Blue Flowers

Blue Flowers

A couple of days ago I started pulling together subsets of blue fabric scraps and piling the pieces into groupings for the flowers. Next I pressed fusible web (glue) to the back of each fabric piece, then cut out “flower” elements.

Circles? Almost Circles? Irregular circular shapes? In the end I opted for more or less circular shapes in graduated sizes, laid them on top of one another, offset somewhat. I removed the paper backing and pressed the layers for each flower together then played with placement on the background. I finished by pressing the flowers in place.

Before I start thread painting the flowers, I need to use a heat erasable pen to mark where the stem/leaf elements should go. I plan to stitch long thin stems with just a hint of leaf shapes – that may change when I get underway and decide to include some fabric cutout leaves.

This is as far as I have got today.

Simply Gorgeous

Meiko Mintz A-line Jacket

I love looking at these flowing Meiko Mintz Kantha jackets. Mintz, a New York designer, has been making these garments for a while now. I first came across them in San Francisco in 2015 at Gumps department store. They’re reversible – so you get two jackets for the price of one but nevertheless they’re expensive.

Sourced in Bangladesh, Mintz has a say in the fabric patterns and in the Kantha production. Sometimes the fabric is pieced, sometimes it’s printed. In either case the visual effect is striking.

I keep turning to them again and again for inspiration for garments I might make for myself. Mine keep turning out much less flowing – I seem to be a “tailored” kind of person, I guess. Still, I keep imagining myself in one of these graceful pieces.

A Few From The Latest Collection

They’re to drool over. Who wouldn’t look terrific in one of these.

The Wrong Question

I’ve been thinking about this for days, weeks, maybe months. As the number of days since the first COVID-19 lockdown in what – March 2020? – continues growing, I’ve found myself becoming annoyed, often angry, about all the talk on radio, TV, in newspapers of the wave of growing depression, mental illness, whatever; about how difficult these days are for so many people. The questions people keep asking are “When will this be over?” “When can I just forget about Omicron and get on with my life?”

It’s perfectly clear – NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. The current “wave” will peak, the number of new cases, of hospitalizations, of deaths, will decline slowly (maybe more quickly ?), but some form of COVID-19 is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. Vaccines are helping ameliorate the severity of the disease; new treatments are becoming available. However, COVID-19 will continue affecting our lives.

People’s heads are in the wrong place. They’re focusing on the many brick walls they’re contending with, butting their heads against them. What we need is a public reframing of the situation. Our discourse needs to change.

The Right Question

Atul Gawande’s 2014 non-fiction book “Being Mortal” is about living better with age-related frailty, serious illness, and approaching death. It’s subtitle “Medicine and What Matters in the End” directs you to consider important questions about end of life issues and maybe consider how current western medical practice might have this all wrong. Being Mortal is a book about end of life; but it’s more than that.

Everyone dies.

In our current world that day could unexpectedly come sooner than anticipated. Every day in our local news the number of COVID-19 related deaths is announced – some are old people, others are middle-aged, and even some much younger. None of us knows when that day will arrive.

The announcement is followed by reminders to follow public health guidelines to keep ourselves safe, to think about the public good, to do what we an to avoid the spread of the disease. Then there are the radio talk shows, the TV programs about how depressed everybody seems to be, how difficult a time people are having.

Right now, Gawande’s book applies to all of us – all of us are mortal. As he works through the book he describes how as a practicing physician/surgeon he comes to see living as a series of decisions – for me the focusing question he asks is “How do I live the best possible day today given the constraints/the reality the world is forcing on me?”

What small pleasures would make this a good day? I ask myself. In no particular order – a visit to my 92 year-old friend Joan; a kibbitz with Ruby; a walk in the snow; my morning aquacise class; that small piece of dark chocolate; a small magnum ice cream bar; some fried liver for supper; getting a new sewing project underway or making progress on something I’m already working on; a chance to sit and read; adding another 20 rows to a pair of socks; a cup of tea with Deb or MaryAnn; things that catch my eye as possible photos (whether I take out my camera or not); watching a well done drama on TV (while knitting), actually getting the laundry done or cleaning away the dinner dishes, crawling into a bed with fresh sheets…. Those are the kinds of things on my list – what might be on yours?

Life is a succession of moments – some stand out, others are fleeting. We all have potential time to notice the small stuff around us, to see the pollen grains on the anthurium flower, the way the light shines through the Clivia bloom, to savour the taste of a cup of ginger tea.

I understand how lucky I am. I haven’t had to home school three young children while trying to work from home and keep everything in the house and family functioning. I haven’t lost my job or constantly had to worry about whether I was being exposed to the virus. As difficult as those situations are, with help from the rest of us, it is possible to get through each day. We haven’t really helped one another enough, taken time to pitch in when we see someone else is overwhelmed. That’s part of the problem – our constant attention to “me”. It’s a tiny thing I do a couple of times a week – spending three hours putting together rapid testing kits – 40 kits an hour is as fast as I can go – but it’s something, and I find it a satisfying way to spend time even though I’m tired at the end of a shift.

I’ve been keeping an eye on our local hospitalization counts – as soon as they start declining noticeably I will have the knitting ladies in for an afternoon of conversation and laughter. What we’re all missing most of all is companionship. We can still see individual friends for short periods of time, safely distanced; we can talk to them on the phone (much more satisfying than texting). As soon as it’s possible I will make sure the group convenes and we can enjoy knitting and being together for an afternoon.

What small pleasures would make this a good day?

That is the question – today and everyday.

A Beginning

For some reason I can’t seem to find inspiration for a quilt at the moment – so I’ve turned to smaller projects. Looking through my Pinterest saves I considered the “Skinny Quilt” ideas I’d stored there. Several looked interesting – I selected two, then went through my fabric stash to see what I had that might work for both.

Idea #1

Idea #1

I found a photo of a 4-panel square quilt constructed from blocks with interspersed light and dark. One strip is probably not enough so I think I will work on two, but of unequal width. I started with the light colours – based on a soft teal and juxtaposed some dark blue (with gold), some other blues with greens gold, and finally the tans including two pieces of silk dupione which have a strong grain which I think will work well. I don’t know yet whether I will interject a contrast between the two panel elements, or not. The technical challenge is that the insert strips are cut with a curve which means cutting the seam edge of both fabrics at the same time and sewing the opposing curves. We’ll see how that goes.

Idea #2

Idea #2

This panel is based on a photo of a painting done by Marieka Diepenveen (you can see it peeking out on the left side of the fabrics – the round blue flowers). Again her painting is a wide rectangle but my intention is to create a panel about 12″ x 50″. I’ve chosen the two pale grey fabrics using the white with tiny black dots to separate them, with a collage of greens at the bottom. I have lots of colourful blue scraps and even some small circles from another project that might work themselves into the banner.

Now I just need to get going on both!

Purple Poppies – Finally Completed

Purple Poppies

I started this piece on (or about) July 7 2021 – here’s how it unfolded:

I got to the thread painting part and stopped, partly because I wasn’t sure I liked the poppies – I felt they weren’t strong enough although they were the right size to fill the space.

The piece has sat around, face down, until a couple of days ago when I finally picked it up and got to work on it. I’d already picked possible threads for the job, had them all in a plastic bin (which sat on top of the face-down piece). I threaded my machine with the lightest of the green embroidery thread and got to work filling in leaves. That was relatively straightforward; the leaves wanted a bit of texture but nothing more. The poppies were another matter. I wanted to brighten them so I started with a dark purple thread to stitch the outline pencil marks which took some careful stitching. I stood back and looked at the piece – seemed to me right then was the moment to stop. I figured I’d just muddy the whole thing had I attempted to work in the various pinks and mauves. So I’ve left it alone.

I added a batting panel, and backing, and decided to complete the piece with a narrow dark binding. The piece is 18″ x 24″ – large enough without adding wide borders to it. In truth, I just wanted the piece finished and out of my way. It’s been hanging around for six months – the longest I’ve procrastinated on a project.

The piece is not bad; not my best. It’s now finished.

The Drive Through

Three weeks ago I booked a blood test at one of the regular blood collection locations in the region – last week, when I arrived the waiting room was full, the hallway was full – at least a two hour wait (several lab technicians were absent due to COVID-19 exposure). My test wasn’t urgent so I went back to my car, cancelled the appointment on my iPhone then booked another for a week later – today. The speediest location where I could book an online appointment (only online/telephone booking is available right now, no walk-in) was at the Dartmouth General Hospital Blood Collection Drive-through.

Today, I remembered to take the requisition paper and my appointment confirmation printout with me when I went to the pool, my appointment was for 11:10. Because I wasn’t sure precisely where I was going, I headed to the DGH right after my aquacise session to give myself time to get lost – in fact, I didn’t have a problem. I took the Mt. Hope exit from the 111 highway; stayed on Mt. Hope until I reached the DGH. The turn into the Drive-through was well marked.

The drive thru saves time because during the COVID-19 pandemic, disinfecting the blood-collection chair between patients takes between five and 10 minutes. (Catherine Buckie) – image from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/drive-thru-blood-testing-dartmouth-1.5733364 (I didn’t think to take a picture of the garage door ahead of me while I waited to enter)

I was greeted by a woman warmly dressed in a parka who directed me to follow the red truck ahead of me, which I did. I reached a booth with a young woman who asked me to put my mask on and to hand her my requisition and appointment information, which I did. She signed me in, then asked me to inch forward and wait at the garage door ahead of me.

It felt like going to the car wash!

I turned off my car, waited for the garage door to open. Started my car, drove forward until I reached a designated spot just before the exit garage door (just like at the car wash), then turned my car off as directed by the signs in front of me.

I didn’t need to get out of my car – I rolled down my window, took off my jacket, pulled my left arm out of my sweater sleeve, handed my blood requisition to the technician who asked for it, stuck my arm out the driver side window. She quickly took a couple of vials of blood.

I was asked by another woman (interesting, the drive-through idea was a woman’s, the facility was staffed by women…) if I’d be willing to answer a few questions: How did I rate the experience 1-5 – I gave it a 10! Would I do this again – absolutely! Would I recommend it to others – you bet!

I was in, and out, in 10 minutes!

Everybody was friendly and efficient.

In the lane next to the blood collection drive-through, was a COVID-19 vaccination drive-through – the line of cars was longer there but I bet the whole thing was reasonably quick as well.

Somebody’s doing some innovating – I applaud them and for sure support their efforts. The initiative needs to be expanded to many locations in the province.

So I’m spreading the word – if you’ve got a drive-through site for blood work or vaccination – use it! If you don’t have either, contact your public health officials and recommend they consider the possibility.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve signed up to build more Rapid Test Kits this coming week. Here in NS a large number of volunteers are doing our best to meet the demand for Rapid Test Kits.

More iPhone Photography

I was heading out to do a bit of shopping yesterday when I noticed the wall of ice beside the road. I didn’t stop then to take any photos but I did on my way back home. Quite striking, really, to see the frozen groundwater. The colour of the ice is what caught my eye in the first place.

Then today on my way back from the pool I saw the sun peeping from the clouds so I pulled into a nearby empty parking lot to take some photos.

There is actually a communications tower which looms over the hillside – I removed it from the image using an editing tool – Retouch – I didn’t think it added to the feel of the cloudy day with the sun peeping through the clouds.

Then sun came out more as I reached my driveway:

Winter Day II

I liked the snow hat on the rock and the shadow of the building bringing out the sunshine.

Late Afternoon Sun

I get late afternoon sun in my apartment – but something you need to understand: my windows face NE! Not west. The sun shines in strongly – bouncing from west-facing windows in the building up on the hill across from my apartment. Depending on the season the bright afternoon sunlight can last for a few minutes to more than half an hour. It has no warmth but it brightens the rooms noticeably.

Today, as I was walking by, the shadows of the orchids on my studio/livingroom window ledge caught my attention. Difficult to photograph because the large Pfaff embroidery machine on the desk blocked me. Nevertheless, the photo is about shadows and those stand out – even their reflection in the plexiglas surface of the desk.

Another day, I might move the machine to try getting a better shot. Today, I was wanted to capture what I could before the reflection disappeared.

From Back Then – 1996

Fall ~1996

I received this pair of photos from a Manitoba friend I’ve kept in contact with. That’s me in the yellow fleece on the right side.

Those were my hang gliding days – I wouldn’t be surprised if that photo was actually taken on a late fall weekend fly-in in Dauphin Manitoba. I don’t recognize the glider but I recognize, and can name, all but one of the people in the pictures.

I did love flying. I didn’t get to do a lot of solo flying – my technique never got good enough that I felt safe in the air on my own but I did a lot of flying at the control bar with a number of different instructors. What a wonderful feeling to be high in the air with just the wind whistling past, the fields below, and the wide panorama in front of us.

High Over Makapu’u Point ~1993

I even got to fly, after launching, high over Makapu’u Point on a couple of occasions, from the California hills somewhere near Santa Barbara, even outside Bendigo Australia with the chill Antarctic wind reaching us.

This all took place when I was living in Manitoba.

When I returned to Nova Scotia, in 1997, I switched to paragliding – trying to get a hang glider to the various rustic launch sites available to us was just physically beyond me and I wasn’t about to ask a fellow pilot to carry my glider to the top of the hill for me! I could manage the paragliding gear (glider, harness, helmet, arm pads, gloves) myself, though.

It took quite a bit of training before I felt confident enough to actually push myself off launch after inflating the glider. I remember clearly my first real parading flight on the hill at Fox River. I’d inflated the glider (I’d got good at that), but was reluctant to start the run – Brian Wheaton gave me a big push and I was in the air, aiming for the landing site beyond the trees at the far edge of the blueberry fields. The flight lasted less than 2 minutes but I landed successfully on my feet!

That was it. I made the trip to Parrsboro regularly over the next many years hoping to find good flying conditions when I arrived but often the wind was too light or too strong. However, once in a while I managed to get into the air.

I’d have kept at the sport except I discovered I had osteoporosis and suddenly a hard landing on my bum wasn’t such a good idea. My flying career was over.

I hung out with the pilots for another couple of seasons – I loved being at the top of the hills watching the gliders weave back and forth along the shore edge.

Eventually I stopped attending the Annual Flying Festival. Life moves on.

I miss flying, though!

Tradition – The Sweet Kugel

After Cooling

The other day, Deb and I again this year made the Sweet Kugel – 4 of them to be exact. One for me, one for her, one for MaryAnn, and one for Marlene.

This time we had Deb’s 6 year-old grandson Huxley as an extra pair of hands – he made short work of peeling/slicing the apples using Deb’s handy dandy Apple Peeler & Corer! (This is a very kid-friendly recipe and project, it turns out).

While Huxley was prepping the apples, I made the dough, cut it into four portions, rolled out the first.

Making The Kugel

Huxley topped the dough with strawberry jam and whole berry cranberry sauce, then he added a quarter of the apples, sprinkled raisins on top, I sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar on top of that, then flopped the dough around the topping and tipped it into the baking dish.

Huxley helped with all four kugels, making sure the one with the most apples was in his grandma’s dish.

The whole process didn’t take us long. We were done, washing up and all, in about an hour.

The kugels were left to bake for an hour and a half at 352°. I took them out and cooled them, then wrapped the one for me and put it in the freezer. The other three are in my fridge, each waiting to be sent to its proper home.

If you’re interested in trying a sweet kugel yourself, here’s the recipe and description of the process from my 2015 blog entry.

I couldn’t resist having a taste – I took a big spoonful from the one I saved for myself – the one now in my freezer.