Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Autumn Trees

I have finished the little quilt for Kate's art quilt swap. (It's actually two quilts, but they go as a set.) They (and all the other art quilts) can be found here There are some wonderful quilts in this swap. Mine is number 25. I just hope whoever gets mine will forgive my errors. The binding isn't quite even, for one thing. I enjoyed making this quilt and already have ideas for other fabric art when I get home. I have another project still in progress - the quilted bag that I started in class. Hopefully, Kate and I can find time, after we get home from Scotland and before I leave, to finish it, or at least she can show me what to do. I think I can probably finish it myself, but I imagine there are right ways to do it which will be easier than if I just try it on my own.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

sports day at Green Lane School

Since I am using Kate's very fast computer, I can put up several photos from the sports day.
Kate has more, as do I, on flickr.

On the left is Alex in his sack. On the right is Sarah waiting to get into the sack race.

Here is Olivia waiting to throw a soft javelin. The wind was very strong and many of the javenlins went backwards. Luckily none went over the fence.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beginnings and endings

Last night, Kate was explaining Facebook to Geoff and me. She asked me if I wanted her to set up an account for me and in a weak moment, I said, 'yes'. So, now I have a page or whatever it's called on Facebook. Of course, I have no idea of what I'm doing or how the system works. I suppose I will find out as I go along. I do have a few friends already, most of them friends of Kate whom I also know. Only one friend is someone in my age category and she's very computer savvy. I have enough to do, just keeping up with my blog and the few I read. Don't know if I'll use Facebook much at all. We'll see.

I've really enjoyed using Kate's computer, mostly. It's very fast - the internet connection, as well as the computer itself. However, the keyboard isn't quite like US ones. A few things are in different places, which means I type some very weird words sometimes. By the time I get used to it, I'll be heading for home and will have to re-accustom myself to mine. We'll be taking the laptop on holiday with us, so that will be different yet.

Today Kate and I visited a few charity shops in Worcester Park. I didn't bring any jeans with me, so I've been looking for a cheap pair. No luck on jeans, all the ones I found have the waist down by the hips. I find those very uncomfortable and also unattractive. However, I got a pair of sweat pants and a very nice pair of navy blue trousers in a stretchy material. Also picked up a couple of long-sleeved tops. So I'll be ok, even if Scotland is chilly. I love poking around in chairity shops. You never know what treasures may be hiding there.

This afternoon, Kate and I were at school for the year-six farewell. The kids talked about what they liked about their years in Green Lane School and sang a couple of songs. Several of the girls were in tears by the time it was over. Tomorrow night is some kind of graduation ceremony. They will wear the uniforms for the schools they will be attending in the fall. I think there are parties on Wednesday - the last day for this school year. Hard to believe that Sarah will be in year 7 in the fall. She won't even be 12 until the end of September. Of course, she's been practicing to be a teenager for several years now. She's very excited about secondary school. I'm sure she'll love it and do fine. Her end of the year report was full of statements about how mature she is and how helpful. We don't always see those traits at home, for some reason. LOL

Sunday, July 19, 2009

to quilt or not to quilt

Today Kate helped me with the art quilts I'm making for her little quilt swap. Tomorrow is the deadline, so I really needed to get her advice and finish them. I was trying to figure out how to add a wide binding which would have Pellon inside it to make it stand out like a frame. The way I was trying would have worked, I think, but was not going to be easy. Kate suggested an easier way and I have now finished all the sewing on one of the quilts. I will do the other one tomorrow. There is a lot of hand sewing to put on the binding and I don't exactly enjoy that, especially since I am using Kate's thimble which is too big for me. I finally wrapped my finger with masking tape to keep the thimble on. The final touches, after all the stitching is done will be to add some little animals and an elf which I made from Fimo. I will post photos when they are done. Kate says the quilts are good enough to put into the swap. I almost hate to give them away, but I can always make similar ones. And I'm looking forward to getting a lovely art quilt made by someone else.

Kate's iron burned itself up today. It was weird. I was sewing and heard this odd popping noise, rather like popcorn or the kids popping bubble wrap. Then I smelled smoke! Boy did it stink! We can't figure out why the iron did this, as it is supposed to turn itself off if it overheats. Of course, the warranty had expired a few months ago. Isn't that always the case? So we went shopping for a new iron. A cheap one this time. Kate has very bad luck with irons and has to replace them every few years, so she is not buying any more expensive ones. Mine turns itself off if I don't pick it up and use it after 10 minutes or so. Hopefully, that will prevent problems like we had today.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Iwent to see the year six play last night. It's a tradition that the class that graduates to secondary school puts on a play at the end of the school year. (yes, in England, the kids are in school into July.) The children did a wonderful job with this play. It was a musical version of the story, with a lot of dancing and singing and quite a few vocal solos. Sarah had two rolls. Her original part was just a bit as a costumer for the rock star. However, one child was absent for the final performance, so Sarah got to be a naughty kitty. I think she enjoyed that part the most. She made a very cute cat.

Today was sports day at the school. Rain had been predicted and it was spitting down rain when we got to school in the morning. However, it never really did much. All morning long the dark rain clouds swept across the sky, with the sun shining brightly in-between. It was pleasantly cood - just right for kids who were racing and throwing nerf javelins and doing other competitive stuff. The team that the North kids were on came in third (out of four) on the sports events, but they took the school prize for the year. This prize is based on all sorts of things throughout the school year - academic, behavior, etc. I took some photos of the kids, but Kate will have to help me get them posted onto flickr before I can show them on my blog.

The parents were invited to participate in some silly races too. I came in second in the 'grandmothers' race' and Kate ran in the 'mums' race'. Geoff was wearing sandals, so could not run in the 'father's race'. Perhaps this was intentional on his part? The guys seemed to take their race very seriously, unlike the mums and grandmothers. It was all in good fun.

I may have mentioned that Kate and Geoff always seem to be having renovations when I visit. This time it's the bathroom. Their handyman (and friend) Mike is working upstairs today. He's putting the new floor into the room. The tiling is done and the sink is installed, but the floor and ceiling are left to do. It's a bit odd to take a shower and then step out onto sub-flooring. I hope the work will be done by the time we get back from Scotland.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

on holiday

I'm leaving for England tomorrow night. I'll be visiting Kate and family. We will spend 10 days in Scotland, in a lovely 'cottage' somewhere outside of Aberdeen. I think we'll be doing a lot of just walking around enjoying scenery. It's hard to find tourist attractions for a group ranging in age from 6 to 68! However, the North Sea is fairly close and the family love beaches, so we'll certainly visit the shore. I understand that the North Sea is bitterly cold, especially along the Scottish coast, so I doubt if we'll do more than dip our toes into the water. Kate is the only good swimmer in the family anyway. For swimming, we may go to one of those indoor water playgrounds - with big slides and such like. We'll see if Grandma has the courage to go down one again.

I probably won't be blogging much, if at all, during my trip, but I'll be in touch when I get back. I will take lots of photos and will post them on my flickr account. Look for them at:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

what was I thinking?

Yesterday was too hot to work outside, except for a bit in the AM in the back. I cleaned up some trimmings that had been lying around for a week or so. Anyway, I had planned to work on my quilting, but the front bedroom, where my sewing is done, gets sun all AM, so it was VERY HOT in there.

Somehow I ended up in the basement (blessedly cool) and decided to rearrange the furniture. I have no idea why this happened, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. The furniture consists of a futon couch/bed, a coffee table, a desk, and many, many bookcases. Yeah, I know, I have way too many books. There are 11 tall bookcases and 3 small ones. Anyway, the purpose of rearranging was to position the couch so that it faced the sliding glass doors. I want to be able to sit and enjoy looking at my plants in the shade garden under the deck. The couch is heavy, but moving it was the easy part!

I also had to move the TV, so that it could be viewed from the couch. Never mind that I don't ever watch it. Maybe I'll want to view one of those DVDs that are still in their wrappers. LOL In order to move the TV, I had to take apart a display/storage unit and move it to where the TV table had been. After I moved the couch, I couldn't put the three short bookcases back behind it, so I had to do some creative rearranging of various pieces of furniture. I did get the pieces all fitted in someway, but then I had to rearrange books, since moving the bookcases had messed my system. (Basically, books are arranged by author except for mysteries that have a shelf of their own and a couple of shelves of unread books. I've been going through the unread ones and getting rid of many of them.) I also had to take down various pictures from the walls and then put them back up in different places. Ditto with the knicknacks that were on some shelves. I ended up moving all the books from the Cs to the Ks. Believe me that's a lot of books! I expected to be sore today, as I used muscles I have not used in a while, but so far nothing aches more than usual. I am very pleased with the room and actually spent some time yesterday afternoon sitting on the couch admiring my plants.

Friday, July 10, 2009

more quilting

I visited my friend, Deb, for a couple of days this week. She has recently moved to southern Maryland, near the Bay. Her house has a porch in back - all the way across the house. It's a wonderful place to sit out and admire the trees. Deb had signed us up for a quilting class at the library where she takes ceramics. This class was to walk us through the process of making a quilted bag. The teacher had already cut the pieces, so we started of by choosing the two different fabric pieces we would use. During the class, we managed to get the sides pieced and bordered. I know that doesn't sound like much, but considering that Deb had never sewed and others of us were novice quilters, it was quite an accomplishment. I now have the pieces I need to finish the bag (lining, straps, batting). What I don't have is the directions! (She didn't make any.) They will finish the piece next week, but I won't be there. However, luckily, I have an expert quilter in the family and since I am going to visit Kate next week, I'll just take the unconstructed bag with me and get her advice. I think this project will turn out much better than the place mat that I made on my own (the one I will never show to anyone). It really helped to have a teacher on hand for advice. I have trouble visualizing how pieces fit together, even when looking at a diagram. For me, it works better if I can watch someone else doing it and then copy them. I was surprised to realize how much I understood about the process. (Comes of years of watching Kate, I guess.) Of course, I am still having a bit of trouble sewing straight seams. For some reason, curves are easier for me. Anyway, I will post of photo of the bag when it's finished.

I won't be blogging too often from Kate's, but will try to get in one or two entries. They have two computers, but there are already 3 kids and 2 adults trying to use them!

Monday, July 6, 2009

quiet weekend

Strange title for the weekend of July 4th, but Saturday and Sunday were quiet for me (except for occasional neighborhood fireworks). After all the walking on Friday, I didn't want to do anything much on Saturday. I did a bit of yard work in the morning and in the afternoon, I finally decided to work on two little art quilts that have been sitting in pieces in my sewing room for weeks. The deadline is coming up this month and it was either finish or discard them! I have not been happy with the work I have done so far, but after much agonizing, I decided to start stitching the pieces onto the background (they were already glued down) and hope for the best. Amazingly, when I finished putting satin stitching around the trees, they looked ever so much better! I think this idea will actually turn out ok. I can't believe how much difference having that stitching on them makes! I want to finish them, except for some additions to be done by hand, and take them with me to Kate's to get her advice on the final product. I expect her to be honest about whether they are good enough for the little quilt swap. Since it's my first attempt at this kind of thing, I won't be upset if she says they aren't good enough. I know that I should have tried something easy for my first attempt at quilting, but the easy things don't interest me. And having a deadline for completion forces me to actually work on them. Anyway, I will post a photo of the finished product, mistakes and all - eventually.

Since it was a holiday weekend, I decided to cook a special dinner for myself. I grilled a steak outside and baked a potato (in the microwave and toaster oven) and had toasted marshmallows for dessert! I even managed to get the steak off the grill while it was still rare. I did not, however, go down to see the fireworks. I just read for a while and went to bed early.

Yesterday, was a day on the telephone. I always call Kate on Sundays, but sometimes I also call my son, Steve. Since he lives in Scottsdale, AZ, I have to call him in the afternoon, allowing time for him to sleep late on the weekend. It's a good thing I didn't call early, as he and Christine had hosted a party on the 4th and were recovering from it yesterday. I gave Steve a scolding for not sending me anything on Mothers' Day. Christine said that she had reminded him (I was sure she had) and he admitted that he had no excuse. Of course, I forgave him (one always forgives one's children, I think) and we had a nice chat. He's been busy building things to enhance the yard - a deck and a gazebo. He's really good at home renovation. Must have inherited those genes from his father. Goodness knows, I am not competent with saws and such like, although I can drill and hammer with the best of them!! LOL

I had no sooner gotten off the phone with Steve than Andy (my exhusband) called. He calls every few months, just to keep in touch. Obviously, we are still friends. In fact we get along much better than we did when we were married. He is retired, but works at Busch Gardens in the summer. He wants me to come down and help him pick out paint for his living room. Maybe in the fall when it's cooler. This past week it was in the 90s where he lives in Virginia. We only had 80s here - lucky us!

By the time that call ended, it was time to call Kate (in England). I time my calls to her for late, after the kids are in bed. She is a night owl and the hours from 10 to midnight are about the only time I can have an uninterrupted conversation with her. Only Sarah, also a night owl, was still up yesterday evening when I called. Kate and I had our usual long chat, much of it spent on what we will be doing when I go to visit her.

I felt as if I had a phone growing on my left ear after all those calls. I really need to get a speaker phone where I can turn the volume way up or one of those phone headsets. I am having a lot of trouble hearing on the phone these days. I have been losing my hearing for 30 years and it's getting to the point where I am seriously considering hearing aids. I did try one some years back, but it was not a success. Soon, I will have to try again, but I just hate spending a considerable amount of money for something that may not solve the problem. Oh well, that decision can wait for a while. I've discovered that some decisions, if just postponed long enough, will solve themselves. The hearing problem is NOT one of those, unfortunately, but it also isn't urgent. It's a problem to be solved 'one of these days' - like getting a new computer and a faster internet connection. I didn't used to procrastinate this way. Maybe it's a result of being retired or just getting - shhhh - old!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Celebrate the 4th

A friend and I went into DC yesterday and spent an interesting day. We went to an art exhibit/sale called Artomatic. This organization finds an unoccupied warehouse or office building under construction and arranges to use the space for a few months. They allow any artist who wants to exhibit his/her art to do so for a minimal fee ($99). The exhibit this year occupied 8 floors of an unfinished office building. You can hardly imagine the different kinds of art on display there! There were comic book type drawings, photograhps, paintings, art made of fabric, glass, metal, clay, paper, wood and anything else you can think of. Many displays used 'found' material, such as tools, kitchen implements, furniture, old china and miscellaneous junk. There even was a coffin made of guns. It was a fabulous experience to try to take it all in - and an exhausting one. We spent about three hours and managed to visit every floor, but we didn't spend much time on most exhibits. We each found booths with art by people we knew - a surprise to me. What a great experience it was! Maybe next year Lynne and I will rent space and display our art.

After we left Artomatic, we went looking for a place to catch dinner before going up to the Capitol to watch the rehearsal for tonight's 4th of July concert. Neither Lynne nor I are brave or foolish enough to join the crowds on the 4th and go into DC for the concert and fireworks. However, there were fewer people for the rehearsal. I thought there were a few thousand, but Lynne estimated it as more like 40 thousand. (Neither of us is an expert at crowd estimates). Anyway, we got there about an hour before the start and sat on the steps of the Capitol. Those steps were hard! Next year, I will bring a pillow and binoculars. I would rather have been in the grass, but all the lawn spots directly in front of the stage were taken. (Maybe next year we will go early to get good spots.) Actually we could see quite well. They have huge screens, so one sees close ups of the entertainers. Lots of well-known names - Barry Manilow and Aretha Franklin were the big names. Oh yes, and the Muppets (my favorites). The National Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed as well as various military bands. They did "Rhapsody in Blue" with two pianos! It was a great show and we both really enjoyed it. I think we will do it again next year. Even getting home via Metro was easy. We didn't use the nearest station, but walked a few blocks and caught a train that took us directly back to our car. Not even very crowded on the train - we had seats all the way.

Of course, it was very late when I got home - around midnight - and I was so wired that I couldn't go to sleep right away. I will be very tired this evening, and will probably not go anywhere for fireworks tonight. I've seen many fireworks displays over the years, and although I enjoy them, I don't go out of my way to see them these days. Getting lazy in my retirement, I guess! LOL

I hope you all have a great July 4th with whatever celebration you fancy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

an unexpected visit

My long-time friend, Lida, called me the other night and said she would be in town just for one day and would like to stay overnight with me. I love it when she does this. We get some time to chat and she gets free bed and board. She came in about 9 PM, so we had some time to play catch up on news of families and friends. Yesterday AM, we went shopping. She was looking for something to wear to her daughter's wedding (in October). I'm not sure if she found what she wanted, but I enjoyed browsing in stores (and departments) where I seldom shop. I do not have any reason to buy dressy clothes, since retirement. Frankly, I don't want the kind of life-style where I have to dress up often, but it's fun to look at all the sparkly dresses.

I did a bit of gardening yesterday - planted some red trilium that my SIL gave me and repotted some plants. Mostly my garden just needs trimming these days. If I get a dry afternoon, I will try to tie back a beauty bush that has taken over a section of the back. So far, it's been too wet, either from AM dew or PM rain to fight with that bush. And, of course, the forsythia is all over the place again. Don't ever plant forsythia, unless you have lots of room! I've cut the thing back to within 12 inches of the ground several times, but in a couple of years it's right back there in my face! If the soil weren't so hard to dig in (clay and stones), I'd dig the darn thing out and put in something more civilized. However, it's been there 20 years and getting it out would require a backhoe! I guess it's time to cut it back again and make it start over.

The photographs are of the the place where I ate lunch with two of my classmates last week on my visit to New York State. Snug Harbor is on Keuka Lake (one of the Finger Lakes). We sat on the porch and enjoyed the lake view. Good food and good friends. Who can ask for anything more?