Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Montana's June Snow (Bend, OR)

The last two days of June will be forever in our hearts. Our first great-grandson - Finley James Howard was born on 29 June 2020. 6.2 lbs 19 1/2 in long. 💓😍
Welcome, little one!
The next day, on 30 June, Dan and I celebrated our 45th anniversary with Thai food and a dessert of gelato ice cream in downtown Bend, OR.  Hard to believe we are great-grandparents to this cutie!
So what have we been doing for the past month?  We spent a month in Deer Lodge, MT.  We were ready to settle for a while after our long days of traveling from Texas.  It was so nice to see so much green and snow-capped mountains!
At the Indian Creek RV park's entrance
We were assigned a site in the far back corner near the highway with a truckstop behind us.  We rarely had neighbors.  Which was fine for us because we had a great view of the mountains and plenty of space for the cats to roam.
We thought it would be noisy being close to two high-trafficked areas, but it wasn't too bad.  The noise seemed muffled from both areas.  Only at night, I would hear a truck's generator running.  It reminded me more of a cat's purr making it easy for me to fall asleep. 
View from our bedroom window of mountain and truck stop to the right.
After our 14-day quarantine ended, we explored the small town by walking from the campground on a scenic nature trail that took us to a pond with a river otter living in the two bushes on the far side.  We tried to sneak up on him a couple of times to get a photo, but he was too fast for us.  It was still exciting to catch a glimpse of his head or a flick of his tail before he disappeared.
The trail also took us past several creeks flowing with crystal clear water...
One of many creeks/streams along the trail
Creek running through the town's residential area
 and past a large property with its own pond and pasture with a donkey, horses, and one heifer.
This became our favorite stop to take in the view and to watch the animals graze.
Hey!  I've seen you before, haven't I?
We talked to the owner one day while he was out feeding the horses a snack and getting one ready for a ride.  The donkey was staying close to his side as he walked around the pasture checking the horses.  The owner mentioned his donkey was getting old, but was friendly and loved hanging out with the horses.  
Have you seen my friend, Shrek?
He also told us that we were welcome to stop by and ride a horse because they needed the exercise.  It has been too long since I have been on a horse and had flashes of disasters that would happen if I was even able to get into a saddle so I just thanked him for the offer.
As we walked along the trail past this one tree, a Northern Flicker kept startling us by suddenly taking off just as we passed the tree.  After a couple of jump-starts to our hearts, we started looking for the bird as we approached the tree but we were having a hard time seeing him before he would fly off.  We thought it was just a favorite eating spot and he was moving around the tree to stay out of our sight before flying away.  Then we found a hole on the opposite side of the tree trunk.  As we got closer to the tree, we would look for the Flicker's head to peek out.  He (or she) must have gotten used to seeing us because he stopped flying away or maybe there were eggs to be protected and did not want to take the chance of leaving them alone.
On 5 June, we woke up to snow.  Big fluffy flakes!  By 10 am we had around 7 inches of snow and no power.  Having a generator really comes in handy at times since the power was out for most of the day.  We were very happy we had no travel plans for that day.  Dusty did not appreciate the snow and sulked most of the day.
Looking outside, it felt like Christmas in a winter wonderland!  We had to go for a walk.  The pond was overflowing and running down the trail.
The Canada Goose family was enjoying the snow day with a swim in the pond with their little ones.
The only thing sad was the damage the snow did to a lot of trees.  It was wet and very heavy causing branches to snap off.   Some of the campers found trees leaning heavily on the roof of their rigs and vehicles due to the limbs being heavy with snow.  One small trailer had almost disappeared under tree branches and snow.  Not quite sure how the owner got out of his door that morning.  The campground crew was quick to remove the damaged limbs and snow before it caused problems for the rigs.  By evening, most of the snow had melted.
Dan discovered these two sleeping together on the bed.  Dusty must have been extra tired to let Max put his leg on top of him.  I don't know what it is with Max and his hind leg lately.  He keeps trying to do that with me.  Nothing like waking up in the night with his leg across my head!  Yea, I don't think so!
Hitch was in a spunky mood during one of their outings.  He was rolling around in the grass while poking Dusty once in a while and making strange sounds.  The grass must have felt extra good after months of dirt and gravel in our previous sites.  I thought it was funny.  Dusty did not.😾
Dusty does have his happy moments and for the most part, is very gentle with the other two.  He loves it when one of us takes him for short walks.  He talks to us the whole time.  Before this photo was taken, he had been rolling around wanting a belly rub until Hitch showed.  Poor Dusty, sometimes I get the feeling he wishes he was an 'only' cat.😼
On The Cutting Board
My brother received his quilt last week.  He is quite happy with the finished quilt.
I decided to do simple machine quilting so I was able to finish the quilt quickly.  The freeform was a little shaky at times, but using the walking foot worked out great on the sashing, borders, and mountains.
I am down to one major project!  I have started my first quilt-as-you-go.  Our queen size Native Flair quilt.  Below is a photo I showed you a few months ago of the layout without the alternate blocks.
For those that are not quilters:  Each block is layered, basted,
and quilted before sewing the blocks together.  Unlike my brother's quilt above where the top is assembled before I layer the top with batting and backing for quilting.  After the block is quilted, I trim the batting so it will lie flat.  Then I sew the top layers together on the machine and use a slip-stitch to secure the two backings together
This is a learning process for me and one mistake I made was quilting too close to the edges.  I should have re-read the instructions before proceeding. I should have left a good 1/2 inch free of quilting stitches along the edges.
Now, I keep my little ruler and marking pen
nearby so I don't quilt too close to the edge.
This caused some major heartburn while making enough space for the machine's foot to sew the top layer together.  It came out a little lumpy and made it hard to keep the line straight.  I finally had to rip some of the quilting stitches out.  I'll have to go back and pin the loose stitches or rip them out and start over after I slip-stitch the backing together.
Here it is!  My first row is done and it is laying flat - thanks to lots of ripping and grumbling chant "I will not quilt past the 1/2 inch mark!😁  Only four more rows to go.  Sorry for the angle of the shot, but it's hard to get a good photo of something this long inside the coach.
Hitch supervised and approved of the first row, so time to start working on the next row.
Happy Quilting!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Driving to Montana (Deer Lodge, MT)

Before we left Texas in early May, we spent a week in Bridgeport, TX.  Below is a picture of Weatherford's county courthouse.  I never get tired of seeing this building.
We got a nice site, but it was not full hook-ups.  Still, the cats enjoyed their time outdoors and we found the quiet spot away from campers celebrating the lockdown lift.
Our biggest surprise upon arriving was seeing how high the lake was in comparison to our last visits.  The first time we came here, the lake was a good 20 feet below this dock (bottom right).  Now, the dock is five inches below the water level.  Quite a difference!
Our walks around Bay Landing Thousand Trails were quite entertaining.  We saw a family of Canada Geese near the fishing pond along with four ducks that were always together no matter what they were doing.  We saw quite a few snakes swimming around in the pond and after talking to one fisherman and finding out that someone counted 18 of them hiding under a tree, I kept my distance!😬  Between wildlife sightings and flowers blooming, we had some nice walks while we were there.
Finally, we felt it was time to get back on the road and see some new sights.  I know I was ready to see some snow-covered mountains.  Dan was able to get reservations at each stop.  His biggest headache was trying to steer clear of severe thunderstorms moving through the midwest states.  He did an excellent job because we saw very little rain and drove through some windy areas.
Montana!
Hitch has become quite a lap cat during our travels.  He can spend hours sleeping on us.  I'm not so sure our legs agree with his long-term sleeping arrangements.
Zzzzz
After two 8-hour days of driving, we were happy to spend two days relaxing at Terry Bison Ranch.  We were greeted by two sleeping cats inside the ranch's store/office area.  It looks like they had a tough day at the ranch.
Zzzz....Zzzz
This is the first time we have seen the peacocks at the ranch.  They were busy guys making lots of noise with their mating calls.  Have you seen the movie "UP"?  Kevin sounds just like them in high volume! 🤣
The peacocks even showed up one morning in the campground wandering from site to site.  Only one of our cats saw the big birds go by and I swear he was drooling.😺
1. Goats new play area 2. Artwork
3. Llamas 4. Peacocks visiting campers
This white turkey was quite a character.  I was kneeling down to take a photo of the bison artwork when he walked into view, fluffed his feathers, and stood there waiting for me to take his picture.  I took one photo and started walking off only to realize that he was following me around the bison, so I took another photo of his other side.  He seemed satisfied with the attention and finally moved on to another person walking by.
Left profile?  Right profile?
My favorite part was seeing the new colts this year.  Both had some beautiful markings.  I tried to get a better photo of the black one, but he or she wasn't in the mood for putting up with paparazzi that day.
Before we left Wyoming, we restocked our groceries for our 14-day quarantine in Montana.  Back on the road, Hitch once again surprised us by sleeping in-between Dusty and Max.  He is just full of surprises on this trip.
On The Cutting Board
Before we left Bridgeport, TX we drove to Lawton, OK to see our daughter's family and to give the girls a quilt each.  We had exchanged information on what we had been doing lately and to make sure none of us have been infected.😷  Such strange times we are having when we have to be careful just to visit family.  It has been 18 days and all of us are still healthy.

Bry stopped by to receive her son's baby quilt and to visit.  I'm sorry we will not be there when our great-grandson arrives, but we really do not want to be in our coach in Oklahoma's hot July weather not to mention Tornado season!
Our granddaughters seem quite happy with their new quilts.  The two younger ones took their naps with their quilts and claimed they slept better with them.  They are such sweethearts.
One of my brothers asked that if he paid for a quilt would I make him one from the same SW pattern I have been sharing on FB.  I finished the blocks during the lockdown.  Posted this photo of the top's arrangement in a FB group.  One quilter pointed out that the three blocks on top looked alike and I might want to consider switching the top and bottom blocks around.
I'm glad she pointed it out because this arrangement looks a lot better.  I did not want his feet to hang out so I added a little more length by sewing one row of Delectable Mountains to the top.  This came out better than I had imagined on paper!
Now, I need to get fabric for the backing and decide how I am going to quilt this one.  By machine, it will go faster.  By hand, it will be more personable, but slow going.  Well, I have time to think about it since I cannot go shopping until our quarantine ends on June 1 when Montana goes into Phase 2.  I can barely wait to go check out the local quilt shops starting with the one here within walking distance!

In the meantime, I am working on my quilt-as-you-go blocks which has been put aside for too long.  
Happy Quilting!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Texas Holding Pattern (Whitney, TX)

We have been very fortunate with timing and our Thousand Trail RV park membership.  In March, we managed to get a very nice shady site with full hook-ups and some privacy at Lake Whitney TT RV park.  We were lucky to get a site with sewer and 50 amp since there are not that many in this park, so we can use our own washer/dryer instead of the park's laundry room.
Under our contract agreement, we can only stay for three weeks at a time in one park.  Our plans were to move on to Bay Landing then to Texoma, TX before making our trek back to Oregon. 
Path to Lake Whitney
Before our three weeks were up, the lockdown was announced and some of our reservations were canceled.  We thought about making a fast move north, but there was also the problem of closed rest areas along with national and state parks.  Plus, there was the question of privately owned parks being closed to newcomers.  We decided to stay in Texas, but we were also worried about new reservations with Thousand Trails and getting to the new location before they closed for shelter-in-place orders.
That's when the Thousand Trails HQ offered to shelter-in-place all current campers.  They have done this several times since the US started the lockdown.  The staff here has been great in answering questions, offering to shop, and opening a small food bank for the park's campers.
Lake Whitney
We have been here for six weeks and are now extended thru the first week of May.  We plan to stay in Texas until late May when we hope to try again for our move north.
Blooming Indian Paintbrush
We could not have asked for a better location to spend our quarantine time. We walk every morning as long as there are no morning thunderstorms in the area.
Blue Bonnet
We have access to the lake along a couple of trails with fields of blooming wildflowers.  Such beautiful views!
Except for our walks and our once-every-1-to-2-week grocery shopping, we are not leaving the coach.  After 40+ years of thinking this is just another chore, I never thought I would get so excited about going grocery shopping.
The county we are in has a low count of Covid-19 confirmed, but we are still careful while shopping by wearing our masks and following the guidelines.  
I had trouble concentrating on any one thing for the first couple of weeks. I found it hard to read or watch TV without thinking 'well, they can't do that anymore', but I finally got into a routine that worked well for me.  Max was certainly accommodating by changing his nap time so he could get extra cuddles.
All the cats have been enjoying the extra time we are spending with them.  I believe they are more spoiled than ever before.  Dusty now demands attention when we wake up, time for bed, and before we can get on our laptops.  Even when we are outside, he expects us to talk to him and walk him around the site.
Can't you see that I'm using the laptop?  You'll have to wait!
On The Cutting Board
All the quilts that I was working on back in December were still works-in-progress until recently.  I finally finished the embroidery on the last two quilts and pulled out my table for a week's worth of layering, quilting, and binding.
I'm happy to report that along with my great-grandson's baby quilt, I have finished five more quilts!
Blake's Jungle by Rachel Newman
The three quilts on the right have the embroidered carousel horses and unicorns. But the bird quilt....well, I really did not think I would finish that one. It fought me the whole time. This pattern is called "Twitter" by Meags & Me, but I prefer calling it "Tweeters" due to all the cute birds.
The photos are not the best since I had to use our outdoor folding chairs to prop them on before I stored them away. I usually use the children's play area to hang the quilts for photo taking, but I won't be doing that anytime soon. There are times when our new 'normal' feels a little surreal.
Fenced off playground
Here's quilt #5. The last time I mentioned this project, I was having a hard time trying to figure out how to proceed. I decided for the first time to use fusible webbing and raw edges in a quilt.
After I finished the embroidering, I doubled all of the white fabric using fusible webbing. I then fused the double-layer to the black cat and used the button-hole stitch along the raw edges. I just hope it will hold up to a lot of washings. The cat's body and head were done with turn-under appliqué.
Once he was appliquéd to the quilt, he seemed a little hard to see. Outlining the cat with large white stitches helped, but from a distance, he still blends in.
I found a new way to take photos
of my quilts using two clothes hangers.
As you can see, Hitch was not impressed and wanted to know if it was time for dinner. He is just wasting away waiting for me to feed him.
whatever....where's my food?
Stay safe. Stay healthy.Happy Quilting!

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