National Park. This time we were able to pass through the park from west to east (Apgar to St. Mary) on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Two years ago this highway was closed for repairs. Our National Park "do-over" was well worth it, not only was the navigating much better but the weather was lovely and significantly improved over the cold, misty days we had in 2104; I am so happy that we returned!

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is, literally, clinging to the side of the mountain. Some passes are really tight and the drop-offs are vertical!
But... the views! This is so reminiscent of Switzerland, the only thing missing here are the cow bells ringing in the distance!

On the first day here we traveled halfway through, going as far as the Logan Pass visitor center (above).
I spotted this friend chilling on a steep bank above us as we were driving out of the park; from a distance I thought is was a huge chunk of snow. Then he turned his head!

The photographs above should give you a feel for the rugged steepness of these narrow mountain roads; they are shut down for repairs from rock slides often and closed for the winter from October through May. This highway is 50 miles in length and simply put: offers some of the most spectacular views that nature has to offer!

These iconic red tour buses are a part of Glacier's history and have been showing tourists the sights since the 1930's.

Saint Mary Lake, on the eastern side of Glacier, is serene in its majestic splendor. Sadly, we drove a few miles through an area burned out last summer; the Reynolds Creek fire was first reported in the afternoon of July 21, 2015 and spread to over 4,000 acres in a single day. While the blackened trees stand out as an ugly reminder of the devastation there is already much fresh, bright green, reforestation occurring as well as brand-new views of this lake.

Just before exiting the park and heading north to Waterton this fella stepped out in front of the car; this time I had the camera in my lap; I was granted a second chance from being unprepared two days earlier. Another successful re-do! Thanks for sharing the magnificence of your home with us, Mr. Bear. Isn't he handsome?

Remember in the second installment of this EPIC Road Trip series I mentioned a retired National Geographic photographer who mentioned three top sights to see before one dies? Well, here it is-- the third sight: Waterton Provincial Park in Alberta, just north of Glacier. That "bucket" list is now complete; however, for the record: I am feeling just fine and have no plans of checking out anytime soon.
This is Upper Waterton Lake, it was a cool and windy day. I could have stood in this very spot forever; this location on earth seemed nearly sacred to me.

This is the historic Prince of Wales Hotel, it sits at the confluence of Upper Waterton and Middle Waterton Lakes: I do believe that National Geographic photographer knew what he was talking about when he included this picturesque park on the list of must-sees!
Middle Waterton Lake: the color in these pictures is unaltered, who could improve on nature's palette?  
Leaving Waterton we encountered herds of roving free-range cattle; not a fence in sight anywhere. The long road home was about to begin after this stop on our itinerary. We traveled from here to the extremely windy city of Great Falls and on into Glendive, MT.
I'll end this installment at The Enchanted Room in Glendive; of course, another state another quilt shop! I found this shop to be a lovely one: a refurbished old home containing oodles of notions, patterns, books and fabrics all artfully displayed and beautifully organized with a cheerful sales staff. The next installment of our EPIC adventure will be the final one. It will include Theodore Roosevelt National Park and a wrap-up of odds and ends that I couldn't fit into the previous posts as well as tips and tricks that we have discovered for traveling with a fur-baby (thanks to SueSS for this idea in the comment section of a previous post)! One more Snapple fun-fact as a reward for riding along this far: "A group of geese on the ground is a gaggle, a group of geese in the air is a skein."
Life is Good!