Midwest Road Trip

Last week, Peter and I were on a road trip. It was wonderful to be away – we have had one of those Summers when everything has been going wrong. Since his retirement, it seems like Peter has done nothing but repair things and read online guides and talk to repairmen, when he can’t fix something. Some months ago I signed up for the Midwestern Handi Quilter Event in Highland, Illinois, and when I asked if he would like to come along, I got a resounding “yes!”.

Our first stop was in Franklin Tennessee, which was #2 on my Where To Live Next List. It is a charming town set in lovely, rolling countryside, not far from Nashville. The horse farms and large estates (I looked at a house across the street from Reba McEntire’s farm!) are breath-taking. We had some yummy meals downtown and Peter toured the area on his bike while I window shopped. Next trip we will explore Nashville.

Handi Quilter makes my Sweet 16 quilting machine and I thought I’d like to go and see what I could learn about the machine and how to get better at free motion quilting.The Handi Quilter Event was sponsored by Mike’s Machine Shop and they did a nice job, and Mike is so knowledgeable about the machines. The classes were held in this Masonic Temple in Highland…..it’s quite a beauty!

The Event was 5 days long, but only the first two were relevant to me. I have a Sweet 16, which is called a “sit down, mid arm machine”. I do not use the HQ version of a stitch regulator, nor do I use a computer. She’s a plain vanilla machine and I’m delighted with her. Over the years I have taken machine quilting classes from “big deal quilters”. They show you how to do their quilting; the way they like to do it. Mary Beth Kraptil gave an overview, with many, many ideas for designs and how to accomplish them. After going over the basics of the machine and how to get the quilting started, she talked about a variety of quilt patterns, including “ruler work” and there was even a bit of time to try out her ideas and play with the rulers. And the mantra always is, no matter who teaches the classes, practise for 15 minutes every day!  She had samples galore, which are so helpful to see up close.

This idea for a practise piece was one of my favorites. She started with a printed fabric in the middle and then “finished” the motifs that were cut off. You can see that she added more floral and leaf shapes in the background and then fill, fill, filled!

Highland is about 45 minutes from St. Louis, so we decided to go to a Beer Week Event at the Anheuser Busch Biergarten. As you can see, it was a lovely evening… and check out the arch appearing in the distance!

It is so incredible!

The trip home was not as fun as the getting-there – isn’t that often the case? We were listening to a book on tape and I was secretly tracing quilting designs on my leg. I have so many ideas and some new tools and toys to play with!









Gingerbread House Fun!

Finding a Christmas Tree by Julie Bauman

Finding a Christmas Tree by Julie Bauman


Year of the Rooster by Gail Oliver

Year of the Rooster by Gail Oliver


Poinsettiaville by Glenda Tant

Poinsettiaville by Glenda Tant

These fun gingerbread constructions are the prize winners in The National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn, located in Asheville, NC. The Inn is the perfect place to visit in December and was bustling with guests and those of us who came for dinner and to see the houses. Below is the grand prize winner! Beatris is from Ontario Canada and I have been wondering ever since, how she got her lovely creation to North Carolina!

Dream House by Beatriz Muller

Dream House by Beatriz Muller

Aren’t they great?

Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley!

Peter and I are big Harry Potter fans (honestly, isn’t everyone?) so we decided on this Florida trip to make sure to get to Universal Studios to see The Wizarding World. Turns out that Universal has two parks and there is a Harry area in each, so we had to decide where to go since we did not purchase a two park ticket. We polled the young wait staff at our Disney World hotel and they all recommended Diagon Alley as the best “experience” and we certainly enjoyed it! Here is the interior of the store where the Hogwarts kids buy their pets (familiars?). The cat was twitching her tail and looking annoyed.

Pet store

While drinking a butter beer, we enjoyed all the advertising on the walls of the buildings and

Diagon Alley ad

remembered all the hilarious  tricks and toys and magical gags that the Weasley twins came up with at school and then for their store. This is the wonderful store front for Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.

Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes

There is so much to look at in Diagon Alley! The (what do you call the people who come up with theme park designs?) theme park designers really outdid themselves. The feel and texture of it was very evocative of the books.

Diagon Alley

We did not run into any of the human characters from the book, but were properly intimidated by the clerk at Gringotts!

Gringott's clerk

And Peter very much enjoyed the (escape) ride through Gringott’s bank. I get sick with very little provocation, so I sat that one out.

I hope I haven’t spoiled it for you. There’s lots to see and do (particularly if you buy a wand) and who knows what fun is to be had in the other side?!? Has anyone been there?


A Savannah Getaway

We just got back from a long weekend in Savannah. It had been some time since we’d both been there and we had a lovely time wandering around and eating and drinking too much. We stayed at the East Bay Inn, which was a gorgeous place! The building started out as a cotton warehouse and the ceilings in our room were 20 feet high and the original brick walls were exposed.

East Bay Inn

This amazing thing was in the lobby area. I have no idea what it was for – I thought it might be a vase but the inside of the bowl is intricately painted. I loved it! The decor of the hotel was very Southern with a lot of chinoiserie, and dramatic yellow and red walls.

Chinoserie thing!

One of the most amazing things about the design of Savannah, which was a planned city, are the series of squares. They are well used and any time of day or night there are people sitting in them enjoying the shade and breezes, or perhaps a plastic cup of beer or wine or a margarita! The huge tress in them have been so well-kept. Look at this lovely canopy.

Savannah trees

The air was scented with the smell of jasmine, which was growing everywhere.

Jasmine arch


The old buildings by the river are a mish-mash of stones and bricks and shells. I wonder if they were repaired or constructed that way and the paint wore away. The peeling paint on the door was some shade of pink, but who knows what it may have originally been.

Old buildings

I did not take a lot of pictures of buildings, but the old Cotton Exchange is spectacular! It is down the street from the one above. They all look over River Street where lots of commerce used to take place. Now the street is filled with restaurants and bars and shops. Savannah is still a major container port and it is quite surprising to see a gigantic container ship sail down the river.

The Cotton Exchange

And here’s a place to put on your list of where-to-eat in Savannah! Leopold’s is known for its ice cream and the line is very long each night. Located across the street from one of the many Savannah College of Art & Design buildings, it’s worth the wait. Peter suggests Peanut Butter Chippy and I recommend Caramel Swirl…


From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!

We decided to spend our anniversary weekend in Gatlinburg Tennessee this year. As in our trip to Myrtle Beach, people made some interesting comments about it… And now I know why!!! It is a small town squeezed between mountains and it is absolutely jammed with tourist attractions. From garish airbrushed t-shirts to beautiful handmade crafts,( tucked in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg is Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, one of the premier places to take workshops with nationally known craftspeople), from the old time photo places and magnet stores, to the views of the Smokies, it is a contrast! Dollywood is a few miles away and it has lots more space to attract huge tourist attractions, Dollywood being only one of them.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the only free national park in the country and it was very busy. {It’s nice to know that some drag their kids away from the fudge shops and haunted houses to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains!} We took several hikes and enjoyed them all. On Sunday it was raining and breezy when we got to a trailhead at the base of Clingman’s Dome. The view of the mountains looked like this – so gorgeous, isn’t it?

The Great Smoky Mountains

The forest was cool and dark and so green. The rain made the tiny rivulets bigger and they gurgled as they meandered along the trail. There were lots of mushrooms to discover. These great orange guys are very evident in all the green and brown of the forest floor.

Amanita muscaria?

Amanita muscaria?

I spent many Summers in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania going to camp and was excited to see these Indian pipes just emerging. As little girls we loved all the tiny plants in the woods behind our cabins and would build little villages for the newts around the Indian pipes and mushrooms.

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

I am not a mushroom person and have done my best to find out the names of the fungus we saw. I have also seen this ruffly white guy on Paris Mountain here in Greenville but cannot find any pictures that look like him. Any mycologists know the name?

White ruffled mushroom

White ruffled mushroom

Towards the beginning of the trail, I was looking left and right to see what I could see when a Junco flew in front of me, about ankle height and it really startled me. On the way back the same thing happened and I stopped and said to Peter, “There must be a nest here” and we both bent over. He found it by making whistling noises and we saw two little beaks opening for food. The nest was indeed around my ankles under the rocks and in the mosses and ferns beside the trail. She really needn’t have flown out because we never would have seen her.

Junco nest

Junco nest

By the end of our hike, the sky had cleared and the Smokies were pretty clear! We hiked the rest of the way up the trail to Clingman’s Dome which is the highest peak in Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains

And then we headed to Gatlinburg for a well deserved beer…

Road Trip: Myrtle Beach

We read a good bit about what is going on in Myrtle Beach SC in our local paper. People either love it or hate it and we decided to check it out for ourselves before the Summer hoards descend, although many friends and neighbors advised against it! The first weekend in May seemed like a safe time – the week before Harley Bike Week when things definitely get crazy. We stayed in a hotel on the beach, nine floors up and had such a great view… and such wonderful sounds…

Myrtle Beach

We had perfect weather all weekend, which was so nice after my rainy and cold Florida getaway. We spent a lot of time wandering up and down the beach. It’s not a good spot for shell collecting, but I so enjoyed watching kids making their sand castles and digging. There is nothing else like fooling around with sand and water and buckets and shovels and their total absorption was a pleasure to see.

Sand castle

There were a lot of very large jellyfish washed up on the beach. They are aptly named Cannonball Jellyfish. Wow – – – the ones I remember from the New Jersey Shore are tiny clear ones. We actually saw these guys swimming in the salt marshes at Murrell’s Inlet further down the coast.

Jelly fish

We spent an afternoon there, wandering around and checking out the wildlife and the beach homes. We also enjoyed a few beers with Mr. Brown Pelican who was hunting for some lunch. I’ve seen a good many pelicans on trips to Florida, but never one so close and hunting. He had a deceptively sleepy look until something delicious caught his eye.

Mr Brown Pelican

The nightlife was fun. Myrtle Beach has a small boardwalk which includes the requisite skee ball machines, a favorite of Peter’s! Then we discovered some very old pinball machines that play baseball. They were made in the 1950’s and are called “pitch and bat”. The ball comes out and you whack it and depending on what hole it goes into, the tiny players run the bases. Can you see them? It was a lot of fun!

Baseball pinball

A few of the rides were open, and there were enough people and souped up cars cruising Ocean Boulevard to give the evenings a festive feel. (Myrtle Beach has something like 60 miles of beautiful beaches and the amount of people who go there in the Summer is actually pretty scary!)

Night lifeOne of our “things” since we moved to South Carolina is to catch the moonrise over Lake Robinson on our deck. As it turned out, Sunday night was the full moon which we watched rising over the ocean.

Full moon Myrtle Beach


It was a good getaway and fun to explore a new place!

Road Trip: Amelia Island Florida!

I am on a solo road trip heading to Eastern Florida. When looking at the routes I could take and where might be a good stopping point, Amelia Island caught my eye. I think they advertise in our local magazines and it sounded like a lovely spot. I haven’t been to Florida for some time but…
You know you’re in Florida when buckets of plastic crocodiles appear.

And when there are references to pirates everywhere!

And the homes are painted such lovely colors…

I am staying at a hotel on Fernandino Beach and I took a long walk. It has been so long since I’ve dipped my toes in the Atlantic Ocean! My buddies and I enjoyed the grey skies and crashing waves.

Now to wash the sand off my feet and find some dinner!

UpCountry Quilt Guild’s Parade of Quilts

Another weekend, another quilt show! Though there were many events happening last weekend, we decided to head to Pickens on Saturday. There was a quilt show there called Parade of Quilts, put on by the UpCountry Quilt Guild.

The show was a very colorful one! This quilt is called Cabine Colore by Patricia Kerko. It was a striking log cabin design and all the flowers and leaves were machine appliquéd.

Patricia Kerko

The show is held every other year and many quilters have been busy! Laverne Marchbanks made a gorgeous pink double wedding ring……

Laverne Marchbanks pink

…and a purple one! She didn’t write any description, so I will fill in the blanks. I am sure it was hand quilted – and – I think it was hand pieced! I really couldn’t quite tell with the lighting. Either way, they were impressive quilts with lovely colors!

Laverne Marchbanks purple

This was another beautifully color planned quilt; a sampler of stars called Rainbow Galaxy. Beth Eastman said that this was her first attempt at paper piecing!

Beth Eastman

Jean Gardiner crafted this beautiful red work quilt with such a great border. The random and varied star patterned squares really make this quilt very unusual. The border was machine quilted by Carol Alpern and the quilt is called Snowflake Here, Snowflake There.

Jean Gardiner

This quilt by Gail Sexton gets my color award! I just love them. The tag said this is by Smith Street Designs. I very much like this design. There’s a lot going on but it works so well together. And the colors are so juicy : raspberries and apricots come to my mind…

Gail Sexton Garden Club

This is a detail so you can see the beautiful machine applique Gail did. I very much like her quilting – it seems appropriate and adds to the design of the quilt rather than overwhelming it.

Gail Sexton detail

This wall hanging was made by Pat Kerko from a design by Gail Sexton. I am always drawn by wall hangings that are horizontal. I tend to make square ones but so many times there are horizontal spaces between windows that would frame such a pice really beautifully. Check out Pat’s amazing free motion quilting in the border!

Pat Kerko Printemps

There were many quilts that won awards and someone had made ribbons for them. Each one was different and they were all so fun. Look closely at the photos above and you can see more of them.

Ribbon 1

I think the quilt guild shows are done for this year. My guild has a show coming up in the Spring and I have been mulling over what quilts to finish. As you may know, I have a lot of quilt tops waiting…….