Fall Tour Stop in Ottawa

October 20, 2014

We are mid-tour, and it’s going very well.  We are heading north and west now from the Peterborough area (Lindsay), and are heading towards home eventually.

Yesterday we sang a house concert for my old friend Dean Verger.  He used to run Rasputins (restaurant and folk club) and when I lived in Ottawa, I used to sing and hang out there often.  It was great to see him again.  A couple of cool things happened.

Firstly, my old friend Janet Irwin arrived.  She is the person who started this whole part of my life.  In 1991 she hired me to write music for a play about quilting, which was presented as part of Quilt Canada there.  Little did either of us know how, after 8 years, I would become a seriously addicted quilter, but also write more songs and release a CD of songs entirely about quilting!  It was SO GOOD to sing for her yesterday and have a chance to catch up on her doings. She is still directing plays, and I’m still singing and writing!

Me with Janet Irwin

Me with Janet Irwin

After the show was over, we got a few minutes to spend with Dean and Ruth to thank them for hosting the concert, and to catch up on the Ottawa folk music news. They told me how much they loved the quilt we had behind us for the show.  This quilt was on the cover of the Singing Quilter Songbook, and was inspired by my friend Rosemary Stieg in Pennsylvania who is as crazy as I am with little bits of fabric.  She taught me how to do this postage stamp pattern in 8×8″ blocks.  I pieced it in hotel rooms as we traveled several years ago.  Sometimes we show it in concert, but usually it stays at home.  My cousin has been taking care of it for the last few months in Whitby.

So when Dean and Ruth obviously fell in love with it, I decided to give it to them!

Ruth and Dean and their new quilt!

Ruth and Dean and their new quilt!

Do they look happy?

We have just finished our work in Lindsay, so now we are driving towards our next gigs in Sault Ste Marie, Dryden, Winnipeg and Neepawa.  See you there?

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.

014 Textile Museum small

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.

025 touchable textile techniques small

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.

033 carding machine small

Carding Machine

031 teasle napper small

Teasle Napper

030 old loom small

Old commercial loom

028 old wool machinery small

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.

Ask and Ye Shall Find

August 13, 2014

I’ve been spending part of the summer here in Victoria writing up new patterns for my Star and Plume Block of the Month.  It’s getting down to some really challenging blocks now – I’ve left the really hard ones till the end – and I’m spending a lot of time working on the best way to get the accuracy I need for some of them. 

Here are three of them:

Beg and Borrow

Beg and Borrow





At least part of these blocks (if not all) has to be done using foundation piecing with freezer paper.  And it means tracing the templates (sometimes 8 times each!) onto the freezer paper. It’s tedious.

I found myself wishing for a freezer paper I could put through my inkjet printer to save me all that tracing time (not to mention that each time I trace I get sloppier about follow the lines!). I’m told that I can actually just cut a normal piece of freezer paper up to 8 1/2″ x 11″ and put it through, but I haven’t tried that yet.  My freezer paper curls a lot when I cut it, and my printer is rather picky about that sort of thing.

So I was very happy to find printable freezer paper in my local quilt shop (as well as on-line). I haven’t tried it yet, but will as soon as I get back to writing more patterns.  I think it’s going to be a huge time saver!

I’m so glad that someone else thinks like I do, and comes up with things I need before I know I need them!

How about you?  Have you ever wished for something only to find out it already exists?  Or: better – have you ever wished for something, realized it DOESN’T exist, and set about rectifying that situation?  If only I had figured this out about printable freezer paper earlier……

Don’t Forget to Look Behind

July 16, 2014

We’ve returned home from our travels, and are recharging for our fall touring schedule. It was a great 3 1/2 month tour. We met so many wonderful quilters, saw some wonderful work (I live for Show & Tell!), and even got to be tourists here and there. We took some great ferries (the new one across from Portland Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia was notable), and saw lots of scenery.

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Many years ago when I was embarking on a drive around the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia), I received the best piece of travel advice I’ve ever heard.  “Don’t forget to look behind”.  

Usually when you travel a road, you only take it in one direction.  As Robert Frost wrote: “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back” (from The Road Not Taken). If you don’t look back, you miss half the journey!

John and I constantly remind each other to look in the rear view mirror, especially when we’re going through a beautiful area: mountains, sea, prairies.  The light is different, the view is entirely changed behind. 

It occurs to me that this is a good idea for other areas of life as well. Looking behind shows me a few things:

How far I’ve come
Just look at that first quilt I made!  I’m so much better now!,
That song was the best thing I’d ever written, and I was certain I’d never write a better one – how boring it was!  It needed a chorus, at the very least.

What I’ve learned
Thank goodness I’ve figured out how to mitre corners!
Look at that binding!
I’ve finally figured out how to SHOW not TELL in a song lyric.

Where I’ve come from
I remember going to Bali to buy that fabric
I wrote that song while I was taking jazz guitar lessons with Paul in Ottawa – what a time that was!

Who I am
I like this kind of structure in my songs: AABABCAB
I’m easily bored, which leads me to try new techniques a lot.
I love colour and contrast in my quilts.

In quilts, as well as songs, I can reminisce when I see them/sing them again. I love visiting quilts I’ve given away because I can indulge myself in those memories.  I know that each of the songs I’ve written and quilts I’ve made were the best I could do at the time, and I celebrate the steps forward that each of these projects represent.

In looking back, I can also begin to see what makes a “Cathy quilt” or a “Cathy song”, but only by seeing the body of work together.  And I learn to see who “Cathy” is.

I’ve heard so many people be embarrassed by their earlier works – apologetic, actually.  But that misses the point for me.  As creative people, we don’t start out with excellence.  Ability comes with doing.  I’ve heard it said that it’s not possible to practice singing – either you’re singing, or you’re not, so I don’t say “ability comes with practice”. If you need 10,000 hours to achieve excellence in any job/hobby/skill, I’m still working on it. That doesn’t mean I can’t do wonderful stuff in the meantime, while working up to that masterpiece. Or two.

“Someday if I live to tell
I want to do just one thing well
And give myself a bit of peace
When I finally make my masterpiece.”
(From “Masterpiece” on “In the Heart of a Quilt” cd)

I’ve been keeping a personal journal for over 30 years.  These days I don’t write in it as much as I once did, but it’s there to show me how my thoughts and actions have gone during that time of my life, what I was concerned about, and sometimes even what was going on in the world around me. I re-read it once in a while. I helps me keep things in perspective. I don’t know where I’ll be in another 10 or 20 years, but I hope I’ll never forget to keep looking behind.



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.

028 only one hexagon quilt small

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!

A story from the Sew Busy Quilt Guild in Mayfield NY

May 19, 2014

This afternoon we sang a matinee for not just quilters here in Mayfield (just west of Albany NY).  It was organized by the Sew Busy Quilt Guild and they were able to set up a lovely day in the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church here and invite the community along to see. We didn’t have a serious time limit (unlike most guild shows), so I added a few extra songs and stories and we ended up on stage for an hour and a half!  Perhaps they were just getting antsy, but they did stand up at the end for us!  Thank you everyone for a great afternoon!

Because we were in a Presbyterian Church and had the time, I decided to sing “My Grandfather’s Brother”, a song about my own family.  It’s about a signature quilt with 833 signatures that was used to raise funds to build my Great Uncle Jim’s first church, up near Parry Sound, Ontario. I don’t sing the song often, because the story is personal, and there are better stories and songs out there, but today I felt like doing it.  Because it’s not in the normal repertoire, my introduction wasn’t cast in stone, and I found myself saying that I find it ironic that the quilt lives on in its flimsy state after over 100 years, but the church that it helped build is long gone. The crumbled bricks and mortar of the church are in a ghost town now.

After the concert, a woman whom I’d met before the show (a member of the quilt guild and of the church) told me how wonderful that story was for her.  The church had been recently rebuilt after a fire destroyed the previous old church that stood on the same land. She and other members of the church had presented the minister with a quilt just weeks before the fire, and it was hanging on the wall of the building when it burned.  The next day the firemen came out of the remains with a grey soggy mess in their hands and they opened it up on the lawn – the quilt. It did not clean up perfectly – there are still some red bleed marks from the redwork embroidery on the quilt – but, considering its story, it is in amazingly good shape. Part of its design incorporates signature blocks from the congregation.

This church is also gone, but the quilt, in its flimsy state, lives on.

There was such synchronicity between how I told the story of my Great Uncle Jim’s quilt and her story about the church we had just sung in.  I had to share it with you! I’m sorry, I didn’t take a picture of her quilt, but here’s my Great Uncle Jim’s quilt, with the 833 embroidered signatures.

My Great Uncle Jim's quilt, that I wrote the song about.

My Great Uncle Jim’s quilt, that I wrote the song about. It is dated 1905.

There were lots of good stories today. One of the husbands let me know about a Barn Quilt that we should see tomorrow on our way back to the Turnpike. Inside that barn there are more Barn Quilts are being made.  He met the fellow making them in the local Lowe’s home improvement  store in the paint department – two men in a hardware store talking quilting!!! It’s such a great image.

Tomorrow we drive back to Connecticut for a concert and Mock Mola class in Simsbury on Wednesday and Thursday.  Our last US dates on this tour are in Boston on the 24th (Mock Mola class) and a concert on Wednesday May 28th there. We’re definitely nearing the end of this wonderful tour! But we still have quite a few miles left to go. The hexagons are going very well.

Paducah – the rest of the days (a bit late)

May 14, 2014

I love the title of the last post:  Paducah – Day One!  As if I was going to have time to blog every day that we were there! LOL

We had a great visit, and saw lots of friends. Here are a few pictures from the rest of the event.

I finally got to see the Tentmakers of Cairo in the flesh. My friend Jenny Bowker discovered them and has done such a great job introducing them to the world. The work is stunning.

I finally got to see the Tentmakers of Cairo in the flesh. My friend Jenny Bowker discovered them and has done such a great job introducing them to the world. The work is stunning.

This is Tarek Abdelhay, one of the Tentmakers of Cairo, working on a new piece, surrounded by curious applique-rs.

This is Tarek Abdelhay, one of the Tentmakers of Cairo, working on a new piece, surrounded by curious applique-rs trying to figure out how he does it.

We attended a wonderful lecture by Philippa Naylor about her life as an award-winning quilter.

We attended a wonderful lecture by our friend Philippa Naylor about her life as an award-winning quilter. Yes, that’s her award-winning quilt behind us.


A quick visit with Sue Patten - who inspired the writing of "You Can Quilt That Out".

A quick visit with very popular longarmer Sue Patten – who inspired the writing of “You Can Quilt That Out”.

That night, we attended the Ricky Tims night. It ended with the most incredible wall of his quilts, filling the stage!

That night, we attended the Ricky Tims night. It ended with the most incredible wall of his quilts, filling the stage!

We had a great weekend.  Then we drove back to Delaware to continue our own touring.  More about our adventures later…..


Paducah – day one

April 24, 2014

John and I have a week off between our gigs in Fallston Maryland and Dover, Delaware.  What to do, what to do?  Well…. we could drive for two days and get to spend two days at the quilt show in Paducah!

So we did.  Via my cousin’s hospitality in Columbus Ohio (where there were no leaves on the trees), we had a very pleasant drive back into spring here in Kentucky (where the leaves are fully out – all in one day!).

We have found (with Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s help) a B&B a few blocks away from the quilt festival (thanks, Caryl!).  It is amazing to be right in town with everyone else.  The last time we were here for festival was 10 years ago, and we had the RV. People book even the RV parks a year away and available accommodation is very rare for those of us who can’t plan that far ahead.

The first thing we did was wander over to the Bryerpatch to thank Caryl for helping us out.

Bryerpatch Studios

Bryerpatch Studios

This is a purpose-built two-story building that Caryl designed to be part retail, part residential house, and part studio.  The main entrance leads into the retail part, and the main floor is mostly quilt shop and gallery space. The moment we walked in, someone approached us and asked if we’d like to take a guided tour of the house, which was just about to depart. Of course!

We entered a door to the private area – a living room open to the top floor, with huge ceilings. There were quilts and paintings on the walls by other artists whom Caryl admires.  The way up above was a trompe l’oeil ceiling with blue sky and clouds, and a soaring bird.

The ceiling of the living room.

The ceiling of the living room.

If you know Caryl’s work this is so appropriate.

We moved on to one of the biggest kitchens I’ve seen in a house. Caryl does retreats in the building, and this would be action central for much of the non-quilty action.  During the floods in Paducah a few years ago, I believe there were many many meals made there for the community who had lost power.  Everywhere, there were little tasteful collections of cool things.  I loved the gekkos on the wall of the kitchen.

Kitchen gekkos

Kitchen gekkos

Artists have such cool houses!

We then moved upstairs, where there is a huge working area, a few bedrooms for retreaters, and office space. First, a visit to Caryl’s stash.

Paducah Caryl's stashThis is the most organized stash I’ve ever seen!

Her studio has lots and lots of light, a huge design wall and everything like power cords hanging from the ceiling so that people (including her) can’t trip over things on the floor.

Three sewing machines ready to go, plus a system of clamps to hold the quilt suspended as you work.

Three sewing machines ready to go, plus a system of clamps to hold the quilt suspended as you work.

There’s a large floor space available for squaring up quilts, with a huge cutting mat for the task.  The design wall was wonderful.

Design wall and part of the squaring off area

Design wall and part of the squaring off area

We emerged downstairs again into her gallery area.  And there was Caryl, amid her 30 quilts for 30 years exhibit.

paducah caryl and cathy

She and her husband will be packing up this entire building and moving it to Port Townsend WA very soon after the show closes.  The building will be taken over by Paper Pieces (the English Paper Piecing template company) when they go.  If you are anywhere near Paducah during this week, I would highly recommend visiting Bryerpatch, and taking the tour.  It was fascinating to see how a professional quilting studio, designed by a thinking person, turned out.

We checked in very briefly at the entry to the show, and got ourselves accredited for the next two days of our visit, but it was too late in the day to see anything. We did see on the schedule, though, a Big Show by Eleanor Burns that night, so we decided to attend.

The last time we were here (10 years ago) was in similar circumstances – we had driven for 2 days from Virginia so that we could attend Eleanor’s 25th anniversary celebrations. She had asked to use my song “100 Ways to Hide Your Stash” as part of her presentation.  I had no idea what she would use it for – and that’s why we had to come to the show.  I was absolutely delighted when she aired the MUSIC VIDEO for the song!

This is now her 35th anniversary. It seemed appropriate to go.

It was very well attended with all her fans from over the years.  She proceeded to present a 1 1/2 hour trunk show with videos and quilts and lots and lots of stories.  It was hilarious!  She even played the video again!  We were sitting off to the side, but in the front row, and she actually spotted us (didn’t know we would be there) and introduced me to everyone.  It was delightful.

So that was our first day at Paducah.  Whew!  Two more to go…..



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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