Mysterious Quebec

Murder mysteries are my relaxation tonic. On the bedside table now is Louise Penny’s Bury Your Dead. Another classic Chief Inspector Gamache mystery, this time primarily set in Quebec City. A central part of the tale involves the mystery of Samuel de Champlain’s burial place in the old city. Set in a warmly charming and bitterly cold February Quebec winter, one can hear the snow crunching, taste the chocolat chaud and feel the cold winds on the Plains of Abraham. Happy memories of our 12th anniversary trip to Quebec City are flooding back. with each street and landmark.

We were married in early October, which is a Perfect time to experience the delights of Quebec. Leaves! St. Lawrence River! Mountains! Art Weeks! Quebecois Cuisine! Cliffs and Funiculars!

It was a lovely touristy trip. Charming B&B a block from the St. Lawrence and Chauteau Frontenac. We took a touristy boat trip down the St. Lawrence and back. The fall leaves and scenery were amazing and the breezes bracing, perfectly enjoyable.

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Ron’s getting ready for dinner.


We headed north for a few days. Hiked magnificent mountainsides – simply ablaze.


We traveled to Baie St Paul where we strolled, visited the Reves d’Automne, and had a local pint.  That evening, we wandered into the hotel restaurant and the found the town’s annual art festival’s intercultural dinner! That year was an African exchange, thus a tasty series of African dishes in a very convivial room, hung with one of the hosts’ artwork. We were warmly embraced and asked to join the feast. The next day we bought a painting which now graces our dining room.

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Heading up the coast we made a ferry crossing the Saguenay River to Tadoussac. Lots of interesting passengers and cargo.


On the way back to Quebec City we found a remarkable cathedral, full of intense mosaics. I can’t even find that village on the map now…

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…not to mention iconic riverside villages.


I love my neck of the woods, but I also love discovering the mysteries of other woods.





Fish! Hornopiren

Anthony Bourdain’s untimely, tragic death has me remembering various travels, including especially remarkable meals in unexpected places. First to mind – Hake, roadside, Hornopiren, Chile on the legendary Carretara Austral (aka Ruta 7, the bimodal route).


Thanks to my informal vacation diary – we have this remembrance of that day. This was possibly the best fish dinner of the 2 week trip – and we ate this dinner almost every night.

Sunday, March 6, 2016 – Castro to Hornopiren.

Mostly driving. Castro on Ruta 7 to Chacao. Ferry & on to Puerto Montt. Change back to Ruta 7 & head south. Ruta 7 is the Carretera Austral. Overnight in Hornopiren after 2 ferry and 2 driving legs. They call it the bimodal route because you’re either on a paved/unpaved road or a ferry.

We ate dinner at a small roadside restaurant that I would typically have walked by, but Ron said we should try it. Very small family bar/restaurant with a football game on and an intently football-watching, if small, crowd. Seated, we asked for agua & they don’t sell it – only beer or wine. We ordered hake & salmon & a “small” bottle of white wine & got perfectly fried fresh fish w/potatoes & tomato slices & a full bottle of wine. It was Really Good.

There’s a fish hatchery here & hundreds of gulls were feeding in the stream – flying up, landing, snacking as they floated down & flying up again, repeat.


What the diary account doesn’t mention is just how bone rattling unpaved roadway we drove.  ROUGH roads. Thankfully Ron rented a 4-wheel drive truck with a suspension to handle these roads. They were so bumpy that his FitBit logged a couple thousand extra steps while driving.

It also doesn’t mention the remarkable scenery – the fjords, the estuary, the Andes. Green. Lush. Foggy, sunny, perfect weather.

Definitely going back.

Puyuhuapi musings

We came to Puyuhuapi today as our base to explore Parque Nacional Quelette. The village was only founded in 1935 by German immigrants and is a quiet, comfortable community located at the end of a fjord. 


We got the last room at Hosteria Alemana, overlooking the flower and vegetable garden and a bit of the fjord. We were greeted at the desk by a lively bouquet of sunflowers and yarrow from the yard.

The owners are avid gardeners and the grounds are resplendent with an exuberant late summed English-style garden, with Southern Hemisphere touches like Araucaria trees. 
We arrived at El Muelle at 7:25 for dinner, alas no dinner until 8, so we headed to the seashore by the plaza to watch the sea. 

Sitting by the shore we watched seals feed in the fjord as the Jhonatan I came into dock, it’s skipper dropping off a load of fish for waiting customers. Families, couples, dogs and tourists ambled by to enjoy the view as they went on their way. Two older tourist couples shared a picnic freshly bought at the minimercado. The seals move about the harbor as they feed. The water is still enough to waterski on, not quite glass, but smooth save for the seals’ ripples. The sun is slowly setting and the clouds oh-so-gradually darken and color in shades of pale peach. The water is rippling in a mid breeze as the sunset begins to reflect the sky, it’s a scene you can imagine Monet painting.        

Another customer comes for Jhonatan I’s fish and another boat lands and passengers from an excursion depart. 

As the dusk deepens the water is a silken steely blue reflecting the darkening sky.

The stars are immediately visible at late dusk and we’ll gaze upon the Milky Way and make a wish before sleep tonight. 

Highland Threads

I love to weave cloth, although I don’t actually spend much time weaving. I get paralyzed by what to do next. Should I pick a  pattern or modify one or design my own? So many options!

On this trip to Scotland I found myself doing a few-things-weaving. 

  1. I looked for yarn. It turns out that buying yarns in the heart of the Highlands sheep industry is just about impossible. I found yarn three times in two weeks and only 2 were local/regional products. The first one I saw was a lovely dark grey with flecks of white (only 3 skeins available!), but it wasn’t just what I wanted so I wanted so I waited. The 2nd find a few days later was lovely, lofty, hand-dyed yarn, but in pastels I didn’t think I’d ever use. Being a Floridian there’s not much use for wool, so it did need to be the right thing. Now I wish I’d bought the first, not-quite-right dark wool, it was lovely in its own right and I would have used it.
  2. I studied tartan patterns. Not so much the color combinations or which-was-whose, but the patterns. With the right color order and number of threads you can create some lovely, interesting, simple-to-weave cloth.    With a full time day job, simple-to-weave is important to me. A relatively recent tweed designed for Balmoral with Highlands colors in mind. I only see five distinct colors in the cloth (browns and cream, with blended blues and wee shots of red), but it presents as multiple shades due to the interplay in the tight tweed weave.      The Murray of Atholl tartan is more traditional, tartan plaid with a lovely interplay of thread patterning. You can see the thread color order from the fringe and the overall from the cloth. It’s also traditional in that the warp and weft thread orders are the same, so the same pattern emerges whichever way you look at the cloth.       A more modern take on tartan plaid is easy to accomplish and creates a whole new realm of color patterning. One series of colors and threading sequences can be set up in the warp and another in the weft. The effect can be very interesting and invites endless color pattern and mood possibilities.  Makes for some interesting fringe too! 
  3. I found I was taking patterns of patterns, both color and shape. Boulders with species of barnacles, moss or lichens and maybe some wildflowers.      Hillsides of heather, with and without trees.       Flowers overflowing rock walls.    Rocky crags topped with heather carpets.      Fences (the Scots have lots of stone fences with various capping styles).      Pathways.    Lochs in the landscape.      

From all of this, I have way more ideas about cloth to create than time. Some are more amenable to tapestry, which I’ve dabbled at – and should try again with some of the landscape patterns. More likely is that I’ll translate some of the tartan patterning into some projects. Perhaps a variant on the balmoral tartan for a jacket, or a more modern plaid patterning for an upcoming towel exchange. Possibly a throw using a hand dyed warp with the warp thread order based on a plaid….

Baby blanket odyssey begins

We mothers hope that we will, eventually, become grandmothers. Happily, I’m an expectant grandmother! Soon after learning this I began planning a baby blanket, new territory for me. My daughter Helen, the expectant mom, shares my joy of color, which we share with her namesake, my grandmother Helen. The brighter the better, the more fun the better, the more harmonious the the better.

Obviously color would be an integral element. When I was pregnant with her, my firstborn, I studied color in relation to child development. What color should I paint her room? Of course, back in the day we didn’t know her gender and we had to plan for either a boy or a girl. Being freed from the typical color constrictions of boy vs. girl was it was a simpler assessment. Yellow was chosen color for the room, and a bright happy yellow it was! Similarly, who knows at the earliest stages of pregnancy today what gender to expect? So, again, I planned a blanket based on yellow.

I struggle with perfectionism and went over and over the various baby blanket patterns I had one hand in issues of Handwoven and other various weaving publications. But the simplest decision was what colors to use, with the blanket based in yellow. But then what to support the yellow – blues, greens, reds, oranges? Should it be a citrusy blend? Monet-ish? Or monochromatic? This thinking was taking up a lot of mental energy and one lovely spring afternoon here in Orlando as I was driving to yoga and marveling at the fresh bright greens of the trees along the road and brilliant blue sky and knew those were my other colors. They arrived today from my friends at Lunatic Fringe Yarns. And here they are!


May the weaving commence!