Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thinking of Wilbur

When it was her turn to be Queen Bee, my friend Pat requested that everyone make her two 12" Wacky Web blocks; she provided the  paper foundations and WOW centers and asked for assorted brights for the piecing. She asked us to please remove the paper backing before turning in our blocks. I had never cared much for spiderweb quilts up until then, but making Pat's blocks was a lot of fun; even removing the paper from the backs of these big things was not a problem.

Do I really need to write any more? Surely you are way ahead of me on this post.

When I saw all of the bee blocks for Pat lined up on the table, I was smitten. Her brights on white were striking!

Now, here's where my smittenness impacted my thought process. I didn't think I wanted to make a 12" block spiderweb quilt because I thought it would be a lot of work and I didn't have a plan for it. But I thought I wanted to try it. So I ordered the miniature version template and foundation papers.

Charlotte would throw up her hands (all eight of them) in incredulosity.

I used scraps from my previous quilt. I didn't cut into any "real" fabric other than for the center kites. I stitched and pressed and stitched and pressed. And enjoyed what I was doing. I put the blocks up on the wall so that Himself could see how the webs formed and so I could admire my own progress. It took a while.

I made thirty-six blocks. Enough for a 36" square baby quilt. With more pieces than any even semi-sane person would consider counting.

And then I began peeling off the paper from the back. And have nearly lost my mind in the process. Thirty-six itsy-bitsy blocks (you know, webs for the itsy-bitsy spider?). With minuscule sections of paper.

My particular quilting coterie is fond of saying about regular paper-piecing, "I'd rather give a cat a bath than do that."

I feel like a professional cat coiffeuse.

I've been working at it for three nights, using the seam ripper to score the lines and the tweezers to pull out the microscopic nubbins of paper.

All of this for a baby quilt.

I already have one quilt named "What Was I Thinking?"

This one, I think, will be called "Some Pig."

Get it?



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pluses


The best part of making the quilt is giving it away.

Which I got to do today. To a cute little pregnant girl who works at the school for autistic kids. She liked it.

"Pluses" was made from a group of hand-dyed fabrics that I bought at the Lancaster show. I hand quilted it with five different colors of thread, most of which weren't the same colors as the Pluses. But it all worked out.

Happy Baby, Ali!




Monday, April 20, 2015

Precious Moments

We met in junior high school when we were both library geeks. The librarian was a wonderful woman who taught us how to shelve books, write over-due notices, and to make new cards for the books. We laughed and learned together, convinced that our after-school activity was much more worthwhile than hockey practice.

She had a harder life than I have had. She became pregnant while in high school, and as was the custom in those days, she spent a semester away from home "helping an aunt in Boston," and never saw her son after he was born. The doctor arranged the adoption. Her first marriage was to a man who turned out to be an alcoholic (her mother was also one); two more boys were born before the marriage came apart.

She was a faithful caregiver to her father who was tragically struck down with ALS; after he passed, she was able to fulfill her dream of owning a gift shop. She'd since married a lovely man who adopted her two boys, and for a while it looked as though her luck was changing. The gift shop was very successful; she was smart enough to have a diverse inventory -- something for everyone.

I used to tease her about the Precious Moments figurines in the room to the left. I thought they were the ugliest things I'd ever seen. She told me I'd be surprised at how well they sold.

She was a member of my church and of my Circle and once a year the group would go to the seashore where one of our members owned a home. We always roomed together and giggled late into the night, remembering stories and people from elementary and junior high schools. When I was in seminary and doing field ed at an inner-city church in a terrible neighborhood, she went with me each Wednesday  night for Bible study; we both learned a lot -- and not just about the Bible.

Need I tell you what she gave me as a gift when I graduated?

Then her older son suddenly died. Of a heroin overdose. She had no idea he had been using; she had become close to the girl she was hoping would become her daughter-in-law and clung to her after the loss, until she realized the girl had been the source of the drugs.

Then the sun rose in her life one more time when she was contacted by the boy -- now a lovely man in his 40s -- who had been taken from her so many years ago. He lived out west and made frequent trips to visit her -- after her mother's death she had moved to Maine (and year after year she would send me a freshly made Christmas wreath for my front door). Her husband and surviving son were comfortable with him; so much so that when he was in a terrible accident out west, they made no objection when she went out to spend a month or so assisting in his recovery.

It was while she was there that the cancer struck. And wasn't discovered until it was Stage Four. In her lungs.

We didn't have much giggling time together after that. I saw her one time after she moved back to Philadelphia and entered treatment that proved to be futile. The pastor asked if I would like to preach her funeral sermon. I told him I couldn't. I just couldn't.

She's been gone for five or six years, now. Yesterday my friend Kathy put something silly on Facebook about Precious Moments and all these memories of Sue flooded my consciousness. Time together in the library, at St. Simeon's, at Joan's shore house; times in church, at Circle, out to lunch. Times laughing together and times crying together.

All precious moments indeed.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Temptation

They're here and there in the quilting blogiverse, and now they're in my head and won't get out. This photo is from Google images. These are not my blocks.

My blog friend Nicole has succumbed and hers are gorgeous. It was looking at Nicole's blog that got me to Googling and oohing and aching.

They are Steam Punk blocks.

They involve templates. They are reputed to be fiddly. If I weren't so opposed to the word amazing, I'd use it here. Because I can't seem to get them outta my head.

I'm wondering when one of my local peeps is going to show up with them. I'd put even money on Bobbi or Pat as most likely to indulge. And I predict it is just a matter of time before dear Mrs. Goodneedle jumps in.

I have so many WISPs and so many other possibilities Pinned and just in my head. The pattern is not inexpensive and then there is the cost of the templates.

But are they not absolutely spectacular?



Trying to Be Strong, Near Philadelphia

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Caribbean Adventure, Part Three

After nine or ten days aboard Star Flyer, stopping at little, out-of-the way places, we disembarked in St. Maarten (the Dutch side), which shares an island with St. Martin (the French side). Again, we stayed a night to explore and learn more about the island before heading home.

At the beach resort, again we were fortunate to have a ground-floor room. This was the view from our patio. We played in the sea, the pool, and the hot tub; we enjoyed a Dutch food called bitterballen that was odd and yummy.

The first afternoon we went to downtown Phillipsburg, a shopping mecca, with many upscale stores along with more local-appeal shops that were more to our taste. Still, we didn't do a lot of shopping. We enjoyed a block-long open-air market of local specialties, where we bought just a few things.

We found the taxi drivers in St. Maarten to be amiable, helpful, and entertaining. I figured they would know where to get good local food, so I asked the man who took us back to the resort from downtown. He recommended Lee's, a place close to the French side, and we discovered that he did know where to get good local food. Lee's was an open-air place with island specialties. I enjoyed a dinner of a fish that was new to me, swai, along with fried plantains (yum) and rice. For dessert, of course, we shared key lime pie.

Another taxi driver was exceptionally helpful. We had heard that on the French side there was a "butterfly farm." I'd never heard of such a thing, and we had a cabby take us out there. He accompanied us on the tour and took our picture inside.

The butterfly farm was a large area completely encased in screen. The guide told me that at the peak they have 55 different species of butterflies and moths, but presently -- due to a hurricane -- they have only 35 species, though they are rebuilding. The butterfly farm was a highlight of our trip for me; I was fascinated by being up close and personal (yes, they would land on our hands and arms if we had butterfly food available) with these beautiful creatures.









And so the report of our Caribbean Adventure comes to a close. It was, as I said, not the kind of vacation where we exulted in the various ports, where we brought home all kinds of souvenirs, where we did a lot of touristy things. It was, instead, a vacation of relaxation, being warm, reading, watching the sea go by, and meeting absolutely delightful fellow travelers.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Caribbean Adventure, Part Two

Our trip wasn't about the destinations and it wasn't about the ports that we visited.

It was about sun, warmth, relaxation, and the sailing experience.

This was our third trip aboard Star Flyer and we quickly fell back into our shipboard habits. For Joe, that meant automatically rising before dawn and being on deck to watch the sun rise. For me, it meant no make-up and watching the sea, trying to figure out what might be on the horizon. For both of us, it meant meeting lovely people, having delectable cuisine, and totally relaxing. Joe's sketchbook filled up quickly as he drew the passing scenery, the crew, the ship.

We came aboard in Montego Bay and the next day pulled into Port Antonio, also in Jamaica. Then there were two days at sea, a stop in the Dominican Republic at Santo Domingo, two more days at sea, stops at Jost Van Dyke and Tortola, and finally coming into St. Maarten.

We never tired of the sailaway experience, when the ship left a port, the sails being raised to beautiful music, often with the sun setting in the background. Every passenger (there were about 100 of us aboard) had his or her favorite spot for sail-away. I was partial to a little bench on the starboard side.

We spent time with some absolutely delightful people. Right now I'm chagrined because the pictures I took with my phone and sent to myself never arrived and must be lost in cyberspace. Otherwise, I'd show you some of them.

Instead, I'll tell you that we met two couples traveling together who enchanted us with their stories of life in a small town in New England, apparently Maine's answer to River City. The men were retired physicians; one of the wives was a superb kazoo player and the other was someone who just liked everybody and always looked on the bright side of everything.

Another couple tugged at our heartstrings; the wife had had a stroke five years earlier and had virtually no short-term memory. She kept very close to her husband, who was devoted to her, and became uneasy if he wasn't around. Instinctively, the women aboard rallied to support her and we were saddened when the trip proved too much for her and they left the cruise early. Joe and I spent a lot of time with a woman traveling alone who was very familiar with Philadelphia and lives Out West; she had a fine mind and winning smile and you should have seen her climb the mast.

Another woman was a bundle of nerves and kept pushing her bangs out of her eyes; she was the one who suggested to the Cruise Director that a book group be formed. So one day eight or nine of us gathered to tell what we were currently reading. Incongruously, I was reading Michener's "Alaska," because we are hoping to travel there soon. The lone man in the book group opined that if we ever to go to Alaska I should take along Michener's "Caribbean."

The book club wit was an odd man, traveling alone, and was not at all reluctant to share that he had over 6000 songs on his iPod, over 1400 books in his home and had a spreadsheet telling what shelf in what room was the right spot for a particular volume. He said he eats spaghetti at 2:00 a.m. most nights and often drives to Disneyland to go on just one ride. I told Joe I thought I knew more details  about Ed than I do about Pat D., whom I've known for about ten years!

 There were approximately 70 crew members aboard, officers and deck hands, cabin stewards, waiters, sailmaker, hotel manager, nurse, cruise director. All of them were so pleasant.

One day I attended a presentation by the hotel manager who detailed the quantity of several kinds of food that had been purchased. He showed us slides of the pantries and of the galley; he explained how each meal was plated and decried the use of microwaves. He showed us where, through a huge opening in the main deck, just above a similar opening in the dining room, both covered by hatches, the food was brought aboard and lowered into the store rooms.

The dining room manager, once he learned of my shellfish allergy, had the ship's nurse (who doubled as a waiter) on hand to advise me whether or not there might be some shrimp lurking in the tempura (there was) or the fried rice (maybe there was, maybe there wasn't). The dining room staff were ever helpful and while they behaved formally at dinner, they didn't hesitate to engage in banter at breakfast.

Star Flyer has two small salt water swimming pools that are open when the ship is in port and while at sea if the sea isn't too rough. There are abundant deck chairs, some in the sun and some under a canopy. Back near the stern, on an elevated platform is the Thai masseuse's tent, and there was always someone in there, achieving even more relaxation.

The ship's library is comfortable; the piano bar is a hang-out spot in the daytime but in the late afternoon and evening the ship's musician plays the piano. Beautifully.

Joe did see all of the sunrises, and I saw most of the sunsets. We marveled at how many shades of blue the water took on. One afternoon a school of porpoises swam and played alongside the ship.

It's not the kind of cruise with Big Name Entertainment. Rather, one night there's a fashion show from the on-board shop, another night is talent night (Ed did some bumbly magic tricks and the Maine quartet played a trio of kazoo selections); the night we were to leave Santo Domingo, a four-piece steel band performed in the tropical bar. Other nights there was music and dancing, but some of us had to go to bed early. After all, sunrise would be coming around very quickly!





Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Minneapolis, Here We Come!

A blog friend from afar dropped me an email yesterday; turns out she's in Philadelphia visiting a college-student daughter and wondered if I had a moment for a lunch, a breakfast, or even a cuppa kawfee (that's pure Philadelphian). I didn't. Re-entry from two weeks away has me loaded with tasks. But a parent will visit a college student more than once, and I urged her to let me know the next time. Because I'd truly love to meet up with her. She responded graciously and added, "If you're ever in Minneapolis . . . ."

And that got me to thinking of the one time that I did go to Minneapolis.

As a dog.

It was a good many years ago; I really can't remember just how many. But the great, big, every-three-years convention for Lutheran women was meeting there, and my blind Circle sister had been asked to be the "differently abled" representative from our Synod. The Synod would foot the bill. She was eager to accept, but was uncertain because her guide dog Connor was elderly and semi-retired. She knew he wasn't up to such a gig. But she accepted the request anyway, trusting God to handle things. Which God did. A letter came (I was her "reader" at the time so I knew about it as soon as she did!) from the national women's organization stating that all of the differently abled reps were entitled to bring along an all-expense-paid companion! Now it may have been that it was because I was reading her mail to her that Donna asked me to be the companion, but I don't think so. We had become a pretty good team. And, never having been to Minneapolis, I was delighted to accept.

Once our attendance was confirmed, Donna got right to work. Not only was she an official delegate who had to attend all of the business sessions and vote on things, she decided that it was imperative that all of the variously differently abled ladies must get together for a meeting! And she set about making that happen, getting this event on the official schedule. And that wasn't enough; as we read through the literature, we noticed that proposals for workshops were due at a particular time, and fierce advocate for the visually impaired, she decided she needed to offer a workshop on that topic. Complete with handouts.

We worked hard to get ready to go. The hand-out turned out to be a booklet, and we had to take plenty of copies. The differently-abled meeting had to be promoted to the other D.A. delegates. She had to be briefed on some of the issues that were up for discussion. We worked very hard.

I don't remember a thing about the plane flight or our arrival in  Minneapolis. But I do remember that our hotel was connected to the convention center by a marvelous elevated, glassed-in tunnel kind of thing. We walked back and forth several times a day (and this was long before the invention of the Fitbit, darn it). The weather was lovely, so sometimes we walked outside.

I got Donna to the meetings, I got her to her workshop, and I got her to the event for the differently abled and that, friends, was a highlight of the trip! There were blind ladies and deaf ladies, and women with scooters and women with wheelchairs, and women with twisted bodies. All together in one space getting to know each other, learning about body issues other than their own. I'll always remember the one lady who came speeding into the room on a scooter, exclaiming, "Watch out! I don't have any brakes!" And, good dog that I was, I got Donna out of the path of destruction.

We synchronized our bladders (remember that old adage of go when you can, not when you have to) and I learned that people posing as guide dogs were entitled to the short line at the handicapped stalls in the rest room. We went to one of the first bagel chains and swooned over the offerings. We did it all, even to my making an executive decision the night Donna had not only voted on important issues but had presented her workshop to a SRO crowd; she was drained and we had only an hour and a half before her next commitment. I told her God had invented room service for just such a situation, and we called down to order our dinner which arrived after a much-needed but brief nap.

It was a great experience, and one I am grateful to have had. My eyes were opened wider to the obstacles differently abled people face. I loved meeting fellow Lutherans from all over the country, attending a workshop or two once I had Donna settled where she needed to be, and the limited exploration of a new city.

A guide dog keeps her person very close. A guide dog is constantly looking up for low-hanging branches. And down for discrepancies in the pathway. And to the side for god-know-what-might-come-along. I did all of these things. It was a strange combination of exhilarating and exhausting.

I came home a different person. And filled with new respect for Connor and all he did, uncomplainingly, for my friend.





Monday, April 06, 2015

Introducing Chlost

I've been following her blog for quite some time now. She's a fine writer and a deep thinker.

She's also sometimes a mind reader. Like her most recent post. You can read it here. I'm betting many of y'all will identify.



Saturday, April 04, 2015

Caribbean Adventure, Part One

We've been away.

Pretty far away.

For nearly two weeks!

We flew into Montego Bay, mon, on Monday, the 23rd of March, and spent a night at Hilton Rose Hall. It was our first time at an "all inclusive," and while I don't believe this will become a habit for us, we found HRH to be a terrific place, partly because of the water park that was included! The lazy river was enormous fun, and we spent considerable time in the hot tub. Beverages of all sorts were included, and I sampled more of them in our twenty-four hours than I care to admit! They were all sweet and went down very easily . . . .

The place had four or five places to eat and we made a poor choice for dinner (the buffet) but had breakfast and lunch at a lovely spot by the sea. We had been cautioned not to wander around Montego Bay alone at night, so we didn't; hence, I can't report a whole lot about the area. And we didn't make it to Margaritaville, so my long lost shaker of salt is still missing.

On Tuesday afternoon we boarded Star Flyer (and above you can see my favorite travel companion in one of his usual spots, sketching the passing scenery), where we moved into the same cabin we've occupied on our previous two SF voyages. The ship had initially sailed from Cuba, and there were about 50 passengers already aboard, most of them German. We spent the next nine days sailing and stopping at ports, finally docking at Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, where we stayed for another night before returning.

This trip was our 70th birthday present to each other. I expect to write a few more blog posts in the next few days to share some of our experiences, some of the ports, and to tell about the lovely people who were aboard.

This photo was taken at Port Antonio, Jamaica, where we docked on Wednesday. The beach, unfortunately, is not representative of the town, which was shabby, congested, and unfriendly.
The last was understandable; we felt a bit like Ugly Americans, invading the space of people of very limited means. Most of them just looked right through us, unsmiling. I was intrigued to notice within the small area we walked that there were about a dozen different school uniforms, as we'd arrived a dismissal time. The kids were accompanied by less-well-dressed moms. We trekked to the church, climbed up to visit and take a few photos, and then returned to Star Flyer where we spent the next two days at sea.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Finished?


Well, it is finished! There are over 1200 pieces in it. Himself thinks it wants a black border about 6" wide (the squares on the lattice finish at 2" and the blocks finish at 8"). I think he might be right about the size, but not about the black.

What do you think?

Oh, and it could prolly use a name. Janet? Pat? Honna Marie? Anyone?