Saturday, January 17, 2009

A hiatus

These are my paper whites that I grew for Christmas cheer. The bloomed nicely between Christmas and New Year and filled the living room with that sweet-n-sour, slightly acidic lily scent.

I am, as a previous post says, off to Africa in a short while. I have a few last minutes things to do and enough time to contemplate what I might be forgetting. I will post again February 5th or so and hope I can have a link to photos on Flickr. Meanwhile I leave a poem for those who happen upon this blog -- and if you want to see more quilt posts just go backwards through January into December, etc. [mostly quilts, not all] Meanwhile from Nobel Prize winner, Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska:

A Note

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

To be a dog
or stroke its warm fur;

Or tell pain
from everything it's not;

To squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

And if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another;

And to keep on not knowing
something important.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I have been reading a book that is a discussion between psychologist Paul Ekman and HH the Dalai Lama, Emotional Awareness. Of course the discussion touches on compassion often. I think yesterday's plane in the Hudson, the horror most of us feel about plane crashes, the perfection of the landing and the very rapid rescue of all aboard illustrates one of the D.L.'s points that we feel compassion for others we do not know and are uplifted when we hear of others' heroism. I'm 100% positive many people felt the many emotions I felt as I heard about the event: terror of those in the plane, panic about getting out, misery wading onto the partly submerged wing standing in that freezing river water, relief and joy at the immediate response of boat operators and awe and admiration for the pilot and for the crew that helped people evacuate.

So much news inspires feelings of horror or terror, sometimes anger or disgust; those become emotions that are too familiar to us. These feelings that cascaded through many people yesterday as they saw the events, I think have a positive effect, at least for a little while. Compassion is one of the emotions, understanding how those people felt [suffered, in the D.L.'s language] and then rejoicing with them. It uplifts our because we have the innate capacity to recognize the feelings of other people and share what they experience. We are connected through that ability and the connection is a positive we need and want to experience often. I think that is much of the reason many people are moved by the Dalai Lama's teachings.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Enough is enough

When you're on a roll, as I've been with the selvage using postcards, you eventually reach a flat place where it threatens to become boring. Time to stop. Without planning to do so this morning when I putt them all together in a plastic container. I made exactly 50. Most have a picture in the middle, eight were entirely selvages. They'll get sent, swapped and traded over the next year or so, I expect. For now enough is enough. I may show pictures of others from time to time. You see today's sample.
This natural rhythm to undertaking projects perhaps was echoed yesterday when I had time to go to my favorite local Chinese restaurant for a fixed price lunch [and dinner -- because the servings are so generous I bring half home and it's dinner too. Not bad for $6.75, huh?]. Of course I got a fortune cookie at the end. It said, "All things will come to you." Well, that immediately sounds good. But think about it. All means good and bad. So, obviously the fortune will be correct. We need that balannce anyway. I'm going to get busy with some of the quilting of my star burst quilt. I won't have time to grow bored because I've got packing for the trip to do and the usual fit of housecleaning so I can come back and have everything shipshape.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Going to Africa

I guess I haven't said on this blog where I"m going and why I was bent out of shape last night by the possibility of not getting my passport back. I'm going to Africa. When I say that to people the stereotypes plug in and they think "safari". That's what I'm doing. Not in the well known Kenya-Tanganyika area that is in all the old movies, but in the lesser known and supposedly still "unspoiled" Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe game preserves.

In fact, I have "been to Africa" twice before. Such is the American info industry that no one immediately thinks "pyramids" or "Sahara" "Casbahs", etc. But I have been to Egypt and loved the pyramids and the Nile and the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Abu Simbel, all that. A must see. And another time I wanted to see the Sahara so went to Morocco and also saw souks an casbahs, the wonderful Atlas Mountains, as well as the dessert. But this is my first safari trip.

It will be mostly in safari camps, after arrival in Johannesburg, travel will mostly be by small plane and Land Rover-ish vehicle and I hope to see lots of elephants [this is prime elephant country]. And lions [also prime lion territory]. And lately I've learned there are not only hippos and cheetahs and various antilopes but meercats -- oh! I hope I see meercats! So I have my passport with some pretty new pages that now won't be filled but that's okay. They're in place as needed and some will be needed. And the excitement is building in my chest cavity like a crush on the new kid in school. Time is dragging until my Saturday night flight to London. I'm rereading the detailed itinarey and the list of the people on the trip. How often I've looked at names and waited to put faces with them.

This is my fifth trip with Overseas Adventure Travel and I've enjoyed the other four very much, enjoyed the places, the people with me, the guides, the arrangements. [Turkey, Peru, Thailand and Morocco]. There are only 15 on this trip, I'll have a roommate who I've Googled and now know a little bit about her. I'm psyched! I have so much static energy I'll go on a housecleaning spree in the next few days just to use it up! [I'm not a fan of housecleaning.] So that's what's happening. I'm finishing off quilting projects and will write a bit more about that. Meanwhile just vibrating with excitement.

Needless Worry

Really, I'm not usually a worrier. I trust people to do what they say they'll do. I don't often get anxious. But the stakes were very large -- like missing the entire trip to Africa -- if I didn't get my passport back by Saturday noon. I needed some extra pages because, happily, there just wasn't enough space for the stamps I'm likely to accumulate on this trip. I sent it to the expediting address with the fee and the extra $14.85 for express mail return; this was Monday of last week. Yesterday I started getting nervous as I began to think of all the preparations I've made [including picking up the expensive anti-malaria pills yesterday], and that I couldn't even get on the first airplane without that passport.

I mentioned this to people at work, I mentioned it on a chat forum. And I heard stories; true stories of troubles others had had. I went on the website and found no way to inquire, but I did find a phone number. I had tried a phone number three weeks ago when I decided I needed the pages and found no way to reach a human voice. A part of me said: it will come. They have the dates, I paid the fee, it's only pages, not some kind of info check. I'll trust and it will come. Anxiety was building but there's four days. But there were all those stories... I went to bed as usual and fell asleep okay; at 1:15 I was suddenly wide awake and anxious. It would be impossible to fall asleep again, I could tell.

I got up and went on the website again scouring every link. I found a phone number and wrote it down but had no faith I'd reach a person. I dug out xeroxes of the first page of the passport in case they might need the number. I took a couple Sominex, I went back to bed, set the clock radio for an hour of classical music. Fortunately it was something early romantic, not Glass or Alban Berg. I began counting my breaths, before the hour was up, somewhere after breath 32, I fell asleep.

This morning I called that number. After about 2 minutes of push this, push that,there was a pause on the line. Then A REAL WOMAN'S VOICE! I gave her the information. She told me it was Express mailed on the 12th, so I should have got it yesterday. I got mail yesterday but not it and no "package" note in my box. I hurried downstairs and asked and VOILA!!! There it was!!!

No, I'm not angry at the little idiots who sorted the mail, it would do no good, but I'm glad I didn't give them a Christmas tip [even if that's why they weren't conscientious]. So I had a bad night. Wasn't the first, won't be the last. Today I'm at peace. I'll continue deciding what to pack. Continue happily dreaming of what I'll be doing a week from now. How wonderful it can be to hear a human voice!!!!!

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm still thinking about how often other people's words, or examples have freed me from old ways of thinking or behaving. Perhaps I'm especially suggestible, but I think others are not so difference.

The butterfly above is a postcard I made a couple of years ago [it's been sent to someone and I don't remember who]. It reminds me of the story about the butterfly in central China whose wing flapping started a subtle change in the air that changed and changed and became a tornado in Kansas [or wherever]. Well that's probably not quite possible and it probably isn't Kansas in the story. It reminds me then of the John Guare play, Six Degrees of Separation [also a not very successful movie]. And the idea that we are connected to every other individual on earth by only six "degress" or connections. It seems far fetched, yes.

But sometimes I think of people I know who know others and am only one or two degrees removed. For example I've met a lovely young Tibetan woman who is related to the Dalai Lama. That is just two degrees away. [And think of all the people HH has met!] I can think of others, quite a few others, e.g., someone who knew Marlon Brando, [two degrees[and Marlon knew all those other people and so it goes ... think about it! Wow! Who knows what bits of influence have rubbed off on me from whom? So when I listen to someone at a meeting and realize her words have made me stop and think, I wonder if I've said anything that affects others.

A small effect I've seen is that someone stands in a subway car getting everyone's attention with his or her story of need, when one person reaches into a pocket or purse for a donation, other people copy the gesture. If no one does anything the beggar probably gets nothing. We can inspire generosity in others. It's that simple. So pay attention because you never know when you'll hear something wonderful and do something kind, because you never know when it'll inspire others. This is not a sermon, this is actual observation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ah-ha and Eureka!

I have always found liberation in other people's insights and examples -- I think back, way back, to Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. Today I'm thinking in quilting terms. Our guild met today and I listened to an older [well, maybe ten years old then I am] woman who announced earlier in the year that she had some 25 quilt tops made but not quilted. and had no intention of batting/backing/quilting them. She enjoys the making of the tops, not the follow up steps. I've been mulling this attitude. It's very hard to let go of the injunction about finishing what one starts. Seems anti-work-ethic. But why? Hmm...

Today a woman speaking admitted she has 160 quilts "started". She did not even say she has some of the tops finished, she did not explain what amount of completion they were in. 160!! Queen of the UFOs!!! I've been thinking for some hours now -- why not? Who says we can't leap from idea to idea, project to project. Quilting is not "life work". It's hobby, it's pleasure, it's artistic satisfaction -- not, for me, on a par with writing a short story or poem but not far behind. And it's MY life, my hours to LIVE! To handle lovely fabric, to look at and make interesting patterns.

Is this a reaction to the many, many hours spent on that 1500 piece quilt? Very likely. So what? I can stick to it -- I've quilted only 1/8th of the center portion so far but that wasn't onerous so the rest will get done, section by section. I'm beginning to feel a bit liberated by these two women who don't even have a clue that their example is inspiring me.

To be a bit philosophical, one of the things I've long believed is that we never know when something we do, something we say, will affect another person -- positively or negatively. What we do matters. On many levels, for our own satisfaction and for its reverberations in the wider world. This is not a burden, it is being part of the flow of life, it is unavoidable. Hurray. P.S. Thanks to the people who've commented on my startburst quilt, I appreciate your comments. Perhaps I'll post another photo when it's hanging at our guilds show and, possibly, the lighting will be better than in my dim apartmnent.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Merrily Making post cards

I am not an obsessive compulsive person -- by no means! But I go through brief periods of activity addiction. That's why I'm making selvage postcards right now. I made another half dozen this afternoon and may make as many tomorrow morning. I'm on a roll and don't want to stop. Here are eight more from last week's spasm of postcard making. In truth I don't think they are as pretty or interesting really as the 50 butterfly postcards I made in a similar spell a couple of years ago but that was far, far more hard work I had thought of making more butterflies because I have additional very tempting patterns. I might yet. But for now it's the faat and furious I want to do. So, no apologies. I've begun seeing more and more quilters using selvages. Sometimes they put on the Serious Somberro and declare they're "saving history" or "being thrifty" -- that's my "frugalista" story.

Truth be told I just like fabric with words on it. I'm sorry that the printer I have which I love for many reasons, does not like to print fabric I've ironed onto freezer paper. If it did I'd probably go nuts. As it is, I have to purchase expensive packs of prepared paper for printing and I have not liked the tightness of the weave of the ones I've had. Besides, the "frugalista" part of me wants to use my own fabric, maybe even print pictures over certain kinds of prints. However, I've reached a point where I have to rein myself in with sewing projects as I've had to do with all kinds of things all my life. If I indulged in everything that sounds interesting or fun I'd never concentrate on any one thing. So, the opposite of obsessive, too scattered. I try to find a balance. Mostly I'm fairly content but I do allow myself these little "fits."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Dullest part of winter

These are a few of the latest batch of quilted postcards. The collection will grow, they were fun to make and I love the almost instant gratification of finishing something since I keep taking on big labor intensive projects.

This part of the year is the dreariest, it hasn't happened yet that one can tell the days are actually getting longer; that may happen in a week or two if there are clear days but this week is gray and leaden and it seems that the afternoon is not so far along when I look out and it's dark! As the winter solstice approaches there's the extra lights from Christmas decorations so the dark doesn't seem so oppressive. This is a weighty time of year; it's not pleasant to get dressed and go out except on the days when the sun really shines and the skies turn a wonderful blue, which seem to be fewer in January than any other time.

So I'm happy I'll be going away in less than two weeks -- heading to the other side of the equator where it's high, hot [and unfortunately probably humid] summer -- my first and probably only safari vacation. One of those bucket list trips. I've checked off most of the "gotta-see" places although there will always be "wanna-see" places. Life isn't long enough nor will I ever have enough money to go all the interesting places. More at another time, for now, I'm just happy contemplating and unhappy waiting for my passport to return with extra pages in it. It WILL, I just know it. Got to think positively.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The whole top

That's it. The whole enchilada! Well, not the WHOLE, quite -- no backing, no quilting, no binding, no hanging sleeve ... but the piecing is done! Whoopee! Hurray! I did the math, it came to 1520 pieces. A few were sacrificed to make the center square and a few others to square up th corners. So a nice round 1500 will be close enough. This is the last time I'll bore those who read this frequently with this quilt. I'll drudge on and do the necessary remainder but I'll show other photos and talk about other things hereafter. What a big sigh of relief!!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

UFOs and all that nonsense

No, no, no -- I don't really mean little green men although the frown-y faces are appropriate. I mean the stack of neat -- yeah, I'm neat about this -- unfinished object/quilts. I will make a serious effort to get them done in the next couple of months.

1. The starburst is pieced and there'll be a final photo tomorrow. I was terrified the corners wouldn't turn out right and procrastinated all of yesterday about sewing the border and corners. But they're fine. Now it must be quilted! OMG! That's daunting too.

2. The quilted postcards are almost done, just a bit more to whipstitching and then do the writing on the back. It's good, I've discovered, to write the word "POSTCARD" on the vertical that divides message area from address area and to draw a little square for a stamp. This tells the dimmer lights in the US Post Office you are not mailing a mini-dishcloth.

3. And then: There's a reversible quilt that I must do next because it is for someone else. Actually I look forward to doing it because I think I'm going to like how it turns out.

4. The older projects: a quilt with fused roosters. The background is pieced but I have to fancy cut the roosters -- I love them, but not the time it takes to fancy cut.

5 A variation of a drunkard's path. About 1/3 of the blocks are together, hate sewing the curved seam even though it's not technically so hard. I know I'm going to like this quilt; it's just the drudgery of a couple hundred smallish squares with curved pieces.

Beyond that there are "Wanna-do" baggies with some of the probable fabric and the inspiration which is either a pattern or a picture of a quilt someone else made.

And in the forefront of future, I want to make several more "Quartets" of paper pieced stars from Carol Doak's most recent book which are Mariner's Compass stars. I want to dip into my nice, nice collection of fabrics with some metallic in them and do a gently glittery set of wall quilts.

Ho-hummmm, that sounds a lot like a year of work. And I know I'll take time out here and there and make some child size quilts for charity and other things will catch my attention. I've long, long thought of doing a pineapple log cabin and never have... oh, I could go on and on and on. But for now, I've got to remove paper piecing from the center portion of the starburst quilt -- an that's 900 pieces minus the 50 or 75 I did earlier today. If "Idle hands do the Devil's work," the Devil can just pass on by, my hands are not going to be idle for beyond the foreseeable future.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Digging into the past .. just a little

(Another couple of the current crop of postcards, these with Mother Goose themes: Humpty-Dumpty and the Knave of Hearts].

This morning I saw on my swap-bot page that I need to send some yarn to a woman who won a "Winner Take All" drawing. Problem! Yarn isn't a part of my life. When I was 6 or 7 a neighbor lady taught me to knit and gave me a ball of dark blue yarn. It was to become a scarf. I used it up and didn't know what to do to finish or continue and didn't really care. No more knitting in my whole life. I thought at first I'll have to find one of the knitting shops in the city, I had some ideas but they're not on my beaten path. Then I had a bit of a brain wave. I remembered having, once upon a time, for a reason I don't remember, a ball of white yarn. If I still had it -- I know I didn't use it -- it would be in the large hamper where I keep quilting UFOs, embroidery floss ["Maybe I'll do that again, someday" I think occasionally.] And other odds and ends. So I cleaned all the detritus off the top of the hamper and opened it with more foresight and trepidation than Pandora had when she opened her box.

Oh my, oh my! Yes, I had given away one or two of the UFOs I remember last seeing in there. And near the top were boxes and plastic bags of floss, including a lot of crewel yarn - but that wouldn't do for a knitter, would it? No ball of white yarn, must have given it to someone, perhaps to the "share" table at our quilt guild. But ah-ha! What's this? Three skeins of "Persian wool yarn"! Where did they come from? Why would I have bought them? Did they materialize from outer space? They look usable and surely are the right sort of thing. Wow -- you never know what you've pack-ratted away until you go searching.

I found a big bag of strips of fabric -- no, no selvages as I hoped at first. Some I recognized but what wss I thinking? Maybe "Log Cabin"? Should I chuck them or save them? They could be part of a log cabin quilt, but a very labor intensive one as most were only 1 to 2 inches wide. Still, nice and neatly divided by color group. Might as well save them. I've done several log cabins, I love the good old pattern. These are kind of dull lights and darks, they'd need an infusion of color with oomph to please my current taste. But .., quien sabe? I might use them. Back they went.

There was another layer [or two?] but I'd seen enough for one day. I neatened the floss, put other stuff back, and got ready to mail off the yarn. A good morning, something I don't need out of the house to someone who might be glad to have it. Enough of a look into my -- yes, I can say it! "Frugalista" ways. What a chorus of frugal housewives I hear singing in harmony, "You never know when it might come in handy." Many a pack rat's mantra.