Tuesday, April 6, 2021

It won't be long now

It is almost time. In fact I've heard that hummingbirds have returned to the area already, though I haven't seen them buzzing around our front porch quite yet. I filled the feeders and hung them in their usual place. Now I wait. 

This is always a happy time of year for me, when the hummingbirds return from their winter respite. Hah, some respite. These formidable little birds fly more than one-thousand miles in the spring and fall every year. Some travel more than 300 miles in a day. I figure, the least I can do is reward their long journey with a little sweet nectar upon their return. 

I've been feeding the hummers every year for the 16 years we've lived here. 

Interestingly, my first hummingbird encounter was "in the wild" when I lived in Illinois. I was photographing nature scenes for an assignment in Kankakee County many years ago. This particular area along the Kankakee River was a lovely prairie remnant with spectacular patches of cardinal flowers, asters, grasses and more. Hummingbirds were thick as they buzzed about, pausing to partake of every flower and then scurrying off to the next. I wish I could harness that kind of energy. 

I had never seen anything like it before. It was like stepping back in time to a pre-settlement era. The beauty and diversity of the prairie plants, some as tall as me, hosted a plethora little winged creatures. In addition to the hummingbirds, there were several varieties of butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and bumblebees to name a few. 

The only other time I'd seen a hummingbird, was simply a close encounter. If I had not been looking in the right direction at the right time, I would have missed it. A hummer was visiting my neighbor's butterfly bush. I'm sure it returned, but I had only seen it once. 

When my husband and I vacationed in Arkansas, I was amazed at the wildlife, colorful birds, and hummingbirds "in the wild." 

When we finally moved here, to our little house in the woods, one of the first things I did was buy a hummingbird feeder. I have several now, both in the front and on the deck. No matter how much sugar I have to buy or cleaning necessary, it is worth it. I love these little harbingers of springtime.

Friday, April 2, 2021

What a shot in the arm

vaccine buttonThough I was expecting a physical reaction to getting my first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, I was a tad surprised at the emotional response it triggered.

My husband had already received his first and second shots. So when it came time for my appointment, I knew what to expect. 

John has always been a bit of a wimp when it comes to needles. 

I'll never forget the first time we took our babies for their first shots. He was a nervous wreck and almost passed out. 

Apparently times have changed. At the tender age of 72, he has been stuck so many times that he now takes it in stride. I think the needles might be smaller as well. I admit I was the one who was apprehensive about his reaction; except there was none! He was a trouper both times and claims he didn't even feel the shot. Even afterward, he felt no pain whatsoever.

When it finally came around to my turn to get the shot, I wondered if I would have the same reaction he did.

The shot itself was as they say, "just a pinch." 

Immediately afterward though, as I took my seat to wait out the obligatory 15 minutes before going home, I looked around to see the huge room at the fairgrounds comfortably filled with people, all wearing masks and sitting safely distanced from one another. Medical personnel seemed to be everywhere and available on a moment’s notice.

Instead of pain, I was feeling relief as well as a sense of pride to have taken this step, both for my own personal health and as my civic responsibility. After a moment or two, I pulled out my phone and posted something to that effect on Facebook.

As a home body by nature, I haven’t been as bothered by the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 as much as some. Yes, it is a pain to wear a mask, but it is so much better to know that we are all in this together. Wearing a mask is really not a big deal. And being told to stay home didn’t bother me either. In fact, being told to stay home is a running joke at our house. It ranks right up there with someone mandating that we take a nap in the middle of the day. My, how time changes how we look at things.

John and I are both retired. Some, well just about anyone who knows us, would call us reclusive. We led very busy lives once, but these days, like to keep to ourselves. Since John no longer drives, I do all the errands. I have not been in a grocery store since last March. We have groceries delivered or I use the pickup service at Walmart. I cannot say how grateful I am for these services, especially during this pandemic. This as well as other forms of online shopping have been a godsend.

When my wait was over and I got in my car to go home I thought about the last year and all the people that have been touched by this pandemic. I felt akin to people everywhere, people all across the globe that are experiencing the same thing I am. We are all getting our vaccines to the benefit of ourselves and everyone. Tears welled up in my eyes. So many people have died. So many families have had to say goodbye to loved ones and dear friends. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched by the story of someone lost.

That was overwhelming enough, but then I thought about the last four years and how it seemed every day there was something a new crisis to worry about. I can’t help but wonder if we had a competent leader, how different things would have been.

Getting this shot seemed to bring all of the things I was feelings into focus. I felt relief. For the past year, it was impossible to know where the Corona Virus was lingering. Even people who were careful ended up in the hospital. I am elated to no longer have that worry though I recognize the emergency is not over.

Additionally, we now have competent government leadership that works for the American people rather than one that might get us all killed because of one man’s incompetency. If it wasn’t for President Joe Biden and the capable people he has put in place, I have no doubt I would not have gotten this lifesaving vaccine.

In more ways than one, this is “a shot in the arm,” that makes me feel lucky.  

That idiom, “a shot in the arm,” according to the Cambridge dictionary, is defined “as something that has a sudden and positive effect on something, providing encouragement and new activity.”

It is certainly time for that. And by the way, the day after, it only hurt a little. I hope everyone gets their "shot in the arm." We all need it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Beyond troubling!

America has had a problem with guns, violence, and death for far too long. There is no excuse for failing to fix this.

We have learned too much about risk and untimely death from gun violence. When some gun nut goes into a public place and mows down innocent people, why can’t we admit that we have a big problem? This is all preventable! Why have we failed to do anything about it? I am tired of suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from living my fairly uncomplicated life. I don’t want to cry from watching a new broadcast. I know I am not alone in feeling this way.


Every one of these hideous incidents is harmful, even to those of us far removed from it. I will never believe that we have become accustomed to this.

I’ve heard too many people lately say that if we didn’t act after Sandy Hook, we never will. While I understand that sentiment, I just don’t believe that.

I agree that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012 when a sick 20-yr. old kid murdered 20 kindergarten kids and six adults, was the worst of the worst. But that is because I’m an innocent bystander. That isn’t the case for any of the family members who have buried their loved ones from one of these senseless shootings.

Sandy Hook changed me. I will never be the same, knowing that something like that can happen to little kids while the leaders in our country refuse to do anything about it. Thoughts and prayers be damned!

Last week, we lost eight people to gun violence in Atlanta, GA. Yesterday we lost 10 people in Boulder, CO. There have been so many mass shootings that I can hardly even recall them all. We watched as Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords fought for her life after being shot at a campaign event. We watched Steve Scalise shot on a baseball diamond. And yet, nothing is being done to curb the violence. There is no excuse.

Whenever anyone has wanted to make a difference, money from the NRA has bought silence. Flimsy excuses have offered pathetic defenses.

First it was, “We need our guns for protection.” Fine. Then it was “I’m a hunter.” Fine. Others claim, “I’m a gun collector.” Fine. Then it was the Constitution protects us and gives us “The right to bear arms.” Not so fast!

It is time for a hearty debate in this country about who we are and what we want. The meaning of the Second Amendment giving the right to bear arms needs to be debated. Our Constitution also provides for the safety of all the people—all of us is clearly a majority—whether we are shopping in a grocery store, seeing a movie in a theater, dancing at a nightclub, gathering at a music concert, or going to school.

Such a debate might just prove that even gun owners believe in a safe and healthy society. I hate guns; I admit that. But my feelings are not relevant. Neither are the feelings of those who love guns.

The debate needs to be about keeping the citizens of this country safe from some crazed gunman who wants only to do harm to others.

WE THE PEOPLE need to be assured of domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare while balancing our providing for the common defense and securing our blessings of liberty! It shouldn't be that hard!

Life is precious and it is time we start protecting it.


Friday, March 19, 2021

No quilt police here - Some of my quilting go to’s

My quilting life pic
My quilting life has taught me many things. With over 25 years, some practices have become habit, and have provided some likes and dislikes. The door is always open though, for there is always more to learn, new experiences yet to have, and so many quilts I want to make.

One of the most asked questions of new quilters is whether or not to prewash fabric

I’ve read all the pros and cons, but I really do not like to prewash fabric. I think I did it once and when the fabric came out of the dryer, it was a tangled, wrinkled mess. I tamed it with the iron, but I can’t imagine doing that with everything I buy.

I also like working with fabric right off the bolt. I like the feel of it. But I especially like how it looks in a finished quilt that is washed for the first time.

Shout color catcher
Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve made many, many quilts now and never have I had a problem with fabric bleeding. Of course, one bad experience could change that, but so far, there have been none. I am a firm believer in Shout Color Catchers, which has for me, been sufficient. I have worked with rich colors in fabrics and even plenty of batiks in my quilts. I have never (knock on wood) had a problem with colors running into one another in my quilts. All this may change one day if I ever decide to work with hand-dyed fabrics or dye it myself which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve never had the space for that, but who knows what the future holds?

Yardage over pre-cuts

Fabric yardage
There seems to be a real trend toward buying fabrics already cut into strips, squares, bundles, charm packs, layer cakes, etc. I know this can be a real time-saver. It is can also be beneficial to have like colors and fabrics that go together pre-selected, but for me, that takes the fun out of it.   

One of the challenges I have undertaken in my quilting experience is to learn about colors and patterns, contrast and value in the fabric we use in our quilts. Matching fabrics is one of the first decisions in quilt making; it is one I never want to surrender to someone else. Choosing the right fabrics is part of the thrill of making a quilt. And each one is a learning experience.

Hand quilting versus free-motion machine quilting

Neither hand-quilting nor machine quilting is a preference for me because I enjoy both methods. I free-motion quilted my last quilt but I am currently hand-quilting my latest one. Both methods require practice. Each is enjoyable in its own way.

At the risk of sounding like a crazy woman, my experience has shown that the quilt will tell you what it needs. Quilting a quilt as well as the patterns to use, are the kind of decisions that make a quilt uniquely your own.

I’ve often said that I love every process in quilt making but that isn’t quite true

I do love most parts of making a quilt, from fabric selection, to cutting and sewing, to piecing and quilting, but there is one process I’m not fond of—sandwiching the quilt. Putting the completed quilt top, batting, and backing together and basting is not my favorite part. In fact, I rather dread it. I don’t really have a space for it. I’m too old to lay out a quilt on the floor, and at my house, that is a perfect invitation for cats to play on mom’s new quilt. So, rather grudgingly, I use my dining room table. I drag out the heavy leaf to make it as big as I can. And I set out to get the three pieces together without wrinkles as I do laps around the table many, many times. That works well enough, I suppose, but it is far from ideal.

The same is true for basting the quilt. I’ve tried thread basting, but don’t really like that since the quilt is always bigger, in both length and width, than my table. I’ve basted using curved safety pins and I’ve even tried the spray basting method. I have to admit that I was surprised at how well spray basting worked, but I just don’t have the trust in it, especially for a hand-quilting project that takes so long to complete. So, my go to is pin-basting. I rarely use as many pins as I should because I’m too impetuous and just want to get started quilting. And, I admit that one of my favorite quilts has a big wrinkle in the backing fabric. It isn’t obvious because it was densely machine quilted, and just looks like another seam, but I know it is there. And that is frustrating.

Hand or machine binding

I love binding my quilts by hand. Binding is one of my favorite things because when the binding is done, the quilt is done. There is nothing better than finishing a quilt.

Quilting is such an inspiration to me. It is one of the most fulfilling activities I have found. The best part for me, is the challenge it provides. I have no idea what quilt will be next, but I do know I will always be a quilter.

Please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear your quilting go-to’s.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Springtime is upon us

Magnolia Tree
Every year, I look forward to the coming of spring, my favorite time of year. 

Here in the Arkansas Ozarks, spring marks a real change of the season as the winters' short days and long, cold nights is replaced by warm sunshiny days. I grew up in Illinois where we had to wait for nice weather to catch up to the calendar. But here in the Ozarks, the Spring Equinox represents a real change. Oh, we may get one or two blustery days, but here, it is when the world awakens. 

Spring is a promise of new hope, new life, and new dreams with no better symbol than the magnificent Magnolia tree in our front yard. It is always a reminder to cast off the old and mundane, to replace anxiety with anticipation. We know where we've been, but the coming of spring is a belief that it is time to step lightly into a better tomorrow. 

Spring Anemone
I marvel at the subtle changes around me at this time of year. Whether it be the disappearance of old, dirty piles of snow or the emergence of tiny green sprouts poking out from a blanket of leaves, spring is all around. Buds appear on the trees . The landscape is awash with the slightest hint of color not seen just weeks before. The other day I even caught a glimpse of a tiny dandelion flower hiding among the leaves.

But it is so much more than that. I feel the difference.

There is joy in doing mundane chores, especially the ones outside. I just want to clean things. There are not enough hours in the day to take care of it all, but in the springtime, I want to. 

This is the time our daily lives expand out of our houses and into the great outdoors. Just the other day, I swept the leaves off the porch and back deck. I did some tidying up around the yard and after cooking dinner, decided to eat at the table on the deck. For me, it was a game-changer. 

Arkansas sky
Since the whole Covid-19 scare, and subsequent isolation from people and places outside my own four walls, it was just nice to sit outside where there are no walls, no boundaries, no limitations. The temperature was comfortable, with a slight breeze. Birds flew lazily from one branch to another, all the while singing their springtime songs. Further away, I could see flocks of them flying northward. A distant symphony of Spring Peepers filled my ears. As the sun set, it painted the sky with pink and purple iridescence. A tiny sliver of the moon was visible in the western sky. I was entertained by a couple of bats that flew erratically across the backyard, up and over the roof behind me. 

It wasn't just the buds on the nearby Lilac bush that enchanted me, it was my own enjoyment of my surroundings. As the sun dipped beneath the tree line, the light and all its colors drained from the sky. The tangle of branches looked like black lace against the sky. As beautiful as it was, I imagined what it will look like in a few weeks when leaves fill those spaces.  The chartreuse of those baby leaves are so beautiful. The special green/yellow color doesn't last long, but when those young leaves appear and the landscape takes on that special green color, it is wondrous.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Quilting challenges

Hand-quilting with Ryan

Sometimes, hand-quilting just plain poses challenges.

While it may appear that my problem is the snuggly kitty on my lap, that is only half of the story. 

Besides the fact that Ryan insists on commandeering my full attention, something that happens often around here, but my real problem is trying to get used to using a hoop on a stand. I had been quilting on my lap. This quilt, "#Afternoon Delight" is large and a tad unwieldy. I thought a quilt frame might tame it a little.

Hand-quilting is not something I have done for some time. The last time I attempted it was on my most recent project, a lavender Dresden Plate quilt. 

As stated in a previous post, My latest favorite quilt is done, I attempted to outline all the blades of the plates, but all the seams coming together made that nearly impossible. At the very least, it wasn't enjoyable. Quilting is not supposed to be like work. So, I finally gave up after looking at that unfinished project for too many months. I took out all the stitches and starting anew, free-motion quilting it on my sewing machine. The quilt is now done and I'm very glad I made that decision.

With this project, I decided to hand-quilt it for a variety of reasons. Much of it was hand-appliqued, as explained in a previous post: Applique--now this is fun. Also I wanted to do less showy quilting because the complexity of the pattern with all its colors deserved to be showcased rather than the quilting. But the biggest reason to hand-quilt this one, was to challenge myself to complete it. 

The jury is still out for me on using this new quilting frame. At the very least, it is good to be able to keep the quilt in the frame rather than a bunched up mess piled on the couch when I'm not working on it. There is definitely a learning curve to get used to quilting this way. I think I'm getting the hang of it. I enjoy getting into the zone. It will take me a little longer to finish this though, because I often have to take time out for kitty cuddles. But that is fine with me. 

CHQuilts to merge with CHMusings

Quilting is my passion  

Since CHMusings reflects my personal story, and quilting is such a huge part of my life, I've decided to retire my quilting blog CHQuilts and to integrate it into this space. 

CHMusings will still contain pictures and stories of my natural surroundings, an occasional rant, as well as news and views to share. 

I began writing about quilting several years ago in this very blog. Those early posts are still accessible by clicking on the quilting tab above. 

On mobile devices, click on the Home tab to open the options. Then, click on QUILTING.