Friday, July 22, 2011

My Mother's Garden Quilt Completed!

It's been very, very hot here this week.  That combined with a lull in other activity has allowed me to return to my quilting projects.  I decided to finish the quilt made with parts of an old hobnail bedspread of my mothers.  When I was growing up we had several of these bedspreads and I came to love them.  While trying to decide just how to work this into a quilt I came across some fabric with hydrangeas on it.  We always had these showy flowers in our yard when I was young and they also remind me of my mother.  The quilt features that fabric on the front and a lily of the valley fabric on the back - also one that we had in plenty around the yard.  I filled it with a high loft batting and free form quilted around the hobnail design to highlight that.  This is the first quilt that I'm keeping for myself.  I still have a lot of the bedspread left and hope to find ways to repurpose it into some sort of gifts for the rest of my family.  I've titled this "My Mother's Quilt".

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wanders with Winkie #4: the Cruise Ship

We cruised with Royal Caribbean on the Liberty of the Seas ship.  The ship was HUGE and our stateroom was fantastic.  The staff was attentive and helpful and I couldn't go without giving attention to our stateroom attendant.  Each night when providing turn down service he would leave us the newsletter for the next day along with a towel sculpture.  They made us smile as soon as we walked in the door.  If my sunglasses happened to be lying around he would put these on the towel animal for added effect.  Here are pictures of my favorites:


I will say that most of the activities were well organized and they certainly knew how to efficiently move large numbers of people.  And there WERE large numbers of people.  This particular cruise with all of the excursions was not a kick back and relax kind of vacation and it was not the type of vacation that provides solitude - unless you stay in your stateroom the entire time and what fun is that?  But for a fun, activity filled vacation it was great.  I had lots of sister time and extended time to spend with my nephew and his wife.  I can imagine that a cruise would be a nice way to spend a family vacation.  There is opportunity for everyone to do what they want and then opportunity at the end of the day to come together again and share with each other the events of the day.  Would I do it again?  Yes. 

Wanders with Winkie #3: Italy

In Italy we felt warmth, comfort and welcome - in fact a complete contrast to France.  My sister and I wondered if this was because we were familiar with the culture and people of Italy (our grandparents were Italian immigrants) or if indeed there was a difference in the atmosphere in this country.  I have to believe that it was both.  We indeed were more familiar with the social norms but also, there was a much more relaxed, accepting, welcoming feel to the country.  We visited three ports:

Tuscany:  I fell in love with this part of the country.  We visited Pisa. this was built as an elaborate bell tower to attest to the affluence of the area.  We climbed to the top and "touched the bell" and took in an awesome view.

We also visited a small winery where we got to sample an assortment of wines.  I wish I had brought some home, but I was unfamiliar with the procedures both on board the ship and going through customs.  This place is on my list for a re-visit.  They have apartments to rent on the property.  I could SO stay here...maybe even live here.  As I said, I fell in love with the place.

Rome/Vatican City:  These cities were both way TOO crowded to enjoy.  Perhaps it was the day we chose to go, but both places were a total body crush of people.  We spent more time trying to "follow the paddle" of the tour guide to prevent getting lost than we did enjoying the place.  The best part of this day was the lunch we had between the two major stops.  We were taken to an Italian restaurant and served a great meal.  I also enjoyed St. Peter's Basilica.  Any return to either of these places would be under much different circumstances such as a less busy time of year!

Sorrento:  I also liked this city.  We drove along the Amalfi coast::
And then visited a farm where they grow olives and lemons and make cheese.  We had a cheese making demonstration:

We had samples of their cheeses, oils and lemon cello.  They sold a lemon flavored olive oil which I thought was fantastic.  Dipping it in bread was almost like having desert.  Apparently the Sorrento area is known for their lemon cello.  Many stores were offering samples of their version.  It is a sweet liquor that is served ice cold.  Some small bottles came home as souvenirs. 

After the farm we had time to spend in the town looking at the shops and finding lunch.  We opted for a pizza place.  My nephew and his wife ordered a seafood pizza which came with clams as the seafood.  Our surprise was that the seafood was still in the shell! 

Next we visited Pompeii.  This was fascinating.  It was hot and we were tired so again, we just hit the high spots.  You could spend an entire day or more walking through this restoration.  It is very well done and gives good insight into life during that era.  One of the most visited places is the brothel complete with explicit pictures of the services available and beds....stone beds....ouch.  This is a picture of a pizza oven!

So, that concludes Italy!  I hope to get back some day and maybe have the chance to visit the little town our grandparents came from.  After all, now I'm an experienced international traveler!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wanders with Winkie #2: France

I feel a bit bad titling this with Winkie's name since he didn't accompany me on this trip.  His friend Smokey came instead.  Smokey is a much more compact pig and worked better for this trip.  If this pig talk is confusing, catch up with some past postings.

Smokey came with me on my Mediterranean cruise. We visited two towns in France and three in Italy.  France was beautiful, colorful and picturesque but the French people seemed a bit snobbish and judgemental to me.  I've been told that this is not an accurate - that although they give that impression, they are not truly like that.  To that I can only comment that often "perception is reality".  If you are portraying judgement, then in fact you are judgemental since the perception defines the characteristic.  On the positive side, our visit to several medieval towns finally helped me understand so many of the books and movies I've read and seen.

This made me laugh and made me wonder if the French were making a comment beyond what the sign says:

France was OK but I don't think I would purposely go back there.  I was glad to have seen it but just as glad to have left it.  Sorry, France.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fabric Stores In and Near Columbus, Ohio

I spent this last weekend in Columbus, Ohio with my husband.  I love the shopping in Columbus.  They have about every store you can imagine and we visited many of them.  On the top of my shopping list was finding a fish print fabric for my next quilting project.  I wasn't just looking for any fish.  I was looking for game fish, preferably salt water.  I visited many fabric stores on this quest and while I bought some fabric and added yet another quilt to my list, I came up short on the fish fabric.  I've learned that when I have such a specific item that I'm looking for, it's best to look and buy online.  I finally found the perfect fabrics at  But along the way I visited some great fabric stores and thought I would list them here:

Red Rooster Quilts:  This is actually in Dublin, Ohio which is northwest of Columbus.  But it is well worth the trip.  They have a great collection of quilting fabrics, a large clearance room and a lot of patterns and kits.  The staff is both friendly and knowledgeable.  I ended up buying a collection of Wizard of Oz prints since (as already established earlier) this is one of my all time favorite movies.

Sew to Speak:  This is a small store with a great blog.  Their fabrics were bright and cheerful.

Hobby Lobby:  This is a chain that I had not heard of before.  They don't have any stores around my home.  They are sort of a cross between Michael's and Jo Ann Fabric.  They had quite a bit of variety and would be certainly worth a visit.  Of course there is not the small store atmosphere of individually owned shops.

The Glass Thimble:  This store goes on and on and on.  It also has a great variety and a staff that knows their stock.  Best of all, they have a great "man couch" and a stock of magazines where my husband could wait for me to browse through the maze of rooms. I found the perfect fabric to bind my garden quilt here.

Quilt Beginnings:  This is another great quilt stores in Dublin.  I believe they have two stores, but the Dublin one was where I visited.  Another great assortment of fabric!  Every one of these stores could rate as better than my local options for variety.

Quilt Trends:  And yet again, great variety, great service, and very inspiring. This one tied with the Red Rooster as my favorite with the Glass Thimble right behind.

My husband often goes to Columbus for business and our son will be starting at Ohio State next month, so I expect to have reason to return to the area. I put my name on several lists to receive email and snail mail about what is going on at the stores.  While Columbus doesn't have much geographical attraction, it seems to be a very livable city.  The people are friendly, they are free of the religious self righteousness that is prevelant in my area and they have a dynamic infrastructure that provides many opportunities for activities and interests. 

On the last day of my visit we went to the Columbus Zoo.  It was one of the nicest zoos I have every visited.  It was well planned, clean, and resonably priced.  We planned on making a return visit there soon also.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Communication has changed so much over my lifetime.  When I was young, a long distance phone call was something reserved for special occasions or emergencies.  There was no email, no instant messaging, no cell phone texting.  When family members were apart we wrote to keep in touch.  And we ALL wrote in my family.  I have a cherished collection of letters from my father from my one summer at camp and from my first year in college.  They are so precious to me that I bought a fireproof box to store them in.  When I took mental inventory of what I would miss if all my belongings were lost in a fire, those letters were at the top of the list - hence the box. We don't write letters anymore.  Emails are written with less thought and then get deleted.  We often have no written record of our relationships to return to.  We are missing so much.

This week I very unexpectedly had another box of letters returned to me.  Most of these were written by my mother during my late college and early (first) married years.  Reading them again after so long is somewhat bittersweet.  Being older now allows me to see her through different, more adult, more compassionate eyes.  During this period she was a recent widow.  Until my father died she had never lived alone.  She grew up as the oldest in a large family and lived with her birth family until marrying my father.  They then lived just a few blocks from her family for about ten years before moving away.  As I read through the letters I could see that my mother secretly hoped that I would return to her home after I graduated and again provide some company for her.  Once I married and it became clear that my own plans did not include such a move, that hope died for her and she was faced with yet another change to adapt to.

My own path never took me back to the area where I grew up and never allowed me to have a relationship with my mother that was not complicated by the many miles between us.  When I was younger I didn't appreciate my family relationships enough.  Now I am close to my mother's age at the time of these letters and I see history repeating itself in my relationship with my children.  We are not separated by miles as my mother and I were, but neither are we close.  My son who recently married lives not five miles from me and yet I have not heard (even a phone call) from him since his wedding a month ago. I see a connection here.  My mother and I both emphasised independence, educational success, adventure, and maturing even in the face of personal challenges. (In one letter she commented that certain situations that required independence were difficult for "insecure people like us".  Interesting. I never considered her insecure.)  But when you push them out of the nest, you can't make them come back.  You just have to wish that they want to.  And I think that happens.  It just takes a long time to cycle around again to an appreciation of your childhood and a desire to return again to that place.

Monday, July 4, 2011

So, How About that Diet?

Well, I actually started this blog to keep track of my diet progress and to provide a certain amount of accountability in my weight loss endeavor.  Of course my lack of an audience sort of negates the accountability, but it is still nice to be able to keep track of my progress and to be able to set and reach goals along the way.  My initial goal was to lose 20 pounds during 2011 by lifestyle changes.  At the end of June, I had accomplished just over 1/2 of the goal with a 12 pound weight loss.  I was concerned about a cruise I took with my sister last month since I have heard that cruises are just one constant buffet.  Although it IS true that you can pretty much eat what you want whenever you want, I was able to keep that under control.  The daily excursions also helped with exercise and calories used each day.  Sightseeing can be pretty energy intensive!  The tower of Pisa has 294 stairs and the coliseum has just under 200.  And the bus never parked anywhere close to where we were going so there was often a significant walk to the sites.

I didn't do as well though in maintaining my dietary changes.  I did try to eat my 2 servings/day of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables but some days that didn't happen.  The fruit on the cruise was especially good, though and it helps that it was cut up and just waiting for me to put on my plate and eat.  Once I got home it was harder to return a good diet.  I was out of practice for preparing my own meals and lets face it, fruits and especially vegetables require more preparation than grabbing a granola bar.

But, all things considered, I'm happy to have accomplished my 1/2 year goal.  I think the next ten pounds may be even harder, but I'm going to forge ahead.  I like fitting into my clothes better (and even having some be too big).  I feel better overall even though I'm still a ways from the suggested weight for my height.  If only I could grow a few inches taller all would be fine!