Thursday, May 31, 2012

Quilting Update

I haven't forgotten about quilting.  I'm just a bit occupied the past few months with travel and summer yard work and such.  I'm presently trying to finish up two quilts.  One is a Wizard of Oz quilt that I hope to send to a college roommate of mine.  I lived in a house that was divided into two apartments.  Four girls lived in one and four in the other....all friends.  Recently we gathered for a 35 year reunion of sorts at a local restaurant.  This was the first time we had 100% turn out!  We passed around pictures - old ones from "back in the day" and more recent ones of our families.  I was reminded how one of the girls and I often dressed up as characters from the Wizard of Oz for Halloween.  One year we were both munchkins!  Anyway, I hope to send her this quilt when I get it finished.

The second quilt I'm trying to finish is a dog quilt.  My husband picked out a fabric panel well over a year ago and I've added to it with dog houses, bones and a few pictures of our sweet Golden Retriever. 

Both of them are pinned.  The Wizard just needs a bit more quilting and a binding.  If I'm lucky I'll have them both done before we head out for the beach!  I hope to bring a hand sewing project to the beach with me for the evenings....maybe my yo-yo stuff.  I want to make a table runner out of yo-yos.  So, if I can get them cut and gather up the supplies I'll take that along.

Hopefully they'll be pictures to post soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fabric Stores in Lancaster, PA

On our way to New Jersey we made an overnight stop in Lancaster, PA.  Lancaster is an Amish area and I had been told that there are some nice fabric stores nearby.  They also have outlet shopping.  We spent Friday visiting a few outlet stores and then met my brother and sister-in-law on Saturday morning.  The women went fabric shopping while the men held down a bench in the shade on a porch outside of the first store.  We really only visited two fabric stores.  The third store sold quilts already made.  It was inspiring to see the quilts and some new techniques but the fabric stores themselves were the most fun.  The fabric stores are actually in a little town called Intercourse, PA.  The street is filled with little shops that merit a visit.  The two we visited were:

The Old Country Store:  We left the men on this porch on the shady side of the street.  The store is a combination of things.  The front is filled with completed craft items for sale.  The back has many, many bolts of fabric and the upstairs is a quilt museum.  We enjoyed taking it all in.  We found a woven table runner that looked fun to make and my sister-in-law went home with the pattern for it.  You can check in out here. The museum had a nice collection of quilts many of them intimidating in their complexity and precision.

Zooks Fabric Store (no website that I can find):  This store is just up the street (east) and on the opposite side from the first one.  They win the prize for the most fabric!  There were bolts and bolts and bolts of fabric.  I was amazed to hear a customer ask for a specific fabric with roosters and one of the clerks knew exactly where it was stored among the thousands of bolts.  They had quilting fabric as well as dressmaking fabrics.  Both stores had prices several dollars a yard below what I typically pay here in my area.  I came home with a few yards of striped fabric for bindings.  I sometimes have trouble finding striped fabric that will work for binding so I figured that was a good addition to my stash.

There are many other fabric stores in the area, but we had to move on to get to New Jersey in time for an event in the evening.  It also was a VERY warm day and our air conditioner in the car decided to stop working properly.  We bought a small ice chest and filled in with ice and bottled water to make the hot trip more bearable.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lucy the Elephant

This weekend we traveled to New Jersey for a family event.  We decided to take an extra day and check out an attraction that I had missed during my many years living in the Garden State.  Just south of Atlantic City there is a small beach town called Margate where Lucy the Elephant lives.  Lucy is a building shaped like an elephant built 130 years ago.  She has a fascinating history that  you can read about on her web site.  She sits right near the beach in a little fenced in area all her own.  You can take a tour of the inside for $7 each or just look around the outside for free.  There is a little gift shop and a grill next door.  You can climb up onto her howdah and get a nice view of the area.  I had a great time taking in this little piece of beach history.
Once we were done visiting Lucy we drove north to Atlantic City to donate some money to the slot machines in the casino.  We opted for Cesar's because we stumbled on their parking garage first.  When we entered the garage the price for parking was listed as $10 but somehow when we exited several hours later that price had ballooned to $20!  But, our goal was to have some fun and try our luck.  My strategy is to choose a machine that truly allows you to bet just one cent at a time if you choose.  Some of them are called penny machines, but their minimum bet is 25 or 30 cents.  One of my favorite machines uses a Wizard of Oz theme and we played that for awhile, but it was too pricey for my blood at 5 cents per line!  The real fun is when you win something special like extra spins or the chance to play the odds by choosing different "stars" with different winnings behind each one.  The casino is like it's own world.  Once your inside one you could be anywhere in the country and it could be any time of day....morning, evening or the middle of the night.  About the only thing that changes is the crowd. 

Once we tired of that we made our way back to my sisters house for a Memorial Day cook out and then back to the hotel to crash.  So today I'm catching up once again with the usual: unpacking, laundry, fill the bird feeders, water the plants and prepare for our next adventure coming up in just two weeks!

Friday, May 25, 2012

England and Scotland: the Wrap Up

Our trip deserves one last post.  I haven't yet mentioned my culinary surprises in Scotland.  We ate breakfast each morning in the hotel dining room since it was included in the cost of our stay.  The offerings were basically familiar to us with a few variations.  The breakfast meats and sausages had slightly different flavors and, of course, there was the traditional haggis available.  There was also porridge each morning which was much like oatmeal.  Next to the porridge was brown sugar (no surprise), maple syrup (I can understand that), and........a bottle of scotch.  I never saw anyone actually put the scotch on their porridge, but the cook assured me that scotch was traditionally used on porridge and haggis.  The last morning we were there, however, the bottle was drained.  Someone enjoyed it, with or without the porridge!

One morning I was looking for honey to put on my toast.  There were these small packages, much like we use in this country for jam in restaurants.  I couldn't read the small print, but the picture looked like maybe it was a bee hive and I decided that this must be my honey.  When I opened it, the color was dark, but I just decided that honey must be darker in Scotland.  It was also sort of thick, but again, I just convinced myself that this was Scottish honey.  But then I tasted it!!  There was nothing sweet about it.  In fact, I couldn't even bring myself to swallow the one bite of toast that I took.  It turns out that rather than honey, this was something called Marmite.  It's made from the sludge left over from beer production.  Even in the UK I'm told that people either love it or hate it.  I'm in the hate column.

On the way home, we decided to fly from Edinburgh to Heathrow rather than take the train back.  We were sitting at the gate at Edinburgh airport waiting for our flight.  Our plane arrived at the gate and the passengers were getting off when I spotted someone who looked familiar to me.  It took a moment for my brain to figure out who she was when suddenly I realized that Susan Boyle had just walked past me! Another first!

I think we could have stayed a lot longer and not run out of things to see.  As I write this I want to go back and see more, but by the end of the trip I began to miss the familiar.  I missed my husband.  I missed my dog.  I missed food that I recognized, a shower that would get hot and my own bed.  I think seeing a different part of the world has really made me "grow" in a way.  That's sort of strange to say since I certainly feel "all grown up"  But, I understand more about things outside my own little corner of the world in ways that I didn't before.  And the things that I learned and experienced can't be absorbed by a book, by the Internet or by a TV show or movie.  Those things go a long way in our understanding of the rest of the world, but they don't replace the actual experience.  I understand why travel is considered an important part of education and I'm glad that my children have had opportunities to travel. 

Hopefully there will be a chance to do it all again:  see new places, have new adventures, learn new things and make new memories.  And in the meantime......there's quilting to be done!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wanders with Winkie #7: The Rest of Scotland

I don't want to leave the impression that the rest of our time in Edinburgh was disappointing.  Each day held new adventures and new things to see.  And there was much that we had to pass on for lack of time and endurance. 

We spent one day exploring the Royal Mile.  This is an old part of the original walled town that stretches from Edinbourgh Castle to Holyrood Palace which is the Queen's home in Scotland.  We visited several shops looking for just the right presents to bring home.  Eventually we realized that much of the merchandise was the same in each shop and we had pretty much covered the majority of the offerings. We rode a bus called the Hop On Hop Off bus.  It seemed like it was a way to have transportation throughout the day but in reality I think it was meant to be a tour of the area.  It served it's purpose in giving us a way around town, but I wouldn't put this on my "repeat" list.  We visited St. Giles Cathedral and walked over to the other side of town where there are "regular" (as opposed to tourist) stores.  Besides my family gifts, I came home with two items for myself.  I found a brand of shoes, Brasher, that I've never seen for sale here.  They have a comfortable, roomy fit and a pair now live in my closet.  We also came across a shop that makes custom kilts selling fabric remnants!  I came home with a collection of different tartans that will hopefully be transformed into a special remembrance from this trip.

The next day the weather was particularly miserable with high winds and drizzly rain all day.  We decided to do an indoor activity and opted for a visit to Holyrood Palace.  The Palace is only open when it is not being used by a member of the Royal family and in fact this was the only day of our stay when visiting was possible. It was very interesting.  Much of the Palace was basically historic with the Royal apartments on the third floor closed to tours.
We walked around the town a bit more until we were tired of getting beat on by the wind and then we made our way back to the hotel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wanders with Winkie #6: The Scottish Highlands

Hurray for Hairy Coo!!  When we were planning our trip to Scotland, we realized that it wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Highlands.  In fact, for me, much of the appeal of visiting this country was in seeing the geography that always looks so magnificent in pictures and film.  We considered renting a car and driving ourselves around but I am SO glad we didn't do that!  Driving anywhere in the UK looked very intimidating to me, starting with the fact that you are driving on the left in a right hand drive car; the cars drive very close to each other and many of the turns are accomplished in traffic circles of sorts (going in the opposite direction, of course).

We stumbled upon these Hairy Coo tours.  They are the #1 rated tour in TripAdvisor and for good reason.  The groups are small, the tour guide is knowledgeable and entertaining and you can't beat the price.  There is no charge for the tour.  It is a "tip only" policy.  At the conclusion of this all day excursion, you pay only the value of the tour to you.  The exact itinerary of the tour is dependent on the group and the weather.  We saw a variety of sites including:  the bridge at the Firth of Fourth:

several infamous lochs:
the castle where Monty Python was filmed:

and the name sake of the tours - the hairy coo.  This is Fiona:

In addition, we saw Stirling Castle, the William Wallace monument, and a small town called Aberfoyle.  We learned the real braveheart story, listened to Scottish music, and basically fell in love with Scotland's country and culture.

I hope I have the chance to visit again and I hope that Russell and the guys who run the Hairy Coo tour are still giving tours.  Thanks, Russell!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wanders with Winkie #5: London

If you're following the "pig" theme,  I didn't actually have Winkie with me this time, but I've decided to still name my travel posts for him.

We flew into Heathrow arriving early in the morning after an all night flight.  We managed to find our way through immigration, to baggage claim and onto the Heathrow Express to London.  I had done plenty of research ahead of time so I had an idea of what to expect at each step but was also realistic enough to know that there are always surprises.  But, we made it to Paddington Station and managed to find a taxi to our hotel where we crashed for several hours trying to feel somewhat human again.  In the afternoon we took a Duck Tour.  These are tours that start out on land and then continue on water using amphibious vehicles from WW II.  I had gone on one several years ago in Seattle and thought it was very enjoyable.  This one was not quite as good, but provided us with a nice overview of London with little effort on our tired bodies.
The second day we started out by oversleeping - still trying to adjust to the time change and then spent the rest of the day at the Tower of London.  We didn't get to see the current crown jewels since Queen Elizabeth was wearing some of them to open Parliament that day.  But there was plenty of bling left behind to impress.  I had several "take aways" from this part of the trip including:  The guard at the crown jewels wears a rather impractical dress uniform but carries a VERY serious weapon.  He clearly is there for more than show. The towers where prisoners were kept were sort of odd prisons.  They had large windows with only the height from the ground as a true deterrent to escape.  And it was strange that after executing some of the prisioners, they were then buried in the chapel in a place of honor.  That seemed like a sort of contridiction to me.
We also checked out London Bridge, but we were too late to take a tour inside.  The next morning we made our way to King's Crossing Train Station for a four hour train ride to Edinburgh.  As I mentioned, this was my first train ride of this sort. I was glad to have the experience.  My one amazement was the pressure in my ears as the train went through a tunnel!  I wasn't expecting that at all.

A few other observations included:  London fashion loves their tights - both with and without skirts.  A lot of the younger people working at the hotel and tourist spots were from other European countries.  Many of them had a sort of "awe" about New York City.  I found that interesting since London has everything that NYC has and more, but somehow there was a sort of fascination with NYC.  Water is not provided automatically at restaurants.  They really like their sparkling water - at room temperature and without ice.  In fact, there was no ice machine in the hotel, no ice bucket in the room.  And no top sheets on the beds.  Little things, I know, but they were all different for my sister and me.  It's those little things that add together to make the different "feel" of another country.  We even noticed that the smells were different - not good or bad, just different from what we recognized at home.

We left a lot undone in London and I wouldn't hesitate to go back again.  I'm even making peace with the craziness of Heathrow.  So maybe one day we will make a return trip.

Next - the Highlands of Scotland.

Friday, May 18, 2012

New Pig Travels: London and Edinburgh

Last year I made my first trip outside of North America when I went on a cruise with my sister and her son and his wife.  We had a great time and thought that perhaps we could try to go on a sister trip each year. So this year we decided to go to England and Scotland.  We spent two nights in London and four nights in Edinburgh.  Since neither of us is an experienced world traveler, everything was an adventure.  The trip allowed me to see things I had never seen before, to have some extended sister time and to absorb the differences of another country and it's own distinct culture.  There was so much to "learn" from the new currency to how to ride a train (believe it or not, the only trains I had ridden before this were subway/metro types or tourist trains) to what marmet is (more about that later).  I'm going to write about this in several posts, mostly because it is too much to put into one.  And I took a lot of "bad" vacation pictures to share.  The weather was pretty terrible - rainy and cloudy just about every day - making the pictures even worse than normal - but you know how I feel about pictures. I had a faithful pig companion with me the whole time - two in fact - but this is the only picture I got of them. 
The "pig thing" is explained here.  For the record, this is Smokey (the little darker pig) and Smiley.  Smiley actually was a stow away put into my suitcase by my husband.  We're never too old to appreciate a touch of home when we're away.


Friday, May 4, 2012

The Home as "Parent"

I lived in one house my entire childhood.  Others, including my HW moved every few years.  Even though I tried to provide my children with the stability of staying in one place during their growing up years, I can appreciate the advantages of both the adventure of new places and the stability of a few.  But in either case I think the important thing is to establish "home" as a safe place to be.  In that way it sort of takes on the role of a "parent".  We establish it, we create it and in a way it becomes an extension of us caring for our loved ones and at times caring for us. Home should be predictable.  Home should provide the essentials a person needs.  When the boys were old enough to stay alone for a few hours my rule was usually that they had to stay in the house.  I knew that the house was predictable and the trouble they could encounter was limited.  I realize that there can be home disasters - fire, power outages and such - but if the house is well maintained, these are not likely and dealing with them (basically, get away from the fire and get help) can be taught.  The boys had several houses growing up but they each quickly became home.  I think it's something we tend to take for granted, but something that forms a strong foundation of security in us.  Even as adults, after a long work day or a vacation we all like to come "home".  

I have two favorite "home" quotes from vastly different sources:  "There's no place like home." from The Wizard of Oz.  and....
"Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike; Indiana's misty morning dew; way up in the hills of Colorado; home is just another word for you.  from Billy Joel's Travelin' Prayer.

And a home takes maintenance and work, but all good relationships do!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My First Online Comment!!

Mark this day on the calendar!  I've received my first online comment!  I know I've complained about the lack of dialogue on this blog (or maybe whined is a better word) but it has finally happened!  Thank you so much Heirloom Creations!  This is one of my favorite sites for inspiration and information.  They are presently doing a "foot of the month" series that I really like.  Each month they highlight a different foot showing the different things you can use it for.  I've added a few of them to my "wish list" and actually want to plan projects that will let me try some of the techniques.  The link above is to the blog, but the site includes a lot of other features including an online store.

Thanks again, Heirloom and I'm looking forward to the adaptations to make the 1600 quilt in different sizes!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Well, for the first time since I started this blog and my quest to reach a healthier weight, I've gone a bit in the wrong direction.  It's only a pound or two, but nonetheless, I need to nip this in the bud.  I want to blame a new prescription I started a few weeks ago - a statin drug to tame my unruly cholesterol, but I think that might be a bit of a cop out.  I've avoided these drugs for about ten years now but statistics being what they are, my age now adds to my risk factors and makes cholesterol control more important to my doctor.  For me, high cholesterol is more genetic than dietary. And given that fact, I wonder if it doesn't serve some yet undiscovered purpose in our bodies.  But, I finally caved to the urgings of my doctor that I would avoid trouble later on if I controled it now.  Here's the appitite seems to be different.  I get hungry more often, I crave carbs, and I want to eat more.  So, which is healthier: a skinny me with a high cholesterol or an overweight me with a low cholesterol?  I would vote for the skinny me every time because there are so many other benefits to the low weight.  But first I need to see if I can indeed turn this around and lose weight while still on the medication.  If not, I guess I need to exercise my "patient's rights".