Friday, January 31, 2014

Stag Party

Around 11 a.m. Jim called me to have a look at these magnificent stags, browsing on the Nanking Cherry bushes at the back of the garden beds.  That's o.k.  They won't harm these bushes too badly.

When I looked closer I saw there were actually four stags there.

Something must have disturbed them, or perhaps they had enough of a snack for now.  They have turned away and are leaving, for now.  But they will be back!

Afternoon tea time is the ladies' turn.  I have to admit that they are appealing.  However, deer do a great deal of damage to our landscape over winter.  We've lost several fruit trees and Scots Pine to their habit of stripping bark in the winter.

When I opened the back door and barked at them, I was surprised to find there were six deer back there, both does and stags, busy denuding the landscape.

I find barking like a dog is the only way to get them to move away from the garden.  Doesn't help for long, though.  They just move to the shelter belt and are back in a few minutes, chomping away.

Anyone for some fresh venison?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Country Cottage

Each year our local quilt club members make a "club quilt" for a fund raiser.  Each person who participates pays $25 and makes at least one block of the chosen pattern.  This year's pattern is "Country Cottages."  At the end of the season a draw is made and one lucky quilter goes home with the quilt top, ready to finish.

We were given a square of muslim for a foundation and a piece of sky for background.  The rest of the fabrics come from our stashes.

I just finished my square a few minutes ago.  Here it is:

I wanted to make a little sign called "Grammilou's Garden" but couldn't find a good place to tack it on.  Each block needs to be signed, therefore the writing on the wall of the "cottage."

I don't really care for this pattern.  If I win the quilt, I will raffle it off and donate the money to the club.

A little update on the Dear One: he is still at the hospital.  I'm anticipating a call some time today letting me know that I can pick him up and bring him home.  Today is the first day that I didn't do major spring cleaning to occupy myself.  The quilt square took precedence, plus, I'm getting a little tired of cleaning.  Love the result, but don't relish the process.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Quite the Week

Quite the month, actually.  It started off with a bang, literally, when Jim blacked out in the kitchen and fell flat on the floor, giving himself a good goose egg on the back of his head.  That was on January 1.  I called 911 and the EMTs came with the ambulance and hauled him off to the ER in town here.

Several tests later the Dr. was unable to say why he had blacked out.  He was still very pale, very weak, and not fully present.  They took him by ambulance to Red Deer for a CT scan of his head, but that was all clear so he came back, and I retrieved him from the hospital at 12:30 a.m of Jan.2.

Since then there have been several bouts of dizziness and nausea.  He wore a 24 hour heart monitor that showed irregular heartbeats.  Our Dr. made an appointment for him with a cardiologist in Red Deer, and also for a stress test and echocardiogram.  The results showed atrial fibrillation, but for the rest, the heart looks good.

Tuesday was the day he saw the cardiologist and was put on a list for a pacemaker implant.  Tuesday evening he had another severe attack and spent the night in the ER here in town.

Wednesday we were told that the appointment for the pacemaker would be March 6!  I told the nurse that he couldn't possibly wait that long and that he had spent the night in the ER.  She got the information from this hospital and later in the morning phoned back that he should come into Red Deer hospital the next morning and be admitted.

Thursday they admitted him and said that he might have to wait until Monday for the pacemaker, but that he would be cared for until then.  Late Thursday afternoon a nurse phoned that he had had the pacemaker implanted and was doing well.

Friday he phoned and said he'd had a terrible night with racing heart rate and sweating.  Apparently one of the wires is not in the proper position.  So he was supposed to go back to the OR and have that repositioned.  It didn't happen because the OR was too busy to get him in.  So he is spending the weekend resting in the hospital, for which we are both very thankful.  It's pretty scary to have him at home when he has one of those attacks and have to rush him to the hospital here.

I hope he gets taken care of on Monday so he can come home again on Tuesday.  And I hope that that's the start of feeling much better for him.  Now that we know what's going on, we can look back and see many times when this was probably happening.  He doesn't actually feel his heart racing, he just feels dizzy, nauseous and very awful.

I'm very grateful to all the doctors, nurses, lab technicians, ward clerks, cleaners and everyone else who creates the health care system, which we find does work when you really need it!

Monday, January 20, 2014


 I watched the setting sun slowly change
 a golden line of cloud to purple ink
 on a serene robin's egg background
 above a molten lava horizon.
 High above, wisps of bluegrey scattered
 into a dome of pure hyacinth.

 As darkness deepened, rural yard lights winked on,
 earthbound stars.

                                                   l.m.  20/1/14

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Good Grief!

When we were in Arizona a very nice beautician gave me a very good perm.  She promised me it would last until February.  That was the 4th of November.  Eight weeks is pretty good for a perm for my very fine, very straight hair, so I took that with a grain of salt.

But here we are over half way through January, and I'm still hanging in there with that perm.  Some days it looks not too bad.  Other days I can't stand it.  But since I'm so close to going back there early in February, I'm determined to wait and get my next perm from her also.

Tomorrow morning we have to leave early for High River, a two hour drive, where Jim is scheduled to preach at the morning service.  I won't have time to wash and dry my hair before we leave, so I'm trying  this: old fashioned hair rollers.  I'm hoping they will give enough lift and shape to my hair that I will be able to look decent tomorrow without too much effort.

I remember when we were girls in high school we rolled our hair on curlers pretty much every night.  I even remember sleeping with rollers in my hair.  What price beauty?!!!

Hope this works!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

One Side Finished

I'm making surprisingly good progress on our summer quilt.  This shows all the blocks for one side panel, the part that will hang down from the mattress.  They all need to be sewn together now in their rows.

The pinwheels are getting better.  Fewer of them need to be picked apart and resewn.  I like the bright colours.  These are all scraps of fabric from my stash.  Only the white background and the brown borders (not shown) are purchased separately for this quilt.  I've already bought some fairly thin cotton batting, 6 metres, and you can see that just underneath my cutting table in the center.

I plan to quilt this top in pieces.  The center will be one part, the sides will be parts two and three and the part that hangs off the foot of the bed will be part four.  This is necessary because the finished quilt is planned to be 115" x 115" which is far too much to fit on the bed of my Janome Horizon, even though it has an 11" throat.  Parts three and four still need to be constructed.

 Here's the flower stalk of the "corn" plant all opened.  They are tiny flowers, but make a powerful scent.  I find it too much, so I cut off the flower stalk and threw it outside.  It's a plant that needs a "night pollinator" so it's fine during the day, but in the evening when we're sitting reading in the living room it sends out its signal.

I do very much wonder what fruit or seeds would appear if it were pollinated.  The other times it bloomed the flowers just wilted and dropped off and the plant was left with a withered, brown stalk that I removed.

Very soon the other "corn" plant's stalk will begin to open and send for its scent into the living room.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Assignment Completed

Last June my friend Susan asked if I would sew some small bags for her as samples.  I was glad to agree.  She's done a lot for me and I was very happy to do this for her.  Besides, a new project is always interesting.

This morning I finally finished!
Here's the group of bags.  Looks like I kind of stuck with one colour scheme.  But actually, it was just whatever seemed to fit the design and had enough fabric available.  As you can see from the 1" grid in the background, they are not large.

I had figured I could finish a bag in one or two days.

 Here's the first bag I made.  It's a simple thing with a spring clip holding the top closed.  I did change this pattern a little bit in this way: instead of folding the tops over and making a channel, I sewed the bag and lining together at the top, turn them right side out and then sewed the casing for the spring clip.  It made the bag just a bit longer which seemed like a very good idea.  This one is called a "Little Pouch."

This is the second bag I made, the one that really threw me off for quite a while.It's called a coin purse and doesn't look at all like the pattern.  The pattern shows a puffy, squat little bag.  I think the fault lies with the pattern which had a round shape with two darts in it, and some pleats to make at the center top.
I couldn't get it to puff out, and I tried three different times.  I finally got sick of remaking the bag and put the whole project away until we got back from Arizona in the middle of December.  I took it out again and just simply sewed it to the handle the way it was.  I think I'd have to draft a totally different bag for it to come out as pictured on the pattern.  I was so relieved to get this bag out of the way, even though it's not really acceptable, as it doesn't look like the pattern.

  This third bag was quite fun.  It went together quite simply.  I did have to shirr it somewhat onto the handles, but that was too hard.  This one was quilted before attaching the handles. It's called a "Petit Chic Purse."

 The fourth bag was the most fun.  I had some fairly heavy material, so I didn't bother quilting the bag as suggested, but added a little gold tassle front and back, which I thought was just the ticket.  This one was called a Cosmetic Pouch/Wallet.  It went together very quickly and easily and I like the way it puffs out.

Here's the bag that was finished this morning.  It was also fun to make, but a little more complicated that the Cosmetic Pouch/Wallet.  This is the "Casual Chic Purse."  The front of the bag had four sections: from left to right: background, 1st print, 2nd print, background.  The prints have tucks in them and a bit of gold thread machine applied in a loopy design.  This bag also went together quite easily.

Now this final bag was not included in the project, but is my own idea of a gift for Susan.  It's a technique I learned at quilt club several years ago.  It begins with a large square (36", except I made it 42") which is layered with batting and backing, quilted and then the edges are bound.  Then it is folded in half on the diagonal and the two sides are drawn back over the center, and sewn down.  The result is a large sturdy bag with a center section and a large pocket front and back.  I added a zipper at the top of the center section and a large snap with a decorative button on the outside pockets.  There are two fair long handles, so that when carried over the shoulder the bag hangs about at waist to hip level, making it easy to grasp.

I have one bag like this made on the 36" square and use it all the time to transport my laptop.  Who ever thinks there's a laptop inside a quilting bag?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's Growing

Not a plant this time, but my latest quilting project.  This is going to be the left side of the Pinwheels and Patches, the part that hangs down from the mattress.  It needs to be four blocks wide and 13 1/2 blocks long.

The pinwheel blocks are coming along a little bit easier than they were, mainly because I'm being incredibly careful making them.

The finished blocks need to be 6" square when sewn into the quilt, so at this point, before they are sewn together they need to be 6 1/2".

I begin by cutting two white 4" squares and two coloured 4" squares.   I draw a pencil line diagonally across the white squares.         4 1/2" is slightly larger than most directions will specify, but I want to have the extra fabric in order to trim the squares precisely later on.

 These squares are sewn together a scant 1/4" on either side of the pencil line.
 They are cut apart and pressed open, with the seam allowance pressed toward the coloured half.
 Each of the four squares are very, very carefully trimmed.  The 45º line on the ruler follows the division between colours.  Any fabric left over is trimmed so that the diagonal seam lines come exactly to the corners and the squares are exactly 3 1/2" each.  This gives me four half square triangles.

These squares are place on top of each other and the seams are "nested" into each other.  The squares are sewed together with a scant 1/4" seam.

These two halves are now placed on top of each other, with the points directly above  and the colours opposite.  I put a pin through the points to keep them directly aligned.

 When this block was turned over a "boo boo" was found.  The seam underneath had wrinkled a bit.  So we take our stitch ripper and take out a few stitches, then sew the block back together with smooth seam allowances.

This seam is pressed halfway on each side, so that on each side the fabric is pressed toward the coloured cloth.

Take the stitch ripper and very carefully pick out the stitches in the seam allowance of the seam you just crossed over.  Fold those allowances back and you get this pretty, tiny pinwheel that allows the seam to lie flat on either side of the centre crossing.

Turn the block over and have a gander:
Not really quite as precise as I had hoped so I'll have to use the 4 foot rule.  Does it show from 4 feet away?  If not, don't redo.

I think this particular block might undergo a bit of revision, but on the whole, the meeting of points in the middle is improving.

Can't go much lower!

The sun is out; the sky is clear; the thermometer shows something pretty scary: -33ºC!  This thermometer is quite helpful as the left side shows the degrees in Celsius and the right side shows them in Fahrenheit.  This is the lowest we've seen since we arrived in Alberta on December 18.  I think it's a day to stay inside, sew, cook something warm and nourishing, maybe read a bit beside the fireplace.

Knitting would be on the list if it were not for my "trigger" finger, which is improving greatly following a cortisone shot last Monday, but still needs time off from repetitive actions such as knitting.

Our friend and helper S. took care of the cat and the house while we were away.  It seems she took much better care of the potted plants than I do because they
have responded by sprouting flower stalks.  This diffenbachia has flowered three times before this.  The first time it was an amazement to me.  I didn't know these plant could even do that.  It's still in the early stages, but as soon as these little blooms open I will have to either put it in the computer/sewing room or chop off the flower stalk as these tiny flowers send out a powerful scent at night.  It's much like the smell of daffodils, which I find also annoying.

The next photo is a close up of the flower stalk with the almost open tiny flowers in each head.

I've had two or three of these diffenbachia for several
years now.  They're a good houseplant for me because I'm not very attuned to plants.  Sometimes they become very dry before I notice that they need to be watered.  These plants, which we used to call "corn" plants seem pretty blasé about bad treatment.  They just keep growing and putting out new leaves.  Sometimes the stalk will almost reach the ceiling.

At that point I take the plant outside, take a butcher knife to it and slice the top part off from the stem and simply replant it (the top part) in some fresh dirt.  It's as if the plant never even blinks.  It just picks right up from where it is and puts out more leaves.

But there was one more surprise for me when we returned: that was not the only plant getting ready to bloom.  The other diffenbachia at the head of the stairway was also putting out a flower stalk.

This plant has more than one stalk in the pot and it's the shorter stalk that is blooming here.  This all strikes me as interesting and makes me wonder if S. gave them more water or more fertilizer during the weeks we were away.

Well, they are not the sort of the houseplant you keep for its blooms, as you would an African violet.  It's the glossy foliage that counts here.  So it doesn't really matter how these flower stalks got started, other than to give evidence that the plants were very happy with the care given them while we were away.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Greetings

Greetings and best wishes on this first day of the new year: 2014.  Have to get used to writing that four!  How many of us are determined to lose some weight?  Well, count me in, and I actually started my "wine and cheese" diet on Monday.  It's simple: a good breakfast, a good dinner at 1 or 2 p.m.  Then don't eat anything until 9 p.m. when you may have one small glass of red wine, three Breton crackers with cheese, just enough so you aren't really hungry when you go to bed.  Wish me well!  I need to shed some of those insidious pounds that keep sneaking onto my middle.

My first project this year: finishing a quilt that I started some years ago, perhaps as many as five.  I saw this bright, cheerful pattern on Elaine Adair's blog and decided to make a scrap quilt like it.  At that time I finished enough squares to just cover the top of a queen-sized mattress.  Had a hard time with the pinwheels, so it was put into the closet to await further progress.

This week I took it out and decided to make a summer quilt for our bed.  The one we're currently using dates back to 1998 and there are parts so frayed that every now and then my fingers go right through the top fabric.

I like to make the quilts for our bed very large.  That way there's no fighting for covers during the night.  The Dear One has a habit of rolling himself in the quilt every time he turns over.

I find the pinwheels fiendishly hard to make.  You can see in this square that the points are not meeting properly.  I like to think I'm a good quilter who cuts and sews very accurately, but these squares come close to defeating me.

I tried to work out something for the sides and bottom that would harmonize with the already-made center, but, really, nothing but more pinwheels and patches will do.

The horrendous prospect is that there need to be 90, yes, ninety, more of these miserable buggers!  ('Scuse the language, please.)  But I am persevering if nothing else, and eventually the last square will be made and the quilt will be finished.

Wish me well in this also, please!