Arizona sunset

Arizona sunset

I know the silly palm trees weren’t here to begin with, but they do look lovely

Crafts, Quilting, Uncategorized

Quilting Inspiration

With creative activities , there’s always something that sparks the imagination to get the ball rolling. First, let me tell you that I find quilting to be a very creative activity. There are so many decisions to make during the process: how wide should the border be, what colors to put next to each other, how to bind or edge the quilt, and on and on. Second, since it’s creative, I need some inspiration and that’s where The Patchwork Girl of Oz came in. At a very young age, my parents read The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum to me. The Patchwork Girl herself was rather spoiled, maybe even narcissistic. However, since she was made from a crazy quilt, it peeked my interest in quilts and quilting. So I started to badger, yes that’s right, badger my grandmother to make a crazy quilt for me. I had no idea what a crazy quilt was, but I wanted one! So, unbeknown to me she started a quilt. At the time, she was getting on in years and had moved into a ‘home’. This was around 1950. Her hands were old and stiff with arthritis and resources were limited. She had never made a crazy quilt, so she did the only pattern she knew well, a basic nine patch. She gathered old shirts from other residents, cut them into tiny pieces (no pattern here, just years of practice), and pulled out seams. Then slowly she began to assemble them into a work of art.

Years later, after she was gone, I would discover her work of love, carefully tucked away, and begin my own journey, finishing what she had started so long ago. It took me quite a while to research how to work with a vintage quilt top. Then it took me much longer to determine how to add a border, what fabric to use, how to quilt it (I did it all by hand as she had pieced it), and finally what fabric to use for the binding. What you see in these photos is coming down to the final stretch. I used quilt clips to hold the binding in place as I stitched. They made that task a snap. 

In my next blog post, I’ll share some great tips I picked up and images of the finished quilt!


Crafts, Uncategorized

Saved by an Apron …

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I’ve communicated, but here I am. In the intervening time, I’ve traveled/visited Mesa Verde, friends in Edmonds, Colorado, sold our home of 19 years, bought a condo (downsizing from 4400 square feet to 1400!), packed, packed, donated, sold, packed, packed, gave away, found a temporary home (for some of our belongings), had an amazing party for our friends in Normal, IL, had lots of lunches with friends, packed, packed, organized, organized, took one load of ‘precious stuff’ to our daughter’s in Minneapolis, gave away more, packed more, organized more, (you get the picture).

Now I just want to share what we did this last week. Our daughter, Ellie from Duluth, visited and we had a little sewing spree distracting me from my unpacking and reorganizing activities. Needless to say it was needed. Our move date was June 2nd and I was feeling the strain. We started out on a lovely tote bag pattern. Her sister, Anna, had bought the fabric as a present for her some time ago. We all thought this would be a great project. So, we’re merrily cutting and trimming along and down to the last pieces when I cut the lining wrong making it so there was not enough fabric to finish the job and no JoAnne Fabric stores in sight.

Ellie saved the day! She had a simpler project we could finish quickly, making an apron from a kitchen towel. There’s a million free patterns on the internet, but here’s what we did:

1. pressed the towel, then added 2 darts to the top, outer sides to give it some shape

2. used scrap fabric to make a wide neck band

3. sewed vintage buttons on to give it some pizazz

4. added a ribbon around the waist long enough so she could wrap it around and tie it in the front…


The more creative you get, the more fun these are to make. You could add pockets, or a different tie. I guess the tote bag will happen during the next visit.

Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

Arizona Week #6 Highlights: March 21 – 27

We had a little change this week and took a break from Mesa and headed South to Tucson to visit friends, Linda and Harry, and take in the sights. It takes a special kind of person to host out of town visitors and provide amazing entertainment. So our hats are off to you.

  • Tour around Tucson: we got the 50 cent tour of Tucson. Featured were the barrios that have been undergoing revitalization. My favorite part – the colors! Second favorite part – the small intimate settings. Everything is on a much smaller scale than we are used to today. Third favorite part – that they cared enough to make it happen.

  • The Desert Museum: majorly windy but still amazing. Loved seeing desert animals in natural settings ( I even have a photo on Flickr of a Javelina), loved to reinforce my knowledge of desert plants and learn about new ones, great walk around the grounds, and lots of information on the geological evolution of the Sonoran Desert. Check it out! www.desertmuseum.org
  • The Medicine Man Gallery: The MM Gallery was very friendly and open to non-buying visitors. They had a combination of vintage cowboy art and contemporary. Vintage primarily included a large collection of work by Maynard Dixon, Indian hand woven rugs, jewelry and pottery. In the contemporary works, what blew my socks off was the sculpture. I couldn’t photograph any of it, but artists included Shirley Thomson-Smith, Deborah Copenhaver-Fellows, Star Liana York, and painter Josh Elliott. Check it out! http://www.medicinemangallery.com/
  • Lunch at the Arizona Inn (above): this is a beautiful oasis in a busy city. The Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1930 by Arizona Congresswoman Isabella Greenway. The Inn is still owned and maintained by members of the family. Originally surrounded by desert, there was even a rodeo across the ‘street’. Isabella was as colorful as the amenities. She had two husbands both of which were members of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. To add to the mystic of the inn, past guests have included presidents and movie stars. But it doesn’t stop there. Isabella also started a cabinet-making shop, “The Arizona Hut”  and hired returning WWI veterans to run and work in it. Check it out! www.arizonainn.com
  • University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography: next on our ‘must do’ list in Tucson was a visit to UA’s photography galleries where we saw 40 works by Ansel Adams along with other contemporaries of his (Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Alfred Stieglitz, etc.). Ansel Adams holds a special place in my heart since I based several of my photography lessons that I taught at the McLean County Art Center on his work. Can’t beat his dynamic landscapes of Yosemite. Check it out!  www.creativephotography.org  

Back in Mesa we went on a hike to Tonto National Monument! I’ll save this for another posting. I took way too many photos and have to have time to go through them. But first I have to say thank you again to Linda and Harry. It was fun to share time with you and see Linda’s ‘castle in the mountains’ and Harry’s artwork (loved the balancing circus mice and mountain lions).


Arizona Week #5 Highlights: March 14 – 20


Yet, another fun-filled week in Arizona. Yes, I again line danced and quilted. Ray played shuffleboard and went on a bike ride. Highlights were the Sun Life Quilt Show (yes, I finished my wall hanging in time), St Patty’s Day Parade, and two hikes: one to McDowell Mountain and the other to the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.

  • The Quilt Show was very informal. There were 3 or 4 of the quilters doing demonstrations (hand quilting, making rag quilts, and English paper piecing), no lectures or presentations. Also quite a few of the quilts were pieced only and not quilted. Although you couldn’t get by with this at most quilt shows, it is a common practice here since many are pieced at the park and quilted back home. The quilt in the center is mine. I used black and a fabric called stonehenge for contrast and a bright red border to pull it together. Most of the quilting is done in the ditch or shadow. I did stipple the black border and even worked a lizard and my name and date into the stippleing. The pattern is “Day and Night” by Eleanor Burns.
  • St. Patty’s Day Parade: first off, sorry I don’t have more photos but since we were in the parade, I couldn’t take as many of the other participants. Our group was the bikers and hikers, we decorated our bikes with pinwheels, crepe paper, and wore obnoxious hats. Behind us was street C who put together a hilarious team of horses, hobby horses that is. Then we had the line dancers, Shriners in their cars, the park band, St Pat with snakes trailing after him in a golf cart. And to wrap it up, free green beer on the patio with lots of music.


  • McDowell Mountain Regional Park: Scenic Trail. This was our first hike on our own and we got there later than we should have (hardly any shade on the trail). We learned of this trail from our same book, Hiking Phoenix, favorite day hikes. The effort was fairly easy but not so easy you might as well walk around the block. Little Piece of Luck: we happened upon a Ranger giving a nature walk and joined in. Now we know what Mormon Tea bush is (echinacea, now a no-no in diet pills) and Brittle Bush and smelled the wonderful Creosote (the Ranger poured water on it so we could experience what the desert smelled like when it rains). Back at the visitor’s center, Ray found a new hat for his ever expanding collection. It was a Horny Toad Lizard, very neat. We also bought a couple books on wild flowers and cacti and a children’s book for the grandkids.
  • And, lastly, the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. This is really a nice facility and a great place to learn about other places like the Gilbert Water Ranch for bird watching. Walks are held along the Salt River twice a month through March Saturdays at 8 am. Our favorite sighting was a pair of Cinnamon Teals. We also saw a Virdin, Green Heron, Anna Hummingbird, and a good number of the famous little brown birds. Next year we need to remember our bird guides and to buy a second pair of binoculars.

Arizona Week #3 Highlights: Feb 28 – March 6


  •  Another Hike! Well, yes. Same park (South Mountain, Phoenix), different trails. Much like the one before, it was quite a challenge with sections of loose rock to maneuver, deep ruts in the trail, and a slightly higher elevation. Best advice: use suntan protection, bring lots and lots of water, wear a HAT! The scenery was great as always, but the best part was a stop at Dobbins Lookout (top of Summit Road). This rustic look out tower has amazing views in ALL directions. There was even a small fireplace if you wanted to get warm or cook out. The tower was built in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and named after Jim Dobbins who convinced the city of Phoenix to purchase and preserve the area as a park thereby keeping the mining industry at bay (great photo of Ray here on Flickr).
    The weather was absolutely perfect with some cool breezes which were much appreciated by everyone. Fellow travelers were all seniors, many ex-military (boy can they hike), retired teachers, retired corporates, all kinds but all helpful and friendly.
    And as a bonus, since I received a request for a photo of my shoes that have proudly kept me sure-footed on these trails, here it is. By the way, does anyone know what you’re supposed to do with the long lace when you pull these tight? I’ve never had this type before. And, yes, these are my handknit socks. I did NOT wear them hiking, just for the photo op.  
  • Note: a frustrating event occurred during our bike ride Wednesday. I lost my phone. Haven’t ever lost, lost it before. But there it is. I remember putting it in my pocket on the way out to the bike with the idea that I would put it in my pack. The poor thing never made it there. And, yes, we’ve looked everywhere in the trailer, on the road, at the restaurant where we ate breakfast, at our friends, we even called it – several times. Argh…. I did have a black cow later at the Ice Cream Social to down my sorrows in. yum!
  • Second hike this week was a bit different; we went on the Tortilla Trail in the Tonto National Forrest. Advertised as an old Jeep road, I have to tell you the ruts were uneven and deeper than my knee is in places. That is to say, it’s been many years since a Jeep drove up this trail I can tell you. The trail is an up and back trail and leads to an abandoned homestead. When they originally formed much of our country’s park system, they grandfathered in many of the existing homesteads. Once the owner and family had passed on, the land reverts back to the park. I don’t know how long this one had been abandoned, but access by horse (or in today’s world, maybe a 4 wheeler but probably not on the road) would have been the only connection to the outer world. There were some remnants of the buildings but it must have been beautiful and awesome to live here. All you can see in any direction were mountains and valley.
  • The Indian Fair and Market at the Heard Museum was a great way to wrap up the week. Unfortunately our companions (Bill and Joan) had to leave the park early due to a family emergency. Very sad and we will miss them, they certainly kept us up and going for the last 3 weeks. (Thank You B & J).
    This fair was an awesome display of arts and crafts by Native American Indians. The quality was amazing. I saw wonderful woven cloth, pottery, jewelry, baskets, and sculptures. It wasn’t limited to traditional native art either, there was a lot of unique contemporary work as well. If you can make it to the fair don’t forget your wallet. Although there were plenty of items such as earrings for around $30 to $40, there were also baskets at $3000 and huge hand painted pots around $11,000. To break up our visit, we walked the tents first getting a feeling for the variety and quality, we then went inside for a tour of the museum (also to get some perspective on the work we had been seeing as well as the complexity of the tribes in the area). After the tour we bought some lunch, sat and listened to some performers (guitar, singing, dancing), then took a final run around the tents and headed home. Oh, and this little guy came with us (www.turtleclanart.com), “The turtle is seen as strength and solidarity – old and wise and well respected.” Other facts: the turtle is one of 3 in the Oneida Nation, there are 13 squares on the turtle’s back – one for each of the 13 full moons in a year, the turtle offered his shell as a foundation in the creation story.
Holidays, Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

Arizona Week #2 Highlights – February 21 – 27

  • We started the week hiking on the National/Mormon Loop Trail at South Mountain (literally on the South edge of Phoenix).  Our leader, Jim, is a big fan of the guide: Hiking Phoenix: favorite day hikes, originally No Jive pocket guide by Cosmic Ray. Not knowing that he liked this guide I had picked up a copy at REI the day before while shopping for shoes (serendipity). I also bought some very sexy-techno-comfy-safe hiking shoes: Salomon gortex XA Comp 5 in a yuppy red called, Rubis. I can’t tell you how much I love these shoes. They’re the first ones I’ve had in a long time that really fit well all around my foot AND give me room to wiggle my toes. Plus, I definitely felt sure-footed on the trail which was a blessing since the trail was most assuredly challenging.  
    Of note: first time hiking 5 miles in a desert environment – sun protection and water were my best friends, first time at higher elevations (1300 ft to 2100)  – I especially felt it when we were making a rugged climb, first time in Arizona – it’s really strange how you can see flat land for miles and then a mountain pops up out of nowhere.   
    Oh, and of course, Jim added a little side trip to include Thin Man’s Pass and the Hidden Valley. I had to decide if I wanted to be pulled through a crevice by both feet or face a daunting, rocky climb around. I chose the feet-pull-through option.
  • On Tuesday, we visited Taliesin West. I grew up admiring Frank Lloyd Wright and had visited many of the homes he designed in and around Chicago including Taliesin North (in Wisconsin). I was not disappointed. The attention to detail, sense of cohesion in design and use, and ability to amaze and wow the spectator were more than evident. I knew that FLW was centrally influenced by nature. However, I was not aware that ancient hieroglyphic designs painted on rocks around Taliesin were also a source of inspiration.See additional photos in my Flickr account for the hieroglyphics.
  • Later in the week there was a quilt show at the RV resort next to us, Tower Point (recently purchased by Cal-Am who owns the one we are in). We were very impressed. They had a lot of variety: some beautiful jackets they had made in a class together (I was jealous and lusted after several of them). 
  • Saturday some friends from Tucson drove up for a visit and we all piled into our cars and headed for the Musical Instrument Museum at the northern tip of Phoenix. Now you would think that such a museum would put together some nice collections and have some music playing and some info on the genre. Well, yes, and then some, and then some more! This place was amazing! When you enter, after paying a healthy-well-worth-it fee (senior discount, of course), they give you a device with earphones. As you walk around the displays, it senses where you are and where the nearest source is. Once it finds the source, it plays the sound bites associated with the source video, very cool. So, when at a regional African display, you see the music played on a screen and at the same time hear the music played, as well as see some examples of the instruments used.
    And, by the way, they don’t have just one African display, they have lots, not to mention every continent. When you leave the museum, if you’ve had time to see it all, you know you’ve gotten the full treatment from cultures primarily interested in rhythm, or dance, or melodies, to a full symphonic orchestra. But I do have to say that my favorite was seeing some of the instruments my daughter, Ellie has collected over the years actually used appropriately, including a huge gourd encompassed with beads woven together, hmmm – always wondered about that one.
    And, finally, as we were getting ready to head back to the park, I could hear some acoustic music in the hall. So, of course, I peeked. Another great treat, Tim Eriksen was giving an impromptu concert. I can’t repeat everything he relayed, but suffice it to say, he grew up with music and extensively explored music in rural and urban environments. Tim used indigenous instruments to convey a sense of different styles including New England murder ballads, “shape-note” gospel, Southern Appalachian, and Irish songs.
  • To wrap up this busy, busy week, we attended “Canada Day”. So you understand, I have to tell you that there is a very large contingent of Canadians in our park. From Saskatchewan to British Colombia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and even the territories. There are so many, that the park flies a Canadian flag next to the flag of the good ol’ USA. The Canadians are a fun loving group, they are always smiling, they’re active in dancing, hiking, biking, music, organizing, everything. So, to celebrate how happy they are, they have a celebration. Yes, there was lots of food and a band and dancing, but what made it different was the opening ceremony. They paraded their flags in order as they entered the confederation. As they paraded through the hall the master of ceremony gave a little history on each one while the bag pipes played (amazing ability). And to top if off, we even have two retired Canadian Mounties who put on their full dress uniform for the occasion. WOW!