29 August 2014

Broken Promises

Rainbow Grads

17 months ago, I joined the UFO Club on Ravelry for the first time with seven unfinished quilts I hoped to finish with a bit of help from the challenge. The challenge is to complete one or more unfinished quilts in three months. We start over again every three months. I made myself a promise I would not buy any more fabric until I finished the current unfinished projects.

One month and two days later, I bought gradient batiks at the Denver National Quilt Festival, not in fat quarters, NO! I had to have half yards! Because that would be better than running out in the middle of a project. I justified the expense because I wasn't sure if the fabrics would be available anywhere else or after the show.

I'd broken my promise without finishing a single UnFinished Object (UFO). I promised myself I would not cut those gorgeous, inspirational, day-brightening gradients until I finished the other seven quilts.

Instead of finishing my UFOs all these months, I'm now up to 17 unfinished quilts. Well, make that 18 now...

True Love

Immediately after a thrilling and satisfying 10-day vacation to the Pacific Northwest, as in the very next day, I shot a wedding for a friend and co-worker. Needless to say, with something to the tune of 3,000 photos from the vacation and the wedding to edit and upload, I was feeling slightly overwhelmed. What did I do but shoot an awesome sunrise and balloon launch at Chatfield Reservoir, another 600 or so shots to edit, and then the second stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Crested Butte, another 600 more shots to edit!!! I promised myself I could work with my hand-dyed hollyhock jelly roll strips as soon as I finished the wedding photos. Because wedding photos come first, before vacation and fun shots.

I finished retouching all the wedding shots, making a video, burning a DVD and uploading all the wedding shots last weekend. But I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my hollyhock strips.

So I pulled out the gradient batiks instead.

Three hours later, I'd broken another promise and finished a rather plain quilt top. I have many ideas for the quilting to make it more attractive, but I also have about six more ideas for piecing more of those fabulous batik pieces.

Yipes!  Stripes!

These days, my goal is to finish ONE quilt before I start another. I'm still in the quarterly Ravelry challenge, but I'm not progressing much on finishing. I have worked on some of the UFOs, and most of the new projects I've begun are from leftovers I want to get rid of. I keep telling myself I can't start any more new quilts yet, and I'm going to try to stick to that. But the way these batiks are calling out to me, I'm not sure I can reign in all the temptation!

And there are still all those lovely hollyhock strips. They would just LOVE to be a quilt!

50 shades of hollyhock

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

28 August 2014

Ride the Hurricane

When I first signed up for the bicycle climb of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, I wasn't sure I could complete 5,000 feet in elevation gain in five hours. Painful memories of my two attempts on Pikes Peak haunt me still. I'm just too slow for timed events.

This one might be different, though, I tried to convince myself. This one featured breathable oxygen, a luxury compared to our air-starved high altitude peaks. Perhaps that one simple ingredient might allow me to achieve something incredible. Perhaps Ride the Hurricane would provide the motivation I need to see me through a year of training for what I hope is a successful ascent of Pikes Peak in September of 2015.

lavender ups and downs
Only 400 feet high on Lavender high points, but look how many times we went up and down and up and down!!!

After completing the surprisingly hilly Tour de Lavender the day before, my self-confidence took yet another hit. I bonked toward the end of the Tour, perhaps because I was more interested in taking photos than staying hydrated. I had assumed the Tour would be a super simple ride, which it mostly was, but I didn't hydrate or fuel properly. I hadn't expected any difficulty whatsoever. I'd mistakenly assumed the 71 miles from Sequim to the Elwha River and back would be flat and a piece of cake, but I hadn't done that many miles in a single sitting since the MS-150 in June. Life's deadlines and obligations had prevented me from maintaining the cheery and optimistic level of fitness I'd reached by the Day 2 finish line last June.

I was so exhausted after the end of the Tour de Lavender, I wasn't sure I'd be able to ride at all the following day, much less complete the biggest single-day climb I've done in years.

Tour de Lavender
my Tour de Lavender mileage profile

When the alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. on August 3, adrenaline surged. I wanted to complete this climb, and I wanted to do it in the allotted time.

After dropping The Lizard off at the designated starting point in Port Angeles, I opted for the shorter ride option, from the Olympic National Park entry gate. Those of us who started from higher up affectionately referred to our start line as the "wimpy starting point," yet 4,000 feet in elevation gain in five hours or less is still a mighty demanding expectation.

During the drive up to the gate, I passed approximately 100 cyclists already on their way up the mountain. The gate would not open until 7, regardless of what time the hoard of cyclists arrived. The Lizard would have no problem whatsoever scaling this beast and didn't have to worry about being stopped before reaching his goal. I admired all these early bird cyclists who apparently were as worried about the allotted time as me.

As I unloaded my bike and prepared for what I expected could be a very chilly descent at the end of the climb, I did something I never thought I would do. I decided not to take my camera. I wanted to give myself the best chance for success I could, and as The Lizard always reminds me, extra weight slows you down. Mountain climbers saw the handle off their toothbrush to lighten their load. My little Nikon weighs a bit more than a toothbrush, but it is not heavy, in my opinion. Carrying it along, however, would offer far too many temptations to stop and shoot instead of climb, climb, climb for 13 miles. Too many opportunities to fail:

"Oh, these flowers are much prettier than climbing another nine miles."

"Oh, this mama deer and her little fawn are much more interesting than two more gallons of sweat."

"Oh, these drummers are much more fun than the final mile of muscle, determination and willpower."

Ride the Hurricane

I would have my iPhone, which I use to record miles rolled, elevation achieved and calories burned, and I could use that for photos if I absolutely had to shoot.

I regretted not having a real camera several times along the way as I pedaled through a clear, sunny rain forest, the first time I've ever been on Hurricane Ridge and been able to enjoy a fogless view. Yet, I knew in my heart, the real camera would have slowed me down, one way or another, if I'd carried it.

Instead, I carried my rain jacket, which when rolled up snugly, takes up an entire pocket on the back of my jersey and presses against the incision scar on my back, an often overpowering sensation that sometimes defeats the best of ambition when I'm attempting to challenge myself. The rain jacket could be more important than any camera, should the weather change. I also carried my standard portable calories that have served me well during Ride the Rockies and other challenging rides that don't always offer food to which my digestive tract is accustomed. I had no clue what kinds of food and beverage would be available at the four stops along Hurricane Ridge, and I wanted to make sure my body had what it needed to complete the chore.

I took along a Hammer chocolate coconut bar, Honey Stinger organic energy chews and a raspberry RJ licorice log. My bottles were filled with pure, clean water.

Rest stops offered orange slices, bananas, bagels, PBJ, slices of banana bread, water and orange Gatorade. I enjoyed rest stop fruit at each stop, and I never got into my own food stash. I refilled one water bottle at each stop. (I drank one whole bottle of water between each rest stop! I hydrated properly!)

At the closed gate, about 20 more cyclists were waiting for the 7 a.m. opening. By the time the park ranger let us go about two minutes early, about 20 more cyclists had completed the first leg of the much steeper climb than I would be facing ahead.

As we rolled into Olympic National Park, one passing cyclist assured us the grade never reaches above 2%. My confidence soared! I could do that! I might make it to the top!

An hour later, The Lizard caught me, as jovial as always. He remarked how steep that first section was and told me how glad he was I skipped that part.

He asked if I'd passed anyone. He always knows how to make me laugh.

No, I would not pass a single soul this entire ride, and I would be passed hundreds of times. But slow and steady, I would reach the top. I promised him I would not give up.

Then he was off, into the cloudless sky, climbing seemingly effortlessly and passing all the cyclists still in view who had already passed me. This ride was not a race, but to some riders, such as The Lizard, the personal goal was to climb as fast as possible. Some would be trying to break their own records. Some wanted to be first. Some, such as The Lizard, wanted to see just how fast they could climb this baby.

I managed to make it all the way to the third tunnel without iPhone music to inspire my cadence. I hadn't planned to use the music at all, instead conserving the iPhone's energy for Cyclemeter and photos, especially since I expected not to have much GPS signal inside a national park. As I entered the third tunnel, yet another passing cyclist protested with bravado tunnel echo, "We have no horns to honk!" So I couldn't resist. My new iPhone case, the Goal Zero Rock Out portable stereo, allows me to turn on my music, fast forward, rewind and pause without opening the case to access the phone!!!

The iPhone is set to shuffle my climbing list. David Garret's take on "Mission Impossible" immediately filled the tunnel, and passing riders commented, "What a perfect song!"

I didn't HAVE to get into the case to fiddle with iPhone controls, but I did decide a tunnel photo was worth a tiny rest stop.

Ride the Hurricane

The rest of this climb was powered by different motivational tunes than have harnessed my fortitude in the past. Another version of "Mission Impossible," this one by The Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling, garnered more compliments from passing cyclists later in the climb. Gary Wright's "Love is Alive" provided the opportunity to rewrite lyrics as I pedaled.

"...My legs are alive,
My soul's like two wheels still turning,
My legs are alive, my legs are alive,
Yeah, yeah, yeah..."

And then, the pièce de résistance, "Air That I Breathe" by the Hollies...

"...Sometimes all I need
Is the air that I breathe
Just to climb you..."

Air, sweet air! I reached the third rest stop and found a sign that boosted my morale and another sign that cracked me up more than ever.

Ride the Hurricane

Oh, I could make this climb! I was almost there! I could do it!

Ride the Hurricane

Laughter filled my soul as I mounted the bicycle one more time and began pedaling ever upward. I noticed some of the riders I'd passed earlier during the drive to the gate had not passed me yet. Other cyclists might have my same slow pace! For some reason, this empowered me. I would not be last! I would not be cut off!

Even though I had air, I was climbing well and I was feeling good, the strenuous exercise did begin to get to me. I had to stop before the next rest stop. Then I had to stop again. And then I had to stop yet again. Three times between the third and final rest stop! The nice thing was it didn't take my lungs long to recover at that altitude. I was still lower than my house in Colorado. My lungs filled quickly, and I was pedaling quickly again after each unplanned rest stop.

Ride the Hurricane
my Ride the Hurricane elevation and speed profile

Soon I could hear drums; the valley echoed with the beat of world music-type percussion, and I turned off my iPhone music. I stopped one more time to snap a photo of the drummers, and they told me I was a mile from the top!

One! More! Mile! I! Would! Make! It!!!

Two hours and forty minutes into my climb, I spied The Lizard, camera in hand, ready to welcome me to the summit!

The visitor center had run out of chocolate milk but still had plenty of hummus. The crackers didn't appeal to me, so I grabbed a couple of baby carrots to dip, then devoured the rest of my little container using my finger as a spoon. I made my way to the gift shop below to buy my own chocolate milk, but before I could reach the register, The Lizard found me again and handed me a cup of the free chocolate milk from upstairs. They'd replenished the well!

I sipped on the chocolate milk, then stepped back outside for summit photos with my favorite cyclist. Then it was time to bundle up in that handy rain jacket for a smooth 13-mile downhill cruise.

During that blazing downhill, I realized some of those grades were slightly more than 2%. The Lizard said some of them were 4% and 5%. The very happy thing is that I didn't notice the increase in grade as I was going up, probably due to the plethora of oxygen available. Nevertheless, I climbed those grades as well as the slight grades. That's a real improvement for me!

Then, after we returned back to Colorado, we learned The Hurricane is the longest sustained climb in Washington and revered as the biggest climb in the state. !!! Topping even Mount Rainier. !!! I'VE DONE THE BIGGEST CLIMB IN WASHINGTON!!!!!!!!!!

Ride the Hurricane

I hope the feeling I felt upon reaching the summit of Hurricane Ridge (and seeing the surrounding peaks for the first time!) will match my feeling next year on Pikes Peak. I made it! I set a goal, and I accomplished it!

I earned this vest! It came with the ride, but I earned it!

the new vest

26 August 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Love the minis!

Colorado Rocks!

Bunny Man Stays Warm in the Rain

Stage 2 Winner Robin Carpenter

Go, Tejay!!!

One Last Time

Stage 1 Most Aggressive Danny Summerhill

Team Cannondale having fun

brave fan

Stage 4 Lanterne Rouge

broom wagon


a new pin

26 miles. 5,000 feet in elevation gain. Very few photos. A new vest. A new bumper sticker. A new pin for my collection. A new feather in my cap.

my new vest

25 August 2014

Snowflake Monday

Denim Frost Snowflake

I totally ran out of white thread for my special project one day on the train, but I had my indigo hand-dyed thread, so I designed another snowflake. I just love my indigo thread, yarn and fabric. I think the denim color might be my favorite of everything I've dyed.

Blue is my favorite color, and I especially like it with white. Very snowflakey, right?

Imagine my surprise when this faded denim blue jewel landed on my desk recently.

a surprise in the mail

No return address, so I don't know who sent it, but I wasn't expecting anything so beautiful, so I excitedly tore into the envelope.

Makes winter look good, doesn't it?

It must be from someone who likes winter, birds, snowflakes and blue as much as I do, but I don't know who. I love, love, love this treasure, and I'm trying to think of something really special to make for it... maybe I can use it as an inset in a new denim jacket to use up some of the beyond-mending jeans I've been saving for the last ten or more years, and then I can wear the masterpiece to work and show it off to everyone in my office! (And everyone on the commuter train, too!) This piece is just incredible!

Doesn't that lettering look like denim?!?

I have a little sister in heaven who knew of my snowflake passion, and so every time I hear the "snowflakes are angel kisses" phrase, I always think of her. I wonder if she blows snowflakes at me and giggles when they catch me by surprise. So this cross-stitch is more dear than the giver may ever know.

I've received a few unexpected gifts from readers over the years, and each of them delights me. Each has arrived when I needed an extra little pump to get me through a stressful day. Or week. Or month...

This one came from Beth, thanking me for my patterns. I've had her address buried on my clipboard at work for two years because I fully intended to send something special in return. The office where I work was total chaos at the time, with a new building owner and new security measures, remodeling and construction, office and floor moves, department and boss changes galore, and I'd just received the devastating post-diagnosis on my bike wreck six months earlier that changed my life. Although I never lost Beth's address in all the office moves, I forgot to thank her for sending me rainbows when my world was looking pretty darned dark.

the brightest bookmark of all

One of my readers recently asked if she could make scarves for our Makeover Madness project. It broke my heart to tell her the facility we were serving was closed due to lack of funds, and other existing facilities do not allow the residents/clients to have scarves. Sadly, scarves (and other everyday items we take for granted) can be used as weapons. So our project died an untimely death, and my co-workers and I have been searching for something else we can do to make our little corner of the world better.

Members of the Sisters of the Snowflake group on Yahoo recently came up with a brilliant idea: to make snowflakes for children's hospitals in their own towns this autumn in time for Christmas distribution. I'll be announcing more details about that in a couple of weeks.

There is a lot of darkness in the world these days. Some people are kicking that darkness to the curb in order to brighten the lives of others. May we all try to bring happiness and smiles to our own little space in the universe.

Because, after all, happiness makes the world go round!

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Finished Size: 4.5 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 8 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Denim Frost Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 4 dc in ring, pull hook out of loop (dropped loop) and insert in 2nd ch of starting ch 2, insert in dropped loop, pull dropped loop through 2nd ch of starting ch 2 (starting popcorn stitch made), * ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook (dc picot made), ch 5, 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook, 1 hdc in next ch, 1 dc in next ch, 1 tr in next ch, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, 5 dc in ring, pull hook out of loop (dropped loop) and insert in top loop of 1st dc of this 5/dc group, insert in dropped loop, pull dropped loop through top loop of 1st dc (popcorn stitch made); repeat from * around 5 times, omitting last popcorn stitch of Round; sl st in top of starting popcorn stitch. Pull magic circle as tight as you can get it with all those stitches in the center. The object here is to make the snowflake center poufy and 3D.

Round 2: Ch 7 (counts as 1 tr and ch 3), * 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook (dc picot made), 1 sc in next sc tip, ch 6, 1 sc in same tip, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, 1 tr in next popcorn, ch 3; repeat from * around 5 times, omitting last tr and ch 3 of final repeat; sl st in 4th ch of starting ch 4.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 3: Ch 4 (counts as 1 tr), * 2 trtr in next ch 6 tip, 2 dtr in same sp, 2 tr in same sp, ch 5, 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook, 1 hdc in next ch, 1 dc in next ch, ch 1, 2 tr in same ch 6 tip, 2 dtr in same tip, 2 trtr in same tip, 1 tr in next tr; repeat from * around 5 times, omitting last tr of final repeat; sl st in4th ch of starting ch 4; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

As much as I love this snowflake in hand-dyed denim thread, I made a white one for my special project!

Denim Frost Snowflake

21 August 2014

Fragrance of the Honeymakers

Tour de Lavender

Most of the Sequim lavender had been harvested before our bicycle tires touched the Olympic Discovery Trail on the Washington state peninsula, but bees continued to buzz the few remaining shoots of violet.

Marigold's humans, goatmother Maryann and goatfather Phil, told us about the Tour de Lavender a year ago as we were winding up our 2013 organized ride calender. The first Tour de Lavender had been a rousing success, and plans were in the works to make it an annual event. We missed the inaugural ride, but we were there for the second round this year.

Back in my newspapering days, editors wouldn't allow reporters to call any event "annual" until after the second year. If Tour de Lavender happens again next year, under old school rules, it officially will be an annual event!

I'd expected to pedal 70 miles through fields of fragrant lavender, much like the French photos I've admired in the past. Sequim (pronounced "skwim", and I'm still trying to get that down!!!) doesn't in fact boast miles upon miles of heavenly scent, as it turns out, but five- to ten-acre lavender farms do dot the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Riding from farm to farm through towering stands of fireweed, Douglas fir, red cedar and red alder and rolling prairie-like hills, sometimes along the coast of the Strait of Jaun de Fuca, wasn't as flat as I expected. We powered up a couple of 15% grades!

Sequim boasts a population of slightly more than 6,000 and sits along the Dungeness River and in the rain shadow of Olympic National Park. The Olympic Discovery Trail begins in the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend and eventually will span approximately 130 miles east to west, ending on the shores of the Pacific Ocean at La Push. Existing completed trail is a wide, paved pathway suitable for walking, running, riding bicycles or horses and ...photography!

In what feels like one hundred years ago, my kids and I enjoyed a gorgeous sunset near La Push at Rialto.

Rialto Sunset

This year's coastal adventure did not include such picturesque sunsets along the Peninsula as planned, but we did manage to capture some liquid gold on a beach across the bay a few days later, but that's a different tale for another day.

I did capture an amazing sunset from the car window on the way to Sequim...

from the window of our moving car just outside of Pendleton, Oregon

...and another from the roof of our hotel in Sequim one night...

Sequim Sunset

...and a gorgeous cloudy, misty post-storm sunset from Mammoth Springs in Yellowstone National Park on the way home...

Mammoth Hot Springs sunset

But this trip was not about sunrises and sunsets, although there was another dynamic sunset I'll share multiple shots of in an upcoming post. This trip was about lavender and the biggest road bike climb in the state of Washington (which also will be in a separate post). Well, until we got to Wyoming on the way home, but that's another blog post.

The 2014 Tour de Lavender started and finished at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club parking lot and took us through farmland and forests to visit five different lavender farms. More lavender farms do exist along the eastern edges of the Olympic Peninsula where rainfall is not as plentiful as in the rainforests covering the interior and on the opposite side of the peninsula, and we visited one other not on the Tour. We also learned of another much larger farm on San Juan Island we likely would have visited on our own had we known about it in advance. Oh, well, next time...

Suffice it to say, we literally just couldn't get enough of the lavender smell.

The first leg of the Tour took us down a gravel path to Lavender Haze, where we enjoyed our choice of chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate candy bars infused with lavender. The Lizard went chocolate. (See his trip report here.) I picked dark. Yum! Perhaps my favorite treat of all the rest stops.

Lavender Haze included a brief visit with some adorable fuzzy friends.

active babies

Tired Mama

Cutting Garden

all gone

Blossoms of Heaven

Shine on Me

Next stop was Jardin du Soleil, where feathered friends wandered and bicycle-wrapped honey sticks were quickly sipped.


not interested

poppy seeds

poppies and lavender

sweet seats

not just lavender


shine on me

On the way to the next lavender farm, I was overcome with statue envy.

I want a five-foot porch light like this!

Olympic Lavender was unique in that it offered complimentary traditional ride nutrition (PBJ bagels and Nature Valley bars) instead of lavender treats, but the lavender-drying shack was open to interested (or in my case, addicted) nostrils. There, 4,000 bundles of freshly cut lavender hung to dry prior to being available for purchase. Getting back on the bike after this stop was so difficult for me. I could have just stayed in that shack until winter!

the shack



the view

Washington Lavender boasts more than just the smelly stuff. The George Washington Inn, a replica of the Mount Vernon estate, sits upon the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and boasts a view of the New Dungeness Lighthouse on the longest natural sand spit in the world. This also is where we were treated to our choice of ice cream flavors, two even including lavender. By this time, the sun was heating up the roads, and ice cream was a popular and welcome treat.

Lavender was still being harvested at this stop, and we were treated to the scent of freshly cut bundles being prepared for distilling.

the ride supreme

springlike color

purple rest stop

still blooming


fresh cut

fresh stacked

It was also here the official photographer asked to snap our photo!

Strait of Juan de Fuca

Next we pedaled right along the beach into Port Angeles, where the next rest stop awaited at the gate of a wonderful farmer's market, then it was mostly uphill into the Olympic National Forest to the turnaround point at the Elhwa River crossing.

Oh, look, a boat!

Must Get Boat Picture

Because, after all, it IS the Enterprise...

Elhwa River

Elhwa River

Elhwa River

ornamental shadow shot

bike path ornament

We backtracked through Port Angeles and along the beach once again, then back uphill on the other side of Highway 101 to visit the final lavender farm of the Tour, Lost Mountain Lavender.

Lavender-infused hibuscus tea was nearly gone by the time we arrived. The metric century ride had begun at 7 a.m., and the much shorter family fun ride began at 10. Most of the family fun riders were leaving the final stop on their tour as we pulled into the shaded gardens. Many family photos had been snapped here at the biggest still-standing stand of blooming lavender of the Tour.


artificially dwarfed

We spent the entire day wishing Mr. and Mrs. Micawber had been with us; they might have opted for the shorter ride, but they undoubtedly would have enjoyed this event as much as anything they have done while vacationing in Colorado.

Perhaps next year???

Stickers all acquired!
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