Monday, July 30, 2012

Back From Quilt Camp- Tumbling Blocks Pieced!

My tumbling blocks (pattern from a book by Marci Baker) from Quilt Camp 2010 came home pinned to this board, and went to this year's camp still pinned there:

I had all but given up on them because I was told that the only way to assemble them was to lay the entire batch out on a board, bed, floor, etc. and take them to the sewing machine to piece together in that exact order! What???? I don't think so. So for two years, I have run this process through my mind looking for the always-possible-but-never-easy-to-figure-out shortcut. Well, it looks like I finally figured it out, and my Random Tumbling Blocks came home looking like this:

This exercise just proves to me once again that randomness is nothing to fear! I like the way it turned out. Because there were only five block colors, the orange and yellow ended up together a bit too often for my taste, but I think that would've been a problem even with excessive (or obsessive) planning. Now all it needs is borders!

Laura finished hers a few months ago- it's king-size! I love her color-way. Of the finished ones I've seen so far, I like hers best. Most of us saw translated the tumbling blocks into a kid's quilt, but she brought it very successfully into the adult realm.

This year's quilt project was 10 Minute Quilt Blocks by Suzanne McNeill (click here to see a YouTube video of the technique. I didn't do one for two reasons: a) I'm on a mission to finish up UFO's and b) I was still working on 2010's project!

It was fun to see how different they all looked. Everyone who participated took home a finished top, ready to quilt.

Kathy's (from a pink jellyroll)
Lou's (from a layer cake) 
Laura's (from a layer cake)
Mary Ellen's (from her own fabric and a similar pattern)
Sandy's (from a jellyroll)
There's lots more to say about camp, but this is all I have time for right now! I'll hope to show you the completed tumbling blocks quilt very soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hanging Out at NRV Fair When I Should've Been Packing for Quilt Camp!

All the essentials are packed and ready to go to Sew Biz Quilt Camp, which starts tomorrow:

My Bernina Quilter's Edition 440 with all its accessories are in the blue sewing machine carrier with (thank you, Bernina) padded handles.

The pink/brown caddy on top of that holds scissors, rotary cutting tools, seam rippers, assorted measuring and marking tools, pin cushions and pins, and all other notions.

My leather-handled market basket holds a chair cushion, cutting mat, cutting/ironing surface, and baggies full of half-done projects to work on.

The main thing I plan to work on at camp was actually started at Quilt Camp 2010. You can see that all the colorful tumbling block sections have already been pieced, and the brown background pieces have been cut. They just need to be arranged and strip-pieced. This is no small task, of course, which is why it's been moved from board to board for two years with no progress made (or even attempted). The fabric pinned below is for the border. Maybe I'll come home with a quilt top! Or maybe not... it just depends on what the fun Sew Biz ladies have up their sleeves for the weekend!

My portable design board was a gift at camp one year. It started out as as just a large, thick slab of styrofoam, which got even better with a tea-dyed muslin covering. So useful- and light to carry!

Some of my stuff is packed in my adorable new bags from TJ Maxx- made of my favorite Michael Miller fabrics! Hanging behind is the two yards of this fabric that I already had. I'm planning to make an iron caddy at camp to match! The smallest bag was perfect for my rotary stuff, and the larger held my most useful thread spools for camp.

So, that's the essentials. Tomorrow morning I'll have time to charge my camera, phone and cam-corder, and to pack the frivolous stuff- like a bed linens, clothes and toiletries!

Tonight, I had a great time with Mabz (left) and her friend at the New River Valley Fair!

One of the Fair highlights for me was seeing the 22 quilts made from the Sew Biz challenge fabrics! I'll post more about the challenge, the Fair and all about camp next week.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sewing Room Sunday: New River Valley Fair Quilt Challenge Update

A lot creative quilts made from this packet of challenge fabric, which I posted about back in May, will be on display next week (starting tomorrow) at the New River Valley Fair.


I didn't make any of them. I guess you could say that life got in my way. If you know me, you're not at all surprised. I am a little disappointed in my own lack of follow-through, since I have always wanted to do a challenge like this. However, I'd have to admit now, after seeing Sew Biz's photo album of the quilts (click on the first photo to view full size, then click through all 14), that I was not nearly as inspired as the quilters whose work is on display at the fair! But I did have one unique idea (maybe I'll still do it, just to see!)- a window made of the green and turquoise fabrics, with the red poppies showing through each pane and curtains on each side made of the striped fat quarter. Envisioning it, though, I don't think it would've been as pretty as what some of the other quilters did. Another idea I had involved cutting out some of the poppies and fusing them to another piece of fabric from my stash to use as a border... well, you can probably see why I didn't do that one!

I'll say this for myself though: I enjoyed what I did instead (see vacation posts here and here). As far as the whole month of June, I really couldn't tell you where that went. The summer is just flying by!

Getting ready for Quilt Camp

I'll post later in the week as I pack up to head over to Selu Conservancy in Radford for Sew Biz Quilt Camp (our seventh) on Thursday. Two full days and two half days of fun, friends, food and quilting (too bad there's no synonym starting with "f" to use here for alliteration...)! Here's a picture of some of us at last year's camp:

Camelia, Laura, me in the middle, Mary Ellen, and Judy

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feelin' Peachy!

Is there anything prettier than a fresh peach? Maybe two...

Over 150 Peach Recipes

The Working Homekeeper got me craving fresh peaches by posting three recipes using North Carolina peaches:  Peach Ice Cream (without an ice cream maker)Peach Pie from scratch, and Peach Jam. They all sounded delicious, but my favorite way to eat a peach is simply washed and sliced. I rarely feel the urge to embellish it further. But if you do, or you have lots of peaches to use up, like Jamie probably did, follow these links to over 150 mouth-watering peach recipes:

How to Choose Peaches

According to my 1959 edition of The Culinary Arts Institute's Encyclopedic Cookbook, peaches "should be free from blemishes, firm, fresh-appearing with white or yellowish ground color. Green ground color indicates fruit was picked too soon to allow ripening."

Growing a Peach Tree From a Peach Pit

Dickey Farms offers instructions on how to plant a peach pit and, within three years, grow your own peach tree!  I'd love to try that, but my gardening success has been limited to herbs! Even with a fence, the deer and other critters have always managed to eat everything else I've planted. If you try it, I'd love to hear how it turns out.

A Peach is a Peach- Right?

OK. I did know that there are two types of peaches- white and yellow (the color of the flesh). But The Family Circle Dessert and Fruit Cookbook (1954) from my collection explains that peaches can be further subdivided beyond color into freestones (the stone pulls easily away from the flesh) and clingstones (the flesh clings closely to the stone). I can remember watching the episode of All in the Family where Edith talks about "cling peaches" and never really knew what she meant! Now I do, thanks to my vintage cookbook collection.

 The Best Way to Drink a Peach

I couldn't possible close this peachy post without mentioning my very favorite cocktail- the Bellini! Created by Harry Cipriani at Harry's Bar in Venice, and named for an Italian impressionist painter, the proper Bellini is made with prosecco sparkling wine and fresh white peach puree. I fell in love with this pink, effervescent drink at Harry Cipriani on Fifth Avenue in New York last summer. Since then, I've learned that most restaurants do not make them the same way. Probably because most bartenders do not happen to have fresh   white peaches lying around behind the bar just waiting for someone to order a Bellini. Some substitute peach concentrate or syrup, which is not as frothy as fresh white peach puree, but acceptable. And some substitute champagne for the prosecco, which isn't incredibly different unless you're a sparkling wine expert. But don't waste your time on a Bellini made with peach liqueur. It's not even close!

If you want to try making Bellinis at home, here's Mario Batali's Bellini recipewhich sounds authentic. 

What's your favorite way with peaches?

P.S. I'm still having a little trouble with random, involuntary highlighting of text! Please excuse it when you see it...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sewing Room Sunday: Pink Paisley Scarves

Mabz is at a sleepover tonight, so right after this post I'm heading up to my cottage to address the three yards of silk I brought back from New York's Garment District. I had to buy a yard and a half of each because I like long, rectangular scarves, which are best made along the lengthwise grain.

These are my favorite color (pink) and my favorite pattern (paisley)! My favorite scarf in my drawer right now is also- you guessed it- pink paisley.  Well, three yards of pink paisley ought to make a lot of scarves. So if you are a friend who's due a gift anytime soon, it's probably going to be a scarf. Just let me know your preferred size and shape, and which print you like best:

This one?

Or this one?

Well, off I go to figure out how best to hem the edges. Rolled hem with the serger? Tiny machine hem with turned edges? Handsewn? Lord, I hope it's not handsewn...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Baby Skunk Sighting!

This week, we saw a mommy skunk crossing the front yard next door with two adorable babies following behind. Now, I'm not a big fan of skunks for obvious reasons, but they do look just like little kitty cats!

Right outside our back door!

Tonight, one of the babies ventured into our backyard all alone. Cute as could be, I'll admit, but just a little too close for comfort. Steve tried to shoo him away (from a distance, of course), but he just mosied over to hide under the thick bushes near my sewing cottage. Online sources say that baby skunks can spray, so now, when I go out there after dark tonight to sew, I risk getting sprayed! Great...

Just last night, I startled a raccoon out there. Did you ever hear a raccoon bark? I swear that 'coon was barking as it ran away and up a tree. Yes, I'm sure it was a raccoon. And yes, I'm sure it was barking! Check out this YouTube video of a barking raccoon. (I just had to look it up...)

So wish me luck tonight. I'll let you know if I'm bathing in tomato juice tomorrow. Does anyone think that really works?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Five Days Aboard the Queen Mary 2

On July 1 (day 1), we boarded the Queen Mary 2 from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The cruise, called a "Fourth of July Getaway: North American Odyssey" is the same one we took last year. After doing the same thing twice I feel like I finally got to see most of the ship- it's huge! This is how huge- look at it berthed next to what appears to be a three-story building in Nova Scotia!

On day 2, we were at sea travelling towards Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). The weather was clear and we enjoyed this view from our private balcony:

At 6:30 am on day 3, we arrived in Nova Scotia. The ship was greeted in the harbor by "Theodore", a tugboat with a big smile and a ball cap! Last year, we had a blast touring the harbor aboard Theodore.

Nova Scotia has a beautiful pier and plenty of beautiful blue water for the cruise ship tourists. 

This year, since we had previously toured Halifax and rain was threatening, we stayed within walking distance of the QM2 and enjoyed the harbor area and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Some of the musicians playing for tips on the pier play the bagpipes. Nova Scotia, after all, means "New Scotland".

And there are lighthouses, which I absolutely adore. I took this picture last year from aboard Theodore the Tugboat. 

This part of Canada is similar to the U.S. in many ways- they speak our language and they accept our currency. But some things are different:

If I had not eaten a big breakfast on the ship, I would've definitely tried one of those McLobsters!

Day 4 was a leisurely day at sea, on the way back down the coast to Boston. We could have been there by the next morning, but then it wouldn't be a five day cruise, would it? The extra day gives you a little time to rest up and enjoyed the ship's activities. We were greeted in the morning (obviously, we missed the actual sunrise because I was not getting up that early) by this view from our balcony:

Now that's a great way to start the day! On sea days, we enjoyed bridge lessons, plays (including the Canterbury Tales), two Juilliard Jazz Orchestra concerts, two classical piano concerts, an amazing Nat King Cole tribute performer, deck games, ping pong, Scrabble at a game table overlooking the ocean, a British film, and other activities too numerous (and fun!) to mention. On formal night, we attended the Black and White Ball. I got to wear a full-length gown for the first time since prom! Some other activities we couldn't squeeze in were: swimming, dance lessons, drama classes, casino gambling, watercolor classes, computer classes, a planetarium film, and the list goes on. I should note for you here that if you are looking for waterparks, rock-climbing walls and such, a Cunard cruise is probably not for you.

And the sunset that evening was particularly gorgeous.

This would probably be a good time to mention that we ate a lot. We reserved a Queens Suite, which entitles you to eat your meals in a small restaurant called the Queens Grill, where you have your own assigned table and waitstaff, and the most delicious food you can imagine. I tried foods I've never been offered before- most I loved, a few (perhaps surprisingly) I didn't (caviar, foie gras, rare ahi tuna). But I've never eaten better food or experienced better service on land or sea! 

On day 5, we could have left the ship in Boston and didn't have to return until 11:45 pm for sailaway at midnight. However, since it was nearly 100 degrees, and since we seen a lot of Boston before, we elected just to stay on the ship! It was a great time to get some lobby shots of the ship, while so many of the other passengers were ashore.

And to enjoy one of my favorite places on the ship, the library:

After dinner, from our balcony, we enjoyed the fireworks on the Boston skyline from dusk until well after midnight as we sailed out of the harbor.

I'll admit that debarking  (a fancy word for getting off the ship) at 9 am, catching a cab to Penn Station, waiting for our train, riding the train for and hour and a half longer than expecting, and arriving home at midnight to our storm-damaged property was a bit of a letdown. But we had the time of our lives (again)! 

Thanks for reading such a long post. I wish you could've come with us!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Four Days in the Big Apple

As I mentioned in my last post, we just returned from a nine-night vacation.  Two weeks ago tomorrow, we left home at 5 am to board a train to New York City at this quaint little Amtrak station in Lynchburg, Virginia.

This beautiful moonlit view was from the lower end of New York City's Central Park (husband and daughter leaning on the fence), a very short walk from the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, where we were made to feel at home in a city where it's very difficult to feel at home if you're not "city folk".

Of course, we shopped and shopped on Madison and Fifth Avenues (window shopped, mostly), walking our legs off in 95 to 100 degree heat!

My favorite shopping excursion was to the Garment District (also called the Fashion District), where there are, block after block, fabric stores galore (apparel only, not quilting), trim and notions shops, tailor shops, and more. A highlight of the day was our visit to Mood, made famous by Project Runway. I bought two beautiful silks which I can't wait to turn into scarves of all shapes and sizes! You know you've reached the Fashion District when you see the big button:

The most beautiful place we visited was The Morgan Library. This room was the person library of J. Pierpont Morgan, who collected most of the leather books housed in this room, some of which date to the 15th century. The museum also owns a vast collections of original musical and literary manuscripts, some of which are on display here. We were hoping to see works of Jane Austen and Chopin, but they weren't included in the current exhibits. It was a thrill, however, to view personal papers of Mozart, Henry David Thoreau and others.

This volume from the 1400s, printed on vellum, is embellished with gorgeous hand-colored drawings. I couldn't help thinking that, due to our dependence on technology, our generation may never have anything this beautiful to pass along.

I think the neatest thing I saw (of course, I'm a word nut), was a draft of Noah Webster's first edition dictionary, in his own handwriting.  I believe they said it took him 23 years to complete, and was the only dictionary ever compiled by one person alone. He also learned 26 languages so that he could note the origins of the words. Incredible!

Mabzie designed her own muppet at the FAO Schwartz workshop (shown above) Below: muppet (left), puppet-maker (right).

One of our most unique meals in NYC was at Fishtail. They serve their fries in these tiny fry baskets:

As we were eating, a gentleman came to our table and introduced himself as David Burke, which meant nothing to me until he added that he was the owner of the restaurant. Which still meant nothing to me until I got home, googled him, and learned that he's a celebrity chef. Where have I been? All I know is, he serves some delicious dry roasted mussels!

Another beautiful building is the New York Public Library, built completely of marble in 1913!

I'm out of time for tonight, but I'll tell you about the second part of our trip as soon as I get a chance.

What are your NYC favorites?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Back From Vacation! Not Such a Warm Welcome Home...

We just got back from a fabulously fun nine-day vacation. I'll tell you all about it as soon as time permits, but here's a little hint, actually two since it was a two-part trip:

Days 1-4

Days 5-9

Here's a glimpse of what we returned home to on Sunday night, which is why I haven't much time to elaborate right now:

Side Yard
Front Yard (this one turned into a 3 tree pile-up)
The 3 above are our trees, and our fence, in our next door neighbors'  yard...
While we were gone, we missed a 90-mile-per-hour wind storm! I'm told I should be glad I missed it, and I am. We were fortunate that there was no significant property damage. A tree belonging to our other adjoining neighbor came to rest gently next to my sewing cottage, crushing two corners of the copper gutter and blocking the entrance, while managing to not even scratch the paint! So I do feel lucky. But between chain-sawing, carrying logs, dragging brush around (all in 90-plus degree heat), and writing checks to the arborists who must do the dangerous work of removing all the trees that are severely damaged but still standing, it looks like I'm going to be busy for the next few days.

Thanks for reading my pre-scheduled posts while I was gone. I can't wait to share with you about my vacation, and I promise- no boring, lengthy slide shows- just a few highlights!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day: Fabulous Fireworks!

No matter how you're celebrating today, I hope you're enjoying time with family and friends. I'll have plenty to share with you later about my Independence Day festivities, but for now, here are some gorgeous French fireworks images (thanks to, which is definitely worth a look- good reading too, I'm sure, if you happen to read French...):
We usually share fireworks with friends and neighbors, or take part in a community celebration. It seems like such a waste to send money "up in smoke" like that just for your own enjoyment. I believe in getting "more bang for the buck".  But I've never seen a fireworks display this beautiful! Leave it to the Europeans...
What are your Fourth of July traditions?