Out the Back Window

Who says there’s nothing beautiful to see in a winter garden?   Every morning, about 90 minutes after sunrise, I am treated to the sight of the sun pouring through the flower heads on the ornamental grass.  It is as if they are turned to gold!  I never get tired of it.


While you are in the midst of this crazy season with all the running around, I hope you can find something to give you the same soul-restoring moment as this grass gives to me.

I hope Santa brings all good things to you and your family gatherings go well, filled with good food and good company.



‘Tis the Season or Not

They are already begging us to line up in the middle of the night or the crack of dawn to start buying gifts.  I’ll freely admit to decades of massive present buying.  No more.

When your children are young, it is as if you become possessed.  It isn’t enough to buy them the things THEY want, you have to get them all the things YOU wanted when you were their age.

The problem is that they end up with too much. It’s like being served four ice cream desserts at once.  Do you eat one while the others melt?  Or just sample a bit of everything?  Or eat it all and feel really sick?

Then there are all the other family members – parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.  I do not come from a particularly big family but our holiday party included up to 40 people by the time my kids were in their late teens.  Everyone brought a present for everyone else, even though there were people there I didn’t see from one year to the next. 

Over the year, I spent a lot of time picking out presents or making them.  I tried to really find something appropriate and I wanted to see the person open my present.  One year, two or three people started passing out gifts and everyone began opening them as soon as they were presented. 

In 20 minutes, the room looked like a trash dump with all the ribbons and wrapping paper.  I couldn’t see anyone looking very pleased about anything.  It was like watching a pie eating contest.  The pies might be tasty but it was all too much.

As my old neighbor used to say, all hell flew into me.  I was finished with this insanity.  I stood up and asked for attention.  I pointed to the hurricane of gifts and wrapping and said something like this:  “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this has gone too far.  I would like to suggest that since there are no young children in our family any more that we all stop exchanging presents at the party. Starting next year, I won’t be exchanging gifts with anyone but my parents and children. If you want to exchange presents with anyone, I hope you will do it another time.  This party will just be a time for us to get together and socialize.”

They agreed and just like that, I was free!  It has been wonderful not to buy or receive a bunch of stuff I couldn’t afford or didn’t want.  I don’t face giant credit card bills in January.  I can spend time baking cookies to share or making quilt tops for charity, if I want.  I can donate money to the Food Bank or the Christmas Mother.

Best of all, the holidays are no longer a chore, a huge list of things to do that you feel you will never get through.  I can enjoy the sound of the season on my radio and look at the twinkling lights in the neighborhood and at the mall – just in case I happen to stop by.

Festival of Quilts – UK

Don’t get excited.  I didn’t get a chance to go to Britain for the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham.   At this point in life, it’s not even on my list of Things to Do.

However, Bonnie McCaffery went and she made two short vidcasts of her visit to the show.  She’s been doing this for a long time and, I must say, that it is a pleasure to see how her skills as a videographer have grown over the years.

While she is a very talented quilter in her own right, these vidcasts are not about her, but about the things she sees and the people she meets. 

I had just recently visited the Web site for the International Quilt Festival in Houston.  This is the official site and has a straight on shot of each winning quilt in all the categories.  I thought the pictures this year were, well, dull.  Not that the quilts were dull, mind you, but the pictures themselves were too small to appreciate anything about the details or workmanship.  Maybe my memory is playing tricks but I could have sworn they used to have better pictures, even ones that you could blow up and see stitch by stitch.

Then Bonnie posted a note about the most recent vidcast.  Still in a state of numbness from the election, I clicked over and was jolted right out of my seat!

We saw a variety of quilts, often with close up views.  We met some of the quilters and two small interviews were imbedded in between the tour.   I wish the music was set to play at a lower volume than the interviews but otherwise, this is nothing but a rave review.


Detail of quilt by Jose Beenders-Klomp from the Netherlands

As an American quilter, I really enjoyed seeing quilts that have grown out of a whole different set of cultural references.   You can see it in both color use and design.  The Fashion Show was unique.  Don’t miss it!

The Dumb Bells at Festival of Quilts UK is a second video which concentrates on a group of women who made an Olympic-themed quilt for the show.  Each square shows a quilt-related Olympic event with a rather chubby Sunbonnet Sue as the participant.  Pretty cute stuff and we get to see and hear about each block from the maker.         


Over the years, Bonnie has provided lots of vidcasts, some are show tours like these and others concentrate on an individual quilters.  We see an interview, enjoy several of her quilts and then watch as she explains one of her techniques.  These are still available for you to see.

It’s not the same as being in Britain but it was a pretty good second place and I didn’t have to pack a suitcase or go through the security check points at the airport.

Skyline Drive

We live about 80 miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.  I have lived in Virginia my whole life.  When we were first married, we lived in Charlottesville, which is literally in the foothills.  And I am embarrassed to tell you that I had never been on the Skyline Drive. 

We had such a lovely time at the beach, Roger suggested that we drive the other way and do a little leaf peeping.  This was about two weeks before Hurricane Sandy blew through and probably stripped all the remaining leaves off the trees.

You can get to Charlottesville in an hour on I-64 but we decided to save that boring piece of road for the ride home and set off on Staples Mill Road aka Route 33.  This is a two lane road, winding from one small rural community to the next.  Eventually, we stopped for nourishment in Louisa before heading for one of the entry points on the Skyline Drive.

This was a WPA project during the Great Depression and the CCC – Civilian Conservation Corps – continued to work on it until it was completed.  Many of the overlooks are being repaved with stimulus money, in case you wondered where that money went. 

The overlooks face in both directions and alternate as you drive along, so you can look down on the Shenandoah Valley or across the far mountains.  Sadly, most of the mountain overlooks were closed for repairs.

Turns out that you can buy a lifetime pass to this and all the other National Parks for only $10 if you are a senior.  The ticket lady looked at our silver hair and told us about this great deal; we happily paid less money than it would have cost to go through just once as a young person.

Put your feet up and enjoy a leisurely look at the Blue Ridge Mountains as the leaves turn in autumn.

One of the first overlooks reminded us why they call these the Blue Ridge Mountains

After a while, we got to look in the other direction, seeing some of the fall color.

Behind us, we could often see solid walls of rock.  The road was cut right through this.

They used rock pieces to create low walls at the edge of the overlooks. 

A close-up look at the side of one mountain.  The foggy-looking spots are actually trees that have shed all their leaves.

A last look before we got off the Skyline Drive

Remember, as we stood there, this was all we could see for miles in all directions.  It was clear and just cool enough for long sleeves.  There was almost no noise but the sound of birds and bees.  And the occasion silver-haired tourist, stopping beside us with the obligatory camera.  One of the joys of running away from work on a weekday is that there are rarely crowds of any kind.

I looked out at those rolling hills and thought about the people who lived on the Eastern Seaboard and decided that wasn’t enough for them.  They loaded up a horse and maybe a wagon and set off to climb these mountains and see what was on the other side.  Makes me tired just to think about it.

More Sand Sculptures

Everyone was so enthusiastic about the sand sculptures, I thought you might enjoy seeing a few more.  These were my favorites, some because of the amazing detail; others, like this first one, because it was so clever.

in one ear
3rd PLACE / Doubles – In One Ear, Out the Other
Jill Harris and Thomas Koet (Florida)

and out the other
If you can’t read the letters he is pouring out, they are BLAH, BLAH, BLAH

castle31ST PLACE / Doubles and People’s Choice during the Neptune Weekend
Mr. Sandman by Joris Kivits and Michela Ciappini (Portugal)

Mr. Sandman – I never even noticed the sleeping child’s face when I was there in person!  I saw all the hair on the front and thought it was about Rapunzel.  Look at the detail on the side of the pillow and remind yourself that this is sand.

Mr. Sandman –side view – compare person behind with size of sand sculpture!  Every time you see a hole in one of these, ask yourself how did they do that.

childs mind1
John Gowdy/ Italy  I think this was called In a Child’s Mind

These were all taken with my new camera, the Nikon Coolpix 510.  I am very happy with the clarity and detail of these pieces which basically have no contrast and no special lighting.  It isn’t a true Single Lens Reflex, but I can look through the viewfinder or use the screen, whichever I prefer.  It’s still a little heavy to carry around but a lot less than the SLR cameras.

Next up will be pictures we took of the foliage on the Skyline Drive.


If I ran the world, things would be different.  For starters, no one would be able to use a robo call to interrupt my day.  Is it possible that there are people who are actually so stupid that they listen to a recorded voice and then do what it says?

The only exception to my rule is doctors’ offices.  I don’t mind a recording reminding me that I have an appointment and telling me when it is.

Second, no politician would be allowed to run an ad that is untrue.  Every statement made in an ad against another person would have to show real proof that it is true, such as a film clip of Candidate A expressing his support of something that he now claims not to support.  The same rule would apply to all the political action groups that fund ads.

News outlets would be penalized for reporting a politician making a blatantly untrue statement.  This just spreads the lie around.

We learned from the Nazis 60 years ago that the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the more likely people are to believe it.  What we should have learned in addition was to fight against that happening again and yet we let it go on in the media unchecked.  It frightens me how many people get all their news from sources that have a political agenda and make no effort whatsoever to be fair and impartial.  They pander to the prejudices and fears of their listeners and, if the truth is not scary enough, they make up lies and scream even louder.

Here’s a tip.  If you are listening to someone who cannot talk about his opponents without calling them names, you are being lied to.

Third, religion would be removed from the political equation.  This country was founded on the principle that we could all observe without harassment.  That means that Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and Born Again Christians all have EQUAL rights to be what they are.  There should be no litmus test on who believes better or goes to church more often.  How about a test for who tells the truth and lives by the Golden Rule?  I could live with that one.

We are amazingly lucky in the US to have the freedom to choose our elected officials, but we ought to do a better job figuring out who really stands for what.  We ought to stop reaching for the shiniest promise and look at what the person and his ( or her) party has done in the last 5-10 years.  Turn off the noise of partisan radio and TV shows and try to find some less biased sources.  At the very least, check several of the Fact Checkers sites which will tell you if someone has said something that is a lie.

Whoever you support, I hope you will vote on Tuesday.  It is a right and a privilege.  I’ll be climbing down off my soapbox and getting to the polls. 

Sunrise, Moonrise

Neither of us grew up in a family that took vacations.  Other than visiting family for big events like weddings, I can remember only one time when my family went away overnight – and I was already in college.

So it seemed natural to Roger and I not to worry about vacations when our children were growing up.  It was only after we were alone again that we began to seriously consider the joys of getting away.

In general, that means just two or three days. We have taken a week to see Charleston and Asheville, NC, mainly because both trips involve such a long drive but we find ourselves antsy to get home by the third day and exhausted when we finally get back.

One or two nights away seems to suit both of us just fine.  It is enough to step away from the routine of work and house, to soothe our eyes with new sights and let someone else do the cooking.  We have also grown to love running away from home for the day.

The trip to Virginia Beach was two nights, scheduled not only for the sand sculpture but because it was going to be a full moon.  That let me sit on the balcony and watch the silvery disk rise and leave a shining path on the water.  I can close my eyes and see it still. 

With daylight savings time, it was still light enough to see the blue of the sky

The sunrise was equally beautiful and I took what would have been a whole roll of film in the old days.  The colors of the sky and clouds was like a painting.

The stage is set

The sun finally makes its appearance

Coming home from two days of ocean therapy left us both feeling rested and relaxed.  Our feet weren’t tired from too much sightseeing. It was as if I had my batteries recharged.