Day 4 – The Medina of Fes

Fes/Fez is the oldest imperial city in Morocco and its fourth largest city. It actually consists of three separate cities – a 9th Century section (the Medina), a 14th century section where the royal palace and Jewish quarter are located and the 20th century section (ville nouvelle) which was built by the French. This is where our hotel is located.

Our first stop was at the Place des Alaouites, recognisable by its 7 spectacular doors, which provide entrance to the royal palace.

Nabil dressed up for us today – in his traditional djellaba, a hooded robe worn by both men and women.

He pointed out some nearby housing- part of the Jewish quarter – architecturally different to typical Moroccan dwellings in that they have balconies. Traditional Moroccan buildings are typically rectangular or square.

In order to provide a perspective of the 3 cities we were taken up to a lookout, where the delineation of the three cities is fairly clear to see, before going back down and through the old city walls into the Medina.

What an experience the next few hours were. The sense of history was palpable as we wound our way up and down narrow cobbled alleys, lined with shops, market stalls, even narrower entrances into winding alleyways, restaurants, hotels and homes.

I mentioned a while back that Fes has a chequered history of restoration. Some of the alleyway walls were propped up with an elaborate criss crossing of timber beams; in other places original timber work sits side by side with reproduction cedar work. Many places are in dire need of restoration – but what a task that must be to contemplate amidst this tangle of historical buildings and add ons.

One of our first stops was at a carpet business – and entering that building could not have demonstrated a greater contrast in the unrestored state v restoration (in this case funded by UNESCO). Above and below are photos of the outside of the building.

Look at the breathtakingly beautiful interior. This was once a family home!

The carpets were truly beautiful, and one amongst us gave in to the very strong temptation to own one.

Within the complex network of alleyways people rushed by, ambled along, touted their wares or sat on steps in doorways watching the bustle around them, all the while dodging the handcarts that we have become accustomed to seeing everywhere. Donkeys and mules stand patiently waiting or doggedly carrying their loads from one place to another.

And there are sheep everywhere – in cars, in handcarts, in trailers, in alleyways and within some of the homes that we passed. Their days are numbered! Tomorrow is Feast day.

 

Throughout the day I was captivated by the thought of how much history had happened within the Medina during the last 1200 years and there were so many examples of the extremes in history in this amazing place. Sitting along the crumbling walls were young men connected to the internet on their smart phones, twisted coils of electrical cable run in and out of medieval walls and windows, ancient metal doors sit alongside elaborately decorated and carved Moroccan doors.

This door has 2 door knockers – the low one for those on foot, the higher one for those astride a donkey or mule.

This is a country of such contrasts – a man could be riding a donkey or mule alongside a car, a lonely herdsman on a mountaintop walks along the roadside, earphones firmly in place. Grand homes in cities sit separate to the seeming hodgepodge of apartment buildings as far as the eye can see, and on the city fringes and in the countryside are dwellings ‘constructed’ with whatever can be made useful.

The people of Morocco have been ever so friendly wherever we’ve been. We say ‘Australian’ and they come back with koala, kangaroo or oi, oi, oi! They check out our name badges and delight in saying our names. They patiently explain things when the language barrier threatens to hijack progress. Moroccans tend to be bilingual and we find it easier to make polite French responses rather than the more challenging Berber phrases. Each morning we greet Nabil in his native tongue and he tries unfailingly to expand our vocabulary, but they aren’t the easiest sounds to grasp, remember and repeat!

Our internet access is a little frustrating at the moment so I’ll post more of today’s photos later.

Til next time….
Chris

Day 3 – Fes day trip

Before we left Fes we stopped by a large supermarket (very Costco like) to stock up on picnic foods for later in the day. The most significant difference to our supermarkets is the sheer quantity of bulk foods, especially spices. The colourful tubs are interesting enough but the smells are truly of the ‘died and gone to heaven’ kind.

Azrou, our first destination of the day, is a small market town in the Middle Atlas Mountains that has grown around a very large granite rock (azrou) in the middle of the city, which is characterised by the green tiled roofs of the arcades around the market square.
We visited there today in order to explore some of their local artisan’s workshops and we weren’t disappointed at all.

This very accommodating man demonstrated how he splits bamboo to weave panels within the cedar framework of this shelving unit. Sadly, the carpet weavers refused to allow us to photograph them at work.

Ifrane, our second destination of the day, is a mountain resort that is quite European, even Canadian, like in character. It is apparently the cleanest town in Africa we were told, which is quite a significant honour . We are accustomed to efficient rubbish management at home – so some of the rubbish issues that we’e witnessed here have been quite confronting.
This stone carved lion sits proudly in a city park location, a reminder of the lions that once thrived in the district. Across from the lion we enjoyed our picnic lunch, watching a heavy mist rolling to remind us that we were in mountain territory.

It was here that I was finally able to snap (albeit not very well!) a photo of one of the 6 million sheep who will be slaughtered on Friday as part of Morocco’s Sheep Feast. We have seen sheep being taken home in every conceivable form of transport this week. On country roads owners of small flocks of sheep sit patiently waiting for passers by to purchase their sheep. In cities sheep markets have popped up EVERYWHERE.

We were all absolutely delighted at the sight of two giant teapots guarding the entrance to this conference centre.

We returned ‘home’ early enough to allow us some free time and I just might have to confess that two pairs of shoes may have leapt into my suitcase. Women’s shoes here are beautiful and REALLY, REALLY cheap!

Til next time…

Chris

Chefchaouen to Fez (Day 2)

The hotel here in Chefchaouen is straight from an Arabian nights fairytale.

This is Nabil, our tour guide.

We woke to a beautifully cool morning and went down to a plentiful Moroccan breakfast. The 5am call to prayer made it an early start for the light sleepers amongst us! Whilst waiting to depart we wandered the peaceful gardens of the hotel – I could have sat all day amongst the peaceful tranquility. Everywhere one looked there was a tableau of traditional features and colours.

The charm of our magical walk up through the cobbled alleyways of the medina (Old Town) the previous night was replaced by the harsh reality of abandoned markets, foraging cats and occasional locals on our way back down. But that very emptiness revealed new wonders. Chefchaouen, or the Blue Pearl, is distinctive for its whitewashed and powder-blue painted buildings. We were constantly enchanted by the varying hues of blues amongst winding alleys, twisting staircases and old stone buildings.

The outside wall of the Medina.

Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 in a bid to halt the southern expansion of the Spanish and Portugal and the medina was walled to protect the inhabitants.
Outside of the medina the city sprawls across neighbouring hills and valleys.

The expansive Roman site of Volubilis is most impressive with the design of its original buildings clearly discernible from the ruins. The Basilica still has a number of intact columns and there is plentiful evidence of original mosaics in many of the ruins. Historical restoration projects have helped retain such an important historical site.

The last place we were taken to was obviously a building with lots of rooms off to the sides. Does this hint at what it once was??!!

Then it was onto the bus for our onward journey along Morocco’s northern coastline, through the steeply rising Rif mountains towards Meknes, the youngest of Morocco’s 4 Imperial Cities, founded in the 10th Century by the Berbers in a bid to ward off invading Arabs. Individual Moroccan rulers select their country’s capital city when they come to power, and Meknes was once chosen, way back in the 17th Century, thereby becoming an Imperial City. As Morocco’s 5th largest city, it is known as the city of minarets – the tall, angular towers common to all mosques – which dominate the medina. Magnificent entrances characterise the perimeter of the ancient walls while citrus tree lined roads provide a lovely green backdrop to their sandstone colour.

We all sat down to a lavish lunch – food here is abundant and cheap.

Then it was back on the bus and on to Fes. Fes is a city that represents the Middle Ages in Morocco, with numerous historic buildings and a chequered history of restoration. Sited along the traditional trade routes from the Sahara to the Mediterranean as well as that from Algeria to the Islamic heartland in Morocco, it is perceived as the spiritual capital of the country, with its inhabitants being deeply religious.

We are here for 5 days so I will share more with you later.

Til next time….
Chris

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Casablanca, Rabat to Chefchaouen (Day 1)

If the first day of our Moroccan adventure is any indication of our two weeks here it is going to be an absolutely unforgettable experience.

The day began at the Hassan ll Mosque in Casablanca. It is Morocco’s largest mosque and one of the largest mosques in the world, built right next to the Atlantic ocean. The vast main hall can host 25,000 worshippers and the broad expanses of marble, traditional geometric mosaics and decorative details are beyond amazing.

We then headed north to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, where our first stop was a brief walk to the perimeter gardens of the Imperial Palace, which was guarded by men in rather splendid uniforms.

The Mohammed V Mausoleum is dedicated to the first king of independent Morocco. On this site the king, returning from exile in 1955, gathered thousands of his people to celebrate their new independence. It too features traditional Moroccan decorative motifs and techniques. Once again the guards provided a wonderful richness to the experience. The Mausoleum shares the site with the Almohad Hassan Tower, part of an enormous, unfinished mosque, abandoned in 1199.

The Kasbah Des Oudaias, which was originally a fortified ribat, was an absolutely magical walk along cobbled pathways that wound their way through a very old residential area. What sets this area apart is the ubiquitous blue painted walls, doors, window frames and garden pottery. It was also the site of my first experience being ‘bothered’ by a local who grabbed my arm and hennaed the back of my hand. All at a cost of course!

We enjoyed a tasty lunchtime pancake outside the walls of the Kasbah then settled in for a 4 hour bus journey north. The urban sprawl gave way to rural scenes that almost seemed fairytale – donkeys working fields and carrying loads, a woman walking along the roadside with a huge bundle of sticks and twigs strapped to her back and lone herdsmen tending sheep and goats in remote mountainous terrain.

We were warned that the bus would not be able to get to our hotel and that we should be prepared for a 20 minute walk. We weren’t told that it was going to be an absolutely amazing experience – wending our way through narrow winding alleyways of shops and market stalls with every conceivable product for sale. Ancient Moroccan buildings towered above the walkways – their architecture, colours and character adding to the wondrous ambience.

The hotel, when we finally arrived, was the stuff of middle eastern fairytales. No photos – it was getting too dark so that’s the first thing on my tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list.

Til then ……..
Chris

 

A Quick Update…..

In blog posts from earlier this year I mentioned that we were going to become grandparents again this year. On the eve of his due date, Lachlan Russell was born late in June. His Mum and Dad had chosen not to know the gender of their impending little one and there was joy all round when he was born – I think that everyone had been hoping for a boy.

Big sister, Isla, is loving her new role.

 

While I was visiting the family in Queensland my son was retrenched when the company he worked for went belly up. Within days he was offered work, and one offer included an invitation to move to Adelaide (where we live). Their house went on the market this week and we are all hopeful of a quick sale so that they can move south as soon as possible. I can’t wait to have my family all living in the same city so that the grandchildren can spend lots of time together.

And in the way of the world, a few weeks after Lachy was born we farewelled my mother-in-law who had reached the grand old age of 94. She’d been in care since Dad died 6 years ago, but had become increasingly frail in the last few months.

As a travelling grandmother I’d previously blogged about my ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ quilt. I huffed and puffed getting that monster quilted, along with a couple of other entries for the Quilters’ Guild of South Australia’s Festival of Quilts last month. A friend snapped the next three photos.

That’s What Friends Are For

This is my ‘No Longer A Disaster Quilt’ – it is a very old UFO with quite a history.

Cappuccino – vintage linen table cloth

I love bringing old tablecloths to life. This one was a little challenging though – in the first week of quilting I managed to get black Sharpie ink on it and had to re-design my quilting to try and cover the ink stain that wouldn’t budge. The linen was quite a loose weave and stretched like crazy as I quilted it. Some of those feathers had to be stopped and started one by one or the linen buckled and pleated most unbecomingly.

And I love miniature quilts. This one was inspired by the work of Judi Madsen whose work I really admire.

I think that’s all my news, so ’til next time….

Chris

One More Thing Crossed Off The Bucket List!

I LOVE Tasmania. We’d choose to live there if we could, but……who knows what our ‘new normal’ will allow. In the meantime we once again availed ourselves of the wonderful hospitality of Pip and Alan and traveled there just short of 2 weeks ago.

I have to thank the hubby for many of the following photos – he’s much more likely to have a camera on hand than me.

We have always traveled to Tassie by air, but taking the ferry across from the mainland was on the bucket list and this seemed like a good time to cross one more thing off. So we booked ourselves and the car onto the Spirit of Tasmania and opted to sleep the night away in a private cabin rather than a reclining seat on one of the upper decks.

We arrived in Melbourne just as the late afternoon peak traffic was mounting, so it was a bit of a hair raising experience getting to the ferry on time. I quite enjoyed the trip although it was a bit choppy once we got out into Bass Straight. I still can’t work out how all the cars stay in place in the lower decks with the constant rolling of the ship against the waves, although I’m told that a truck did once tip over.

We took our time driving down to Hobart from Devonport the next morning – popping into whatever antique shop was open, each of us searching for our own personal holy grail (me, vintage linens; Hubby, metal ‘things’) and making sure that we timed our passing through Ross to coincide with morning tea so that we could sample the wonderful vanilla slices there.

And I just HAD to stop in at Wafu Works in Kingston Beach to add to my Kokeshi doll collection.

It’s always nice to see Pip and Alan – over the years we have discovered lots of shared experiences and interests. I remember the night we sat on their balcony in Huonville discussing how/where we met our partners. Would you believe both couples met each other in Woomera. It almost defies probability! So we arrived with a lots of wine and chocolate, knowing that we were in for some wonderfully fun and entertaining opportunities to share both.  Alan is a hugely gifted raconteur, with the most amazing ability to remember every joke he’s ever been told, and every weird and funny scene/character in just about every movie made.

The guys set off early the next morning to sail up the Channel from Kettering into Constitution Dock in Hobart. The main reason we chose this particular week to visit was because Hobart was hosting the biennial Wooden Boat Festival and Alan just happens to have one.

The Luenna is a beautifully maintained 23 foot boat built in 1960. Alan likes to add all of her party finery for these occasions, as do the majority of the 500 wooden boats that gather in Hobart for the festival.

On their way, the guys met up with some majestic old sailing ships, some of whom enjoyed some friendly ‘firing’ upon each other.

These old girls are breathtakingly beautiful.

The next few days were a whirl of driving back and forth between Woodbridge and Hobart, visiting all the displays and docks along the Hobart waterfront, sampling the foods that were on sale or just sitting on Alan’s boat soaking up the sun.

Walking around the waterfront was total eye candy.

Mother Nature provided the evening eye candy with this glorious sunset behind a ginormous cruise liner which had docked for 2 days, in stark contrast to the surrounding character-filled wooden boats.

Alan was actually moored to a very old ship which permanently lives in Constitution Dock as a museum ship – the May Queen – which welcomed visitors all weekend, allowing them to explore the hold, check out its character filled deck and to make rope the old fashioned way. Needless to say, I came home with a length of rope that I helped to make.

I took dozens of macro shots of ship related items along the deck, but I won’t bore you with them all. Just a few…..

The weather had been glorious for most of the weekend, but on Monday a cold front came through, bringing strong winds. Alan had asked if I’d wanted to join the guys for the trip home, but ultimately he chose to leave the Lueena in Hobart for an extra 24 hours while the weather front moved on. Most boats were able to leave and we watched their departures with mixed feelings.

We didn’t have an extra 24 hours so missed out on another wonderful Tassie experience. Next time. Maybe.

The next day we packed up the car and headed north for Devonport. We’d overindulged so much during our visit that we even skipped the vanilla slices in Ross!

A quiet walk around Devonport filled in some time then it was back on board the Spirit of Tasmania and home to the house sitter (who’d kept things going during a horrid heat wave back in South Australia) and the two white fluff balls.

So long Tassie, and a huge thank you to Pip and Alan for their wonderful hospitality.

Til next time……….

Back in Action!

I stopped blogging late last year – it had already been a full-on year and weariness was creeping in, but then a major family event totally threw me for a loop and totally sapped all energy for anything outside of the immediate family. Sometimes you just have to shut down some aspects of life in order to cope with the day to day stuff that really matters.

But life has evolved into a new ‘normal’ so it’s time to start reconnecting with the neglected aspects of my life.

In the last 6 weeks both of my gorgeous grand-daughters turned 2. Just before Christmas Charli and I travelled to Queensland to share Isla’s birthday celebrations and to catch up with the Canadian in-laws who were out here for Christmas.

Charli travelled really well – the plane had spare seats on the way up so she was able to have her own. We weren’t quite so fortunate for the trip back on Christmas Eve, which was to be expected.

We had soooo much fun while we were there. The girls were inseparable, holding hands wherever they went. The times that we can get the two girls together generate unforgettable memories and the photos show the wonderful progression of their growth and social development.

We spent a lot of time just being at home – playing in the back yard. The weather was so HOT it was simply the best and easiest option. I forgot the other news that relates to this….we are welcoming a new grandchild into the family next June, so Tanya was more than happy to chill and try to get on top of her ‘morning’ (that went all day) sickness and lethargy.

Isla’s Daddy was in the middle of building her a play complex and the girls were more than happy to give it a good work out in a never ending cycle of climbing up and sliding down.

On the quilting/sewing front I’ve started quilting the monster scrap quilt that I pieced last year. I’d like to have it completed ready to enter into our Festival of Quilts in July, but I’m trying to put less pressure on myself to complete tasks within deadlines so what will be, will be.

Charli started child care this year and her Mummy asked me if I’d make a nap mat like one that she’d seen there being used by another child. I don’t think that they are readily available for purchase here in Australia so I read through a few on-line tutorials that didn’t quite fit the bill then made up my own creation.

Once made I had to go back and take measurements and make some notes about how I did things because Isla has one on order too now! Have I mentioned how much I love being Grandma Chris?!

We’re on our way to Tasmania for their amazing Wooden Boat Festival next weekend, so,

Til next time……

 

Adelaide’s Festival of Quilts

Our annual Festival of Quilts Show and Exhibition was held this past weekend and was a success on every level. The number of entries was record breaking, with 50+ first time entrants. The quality of quilts was outstanding and I really didn’t envy the judging teams the task that they faced. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever attended a quilt show when some of the decisions made by judges remain a total puzzle to me. This show was no exception.

That said, I have no quibble with the decisions they made with regard to my entries!

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Cafe Au Lait (106cmx106cm)

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This quilt started life as a supper cloth but I can’t actually recall how it came into my possession as I’ve gathered quite a few in the last few years. I loved the beautiful golden brown thread used in the embroidery and knew that a chocolate brown background would set the cloth off beautifully. Once I’d quilted it to death I beaded it to death, so it’s undergone gone a transformation.

Last year Heather, from Adelaide Sewing Centre, gave her Handiquilter girls the challenge of all making the same one block quilt and then to ‘quilt as desired’.  Two months later we compared efforts – learning so much in the process about considering designs that we hadn’t thought of doing ourselves. I decided to enter my quilt and it too won a prize.

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I’ve always loved miniature quilts. Half a lifetime ago my girlfriend, Maureen Harper, and I wrote regular articles in Down Under Quilts featuring miniature quilts.

I made this little (20cm square) foundation paper pieced top in Queensland whilst minding Isla.

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I’ve long loved an antique quilting pattern from England called the Sanderson Star. Hand quilting one is still on my bucket list, but I thought I’d try one in miniature. This poor little thing was actually sewn on 5 different sewing machines in order to get it finished by the deadline. I started it on my Bernina 440 (which lives at my daughter’s,) then on my Bernina 710. I started quilting it on my Sweet Sixteen, did the final border on a Q20 in Hobart and then sewed the binding on on my girlfriend’s Bernina.

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Sanderson Star (30cm x 30cm)

We worked very hard to make this Show a success and our best hopes and wishes were realised. To paraphrase a well known movie: we built it and they came.

We made/make a great team, but every strong team has to have an extraordinary leader and I just want to put it out there that we wouldn’t be celebrating tonight if it hadn’t been for the vision, talent, tenacity and the superb leadership of Anne Marie Serrano.

And…..like many others who came to our Show, I’m going to spend the next week or two thinking about what quilts I might make a start on for next year!

Til next time…

Chris

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Sometimes, I’d like the world to stop for a few moments…..

…….so that I can catch up with my life!

I certainly wouldn’t win a frequency of blogging award at the moment. I can’t believe that we’ve been home from Canada for 6 weeks and I’ve recounted nothing of my crazy, busy life.

Our last week in Canada was pleasantly relaxing after the whirlwind of the wedding. We flew out to Vancouver where I was able to meet up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years. We took the train out to her suburb then off we went for a hike and picnic. What a unique experience – her dog wears a bear bell!

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The weather was glorious and we had a fabulous day. IMG_4577 IMG_4578 IMG_4580

A group of young children waited patiently for this object to float in to shore – we left wondering if they ever did find out what it contained.

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Vancouver is a beautiful city and we walked and walked and walked. Stanley Park was a delight.

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As we walked out of the park we managed to get these photos. My first sighting of racoons!

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After a trying flight from Australia to Canada four weeks earlier, I’d read up on some strategies for getting to sleep on a plane so caught the flight home well prepared. The research was worth it – I slept a great deal of the flight and felt much better on arrival.

The second day after we returned I took a 2-day workshop on our Sweet Sixteens with the wonderful Kimmi Brunner from the US. She is the most delightful tutor – so calm and so awesomely knowledgeable. I picked up lots of new ideas for future quilting projects, but both she and I shared moments of jet lag throughout the days of stitching and learning.

With Canadian luggage still not completely unpacked, and a 2-day workshop of ‘stuff’ to put away I packed up a spare suitcase and headed south to Pt Noarlunga for our Festival of Quilts Committee Retreat. I have the pleasure of being on a committee with the most hard working and committed ladies one would ever hope to meet. Our Guild made the decision earlier this year to not renew our contract with the national craft event organisation that we’d been associated with for a very long time.

The major consequence of this decision was the reality that our committee were going to have to take on the steep learning curve of event planning and management. It has been an enormous undertaking but through the vision, coordination and sheer hard work of our convenor, Anne Marie, we have worked small miracles. Our show and expo is now less than 2 weeks away so life has been very full on. We’d asked Guild members to give us any spare orphan blocks that they had lying around, and the weekend was spent stitching up a special project that will be revealed at our Show.

Shortly afterwards the bi-annual AMQF was held here in Adelaide. I taught six classes for Bernina, and loved every minute of my time there. I’d been encouraged to enter a quilt that I’d made last year into the associated AMQA show and I was absolutely amazed to get a phone call to tell me that I’d won First Prize in my category.

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The Tasmanian Quilting Guild had made that same parting of company decision that the Quilters’ Guild of South Australia had and their self managed Show and Expo was held this past weekend in Hobart. Hubby and I have close friends in Tassie so decided that this event was a good reason to book a holiday week. We love Tasmania – it has been on our radar as a possible next home for quite a while now. I was asked if I’d be the guest quilter at their show so my suitcase was packed with equal measures of clothes and quilt samples.

It has been a great week. While South Australians back home were experiencing heavy rain and flooding, we had 5 out of 7 days of perfect weather. The gardens there are an absolute delight at this time of the year.

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Friends Pip and Alan have moved home since our last visit so lots of time was spent checking out all things new. Pip has a sewing room to covet – complete with her new Q24. We spent many companionable hours downstairs in the evenings – she doing quilt show administration while I was madly trying to finish off 3 of my own show entries.

The Tasmanian Quilt Expo was a great success and a testament to the hard work of their convening committee. I met many wonderful new friends while spending 3 glorious days doing what I most love doing – hand applique and machine quilting. It was also very interesting observing how the Tasmanian guild organized their show and I have a page of notes/suggestions for our committee to contemplate.

Pip’s entry was a winner, which was much cause for celebration.

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Catherine Jones’s entry into AMQA won her Best of Show. Her entry into the Island Quilts Show won her another Best of Show.

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We flew home on Monday, with one leg of the trip being a little fraught. I had a gentleman sitting next to me who was considerably wider than his seat, necessitating an overflow into mine. I was unable to read or in fact do anything as I had to keep my arms crossed in front of me the whole way, and even then I was constantly and annoyingly elbowed as he wrote copious notes in a diary. I’ve told hubby that I will never, ever, ever, ever sit in the middle seat of a row on a plane again.

Today, my daughter-in-law, Tanya flew down from Brisbane with Isla so I have a wonderful week of being Grandma to my 2 gorgeous grand-daughters planned. The two haven’t seen each other since last November but they quickly settled in to some serious play.

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I have just one ‘must do this week’ on my list – somehow I volunteered to quilt a small vintage linen as a thank you gift for a very special guest who will be opening our Quilt Show and Expo next Friday. I’m going to mount the cream linen onto red silk – I’ve never quilted on silk before so I hope it’s a very straightforward process.

Til next time.

Chris

 

 

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