we are here

You can see by the grocery lists that I have been busy. I have filled the Idaho freezers and refrigerators with enough food for the apocalypse.

I managed to make two shepherd’s pies and four lasagnas before the dreaded Covid Omicron virus struck.

Yes, you read that right. Banjo Man must have picked up the bug on the plane, because two days later he was suffering from “allergies”. A week later brother George and I started with sore throats and head colds. His was minor. Mine came with a fever that would last for a week.

A Covid test was positive, so we assumed we all had it in some form or another.

My daughter-in-law has it now. I talked to an ER nurse via phone and her advice was to drink lots of liquids, rest and ride it out. I would never have thought it was anything but a cold. I’m still shocked it was actually Covid.

I feel pretty good, but it is going to take a while to get up to full speed.

By the way, those home tests are not exactly easy. If you are feeling light-headed and fuzzy, those High School Chemistry Project directions are a challenge. And whoever the government employee was who decided to print the directions in the tiniest font known to mankind deserves to be fired. I had to use the flashlight on my phone to even attempt to read it.

And here is a bit of more cheerful news:

Banjo Man made it up to his beloved cabin and enjoyed a peanut butter and jam sandwich last week!

Oh, the joy!!!

Posted in family, lake | 2 Comments

long live the queen

Every morning I check a website to see if the Queen of England is still alive.

I can’t help myself.  My love of British history makes me do it.

I saw her once, in person, and I have the lousy photos to prove it.  A friend and I were making our first trip to London and we made our way to Westminster Abbey only to find out that it was closed.

Closed??  Yes, we were told.  It was “Commonwealth Day” and the royals would be appearing for the service.   The paparazzi near the door took pity on us and invited us to stand with them and wait for photo ops.

Yes, that was fun.

Here she comes!


Close up of the car interior:

The Queen is in green.

Leaving the Abbey (sorry for the blurry picture–this was taken in the early 90’s).

I have a really good photo of the Queen in her car, but I can’t find it.  I guess I put it in a safe place.  Sigh.

It was very, very exciting to see so many of the royal family members entering and exiting the Abbey.

I’m enjoying the coverage of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this morning.  I can’t see the monarchy lasting for another seventy years, but who knows?  According to Forbes, they bring in about $2.7 billion annually, mostly through tourism.

They’ve certainly taken some of my dollars!  I’ve been to London five times and would love to go again.  But I fear we’re seeing more than simply an end of an era.  The world is changing, for better or worse depending on your outlook.

But the history remains, hopefully.

By the way, I’m on episode 114 of The British Podcast and I am still slogging through the Dark Ages.

I may have to skip ahead to the Beatles.


Posted in just for fun, travel | 1 Comment

let us remember

This flag hung in the Philippines during the time my father was there as a medic in WWII.

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go van gogh

Last Wednesday Banjo Man, Nancy and I drove up to Providence to experience the “Van Gogh Immersion” experience.

Oh, my.

This was my bright idea so, with tickets purchased six weeks ago, we headed to the Big City without knowing what we were getting into.

I didn’t know what to expect.  None of us did.  The advertisement said that 300 works of Van Gogh would surround us, that we would be “drenched” in his art.

Banjo Man enjoying the introductory information.

Nancy is loving it!

Here’s a link:

Beyond Van Gogh

I am attempting to upload my video to Youtube.  Let’s see if this works:


We absolutely loved the show.  It lasts about 45 minutes, but you can stay as long as you want and watch it as many times as you want.

The portraits blinked their eyes.  The “starry, starry nights” stars twinkled.  Flowers bloomed, colors exploded.  Music flowed around us.

And then we headed to Andino’s to celebrate an early Father’s Day with an Italian lunch.

We know how to party.

Posted in books & music, family, food, just for fun, rhode island | 2 Comments

paranoia or a good idea?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Yesterday morning I drove the rust bucket twenty minutes south of here to Walmart.  FYI I’m in denial over the rust and plan to carefully drive the car through next Tuesday, when the inspection sticker runs out.

I didn’t need anything, so why make the effort to shop?  Well, I was thinking ahead.  To the fall.   To the possibility of a worldwide wheat shortage.  To whatever fresh hell is coming next.

In the fall we’ll be dealing with Banjo Man’s cancer treatments (whatever that will be)  and shopping for a “new” car (again, whatever that will be).  I refuse to add grocery-shopping-amidst-empty-shelves to the list of things to stagger through in October.

Walmart was packed with shoppers!  I’d forgotten about Memorial Day weekend and the end-of-the-month welfare shopping.  I filled my cart with the basics:  flour, yeast, sugar, dried beans, rice, canned tomatoes, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels.  The pasta shelves were decimated and there were few bags of dried beans.

And then I got in a very long line at register #6.  I had plenty of time to chat a bit with the man in front of me and see his photos of last summer’s bus trip from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone.

It looked awesome.

A very old lady in a wheelchair went past and screamed about “these damn New Yorkers” getting in her way.  I hope I never get like that.

At first Banjo Man thought I was a bit nuts and didn’t dare say anything as I hauled the bags of supplies inside the house.  I could tell by the looks he kept shooting me.  But once he realized I was simply being prepared and had not turned into an insane hoarder, he actually acknowledged that my shopping trip had been a good idea.

The world is insane right now.  I’m just trying to cope.


Posted in a more pie opinion, food, rhode island, shopping | 4 Comments

sing, pray, quilt

“Housetop”–fractured medallion variation, circa 1955, by Delia Bennett.

I don’t know how to blog about the Gee’s Bend quilters.   They are women descended from slaves, generations of women quilting to keep their families warm.  Women who used whatever they had and arranged old patterns to fit their vision.  Women who didn’t care too much about straight lines and perfect seams.  A community of quilters.

When I look at the photos of their quilts and read their stories I tear up.  It’s emotional.  Their quilts–from whatever material they had–kept their loved ones warm.  I get that.

I’ve always loved old quilts. I could look at them for hours, finding clues as to the woman who constructed them. Were they made as wedding gifts with carefully selected material? Were they utility quilts, cobbled together quickly and used to keep their families warm? Did they use wool batting from an old blanket? Or is that an old quilt stuffed inside a new one? Did the quilter run out of matching red scraps and her neighbor gave her what she had, a theory as to why those last three blocks are different?  Was she so poor she could only afford black thread for the quilting or was that the last spool in her sewing bag and there was no time to go to town to buy white?

There are endless stories if you look hard enough.

“…every quilt top shows a different personality.  I can tell which steps the maker disliked, and which ones he/she enjoyed. I can sometimes even tell if the pieces were scraps from making clothing. I might learn if the quilter is seasoned by their use of value, working with directionals, plaids, contrast, color, construction, etc.  I might learn that the quilter was a child, or at least a very new sewist.  I might learn that the quilter had vision problems.  Maybe it was one of the last pieces this person made.  It can all be so very bittersweet.”  —http://www.buttoncounter.com

“Surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River, Gee’s Bend has historically been a kind of inland island whose geographic and social isolation has garnered it–in an ironic twist–episodes of attention from the outside world. In the 1930’s, the area was identified as one of America’s poorest places…In the 1960’s, Gee’s Bend…became the location of the Freedom Quilting Bee, a sewing cooperative organized to bring jobs and income to local women…In the late 1990’s, the hard times of the community were again newsworthy when the Los Angeles Times published a Pulitzer Prize-winning article on the remoteness and economic plight of an endangered community.”—From Gee’s Bend, the Architecture of the Quilt, 2006.

“Housetop”–Half-log cabin variation, 1949. By Creola Bennett Pettway.

“We was taught there’s so many different ways to build a quilt. It’s like building a house. You can start with a bedroom over there, or a den over here, and just add on until you get what you want. Ought not two quilts ever be the same. You might use exactly the same material, but you would do it different. A lot of people make quilts just for your bed for to keep you warm. But a quilt is more. It represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could say it represents family history.” Mensie Lee Pettway, of Gee’s Bend.

From Amei Wallach, Smithsonian Magazine, 2006:

“Collector William Arnett was working on a history of African-American vernacular art in 1998 when he came across a photograph of Young’s work-clothes quilt draped over a woodpile. He was so knocked out by its originality, he set out to find it. A couple of phone calls and some creative research later, he and his son Matt tracked Young down to Gee’s Bend, then showed up unannounced at her door late one evening. Young had burned some quilts the week before (smoke from burning cotton drives off mosquitoes), and at first she thought the quilt in the photograph had been among them. But the next day, after scouring closets and searching under beds, she found it and offered it to Arnett for free. Arnett, however, insisted on writing her a check for a few thousand dollars for that quilt and several others. (Young took the check straight to the bank.) Soon the word spread through Gee’s Bend that there was a crazy white man in town paying good money for raggedy old quilts.

When Arnett showed photos of the quilts made by Young and other Gee’s Benders to Peter Marzio, of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), he was so impressed that he agreed to put on an exhibition. “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” opened there in September 2002.

The exhibition revived what had been a dying art in Gee’s Bend. Some of the quilters, who had given in to age and arthritis, are now back quilting again. And many of their children and grandchildren, some of whom had moved away from Gee’s Bend, have taken up quilting themselves. With the help of Arnett and the Tinwood Alliance (a nonprofit organization that he and his four sons formed in 2002), fifty local women founded the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective in 2003 to market their quilts, some of which now sell for more than $20,000. (Part goes directly to the maker, the rest goes to the collective for expenses and distribution to the other members.)”

Work clothes quilt by Annie Mae Young.

So, what does all this have to do with a white woman who has a closet full of new fabrics, a fancy sewing machine and a state-of-the-art foot that delivers perfect 1/4″ seams?

Good question.

I’ve desperately wanted to see these quilts in person but have never had the opportunity. In an online search of museums in 2018 that might contain some, I came across a website of the Gee’s Bend Quilting Retreats. Given four times a year, led by two quilters from Gee’s Bend, this three-and-a-half day retreat combined sewing, inspiration, instruction, praying and quilting while learning the art (and joy) of improvisation.

Of course 2019 was all sold out, so I put my name on the waiting list and hoped for the best.

I got the call for a sudden opening, but I was still recovering from cancer and didn’t have the energy to go. But I booked a retreat in 2020 and did a happy dance around the office.

And we all know what happened in 2020. Retreats were cancelled. The retreat center was sold. 2021 was a bust. I didn’t make the sign-up for 2022, but last week I was given a chance to sign up for March, 2023. And this time I got through! My fourth chance to go had succeeded.

I’m taking Banjo Man as my non-sewing guest. He can explore nearby museums and eat dinner with us. I think there are 20 registrants, so it’s small and personal and special.

This is the VERY GOOD NEWS of my Winter of Bad Things.  To hell with cancer, crashing trees, broken cars and windows and doors and furnaces.  I’m going to sew with the  Gee’s Bend Quilters!  I’m told there will be singing and praying and laughter, along with stitching.




Posted in quilting | 13 Comments

looking at the last straw

I am having a hard time this morning.  We are two weeks away from heading to the lake and leaving behind the Winter of Bad Things.

But the hits keep coming.  Not medically, thank God, but to our shock our beloved Toyota Highlander didn’t pass its state inspection yesterday.

Our beautiful, reliable, beloved Highlander has rusted out from underneath and I am very, very sad.  There is nothing else wrong with it.

Damn Toyota and their rust issues!  Years ago I lost my wonderful truck to rust and Toyota’s buy-back program.  That was awful.  We’ve managed just fine with one car pretty much ever since, even though most people think it’s a bit odd.

We loved traveling in that Highlander.

Is there anything better than a road trip?

Here is Banjo Man inspecting the car the afternoon we bought it.  We were so excited when we saw it.

My Happy Place, when the car was “new”.  It had heated seats.  I was in love.

There is another Highlander at the lake.  It should be safe from New England rust there, we hope.

When we return to Rhode Island in the fall, we’ll rent a car and start shopping.

So… we limp to the Finish Line (aka The Lake) without a car for the next fourteen days.  Daughter Nancy will be getting us through the last appointments, trips to the Post Office and anything else that needs to be done before we escape to the mountains, before I sit on the dock with a tequila cocktail and watch the fish jump.

It’s all very stressful.  And I am at the point where cutting up fabric and watching endless episodes of TIME TEAM won’t help.  I’m ready to go to bed with a bag or two of Milano cookies and a box of tissues.

I’m done.


Posted in personal female whining, rhode island, travel | 8 Comments

it all adds up

Those helpful hands belong to my daughter. We were putting blue squares on the design wall (which is actually a length of batting clipped onto the drapery rod in front of my office windows).  Nancy does a lot of the step ladder work which keeps me from whining about my sore hip.

Last week we put together a dark red quilt top.  Next week we are turning our design talents to a gray one.  We like them all.  It’s a design that lets me use up a lot of smaller pieces of fabric.

I call these the “Post Prostatectomy Series”, because I’ve sewn them all while Banjo Man has been recovering from his surgery.

When I am stressed I have to DO SOMETHING.  Whether it’s baking, cooking, cleaning out closets, selling stuff on Ebay or sewing, I have to keep busy or I will self-destruct.  Last fall half a tree landed on our house and came through the living room, the furnace was broken for a month, windows cracked, and of course the absolute worst of all:  Banjo Man’s cancer diagnosis and treatments and tests and surgery.  So I sewed a lot.  Pretty much every day.  Cutting fabric is soothing, believe me.  Especially while listening to British history podcasts or watching old episodes of Time Team on Amazon.

Yesterday I sat down to alleviate my fabric-buying guilt.  I knew I had used a lot of fabric this winter and was ready to pat myself on the back and rid myself of a guilty longing to return to Material Girls in Nebraska, where the best fabrics in the universe reside.

I went through my patterns and added up the fabric requirements.  I estimated the yardage on the designs I created myself.  And the total amount of fabric I have used this fall/winter/spring?

130 yards.

Let me say that again:  130 YARDS!!!!

I did the math three times over two days and came up with the same amount.  Then I organized my shelves, folded fabric, neatened bins.  But I had no empty spaces, no gaping holes where 130 yards of fabric used to be.   What the heck????!!!  I do not understand.

It’s one of those mysteries of life.

As Banjo Man continues to improve, my not-very-stressed-anymore energy has gone into preparing for the long-awaited trip to the lake.  I’m digging out summer clothes and deciding what to take.

It’s another one of life’s mysteries as to why I own four pairs of exercise pants.

Never mind.  Three of them have gone into the donation bag.

Three weeks from tomorrow we head west.  We’re shipping clothes and taking very few suitcases, as Banjo Man won’t be lifting heavy things for some time to come.  He should have a bit more energy by then, so we look forward to the trip.  And the summer.

The lake awaits, but maybe I should stay out of quilt shops.




Posted in family, quilting, rhode island, the cancer fight | 1 Comment

i told her to smile

I’m not in the habit of talking to dogs who are shopping with their owners in Walmart, but this funny girl looked very much like Keeley, our daughter’s dog from years past. I knew Nancy would get a kick out of seeing a photo of Keeley’s lookalike.

So I held up my phone and said, “Smile!”

And she gave me this, a tortured, obedient, little smile.

Or maybe that’s just her face.

Posted in just for fun, rhode island, shopping | Leave a comment

happy mother’s day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers and aunts out there!

How I wish I had a photo of luscious flowers to put on the blog, but it is 47 degrees, windy, rainy and overcast here.  Not only are there no daffodils left in my yard, I have not ventured out to buy a bouquet or two for the kitchen island.

I almost bought tulips last week, but a skinny bunch cost $8.99 at the grocery store and I thought it was silly to spend that much.

Am I a bit grumpy?  Well, yes, a little.  Is Banjo Man a bit grumpy?  Um, yes, he is.  After all, he’s the one with all the reasons to be.  BUT Retired Mountain Lady (and husband Jon) sent him a gift a few days ago.  Last night we watched four episodes of…wait for it….WKRP In CINCINNATI!!!

Do you remember that tv show?  We loved it way back when and had no idea it was out on DVD’s.  Every year son Ben mentions that he would love to see it again.

LOS ANGELES – JANUARY 1: Cast members (from left) Richard Sanders, Frank Bonner (in back), Loni Anderson, Gary Sandy, Howard Hesseman (seated in front), Jan Smithers, Gordon Jump and Tim Reid, star in the CBS television series “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Image dated 1979. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Howard Hesseman;Loni Anderson;Frank Bonner;Gary Sandy;Richard Sanders;Tim Reid;Jan Smithers;Gordon Jump

We spent almost two hours laughing at the antics of the WKRP staff.  The show debuted in 1978 and ran for four seasons.  Forty-four years ago!!!!

We are the grateful owners of all four seasons and will try to make them last.  We’ve taken a short break from THE AMERICANS (fabulous show) and British crime series, but Banjo Man has not liked anything else we’ve streamed.  He isn’t interested in TIME TEAM, my absolute favorite show (British archaeology digs) and I don’t care for THE OFFICE reruns.

So on this miserably wet Mother’s Day I will defrost a chunk of blueberry cake to enjoy with my second cup of coffee, iron some quilt squares while watching an old episode of TIME TEAM, talk to the kids, defrost soup for dinner and spend the evening with old friends in Cincinnati.

I hope your Mother’s Day is filled with the lovely things you like to do and the people you love to see.

2020: Local tulip fields.

Posted in family, rhode island, television | 2 Comments