goin’ to jackson

Today is the day!  In a couple of hours we’ll be on our way to Jackson, Mississippi.

Finally–FINALLY–after four years of trying, I’m off to sew with the Gee’s Bend quilters.

I’ve blogged about it before.  You can read about it here or check it out in the May 24, 2022 blog post.

sing, pray, quilt

It’s a dream come true.  I have no idea what I will be creating.  I don’t really care, to be honest.  I just want to soak up the atmosphere and meet the Gee’s Bend ladies.

I want to sing and pray with them. I’m ready!

My rotary cutter, favorite ruler and pair of scissors are packed in my suitcase.  I’ll be renting a sewing machine and other tools at the retreat.  I have cut an assortment of 4″ squares for half-square triangles to start me off on the creative path of “improv” quilting.  I’m a planner, not a “seat of my pants” quilter, so it’s going to be a real learning experience for a woman who has spent many years perfecting the 1/4″ seam.

That previous sentence makes me sound insane.

As I’ve explained to my husband, this is like a classically-trained musician going to Mississippi to learn to play the blues.

Kind of.

Banjo Man is looking forward to the 77 degree weather.  There are trails at the retreat center to explore.  And he and the other guests will be eating their meals with us.  As always, I keep an eye on him to make sure he rests.

We’re staying an extra night in downtown Jackson and will be visiting the Civil Rights Museum across the street from our historic hotel.  Home on Tuesday!

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homestead rescue

My sewing machine has been in the shop for a necessary tune-up for seventeen days.  Its stitches were ugly and the bobbin-winding was disaster after disaster.

In a winter where we are not entertaining and Banjo Man is content to be in his office or on the couch, this means that in my life nothing is going on.  I have cleaned out enough shelves, emptied enough bins, made enough trips to the donation center of Savers.  The house is clean.  My fabric is organized.  There are many containers of soup and casseroles in the freezer.  I have a box of stuff collected to take to the lake and my travelling clothes are ready and waiting.  I’ve planned the road trip route and even booked a couple of hotels.

So…what to do…

Meet  my  new  friends.

Matt, Marty and Misty Raney’s HOMESTEAD RESCUE show on the Discovery Channel is rescuing me.

The 10th season of this show just started, so I am very late to this particular party.  I came across it while channel-surfing one Saturday afternoon and couldn’t believe how interesting it was.  Youtube TV has all seasons “on demand”, so I am in hog heaven.

Speaking of hogs, I have learned that pregnant sows need to be separated from the boars.  Bad things happen otherwise.  I think I could build a pen now  (not kidding–52 years ago my Christmas present from Banjo Man was a much desired electric drill).

I know how to protect my ducks from owls and hawks.  And my goats from coyotes.  My honey from bears.  My chickens from foxes.  Myself from mountain lions (once I learn to shoot).

I am having a wonderful time here in the safety of my warm, electric-powered, water-on-tap home.

Marty and his kids travel around the country spending a week at a time at various homesteads that desperately need their help in order to survive.

These people really need help.

Banjo Man finds it hard to watch, but if there is a segment on digging a well or cobbling together a water pump I make him watch it with me.  Otherwise it makes him nervous to watch the homesteaders do things that don’t make much sense.

I feel for them, though.  They want to live their dream and have discovered it’s not that easy.  They’re doing their best and trying so hard.  One young couple defiantly told Marty–a gruff, no-nonsense, hard-working MacGyver type of fixer—that they’d learned how to do homestead things from watching You Tube videos.

I thought Marty’s white hat was going to blow up.  The man who spent his life homesteading in Alaska gritted his teeth and growled, “Don’t you ever say the words ‘You tube’ to me again.”

Their shocked reaction was hilarious.

I am learning a lot. I should be taking notes.  This is a new way to annoy my family with comments like, “I know how to connect chicken wire with no tools, just one screw,” and “If I had a duck pond I would make sure the overflow drained downhill to my garden.”

There have been two episodes that featured people in my county at the lake.  Neighbors, almost.  Banjo Man thought he recognized one of the couples.  Season 4, Episode 8 “Fury and Fire” was filmed during a summer of forest fires as the nervous Raney’s could see and smell the smoke from a fire only five miles away.

The younger people are usually resistant to doing things Marty’s way, which is usually an out-of-the-box and outspoken solution to a major issue.  The older folks are more like, “Thank God, we’ll try anything!”

Matt is an experienced hunter and game expert who concentrates on the safety of the homestead, along with operating the excavators and any other major piece of equipment.  He’s a mild-mannered young man who bonds with the teenagers and teaches them about wildlife and hunting and shooting–everything they need to know to keep themselves and their families safe.

Misty is the gardener.  And the livestock expert.  She’s another kind and helpful person who can assess a problem and come up with a solution.  I’ve never seen anyone work so hard as this young woman does and the homesteaders love working with her.  Misty = food.

Their loud, impatient, tender-hearted father is a good guy, once you get to know him.  He’s a natural problem-solver who sees the big picture.  But his ideas can be “crazy” (his word), though he will put his heart and soul and own safety into solving a desperate homesteader’s do-or-die issues.  Like drinking water.  Heat.  Safety.  Roads.  Dams.  Protection from wild fires, flooding, and landslides.

The Raneys will use anything they can find on the homestead, such as old lumber, boulders, wire, etc.

Neighbors and family will often come to help the homesteaders during the filming of the show.

From the Idaho Press:  [Raney]said: “Almost like the further you get away from the epicenter of any significant population, there seems to be a little less stress and a little more family-oriented mentalities, and neighbors help each other.  I’m always watching everything when we are filming, and in the neighborhood, (you will see) complete strangers are helping their neighbors, often saying, ‘we don’t want to be on camera.’  I’m looking at a man here in Tennessee right now.  One of the contractors arranged for a shed to get delivered here (for these homesteaders) — thousands of dollars, and doesn’t want to be on camera.  So yes, there seems to be an appreciation for family and neighborliness the further you get into these mountains, hills, islands, and deserts.”

Thanks to the Ramey’s, I’m enjoying this hiatus after all.

Check it out:



Posted in television | 2 Comments

happy st. patrick’s day

Here’s to the land of the shamrock so green.

Here’s to each lad and his darlin’ Colleen.

Here’s to the ones we love dearest and most.

May God bless old Ireland, that’s this Irishman’s toast!

And top o’ the mornin’ to you!

I was always told the family had Irish blood in us and when I explored the genealogy of  my family, it was true.

My great-great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side, those adventurous and diverse New Orleans folks, was Patrick Mulholland, born in Tamlaght O’Crilly, Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1819.

He was married to Mary Riordon, from County Cork.  Did they travel to New Orleans together as a married couple?  Meet on the ship?  Or later, maybe in church in New Orleans?

I hope to find some ship records and discover the answer to that question.

Patrick died in 1895 in New Orleans, and family legend has it that he had arranged beforehand to be buried in his beloved Ireland.

I don’t know if that happened.

Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower Church.

My violin assignment this week was to learn “MacPherson’s Lament”, which is Scottish.  So I added the lovely Irish waltz, “South Wind”, to my practice sessions and hope to play it for my teacher this afternoon.  Just to celebrate the Irish!

Enjoy your Guiness and soda bread…

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an acorn kind of life

This has been an excellent winter for television.

Streaming, I mean.

One of our favorite “channels” is ACORN, for $5.99 a month via Amazon Prime (but also available on its own).  There is a 30-day free trial, too.

Definitely a bargain, considering the cost of a dozen eggs!


This was my absolute hands-down favorite show.  Two eccentric friends spend their weekends trying to find treasure in the fields surrounding their small town.  It’s a gentle comedy series with a quirky cast of characters who make up the Danbury Metal Detecting Club.  There are three seasons, plus a very welcome special that was released recently.  I hated to see it end.  It starts out very slowly, but watch a couple of episodes and give the show time.

Oh, how I wish I could buy a metal detector and join the club!

I really do.

This was an odd one. I could easily have quit after watching one of the four episodes, but we stuck with it. Set in rural Ireland, it features a policeman who spends his days trying not to do much of anything except eat junk food until a skeleton is discovered buried on a nearby farm. We found it difficult to like any of the characters at first, but the mystery was a good one. And the people involved became more appealing the longer we watched. It was definitely worth the time, if sad.

We watched this film a few nights ago and enjoyed every minute.

From Amazon UK review: Part biopic, part musical, and part fantasy, this is the inspirational and incredible true story of Neil Baldwin. Neil refuses to accept the label of learning difficulties and leads an extraordinary life where he becomes everything from an honorary graduate of Keele University to the Stoke City Football Club’s kit-man.

Have you seen any of these shows?  What did you think?


Posted in rhode island, television | 2 Comments

grandma’s lobster

God only knows where she got it. My grandmother combed yard sales, secondhand stores and fabric mill outlets for wool. She’d bring her treasure home to wash, often dye and then cut up into fine strips for her hooked rugs.

I don’t remember her hauling “stuff” home–and my grandfather was not a person who liked to keep things forever–so the history of this 1940’s Brad Keeler lobster dish will remain a mystery.  I don’t remember Grandma using it and she had no desire to take it with her when she moved out of her home and into an independent living apartment.

About twenty-five years ago I took my eldest son, Ben, to Nantucket to show off the heritage of my side of the family.  I’d never been to the island before, but I’d been working on the genealogy of “my Nantuckets” for over a year.  We went to the whaling museum (saw our family’s portraits and memorabilia on the walls), the history center (researching the genealogy), the courthouse (to copy 18th century wills) and took a bus tour of the island.  We spent the night in a former sea captain’s home and visited antique stores to admire scrimshaw.

In a fancy antique shop in the center of town I saw a familiar sight: Grandma’s lobster dish.  It was priced for close to three hundred dollars. I pointed it out to Ben and told him, “I have one just like this.  It was Gigi’s.”

The snotty saleswoman came over and sniffed, “You can’t possibly have one of those.”

“Well, I do,” I countered. But she clearly didn’t believe me, just turned her nose up and made sure I put the dish back on the shelf.  It was weird and embarrassing.  Ben and I looked at each other and left the store.

I’m not a confrontational person, but I am getting better at standing up to rudeness.  In the past it has taken me a long time–days, weeks, months?–to realize I’ve been insulted or dissed.

I’d like to think I’m getting better at it.

Here is what I wish I’d said:  Lady, I do have a dish exactly like this one.  The oldest house on the island was built by my ancestors, the lighthouse is named after my heroic great-great uncle and the Civil War monument right outside your door has my great-great-grandfather’s name on it.  So take your dish and shove it up—

Alas, that rebuke remains a fantasy.

But I still have the dish.

Posted in family, rhode island, secondhand stuff | 2 Comments

uh oh

What is wrong with this picture?  Take a wild guess.

Yes, no sewing machine.

It has been a rough week with my fancy-schmancy machine.  I had three rows (out of 11) left to free-motion quilt on the purple quilt (to be sent to Texas next week) when the tension went wonky and I used every trick in the book to “fix” it well enough to finish the project.

The bobbins wound mushy and messy.  The stitches were very much less-than-perfect.  Ugly, even, if you looked closely.

Banjo Man assures me that no one will know that the stitches aren’t perfect, but I’ll know.  I wanted this to be beautiful, a special gift for Will’s mentor.  I am really, really disappointed.

So yesterday I drove up to the city to take it to the dealer where they also service the machines they sell.  They won’t be able to get to it for at least three weeks, which is okay.

So…life goes on, despite how aggravated I am.

I will spend the next five evenings stitching down the binding and attaching the label before I can pronounce the purple quilt finished.

I won’t miss my sewing machine.  The last few days of dealing with its issues have made it easy to step away from making quilts and move on to other things.  Like taxes.  Cooking.  Violin practice.  Checking in with friends who, after two months of being ill, are feeling well enough to say hi.

We’re having some kind of wind/rain/snow/sleet “weather event” this morning.  Hopefully it’s the last one!

Before things went wrong.

Posted in quilting, rhode island | 1 Comment

a pepe pizza party

He ordered the Large.

Yesterday we celebrated the 37th—and LAST–session of radiation.  Banjo Man made it through this with his only side effect being tired.  His doctor beamed as they said goodbye.

Can you tell how happy Banjo Man is that this over?

A few weeks ago an article popped up on my computer screen (you know what I mean–the internet never stops surprising me with pop ups) from http://www.travel.com listing the 50 Best Pizzas In The World.  “Frank Pepe”, which began in  Connecticut in 1925, was listed as #5.  Who knew?  Only a few miles from the cancer center and across the street from Savers, my weekly donation drop off spot, it was easy to find.

We did not order the white clam pizza, by the way.

I surprised my husband with a can of his very own Frank Pepe tomatoes (after lunch he returned to the car while I stayed behind and went to the ladies room).  There’s a new Greek vegetarian recipe he wants to try this weekend and he’s sure these tomatoes will make it taste even more flavorful.

I’ve urged him to take today off and stay out of his office until Monday.  Let the dust settle.   Eat leftover pizza.  Read.  Go to the dump, buy some oranges, watch a little television.

Will he take my advice?  I hope so!

Posted in family, food, rhode island, the cancer fight | 6 Comments

rockin’ it

See the boulder?  It used to be in the driveway.  Over the past few years many large rocks and a few boulders have been emerging from the gravel road that leads to our house and circles around the non-pond oval in the center.  Due to “frost heave”, Banjo Man explained, rocks just keep showing up year after year.

The neighbor with the back hoe had been building a stone staircase for my brother next door, so when it was finished Thursday afternoon he came over to dig out our rocks.

Banjo Man had sprayed the offenders with bright orange paint and in the course of one afternoon and the next morning they were all gone.  The holes were filled and smoothed over, the road no longer threatens mufflers and the orange rocks that littered the landscape have been hauled elsewhere.

Party time here.

Rhode Island has miles upon miles of old stone walls.  You see them everywhere, forgotten markers in the woods and elsewhere.  You can see in the above photo the amount of boulders on the hill around the shed.  Gifts from a glacier.

This is a great article about New England’s stone walls and who built them and why.  Good photos, too.


I love the stone walls here.  Mysterious and old, they appeal to my Neolithic history lovin’ self.  While these 18th century Rhode Island walls are practical–created while clearing fields and marking boundaries–the stones come from the Ice Age.

Not exactly Stonehenge here, but we have our own mysterious rock creations.  And we appreciate them…until they erupt in the driveway.

Posted in family, rhode island | 1 Comment

the cord will be cut

I am waiting for the Verizon tech to arrive this morning.  He is going to shut off our landline, remove the Fios tv equipment and upgrade the internet.

We are on “75”, which is obsolete, and are going to “1000” mbps.

I really don’t know what that means, but the “75” worked just fine.  Will Netflix load 1 millisecond faster?  Maybe.

Banjo Man is deliriously happy about the amount of money this will save each month.  I find this slightly aggravating because I have been suggesting this money-saving effort for over two years and have met with major resistance.

So before we set off for radiation (six more to go!) I will dismantle the cable boxes and load them into the car to return to Verizon.  I am pretty excited about this.  Can you tell?

We have replaced Fios TV with Youtube TV.  It includes the Fox Business channel for Banjo Man, plus the Big 10 Network (crucial!), the NFL channel and also DABL, for my favorite “Escape to the Country” show.  I especially like the fact that I can organize the channels from the  website, eliminating the ones we never watch and lining them up in my own order of interest.  Less scrolling!

Aside from sports (Go Big Red!) our tv watching is 99% streaming channels like Acorn, Britbox, Amazon and Netflix.  There are so many wonderful shows to watch and we spend our winters devouring hundreds of hours of them.

Maybe we need that 1000 mbps of internet after all.



Posted in rhode island, television | 1 Comment

more comfort food, please

Last week we learned that Banjo Man’s radiation treatments would not end on February 21, but on March 2.

37 total. That’s a lot, but still…completely doable. He’s disappointed, of course, and wearing down, but the weather keeps cooperating and Spring doesn’t seem all that far away. It’s only 25 degrees out today, but the sky is blue and the sun is shining. I’ll take it!

And there is this:

Let the basting begin!!!

And now I give you Banjo Man’s favorite Comfort Food of the Week, “Amish Baked Custard”. I served it with my Idaho canned peaches and it made him very, very happy.

1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
4 Cups of hot water
6 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
nutmeg for sprinkling on top afterwards

Preheat oven to 325. Combine condensed mil and hot water in a large glass or metal bowl.
In a separate bowl beat eggs until light and fluffy. Pour a bit of hot milk mix into eggs to temper, then combine them fully (do not beat, but mix well). Stir in vanilla and salt, then pour into ramekins or 2-qt baking dish.
Put in a large pan with high sides and fill with 1/2″ water. Bake ramekins for an hour–or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. If you’re using a large baking dish it could take at least 1 hour and 40 minutes. Mine took almost 2 hours to bake.
Allow the custard to cool for an hour. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve warm or chilled.

I found this recipe on a site called “12 Tomatoes”, via Facebook, but it was adapted from http://www.createdbydiane.com. I’ve checked out her blog and the recipes look delicious.

Enjoy the weekend!

Posted in family, food, rhode island, the cancer fight | Leave a comment