Archive for the ‘Travelling’ Category

A Trip of a Lifetime – Part One (Australia)

June 13, 2017

It’s been ever so long since you last heard from me!  Sorry about that – as you’ll see below, it’s been very busy. John and I have recently returned from a trip of a lifetime, and because it has some quilting content, I have decided to tell you all about it.

We were away for 3 months in all – if you’ll remember, we are no longer doing our long driving tours, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to travel any more! We started with 5 weeks in Australia, seeing good friends from Sydney to Brisbane, Canberra to Melbourne and Adelaide, followed by a flight to Darwin and another flight to Perth.  We then joined a 21 day guided tour in South Africa, followed by three weeks in Europe and the UK.

The original reason for this trip was to help John celebrate his birthday in Australia.  This birthday lasted for at least a month, since he kept getting more cake every time we turned around! On the day itself, we were in Tamworth, the country music capital of Australia, and we had to get this picture of all of us (we met Aussie friends who live in BC) in front of the famous Golden Guitar!


Some quilty highlights (not much singing involved in this trip) included giving away a new quilt from fabric that our friend Barb gave me years ago to make into “a pillow or something”.  I have a new theory: the longer it takes to give back a piece someone asks you to make, the nicer the final product needs to be!  The “pillow or something” ended up as a medium sized wall hanging!  It was hard to find more unicorn fabric that wasn’t “girly”, but John found some on line, and I was able to make this.

006 Elanora with Barb and Dennis ONeil (4) quilt presentation

I was happy with how it turned out, and Barb was too.

We visited friends in Brisbane, and headed back down the highway through lots of rain.  One should never complain about rain in Australia EVER, but we ran into one flooded out highway and had to divert inland to find another way south – we still had trouble, and are lucky we didn’t float away!

009 drive south through rain (3) med

It was after we left that the cyclone hit, and there was flooding everywhere. We’re lucky to have gotten through when we did.

The rain followed us to Canberra, but didn’t interfere in our busy social schedule! One night we got together with quilty friends there, including Michelle Law, who used my pattern of 1/2″ hexagons to make her own version of my “Seven Garden Maze”.  I love what she’s done with it – and she deserved to receive the ribbon at the last quilt show for it.

014 SCQ dinner (4) Michelles 7 Garden Maze

Michelle, Donna, Jenny (the famous Jenny Bowker!) and Kathryn are all extraordinary quilters and good friends, and I’m happy that I got to see them all together in a small group.

014 SCQ dinner (13) canberra

We had some amazing show and tell that evening, as well as a wonderful meal.

Our travels took us on down to Bega, Bairnsdale, and Melbourne. We had the chance to wander about downtown Melbourne, around Federation Square with our friend Judy. We really wanted to see the graffiti alley, just across the road from the Square. We had been seeing graffiti everywhere in the city – they seem to really encourage it.  Some of it is horrible, like any other graffiti that most cities paint over.  And then we got to Hosier Lane!

019 Melbourne (16) Hosier Lane baby hand

Just amazing.

From Melbourne we decided to repeat one of our favourite drives in the world: The Great Ocean Road!

Cloudy still, but it didn’t rain on us that day.  By the time we got to Adelaide, the rain had left us behind, thankfully. In Gawler we visited friends who took us out to an Aboriginal celebration of the great Murray River that night.  These people had travelled the length of the river doing these celebrations along the way, and this was the last one, at the Murray River mouth.  We were quite honoured to be there.

003a Goolwa aboriginal celebration (18)

Our friends in Adelaide live in the Hills and have lots of wildlife around their house. I’m very happy with this picture of the iconic kookaburra who is one of many who visits them every day.

007 Adelaide (9) kookaburra

I was very lucky to be in town for the South Australia Quilters’ Guild meeting!  Raelene and I went after dinner, and it was great to see some familiar faces in the crowd.  We’ve sung for them a couple of times, and I got up as “Show and Tell” and sang a song for them. I have no quilts with me, so I have to just sing!


006a Quilters Guild of South Australia (4)

They had a huge show and tell of quilts – if I remember correctly, these were the result of the mystery quilt bags – multiple designs with different fabrics.  For $40 you get a bag and make up the quilt. If you have a group of 20 making them, the organizers will come over and teach the pattern for free (and bring chocolate too)!

This is a big guild, and I was interested to see how they were keeping everything fun and new for their members. As a guest, for example, I was whisked to the front of the line to sign in and given a private tour of the room by one of the executive members. Nice touch.

We flew up to Darwin for a few days.  This is where I wrote the first quilting CD, and I have some very close friends there.  We stayed with Alison, a marvelous quilter, who showed me a couple of her new quilts.  The circular hexie one is a pattern by Geta Grama that I’ve been thinking about making some day.

008 Darwin (1)008 Darwin (12) Alisons Geta Grama quilt009 darwin (1) at paperbark woman

I was thrilled to hear that Paperbark Woman – a shop that specializes in Aboriginal fabrics – has re-opened after a long time being closed.  Lenore is the one who talked M&S Textiles into making Aboriginal fabrics, and introduced them to some of the artists. Her whole shop is full of the fabrics, and many of them I hadn’t seen before. Yes, I came home with some of them!  The stories about the designs are included when you buy the fabric, too.

One last stop in Australia – Perth for 5 days to catch our breath and prepare for the next leg of the tour: South Africa!  Our friends Andy and Vicki had this on their counter: I have never before seen Vegemite flavoured chips!!! They were pretty good, too.

010 Perth Vegemite bagel chips

We spent a day as tourists out at Rottnest Island – never been there before! This is a destination for vacationers – lots of lovely beaches, and fun stuff to do, but not overly developed. People go there and rent cottages for a week at a time.  It’s a fairly long ferry ride out, and we hired bicycles to wander around the island.

The island is famous for one of smallest marsupials in Australia: the quokka.  There are signs everywhere to keep away from them, to not feed them, but that doesn’t stop the visitors.  I kept thinking what would happen if people do that in North America – any wild animal you could snuggle up to here would bite you!

011 Rottnest Island (15) quokka

The island is called Rottnest because the first visitors saw these animals and thought they were very large rats. They are very cute, and they don’t bite. This is where they live:

011 Rottnest Island (26)

I have obviously left out quite a bit from this section of the trip – we had a lot of wonderful visits with good friends, ate a lot of good food and drank a lot of good wine. I’m going to continue in the second installment about the jewel of this trip: three amazing weeks in South Africa.

The End of the Big Drives

February 17, 2017

As unbelievable as it seems to me, John and I have now completed our last Big Driving Tour.  The car has been emptied out and things are put away.  Maybe now I can actually unpack my stage clothes and quilts.  I found all the fabric I bought during the tour – see the last picture on this blog post.  Here’s a recap of the tour from September 11 to November 22nd, 2016 (I know this is waaaay late!) – pour yourself a cup of hot brown drink; it’s a long one!

We started to see some lovely colours through the mountains in Wyoming, through the Snake River Valley, just south of Jackson Hole.


It’s unusual to see red maple leaves in the mountains.

Steamboat Springs was our first stop, and I taught a Mock Mola class there. It’s a ski town in the mountains in Colorado, and we both said we could live there!


It was a small class, and they did great work!

From there, we headed across the final mountain range to Colorado Springs. Absolutely gorgeous drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, above the tree line. None of our pictures fully capture how astounding the scenery is there.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great drive. In the summer.


In Colorado Springs, another class!


After class, we spent another couple of days in town, hoping that we could have a balloon ride.  The first two days were too windy, then it looked like it was a “go” for the third day.  Unfortunately, someone (who may or may not still have his job) neglected to refill the gas tanks of our balloon, and we missed out – AGAIN!!!  Maybe sometime we’ll get up in a hot air balloon; we’ve now tried 6 times without any luck.



This is the closest we’ve ever gotten to getting airborne in a hot air balloon!

We had a bit of time before we had to get to our next show in Kansas, so we turned into tourists for a while. We stopped in at a couple of presidential museums on the way.  In all, we visited 3 official presidential museums on this trip.  Fascinating, to learn of the history behind each presidency.

(L to R): Eisenhower statue in Abilene KS, me with Amelia Earhart (I know, she wasn’t a president, but we went anyway) at her family home in Atchison KS, and John with Harry S. Truman in Independence MO.

Another class in Leavenworth KS.  Our show in Leavenworth was small but enthusiastic. Connie and Maria did a great job organizing the event.

This is Vicky, Kim, Connie, Shari, and Denise displaying their stunning work at the end of class. 


After Leavenworth, we stopped in to Hamilton MO on our way east. This was a Highly Recommended Stop, for a quilter!  The big mural in Hamilton MO signifies the Town that Quilting built. It seems like the entire downtown is one big quilt shop! It’s not, though – it’s TWELVE quilt shops! Yes, this is the home of Missouri Star Quilts.


We paid a visit to the Lincolns (Abraham Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library) in Springfield IL. It’s a very good museum, but of the three we visited, we liked the Eisenhower the best.  There was an amazing map in the Lincoln Museum, though, that was worth the price of admission: it is an animated map of the US, detailing all the major battles and territories held by each side throughout the Civil War – the entire history in 4 minutes!


Can you spot John hobnobbing with the Lincolns?


From Kansas we drove through to southern Ontario for the month of October.  There are always lots of people to see there, including many family members.  Our first show and class was in Burlington ON. I’ve written a song about the Burlington Teen Tour Band quilt (“Boots and Bayonets”), and it was great to sing the song for them again. The class the next day was very creative and fun.


I have a very old friend who lives in Burlington – in fact, I used to babysit her kids when I was growing up in London.  We spent a delightful evening with her and her daughter the next night.

The next day we drove into Toronto for a Thanksgiving lunch at my nephew’s new home.  I gave away two quilts at that luncheon – it’s my very favourite thing to do! One was a delayed wedding quilt for Dan and Yasi – they wanted a cuddle quilt for watching TV under, all flannelette. The other was for my brother and sister-in-law: a portrait of their old house.  I learned a lot doing that one – I even used a new technique called “Confetti applique” that I learned from Ruth Bloomfield in Queensland Australia. (She has given me permission to teach this – watch for a new class soon!)

Here’s a closeup of the “Knoxvilla” quilt.


Then we headed up to spend the remainder of the weekend with my other brother. I picked up a new sign for him when we were in Texas earlier in the year (thank you, Paul Hewitt!). Doug would not be a Republican, if he lived in the US, hence the look on his face! I love this picture of him!


The leaves were just getting started in the near-north of Ontario, and they continued for us for the next month.  I have so many pictures of the gorgeous fall leaves!  I’m sure there will be a confetti-appliqued fall colours-themed quilt or two in my future.



We had lots of shows in Ontario: Orleans, Algonquin Highlands (Haliburton), Whitby, and Richmond. Then we crossed over to the US again to complete the tour.  Erie PA was our first stop, and I taught a class for them as well.


I love glass. Stained glass, blown glass, fused glass, any kind at all.  We’ve been able to visit a couple of glass museums over the years, and took the opportunity to stop in Corning NY at the largest glass museum in North America. Corning – the inventors of Corningware, Corelle dishes, and Fibre Optics.  At the museum is a working glass-blowing studio, and many displays about telescope and lighthouse lenses, safety glass for automobiles, history of glass making, modern art glass, and computer display glass.  Four hours is not enough for this museum! And the gift shop is the whole bottom floor of the building. Since we were there just before Halloween, they had all their blown pumpkins on display.

Corning Museum of Glass

Then we had a week off to explore the Washington DC area.  On our way, we stopped off in Mifflinburg PA to visit Verna’s Quilt Shop.  It’s in a Mennonite/Amish area, and here’s the view from our car window on the way to the shop.



School bus and horse-drawn carriage.



Verna’s is chock full of fabric. If you want to use their restroom, it is a one-holer out back!

A this point in the tour, we became TOURISTS! We spent a week in Arlington Virginia, and took in a lot of things in the area, beginning with the George Washington Masonic Memorial.021-george-washington-masonic-national-memorial-small




There was a stunning view from the top of the memorial.


It was the Saturday before Hallowe’en when we went to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s house.  The place was overrun with children, all dressed up for trick-or-treating!


There was a lineup to get to meet “Martha Washington” on the front steps of the house.


Yes, Elvis made an appearance!


This little chocolate chip cookie was my favourite costume of the day!

It was final preparations for All Saints’ Day at the Museum of the American Indian, and Day of the Dead performances and celebrations were in full swing.  What an amazing building, designed by Canadian Douglas Cardinal.

There were performances all day long, and, from the fourth floor, we caught a bit of the ukuleles from Hawaii.


Beautiful day in the national capital!

The fall colours had followed us from Ontario, and were starting to blaze in DC as well.  We saw lots at the Arlington Cemetery in our visit there.


Our tours took us to the FDR monument, which also sported some fall colours.



John with FDR!

Above are three pictures of our day in Washington:  the gigantic Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, a section of the Berlin Wall at the Newseum (well worth the visit – there’s so much there!), and one of me sitting in a Parks Canada “red chair” in the echo rotunda at the Canadian Embassy.

Then, it was back to work!  I taught a class in Lewes, Delaware – a “Hexagons: State of the Art” workshop.  It’s a bit of a sweatshop, especially in the morning, but everyone gets to try out different ways to make hexies using many techniques.  In the afternoon we play with fussy cutting fabrics using the Lucy Boston templates, and beautiful things were created!


I also taught a Mock Mola class in Williamsburg VA, and got to see an old friend at the same time: Freda Atkins.


Then, it was a huge drive WEST! Seven days later we stopped in Havre MT at the quilt shop there, and as we approached the border to cross into Canada again, this is what we saw out the window.



Welcome Home!


Our friend Pat Ruby hosted a dinner where I got to invite some of the good friends I hadn’t seen much of since I moved to Victoria in 2000.  What a night! It was just like it used to be, with lots of laughing and storytelling, but somehow everybody is looking much older.  How did that happen?

One last show and class at My Sewing Room before we headed home.


We stayed with Robyn (on the right), a fellow engineer who knew John in Yellowknife – and a sewer of great skill. We laughed a lot with her, too, and I got to take a yoga class with her and her partner while I was there.

A last familiar road over the Rocky Mountains, ending with a ferry ride and our own bed for the first time in 10 weeks. After I unpacked the car, I found all kinds of fabric I had stashed in various nooks and crannies during the tour.  It was just like Christmas!!!


And that’s it! Thank you for reading until the end of this very long missive. It was a lovely tour, and a great way to end 16 years of touring this program. We got to see lots of old and new friends, took in a lot of touristy stuff, and enjoyed mostly great weather.  Thank you to all who made it memorable, comfortable, and enjoyable. I hope to see you again.

Bucket List: Denali

July 16, 2016

07 Denali to Anchorage jb (12) fireweed jb med

John and I just returned from a fantastic week in Alaska. We were there to sing and teach at the Valley Quilters’ Guild in Palmer. We were very well taken care of by the gals at the guild, in particular Jessica, Julie, and Glenda.

We have been to Alaska before. In February of 2006 we flew up to Juneau and sang there and in Ketchikan. That’s when we took the ferry up to Skagway to see the Duck Neck quilt (which I wrote a song about). We also did a cruise in 2010 up to the Panhandle which stopped in the same places.

But we’d never been further north in Alaska, and that’s where we went this time.  We flew into Anchorage and Jessica and Julie picked us up to begin our adventure.

The Mat-Su Valley is the heart of agriculture in Alaska. It began with an experiment back in 1935 when the New Deal sent settlers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to form a colony.  We were told it was an experiment in communism – or perhaps communalism – but most of them left the next year, likely for various reasons.  BUT there are lots of farmers there today; the valley is known for HUUUUUGE cabbages and various other produce.  Everybody had something growing, either outdoors or in a greenhouse with the very long days but short growing season.

We spent the next day with Glenda and her family.  They took us up to Hatcher Pass, where we wandered around an abandoned gold mine, once the 2nd largest in the state.  The views from up there were tremendous.

Before returning to Palmer, we stopped in at a reindeer farm. This is a tourist trap, and they do play up the Santa connection (though there was none with a red nose!). You do know, don’t you, that all of Santa’s reindeer were female?  Male reindeer lose their antlers in October.  This time of year, they all have fuzzy antlers – they are growing about 4″ a day and they are very sensitive. The fur grows on the skin that covers them as they grow.  When the antlers stop growing, the skin dries up and falls off.

They also had a herd of elk (same species, but the wild elk are larger) and a sole bison, who had been raised with elk and thought of himself as one!  It was fun to visit the farm and to feed the reindeer.

We sang for the guild the next day and did a Mock Mola class.  The day was very long, but it was never dark – there are 18 hours of daylight this time of year.

02 Palmer show day (10) MM class med

The next day was another day off, and we drove down to Anchorage with Jessica and her husband Dave. They have a great museum there, with really good exhibits on the development of Alaska. We did stop for some chocolate sustenance at the Alaska Wild Berry Products shop, where they have the tallest chocolate waterfall in the world (whatever brings in the tourists, I guess….). Alas, you can’t dip into it.

Yes, that’s the man I married on the right…

From there, we headed down to Turnagain Arm. It was named by William Bligh who served as Captain Cook’s sailing master on his last voyage to the north Pacific (right after that, he went to Hawaii where he was killed by the natives). When he realized that this waterway didn’t get him to the Northwest Passage, and they had to explore two arms of it, both leading to river mouths, he called it Turn Again.  It’s beautiful, but it’s also a great place to see a tidal bore – 2 1/2 hours after we were there!

03 Palmer anchorage (33) Turnagain Arm med

The next day was a Notan class.  Here are some of the pieces created (mostly on paper) during class.

Then, we were on our own for a couple of days before heading back home.  We rented a car and headed north to Denali National Park!  Our plans had us staying a couple of nights near the entrance and taking a day-long shuttle bus into Eielson Visitor Center. We hoped for good weather.

Our first view of the mountain came as a surprise.  We had caught glimpses of white-topped mountains through the clouds and kept saying to each other: THAT’s Denali. No, THAT’s Denali! But when we did see it, near MilePost 132, it was absolutely unmistakable.  It towers over all the other mountains.  At 20,310 feet, it is the tallest mountain in North America.  But if you want to climb it, it is taller than Everest because the climb starts much much closer to sea level than does Everest. This is July and it’s still totally covered in snow and ice.

05 Drive to Denali (4) small

We got up early the next morning and hopped on the 7am shuttle. It is not possible to drive in the park for most of the year.  In the fall, they have a lottery to allow 1500 cars to drive through the park, and the locals jump at the chance.  For us, it was better to just sit back and look for wildlife instead of concentrating on the gravel road ahead.

Our driver came on the PA system to tell us “up ahead is the ‘Mile of Terror'”! Halfway up the side of a mountain, the road has been perched on top of scree – the tumbledown rocks on the south slope – not the most secure looking driving surface. It was thrilling!

Along the way the bus stopped every time anyone saw wildlife. In all, we spotted a total of:

Moose: 7 (including 3 babies)

07 Denali to Anchorage (1) moose small

Grizzly bears: 5 (including 2 cubs)

06 Denali National Park (15) Grizzly and 2 cubs med

Caribou: at least 90, including a herd on top of a mountain

06 Denali National Park (67) caribou on road small

Dahl Sheep: 8 (all very far away)

Ptarmigan: 7 (including 5 chicks)

Golden Eagles: 2

And a whole lots of absolutely gobsmacking scenery, full of huge views and grandeur.

At the Eielson Visitor Center we got to see a quilt I’ve admired from afar, made by Ree Nancarrow.  It’s in four large pieces and it’s called “Seasons of Denali”. This quilt started as white fabric which Ree dyed, painted, stamped, silk screened and appliqued on top of to reflect the wildlife in the park in all seasons. It took her a year of hard work to make it, and it is magnificent.  It more than made up for the fact the we couldn’t see the mountain at all from our vantage on that day.

06 Denali National Park (18) The Seasons of Denali quilt small

But we did the next day. On our way back to Anchorage, it was totally clear.

07 Denali to Anchorage (10) Best picture of the mountain at MP138

This was such a wonderful experience, and I would highly recommend it to you; even if you don’t like camping, you can savour the joy of being driven on one of the most exciting and beautiful roads in the world through pristine wilderness.

So, thanks to the Valley Quilters Guild, we got to have a superlative experience.  The last night before our plane home, we had dinner right beside the float plane base. Float planes are essential transportation in the far north, and it epitomizes the end-of-the-road-and-into-the-woods ruggedness of Alaska.

08 Last Dinner in Anchorage  (4) float plane

I’ve been busy in Hawaii

March 7, 2015

I just realized I haven’t done a blog posting since January 21st!!  That’s a long time ago.  May I just say I’ve been busy? Let’s start with Hawaii!

John and I attended the Quilt Passions Quilting on the Beach retreat in February. It’s hosted every year by Karen and Robert Berry at the quilt shop in Kona, Hawaii and I’ll go any time they want me again!  This is just the BEST WAY to make a living!!!

The opening of the retreat was held just outside the King Kamehamea Hotel on the lawn by the sea.  They had some wonderful young hula dancers to welcome us.

Two young hula dancers entertained us.

Two young hula dancers entertained us.

Karen had asked me to contribute some guitar to their version of The Quilters (the play) during the retreat. I’ve only seen this play once before, and I remembered the music to be very challenging.  In fact, it’s the SINGING that is challenging in this score – the guitar part was quite easy (no Eb chords or anything strange).  It was a play reading, so everyone sat at their place for the most part and read and sang from there.  That being said, there had been a huge amount of work put into this, and they all did a great job.  The harmonies were great, and I even shed a tear here and there with the poignancy of the stories they told.  I hope it wasn’t obvious to the audience!  This is the view I had of the gals in the cast.  Thanks for letting me be a part of it! I do so miss doing theatre.

001 cast of The Quilters small

The cast of The Quilters

I still had lots of time to experience Kona, and one of the days John and I took a tour around the Kona Energy Lab.  Fascinating to learn about using water from very deep in the ocean to generate power, and conduct many many scientific experiments. We stopped for lunch at a cafe after visiting the abalone farm and meeting some grouper fish.  Check out the menu below (Sonia’s and Lionel’s especially).  I’ll be you won’t find Spam on your breakfast menu at home!


009 spam on the menu small

Rice and Spam seem to be breakfast staples.

We had some more time before my classes started and we explored some beaches with our new friends Pam and Rick Bocko. They are from Eugene Oregon and we had a great time with them!  This was one of our secluded spots where we did some wave jumping.



015 on the beach small


I taught Mock Mola as well as Hand Mola at the retreat, and we were almost beachside at the hotel.  Here’s what we looked at when we wandered out for lunch every day. The mountain wasn’t always shrouded in clouds, but it was always warm enough for a swim.   In fact, my fellow teacher Rob Appel, went snorkeling during his lunch break every day!


039 lunch outside of the teaching room small

My classes went very well.  There wasn’t much to see at the end of the Hand Mola class (although Nora has now completed hers!), but here’s what they created during the Mock Mola class the next day.  I loved their design ideas!

053 group shot small

Mock Mola Class at Quilting on the Beach


My good friend Daphne Greig was there too and has been blogging about her trip to Hawaii, but I really didn’t see her after the opening reception.  We were all kept busy having fun!

I told you about our new friends, Pam and Rick Bocko.  Pam runs Pieceful Designs and makes really lovely, quick wall quilt patterns – you may have seen her at a quilt show near you.  I love them – they’re charming and fun. Rick is, among other things, a ukulele player (although he bought a new guitar while they were there, so he’s adding a couple of extra strings to his repertoire). We had a wonderful time with them and laughed a LOT.

021 Pam and Rick small

This was taken after the breakfast ukulele jam session. Imagine: musicians getting up early to play!

When we finished with the retreat, John and I spent another week on the Island, doing some exploring.  I’ll be back in late September on the 2015 Aloha Quilt Cruise, so I wanted to find out a little more about the Hilo side.  We won’t be stopping in Kona, alas.

It’s much wetter on the east side of the island, and the flora reflects this extra moisture.  As soon as we crossed over from the rain shadow, things started getting lusher.  Rainforest conditions with ferns and trees and vines and flowers everywhere!  Did you know that the Big Island of Hawaii has all but 2 of the world’s growing zones?  Between the desert (west) side and the wet (east) side, and everything from sea level to the top of Mauna Kea (13,796 feet/4205 metres), you can pretty much grow whatever you want there. There’s ranchland grazing, cactus, coffee, fruit, sugar, etc, etc. It was one of the reasons I wanted to return last year to the Island, to explore it more.

And there are waterfalls – this one is Akaka Falls which is 400 feet tall – higher than Niagara Falls, to be sure!

024 Akaka Falls 400 feet tall small

Akaka Falls

South of Hilo is where all the volcanic action is happening too – there are vast lava fields everywhere on the island, but the newest land is in the southeast.  We saw some smoke rising from Kilauea while we were there, but nothing flowing into the sea.

We drove a most spectacular drive down from there – a road called the Chain of Craters Road.  It’s in the national park, and it is well worth the trip.  On the way we saw lots of evidence of previous eruptions – lots of craters and lava.  On our way down the hill to the ocean, there was an incredible view where the lava flowed down from above.  Nothing is growing on that side yet, and there are vast vistas of nothing but black lava.  We took a hike over it to see some Petroglyphs.



038 petroglyphs small

And got to the end of the road.

048 at the end of the road small

The end of the Road

I did have a traditional Hawaiian breakfast (with some international content) on our last morning there – Karen made us Danish pancakes called Aebleskivers withLilikoi (passion fruit) syrup, Spam, fresh pineapple, Kona coffee and POG juice served in a hollowed out pineapple.  Wow. Only in Hawaii!

003 last breakfast small

A huge Mahalo to Karen and Robert for inviting us to come to the retreat, and for the loan of the snorkel gear and for showing us the best of their adopted island.

I’ll be going back, as I mentioned above, in September.  I’ve checked out some of the local quilt shops on the east side of the island, and I have recommendations of things to do there.  I’m very excited about it.  Would you like to join me?  Check out to find out more.

I’ll continue with my update in my next posting.



New Quilting Cruise Announced!!!

December 17, 2014

2009 Hawaii Iao Valley

Guess where I’m going next September?  I’ll give you a few hints:

1. It’s warm.

2. It’s beautiful.

3. There’s a boat involved.

4. There are palm trees and hibiscus and monstera deliciosa and frangipani.

5. We’ll have sewing machines.

Give up?


The 2015 Aloha Quilting Cruise will depart from Vancouver BC on September 19th 2015 and ply the seas to the Islands of Hawaii and then come back to Vancouver.  For 15 days, we’ll enjoy life aboard the ms. Star Princess and let the 1200 staff aboard cater to our every wish.  That, and it includes EIGHT DAYS of quilting!

I’m pairing up with Brandy Lynn Maslowski for this cruise. Brandy Lynn is an energetic and fun teacher, and host of Canadian Quilt Talk. We have some very exciting new classes planned for you. I’ll be doing a furtherance of the Mock Mola class, and an overview of the State of the Hexes – two of my very favourite passions!  Brandy Lynn has some very interesting artsy classes planned, too. I’ll be bringing my guitar (of course!) and will be writing at least one new song aboard, maybe even with you!

Brandy Lynn is in the middle of securing sponsorships for this cruise, and she has confirmed that we will have sewing machines, thanks to Janome, and lots of thread, thanks to Aurifil.

We’ll be announcing our classes soon.  To keep up to date on developments please visit the new blog: Aloha Quilt Cruise.  You can sign up to Follow this blog so that you get regular email updates on our plans.

This is a great idea if someone in your life wanted to give you a last-minute Christmas present (and they can come too!)

Our Fall Tour

November 22, 2014

We’re safely home from our travels for the year, and I’m back in my own sewing room again!  Before I forget everything, here’s a quick recap from our travels since September. Okay, it’s not so quick…… make yourself a cuppa and settle in.

The beginning of the tour was a stop to help open a store in Montana – they had just moved and we were able to provide some entertainment to help celebrate the occasion.  This appearance was thanks to one of my Block of the Month people (I have 35 people at various stages of making their own version of the Star and Plume quilt!).  Mary has been a huge fan, and it was great to meet her there!

Mary took a good look at the original Star and Plume quilt while we were there.

Mary took a good look at the original Star and Plume quilt while we were there.

Our drive through Michigan started what would be an incredible month of amazing fall colours, thanks to the maple trees turning.  This is my favourite time of year, and living on the west coast of Canada means I don’t get to see them as often as I used to.

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Our concert in Whitby was at the home of my second cousin, Norah.  Her grandfather was my Great Uncle Jim, about whom I wrote the song “My Grandfather’s Brother”.  I had brought the signature quilt that was given to him by “grateful parishioners” way back in 1905 in Depot Harbour, Ontario (near Parry Sound), and sang the song.  I was very happy that I had several close family members in the audience (I hardly EVER get to sing for them!) It is a very special memory to see the look of joy on my brother’s face as he listened to me sing.

My cousin Norah and I with her grandfather's quilt.

My cousin Norah and I with her grandfather’s quilt.

Our next gig was for the Windsor Quilters’ Guild, along with a Mock Mola class.  We stayed in the most amazing Log Cabin Quilting Retreats house.  There’s a longarm machine in the basement, two whole design walls, and lots of bedrooms.  They can sleep 8 for a retreat and provide the most amazing food (a happy addition to any retreat!).

Emeryville quilt retreat

Emeryville quilt retreat

The steps to the basement studio were wonderful – covered with painted quilt blocks on all surfaces!

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The Windsor guild is fairly large, and we had to use a sound system to reach the back of the room.  I had an avid class for my Mock Mola workshop, and they created some lovely pieces.

Terry's Dragon

Terry’s Dragon, not quite finished.

I love the wonky bricks!

I love these wonky bricks!

A mandala from the symbol for Mother.

A mandala from the symbol for Mother.

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Love these swirls! All done and ready to bind.

We left Windsor to head north for Canadian Thanksgiving, which was on the weekend of October 11th. We celebrated with our friend Gisela and her family, up at her cottage on the French River, just south of Sudbury, helping her close the cottage for the year.  We had a WONDERFUL time!!!



The fall colours continued as we journeyed towards Ottawa. We had three shows there. The first was for a seniors’ care facility in the West End; a friend’s mom lives there, and our show was her gift to her mother.  The second was for John’s brother Steve, at the Woodlawn community centre.  We transformed the sports room into a concert hall!  And the third I have already blogged about, when I gave Dean and Ruth one of my quilts.

Our last gig in southern Ontario was at the Lindsay Creative Quilters Guild, just outside of Peterborough.  What a big guild!  There were about 120 in attendance, and it was a great audience. There’s a new contest in town for people to decorate their homes for Hallowe’en – we saw only a few houses decorated (and it was all in the evening, so I didn’t get any pictures), but when we go back next year, hopefully we’ll see more!

Lindsay Creative Quilters Guild

Lindsay Creative Quilters Guild

We’ll be back again next year to do a class for them. As soon as they saw my quilts, they all wanted to learn about Mock Mola. With any luck, we’ll again be able to stay again with Sharron and John.  She has a quilt shop in her basement, and it was amazing to wake up in the morning and open the door to FABRIC!

We performed at 6 house concerts during this tour.  A house concert is like a “real” concert, only better!  Someone with a lot of chairs and at least 20 friends throws a party.  They are often potlucks, with people bringing what they want to drink.  The bonus is: they get a personal concert!  We love singing at house concerts – they are very intimate, we meet some lovely people, and we often stay overnight in the house after.

In Sault Ste Marie we were hosted by new friends, but we soon found lots in common with David and Susan, as well as having some wonderful synchronicities with audience members. I sang “My Grandfather’s Brother” and there was someone there who had grown up in Depot Harbour, where the quilt came from! Someone else was a relative of Edna Woods, who was one of the ladies in the “Quilt of Names” story from WWII! The Northern connections were rampant.

From there, we headed further west and north to Dryden Ontario, a place we generally just drive through. This was the first time we’d really stopped there, and I’m glad we did. Our venue was The Centre (Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre), which was built to provide multiple functions to this small city.  There’s a huge performance hall which can be tailored to almost any size of audience.  But for our show, we opted for an acoustic performance in the lobby – it was lovely to sing there, with the vaulted ceiling and glass on two sides.

Lobby at The Centre in Dryden

Lobby at The Centre in Dryden

I also taught two classes for the guild, and had a very enjoyable couple of days with them.

The Mock Mola class - the red and white quilt is 2-sided!

The Mock Mola class – the red and white quilt is 2-sided. Both the sun and the pumpkin (2nd row) used 3 colours.

Once in a while we get adventures to go along with our travels.  Because we were going to spend another night in Dryden before heading further west, we  were invited to the surprise 50th birthday for one of my students – Mary (who made the birch trees in the front row above) – at a hunting and fishing camp just out of town.  It was so good to be there, and Mary was very surprised to see us!

Here's Mary cutting her birthday cake!

Here’s Mary cutting her birthday cake!

We stop in Fort Frances whenever we go through the area, because I have a first cousin who lives there.  We last sang for the Cabin Country Quilt Guild way back in 2001, so we had a lot of catching up to do!  They put on an amazing display in the lobby of the Zion Lutheran church, and then filled the pews for the concert. It was in Fort Frances that I learned a new term I hadn’t heard before:  “dainties”.  In Australia, they’re called “slice” or “pudding” or “a plate” (as in “bring a plate”). On the Prairies of Canada, they’re called “dainties” – not-too-large pieces of sweet desserts perfect for après-concert get-togethers.  It was very helpful to know about this, as we headed west.

John here with a couple of early arrivers, looking at all the quilts!

John here with a couple of early arrivals, looking at all the quilts!

I remember the first time I went on tour from Ottawa heading west back in 1985.  I was SOOOO excited that I was finally going to be touring outside of Ontario, and couldn’t WAIT to get into Manitoba and parts west.  It took 3 days of long drives before I crossed that provincial boundary.  Ontario is a BIG place!

We did a small house concert in Winnipeg for friends. There was some serious show and tell beforehand including one of my students from a few years ago who brought the quilt she made.

Leona brought her piece to show me.

Leona brought her piece to show me in Winnipeg.

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Marg Moore showed her award-winning coat.

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A gorgeous Stack and Whack wall hanging.


Then we headed out into the wilds of southern Manitoba to visit one of Canada’s top quilters and teachers: Judy Morningstar.  Judy has been inviting us to stop by for a visit for years now, and finally we had the time to do so.  Her enticement was that I could try out her longarm machine!  While we were there, she invited a number of quilting friends over for our last house concert on the tour.

The night we arrived Judy and Bill took us off to a country supper in Hartney, a half-hour drive north.  This is a prairie tradition, a major fundraiser for the community as well as a great way to see your friends and neighbours. I think everyone was wondering who the heck we were! For a measly $13 we got an incredible turkey and roast beef dinner with lots of salads (including the ubiquitous jellied salad the Prairies are so famous for, thanks to my friend Connie Kaldor’s stories) and PIE! In the fall there are lots of these suppers and everyone goes to all of them. It takes an army of volunteers to carry it off, and community spirit is never stronger than at these events.

The next day was all about quilting.  Judy and I started pulling fabric from her substantial stash before breakfast. I decided on an artsy piece using little squares appliqued (by longarm machine) onto a gorgeous hand-day that Judy made.

One wall of Judy's stash - impressive!

One wall of Judy’s stash – impressive!

Before lunch I was happily quilting for the first time on Judy’s longarm.  Amazing, fun, fast, effective. No issues at all.  Which wall will I tear out of our house to fit this machine? That’s what I want to know…..

I actually look like I know what I'm doing!!!

I actually look like I know what I’m doing!!!

The piece was finished by 4pm, just time enough to get cleaned up and get ready for the house concert that evening!

Judy and her new student.

Judy and her new student.

Thanks, Judy for your great instruction and for the chance to raid your stash!  I look forward to seeing you again – we promise we’ll stop in next time we’re driving through.

Our last gig on the tour (yes, I’m almost finished this huge missive!) was in Neepawa Manitoba. No, we’d never been there before either. We sang in the Viscount Cultural Centre, in the gallery area, surrounded by the FAN (Fibre Arts Network) touring quilt show.  I recognized lots of names of people I know: Correen Zerr, Pippa Moore, Margie Davidson, Brandy Lynn Maslowski – great to see this wonderful work.

Part of the FAN exhibit in Neepawa

Part of the FAN exhibit in Neepawa

For our last gig, we had about 30 from the local guild.  They enjoyed themselves (as did we) and gave us our last standing ovation of the tour.  It was a great way to finish!

The only snow we saw on the whole tour was the next day, driving out of Manitoba.

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We stopped to see Shirley at Shirley’s Sewing Room in Moosomin Saskatchewan as well as Katja at Katja’s Quilt Shoppe in Kamloops.  These are two shops (and shop owners) whom we’ve known forever – Shirley tells everyone she knew me before I was the Singing Quilter!  Which is true; I was touring Trilogy’s Christmas show when I first met her, a year before I released the first quilting cd.  I love both of these shops, and make sure I support them whenever we’re passing through.  It was thrilled that Katja was celebrating the release of her first book, and it’s about one of my favourite topics: HEXAGONS!

Katja with her new book

Katja with her new book – The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece

One last bit of adventure on this trip, and then I’ll stop.  We visited Anna Hergert, another famous Canadian quilter and quilt judge, on our way through Saskatchewan.  Anna and her husband live in the very beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley, just north of Moose Jaw, and we were delighted to spend a night with them. She has an amazing studio, overlooking the river.

Anna Hergert's studio

Anna Hergert’s studio

Okay – I think I’m done with the wrap-up. All this happened within a month and a half.  Happily, it wasn’t a longer tour!  Thank you for reading this far, and I hope I haven’t put you to sleep!


Road Trip to eastern Ontario – Almonte

September 12, 2014

We’re at the beginning of our fall touring and have a few days off before our first gig in Cornwall Ontario.  John and I had time for a visit to Almonte, which is just outside of Ottawa, to see some galleries and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum.  We’ve been stopping by this charming little town for years, but have never had time to visit the museum.

The main street is lined with galleries, antique shops and cafes all housed in historic buildings.  Almonte was a woolen mill town, thanks to the Mississippi River (not the same one as down south!) flowing through it.  The river drops off rather beautifully just in the middle of town, which leads to lots of power opportunities.  Hence, the mills that dotted its banks.

A river runs through Almonte

A river runs through Almonte

On the main drag, there is a life-sized bronze statue celebrating an important local:  the inventor of basketball!  James Naismith not only invented it here in Almonte, but he was also in attendance at the Summer Olympic Games when it was first included in the sports played.  What an accomplishment.

James Naismith, Inventor of basketball

James Naismith, Inventor of basketball

We visited General Fine Craft Art and Design where our friend Chandler Swain works and exhibits. There was a wonderful exhibit of Manitoban artists.  Then we headed down the road to the Textile Museum in one of the old mill buildings.

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Everyone around the museum was very busy – on Saturday and Sunday they hold their 19th annual Fibrefest, which features 50 fibre arts vendors, 20 vintage wear vendors and 10 button vendors, as well as exhibits and events like a lamb race!  I’m sorry we won’t be able to stick around for that. If you’re in eastern Ontario on September 13th and 14th (2014), you’ll enjoy the visit.

The main floor of the museum is reserved for special exhibits.  On this day, it featured a wonderful exhibit from Japan:

027 Reiko Sudo plus Nuno exhibit sign small

This exhibit was designed to fit into the space.  All different techniques of working with many different fibres, and each piece was wrapped around one of the columns in the room.  They drew me in to see the exquisite detail on each piece.

A portion of the exhibit, displayed on the columns

A portion of the exhibit, displayed on the columns

At the end of the room was a wall of touchable samples, describing the techniques used for each piece.

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Please touch

It was amazing, how many technques I’d never heard of before – lots of weaving, some rust dyeing, machine embroidery, acid use to eat away denim, origami, and even one featuring real goose feathers embedded between layers of fine fabric. It was beautiful.

Upstairs is a permanent exhibit well worth visiting. It takes use through the stages from sheep shearing to fabric, using the machines they used to use at the mill.  It’s a well organized exhibit, with lots of videos (narrated by my old friend “Reverend Ken” Ramsden!) explaining the process.

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Carding Machine

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Teasle Napper

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Old commercial loom

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Lots of interesting machines

The exhibits here change regularly but not the wool section. To plan your visit, the events calendar is here.

I think it’s worth spending a whole day in Almonte if you get the chance.  We didn’t set foot in any of the antique shops, nor the two quilt shops!!!!  Not bad, for a small town. I’m glad we stopped.


May 26, 2014

We’ve had a couple of days off between a class at the Proper Bostonian Quilt Guild and our concert for them on Wednesday, so we decided to take a B&B in town and be tourists for the duration!

Yesterday, we took a Trolley Tour around town, to get the “lay of the land”, so to speak, and learned a lot about the history of Boston, and some surprising things about it.  It’s Memorial Day weekend here, and I think everyone within a 400 mile radius is here! The tours were very busy, and their schedules were messed up by a morning road race that limited the accessibility to some roads downtown.

We saw some interesting places before we got off the trolley to walk a block over to Faneuil Hall.  There is a pedestrian mall there and we grabbed some lunch and watched the buskers.  The young girl with the guitar and sound system was replaced by Al (“Alakazam”) from Sydney.  He was really good at getting everyone involved in the show, including four guys to hold the pole steady and two more that he used to stand on to get up there.  This was the ultimate trick, for which he received a HUGE response!  I hope we’ve helped him to pay the bills while he’s here in the States.

Al from Sydney Australia at the height of his busker act!

Al from Sydney Australia at the height (12feet) of his busker act! Yes, he’s juggling knives.

There were people EVERYWHERE!  Lots of food and souvenirs too.  There is a lot of pride in Boston these days after the Boston Marathon bombing, and that is reflected in their t-shirts.

Boston Strong t-shirts for children.

Boston Strong t-shirts for children.

Faneuil Hall has been the meeting place for Bostonians for well over 200 years. It is where voters (read: male property-owners) assembled when they didn’t like the excessive tax the British levied in the 1700s, leading to the Boston Tea Party and eventually, the war against Britain. It is where Emancipationists held meetings against slavery, followed by Suffragists to give women the vote. It’s a very important edifice in the history of the city, and still is used, and not just by tourists. It was originally built so that the town wouldn’t protest against having the market downstairs.

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

At my class on Saturday, Barbara made a Mock Mola quilt using the Boston skyline as her inspiration, so I already knew about the Custom House Tower and its iconic shape. Here’s John’s picture of it, peeking out from behind the tree.

Custom House tower

Custom House Tower

We finished our tour across the river in Cambridge, where we got some nice skyline pictures.

Boston from Cambridge

Boston from Cambridge

It’s a really impressive city, and it was great to explore it a little bit – there’s so much more to see!

Today, we visited the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston. Because it is Memorial Day, admission was free, and we expected large numbers of people, so we arrived before opening.  The lineup was long anyway!

The lineup before opening!

The lineup before opening!

The main reason we went was to see the Pilgrim/Roy Quilt Exhibition.  It was highly recommended by the gals in the class on Saturday, and I already knew about Gerald Roy – he was the auctioneer at the AQS Paducah show’s quilt auction!

It’s not every day that a collection of quilts makes it into a proper art museum, and it was very exciting to be able to attend.

Quilts and Color exhibit banners at entrance

Quilts and Color exhibit banners at entrance

It was organized like no other show I’ve seen – in terms of colour and technique (ie, all the log cabin quilts were together).  The first part of the show featured complementary coloured quilts – ie, red and green – and they were spectacular.  The collection was put together by two people interested in art, rather than quilting per se, and it led to a different sort of approach.

Very intent people looking at these wonderful quilts.

Very intent people looking at these wonderful quilts.

This is part of the log cabin section - almost every way of putting together log cabins that you can think of!

This is part of the log cabin section – almost every way of putting together log cabins that you can think of!

I was a bit disappointed to only see one hexagon quilt (you know I like hexies!) – but it was lovely.  There was a HUGE amount of cheddar/orange in a lot of these quilts, often to help soften the red/green colours.

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They painted a whole wall orange to showcase this quilt!

You could tell the descriptions of some of these quilts were not written by quilters.  One Amish square in a square quilt said that the joy of it was the play of colours against each other.  For me, the joy was ENTIRELY the magnificent quilting that she did on it!

Gorgeous quilting in this detail of the quilt.

Gorgeous quilting in this detail of the quilt.

There was much discussion in the write-up for this next quilt about careful placement of analogous colours, which is all true – but NOTHING about the very obvious, absolutely intentional (IMHO) “Humility Block” (the blue one) smack dab in the middle of the quilt – the four-patch in the centre of the block is turned the wrong way! I would think that would be an interesting story to tell to non-quilters.

Snail's Trail - can you see the humility block?

Snail’s Trail – can you see the humility block?

One more quilt that stopped me in my tracks.  I have never seen a “Bull’s Eye and Bars” quilt before – have you ever seen this pattern?  The picture is taken from the side so you can see how dimensional the blocks are.

Bull's Eye and Bars

Bull’s Eye and Bars

All that being said, it is a magnificent display and I’m soooo glad we went!

I was in the gift shop buying quilting earrings (there was lots of quilt-related stuff there) when a woman announced that she was taking a group up for a talk about a quilt upstairs – made by Harriet Powers!  I had NO IDEA that one of the only two extant Harriet Powers story quilts was in Boston!  How totally exciting to see it in person, after having seen them both in books. This quilt only makes it on display once every 5 years, so we were very lucky. It was made in 1898. There are stains on it, but it is in remarkably good condition, for its age and history.

Harriet Powers story quilt

Harriet Powers story quilt

Believe it or not, some of this quilt has been made by machine. The applique and quilting are done originally by hand, but some of the pieces are outlined with a sewing machine. I was very very surprised.

The elephant has been hand appliqued, then outlined by machine in light thread.

The elephant has been hand appliqued, then outlined by machine in light thread.

We spent another few hours in the Museum – for lunch, we were serenaded by a live Salsa band!

There was also line dancing in the Courtyard

There was also line dancing in the Courtyard

I also took bunches of pictures of textures and interesting pieces for inspiration later. How about this one: a crocheted cantaloupe!

Crocheted cantaloupe

Crocheted cantaloupe

And a pentagon made of mirror strips.

Pentagon of mirrors

Pentagon of mirrors – quilting pattern?

Once you start looking at the world through quilt-coloured glasses, you’ll be able to find designs everywhere you look!

I will leave you with the best line of the day. (It was very interesting to hear people who knew nothing about quilts in the exhibit – I could have spent all day, just lingering around.) As she was looking at a quilt with her husband, a woman said: “Do you think we could hang one of OUR quilts on the wall in the bedroom?”

Obviously, the Pilgrim/Roy Exhibit “Quilts and Color” made an impression on her, and she started to think of her quilt as something more like art and less like a blanket…..  Job done, people!

Talking about Florida

April 19, 2014

The last post was a long time ago, it seems!  And I was talking about our visit to Satellite Beach Florida and West Virginia.  Since then we’ve been very busy.

We’ve toured Florida before many times, but this time got us into some different areas.  I thought I knew Florida, but I was surprised.

When most of us think about Florida, we think “snowbirds” from the north, beaches, the TV show “Miami Vice”, boats, warm temperatures, retirees, Disneyworld, Beautiful People, or Key West.  But there’s a lot more, and I think you could just about find anything there that would suit you (if you were so inclined to give up on winter).

We returned from West Virginia to a place called The Villages.  Situated in central Florida near Ocala, this is a retirement development of about 100,000 residents that bills itself as “Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown”.  Most of them live in gated communities in single family homes.  Even if they don’t golf, they drive golf carts.  EVERYWHERE!  In fact, there’s a secondary road system built just for golf carts!

FL Villages golf cart track

You’ll find golf carts everywhere, and some of them are quite distinctly personalized.

FL Villages golf carts

But it’s the amenities that make The Villages remarkable.  Virtually anything you want to do or try out can be done there.  Want to learn woodworking?  There are workshops for that.  Pottery? Ditto. There are theatre companies, bridge clubs, golf clubs, bowling alleys, line dancing classes, even a polo grounds! I believe the largest quilt guild in the country is here – they have 17 chapters and over 900 members!  Here’s what our concert hall looked like.

Room for 200 members.

Room for 200 members.

The next morning, this room was transformed into a ping pong emporium, with about 25 tables set up.  Next door to the Mock Mola class I taught (in another recreation centre) were ongoing yoga classes and we were serenaded in the morning by a pretty good R&B band rehearsing a couple of rooms over (I’ve always wanted to sing in an R&B band since I saw the movie “The Commitments”, and I very nearly ran over and offered my services as a “chick singer”!!! LOL).  It’s like that, in The Villages.

FL The Villages sign

My scratchy throat in West Virginia had progressed by this time into me feeling really sick, and I had to cancel our show in Gainesville, unfortunately.  It turns out I had bronchitis, and spent the weekend in bed (with antibiotics) to get better.  I’m very regretful that we had to cancel our performance for the Quilters of Alachua County.  I hope we can make it up to them on our next trip.

Gainesville is a very different city.  I guess there are retirees there, but it’s really a university town, and everyone is mad for basketball (especially when we were there – Gainesville made it into the top four of the college basketball championship).  The university gym is open 24 hours a day, and whenever we drove by at night, it was full of people.  It seems like a vibrant city, with lots going on. (Alas, I didn’t get out very much, but I started feeling better in a few days, thankfully.)

Our next stop was St. Augustine.  This is also in the north of Florida, on the Atlantic coast.  It is the oldest continuously occupied city in North America, having been founded by the Spanish in 1565.  History is everywhere in this tourist mecca. Ponce de Leon thought the Fountain of Youth was there, and there’s still a park dedicated to it, with evidence of Spanish conquistadors.

A conquistador at the Fountain of Youth grounds.

A conquistador at the Fountain of Youth grounds.

We took a great trolley ride through the city, and did a bit of walking too.  We arrived at the chocolate factory and look what I saw across the street!  We had to get off and explore Magrita’s Quilt Shop!

FL Magritas Quilt Shop


The architecture everywhere was extraordinary.  There was some serious money put into the development of huge hotels, especially when Henry Flagler, a business partner of John D. Rockefeller, decided to turn the city into a winter resort for the wealthy elite from the north.  Some of these buildings now house the university, museums and this one, City Hall.

FL St Aug City Hall


St. George Street was a narrow and charming pedestrian walk, with beautiful flowers and interesting old buildings. It doesn’t seem that they’ve changed a lot over the centuries in the central core.

FL St Aug St George Street


The oldest wooden schoolhouse can be found on this street, too.

FL St Aug Oldest School house


The “oldest house” is also known as the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, built sometime in the 16th century.  Tucked in behind the walls, there is a beautiful garden and a peaceful place of contemplation.

FL St Aug in the back gardens of the Oldest House

There’s much more to see in St. Augustine, but I’m glad we saw what we did.  This city feels so different from the rest of Florida.  The history really adds a lot of interest and character to the place.  We sang a show there the next morning, then headed a bit north along the coast to sing that night on Amelia Island, a different place again.

Amelia Island has a great community. I didn’t get the sense that there are as many temporary snowbirds there, as there are in places like Anna Maria Island (just south of St. Petersburg), where people rent a condo for a month or three at a time to escape winter.  Here, people who have “come from away” have come to settle.  It’s a mecca for escapees from the northern snows, being the most northerly beach place in Florida, and it was busy down by the beach.  All the spots look like they’re geared for high school and college kids and families.  The restaurants have over half their seating outside, and there are festive umbrellas and cheeky t-shirt clad servers making everything cheerful.  But the people who live there have another side to their lives: TRIVIA!  It seems that the trivia buffs on the island take their bar-centred trivia contests very seriously. We went out to the Salty Pelican bar and restaurant for dinner with our friends, and it was packed with people playing trivia!

The Salty Pelican

The Salty Pelican – with Mardi Gras beads!

Sunset at the Salty Pelican

Sunset at the Salty Pelican

Too bad we were trying to have a conversation, or I would have been right in there with them!

Our last gig in Florida on this trip was over to Tallahassee.  We’ve sung here before, and spent time between shows as well.  In 2010 we watched the final US-Canada Gold Medal hockey game here.  I think there were only a handful of us Canucks in town jumping up and down at the end of the game! I was busy this visit, with a concert and two classes (Mock Mola and Notan).  Here are a couple of pictures of the results from those classes. First, three Mock Molas:

Tallahassee MM class (3)Tallahassee MM class (1)Tallahassee cross from Gail







Then a few Notans:

Tallahassee notan stars Tallahassee notan squares tallahassee notan 3cut






Thank you Florida: for the creative work you did, for the enthusiasm for our shows (3 standing ovations!), for the warm weather, and for the interesting new experiences.  We’ve already had a nibble for next time from a guild who missed out on this trip, so we’re bound to be back again.  I hope we can continue to learn about new, interesting places to visit.

Satellite Beach Florida and Morgantown WV

April 5, 2014

We’re in sunny Florida, finally!  Enjoying the warm weather and the relaxed tempo of things here. Our first gig was at Seaside Piecemakers in Satellite Beach.  We were last there in 2005, and were very much looking forward to our return, and singing some new songs for them.

We stayed with our friends Patty and Clay, and thoroughly enjoyed our visit (complete with watching an Eagles concert DVD!).

wv patty and clay

The guild meeting was in the recreation centre of a gated community – a large room, that doubled as a theatre.  They were about to open a new play, and we got to perform on stage amid the set!

Seaside Piecemakers meeting

Seaside Piecemakers meeting

We loved our return visit. Thanks, everyone, for the standing ovation!

The next morning we rose early and headed north along I-95 for a two-day drive to West Virginia.  I played for the first time in WV last June, when they had their big quilt show in Summersville.  I had a great time, and was thrilled when they wanted us to return and sing in Morgantown (yes, this is the same Morgantown that Joni Mitchell wrote about! You can listen to her song here.) This time, John was coming with me.

The drive was uneventful, even though we were travelling straight north.  It’s still winter in large parts of the continent, and we were hoping to avoid snow (that’s why we tour south first!). So far, so good.  I made sure we stopped at the New River Bridge on the way. It had been recommended to me last June, but I missed it somehow on the drive back to the airport. It was worth the stop.

New River Bridge

New River Bridge

This bridge is the largest single span bridge in the world, and the second highest bridge in the USA. We didn’t quite have the energy to walk all the way down to the second lookout, but this was good.

While we were stopped, we went into the gift shop for a cup of coffee.  There, I saw this amazing sign:

We don't call 911

“We don’t dial 911” in rusty metal – with a gun hanging underneath!

I wonder who would buy this?

It was great to see so many familiar faces when we got to town.  It hasn’t been a year since I was last with these women, and I remembered them well. In addition, I had a couple of surprises with students from last time bringing their completed quilts to show me!

Sue just has to finish the quilting and binding on her Notan.

Sue just has to finish the quilting and binding on her Notan.

Gitta's Notan is all about a tree, a bear, and a UFO!

Gitta’s Notan is all about a tree, a bear, and a UFO!

What fun!  And it was great that they finally got to hear John’s “Quilter’s Husband’s Lament”, which they missed last time (because he didn’t come with me).

It was all good.  Until we woke up the next morning to start the 2-day drive back down to Florida.

Morning, Morgantown!

Morning, Morgantown!

It turned out okay, though – we kept to our schedule and the temperatures got warmer as we got further south.  But that first 100 miles or so was pretty serious driving through falling snow and slippery slush!

When we were in Morgantown, I noticed my throat was getting a bit scratchy.  I told John I thought I was coming down with a cold. I started thinking  healthy thoughts, drinking lots of water and taking extra vitamins, hoping that it would all go away….

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