Sunday, May 15, 2011

Old Stones, Old Bones

This time two years ago I was visiting The Little Blister in Ireland. One of the places our mother liked to go on a Sunday afternoon, when we were young, was Lough Gur, so, one sunny Sunday afternoon we set off. I hadn't been there in years, and had never been since its archaeological significance had been played up, to turn it into a tourist attraction. It was early in the season though, so we almost had the place to ourselves. It is a beautiful place, lovely for walking, so, since I was there and you weren't why, don't you traipse along behind us if you have a few minutes.....

I was afraid the development might have ruined it, but it was very low key, and nicely done. The visitor's center was designed to look like the ancient dwellings that were discovered in the area.

Information boards weere posted along the trails, like this one showing a replica of an ancient shield excavated nearby.........


One of the things I love about where I grew up is the proliferation of castles and old ruins. They pop up on the horizon when you least expect them. My mother had no patience with my fascination with what she dismissed as "piles of old rocks," so I never got it out of my system!  This one is right up against a farmhouse, on the road in to Lough Gur, surrounded by muddy fields dotted with cow pies. Obviously they're not trying to attract tourists! I ventured as close as I could, until the Blister, with a wee bit of mother's impatience, warned me that, if I wasn't careful, I'd get the two of us in trouble for trespassing!

A little further out the road from Lough Gur is the area where our mother grew up.We decided to drop in, unannounced, on the farming cousins. If you warn them ahead of time they make an embarrassing fuss, and need a week to prepare, so since we didn't have much time, we thought we'd just pop in!

We'd never have done that with my mother's generation, but the cousins are in charge now and they're as casual as we are. After a lovely visit, and quite a bit of fuss, in spite of our clever plan, we chanced upon this little cemetery on our way home.

 We hopped over the wall and landed in the middle of this patch of bluebells.....

 Cemeteries are fascinating, the older the better. When my youngest daughter was little, she'd point excitedly at any cemetery we passed on our travels and say "Look Mom! Heaven!"  I wouldn't say that a cemetery is exactly my idea of heaven, and we might not have been quite so brave had it been "a dark and stormy night!" But it was a beautiful Spring day so we weren't too worried about running into any ghosts or banshees. The Blister did get the shivers in a few places though........

She absolutely would not walk down the right side of the ruined church above. I  walked there regardless, and was unaware of anything otherworldly, but then I'm not as finely tuned for things supernatural as she is! 

This arch was the door into the church.....My eyes love arches. They look so elegant, and isn't it said that the way the stones are fitted together in an arch makes it one of architecture's strongest designs?

 Singers and story tellers have always been held in the highest regard by the country people in Ireland. After all, they needed some bit of entertainment after longs days in the fields.

Eventually, after all the joy and sorrow, heartache and toil, each of us will be no more than a shiver on someone's spine. But if the shiver could be delivered in a setting like this, looking out over a peaceful lake, I'd be one happy ghost.

So that is where I was two years ago this month. Were you able to keep up?

And this is where the Little Blister will be in less than a week!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Racoon Post Missing In Action!

There was some funny business going on last evening with Blogger. Between the hopping and the trotting my last post "Cactus For Breakfast" has vanished, without a trace. In answer to some questions in the comments, yes, that is a raccoon. They are common in this area. I've seen them most often down by the river. They are scavengers and like nothing more than rooting through garbage. I suspect that he and his compadres, even though I've never seen them back there, are the critters that poke around in our compost pile way out back. So no RR, I did not feel inclined to invite him in for some antacids! In spite of those appealing eyes and funny mask, he and his ilk are not welcome here! Besides, they can have rabies and who needs that?  He must have been disappointed to find no garbage, but, rather than leaving with an empty belly he decided to snack on the Christmas Cactus.......Big mistake, as his pathetic air demonstrated, not to mention the various nasty green deposits he left on the porch!

Looks like Blogger is back to behaving itself today, so no harm done......

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Listening To The Quilt Gods

It all started out innocently enough. One day back in February, I was "playing" in my sewing room and came across a sample of a dimensional bow tie block that a quilting acquaintance had shown me how to do about a year ago. I decided to try it. It turned out to be simple. The third of three seams was a bit fiddly......


.............but I soon mastered it.

So I made a few more.............

And then a few more..........


An idea was forming....It was so easy to make, and I've always liked Bow Tie, so I thought I'd make a new throw quilt for the back of the sofa. The one that currently lives there is ancient. And faded. It was the first quilt I ever made. Trip Around The World. I've known for some time now that the trip was over, quite a while ago, for this particular quilt. But the cat likes to perch on it on the back of the sofa, and the menfolk like to tease the cat by moving their fingers around under the quilt and tantalizing him. Who knows what goes on in his feline brain when they do this. All I know is that it causes great hilarity [we are easily amused in these parts!] and  also some little rips in the quilt. So, in addition to "ancient," and "faded," it can also say on its resume that it is "tattered."  Not shabby chic. Just plain shabby.

Bow ties to the rescue! I had perfected the technique and could pop out a finished block in just under five minutes. My cunning plan was that to use a variety of light background fabrics and a different medium or dark for each bow tie. This is what saved me. Making the same block over and over has limited charms. Dying of boredom is not the way I want to go. I became reacquainted with all the little bits and pieces in my stash, and even rediscovered some fabrics I'd forgotten about!. Each block was like making a mini quilt, the most fun part being matching up each background with a new bow tie fabric.

Before long I had enough bow ties to cover a small country. Whoa! Let's not get carried away here. So I stopped and laid them out to have a look.[see  photo above.]

Before I sewed them together I decided to move them around to see what other effects I could get.......

Hmmmm. Interesting. I would have to think about this for a while. Let it simmer, as it were, on the mental back burners. While it was simmering I went, one weekend in March, to a quilt show. And saw this:

Interestinger and interestinger! Close up inspection revealed that this design resulted from alternating bow tie blocks with nine patches. I went home, head buzzing, and started making scrappy nine patch blocks.

Now we were getting somewhere!

To pin all those blocks on that design wall I had to climb up and down from my [fortunately] sturdy table, over and over again, pins clamped between determined lips. I would climb up to rearrange some blocks, then climb down to get the overall effect from the other side of the room. And people think us quilters get no exercise! Dissatisfied, I'd have to climb up again, over and over, until finally I was happy with the distribution of  colours. Time to stitch them all together before I had a chance to change my mind again!


And here's my quilt top. I'm happy, but not done yet. There's a small matter of borders, both to make it bigger and also to frame it.

But with all those scrappy fabrics, and every colour of the rainbow, how would I find the perfect fabric? I had a beautiful red, left over from another project and used in one of the bow ties. I had just enough to make a half inch border. But what to use for the outside border? A quilt shop seemed like a good place to start. My sister-in-law was visiting for Easter. She always likes to go to a quilt shop when she visits, to drool over all the lovely fabrics, so off we went. Its a tough job as the cliche goes, but someone has to do it. I suffered agonies at the quilt shop, surrounded by such a wealth of gorgeous fabrics. It was really difficult to choose, but I kept coming back to two different blues. Sister-in-law weighed in, as did a couple of the shop ladies, and finally a decision was made. S-I-L bought fabric for a baby quilt for a co-worker and, several hours after we'd come in the quilt shop door, we headed out in search of lunch.  Choosing fabric is exhausting work and when a decision is finally reached you realize that all that agonizing and hand-wringing has left you weak and ravenous!

Nice blue, don't you think? I wasted no time getting the borders on as I don't trust that I've chosen well until I see it stitched onto the quilt. But now I'm confident I chose really well. I love it!

The day may yet come that I plan a quilt from start to finish, on paper, before making that first cut or taking that first stitch. Meanwhile I'm quite content letting the quilt gods whisper in my ear at every step of the process. Sometimes I am more surprised than anyone at the results!  I never agonize at the outset about what I will use as a border or what kind of sashing I need. It's too early for all that  I am confident that all will be revealed in the fullness of time!. Without a set of rigid ideas, the quilt will tell me in what direction it wants to go......It's more exciting that way. I like going into my sewing room and not knowing quite what will happen.

Sometimes I'm happy with the results; sometimes not quite; this time I am delighted

Of course it's not finished yet! But I do already have a couple of options for backing..........Meantime, every time I look at it, I smile!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Counting Blessings....

We've been picking blueberries for more than a week now. In our own garden. Thanks to the interest, patience, persistence, perseverance and unfailing green thumbs of The Bean. Until now I've sort of taken it for granted. Yes, he loves to grow stuff. There are always pots of this and that, in various stages of growth all around the house and garden.

His fruit tree experiments are lined up on the patio in various stages of growth....His orchids fill all the available space on the patio windowsills. Inside, on the kitchen counter, there are always cuttings of some kind, in jars of water, growing roots.....

 And we always have bags of dirt and cow manure to step over. It's not very tidy. Better Homes and Gardens would not come here for a photo shoot....... though Organic Gardener might.

 He would like to be a farmer. Except we don't have a farm. His great grandfather in Eastern Europe had lots of land. Until the Russians decided he should "sign it over" to the state. My maternal grandfather was a farmer, and my uncles, after he died, and now my cousins..........In Ireland. With his talent he should be a farmer.....

I went out to the garden to pick the latest batch of blueberries this morning. The bushes were laden down with fruit, and it made me so happy, just standing there in the sunshine, filling my bowl with those little berries. When I came in I went to find him [in front of the computer---finals are coming up]

"Stand up," I said, "I need to hug you!"

"Why?" he asked.

"For giving me the simple, but unbelievable pleasure, of  picking these in my own garden," I said, and showed him my overflowing bowl of berries.

Small blessings in the form of little blue berries. A big blessing in the strapping son who grew them.

So, breakfast was a no-brainer.... Yup....... Blueberry pancakes.

You could still taste the sunshine.