Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vermont Quilt Festival (part one)

The Vermont Quilt Festival is hosted at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, with the show itself nearby at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction. The college is quite welcoming to the quilt show attendees...we fill up several dormitories and town houses, have meals at their cafeteria, and have most of our classes (taught by nationally famous instructors) in their classrooms.

This is Pontigny Hall where i shared a suite with my friend Betsy and two quilters from Quebec.
We had individual small bedrooms, a shared bathroom, and a living room area with small fridge and microwave. I spent a lot of time in my room sewing, transforming the bed into a work surface.
I was working on the block of the month blocks that i won from my quilt group in February. I saw a picture in the May/June 2009 issue of Quiltmaker magazine of a simple and attractive layout for a quilt made from basket blocks. When my quilt group visted my friend Karen Sue's in-home quilt shop i took the magazine with me and looking at the picture, guesstimated how much fabric i would need for the setting squares and the narrow inner and wider outer borders. I didn't actually go to the web site to look at the directions before i started work on the project; in fact i didn't sit down and do any math until after i started work on the project, either. I had eight blocks so i needed a ninth block, which i made. Then i spent a while shuffling the blocks around, first on my bed and then on the suite's living room floor.
Next i cut out all the setting squares and laid them in place. I realized i had a problem after i measured the length and width...i didn't have enough fabric for the outer border! Luckily for me, there's a quilt shop relatively near St Mike's, called Yankee Pride in Essex Junction, Vermont. So i headed off there in the rain. Needless to say, they didn't have the fabric that i had planned to use for the border, so i had to come up with something else. I'm pretty pleased with what i picked...we'll have to see how it actually goes together! The next challenge was that although these blocks were supposed to be 12 1/2" square to finish to 12", once i started to square them up, i realized there was a great variation among them, with the smallest measuring 11 1/2" square and only a couple exactly 12 1/2". I had to cut all the blocks to 12" square, so they'll finish to 11 1/2", and i added strips of fabric to the sides of the block that was too small and then squared it up.

Before i could start sewing everything together, i realized i had to cut down the setting blocks, since i'd cut them 12 1/2" square and none of the blocks was that size any longer. Before i left for home on Sunday, i had sewed all the rows of blocks together (the rows form diagonally) and started sewing the rows to each other.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Newport, Rhode Island, part two

This is the side/back view of a house over on the next block from Wander Inn, my friend Karen's B&B. I was fascinated by the three huge chimneys, the many dormers, the cut stone walls...and the sprouting satellite dishes!
Karen really has a green thumb. This is one of her flower and herb plantings below the deck. I'm envious of the rich dark, sandy loam.
Here's a poppy and pansies in bloom...they've long since gone by in Virginia so it was nice to see them again.

These funny frogs playing checkers with ladybugs are among the frog sculptures up on the deck.
And this was my room...the gorgeous 4-poster bed just about fills the room. (The other rooms have larger beds. One even has a stepstool to help climb up into it.)

I really needed a kitty "fix" so was very happy when Karen let me into her apartment to spend some time with her baby, Figaro. Isn't he a cutie??? He has to spend all of his time up in Karen's apartment because she knows that some guests might be allergic to cats. He usually doesn't talk much but meowed loudly to let me know that he knew that i was on the other side of the door, and Petting Was Required Now! Of course i was delighted to oblige.

Monday night, Karen and i had dinner at Salvation Cafe, a wonderful funky restaurant in a non-touristy part of town. It used to be painted pink outside, now it's bright orange! The inside features a mish mash of folk art, Asian tapestries, 1950s photographs and artifacts, an ancient jukebox (just for looks), a tiki bar for outdoors eating and drinking, and delicious fusion cooking. I had a chickpea masala dish with fresh naan that was scrumptious and Karen had two appetizers--lobster and corn chowder, and "salvation calamari"...lightly battered and fried squid in a sweet/spicy vinaigrette with banana peppers and wasabi aioli. And for dessert we virtuously split an order of chocolate banana purses with vanilla/ginger ice cream. mmmmmmm

Tuesday night we had dinner at Siam Square, a Thai restaurant in nearby Middletown. The outside is's in a small strip mall...but the inside is lovely golden wood and fabulous food. Karen and i split one dish that featured stir-fried beef, pineapple, red peppers, mushrooms, macadamia nuts, fresh spinach, green onions, and slivers of young ginger...
And another called chicken penang that included chicken, snow peas, red peppers, hot green peppers, green beans, coconut milk, lemongrass...Thai hot and scumptious!

Speaking of food, i should have taken pictures of Karen's breakfasts, especially because she's won awards for them, but i didn't even think about it...too desperate for coffee and too busy eating, i guess! Tuesday morning's breakfast included strawberries Romanov and blueberry pancakes, while Wednesday morning's breakfast included a cute little apple dumpling followed by a summer quiche made with chopped brocoli and sweet red bell peppers, with watermelon and red grapes dressing the plate.

After breakfast on Wednesday i packed up and headed off to Vermont.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Newport, Rhode Island, part one

I left Virginia late in the afternoon on Sunday, June 14 and stopped overnight in Rye, New York. After a delicious breakfast, i got on the road and headed to my friend Karen's bed and breakfast, Wander Inn, in Newport, Rhode Island. It's a relatively small B&B, with comfortable rooms, great breakfasts, and a nice deck for having breakfast (when the weather cooperates).

On Tuesday i walked downtown to the Post Office and then did some sightseeing. I've been going to the same place for 11 years but never tire of looking at Newport's architecture. This is a house that i've never noticed before, with a sailing ship weather vane.

Here's the whole house as seen from the street.

This is a glorious old house (probably from the early 1800s) that's been partially restored. It's currently a lawyer's office.

This is a close-up of the dormer window, twin chimneys, and nice trim under the eaves.

Here's a close up of the front door, with its Greek columns with fancy carved pediments. I don't think the etched glass door is original, but it looks lovely.

This is the Touro synagogue, designed by architect Peter Harrison in 1759 and completed in 1763...probably the first synagogue in what later became the United States. This is the site of the famous proclamation about religious freedom from President Washington that i cited in an earlier post.

This is the front window of the Claire Murray store...she designs wonderful hooked rugs with nautical designs.

International Box Day

While i was away, i apparently missed International Box Day, during which cats all over the blogosphere posted adorable pictures of themselves in boxes. Milo and Alfie in England did a great post about themselves and boxes. My cats love boxes, too, so even though it's late, here's Fuzzy in the big nest box in the kitchen.

Because it took me so long to get going, what with the washing machine trials and tribulations and everything, Mary Ellen came to give the cats their first feed while i was still packing. She was willing to come back later but i told her to go ahead and feed everyone. It turned out really well...everyone was well fed and snoozing contentedly while i was carrying load after load of stuff out to the car.

Here's Louie, successfully pretending that i don't have a suitcase open on the bed.
Many more pictures and words to follow later!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


My vacation was supposed to start yesterday...but my washer stopped working late Friday night with an entire load of clothes and fabric stranded in soapy, grey water. A repair guy was supposed to come...between noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday. So no way i could leave at 3 p.m. In fact, they didn't come 'til 5, stayed 'til 7...and it turns out there was nothing wrong with the machine, there's a problem with a valve in the plumbing that drains the washer into the sewer line. That meant i had to go to the laundromat this a.m. with my sopping wet, rather funky smelling clothes and fabric. I'm finally than ever...and need to drive 300 miles before my stop for the night!

The cats won't have access to the computer until i get back online (in 8 days) so they wish all their friends to stay happy and healthy in their absence. I'm so late leaving, the lovely cat sitter has been here already and fed them, so they are dozing contentedly.

Oh, i'm going to a friend's B&B in Newport, RI, and then on to the Vermont Quilt Festival. I promise pictures when i get back! Stay well, all!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Special privileges for Gingy

Gingy is a beautiful cat, and really nice...aside from the fact that she finds it necessary to mark most of the walls in the house and the floors in the basement and any number of my books that she's ruined...and has been known to bite fiercely...and is constantly provoking Sylvie (and has actually injured her several times). Even though she's not a lap cat at all, Gingy likes to be wherever i am and has a great purr.

All of my cats have been indoors-only ever since Louie's brother Pierre vanished without a trace 10 years ago. Louie (and Pierre) had strayed away from a neglectful owner on the next block and spent a lot of time outside before i adopted them; Fuzzy was left outside for days at a time by his neglectful owner and resorted to killing squirrels to get enough to eat; Sylvie loved climbing trees when she was still an indoor/outdoor kitty and usually manages to make a break for the outside at least once a year, usually on Hallowe'en. Gingy i think was allowed outside occasionally by her previous owner.

Louie and Fuzzy have very little interest in going outdoors; Sylvie would love to go outdoors but i'm not sure i could talk her into coming back in if Gingy were anywhere nearby; and then there's Gingy, who's been trying to talk me into letting her go outside. So the other day i let her out on the back steps for about 30 seconds, and she loved it. Then i scooped her up and brought her in.

Now of course she asks to go out everytime i'm near the door! It's funny how much she enjoys her special treat, and how she doesn't mind at all when i scoop her up moments later and carry her back inside.

Here she is rolling on the front porch on Sunday afternoon...happy cat!

Sounds of summer

I woke up at 5 this morning to some of the usual sounds--Fuzzy purring in my ear, Louie purring between my knees--and some distinctively summer sounds--the ceiling fan whirring and clicking, the birds (mostly robins, cardinals, and house finches, it seemed) singing, and behind that, low ferocious rumbles of thunder, followed by big booms of thunder and rain pelting on the roof. (Then the sounds of Sylvie hollering at Gingy in the kitchen...*sigh*...that's an all-season sound.) Hope you're enjoying sounds of summer, too.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Plants--beloved invasive, detested invasive

Every year in mid to late June i look forward to my wineberries ripening. They're in the same family as roses and raspberries, and are not a native plant, although they're certainly well naturalized in my yard! Their scientific name is rubus phoenicolasius and apparently they were brought to America from Asia in the late 1800s as ornamental garden plants. In my yard at least they are quite wild and brambly...the canes are reddish, the leaves are bristly, and the canes are covered with soft red bristles. The fruits ripen inside a bristly calyx, which opens as the berries grow and when they're ready to pick they are deep reddish-orange, a little sticky, on the tart side, and juicy. They're a lot easier to pick than wild blackberries and raspberries which have ferociously sharp thorns.

I didn't plant these plants...they were brought by the birds! I have a line of them on the narrow strip of land on the other side of my driveway. I just try to keep the canes pruned back a bit or else they'd completely overgrow the driveway. They back up against my next door neighbor's beautifully maintained garden...i have a feeling she's not so crazy about their abundant and vigorous growth.

The birds are absolutely crazy for the berries and i've occasionally seen a box turtle underneath the brambles, eating the berries as well. Unfortunately the same generous birds who pooped out the seeds for the wineberries also deposited honeysuckle, poison ivy, and poke seeds in the same place. In my picture of the wineberry plant i inadvertently caught the honeysuckle "on film"...i try really hard to keep the honeysuckle under control but obviously this plant escaped me and has even started to bloom.

The problem with wineberries i guess is that they're non-native plants and can choke out native plants (although they seem to provide very good wildlife food and shelter). The problem with honeysuckle is that it can strangle everything in its path, it spreads vigorously, it regrows from the tiniest bit of stem or root left in ground, and because it makes berries, the birds spread it around generously. It does have an upside...those white flowers are extravagantly fragrant and smell so sweet on a warm summer's evening.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cards, Cats, Quilting

Up first are two cards that i made a little bit ago but didn't post because i was afraid the people who they were for would see them on the it's so long past their birthdays (groan, how does that happen?!) that they won't know these cards are for them!

You can see that i used a lot of the same elements in both cards but they came out quite different since for background one has a piece of decorative paper and the other has cardstock (run through the Big Shot on texture plates).

Louie says "isn't it time for dinner yet, mom? you've been on the computer too long!"

Gingy scratching under her chin with a back foot:

Saturday after going to the Farmer's Market i walked up the street to my local quilt shop, looking for thread for the class project i'll be doing at the Vermont Quilt Festival. I didn't find the thread that i needed, but i did find some great fabrics and a pattern for the "mini charmer" purse by Quilts Illustrated, the same company that published the "charm party" tote i made a while ago. I fleshed out my new purchases with fabrics from my stash, including a great purple cat print that's probably every bit of 15 years old! It was too wet to mow or weed on Saturday, so i spent much of Saturday afternoon and evening sewing. (Then it poured at about 4 a.m. on Sunday, right about when Friday's rain would have dried up.)

Sunday I had a strategy-planning brunch with some members of my Congregation. When i got home i quickly changed my clothes and got the mowing done, then returned to the sewing room...and finished the purse! Here's Gingy modeling the front:

And here's the back. It was sooooo much fun playing with color and texture again! Now i have to return to some of my UFOs (unfinished objects) or WIPs (works in progress).