The Peabody rooftop mixer and dinner

13 03 2012

Some pics from this evening’s ‘mixer’ on the rooftop of The Peabody in Memphis (which is where the Duck Palace is), followed by pics of the meals that some of us had at Capriccio Grill in The Peabody after the mixer. I had the fish (mahi mahi) and asparagus. Oh, and there were fried green tomatoes served as the hot appetizer on the rooftop — they were far more likeable than the taste I had the night before at Kooky Canuck’s. And at breakfast, the butter pats were ducks — too cute!

Click on a small photo to view it at a larger size.

 





The Peabody ducks

13 03 2012

The Peabody is famous for its ducks. Yesterday at 5 pm, I got a glimpse of the duck march back to the elevator and their ‘palace’ on the hotel’s rooftop. I was on the mezzanine floor and there were heaps of people, so the photos weren’t very good. Today, we got to the mezzanine floor too late to see them, then scrambled to get to the rooftop to see them marched to their ‘palace’, but they were already under cover by the time we got up there.

However, I got a few photos, and hope to get more tomorrow as Shannon, the wife of the conference organiser, will be the honorary Duckmaster at 5 pm — I guess most of our conference attendees will be watching her escort the ducks back to their home on the roof (the ducks come into the lobby at 11 am when our sessions are in full swing, then stay there all day, leaving at 5 pm).

Some of these photos are of the duck walk on the carpet back to the elevator, others of the Duck Palace on the rooftop and where the ducks live for 18 hours a day, and some photos are of the Memphis skyline from the rooftop — the river in the background is the mighty Mississippi.

We’re having a function up on the rooftop in about 10 minutes so I’d better get this blog post published and get my sunglasses and camera in order!





Memphis Burgers

12 03 2012

On another street adjacent to The Peabody is Kooky Canucks, famous for their burgers. Some of us went there on Sunday night. I had the burger with bacon and blue cheese — this was a BIG burger, cooked as I wanted it (medium rare); however, I was good and removed the top of the bun and almost all the fries and gave them to others at the table, which meant I just had the protein and salad veges. It was GOOD. One of the other Aussie ladies had the fried green tomatoes — like me, she’d only heard of them via the movie of the same name. I tasted them, but they didn’t hit any notes for me.

None of these animals was harmed in making the burgers!

None of these animals was harmed in making the burgers!

My burger with blue cheese and bacon

My burger with blue cheese and bacon

Fried green tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes

It was dim, so Sue used her phone's flashlight to illuminate her menu

It was dim, so Sue used her phone's flashlight to illuminate her menu

Kooky Canucks is famous for its 'challenging' meals

Kooky Canucks is famous for its 'challenging' meals - none of our group took on any of these challenges

And then there were the S’Mores…

We had four Aussies at our table and none of us had tried (or had hardly heard of) S’Mores, so we got a lesson in them! There are called S’Mores, ‘cos you can’t stop at one and want ‘some more’.

So here’s how you make them — they are basically marshmallow toasted over a flame, then placed on a Graham cracker with a piece of chocolate on it (Hershey bar in our case), then squashed down with another Graham cracker. They are VERY sweet, and I found even one quite sickly sweet — there’s no way I could’ve eaten another one. But at least I can say I tried it.

Toast the marshmallow

Toast the marshmallow

...until it's nice and golden brown and soft inside

...until it's nice and golden brown and soft inside

Place the hot squishy marshmallow on the chocolate on the bottom Graham cracker

Place the hot squishy marshmallow on the chocolate on the bottom Graham cracker

Place the other cracker over the top and carefully pull out the wooden stick

Place the other cracker over the top and carefully pull out the wooden stick

The hot marshmallow should melt the chocolate and form a squishy inner layer

The hot marshmallow should melt the chocolate and form a squishy inner layer

Goopy!

Goopy!

Very goopy!

Very goopy!

And now it's ready to eat -- BIG sugar hit!

And now it's ready to eat -- wait for the BIG sugar hit!

 





Memphis BBQ

12 03 2012

On Saturday evening (early — about 5:30pm) some of us went to Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous BBQ restaurant in the alley opposite The Peabody. Mmmmmm…. ribs!

It was HUGE and PACKED, but we got a table. By the time we left, there was a long line of people waiting to get in which snaked all the way along the alley.

Here are my pork ribs (small rack) after I’d eaten two of them, then a picture of my friend’s rack after she’d finished (mine looked the same but I forgot to take a picture of them!) Oh, and the baked beans were awesome — I suspect they’d been made in-house as they had a nice hint of molasses. The coleslaw I hardly touched as it was a bit vinegar-y

My half rack of ribs with a spicy dry rub

My half rack of ribs with a spicy dry rub

Finished ribs!

Finished ribs!

 





The Peabody, Memphis

12 03 2012

Some more photos from The Peabody in Memphis… This is a grand old hotel, in every sense.

Sunrise from hotel room at The Peabody, Memphis

Sunrise from hotel room at The Peabody, Memphis, Sunday 11 March 2012

Duck motif in the tiles in the elevators

Duck motif in the tiles in the elevators... duck motifs are everywhere!

Lobby fountain where the ducks spend part of their day

Lobby fountain where the ducks spend part of their day (too early for them when this photo was taken)

Lobby roof above fountain

Lobby ceiling (glass?) above fountain

Lobby ceiling edge detail

Lobby ceiling edge detail

 

Lobby ceiling -- cornice detail

Lobby ceiling -- cornice detail

Marble corridor to function rooms on the mezzanine floor above the lobby

Marble corridor to function rooms on the mezzanine floor above the lobby

Room number/knocker

Room number/knocker (blurred for privacy reasons)

And even though we’re not getting a morning paper, they are delivered to the room by hanging them in a special bag on the doorknob, not tossed ‘somewhere near the door’ as in other hotels.





Driving across Arkansas

11 03 2012

I stayed overnight in Marshall, TX at the Quality Inn on Hwy 59, not far off I-20. It was average — the room was quite big, the shower was good, but don’t look too closely at the edges… And the free WiFi was flaky at best. I had to continually disconnect and reconnect to maintain connection. I did this at least 20 times during the evening and about 6 times in the morning before I gave up in frustration and packed up the computer. The Quality Inn had free breakfast too, which would be fine if you like highly processed and sugary foods! Waffles, pancakes, sweet muffins, pre-packaged cereals, etc. etc. They did have warmish hard-boiled eggs, so I had one, but it was pretty tasteless.

I was on the road by 8:00 am, heading north on Hwy 59 towards Texarkana, where I got on I-30 East before crossing the border into Arkansas. After Little Rock, I took I-440 to I-40, which took me all the way to Memphis. Finding The Peabody (where the conference is being held) was easy, and I got there just on 2:00 pm. Thus my two days of driving from New Braunfels to Memphis took me a total of 13 hours, some 2+ hours more than Bing Maps said it would. I need to make sure I add 2+ hours to the estimated time to get back to Dallas!

The drive today was good — clear blue skies, dry roads, traffic all travelling at a similar speed.

Some observations:

  • Arkansas as seen from I-30 in early spring is very pretty.
  • Some churches have funny names — I saw one called ‘Cass County Cowboy Church’ (I wonder if they let anyone else join?) and another called ‘Bible Deliverance Church’.
  • I’m impressed with my Chevrolet Impala — it’s a full-size car from Enterprise and it responds really well (both acceleration and braking).
  • There was PLENTY of notice about roadworks on I-40 — the first notice was some 40 miles away, giving you enough time to make another route decision, then there were notices of possible delays and stopping as you got closer and closer to the area. Very well done.
  • I can’t believe the flyovers etc. in the middle of nowhere that take the highway/interstate in all sorts of directions. it looks hard from the map, but is quite easy on the ground. Signposting everywhere on the highways and interstates is EXCELLENT.

The Peabody’s service on arrival was superb. The room is lovely, though the bathroom is tiny. That said, there’s an area outside the bathroom where you can put your toiletries bag etc. Although there’s only one desk (and two of us with computers), the small table in the room is adequate as the other desk. And there are ducks everywhere — on the pillows, on the bath soaps, in the elevator marbled floors…





Maybe this will shut Sue up!

11 03 2012

My good friend Sue, who lives in San Diego, California, LOVES pink. She’s the classic ‘pink princess’ — her phone is pink, her laptop is pink, she buys pretty much anything I make that’s in pink fabrics.

When I made a pink quilt for my Mum for her 80th birthday, Sue was just a little envious. And she was like one of those “I want! I want!” kids who does a tanty if they don’t get their own way 😉

So, I decided to shut her up and make a pink quilt for her. I actually made the quilt in December 2011, and finished it on 1 January 2012, but I didn’t want to post the pictures etc. until she received it. I’ll be giving it to her when I see her at a conference in Memphis, in March 2012. And this blog post will be ‘live’ about a week later. I gave the quilt to her today — and she burst into tears with emotion… I made her cry 😉

Some information about Sue’s quilt:

  • I used up almost my entire stash of pink fabrics! 😉
  • I stitched some 130,000 quilting stitches (don’t worry — the machine counts them for me).
  • All quilting is free motion and done on my HQ Sweet Sixteen — the only marking I did was for the cat outlines (Sue’s a cat person).
  • Each large block contains a cat, echo quilted in a variegated pink rayon thread (Guterman Sulky?).
  • The rest of the quilting is one continuous line of hearts and loops, done using a soft pink Robison Anton rayon thread.
  • The bobbin thread is a soft pink Deco-Bob thread (I used 2.5 bobbins for the quilting).
  • The border quilting is free motion feathers (a la Diane Gaudynski), with a wavy stem — done in a darker pink rayon thread (Floriani), and echo quilted with a deep watermelon coloured thread (Mettler Metrosene).
  • The pattern is a variation on ‘Surround’ from Four Paws Quilting.

Sample photos (click on a small photo to see it full size):





Driving across Texas

10 03 2012

The threat of very nasty storms had me on the road at 9:00 am this morning, thus missing the final couple of hours of the quilting workshop. I would’ve only been working on my piece, which is something I can continue at home. All our instruction was well and truly done, so it was only sewing and camaraderie time I missed.

I wanted to swing by La Grange to see the relatively new Texas Quilt Museum, so I packed up my stuff, said my goodbyes, checked out of the resort, and hit the road. Some 100 miles and 95 minutes later, I made it to La Grange (via Hwy 46, I-10 and Hwy 77).

The museum is housed in an old building that has been beautifully refurbished. Currently, they have one-third of the quilts from the ‘Lone Star’ book on display — they showed the first third for the first couple of months, this group for the next few months, then the last group later this year. No photos were allowed 😦 There was an interesting combination of modern and traditional quilting designs and techniques — all were just stunning. I spent an hour there, and spent a minute or two looking at each quilt (no, you can’t touch them either!) and reading the blurb about each one.

The rain was bucketing down and the temperature had dropped dramatically (~46F) when I left the museum at 11:30 am. It rained and rained, then rained some more, with the occasional patches of drizzly rain. Did I mention that it rained? It rained pretty much the whole way to Tyler, TX, when the rain disappeared even though the sky was totally covered in clouds. Not a drop of sun to be seen. I made it to Marshall, TX just on 5 pm — some 300 and something miles from New Braunfels, and some 7 hours of driving, not including the hour at the quilt museum. As I was making my way diagonally across Texas, I mostly took state roads and highways (77, 79, 259, 155, and 59), with a little bit of time on the I-10 and I-20. I wanted to avoid it when the ‘cricks rose’ and spilled out over the flatter parts of Texas. After all, I need to be in Memphis on Saturday, so I am ready for my presentation on Sunday.

I had dinner at The Jalapeno Tree in Marshall this evening, on the recommendation of the girl at the desk of the hotel where I’m staying. I ordered the bowl of chicken tortilla soup (to compare it to the others I’ve had!), and the SMALL appetizer of chicken nachos. The soup was ordinary, but HUGE. And the nachos weren’t very palatable at all — and also HUGE. I left quite a bit of both; the nicest part of the meal was the things they couldn’t screw up too much — sour cream, guacamole, salsa dip for the corn chips, chopped tomatoes.

Some impressions from my drive today:

  • Spring is springing into life — lots of trees blossoming, lots of wildflowers, and lots of road kill (e.g. skunks, raccoons and some big black bird that flocks to eat the road kill — turkey buzzards/vultures??)
  • Lots of chicken farms behind the main line of view from the road in certain areas.
  • Lots of abandoned houses, offices, businesses. Some looked quite old so may have been abandoned long before the last 5 years or so, but I suspect many were abandoned/closed down as a result of the current economic situation.
  • Plenty of vacant ‘Adopt a Highway’ positions — perhaps the service clubs, community organisations are having trouble getting/keeping members, especially as people move away from rural areas for work.
  • Political advertising for civic positions. Heaps of it. I’ve never understood why sheriffs etc. have to be elected.
  • Enclosed bars. I’ve never understood this either. It’s a ‘feature’ in many states. No windows, no light, and a sense of ‘secret men’s business’ behind the closed doors.
  • Massive number of churches, big and small. It is the ‘Bible Belt’ after all, but with all the abandoned/closed houses/businesses etc. I wonder how far Christian (I saw no evidence of any other variety of religion) charity extends. The churches sure didn’t look run-down.
  • Cell towers everywhere. As soon as you see one, you can see the flashing light on top of the next one. Not many ‘black holes’ here, like there are in Western Australia.
  • National anthem played on the radio station I was listening too at noon today.

Tomorrow I continue my journey through NE Texas, across Arkansas, and into Memphis, Tennessee, my final destination for several days.





Quilting Adventures Spring Seminar: Day 5: 8 March 2012

9 03 2012

Thursday 8 March 2012

Final full day of the quilting workshop — there’s only a half day tomorrow, then we all leave 😦

I did some painting late last night after the visit to The Quilt Haus, then again this morning. Painting light and shade on landscapes just ISN’T my thing and a hole slew of bad memories of high school art came flooding back…

I stopped painting fairly early on and decided to ‘paint’ with thread instead. That took most of the day (lunch was another healthy salad option with turkey and ham strips). At 4 pm we wandered around to view what everyone else in the other three classes had been doing the past week. There were some quite amazing creations.

After dinner (fettucine with chicken and meatballs, various sauces, soups, salads, and garlic bread), the other two instructors — Jan Krentz from California and Laura Wasilowski from Chicago — each did a retrospective of their work. Well, that was far from staid 😉 Both were hilarious! Laura had us in fits of laughter, especially with her photo of the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Sewer’ (a sewer hole cover!) and her Japanese geisha impression and songs (she has a great voice). Both their classes would have been loads of fun, and, having seen them ‘perform’ for only about 20 mins each, I’m surprised their students got as much done as they did.

I need to pack now as we have to check out early tomorrow morning, so I’ll upload my photos later.

Kim and her mom, Debbie, have run a phenomenal retreat. I’d love to do another one.

(Wow! It’s howling outside and the temperature has dropped a lot. It’s meant to be 51F tomorrow and raining… It’s been a delightful 75F — with some humidity the past couple of days — most of the week.)

Photos from the walk through of everyone’s work for the past week; remember, there were four different instructors, each teaching a different technique, so the pieces are very varied — the first 18 or so photos are from the class I was in (Lenore Crawford), including mine; the stars are from Jan Krentz’s class; the whimsical photo portraits are from Laura Wasilowski’s class; and the very abstract pieces are from Vikki Pignatelli’s class (click a small image to see it larger):

 





Quilting Adventures Spring Seminar: Day 4: 7 March 2012

8 03 2012

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Lots of progress on our art quilts today! I’m ready for the fabric painting tomorrow and then stitching. If I’m lucky I *might* have it close to completed by Friday when we finish up at noon. But then, I thought I’d be at the painting stage by about noon today.

I’m having heaps of fun! The gals in our group are a great bunch, and I’m getting to know those on my table and those at the next table across quite well. We were in fits of laughter over some silly thing today.

My piece is starting to come together and I’m feeling much happier about it. I changed tack a bit today — I removed the clouds from my piece and replaced them with another range of hills, and I decided to not try to emulate the difficult needle-like casuarina trees, instead opting for a stylised representation of them with overhanging ‘pods’.

Just so I don’t forget the process, here’s a summary of the steps:

  1. Poster-size photo, taped together.
  2. Clear plastic taped over the photo and draw with a fine Sharpie the outlines where the tones and colours change in the photo.
  3. Pull the photo out, flip it over and put it back under the plastic.
  4. Tape together freezer paper (on the back, cut off excess paper where it’s taped together).
  5. Tape freezer paper down over the plastic and draw the outlines again, this time with an ultra fine Sharpie. This is the pattern.
  6. Tape white muslin over the freezer paper and transfer the outlines to the muslin using pencil. This is where the fused pieces will go.
  7. Mark the pattern with color shades (use a color chart of swatches if you want).
  8. Cut out a section of the pattern at a time (using an Exacto knife) and iron it on the front side of the fabric you want to use.
  9. Using an 18 mm rotary cutter, cut loosely around the edge of the pattern piece on the fabric. Leave about 1/2 an inch.
  10. Iron MistyFuse on to the back of that fabric piece — cut the MistyFuse to the size of the fabric so there’s no excess that will gunk up the iron. Iron between two sheets of parchment (baking?) paper — it releases the heat much quicker than a Teflon ironing sheet).
  11. Using the 18 mm rotary cutter, cut closely around the fabric and pattern piece. Peel off the pattern piece.
  12. Place the fabric right side up on the muslin, and, when you’re happy with it, fuse it down with the iron.
  13. Cut out other smaller pieces from that pattern and finish off that section.
  14. Only do one small section at a time, otherwise you’ll get lost and will just have a massive jigsaw puzzle to sort out!
  15. After fusing everything down (this could take a couple of days, depending on the size and complexity of your photo!), you’re ready to use fabric paint to soften edges, add shadows, add highlights, deal with the tiny details you can’t do easily with fabric, etc.
  16. Once you’re done with the paint, you’re ready to stitch. You can either do surface stitching (thread painting) first if it’s likely to be very dense, or go straight to applying the batting and backing and then doing the free motion quilting.
  17. Square up the quilt, add borders and/or binding. (If you’re adding borders, hold off on putting on the batting and backing until after you’ve squared up the quilt and applied the borders!).

Lunch today was tacos, but we made them ourselves from all the supplied ingredients, which means you could eat as healthily or as unhealthily as you wanted to! Also, chicken tortilla soup. I’m impressed with the meals here — they DON’T dress the salads, or add gravy or similar to meals. They leave that for the individual to add. And it’s pretty much all REAL food too — very little that’s processed. Lots of fresh fruit all the time, too, even at the coffee stations outside our rooms.

Dinner is early tonight, then we go to The Quilt Haus for some exclusive shopping 😉

Later… Dinner was Chicken Cordon Bleu with peas and potatoes and a tomato and basil soup; there was something for dessert but I didn’t even look at it.

After buying a few metres of fabric at The Quilt Haus (well, it *is* half the price that we pay in Australia AND there was 10% off!), we returned to the resort and a few of us went back to our workshop room to continue working on our projects. I started my fabric painting and I want to finish that by mid-morning tomorrow so I can start sewing!! No, I haven’t touched a sewing machine, thread etc. the entire time I’ve been here!

Oh, BTW, Kim announced the 2013 faculty for the Quilting Adventures (www.quilting-adventures.com) seminars and retreats after dinner this evening, and it’s an impressive line-up:

  • March 3 to 8, 2013: Gail Garber, Katie Pasquini Masopust, Paula Nadelstern, Cindy needham, and Michelle Watts
  • March 10 to 15, 2013: Robbi Joy Eklow, Rayna Gillman, Lyric Kinard, Velda Newman, and Terry Waldron.
  • June 3 to 6, 2013: Susan Brubaker Knapp (I’d LOVE to attend this one!)
  • September 19 to 22, 2013: Susan Cleveland.

Click on the small photos to see them larger; the first ones (the completed ones!) are some of Lenore’s work — the others are the work of those in my group, and mine: