Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fibre on the Forest Floor at Loon Lake

This is my unfinished project from the workshop! 
The highlight of April for me was the opportunity to attend a class at the Vancouver Guild of Fibre Arts. This was an anniversary retreat they planned and they had all sorts of classes planned. I registered in one with Barbara Shelley, called “The Forest Floor – Painting with Thread”. The retreat was incredibly well organized and had some delightful classes offered. I would have loved to take Akira Blount’s class in dolls, ( )but the class I did get into was just as good.

Barbara Shelley doesn’t have a web page, but her class was delightful and she was so encouraging and helpful to everyone in the class…..from the student who’s machine caught on fire, (honest) to the one who had an embellishing machine there and showed the teacher how to use it. The class was only five people and it was a wonderful mix of personalities. We had a wonderful time together. I’d do it again in a second.

Perhaps it was especially wonderful because my employer has brought in a new rule this year. We are not allowed to take any time off during instructional days….that means we can only be away if we are sick, or if it is a day when there are no classes. We have to go through a lot of red tape to get the “allowable” three days of personal leave that go through a committee before being decided on. And my three days got approved!!! There are lots that don’t so I felt special and appreciated, and once at the retreat, was so happy that I had gone through the trouble.

It took place at Loon Lake…. the photo to the right is the view from our room....a division of the University of Victoria’s Forestry department and was the most spectacular location with incredibly beautiful scenery (the photo at the top of my blog is one taken there). The buildings were in the “lodge style” from a western resort scene. All in all, a fabulous place to be. The food was incredible…..I gained four pounds in four days…..and…well, I just can’t say enough good things about my experiences there.

It started out with my friend meeting me at the ferry landing and setting up her extra GPS in my vehicle. We headed out to go to Loon Lake. It is out of Maple Ridge and a distance up an active logging road. Well, I have to say I am the only person I have heard of who can get lost WITH a GPS. It said “Turn Right” so I turned right. I’m in the construction under a new bridge when the next sentence comes up and adds “in 100 meters.” Oops. And then when it realizes I’m not where I’m supposed to be, it says “Recalculating”. I swear every time it had to say that the tone of voice got a little snippier and a little less patient. And then when I got to the gate on the logging road, it thought I was at the destination. I kept going and it kept telling me “You are at the destination. Stop now.” Over and over! I unplugged it and kept going. I was sure glad to see people and buildings after a fairly long and pot-holey drive up that mountain! I got better at listening to the full instructions on the way out. But we had to stop at a gas station and I gave it back to Judy because at that point we were headed in two different directions to go home!

This was my favorite thing....a little pull ferry which crossed the lake so we could hike on the other side....unfortunately I had to try this at lunch and then go back to class, but it was an absolute delight!

While at the retreat, I shared a room with my girlfriend Judy. We hadn’t seen each other since last summer (although we email almost every day), so it was great to be together again. We chatted and giggled late into the night the first night, and just reveled in being in the same room to share our stories once again. But the room was too warm. We had a ground floor room, looking right out onto the lake so we opened the door and propped it with Judy’s cooler. We continued talking and eventually drifted off to sleep with the door open. It was such wonderfully fresh air.

In the middle of the night, Judy heard the door banging against a lawn chair so she got up and closed it. We went back to sleep. In the morning she poked her head out the door to get her cooler, but it was nowhere to be seen. We wondered if it had been stolen. It was still dark so we went up to the mess hall for breakfast (served for loggers because there was so much variety and volume!). After breakfast, back to our room and get our things for the class. I looked outside again for the cooler. I walked to the edge of the cement patio and looked down over the bank towards the lakeshore. Way down there, lodged against a tree, was Judy’s cooler, torn to bits with its bottle of juice and a can of Coke bent and and squashed. There were bear paw prints in the soil. I thought she should make a piece of artwork out of her Coke Zero can with the claw marks in it! Everyone laughed at my suggestion! I meant it!
I thought we couldn’t leave that garbage down there so I climbed down to get the stuff. About half way I thought to myself “What if this bear is sleeping under one of these logs I’m climbing over?” But he wasn’t, and I got the cooler and the rubbish and brought it back up. We were the talk of the retreat! At lunch that day we explained what had happened and heard that this same bear had been in the dumpster and behind the other residence as well. So the new rule was “No food to be left outside at all….not even anything that smelled like food. “ Judy said she was just glad that the bear didn’t come into our room. One of the ladies there said “You don’t know that he didn’t!” There was a moment of silence and then….you should have seen Judy’s face! Believe me the door was closed and locked every night after that!

Picture the ripped up cooler right there at the base or the tree right about the middle of this picture! 

But the class was excellent, the surroundings unbeatable, and it was a fantastic experience. If I lived in Vancouver, I’d be part of that guild for sure. What a talented group! I’ve interspersed pictures throughout this post so that you can get the idea of where we were. The photo presently at the top of my blog is taken from the pull ferry, almost at the opposite shore. All in all, a delightful three days.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Miscommunication

Since the publishing of my book, "Embellishing with Anything", I have been invited to teach at several different locations on Vancouver Island.  (My dream is to teach on a "quilter's cruise" some day).  I was contacted just before Christmas about teaching at a guild.  But the classes were all to be rather traditional and what I do doesn't fit into that category.  I said so, and the woman who was organizing it came up with the idea of having a "Spring Art Fling" and have three or four teachers come in who would teach non-traditional quilting techniques.  She would be in touch with me regarding the date when she had talked to other "art quilters" she knew of. 

She contacted me again, and the class will be held in May.  I prepared my sample, a supply list, and the instructions.  I was quite pleased with my sample, and was looking forward to teaching this class.  It uses one of the techniques in my book, but in a completely different way.  Happy with my work, I emailed her a photo, the supply list and told her that I would get the sample to the guild meeting where the classes are being promoted through a friend of mine, Ionne. You can see her work at 

Feeling very satisfied with my meeting the deadline and being so organized, I went back to my studio to continue quilting a memory quilt I'm doing for a friend.  Within half an hour, the phone rang.  It was the woman I'd been communicating with through email.  She was in a fluster.  The sample and supply list I had provided were not for the project she had been advertising!  Somewhere along the line, she thought we had agreed to do a class for the project on the cover of my book.  I checked my emails and can't find one that even suggests that, and the photos attached are all of the technique used in the new class project.  Here is what I thought I was going to teach:

However, since the class had been advertised already and was in the guild newsletter, I said "No problem", and pulled up the supply list and photograph of the project she had decided on!  She thanked me for being so flexible and I laughed.  After all, I had the sample and notes for this one done already as they are in my book and along with the class, I will probably sell some more copies.  And the plus of the whole exercise is that I have a new class all ready to teach sometime in the future!  So, here is what I WILL be teaching at the "Spring Fling"! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Finding "Frogs" and Visiting Josh

This month I went to visit my youngest son. He lives in a bigger city than I do and I needed sewing supplies.....always a good excuse to go see him because there is better selection there. Part of my finishing binge, (a knitted cape by Nikki Epstein) needed some frogs to complete it but I couldn't find them in my home town. So I contacted my youngest son and made arrangements to spend the day with him and stay overnight in his town!

What fun we had. I went straight to the fabric store that had a great selection of frog closures for my cape.  It was a good thing that I had people meeting me because I could have spent hours here, and could have spent many dollars as well!  But they did, as they said on the phone, have the frogs I needed. 

After purchasing those, Josh, Ben and I went for a walk on one of the breakwaters.  It was, to be honest, bloody terrifying!  Josh and I clung to each other and walked down the center of the "wall", freezing in position when someone passed us, while Ben sauntered ahead oblivious to the height and the lack of railings!  It was a scrumptious day, sunny and bright with a slight breeze.  When we got to the end of the breakwater, we climbed down the huge concrete blocks to get to the spot where this photo was taken.  This is Josh and I.  We walked back to where the car was parked along the lower "steps" of the breakwater, and both of us felt far more comfortable.  Yes, you had to watch your step, but there was no feeling of being so high up that the wind could blow you over the edge.  Something to cling to!  Somewhere to sit down and get stabilized!  Solid cement in other words.  I think the birds felt the same way.  They were there searching for open mussels and anything else they could eat.  I think they are Sandpipers.  I love the way they peck around and when something disturbs them they all lift together in a cloud and then settle a few feet away and keep pecking! 

After our walk, we went for lunch, a relaxing meal, and then drove to the motel where I had made reservations.  After check in, we went to another restaurant and had dinner, and then picked up a case of beer (I usually drink wine but Linda taught me to drink beer when we were in New York City!)  Josh and Ben had no problem with that.  We sat on the balcony and visited to our hearts content.  When it was time to go home, they sprinted to catch the bus and I curled up with my book, satisfied with a great visit and a wonderful day in the sun. 

Next day we met for brunch.  Here is a picture of the Hydro boxes on the street in Sidney, BC.  I thought they were wonderful.  Ever so much nicer than a plain green metal box!  The artwork reminds me of something I've seen in a magazine, and I'd love to translate it to fabric.

Again, it was a good thing it was Sunday and most of the stores were closed.  What a window-shopping treat this town was.  I wandered up and down the street looking at the sites and eventually my cell phone rang.  Josh and Ben were wondering where I was....I was across the street from them!

We joined each other in the middle of the street and laughed and hugged each other.  Brunch was next on the agenda.  We walked to a popular restaurant but the line-up was "out the door".  So we wandered around until we found a nice place and went in for an excellent brunch.  After that I had to leave and head home.  I dropped the two of them off at their home, and headed off for my drive home....the miracle is that I found my way from their house to the main highway and in the right direction home!  You have to know I have absolutely no sense of direction and get lost incredibly easily.  If someone paints their door, I no longer know where I am.  But this was a good day and I managed to find a straight route to home.  It was a delightful weekend, and besides having a great visit with my son, I had what I needed to finish yet another project! 
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Saturday, April 10, 2010


Here are pictures taken March 1 in our yard and at the school I work at. It’s been an extraordinarily mild winter….so mild in fact that I feel it was a very long spring. Obviously the plants think so as well!  They are well ahead of schedule in their blooming. For a time I was worried that a frost or snow would come along and kill them off as their growth was untimely. But that didn’t happen.

Everything looked like this until April 4th…..when we had record winds for a 12 hour period. The poor little Star Magnolia blooms were whipped around and are now bruised from abuse. The gorgeous pink petals that normally cling to the Flowering Plum for at least six weeks are mostly sprinkled all over the neighborhood lawns as they didn’t stand up to 75 kmh winds! Imagine that! But the Daffodils bowed their gentle heads into the protection of bigger plants and popped up again looking as cheerful as they always do.

Notice the "pink" theme going on in our yard?  Which reminds me....I need to dig up the "May Bush" my Dad saved me from their home of 52 years.  it's looking healthy but hasn't bloomed yet.  It will look great in the next yard!  It is pink too~

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Traumatic but Entertaining Times

Late in the fall my husband and I decided to sell our house. This decision was not an easy one to come by as we’d only been in it for three years. However wonderful my sewing studio is, the private office, the delightfully bright kitchen….the stairs have become difficult for him as his arthritis worsens more quickly than expected. So we put it up for sale. We know winter is not an ideal time to sell a house, but wanted this to be over with and be in a new place for spring since we both love gardening. (And there’s the secret hope that we won’t have to watch the trees we’ve planted spring into bloom and look glorious just as we moved.)

However, that was not to be. We spent the winter cleaning and purging. In fact, we took a lot of stuff out of the house to make it look larger and cleaner, and moved all that to our son’s vacant house. We did this ourselves. Several loads went across town and were stored in his house and shed.

But that wasn’t the end of our moving things. Our son came home from where he was working (out of town) for Christmas so in consideration of his family, we moved our things out of his house and back into ours! I’m sure by now the neighbors thought us insane. When he left to go back to work, we moved some big things back over to his house. And then he decided to rent it. A good decision as he was carrying two payments because of needing accommodation where he was working as well. So….back we go to get our things out of his place entirely and bring them back to our house. Some got put back in place, some got stored in the garage. By now the neighbors had gotten up the nerve to come over and ask about all this activity.

So, to make the winter seem shorter, I can sum it up in one sentence. “We moved several times and cleaned and tidied constantly”. The happy ending to the story is that the house sold during spring break, and at a reasonable enough profit. Since we had to do this thing, we hoped to be able to come out of it well enough ahead that I would be able to retire when I want to. I’m not sure when that will be, but soon. We have to be out April 30th, but we aren’t sure where we are going yet! I’m trying to remain calm about that.

It seems the house, being of good quality and in a desirable neighborhood, took longer than usual to sell. All the feedback we got from our real estate agent was that the “unfinished house across the street was not something these customers could see themselves looking at for years to come.” Now when we moved in I saw this house, but thought it was weathered and would be finished the next summer. After we moved in I found out that it had been like that for 11 YEARS!!! And since we’ve been here three years, it’s now been like that for 14 YEARS! The story is that the owner started the addition without a building permit or inspection and the city came by and stopped work on the project. They will not give him a permit unless he pays a penalty and he refuses to pay that penalty. So it sits there, actually rotting in the weather and he uses it for a storage shed and a place to tune up lawnmowers!

I think it terribly arrogant of him to impose his poor judgment on the rest of the street and have been told that his house probably lowers the price of the houses in the neighborhood by $20,000 each. The lesson there is that when you fall in love with a house, look around and see what surrounds it. That “Location, Location, Location” comment really does hold true! I spoke with our City Hall representative and he said that if I could get four neighbors to write an email to him complaining, that this guy would be told that either he gets busy and finishes it within a certain deadline, or they will finish it for him and charge him contractor’s prices. I got three people to write in……. Even tho I won’t be there anymore, I think I’ll continue to follow that one up, for the sake of the two very good friends we made in this neighborhood.