Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day - 2014!

memorial day_52614 Today is a day for parades, flags, barbecues and decorating the graves of loved ones.   I am always reminded of red geraniums on Memorial Day.  They were the flowers that my mother and grandmother placed at our family’s gravesites because of their patriotic red color, draught tolerance and because they bloom continuously till frost.   

These days, Geraniums seem to be underappreciated in home gardens, but if you have difficulty keeping up with watering, they work well for containers and window boxes, and now there are  so many more hybrid colors and forms available besides the traditional “fire engine red”. They also combine well with other popular annuals.  I planted some pale salmon bi-color geraniums and white Bacopa (Sutera) in my father’s window boxes this spring because I know that they will look good, even if he forgets to water them between my visits. 

Memorial Day is also the day for remembering our fallen heroes.  I saw this poem by Carl Sandburg on a paving stone in a public garden. It made me think of Memorial Day.  


By Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.


IMG_0195 memorial day grass 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekend in DC

This past weekend, my daughter received her MBA from Georgetown University.   My sister, BIL, older daughter and and Carolyn’s dad and step mom were with us which gave the weekend a real vacation feel.  We were very fortunate that the weather was on the cool and dry side.  In fact, with the exception of down pours on Thursday night and a few sprinkles on Friday night, the weather was wonderful.

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 The Graduation was held indoors and followed by a reception for grads and families at the university.  It was great to meet some of my daughter’s friends.  Later our family group had a fabulous dinner at La Chaumiere Restaurant in Georgetown, where most of us ordered the soft-shelled crab special.   After dinner we had drinks at small boutique hotel’s rooftop bar that had some pretty neat views of Georgetown and DC.  We also made it to the rooftop bar at the W Hotel, just down the street from the white house.  This bar has amazing views of the Washington Monument.  DSC02960 DSC02968 IMG_0250

Saturday morning we had our long-awaited white house tour which, aside from seeing my sweet girl receive her degree, was the highlight of the weekend.  After waiting four months for the tickets to come through, I just wanted to linger and take everything in.  Unfortunately, picture taking is not allowed inside but my sister and I both wished there was a garden tour because what we could see of the gardens through the windows was enchanting.  There are small seating areas and planting that you never see in pictures.  Each of the rooms we toured had a beautiful flower arrangement that complimented the room’s color scheme and decor. We were told that the white house employs 35 florists that create these amazing arrangements based on the seasons .   The arrangements we saw contained many different rose colors and varieties, as well as peonies, ranunculus, foliage and some exotic lily species, but there was also some spirea and hydrangea blossoms that probably came right from the white house shrubbery.   Several tall vases in the dining room were covered with English ivy leaves just overlapped in a spiral fashion.   IMG_0266

After the white house tour on Saturday morning, we walked all of the major monuments until we couldn’t walk anymore then it was a cab ride to BSF in Foggy Bottom for delicious burgers, shakes and sweet potato fries, and a trip to the National Cathedral which was cut short when my sister realized that she had left her iPhone in the cab we’d taken earlier.   Fortunately, we did get the phone back later that night thanks to a very kind cab driver. 

  Sunday morning we were up early to get tickets for the newly re-opened Washington Monument.  The views from the top give you a true perspective of the scale of Washington DC and how the city is laid out.   We spotted a few things from up there that we missed on the ground but the best view was of the white house and Capital.  On the elevator ride down the lights are turned off so that you can see the construction details of the tower and the dedication plaques on the inside walls.   Eventually the stairwell will be opened in the 755 ft. obelisk for guided walking tours.  The monument had been closed for repairs since 2009 or 2010, after an earthquake caused structural damage.  It’s only been reopened since April of this year.




Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Do you put up a hummingbird feeder?   Do you put it up on a certain date or do you just wait till you see them in your area?. I’ve always sort of timed putting mine up with the flowering of my Sargeants crabapple tree which is just outside my kitchen window, but this year it seems that a lot of the flowering shrubs and trees are behind schedule so I checked the hummingbird migration map and they are already active in my area.  This map also covers the eastern provinces of Canada.  You can check out the species of hummingbirds that have been seen in your state on this website too.
In the northeast we have only one species of hummingbird that visits feeders regularly and that is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  However, that being said, a few sightings of Rufous and Calliope hummingbirds have been made in New Hampshire in the last couple of years.  This could possibly be due to global warming expanding their ranges, or the little guys just got bored and decided to take a road trip.
My feeder attaches to my kitchen window with suction cups and has a perch.  I like it because I can get a good view of the birds from my breakfast counter and at the sink.  They don’t seem to mind me standing close by while they are feeding.    DSC02896
Hang your feeder about 4 ft off the ground so that it is away from predators (like kitties).  Hummingbirds for their size are very territorial and will not tolerate attitude from other hummers or small birds.  I once saw one chase off a larger goldfinch that was too close to a feeder!  The suggested spacing for feeders is to place them out of sight of each other to prevent one bird from monopolizing all of them. 
You don’t have to purchase the “nectar” that’s sold in the stores.  They get most of their protein and nutrients from eating small flies and spiders, so they really don’t need any of the “extra” ingredients.   I make up my own sugar solution of 1/4 cup granulated white sugar to 2 cups of boiled well water.  This is not as sweet as some recipes that call for more sugar, but it is still attractive to the birds without attracting bees.  I don’t add red food dye either, since the red feeder will attract their attention. I store any extra food in the fridge but get rid of it after a week if I haven’t used it.  If you have chlorinated water, you might want to use bottled water instead.   DSC02895 DSC02898

My feeder was purchased from Wild Bird’s unlimited.  It has a lifetime warrantee.  There are many different models. though that hang on feeder poles  or even hanging baskets and window boxes. 
I know some people are concerned about ants and bees. My feeder has a well in the center that you fill with water to discourage ants and I can buy tiny bee cages that fit into the openings on the feeder and prevent bees and hornets from getting to the nectar.  I’m also very careful when filling and replacing it.  I don’t overfill my feeder and I use a wet paper towel to wipe up any drips right away.
In my experience, the heaviest feeding times are between late June and August, after that it dwindles off.  Most of the birds start their migration south in mid-August.  The older ones leave first,  followed by the current year’s nestlings.
I’ve given hummingbird feeders as gifts to family and friends who tell me later how much enjoyment they get out of watching the little birds.  I like to hear that because the more we enjoy something, the more vested we are in preserving it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gardening Chores

Yesterday I set up my summer porch.   Now for me, summer is officially here—well sort of.  I love sitting out here in the late afternoon and early evening.   It’s my favorite part of this house and a great place to read, put your feet up or just listen to the grass grow, lol.

Just the deck left to set up.  Today, I have an appointment, afterwards I’ll stop and get my potting supplies and work on the deck planters.   I’m still bringing in my annuals at night.  The temps have dropped precariously low a couple of times this past week and we are not officially frost-free till Memorial Day.



Another chore I did yesterday was to inspect my garden hoses and hook them up.   I store my garden hoses in the garage for the winter after they are completely drained of any water.   When I buy garden hoses, I buy the best quality that I can afford.   My first choice is natural rubber but I know that is getting harder to find.  

One thing that annoys me when I’m watering is leaking (usually down the front of my pants or on my feet) and the easiest way to prevent that is to replace the washers in the connection fittings every year.   Below is a picture of a new washer (on the left) and the washer that I replaced (on the right).   In only a year, the washer shrunk and the rubber dried out, because of water conditions (minerals, chlorine, etc).   The washers are a very inexpensive fix.  You can buy a bag of them for less than $2.00.   Garden hoses come in two diameter sizes—1/2 and 5/8 inches but the connections and washers are  a standard size and  fit both.  You can buy different kinds of washers, some are plastic,  I think the rubber ones below are the best.



If I can’t remove the old washer with my finger, I will carefully pry it out with a flat head screw driver.  You may find that the new replacement washer is a bit too large, just use your finger to push it down as far as it will go, so that it sits tight in the bottom of the coupling.   You’ll know if it isn’t seated correctly if you can’t thread the coupling onto the outdoor faucet.

Old WasherNew washer installed


Gail :)

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Special Day to Remember

Today would have been my mom’s 88th birthday.   Below is one of my favorite pictures of her taken in Ogunquit, Maine when she was 79.  It used to be an annual day trip for us every summer to walk the Marginal Way followed by lunch at the Oar House Restaurant and followed later by an ice cream on the drive home.  We had stops along the way that we looked forward to.  One was Stone Wall Kitchens where we sampled their jams and condiments.  This picture was taken on our last walk there together.  After that, she told me that the walking was just getting too much for her.  We did continue to go to Ogunquit for a few more summers after that, but we never walked the Marginal Way together again.  


Yesterday, my sister and I gathered at my dad’s house to spend the day with him.  We visited the newly restored Fogg Library in South Weymouth.   This was the closest library when I lived at home and it was a mile away.   My mom didn’t drive till after I graduated from high school so a friend and I would walk to this library every week during summer breaks to read magazines in the cool interior and check out books.  My favorite books back then were historical novels about the kings and queens of Europe and mysteries by Daphne DuMaurier. 

Olden’s Drug Store was across the square and where most of the high school kids hung out, so if it was a hot afternoon we’d sometimes sit at the soda fountain and have a coke before the walk home.  Olden’s is still there, but the soda fountain is long gone.  

The library was closed for ten years while the renovations were made.  I do miss the huge old card files that were located right behind the librarian’s desk.  They’ve been replaced with shelves for DVD’s.  The librarian told me that they had been gone for a long time, even before the restoration began.   I guess that makes sense because, most libraries are computerized today.  The librarian looked bored though, with no books to stamp or cards to file.

After the visit, we all noticed that something seemed to be missing from the library we remembered and then realized it was the smell of the old books and oiled wood but in time, I think it will come back.

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After going to the library, my dad treated us to lunch and then we went to the cemetery to plant flowers and do some clean up at mom’s gravesite. We weeded, edged, mulched and planted together as a team.   It was our birthday and mother’s day gift to her this year.  I think she would be happy.

I hope you all have a wonderful mother’s day.   Build wonderful memories for the future.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014


This is a picture of the designated “junk” drawer in my kitchen.  Look familiar?   I bet you have one too.




Every few months, it gets to me when I can’t find something that I KNOW is in there and I stop whatever else I’m doing at the moment and tear this drawer apart.  I spend a lot of time organizing it all over again so that everything has a place and fits nicely.   Well, that lasts for a few months and then it goes back to being a tangled mess. 

Today was one of those days when I was looking for the USB cord for my Passport external hard drive.   Its been about a month and a half since I got the new laptop and I wanted to back up some files.   I keep all of the USB cords in the junk drawer, trouble is, they are all different and it takes time to figure out which one is the right USB cord because I still have all the USB cords for two cameras, an external DVD/R, my old GPS, a speaker for my iPhone and a few more gadgets that are all stored conveniently nearby in the junk drawer.DSC02847

Today I solved this problem with the help of my Dymo Letratag hand-held label maker.   I bought my label maker last fall on sale.  It was kind of an impulse purchase but I have been labeling everything that sits still, since.  I love it for labeling leftovers and frozen food.  I have used it to organize my spices, storage boxes for Xmas decorations, tools, garden supplies and even my my sewing supplies.  It really came in handy this past tax season when I reorganized all of my personal files.  I was able to down-size from a beat-up and rusted two drawer file cabinet to one small file box.  And my label maker is so much faster and economical than printing a whole sheet of  labels when you only need one (you can print out multiple labels on the Dymo too).  My label maker came with a paper label cassette and I purchased an additional plastic one that I used to label my USB cords.  The paper labels work best for file folders, cardboard boxes, books, etc.   Even though the Dymo uses 4 AA batteries,  they last quite a long time.

There are many different models and makes of hand-held label makers like the Dymo to choose with various options.  Mine has options that allow me to print labels with both upper and lower case fonts in different sizes along with symbols, multiple lines, dates and numbers.   I have even given label makers as gifts and everyone is usually surprised at how many uses they can find for them.  

My USB cords are all labeled now and I won’t have to empty out the junk drawer next time to find the right one. 








So that’s my contribution to today’s enlightenment.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Looking Back at Early Projects…Part 2

I apologize for the quality of the photos in these two posts.  These were taken before the days of digital.  You remember, don’t you?  When we bought rolls of film, loaded the camera, took way too many pictures, then sent them off to be developed and hoped that they all came out good.

In 1987, I took a class at the Brass Thimble Quilt Shop in Manchester, NH.  That shop closed several years later and the owner moved back to her hometown in northern Maine.  I cannot remember her name but she was a talented teacher.  

I took a crazy-patch appliqué class which resulted in the flimsy below.   The colors in this are so ‘80’s—remember “dusty rose” and “dusty blue”?   This top is entirely hand-pieced and appliquéd.  The crazy border was still unfinished in 2009 when I got laid off and I finished piecing it then but it remains unfinished because I want to appliqué a partial floral border on the edges and I’m undecided whether I will hand or machine quilt it.  What would you do? 


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In 1990 I made this Debbie Mumm design called “An Apple A Day”   I loved her whimsical country style.  My kitchen, back then, had red countertops and harvest gold appliances (1970’s) so I made this quilt to hang on the wall.   The picture shows it after being basted but it did get quilted on a transatlantic passage by car carrier to Germany and Sweden! (there wasn’t very much to do on that cruise).  I still have this quilt but now I only display it at Christmas along with my other red and green quilts. 


Apple A Day Quilt_DMumm


According to what I wrote on the back of the picture below, I purchased this as a quilt kit in 1991 from Keepsake Quilting.  It was made for my friend, Diane who lived in an adorable log cabin and collected Snowmen.  This  kit came with all of the fabrics, batting and pattern.   I satin stitched his “twiggy” arms  which I  think looked a lot better than sewing real twigs to the fabric !

  Diane's snowman


The next  photo is of the small wall-hanging I did for a guild challenge.  Just like the Xmas  raffle quilts, we were given packets of material and instructions to make a wall-hanging.  We had to use all of the fabrics in the pack but could add two or three additional fabrics of our choice.   It’s been so long I’m only guessing when I say that I added the pinks and light green fabrics.     Thankfully, I can still remember the names of the two sweet little models. All of the challenge quilts were displayed at the guild’s quilt show that year after which, it went to my aunt who lived in Florida who loved it.

Carolyn and friend Truffles


The Dresden plate quilt below was made from a Quilt In A Day book by Wendy Gilbert.  I finished the top in 1992 but it stayed a “flimsy” till 2009 when I had it machine quilted.  I originally intended to hand-quilt this but I never really liked hand quilting so it was easy to put this quilt aside.   Several times, I was  tempted to donate/purge this top.  I am so happy now that I didn’t.  It is filled with wonderful scraps from my daughters’ clothing, my sewing projects and from swaps with friends.    (side note—I did (accidentally) sell the original  binding and backing fabric for this quilt at a yard sale [sigh])

Dresden Plate_1992





This has been a short history of some of my projects, there are many more but I didn’t always take pictures and some were blocks or quilts that I did as a member of a guild committee or round-robin groups.  I am trying to do a better job of documenting all of my future projects which I posted about in March 2013.

Having written this post and viewing these pictures again, I can see my transformation from a very inexperienced quilt maker to a “competent” quilt maker.  I can also see the many ways that I want to improve.   Henry David Thoreau said that you should never look back unless you are planning to go that way.   I think for most of us, looking back and seeing where you came from is a good way to know the direction you want to go.

Have a wonderful Sunday!


Friday, May 2, 2014

Looking Back at First Projects – Part One

I was going through some pictures this week and came across some of my first quilt projects.   I thought I would share these photos because I think hope they show an improvement in my quilting and sewing skills.  I’ve been sewing for over 50 years but in the beginning most of my sewing was garment sewing.

I can’t pinpoint the exact year I started quilting.  I knew very little about quilting or sewing and I wasn’t raised by people who did either.  My grandmother crocheted and knitted but I don’t remember her ever using the treadle sewing machine kept in her back room.  My mother only did hand sewing to mend or hem things.  When I went to a public high school, that offered Home Ec classes, I signed up for sewing.  I worked on a strawberry farm the summer I turned 15 and earned enough money (with a little added by my parents) to buy a Singer Stylist Model 237.    There was a fabric store about a mile from our house.  My friend and I would sometimes walk there (because neither of us were old enough to drive) and buy a Simplicity Pattern for $1.25 and a yard of material to make a skirt.

By the time I was in my 20’s and 30’s I’d made  some “tied” comforters and decorative pillows with thick batting for gifts.  I don’t have any pictures of those to show because film costing so much to develop, taking pictures of sewing projects was sort of a waste. 

My very, very first “quilt” was made for my high school friend, Marie and her husband, Bob who were expecting their first baby in 1974,.  I made a patchwork quilt of multi-color gingham squares with a double eyelet ruffle around the edge.  I used the ultra loft batting  and tied  it with ribbon bows.  The predominant color was a soft orange because ultrasound wasn’t routinely used, so the sex of most babies remained a mystery until birth.   I thought I was playing it safe with the orange.


Primary Hearts_1982 The quilt above brings tears to my eyes because this picture is all I have left of it.   Not knowing the first thing about quilting, I made this in 1982 for my then, baby daughter.  I drew the heart shape freehand and it came out perfect w/out redrawing (I don’t think I’ve ever been that lucky again).  I appliquéd each heart to a square of  background fabric.  The back is also made up of individual squares  (I think I was reading Georgia Bonesteel’s book about lap quilting when I started this).    I “typed’ the quilt label on my portable typewriter.  I don’t think the white fabric was 100% cotton, it may have been a blend.   I named this quilt “Primary Hearts”.  Sadly, very sadly now--I let this quilt be donated when my daughter redecorated her room, in her late teens.  If anyone happened to buy this at a Goodwill or charity shop, I would love to know that it is safe and in a good home.

1976 was the American Bicentennial and every town and village in the US was making a commemorative quilt.  Our little NH town was no different and blocks were being made to represent each of the historical buildings, volunteer organizations, groups and businesses in town.   Nel, the postmistress of our tiny little post office (the other half of the building was the locksmith’s shop)asked me if I would make a block to represent their building.  I knew nothing about appliqué at the time which is pretty evident from this block which turned out to be about 2 inches smaller than it was supposed to be.  It’s also the  only block that has a person’s name on it.  You can’t see it in this photo, but I embroidered my name in the lower left corner  and found out later that I wasn’t supposed to do that.  The quilt still hangs in the Historical Society.

PO Bicentennial Block_1976Town Bicentennial Quilt 








Fast forward to 1986 and I attended my first quilt show!  Wow, I was hooked and immediately joined MVQG (Merrimack Valley Quilter’s Guild).  I was so inspired by the amazing quilts that I saw displayed and so excited that there existed a group of people who met regularly to talk about and make quilts!  I loved attending the monthly  meetings, there were lectures and workshops by well-known quilters as well as supplies and notions available to purchase.  Each fall, the  MVQ Executive Board selected fabrics and passed block kits out to members who volunteered to make  blocks that were assembled into quilts and raffled off at the Christmas Party.  The first year I joined I was a little late to get my block done, but the second year I made a mariner’s compass, pieced completely by hand.    I thought the background fabric looked like ice crystals.  My block made it into one of the four quilts that were raffled off —but I didn’t win any of them :(


Xmas Block MVQ 1989Raffle Quilt_MVQ

In 1990 our library was trying to raise funds for a badly-needed addition.  An appropriation to repair, remodel and expand the library had been turned down by voters at the town meeting so the Friends of the Library decided to try to raise funds for some  immediate repairs.   I donated a quilt for the Friends’ auction  The room was packed and I was so proud of my quilt that I designed and made  until another quilt that was so much better than mine came up for auction.  There was furious bidding for that quilt and deservedly so.  It was beautiful and I wanted to bid on it myself.   At that moment I realized how poor my fabric choices were for the quilt I had made. Looking at the picture now,  I know that it was too monotone.  There needed to be contrast between the baskets and the flowers and background.  And even though it was hand quilted, it did not raise as much money for the library as I had hoped.


Library Raffle Quilt_1990 

To be continued…..Part II