Lisa Nilsson’s Marvelous Paper Quilling

I’ve dabbled in paper quilling but I don’t have the patience to do much with the tiny twirled results. But Lisa Nilsson makes spectacular art works using the technique.

This work, which took her six years to create (!) is an amazing work of art. You have to see some of the details to appreciate what she’s done:

I came across this piece on Colossal today. It’s worth taking a moment to read about Nilsson’s work.

The World In Stones

Jon Foreman, a Welshman, does these amazing creations on a beach using stones or shells, or just a rake and some string.

It’s about the time it must take to collect the RIGHT stones – construct the array, take photos, then walk away. The next day the array is likely gone, washed away by the waves. He sets to work again.

Do take a look: – each piece is spectacular!

It Finally Arrived!

A year and a half late – my Pfaff Creative Icon 2 sewing machine arrived two days ago! Development delays, computer chips unavailable, pushed the delivery of these machines way back. Some were sent out to preorder customers in later December – I opted to wait for the second batch (hoping that any glitches remaining in the software and mechanics would be worked out).

Got the call that my machine had arrived on Monday while working at the test kit assembly facility – I picked it up late in the afternoon, took it home, unpacked it, plugged it in, and played with it after supper until close to midnight.

The icons are different, and they’re located in different places from my original Creative Icon and it took me some time to find things I was used to using. Yesterday I was at it again and had a better time making the work flow. Today, I did what I always do when I get a new high-end embroidery/sewing machine – I made a bag for my foot pedal and power cord so I can slip them within the machine opening when transporting it.

Bag For Foot Pedal and Power Cord

I used the same embroidery I’ve used before, in part, because I wanted to see how accurately it stitched out – the irregularities were my fault (not the machine’s) – I used batting and not stabilizer behind the fabric, I used the universal needle that came with the machine (instead of changing it for an embroidery needle) – and both of those decisions resulted in some pulling of the fabric and loose stitches when they caught on the embroidery foot. Otherwise, the embroidery worked out well, with all the bits matching up as they should. I quickly turned the embroidery into a zippered bag.

The second task today: I’m teaching a class in early April on “Using Your Machine’s Stitches” – intended for folks who have relatively simple machines and rarely explore all the possibilities of their mostly utility stitches (but it also could be of interest to folks who have a “cadillac” like I do and also don’t explore all their stitches, either).

To set up for the class I sat down with a piece of Kona cotton fabric (with tear-away stabilizer) underneath and a new 75 embroidery needle. I started embellishing the fabric using doubled embroidery thread (to make it stand out more strongly) and only the utility stitches (which I edited for length and width) on my machine:

Utility Stitches Sampler

Now here’s where I’m trying to become acquainted with my fancy new machine. Notice the grid projected onto the sewing area in the upper right of the photo! That’s the new feature of this machine – it has both a camera and a laser projector which allows me to line up my stitching precisely – I began with a chalk diagonal from corner to corner. After I stitched that line, keeping the pink guide line centred on my chalk line, I was able to add subsequent rows using the grid, without having to draw any further lines. I stitched over a piece of narrow blue satin ribbon; I also stitched a narrow piece of lace in place (not yet done when I took the photo). I filled the entire piece of fabric, then trimmed it. My plan is to use it to make a zippered bag. I could use undecorated fabric for the second side, but I think I’ll do a second piece using embroidery stitches probably in horizontal lines as an example of what that can look like.

I’ll be busy learning this new machine for the next couple of weeks. I have a physical printed users manual alongside the digital one I can access on the machine! I’m trying to figure this all out by invoking my knowledge of how my previous Creative Icon works and predict from there. I’ve made quite a bit of headway since Monday night!

I can’t imagine what it must be like…

As Russian invaders have central Kyiv in their sights, Ukraine’s warriors say that they will not submit. To this end, I offer a Ukrainian interpretation of Churchill’s famous clarion call from the last world war:

“We will fight on our streets, we will fight in our villages, we will fight atop the black soil of our fields, we will fight for Kyiv. We will never give up. We will never surrender.”Yuri Polakiwsky. Lviv, Ukraine (Mar 2 – from the Globe and Mail)

A Ukrainian soldier walks through debris on the west side of Kyiv, on Feb. 26. DANIEL LEAL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Here in Canada our “sacrifices” will be miniscule in comparison to those Ukrainians will have to make over the weeks, months, years to come. May they have the fortitude and bravery to sustain the initial loses and the determination to mount a long and sustained insurrection. May those of us living in a “democratic” world have the fortitude and bravery and determination not to forget them and to continue providing the support they will need for a very long time!

Being Prepared

From VON, Canada

Almost two weeks ago a friend in my building died. At 10:45 on Sunday evening she called me – she wasn’t feeling well. I promptly went to her apartment – I was fortunate, Kathleen had been able to get to her door and unlock it so I could get in. I took one look at her, called her son, then called 911.

She was having a heart attack. She hadn’t called her son – she hadn’t wanted to disturb him so late at night. I made it clear he’d better come as quickly as he could. Meanwhile as I was waiting for her son and the paramedics to arrive I found her medications and her health card which I knew the paramedics would want.

I’ve dealt with emergencies before so I was familiar with how paramedics handle the situation. What I wasn’t expecting was the question one paramedic asked her son as they were leaving – “If her heart stops in the ambulance what do you wish us to do?” It turned out Kathleen had a DNR which her son knew about. But I realize I don’t!

I’ve spent the past couple of months getting my will, my power of attorney, my personal delegate documents in order for my niece who has agreed to act on my behalf. I’ve thought about longer range contingencies like having a terminal disease or failing cognitive function and discussed with her the kinds of decisions I am authorizing her to make. I never considered an emergency!

My niece lives in Toronto. I have a sister who lives closer in Halifax. However, were I to be having the kind of emergency I responded to that Sunday, I’d call neither of them. I’d call Deb who lives in my building. My emergency could be such that I can’t get to the door to open it – I have to make sure Deb has a key (that’s on my immediate TO DO list) so she can let herself in.

When we were discussing this she mentioned that in the home where her mother had lived in Manitoba each resident had an ERIK (emergency response information kit) on the side of their fridge. We tracked down the document online but I didn’t like how it was laid out. I went looking for a NS equivalent and came across the VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) version which they call “Vial Of Life” because the emergency information document is handed out in a vial with a bright red sticker on it to be kept in the fridge (between the mustard and ketchup, I presume). The form had precisely the information an emergency responder needs: who to contact, health conditions and medications taken, allergies, where the medications are located, the health card number.

I filled one out for myself and have put it on my fridge along with a signed and witnessed DNR. I made copies of both documents for the gals in the knitting group – none of whom had such documents for themselves. I’ve been passing out the documents to anybody who’s interested.

You don’t have to be an old person to have this information on the side of your fridge – having it in an easily accessible location makes it much easier for somebody else to help you out if you have an emergency.

Here are the documents:

Take a look. It can’t hurt you to fill in these forms for yourself and for anybody else in your household. It makes dealing with an emergency a lot easier for whoever is the person having to respond on your behalf! Trust me.

Fighting For Freedom

Last Friday, I caught the end of an interview with Daniel Bilak (A Canadian living in Ukraine) on CBC’s Feb 25’s “The Current” program (8:35-9:40) – the irony of his comments were blazing:

“Never take your freedom for granted”, “People in Canada look at freedom with a sense of entitlement…there’s always the danger someone will come take it away”, “You have to fight for your freedom … those principles of liberal democracy … you have to decide whether they’re worth fighting for!”

Ottawa Protest (photo from CTV News)

That’s not a week after the trucker convey people were using the very same words with completely opposite meaning!

I was stunned by the stark contrast Bilak’s words created. His words underlined how juvenile and selfish the people involved in the Ottawa protests actually were/are! Unfortunately Matt Galloway, the host, made no comment about that juxtaposition – was he even aware of it?

I wonder what the truckers have to say about Ukraine – are they prepared to fight FOR democracy, against REAL oppression?

I’m guessing they’d be driving their trucks towards the Russian border.

An interesting read by Dave Pell: From Kyiv to Mar-a-Lago, It’s All Connected

Are You Playing Wordle?

A week ago someone mentioned Wordle to me – I hadn’t come across it on my own. In spite of my reasonable size vocabulary, I’m not great at crossword puzzles. I don’t seem to have unassociated words floating around in my head. I have lots of words in meaning units, but I can’t easily just pull out a word based on an ambiguous clue.

So I was skeptical about Wordle. Nevertheless I gave it a try.

My first go was a disaster – couldn’t even find out how to submit a word! Finally, I discovered the “ENTER” button below the keyboard. Next I discovered I couldn’t think of 5-letter words. Useless. So I did a bit of online searching and came up with some useful tips and handy word lists to start the game.

Screenshot Showing Game Opening (Including Enter Button)

I quickly came across the “opening word” strategy – try to cover as many vowels as possible in a single word – two good words: AUDIO, and ADIEU – you’re almost certain to get at least one vowel, occasionally two. The vowels are likely in the wrong location but you’re on your way. There are a bunch of opening word selections – here’s one with some helpful starting words.

Strategy two: high frequency consonants and consonant clusters. I had to google for lists of 5-letter words with various consonant and vowel combinations – they just wouldn’t pop into my head. Once I had some lists in front of me I started coming up with words on my own. I now have lists of 3-vowel words, 2 vowel words, words using S, L, T, R, N, M, P, H – some of the most commonly used consonants. Then there are consonant clusters: CL, CR, DR, FL, FR, GL, GR, ST, STR, WR, – I’ve probably missed a few here, but you get the drift.

I read somewhere in the last day or two, don’t waste time on a final S – there seem to be no plural words so save your S for other positions in the word. Also, there can be double letters – both consonants and vowels – that can be tricky.

With my word lists at hand, I’m getting better at the game – I’ve even managed to solve it several times in 6 words, a few times in 4 words. Today’s word HUMOR I missed altogether (my 6th word ROUGH had 4 letters R, O, U, H all in the wrong location – I would never have thought of HUMOR because my spelling for the word is HUMOUR! This is an American English game.

I’m hoping to do better tomorrow.

Feb 10: Pure Luck Today!

Feb 10 – Pure Luck Today

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 can 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.

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: (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.