QC Blog: 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I'm sitting here at my computer listening to a LIVE concert of Daryl Hall and John Oates who are performing at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut tonight. How cool is that? I don't have to be out in the cold or fight the crowds but I get to hear my favorite group singing a personal concert LIVE to me here at home. (P.S. It will be rebroadcast Jan 4-12pm ET on Sirius Radio Ch 2 - The Blend - make sure you stick around for the encore.)

So it's New Year's Eve. A new start on the calendar. A new slate. Once again I resolve to live a healthier lifestyle and exercise more. I promise myself that every year. I feel a bit like Bridget Jones at this point - one of her diary entries was a negative for the year's total weight loss. Can you believe it - my total weight loss for the year is 2 pounds? To be honest, I haven't done much to move that number. I have a couple of goals for this year. My exercise goal for this year is to walk more, lift weights, and lose weight. I'm aiming for 5,000 steps a day and I'm not saying how many pounds. My creative goals are to quilt each day, and maybe write something each day. I also want to improve my photography skills (play with lighting more), and figure out a way to make more money with my photography (without doing weddings).

I want to nurture the relationships that are important to me and make sure people know how much I care about them. I want to keep our extended family connected. I want to cultivate my friendships and discover new ones. I want to travel more and enjoy myself. I'm making resolutions that are less about changing myself and more about keeping myself a happier person. I also want to find some small ways to help change the world. I'll let you know next year what I was able to do.

I'm resolving to spend less money and to get rid of "stuff" that is just cluttering up my life. I'm also going to read at least 5-10 books (aside from romance novels, which I love) recommended by Nancy Pearl (the librarian) in her books, Book Lust and More Book Lust.

Ah, an aside here - we're into the encore now - great concert. Now the second encore.

So to all of you out there Happy New Year!! I plan to be banging pots and pans (by myself this year) at midnight, as I have every year of my life. When I was going through my mom's apartment I pulled an old stock pot out of the kitchen cupboard that had big dents in it and it made me smile - there were many many enthusiastic New Year's Eve's hammered onto that pot. That's how I feel about my own pots and pans - they still work - so what if they have have divots in the bottoms and small dents and scratches?

Every one of those dents is a happy memory.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Time for joy and time for cheer

Ah, it's almost Christmas. I'm actually a little ahead of schedule this year, meaning my presents are wrapped, decorating is done, and cookies are made, so I have a moment to reflect on this Christmas season. Let's see, I hate shopping, and crowds, so do as little of it as possible. I love ordering online or order "a la my sons," who fight the crowds for me, so I don't have to go out. What a life, eh?

I realized the other day that I love getting cards in the mail. For one thing, I've always loved getting mail. It's just that no one sends mail anymore. Christmas is the only time you get a photo or a note from someone. What a shame! It used to be so cool to send and receive letters in the mail. Even if I do write someone these days, there is no answer - no one has the time, I guess to sit down and write a letter.

And yet, this year, my sisters and I received a most valuable gift. A friend of my mother's found some letters my dad had written to her (as my mom's friend, she was helping to get them together) during the War and gave them to us. It's three letters written in March, June and August of 1945. Having those words in my dad's handwriting, and reading his thoughts is so precious to me. My dad died when I was only 2 years old, so I never knew him. I imagine what he was going through while he wrote those letters. It's like a transfer of feelings, knowing he actually touched that paper and now we're able to touch it. It makes me feel OK somehow, knowing that he loved my mother and was looking forward to coming home from the war and marrying her. On this, the 6 month anniversary of her death, I feel comforted by thinking that maybe they are together. I hope they are proud of us.

If you want to give someone a lasting gift, write them a letter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slow down the pace

Well, here it is, almost the middle of December and I've not much to write about. I hate shopping and sometimes feel like I have brain freeze when it comes to buying things for other people. For myself, for the first time, I feel like I've reached a point in my life where I want to stop having so many possessions, (this doesn't include fabric, of course). I spent the first half of my life acquiring things, and now will spend the 2nd half figuring out what to do with them, and how to get rid of things.

Do you have any rituals during the holidays - something you do every year at this time? Not the trimming the tree type stuff. Every year during the Christmas holidays, I take out my VHS tape of Gidget (the original with Sandra Dee and James Darren) and watch it (by myself naturally, or the 4 guys in my house would just laugh at how corny it is). I just LOVE that movie, and it reminds me of my childhood and loving Moondoggie, and when just a kiss at the end of the movie was enough to sustain your dreams of true love for eons. I'm waiting for them to release it in the "movie box" format, so the look on Moondoggie's face at the end, when he stands up and first sees her, doesn't get cut off like it does on TV. I noticed that AMC has been broadcasting the movie (in the correct format) during the holidays. My hairdresser and I were discussing movies and she told me how her young daughter loves this really old movie - Gidget - and just finished watching it over Christmas vacation. I just started laughing and explained this was my Christmas ritual. Strange but true. Did you know that Jim Morel of CNN is Jame Darren's son? He does look like him at little. (His dad is cuter.)

I also have one ritual that I forget to do sometimes, but am going to make sure I carry on with this year. After the tree is decorated, we turn off the room lights, and turn on all the tree lights to admire them. My mom would go over to the front door and "knock, knock, knock" on the door, (waiting for someone to say "come in"), and then enter the room, exclaiming "oh, what a beautiful tree." It was a silly little thing, and I still do it, but I want to make sure I carry it on now that she's gone.

In our family, we always make Mincemeat Cookies from the Kay Neuman recipe of long ago. They are the best cookies. No relative ever got to taste them because we ate them all before company ever made it to our house during the Christmas season. These days, I've changed the recipe slightly, to make it trans fat free. (gotta be healthy, y'know, even when you're overeating.....)

Take a break, sit down, and have a cup of tea. Enjoy each other. Stop and absorb the moments you spend together. They may not come again.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Counting Steps

I spent part of the day yesterday on a Turkey Soup hike sponsored by Venture Outdoors. We were at Riverview Park in North Side, where, I'm told, they have more trails than any other park in the city. I'm an intermittent exerciser. I use a step counter daily because I'm ever mindful of the need to exercise and increase my steps daily. I wake up daily with good intentions. So off I went, with my sister, my cousin, and my niece on an "easy" 3.5 mile hike through the park. It was raining and cold, definitely not the most pleasant walk. But the company was good, and the turkey soup was delicious, eaten in front of the fireplace in the shelter. Unfortunately, by the time I got home the damp socks were cold and soaking my calves. I took a hot shower and dressed warm and then immediately felt the fatigue of all my muscles hitting me. Just as the Steeler game started up, I sat down and zoned out for about a 3 quarter nap. But my total steps for yesterday were over 9000, so that's good. I just need to find a way to do that without zapping all my energy.

Today is my nephew's birthday. Happy Birthday Adam! He's 32 today. This is the day I traditionally start to play my Christmas Carols. I have to admit, I'm apprehensive though. Every time I hear a line from "I'll be home for Christmas" or "Noel" or "It came Upon a Midnight Clear," I start to tear up. I know that it's partly my normal Christmas blues. I always feel sad this month missing my grandmother, who died in December in 1980, and missing my cousins who have passed away in recent years. This year, I can't even think about Christmas, without starting to cry because I miss my Mother. It doesn't matter that she wasn't herself when she died (Alzheimer's) or that I know she wouldn't have wanted to be here in that way. I just miss her. And I feel like a little girl who just wants her mama. Christmas Eve will be 6 months that she's been gone, and I want to just sit down and bawl my eyes out. It seems the numbness of her death has passed, and now there's just heart-aching pain.

I spent a couple days this past week, hand quilting on my oldest son's high school graduation quilt. He graduated in 1999. But I started hand-quilting this one and didn't really want to finish it on the machine. But he's bought a house now and is making moves in his life, so I'd like to give it to him before we reach the 10th anniversary of this graduation. My goal for the next few months is to finish this project. It's a lovely blue and white Jacob's Ladder quilt. I am such a better machine piecer and quilter now than I was when I started this, but I can't fix that now.

"Little Steps, Ellie." Mark always quotes that line from the movie CONTACT, when I'm impatient about getting something done. It's a good reminder for all that I'm trying to do. That goes for quilting, exercising, and getting through the pain. Little steps.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fabric- aholic

Mark and I had a wonderful trip, having a 4 day respite from the hustle and bustle of normal life is very therapeutic. The Adamstown Inn Bed and Breakfast was terrific and romantic. I've been to Lancaster twice before, with quilting friends. It was fun to see it from Mark's point of view. Of course on our first day there, we did fabric shopping. We went to Intercourse (yes, that's a town) and visited Zooks. I found out that Zooks and Sauders (our destination for later in the day) are connected and they had a pretty good map to get there. In town, there is a street filled with wood shops and candle shops, and a little village where they have a leather shop and a jam store, and a book store, with books on the Amish, and an art store, with only art about the Amish, and the Village Quilt shop, where they sell Amish/Mennonite quilts. It's so interesting how the entire tourist industry is dependent on these handcrafts, and it's good to see they place a high value on them as well.

Mark was more interested in the Woolrich store, and used most of my fabric shopping time to keep walking through the town and just get some exercise. We then drove through Bird-In-Hand, and went back on Rt. 30 through downtown Lancaster. As we were driving back to our B&B that day, I yelled "Stop, I need to take a picture of that." It was a huge pumpkin patch. I told Mark I could email my son Zachary and tell him I found a sincere pumpkin patch (aka Linus). We then headed to Sauders, a huge store located in the basement of someone's home. On one side of the store is fabric, and on the other side is bulk foods. So when you walk in, the store smells of spices, unlike most fabric stores. When I've been in this store in the past, it was during the big quilt show in Lancaster in May. There were wall to wall people in the store and those women can cut fabric faster than anyone I've ever seen. The store has 5 or 6 aisles of fabric, ceiling to floor - it's like a library of colors (I love libraries too).

On our second day we decided to visit one of the outlet malls and do the covered bridge tour of Reading, on our way to Egypt, PA for our genealogy trip. Time became a factor and we only did 3 of the 5 bridges (I don't think it was any great loss). It turned out that the Troxell-Steckel house was closed when we got there (off season hours), but it was still a most impressive and inspiring trip. I tried to get directions to the 1744 house my 6-ggrandfather built, but at 3:30 on a Saturday, wasn't able to find it. The Troxell-Steckel house was built by my 6-ggranduncle and is all built of stone and mortar. It's two stories high. There is a huge barn on the land and a spring house built of stone also. It's built near a riverbed - the Coplay Creek -and has tons of farmland behind the barn. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I could just see why they chose this particular piece of farmland to settle on when they came to the Jordan Valley. We walked around and took photos and just kept looking at the house. It was inspiring. There was a moment when I did go and touch the stone just to feel the history in the rock there. In the 1700's people who are related to me, built this house. Wow. This stone is part of the house on the front.( you can click on the house picture to enlarge). At this time the Indian wars were beginning. It means "God protect this house from all danger. Lead our souls to heaven." Then it is marked with Peter Troxell's name and his wife's name and the date the house was completed. We also found the historical marker for the house, which, according to one book, is considered the primary historical structure in the township. I'm going to have to go back now and see the 1744 house. It's a private home and not open to the public, but I just want to see it. I felt that I truly had roots there. I had known about the house from my genealogy cousin, but seeing it was so much more moving than I expected it to be.

The next day was Sunday and we planned to go back to Intercourse because I knew I had missed the Old Country Store and they sell fabric there. We were going to go and visit some of the out of the way quilt shops too. We drove down a beautiful country road where farmland surrounds you as far as the eye can see. An occasional pumpkin patch or gourd patch breaks up the farmland. And there are clothes hanging on the line, all in hues of blue or purple and then black long johns. When we arrived in town, we discovered all the stores were closed on Sunday. The whole town was like a ghost town, but somehow it was reassuring that these people still hold their beliefs more important than making a buck. We didn't waste the trip though - it was back to Rt. 30 and the other two outlet malls in Lancaster. We visited Lennox, and Oneida, and Borders and did manage to find the Hex sign store open also.

The following day before heading home, we traveled back to the small towns of the Amish, traveling the same road as the day before and stopping at a small quilt store, called Whitmer's Quilts on Rt. 23. A wonderful artist of a woman, Emma Whitmer, showed us her quilts that were piled high on the bed in her showroom. There must have been 70 quilts on that bed. She told us stories of the quilts and of the quilters who made them. She designed the colors and the patterns for most of them. They were unbelievably gorgeous. Emma had Mark on the other side of the bed helping her to flip quilts as she displayed quilt after quilt, waiting for one to catch our eye, to be "the one." We made it all the way through the 70 or so quilts, and then worked our way backwards. It really hadn't been our intention to buy a quilt, but there were several that were tempting enough to make us pause to consider it. One in particular, called Sunny Day, was just astonishing. Emma designed it herself and the circular panel of Flying Geese had about 2,163 pieces of fabric in it. Emma knew every name and price and quilter and fabric and filling. There was a story behind every quilt. She had a thick Amish/Mennonite accent and it was just a delight listening to her speak. We only went through the bed with the geometric quilts on it. There was an additional bed in that showroom with another stack of floral quilts on it. I understand she also has 2 more showrooms in the house, even though we didn't see them. What a contrast to the stores on Rt. 30 who sold quilts as well, and had a "don't touch" sign at the door where you entered. If I were buying an Amish quilt - Whitmer's is the place to look for one. All were reasonably priced - between about $450.00-$700.00. Others that were larger or had more pieces or more hand quilting were in the $1000.00- $2000.00 range. Every quilt was gorgeous. They were machine bound, she called it, and hand quilted. Another person did the cutting and Emma did the designing. She said she throws a bunch of fabrics together and if one says "aughhh!" to her, she throws it out of the mix.

We finally made it to The Old Country Store and I found a ton of fabrics I love. Did I buy them? Of course I did. Did you know that those books - "Fix it and Forget it" are written by someone from Lancaster County? The store was filled with her books and advertised a new one coming out soon called "Fix it and Forget it - Healthy Food." They have a beautiful selection of fabric at all three stores, but this trip, I think The Old Country Store was the best. And guess what - they are now online at www.theoldcountrystore.com. When we finished we headed home to Pittsburgh. It was interesting, when I laid out my fabrics from the three different stores, they all go together. Some of them are even the exact same colors, even though they are not the same fabrics. There are shades of fuchsia (my favorite color), yellows, and oranges. I must be totally attracted to the same colors, even though I wasn't aware of it at the time.

It's a wonderful slice of life in Lancaster county - beautiful, handcrafted goods for sale at reasonable prices. A place that values the handcraft of Quilting and the artistry of the Amish people.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And we're off!

I only have a minute here. Mark and I are off to Adamstown tonight. In addition to fabric shopping, I'm trying to fit in a little genealogy trip too. Allentown is the location of a house that my 6G Grandfather built in 1744, and there is a second house that his brother built, which is tourable through the Lehigh Historical Society. I'm low on details today, but will update on Tuesday when we come back.

Till then.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Back to Real Life

Hard to believe, three weeks ago, I was standing on a Glacier. How can it all be such a distant memory?

Ah, well, it's been an exciting week. I have to say, I'm relieved to not hear the hate messages on TV everyday. I'm glad the election is over for that reason alone. Obama has been elected and I'm filled with hope for the future. I was overcome with pride for the country on Tuesday night. I cried when he gave his speech and marveled that I was living History at this moment in time. It was sort of surreal.

Our Quilt Circle raffle quilt was won by a woman who lives in Freedom PA. Ironic on election night, eh? She came to claim it the next day and seemed very thrilled about winning it.

My husband and I are going away for a 4 day weekend in the heart of Adamstown's Antique District and Lancaster's Pennsylvania Dutch Country next weekend. We're driving (about 4.5 hours away) and staying at a Bed and Breakfast - Adamstown Inn and Cottages. I've never stayed at a B&B before. It ought to be very relaxing. Too bad it rained this weekend so the leaves will probably be gone from the trees - no great photos there.

Now, as a quilter, you know what being near Lancaster means, right? FABRIC!! At great prices. I have visited Lancaster twice before for the big quilt show they have and the prices of fabric are around $4.00/yard, unlike the $8.00-$9.00/yard we pay at our retail quilt stores. There are a few stores in particular I want to visit, like Sauders, and The Old Country Store. I can't imagine how the Amish make money if that's what the wholesale costs of the fabric is. It must be such a small mark up that they make money from the quantity of fabric they sell. There are antique stores and gift shops there as well, and I'm looking forward to the trip.

Till later.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Iceland, The Final Chapter

Well, here it is Election Day, finally, and I'm still writing about Iceland. It's the far calmer subject for me to write about, so I continue to relive the memories, while they're fresh.

On our final day, Sunday, Chrissie and I opted not to go whale watching and to spend some free time (which they don't give you enough of) doing some shopping in Reykjavik. I got up early anyway to take a chance that the morning sky at the Harbor (about a half block away) would be pretty for pictures. The sky was unremarkable, but I did see Patty take off in her whale watching boat. I then returned to the town, which does look just like a Christmas village. The Restaurant Reykjavik (yellow bldg) is where we had our opening and closing night dinners and was off to the left of our hotel view. I passed by the tourist office next to our hotel and went back to meet Chrissie. The air was brisk and cool today. We went to the biggest store that has souvenirs and I managed to find a T-shirt that was an XL. Believe it or not, they're very hard to find there. They could make a ton of money on U.S. tourists if they a greater number of larger sizes in shirts, which, come to think about it, is a sad commentary on what U.S. Tourists look like, compared to the average Icelander, who is trim, thin, and incredibly fit. We passed lots of baby buggies with covers to protect the babies (we saw few strollers there) and little hanging toys at the opening. I bought magnets and t-towels and a pretty glass Christmas ornament shaped like an Angel. We paid in US dollars and got Krona in change. Chrissie at this point, is trying to get rid of all her Krona, and after buying 3 different things at different times in the same store, finally says to the guy, "you can keep the change," like it's his tip. She makes me laugh. This is a view of the square in front of our hotel.

We walked by the hot dog stand where they sell Lamb hot dogs with the works (Patty and Chrissie had already tried these the first day when I took my hour nap), that include crunchy onions, where President Clinton has eaten. They told me they were delicious. We met Patty after her trip (she did see a whale) and then went to the Lobster soup shack. Literally, it was a tiny little place with shish-ke-babs of whale meat in the cooler, and the woman was like the Seinfeld Soup guy. When we walked in, she said, "We have Lobster soup." Since that was all we wanted, we ordered some - and, wow, it was great.

Chrissie then went to rest and I took Patty to the souvenir shop. The older lady in our group fell in front of the hotel and her daughter and Chrissie were there to help her out. They had to call an ambulance and she let those "good looking guys" help her up. She had dislocated her shoulder but was back with us for our farewell dinner that night. After dinner, the restaurant brought out a beautiful chocolate cake with Happy Birthday Mary Jane on it, and everyone sang Happy Birthday to me. I got to celebrate my 52nd birthday in Iceland. My sisters gave me a little Russian doll we had seen in a shop that was the size and color of the one my mom had (some of you may be familiar with it).This is our Hotel from the square.

Our final day dawned with snow flurries in the air and about 30 degrees. Typical Pittsburgh winter weather. Our driver Mikko came back to take us to the airport. This was our tour bus throughout the trip. All in all it was a wonderful trip. There's so much more to see there, I'd love to go back someday. For now, I have a few t-shirts to wear to remind me of the trip and memories of course, and lots of gorgeous pictures. But I feel like my world view has expanded the same way I felt after going out west in 1999. It's not just me in this world - there are so many people out there who have better and worse situations than I do. And it's a joy to discover them all.

Next up: Back to real life, sigh!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Iceland, Part Five

The next day dawned with blue skies and the sun shining. Not a hint of rain. We can see that it snowed more on the mountains last night. Our AAA tour guide, Barry, was handing us off to the Super Jeep driver named Hlynur, who started off the tour taking us through what he called the "Wall Street" area near the Harbor. He kept making jokes about how he owned the banks now that Iceland is bankrupt. We started our 90 minute drive up Highway 1(it seems like there is only one big highway there) and midway made a bathroom stop at Thingvellir, and then continued on to the Langjokull glacier, which is the second largest glacier in Iceland.

In a Super Jeep, the seat backs are pretty high, so you can't see out the front window, unless you're up front. Patty and Chrissie were in front of me in the first seat and I was in the second seat by myself. I could only listen to Hlynur's spiel as he talked about the scenery and the people. Someone asked if there were Polar Bears in Iceland. He said there had been two, but they shot them. It seems they swam over from Greenland. The first one terrorized a family and was finally shot, and then he said people were saying "oh, the poor Polar bear...blah, blah, blah" (Literally, he said blah, blah, blah). Then when the 2nd Polar Bear came over, people just didn't say anything and they shot him. He mentioned the 101's who were all upset over the poor bear. 101's, he explained, were the young people who hang out in coffee bars, talking art and smoking, and are in Reykjavik. They are called 101's because that's the zip code in Reykjavik. Patty explained to him that an American term for what he was saying might be "tree-huggers." He loved that, and continued to use it the rest of the trip.

Then someone asked him about the shirts we had seen in a store about Killer Sheep. Were they real? Of course, he says. Patty and Chrissie are enthralled with this story he's telling. Now I, who can't see him, can hear in his voice that he's putting us on. I happen to have a husband who does that a lot, and Hlynur sounded just like him. But up front, they're buying this story, hook, line and sinker. Finally after about 5 minutes, Patty says, you're putting us on aren't you? And he laughs and laughs and they realize the joke has been on them. But in an utterly charming way.

So as we're talking, we're driving up a mountain. The higher we go, the roads get a little snowier. We reach a point where those up front (my sisters) are a little nervous. He tells them that the road we just passed on our right is an easier route, but it's the chicken route. And he doesn't take the chicken route. He tells us how he's done these tours for over 20 years, first working in Greenland and now Iceland for years. He tells us he's also part of the search and rescue team here in Iceland, so if we get lost, he can find us. He tells us a story of how a friend and his family went through the ice in a jeep, and then tried to call for help, but also lost his phone in the water. He was in freezing water (standing height) for about 15 hours, and Hlynur told how he and his friends all rescued him, and in the end they even found his phone (a Nokia) and it still worked.

So it's snowy and bumpy, climbing this mountain. Wearing your seat belt was a must or you'd be thrown all over the jeep. This is where the camera excelled. First, I took most of the pictures on this day through the window of the Jeep, which sometimes had moisture, or snow on it. Second, my hand was moving up and down with the movement of the Jeep - at least 6 inches up in the air and then 6 inches down with each rut we hit in the road. That's where the Vibration Reduction lens came in set to Normal. Third, the Jeep itself was moving forward so blur would've been an issue, except that the Vibration Reduction set to Active is just for that purpose. The only other issue was the reflection on the window, which sometimes you can see, and if I was really good, you can't.

On some hills, Hlynur is struggling to get up the hill, while he tells us his life rescue stories. Our Patriots fan, Joe, is sitting next to him and told me later he was putting us on about that too. No way he was having any trouble getting up the hill. But, that didn't change the nervousness of some of our "front seat" passengers. I figured he does this all the time, he must know what he's doing, so I really wasn't worried.

The scenery is changing before our eyes. We went from a green plush landscape with snowcapped mountains in the background to being in the mountains and surrounded by the snow. It was similar to seeing clouds when you look out of a plane window. Suddenly, you're "in them," and it's just so cool. Gradually, we're getting closer to the Glacier. All of a sudden the snow with rocks in it turns to pure white. This is the Glacier. We drive up onto it very, very slowly, and when we get out Hlynur tells us not to stray too far, because there are crevices very near (he's not kidding about this one). It was 24 degrees here on the glacier. And the wind was cold. But, having purchased a nice coat with liner before I left home, I was toasty warm. The beauty was astounding. It was pristine, as though we were looking at freshly fallen snow. I felt overwhelmed by the beauty I was seeing. We took photos of one another and with our Terrible Towels. Then we had to get back in the Jeep. I didn't want to. I could've stayed there indefinitely.

As we drove down the alternate route, or "the chicken's path" to our next stop, the scenery continued to change. We stopped for lunch at another place that had delicious lamb stew, with turnips and carrots in it. They had a tiny supermarket, where I bet you recognize this product, even written in Icelandic. We then moved onto see a different waterfall, that Hlynur told us is cut in the hillside from lava flow. Incredible.

We stopped again to see another hot springs where the temperature was 100 degrees C. Then as we drove on, the Atlantic ocean pops up on the scenery on the right hand side of the bus. By this point, although I took one or two photos out the opposite window, my arm was so tired, I could hardly hold the camera anymore. I had camera elbow. So I contented myself with saying I can't take a photo, it's on the other side of the bus. We drove back into Reykjavik, still with a clear blue sky, and Hlynur said if any night was perfect, this would be the kind of night we could see the Aurora Borealis -sometime between 10pm and 12:00am.

We went to dinner and got back, exhausted, but felt obligated to stay dressed to see if we could see anything. Even though we went down to the Harbor at 10pm and stayed until 11pm, we couldn't spot anything in the sky. I hear it's very fleeting at this time of year. So we went back to our room. Chrissie and I knew we weren't going whale watching the next day, so we could sleep in a little. Patty did go, and we shopped.

Tomorrow: Our little village

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Iceland Part Four

The Golden Circle
I hope you don't mind that I'm continuing my Iceland story as though nothing else is going on here in the States. I know it's the week before election, and trust me, I'm better off talking about Iceland.

The day before, the weather was a typical cloudy day, but on Friday, the weather turned much colder, rainier, and unpredictable. When we started out it was cloudy, but cold. At different points in the trip, mostly when we were on the bus, the sun would peak through the clouds. We drove to Thingvellir, the location of the First Law speaker and First Government. The TH in that word is actually a symbol that looks like a P. Complicated language. We walked through a place where the Teutonic plates in the earth still separate by 1 cm each year. They were high and rocky and beautiful. There was a waterfall here where they executed women and drowned people who committed crimes. Luckily at this point, no rain.

We moved on to Geysir, where all Geysirs get their name, and saw several steaming hot springs in the earth, where one was erupting every 3 minutes or so. At this point, it's freezing rain. I'm trying to get a picture of water spouting in the air at an unpredictable time, through steam that lasts about a second, through a plastic bag surrounding my camera so it won't get wet. Needless to say, after 5 minutes of getting soaked, all I got was a photo of lots of steam, and I bought myself a postcard of the Geysir. We took our Terrible Towels to Geysir and one of our tourmates took our photo there. First we used Patty's camera, then I gave him mine. When he was taking one of the photos, he kept saying that was a really good one, really good. Later, I realized that on Patty's camera, I was holding the towel upside down. And the guy that took our photo was from Boston!! (Patriots fan). He swears he didn't notice, but.......I think he knew.

We drove on, with my jeans soaked all the way up to my thighs, and stopped at Gulfoss for lunch (where they had great lamb stew) to see a huge waterfall there. They told us when the sun is shining, you can see a rainbow across the falls. There were 100 steps to get down to the viewing platform, and those who were truly brave walked all the way down to the rock next to the falls. What you see here is not steam, but spray because I slowed down the speed on the camera. See that rock off to the left? Lots of spray down there. I wasn't up to getting my camera quite that wet, so observed from afar. The wind was cold, and so strong at this point, it dried most of the water from my jeans.

After this, we drove to a "foxie" which was a small waterfall with a salmon run (on left).

Then we drove to Eden, a place with tons of greenhouses. We drove past a church where there was an excavation site over 500 years old being worked on. As we were driving by a hillside, we stopped to take a photo of one of the little houses where the whodafolk live (elves, trolls, magical people). You have to look closely at the photo to see their little home. Then our tour driver took us to Alafoss, where they sold their wool products direct at great prices. I think they are the biggest wool manufacturer in the country.

At the end of this day, we drove to the Viking Ship near Reykjavik to have a group photo taken. The sky at this point was gorgeous and there was no rain for a few seconds. Totally beautiful.

Tomorrow: The Glacier

Monday, October 27, 2008

Iceland Part Three

The first photo I'm posting today is the 360 degree view from "The Pearl." You can see the village of Reykjavik and the mountains behind it. Keep in mind this is ONE of the shots I took here. Those of you who know me know there are quite a few more.

The next day, after a breakfast of skyr (kind of like yogurt) and muesli, we hopped on the tour bus and took off at 9:00am. We drove by the President's house - he lives at the edge of the island, right on the ocean. In front of his house is a beautiful church with stained glass windows that tell the story of the Vikings. We saw
Lake Kleifarvatn and took some photos, saw some hot spots, and

drove past some lava rocks with moss that was about 5 inches thick.

We drove on to lunch, and the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon itself is a man-made geothermal spa of warm, therapeutic water to relax in. It's runoff of some kind from a plant. It actually does have a bluish cast to the water. If you look at this photo, you can see a tiny head in the water on the left hand side of the picture. People were actually down there, you just couldn't see them because of the steam. From what I surmise, the steam was from the cold air temperature - I don't believe it always looks like this. We had a funny time getting ready for the pool - you have to shower naked before putting your suit on and going into the pool. I'm from a Catholic school that didn't even have locker rooms for girls, much less showers - so that was a hoot! Anyway, we swam in the lagoon for about 40 minutes, and the one photo we didn't take was of us in the water, with the silica cream on our faces. We think it's a trick they pull on newbies to the Lagoon. The water was amazingly warm and felt heavenly. We kept saying it was surreal. There were a lot of people in the water, but we heard in summer, people are side by side.

That evening, after a walk through town, we went to the Seafood Cellar for dinner or the Sjavarkjallarian. It's one of those places you can order an entree that serves the entire table a course from all their menu items. They had a unique presentation for the desserts. First a creme brulee came out in flames, and then they poured something onto dry ice around the other desserts to make it steam for about 5 minutes. It was a cool effect.

Tommorrow: Geysir

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Iceland Part Two

This is me, in Boston, at the Boston Commons Swan Park.

I might have mentioned this, but we had to catch our flight to Iceland in Boston, so we travelled there and spent a few days in Princeton because my sister has a friend there. We stayed there for 2 days and nights, then went into Boston and did some sightseeing in the city for 2 days, then caught our flight to Iceland. We left on Saturday, flying to Boston, then traveled to Princeton. Along the way, the signs called out names of places we've read about in Robert Parker's Spenser novels. We saw people canoeing down the Charles River, and fall leaves slightly more vibrant than in Pittsburgh when we left. We spent a relaxing evening in front of a fireplace getting to know one another. On Sunday, Chrissie's friends drove us to Portsmouth, NH, where we shopped, and then we drove across the bridge to Kittery, Maine to sight see, where we had lunch and a New England clam chowder that was terrific, and then on to Ogunquit, Maine, before relaxing in front of the roaring fire again that evening to talk about life and enjoying an atmosphere that was quiet with no TV for a change. On Monday, we took a limo into Boston. I ended up with two suitcases and it was quite a feat to fit all 4 bags into the "limo." Our taxi driver was from Sudan and we had him talking about the state of this economy and what we should do to fix it. We enjoyed the numerous accents we heard on our trip and the variety of people that we met.

Once in Boston, we took a cab to the subway (scary place - that underground subway), and went into the city on a trolley tour. We went to Copley Square and saw Trinity Church, very beautiful, and walked into Boston Commons (the park) and saw swans and a guy playing a soulful sax, and then stopped for lunch/dinner at a place called Tealuxe, where we had sandwiches and a Pumpkin Spice Chai tea. (They seem to sell lots of tea in Boston). I was starting to declare my "picture for the day" that was my favorite at this point. Of all the photos that day the swans were my favorite.

The next day, we again hopped on the trolley right from our hotel. Chrissie was pretty tired because my snoring had kept her awake all night, and she hadn't been able to find her earplugs. Not a good start to our trip. Our trolley passed by Fenway Park, and then we traveled to Beacon Hill, where we walked into a small area called Lewisville where Theresa Heinz and John Kerry have a house. We walked the Freedom Trail and saw the Old Statehouse (where they were having a job convention and happened to have free samples of candy and pound cakes to hand out). We went to the Old South Meeting house, where they voted to protest the tax on Tea (of course women weren't allowed into that meeting). We ate at Boston Harbor, at a place called Joe's American Bar, where we had better clam chowder than in NH. My picture for today was at Boston Harbor of the boats. Near the end of our day, we walked through Little Italy (which I'd like to explore more) and found Paul Revere's house, (did you know he had 16 children?) before we took a taxi back to the hotel to get ready to fly to Iceland. Our flight left at about 9:30 (Iceland Air is very prompt in their departures), and we arrived in Iceland at 6:20 am their time (1:30 am our time).

After we arrived in Iceland, and made it through the passport checks, etc, our AAA tour guide, Barry met us at the airport. This is our first glimpse of Iceland from the bus. They drove us to the Hotel Plaza in Reykjavik, and told us we had about an 2 hours to freshen up, because our rooms were ready, and we'd meet at 10:00 am to take a 3 hour bus tour around the city. They try to go easy on you, because they know you're exhausted. We saw a huge Lutheran church with the Leif Ericcson statue in front of it. Then we went to the Saga Museum that has a Viking display, and to an artist's house where all these sculptures are in the yard. The most impressive thing we did was go to "The Pearl", a place that has a 360 degree view of Reykjavik. It was so breathtaking.

The mountains were topped with a tiny bit of snow, and the day was beautiful and sunny. They kept telling us this was unusual and the weather was great today, but we were too tired to appreciate that part. The village was like a Christmas globe and looked so charming and cozy. But there are no skyscrapers due regulations about earthquakes. After that, we had some time to sleep and then met for dinner with our group of 9 (10 if you include Barry) at the Restaurant Reykjavik. They served a white vegetable soup that was scrumptious. Then there was a buffet of fish, served the way Icelanders eat it - mostly cold. It's all cooked, of course, except for a few sushi dishes. They did have a few warm dishes for those of us who couldn't eat the fish cold. They also served whale, which I didn't eat, but heard from everyone who did it was terrible.

In this restaurant, they also had an Ice Bar, where people pay $15.00 to go in and sit in this room that is 6 degrees Centigrade (about 26 Farenheit), and sit on a block of ice in coats and have a drink. On this night they were filming a Bachelor type show where they were having their final date in this Ice Bar. After that we went back to the hotel to sleep so we'd be well rested for the next day.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Incredible Iceland

Well, I'm back.....And I don't think I have enough words to describe how great our trip to Iceland was. We had to write down our adjectives to keep track of the beauty we saw there.

First let me say that I was unsuccessful in finding an open Quilt store while I was in Iceland. The shops were closed when I had free time and open when I was on the tour bus. We just never seemed to be in sync. Instead, I bought t-towels with Icelandic themes on them - trolls, maps, Vikings, and killer sheep. And I bought cotton buffs (sort of like a headband and neck warmer in one) with photos of the town, the Aurora Borealis (which we didn't see) and the Icelandic flag. That was as far as my fabric buying went. But I did buy a Quilt magazine that is totally in Icelandic. I can't read a word of it, but wanted something with that flavor of the country. Having not been to the quilt stores, I can't say this with authority, but quilting is not really "the rage" over there. Knitting seems to be the craft of choice. They have wool from the sheep they raise and sell caps and sweaters and scarves and gloves, all knitted or crocheted.

The country is extremely energy conscious. The electricity for the lights is controlled by a card at the door (there are light switches as well), so you can turn off the power when you leave the room. The hair dryers have a switch that you have to hold down to operate the dryer - it doesn't stay on if you're not pressing it. The toilets flush with efficiency - there is a small and a large button on every toilet, with a one and a two, for different amounts of water. The hot springs that are all over the country are piped to the city to provide heat and power. Icelanders pay $200.00 per year for heat. There is no microwave in the breakfast room at the hotel, and very little processed food. Everything is fresh - Fish is made every way you can think of. They usually have small salads (not a lot of places to grow veggies) and fresh fruit. At breakfast there was a bottle of cod liver oil with teaspoons on the table. It's difficult to find low cal sweetener, and when they offered some, it was saccharin tablets (remember those?). They don't seem to have "diet foods." They do sell Pepsi Max and Coke Light, which both have zero calories. Cool Ranch Doritos are called "Cool American Doritoes" over there. Everyone is extremely fit and trim. They push their babies in baby buggies, not strollers, that are covered to various degrees for the wind, rain and weather. Everyone speaks English to some degree and seem puzzled by our propensity for questions. Hotel rooms don't have washcloths and they have very, very, very, very HOT water. But the cold water out of the tap is great to drink - cold and refreshing.

The views -- Breathtaking, stark, desolate, ominous, majestic, remote, vast, magnificent, incredible, amazing, unbelievable, ethereal, stimulating, gorgeousness and surreal were the words we did find to describe Iceland. My new D300 camera was awesome and performed in an unbelievable way. The Vibration Reduction on the 18-200mm lens does two things: one is keeping your handheld vibration to a minimum, and the second is to compensate for the vibration of you in a moving vehicle. I took pictures through a window that had rain and/or snow on it, while driving in a Super Jeep up a mountain, and they are clear and not blurred at all. We looked at the photos on our HD TV when I got home and they are dramatic landscapes of a country that is absolutely beautiful. The clarity of the HD photos is astounding. I used a Vosonic VP8860Media Viewer to back up my photos while on vacation and it gave me great peace of mind to know that my photos were in a second place and I could view them each day, but I didn't have to carry a computer with me.

I will try and get my act together and get some photos up tomorrow. I feel as if I've touched an untouched place and come away richer for it.

Until tomorrow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pittsburgh Turnaround

We all have things that we are really good at - some are more useful than others. In my job, I photograph houses and use map quest to find my way to lots of different locations. Most of the time, it works out OK, but I do tend to get turned around a lot. I go north when I should go south, east when I should go west, and turn left when I should go right. Since I started this job, I have become a master at the 3 point turn in my van. You may see this as a not very useful skill, but on the streets of Pittsburgh, which can be very small, or hilly or woodsie at times, making a 3 point turn in a small space is a great asset. Of course, that doesn't help my sense of direction. The other day, I was in Beaver Falls, and in my hurry to get home, ended up taking the Turnpike West instead of East. I ended up in Youngstown, wasted 1.5 hours on the road, and had to spend 1.00 to get into Ohio , and 3.00 to get back in PA. It was one of those days I was really glad I was by myself in the car as I kept calling myself all sorts of names. Then I finally decided to just laugh at myself and make a note to always visit the ladies room BEFORE I get on the road - just in case - I do this again!

I finished the quilt for my friend and quilted it with ocean waves. She was very happy with it. I have mixed feelings about machine quilting. I love my Hinterberg machine. I love that I can finish a quilt in a few hours, instead of months or years. But I'm impatient. I have trouble stitching slowly and that makes my stitches larger than I like. I miss the heirloom quality of hand quilting. I miss being able to say that I hand stitched and hand-quilted this quilt. I actually miss hand piecing. I marvel sometimes that Jinny Beyer still hand pieces all her quilts. Some of them are very intricate.

I'm looking forward to our trip to Iceland. I heard that there's a famous quilter who hand dyes her fabric over there in Iceland. I hope I get a chance to check it out. Also, when we're in Boston we may take a drive to Kittery, Maine, where Daryl Hall just happened to buy a historic home there called Bray House. I try to connect all parts of my life to Hall and Oates in some way. Why not my trip? I can't believe how hard it is to pack with all these airline restrictions. That makes me more nervous than anything else. It's my Catholic school upbringing. I'm terrified of getting in trouble at the airport. I think I have everything packed the right way. My priorities are my camera equipment and my coat!

Since we are leaving Saturday morning, this will be my last post until we get back on the 20th. I'm not taking a computer with me so can't post while we're away. I'll be celebrating my birthday in Iceland this year.

I plan on having a great time. Don't miss me too much and have a great time while I'm gone.

mjs 10.10.08 1:22 am

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I'm officially part of the BlogHer network now. It's a blogging community for women on the Internet on all different subjects. They have more than 13,000 members and over 10,000 blogs on their blog list. And now, I'm on that list (under Quilting Crusader, of course). Hopefully it will drive more traffic to the site.

We're watching the Steeler game right now - yeah! we just won!! Speaking of the black and gold, at my sister's suggestion, we're all taking our Terrible Towels to Iceland with us so we can have a photo op with a glacier in the background. Pretty cool idea.

We took a drive to IUP today to visit my son at college - he's 20 years old today. How is it possible that their lives fly by so quickly? Although I miss those childhood years, I enjoy my sons so much right now. They are such interesting individuals and such nice young men. I was reminiscing today about their childhoods, wishing I had taken the time to enjoy it more. I was so busy taking care of them and rushing here and there to games and practices, helping with homework or making dinner, and doing laundry and picking up toys, I forgot to stop to enjoy how cute they really were. Today those years seem like such a fog. Does that make me a terrible mother? Or just a typical one?

Happy Birthday Zachary.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Times Two

When I was kid, I used to think it was funny that my mom would buy two of everything when it came to her clothes and shoes. Truth be told, I thought it was a little bit nerdy. Today, I was packing for a trip I'm taking next week with my sisters and I stopped to survey the clothes I had laid out on the bed. I started to laugh -there was a dress sweater, in 4 colors; a turtleneck, in 5 colors; Bill Blass jeans in 3 colors; and a blazer in 4 different colors. Add that to my shoes in 3 different colors, and I've turned into my mother. My only spark of individuality (very small ) shows in my T-shirt selections of things near and dear to my heart - Hall and Oates, Quilting, the Pens and the Steelers, and Stone Harbor. When does that happen - that we morph into our mothers? There was a time when I dreaded the thought. Today, I welcome it. For my mom was someone I admired greatly for so many reasons. And now that she's gone, I savor anything that brings me a little bit closer to being like her.

So speaking of our trip, my sisters and I are going to Iceland. It's about 20 degrees colder there than it is here, so it's like packing for winter before it arrives. I think the photo opportunities will be gorgeous and can't wait to use my new camera there. We're going whale watching and will see geysers and swim in the Blue Lagoon. If we're lucky we may even see the Aurora Borealis in the night sky from Reykjavik. Our flight departs from Boston, so we're stopping there for 2 days and visiting a friend of my sisters.

It's been an interesting political week and I must say, the best part of it was that it deflected media coverage from the OJ trial (thank goodness!) I am glad there are only 30 days till the election. I hate the nastiness these elections get into - the outright lies drive me crazy.

I'm about to quilt a friend's quilt on my quilt machine. I set it up tonight and hopefully will get a chance to work on it tomorrow. It should only take a couple hours if all goes right. It has an ocean theme, so I'm going to quilt some ocean waves on it. It felt good to be playing with fabric again. Oh, and I did scout out where there are quilt stores in Iceland. I figured I should check them out while I'm there.

mjs 10/4/08 11:35pm

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oh, those blue eyes

If there were a perfect color for a fabric, it would be Paul Newman's blue eyes.

They weren't always the dominant feature in a movie, but in Cool Hand Luke, they were the focus of much of the movie, along with his smile, which could win over any woman's heart. I first loved Paul Newman because my mother loved him. When I was young, I remember her talking about Somebody Up There Likes Me, and seeing The Long Hot Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hustler and Hud. At the time, I didn't understand the nuances of the stories. They were just part of the fabric of my growing up. At my house, we loved Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Robert Redford. My mom also did a mean imitation of Marlo Brando in On the Waterfront, but I digress.

Between the ages of 2 -10, when these movies were released, I wasn't aware that he wasn't playing a nice guy in some of these movies. By the time Cool Hand Luke was released, I loved Paul Newman all on my own. It's the first movie I remember seeing where the hero really didn't win in the end. To this day I have trouble watching the end of that movie - I can still remember the pain I felt when they ran that montage of beautiful blue eyes and dreamy smiles at the end of the movie. When Butch Cassidy came out, it was the "dream team" of the 1970's - Paul Newman and Robert Redford - WOW!-what more could a woman want?

Recently I saw The Road to Perdition and I was amazed at how much I couldn't stand him in the movie. He was so great in the role. To this day, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Long Hot Summer are two of my favorite movies. (I better add them to my profile) It's funny how different a movie is when you understand the story.

He's just a guy who was gorgeous as well as being a fantastic actor and, it seems a really wonderful human being. He will be missed by many. I find it comforting to know he's up in heaven with my mom.

mjs 10.01.08 12:24 am

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Does the shoe fit?

Shoes, you gotta love shoes. Isn't that what women are famous for - having tons of shoes? When I was young, I couldn't wait to wear high heels. Being old enough to wear stockings and heels was the mark of adulthood. I used to watch my mom put on her nylons with a garter belt and thought that was so cool. I missed out on that, because by the time I was old enough to wear stockings, there was pantyhose. And by that time, no one was wearing heels, we were wearing bell bottom jeans with platforms and shoes with fat heels. Later, in my job, I wasn't able to wear heels, so I always wore a flat practical shoe because now pantsuits were "in" and you didn't have to wear heels. After I married and became a mom, I wore jeans and shorts most of the time so tennis shoes became my regular shoe. I wore them for aerobics and for casual wear. I think the only time I actually wore a "high heeled shoe" was the day I got married in 1978. And my feet were killing me.

But here's my problem. I can't tell if a shoe fits in the store. Inevitably, when I'd visit a shoe store, I'd come home with the wrong size. No matter how many times I walked in front of those floor mirrors and looked at my feet, the next day I was exchanging those shoes because they didn't fit. Oh, wait I actually have two problems, because a couple years ago, I started having heel pain. Because of that, I can only wear a very supportive shoe. Have you seen what supportive shoes look like? I refused to go the orthopedic shoes route - I didn't want to end up with shoes that would squeak.

Then came the Internet. Once I learned to shop on the Internet, buying shoes became a dream. I could buy 2 pairs and try them for a week at home and then mail the other pair back (Inconvenient for sure, buy it took out that feeling stupid factor of returning them in person). After a few weeks, I'd decide that pair wasn't helping my feet and order another style of shoe. I finally found that Ryka tennis shoes seem to work for me.

And then I found Merrell Shoes. They were supportive, not a tennis shoe and they even have a shoe with a slight heel that looks semi-dressy sometimes. Then they made a clog in different colors and there was one in fuchsia, my favorite color! Somewhere along the line, in ordering shoes, I also found Zappos, an online shoe store with free shipping both ways, and Online Shoes, who carry Merrell's. Nirvana!

So now I order 2 or 3 different styles of Ryka's (all in the correct size), or Merrell's in different colors, figuring I'll eliminate the ones that I don't like or that aren't good for my feet. But I end up liking all of them, and they all feel great.

My closet will never have Manolo Blancs like Carrie Bradshaw's, but my feet are finally happy with my Merrill's and my Rykas.

mjs 9.27.08

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chaos Reigns!!

I was having some computer problems the last two days, so didn't get to a chance to post. I hope all my friends and relatives liked the website. I'm very proud of our efforts to create it. Now I can devote my time to creating "black and gold" quilts to promote Pittsburgh colors everywhere.

Hasn't this been the craziest day ever in Politics? No matter whose side you're on, this is an unbelievably interesting election year. I find myself constantly reading websites to search for the latest in the Presidential election coverage. I watch news programs all night long, and switch from channel to channel to hear what all the analysts are saying.

I think one of the saddest things about this crisis the economy is in right now is that it will hamper every program that the new President (yes, I hope it's Obama) wants to implement. Mainly it means health care reform is probably in jeopardy. I can't get over the fact that George W. Bush came into office with a balanced budget and has driven the country into near financial ruin (and that's not an exaggeration, given this week's events).

And on top of that I got blindsided by Project Runway again Wednesday night - I can't believe they kept Kenley. My jaw dropped when they told her "she's in." I'll never understand that show, but I guess that's what keeps me watching.

Here's to an exciting day tomorrow. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a debate!!

mjs 9.26.08 2:04 am

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I'm so excited! At 9:19 on 9/23/08, my website is live on the Internet. Zachary, you are so awesome-this is so cool. I hope everyone enjoys my site, we've been working on it forever!!
I have no idea if the site will ultimately be a success (obviously I hope for that) or a failure, but just getting it online has been an accomplishment for both of us (more for Zachary, since he did all the computer work). I did hire a classmate of his who drew the artwork for The Quilting Crusader, so, to Amanda Jo , thank you so much, it looks wonderful.

I have an interesting little part time job that sometimes takes me to unexpected places to take photos. Today I was on the 26th floor at the Gateway Towers downtown and was able to take some beautiful views of Pittsburgh. Mind you, these were taken through a window, so they're not as crystal clear as they could be. But I think they're pretty good.



Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting Ready

My youngest son, Zack, and I have been working hard today to get the website ready to "go live." I can't believe how much tech knowledge you need to have a website. There's so much that goes in to the actual creation of the site (Zack did all that) and then you have to figure out how to host it and who should host it, and then how to publicize it and make it accessible to others. I missed my calling - I should've been a webmaster in another life. I'm hoping it wil be live this week, and then you can all see what we've been working so hard on.

It's almost a month since I started this blog. I was uncertain at first as to how I wanted to record my thoughts. Did I want the blog to be only about quilting? Should I avoid controversial subjects entirely? Do I run the risk of being too personal? I think that I started out wanting to relate each day's topic to quilting somehow. I realized that would be too difficult and tried to find a way to be true to myself and still not alienate readers. I am actually glad I started the blog first because it enabled me to find my voice. Although the Quilting Crusader is my business website, this blog is about me and my life and my reflections on the world and my place in it, and I can't hide who I am by not mentioning things that are very important to me, even if it is politics.

Oh, and by the way, my oldest sister, Chrissie, my bird expert (not really, she just knows more than I do about it), confirmed that the little birds on the shore in the photos are indeed sandpipers.

Have a great day.

mjs 9.22.08 10:18 pm

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I got a new phone yesterday. This one is the Chocolate 3, even though it's actually blue in color (my favorite part is the color). They talked us into trying a bunch of bells and whistles, like how I can have mobile web on this tiny 1 inch screen and somehow, I was enticed by that idea. Well, after a day of scrolling through the news on this minuscule (though large, by phone standards) screen, I'm opting out of that program, for sure. It's ridiculous that I couldn't just look at a newspaper headline or turn on the radio or watch the news on my new flat screen TV, rather than trying to go blind and crazy surfing for news or sports on my phone. Maybe this is for some, but not for me. I'm not even that good at texting, yet when I was in the store, I was definitely considering buying the phones that had a mini keyboard on them. It takes me about 5 minutes to type a few words in response to my youngest son, whose fingers fly across the keys. I want to reach through the phone and strangle him when he replies in about 3 seconds, meaning I have to wrestle the keyboard again. I did get a great hint though - you can type an email and send it to a person's phone as a text message. If I have more than 3 words to text, I'm headed to the computer.

Not much going on this weekend, but watching football (we're all sad - the Steelers lost) and reading a new book.

I'm on the hunt for a server for my website next. The site is ready to put up this week.

Till tomorrow.

mjs 9.21.08 11:33pm

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I've noticed lately that anywhere there seems to be piped in music playing, suddenly a H&O song comes on if I'm there (probably when I'm not there too). The morning my Mom died, my sisters and I left the hospital and entered a restaurant, and the song Wait for Me came on. It's kind of a sad, slow tune and one I'll always associate with her now. Here are the words and tell me that wasn't just eerie that it played at that moment.

Midnight hour almost over

Time is running out for the magic pair

I know you gave the best that you have

But one more chance

couldn't be all that hard to bear.

Wait for me please

Wait for me

Alright, I guess

that's more than I should ask

Wait for me please

Wait for me

Although I know the light is fading fast.

You could go either way

Is it easier to stay

I wonder what you'll do

when your chance rolls around

But you gotta know how much I want to keep you

When I'm away I'm afraid it will all fall down.

Love is what it does and ours is doing nothing

But all the time we spent

It must be good for something

Please forgive all the disturbance I'm creating

But you got a lot to learn if you think that I'm not waiting for you

I miss her every day.

As a dedicated Hall and Oates fan, I just wanted to mention that John Oates' new CD is being released on Sept. 23. It's called 1000 Miles of Life. You can buy it at Amazon. I've heard a couple clips from his website and in You Tube videos, and it sounds like a great album (I'm afraid I'll never stop calling them albums). He visited North Penn high school, his Alma mater, last week and performed for the students there. Then he had a solo concert in Sellersville, PA where his Mom and Dad and wife and son were in the front row. How cool is that! You can find You Tube videos for the North Penn performance online and see what a generous and caring guy he seems, as well as a great singer/songwriter. Mark (my husband) and I were able to read reviews about his performance in the Philly paper when we were at the beach last week (Notice how I keep trying to recall the beach?). It seems like everytime I go to Stone Harbor, I read something about Hall and Oates in the paper there.

Speaking of Stone Harbor, a reader mentioned that my little birdies might be sandpipers. Thinking it over and doing a little research, I believe she may be right (what do I know about birds?), and maybe the seagulls were fat, because they were "ready" to give birth???? I know the babies were pecking at the sand the way sandpipers do. Weird though, I didn't notice any mommy sandpipers - though the birds themselves are so small that it would be hard to tell them apart. Anyway, thank you for bringing it to my attention. The abundance of birds was still cool to watch, and it's nice to know they won't grow up to be irritating like seagulls, if they truly are sandpipers.

Enjoy the day.

mjs 9.20.08 1:24pm

Friday, September 19, 2008


It's hard to believe it's been almost a week since we came home from the ocean. I posted some photos below of the seagulls, so you could see how cute they are when they're small. I bought some Mums to plant out front (I leave that to the guys in my household, I just point and tell them where to put them). My favorite are the bright yellow ones. I love the colors of fall. The air is cooler, but unfortunately I'm allergic to the cold air. That sounds crazy I know, but it makes me sneeze. I usually have to close the windows and doors at night as soon as this weather hits, because I start sneezing and can't stop. The last two years I've been taking an antihistamine and it helps for a little bit of the season. Eventually, I'll still have to close up as soon as it feels cool.

I can't help it - I have to write how I feel about all the political stuff going on. It infuriates me that lawyers and legal mumbo jumbo are able to totally stall the investigation going on in Alaska. If we're going to "welcome public scrutiny," as was stated before, then what are you trying to hide? I hate liars and I hate cheaters. Let the candidates rise or fall on their own merits. Let this election be about the issues and if there is dirt, let it come out. Everyone else has had to air their dirty laundry in public in the last months, why shouldn't the VP candidate? Why can't lawyers and handlers let their candidates handle themselves? The truth is, as I see it, if they can't handle themselves, then they will fail in their bid. When they cheat and lie to get ahead, I just don't understand why people don't see through it.

I'm taking the afternoon off today and spending the time in my sewing room. I have a beautiful room with 2 skylights and 4 windows. My quilting machine is in there and my sewing table. I love the room. First, I'm going to take a walk to help my cholesterol. (Exercise is supposed to help lower my LDL).

Have a great afternoon.

mjs 9.19.08 12:05 pm




Thursday, September 18, 2008


Is the fabric store where I buy on vacation better or different than where I buy it at home? I could try and tell myself that, but the truth is, no, it's just a better excuse to buy fabric than on a normal day. I buy fabric at a store in Stone Harbor called Harbor Fabrics and then we drive to Ocean City and I visit Calico and Cotton and buy more fabric there. 3 is my number. You know the story - buy one yard if you like it, two if you love it, and three if you can't live without it. Well, my problem is I don't want to live without any of it. I try and look like I'm deliberating over the purchase, but I always buy 3 yards. I'm not one of those exact measurement people, who can figure out to the fat quarter what they'll need for a quilt. I'm always afraid I'll run out. Totally illogical, I know, but just the way I am.

My son and I are working on the website. He's at college and trying to do homework, and I'm bugging him about updating this and that on the site. Sometimes I feel like everything is just so overwhelming to learn. If I were a webmaster, I could be making big bucks helping folks to make websites - it's a valuable skill. I looked into it once, and it would take about a year of concentrated study (no vacations) to become certified. The no vacation part made that less than desirable.

Right now, I'm battling ants in my dishwasher. Those tiny little buggers are driving me crazy. We've managed to destroy all the trails that were leading them to the counter top, but I can't get them out of the dishwasher. I read a hint that they are attracted to the moisture, so as long as I keep the door open, we don't have any. As soon as we close the door, they appear inside. It's driving us all nuts. Who wants to leave the dishwasher door open all the time? If anyone has any suggestions, I'm happy to try them.

Last night I was watching Project Runway - I love that show. I enjoy watching them sew and create beautiful garments. But the main reason love it is because it always surprises me. From the very first episode, I'm never right about what will win on the runway. I think it's obvious which was the best dress, and then I pick all losers. It always works out that their fashion "do's" are my fashion "don'ts." (This would be why I'm not on the Best Dressed list) Very seldom does a show consistently surprise you and it's fun to watch. It's also amazing that they can create such great stuff less than 2 days.

mjs 9.18.08 11:51 am

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


What is a widget you might ask? I don't really know, but I have one on my site now. You can click on the orange widget symbol and have my blog appear on your custom web page, whether it's Google or Yahoo, or something else. If you'd like to receive emails to let you know of a new blog posting, you can enter your email address in the box provided.

I'm already losing the whoosh feeling of the ocean. I told my kids I wish you could just bottle that sound and when you're feeling stressed out, listen to the sounds of the ocean to calm you. Whoosh. Ah, yes, I can picture the waves. So (as though I hadn't stopped talking yesterday), the other weird thing about vacation, in addition to the emptiness of the town, was that kids were going to school. The school playgrounds were filled with schoolchildren playing, instead of vacationers playing basketball on their courts. Parents were meeting their children at the school bus, just as they do in my suburban neighborhood. I just never think of people LIVING in my vacation spot and going to school there.

And the life cycle continues. The shore was covered with baby seagulls, who would chase the wave, eating sand crabs, then run away as the tide came in. Instead of squawking seagulls attacking everyone on the beach for food, there were fat mama seagulls stationed every couple of yards in the sand watching over their little babies. It was funny, watching the babies, they were so cute. Their little legs could hardly keep up with the rush of the water.

Of course, next summer they'll be just as annoying as usual, especially when some goofus, like this couple on the beach with us, decides to feed them. They thought it would be cute if she fed the seagulls, while he took a video of her surrounded by the birds. Cute, except she kept moving backwards towards my sandchair and bringing those darn birds with her. Oh, she pretended not to even know it was a bother - I hate when people are SO inconsiderate.


mjs 9.17.08 12:39 am

Monday, September 15, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

Well, I'm back home again, fresh from my 2ND vacation to Stone Harbor this year. We traveled through the night Friday night (it used to be so the kids could sleep all night) and arrive Saturday morning about 8:30 am. Of course, check in isn't until 1:00pm, so we have time to kill. We cross the bridge into Stone Harbor and can smell the ocean air. We drive up and down the streets and drive past the place we're going to stay. Then we drive to the ocean block, get out, and walk to the pier so we can gaze at the ocean. We fill our lungs with fresh sea air, while our hearts chant "We're here, we're here." Mark walks to the surf and checks out the water temperature. This sets the tone for the trip. When he comes back up to the pier and says, "it's like bathwater," that's a good sign.

We noticed that there were very few lifeguard chairs on the beach, as well as very few people. As we walk back to the car, we noticed there were a bunch of lifeguard chairs stacked up by the SH beach house. We drive up and down the streets again, and notice that no cars are parked lining the streets. Trees are in bloom that we don't normally see in a late June/July or an August vacation. Even though it's almost 9:00am, there are almost zero walkers or joggers or bike riders on the street. Our tradition is to go to Uncle Bill's for pancakes, and we sit there talking about the changes, and what we think they mean. In addition, upon arriving we found that the paper said Hurricane Gustov was due to hit and bring storms that afternoon around 2:00pm. Then Mark mentions we should look around at the other people here and there's our answer. I glance around the pancake house and every table has a couple, with no children in sight. (I like to believe they're ALL older than me!) Occasionally, there's a young couple with a toddler and a baby, but no young families, with children in tow. Every table is the same. Couple after couple, probably retired, vacationing with no children. Since this is our first vacation in forever without family, it seems so odd. So this is our first taste of a retiree's life. It requires some adjustment in our thinking but after a few days, we still think we're the youngest ones in town.

More on vacation tomorrow.
Have a good day.

mjs 9.15.08 2:00pm

Friday, September 5, 2008


Vacation - not a staycation, but an actual beach vacation, where the ocean roars and calms at the same time. This year is unique, as this is our second vacation to our favorite place, Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Our first was in June, with the extended family, as is our tradition. This vacation belongs to us, my husband Mark and myself. We celebrated our 30th anniversary this year and decided to come back to the shore in September to celebrate our anniversary with a special trip. We've had a couple weekend trips, but haven't really had a trip to ourselves since our honeymoon in 1978. Our excursions always included family, mostly because the trips were more economical.

How novel it will be to have the house we rent completely to ourselves. All our attention can be focused on one another. The beach belongs to us alone (I can ignore all those other people there). The town is there simply to entertain us and amuse us during this week of rejuvenation. The importance of rejuvenation cannot be underestimated. A need to refill the soul and believe that life is good keeps us going, sometimes for an entire year, until the next vacation. Our spirits drink in the calmness of the ocean and we are always awed by it's beauty. The scenes are familiar, yet welcome. Babies are playing in the sand, and toddling toward the water. Children are rushing to dance in the waves. Adults are hovering, holding their hands, introducing their children to the ocean. The same scene plays out again and again at the seashore.

I'm taking my new camera and experimenting on this trip. Hopefully I'll bring back something beautiful to share with you next week. Maybe a sunrise over the ocean or a sunset over the bay. Maybe a heron flying over the wetlands or the surfer race on the Nun's Beach. Whatever it is, I'm going to the sea again (isn't there a poem about that?) and I'm thrilled.

Have a good week.
mjs 9.5.08 11:28 pm

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Well, the world seems in a political upheaval today, at least to me. And then my life, sometimes so calm, got a jolt today. My mother passed away in June of this year. I met a woman today who was her PT at one of the assisted living care facilities she lived in. The weird part was, I met her while I was on my job, taking photos of a senior care home, and in a part of town my mother wasn't even close to, and it was as if my worlds had collided (isn't that from a Seinfeld show?) We acknowledged one another and shared words of sympathy, which I appreciated, but I felt so odd. That moment when your work world and your private world meet one another and you are thrown off balance by forgetting who knows who and what they know about you.

My quilt circle meets tonight and I already know that the tactile sensation of fabric is a comfort to me. I look forward to touching cloth and smoothing it between my fingers, the way a child "jouggies" a blanket between their fingers while sucking their thumb. "Jouggy" is my family's word for it - I've discovered that different families have a different word for that action. Maybe someone can share with me what that is in their family.

I'm getting ready to go the beach tomorrow, so I won't be writing from there. I'll be enjoying the sun and the sand and the ocean breezes. Maybe I can figure out what I want to do when I grow up.


9.4.08 4:21 pm

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ah, it's September

Yes, folks it's back to school time. The air is cool, and the school buses are roaming the neighborhoods today. My own children are grown (the youngest is in college), but I still feel that urge to go buy notebooks and pencils at this time of the year. I probably have more blank notebooks than anyone I know. I just love office supplies. Remember when we were kids and the teacher would hand out a test and you'd hold it to your nose and sniff the mimeographed paper? Oh, was that only me that did that? Or the smell of a brand new textbook?

Besides office supplies, I am in love with bookstores. There's nothing like cracking open the spine of a new book and reading it. Sometimes I buy a book simply because I love the way it feels - the paper they used, or the cover material, or the size of the book influences me greatly. My husband knows he can leave me in a bookstore and go shopping, and it doesn't matter if he takes an hour or two, I'll still be contented with browsing in the bookstore. I credit my love of books to my mother, who loved to read, and generously gave that gift to her kids.

Yes, as the commercial says, it's the most wonderful time of the year - you get a little more time to yourself (for quilting, of course) and the excuse to go buy a new notebook.

12:05 pm 9.3.08

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