I belong to a small weaving group that sets a challenge every year to make us better weavers.  This year we are supposed to make a bag based on a color palette of our choosing.  We can get our inspiration from the lining we choose, the inkle bands we wove this summer for straps, or other sources.

This year, I spent a lot of time natural dyeing fiber and I have spun up most of it into weaving yarn; so I know what colors I’m using.  The sticking point for me was the type of bag to make.  The last thing I need is another tote!

So recently, I started coming up with ideas during a long weekend vacation in Washington D.C.  I just got a new Canon EOS T2i camera and was forced to carry it in a backpack purse of mine.  It was certainly not designed for camera carrying.  Hmmm.  I need a bag for that.

My project is now a backpack to carry my camera and lenses during my travels. Now the challenge is the design–the structure of the bag and the weave structure of the fabric.  On a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian), I had a field day taking pictures of some of the incredible weaving that inspired my vision of a backpack design.

I just love the colors and the design of the bags, basket and clay pots. Each one gave me great ideas on some of the motifs I’d like to try. Ever since I started weaving, inspiration seems to be everywhere.  I will go back to these pictures when I’m ready to start sketching out my ideas.

I’ve got one of her books and a DVD, but there’s nothing like meeting Judith MacKenzie face to face.  I had the wonderful good fortune to be invited to the home of a new friend last weekend, who just happens to be friends with Judith.  While she was visiting this woman, they decided to host a workshop on Wheel Mechanics and Spinning the Diameter of Yarn You Want.  It was that great combination of learning and good fun.

I have found over the years, that the best instructors are those who combine technical knowledge with good storytelling abilities.  Jacey Boggs has that quality and Judith has it in spades.  This woman has had a full and interesting life!  And she shares her tales with gusto.

So you walk away from her workshops needing time to process all her wonderful tips about the science and art of spinning while also smiling about her stories, adventures and passion for history and experience.

It was an amazing day and I will treasure it.

One of my travel goals every year is to ride a new bike trail with my family.  Because of the popularity of bike trails, particularly the rail-trail variety, I’ve been able to accomplish that goal for all of the last 10 years.

Over the weekend, yet another new trail was added to my family’s list.  About a two hour drive from Cleveland is the Allegheny River Trail, a wonderful former railroad line turned into a meandering bike trail along the Allegheny River.  Flat and paved, it was perfect.

Even though there are lots of trees, the trail was fairly exposed to the sun during a significant part of the afternoon ride.  But while it was a hot ride that July afternoon, the cool view of the river was inviting.

The history of the region is interesting. It was the site of an oil boom in Western Pennsylvania during the 1800s.  John Wilkes Booth was an early but ultimately unsuccessful investor.  But others made a fortune.  You can see some old oil wells on parts of the trail, some abandoned for over 100 years.

One of the nice features of the trail is the Belmar Bridge which spans the river and provides a nice surface to walk or ride.

Finding interesting trails to ride is one of the happiest parts of my summers.  And a trail with a story is a real bonus.

Spring is the time that most reminds me of my mother.  It’s not the fact that Mother’s Day is coming up in a few weeks, but rather the new life in my garden.  Many of my plants were gifts from her.  When my husband and I bought our house, she donated coral bells for the garden.  And when she died a number of years ago, we carefully lifted the bleeding hearts from her garden and brought it back to ours.  Everytime I see that lovely plant, I am reminded of her and the time she spent tending it.

When I was growing up, we always had a pink dogwood in the backyard.  Mom loved that tree and the beauty it beheld each spring.  A couple of years ago, we added our own pink dogwood to our landscape.  Just this year, it bloomed like never before; an explosion of blossoms.  I like this photo of a small detail of the tree.

I have a great photographic portrait of my mom in high school on my mantel at home, but her plants are a living reminder of the wonderful person she was to me and the rest of my family.

I had fully planned on addressing other subjects today, but my eye caught this picture on my desktop and it just carried me away.  Last fall, my husband and I traveled to Italy.  After we settled in a wonderful little European hotel in Rome, we started to explore the city for our first dinner.  Walking down a narrow, little street dodging speeding motorcycles, we discovered Mario’s.

It was as enchanting as it looks in the picture.  That October night we sat outside, dining on Italian pasta and drinking wonderful local wine.  Across the street, just a few feet away appeared the ruins of Trajan’s market.  The magic of Rome is that in the midst of this very modern city, you can dine among the ruins of a culture thousands of years old. 

We saw some unimaginable sites during our trip to Rome, Florence, and Tuscany, but I will never forget Mario’s and the warm way we were treated that first night in Italy.

Every Tuesday since the beginning of January, my youngest son participates in a ski club for homeschoolers. Boston Mills, a local ski resort, is located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a gem of beauty in Northeast Ohio.  While he tears up the ski hills, I am left to bide my time in some meaningful way for several hours. Fortunately, I found the Peninsula library, a quiet little facility with friendly librarians and a stunning view of the woods and river out the back of a comfortable reading room.

In this meeting room, I am surrounded by books which chronicle the village’s history and a display of how an outstanding exterior mural was designed and built in the 1960s.  Artist Honore Guilbeau Cooke designed a slightly abstract mural about transportation into the Cuyahoga Valley wrapped around the Ohio and Erie Canal, Cuyahoga River, B&O Railroad, and major roads in and out of the national park.

Peninsula was a center for boat building and stone quarries back in the day.  Today it has retained its historic integrity with many original buildings from the 1800s. I enjoy browsing in the new bookstore, art galleries and shops on Tuesdays but I look forward to warmer days when my family and I will pass through Peninsula riding our bikes on the Towpath bike trail.