QV2018: Day 16: Houston Quilt Festival

8 11 2018

Today was my first day of classes at the Houston international Quilt Festival. I had an all-day drawing class (‘Abstracting from nature‘ with Jane Sassaman. I don’t think I’ve ever spent 4+ hours drawing in one day, and it was surprising how much better I got with that sort of practice!

After class, the Festival opened for 2 hours to delegates, before the general public could gain access to both the quilt exhibition and the vendor mall. As in previous years, my strategy is to start from the back, work the whole back section, then move to the front section — by then, the crowds have started to head back. It’s worked well before and so it did again tonight. My other strategy is to walk quickly, take photos of quilts that appeal to me, and get a sense of what I want to go back and revisit over the next few days. I’d walked the whole exhibition and taken some 150 photos in 90 minutes! And yes, my feet hurt — in previous years, my Fitbit has told me I do >15K steps in that 90 mins.

Once I’d finished with the exhibition (for now), I went to the vendor mall (still only delegates, so not HUGE crowds yet), and made a beeline for two booths that had two of the items on my five-item list. Then it was off to put my vendor mall strategy in play — start from the far end at the back, ignore any booths that have things that don’t interest me (e.g. beads, yarn), ignore any booths that have things I can’t take back to Australia on the plane (bulky goods, electrical goods, etc.), and only look (quickly) at those that might be of interest. However, I wasn’t able to put my strategy into play, because just as I got to the back corner of the vendor mall, an alarm went off with an announcement to evacuate the building. Somewhere in that announcement was something about fire/smoke (but not in a panicky way). By the time I got to the centre section of the mall, I could smell smoke, and a couple of the vendors said they’d smelt it for 10 mins (I presume they’d let the building security know). The smell dissipated the closer I got to the exit doors. It was still 20 mins before Festival opened to the public, so I hope the evacuation didn’t affect the organisers or the vendors for too long. I don’t know when it re-opened — I went back to my hotel room to process my photos and rest my feet!

Here are just a few of the ~150 photos I took tonight — you can see them all on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157702513543445

This is Sophie Standing and my friend Michelle's 2nd prize winning quilt in the Animal category -- 'Roaming free'

This is Sophie Standing and my friend Michelle’s 2nd prize winning quilt in the Animal category — ‘Roaming free’





QV2018: Day 15: Calgary to Houston

7 11 2018

We were up around 3am this morning, for a 4am gathering in the hotel lobby and a 4:15am pickup for Calgary Airport and our flight to Houston. It was COLD — minus 5C or colder — and snowing, but we knew it was going to be 30C or more in Houston, and humid. Most of our group dressed for Calgary weather, gradually discarding jackets and thermals from the airport onwards! (And yes, they had to de-ice the wings)

We flew on WestJet, a Canadian airline I’ve never heard of, let alone flown, before. And I doubt I’ll ever fly them again, at least not on one of their 737-600/-700 series planes! Six of us paid quite a bit extra for ‘Plus Economy’ seats, the only thing WestJet has other than standard Economy. Their website says the seats are larger, have more legroom, meals are served etc. What a crock!

Instead the seats are NARROW — ‘Plus Economy’ seats are effectively just three economy seats with the middle one used for an arm/drinks rest. They are certainly not equivalent to Premium Economy or Business Class (or First Class on US airlines). None of these seats have open arms, which means you can’t ‘spread’ a little past the width of the arms. You’re boxed in. There may be a tad more leg room, but there’s NO more width. Yes, I can blame my bum for being bigger, but when you pay a lot extra for seats that are described on their website as being bigger, you sort of expect slightly wider seats. Those in economy had no shoulder or bum room, and were very up close and personal with their neighbours. Fortunately, for those in our group seated together, we’ve got to know each other quite well the past few weeks…. Plus Economy also boasts a ‘meal’ for flights over 2.5 hours (ours was a 4-hour flight). That meal for breakfast was a boxed turkey wrap (stale; ‘use by’ date tomorrow) or a boxed ham and cheese croissant. With it came some packaged apple slices that had a ‘use by’ date two days previous. This was an international flight from Canada to the US. And yes, I’ve been spoilt by Qantas…

Enough! Let’s get on with the trip!

We arrived early into Houston and went straight to our gate. Once the luggage came through (that took a bit longer than expected), we exited into a wall of heat and humidity, and then onto the blissfully air-conditioned bus. (We’d cleared US immigration/customs in Canada, but that’s another story for another day, so our flight was treated as a domestic one.)

Once at the hotel we exited into the heat again, then into the lovely cool hotel lobby. Some of our rooms were ready straight away, while others had to wait several more hours for theirs to be ready. My first port of call was the International Quilt Festival registration desk to pick up my name badge, program, final room assignments for classes, IQF pin for 2018, etc., then I went with one of the new ladies this tour to show her where the Phoenicia market was.

At 5:15 our group gathered and went over to the convention centre to line up for Winners’ Circle — the ceremony announcing all the award-winning quilts for 2018 — from Honorable Mentions, to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners in each category, to the final eight quilts that won big prize money, including the Best of Show.

There were too many people crowding to quilts for me to take many photos of them, but photos of all the winning quilts (but not close-ups, unfortunately) are here: http://quilts.com/fqf18/iqawinners/list.html. I’ve put some of the photos of my favourite quilts in this post; the others are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157702513543445 — I’ll add to this album as I take more photos of the quilts in the exhibition (which doesn’t open until Wednesday night for delegates, and Thursday for the general public).

 





QV2018: Day 14: Lake Louise to Calgary

6 11 2018

It was a short travel day today, but we broke it up with a 2-hour stop in Canmore, a pretty little town surrounded by the Rockies. It was cold when we left Lake Louise (around -7C), and just as cold at noon in Canmore (-5C), and a similar temperature when we arrived in Calgary around 2:30pm. We had light snow most of the day, with some heavy snow for an hour or so in Calgary after we’d checked in to our hotel.

Our main stop in Canmore was the wonderful Pine Creek quilt store, a 2-storey cavern of wondrous things! It was beautifully laid out and the staff were very pleasant to deal with. I think most of us purchased something from them.

The original intention on getting to Calgary was to do a city tour, but that got scrapped in favour of time to repack, rest, and get an early night as we have to have ourselves and our bags in the lobby by 4am tomorrow, ready to be taken to the airport. On a whim, I decided to find a friend I lost contact with about 10 years ago. With a bit of Google sleuthing (her surname has changed twice since I met her in 1986), I found her. I called her workplace and got through to her. With luck I may be able to catch up with her early this evening before our group dinner — much will depend on how her 4pm meeting goes, and traffic, of course. But at least we now have current details for each other and can catch up in other ways.

The final morning at Lake Louise

The final morning at Lake Louise

Just a little chilly!

Just a little chilly!

Pine Creek quilt store, Canmore, Alberta

Pine Creek quilt store, Canmore, Alberta

Yep, -5C at noon, Canmore, Alberta

Yep, -5C at noon, Canmore, Alberta

Some of the street art in Canmore, with one of the sets of mountains surrounding the town in the background

Some of the street art in Canmore, with one of the sets of mountains surrounding the town in the background





QV2018: Day 13: Lake Louise

5 11 2018

This will be a short post because we had a leisure day today.

After breakfast many of us found our way upstairs to the guest-only lounge overlooking the lobby, and did some hand sewing and played some Scrabble (well, two of us played Scrabble!). Later in the afternoon, most joined Michelle and Helen in the Lakeview room for pre-dinner drinks overlooking the lake, and then we went to the Alpine Social restaurant for dinner. Tonight is packing, ready for our bags to be collected tomorrow morning and for our departure to Calgary.

View from my room first thing this morning, after overnight snow. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 4 November 2018

View from my room first thing this morning, after overnight snow. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 4 November 2018

View out the window from the guest-only lounge, of snow drifting in. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 4 November 2018

View out the window from the guest-only lounge, of snow drifting in. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 4 November 2018

View of Lake Louise from my room

View of Lake Louise from my room

View of Lake Louise from the Lakeview room

View of Lake Louise from the Lakeview room

More photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157702998096454





QV2018: Day 12: Banff and Sulphur Mountain

4 11 2018

We got to sleep in this morning! Our bus picked us up around 11am and took us into Banff. We did a short tour of Banff, then were dropped off to do our own thing for the next three hours — lunch (like we needed it, with a late breakfast and an early dinner scheduled!), shopping, wandering art galleries etc. I certainly didn’t want lunch, and I’m not much into shopping or galleries. Besides, my feet hurt and I was a bit over taking my coat, scarf, and gloves off every time you enter a (hot) store and putting them back on when you go outside, so I was all done after 90 mins.

Our next stop was the famous Banff Springs Hotel, then Bow River Falls, where the bus driver told us about the phone booth there. There’s no phone any more because one night the phone rang (so the story goes) and a grizzly bear was passing and didn’t like the sound so ripped the phone out of the booth. There are claw marks in the metal to prove it!

Our final stop of the day was at the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, for the ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain where we had some time to explore, walk on the observation decks (it was quite cold and the wind was bitingly chilly!), and then meet for an early (still daylight) dinner at the Northern Lights restaurant there. The prime rib roast beef at the carvery was amazingly tender and delicious — the chef told me they marinate it for 12 hours, then slow cook it on low heat for another 12 hours. We headed back down the mountain at dusk, onto the bus, and back to Lake Louise for the night. Despite being a cloudy day, with some early morning snow at Lake Louise, it was a fine day without clouds, fog, rain, or snow obscuring our 360 degree views of the Canadian Rockies from Sulphur Mountain — we were very lucky!

After all that fresh (super fresh) air and wind and snow and cold, I think we were all ready to have an early night! Tomorrow is a rest day for us to do as much or as little as we want.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

Banff Springs Hotel

Banff Springs Hotel

Bow River, Banff -- below the falls

Bow River, Banff — below the falls

Grizzly bear claw marks on the silver metal

Grizzly bear claw marks on the silver metal

Sulphur Mountain -- 4-person gondolas

Sulphur Mountain — 4-person gondolas

Yes, we went right to the top -- an 8-minute ride

Yes, we went right to the top — an 8-minute ride

Looking back to the gondola base station

Looking back to the gondola base station

Banff, Bow River, and the surrounding mountains, from the top of Sulphur Mountain

Banff, Bow River, and the surrounding mountains, from the top of Sulphur Mountain

More photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157702998096454





QV2018: Day 11: Kamloops to Lake Louise

3 11 2018

Another long travel day today and in some pretty bleak weather — cold, wet, grey, very low cloud/fog — and that’s even before we left Kamloops! That weather continued most of the day but as we got higher into the Rockies, the rain turned to snow at times, and we had the very occasional patch of blue sky. But mostly it was overcast and grey/white. Despite that, we had glimpses of the grandeur of the Rockies all along the way, particularly after Revelstoke, where we stopped for morning coffee. We had another stop for lunch at Golden, then continued higher and higher until we turned off onto the Icefields Parkway and to Bow Lake.

Even though the photos aren’t very clear (most were taken from a moving bus with windows that progressively got grubbier with the slush and that reflected back), the actual glimpses we saw of the mountains were just stunning. Snow decorated the trees and the land — it was just magical. And surprisingly not that cold at Bow Lake where we got out and where some felt tiny snowflakes landing on their face for the first time.

Finally, we were at Lake Louise, our home for the next few nights. I last saw Lake Louise in the summer (32 years ago!), and even though the sky was grey today and there was some wind on the lake so no reflections and no blue/green colour, it was just as stunning in its early winter cloak.

I even got to toast some marshmallows over an open fire! (and found them to be nowhere near as good as they sounded!)

Bow Lake, Alberta, Canada

Bow Lake, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

More photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157702998096454





QV2018: Day 10: Workshop day with Katja in Kamloops

2 11 2018

Today was a late start, with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel then down to Katja’s Quilt Shoppe for a workshop. Our project was English Paper Piecing, and Katja had designed a 13-piece maple leaf (representing the 13 provinces of Canada and the Canadian flag) for us to do. Her method doesn’t involve thread basting the fabric onto the paper pieces — instead we glued the fabric down, then whip-stitched the seams (by hand) to join them. No-one finished, but we all made decent progress before it was time to stop at 4pm. We were glad it was a workshop day today because the weather was cold, grey, and wet. (Kamloops is in high desert country, so they don’t get a lot of rain — who were we to begrudge them of that?)

After the workshop Dan, our bus driver, dropped off some of the group back at the hotel and then took others to the Walmart Supercenter for an hour — I bought some knock-off Skechers-style shoes to replace the ones I’ve been wearing for the past four years that are very worn down, as well as a 4-wheel hard-sided suitcase (my current suitcase is only a 2-wheeler, which means I have to get it on a pivot to move it along).

We met in the lobby at 6pm for dinner at a local Chinese/Japanese restaurant (Oriental Garden). Wow! What a meal! We had HEAPS of dishes for our group of 23, and they were piled high with yummy fresh food. The food was great, and the service was super quick. Cocktails were all around $6 to $8 each (my well-made Long Island Iced Tea was only $6.25!) At the end of the night, we divided the leftovers into about 12 take-away containers, got some plastic knives and forks and napkins to go, boxed everything up, then as we walked back to the hotel, Dan and a couple of the others gave the meals to some of the local homeless people nearby.