"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."
Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


With our permanent move to our lake house, I knew that I'd need to find volunteer work in the area.  It is how I meet friends, and volunteer work just makes me feel good.  It's a selfish thing, this volunteer work of mine.  

We are very blessed by a healthy and stable population of Common Loons on Northwood Lake.  And, the calls of the loons have been a blessing in my life since I was a very little girl.  The loons' calls have been the background music to some of the happiest times of my life.  So, it seemed to be a natural for me to volunteer for The Loon Preservation Committee.  And, so I did.  

I volunteered to be a "Loon Watcher," that sounds good, right?  Watch loons, all summer?  I'm in.  Good grief, am I in.  

Early in the summer I met Ray, the Loon Preservation Committee's field biologist for Northwood Lake, and essentially my "boss."  He and I hit it off right from the start when I learned that he was attending college in Fort Kent, Maine, and i told him I know how beautiful Fort Kent is, I'd been there a number of times.  Not many people can say that.  I shared with him the fact that I had 7 times paddled the Allagash Wilderness Waterway from its southern most point of Chamberlain Lake (where Ray's girlfriend was doing a summer internship) north to it's terminus in Fort Kent.  That was it, Ray and I were soul mates.... in spite of our age difference. He was my leader, I was his student.  He is a great teacher, and I'm insatiably curious.  Perfect match.  

Well, it turns out being a Loon Watcher isn't just about watching loons, and Ray got me off and running in this inaugural summer of loon watching.  He was a patient teacher and leader, and was not afraid to give me assignments.  Put that together with my natural ability to go all in on everything I do and you end up where I am right now, One Loon Short of a Nervous Breakdown.  

A Loon Watcher.... counts loons, watches for nesting pairs, watches nests, finds failed nests, retrieves parts of nests, retrieves parts of eggs, kayaks into areas where there might be nests, identifies loons on the lake by bobbing in her boat in the hot sun, peering through binoculars for hours on end trying to catch the colors of the bands on a loon leg, and sometimes takes calls for emergencies involving a loon.  Sometimes an emergency call can put her and her husband in kayaks in a channel adjacent to a nest, so they can stop boats from roaring through, because one of the pair of loons has been unable to return to the nest for 10 hours for it's shift due to the amount of human activity in the area.   This loon watcher will take a chance at getting wiped out by a boat if it means saving a loon and a nest. 

A loon watcher also checks a nest every day of it's incubation time, 28 days.  Then she checks on the status of the family every day, once it's on the lake 48 hours after the hatching of the second egg, and then she swears out loud when one chick is taken by a snapping turtle, but she carries on, making sure she puts her eyes on the family every day.   She fends off dopes who do not know that a momma loon is screaming it's brains out at them because it doesn't want them any closer than 100 feet.  And, that loon watcher gets a lot of one finger salutes, and does not give them back.  She will watch a chick through her binoculars as she bobs in her boat for an hour, because someone on the lake has told her "the chick is in trouble" (it was molting). 

That loon watcher is also very familiar with the two eagles on the lake and wonders just where the loon family is when an eagle is doing a low pass over the lake.  Once in a while she has to watch as an eagle attacks a loon, the eagle hoping that there is a chick under that loon's wing.  And, she is reminded on a daily basis that since this chick was born late (July 25) there is a chance it will not be ready to migrate to the ocean off the lake and will get iced in and need a rescue.  

When the loon family emerges from the cove where the chick has been living for it's first 5 weeks, that loon watcher looks to the middle of the lake where there's a mom, dad, and tiny baby bobbing in the waves, smack dab where the boats will be roaring on the weekend and where the bass fishing tournament boats will be racing during upcoming events.  Through her binoculars, she will see that the parents are insinctively allowing the chick to venture away from them as it learns to dive and feed on its own, and when she sees this, she will look to the sky for the eagles, look to the lake for the boats, and pray that the baby's instinct to dive has kicked in, even at such a young age.  

A loon watcher watches and listens with so much focus, she learns the differences in the calls of the two pairs of loons on the lake.  And, without thinking of which direction a call was made, can say "that's one of the East End pair."  And, people will think she's nuts.  

A loon watcher also gets to have fascinating conversations on docks, decks, in boats, with residents of the lake.  She receives visits from friends and family, throws cookouts and fishing lines, gets more fresh air than half the people her age, she laughs and smiles and tans and sleeps well at night.  People on the lake call her "the loon lady" and that's an honor to her.  People on the lake know her red mahogany boat, and know that they are always welcome to bob next to her on the lake for a good chat.  

She smiles as she listens to residents speak of their love of the loons and their calls.  She learns loon facts and finds fascination in every one.  She makes friends, she finds helpers, and she writes newsletters that people actually read and enjoy.  She receives the support of people who were once strangers.  This loon watcher knows that behind every successful woman there is a man rolling his eyes, paddling a kayak, driving a boat, and cheering her on.  She knows that her first season as a loon watcher would have been impossible without that man named Dave standing beside and behind her. And, somewhere in there, a few other cheerleaders show up on the scene to keep her going.  And, so she does.  And, every evening when the sun goes down, she once again is serenaded by the loons who have brought so much joy to her life, for so long.  

That loon watcher is often reminded that it is in nature that she has seen the Glory
of the Lord shine the brightest.   
Many times during her first year as a loon watcher she felt she
didn't have the strength to get down to her boat, or the
fortitude to sit in the sun for another moment.  At those
times, a sign from nature would arrive to remind her
that she had not choice other than to push and carry on.

And, more times than she can count, she is blessed and awed with
each siting she has made
during a very long season of the Loon.
(These photos are of the loon family on Northwood Lake.)

And, perhaps when this chick flies off to winter on the ocean,
this Loon Watcher will decide that being a Loon Watcher is something she
needs to do every summer of her life.

Once she recovers from her nervous breakdown.  
And, this is all this loon watcher had time to sew this summer.
That's OK, it's going to be a long winter on the lake.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


The weather in the month of June has been perfect for me, and so I've not gotten locked in the air conditioning at all, and haven't spent a lot of time in my sewing corner.  I know there will be plenty of winter days for that, so enjoying "my kind" of weather is a priority.   

In spite of that, I did recently learn how to make a string block and have been using some batik left over from making Paul's quilt.  

I am making these blocks using 10" foundation paper.  They are great fun, but the tearing of the paper after the sewing is through is not fun at all.  My sister, who introduced me to string blocks, sews only the first string to the paper, and after that pins one string to the next and sews, with the paper folded out of the way.  When she has all her strings sewn together and ironed, she uses the 10" paper as the cutting guide.  I'm going to make my next block that same way.  

I also made a clothespin bag, re-purposing a grubby old apron.  Dave installed a clothesline here at the lake, and for the first time in many years, I am hanging out the laundry to dry.  The laundry line is easily accessible from the room where our laundry closet is located, and it is a delight to once again be hanging clothes on a line.  The ritual of hanging out the laundry onto a line is one that I love.  I don't know if it's the ecology of it, or the orderliness, or perhaps the memories it evokes, that make it an activity I so enjoy... but I do.  And, I am happy with my clothespin bag, as it hangs on my shoulder at just the right height for me to reach in and grab a pin.  Such a simple pleasure!!

Saturday, June 27, 2015


How lucky I have been throughout my life, to live here in New England.  My father was a man who loved the outdoors, and so when it came time to vacation, we did not head to cities, we headed to lakes, mountains, forests and streams.  Those vacations instilled in me a great love of the outdoors, a quality that David and I strongly share, and it is a love that we  shared with our children, Paul and Anna.  Like my family, we spent vacations on lakes, in cabins, in tents, near mountains and forests.  We never did take them to NYC or Washington, DC, but they know what it's like to ride a horse to an altitude of 14,000 feet in the Rockies, and sleep there under the stars.  They know how it feels, what it sounds like, to sleep in a tent in a pine forest on a lake, with the calls of the loons as a the background music.  

So, how blessed do I feel to now be living on a lake in New Hampshire?  I cannot describe it.  I am blessed beyond words.  With my mahongany row boat and electric motor, I am free to spend as many hours on the lake as I please, just taking it all in.  The sounds and smells and feel of a lake fill me up every day, and at the same time bring forth the memories that sustain, of days on lakes with people who are no longer here to listen for the calls of the loons every evening.  

Every season, I start my lake blogging season with a post called "Keds on the Lake"
Well, Keds changed their designs, and my feet changed their shape, so it's onto a new brand,
but "Skechers on the Lake" doesn't make for a very catchy title.  So, here's my feet.  

Bella is a Miniature Schnauzer.  Miniature Schnauzers were bred to root out vermin.
We have moles on our property.  Got the picture?  

Retired now, Dave said to me the other day "It's kinda like being on vacation every day, isn't it?"
Yes, Dave, it is.  

Cassy and Bella keep up their vigilant watch over the lake.
Misty won't walk on the dock, otherwise she'd be right there with them,
giving the passing boats the what for.  

Anna and Lila love the lake just as much as we do.
We are so happy to have them here on the East Coast,
doing what East Coast girls do.  Paddleboard on a lake, of course.  

My Boat.  My freedom to do as I please whenever I please,
on the lake alone.  

Friday, June 19, 2015


Finally, after this long winter, we are back at the lake.  David retired May 1, and we spent the first month of his retirement sorting through our belongings and downsizing so that we could bring to the lake just what we need for a good life, on the lake, year round.    

Not every day will look like today, as Dave and I were able to watch a pair of loons doing what they do, which is to take my breath away with their beauty and grace.  

Not every evening will look like last evening.  But each evening we will be grateful for this opportunity to live so close to nature.  

This year I am volunteering as a "loon watcher" for the Loon Preservation Committee of New Hampshire.  I keep "in touch" with the loon population on the lake, and each week report into the field biologist assigned to our region.  It is an amazing opportunity, this "job" of expanding something I do any way, watch and listen to the loons.  Only now, it has a clear purpose and I am learning a lot.  I'm helping these diving birds, who at one point were seriously endangered.  Their numbers are rising, but very slowly, and only through the efforts of many Preservation groups.  

One of my favorite ways to keep in touch with the loons, is by talking to people.  I pull my boat right up to a dock where I see people fishing and introduce myself and I ask a simple question "Have you seen any loons today?"  And people love to talk about the loons, and what they have seen, and all they know.  And, they ask me questions, and we have great discussions about all things loon.  

One day I couldn't find my usual lake hat, which makes me look like Katherine Hepburn in "The African Queen," (yup) so I grabbed a Pork Pie hat off the pile.  And off I went to observe the loons, and to talk to people.  After a great conversation with a friendly, down-to-earth couple who were fishing off their dock, I bid them a good day, and when I left, the man said, "I know who you are now, The Lady in the Pork Pie Hat who is going to protect our loons." 

Yes, that is who I am.  


It has been a terribly long time since I have written in my Blog, and longer still that I've been in touch with my Blogger friends.  

I hope that changes now, as I rededicate myself to writing and sharing.  

First, I want to share my most important finish this spring, a queen sized batik quilt for our son Paul.  It's fabulous.

Sticking with my tradition of naming my quilts after
songs that convey the word in my heart to the person
who will be warmed by my work, I named this quilt
"My Wish," by Rascall Flatts.  
The original pattern was only what is within the first blue border.
Suicide mission--take a quilt pattern of dimensions that make no
sense, and which is constructed of discontinued fabrics,
and make a fabulous queen sized quilt.  Mission Accomplished.
I think the borders were more work than the patterned portion of this quilt!
The quilting was done by Mary Flynn, of Quilt Hollow, and she did
fabulous work, using a pantograph called "Woven Winds."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Last fall our daughter Anna said "I'd love to run in a muckfest some time..."  Huh, that's all we needed to hear.  Dave got on it and organized a team to run in this year's Muckfest for MS, run by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  

"Our" team will be running through the muck on Saturday, April 25, and their team name is "Buns on the Run."  If you would like to donate to this team, you can do so at http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/MuckFest/MAMMUCKEvents?team_id=413261&pg=team&fr_id=25080

Each time I post about an MS fund raiser, I emphasize how important these donations are.  In the big picture, these funds are used for research into causes and cures of this disease. On a smaller look, these funds help individuals with MS live better lives, by providing them with services and goods that they cannot afford, and that will enhance their quality of life.  I'm lucky, I have adequate insurance and income to carry me along the road of this disease.  Not every one has this advantage, and need the assistance of the NMSS to live comfortable lives.  

Buns on the Run is running with me and my niece in mind, along with the thousands of other victims of MS.  My niece, who has MS, is one of the runners, and I am so proud of her.  Diagnosed at a young age, she was able to get onto one of the new therapies to halt progression of the disease, and it has worked.  She started running shortly after her diagnosis, and has not stopped, running half marathons and as many 5K's as she can find.  Without the research done by the NMSS, the therapy that is keeping her running would have never been developed.  

If you can, please donate to Buns on the Run, so that people like me, with progressive disease, can continue to receive necessary services, and so that people like my niece can keep on running.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Yesterday I had the third visit to the OR for my knee replacement. Third time is a charm, my sister has told me. I believe her. 

The surgeon removed all kinds of junk that was causing pain and inhibiting a good bend.  I wonder if he removed enough junk to help me lose some of my winter weight?  That'd be nice. 

I have an Ace bandage from thigh to ankle and instructions to elevate, ice and take drugs for the weekend, with simple PT movements every hour. On Monday we can remove the bandage and see what I've got, and then go off to the PT center for many days of work. 

If all of this work leads to a better bend and less pain, I will be one happy lady. If the knee remains the same, I will practice acceptance and just be done and move on and be happy that I was brave enough to try. And I'll be grateful for my family for supporting my decision to go back in. 

As usual, Misty is helping me to recover. 


My sister and her husband recently visited the lake to make sure their house had fared well through the winter, and it had. While there, they checked to make sure our house is still standing, and it is, although it is a bit snowed in.   These views are obviously taken from the road. I guess the plow guy likes that we aren't there at the end of the road during the winter, it gives him a spot to push the banks nice and high.  I hope that when he sees that we are living ther next winter he will find a different spot to deposit the snow from the road. 

I love this photo of our lake house last winter, when our brother in law went cross country skiing and got some great shots of winter on the lake. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I have finished quilts for my nephew's second and third daughters, and they are going off to be long-arm quilted this week.  

I was hoping to get different backing fabrics for each quilt, but as you'll see in the photos below, a fabric jumped out at me at the fabric shop and I just had to use it for both.  It is perfect.  

These quilts and the batik quilt for Paul will be quilted within the next week or so.  While they are off at the quilter I will sew the binding strips and then have a whole lot of hand sewing to be done.  I enjoy that, the hand sewing of a binding, it's such a peaceful, rhythmic task.  

Also, I will be working at packing my sewing room for our move to the lake house, which may end up being a permanent move.  We will be deciding as we go along, but life on the lake and at our condominium in Lincoln, NH, may be the retired life for us.  

It's an exciting time, this opportunity to live on a lake and in the mountains.  Especially attractive to me is the simplification that will go along with moving to these smaller spaces.  I love downsizing, and have no difficulty letting it all go, keeping just what we need, along with those items which hold strong family memories.  Everything else is outta here.  

Monday, March 16, 2015


The most important photo of the day is of Reesie on my lap.  
Now if anyone ever posted such an unflattering picture of me online, I'd kick them.  Since Reesie hasn't figured out how to use a computer, I think I am safe.  

She is a dear, sweet cat who loves me beyond measure.  Me, just me.  Everyone else, she wards off with a Rottweiler-like growl.  This is kind of typical of Calico cats, who tend to attach pretty strongly to just one person.  

Aside from sitting around with Reesie on my lap, I have been busy in the sewing room and with my knitting needles.  

In the sewing room I'm putting the finishing touches on a baby quilt, using the Merry Go Round blocks that I shared in an earlier post.  I was going to add sashings around every block but just flat out didn't feel like it, so I sewed them together today and tomorrow will add a border of the pink fabric.  

I've been going through my stash of yarn, knitting away the yarns I've bought and not yet used.  There are surprisingly few, and I'm not stopping on the stash until it is down all the way.  This sweet little baby blanket will go to one of the local NICU units.  It's the perfect size to swaddle a tiny baby with and is a perfect blend of bamboo and cotton.  
Now that the baby blanket is off my needles, I have started a scarf/wrap using some Cascade 220 Super Wash I had on hand.  The pattern looks complicated, but is really very easy and is a fun knit.  

And, of course, the weather in New England occupies a big chunk of my mind, as I look forward to returning to the lake.  That can't happen until the snow banks melt back so that we can get in!  And, with the way things are going, that's not going to happen real fast.  The nights remain below freezing, and yesterday we got another fresh couple of inches.  That's all great fun, as that couple of inches broke the previous record snowfall for a winter in the Boston area.  

The record that was broken was of the winter of 1995-1996 and I remember it well.  The bank at the back of our driveway became a very solid pack about 10 feet tall, and Dave and the kids spent the winter months digging tunnels and building snow caves.  It kept everyone busy and provided good memories of grand winters in New England.  
Yesterday's snowfall that ended up breaking the record!
Spring feels very far away with snow banks from as low as 3' to as tall as 10' to melt away.  It will melt, and Spring will arrive.  And, I will continue with my own record of starts and finishes during this long season.  

Prior to heading off to the lake, I have a few things to tackle here.  The first is yet another procedure on March 27, on my knee replacement.  A surgeon will be doing an arthroscope to remove scar tissue and adhesions that have formed and prevented my knee from bending as it should, and which are a source of pain.  Hopefully this will fix the problems I've had since the knee replacement in 11/2013.  If this fix isn't it, I'm done.  

Once recovery from the surgery is complete, there will be the preparations to move to the lake... not just for the season, but possibly for good.  As Dave heads into retirement, we are going to take a stab at living in the year round lake house year round.  Anna and a friend will be renting our home here north of Boston, and so we have a lot of clearing out to do.  

It's a bit frightening to me, heading off to this new life in a small house on a lake, with a retired husband, 3 dogs and two cats.  It will be an adventure, there is no doubt about that.  I look forward to being surrounded by nature each and every day, and to building a life in the small New Hampshire Town of Northwood.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Being snow bound in New England hasn't been totally horrible, I've gotten a lot done in my sewing room.  

My nephew and his wife in Tennessee have 3 little girls, and I made a quilt for the first baby (called "Simple Gifts" in an earlier post).  They recently gave birth to their third girl and so I felt it was time to play catch up and make quilts for the second and third girls.    

Because I had bought so much of the fabric used for Simple Gifts (it was sold off in bags of 10" blocks at a store having a crazy sale) I still had enough on hand to make quilts #2 and #3.  

Yesterday I finished this quilt:  

For toddler Maggie.  I love the way it finished, but realize now why I
always make such complicated quilts---this one bored me to tears!

And today I started this quilt, returning to my love of complicated blocks and frustrating moments.  I love the feeling of accomplishment when a busy block comes together.  

I got the pattern for this block, called Merry Go Round, at http://www.quiltinaday.com/freepattern/

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Unless you are living under a rock, you are well aware that we are having a fabulous winter here in New England.  We live on the North Shore of Boston, which has been the bullseye of many of the storms.  Records have been broken, ice dams are abundant, and every day I am awed by the beauty of the landscape.   I am a true New Englander.  

The view from my sewing machine.  Our fence is 5' tall.  

Heading down our street after the most recent storm.  

That's our home, behind that tall snowbank!
The thing I love the most about a good New England winter
is that the sky will take on a color that you rarely see.
This photo captured that color perfectly.  

Home sweet buried Home.
Anna's puppy Lila and my Cassy Girl.
Obviously, Lila is a New England Girl, even
though she was born and rescued in California
It's not all lollipops and roses, just ask Dave

There is a whole lotta misery going on in people's homes, because of these
delightful formations called ice dams.  We do not have water back up into our
home as a result of our fabulous ice dams, because our gutters are a foot
away from the house with a large eave.  Others are not as fortunate.  

Not lost on me are the difficulties that this weather has brought to the lives of thousands of people.  It definitely is not all lollipops and roses.  The public transit system in Boston is shut down and people cannot get to work.  A vast majority of those people are not going to receive any type of pay checks for all of those lost days.  Billions of dollars have been lost by businesses.  Peoples' cars and homes have been damaged, people have gotten hurt, some have died.  

Now it's time to pray for a slow, moderate melt.  If that's not the case, then the winter of 2014-2015 will continue to give and give, in the form of drainage problems and flooded basements.  We have a drainage system surrounding the outside of our house, and in our basement we have a perimeter drain and sump pumps.  We will not flood.  Others will.  


My sewing room is at times my most favorite place on earth and at other times a place I can't bear to step into.  I lean towards rather complicated designs, and that is why there are times when I just can't bear to walk in and remind myself of my insanity.  

But, walk in I do, no matter what.  And, the results can be pretty amazing.  I am not afraid to tackle a quilt that may take a year, or even two.  I have to step away from those designs every once in a while, and that adds to the time element.  During those breaks I may make a table runner or a dog blanket, something simple to remind me that I can, in fact, finish a project.  

I have been afraid to look back through my blog and see exactly when it was I finished The Paw.  All I focus on is I started it and finished it, and it is amazing.  Who cares how long it took?  I would have been sewing something anyhow!

And, here it is.  

I had it custom quilted and am very pleased with that decision.  And, of course, it has my
usual machine-embroidered label.  
 As I was finishing up The Paw, I was beginning a batik quilt for Paul.  It is ready to go to the quilter now, and I can't wait to get it quilted, bound, and into Paul's hands.  
The Center of the quilt is the pattern, using Tonga Treats Blueberry Pie Batiks (now discontinued).
The pattern made a quilt of a size that made no sense at all, and so once I finished the center,
I got to designing borders to enlarge the quilt to a queen size.  Well, that was a whole lotta work
and math and in the end very rewarding.  Here you can see the first and second borders--thin
strip of the dark blue, with a border of 4 patches.  Ignore the large piece of blue fabric to the
right.  That was me dreaming that I could actually do an easy border, silly me.  

Here's my audition of a different fabric for a final wide border.  Nope, not that either.
I had to do something smashing and dramatic to finish it off, and I did.
But, I can't show you now, since Paul has not seen the final whole picture and
his next view will be of it quilted and bound.
Here's a teaser, the quilt top from the back side, waiting for a lift to the long-armer.

Now I have actually started something simple, what a novel idea!  My nephew and his wife just had their third baby girl, and I made a quilt for baby #1.  I decided that's not nice at all, to skip the second and third girls, so am working on a quilt for baby #2 and then will make one for baby #3.  Since I hope my baby quilts get used well and dragged around often, I make them a lot simpler than my big quilts.  I have enough of the fabric from baby #1's quilt to make the quilts for baby #2 and 3.  
I love these fabrics together.  They holler "sweet and simple" to me.  
Such a simple design can bring a lot of impact with the right fabrics.  
And that's it, folks, that's what's going on in the sewing room.  I am kind of bored with the process of this simple baby quilt.  In all things, I tend to challenge myself, reaching perhaps further than I should, and that personal quality shows up in my big quilts.  

In the spring I will be getting a copy of Natalia Bonner's new pattern book of modern log cabin designs.  From that I will choose a quilt to make for Anna.  And, there's always more to plan beyond that one.  So many quilts, so little time.