Cue the Twilight Zone theme

26 11 2014

This is a long story about how two people who met 40-something years ago met again recently. But first some back story…

Very old history

Between 1890 and 1903, an English family had six children — four sons and two daughters. We’ll ignore the two girls for this story as one stayed in the same English town her whole life; the other came to live in Australia, but she isn’t part of this story.

Two of the sons went to Canada as young men and joined the Canadian armed forces. One (Alfred) died in World War One while fighting for Canada in Belgium; the other (Fred) was declared medically unfit for service and remained in Canada for a while. Another son (Jack[1]) emigrated to Canada and joined Fred, then Jack[1] emigrated to Michigan to work and to start a farm. Meantime, Fred went back to England and then he and the youngest son, Charles, emigrated to Western Australia (1923).

Charles was my grandfather, and Fred and Jack[1] were my great uncles. Fred died in Western Australia in 1967, so he’s not part of this story either. Jack[1] remained in Michigan his whole life, although he did take a trip back to England in the 1970s to meet up with Charles and the sister who had remained. Jack[1] died in Michigan in 1995, aged 95. Charles lived in Western Australia from his arrival in 1923 until his death in 1981.

Mid-20th Century

Jack[1] had three children — two sons (H and C) and a daughter (J). All lived in Michigan for much or all of their lives, with only C moving to Florida and then later Iowa. All married and had children (my second cousins).

For those who know I have family in Michigan, it is H’s family whom I visit.

1970s and 1980s

In the early to mid 1970s, some of the distant family from Michigan were living in Sydney, Australia and on their circuitous way back to the US, they stayed in Western Australia with my parents for a few days and then with me (in Perth) for a few more days. I was never quite sure how we were related (like most teenagers, I had no interest in the family tree then), but have since found out that Jack[2] was a nephew or cousin of Joan, who was married to C. Jack[2]’s wife at the time, Judy, was with him, and it was Jack[2] and Judy who visited me. In other words, they were likely 2nd or third cousins once or twice removed! And only related by marriage to C. Judy was even further distant as she was related by marriage to Jack[2] and then he by marriage to C. It’s complicated…

When Jack[2] and Judy were staying with me, they gave me a sweatshirt from Michigan State, a sweatshirt I wore with pride for several years before it wore out! At that point I had never been to the US — and nor had most Australians — so to have a sweatshirt from a US university was a ‘big thing’ 😉 This sweatshirt appears again later in this tale…

In the mid-1970s, I lived in Carnarvon, Western Australia and would occasionally go out fishing with friends. Yes, this is relevant…

Skip forward to the mid-1980s, which is when I lived in Canada for a year. I visited my Michigan family twice that year — once at Easter when I first met many of them, and then again at Thanksgiving (or thereabouts). I spent most of my time with H and his family, including my great uncle Jack[1], but never met H’s daughter S as she lived away from home at the time.

Are you still with me?

1990s and 2000s

During the 1990s and 2000s, I had the opportunity to travel to the US on numerous occasions, and whenever I could, I visited H’s branch of my Michigan family. At some point, I eventually met my second cousin S and her family. She moved around a bit in the intervening years, but eventually settled in northern Michigan, some three to four hours’ drive from H and the rest of his immediate family.

Early October 2014

In the week before I left on my recent NZ and US trip, my husband and I were watching an Australian food show — ‘Paddock to Plate’. The host/chef was in Carnarvon and showing the produce from there, including some pink snapper he had caught. During the 1970s when I lived in Carnarvon, I caught a couple of magnificent pink snapper and told my husband that the TV host’s fish were just tiddlers compared to what I’d caught. I went to my old photo albums and found a photo of me proudly holding up my pink snapper, which I showed him.

His first reaction was ‘Is that you?’ followed by ‘Why are you wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt?’ So I briefly told him that some people called Judy and Jack[2] gave it to me and that they were from Michigan and had spent time with me in Perth many years ago (about 40 years ago!), and that they were distantly related somehow. Neither of us thought any more about it, though I did wonder what had ever happened to these distant relations of mine, and thought I should ask how they were related to me when I got to Michigan in about 10 days’ time.

To be honest, after that sweatshirt went into the ragbag, I had completely forgotten about Judy and Jack[2] in the intervening 40 years. When you’re not even 20, you really aren’t that interested in relations from afar 😉


Mid October 2014

I hadn’t been staying long with H and L (his wife), when L mentioned that Judy was now working for S in her store in northern Michigan! And when I later got to S’s town, I met Judy again, some 40 years after last seeing her! She is S’s right-hand person in the store, and they didn’t know each other or that they were vaguely related by marriage until relatively recently.

Judy had been a customer of S’s for a while, then S offered her a job. At one point after they started working together, something came up about a school (a small high school in rural Michigan, three hours away), and they did the ‘Do you know so-and-so…?’ thing and found out that S’s uncle C and his wife were related to Jack[2], Judy’s ex-husband of many years.

That was freaky enough, but when S mentioned to Judy recently that her cousin Rhonda from Australia was coming to visit, they put two and two together and Judy realised that it was me — the person she had stayed with in Perth all those years ago! Much squealing and ‘OMG’ing ensued, I believe 😉

So after 40 years, I got to re-meet the person who had given me a sweatshirt that I remember so fondly. Judy and her husband had dinner with us the only night I stayed with S and her husband, and we marvelled at how spooky it was that we’d caught up again and the circumstances. Especially as I’d only talked about her less than two weeks before.

As I said, cue the Twilight Zone music about now…

Judy and I are now Facebook friends 😉

Santa Fe dogs get treated really well

23 11 2014

There are dogs everywhere in Santa Fe. Not street dogs — well cared for dogs, on leashes, with owners in tow, and, if it’s cold, with little jackets on. Many are allowed in shops and galleries, and some places cater to dogs (see photo below).

Surprisingly, there’s no dog poop on the sidewalks! Which I guess is why the city has no problems with dogs in stores.



23 11 2014

While going through my photos from the trip, I spotted this one that I didn’t realise I’d taken. I was trying to capture the landscape outside the bus, and in the process I captured the reflection of me looking outside the window.


Big wheels turning

23 11 2014

Spotted on the drive home from the airport last week… check out the size of the tires, compared to the size of the tires on the truck carrying this load!


Training them well

18 11 2014

I observed a gratifying bit of chivalry and kindness today.  I was seated on the shuttle bus between the Sydney international and domestic airports when a lady got on. She was probably in her 70s… perhaps a little older or younger.

A young man  (in his late 20s or 30s) gave his seat to her and moved to stand in front of where I was sitting.  His boarding pass was in his jeans pocket and I saw his name. He was Darren Glass from the West Coast Eagles (I don’t know if he’s still playing); I recognised his face after spotting his name.

When we got to the domestic terminal,  there were a few stairs to climb.  I was struggling to balance my carry-on luggage along with my newly acquired Duty Free liquor for my husband,  and he offered to help.

No doubt the upbringing from his parents had a lot to do with his behaviour,  but I think the Eagles did too. He was the only younger person on the entire bus who offered their seat to an older person. It was good to see that basic good manners aren’t dead yet.

Winter wonderland

18 11 2014

My last two and a bit days in the US were spent with some friends who live in Logan,  UT,  some 90 minutes drive north of Salt Lake City. Mostly we just hung out in their lovely house,  as there was quite a bit of snow on Friday night and it was very cold on Saturday night (about 4F… which is about -15C!!). On Saturday we went for a drive up Logan Canyon,  which was quite spectacular.

Like Salt Lake City, Logan is surrounded on two sides by mountains, which makes for some stunning views.

Thanks for  a relaxing couple of days, Dana and Karl!






Last day in Salt Lake City

14 11 2014

It was our last day today as a group… First off was a half-day city tour with a so-so tour guide,  then we got dropped off at Temple Square to go to the lunchtime organ recital (30 minutes) in the Mormon Tabernacle. Then it was on our own in the city centre until just before 6pm, when we had dinner at The Roof restaurant that overlooks the lit cathedral, followed by the ultimate ending – listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsing,  then walking in lightly falling snow back to the bus. (Some in  our group had never seen snow prior to this trip.)

When we got back to the hotel, we had a ‘thank you’ presentation to Michelle and Helen,  followed by our version of Waltzing Matilda that one of the ladies had written.

It’s sad that it’s all over,  but it’s also good to be heading home soon. I don’t think I can face too many more meals where eliminating carbs and sugar is not possible. I’ve been as good as I could be,  but sometimes it’s been really hard. This really is a land where carbs and sugars rule.

I’ve met some lovely people in the group,  and I hope to keep in touch with some of them,  even if it’s just on Facebook.

Tomorrow morning I’ll say my final goodbyes to the group as they depart for the airport and the long flights home,  then a friend from northern Utah will pick me up and I’ll spend two nights with her and her husband before heading back to SLC and my long flights home to Australia.

Some photos from today…


Capitol building in SLC


Pipe organ (11,000+ pipes) in the Mormon Tabernacle


View from The Roof restaurant


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and orchestra in rehearsal

Day 2 at Handi Quilter

13 11 2014

Today was our second and final day at Handi Quilter.

The morning was devoted to ruler work (not my favourite activity… I really don’t have the patience for it).  After another delicious lunch,  we had a demo of graffiti quilting from the lovely Karlee Porter,  followed by an afternoon using the couching foot and various yarns. The couching foot on my machine played up (I had two of the best and most knowledgeable in the world working on it,  plus a technician from downstairs in production,  before it decided to behave, so I only ended up doing about an hour of couching.

After the day’s activities were over we were presented with our ‘graduation’ certificates from the Handi Quilter University,  then we all piled into shuttles to go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner with the Handi Quilter educators.

Tonight was spent repacking much of my luggage. Tomorrow is another full day,  this time in Salt Lake City itself,  followed by our last group dinner and a very special treat afterwards. We won’t get back to the hotel until quite late and have to check out early the next morning. Most will be flying back to Australia on Friday,  but I’m staying with friends in northern Utah for the weekend and will fly home on Sunday.

Our QuiltVenture 2014 is almost over 😦

Some photos from today…


Oops! I think we’ve all sewn something to the back that we shouldn’t have!


Karlee showing how she graffiti quilts


Karlee’s work


The Chinese restaurant had a special menu for those with different dietary requirements.  I thought this was a clever way to do this.

Day 1 at Handi Quilter

12 11 2014

We got a great welcome from the Handi Quilter people today when we arrived,  and the CEO gave us a guided tour of their new facility. We saw the massive assembly area,  testing area,  TV studio,  etc and of course the main training room upstairs where we spent today and where we will be tomorrow too.

There are heaps of beautiful quilts on all the walls in the administration area of the building and in all the offices.

Our training today was the basics of tension, needles, and thread, with 10 practice pieces using all sorts of threads (metallics, monofilament, silk, etc.). After lunch we worked on micro quilting, practising on printed fabrics and then applying that to our project piece.

The lovely people at Handi Quilter served us lunch,  provided free water and sodas and nibbles,  and put on supper for us too,  after an amazing trunk show of antique quilts quilted in a modern style.

Tomorrow we have more training (ruler work and couching), followed by dinner with the team (we have 5 trainers in the room to help us all!).

Here are a few photos from today…




Helen Godden presenting the CEO of Handi Quilter with her couched quilt of Montana for his office





Happy trainers!


Trainers on kangaroos


Trainers,  Helen Godden,  and Karlee Porter


Busy working

Driving to Salt Lake City

11 11 2014

We left Moab about 8:30am for the final day on the bus – the mostly desolate drive to Salt Lake City.

Not only was it the final day on the bus,  but it was our final day with the lovely Tristan, our bus driver on our LeBus luxury coach. He has been such a delight and a great driver to boot. The whole group has really bonded with him and him to us. He made a lovely thank you speech to us on the way back to SLC, and said we were in top 3 groups he’s driven in the past 9 years. He got the assignment a few days before and it wasn’t until he was on his way to  Albuquerque that he found out he was picking up a group of Australians,  and then later that it was a group of Australian women,  many of whom were old enough to be his mother or even grandmother (Gretchen is 82; Tristan is 32). He approached us with some trepidation,  but after 8 or 9 days together it was sad hugs all round when we had to say goodbye at the hotel in  SLC. As a group we gave him a sketchbook with lots of messages from each of us and special Aussie slang sayings. And his tip! He must’ve wondered about us not tipping him along the way, but we were saving all the tips until the end. He wants to take his family to Disneyland and hopefully our envelope full of cash will help him do that. Thanks for driving us,  Tristan,  and for your infectious laugh and helping us eat all the food at dinner each night 😉

Before Tristan left us,  he dropped us at Gardner Village in  West Jordan for lunch and to wander around the quirky shops there.  Then he drove Helen and Michelle to the airport so they could pick up 7-seater rental vans,  then drove back to pick us up,  then back again to our hotel.

After a couple of weeks on the road,  I did some laundry (yes,  Skechers Gowalk2 shoes can go in the washing machine and the dryer and will not shrink!).

Then the Handi Quilter trainers we’ll be with the next two days introduced themselves  and joined us for supper. Tomorrow we get to quilt!

Oops! I forgot to mention that we had pretty much summer and winter in the one day. When we left Moab the weather was balmy – T-shirt weather at 8 am! By the time we got to a pass, the temperature had dropped to 33F, and there were light show flurries. Some of the ladies had never seen snow falling, so we stopped for a few minutes in the very strong winds for them to experience it.

Some photos from today…