Tuesday, July 18, 2017

House Tour (of my tiny mobile house)

Traveling and living in a minivan for several months at a time requires a lot of organization, paring down, and choosing among necessities. Which of them is more necessary? I tried to keep as much as I could, and to that end, I've divided my van up into the same rooms or areas I have in my house.  I'll show you in the photos that follow.

Of course, the bedroom is the most important, since that's where I'll be spending 1/3 of my time;  to make the rest of the day the best it can be, the bed has to be comfortable. It's a regular twin bed with a gel foam mattress from Costco, and it's the most comfortable mattress I own!  Not bad for camping!  When I close up those curtains, it makes a very cozy little nest.

Under the bed is where most of the stuff gets stored. Let's take a look at all the room under there.

On the driver's side from the left, we have the junk closet, where all the occasional use equipment is stored: tarp, guy ropes, tent stakes (for the guy rope attached to the tarp), window screens and the magnets to make them stick. Next is the propane closet -- I normally use one tank every 3 days, so this is almost enough for a month. After that comes the liquor cabinet (it's so nice to end some of the days with a drink, and it's occasionally a way to meet my neighbors in a campground). After that is one of the pantries (there is another in the back); this is stuff I don't use very much, but it's nice to have it when I need it. Last of all is the empty (almost) closet that will get filled with stuff I want to bring home. The package is for a quilt store in Canada;  it's so much easier and cheaper to mail it from Canada, so I'm going to wait till I get there to mail it.

In front of those baskets are a portable gas grill and a 3 gallon water jug (it would be awful to be caught somewhere with no water).

Around the other side of the bed are 3 rubbermaid bins that slide underneath. They are the linen closet (towels), the clothes closet, (t-shirts and pants) and the coat closet.  I've got plenty of warm clothes with me -- a lightweight shirt, sweatshirts, a fleece-lined jacket -- I'm in no danger of being cold! (Plus there are a hat and gloves in another little compartment.) Up at the head of the bed is a narrow plastic chest of drawers to supplement the clothes closet.

That round "table"you see at the foot of the bed is actually the potty. It's a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat, and there's kitty litter in plastic bags inside. It's neat and clean, and easy to dispose of without any mess, and when it's necessary, it's really nice to have!

The other very important part of the house is the kitchen, which I have set up in the back of the van behind the bed. Before I decided how to set this part up, I scoured the internet for ideas and combined quite a few of them for my final product. I decided on a headboard made of pegboard that would hold all the utensils and pots and pans, leaving the rear well for a cooler, another pantry (this one gets used a bit more), a two burner Coleman stove, and the other miscellaneous bits and pieces that are necessary for cooking and eating outdoors.  For this trip I even managed to pack a TV tray table that fits in the back next to the bed, so that if it is raining, I can sit in there and eat, or work on my computer.

That white bin on the left in the photo says McGuyver on it. That's my McGuyver box, named by my son David when we went camping at the Grand Canyon last year. Whenever we needed something a bit out of the ordinary, I was able to pull it out of that box.  Extra batteries, screws, pegboard hooks, cable ties, toilet paper, bungee cords, carabiner hooks, tie-down straps, duct tape, WD40, empty food containers, you name it, it's probably in the McGuyver box.  Hopefully I'm prepared for almost any circumstance!

I fabricated some screens for the windows -- it can get pretty hot inside, and some nights it's to hot to sleep with the windows closed, but the bugs can be ferocious.  The back window screens are held on with magnets and the front ones go entirely over the top of the door, kind of like a pillowcase. It helps keep the inside bug free and, along with my battery operated fan, I can stay pretty comfortable.

There's almost all the entertainment here as there is at home -- my Kindle is full of great books, I have my iPad for games (words with friends ) and news whenever there is Wifi, and my computer to email and write the blog (and post whenever there is Wifi!).  My phone (which works in Canada!!) is full of audio books and music. There's no TV, but I'm learning to live without that.  I can charge everything with car chargers or my little inverter, so power isn't much of a problem either.

See, all the comforts of home, but a whole world out there to explore! It's going to be an exciting summer.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Another Epic Trip Begins

Hello friends, it's that time again.  I'm about to set off on another epic journey (2-3 months this time) to the Canadian Atlantic Maritime Provinces. I'm going all the way to Labrador -- that's about as far as you can go.  Someone asked me why I was going there -- my best answer, because it's there and I haven't seen it yet!

I've spent months preparing for this trip; getting guide books from all the provinces, surfing the internet, pouring over maps, and corresponding with folks on the internet. One of the funniest experiences I had while preparing was determining how I would get to my starting point, and what would that point be?  I finally decided that I wanted to start in Labrador and work my way back.  Of course, this is after a week in Colorado camping with my sister and another week at Glacier National Park camping with my son and his family. Then I could actually start on the big trek. I thought it would be fun, and beautiful, to drive along the north shore of the St. Laurence River -- so I checked it out on the map (a AAA map of all of Canada -- not much detail).  I followed the road on the map, and the line got thinner and thinner, and finally disappeared at a town called Kegasha in Quebec. Off to Google to find the roads that went to Red Bay.  Alas, Google told me to fly or take a ferry, although there is a road. Here's the map...
It's 2275 kilometers -- more than 1300 miles and when I explored further, I discovered that much of it is a gravel road!  Oh heck no, I'm not doing that (although if it had been paved, I might have considered it!). Sadly, there is no road that goes directly from Kegasha to Red Bay.  

I finally decided to drive quickly through Central Canada and get to Newfoundland as a starting point. I'll begin the trip by driving up the west coast of Newfoundland, take the ferry to Labrador and visit Red Bay, then come back by way of the east coast of Newfoundland (with a detour to the northern tip of Newfoundland to see L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site, a Viking settlement site reconstruction. 

From there, I'll be able to see the rest of the Maritime Provinces as I work my way back home, coming through Maine (Acadia) and stopping in Pennsylvania to see my other sister. 

I'll be back home sometime in October -- having missed the worst of the Albuquerque summer heat! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Vintage Shirting and Dressmaker Prints Blog Hop

It's my turn to play with Barb's great fabrics, and what fun it has been. For those of you who may know this as a travel blog, bear with me!  

My block is called Wyoming Valley Star.

As a star lover, and a native of Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley, how could I not love the Wyoming Valley Star! This block has stars inside stars, and stars set on more stars (those corner units form their own star). So it has to be my choice for this special Blog hop.

But let me tell you a little about Barb and me!  We met in a quilting class while we were both living in Hawaii, and became friends almost immediately.  Both our husbands were in the military, so we had that in common as well. One of my favorite memories of those years was our Friday night dance classes.  It was just the four of us taking lessons from Miss Sylvia, and we had a lot of fun during those classes (and when we went for dessert afterwards!). Later on, when I needed help with writing a book, Barb was right there to become co-author of Traditional Quilts with Painless Borders. Now we enjoy each other's company every year at our annual retreat with several other quilting friends. This is a friendship that has spanned many years and many locations, but quilting remains the constant.  

This quilt block appears in several of my books, most recently in Savvy Sets for Scrappy Blocks, and I'll be giving away a copy of that book to one lucky winner. It's also a good place to show off a method I have of making 2 ½" half-square triangles from 2 ½" strips with no waste. 

For my blocks, I chose two color combinations; one is a dark and medium black with red (my school colors!), and the other is a dark and medium blue with red. Both will work well, but the placement of the colors/values is essential to making each of the parts of the block visible.

My first step in making one of the blocks is to audition the fabrics in the order that I will be using them. There are three parts – the large star made of chevrons, the small inner Sawtooth star, and the star that is formed by the corner units.  I call that one a "sitter backer" star, because it is not prominent, it just kind of sits back there. I arrange the fabrics so that the sawtooth star fabric is between the large star and sitter backer star, then have a good look at them, perhaps squinting at them, to make sure that there is good contrast.
I'll be using the red and black combination in the order you see, but I changed my mind about the blue and red one -- I'm making the sawtooth star out of the red. 
Once I'm sure that the contrast works, it's time to cut. Here's what you'll need for one star:
           From the large star fabric:             8 rectangles, 2 ½" x 4 ½"
                                                                 1 square, 4 ½"x 4 ½"
           From the Sawtooth Star fabric:     8 squares, 2 ½" x 2 ½"
           From the sitter backer star fabric: 6 rectangles, 2 ½" x 3 ½"
           From the background                    6 rectangles, 2 ½" X 3 ½"
                                                                 12 squares, 2 ½" x 2 ½"
Place the 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" background rectangles right sides together with the sitter backer star rectangles. Draw lines as shown (45o lines from two opposite corners) using a square ruler or Sally's Gizmo. 
Using the Gizmo
Using a standard ruler with a  45o line.
Sew on the drawn lines, and then cut apart between them. Press the seams toward the darker fabric. Don't forget to trim away the little dog ears!
Arrange 3 half-square triangles with a 2 ½" background square and sew them together as shown.  
Press the seams in opposite directions, pressing the triangle unit toward the background square. Then sew the halves together. 

For the large star points, I use the technique of sewing diagonally across a square, then folding the triangle back on itself. Many people draw a line to follow, but I have developed a technique whereby you do not need to draw that line; I draw the line on my sewing machine. Just line up a ruler with the sewing machine needle (in the down position), square it up with the machine, and use a Sharpie marker to draw the line from the needle toward you. Then, by guiding the bottom corner of the small square along the drawn line, you have perfectly sewn diagonal lines. Make sure the top corner of the small square is right at the needle. 

Sew the Sawtooth Square pieces on one end of the Large Star rectangles. Sew 4 units in one direction, then make sure to sew the other 4 in the opposite direction. I don't start sewing at the corner because my machine likes to eat those little points -- by starting on the other side, I avoid that!

Sew these 4 in the opposite direction

You can chain piece these, but don't forget to use a scrap of fabric to lead on then lead off your stitching. This saves lots of thread and helps prevent those thread pileups that are so annoying!

Trim away the triangles 1/4" from the seam. 
Press the seams as shown -- there is a reason for this which will become apparent when you sew the units together. Just follow the pictures below.

Add the background squares to the other end of each of the rectangles just like you did the Sawtooth Square pieces. Sew the seams in the same direction so that the rectangles end up as parallelograms. Press them so that the seams in one unit all go in the same direction (either toward or away from the background triangle). 
 Sew pairs of units together like you see below. This is where the seams pressed in opposite directions will be very useful -- opposing seams will nest together beautifully and you'll get perfectly matched seams. 
 Arrange the corner units, the large star units, and the center square as shown and sew them together. 

 Here's a hint for making the seams match when you are sewing the corner unit and large star points together. Run the point of a seam ripper along the ridge formed by the seam on the bottom layer; where it stops is where the intersections should meet up. Keep the seam ripper on that intersection and as you sew, aim the needle toward the point of the ripper.  Don't sew over the ripper though, pull it away just before the needle gets there! 

There you have it, a beautiful Wyoming Valley Star block!  I tried another one using the black and red fabrics; which combination is your favorite? 

Don't forget to comment below and be sure that your e-mail address is included -- next week I'll pick one commenter to receive Savvy Sets for Scrappy Blocks and a Gizmo!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Oregon -- Part 2 The Barlow Road

When I started planning this trip, I purchased a book of photographs taken along the Oregon Trail. I've followed that book, and seen many of the things photographed, and even photographed some of them myself.  When I was looking through the book, one picture caught my eye, and became the ultimate goal for the trip -- find that spot and photograph it myself. That spot was on the Barlow Road. 
                    Not the photo of the Barlow Road, but one of the photos in the book

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  When the emigrants finally reached the Columbia River at the Dalles, the early ones had no choice but to build rafts and float down the Columbia River to what is now Vancouver, WA. Doesn't that sound like fun?  I can imagine getting on a raft and floating on the river. Sounds romantic, and fun! But they had to put their wagon, livestock, everything they owned, and themselves on that raft. There were many rapids in the river, the current was very swift, and it was deep. The raft was under water with all the weight on it, and many rafts were lost, along with everything on them. 

                                   The Columbia River, a little East of the Dalles

After a  few years of rafting, a pair of enterprising men decided to find another route. They scouted, and built a road that went south around Mount Hood then up to Oregon City. Of course they charged a toll for using this road, but most people paid it, rather than risk the Columbia (one statistic I read said that 75% of the people used the Barlow Road). 

I started early in the morning, and my first view of Mt. Hood was just spectacular. 

The first part of the trail was on very long, muddy, dirt roads, and I feared getting really stuck, so I kept to paved roads that occasionally crossed the trail. The best part started at what is called Barlow Crest. It's the top of a mountain pass, and several trails cross here. One of them is the Pacific Crest Trail (many of you have read the book about the woman who walked it -- can't remember what it is called...) but the Barlow Road also crosses here.  It didn't look quite like I expected -- it was more like a wide hiking trail, or an ATV trail.  The trees closed over it leaving not much room for a wagon -- at least not for our version of a wagon. 
                                                       Barlow Road to the East
                                                               Pacific Crest Trail as it crosses

                                                          Barlow Road to the West

As you go down the mountain, there are a few other places where you can walk along the trail. One is called the Pioneer Woman's Grave. It is a pile of stones now, but under it, a woman's remains were found quite a few years ago. The grave was rebuilt, and now people come to see it, and to place items on it.  I was amazed at the things I saw there -- a sand dollar, lots of coins, tin medals, special stones, a little doll, a bird -- almost anything you could imagine. 

Across the road was another section of the road. 

But there was one photo I wanted to capture for myself more than any other, and that I had a very hard time doing. It was the section called Laurel Hill.  The road that leads to Laurel Hill is Rt. 26, and a 5 mile section of it is under construction right now, the section I wanted. Traffic was one lane only, with flaggers guiding traffic.  There was a good description in my guide book about how to find this part, but the construction folks had covered the signs. I drove down, then up, then down again before I found where it was, but by the time I found it, it was too late to take pictures. I vowed to come back the next day.  It rained the next day -- hard!  But I went back, and had to drive it 3 more times to find it again!  But I found it, pulled way off to the side in the middle of construction, and sat in my car for a while wondering if I was doing the right thing. But, 2 years in the planning, 7000 miles in the car, by darn I was going to see this place!  Off I went, up the stone staircase, to the abandoned paved road at the top. As I walked along, I wasn't sure how far it would be to the place I wanted to photograph, but it ended up being only about 50 yards along. I quickly took my photos, hustled down those steps, and there was a construction person at the bottom on her radio trying to figure out what to do about my car. I got in, and took off very quickly, with a sincere apology!  But I got what I wanted!!
Can you believed that they got wagons down this hill?  I was stunned....
                                                The top half of Laurel Hill
                                                    The bottom half of Laurel Hill

                     Construction on rt. 26. The spot I wanted was just to the right. 

At last I had seen everything I wanted to see -- well almost. One more stop.  The museum at the end of the trail!

I had done it.  It took 24 days and by that time I had gone over 5000 miles. Worth it?  Absolutely.  I really loved this trip, especially having a goal like I did.  I hope you enjoyed this small description of the journey.