Monday, November 24, 2008

Fall Retreats

There just aren't enough hours in the day!  So much for retirement.  Since I last wrote I have been to two quilt retreats at which I managed to do a lot of functional sewing - placemats and a quilt from a kit for the cottage.  The Guild retreat is at a convent on the north shore of the island and the property is lovely, especially at that time of year with all the trees in gorgeous fall colour.  The second retreat is at an inn on Lake Brome down in the Eastern Townships.  This is with my Tuesday group who prefer to be a little more comfortable than in a convent!.  The rates are great as we are off season and the food and accommodation are wonderful.  We put in full days and some evenings at the sewing machine, get in long walks on the neighbouring golf course and of course eat!  

 I also managed to finish a quilt that I started a few years ago - another Tri-This challenge with Rosie and Hilary.  They both came to Montreal to visit and teach and we had 3 lovely days in early spring at the cottage.  This was after a trip to Cap Tourment to see the snow geese.  The intent of the challenge was to start a wall hanging and then let the other 2 provide comments, suggestions and critique before it was finished.  Needless to say we didn't have to take any of these on board!  So Early Spring is my completed result.  The dogwood branches and willows were glowing in the sun at the park.  I don't have  a snow goose on there, but a bufflehead duck that we saw on another part of the trip.

I also taught a small dyeing class here at the house.  My studio is very full so not much room for lots of people but it worked out quite well, especially using the kitchen upstairs for the discharging!   I've started making scarves with black rayon, some discharge and painting.  Hopefully I'll be able to get some more made in time for the holidays.

To round out my life a little we have season's tickets to the Centaur theatre and saw a fabulous and moving play called Scorched.  I mention it because it is traveling and I highly recommend it if it plays near you.  The publishing season is upon us so that means Books & Breakfast - a great way to hear authors talk about their upcoming books and enjoy a brunch as well.  I can see that there is going to be  a lot of reading material around here this Christmas.  And I'm trying to be a little experimental in my cooking.  Managed to make a batch of duck confit this weekend - that with a salad is almost my favourite meal.  Christmas baking is just around the corner.  My mother in law and I are going to have a "stir-up" Friday and make her Christmas cake cookies.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It once again feels as though summer has whizzed by.  The radio says that we got less rain than the average, but it sure felt as though the floods had begun!  August in the garden is very rewarding though.  The fuschia coloured phlox and rudebekia are very generous with their colour. Family care left little time to do a lot of quilting, but I did manage at the end to do another journal quilt - an attempt to be a little more abstract. 

 It was also an exercise in using a satin stitch border edge and then zigzagging a decorative thick
thread on the outside.  
                                        this garden photo should have been taken a week earlier, but it does show off the colour.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Milestone - Turning 60!

This is a birthday that was really fun.  I was going to be 60 like it or not, so I may as well enjoy the process.  Which included a lovely get together with my Stitch 'n Bitch group and hosted by  a good friend.  The group makes squares for "0" birthdays and for mine they did squares from the book "Affairs of the Heart" by Aie Rossman - truly, each square is a work of "heart".  

We also had a party at home for close friends and family.  Catered - never did that before!  What fun!  Between the caterer, my husband and our daughters I did nothing more than visit with everyone and have  a wonderful time.  

My mum and me

But it's also a time for reflection.  Where to go from here.  For one thing, I certainly don't want to bring all the UFO's that are languishing in my workroom into the next decade.  A bit of history here - I really took up quilting in a big  way when we moved to South Africa and made a lot of quilts, but also started a lot of others.  And these were mostly all handwork.  When we moved next to England I immediately started my City and Guilds and went on from there.  So all these SA projects have yet to be finished (plus a few more over the last few years.  And I still like most of them.  Does this mean that at the tender age of 60 I'm going to have to show more self-discipline!  At very least perhaps give up a sudoku  in the morning.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Trip to Newfoundland

After all the work of the Salon, a well needed break came with our trip to Newfoundland. Timed, of course, around a quilt show - that of the CQA - in St John's. It was fun to be there, and see friends and check out what is being done in Canada. St John's is a visually delightful city with all the brightly painted houses. We also were able to watch the fog roll in over the harbour from our hotel.

We spent the next week touring around, and probably like most others, reined in our plans when we realized how big Nfld actually is! We had a lovely time staying at B&B's and exploring the the Avalon, Burin, and Bonavista peninsulas. We also made it up to Salvage and enjoyed the scenery there. We did lots of walking and were impressed with the trails - the Skerwink out of Port Rexton, the Sandy Cove hike, the Eastern Coast walk out of Quidy Vidi, and the walks around Salvage.

We chased icebergs by boat out of Bulls Bay, and saw the puffins, kittiwakes, and murres amonst others. No whales unfortunately - too early for the capelin we were told. And saw lots of other icebergs from various points along the way. Everywhere we went people were most friendly and helpful.

The scenery looking over the bogs and rocky landscape is stark on the one hand, but teeming with interesting plants on the other. My big regret is that we weren't there to see the fields of lupins in bloom or the masses of wild rhododendrums that looked to be a week away from blossoming. But we managed to see lady slippers on our Eastern Coast walk.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


The month of May has been incredibly full. Our Beaconsfield Guild had it's first formal show and for the challenge which was to produce something in the style of another artist, I made Barn with Yellow Roof. This was based on the style of paintings by Ton Schulten of the Netherlands. His canvasses are in the range of 10'x8' so fitting it into a perimeter of 100" was a challenge in itself!The subject is based on a photo that I took of a barn in the Stratford, ON, region last fall. The roof was an electric yellow, and with storm clouds over it, really stood out. And it won a second place ribbon!
Our Provincial Quilt show was two weeks later and I was looking after all the workshops. I am glad to report that it was a huge success - both with teachers and students. All of whom want to come back another time. And the show itself was fabulous - over 500 quilts showcasing talent from all over the province. As well as the main display there were sections showing an exchange between the Laurentian guild and a guild in France, an under 17 display, celebration of Quebec City's 400th anniversary, and lots of vendors. Please look out for Salon 2010! And check out our website at And of course, to add to the pressure, my hard drive packed it in a week before the Salon. Thank goodness for backing up!

Now it's time for gardening and quilting! It's still cool, but even at the cottage the plants are getting ready to bloom. Lupins in both places are looking terrific this year. After seeing all the lupins in New Brunswick several years ago and taking copious pictures, I think that there must be a quilt in there somewhere!

Friday, April 25, 2008


The Machine Quilting Exhibition in Manchester, NH was once again "awesome". I went down with 3 friends, spending a night on the way at the cottage. The pile of snow on the driveway was still about 6' high and the ice was still on the lake.

We made it in good time the next day to take courses in the afternoon. I registered for classes with Cathy Franks, Linda Taylor, Deloa Jones and Dawn Cavanagh. Except for the first they were all very inspiring classes and I have once again come home with my head spinning with ideas.

We also went to the fashion show - again very talented ladies, and the banquet where Karen McTavish was awarded Teacher of the Year. The guest speaker, Amy Simms, had us in stitches.

The exhibit was a great display of talent. A visual feast. And I met up with a friend from my quilt group from England, Isabel Hall, who runs a quilting business there, and a new friend, with whom I had only corresponded - Joan Hug-Valeriote who is a textile artist.
Now to get to work and play!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Journal Quilts

The British Quilt Guild has challenged it's members to make journal quilts and this project is being run by Hilary Gooding, a member of the Tri-This group which also has me and Rosie Francis in it. Rosie and I decided that we would follow along and make the quilts too. The specs differ from other JQ's in that the size is to be 12"x12". A friend of mine here in Montreal was also interested so Pamela Chasen has joined the group. At the moment we have no plans to exhibit other than Hilary who will show hers with the CQBG.

So here are mine for the year so far:

January fields

Barn with yellow roof

Cambodian calm

More Taiwan

There are a few more things I should add about Taiwan. And some pictures.

Taiwan is a great place to visit. The people are friendly, and we never once worried about pickpockets, getting mugged - nothing. It's clean, has the best subway system we've ever seen, great scenery and public parks. And lots of great places to eat. Here is some scenery along the east coast - it beats the Pacific Hwy in California by a long shot.

and because I forgot - here is a taste of what I saw up in Taipei 101.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Last day in Taiwan

We took the train north to Ruifang where we then caught the Pingxi branch rail line. This line stops at a number of places and you can hop on and off as you wish. Our first stop was Shifen and we walked through the village to the park with the waterfall. To get there we crossed two suspension bridges and then arrived at the "Niagara of Taiwan" as it is advertised. Very impressive.

We didn't have time for any other of the stops but went directly to the end of the line at Jingtong. It was a cute little village but most cafes seemed to be closed. We watched a bride and groom on the tracks getting their wedding photos done. This usually happens well before the marriage and pictures are on display at the wedding. I don't think the tracks are a usual background though!
Our last dinner was at the hot pot restaurant and more live shrimp and whole squid. The pots are set into the table and each person has a temperature dial to control the simmer of the broth. On the side are all sorts of condiments from soy sauce, to hot peppers. Lots of vegetables arrive for each order no matter what meat or seafood tray you've selected.
I won't write about the 40 hours it took us to get back!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tour around Taiwan

We left the hotel with Cooper, our driver, and his van. He had spent some time in Texas hence the name. Heading south we drove on excellent highways, many of which were elevated for miles over the valleys. After a local fancy lunch at an educational farm (more like a resort) we went to the Kanshuin Paper Factory where hand made paper is produced. If we had had more time we could have made our own and embellished it. We then stopped at the brand new Chung Tai Chan Temple which has been built by Buddhists and is to be a world site of learning for Buddhism. Opulent, gigantic and expensive are a few words that come to mind.

Next stop was the much older Wen Wu temple overlooking Sun Moon lake. Again the weather didn't help the view. We stayed at the Hotel del Lago on the banks of the lake.

On the drive to Kaohshing we visited the WuChan temple which had collapsed during the 1999 earthquake and looked remarkably intact except that the roof was almost on the ground. Nearby were a few old train engines and a market. Then on to the old Dutch fort which is now the Chikan Tower temple.
Next were the Spring and Autumn pavillions - these twin towers are on the edge of a lake and one enters in the dragon and out the tiger- to do it in reverse would be very bad luck.

We did a small tour on the Love River and then toured the night market which was teeming with people and food stands. We couldn't quite agree on which outdoor food we wanted to eat so opted at the end for the hotel. A little boring, but we have been eating "local" almost the whole trip!

On Saturday we stopped at a small park with a "river running uphill" and followed a small water course that really did look like it was flowing up. A nice park and a great illusion. The next stop was the 8 Arches Bridge. Again a beautiful park on the sea edge and so we crossed the bridge to the rocky island and wandered around - again in a light rain.
Another beautiful park was the Kenting National park at the very bottom of Taiwan. Lovely boardwalks along the edge of the ocean - and the only way to walk as it is all very rough lava.
Our last stop were the Bahsian caves which were inhabited a long time ago, but have now been turned into temples with cemented floors. In Taitung I finally got to hear "Fur Elise" which is played by the garbage trucks, throughout Taiwan it would seem. As people hear the trucks coming they run out with their garbage and stand along the road waiting for it.
Sunday was the last day of our tour and we went to the Taroko gorge. And finally had some sun. And it was spectacular. We only drove in part of the way, but walked a number of sections and were awed by the height and narrowness. I think the pictures say it all.

If you look carefully
you will see me in red.


Feb 26

Rob and I went to the Longsham Temple which had very detailed carvings of dragons on the roof. Again it was an overcast, slightly rainy day so not great for pictures. There were all sorts of lanterns as part of the festival, lots of mouse/rats as this is the beginning of the year of the rat. Even Winnie the Pooh was there in lantern form.

We wandered through a local market - it's amazing how many food stands are there, and interspersed with clothing stores. On our way back to the hotel we looked at the old North Gate of the city which is now situated within feet of an elevated highway.

A quick lunch at the Main Station again (the second level has just opened with about 50 restaurants so we haven't eaten at the same place twice) and then we went to the Natural History Museum. It's a lovely building beside the Botanical gardens and on each floor there is a sitting area (some serving tea and food) overlooking the lotus pond. We had a hotpot dinner in Rebecca's neighbourhood and her friends joined us. I ordered a tray of seafood and was surprised to see the live shrimp that I now had to cook! All delicious though.


Feb 24:

We've finally made it to Taipei and what a different city to Hanoi. Much more modern and civilized! Fewer bikes, more orderly traffic, superb underground system, and way less noise!

We sure had a hectic day with Rebecca yesterday. We went to the Sun Yat Sen memorial and watched the changing of the guard, saw the latern festival, went up Taipei 101 and saw the sights and the damper. And on display in the 4 corners was a textile/quilting exhibit with old and new work that was put on by the Taipei Mothers Art Association. So we were all happy!

We also went to the Jade market but it was so overwhelming that I didn't have a clue what to buy. Ended up buying a string of lapis lazuli beads which I'll get gussied up at home.

We've eaten at R's favourite dumpling restaurant, had Korean BBQ in the food court of 101 and I will have to walk more, faster, if I keep eating at this rate! I think we're almost the only non-Asians at the Cosmos hotel, and except for eggs and white bread for toast the whole rest of the buffet is Chinese or Japanese food. But the place is clean and friendly and well located for travelling around the city.

Feb 25

Rebecca still has classes for a few days so we were on our own for a bit. We went to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial hall, now renamed the Democratic Memorial Hall. Amazing set of buildings to be built to honour one person. Since he's not so popular now, a kite exhibit was hung which prevented a good viewing of his statue. We enjoyed the exhibit on the lower level of folk art and carved jade. The Main train station is proving to be a very useful location- we met Rebecca there and had lunch, then caught the subway to go out to the Naional Palace Museum where we saw another exhibit of jade, this time very old work, and a lot of calligraphy. We toured around the Shillin Night Market - only Monday night and it was very busy - and a great place to get an ice cream cone!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Our tour started today at the Confucius Temple of Literature and then on to the Hilton Jail - of which only a small portion remains as a tourist site. Another cyclo ride took us through the old section of Hanoi before depositing us at our hotel, the Sofitel Metropole - a lovely old throw back to colonial days. The rest of the day was on our own to walk about and risk our lives crossing the streets as we wished! Dinner was at the Green Mandarin - Vietnamese/French fusion and superb.

At 6:30 in the morning we saw people playing badminton on the sidewalk, others walking, or doing tai chi. We started the day with a viewing of Ho Chi Minh who I understand is sent back to Russia annually to be re-balmed. We toured the museum and his house, which was a lovely modern "cottage" on a small lake. On to the Ethnic museum with an outdoor display of different types of traditional houses. The evening finished with a water puppet show.

Our last day was spent visiting Ha Long Bay. It took several hours with stops along the way for silk and laquer ware. The scenery was stunning, but a few hours on the boat barely does it justice.
Once we got past the scrum of all the boats leaving, it became very peaceful with herons and eagles flying overhead. Lunch on board was a seafood feast.
And dinner was also a feast - at Bobby Chins (he's a local TV cook/celebrity).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Once again the weather wasn't on our side - overcast and rainy. So we passed on the mountain drive through the Hai Van Pass and took the tunnel instead. It seems as though every square inch of land is cultivated with rice paddies or vegetable fields. The vistas were beautiful. Hue was a seat for many of the Emperors of the Nguyen dynasty and they left their mark with a number of Royal mausoleums - these were used during their lifetimes as summer palaces.

We had lunch at the Mandarin restaurant (opposite the Imperial Hotel). The owner is a photographer and sells his lovely photographs - you choose the size and they are printed up while you eat.

Dinner was an interesting feast. We all dressed up as mandarins or concubines, with one couple as emperor and emperess. And as hokey as it may sound, it was a delicious and different dinner with local musicians to entertain.

The next day we toured the Citadel with it's now bombed out Forbidden City. The frangipani trees were not yet in bloom but they are all around and this is how the Perfume river nearby got it's name. We had a boat tour up the river to the Ming Mang tomb.

Part of our journey to the hotel consisted of a cyclo - another way to enjoy the chaos of the streets.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hoi An

A very early and short flight took us to Danang where our bus met us for the trip to Hoi An. On the way we visited a museum dedicated to the Cham people. The museum was built by the French, and showcased many of the temple statues that were created, some from the 4th Century. Unfortunately quite a number were missing their heads - this according to our guide was because it was easier for them to be taken back to Harvard where they now reside. Shame.

On to the marble mountains - a series of steep hills rising up from the plains by the sea. We climbed to the top of one, where there is a large Buddhist shrine, and an enormous cave. The view over the ocean is that of China Beach. We had a quick snack of freshy spring rolls at a local café near the beach. From the looks of the fencing that is going up, there are large resorts that are going to be built in that area.

Hoi An is a small town with a section of preserved Chinese houses and a Japanese covered bridge. One of the houses is open for viewing, but many others have become stores or museums. The ceramic museum gave us an opportunity to go in and look at the building as well as the exhibit. The wood is mostly teak and has weathered to an almost black colour. This area of town floods on an annual basis, as much as 2 metres and the houses have a centre open area on the second floor with a hoist to lift everything off the ground floor.

We went through the market in town, which was packed with vendors, shoppers and the ubiquitous motor scooters. Everything seemed to be on sale, from chopping knives to live fish and shrimp in aerated pails, as well as butchers chopping meat, live chickens, and all sorts of fresh vegetables and fresh rice noodles.
On our free morning we toured the town and after lunch Rob took a bike ride along the quieter roads near the hotel. The roads into and in town are typical of much of the country - a zoo of buses, scooters, bikes and buses many of which are not on their side of the road, and often not even going in the right direction.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Dalat and Na Trang

The flight from Saigon had us leaving the hotel at 5:30am and on the bus in Dalat a few hours later. We spent the day touring - a Buddhist monastery, a cable car ride through the mountains, Bao Dai's summer palace. He was the last emperor of Vietnam and like many wealthy people, liked to escape to this mountain city when summer became too hot on the coast. One of the specialties of the area is hand embroidery. The most exquisite work is done to produce pictures by thread. Some are even so perfectly done that they can be viewed from either front or back.

Na Trang is a 5 hour drive from Dalat through the mountains, which all would have been more spectacular without the low cloud cover. On the way we visited the Cham towers, which are a major temple for the Cham people who occupied the area during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The next day we took a boat ride to an island primarily occupied by fishermen. To get to the island from our "tour" boat we boarded what appeared to be round woven baskets with a diameter of about 6'. There was a small wooden floor, and 2 of us sat on the edge along with the 2 locals who paddled us in. Lunch was cooked on board our own boat and included a lovely selection of seafood along with soup and fried noodles. The captain doubles as the chef.

Our food in general has been local, fresh and delicious - and all without problem!

Mekong Delta

We left at 8:30 this morning for the Mekong Delta.  The highway was covered with trucks, motor bikes, bicycles and buses all trying to get farther faster.  And on either side of the road (i.e direction was irrelevant if necessary).  The local buses have an odd sounding horn, and the more they use it the faster they can go.  At least I think that's the logic.

As we went further south there were more and more rice paddies at different stages of development.  The greens are so spectacular.  

At the water's edge in the Delta we boarded sampams to take us across an arm of the river, and then got onto even smaller ones to chug up a narrow canal that was covered on either side with water coconuts.  We visited  a candy factory where they make coconut candy from the pressed fresh coconut and palm sugar.  Lunch was a local feast of elephant ear fish cooked whole and studded with garlic and then pulled apart and served in rice pancakes with fresh green onion and basil.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


We've met up with our tour group, an Australian couple and a British couple and a very cheery Aussie tour guide. The Sheraton Saigon is in the older downtown area and like most Sheratons, a nice luxurious hotel. It's a busy city - lots of motor bikes, bicycles , cars and trucks all vying for space on the roads and sidewalks so lots of honking going on. To cross a street requires great faith - nothing stops so you have to just keep moving across and the bikes avoid you. Of course, you have to stay out of the way of cars as they expect you to move. We started with a walking tour to learn how to do this!

The main old buildings have been nicely fixed up - the opera house, the post office and the cathedral. We've arrived just after Tet, the Vietnamese New Year and the streets are covered in lights, red banners and pots of yellow chrysanthemums which are on either side of most doorways to keep out evil spirits while the spirits of the ancestors are being welcomed in.

Our tour guide took us to her favourite pho place. This is a local noodle soup which contains meat or seafood, and then you add your own fresh bean sprouts, Vietnamese basil, mint, and hot sauce. Delicious.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


What an amazing three days we've had here. Everything from setting out before dawn to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat to eating food from roadside stands.

The temples are amazing works considering that most of them were built in the 10th Century or so. Some have been fixed up a bit, with stones put back in place, and the jungle cleared away, but today we went to one that was still a tumble of rocks, with trees growing through and around. It was awesome in it's destruction - made one feel like an early adventure coming at it for the first time. Then, of course there is Angkor Wat which is the largest and most popular. We saw the sun rise over it, and it is just beautiful.

Each temple had it's own style and character with a variety of carvings and buildings. It's going to be a challenge to remember it all when I finally have the chance to download the pictures.

Our guide has been very keen to introduce us to local things. This morning he took us to his aunt's restaurant stall in a market to have breakfast. One dish consisted of porridgy type rice in chicken stock, with vegetables and bits of offal. The other, my favourite, was a bowl of rice noodles with veggies and peanuts and sesame oil. We've also watched how it was made, and eaten sticky rice and red beans cooked in coconut milk in bamboo sticks. This is a snack that is portable, and very good. We've eaten milk fruit, dragon fruit and rambutan. And palm sugar (similar to maple sugar candy).

We've also been to local restaurants, one of which included a BBQ - food cooked on a "volcano" over a brazier.

The hotel (the Victoria Angkor Wat) is lovely. They have the best pastries - a hangover I think from their French colonial times.

Rebecca arrived here just before us so we've had a lovely reunion and it's been great traveling with her.

Tomorrow is off to Ho Chi Minh City

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


We haven't made it to Egypt - just a stop at the British museum! We've also visited the Natural History museum, the National Art Gallery, and the Royal Academy where we saw a very interesting exhibit on loan from the Hermitage museum.

Last night we saw a humerous version of the Mikado and tonight will see the Lord of the Rings. And as always in London, lots of walking and riding the Tube. And the weather has been kind - somewhat overcast and only a hint of rain.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The weekend was lovely - lots of good x-country skiing on the old railway bed, and a good day of downhill. I managed to finish the vest and get a few other things done. Now we're back home, and looking forward to leaving these icy, windy days behind. A stop at the Tilley store and some more work on figuring out how to use my new camera and we'll be all set.

Friday, January 25, 2008

a short hop

Tomorrow we head to the cottage to enjoy the last bit of snow and winter before we head off on our big expedition out east. With temperatures well below -10C we will only be snow shoeing or walking.

The plan is to get some quilting finished - a bargello vest that was started last weekend, and to set something up to take on the upcoming trip.