Nashville – Part Two – The Catbird Seat


When I was attempting to snag online reservations for our little mother/daughter trip, I knew I wanted to include an interesting restaurant experience. Nashville’s The Catbird Seat, immediately came to mind. Each time I visited their website, I would ponder … why the name … The Catbird Seat?

I recall reading “The Catbird Seat” by James Thurber in college. The short story was written in 1942 with comic irony involved! His story focuses on the thoughts of a boring little man trying to first kill the woman who is disrupting his job, and then deciding to make it seem like she lost her mind. After finally sitting down in the restaurant/kitchen, I decided Thurber’s story had nothing to do with the restaurant. Instead, I prefer to think of the alternative meaning of the catbird seat as a “valuable position,” which is where each restaurant patron is located during dinner.

The Catbird Seat opened in 2011 as an upscale restaurant serving New American cuisine. The type of food reminded me of watching an episode of “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. Crazy interesting exciting food that puts lazy taste buds on notice. It was definitely not your typical family fare! Open Wednesday through Saturday, they serve a changing tasting menu in their U-shaped kitchen that seats only 22 guests. The kitchen is in the middle of the room with patrons sitting at a long U-shaped bar around the kitchen. Reservations are released 30 days in advance with a requirement to prepay food, service and taxes.

They have several beverage options which include curated alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings. Take your pick! The beverages are not included in the prepaid price. We choose the non-alcoholic pairings. I read in a review they were creative and we didn’t want to be bobbing and weaving all the way to our Uber when the night was over!

Scan through the photos. Each one is labeled with the dish presented on pottery plates or bowls. The only blooper … our bowls were empty before we thought to capture it … was the beets infused with coffee from crema with potato and white chocolate masse, dehydrated olives and lime.

At the end of the meal, we were handed a clever menu of what we just ate as a keepsake. Thank goodness! I would never remember what to tell people what just happened! My favorite was the sunflower seed risotto, but I am not going to lie, the 30-day dry aged strip loin from Bearcreek Farm in umami crust with morel mushroom and BBQ tofu was a close second.

After the last course, vintage cookie jars were delivered around the “table” and finally the check. The couple next to us received the Big Bird jar. When they opened it there was a little note inside. Apparently, it was their anniversary and the note wished them well, along with four little cookies. Katie and I received the Felix the Cat cookie jar and our delicious cookies. Looking around the room, we noticed Ernie, Homer Simpson, Betty Boop and lots more. What a fun way to say goodbye!

Next Nashville blog installment … how about the Johnny Cash Museum (my personal favorite) and the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry?

Nashville – Part one – historic hotel and getting around


It has been ten years since Katie and I took a mother/daughter trip … way too long. So much has changed since we last traveled. Uber is huge in Nashville and our basic mode of transportation when walking wasn’t an option. I think we saw a total of five cabs the entire three days we hung out in Nashville. The airport even has a sign entitled “ride share” to direct those needing transportation.

So why Nashville? OMG … for lots of reasons! How about country music, history, culture and amazing food! While we ran out of time, and nerve, we did NOT try Nashville’s spicy “hot chicken.” We also missed Robert’s Western World, a honky-tonk on Broadway, where we were told you have to order a fried bologna sandwich and a PBR. Maybe next time … only I will have to pass on the fried bologna ‘wich. Ate too many of those growing up.

We stayed at the historic Hermitage Hotel close to Legislative Plaza in Downtown Nashville. I give it five stars! I wish I had taken more photos of the hotel. Check out their website for lots more! The dude that took our luggage up to our room indicated we should be sure and visit the men’s room in the hotel … while not occupied of course. I know … sounds strange. It has an unique color scheme and two-person shoeshine station. Built in 1910, The Hermitage Hotel has a long history yet hasn’t aged a bit! We were impressed with the in-mirror television in the bathroom and each room had their own doorbell. You can tell I don’t get out much! Obviously, it is all about the little things at the Hermitage.

Hungry for lunch, we walked just a couple of blocks from our hotel to Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant on Church Street. A southern bar and grill, Puckett’s feels like an old-fashioned grocery store. Katie and I shared their BBQ sliders three ways (pulled pork, chicken and brisket) and sweet potato fries. It was a great way to be introduced to food in Nashville.

You might ask … why did we share lunch? We were saving room for our dinner that night at The Catbird Seat! For that you will have to stay turned to Nashville – Part Two.

Lulu collage quilt – she is finished!

Picked up Lulu from Erica, the awesome long arm quilt lady at A Needle and Thread, and couldn’t be happier! It was so fun to collaborate with her. Erica quilted an outline around the entire elephant image and custom quilted around the flowers, leaves, butterflies and other critters. I especially love the puffy textures she created with thread on the fishes. On the background yellow batik, Erica quilted an lovely all-over leaf design.

I’ve seen collage quilts quilted in tight vertical and horizontal grids. I know this ensures the fused fabric pieces will stay in place … but then I saw an alternative. Our collage quilt instructor, the awesome Jo Lynn, brought several completed collage quilts to class and they were stunning. On her quilts, the collaged image was custom quilted around the whole image as well as into the flowers, feathers, critters and such. I loved the look!

The amazing Sally embroidered the patch for the back of the quilt in hot pink thread. I had Sally place it on white fabric to remind me to “audition” background fabric on all future collage quilts. I almost had a huge “Oops.” I originally purchased plenty of white fabric for the elephant background while still taking the collage quilting class. I was obviously trying to hurry the process. Thank goodness I brought an unfinished Lulu for “show and tell” to the prayer quilt ministry I volunteer at on Wednesdays. The ladies stepped up and gently prepared me for an intervention. Yep … I would be making a huge mistake with the white! It was either Noreen or Cathy that suggested yellow and it really works on this quilt!

So what is next? I created a collage pattern and am busy working on a prototype collage quilt. Stay tuned! Future blog post in the making!

A cancer journey – scan result days make me nervous


So last week Rick had his three-month scans which included MRI and CT scans and the usual bloodletting. Scan day is emotionally draining and exhausting. Reminders everywhere of how far we have come … and we don’t want to go backwards.

Yep … and it never fails. Despite the anxiety, we chuckle every time we spend the day at MD Anderson. There are new things to learn. This time the lab where Rick has bloodwork in the Mays Building went all techie. We used to fill out a slip of paper with pertinent patient information before dropping it in a little plastic basket and wait to be called up to the desk. The paper slips have been replaced with electronics. Progress? Yesterday, when we arrived at check-in to see Dr. Campbell, all the iPads, except one, were out-of-order. Rick’s clinic went all techie a while ago. Not complaining mind you! I can relate! Heck … after replacing my sim card and getting a new iPhone, I am still dropping calls.

So to put life for us in perspective … since his diagnosis of Stage IV Kidney Cancer just over two years ago … Rick and I have welcomed two grandbabies. Ben, 18-months-old now, was born down the street in the medical center on one of Rick’s long immunotherapy infusion days. And little Zelie was born two weeks ago to our son and lovely daughter-in-law, Kate. Even Jacob has been deeply involved in Rick’s journey. Now four, Jacob came to wish his Pop-Pop good luck two years ago on the day Rick’s tumor/left kidney was removed. Jacob also walked the MD Anderson’s Boot Walk with us this past November while Baby Ben slept in his stroller. You don’t have to tell me we are blessed.

So just how did it go yesterday with lab results? Our visit with Dr. Campbell, our oncologist, and his lovely PA, Simi, was all we had prayed for. MRI … stable. CT … stable. Rick is just over a year from getting kicked off the clinical trial and receiving no cancer treatment. He still itches all the time, mostly from the inside, which tells us the immunotherapy is still working.

I asked Dr. Campbell how patients who are on Rick’s clinical trial are doing because I want to know. My editor, the lovely Cynthia, has trained me well. I had my steno pad all ready for details and statistics. Dr. Campbell indicated 55% of those on Rick’s immunotherapy clinical trial drug ARM of Bevacizumab and Nivolumab are having positive results. In the coming months, the trial will end and it will be number crunching time. I will be there with pen in hand to probe for any updates. It is my hope these two drugs will be the answer for all Clear Cell Kidney Cancer patients … not just for the 55% with positive results. That is probably just 50 people.

And now for the really great news … we don’t go back for FOUR months!!!! Can I get an amen?

A look back – 2017 quilting projects


2017 wasn’t a banner year for completing quilt projects. I count only two quilts that were actually completed! That means binding sewn down and patch on the back! One was a charity quilt donated to the Village Learning Center, the day center my Mimi attends. A lovely lady named Clare won it in their silent auction. I always love it when someone is excited to have one of my quilts. Hildy won the charity quilt last year for the Village and reminds me whenever I see her how much she enjoys it.

The other quilt completed was the 2015 Row-by-Row quilt which was a lot of fun. Eight rows make an official row-by-row quilt which is a very LONG quilt. It is the reason I put three rows on the back. That way the quilt fits perfect hung in my quilt room. I worked on the rows whenever there was a little extra time between the month-by-month mailings and finally sent it off for quilting. I actually have all my rows for 2016 still in their little plastic pouches untouched. As for 2017, I also have all my eight rows and actually worked on a few of them. I’ll let you peek at them later.

I believe it was that block-of-the-month Quilter’s Patch quilt through Fat Quarter Shop that ate my lunch this year. But as a result of the monthly project, I also grew and stretched as a quilter. The things you can do by manipulating fabric. Who knew? The top is now complete and pictured above. I did not make the large borders and switched a couple of the flowers around by accident. This quilt will be added to my meager supply of seasonal quilts that I hang around the house. I’ve been wanting a spring quilt in my quilt menagerie for some time. This quilt is it! Please excuse the wrinkle-ness of the quilt top photo. I was running off to take it to the long-arm lady and realized I didn’t have a photo. Whenever it is finished later this year, you will be the first to see it up close and personal! It is going to be awesome!

2018 is going to be fun!

So what is up for 2018? Want a little peek? Working on another baby quilt! Due in May, my lovely daughter-in-law, Kate, and son, Ricky, are having a little bundle of joy. It’s a GIRL. Kate and I collaborated and I think we have a winning baby quilt in the wings.

I am also taking a collage class at Painted Pony in mid-February. Can’t wait. I’ve had this Elephant quilt pattern named “Lulu” for about two years and could probably figure it out myself. But then this class popped up and I thought, let’s do it! My only dilemma … I’m torn whether to make the elephant hot pinks and greens, or use my stash of colorful Kaffe Fassett fabrics and go wild. Any suggestions?

International Quilt Festival in Houston this week!

The 2017 International Quilt Festival is in Houston this week! It is my favorite week of the year with so much eye candy, shopping, picking up on new trends in the quilting world and admiring the creativity of all the quilts on exhibit! This year I attended with my lovely sister, Gretchen.

On Wednesday night, first we shopped. It was a magical night because the Astros were also playing in Game 7 of the World Series. Texting hubby back and forth for game updates helped with the butterflies in our stomachs. We didn’t find out till our bus brought us to our cars at the end of the night that we had won!

But back to the quilt festival! Our first stop was the booth with the Fat Quarter Queen fat quarters! One of our goals was to look for teal fat quarters for a quilt we are planning to memorialize our sister, Mary, who lost her battle with Ovarian Cancer this year. MD Anderson has an Ovarian Quilt project where they auction off donated quilts. The funds raised are used to raise awareness and research funds for ovarian cancer. The auction is going on now through November 8. They also had a booth at the festival. Our perfect fat quarter for Mary’s quilt came with a teal background with black cats. It was purchased at KimonoMomo, who specializes in Japanese Textiles. She had fabric you don’t see in your local quilt shops.

“Mary could never have cats. She was allergic to them. But she rescued one once,” Gretchen said.

Perfect … then this fabric HAS to go into her quilt. We don’t have a quilt pattern yet. But colors could be black and white and teal … but that could change. Still we have a start!

Just a few of the many interesting quilt booths were Keri Designs, booth 605. This one has a special place in my heart. This designer is from Hawaii and has taken the artist, Charlie Harper’s artwork, which I LOVE, and turned them into quilt patterns. Another booth from Hawaii, was Quilt Passions, which hosts quilting retreats and classes for quilters. Now that is what I am talkin’ about! They are in their ninth year of hosting these retreats.

One of the huge trends we noticed was lots of wool. Check out booth 518, Carried Away Designs in Wool. Eye of the Beholder Quilt Design, booth 848, was giving demonstrations on reserve applique. It is one of skills that when you see it with your own eyeballs … you believe it can be done. Try to read about how to do it in a book and … Yuck. She had some very lovely patterns and quilt kits available. We lingered at a couple of booths from the Netherlands. Since our mother was born there we have a connection. Dutch Heritage had some lovely cotton reproductions of antique Dutch Chintzes. I purchased some in a large chunk, I think they measure in meters, in blue and cream. We also visited a booth on some fairly new technology called Cricut. My lovely friend, Michele, told us about this booth. This machine does some interesting custom things you have to see to believe. Yes … quilters will certainly benefit but also paper crafters and so many more areas of the craft world like 3D puzzle projects, cards, sewing patterns, iron-ons and so much more. These little machines come in several price points.

So this year I purchased a stack of fat quarters and only one pattern, a scrappy-looking house/tree quilt called “By the Numbers” by Debbie Wendt of Wendt Quilting. A real stash buster which was just what I was looking for.

With only 30 minutes to spare before the bus picked us up to take our group back to Kingwood, Gretchen and I headed over to the exhibit area to drool over the lovely quilts on exhibit. I snapped just a few photos for you to enjoy the diversity of what is out there in the quilt world. My favorite was the 15-foot long fish quilt. The artist is from Japan and when I watched the video of how he made it I was in awe. That is precisely why I also included some close-ups. My favorite was the turtle.

The International Quilt Festival in Houston ends Sunday … so get your walking shoes on and get on down to the George R. Brown Convention Center!

The Snowflake Quilt

This year, while struggling to keep up with those challenging block-of-the-month blocks, I also completed a quilt for The Village Learning Center’s fall gala. It is their big fundraiser for the year. Unfortunately, when Hurricane Harvey hit in September, it didn’t seem like a gala would be a good idea. There are so many people and businesses that were hurt in our area. So instead, they are holding a “non-event.” The silent and live auctions are being held online this week. I have bid my own quilt up twice. It is my hope they make a bunch of money on this “non-event.” Their amazing day center is a wonderful place where over 100 adults with developmental disabilities enjoy activities like bowling, arts and crafts, exercise and so much more. It is such a blessing to so many and a huge part of Mimi’s life!

This is the first time I have been called by the Village with a special request. They wanted a large lap-sized “snowflake” type quilt. They were originally going to combine it with other things in a silent auction package. So when the hurricane messed things up they decided to let the quilt stand on its own. Fortunately, I have always loved Christmas-themed fabric and seen it as my duty to contribute them to my stash each year. Well, somebody has to do it! Darn if I even had some fabric with snowflakes. I did have to go shopping in July for some additional Christmas “snowflake” fabric which was a little daunting.

The pattern is from American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine, issue August, 2009. The blocks are all 5-inch squares using white/cream Christmas 1-1/2″ strips for half of the blocks (the Rail Fence squares) and red Christmas/snowflake fabric for the block with the four triangles. Top Stitch Quilting professionally machine quilted the quilt with a large “snowflake” all-over pattern. The patch on the back was embroidered by Personalize-It in Kingwood (this business flooded during Harvey and I am hoping Tracey and her business will return to us).