Friday, February 28, 2014

It's A Long Story: Part Six

Today was a special day.

I took the train from Near Philadelphia to Somewhere Even Nearer Philadelphia. I was met at the station by someone I had not seen in more than twenty years. We had lunch together. We talked and talked and then went back to her place for a further visit. She lives in a gorgeous place, a retirement center for nuns.

It was Sister Angela, the woman who introduced me to pastoral care and hospital chaplaincy back in 1986. I tried to tell her how important she has been to me, what an impact she made on my life. She didn't seem able to hear it. That didn't surprise me.

I gave her Bill's Baskets. It fits her bed perfectly and is exactly the right colors for her room.

It was such a good day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

For the Lack of Fourteen Inches . . . A Project Languished

I don't know how many years ago I started this quilt. The gorgeous colored fabric came from Millie Chirbuck, a terrific woman (now retired) who used to vend at the Lancaster Show as Country House Cottons. I bought some of her FQs and occasionally a yard every year for as long as she and I were both there.

So I made these baskets and they got set aside. A few years later, they got set into a top. But there was one basket that was too bright, just spoiled the whole thing. So it got set aside again. Four or so years ago I dug it out and Himself helped me dig through my meager stash of Millie's goods to pick out two fabrics to replace the garish block. And apparently I not only made the block but darned near got it set back in place!

When the clean and purge bug hit recently, this quilt came to the surface again. I didn't unwrap it. I just put it aside with 21 other WISPs and Projects Planned.

Tuesday night, after making a bunch more of those mini-blocks in black/gray/white, I got starved for color! What was on my wall was too close to what was outside. I went into the cupboard of UFOs and pulled out this project. I am embarrassed to confess that what it needed was one seam, approximately 14 inches, to be sewn. Yup. And so I sewed. And now it is a flimsy, border and all. I love this quilt; it is going to stay on my wall for a while to fill the need for color. And then on my next trip to Lancaster County, I'm buying black back and batt and she will rise to the top of the "To Be Quilted" pile.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

False Alarm!!!!

For the past few days I've been engaged in a tedious task.

I had been looking in the archives of this blog for a post that I knew I had written. But the "Search This Blog" gadget failed to uncover it.

For a long time I'd wished that I had enabled "Labels" for my blog. But back when I started it, I had no idea what it was going to evolve into, and prolly didn't know "Labels" was a possibility.

But wait! It is not too late! I have been going back over each and every post and attaching "Labels." It is tedious work. There are well over 1700 posts. I have done about 250 of them.

Somehow I must have hit something wrong when I was labeling the posts from our Scandinavian trip and reposted Oslo, Day Two.

Rest assured that we are home, Near Philadelphia.

Even if it feels like Oslo.

Oslo: Day Two, and A Surprise

We stayed in three major cities, and in each one we chose a small boutique type of hotel that was situated close to museums and attractions, rather than large spiffy hotels in the business district. Each hotel provided a lavish breakfast buffet, included in the price of the room, that puts the American free-breakfast-included hotels to absolute shame. This photo from the Karl Johan shows a part of the breakfast buffet. Not pictured are the eggs, hot meats, breads, and waffle maker. Interestingly, the hotel management had no objection to a patron's making and wrapping a sandwich and grabbing a piece of fruit to carry along for lunch during the day.

The following pictures show some of the beautiful buildings in downtown Oslo.

Oslo is a gorgeous city and everywhere we looked there were lilacs in bloom. I later learned that they grow wild in Scandinavia.

There was more to see and do in Oslo than we had time for. We decided to pass on the Munch Museum; having seen "The Scream" pictured many times, we didn't feel the need to see the real thing. It was more important to us to visit the Nobel Peace Museum which had a very moving display about the life of women in Afghanistan and a second important display about the stress-filled lives of American soldiers serving in combat zones.

We spent several hours at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and some pictures of this most interesting village-museum combination follow.

Tired from walking, we had a delicious lunch at the museum's restaurant before proceeding on to the Viking Ship Museum and adjacent Norwegian museum of maritime history, both of which were more interesting than I had anticipated.

By now, Joe was showing distinct signs of turning into a Viking, and I thought we should be on our way. We had a ship of our own to board!

A short boat ride and walk back to our hotel later, we were in a cab on our way to the designated pier.

Star Flyer is a very, very large sailboat. It is of the barkentine class, and distinctive in appearance with a couple of dozen sails. It is an imposing ship, dazzling to the eye as it pulls into port. As they say, "You can't miss it."

But we couldn't find it! Our cabbie assured us that we were at the right place, drove around a little further, and after a few nervous minutes we saw an improvised Star Clippers banner. But no ship.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bill's Baskets Finished

This quilt had languished in the flimsy stage for a very long time. Storing flimsies takes much less space than storing finished quilts. I only have two beds. And my kids only have three or four beds. So I store flimsies until a need is revealed and then I have the quilting done and do the binding and off it goes.

Bill's Baskets is a very special quilt. I loved making it. I took my time and was meticulous with it. And a month or so ago I realized whose it is to be.

It will be gifted on Friday. I can't wait.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Going Gentle

I have written little about my new position as a hospital chaplain. Mostly, this is because I am still in awe that I am actually -- after all of these years -- doing the work I have so long wanted to do.

I work for twenty-four hours at a time, responding to the trauma and code beeper, doing purposeful rounding on all of the units, receiving referrals and requests, and following up with ongoing situations. It is expected hoped that I will sleep for seven or eight of those twenty-four hours, but that is seldom the case and the hours are not consecutive. I never know what a shift will bring.

A recent one brought death.

I had been asleep for about an hour when the beeper shrieked. A Level One Trauma was coming in, and it was yet another older person who had fallen, sustaining an injury to his head. And this one didn't even happen outside in the ice.

My role is to support the family; in this case, the wife who was in the waiting room with the next-door neighbor, the kind of guy anyone would wish to have for a next-door neighbor. I introduced myself and explained that since her husband had been brought in as a trauma, the protocol called for me to attend; she shouldn't read anything more than that into my presence. We became acquainted and when she told me that her husband had had a heart attack two years earlier and had been on a blood thinner ever since, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Soon the chief resident came out and confirmed what I'd feared. The gentleman had sustained a massive intra-cranial bleed, he was on a ventilator for assistance with breathing, and would not survive surgery if it were attempted. Betty would need to make some decisions and the situation was complicated. Her daughter was six or seven hours away, her son across the ocean, and her husband's son at least twenty-four hours away. Would they want to come to see him? Should he be admitted to the MICU for 24-48 hours so that people could travel in? Or would it be better to stay in the ER and remove the ventilator? Only a few hours earlier the man had been joking with the neighbor about the ice on their shared driveway.

Many phone calls were made and, regrettably, many messages were left on voice mails. Betty's pastor was out-of-town, and it became my task to help her try to think clearly, to take into consideration her husband's wishes, what she wanted, and what the children might prefer. Ultimately she decided that the right thing would be to submit to the inevitable and remove the life support.

It took about twenty minutes after that for the gentleman's heart to stop. It was a slow and gradual process, and those famous words came into my mind: "Do not go gentle into that good night." He did go gently; death came quietly and slipped him away. Together Betty and I asked for the courage to entrust him to God's merciful care. I'd been with Betty for just three hours; when we parted, I felt as though I'd known her -- and her husband -- for many years.

Some hours later, I was called to a patient's room. The occupant had died a few hours earlier and his daughter was at the bedside, waiting for the funeral home people to come for him. Their religion required this. I chose to sit with her for the better part of an hour. She told me that his death had also been gradual and gentle; nothing to fear. She told me, "It is an honor to sit here with his body." And I told her it had been my privilege to sit there with her.

It was a difficult shift, but a meaningful one. Two women, both in very intimate stages of life -- and death -- had allowed me to share their experience, to offer support, to remind them of God's love. I'll never see either of them again, but they will be with me always.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snail's Pace

A little more than three years ago I wrote this post. Go take a look at it. Now, it is time to own up to how much I have accomplished on this project in three years.

Not very much at all.

The project came to the surface during the recent episode of the Dreaded Cleaning Virus and I still couldn't bring myself to part with it. I bought this BOM in 1999, friends. 1999. Block #1 is finished. Block #2 is 3/4 finished. Block #3 pieces are cut and the background is pieced. And that's it.

So today I consulted the list of UFOs and decided that this oldest one was the one to start with. Not that I intend to finish it up zippy quicky do. No. I intend to try to get the first row complete. With sashing and cornerstones.

So this afternoon I put borders around the first three blocks, just strips, one color to a block, not three or four. And without cornerstones (look closely, they are there, and prolly finish at 1/2"). Just nice plain borders. And trimmed the bordered blocks to 13". I did much of the bonding of Block #3. I found the floss I need to finish #2 (yes, I am hand-buttonholing these). I found most of the floss I need to do #3 and cut snips of the floss I need to buy. It will be very good to have a non-urgent handwork project for in front of the television.

Then I considered the sashing. Do you see how it is checkerboard, kind of black and brown? Do you wonder where they got that checkerboard fabric? They didn't. It is made from small squares cut and sewn together. I looked through the supplies and settled on a nice, dark, dark green. And cut pieces that are 13" by 3-1/2" inches. When I get done with the applique, I will piece the cornerstones for the sashing and put that there first row together.

And when that is all done, if I am still alive, I will start the second row.

Whatever on earth was I thinking.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DCV* Outbreak Near Philadelphia!

Someone I used to know said of her mother-in-law, "When she dies, her gravestone is going to say 'She Kept Her House Clean.'"

Neither of us ever aspired to be her mother-in-law.

I first encountered the sentiment to the left a bazillion years ago when I was visiting my cousin. She had it hanging on her wall in 18-count Aida. I didn't give her a moment's peace until she shared her pattern with me. I finished the cross stitch in record time, had it framed promptly, and it has served as my motto ever since.

I also hired a cleaning lady. Who is wonderful. And is named Natasha. But that is another story.

Natasha keeps 92% of the house looking great! But she isn't allowed near my sewing space, not that she would even attempt to go there. She is very smart and has her limits.

As a sufferer of Multiple Project Disorder who swears by her motto, I function happily in my mess and clutter and disarray. Most of the time.

And then -- without warning -- the Dreaded Cleaning Virus will strike and I won't be able to sew a stitch until I have cleaned and purged and organized. My little friend Turbo lives for these outbreaks because she is usually the beneficiary of the cast-offs.

Wondering why I've been quiet since Saturday? Well, now you know. The first symptoms of the Virus appeared on Sunday and it took up all afternoon and all of Monday, the legitimate holiday (because Thursday and Friday were snow days. And now it is done.

The space is pristine. Turbo picked up a couple of bags of this-and-that. The Guild White Elephant Exchange received two great big parcels (and to my credit I picked the smallest thing I could find to bring home). Fabric is relatively neatly arranged in the metal cupboard on the shelves along with WISPs**. A list of the latter has been prepared and will be dealt with. Two projects that I've totally lost interest in but have a large dollar investment have been set aside and if they aren't taken care of by the next time the virus comes around, out they will go. Civil War is all in one place, as are Rowan and Batiks and the small remaining amount of Laurel Burch. Oh, it is glorious in its tidiness!

Let us see how long it lasts.

*Dreaded Cleaning Virus
**Works In Slow Progress

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Very soon after I finished my first Tula Pink project, I started my second, this one in blacks, grays, and white prints. The fourteenth block got interrupted and will be done soon. While I'm not as excited about this project as I was the first one, I like it a lot and know it will "grow" on me as it grows itself. I'm planning on something similar to one of the layouts that Tula herself suggests, and about 60 more blocks are needed . . . .

In other news, neither of us has been as enthralled by the Olympics as usual. Might be because we're still harboring concerns about the possibility of some tragic event. Might be because they're in Russia. I dunno. But we've skimped on our Olympic coverage to rewatch the last several episodes of last season's House of Cards in order to refresh my memory (Joe's is fully intact) before starting the new season, which we are both eager to do.

The connection for all of the foregoing blather is that there is so much gray in House of Cards (Claire, for one, wears only black, white or gray and the same may be true of Linda), and despite the colorful ambiance NBC portrays, I don't seem able to shake my previous image of Russia as a gray sort of place.

So it seems right that I'd be working on this project now. I believe you can click once or even twice to make the photo larger.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Back in the mid-to-late Seventies, we did time in Chicago. Three very long years. We came to believe Chicago had two seasons: Too darned hot and too darned cold. We lived in a little box (ours was brown) (courtesy memorial nod to Pete Seeger). We'd bought the house in a development where we could afford a three-bedroom rancher, and being totally unfamiliar with the Chicago area, had no idea that we were moving into an all-white neighborhood where people lived out the song, every single verse. I thought I would lose my mind from the utter sameness.

But back to the weather. The house was situated so that the very large sliding-glass door with patio faced the south. In the winter (which was most of the time), the children played on the rug in the sunlight shining in through that huge glass divide.

When the first snowfall came, we were excited. We had no idea. We took little Tom out back so he could play in the snow. He loved it, and cried when he had to come in. He and Joe built a snowman on the lawn facing the patio and, hence, the sliding glass door. And because Joe is an artist, and a clever and creative person, he crafted that snowman so that it was unmistakably Ernie. I thought it was adorable. For the first week. Even the second week. But then . . . .  I do not remember how many weeks I saw that leering Ernie face grinning in at me. As the weeks went on, I came to loathe it, and Ernie too.

And that, friends, is how my fondness for the duller, less grimacing Bert began.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tula Pink Quilt #1 -- A Flimsy!

One of those rare occasions when a quilt has turned out just right, with no major mishaps along the way, no "I wish I would have," no second guessing.

I am so happy with this quilt. It finishes at about 42-1/2 inches square.

I believe that if you click on the picture, it will get bigger.

Thank you, Tula Pink. Thank you, Joe for buying the book and assisting with the lay-out.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tula Pink Blue Green Purple . . .

Friends, I cannot tell  you how smitten I am with that there Tula Pink book that my beloved gifted me for my birfday. Makes reaching the end of my personal sixties much more palatable.

There are 100 blocks in this book and I've made 26 of them. Twenty-five are destined to become a quilt for a new baby (that other block is in the book at the appropriate page). What remains to be decided is the lay-out. Himself got involved and between us we devised three possibilities: Random, Yellow Going Up Sort Of, and Pink Going Up. 

If you'd care to express an opinion, I'd be delighted to hear it!


Yellow Going Up, Sort Of

Pink Going Up
Tula shows a layout in the back of the book that is like skyscrapers, and they're all made out of neutrals. Cannot wait to get started on these -- after all, there are 74 blocks that I haven't tried yet!

Friday, February 07, 2014

We Survived!

So I was wandering around Google Images in search of the right picture for this blog post, and just then my sweet friend Karen just posted this one on Facebook.

It started on Wednesday morning at 6:42 before I even had put the coffee on. Power outage. We'd heard there would be an ice storm coming during the night and when we got up one look outside told me I wouldn't be going to work. It was gorgeously treacherous. In our front yard were two huge tree limbs and all over the neighborhood more of the same. And electrical wires everywhere. The great 2014 Philadelphia Ice Storm had struck and our township had been hit the worst.

Our neighborhood, unlike our previous one, isn't prone to power outages, so initially I wasn't worried. I thought it might be a couple of hours. Hah! Joe hacked away at the driveway and eventually we got in his van and drove over to the hospital cafeteria to get some breakfast. Interestingly, just as we walked in the door, the power there also went out, but the emergency generators kicked right in. We grabbed some hot coffee and other good stuff and enjoyed. By the time we got home, the house had already begun to feel cold. We'd turned the thermostat down at bedtime on Tuesday and hadn't had the chance to turn it up before the outage hit. That night we drove back over to the hospital for another hot meal and to charge our cell phones. Going home, we took a bit of a scenic tour on the roads that weren't closed. There were fallen trees and down wires everywhere. We heard on the radio that hundreds of thousands of PECO customers were without electricity. For us, that also meant no heat, no hot water, no cooking. Joe had a huge load of logs he'd accumulated and we made the best use of the fireplace, hoping that Thursday morning would bring relief.

Thursday we went down to the village and had breakfast at the diner, sharing our booth with another couple, friends from church. We laughed a lot even though at that point the projected return of our power was 11:00 p.m. on Sunday.  Thursday evening found us back at the hospital (the food there is really, really good and amazingly inexpensive) where the regular power had been restored. Fortunately, in this house full of quilts, we slept warm. It was the rest of the time that was the problem! We took our meat out of the freezer and put it in coolers out on the porch where it remained frozen. Friday morning we opened the refrigerator and ate some of the food in it, cold, in front of the fireplace. By then the indoor temperature was in the neighborhood of 44 degrees. Joe discovered another downed wire when he went out with Blackberry. I phoned PECO to report it and they told me that the projected return of our power was 11:00 tonight. We were jubilant as we'd begun to worry about the radiant heat system in the kitchen and what would happen if the pipes froze. We drove up to Sherry's for a hot shower and stopped at the VFW post for the free hot lunch we'd heard was to be served. A couple more errands, prolonging the time in the warm car, and then we were home.

And then, mid-afternoon, just as suddenly as it had gone, it was back. After 56 hours. We feel fortunate, as we know there are still those who will be powerless until Sunday night; furthermore, we have had no significant damage to our property (although we may need to employ a tree surgeon to spiff up that big front yard tree). The house is warming up gradually, already up to a semi-toasty 54 degrees. And we'll get to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics tonight. Speaking of which, I need to go down and machine on the binding of the most recent quilt; I want to do the fingerwork in front of the television -- and the fireplace -- tonight.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Intolerably Cute

For my birthday Monday, the love of my life gave me four or five splendid gifts, most of which he uncovered on my Amazon wish list. I liked them all.

But I loved this book, which I hadn't even remembered was on my wish list! I didn't know much about Tula Pink; I did remember she did a line of fabric that had some straight-on frogs that were a bit creepy, IMNSHO. Somebody was raving about the 100 Modern Quilt Blocks book, and without seeing the inside of it, I guess I added it to my list.

What a delight this book is! And I swear Tula Pink isn't paying me to say this. Heck, she doesn't even know I exist and prolly would be offended that I found her frogs creepy. But back to the book: There are 100 very simple blocks. They all measure 6" finished. They are original and modern. They are easy to make. I got the book on Monday night, as I said. I started perusing it before turning the light out and dreamed of widdle biddy blocks all night. On Tuesday, I could hardly wait to get home from work and begin! I made these nine blocks in one afternoon. I don't know how they are going to be put together, although there are several really nifty lay-outs in the back of the book. I'm just having a ball making them.

You know, I'm on this kick of not buying new fabric. But I had a grab bag that I bought from a vendor at the Oaks Quilt Show back in the autumn. He was a purveyor of batiks of all kinds and they were gorgeous. Then there were the hermetically sealed grab bags that we couldn't get open without scissors! We couldn't figure out why he was selling them so cheaply. I'm using these strips (and some scraps from stash) to make the blocks because so far there is no block component wider than 2-1/2" in one dimension. I did figure out why the good deal on the strips -- some are not precisely 2-1/2 inches. But that doesn't matter to me.

Oh, and the blocks in the book are made from Tula's fabric. That frog looks a lot less sinister than he used to -- I wonder what he's done!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

My First Tutorial: Polar Vortex

A handful of people have written to me asking about the Polar Vortex blocks and how to make them. I thought I would try writing a tutorial. So here goes. Please keep in mind that I'm not a photographer! I'm a quilter! I think the way I'm going to do this is by posting photos of the steps and put the instructions in the captions.

First, select your fabric. You'll need three fabrics: A background, a center, and the main part of the block. Some contrast is nice. I suggest you avoid stripes; you'll be making a bunch of half-square triangles and the stripes can end up going every which way. If the main part of your block is dark, then choose a light background; likewise, if the main part of your block is light, choose a dark background. Press your fabric! Here you can see my main part at the top, my background in the middle, and my center square at the bottom. Your block will finish at 10 inches. When I made my Polar Vortex blocks, I got three blocks from each Fat Quarter. You prolly can get four blocks from a Fat Quarter. I only needed three.

Now you're going to cut! From your main fabric, you'll want FOUR squares that are 2-7/8 inches and four squares that are 2-1/2 inches. From your background, you'll need FOUR squares that are 2-7/8 inches, four squares that are 2-1/2 inches, and four rectangles that are 2-1/2 inches by 4-1/2 inches. From your center square fabric, cut one square that is 2-1/2 inches. If you are going to make a lot of blocks, think about whether you want to use all the same fabric for your main part or different fabrics. Think, too, about whether to vary the center squares or to use the same fabric for all of the center squares. Stripes are okay for the center square.

Now, the first thing you will do is make half-square triangles. Take your four 2-7/8 squares, the light ones, and draw a diagonal line on each one. Then measure precisely 1/4 inch and draw and line on either side. I save a little time by using these rulers; with them, you line up the center line and just draw the side lines. I'm not affiliated with either Omni-Grid or Amazon. I just really like these rulers a lot. I don't know what that black thread is doing there. I told you I'm not a photographer.

Sew along the lines on either side of the center and then cut down the center with your rotary cutter. Use a regular ruler for this, not that slim little Omni-Grid goody that you used to draw the lines. Trust me on this. Next, press. I was taught to press to the Dark Side (Luke!) but more and more in recent years I have been pressing seams open. I think I get better accuracy that way. Now, see the little dog ears in the corner of the finished Half Square Triangle? Snip them off. But don't say that you are going to cut off dog ears because your pooch will get nervous and your cat will gloat.

Now, lay down your center square and surround it with the 2-1/2 inch squares from the main fabric. Next, lay one of those HSTs next to each solid square, as shown.

Now, add the remaining HSTs so they are "kissing" or forming butterflies. The block should look like this.

Finally, add the background squares and rectangles.
Sew the squares together in rows and press the seams carefully.

Lay the rows back down. If the block looks like this, don't panic! You probably didn't sew it wrong. More likely, you have that second-from-the-bottom row laid upside-down! But look it over carefully.

That's right! Now you are ready to sew your rows together.
In my opinion, pin is not a dirty word. I like to pin all of the seams together. I think I get more accuracy. I usually start pinning the center row with the one above, then the one below, and finally the end rows. Stitch, removing each pin before you get to it.

Then press, and you're done! At this point, I press all the rows in one direction rather than open.
I hope this is helpful to those who wanted to know how to make the block. I'd love it if Janet or somebody would make a test block to see if my directions work.