Friday, September 26, 2008

Anova II

It's not very large, only 20" x 20", but this is my newest creation. I called it Anova II because the basic shapes are the same as in the first version. And, the best part is that it just might belong to you. Anova II is a donation quilt for the International Quilt Association. It will be auctioned off in the silent auction at the IQA booth at International Quilt Festival in Houston the last week in October. Check out all the wonderful quilts at the auction. All funds go to support the good work of IQA.

I am nearly done with two more quilts, which is quite exciting. Look for those posts soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricanes and Quilting

It came as quite a surprise to me to learn that Hurricane Gustav had caused severe damage to the Baton Rouge region of Louisiana, home to the Swamp Quilters, who had scheduled me to teach at their retreat in Mississippi this week. After all, nothing had appeared on the national
news. So, like most other Americans, I turned my attention to other things, and thought little about the latest storm of 2008, until I received a call from organizer Candy Bergeron. It was only then that I began to understand the fury of Gustav, and the havoc it wreaked on their community. I asked Candy to write an update. Read on for her assessment.
Hello Gail,

The Swamp Quilters postponed the Goose is Loose class scheduled for September due to Hurricane Gustav. Gustav was a significant hurricane in the Baton Rouge area. The winds were clocked at 92 miles per hour and uprooted really big trees. Any tree large enough and close enough to fall on our house is going to be cut down and replaced with a short, stubby tree. Most of our friends are sharpening their chain saws now.

The wind and fallen trees knocked out over 90% of the utilities in the area. We feel fortunate that we were without power for only 10 days instead of the projected 21 days. It is hot here without air conditioning. Most people have generators so they can run fans and their refrigerator. You need gas to run a generator and gas pumps do not function without electricity. There were few gas stations open after the storm and the lines were long.
Our governor, Bobby Jindal, was great! He spent millions of dollars buying generators from other states to run critical services like gas/emergency care/police stations, etc. He also bought tarps to distribute to people with roof damage because FEMA response is too slow to be of any use. He used the National Guard to transport supplies from other states. We, in Louisiana, feel blessed to have a proactive, problem-solving leader and most of us wish he were running for President. Our recovery was faster because of Bobby Jindal.

We also had local flooding after the storm. The water receded from our road after 8 days. During that time we used a boat. The neighbors call our boat the Colyell Queen. Colyell is a nearby bay and our boat is as ugly as the African Queen. With the flooding the wild things come out of the swamp. My husband saw something in the dark on the kitchen floor one night. He bent down to pick it up and when it wiggled he realized he had a handful of snake. He can yell like a girl!

After the hurricane the cell phones did not work because the towers were down. One of the most difficult parts of recovery is being without outside contact; no email, no phone. I have not received mail in 11 days; no bills!

I attached pictures of my backyard with uprooted, broken trees and later the flooding. Also attached is a picture of the Colyell Queen and the road leading from our subdivision. We were just inconvenienced by the storm. Others suffered real loss. Please keep them and the people dealing with Ike in your prayers.

Things are getting back to normal. A friend is coming over to sew tomorrow and several of us are meeting the day after tomorrow for lunch and a movie. It is great to have friends! We will be in contact about rescheduling the class. It will not be until after hurricane season.

Talk to you soon,

Candy Bergeron

Kudos as well to Southwest Airlines! When I called to cancel my ticket, they immediately and graciously gave me full credit for the ticket to be used any time within the next 12 months - no penalty for changing the ticket!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Squirrel Cake

About a year ago, my daughter Tracy, took a cake decorating class. One thing led to another, and before we knew it she became the supreme cake mistress of New Mexico (Okay, well maybe that is a proud Mom talking!) However, it wasn't long before her cake masterpieces graced many an event. When I asked for a cake for my Labor Day barbeque at the cabin, I had little idea other than a theme of fall. We were all enthralled with the incredible detail to the most minute of elements. Every leaf, flower and acorn was an edible wonder. And, topping it all off was her hand-carved, fat squirrel sitting proudly atop his treasure trove. He must surely have thought that his larder would last until spring. Thank you Tracy! It was a a beautiful gift, amazingly thoughtful, and delicious too.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Birding Minnesota - Sand Lake

Cousin Anita's cabin sits only a few feet back from the shore of Sand Lake, about an hour north of Grand Rapids, in north-central Minnesota. I rose at dawn that day, to sit quietly with my coffee and watch out over the lake, binoculars by my side. At first all seemed calm as the mist rose from the water's surface. Then, on the horizon a small speck appeared, nothing much really. But, I knew it was a bird, and a large one at that. I lifted my binos for a better view, but before I could focus them, the speck had quickly materialized into a juvenile Bald Eagle flying straight at the picture window. Before I could respond, the young eagle and I were eyeball to eyeball, but only for an instant, before it lifted gracefully to perch in the tree beside the cabin.

Later that morning, Anita and I canoed along the shallows toward the eagle's favorite roost. Although your cannot see the bird perched in the farthest large tree, it was sitting right atop the uppermost branch!

Northern Minnesota is one beautiful land. Hopefully, I will get to return there one day, and explore more of its wonders.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Birding Minnesota - Hawk Ridge

Common Loon. Photo by David Powell

It was a quick trip to Minnesota, just a long weekend, really. My purpose was to join my cousins in saying good-bye to my dear old uncle Lowell McLaughlin, and to go through the possessions that he left for us. However, being a nerdy birder type, I decided to check out what migrants I might find in nearby Duluth and did a quick scan of my "Birder's Guide to Minnesota" by Kim. R. Eckert. It turns out that especially during fall migration, Duluth is a true hot spot. However, the family obligations limited me to a few hours on Saturday morning. Destination Hawk Ridge, in the hopes of seeing a passing raptor or two. I was so excited that I was wide awake at 5 a.m. - way too dark to see anything. I arrived on site at a more reasonable 7:30 a.m. to find the official observer way ahead of me, already set up and counting. What was surprising to me is that, at this site, they document the passing of all migrating birds, including swallows, warblers, and today, a number of passing Common Nighthawks winging their way south. The brisk, chilly wind was straight out of the north, helping them along. I began scanning the skies, looking for that distinctive dot on the horizon that might morph into a bird, and within a few minutes I found, too distant to identify. I brought it to the attention of the observer as I detailed its progress. As I watched, I continued to decribe the vision calmly, until I suddenly blurted out, "It's a duck!" At least it flew like a duck and looked like a duck -- to me. But the observer, with more experience if northern avifauna responded that it was a loon. "A Loon! What a wonder! I've never before seen a loon in flight! Only a few times, I've seen distant loons on a lake. I know that they migrate and that they do fly, but it was a whole new experience for this southern birder! And, the loon gave us quite a show, flying directly overhead, giving all of us a good look at its plumage. I'm sure those hardy northerners must have thought that I was a loon-atic with all my excited antics. Next time you have the opportunity to be in Minnesota during spring or fall, check out this incredible viewing site. Oh, and we did see some raptors too: Bald Eagles, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Red-tailed Hawk, and a Merlin. All in all, a wonderful morning, but way too short.