Posted November 17th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Other Artists, Quilting Tips, Vintage

Six hand-pieced bowtie quilt blocks, circa 1935, each 3″ square.

And there are many more!

Kay’s Christmas quilt – almost finished.

Elizabeth’s autumn leaves creation.

Kay’s fabulous tote.

Elizabeth advises Debra on quilting motifs for her red and green applique’ beauty.

A portion of the large, bright meeting room.

Charlotte’s skyline from the 10th floor of Elizabeth’s building.

Being an artist is often a lonely occupation.  I need quiet and solitude when designing, but missed the fellowship I’d known in groups to which I’d belonged years ago.  I missed sewing with my late Mother and sewing with my sister.  I needed friends!

Early this year, I was lucky enough to grab the last spot in a newly formed quilting bee through my quilt guild.  And it was for folks in my neighborhood!  Yea!  I purposely joined this group because I knew almost none of the members.

This venture has turned out to be just what I needed.  As a member of the Queen Bee, I’m getting to know some great women.  We laugh, we share, we listen, and of course we EAT!  What began as two-hour morning meetings has turned into quilt-a-thons.

Elizabeth was our hostess this month.  Her retirement home has a fabulously huge room on the 10th floor. It was lovely and bright, complete with hot coffee and tea and the most divine blueberry scones I’ve ever had!  Oh my.

Above are photos of our day. Word has gotten out that “the quilters” were in the building.  A woman and her daughter arrived with a grandmother’s flower garden quilt top complete wiwth pathways of 1930′s green.  Her daughter had dozens of 3″ bowtie blocks, all perfectly hand-pieced with the tiniest stitches.  These women were not quilters and needed information.  ”What do I do with these?  How do I finish this?  Do you know anyone who could quilt this for me?”  We oohed and ahed over the 1930′s treasures – such a treat to see.  And the mother and daughter left armed with information on how to finish and care for their family heirlooms.  It was a great day!

September Morn

Posted September 2nd, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Garden, My Photography, Uncategorized

The grass was wet and the cicadas loud in our garden this morning.  But the light was perfect. September is definitely in the air.

A rain fell last night, leaving tiny droplets everywhere.  Cobwebs, catching mostly leaves, glistened.  The colors of the flowers and and foliage were more intense in the early morning light.  I lingered in the garden knowing fall will soon be upon us.   I want  to hold on to summer for just a while longer.

Summer Getaway

Posted August 27th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Family, Garden, My Photography, The steel Wheels, Travels

You can see why the mountains are called The Blue Ridge

Delicious Basil Rolls from Thai Basil in Black Mountain

Scenes around The White Horse

Jasmine Lamar and Roy Wiseman shelled a whole mess of shelly beans, well known to southern cooks.

Roy Wiseman is a descendent of one of the oldest families on the mountain, for which Wiseman’s View is named.  The view, which  overlooks the Linville Gorge, is said to be the best location for viewing the Brown Mountain lights.

Shelly (or shellie) beans.

Roy Wiseman shares photographs from the early 1970s of some of the best known musicians, such as the Arthur Smith Band, Roy Acuff and Lula Mae Wiseman.

To one born in the beautiful state of North Carolina, there are many things which tug at the heart. For my husband, the Blue Ridge Mountains top the list, followed closely by a love of bluegrass music.   I have come to love the mountains too, having lived here for most of my adult life.  We spent two days in that beloved place recently.

We drove up early Friday,  then spent the day visiting the new Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor’s Center, the fabulous Folk Art Center (a must see) and browsing galleries and shops in Black Mountain.  We met up with our long-time friend Ann at Thai Basil, where the cuisine is divine!   It was then time for the highlight of our trip, a concert by The Steel Wheels which was sold out at  The  White Horse Tavern.  The Stray Birds opened, to the delight of many.  The Steel Wheels performed with such energy that I was exhausted at the end of the incredinle show!

Saturday was spent on the parkway.  The weather was crisp and clear and warmed up nicely in the afternoon.  One of DH’s favorite, Crabtree Meadows, was closed due to the sequester. Be sure to check on whether it’s reopened prior to planning a visit.  We then drove to The Orchard at Altapass. I’d heard about it for years, and was finally seeing it for myself.  The area is indeed surrouded by orchards.  One can find tons of merchandise, from local pottery, jams and jellies, ice cream, fudge, books about NC and more.  DH told me, “You MUST get some of the fudge.  It’s wonderful.”  I bought a bit of chocolate with walnuts, but somehow got home without it.  I may have set it down somewhere, as my hands were full with a gift I’d purchased, my camera and the ever present overflowing tote bag.  Someone must have known I did NOT need to eat fudge.

There is a large covered area out side the main area where one can purchase food.  We chose NC BBQ with slaw for our lunch.  Yum!  We struck up a nice conversation with Jasmine Lamar and Roy Wiseman, who were just finishing shelling a bean called shelly beans.  The pods are very long, yielding variegated beans in cream, pinks and purples.  I’d meant to ask for the empty pods, thinking they might make a nice natural dye for fabric.

Half of the red Orchard building is devoted to a stage where live bluegrass music was being played that day.  Most of the audience was there to dance, specifically to clog, on a plywood floor sprinkled with cornmeal.  Clogging looked like so much fun – and a real cardio workout.  I’ve always wanted to learn to tap dance, and studied the somewhat similar moves of the cloggers.  I’ll try to upload a video I shot to youtube soon.

Our trip was brief but lovely.  We hope to go “up the mountain” again when the leaves turn.

Photo Study

Posted August 20th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Family, Garden, My Photography, Personal

At the back of our son and daughter-in-law’s property is an old shed.  It sits mostly as it was when they moved into their house, holding traces of former occupants: clay pots, galvanized pails and old coffee cans, rusted tin and dusty cobwebs.  I’ve always loved the old building, as I’m drawn to time-worn things.  Traces of a life lived.

We went up for a work day recently, to help clear a fence line before a new privacy fence could be installed.  I was told I couldn’t do any of the heavy work that day but would instead watch the grandbabies.  Once the kiddies were napping, I headed outside to first dead-head the flowerbeds.  Then my camera and I headed for the old shed.  The light was perfect, and the images pulled me in.

I shot maybe 50 photos in and around the building that afternoon.  These are just a few of my favorites.  The flag in the first shot was found covered in mud by my son in back of the shed.  He decided it was a perfect addition to the building’s exterior.

This study was done as an exercise in my effort to become a half-way decent photographer.  The last image was shot in color but desaturated in photoshop to black and white.  I like it much better this way.

A Wee Bit of Our Garden

Posted May 21st, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Family, Garden, My Photography, Personal, Uncategorized

Our garden has been so rewarding this spring.  Following a chilly and wet April, we’re finally seeing the payoff of the perennials.  The lilies of the valley, Virginia bluebells, mayapples (planted in memory of my father who loved them), bloodroot, trillium,  daffodils and hyacinths made a spectacular show, followed by glorious azaleas.  The newest of our baptisia (second photo) are blooming as is our lone peony bush.  I think I planted it at least 15 years ago.  It never did well, producing perhaps one bloom each spring.  But DH moved it closer to the front of the bed, giving it a sunny spot.  Oh my, what a difference!  The plant is healthy,  huge and laden with blooms.  I picked several this afternoon, following a brief but intense thunder storm.  The  pale pink blossoms were heavy with rain and touching the ground.  After a brief rinse in the sink to remove specks of dirt, they were good as new.  Our house is perfumed now with their scent.  Lovely.

My biggest surprise has been the mallow plant (last photo).  Its blossom looks like a miniature hollyhock.   When I planted it last year, it was 6″ high.  It stayed green all winter and is now as tall as I am and covered with blossoms.  It is lovely, but much too close to an azalea bush. Who knew it would turn into a mallow of the giant bean stalk variety?  The knock-out roses are outstanding.  We have seven so far:  two red, two yellow, one white and two pink.  If you haven’t grown this variety, plant some this year.  They need full sun and will bloom from early spring until December with no more care than dead-heading.

Gerbera daisies are blooming, while the yellow and white Becky daisy plants, which my late aunt Esther always referred to as Marguerites, are covered with buds.  Black and blue salvia has spread to provide a massive show, while  the irises are now gone.   The window  boxes are planted along with the deck pots.  We have to plant the new hosta bed, if the ground ever dries out.  I’ll throw a few zinnia and nasturtium seeds in the ground once the soil is warm, and fill in other areas with annuals and more phlox.

DH’s vegetable garden looks fantastic.  He has been working what was once hard Carolina clay for  all our years here, and has turned it into a rich, loamy soil.  A soil test by the NC Dept. of Agriculture certified our garden soil to be 99% organic.  The addition of an entire compost pile ’tilled into the garden each spring has made a great difference.  And, we use no pesticides.

Despite an early loss of all our spinach to rabbits, the protected second batch is beautiful.  I think it’s time to add a fence!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

How does your garden grow?