Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quilting, Anyone?

As I mentioned last week, a friend of mine recently spent a Girls Weekend at my place.  She's an excellent quilter, so while she was here, we paid a visit to the Thomas Sewing Center in Mesquite, Texas.  It's been around since 1955, and has quite the loyal following. Howard Thomas used to work for Singer, which explains the collection of old sewing machines lined up on shelves around the store.

We were greeted by Kim, who filled us in on the history of the shop, and introduced us to Dona Thomas.
Back in the day, my grandmothers and many of my aunts quilted by hand.  As a child, I remember visiting family in Alabama one summer.  My grandmother hosted a quilting bee at her house out in the country, and carloads full of ladies showed up with casserole dishes and pies in hand.  A quilting frame was set up in the living room, and everyone pulled up a chair and quilted.  I was dispatched outside...their gossip was probably too grown up for a kid like me! These days, so much is done on the computer.  There was a class going on while we were at Thomas,' and it was interesting to see everyone following along on their laptops.  I have no doubt that my great-grandmother would've been floored!

The store had so many beautiful fabrics, everything from pastels to Texas football team patterns.

For so early on a Saturday morning, the store was really hoppin'!  Women examined fabrics and threads, the phone rang off the hook, and my friend enjoyed looking at everything she could take in.  Since I can barely sew on a button, I had to be content to appreciate what could be done with such beautiful material.  You could tell many of the customers were die-hard quilters.  I even met the mayor of Combine, Texas!
It was easy to find lots to photograph, that's for sure!

If only I had time to learn one more thing...

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I have a friend visiting me from Alabama.  She knows that I always have my camera slung around my neck, so she was more than dismayed to find out that I had not documented the handmade quilts that I treasure.  Many were made by family members, but some were found in antique stores around the South.  One I actually "commissioned," almost thirty years ago. No one back then had a lot of money, so the quilts were made from scraps left over from homemade school dresses, feed sacks, or material purchased at tiny local fabric shops. This afternoon, we got them all out of the linen closet, and I photographed complete versions, as well as close-ups.  They're too pretty not to share some with you.

 My Great-grandmother, Lucy Spann, made this quilt for me in 1968.  It's been called both a Dutch Doll and a Sunbonnet Sue pattern.

The baby quilts were mine, so they're quite old! 

This soft blue and off-white quilt was made for me in the early 1980's in Winfield, Alabama by Mrs. Byers, an elderly woman whose quilts were some of the best in the county. The pattern is called Cathedral Window.  Each circle was sewn separately and then pieced together.  It is for a king-size bed, and it took Mrs. Byers over a year to make.  When she finished, she said it was her last one, that she'd never make another one again.  A few months later, my Aunt Elaine harrassed her into making a matching pillow for me for Christmas!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wimberley, Texas

Wimberley is a small town in Hayes County, Texas, just a bit southwest of Austin.  In 1848, it started out as a trading post settlement on Cypress Creek.  These days, it's a destination location for anyone interested in checking out the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  The area consists of rolling hills, lots of live oak trees, cacti, and beautiful blue endless sky.
Limestone ranch houses dot the land, cattle and horses graze peacefully.  If you look close enough, you'll even spot deer.
The area is also home to some top-notch wineries.
The occasion for the Wimberley visit was a friend's 50th birthday.  She rented a ranch house in the country, but not too from town, and I was lucky enough to be invited!

It was dinner time when we arrived on Friday evening, so after checking into our home away from home, we swung by the local pizza place, Brewsters.  The food was great, and we ate outside on their patio.  A nice breeze joined us, and it really couldn't have been further away from the hustle bustle that has become our everyday lives.  The girls were thrilled to find former SF 49er and Super Bowl champ, Bruce Collie, behind the bar.  He and his family own and run the restaurant.
 This cutie patootie is one of the owner's sons.
 Not sure what Drop the Rabbitt is...
We left with happy stomachs, catching just the tail end of what looked to be a fine sunset.  It was really quiet out in the country.  The Birthday Girl was the hostess with the mostest!  Upon our return, we toasted the occasion with her homemade limoncello, which reminded me of those old-fashioned lemon drop candies, except with a hint of vodka.  Needless to say, the hot tub called, and the day ended with more toasts and stories.  Everyone had their own bedroom and bath, so we comfortably called it a night, and slept soundly.  Saturday morning arrived with more blue skies and breezes, another perfect vacation day!  We drove into Wimberley, which was less than ten miles away, and before we knew it, we were seated at Ino'z for a lunch beside the creek.  More good food, and a view that couldn't be beat.

 Birthday Girl wanted this duck for her present, but the duck was not interested!
Once fortified, we were ready for shopping.  Wimberley did not let us down.  From vintage shops to galleries to kitchenware.  You name it, we found it.

There's something about trying on hats that makes women bond with complete strangers.  I think the lady who joined us for this photograph was visiting from Kansas City.

 Of course there were several places to enjoy wine tastings, and some of our group certainly did!

 Did you know you can dress up a longhorn?  Apparently, only after he's dead...
There seemed to be quite a lot going on, and we quickly realized that, once again, a weekend probably wouldn't be enough time to take it all in.
We had reservations in Dripping Springs at the Creek Road Cafe for The Birthday Dinner.  We all decided that "cafe" was the wrong name for this gourmet restaurant, where we enjoyed everything from a fresh melon salad to Lady Bird chicken that almost melted in your mouth.  And that's not to mention the stellar filet mignon with a jalapeno bacon cheese sauce and fresh vegetables.  Desserts and wine were two thumbs up.  The restaurant has been in business for four years.  It seriously would give many places in Dallas (and other large cities) a run for their money.  Chef Chae  Donahue is simply amazing.  A sincere thanks from the Birthday Group to you and your staff!  We'll tell everyone we know to stop by soon!
It was hard to believe the day was almost gone.  We managed, with a bit of difficulty, to find our way back home, which was down several dark and winding country roads, ending with a tiny little turn-off that was oh-so-easy to miss.  I was tired and went to bed, but I did hear of more hot-tubbing and an unfortunate incident where one Party Girl tried to take a group photo with her cell phone.  I can't believe they didn't text me to wake up and take a professional shot!  Anyway, this morning was spent tidying up, and walking around outside before checking out.

 Breakfast was waiting for us back in town at the Wimberley Cafe.  We had homestyle pancakes, biscuits and gravy, grits, eggs, and French toast.  Well worth the short wait!
 Somebody had a nice ride to breakfast!
Before we knew it, noon was approaching and we wanted to visit the Bella Vista Ranch, home to First Texas Olive Oil Company and Bella Vista Cellars.  We were a little geographically challenged, but once again logic prevailed, and we arrived only slightly off schedule!  This is the first commercially producing olive orchard in Texas, featuring a frantoio (olive mill) and a tasting room, as well as the home of  Bella Vista Cellars, a boutique winery that produces limited quantities of Italian-varietal wines.

After purchasing a few samples of their olive products, we walked around the property, before finally ending our weekend getaway.  Dallas seemed years away, but the drive went quickly, fueled by good friends with good conversation, and a quick stop in West (a small town an hour south of Dallas) for kolaches.  These little treats are homemade rolls with assorted fillings, everything from fruit to sausage.  They were just what we needed to cover those last miles.  Thanks, Birthday Girl, for inviting me!  I had a blast, and am ready to go again, whenever you are!