Sewing up the loose ends

Not too long ago I decided to make my friends Big Al and Dan a Hawaiian quilt for their wedding and finished just in time … for their 6th anniversary. It’s not that I procrastinate, in fact, I started well before their wedding, it’s just other projects got in the way.

It began as the perfect plan in 2006. I’d take a Hawaiian quilting class in the spring and since they weren’t getting married until September, I could take my time, maybe even add a few extra frills.

I was the only guy among the 7 little old ladies in the adult continuing education class at Kaimuki High School – I think most of them were friends of the instructor, Mele. As the class ended several weeks later, most of the pupils were pretty much done with their projects; all I had left was to finish quilting the “echoes,” which follow the shape of the pattern in the middle of the quilt out to the edges.

A traditional Hawaiian breadfruit pattern
I’d put in an hour here or an hour there, but made the mistake of setting the quilt down in May. Months flipped off the calendar and pretty soon it was two weeks before the wedding and I was woefully behind. Luckily for me I had a few long flights and two weeks of travel before the wedding. However, I didn’t take into account that as you quilt toward the outer edges it takes increasingly more time to make a full ring.

Needless to say it wasn’t finished in time for the wedding.

Fast forward 6 years to this summer. Despite starting a month in advance and cranking for a solid 8-10 hours a week, I still needed the entire 8-hour flight (minus 30 minutes which were completely wasted on some show called 2 Broke Girls) before I met up with Big Al and Dan.

Over the years I’ve gotten support from several people, specifically my California momma, Kristy Miller, who is a quilting guru (that quilter’s secret necklace still fools TSA and was absolutely clutch for those last 8 hours of quilting on the plane); Marina Reilly, who is magic on a sewing machine (she helped me close the edges of the quilt -- the only stitches not done by hand); Mele, the quilting instructor; and Molly, whose encouragement helped me stick to my deadline.

While I have much respect for the quilters out there (mine wasn't even an eighth of a full quilt), this was definitely my last stitch effort. 


Escape to Whisky Island

A scotch-tasting trip has been perched on my to-do list ever since Joe Hauser introduced me to the sweet, sweet nectar that is a 16-year-old Lagavulin. So last year when my buddy JR mentioned Notre Dame would be playing Navy in Dublin, the wheels were set in motion.

We planned in furious fits over the course of a year, masterfully tweaking logistics. But as the trip began we discovered rather quickly that 1) we didn’t plan as well as we thought and 2) most times it was better off that way.

Walking down the gangway at Islay's Port Askaig, we spotted a van from Bruichladdich, one of our must-see distilleries of the eight on the island. JR casually asked if the four of us could catch a ride with them since we were heading to Port Charlotte, the next town over.

Without skipping a beat the driver obliged and we were on our way (he turned out to be one of the distillers who was picking up his nephew, Martin, the distillery’s rep in Shanghai).

A few minutes into the conversation the driver asked, “So, how were you planning to get to Port Charlotte if we hadn’t given you a ride?”


Then everyone laughed. 

Through this random hitch, we got a glimpse of the island’s culture and an intimate view of a distillery on the verge of a major change (Bruichladdich was recently bought by beverage mega-distributor Remy Martin).

As the van dropped us off at the hostel, we met a Scotsman named Kyle and his Australian girlfriend, Lan, who immediately took us to the local pub.

The rest of the trip followed the same pattern – no real hiccups or even hangovers – with the days flowing by as smoothly as Islay’s whisky rolled down our gullets.

We dined on a fresh seafood feast with the locals; stood up to middle school bus bullies (well, some of us stood up to them); took a tandem bike off-roading on the Ho Chi Minh Trail; and even added a fellow American, Owen, who joined our group for the last two days.

The trip seemed so effortless that after the first day we were already talking about making it an annual event (Highlands 2013, anyone?).

If you’ve never been to Scotland (most of us hadn’t), the people are so friendly that it’s almost suspect. Talkative, helpful to a fault … and that accent – I found myself stopping into the tourist information desks, even when I knew where I was going, just to hear the receptionist speak.

After a short, adventure-packed stint on Islay, we skipped through Glasgow and spent a few days in Edinburgh before dropping our bags in Dublin for the game.

Although the game was a bit anti-climactic (ND won 50-10), we took to the opportunity to connect with some old friends and meet a few new ones over some delicious pints.

I used to think folks from Northern Ireland took the congenial cake, but now I’m not so sure. And if the Scots aren’t the friendliest people on earth, they made one helluva first impression.