Looking for answers to life's questions

You have my apologies. “What for, you ask?” I can’t seem to find the grinder that has ground my work here to a halt. What does it look like and where is it hiding?

Is the grinder in this load of laundry waiting to be finished?

Is the grinder in this load of laundry waiting to be finished?

In trying to keep up with blogs I follow, I am sadly ground down as well. I’m outnumbered and you have so many wonderful posts I want to read. Nothing else is getting done. My energy has waned and the cogs in my brain are slipping.

Is it in the pile of laundry waiting?

Is it in the pile of laundry waiting?

You’ll usually find me spinning in circles trying to figure out what needs to be done next. There are four quilt tops on my machine in different states of readiness for me to sandwich and quilt. No small task in there. Yesterday, I tried to seal the wood on a plant pot holder I had out front last summer to gray the wood. I dumped an entire can of sealer on the porch when I lost my balance trying to move it. Fortunately, I managed to contain the spill enough to finish the job.

Room is smaller than the work to do in it. Could the grinder be in there?

Room is smaller than the work to do in it. Could the grinder be in there?

My daughter needed my help with her move and that has taken more chunks of time. Friendships need nurturing and groups for handwork and quilting are vital to my mental health. It all takes time and energy.

Helping my daughter with the move. Several days of packing here.

Helping my daughter with the move. Several days of packing here.

There are things I want to write about, but don’t, so I write nothing. There is a battle waging internally about what should be done about this.

Could the grinder be in this box of photos to be gone through?

Could the grinder be in this box of photos to be gone through?

Of the 250 people who follow my blog, the most that read it are less than 30. I follow less than 50 because I want to read the blogs I follow. They have become very dear to me and it would be like losing friends. I cannot bear to part with friends.

Could all these books waiting to be read be hiding the grinder?

Could all these books waiting to be read be hiding the grinder?

Maybe the grinder is hiding here in all the yard work waiting for me to do.

Maybe the grinder is hiding here in all the yard work waiting for me to do.

Where do I need to go to find that grinder? How do you manage not to come to a grinding halt?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of a Retreat

I was invited to join some quilters I know to a retreat. What is a retreat? I had no clue. Never having been to one, I was a bit nervous (TERRIFIED actually). I’ve never been to a girl’s slumber party or anything of that nature. I’ve heard of them but the opportunity never presented itself. The only people I’ve ever shared a room with was my sister, daughter and mother.

Abby, who runs the place and everyone in it.

Abby, who runs the place and everyone in it.

I was told they would sew all day long except to eat and sleep. How was I going to fit in with my vision limited to a few hours of good sewing time at best? I almost backed out.

In the dining room the wall hanging welcomes you to your meal.

In the dining room the wall hanging welcomes you to your meal.

My friend, Emily, picked me up at 9 a.m. and drove another woman I had never met and myself the 45 minutes to Vancouver, Washington. I met Emily a few months ago and she and all the rest of the ladies going are quite well experienced quilters. I am not. We shall leave it at that.

More tools and inspiration.

More tools and inspiration.

The retreat began with an introduction to the quilting room. There were only eight of us which gave each of us an entire table to ourselves. We could really spread out and we did. Machines were up in a flash and suitcases set aside for later. The room was simple but filled with everything necessary.

Any size, shape or style was available and most were needed.

Any size, shape or style was available and most were needed.

Fabric by the fat-quarter or the bolt and even scraps should we need them were in every corner. Books, magazines for ideas and inspiration, and quilts hung in any spare spot that didn’t have a design flannel board. There were cutting tables, tools and ironing boards already set up for us.

Just a small sample of what was there.

Just a small sample of what was there.

We won’t mention the copious amount of snack foods, coffee machines, (drip and Keurig) tea and the list goes on. So will my words in this post, so bear with me please.

a scrumptious concoction created by our hostess

a scrumptious concoction created by our hostess


home made banana bread

home made banana bread

This place was the home of Nancy Fosburgh. She had stopped by to rent the barn for more space to manufacture her traveling ironing boards for quilters as the business had outgrown her garage. Nancy is a master quilter and instructor. She ended up leasing the whole house and the barn set on 10 acres. Nancy takes care of it with a little help from family and kind friends, many of whom are avid quilters as well.

Nancy fixed our toilet herself

Nancy fixed our toilet herself

Nancy is one of those women that make the energizer bunny look like a slacker. A strong, single mother of three now adult children, and an entrepreneur, her avocations have become a dream come true vocation.

Where the work and fun happen.

Where the work and fun happen.


A lovely walk to the house for dinner and rest

A lovely walk to the house for dinner and rest

The food Nancy prepared for us was phenomenal to say the very least. I must admit here that I’m a fussy eater. Childish, I know, but too true. I turn my nose up at so many things, though I am more open now than ever before. I will tell you I ate asparagus this week for the second time in my life. It’s the first time I liked the taste. Nancy was experimenting on us and can continue to do so forever on me.

Nancy's simple quilt we can pattern some charity quilts after.

Nancy’s simple quilt we can pattern some charity quilts after.

I went to bed one night aching from the amount I could not let pass me by. Scones and Devonshire cream, German pear pancakes or egg casserole with fresh fruit for breakfast, lunches had everything from sandwiches all homemade to soup. I was still groaning when we came in from sewing for dinner but I turned nothing away. Everything was homemade and scrumptious. If this quilting thing doesn’t pan out for her, the cooking thing surely will. I’d like to volunteer to help write her cookbook.

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We also learned a new craft from one of her volunteers, Linda. Round boxes made of paper. We all worked hard on those too.

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My fellow quilters were so patient with my learning curve and even took a square that I could no longer look at and finished it for me. I found a walking friend to keep working the kinks out and enjoy the beautiful scenery. No one complained that I was first each night to retire to bed with my journal.

Emily's selvedge quilt. Made of strips from the edges of fabric

Emily’s selvedge quilt. Made of strips from the edges of fabric


They come together in such a fun way.

They come together in such a fun way.


Emily finished 36 of these to be appliqued and then joined and quilted

Emily finished 36 of these to be appliqued and then joined and quilted

You really get to know people when you share a room. Half of us liked the window open so we shared a room, those that did not, shared another. There was no rowdiness at bedtime. We’d had our wine at our machines as we worked and bedtime was for rest.

4 of us with the window open for a great nights sleep

4 of us with the window open for a great nights sleep


Another of the bedrooms. Too cute.

Another of the bedrooms. Too cute.

Our favorite pot stirrer, (picture an imp) managed to keep us on our toes and giggling. Patti would point out near invisible threads left on the ironing board so someone (the culprit who left them behind) would make a big show of getting out the blue tape to make sure it was properly cleaned.

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I don’t know about other retreats but this one brought some real bonding.

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I know there are writing retreats, spiritual retreats, spa retreats but I don’t know that any would have all the elements that this one had. I witnessed a vast amount of comradery, creativity, generosity, and fun.

Arlene on Bottom Left made these for granddaughters musical. We thought it would be fun to pray for more wine.

Arlene on Bottom Left made these for granddaughters musical. We thought it would be fun to pray for more wine.

Would I do it again? In half a heartbeat. What is your idea of a retreat?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

Last weekend was my daughter’s birthday. We really like to celebrate. Our family sees each day as a gift and the more birthdays you have, the luckier you are. No one here lies about their age. We are grateful to have reached each and every one.

A birthday favorite. Thank goodness there were 4 of us to eat it.

A birthday favorite. Thank goodness there were 4 of us to eat it.

My daughter and I had made the trip to Leavenworth, Washington several years ago. We stayed in a room over the bookstore that time. You know how I love bookstores. This time we stayed in a regular motel/hotel that had a townhouse layout with enough beds to sleep all 4 of at a lower cost than the regular room rates. It’s a five hour drive each way and one way is easier on the nervous system than the other. I’m very uncomfortable in bumper to bumper highway traffic on a Sunday afternoon.

See, here's the sign. I can just smell the books in this little independent store.

See, here’s the sign. I can just smell the books in this little independent store.

Anyone for coffee and sweets first thing in the morning?

Anyone for coffee and sweets first thing in the morning?

This particular weekend was their “Taste of Leavenworth” event. Its pear country and my son bought us coupons to sample the wares of many of the shops that had everything from pear cheese to pear wine and strudel, though not all at the same time.

Bookstore is upstairs and around the other size of the building

Bookstore is upstairs and around the other size of the building

This little community worked hard to save their town. After seeing the town of Solvang, CA, the city council decided that might work to keep their town thriving and made the change in 1962. I loved Solvang too. Both towns have the flavor of old world Europe.

Everything here has a Bavarian flair to it. The green tall trees and the cascading mountains are very reminiscent of the areas in Germany I remember so well, giving me a bit of that “I’m home” feeling. Just my cup of tea or the beer I’d prefer. Even the sushi restaurant and the creperie look Bavarian on the outside. That made me laugh. I found the quilt shop again with so much eye candy that I was staggering out the door. The gingerbread cookies were saved from the bakery till later.

I looked at the town with slightly different eyes this time. Taking photos this time made me think about what others would see were they to want to visit. I took a bit more time to notice things like the clearness of the air.

They do Christmas here in a big way with an entire Christmas store and a Nutcracker Museum. Good Morning America and HGTV have both featured this town. I’m not fond of traveling in the snowy winters anymore so spring is the perfect time for me. The pear blossoms were in full bloom everywhere but we drove by so fast, only my son caught this.

There were fields of these.

There were fields of these.

First thing in the morning the streets were quiet but the smells wafting out of the bakeries and coffee shops was heavenly. The air was crystal clear and Sunday morning we saw fresh snow on the mountains. Everyone is behind on their moisture levels so snow was welcome on the Cascades.

The clouds played with us all morning. They were beautiful.

The clouds played with us all morning. They were beautiful.

My diet is postponed till after next week. I’ll be away again on a quilting retreat and food will be prepared for us. Can we all say woohoo! It’s sad when you are so busy with life you don’t have time to write about it. Well, maybe not.

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Have you ever looked at somewhere differently the second time you saw it?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of a New Event

Portland Oregon is a wonderful little city. I have been trying to move up here since the mid 1990’s. It wasn’t easy but after several false attempts, as of almost 3 years ago, I’m a permanent weird Portlander.

Last weekend Word Press offered their first ever workshop called Press Publish in downtown Portland. That’s part of why I love this place. Wondrous things happen here. My friend Sabine at “In Cahoots with Muddy Boots” gave me the heads up before I read my e-mail. She wanted to know if I’d like to go with her. We decided to take the MAX for a cheap public transport ride, stopping just a couple blocks from the event.

Great bag for our goodies

Great bag for our goodies

I must say, and Sabine did, that for a fledgling event, this one was extremely well-organized. The speakers were marvelous, informative and extremely entertaining. You know how most of those things have you looking for coffee to keep your eyes open? Well this one didn’t even though there was coffee (and snacks) at every corner. The staff was cheerful, and right on the spot to help with any questions. Did I get my money’s worth? Yes, and then some. I met new bloggers like Susie at nutshellversion and found out how to do things I’ve been struggling with in the technical area from the Happiness Engineers.

Our panel of bloggers/authors

Our panel of bloggers/authors

One of my favorite speakers and people there was Cecilia Gunther at the kitchens garden. She is a transplant from New Zealand to the Midwest. She runs an organic farm and photographs all of the events there. Cecilia has a strong following that she calls the fellowship and together, they wrote a book. Yes, I bought it and she autographed it. I adore her kind and inclusive nature. I’m reading it one story at a time.

Stories from women about women

Stories from women about women

Another speaker that I was quite fond of was Mary Laura Philpott at I miss you when I blink. You can also see some of what she had to say at the Press Publish event here. What a sense of humor. She has a funny little book coming out and I will have to order it. You can take a look at her information on the book here.

photo captured from her blog and pinned to Pinterest.

photo captured from her blog and pinned to Pinterest.

I must say the food was so much more than I could have anticipated. I brought nuts and a protein bar expecting the worst. I left waddling slightly. And everyone just kept smiling. The genuine warmth matched what I found online. Would I go again if offered? In a heartbeat. The next one will be in Phoenix. If you are in that area, please plan to attend. I’m not easily impressed. Word Press impressed me.

The worst thing I could say about lunch was that it was LOUD.

The worst thing I could say about lunch was that it was LOUD.

Their team of Happiness Engineers did have to ask me if this was really my last name.

Of course it's not really my last name but I kind of like it.

Of course it’s not really my last name but I kind of like it.

Do you feel like where you live is the best place in the world? What makes it that way? Have you learned something new recently?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of Lost Arts

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not writing as much these days. I’ve been busy reading all the blogging 101 posts everyone else has been doing. It’s a tough job but someone must take on the task. I can’t seem to catch up no matter how many I read in a day. I’m also trying to finish projects that are stacked up in every corner of the house.

The teacup quilt is finished, the Christmas quilt from my quilt group has the top complete with names embroidered on each square the person made. My memory is starting to fade so putting it in writing is essential. I’ve made progress on another quilt I’ve started and of course starting something entirely new.

This is what happens when we each make 2 squares.

This is what happens when we each make 2 squares.

What's hanging over the other side. Can you find my blocks? This one will go to safe house when quilted by someone else.

What’s hanging over the other side. Can you find my blocks? This one will go to safe house when quilted by someone else.

Last weekend was filled with surprises. A quilting friend invited me to the local quilt show at the senior center. Sure, no problem. In and out in an hour. The surprise was that Bill Volckening, a longtime collector of antique and vintage American quilts, specializing in the identification, documentation, valuation, calling himself a quilt magnet. was giving an hour long talk. He owns quilts that are exhibited all over the country and the world. What an education I received that day. We have come a long way in fiber arts but the original art form was quite fascinating. I’m hoping it’s an art form we can keep growing through the generations.

The quilt magnet himself

The quilt magnet himself

Very colorful with history. Mr. V is a local

Very colorful with history. Mr. V is a local

Vintage Red/white/Blue with hand embroidery

Vintage Red/white/Blue with hand embroidery

Free form from the best

Free form from the best

There were so many wonderful quilts done by local quilters that I just have to pare them down to a few of the more unusual.

A mini quilt with pearls and buttons.

A mini quilt with pearls and butons.

This one is for Alys. Cat and Mouse. Only the cat is called Mouse.

This one is for Alys. Cat and Mouse. Only the cat is called Mouse.

Can you see the screening it's done on?

Can you see the the screening it’s done on?

Corsets of course and 3 dimensional just for some fun.

Corsets of course and 3 dimensional just for some fun.

I rarely go out at night but my daughter found an event at the New Renaissance bookstore in downtown Portland she wanted to attend and wondered if I’d be interested. We’d have a quick bite to eat first. New Ren is a metaphysical bookstore and our favorite hands down. It’s dangerous in there for both of us.

We spend hours in there. It smells good too.

We spend hours in there. It smells good too.

We watched her documentary on DVD and listened to the film maker explain her need to make it and a little about the book. There are a lot of healing arts that are struggling for survival against big pharma and modern medicine. Like her, I seriously hope we can save the healing plants that are being bulldozed under and look at augmenting ancient healing practices with current modalities. I promise you, if I’m in an accident, I want someone who can patch me together again. But I’m very much into self-healing naturally as much as possible. I found the author-film maker delightful and honest. We had our book autographed to both my daughter and myself. Now to get it read.

Talking Story book.

Talking Story book.

Marie-Rose Phan-Le' Talking her story

Marie-Rose Phan-Le’ Talking her story

This coming weekend will be filled as well with a WordPress event, again in downtown Portland OR. An all-day series of mini seminars. I don’t think there will be much picture-taking there. More like a lot of note taking. I’ll let you know. So now I have to get back to my reading.

Do you have any interest in the lost arts? Creative or healing arts?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of the Texture

When you were growing up did your parents ever tell you as you walked through a store or someones home to keep your hands to yourself and don’t touch?

Mine were very strict about that and we never challenged them. I was somewhat like that with my children. It was the phrase, “it’s not yours, don’t touch it.” I was a bit more flexible than my parents and my daughter challenged me more.
Children learn from touching. I am still a very tactile person. Oddly, if I wander through a book or fabric store, I touch each piece I’m interested in to get the “feel” of it. I do it carefully and with clean hands but I love (almost need) to touch EVERYTHING!

Puyallup WA quilt show. How can you resist touching.

Puyallup WA quilt show. How can you resist touching.

We touch pictures, frames, trees and flowers. Everything in life has texture. Life itself has texture. I think the more texture it has, the more interesting it is. I wrote a comment on a blog one day not too long ago that I start and end my day with gratitude. The rest in the middle is texture.

another job finished. 2 green squares to add  to more for charity quilt. Pattern in fabric adds texture

another job finished. 2 green squares to add to more for charity quilt. Pattern in fabric adds texture

I think that’s why I like to work with my hands. Embroidery, by machine or by hand, quilting, sewing, crafting, especially nature crafts, even gardening are all tactile and full of texture. I can sometimes be heard moaning over a quilt square where the points don’t meet exactly and ask why can’t things just go smoothly? I learn more from the lack of smooth.

Reaching for more books

Reaching for more books

My son put up the last 2 shelves that had taken up residence on my living room floor. (I painted them there so they could dry quicker.) Things didn’t go as smoothly with that either so there are a couple extra holes in my wall. A little putty and paint will fix that but I would rather have the holes than the shelves still on the floor. It’s a quick easy fix. Each day we get a little further along on our respective projects. Each project adds a little texture. Sometimes even to our vocabulary.

Tech Support. It's a tough job but someone has to do it.

Tech Support. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

Last weekend we made a trip to Portland’s Rose Test Garden to meet with my last husband’s granddaughter and her 2 and 5 year old sons. She only brought the 2 year old this time. I brought books. I always bring books. These books had texture and I’m so glad I picked them. This little guy took after mom’s side of the family. His glasses had been chewed by the dog and he was without them. There were no roses yet in bloom but the Camellia’s were. After he was finished touching the books and hearing some of the stories, I pulled a Camellia bloom off the bush and put it on his tray. Mom was a bit stunned but I wanted him to enjoy the bloom too. He enjoyed the texture of the flower until we left. When you don’t see well, touch is even more important.

He can't see the books well but he loves them. Great grandson

He can’t see the books well but he loves them. Great grandson

Time has flown by again this month. That’s what happens when the days are full. My son has been photographing the beauty of our neighborhood and I have been busy finishing projects. My two squares are done a month early, the charity quilt top I was given to sandwich, quilt and bind is finally done and the binding is almost complete on my teacup quilt.

I didn't piece the top, just but the layers together and quilted.

I didn’t piece the top, just but the layers together and quilted.


Back of quilt pieced from scraps.

Back of quilt pieced from scraps.


Part of the binding will be tonight's handwork project.

Part of the binding will be tonight’s handwork project.

That’s the final and most enjoyable part for me. Busy hands while I watch TV. Weeds have been pulled and more stuff sorted and organized. I have a lot of old magazines with craft ideas in them I wanted to save. Tearing out the pages that would get lost and separated didn’t seem like a great option, so I decided to photograph the picture and directions, putting them into a computer file. Sure takes up less room and the box of magazines and books can now be passed on.

More craft books to get moved on intact.

More craft books to get moved on intact.

It was a stunning view for a good week down to Sleepy Hollow.

It was a stunning view for a good week down to Sleepy Hollow.

There is still going to be a lot more texture and gratitude in my life.
How about you? Are you a tactile person who likes a lot of texture?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

Another month gone! Where did it go? One moment I was looking at the beginning of it thinking of all the possibilities it had to offer, and the next breath I took left me stunned in wonderment. What the heck happened to all that time? I realize February is shorter than most but does it have to speed up? I won’t ask anyone who lives along the east coast or mid-west that question? They are probably ready to have February zip on out.

February calendar courtesy of my friend at in cahoots with muddy boots.

February calendar courtesy of my friend at in cahoots with muddy boots.

The weather went from this:

Winter in my Portland back yard.

Winter in my Portland back yard.

to this:

Another view of winter in my Portland back yard. Any questions?

Another view of winter in my Portland back yard. Any questions?

My son is fully ensconced in his tiny room where he works and sleeps. We squeezed real hard. I’ve had to compact my ample supply of stuff too. Fortunately, Tech support (my son) came with a bonus. Somehow, he ended up with the shelves that came out of my sewing room in Arizona. I didn’t much care for them in that small room but since they were available, may as well make use of them. So I sanded them and painted them white to disappear into the walls. I had plenty of leftover paint.

There is one valuable lesson I learned in this process. Even though I was outside, the dust from some of the sanding blew back at me and left me snizzeling, sneezing and coughing for several days. It hasn’t been pretty. But the two shelves that are already up are pretty…useful.

I did 4 of these. 2 longer than the other.

I did 4 of these. 2 longer than the other.

There is less clutter on my workspace and I’ve found things I had misplaced to keep it from getting lost. Go figure. My organization is so much better and will continue to do so as we get the other two shelves up and then build shelves for the closet. It’s been fun except for the snizzeling part.

Shelf on one side of sewing room ready to load up

Shelf on one side of sewing room ready to load up

Using wasted space and helps with insulation.

Using wasted space and helps with insulation.

2 more ready to put up. Want to drop by for tea? This is my living/dining room floor!

2 more ready to put up. Want to drop by for tea? This is my living/dining room floor!

We spent one day this week meeting with a fellow blogger from Portland. When I saw her photographs and all the places she had been, Tech Support and I had to meet and ask her as many questions about the hiking/riding trails and photography as possible over one meal. She has been blogging so much longer than I have and we had a delightful visit. Check out Conscious Engagement’s wonderful photographs here. She gifted me with a few in magnetic sleeves for the fridge.

These look wonderful on her blog.

These look wonderful on her blog.

Tech Support is eager to get on the trails as the scenery here draws one out the door. That’s as far as I want to go but he bought a bicycle to ride since Portland is such a bike friendly area with lots of trails. In the search for a bike, he made the acquaintance of this cute fellow that wandered into the bike shop and never left. The owners call him Shop Rag and he goes up to everyone and greets them hello. Checking for treats is my guess. I’ve never met such a friendly cat towards strangers.

T.S and Shop Rag in the bicycle shop the cat runs.

T.S and Shop Rag in the bicycle shop the cat runs.

Shop Rag really runs the bike shop and certainly owns that sunny strip of floor.

Shop Rag really runs the bike shop and certainly owns that sunny strip of floor.

That’s only part of the things that made this month fly by. I think we are all ready to say goodbye to winter. The wind is blowing cold today with a fooling sunny day. I’m certain in the months to come, I’ll wish for another taste of winter, but for now I’ll enjoy the new view.

I wish they were in my yard but they are a few houses up.

I wish they were in my yard but they are a few houses up.


first flowers of spring in back yard. I don't even know what they are called,

first flowers of spring in back yard. I don’t even know what they are called,


New buds on the Hydrangea. Hooray for spring

New buds on the Hydrangea. Hooray for spring

Did February fly for you or did it slog on at a snails pace?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

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