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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wisconsin State Parks Volunteer Jamboree 2016

Every year the park department sponsors an event called a Volunteer Jamboree. Through the hard efforts of the friends of Wisconsin State Parks and the Friends of Devil's Lake State Park, we enjoyed a wonderful 3 day getaway.  It is a Thank You to the volunteers who gave of time and effort all year long.

The location changes from park to park over the years, and this year it happened to be at Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wisconsin. We were treated to three days of paid up camping fees, programs, wonderful meals, prizes, and a lot of outside activities and tours to choose from.

We arrived early so we could get into our campsite if possible and tune in to the Packer game at noon. We could see that the people on our site were packing up and ready to leave early. They really didn't have to vacate until 4 p.m. But with the pending rainstorm they packed up as quick as they could.

While we waited patiently in the overflow parking area, it was just beginning to rain. Soon the skies opened up, the rain poured down. The site was already the lowest one of the campground loop, and the site got softer and softer with mud. As many of you know this part of the state has had record rainfalls over the last few weeks with a lot of flooded fields, overflowing river banks and very muddy low-lying areas.

We hung out in the Overflow parking lot while watching the start of the Packer game, until the other folks pulled out. We tried to back into our campsite but the back dually wheels of our heavy diesel rig sunk deeper and deeper into the mud!!! I told Steve NO WAY and to quickly get it out of there! So he managed to get the motorhome out of the site before doing any major damage to the muddy site or our rig.

(I snapped this pic two days later and it still had not dried up!)

The office gals kindly switched us to another camp site on high ground that could accommodate a 40-foot motorhome. They gave us the choice of 5 sites..  Ahhhhh that was much nicer.

Soon our other High Cliff volunteers began to arrive. We have seven volunteer couples that work for a month each throughout the spring, summer and fall at High Cliff.  Steve and I help out with camphosting as needed ---  in case of scheduling conflicts. Steve is also the Camp Host Coordinator for our park, in charge of training and setting the schedule for the camp hosts in our park. Each couple takes a one-month long stint. In return for a free electric/water campsite, the couple is required to put in 20 total hours of work per week. Their duties include cleaning fire pits and grills, and picking up trash whenever it is seen anywhere on the trails or in the park. Mainly, their job is to be an ambassador to the public, answer questions, hand out information and be goodnatured friendly faces to the patrons of our park.

Three of the seven couples were able to make it to this weekend event. It was also nice to see some other friendly faces from other volunteer camphosts that we have met over the years at past Jamborees.

After the Packer game was over, (which they won), we hopped in the tracker and found our way around the park.

Upon registration we were given a goody bag full of some wonderful items and souvenirs about Devil's Lake State Park. We had the park map and decided to drive around to become acclimated with the very large park. There are almost 500 campsites here and a 360 acre lake with 500 ft high bluffs.

I have camped here about 30 years ago with my kids, so it was nice to figure out again where to go and where certain events were being held.

The weather was kind of iffy but they had a welcoming social event down in one of the enclosed pavilions. These gorgeous buildings were constructed by the CCC workers during the Depression.  I think of all the young men who were learning skills and working with their hands, earning money to send home to their family.  Now our parks benefit from those long ago laborers.

I was admiring the lovey purple hues of the stones in the roof supports for this building. 
They almost looked like amethyst... I forgot the name of it.

The staff lit up a fire outside and had a buffet table of snacks and all of the makings for s'mores.  The rain had ended for the evening and we had a nice campfire circle.

About 80 of the volunteers arrived and we were also treated to an acapella group of singers from Milwaukee to furnish the evening entertainment.  Another 50 or so volunteers were due to arrive tomorrow.

We met up with a nice couple named Annette and Tom from the Madison area. They camphost up at the Northern Highlands Park system. They were two sites away from us and we did some visiting back and forth throughout the three-day Jamboree.


Monday morning we awoke to beautiful sunshine. It was a total surprise because it was supposed to be rainy and icky all day.

We were treated to a continental breakfast and got to visit with other folks from other parks. It is interesting to hear about the varying  job descriptions that camphosts take on in other parks. Our folks have it pretty easy!   We had some speeches with various State Park staff from Madison... and they gifted us with a variety of items. I got a nice state park T shirt and Steve got a thermal cooler for packing along bottles of wine.

 All of these great things were being sponsored by the Friends of the Park Organization.

We attended some discussions and meetings, and then we were treated to a wonderful box lunch. For the afternoon we were given seven or eight choices of things in the area to go and see. The whitecaps on the lake prevented us from kayaking, canoeing, or heck --- even stand up paddle boarding!

We went to go find a winery to tour, and I decided I needed to pop into the little town of Baraboo to a little quilt shop to check it out. It was called Ardyth's Sew n Vac Shoppe

The owner was so sweet and helpful and gave me some information about different sewing threads and also some different needles for my Janome machine when I do my quilting.

We roamed around the park and explored some areas on the South Shore. Devils Lake is a huge lake bordered on both sides by high cliffs and tumbling rocks along the shores.

The park winds around through swamp lands and high bluffs. 

During the summer months this place is jam-packed. Now that school has started, and being a weekday, it was pleasantly less busy.  Except for these guys....

We joined some of our other volunteer couples and toured the Nature Center in the park. Isn't this building absolutely adorable?

Inside they had some live animals and I got a kick out of this painted turtle. He just wanted to go somewhere. 

We got in some time to get back to the motor home to take the dogs for a walk but then had to rush back for our evening dinner.  This time we were in another building called The Chalet that looked out over the lake.

The friends of Wisconsin state parks hosted a wonderful meal of bluegill and chicken and all the fixens for a fine feast. We sat at a table by the window and watched the sun set.

They had evening entertainment of a blues / Rock / oldies band.  After our wonderful dinner and dessert of this great cake...  the leaves are not quite this color yet, but it is coming, for sure!~~

Adult beverages were available for the evening. Sipping wine and chatting with our new friends Annette and Tom, before we knew it, it was time to head on back to our campers. Annette and Tom came over to check out our motorhome, and we chatted well into the night. It was getting windy and cold out so we stayed inside. No campfires for us.

Our next door neighbor had this little guy who was hoping for a campfire for his marshmallow. He plugs in and lights up at night too. How cute is that?

Tuesday morning we finished up some final paperwork, said our goodbyes, and headed on back towards home. I managed to convince Steve that IF we could find a decent parking spot, I would like to stop at a little quilt shop in Portage, Wisconsin.

The problem is when we are towing the Tracker we are about 55 feet long. I Google-Earthed this little quilt shop and it was right on the main drag in town.  Although we could have twisted around on some of the back streets to try and find a parking lot, I told Steve we would only stop IF we found an easy spot to park in front. Otherwise we could pass it by.

Lo and behold, as we got close to the store, here were about five vacant parallel parking spots! We pulled into the first four and pulled ahead. The last spot in front of us we needed for wiggle room to be able to leave. Steve put together two of our little orange emergency triangles and set them there.

What most non-rving people do not understand is that when you are towing a vehicle behind a motorhome with a tow bar, it is not made to back up. The tow bar can be severely damaged by shoving the rams backwards into themselves. They are only made to pull, and not be pushed back in a reverse position.  So it is not the lack of skill that prevents us from backing up...noooo  it is due to the limitations of the equipment.

We are not about to destroy an $800 tow bar just to try to back up if someone happens to park in front of us. Or go through the whole hassle of unhooking to move back ten feet to get out of a parking space. So we HOGGED the row of parking spots on the street!  LOL .. For a little bit, anyhow.

And sure enough, while I was in the quilt shop, some old codger came and drove right over Steve's orange triangles and cracked one! He did pull ahead to the next space beyond, but we don't think he even saw our orange triangles in the first place!!!

I was busy inside this shop: 

It was chock-full of beautiful things and I selected a variety of batik fabrics that I needed to finish the Log Cabin quilt that I am working on. The very knowledgeable owner took time to chat with me. She gave me some information on various things, and showed me around her store. She invited me to come back sometime on a Saturday and see their classroom on the lower level.

I bought a few more things and headed back on out to the motor home, where my husband and dogs were patiently waiting for me. With one broken emergency triangle. LOL

We ambled on the 100 miles back to home.  On the way, I snapped this pic of the heavy dark skies over a typical Wisconsin Farm scene.  I wanted to get a pic of a windmill but got some pretty stormy clouds that were more interesting.

 Yes, it was windy and blasting and stormy by the time we got home.  We had a tail wind pushing us most of the way, which was pretty nice.  Another Wisconsin State Parks Volunteer Jamboree is in the books.

Thank you Friends Groups and the State of Wisconsin.  We had fun!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Quilting with Mary Fons of Fons and Porter

Oh boy oh boy did I ever have a big day yesterday! This is a long blog mostly about quilting. Just warning ya....

My darling friend Connie, whom I've known for over 30 years, invited me to partake in a workshop. Her local quilting guild over in Oshkosh had arranged two workshop sessions--- a morning and an afternoon, and then an evening open lecture. All with a famous quilter person named Mary Fons.

After all of her guild members had a chance to sign up, there were a few vacant spots left. Connie was able to sign me up to attend both the morning and afternoon workshops! Whee!!!

I was so very, very, very excited to go. I knew about this for a couple months now and have been chomping at the bit.

The workshop instructor was none other than the famous Mary Fons from the PBS quilting show Fons and Porter's Love Of Quilting.  Mary also is a columnist in a quilting publication and also has produced and featured teaching quilting on the website Quilty.

Not only that... she's an all-around basically funny person,  and is very interesting to listen to and learn from.

I have loved the Fons and Porter magazine and it is the only quilting magazine that I receive in my home. Actually, my very first quilt came out of a pattern while watching their television show and reading about it in their magazine.

It is called Rock Island Camp Fires, named after their time at a lake house up in Door County, WI.  Her mom's original version had red centers and black edges, but I made mine in all blues. It was my first quilt and I goofed up four blocks. I made them into pillows to match.

Besides the tv show and magazine, Fons and Porter carries a whole line of interesting quilting tools that are available on the market. My very first official quilting tool was from Fons and Porter. It is a narrow half inch wide ruler. It is perfect for cutting or drawing diagonal lines on blocks, while leaving a quarter inch seam allowance on each side. I especially use it on my half square triangles.
My quilting pal Paula gave it to me and I keep it handy all of the time.

Anyhow, I digress, but Mary Fons is part of a huge network of many things .... all about quilts.

Here is what I robbed off her website:

Mary Fons is a writer, quilter, and designer living in Chicago.

In 2010, Mary created Quilty, a weekly online how-to program for beginner quilters (F+W Media) and served four years as editor and creative director of Quilty magazine. Mary is a bi-monthly columnist for Quilts, Inc., (The Quilt Scout) at Quilts.com. She is co-host of Love of Quilting on public television alongside her mother, Marianne Fons. Mary’s first book, Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century was released in June of 2014 (C&T/StashBooks) and Dear Quilty, a retrospective and pattern book from the pages of Quilty magazine, was released in 2015 (F+W Media). Mary lectures and teaches widely and is an enthusiastic spokesperson for BabyLock sewing and quilting machines.

Small Wonders, Mary’s debut fabric line in partnership with Springs Creative, launched at International Fall Quilt Market along with a Small Wonders pattern line in association with McCall’s, exclusively for independent quilt retailers. Mary is an amateur quilt historian and enjoys learning about the history of the American quilt as much as she likes designing and making them. She currently serves on the board of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Mary is a nationally-ranked slam poet and proud Chicago Neo-Futurist. To read daily posts on her popular blog, PaperGirl, visit MaryFons.com.

 Enough of that jazz, let's get on to the workshop!

I packed up the car on Tuesday night with all of my goodies and supplies and tools needed. They listed items on a handout sheet of what was needed to attend the two sessions. I hopped in the car bright and early Wednesday morning with my thermos of coffee and headed on out. I trekked 65 miles around the "pond".  The pond being Lake Winnebago. I live 10 miles off the east shore but the city of Oshkosh, along with my friend Connie, are on the west shore of the huge lake.

I arrived early and started setting up my gear. Of the 20 women attending, I only knew one of them, but that was okay. I make friends easily.

Once all my gear was set up and Connie arrived we started to chit-chat and visit. What's wonderful about our friendship is that even if we don't see each other for a while, we pick right up where we left off. We keep in touch through long emails and she reads my blog. She always knows what's going on with us in our world here in Chilton.

Mary arrived with a flurry of wonderful textiles to arrange on the middle tables for display. The room was set up with 10 ladies on one side and 10 ladies on the other with a display area in the middle. The guild set up ironing boards in various areas so we did not have to bring our own.  Each person was furnished with a large table,  so we had room to spread out our items and not be bumping elbows.

The room was lined with large windows all down one side.  It was storming and raining off and on throughout the day, but we were snug and warm and cozy inside with our workshop. 

Introductions were made and Mary started to speak. We found her to be engaging, funny, and in sync with the excitement that other people were feeling about quilting. Handouts were given and the workshop began.

We learned about contrast and colors and balance within a block. We learned about making choices for fabrics and how things can look from far away.

Mary shared an interesting book about an entire collection of red and white quilts. They were all put on display at one point in time by the elderly creator of these quilts. Mary then showed us some of her own Log Cabin quilts and how she arranged her blocks.

The morning session was on building log cabin blocks, using the paper piecing method. I just love paper piecing and that's the first type of serious quilting that I really learned how to do. 

Take note --- I've always been a sewer.... from as a child making my doll clothes to making prom and wedding dresses... even my own business suits and everything in between.  But that was utility sewing for a reason. It was to create a useful piece of clothing. It was cheaper to sew good clothes than to buy them. I also sewed wedding dresses for others, and altered business clothing.  I did piece-work sewing for a woman who sold lacy country pillows at farmers markets. That was all done to make extra money and keep a roof over our heads .... Being a single mom at that time, it would suppliment the income from my day job. It was business. Not fun. 

Now... years later... I find my quilting to be a creative process of itself, to get lost in, to be precise with, and then the final result is to create something beautiful!

Back to the class - 

Mary took the time to sit down at a few of the machines and show us step by step stuff what we were going to be doing ourselves. 

Mary gave us a lot of insight as to why we choose certain fabrics, using color and highlights and contrast. A lot of the things that she showed us were things that maybe we could have tried to figure out on our own. It sure was wonderful to have her give it to us in one huge dose.

Paper piecing is done by sewing the pieces of fabric together on preprinted lines on a piece of paper. It gets you very accurate results.

Each piece all fabric is set into place, sewn on the line, and then folded back to reveal itself. It then becomes the next layer for each section of the block. You work from the center outwards.  When you are done, then you peel away the paper from the backside and you have successfully built a "Log Cabin"!

Within the hour we were cutting and working and figuring out things. Mary made the rounds and gave everybody some one on one personal attention. She would work one side of the room and then the other side of the room.

Her enthusiastic encouragement and smiling approval was enough to keep us going and going.

This gal named Irene was the first person to get a block done. I liked the way she used black on two of the borders and brown on the other two borders on the outside. If she does them all like that, it would have a real dimensional look like window panes?

Soon I had built two complete blocks of Log Cabin using some of her tricks and tips that I had never known before. It sure was a lot of fun. These are mine:

Before we knew it, it was almost noon.

Connie and I took a lunch break over to the nearby Subway and had a nice time chatting together, just the two of us. As we caught up on our lives and our children and grandchildren, and in her case great-grandchildren, we chowed down on our sub sandwiches and headed back to class.

The afternoon session was going to be a little different. She had a lot more quilts to display and we talked a lot about grain of fabric, color selection, and auditioning certain fabrics to make a quilt that was pleasing to the eye.

The quilt we mostly talked about was her very special one called "Whisper"----

What makes it so visually appealing as that lighter toned triangles are pointing downwards and the darker toned triangles are pointing upwards. That's kind of the secret to it because otherwise you would have have haphazard triangles in every direction of both shades. You would run the risk of having two darker triangles butted up to each other and they would stand out and appear to be a diamond.  I never thought of that before

She has the pattern for this quilt included in her book: "Make + Love Quilts".  Links are posted down below at the end of the blog.

And then she let us in on the secret about the life history of this poor quilt. It was a very favorite quilt of hers and it had been hung on display by some group. They had inadvertently hand stitched a hanging sleeve across the back of the quilt. The added sleeve was of cheaply made junk fabric, which had never been pre-washed and had red dye in the fabric. She didn't know that the sleeve had been attached to the quilt and put the quilt in the washer after it had been taken back down off of the display.

Horrors! The non colorfast fabric secured to the back of her lovely quilt had leached red dye --- all over her quilt! It was heartbreaking to say the least. The entire quilt came out PINK !!!! I could see the pain in her eyes as she talked about it. The quilt was ruined!

She tried absolutely everything that anyone could ever recommend to try to remove all of the vagrant pink dye. Franticly she tried to save her wonderful quilt... she used every Color Catcher and Color Remover that she could think of. She even resorted to bleach! Yes, bleach. Nothing worked.

But then somehow she was told about this product called Carbona that she bought in an Ace hardware store, nevertheless.

She used a couple boxes of it and it worked! She could not imagine that quilt ever coming back to its original state.

It was a miracle before her eyes to see all that pink color taken out of her quilt.  She said it changed the tone of some of the grey triangles, but that didn't matter. At least all the pink was gone.

I think I am going to locate a few boxes and tuck them away. Just in case.

Mary then offered to help a few of the gals in the workshop "Audition Their Fabrics". It means to try to select perhaps 20 - 30 different fabrics to make a quilt like this Whisper one.

 You take all of your fabrics that you want to use and lay them out on the table. Mary then arranges them all from dark to light. From there she helps you decide which prints would enhance the quilt and which ones detract. Then she helps you find partnered fabrics called "friends" maybe one has a little flicker red and the other one has a little circle of red amongst the black or perhaps two or three in the blues have tiny flecks of green. She tries to find something that partners with another fabric called a "friend" or else that single fabric is also discarded.

Here she went through this whole pile of bluish green fabrics and ended up with a much smaller amount. Now these would end up in a nicely balanced and harmonized quilt. The cream piece in the middle could be an accent if she were using them for a log cabin block.

It was so interesting to watch and we saw her judiciously go through different workshoppers' fabric choices. When she was done discarding every fabric that wouldn't work, they were left with a wonderful harmonized palette of fabrics that would make a pretty quilt.

I think she ended up spending more time doing this for more and more of the ladies that were present. It was fun!

 I decided to try it myself on my fabrics. Connie helped me and we went back and forth and back and forth ... add this one, subtract that one. I had a whole stack of Christmas fabrics that I thought would be fun to work with. I'm sure we did not do nearly as good of a job auditioning my fabrics as Mary would have. But it sure was fun to try.

Connie had taken another class with Mary last spring. She told her about a special quilt that she had made. She decided to bring it along to show to Mary during a little lull in the afternoon.

Connie's daughter had colored little fabric sections a long time ago as a child. Connie cut the ovals and surrounded them little bits of fabric from all of her daughter's clothing. It is all hand sewn. She put a rick rack frame around each oval for texture. Another layer of rick rack along with the binding around the edges completed the cute design. It is just adorable!!! The center is embroideredred with her daughter's name and birthdate. Such a treasure to be proud of.

About this time in the afternoon Mary was winding down and needed some coffee. I just happened to have my thermos along. Who knew she would like my coffee that is heavily watered down with French vanilla creamer? I was glad I was able to offer her something in return for the great fun we were having. When I bought both of her books that she had available, she even autographed one and mentioned my coffee!

That was our moment. 
And she gave me a great big hug... 

Our class was winding down just as a huge thunderstorm was rolling in. Black thunder clouds on the horizon were quickly headed our way. We hastily gathered up our machines and supplies and got them into our cars before the deluge of rain began. Connie took me back to her home and cooked a wonderful supper. We watched the rain pour down outside while we gabbed and laughed the time away.

At 6 p.m. we had to go to the open lecture, which Connie's guild was also having a meeting afterwards.

Mary Fons set up a slide presentation and displayed a bunch of finished quilts for people to come and oogle. 

The meeting lasted until 9pm. Soon it was time for me to drive the sixty-five miles home. Remember those storms?  It was still pouring rain so hard that the windshield wipers couldn't even keep up with it. I looked on the radar for the storm to pass but there were many, many more hours of it coming across from the west. I was on the highway where the speed limit is 70 and people usually drive 80. I couldn't even see the lines on the road. I was so scared of hydroplaning. Three big double tow semi truck and trailers from FedEx went blasting past me and I couldn't see a thing! Once they were far enough ahead of me, I kept following them. They slowed down to 40 miles an hour, that shows how dangerous it was. When a FedEx truck slows down, you know the roads are bad! 

I made it to the next exit in Fond du Lac and cut through town to avoid the highway. Some of the intersections in town were so flooded with water that cars were stalled in them. Thank goodness for GPS so I could find ways around to other streets on the higher ground to get to the other side of town. Once I got on the other end of Fond du Lac I could drive up the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago to reach Chilton easily. It's just a two-lane Highway with good painted stripes and very little traffic. It took me 2 hours to get home 65 miles.

I had to pry my clenched hands off of the steering wheel once I arrived safe and sound in my own garage!

Finney and Binney were so excited to see me because I left them all day. Steve waited up to help carry in all of my stuff.

It sure felt good to get back home.

Here are a bunch of the links to Mary's own website, her blog, information about Fons and Porter items,  and also Mary's own fabric line that has recently come out:

I spent a pleasant morning,
sipping coffee,
and reading my new books
written by my new quilting pal,
Mary Fons.