Alaska bound!

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Before the new year, I got a call from Alaska ... the Cordova Northwind Quilters wanted me to come and teach during their annual retreat! Because I had met some of the women in the group, it was so easy to say yes!

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Cordova is a fishing village in the Prince William Sound. Classes and their quilt show were held in this beautiful new facility ... their city center ... state-of-the-art technology with amazing teaching space. The building housed a theater, gallery, gift shop, library, and a licensed kitchen where small food companies could prepare their products.

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The view outside the class room windows was upstaged by the quilts hung up in side ... but it was stunning none-the-less. And distracting!

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This was the 30th anniversary of the guild. They had a party! And this was the first quilt show they've done. The wide range of fabric, designs, and styles was like you'd find at any other quilt show ... the group has so many interests and it showed in their work.

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Of course, the wool applique quilts were my favorites. The big blocks on this quilt took a lot of work but they had so many details!

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Fell in love with the red Prairie Points!

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And the whimsy in this quilt ... so adorable!

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This quilt had hand stenciled blocks ... pieced between. So pretty!

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My favorite though was this quilt that wasn't hung in the show ... it typically hangs in the Cordova Museum which was under renovation. When the guild was first organized, they made a quilt as a fund raiser. Each of the applique blocks depict something in Alaskan or Cordovan life. The sashing between is stitched with the names of members of the community ... they paid a fee to have their name added. Some of them were little children when the quilt was made and now are adults who've moved away or remain in town. Some have passed away. Its a tribute to the ebb and flow of town life.

It was hard to leave the sights and sounds of Cordova but I intend to return some day ... SOON!

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Along the Great River Road!

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One of my favorite Cottage activities is to hire a bus and take people out on an adventure! And what better place this time of year than up and down the Mississippi River! So we headed out before the Sun rose and pointed our bus toward Lake City ... our first stop on the Great River Road bus tour. It was foggy and I was glad I wasn't driving the bus but the fog just enhanced the beauty of Highway 61. There's something magical about how the fog muted the bright colors of the hardwoods along that stretch of road.

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Lake City, Minnesota was our first stop. Did you know that this is where waterskiing was born? Lake Pepin is a large body of water that is part of the Missisippi River ... plenty of water to trying pulling someone behind a boat on slabs of wood! Almost directly across the lake on the Wisconsin side is where Laura Ingalls Wilder's family crossed in the middle of winter to begin their new life as pioneers. Lots of interesting history in this area. But we were here to shop! The bus dropped us in front of  Pumpkinberry Stitches. Lisa met us with a welcome bag from the Chamber and pretty little pumpkins from her store. This shop has charming touches ... including a vintage window that looks into the classroom. Quilters had a field day here and at Rather Bee Quilting  just down the block. Rather Bee had several amazing samples of Tula Pink's Butterfly Quilt ... and I'm dying that I didn't buy the pattern. What was I thinking?

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While everyone else was shopping the antique, vintage, and primitive shops in Lake City ... many who opened up early for us ... I was out taking pix of the scarecrows. There were so many clever ones scattered thru town.

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Just down the road about twelve minutes or so is Wabasha. It may look familiar to many because it's where a lot of Grumpy Old Men was filmed. Lots visit  for the National Eagle Center. I am partial to it because my sister the Sister was a first grade teacher at St Felix Catholic School for many years. But we were visiting to take advantage of SeptOberfest ... a month-long weekend celebration of fall. Each week in the park under the bridge there is music, arts and crafts, pumpkins, scarecrows, and a view of the river with all of the bright colors. Every corner was decorated with scarecrows and pumpkins, too. They have done it up right! I love the boutiques that pop up during this time and also the interesting shops. I picked up some great finds there for not many $$$!

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Our visit in Wabasha was too short but the reward we were dangling to get back on the bus was lunch at Nelson Creamery in Nelson, Wisconsin. It was a short drive over the Hwy 60 bridge across the Mississippi River and then a quick turn onto WI-35. Thankfully we had lunch prearranged because the lines were lllllooooonnnnngggg! It was such a beautiful day that our entire group was able to sit outside on the patio to eat. Inside are other charming areas to eat, a cheese shop, a wine shop, ice cream, coffee and sweets ... oh ... and a wine bar. Several of our guests decided that since we didn't have fruit with our meal, a glass of wine would fill in that slot!

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One of the reasons I love Nelson's ... in addition to the wonderful food ... is the old-world look. When you drive by, it looks interesting but sort of small and it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about. But then you walk in the door! It smells delicious! And then you start noticing how deep the building is and all the many areas it encompasses. And then you see the details ... ivy covered walls ... planter boxes ... peeks of the river here and there. It's hard to leave.

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Nothing says 'Fall' better than bittersweet. We found this guy right outside Nelson's selling gigantic bunches from his truck. I want to know his secret ... this is not an easy plant to grow!

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Our final stop was Stockholm, Wisconsin.  There is a huge arts community in this area and it explodes in this town. Make sure you look at their events calendar ... their Christmas event is not to be missed! My favorite store is Ingebretson's ... I must have lived in a Scandinavian country in a past life because I'm fascinated by all they have to offer. This is the same business that is on Lake Street in Minneapolis. But in addition to this shop are many more that are filled with interesting things. Don't miss the second floor of the hat shop ... the lean of the steps and the tilt of the floor upstairs makes you wonder if you were sipping a few back at Nelson's!

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I always enjoy the Tibetan prayer flags outside one of the stores. The Amish shop is filled with furniture but sadly the Stockholm Pie Company was totally sold out. You have to get there early for the best pies ... they have a Sunday brunch so that's when I would go! As you can guess, this is a busy time of year there with all of the leaf-peeping.

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One of the things I've never noticed about Stockholm before was the sweet campground right on the river. I'm being pressured into buying a reproduction vintage camper ... or a glamper if that's what you like to call them. I can see the appeal after visiting this camping park! Now the biggest issue is how to carve out time for yet another hobby.

So our tour was quite the success ... given the amount of packages that came off the bus. Many asked where we were off to next ... I have some ideas! But it did make me smile to see that one of our riders was wearing her pin from our fall trip last year and the new one from this year on her jacket. Over the years I've made close to 6000 pins for our tours ... yike! But it's exciting to realize that they are treasured.

There are lots more photos and things for you to see. We'd love it if you'd follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

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There's something about the SPAM Museum that makes me happy. Is it the cheerful colors? The fact that everyone jokes about SPAM? Maybe its because I tricked two of my friends into visiting it! They had no idea what my plans were when I opted to stay in Austin, Minnesota on a weekend trip. My pal Melisa was visiting me from Georgia and I figured we'd never find a more perfect time to go to the museum. I love that she was delighted when I pulled up to the gate ... she got right in the groove of things!

It's pretty obvious when you pull up to the museum that pork is a primary ingredient at Hormel. Right before we got to the museum I'd been on Twitter with some of my friends and one guy asked if I'd get him some vegan SPAM. Geez!

The first thing you see when you walk through the doors is the amazingly cheerful hostess who points out the features and tells you how to move through the museum.  The second thing you see is the wall of SPAM ... over thirty-one hundred cans!



If you grew up in the 1950s or so the graphics and the historical aspects really take you back!

You have to go to the SPAM theater first to get in the mood ... all great commecials that you'll know the words to.

Someone really had the foresight to keep all of the cool things in the museum ... photos, crates, letters ... its a walk through modern history.





George Hormel was lucky to have a business ... he discovered an associate imbellezed over $1M ... which is probably the equivalent of $10M or something today ... but his bankers lent him the money to cover the loss on a handshake. Does anyone do business like this any more?

The graphics are incredible. Every little piece of SPAM history is documented. So much information!




Ike likes SPAM! Heck ... all GIs like SPAM. Don't they?


When I was in the Army I don't remember eating any SPAM but we ate a lot of things out of cans and carried our own little can opener on our key chains. I still do. Ask to see it! Now days they get MREs ... Meals Ready to Eat ... and the Hormel brand besides!


It's amazing to think this one product made in Minnesota is put on dinner tables throughout the world.

We thought this would be a great quilting tool ... for those who love to run their OLFAs over their hands.

Good thing we paid attention ... there was a quiz at the end! And then there was shopping. Yay!






Almelund and Amador Township's Apple Festival

On Sunday we got in the car and headed to Marine on the St Croix for their art festival ... and after we left we had to make the choice ... go left or right. So glad we chose right because we ended up in Almelund for their Apple Festival! And even though I don't remember seeing many apples ... we saw plenty of other fun things!

There were a lot of interesting vendor tents ... we bought gigantic jugs of local honey and maple syrup and some great smelling hand made soaps ... but the real prize for me was seeing a village of log cabins ... and spying a quilt framed in the window of one! I knew there was lots of visual fun ahead.



The Amador Heritage Center and Swedish Immigrant Log Farm has been bringing in buildings and accruing items to put into them. I loved how pieces of the walls in this home were papered with newsprint ... in Swedish! There were so many other charming touches.






Whoever is collecting for this village is in love with textiles. There were pretty linens ... children's clothing ... dolls and toys ... scattered around. Love it!!

Two of the buildings were set up as homes ... another was a granary ... and one building that we didn't see was closer to the St Croix River and was another house. They're working with a restoration company in Lino Lakes ... the money to collect and rehab the buildings comes from donations to the Amador Heritage Museum and the proceeds from selling pie slices during the apple festival.




I love redwork and was delighted to see this coverlet on one of the beds.

Scenes like this make me so happy someone invented indoor plumbing ... as charming as this is and all. And kitchens. Refrigeration is delightful. And so is a washer and dryer. I'm squeamish about certain things ... kind of princessy.




No Swedish home would be complete without a Dala Horse! I have a special place in my heart for them ... stay tuned to see what I do with one next month!


I can't wait to go to this event again ... in fact I've added it to my calendar for next year! Its the third Sunday in September from 11 to 4. Music and vendors and history and apple pie all in a perfect Autumn setting. I can't wait to go again!




Sitting on the Porch - Front Porch Quilts in Walker, Minnesota

I'll tell ya ... when I got to Front Porch Quilt Shop in Walker on our way to Itasca Park last month, it was hard not to want to pull up a rocker, sit back and relax! So inviting! And then ... you get to go inside the store. Oh ya ...

Well you know if they have wool I'm hooked! Jana had some terrific projects ... some from designers I haven't seen before.


I loved all of these small wool projects that were variations of quilts. Charming! We're fingercrossing that we'll have patterns in time for the Minnesota State Fair.


They were busy getting ready for Quilt Minnesota and had some great projects ... like this quilt. They also had an area that had their past projects from the shop hop ... it was fun to see what they created with it. I still love the year it was blue and white Winter fabric!



Look at these darling little aprons! I want a little girl in my life so I can make some. They had fun bags, too.



I loved this idea. They made a quilt top into a curtain to hide their office area. Anyone could do this ... maybe to hide your sewing space?

And of course ... it wouldn't be northern Minnesota without snowmen and mittens!


Lots and lots and LOTS of kits! I'm kicking myself for not getting this one.


Look at the quilting on this ... love it!

One of the things I like is when quilt shops in an area get together to sponsor great events. They certainly know how to keep quilters busy in their neck of the woods!


I had a great time visiting Front Porch Quilts. If you're going leaf peeping this Fall ... or snowmobiling during the Winter ... stop in. Maybe sit on the porch for a bit!


Sweet Home Quilt Co ~ Conyers, Georgia

If you were driving along a pretty, small town road in Georgia and spied this porch, wouldn't you put on the brakes  and stop? Well ... if you didn't ... you'd be crazy because up the stairs and through the door is one of the best quilt shops in the Atlanta area! The quilt samples are amazing ... the displays look like they should be in magazines. The feeling says 'welcome to my home' ... probably the reason it's called Sweet Home Quilt Co.

This is what you see when you come through the door. The building is on the historic register and oozes charm!

Look to the left and you'll find what used to be the dining room. It has a built-in mantel with a mirror over the top that reflects all the goodies you'll find there. And there are a bunch. Trust me!

Turn to the right and you'll find what would have been the parlor ... and look! ... there's my friend Melisa ... owner of the store! She's not dreamily looking off into space thinking of her next quilt ... she was actually listening to a customer talk about her finished quilt!

I loved that no matter which room you were standing in you could see into another room. It made you want to keep on moving along and explore.




Everywhere you looked a doorway led you into another room. I loved standing back and checking out how far I could see. I first went counter clockwise through the store and then reversed ... each time something totally different caught my eye.

You could even spy celebrities ... look ... there's Terry Atkinson from Atkinson Designs! Ok fine ... I knew she was there. Terry came to Melisa's store to do a pattern testing session at this beautiful conference center in the country and then a meet and greet at Melisa's store. I was the tag-along.

Terry managed to do a little shopping in between signing books. Wonder what she's going to do with this pretty pile!

The pottie room cracks me up  ... there are so many cute little potties hanging on the chair rail. The one that got the collection started belonged to Melisa's mom. This bathroom was filled with fun stuff to look at!




One whole area was devoted to baby ... the samples were darling!



Quilting is exactly like painting ... you just need to find the right combo of colors. Love this display ... it's so clever!!


My favorite room. It had a lot of civil war fabric and patterns and oodles of antique charm.


It's impossible to describe all the wonderful things to look at at SHQ!






And then there's the porch. I had to go outside to clear my head and gain some perspective!





Sweet Home Quilt is going to be taking part in the Greater Atlanta Quilt Shop Hop later in March. I think their quilt is wonderful with that black background. I can imagine lots of quilters coming to town to visit. Oh ... and if you're one of them ... have lunch at Las Flores ... delicious Mexican food just down the street!

Melisa let me take a peek at her office and sewing room upstairs. I love that she has a birds-eye-view of her neighborhood. It was fun going behind the scenes.

I love this store and if I lived in the area would shop here! But mostly I love all the sweet and wonderful details. Can't wait to go back!!




Hen and Chicks Studio ~ Conrad, Iowa

My friend Heidi Kaisand opened her Hen and Chicks Studio Quilt Shop last month but last weekend was her Grand Opening. I was invited to come and help and let me say ... it was a grand time with lots of laughing and talking and fun!



Conrad is a charming town ... it's like many you'd find scattered across America ... buildings that make you think of the turn of the century ... strong community ... hard working residents. There's a beautiful new library across the street ... a florist that was getting ready for Christmas ... a cute gift shop on the corner. And a brand new quilting and scrapbooking store! It's in the Marshalltown area ... about a half hour from I35.

Heidi had buckets of things for people to do! They could learn how to paint on glass.

Pound out a design on a metal charm.

Learn about zippers and make a fabric rosette with direction from Terry Atkinson.

Or they could make a glittered snowflake and learn about the Sizzix die cutter. Lots of choices!

Upstairs is The Nest ... a getaway spot for when you and your friends need time to sew or scrapbook or create! And who wouldn't love sleeping over the store? It's all self-contained with a kitchen, crafting area and dorm style sleeping. The beds are separated with hand painted doors ... who wouldn't love waking up to this in the morning after a night snuggled under a handmade quilt?


The building Heidi bought for Hen and Chicks is steeped in history ... and so is her own quilting! When you first come in the store there's a large display counter ... it's filled with quilts that her grandmother made. It's such a great reminder of how the love of creating is often handed down from generation to generation. It makes me smile to think of how Heidi will transfer that to her own kids!

Wouldn't this make a fun family quilt? Heidi had so many interesting displays throughout the store.

Repurposed wine rack ... fat quarters look just as pretty as bottles!





I loved all the other things for sale besides the fabric and scrapbooking supplies. Like the jewelry!




Artwork from an area artist ... one of many pieces scattered throughout the store. They looked so nice with the quilts!

Candy cart with old-fashioned treats ... you never know when you'll want something sweet!

But I think one of the favorite items was the wine! Heidi purchases it from a cousin nearby who owns a winery. Talk about keeping it all in the family! Loved the artwork on the labels ... plus all the wine tools you could buy.




I loved that hundreds of shoppers showed up for Heidi's opening! She was great at the door greeting everyone and making them feel at home. She had friends throughout the store telling some other aspect ... people could take the tour of both floors and really get a feeling for all the creativity within the walls. The laughter and talking and friendship that was flowing was unbeliveable. I can't wait to see Heidi's business grow into the space! And I'm sort of thinking it would be fun to sneak away and spend a few days up in The Nest!!