rocket tracking


Friday, February 19, 2010


As I have mentioned before, I tend to plant things for winter interest as well as for enjoying during what most of us consider the growing season. One of the things I enjoy most about this is watching the patterns of shadow on the snow.

Here my Harry Lauder's Walkingstick (Corylus contorta) shows its twisted form and catkins. I have two varieties of this shrub. This one, a plain green leaved variety and another which has red leaves in the spring. This one is in the front yard and I am going to have to move it as I'm tired of explaining to passersby that it isn't sick that it is supposed to be contorted. (Harry Lauder was a Scottish entertainer in the first half of the 20th century...and I loved his "Wee Highland Laddie" when I was a child).

Another winter wonder is the Hellebores. I have several varieties and it isn't for nothing that they are commonly called "Lenten Roses."

Here, you can see the little buds of the flowers getting ready to open. They will open soon, probably by the end of the month. This particular one is Helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore) and I love it's sharp pointed leaves which are like stag's horns.

I also love how the shadows play on the snow, casting dark blue and lavandar lines. This is a baby Acer Sangu Kaku (Coral Bark Maple).

We've had a lot of snow for SW Ohio....well, we've had three snowstorms with no melting in between, which means that I have snow up to my kneecaps in my back yard. One of the things which is heartening about looking at a garden in the winter is the resilience of the plants.

The hellebores go on making their bid for regeneration and prepare for their flowering, even in the middle of what most people think of as a wasteland.

Grasses bend under snow and are covered, but given some warm days, they too will once again stand tall.

On Thursday, I am having to practice my own resilience. Last week Thursday, I went for my 4 month visit to the oncologist. This Thursday, he called me with my tumor markers. Tumor markers are substances which are produced by specific tumors or by the body in reaction to tumor cells.

Usually, since I've had breast cancer twice, it is in the 20s. Two visits ago it elevated to 40-something. This was a little alarming, but usually if my markers rise, they will go back down again. This time, my markers were in the 60s. That, coupled with the "area of concern" on my pelvis indicates that in all probability, the cancer is back. Well, heck.

So now I have been switched to a higher aromatase inhibitor--something which prevents the tumor cells to "hook" into the food supply in my normal cellular structure. Tamoxifen is an aromatase inhibitor; I've been on a higher level one called Arimidex for years. I am now put on Aromasin. I just about croaked as when I went to pick up 14 tablets to tide me over until my mail order drugs come, it cost me $164.98.

I took it last night and this morning have a stiff shoulder. Heck, opening the window with my opposite arm even hurt. This might be a side effect of the Aromasin as it can cause joint pain...or I may just have slept on it incorrectly. Who knows?

Next week, I'll start another regimen: IVs of Zometa which is used against bone metastases. I think he said that I will start out getting that once every three months and that the infusion only took 15 - 20 minutes.....a heck of a lot better than the 4 hours I was there with Aredia.

I asked him if this combination might be sucessful in killing off the cancer and he told me that yes, it was possible, but because cancer cells are our own cells gone awry, you never know unless you try. This made me feel a little better as the two strongest types of chemo available for breast cancer patients, I've already had and obviously have failed on. There is no more chemo for me, except to use down the road to alleviate pain. So, hopefully somewhere in my DNA is an enzyme for a super ball, and I'll rebound once again...or at least be like my ornamental grasses, lifting my bent head.

At any rate, even like this picture, the sun shines bright against a dark sky.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Happines" Birthday Gift

I have been struggling with my silly computer all day, hence, the promised announcement of the winner which I SAID would be this morning is delayed until now.

Drum roll please: It's Andee, aka dejablu503. I was really dumbfounded as I never thought that someone would land right on the number, but Andee did. The number I selected was 139. So...once I get her snail mail address, her book will be on her way.

I want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes. My birthday, Feb. 15, often falls on President's Day...and usually falls during Lent. Thus, I didn't get many birthday cards...not that I usually do, until today. The postal service kind of slows things up.

Susan Varanka, my across the street quilting cohort in Connecticut made me this fabric birthday postcard. I only have 2 fabric cards, so that makes this really cool.... I also got a gigle because of "HAPPINES." I wonder if she even noticed? Probably not.

Susan designs quilting patterns and teaches classes across the New England area. Her website is

Did I get a cake? No. Funny thing...dear daughter makes cakes for all her friend's birthdays, but not mine. That's ok, as the martinet decided that we are going to give up "sugar" meaning all sweets, desserts, etc. I had to pack up the fact, I can't have it in my coffee (I only use a half a teaspoon) or my cereal. We'll see who cracks first!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


In 1966, just a year before they fled Cuba, my husband and his sister dressed up for Carnival at "Collegio" which I assume is from his doctor father's past.

Carnival always sort of amuses me... the word, that is. Carne Vale, farewell to meat. Not only because during the period of lent, you weren't supposed to eat meat instead eating beans and fish and cheese as your major source of protein, but because it was usually the end of the slaughtering season.

For many areas, you would slaughter as you needed and as long as the weather remained cool or cold enough to handle or save the meat. In addition, you had to husband your resources to make sure that your animals, especially your breeding animals rather than eating ones (or market animals) would make it through the remainder of the winter, until the grass was growing well enough to sustain them.

In addition, the women in the household had to keep a stern eye on their stores of food. What they had had to make it through the rest of February and March, until the chickens began laying eggs again (at the rate that they usually lay...yes, it is controlled by LIGHT which is why the big "egg factories" have lights on 24-7 ), spring greens would grow in the garden again as well as be available to be collected, and calving would start so that cows would start producing milk again.

Animal protein was actually the food of the wealthy during the middle ages, or those who had the luxury of being able to eat some of what they raised rather than give it to the lords or sell it at market to provide the items they couldn't raise. In general, most people relied upon beans (in the myriad of forms--lentils, etc.), milk and cheeses. Cheese was especially important as it had good storing qualities.

Here, my daughter has proclaimed that we are giving up "sugar", meaning all sweets, for Lent. She has made me promise to "lock it all up, throw it away." She has been begging me to return the ice cream we got yesterday for my birthday as we didn't eat it. Things are likely to be a bit tense here after a while...but I think we can do it. Did we have a party? Did we dress up? Not this red hen.'re probably wondering who won the book for my birthday give away. Well, since I usually post at night, I'm going to wait until tomorrow morning to announce a winner. Call it a snow delay. :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Something Old, Something new and a Celebration

It's been a cold and snowy day. Because it has been so nasty out, I'm sharing with you a quilt I made in 2004 for the Robert Kaufman quilt quest challenge, "El Ritmo Flamenco", Flamenco Rhythm.

It measures 32" x 35 1/2" and like many of my pieces has dimensional work on it. Other than the sheers, it is entirely done with the Color Rhythm fabric line which was the challenge fabric for that year. It was accepted and put in the traveling show.

As inspiration, I based this piece on a publicity photo provided to me by internationally known flamenco dancer, Teresa Romero Torkanowsky. I used Sakura Pigma pens for the features and shading. One of the hardest things was trying to get the light to look like a spot light without being too glitzy. I used a piece of irridescent tissue lame with an over layer of black netting which toned it down.

My mom, who is a fantastic seamstress, but doesn't quilt helped me with the ruffles. She taught me how to make semicircles, face them, turn them and make ruffles.
I had a great deal of fun working on this piece and it was the first of my pieces to travel in Kaufman's challenge.

Today is also my 50th birthday. In recognition of this, I decided it would be fun to have a give-away. Just leave your comment on the bottom and indicate a number between one and 259. Why 259? Well, just because. It's my birthday and I can designate whatever number I want!

The person who guesses closest to the number will receive this copy of The Quilting Arts Book by Patricia Bolton (who? Pokey Bolton of course!). Have fun and good luck!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Every Tuesday in February, Virginia Spiegal has been hosting "Tote Tuesday" in her "Fiberarts for a Cause." Virginia has raised a ton of money for a variety of causes over the years, but a special project for her is the American Cancer Society.

Virginia has used her special appeal to solicit fiber arts goodies, quilts, working objects, and elements (I think that about sums it up) from lots of art quilters, famous and not so famous but very talented none-the-less people. Tote bags, often designed and hand made, are filled with all sorts of goodies and auctioned off on Virginia's site on Tuesdays in February with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
At first, Virginia thought it would be great if she could raise $5,000. Well, she hit that mark on the second Tuesday, so now she's going for $10,000. This Tuesday, Feb. 16 and next Tuesday, Feb. 23 are the last Tote Tuesdays.....yes I know...I procrastinate, but you shouldn't!

Get yourself over to Tote Tuesday and take a look at what is going up for bid, and then BID ON TUESDAY!!!!! Don't wait.

Here's how, if you didn't find out the specifics on the link above.

Good luck! And if I get any birthday money tomorrow, I'll be bidding too...otherwise, just drooling...heck, I've been drooling over the ones previewed already!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snowbow! Or Rather Snow Halo!

We have a lot of snow here...and more is coming. When people say Ohio, they think midwest and they think a lot of snow. However, in south west Ohio, we don't get so much as we're about 3 hours from the Great Lakes. However, we were the originators of the storm which blanketed DC and the mid-Atlantic states. The moist air from the Gulf came up and met the cold air coming down from Canada...and that point of hitting is usually at about the intersection of Interstates 75 and 70...about 10 miles from our house. Anything north of I 70 gets a lot more snow than south of I-70.

For the last four days, my daughter has been out of school. I have about 2 feet of undrifted snow in my fenced in back yard. The drifts in the front are fairly prodigious. Because we are so flat and so much of the area is farmland, drifting on north-south roads causes problems.

One thing I like about living here is being able to watch the ever-changing horizon and sky. On the way home from my weekly quilting gathering, imagine my pleasure when I saw a snowbow. It isn't a very good picture I'm afraid, as I had to get to a place where I could safely stop the car, and by that time, it had faded a bit, and certainly the Church of the Nazarene wasn't exactly the most photogenic of buildings (its a modern cinder block constructed church without a lot of grace or elegance...purely functional).

Snowbows are winter rainbows. They form just as rainbows do, light is reflected off ice crystals in the air. You don't see them too often though and that's why I was so pleased to get this one for you. NOTE: snowbows is what we always called them....I double checked and discovered that they are actually called "snow halos" and are seen when you are facing the sun. Rainbows reflect light off the rounded water droplets and usually have the sun BEHIND you when you're facing the rainbow... Sheesh. Whoda thunk? Here's more on Snowbows and Snow halos

This is what our driveway looked like on Saturday morning....before we got an additional dump of about 8" to 10" of snow.

It was fairly treacherous as it stared as sleet and very wet, slushy snow, then the temperatures dropped. The wet snow clung to the trees and then froze, creating wonderful diamonds and permanent snow cover on the trees. Usually in this area, the snow is very dry as it is cold and the air is dry. We laugh as we often just have to sweep the snow off our driveways rather than use the snow blowers.

A shrub in my back yard with icy jewels.

A silver maple which is truly silver on our neighbor to the west's property.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Susan Shie's wonderful Paintings and Donations to Help Haiti

Now that the initial shock of the earthquake in Haiti has passed, and it seems that the only stories coming out of Haiti are ones of the missionaries who are being held for their "kidnapping" of children and the inability to do humanitarian airlifts to out-of-country hospitals for children in dire need because they may not have proper documentation, I feel that the flow of donations to Haiti and willingness to help has diminished.

Just as I was thinking this, Susan Shie, a professional art quilter who was among the early "Ohio Gang" who really made art quilting in the 1970s, posted on the Quiltart message board that she had done two 18" x 24" brush painted works on canvas which are being auctioned to raise funds for Haiti. The Auction will be held this Friday, February 12 at the Wayne Center for the Arts in Wooster, Ohio. Susan kindly shared her photos of her work from her Facebook page with me so that you could see them as well.

Susan is known both for her warm, liberal viewpoints as well as her work using airpen and incorporating script into her paintings. In fact, the script fascinates me. It adds texture and some shading as well as tells the story. I guess you could call her quilting "saga-quilting" (better that than sagging quilting!).
As an inveterate reader, I stand before her works for ages, reading what she has written.

Trained in traditional art, she usually goes beyond that. Her quilts are full of spiritualism. Her work incorporates bright colors and a playfulness. Usually, her people show their "third-eye".

The "Women of Haiti" seen here, I find breath taking. Consider that this piece is only 18" x 24", yet it has great depth and still incorporates her story telling. I think I may have accidentally insulted Susan, as I found this particular piece so different yet just the right touch from her usual works. Take a look at her gallery on her Turtle Moon Website and you'll see what I mean.

Here, her "Women of Haiti" utilizes restrained colors. The women appear strong, even while there is a hint of sadness. These are women who will do what they have to do under conditions that most of the world cannot imagine. Susan was inspired by Joe Dore's photographs on the Muncheez facebook album and drew her own images incorporating elements from many of his photographs. I find them captivating.

Haiti is beyond the understanding of most of us. A country which has been beset by a corrupt government and the lack of even the most basic of infrastructures. Our image of poverty in the U.S. doesn't even scratch the surface of the depth of poverty in Haiti.

Amid the devastation of the countryside from mudslides, hurricanes, and deforestation, the earthquake took away what little resources they had. How can seed and other necessities for everyday living come to the country so that they may feed themselves later on this year?

How can these people hope to fend off disease given the fact that there are no sanitary systems functioning? Where will they get clean water?

One enterprising soul is Gilbert Bailly who with his crew at Muncheez in Petitionville, Haiti have managed to feed 1,000 people a day. Gilbert has a Paypal page set up to accept donations to help fund his herculean effort. Check out his facebook page to learn more.

Gilbert's efforts with Muncheez has inspired the second of the two paintings, "Heros of Haiti." The color palette Susan uses here is more of what I think of when I think of Susan's work. I laughed to myself when she responded to an email I wrote to her by saying that much of her earlier work was more representational. Not surprising given her other work.

Happily, Susan had an anonymous donor put in an opening bid of $3,007 for the "Women of Haiti." The estimated retail value of these two pieces is $1,000 each, and so Susan put the opening bid at $500 each. "Heros of Haiti" is awaiting its first bid.

Haiti is also the focus of a larger scale piece entitled "The Garden of Haiti" and also two smaller works (16" x 20") on fabric as well.

I can't wait to see the other pieces as well as the amount of money that her donations ultimately bring at the auction on Friday.

Please consider bidding, or at least following. Consider donating to Muncheez, or one of the other organizations which is funneling money to Haiti. There is a link at the bottom of this blog which lists a few.

I think that I will be donating to Habitat for Humanity, Doctors without Borders and more to UMCOR. If you want to bid on Susan's work but can't make it to the auction, email me or leave a comment and I'll put you in touch with her....or you can go to her website or blog and reach her as well. Check out the Wayne Center for the Arts as well.

It's a pity that we weren't moved to help at this magnitude before the earthquake....but at least we can try to make a difference now.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fast or Slow?

I've written about challenges before, but here's my January Fast Friday Fabric Challenge entry. Well...OK, I got it done Feb. 2, so I suppose it is February FFFC.

The challenge was to make a quilt using the fractured technique which Katie Pasquini Masopust originated. Here's an example of her work.

In addition, we were limited to using three colors selected from the six primary and secondary colors (red, yellow, blue, green orange, purple). AND we had to do something with wings...either natural or man-made. Whew!

The piece is made up of small pieces of fabric, divided into segments. Each segment is a different hue of the original... Katie has gone beyond this, but still utilizes several aspects of it in her quilting. She wrote a book called "Fractured Landscape Quilts". While I find her things interesting, fractured quilts are difficult to do well and I have shied away from them even though at one time I owned her book. Since then, she has gone to other things, including Ghost Layers and Color Washes, which I do like very much.

The above image is what I quickly worked out....and it verified for me that I don't like working in fractures. For one thing, I struggled with making the pieced background. I finally trapped the little bits under tulle and went on from there. My colors were the three primaries: red, blue and yellow.

The image I worked with was this shot I took of a Waco (rhymes with taco) aircraft at the Waco Fly-in in 2008. Wacos were used in WWII as training aircraft; they also manufactured huge gliders which were used through the Korean conflict.

Wacos were manufactured here in Troy. Having my wing-nut background, how could I not do an airplane? It did have its challenges however. My picture shows a Waco which has a dual, open cockpit which has been covered. Hmmmm. So I made up a pilot and the cockpit.

I really don't like the piece. I will hang it up in my husband's cubicle.

A number of people have been saying they are dropping out of challenges because they are wasting too much time on them and not developing their own work. I suppose this can be true, but I started doing challenges for a several reasons: I wanted to complete things...I am the Empress of UFOs; I wanted to stop over thinking things....and I think I'm getting a little better about that, just diving in; and I wanted to try different methods and techniques. By doing this it expands my horizons and lets me see if I want to incorporate elements of the technique or not.

I also have hit on something I've felt for a long time. In the quilt world, I think we sometimes place too much of an emphasis on FAST FAST FAST. Just think about all the books with titles of "Fast Rotary this", Quilt in a Day (yah...right! ); Quick projects to do in a weekend."

While there is a place for fast (think working quilts such as baby blankets) , sometimes I think we lose sight of the benefits of working slowly. For one thing, I have definitely decided that I prefer to do hand applique. At one point, my machine applique was quite good, but it still doesn't have the precision of hand applique...or rather hand-applique is more forgiving and allows you to get it perfect with ease. I also don't particularly like raw edge applique unless I want texture, and the jury is out with fusing with me.

Perhaps the reason we have gone over the to speedster side is that our art, and our craft, are so poorly valued. Take, for instance, the comment of one of my husbands relatives when I was working on a quilt as a graduation present. "Oh! You're so lucky, you can make your own things and save so much money!" Right. I pointed out that fabric runs about $10 per yard now, and that a quilt contains about 10 yards or more, not to mention the batting and the thread. Oh yes....and time....What about my time?

Or the comment made by one of the photographers we were talking to about doing my daughter's senior pictures. I said something about trading one of my art quilts for some of his work or something....his comment? "I don't need any blankets."

Given the common belief about quilting, maybe some of it is that we can't afford to invest anymore time in our pieces, if we did, we'd really be in the hole as far as trying to sell pieces...or even having the pieces appreciated.

I don't know...but I do know that slowing down and creating quality pieces in the style in which I like IS something I am going to do. After all, a Waco is much slower than a jet. ; )