Archive for August, 2010

Hi everyone – we are settled in at a campground in Palmer, Alaska and will be here until September 3rd. After 10 days of packing up each morning and traveling to the next overnight location, it was nice to “unwind” a little and catch up on household duties….laundry, laundry, laundry, seems to be the theme of this trip so far. We have encountered the record rainfall in Alaska for the summer of 2010. Clothing, shoes, rugs and RV’s soon become muddy and you find innovative ways to dry bath towels inbetween daily showers!

Enough of the whining though – on to really fun and exciting things…Jena has been safely deposited into the loving care of our David. Arriving at the Alaska border for both her and Annie were momentous. Over 3400 miles of driving by these two has brought them to a much sought after dream. Annie has wanted to make this trip for 30+ years and our Jena is making Alaska her home with Dave. We are having a great reunion with our son and friends and meeting new ones along the way.

Despite the continuing rain (though today has cleared with patches of blue and the mountains are “out,” in all their glory) we are managing to see some incredible places. Dave led us down to Girdwood which is south of Anchorage and we shared a warming bowl of soup at The Bake Shop which is near the famous Aleyska Resort.

It is a great place to have lunch and they bake incredible cinnamon rolls and offer a tasty lunch menu. Saturday’s special was…

It was delicious on such a chilly, rainy afternoon.

The little restaurant also features some of the largest flowering begonia plants I have ever seen…each blossom was a good 3″-4″ across…

Once we had out tummy’s warmed up – off we went to Virgin Creek Falls – “just up the hill…” Oh sure…climbing up a narrow, rocky path in a rainforest is a bit of a challenge

…everything was dripping; the walking was a tad slippery and I was sure happy to have my new diamond willow walking stick along.(My knee replacement physical therapist would be proud of me!)

The hike was well worth the effort – this was the sight that awaited us at the end of the trail.

Virgin Creek Falls - Girdwood AK

This photo was taken by our Dave who was much braver standing close to a steep drop off than I!

All of us returned “home” greatful for a warm RV and looking forward to a special dinner in Anchorage at Simon & Seeforths Seafood.

Will be back again soon with more photos and adventures.

Take care…



Read Full Post »

Hi everyone from Kluane Campground, Yukon Territory. Our little caravan has made its way through Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and tonight we are parked in the Yukon – in the shadow of the Kluane Ranges. We are all well and have safely weathered everything from Annie’s motorhome problems (long story – for another time), to dusty, wet, windy road conditions to miles and miles of miles and miles through wilderness.

Tonight we are set up in the shadow of this breathtaking mountain range…our accumulated laundry is washing in the camp machines and as I look out the laundry room door this is my view for the evening…

Life is good!

Wi fi is very limited and is scheduled to go off for the evening at 9:30 p.m. which is fast approaching. Daylight will remain until 10:30 so I think it will be pleasant to just sit and enjoy the view. All for now – will be back when internet access is available again. Tomorrow we cross back into the US – and will spend the night in Tok, Alaska.

Take care dear friends. Oh, and by the way – right now I am finding it difficult to…

Always take time to stitch.


Read Full Post »

Another quilt…!

Am I on a roll or what? This is a record for me – being able to post 2 finished quilts within the last week…come to think of it – it is probably an all time record! Now, I can only take credit for the piecing and the final binding. The actual machine quilting credit must go to a long arm quilter who lives not too far from my house  (how convenient is that discovery going to be for me in the future!?)

The story behind this quilt goes back to 1997-1998. ‘ (Doesn’t every quilt have a story?) It was a year filled with some major health issues for me and feeling pretty lousy. On days when I could manage some energy, off I would retreat to the sewing room and do a little piecing. The block pattern (24″) is Firelight Nights …..by Judy Hopkins from her book…..The Block Book. What kept me going was the choice of the border fabric by Hoffman of California. The quilt has always been called “The Pond Quilt.” Every time I looked at the print, I could think of how our own pond looks on an early summer evening. That is the time when the brightness of new spring colors has softened into the beginnings of June here in Northern Wisconsin. White field daisies edge our pond along with the first shoots of cattails. As you walk along the path, tiny periwinkle blue-eyed grass flowers pop up and little butterflies make their first appearance. There is such a stillness to the air as twilight descends and the only sounds are birds and a few frogs. Often I was unable to sleep at night and would come downstairs to curl up on the sofa in the great room. We have large quarter round windows above the French doors, which go almost to the peak of the ceiling and I would stare up at the star filled sky. Not feeling like going out much, I pulled from my stash and as I worked with the soft green print, it became very soothing to my soul.

As with some quilt projects, for whatever reason, the completed top was folded and put away along with the backing. And there it rested all these years…there were thoughts of handquilting it and I had even marked the top with various stencils – dragonflies, frogs, cattails, butterflies, etc. Reality set in (again – seems to be happening more and more these days) that if it was ever to become a completed quilt, machine quilting was called for. So off it went to Lori about 2 weeks ago. She helped me choose a simple curvy quilting design and we decided on a lavender (or could it be periwinkle) colored quilting thread.  I didn’t really pressure her too much about a deadline…just said it would be nice to have it for our trip. :o) I was able to pick it up this week and really like how it turned out.

What  impressed me was how nicely it was returned to me -isn’t this a great bag for transporting those quilts! Lori does this for all her customers and states our quilts are “too valuable to use a plastic garbage bag.”

I like that philosophy.  So, another UFO finished and ready to go into the RV.

And…ta dah…my Elizabeth’s Pride applique project is now officially a top!

Triangles are in place and the 3 1/2″ border sewn on. This border fabric has been calling out to me from the closet – it seems to work on this quilt and the interesting little spray of flowers lined up and down will provide an easy quilting pattern to follow.

After all the hand work, my heart tells me it should be hand quilted. I am so slow, it may take a long time…

And more quilty stuff – this package arrived yesterday – all the way from Queensland, Australia. Would you like to see what was inside?

My needlecase from my secret swap partner in the Applique Posy Needlecase Swap sponsored by Quilting Bloggers. Helen also included a matching pincushion – each in reproduction fabrics – right up my alley! And –  cute coasters, bookmark and a really pretty 2011 Queensland calendar. Thank you Helen!! I loved your letter too – and enjoyed learning more about you. Visit Helen at Aunty Henny’s to see what she is up to – one very busy lady sewing up a storm.

In the garden this morning…Glacier Star morning glories climbing the tower towards the sky. The vines have wrapped themselves around the blue glass solar ball on top.

It has been a very busy week and we are almost ready for our trip. I will be away for awhile. As wi-fi permits, there will be short blog postings along the way. I hope you will tag along with us via your computer. We will be traveling through some of the beautiful Canadian provinces on our way to Alaska. This will be our 3rd trip up there and this year, it will be even more special. We are a caravan! Accompanying us is my long time friend, Annie. She has purchased a fabulous motor home and is going to realize a long held dream of seeing the 49th state. We also have a very special young lady following us in her car. We must take good care of her along the way and deliver her safe and sound to our son, David, who awaits her arrival. Jena is saying goodbye to her home state of Wisconsin and moving to Wasilla. Wish us good weather and a safe journey and stay tuned for new adventures which will include a trip to the Valdez Quilt Festival and a day long workshop with Marsha McCloskey. Somehow, along the way I will find how to…

Always take time to stitch…


Read Full Post »

Finally, A Quilt!

Every time I check my favorite quilting blogs, I discover a new quilt that is finished and ready for Show ‘n Tell…yes, I do have “finished quilt envy!” At long last, after many months, there is finally a completed project exiting from my chaotic sewing room.

Please meet the Borealis quilt for our son, Dave…

With all its curves and paper piecing, and lots of squaring up, this quilt was not always on the best of terms with me. And it is quite “busy” with many batiks being used. In the end though, as the striped batik binding went on, we reached a friendly conclusion with each other along with a vague promise that IF, I would ever do another one, all the background pieces would be the same or very similar…which might calm the design down a bit. As with all quilts made, I learn something from every one, no matter how simple or involved. The original thought of a warm, sunset base at the bottom and moving up into a darker, cooler midnight sky, “sort of” worked. It needs a label on the back and then will be carefully folded for its journey to Alaska soon – perhaps our son will drape it over the back of a sofa, or curl up with it on a cold night or will he shake his head and wonder…what was Mother thinking??

I was able to finish up the binding as we relaxed this past weekend in Nuganee, Michigan.  Mr. Outback had such a good time at the skeet shoot held there last summer, we wanted to return. It was great to get away for a few days from what has been a very busy summer. Very little cooking on my part as the club offered baked salmon and lake trout Friday night & a complete steak dinner on Saturday…and no dishes to wash! In addition to wrapping up the Borealis project, I also completed the last of the applique blocks for the Liberty Ladies project – Lori Smith’s Elizabeth’s Pride quilt.  (talk about 2 quilts as different as night and day!!?) This was my first attempt at doing an entire applique quilt and was yet another example of always learning new techniques. The first few blocks were done using templates in the traditional manner. But then I tried the method of tracing the design on the back of the background and basting my pieces of fabric in place prior to needle turning. After that, I never looked back as this method improved my positioning of each piece 100%. It freed up my time to now concentrate on achieving smooth edges which hopefully will continue to improve. I was so tickled with the whole thing, when I got back home last night, each block was squared up and immediately placed on the flannel board. I am anxious to get the triangles in place for the edges and the border…

When I stood back to take a look, well…must confess…the first thought was…I can’t believe I did that! I now officially LOVE applique and will do my best to improve in the future. I used to look at books with applique quilts and think…that is  never going to happen for me. Now, when I page through various projects, the thought is – hmmm…maybe not so impossible after all!

All for now – this week will fly with much to do and get ready for our trip…in the garden now is a nice display of the classic white phlox “David” (of course!) –

Have a good week and

Always take time to stitch…


Read Full Post »

A summer day – bring a dish to pass & arrive around noon…a gathering of the clan on my Mom’s side. A Family Reunion…

Under a rustic shelter, we find picnic tables in place covered in pink and lime green cloths. Stacks of colorful paper plates and matching cups await…as everyone starts to arrive more tables are moved into place and are quickly filled with every variety of “dish to pass.” Endless bowls of tasty salads, watermelon, fresh fruits and vegetables from our gardens, warming pans loaded with potatoes, ham, dumplings and chicken, beans, turkey and BBQ for sandwiches…on the charcoal grills, brats, roasting corn and hot dogs for the kids. Plates of sliced Wisconsin cheeses and summer sausage, turkey wrap pinwheels…and one whole table devoted to just desserts…cakes, bars, cookies, summer trifle, a lemony iced frozen treat that somehow manages to stay perfect…bowls of trail mix, snacks and candy. No one will leave hungry. An American family classic – a blessing of abundant food to enjoy. Everyone is hugged when they arrive – the men shake hands and bits of conversations float on the warm summer air like milkweed fluff.

We have come from all over the state to this one spot on a July afternoon. Aunts and uncles, cousins.  People from 92 to brand new precious babies –  sharing a link to the Grandparents who started it all in the early 1900’s. There is no written book on our family history – what is remembered has been handed down verbally with some faded photographs stored in various boxes.

This photograph was taken (we think) in 1948.

What I have is a copy of a scanned image. Even under such deteriorating conditions, it is a treasure. How rare it must have been to have everyone together – there were 12 children, 3 boys and 9 girls, the youngest, my Aunt Jackie is only about 3 at this time. My Mom must have been home for a visit from Washington, D.C. She would have been married to Dad for 5 years and I would have been 4. (Have no clue where I was – somewhere off to the side, getting into mischief??) Of those 12, 6 girls are still living. My 3 uncles, 2 who were suddenly gone much too young and the 3rd, also too soon as he enjoyed the beginnings of retirement. The remaining 3 girls all shared heart issues, sadly a family trait.

How did we come to be – to this place and this time? It is the early 1900’s – in Vilnius, Lithuania,  and my Great Grandmother has fears that her sons, Steven (my grandpa) and Viktor (my Uncle Vic) will be forced into an Army to defend against a Russian invasion.  Somehow, the family manages to pay the way for the boys to immigrate to America. They both enter by way of Ellis Island to begin a new life. As far as we know, they never saw their family again. It is not clear how they both arrive in Wisconsin. My Uncle Vic worked in the logging camps of the Northwoods and my Grandpa had enlisted in the US Army, only to be sent back to Europe during World War I. While fighting in the Argonne Forest in France, he was shot in the leg, & because of delayed care,  the leg was amputated. He finally received his Purple Heart 35+ years after that.  How ironic that he ended up in the very situation his Mother had tried to spare him. If we jump ahead a few years, Grandpa has met the love of his life, a feisty lady with French Canadian roots. They have settled in a small rural area of Northern Wisconsin and have begun their family. My Uncle Butch is the first son – the rock. Then the first girls arrive followed by another son and so on…the youngest, a girl, is born to my Grandma when she about 40. By this time, they have taken up farming along the Wisconsin River and Uncle Vic has come to live out his bachelor days with everyone. That is where my own memories begin. My Mom & Dad & I would pack up the car and drive from the East Coast during the summer when Dad was on leave from the Navy. If you have been in Washington, D.C. during summer months, you know where the term “the dog days of summer” originated! Arriving in Wisconsin, the air would be so incredibly clear and fresh…the sky so blue and daylight lingered.  Being a “city girl” and somewhat shy, it would take a few days to get reacquainted with my many cousins, but soon we were involved in adventures of our own. There was a big barn to explore and jumping into mounds of hay, fresh eggs to collect from the chickens, feed the rabbits and for me, avoid the cows which looked gigantic to my citified eyes. We would hike down to the river and look at the skeleton of an old Indian teepee. It probably served as a base for those who came to fish but of course, we would invent stories that were far more dramatic. What remains so solidly in my memory centered around the actual farmhouse. For housing 12 kids, it wasn’t all that large – shared beds were the norm. There was a large “parlor” which was usually reserved for company. The hub of the house was the kitchen – it was the room you entered straight off the enclosed porch. The front door to the parlor was never used. Taking up an entire corner  of the kitchen was the huge cook stove – heated with wood. My Grandma would make her bread & other baked items in the oven. She knew just the right way to fire up the stove. My Mom told me it was a very special treat to go to the grocery store and buy “store-bought bread.” How times have changed. A very early memory is getting a bath in a large metal tub in front of that warm stove.

Living on a working farm, chores started early in the morning and Grandma could always count on everyone arriving at the breakfast table in a hurry when her cinnamon sugar doughnuts were fresh and ready. What always fascinated me when visiting was the fact that until late in the 1950’s, there was no indoor plumbing. The kitchen sink was at the end of a long work counter and to the side was mounted a pump handle which you worked to get cold water. There was no refrigeration either. Everything perishable was lowered into a stone lined cold spring. Milk never tasted so good. Naturally, we used the little house out back. There was a small glass window on the back wall and one of my older cousins would sometimes creep up behind and scare us through that opening. Especially at night, it could really get your heart rate up.

Uncle Vic raised mink on the farm too and he enjoyed working with wood in his spare time. He would also make each of us little birch bark canoes to play with – they were shaped well and secured at each end with heavy red thread which he would sew through the bark. How I wish there was still one sitting on my shelf!  His favorite breakfast was “pan-a-cakes.”  And they were usually buckwheat. I can still hear his rough voice as he and my Grandpa spoke to each other in their Lithuanian tongue. Grandpa was the quieter of the two and Mom says he never raised his voice to any of the children. My Grandma, on the other hand, could shout with the best of them and even had a colorful vocabulary to go with it on occasion. I think she was the disciplinarian! Each child had their chores and while there was bound to be friction in such a large family, they managed to work out an agreeable arrangement to get things done.  And there was love – bushels full as each grew in to adulthood. And that atmosphere led into my own childhood while growing up with my two dear parents who gave (and continue to give) me bushels of love. Dad used to tell me “we love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”   I believe those bushels transferred to our own son…and on it goes. I will close with a photo of 3 things that belonged to my Grandparents. Notice how the handle of the potato masher shows only a trace of its original green paint? Mashing potatoes for 12 kids could do that!

I wish you a good week and precious time with your families, no matter how near or far. If there are differences, make every gentle effort to resolve them – you miss out on so much.


Read Full Post »