Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Patch

Two weeks ago, on a beautiful Saturday morning, I decided to go buy my pumpkins. Rumor was there was a pumpkin shortage this year and I wanted to get mine "early".  This was a popular idea. Half of Hendersonville must have been out driving as well as the annual leaf peepers. 

I checked out several places, but Grandad's Apple Farm had the most pumpkins, and therefore, the best prices.

In addition, they had a barbecue stand going, a corn maze (that I found out about later), a huge dinosaur statue that all the kids wanted to climb and all the parents wanted as a backdrop for pictures, and two little goats and a llama you could feed by trickling 25-cent handsful of grain down a long trough.

 I appreciated the invitation below, but just didn't feel like maneuvering through the crowds. I like to take my time and look for weird  shapes or pumpkins with smooth surfaces for carving.

So I left, and came back the following Fri. morning, when I picked out 4 large pumpkins and 8 mid-sized ones for only $40.00.

Guess what I'm doing tonight?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


 See what hubby bought me from Cracker Barrel?

It screeches and groans on the hour.  I'm still not used to it and sometimes, late at night, when I'm indulging in a scary movie, it creeps me out.  Love it.

For those of you who have asked, YES! I am doing Hallowe'en this year!

More info (and pictures) in a day or so.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Autumn Sunrise

I got off work a little earlier than usual Monday morning, so I sat in my car a few minutes and waited. It was a partly cloudy morning, which generally means a colorful sunrise, and I was not disappointed.

I moved my car to a different part of the parking lot so I could get less obstructed views.

People were coming in and trying to park, so I turned to get back into my truck, and saw the first rays of the sun tip the trees on the hills behind me.

Then the clouds moved all the way in and the sun disappeared again and I went home to bed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Autumn in My Little Corner of the World

It started the last week of September...

....and this is my world now:

I know I say this every year, but fall is my favorite season, and I'm so glad I live here now.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

End of an Era

Back in late July, I had the privilege of caring for the husband of the couple who own the closest local quilt shop.  (There was another one just a couple miles further, but they relocated about a year ago.) They have an unusual last name, but clueless me didn't make the connection until the off-going day nurse mentioned I would probably get along well with the wife, as she had lots of quilty stuff with her, and hmmm, she thinks they own a quilt shop. Duh.

I'm just one of many customers, and not a regular, so she didn't know me of course, but we talked quilting and about her daughter and son-in-law, (who service Berninas and used to live in my neighborhood) and cruising. When this couple lived in Florida, they used to arrange cruises for folks--didn't understand that part entirely--and we discussed cruise lines, etc. All in all, a pleasant case and I was able to get him comfortable enough to sleep through the night. I was off work the next two nights and when I came back, he was gone, so I assumed he'd gone on home.

On Thurs. before the trip, I dropped my Bernina off at the shop to be cleaned and oiled and serviced while I was gone, as I hadn't had this done since buying it second hand 3 years ago. It was then I learned that David had died! Seems he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer the day after I took care of him, was transferred to the hospital in Asheville, and died 2 weeks later. I was shocked--I'd had no idea. I dashed off a sympathy note to his wife and dropped it in the mail the next morning.

A few days after I returned (and could manage not to sneeze my head off!), I picked up my machine, which had been serviced by Pete Bonesteel, husband of Georgia Bonesteel, of lap quilting fame (!)  The family was still recovering from the loss.  I renewed my 20/20 membership there ($20/year for 20% off all non-sale items all year long) when I paid for the machine.  The next week, I dropped by the shop in search of some more blacks for some Hallowe'en wall hangings I've started. Usually I just get a few fat quarters, but I was having trouble finding many. While searching, I heard a customer ask didn't the shop carry something-or-other, and the shop gal said they usually did, but they were in the middle of a going-out-of-business sale and didn't have any more. Clueless me again--I whipped my head around, and noticed for the first time how empty all the shelves were looking. There were sale signs on all the Horn tables, most of the notions had disappeared, and the long-arm machine was gone out of the shop. None of this was present 5 days before, so the decision had to have been made over the weekend. I'm assuming the shop help got first dibs on items in the shop, because they hadn't advertised the sale and there were no signs outside.
I guess the shop must have been too much for one person to handle, so she decided to just close down.  The signs stated everything was 40% off if you paid by check or card, and 50% off if you paid by cash.  So the next day I came back in with some of my pocket savings and loaded up. I felt like a darned vulture, but told myself she needed the money and I "needed" the fabric, and that's just life.

I loaded up on solids, and fabrics that "read as solids", and some that will coordinate with some rose fabrics I intend to put together later this winter. I also needed more kid fabrics, as I'd like to make some I Spy quilts for my great-nephews.

Grand total before discount: $198.00. And mostly in fat quarters, with a little yardage thrown in, as minimum cuts were one yard. With taxes and discount, $101.06.  And that included 2 cute little jack-o-lantern candleholders I couldn't pass up. All that fabric has been washed and dried, and about 1/2 of it has been ironed and put away. The rest is still piled up on the cutting table, ready for another marathon ironing session, but heaven knows where I'm going to store it.  I am running out of room.

I drove by there the first week of October. The shop is empty, dark, and no signage even to show it was ever there. So very sad. I wish his family the best.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Final Cruise Day

I almost forgot the rest of Fri. night.  Jack was tired, so he went back up to the room and to bed, while the rest of us went down to the Stardust Theater for a montage of Hollywood musicals. The closest bar was also taking orders for drinks--2 for the price of 1--but I don't drink often, so DD chose Bahama Mamas for us and by golly, that was pretty good!  lol!  Once the show was over, many of the crew members paraded across stage for us to meet and applaud. Herbert wasn't up there--I'm sure he was turning down beds and making towel origami animals for us all.

We still weren't ready to call it a night, so we decided to hit the chocoholic buffet. O.M.G. There were chocolate sculptures gracing offerings of brownies and fudges and cakes and pies and just about every form of chocolate you could imagine. I wish I'd thought to take pictures of it, because it was unbelievable! Three of the 4 of us were diabetics, but we decided to forget that little detail for an hour. The only thing I couldn't find was a chocolate/peanut butter combo of anything. Between the Bahama Mamas and chocolate, I went to bed a happy camper that night.

Saturday we weren't due into Victoria, BC until 6pm, so part of the day was spent sorting and packing what we could. It was an interesting system--we could choose what time we wanted to disembark, in 20-min. intervals, and place the corresponding color-coded tag on our luggage. Then we would place it outside the door by 11pm and it would all be taken to a central area for storage, to be unloaded the next morning at the dock. The hard part was trying to find room for all the stuff I'd bought on the trip; remember the $100.00 worth of fabric?  lol The suitcases were bulging, but I sure didn't want to overload myself with the carryons.

Sat. evening, we docked in Victoria, and were greeted at the pier by a welcoming committee whose speech ended with "God bless America and God save the Queen!" I'd forgotten for the moment that we would be in Canada, and would need our passports.


DD had decided to do a hop on/hop off excursion--a very informal tour on a bus throughout the city. She got to see part of the museum that we only heard about, but would love to see some day.  We trotted past it on our horse-drawn trolley ride.

That's our guide, Jan, and our Clydesdales, Dolly and Molly, who were voice-trained. If they picked up the pace too much, Jan would simply say, "We're walking ladies, we're walking", and the horses would slow down again.

Jan drove us past a house similar to one that sold recently for $499,000.00! 

Not much to look at, was it? I thought examples like this were only found in California or New York.
I would have loved to stop in at this little place:

Victoria was a pretty little town, and very tourist-oriented. Passersby would wave and call out a greeting, and wait patiently for our little trolley to clear the intersection.

We passed a "state building", though I forget what the actual title was.  It was gorgeous, with a fountain in the middle and people just hanging out on the lawn. I would expect more security, but maybe the inside was well guarded. Or maybe that's just an American thing. I just didn't expect it to be so accessible.

The building faced the harbor, and perpendicular to that was the Queen's Hotel. It was also lovely:

We passed some parks that I would have loved to explore.

This one had a huge water pitcher playground for the kidlets:

There were peacocks strolling the grounds, too, but the best I got was a blurred pic as we trotted by.  (Molly and Dolly were feeling a bit frisky.)

Looking across the Strait towards Port Angeles, WA.  Twilight, anyone?

It was only an hour excursion, so within minutes we were back at the busy pier.

If we'd been a little less mobility-challenged, I would have loved to tour the Butchart Gardens, but there just wasn't an excursion that fit us. Next time, if there is a next time, I'll research non-cruise line excursions to see if there is some way to tour the Gardens.

As it was, I could feel a cold starting, and was just as content to go back to the ship, eat supper and finish the packing. Herbert, who had placed various origami towel creations on our bed this week (swan, puppy dog, penguin, monkey--we missed the elephant) had left a towel heart with a sweet note in the middle thanking us for being such nice passengers. I'm sure that was what he told all his customers, but it was a nice touch. Jack's back was really bothering him, so we persuaded DD to give up her firmer sofa bed for him and sleep in the queen-sized bed with me. Unfortunately, he was the only one who got much sleep. Between his snoring and my sneezing and coughing, DD didn't rest well, either. I'm sure if we ever do this again, DD will want her own room!

We were supposed to be out of our staterooms by 9am. DD didn't read that part of the daily newsletter, so she was a little miffed that I'd set the alarm clock so early, but as it was, we still didn't have time to get breakfast--again. My brother and his wife left early, but due to the weather pattern, part of their flight was cancelled, so their airlines put them up in a hotel in Vegas (!) and flew them the rest of the way home on Mon.  DD couldn't find a good combo of flights for herself, so she'd chosen to spend the night in WA and fly out the next day. I wish we'd done that.  The airport was so crowded, we couldn't get a wheelchair pusher, and getting through Security was a PITA. One of the gals at the ticket desk told us it is this way every Sunday during cruise season--not enough wheelchairs or pushers.  (Just warning you!)

I'm sure I was the most popular person on board the plane, what with all the coughing and sneezing. I offered to wear a mask, but the flight attendant said they didn't carry any. Seems like that would be a handy item to add to their stock, with the close quarters and re-circulated air. So I utilized my hand sanitizer and the tissues as much as possible, but I have to wonder how many of my co-travelers came down with a cold the next day. I apologize if you were on my flight!

We touched down to a warm, humid night in Charlotte--such a change from the week's 50s highs. Airport assistance was at a minimum, I couldn't remember where I parked, and I'd lost the parking receipt sometime during the week. The lack of sleep and my cold really did a number on my head, so halfway home, we pulled off at an exit and Jack drove the rest of the way. We brought in just enough baggage to find our meds and toothbrushes and gratefully collapsed into bed about 1:30 am.

Looking back, I'm so glad we went when we did. Parts of the trip were really hard, and I don't think Jack would have been able to do this if we'd waited another few years. Despite all that, we saw some amazing scenery, experienced things we'd never have the opportunity to do here, took far too few pictures, and made some wonderful memories.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011


We cruised into Ketchikan on a rainy, cold, dreary day. It didn't help that it was 6am, either. Jack and DD were going on a separate excursion, so by the time I helped him get dressed and ready and got myself ready, I didn't have time to grab anything for breakfast. That was a mistake.

I barely remembered the underwater camera before dashing down the gangplank to stand under the shelter until we were allowed to board the bus. Figuring we were going to get wet anyway, I didn't bother with an umbrella or a jacket, just wearing jeans and a sweatshirt over my swimsuit. Forgetting a jacket was mistake #2.

Eighteen hearty souls (or mindless nitwits) boarded the bus to go snorkeling. In the ocean. In Alaska!
In wet suits, of course.

One of our guides, a gal named Allix, spent the bus trip giving us a brief tutorial on how to don a wet suit, but nothing could really prepare me for the experience of inserting a bulky body into a latex glove. And no, there are NO pictures of that, thank goodness!

At the small office, they separated us by gender and asked us our heights and weights, choosing wetsuits they thought might fit. First you fold the top half down, so you can put your legs in the proper holes. Then, while you can still bend over (Allix's words, not mine), you must put on your snug-fitting boots. Frankly, I think they should have provided barrels of olive oil for dipping body parts. The suits are stretchy, but on my short stature, they rippled. I couldn't get the boots on, so Allix helped me.

Once the boots were on, we focused on putting our arms into the sleeves and getting the hoods on before zipping up over the hood flaps to secure them. I put my hood on and promptly ripped it back off. I am severely claustrophobic and that was just too much. One of the guides brought me a larger one. Still too much. So she suggested I wait until the last minute before going into the water to put it on.

Then we carried our flippers and re-boarded the bus to ride down to the area set up for us. Once there, we were given masks and the options of wearing weights and led down a steep, rocky slippery path to the water's edge. The tide changes so quickly, a marker must be left so we know where to return. I opted not to wear weights, as I don't swim well and thought it might make it harder.  Mistake #3.

Since I still couldn't bear to wear the hood, Matt told me I shouldn't put my head under water, as it was too cold, and we all know we lose body heat through our heads.  However, the wetsuit provides so much buoyancy,  I rolled around like some huge beachball and it wasn't long before my head was wet and some of the water was seeping down the collar. There were 3 of us who either couldn't swim or had back problems and had difficulty in the water, so we held onto lengths of foam floats and were towed to the sites. Matt grabbed my underwater camera and took this perfectly horrible picture of me:

Do I not resemble some fat, alien Superfly? 

Anyway, because it had rained for 2 weeks, the waters were murky. By putting my face down as I was towed, I could see a little, but not much, and neither could most folks, unless they were wearing weights and could make it down to the bottom. So the guides brought things up for us to see.

This was a sea cucumber. They are normally long and flat, but when feeling threatened, they contract all their muscles and become short, round and hard--just like the vegetable.

This one was starting to relax a bit and become a little floppy.

A little farther out, one of the guides brought up a starfish for us. This one had lost a leg, and instead of regrowing it, had started growing a new one underneath the old one. 

Did I mention that 2 of our guides were diving instructors, and that the other two, including Alex, were DiveMasters as well as marine biologists? They decided they'd need to try and mark this guy somehow to monitor that leg growth.

They also brought up something that looked like a burgundy kush ball, the insides of which are used in some sort of rare sushi. It costs about $10,000 dollars to get a license to hunt them, and hunting season is Oct. through Dec., which are the worst months for storms up there, but because of their rarity, a licensee can make around $60,000 in that time. I couldn't stay upright long enough to get a picture of this one. (If you click on the link above, you'll see lots more pictures, including the "kush balls")

By this time we'd been out there about 45 minutes, and I was getting exhausted and nauseated, probably because I had taken my diabetic meds the night before, as usual, but hadn't eaten breakfast. I told Allix I was done, so she towed me back to shore. I must have looked a little green, because she and another guide kept asking if I was okay. Allix helped me pull off my flippers and  unzipped the back of my wet suit and poured some water down it. This is supposed to help, but I'm sure my lips were starting to turn a little blue. I was kicking myself for not finishing the excursion, but in reality, there was only one area I didn't go to, and within 5 minutes of my reaching the shore, the whole group was swimming back in. Besides, how many people can say they've had a marine biologist pull off their flippers? Or for that matter, have been snorkeling in Alaska?

We made the long, slippery treacherous journey back up to the van, where "coolers" of hot water awaited us. We took the scoops and poured the hot water inside our wetsuits to warm up. Ahhhh. It was almost as good as a hot tub! Back at the office, we peeled the suits off and redressed. Cups of coffee, hot chocolate or hot water for tea were waiting for us, and I felt infinitely better once I got a little sugar in my system. (Warmer, too, as my hair was starting to dry.)

Allix and the guys saw us back onto the bus, and we were taken back to the ship--and a hot shower. 

We sailed out of Ketchikan by 1pm, so I didn't get a chance to get back to town.  The rest of the day was spent reading, wandering around the ship, and another eye-rolling dinner with my brother and his wife at the Asian restaurant on board.

We were headed back down the coastline to Victoria, British Columbia.


(Next:  Last day.)