03 August 2019

Marmots and Moose!

Made a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday!  It's one of my favorite places to get away since it's just short of an hour away from where I live.  Even with the hoards of summer visitors, there are plenty of areas within the park where one can really experience the beauty and solitude of nature.  

Old Fall River Road is a steep narrow dirt road that was the original road up to the top of Trail Ridge.  While most of the road isn't bad, the sharp hairpin turns can develop some pretty harrowing ruts as much as two feet deep in places.  Thankfully, my Subaru Outback handled it just fine with some judicious driving.  I highly recommend a high clearance vehicle!  The road winds its way up narrow Endo Valley, through the trees, along side tumbling Fall River, which is really more of a creek.  

Above the road, rocky spires jut into the sky.  Their jagged beauty is missed by so many who hurriedly drive up the road and never stop to look upwards. 

Along the roadsides, wildflowers abound.  Loved these beautiful Cinquefoil flowers!

On the rocky slopes, these Buckwheat flowers dominated. 

Driving up Old Fall River Road, I spotted 4 different marmots!  A cousin of the eastern Groundhog, these fellows are much less destructive, mainly because they live at high altitudes!  

The road must have some mineral salts on it that they like, as each of the ones I saw was licking at the road.

This one is headed back to its home deep within the rocks.  They hibernate for 7-8 months during the depth and cold of winter.  When hiking, they can be quite friendly, and in the past my family has had them begging and snitching food out of backpacks!  By mid September, this guy will seem twice this size with all the fat he will put on in preparation for hibernation! 

At the cusp of treeline, I stopped to do a watercolor of this rocky outcrop.  The trees here are all stunted from the cold, wind, and snow.  Trees need an average summer temperature greater than 55 degrees to survive, so when you see these stunted and very old trees, you know it's time to put on a sweater!  The tallest trees here were about 6 feet tall.  In the past, I've seen the mists wreathing around this outcrop, and somehow, it's always been a favorite landmark of mine along this road.  

Once the road ascends to the tundra, near the top of Trail Ridge, there is a small alpine pond, a perfect mirror for the intense blue sky above.  

I stopped here to eat my lunch and do a quick watercolor sketch.

After crossing Trail Ridge, I descended down into the Kewaneechee Valley below.  It's a broad flat valley of lush grassy meadows dotted with trees and the youthful Colorado River winding through it.  Up here, the water is clear as can be.  

It's also home to a sizable population of moose!  How blessed I was to come up to this spot and immediately find a Cow with her calf in the river!  

A tender moment!  

It was so much fun to watch this moose calf playing in the water!  

Heading back up toward Trail Ridge, I spotted a meadow filled with these spires of wildflowers.  At first I though they were Mullen, but it didn't take long to figure out that I was wrong!  Once home, I looked them up and discovered they are often called Monument Flowers, which makes total sense because they really were stunning standouts in this meadow!  

Up close, they had a striking beauty as well!  

Descending over Trail Ridge Road in the evening twilight, I came upon this lovely wildflower patch in an area where there was once a ski lift!  My Mom actually skied here in the  1960's!  Now, all the structures are removed and the area undergoing rejuvenation.  A rivulet of water tumbles down the edge of old ski run and keeps this area nice and moist, a perfect habitat for these flowers!  

There were the lovely purple blossoms of Larkspur - one of my favorite flowers!  If you look closely at each individual blossom they have a bunny head surrounded by a ruff of petals! 

These lovely Fleabane/Asters glowed with light in the dusk!  So pretty!

Once off of Trail Ridge Road, I took the road through Horseshoe park, named for the winding pattern that Fall River creates as it traverses the large flat park area.  Off to one side are a couple of ponds.  It's not unusual to see elk, and once in a while some bighorn sheep there.  But this time, there was a large bull moose standing in the pond, munching away!  Two ducks circled around him the entire time I watched!  

The colors of the pond really changed as the light came out from around a cloud!  From silver and blue to purple and pink!  This guy sure seemed to be enjoying his cool evening bath and mealtime!  Those antlers will continue to grow for a while, covered in velvet until late August, when the velvet will start to peel off.  

What a lovely day it was.  Nature, a bit of art.  Time away from the everyday routine.  It's easy to get into a rut, and I find it all too easy to become a hermit in my own home.  I think that's one of the things I love about traveling, even when it's just an hour from home; it shakes me loose and wakes me up!  

Have a beautiful day! 

23 July 2019

A Lovely Crazy Quilt Retreat!

I've been blessed to attend two different crazy quilt retreats this year!  The first was the Windsor, CT retreat in April.  The most recent one was the O'Fallon Crazy Quilt Retreat (though it is actually held in the neighboring town of Fairview Heights, IL).  

I did a video for my YouTube channel on packing my bag for a retreat.  I had everything I needed ~ and then some!  There wasn't anything that I missed having with me, which is always a plus! 

I also put a short video up recapping the retreat which you can view here: https://youtu.be/CBFM9F9JSRU

As is so often the case, I came home with more than I left with!  I drove from Colorado through Kansas, stopping at Quilt Cottage in Hays, Kansas.  They always have a nice selection of fabrics and keep the shelves stocked with fat quarters for every fabric on the shelf.  Perfect for a crazy quilter who only uses small bits of fabric!  

The next quilt shop was Quilter's Haven in Olathe, Kansas.  I discovered several years ago, that they have a fabulous selection of Japanese Taupe Fabrics.  I love their muted tones and so I've been collecting a few more, every time I visit there. They also have a nice selection of Batik fabrics and a great selection of quilting books.  I found some really cute fabric for a baby quilt for my grand-baby due in October!

I usually like to stop at Quilter's Station in Lees Summit, Missouri, but due to time, I missed it both coming and going.  It's a huge quilt shop with the biggest fabric selection I've ever seen.  They also carry a fair amount of wool and primitive quilt supplies, such as my favorite Valdani pearl cotton threads.

Photo courtesy of Lauretta Allen
The retreat was wonderful.  There were 31 of us in attendance and I knew 9 of them from other retreats that I have attended in the past.  Several more were familiar to me through their work and postings in the various facebook crazy quilting groups.  I love getting to know people in person and was so glad to make so many new crazy quilting friends!

Unlike a lot of retreats, there weren't a lot of planned activities.  The first person down in the morning had the hotel unlock the room and the last one to leave at night had them lock up.  People came and went at their leisure, and truly, most of our time was spent stitching and enjoying time with one another!

There were three informal classes; two on beading taught by Jean Erickson, (her Flickr site here) and one on needle tatting taught by Lisa Caryl.  Lisa is working on a Hexagon 2020 project that is extraordinary!

At this retreat, I actually managed to get some stitching done!  I started off working on my "Black Pearl" project.  The photo above shows the way it looked at the retreat I attended in April.  At that retreat, about all I managed to do was to stitch down a portion of the hexagon portion of the border and to plan out the button placement.

At this retreat, I not only finished stitching the border, I got all the crazy quilt embroidery completed and stitched down the buttons!  Next, I'll be adding some hand quilting in the hexagons and then adding a backing and binding.

2019.07.22 PocketPrayers
I also was able to get a couple of Pocket Prayers completed and made progress on three others.  I love these little projects!

The last project I worked on were two of the blocks from the Hearts Round Robin I participated in a few years ago.  One of the blocks needed additional embellishment to help it match the others, and then there was one block for me to embellish.  I finished the first one, and got a good start on my block.  Next I'll need to piece and then stitch/embellish more blocks in order to complete the project I hope to create with these blocks!

IMG_7499 (1)

Show and Tell is always one of my favorite parts of a crazy quilt retreat and this one was no exception!  There were so many beautiful projects shared!  Watch the You Tube video linked above  for a better look at some of the work!

IMG_7597And last, but certainly not least, it's always a joy to get to see in person, a beautiful antique crazy quilt.  Mona Berning brought a gorgeous one to share, that was gifted to her by Mary Chalmers.  The video also takes a better look at this lovely quilt!  

29 June 2019

A Rejuvenating Day

It's too easy to become a hermit these days.  There's always plenty to keep me busy at home.  Without work obligations to add order to my days, I find I need to make a concerted effort to spend time away from home.  Hearing that Trail Ridge Road had re-opened after a Summer solstice snowstorm, was incentive to get out for the day and take a drive to see the banks of snow remaining!  I remember the first time our family visited here in July of 1964, and asking my parents if it ever snowed up here in the summertime.  While I don't remember their answer, it wasn't long after that we had to pull off the road near this same spot as a storm blew through and dropped about 2" of snow!  Winter is never very far away on the high peaks and alpine tundra! 

This view of the "Never Summer Range" is one of my favorites.  On this day, the wind was blowing well and the cloud shadows moved quickly across the peaks.  It's been cold and snowy enough, that the tundra plants have not yet started to green up and bloom ~ definitely late this year!  

After making my way back down from the high peaks, I headed for a quieter corner of the park.  Upper Beaver Meadows is off the beaten track and offers a lovely vista of Longs Peak.  It's also a great spot for birding and observing the wildflowers as well as an assortment of wildlife.  There was a wedding taking place near where I usually park however, and it kept me from doing the small hike I had hoped to do.  What a gorgeous place for a ceremony though!  

A little ways down the road, I was able to stop and take in the beauty of these Rocky Mountain iris!  The dresses of the bridesmaids at the wedding echoed the lovely deep purples of the iris buds! 

So beautiful!  

Along the roadsides, the Locoweed was blooming beautifully!  It ran from shades of white, to this soft lilac, to a light violet shade depending upon the clump.  

I love the sunlight streaming through the trees and highlighting the contrast of the red tree trunks against the green grass.  All the late snow this year means everything is much greener than is typical.  

I headed for yet another quiet corner of the park.  Usually the only folks in this area are hiking to and from the Fern Lake Trail.  But if you get there early in the day or later in the afternoon, there are often open spots to park along the road.  It's one of my favorite spots in the park with a lovely aspen grove and tall grassy undergrowth.  

It was the perfect spot to do a little plein air painting!  Loved being out of the hot sunshine and under the shade of the trees, yet enjoying the brilliant light on the little meadow and trees in the middle ground, all accompanied by a lovely view of the peaks in the distance! 

Here's a better shot of the painting I did.  Plein Air painting is more about capturing a sense of a place, the light, the feel of it, rather than being a refined painting of a place.  I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out!  Using water mixable oil paints makes it easy - no volatile mineral spirits to carry and worry about spilling - just a container of water and some baby wipes for cleanup.  Better for the environment, better for me!

By the time I was done painting, the light was getting lower in the sky, sending long shadows and shafts of light through the trees.  I love the way it filters down and illuminates small areas, turning this branch of Rocky Mountain maple into an exquisite sculpture.  

While driving out of the park, I spotted this glistening little rivulet tumbling down the hillside.  Just magical!

There's something about getting out and enjoying a beautiful place like this that brushes away the small worries of life, restores hope, and lifts one out of the doldrums.  It's as though my soul can breathe again.  

As I neared home, the sky turned soft in the lingering light.  It seems that evenings like this come only in June, and I am so grateful to have witnessed this one! The perfect ending to a lovely and rejuvenating day.   

One last note:
The upcoming episode on my YouTube Channel will be about making these little ribbon flowers!  In it, I mention two books and wanted to give you the links to them.  (Please note that these are affiliate links, and while I may make a small amount if you make a purchase through them, they are at no extra cost to you) Thanks so much for visiting my YouTube Channel!  


20 June 2019

Crazy Quilt Challenge Project and Travels to Connecticut

The current topic on my YouTube channel, is the Challenge Project that I did for the 2019 Windsor, Connecticut Retreat in April.  You can find my YouTube channel by going to YouTube and searching for "Ivory Blush Roses" or through the link below, which will take you to Episode 2 - Planning, of the Challenge Project series:

Despite the cool wet spring weather, I had a lovely trip back east.  I decided to drive so that I could explore more of New England than I had previously seen.  I'm so glad I did!  I took 4 days to drive from Colorado to Connecticut, stopping overnight in both Des Moines and the Cleveland area to visit cousins and a good friend. On day 3, I stopped for what I thought would be a quick 1 hour visit to Niagra Falls.

The falls were amazing.  I had been there as a child, but somehow, the true scale of them had been forgotten.  When you see the people standing on the far side, it gives you a bit better idea of just how massive these falls are!  Though there was sun, it was a chilly day, about 45 degrees.  I walked all along the American side and ended up spending nearly 4 hours there.

After a night in Schnectedy, NY, I made the last bit of the journey to Hartford/Windsor, CT.  Along the way, I passed by two different covered bridges.  A bit more modest scale than the ones I've seen in Iowa, but lovely none the less!  This one also has the dubious honor of being the "Site of the first UFO Incident officially inducted into the US as historically true" I wouldn't have noticed the signs for it had it not been for another visitor to the bridge who was there because of that designation.  I just thought it was a pretty covered bridge!

I think this bridge might have actually been the gateway to someone's property, or maybe an exclusive neighborhood.  Sure was pretty!

Once I made it to Hartford, CT, I spent the afternoon at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum, one of the oldest art museums in the country.  They had a nice collection and a lovely building.  I loved this painting by Edouard Manet. So striking and so much said with so few brushstrokes!

This was my favorite - an oil sketch by William Merrit Chase.  So simple, and I love that it has his notes.  Like the Manet painting, it says so much with so little.  And I love how it leaves much of the canvas uncovered!

2019.04.26WindsorCT01Once in Windsor, CT, I met up with the other crazy quilters.  We had 3 lovely days stitching together, but it rained nearly the entire time!  But with great company, and beautiful crazy quilting to view and work on, I don't think it particularly bothered us at all!

The cherry blossoms didn't seem at all bothered by the damp!

And neither did the birch!

Marmots and Moose!

Made a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday!  It's one of my favorite places to get away since it's just short o...