cactus first    Cactus plants are fun to grow for those who are patient. With a little water every now and then, eventually they begin to grow. You can hardly notice but after a while, you will see that they have changed.

We were in Arizona a couple of years ago and our kids were fascinated by the huge cactus plants. They wanted to bring some home.

arizona cactus

Seneca and Raven really liked the cactus when we visited Arizona two years ago.

We told them that when we got home, we would get some small ones. We found that Home Depot had a great selection of small cactus plants and we bought a dozen or more for $10.

flowers at home depot

Small cactus plants at Home Depot, the flowers are fake!!

We arranged them in small pots. They looked lonely at first, but slowly, after months they began to grow and merge with each other. Eventually they crowded their pots and had to be cut back. One bloomed shortly after we planted it, a tiny blossom on a prickly base.

cactus 2

cactus 5

One cactus, one that is actually quite smooth and had little white tufts decorating it, developed a brown furry-looking nub a few weeks ago. The nub grew into a stem and then a bud emerged.

bloom bud 3

bloom bud 2

We watched carefully for several days, waiting for the flower to bloom. And when it did it was simply amazing, white with yellow toward the center and it smelled divine. It only lasted for a few hours before it faded.bloom

bloom full flower

So now we are waiting for the next event in our cactus gardens, and we are patient.

I know some of you read this blog simply to read news of Seneca and Raven. They have now been with us for seven years. Seneca is in 5th grade. She loves dancing and drumming with the Elwha Klallams and participates in the after school program where, among other things, they learn the Klallam language.Seneca first day of school_edited


Raven is 14 and in the 8th grade. He is playing football on the middle school team which has encouraged him to keep his grades up. He and Seneca went on a two week canoe trip into Canada last summer where they paddled to various villages along the coast of Coast of Vancouver Island. It was an adventure to remember.

canoes on Sandy shore

On the beach with the canoe on Vancouver Island

My computer has been out of commission for a couple of weeks, so I am late in posting this blog, I will get back on schedule!

on beach in port townsend

Dad and kids on the beach

Read the rest of this entry »

Fresh warm uchinni bread

Fresh warm zucchini bread


Blue Ribbon from the county fair


One thing I like about late summer is the food that is available now. Zucchini is a favorite and I am proud to say that I got a blue ribbon on the zucchini bread I entered in the county fair this year. I will share the recipe below. I have a friend who gifted me with several zucchini over the course of the summer, we have never had success growing them up here in the mountains.

bread and butter


I hadn’t made zucchini jam before but it is a treat! This is zucchini strawberry.


Strawberry Zucchini Jam

We love to eat fresh apples this time of year, but applesauce is another favorite and I make quarts of it. We look for farmers selling Gravenstein apples. They originated in Denmark in the sixteen hundreds and have great flavor. But they don’t keep well, so you seldom see them for sale.

Applesauce cooking

apple sauce

The trees in town have been loaded this year and Ted is not shy about asking owners if they are planning to use their apples and if not, well, he keeps a box handy. He has several boxes ready to make into cider with our old fashion cedar press. Can’t wait for this treat, we usually have it for Halloween.

apples for cidar

Boxes of apples Ted has collected

cider press

The old fashion cider press Ted rebuilt. With this we can make gallons pretty easily

And now for the Zucchini Bread Recipe:

Merrily’s Blue Ribbon Zucchini Bread

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

Last week the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sponsored a drum making class for kids.  We were the first ones there and eager to get to work.  First Raven selected a round of deer hide which had been soaking and was soft and pliable.  Next he punched holes in a circle around the edge using a paper pattern.

Raven tapping

Raven tapping holes in the deer hide

raven gets help laying out the ddrum

The drum frames were wooden circles made of plywood.  He got help centering the drum frame on the hide and began stringing the the holes together.

He did a great job of stringing, the strings nice and tight.

weavingg the strings

Seneca worked at a different table.

Seneca gets help

And within a an hour or two they each had a drum.  However the deer hide needed to dry before the drum would make a sound.   That took three days.

Seneca is very proud of hers and was happy to show me.

Seneca finished

Ravemn's finished drumo

Raven was proud but shy

We are grateful to the tribe for making this experience possible.  They are set to join the Drum Group again this year.

Here they are on the first day of school.


Raven is turning out for football.

Seneca first day of school

Lucky aren’t we!!



a motor home

We pull our little blue car behind the motor home.

Vacation at last!  The State of Washington provides respite care for our foster children from time to time, so it was to be just Seneca, Raven, Ted and me.

We were headed for Maryhill, on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.

a looking across the riverk

Beautiful blue Columbia River

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Maryhill from the bridge

The kids could hardly wait for swimming and they splashed in the river for hours.

a swimming

Swimming in a safe spot

a approching stonehange

Stonehenge in the distance

The next morning we drove a short distance to a replica of Stonehenge in England. Build by Sam Hill, it is dedicated to the World War I soldiers who were killed during the war.

a stonehenge full

Seeing Seneca and Raven you can tell how large this is.

a stonehenge close

It looks like the original

a S and R at stonhenge

Seneca and Raven lean against a pillar

Beautiful windmills sit on the hillside above Stonehenge and we drove up to get a closer look.

a many windmills - Copy

From a distance they look like match sticks

a windmill up close

But you can tell how large they are by the stairway at the bottom. They lean from pressure from the wind.

a windy flats

Appropriately named!

The view was more desolate from up there and rocky on the way down.

a landscape

Miles of flat on top of this plateau

a rocky hillside

Cliff going down to the river.

a peaches - Copy

Sweet and juicy peaches

Back in camp, we visited the local orchard and began feasting on peaches, still warm from the trees.

a stones

Pretty stones

And one of my favorite activities is picking out pretty rocks from the river bank.

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Raven is a bit taller!

On the trip home we stopped for some shopping and I realized, walking behind them, that Raven is taller than Ted. When did that happen?


stack of fabric

I was driving home from Port Townsend where I had delivered Nyima, the friend who lives in the Himalayan mountains in simple a hut and practices the Buddhist lifestyle there. We had discussed her philology and her words for me were:

Learn what is essential

Learn what is enough.

On the way home my phone rang, Ted telling me that there was an estate sale of a quilter going on and he had checked it out, there was lots of fabric and they were selling it cheap.

Hoping to add to my collection of scrap fabrics, we met and drove there when I returned to town and I gathered an arm full of lovely fabric, large pieces, being sold for a very good price.


Enjoying the smooth, colorful fabric

Bringing it home I soon realized that it had a strong smoky small, the owner had been a smoker. No matter, I began washing, drying and ironing the fabric, enjoying the feel and the colors of the lovely fabric, sorting and stacking it, and thinking about the quilts I would soon be making. Feeling that surely I would put the fabric to good use and  I could consider it “essential.” After all, I make a new quilt for each foster child who stays with us and recently that had been a lot of children!

On Sunday Ted reminded me that everything left at the sale would be sold for half price so we went back, and saw that there was still heaps of fabric to be sold. I picked out another armful.

And then I heard Ted, he was negotiating to buy ALL of the remaining fabric.  And in a flash it was ours.

We filled boxes and bins and fortunately he also bought a nice rack suitable for storing fabric.

Piles of fabric

Our bedroom was covered.

Our bedroom, which is also my sewing room, was covered with stacks of fabric. I began washing and ironing the piles, a project that was to take me over a month to complete.

Three hundred twenty four yards! Now all folded and clean on my new shelf. A friend told me I had reached the point of FABLE, Fabric Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy.

And Nyima’s quote from Lau Tzu “Do the difficult while it is easy.” Now I have the easy, part, creating beautiful quilts with this beautiful fabric.


Andrea with Merrily

Merrily with Nyima on her recent visit to Lake Dawn.

See my blog “My Advisor, my Mentor, my Friend” for my information about Nyima


These “scraps” remain to be washed and sorted. They will make great accent pieces for my quilts.



Rough housing


The blog I had planned for today isn’t ready. So instead I am going to fill you in on a little of what is happening here.

s and R on the Elwha

Seneca and Raven at Olympic Hot Springs with friends


For some reason I don’t completely understand, we now have 8 kids here. Seneca and Raven of course, and the 17 year old who has her baby. The baby is now a year old and walking and the girl will turn 18 this week and is moving to independence.   She is packing her things and will be saying good bye very soon.

The four year old who has been with us for 6 months or so remains in our home. She is a sweetie most of the time and if finally speaking some words. Yea!!

A gentle 11 year old girl has been with us for a couple of weeks. She had an aunt that she will probably be going to live with soon.

Then, last week we got a call about a sister and brother 10 and 13 in need of a place for “just one night.” We knew the children, we had cared for their older sister a year or so ago. They were a welcome addition, very nice children and when we were asked to keep them until after school is out, we agreed.

All this means taking two cars for deliver everyone to school in the morning.  We sit shoulder to shoulder at our little dining room table, and kids are all enjoying each other.

We had planned a camping trip for the weekend and decided we could do it, and the kids had a great time playing in the silt deposited along the banks of the Elwha River. As we sat around the camp fire and talked and laughed I marveled again how new kids could seem like family so quickly.

So, I’ll write my planned blog for next time, meanwhile I am enjoying the children as they come and go.


Anna with Joy

Holding one of my precious dolls.


quilt finds a new ho,e

Each foster child gets a quilt and she loves hers as you can see.


Niyama with her quilt

Nyima (Andrea) with a baby quilt she hand stitched in India. A quilter will know how complicated it would be to set this many small blocks in a quilt like this.

sewing label

She stitches a label in a quilt

When I asked my friend Nyima for some words of wisdom for living a good life, she replied:

Have courage.

See the humor

Be useful.

Be kind.

Nyima Lhamo  is a Buddhist nun living simple life in Mongoo, a village high in the Himalayan mountains near Darjeeling in India. Until 12 years ago she was Andrea Balosky, quilter and good friend living at Camp Sherman near Sisters, Oregon. While there she made the decision to begin to learn about Tibetan Buddhism and she needed to be closer to those who practiced it to do that, she sold everything and moved to India. She says she has never looked back. Recently she was in the U.S. to attend to her visa and she stayed with our family last week. We spent the time talking about life in the remote mountains, and about our kids, and about quilting.

andrea with anna

Andrea plays with our little foster daughter

Andrea Balosky was a well-known quilter, and is the author of the book “Transitions.”   This is my “go to” book I need an inspiration for a new quilt. I met her when I was looking for someone to hand quilt a Hawaiian quilt top I had purchased. Andrea was born in Hawaii and her first quilt was in the Hawaiian style, done for her mother. She said she loved to hand quilt while watching sports on TV on the long snowy evenings in Camp Sherman. She estimated would take her until Christmas to finish, and actually it took her a couple of years but the result is spectacular.

andrea with hawaiian quilt

Andres stands behind the Hawaiian quilt she hand quilted for Ted and me.

hand quilting

An example of Andrea’s fine quilting.

She is famous for her small quilts, which she calls “doll quilts” and an exhibit of 100 of them was displayed at the Latimer Quilt Museum in Tillamook Oregon.

quilt show

Latimer Quilt Museum display

dolls and  quilts

The museum displayed my dolls with Andrea’s quilts

doll quilt

One of the Small Wonders collection

When she left the U.S. she sold her collection of small quilts and Ted and I purchased this charming collection. They can be seen in this book, “Small Wonders.”   We don’t receive income from the sale of the book, only have satisfaction of sharing them. She doesn’t quilt much now, she doesn’t have access to good fabric or batting in India, but in preparation for her trip, she made 50 small potholders which will be sold by the Pine Needler quilt group in Camp Sherman to raise money to purchase a defibulator. And she made one for me! pot holder

And her additional words of wisdom, for me were:
Learn what is enough.
Learn what is essential

Oh my. What am I doing with all of the “stuff” in this house?

And her final word—

“Do the difficult while it is easy.” — Lao Tzu

Andrea with Merrily


jerry's garden

“Cross Currents #2” by Andrea and now belonging to Bill Volkening

salute to the Sun
“Salute to the Sun” a small quilt done by hand in India for the Alzheimer’s Quilt Project.[/caption]

Some of the photos in this blog are by  William Volkening

This and that, I have a few different things I’d like to say.

I am taking a class on blogging this week and expect to be able to do new and wonderful things with blogging very soon. So stay with me.

I have finished some quilts recently, and am sharing the photos. In the class next week I hope to learn about lining up photos, but meanwhile, just keep  scrolling down.

asia close

Asian Circles up close, I hand quilted this one.

asian circles - Copy

strip stripe (2)

Strippy Stripes


strpes close

tiffany's quilt

apples - Copy

apples full - Copy

Apples to Apples



My younger brother Jack is visiting from Thailand this week. He has lived on Phuket Island for 12 years and considers Thailand his home. He comes to visit once a year and it is always fun to visit with him and my sister who lives South of Seattle. Jack especially enjoys bring up obscure memories about things that happened in our neighborhood when we were growing up.   I am beginning to think he makes  some of them up. In two years he will turn 70 and he is planning a party and we are invited. We are planning to go, Ted Seneca Raven and me. I have been there three or four times and it is a wonderful place to visit.

My brother Jack

My brother Jack

We have been promised our renewed foster home license. We completed the 36 hours of required training, plus an all-day first aid class. We got the currently required immunizations for us and the kids AND the pets. We put a fence across the lake in front of the house to meet current safety standards.


Gate to our new foster kid fence


Ted and rolls of fencing

However we were told that the bedroom Raven uses was not suitable for foster children.

This room is on the second floor, is large with a vaulted ceiling and has lots of windows and is a great room for kids. However we were told it couldn’t be used because it contained a washer and dryer. A check of the Washington Administrative Code revealed nothing that would prohibit the use of a bedroom with a washer and dryer in it, and so the battle began.   For seven months we went back and forth, until Ted finally contacted our State Legislator, Steve Tharinger and his office made some calls. This week Ted got a call saying that we have been approved to have children in that room, since doing laundry there does not pose a health or safety hazard and we have been using it for the past six years. Dealing with challenging children is nothing compared to dealing with the government.

The thing that is so puzzling is that they are crying for foster homes.   This weekend we are caring for an extra teen age girl on an emergency basis and since Friday I have gotten three calls asking us to take another child, (yesterday a two year old girl) yet they make it so difficult to become foster home licensed—doesn’t make sense.

We have recently lost two good friends. Husband and wife, both deaths unexpected and sudden. It makes us appreciate all we have.

black fish song

Black Fish Song

Let me start by saying, I am aware that two of my photos are in sidewise this morning.   We are getting ready for a birthday party for one of our foster kids today and I don’t have time to figure out how to change them right now, sorry!!

I get excited when I hear the words “pow wow.” I picture the colorful dancing, drums and chanting. When it was announced that a group would be going from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to the spring pow wow at the University of Washington I was eager to go along. Seneca and Raven were to participate in the opening exercise with tribal members.

elwha entry

Elwha Entry

Elwha group singing

Elwha group singing


Since our group was first up, many of the other people were still gathering and getting ready.

This young lady was getting her hair braided.
hair braid
And these two boys were getting their feathers arranged. When not being worn, feathers and hung on stands to protect them from damage.


The costumes were amazing, so colorful.   At the beginning all dancers enter and dance around the floor, then the competitions begin. There were competitions for dancing, singing, best costumes and so on. The dancing and singing was to go on for two days.

more color
best far


Wendy prepared peanut butter and jam sandwiches for all of our group.

As we left that evening, after a full day of celebration, Raven asked, “Can we come back tomorrow?”

A few days later we attended the Blessing of the Canoe, which was held behind the Tribal Center. Prayers were said for safety for all who will travel in the tribal canoe. The ceremony concluded with a song done by the drum group.   I am happy our kids are having an opportunity to participate in these traditions.

blessing canoow

“Go for it” said Ted, and I knew he was right, the family could get along without me very nicely for five days.   Right?

beautiful spot - Copy - Copy

St. Andrews on Hood Canal


A chance to sew all day, get to know some new people and relax in a beautiful setting was too much to pass up.

Set at the foot of Hood Canal, the setting is magical. The log “mansion” called St. Andrew’s was built by a wealthy Seattle family who came here for the summer in the 1920’s and it was fun to think about that family with kids running up and down the stairs to the balcony and sitting in front of the fireplace. It was tempting to walk on the beach, but I was focused on sewing.

I decided to start in something new, fresh fabric from my stash and a new but simple pattern, something I could finish in a couple of days. Ted helped me cut the fabric before I left so when I got there I was ready to sew.

apples full

Apple quilt


apples up close

Apple quilt up close


I drew the lucky seat, the best view for sewing. There were beautiful views in every direction, however.

view from my seat

View from my sewing table


quilting room

The quilting room, this had been added to the original house.


The cook was amazing. He is a priest whose mission is to feed folks local, healthy and nutritious food, and that he did. Vegetables, herbs, cheese, ice cream, yoghurt, meat, and seafood were all grown or produced locally. He created his own salsa, granola, and special herb tea which he served cold. We feasted at every meal.

in line to eat - Copy - Copy

Lining up for a wonderful meal


Our room was tucked under the rafters, set up with bunk beds, though there were only two of us so no one had to climb. Each bed was made with a homemade quilt, made by a previous quilter.

For fun, I made a cloth paper doll for each of the 13 other women attending and we had fun choosing outfits for each of them. Then they got creative and began making quilts for their dollies.

paper doll 4

Playing with paperdolls, this one was doing a dance


pd on sewing machine

This paper doll now decorates a sewing machine


brenda - Copy - Copy

Brenda with her paper doll

I am an early riser and I enjoyed sitting by the fireplace and doing some hand sewing as folks assembled each morning.

morniing quilting - Copy

Early morning quilter


fireplace - Copy - Copy

A view of the fireplace


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An experiment

Many beautiful quilts were sewed during the week.

Each of us also made a “Joy Quilt” a small quilt to be wrapped around a stuffed animal and given to a child in a time of crisis. Some of our foster children have arrived with animals wrapped in “joy quilts” so this was a project I was committed to doing!

Joy quilts - Copy

Some of the cheerful joy quilts.


anna with joy quilt

A foster child received a stuffed elephant wrapped in a joy quilt.


The joy of sharing with other women, creating beautiful things while being fed tasty and healthy food, in a beautiful setting, it can hardly get better than that!