STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Monday, August 24, 2015

Visiting Grand Manan

Near the ferry terminal, Blacks Harbour, NB

There are over 25 islands in the Bay of Fundy, known as the Fundy Isles, along the southwestern coast of New Brunswick, but only three that are inhabited year round: Grand Manan, Deer Island and Campobello Island. The others are quite small, and some have seasonal inhabitants.

Grand Manan is the largest of the Fundy Isles and I was fortunate to visit it last month. It had been a while since I boarded the ferry in Blacks Harbour to make the 90 minute crossing to Grand Manan. The island is 21 miles long and 11 miles across at its widest point. The majority of the population live on the eastern side of the island, as the western coast is undeveloped due to high cliffs and winds, and very limited access. The total island population is under 3,000.
As the ferry approaches the dock at North Head, one is greeted by Swallow Tail Light, the iconic lighthouse which welcomes all visitors, sitting high above the harbour.

As soon as you disembark and begin to explore the island, you immediately feel your stress melting away. The smell of the salt air and the call of the gulls as they soar overhead quickly put a smile on my face. I love the ocean, and I don't get to it often enough. ( I am trying to remedy that, promising myself several more visits to spots along our coast this summer/fall.) The "islanders" enjoy a more relaxed pace of life. Fishing, aquaculture and tourism are the main industries here. Visitors to Grand Manan come to whale-watch, birdwatch, hike, kayak, paint, photograph, and just simply explore the rugged coastal beauty. I will follow this with several more in-depth posts, but today I just want to share a few of my favourite photos with you. And if you live nearby and want to enjoy a few days of peace and tranquility before you head back into the busy fall routine, why not plan a visit to Grand Manan? I promise you won't regret it.

Sunset at Dark Harbour

I am linking to Mosaic Monday with Judith at Lavender Cottage, and Through My Lens with Mersad at Mersad Donko Photography.


"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune:
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries."

~ William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Raspberry Trifle.... Mmmmmmm

I never thought I'd say this, but, our raspberry crop is FINALLY finished. Can you believe we got 51 quarts from our little patch! Yep. 51 QUARTS! Plus I'm sure there was the odd handful here and there, eaten in passing, as well. Some went to friends and I made two pies, a batch of jelly, froze numerous bags for pies, cooked some berries and strained and froze the juice for coulis, and finished off with a Trifle.
Have you ever made Trifle? It is so easy, and soooooo good! It has been a "few" years since I've made one, so I had to stop and think how to do it.    :)   I don't "follow a recipe" so I can't give you accurate measurements, but you don't really need them. Here's what I do: Instead of a pound cake I start with an angel food cake. I break up the entire cake into small chunks. Place half the broken cake into a pretty glass bowl, I use a medium sized straight sided bowl. Sprinkle the cake lightly (or heavily, if you prefer) with cooking sherry. Add several generous tablespoons of a good quality raspberry jam and smoosh  it around to coat the cake chunks. Add remaining chunks of cake and repeat with more sherry and jam. The cake should be well moistened. Smooth out into a nice even layer in the bottom of your bowl, and if necessary, wipe down the sides of the bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. I do this in the evening, and let it sit overnight so the sherry and jam flavours can meld.
The next morning, add a layer of fresh raspberries on top of the cake. Then, following package directions, prepare one package of cooked vanilla pudding mix, the "6 servings" size. (135g.) I use Jello vanilla pudding. You must use the type that requires cooking, NOT the instant type. As the directions state, stir continually so it does not burn. Once it has cooked and thickened, remove from heat and add 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Stir well. Pour over cake layer and smooth. Allow to cool 10 minutes or so, then cover with plastic wrap to prevent the pudding from forming a skin.
Refrigerate for at least several hours until totally cold.
Whip 1 cup whipping cream (1/2 pint carton) until it will hold a soft peak. Add sugar to sweeten (about 1tblspn.?) and 1/4 tsp. each vanilla extract and almond extract. Stir in well. Spread sweetened cream on top of pudding layer. Garnish with fresh raspberries and/or toasted almonds. Refrigerate until serving time. Be prepared for lots of lip smacking!
Note: It's just as good made at other times of the year too, without the fresh berry layer.


Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dance of the Sandpipers, Part 2

My last post was getting long, so I will continue here with more photos. If you have not read the previous post, scroll down and read it first..
The village of Dorchester in the southeastern corner of New Brunswick is home to the world's largest sandpiper, a model of the semipalmated sandpiper which was the reason for our visit.  I was so happy to be accompanied by my sweet great-niece Mallory on this little adventure. We had hoped to have lunch at the historic Bell Inn, the oldest stone building in the province, dating from the early 1800's. Sadly they had a group reservation for lunch so were closed to others. So we found another spot for a quick lunch, then headed to Johnson's Mills a few miles further on.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada owns 499 acres there, promoting conservation, education and stewardship onsite. The Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre is open daily in July and August and the interpretive staff are friendly and helpful, answering all questions easily. Displays inside the Centre were very interesting, providing lots of information on the sandpipers and other shorebirds as well. Viewing platforms provide ample views of the beach area. "The area was given international prominence when it was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance and was designated as Canada's first Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve. In 2007, the New Brunswick side of the Upper Bay of Fundy was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Shepody Bay, where Johnson's Mills is located, is also designated as an Important Bird Area." ~ quoted from a display in the Interpretation Centre.

Birdwatching requires a good amount of patience. We enjoyed the hot sunny day and even moreso the cooling breeze off the water as we watched and waited... and waited... for high tide which would bring the birds closer. We eventually left the viewing platform and walked further down to the point where another interpreter was keeping a close eye on everyone and making sure no one went down onto the beach where the sandpipers were roosting. I was so glad I remembered two pairs of binoculars!

After several hours, the resident pair of peregrine falcons did a "fly by" and this alerted the sandpipers, finally treating us to the dance we had hoped to see. As I said in my previous post, the still photos do not do it justice, so if you didn't watch those videos, go back and do it now. It was amazing to watch, as they fly in unison, weave and turn, first light then dark, changing direction every few seconds yet remaining in tight formation like a precision drill team. We both felt very privileged to be there to witness one of nature's spectacles. Without any further chat, I'll let you enjoy it too.....


"The study of nature is a limitless field, the most fascinating adventure in the world."
~ Margaret Morse Nice

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dance of the Sandpipers

I live in New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada. We are bordered by the American state of Maine, the province of Quebec, the Atlantic Ocean, and are connected in the southeast corner to Nova Scotia by the narrow Isthmus of Chignecto, and to Prince Edward Island by the 8 mile long Confederation Bridge. Our southern coast is bounded by the Bay of Fundy, famous for the highest tides in the world.


The Bay of Fundy is a 270 km. (170 mile) long ocean bay that stretches between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Each day 160 billion tonnes of seawater flows in and out of this bay during one tide cycle. (That's more than the combined flow of all the world's freshwater rivers!)  The bay area has many aspects worth exploring: its beaches, sea caves, cliffs and salt marshes, the Tidal Bore, the Fundy Trail, beautiful Fundy National Park, Joggins Fossil Cliffs, whale watching cruises, sea kayaking, and bird watching to name a few.
Red cliffs along  the Shepody Bay area of the upper Bay of Fundy
With each tide, waves and currents wreak changes on the mud and gravel flats in the upper bay. Seaweeds common to rocky shores can find no grip on muddy beaches so they appear lifeless, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The muddy flats are actually teeming with life - clams, tube worms, clam worms, whelks, and tiny snails and shrimp are just some of the creatures here.
Massive flocks of shorebirds, travelling from their nesting grounds in the Canadian Arctic to South America, stop at the Bay of Fundy to feed and fuel up before continuing their migration flight south.
Sandpipers are small, as you can see here, in comparison to the seagull.
There are well over 100 sandpipers in this photo.

Yesterday I visited Johnson's Mills, just outside Dorchester N.B. to view this spectacle. Thousands of semipalmated sandpipers are currently feeding on the mud flats in the bay area, in fact about 75% of the world's population of semipalmated sandpipers stops here each year. At peak season there can be flocks of up to 200,000!
At low tide they are out on the mud flats feeding on the tiny mud shrimp, corophium volutator, which is found only in the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine. 

As the tide rises, the birds move closer to shore and at high tide, they roost/rest in large groups on the pebble beach, close enough for excellent viewing. Yesterday it was estimated we were looking at 80,000 birds. Of course they are too numerous to actually count accurately; the Interpretors "count" by looking at the shore area covered and estimating 100 birds per square metre. Yes, they are really "packed in."
The semi-palmated sandpiper is not a very big bird, it weighs around 20 grams -  the same as a strawberry! But within its two to three week stay here on the bay, it will eat enough to double its weight by consuming 10,000 to 20,000 mud shrimp at each low tide!! These fat stores will provide the necessary energy for the 4300 km. non-stop flight to South America which takes about 72 hours.

Among the semipalmated sandpipers (black legs) one can often see several other species as well- the least sandpiper (distinguished by its yellow-green legs), the black-bellied plover and the semipalmated plover. You can see several plovers in the photo above - they have a black band on their upper breast and are closest to the camera, just above my Stitch Lines watermark.

When resting on the pebble beach, from a distance (and even fairly close up) one would hardly know the birds are there. They blend in so well, they are virtually indistinguishable from the beach rocks. But as one looks carefully, one sees the beach is alive with masses of the tiny birds.

Only when they lift off in flight can you appreciate the vast numbers. 

Although we were hoping they would lift off numerous times so we could enjoy the dramatic aerial display as they twist and turn, showing ribbons of alternately light fronts and dark backs, it is best for them to remain at rest to conserve the energy they are storing up for their long migratory flight. Predatory peregrine falcons were nearby and a pair flew by occasionally, causing the sandpipers to lift off and shift their position up the beach.
I was wishing I had the massive lenses that others were using, or video capability, but had to be satisfied with my one telephoto. I hope you will enjoy these still images, but be sure you click the following links to watch several videos of the birds in flight - their aerial dance is so incredibly beautiful; click here and here. They will give you a good idea of what we actually witnessed, as my still photos just don't do it justice. Both were filmed at Dorchester/Johnson's Mills, and the second one is set to music. Almost as good as being there! Nature is so incredibly amazing!
Along with the other birdwatchers present, there was a film crew recording the sandpipers and their incredible aerial dance, for an upcoming CBC series to air in October 2017 on The Nature of Things. The series will be called The Wild Canadian Year - An Epic Journey Through the Seasons. I had a great chat with one of the photographers and cannot wait to see this series. You can follow them through production here at

I took well over 150 photos and am still editing. I'll probably add a few more tomorrow, so I hope you'll come back for another visit.
I am linking with Judith at Mosaic Monday and with Mersad at Through my Lens.


“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence - that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.”  ~ Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Memoir

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Garden Visitors

I really feel like I've fallen behind this summer with blogging, and showing you what's going on in the garden. Maybe one day soon I'll just do a huge collage of recent blooms... In the meantime, I wanted to give you a closeup look at two recent visitors.

A few days ago as I was doing a little deadheading in one of my perennial beds, I caught sight of this fine fellow. He was perched in my baby's breath. I ran inside, grabbed my camera and macro lens and hurried back. He was patiently waiting for me, and posed for a minute or two before hopping away. Don't you think he's handsome? (well, okay, "handsome" as grasshoppers go....)

"Hello Mr. Grasshopper..."
(How's this for up close and personal?)

Another visitor last week was enjoying the echinacea (coneflower.) This is a Red Admiral butterfly which paid no attention as I took many photos. The red admiral belongs to a group including anglewings, painted ladies and related species, most of which have an orange and black pattern on the upperwings.

When they rest on trees with their wings closed, the bright upperwing pattern is largely concealed and the dull mottled underwing blends with the tree bark. Camouflage! Isn't nature amazing? He wasn't interested in showing me his pretty colours... his wings were closed much more than they were open. I guess he was watching me, and trying to camouflage himself..?

Speaking of "garden visitors", we DID finally catch Mr. Groundhog in a live trap... He's been carted away I mean relocated to a nice new neighbourhood  miles away (far enough, I hope!) where we hope he'll live happily ever after.... I'm sure this won't be the end of our groundhog troubles as there are more... a family no doubt, as we've seen little ones...  arrgghhh!


"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body but the soul." ~ Alfred Austin

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Bumper Crop!

I haven't been spending a lot of time in Blogland lately because I've been busy in the backyard... in the berry patch. We have a bumper crop of raspberries this year and I do mean a bumper crop. My dear hubby did a great job of cleaning out the patch this spring, pruning out old wood and cutting some paths so we could actually get into the middle of our thick patch. It seems to have done the trick as the yield has increased considerably. I've been picking for two weeks now, and to date "our little patch" has yielded 42 quarts! Yes you read that correctly - 42 quarts! 

I've made two pies and have put enough in the freezer for at least 10 more pies. Of course I've given many quarts away to friends for pies, jelly and jam as well. And today I made raspberry jelly for the first time ever. It looks so yummy, I can't wait to try it, and it's such a gorgeous red! I'll likely make one more batch as there are still more berries to ripen. Yes indeed, a bumper crop....

Speaking of bumper crops, we had two additions to the (extended) family today (while I was making jelly.) My niece who got married last August had twin girls this morning. Mama and babes are doing well. No names have been announced yet (sort of like the royals, haha.) I can't wait to meet them!

I am linking up with Kara at A Spirit of Simplicity for her new linky party "Tuesday Afternoon". 


"What will come from the briar but the berry?"  Irish Proverb

Sunday, August 9, 2015

More Challenges

After finishing the previous post showing some of the Hoffman 2014 Challenge pieces from Maine Quilts 2015, I thought "I should link back to my post which showed the Hoffman  Challenge pieces from the Florida World Quilt Show." When I looked back to my January posts, I realized I had never shown them, so guess what? I'm showing them today! So these are entries from a different travelling collection of the same 2014 Hoffman Indigo Challenge. I'm sure you will recognize the same featured fabric. Enjoy!

by Laura Ruiz
of Florida

This entry won Curator's Choice,
Mixed Technique category

Ray, Stevie and José
by Ann Turley
of California

Copper Butterfly
by Danielle Ketcham
of Montana

Flower Power
by Amber Lippold
of Michigan

Funky Flower Fantasy
by Zinia Lewis
of California

Pickle Dish Dance
by Diane Morrow
of California

As well as quilts, the annual Hoffman Challenge has categories for both wearable art (clothing) and dolls. Here are a few of the dolls. My photos of them are not that great but I'm sure you can at least appreciate the amount of work in each of these creations The Matador really caught our eye... I apologize for not having the names of each entry, nor their creator's names.   :(


"To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong." ~ Joseph C. Pearce

Friday, August 7, 2015

Up for the Challenge...

When I attend a quilt show, I am always drawn to the Challenges. I'm amazed by the creativity and unique ideas some people come up with for their entries. Each year Maine's Pine Tree guild (which has 68 chapters across the state) does a challenge for the show and it is always related to the state of Maine in some way. This year the theme was "Puffin: Not Just Black and White" and there were over 60 entries. Here are a few that really caught my eye.. in random order...

Puffin Portrait
by Patricia Nadeau
Skowhegan ME

A Penny for your Puffin
by Ruth Shadbolt
Falmouth ME

Party On, Puffin!
by Anita Bowen

by Sharleen A. Fields
Buxton ME

I'm BAAaak!
by Victoria Murphy
Roseville, CA


You have no doubt heard of the Hoffman Challenge. It is sponsored each year by Hoffman Fabrics and is open to international entries. It began in 1988 and has grown to be a much anticipated travelling quilt, clothing and doll exhibit. Each year the top entries are grouped into travelling collections, and they visit quilt and fibre shows, seminars, quilt shops and guilds across the USA. This year the chosen fabric was bright and colorful, and was named Indigo. There were 538 entries, and of these, 346 will travel the USA for the year. I thought many of them did an excellent job of "interpreting" the fabric and using it effectively.
Again, here are some that caught my eye, in random order....

The Great Gate of Kiev
by Robin Gausebeck
of Illinois

This entry won Best First Time Entry
in the Applique category.

I Will Always Love You, Alphonse
by Sheila Riess
of Maryland

This quilt won First Place in the Applique


Japanese Girls in Their Kamonas
by Patricia Dixon
of California

Not Forgotten
by Pam Moller
of Wisconsin

Rise and Shine

Sorry, I do not have the maker's name for this one

Indigo MOOn
by Rebecka Schafer
of Nebraska

La Calavera Catrina
by  Rebecca Haley
of California


"Creativity takes courage." ~ Henri Matisse
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...