New Camera, New View

I recently got a new camera and have had more fun playing with it! Aren’t new toys so enjoyable?

Right after receiving the new camera, Gramps and I went on a short camping trip to Lake Tawakoni. There was the most interesting tree right outside our window that I just had to share with all of you.

IMG_0011Yes, that is all one tree! Five trunks from the same spot in the ground. I’ve never seen such – ever!

IMG_0012This is one trunk that went back into the ground and took root to form another trunk.

IMG_0013

IMG_0015 IMG_0014And here is the best part of all – a gnome house. How cute is that? You don’t find one of these in the trunk of every tree. Just special ones, like this one.

Camping With Teenagers

Large-5th-Wheel-RV-and-Truck-by-Larry-PageGramps and I have owned our RV for about nine years. In that time we have taken many trips — to the mountains, to the seashore, to forests, to deserts, through most of the US actually. We have spent wonderful weekends with friends, vacations with siblings, and overnight adventures with children. Seven-year-olds have been thrilled to sleep on a table that turns into a bed. Heck, Gramps and I have traveled to places from our past, dared to go out in uncharted areas for a bit of adventure and excitement and even had a few romantic trysts all by ourselves in the aluminum nest.

We had enjoyed most every kind of camping a person could imagine, until this summer. This time we ventured into the seldom-seen and less-often-done realm of camping with teenage boys!!! Yes, we invited two grandsons ages 15 and 17 to go with us to Chicago and then to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s famous Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

It seemed like a great idea and we made tourist plans we thought would keep them busy and interested for the week. We figured out the sleeping arrangements in the RV and planned meals for the four of us We calculated the weather and clothing needs and got plenty of cash from the bank. We were set and ready for a great trip.

The first surprise was the size of the two boys. We had not seen them in a year and as teenagers are wont to do, the grew! Really, they grew! They were big boys! Possibly the sleeping arrangements would have to be rearranged.

We picked them up at O’Hare Airport after their first plane ride. They were excited, humbled, thrilled and hungry. Hunger, I was soon to learn, was a daily- no – an hourly issue for teen boys. It’s not actually possible to fill two growing boys up at one sitting and so they get hungry again in about two hours. This happens all day, every day. Possibly the meals plans would have to be rearranged.

Boys between the ages of 12 and 19 spend all their free time connected to some sort of electronic device. Since we have no TV in the RV and don’t allow much hand-held “game” playing, we had planned a full schedule of fun sightseeing in Chicago and at the Airshow. We were unaware that if it doesn’t explode, crash, catch on fire or scare the peewatom out of you, boys of that age are not interested. Possibly the sightseeing schedule would have to be rearranged.

We brought enough cash for the trip and then some. No need to pinch pennies. Have a good time, get some souvenirs, do some unusual things but still have plenty of reserve for emergencies and the like. However, two fast-growing boys who have never flown before come with no shampoo, no shaving gel, no deodorant, no soap, socks with holes and only one T-shirt and one pair of undershorts each. So shopping it is. Possibly the budget plans would have to be rearranged.

The only things we didn’t underestimate were the fun and enjoyment we had spending seven days with two fine grandsons. We had all the laughter, good talks, teaching and sharing time we could have ever hoped for. All four of us came away with a closer relationship, a better understanding of each person’s character and much more appreciation of each one’s humor.

We already loved each other, but we learned to like each other and appreciate our differences. And that needs no rearrangement.

Get Me To The Beach On Time

The day before the wedding of my son and his Sweetie. A hectic day! A busy day! A full day! A fun day! A frantic day! A wonderful day!

It started with a family breakfast at Grandma J’s room. (She and I have had so much fun planning and scheming this wedding for months. We have become truly good friends.) She made fabulous cinnamon rolls for everyone and the kids were sporting their new pirate flip-flops.

After tummies were filled, all non-essential personnel headed to the beach. The rest of us began last minute preparations for the wedding ceremony, and the rehearsal and dinner that night.

Let’s see, the day before, Grandma J, New Sweetie and I had made gift pails for each room for the wedding guests. They were filled with Irish beers and Irish water. The kids are convinced the Irish water turns your tongue green! I never heard of Irish water before. I wonder what makes it Irish? Also some lovely suntan lotion, seashell shaped chocolates, a koozie with the wedding logo and green cups with the wedding logo.

We also made pirate pails for each child in attendance. Each pail had a shovel, a pirate eye patch, pirate themed candy and popcorn, stickers, tattoos, small wooden plaques,

bubbles and anything else we could find with a pirate look to it. They were so cute, we each wanted one ourselves, but they were only for the kids. Darn!

Can you tell by now that the wedding has a Celtic theme with a pirate subtext? Perfect for a beach setting, really.

Anyway, back to the day before – off we 3 musketeers (2 moms and bride) went in search of flowers. New Sweetie wanted sunflowers, which were actually growing everywhere along the roads and in every open field. We discussed cutting them, but they just weren’t big enough. Unbelievably, we found the most gorgeous huge sunflowers in a local grocery store! Is that actually possible? AND all the extra flowers for ALL the arrangements! Right there – next to the fresh fruits and vegetables! The gods were truly with us!

Buying all the liquor was a different story, however. It seems EVERYONE must be ID’d at that store and New Sweetie did not have her D.L. with her. The cashier was about to make her put it all back, when I came to the rescue. That’s right, I had to show my ID to buy beer and wine for the rehearsal dinner! ME!  65 year old Granny! I was tinkled pink! I haven’t been carded in 35 years! Made my day!!

Back at the beach, friends and family continued to arrive. Hugs and kisses all around. Meeting and greeting.

Time for the rehearsal – no presiding judge. Seems she typed the wrong town into her GPS and ended up farther away than when she started. No problem. We had the rehearsal dinner first. We are nothing, if not flexible!

The dinner was a catered BBQ outside on a large two tier wooden deck with a grand view of the ocean at sunset. Lots of conversation. Lots of laughter. Lots of fun. Lots of love. It was perfect.

We never did have a rehearsal! But that’s okay. We had everything else. We had everything that mattered – each other.

Tomorrow – a wedding!

Between The Layers

The quilting retreat is going along great! We are all sewing, cutting, designing, starting, finishing, binding, learning, teaching, sharing and generally having the best time ever. It’s amazing what 15 motivated women can accomplish in 4 days! Please have a look at some of the beautiful projects this fantastic group has been working on.

This quilt is all hand applique – stunning! And the colors are fantastic!

This is a bed size quilt. I love the color palette. It’s like an optical illusion.

This one I helped to lay out. What fun it was to play with all those colors and try to keep it balanced!

Even though this one isn’t quite done, you can see how magnificent it is going to be. Love the contrast between light and dark!

This one is so bright and colorful! Very fun and youthful! And those perfect points!

This is an old pattern with reproduction fabrics. Very charming!

Black, white and pink cows – does it get any cuter?!

What a grand mix of styles and color palettes. Love!

This magnificent work in progress is a tribute to the quilter’s mother, grandmother and aunt. She copied her dish patterns and used family heirloom hankies and jewelry. Tons of hand embroidery and crazy patches. There are no words! Just feast your eyes!

Are these spectacular or what? I believe spectacular is an inadequate word! But I can’t find the word that IS adequate for the magnificent results I’ve seen from these last days. It’s hard to believe all this comes from humming machines, clipping scissors, quiet hands with needles and low-key consultations. You would think sparks and fireworks would be going off to produce such unbelievable products!

Everyone sits in their own little space with their own sewing machine and all their fabric. We all laugh and talk almost constantly but work is going on almost unseen. Before long, quilt squares start appearing on design walls all over the room. In a day or two some quilt tops are completed and some small quilts are even finished with binding. Astounding, really! New projects are started and large projects are continued throughout the retreat.

If a new notion is found to be helpful, it is shared with everyone. If a source for fabric or trim is discovered, it is public knowledge within hours. If someone needs red thread, they will find numerous spools at their spot in minutes. If you can’t remember how to miter a corner, every neighbor will give you a refresher course. And when your squares go up on the wall and start forming a quilt, you will receive more appreciation and applause than you know what to do with. Doesn’t this sound like heaven? AND we don’t have to cook or do laundry! For real!

It somehow feels like a mini lifetime experienced in 4 days, between the other parts of my real life. Every retreat has been a true mountaintop experience for me. The combination of people has made each one unique but all truly special.

It mirrors the feelings I have for the quilts themselves. They are all unique, special, magnificent and include their own story. Each one, new or old, requires creative thought, deliberate planning, careful measuring, precise cutting, skillful sewing and lots and lots of love. Each needs specific colors, hues, tones, patterns and motifs. Each has a story stitched into it, between the top and bottom layers. We may not always know it but it is there.

The story of who made it, where, with what, for whom and when stays with the quilt. Even after many years, dozens of washings, being hugged, dragged on the floor or becoming frayed and raggedy, the story is always there. It can always be felt in the softness, warmth and cozy comfort each quilt provides through touch. Just sleep under a quilt or wrap yourself in one and you will understand what I mean. You can actually feel the history! I know I can!

I hope every quilt I make oozes with all the love, hope and care I sew into it. I want my kids to hold pieces of their childhood in their hands and remember the splendid times of our family. I pray my grandkids smile when they see their quilts and want to sit on them, play on them and sleep on them until they need repair. Which I will gladly do and sew on patches to add to the story.

I plan for these quilts to be handed down, generation by generation. Not that they’re so perfect but they tell my story. Long after I am gone, my quilt stories will go on. And that makes me so very happy!

A Quilting I Will Go

My Sweeties, I am off to a 4-day quilting retreat! We, meaning my quilting ladies and I, do this twice a year, Spring and Fall. It is held at a retreat center built especially for such gatherings, so everything we need is there. Which is good because it is not near any large town. For 4 days we will be pretty much alone with ourselves (and cell phones and lap tops, of course!), our sewing machines and all the fabric we can get our hands on. The center can house approximately 30 people but there are only 15 of us this time. Lots of room to spread out! That can become an issue for those who bring their entire sewing room. And you know who you are!

This group I belong to is the most amazing circle of women. I discovered the group about 3 years ago when looking for someplace to enjoy my love of sewing. After one day at my first retreat, I knew this was the place for me. Not only was everyone knowledgeable and skilled in so many areas but they were all the most extraordinary people. I was so struck by their kindness and willingness to share every bit of knowledge they had. During 4 days with 25 women I never heard any foul language, any unkind words or any gossip. At the time I thought this was impossible!

Quilting, I have come to realize, tends to bring out the best in people. It is often a shared activity, which helps foster the group as a whole. It certainly keeps one’s hands busy but conversation and sharing can continue while the fingers and needles fly.

To Gramps, quilting is a mystery. All he sees is women cutting fabric apart and then sewing it back together, only differently. Somehow it all looks great in the end but he is not sure how it all happens.

And the language is a bit confusing. There is the general term “quilting” which means working on any part of what will become a quilt someday. Then there is the specific term “quilting” which is the decorative stitching done to hold the front, back and inside of a quilt together. It is a special skill all its own and can take years to perfect. Quilting (stitching) can be done by hand or by machine – both ways can be magnificent, although machine quilting is definitely faster.

The art of quilting and this particular group of quilting friends has brought so much joy and love into my life. What a thrill to be surrounded by challenges, inspirations, new ideas, memories of the past and absolutely mind-boggling concepts while in the company of people who help you improve, cheer you on, give you pointers, share knowledge and respect your accomplishments. A pretty heady environment! Something like that can change a person – it sure has me!

I have grown so much and learned even more from associating with these dear quilting friends. Not only have my sewing skills improved but my love of color and textiles has expanded as has my knowledge of quilts and their history. I have certainly been encouraged to share all I have and include all lovers of fabric arts but have also been challenged to go beyond my skill and comfort levels. It seems to be the MOST perfect combination of comfort and challenge. That doesn’t come along very often, for sure!

So off I go to my quilting retreat, to come back better, improved, certainly different, well-fed, not necessarily rested but happy, productive and loved. Isn’t that the definition of a retreat?

Gramps And I Make A Memory

Oh, my Sweeties! Gramps and I had such a grand weekend! We traveled to the Texas coast – Surfside Beach, to be precise. We went to preview the site of our son’s wedding planned for June 9th.

We were joined be our son Big Boy, his fiance Sweet Girl, her 2 boys ages 6 and 3, and her parents Grandma J and Grandpa J. Our rooms were ON the beach, 2 floors up with large balconies and kitchenettes. The weather, breezy, 75 degrees and partially cloudy. Darn near perfect by my standards!

There is something so soothing about the ocean and the sound of waves. It is universal and yet very difficult to actually put into words. I think it is a residual from our experience in the womb – the feel and sound of water. It takes us back to our roots – literally. Staying right on the shore was so wonderful and to be able to hear the ocean was spectacular. We slept like babies – well fed exhausted babies!.

Big Boy and Sweet Girl are to be married on the beach at sunset, so of course, we had to check out how it would look, the logistics of blocking off a small area of sand, how to keep the reception special but relaxed and how to manage the many children we will have in attendance. It is going to be a wonderful event with the entire family together. That doesn’t happen often enough for me.

The 2 boys reminded everyone we still needed to relax and have fun while planning a wedding. So, in between planning sessions, we managed to swim, wade, bogey board, fly kites and play badminton – which soon-to-be  6yo GS says is aptly named because he plays so “badly”. Does anyone know how to play “goodminton”?

Of course, there were the required sand castles, sand moats, sand dunes, sand towers, sand roads, sand racetracks, sand ______ (fill in the blank) built by little boys. Then the destruction and rebuilding of same over and over again. Isn’t that why God put sand on the beach?

The entire group enjoyed the sunset with snack food and drinks on the balcony. How lovely to chat, laugh, look to the future, remember the past, hug wiggly boys while surrounded by water, sand and sky.

The next morning Gramps and I had breakfast in Grandma and Grandpa J’s room followed by a long walk on the beach. We strolled holding hands with salty wind in our hair. Quite a change from the last few months in our life.

Looking back, I can see only one draw back the entire time – the wind. It whipped my hair around with a vengeance and after an hour or two I looked like a dandelion gone to seed. Pretty bad! Grandma J and I have both decided we are wearing hats for the wedding. We don’t want permanent records of our worst hair day ever!

This weekend will be one of the best memories for me. Not because it took a lot of planning – we just picked a weekend we could all go and made reservations. Not because we spent a bunch of money – didn’t cost much at all. Not because it was a big holiday – it was St. Patrick’s Day, but that was accidental. Not because we got all dressed up – wore shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops.

It will be a great memory because it involved time and family. That’s all. That’s all it takes. Time spent with the people you love, doing almost anything but preferably something fun. It seems an easy thing, yet seems to happen so seldom. I treasure every one as if it were pure gold. A moment of family time is a golden nugget as I experience it and becomes the memory I hold dearest as I age. I know, at some point, my memories will be all I have, so I gather them wisely and often. I wish the same for you, my Sweeties!

It’s Just A Day

Gramps and I are on the road, headed for Arizona to visit our niece,her husband and our “spiritual” grandchildren x 6. Our rental car is packed to the roof with Christmas gifts for young and old. Yes, I know Christmas was 6 days ago, but what’s a day? Or two? Or more?

We have never had Christmas with this special family since we became honorary Dad/Mom and Gramps/Granny. They weren’t able to come to our house for the holiday, so . . . . logic says we take Christmas to them. Even though we had Christmas with the other children and grandchildren on the designated, accepted day, we still wanted to take Christmas to Arizona.

So here we are on December 31 celebrating Christmas away from home with our “new” daughter, son-in-law and 5 of the 6 “new” grandkids. And you know what? It feels exactly like Christmas did last week!

What is Christmas after all? It’s just a day. If you can’t enjoy the actual day, pick another. It will work just as well. Or do as we have done . . . . rejoice 2 or 3 times over. How fun is that?

I have a very special memory from my childhood of the year we had 2 Christmases. According to my parents, Santa had forgotten to stop at our house and was coming back to deliver our gifts. The 3 of us children bought this story completely and were excited beyond belief that Santa would do such a thing for us. We were treated like royalty at school! No one else had ever gotten such special treatment from Santa. All the kids thought we 3 had an inside link to the bearded man! It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out why this all happened . . . . my parents couldn’t afford Christmas and had to wait for the after-Christmas sales to get our gifts. Can you imagine how hard this was for them and yet they were able to make it into one of the best memories for us. That was the true gift we all got that year and none of us have ever forgotten. We “kids”, all in our 60’s, still talk about the year we had 2 Christmases as one of the best ever.

A true Christmas can happen any day, any where, with or without wrapped presents. The love, the sharing, the giving cannot be put in a box with a bow. Although I’m not discounting the thrill of opening a present, big or little, given with thought and creativity.

This “2nd” Christmas has everything the first one had last week . . . . family, laughter, surprises, thank yous, piles of wrapping paper,lost little plastic men, good food, shared music, rowdy boys, exhausted adults. The only things different are one squealing, giggly little girl (the only granddaughter) and the neighbors here are watching reruns and eating mac and cheese. I think we are definitely having more fun! Maybe every year should have 2 Christmases!

A Day At The Fair

Want to spend a wonderful day with your grandchildren? Try taking them to your local fair. This is the time of year for State Fairs, Harvest Fairs, Autumn Fairs, you name it. A day at the fair is the thing to do.

Gramps and I recently spent the day at the Texas State Fair so I could show you all the fun you and your little ones could have.

First of all, we parked our car and took the DART train into Dallas. Don’t forget – HOW you get there is part of the fun! What child (or adult for that matter!) doesn’t love a train ride? We saw some interesting sights, like construction areas with cranes, bulldozers and dump trucks. That’s like finding treasure for little boys!. The train was elevated in spots, so we were “on top of the world.” We even went through a tunnel, making it about the most perfect train ride ever! All that fun and we hadn’t even gotten to the fair yet!

Arriving at the fairgrounds, we were met with colorful flags, water fountains and of course, Big Tex. He’s a fixture in Texas and he used to talk with a deep voice welcoming everyone in. Now he just greets fairgoers with his immense height, size 50 boots and 100 gallon hat. It is not required that you dress like Tex, as this gentleman has, but “dressing for the fair” is appropriate. You will be out in the sun and doing a lot of walking.

Exchanging money for coupons is the first order of business. You can’t do anything without your coupons. HINT: Keep a few coupons for souvenirs for that scrapbook page, along with the train tickets. Makes beautiful memories for all!

Now, on to food – fair food – bad fair food. Is there any other kind? No day at the fair can be enjoyed or remembered properly without good bad fair food. I have to say I used to think funnel cake was just about the baddest of fair food. But no more! Try fried butter, fried OREO, fried pizza, fried Snickers, fried______ (fill in the blank). And this, fried PBJ &B. What is that, you ask? A fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich, which for some strange reason, looked kind of tasty to me. Scary! The menu boards alone were a source of so much hilarity to me, I wanted pictures of them all! I was laughing. Kids were laughing. Even food servers were laughing. Where have I been, I wonder? Oh, that’s right – the fat free aisle!

After lunch, it was over to the car show for the boys (big and little). There was a spectacular truck with a special paint job in memory of 9-11-01. Those old enough to remember were somber and respectful. Those too young to know were quietly told the story and meaning of all the vignettes covering the truck. It was a special moment and a great time to share and reflect a pivotal happening in all of our lives. What a great way to memorialize and pass on to the next generations a day we can and should never forget!

Next, we visited the crafts, textiles and foods, which was basically quilts, canned foods, pies, cakes and oh yeah, the LIFE-SIZED BUTTER SCULPTURES! Really, could anything impress a child more than a life-size cow made out of butter? I don’t think so! Well . . . . . . . there was the shoe collection . . . . . . . pretty funny, huh? HINT: I was thinking this could be a great thing to do at home with the kids. Another Granny Camp activity! What fun! Just be sure you use “old” shoes.

And what fun would a fair be without animals? Be sure you get to the barnyard, petting zoo, pig races, dog show and any other show of your favorite animal. Kids and animals just naturally go together, that’s a fact!

Now, for the Midway. Games, rides, feats of strength and accuracy or just people watching. It’s all there. Families of every size, shape and hue can be found. So take the whole group – youngest to oldest – from stroller to wheelchair and make it a true family day. Go on the rides and win a stuffed animal. That’s what the fair is all about – having and sharing the fun!

Gramps and I took a spin on the ferris wheel, The Texas Star, another state icon. We shared the cabin with sweet Mia and her mother. Mia looked lovely with her face painted in “zebra” to match her shirt. I so love a girl who is color coordinated!

Depending on your endurance and how many children you have in tow, you can add attractions to your day.Stay late for the concert and the laserlight water show, shop the vendor stalls, get a massage, have your shoes shined (Yes, even your sneakers! Yes, even your kid’s sneakers!), walk through a house carved out of 1 Redwood log . . . . .  the list goes on.

But the day came to a close. So back on the train we went, up in the air, through the tunnel and to our parked car. Exhausted, stuffed, dusty, happy, with a camera full of pictures and a heart full of memories, we ended our day at the Texas State Fair. Hard to believe it was only one day. But remember, my Sweeties, it only takes a moment to make a lasting impression on a child.

Toto, I Think We Are In Kansas

Yes, my sweeties, we are in Winfield, Kansas at the Walnut Valley Music Festival. As I am writing this, it is 50 degrees outside. What a relief from the 103 back home in Texas! This is probably the 5th year Gramps and I have come to this wonderful place and I thought you should know about it also.

It is held at the Fair Grounds in Winfield, so there is plenty of room for campers, RV’s, tents, etc. Gramps and I take the “Seniormobile” (the 5th wheel) and stay for 6-7 days. The Festival is officially 3 1/2 days, but we make our own fun till the “official” fun begins.

This is a perfect family atmosphere with children, adults and “ripened” folks alike. No alcohol is allowed and in all the times I’ve been here I don’t believe I have ever heard any foul language or seen any inappropriate behavior. It’s all good clean fun! And the music! What a mix of country/bluegrass/old rock/gospel/light jazz/sing-a-long/Celtic and whatever else happens to inspire someone. It’s all handmade music. No synthesizers allowed! And you will see instruments you don’t see everyday, like dulcimers, autoharps, bouzoukis, dobros and mandolins.

There are even workshops for kids  to make instruments or play instruments. Could it be any better ? Well, yes it could! Throw in craft vendors and some “fair food” and you have darn near the perfect setting for a family gathering.

So think about taking the grandchildren to this special place and sharing a very special time with them. Even if you stay at a local motel and only visit for day, it is so worth the effort. This is one of those truly uniquely American occurrences you do not want to miss.  Check out http://www.wvfest.com

See you next year September 12-16, 2012. We’ll meet at the Funnel Cake stand!