rocket tracking


Friday, April 30, 2010

No Ivory Tower and batting dilemmas

I finished my Keep It Simple (stupid) quilted wall hanging earlier this evening. I sent it off to Dijanne Cevall and will await her go ahead to see when I can post it. I have to say I'm not entirely pleased with it...I used a new batting, Quilter's Dream Green.

This batting is made from 100% recycled pop (or soda depending on where you're from) bottles. It has a faint green color (not exactly the best choice for white sateen) and is as flat as a pancake. I wanted a polyester batting because I was going to use pearl cotton threads hand stitched in it and I wanted to be able to needle easily. My usual batting of choice is Thermore, although I have used a number of others successfully as well.

While Thermore is thin, it has loft. Dream Green is VERY VERY thin and has no loft. So....I used two layers. I did some bobbin stitching which was good, but when I went to do the running stitch, that second layer made it really hard to needle. I'm also a little concerned that over time it will beard.

I will use this for garments and table runners, but it isn't my first choice for hand quilting or for anything which you want to have some loft or dimension in your quilting.

Since I'm waiting to hear from Dijanne, and also from Judy from the Quiltart list to have the ok to share the two pieces I've done this month, I thought I would share something else from my back yard.

The top photo is one of MANY globs of dirt which appear in my back yard in the spring. I was mystified as to what they were when I first moved here, until Melissa, my friend from Louisiana came over and told me that they were crayfish (or crawfish depending on where you come from) towers and that this is one of the main reasons they earned their moniker of "mudbug."

When I peered down in this one, you could see the reflection off his eyes. Unfortunately the camera didn't catch this. The bigger the tower, the larger the crayfish. They build these towers quite quite some distance from the little creek at the back of the property. I'd guess up to 50 feet from the creek bank. They really like my yard, but I suspect it is because I don't use pesticides.

I tried to figure out which crayfish it is. I suspect that it is Cambarus sp. "paintedhand crayfish" or the rusty crayfish Orconectes rusticus. I'm not sure which because both of them are native to this area and both of them dig. I have found one in our swimming pool and another in the goldfish pond, but I would have to compare them side by side with the named ones. The rusty crayfish has become a problem in some areas.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I'm madly stitching on my K.I.S.S. quilt and I'm on the home stretch. Just the hand stitching with pearl cotton and binding to do now... as soon as I get the go-ahead, I'll share as it is pretty cool, even if it isn't much like I usually do, but hey, expansion, as long as it doesn't apply to my hips, is good.

I love lilacs. Growing up in Michigan I lived on farms with ancient lilacs. Great purple behomoths which had been on the site for ages...the farms I lived on had houses from the 1850s, 1880s and 1890s. The sweet heady fragrance was lovely on soft, warm nights. We usually had the light purple, the violet purple, white and a very dark blue-violet which I have not been able to find in any nursery, and only once did I see it growing in Connecticut. No pinks, but that's ok as I find them smaller and sort of namby pamby compared to their full cousins. I regret that I can't find the dark one anywhere, and I don't know who to ask of the people who still live in the towns I grew up in.

Lilacs take up a lot of space and for most of the year are dull and boring green. Great for playing under with Barbies, but not so great when they get powdery mildew. For the most part, I didn't plant them in Connecticut because I didn't have a lot of space...until I found this variagated beauty. The variagated leaves made it a summer time interest long after the flowers faded. This is Syringa vulgaris "Dappled Dawn" . I found it at the Variagated Plant Nursery in Connecticut and never saw another until much, much later. Needless to say, this plant journeyed down with me. It is earlier than my other lilacs and doesn't sucker as much.

Additional evidence of my favoring variegated foliage is this cultivar of the native solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum') . The cream margins are gorgeous and it seems to like it in the shade as well as the is running out from underneath a rosebush...A bit of root got transplanted and it has established itself nicely even though common garden wisdom marks it as a shade lover.

Good plants to grow.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring means .....

Almost every day brings new blooms to the garden. Here is a Lewisia, named after Meriweather Lewis, leader of Jefferson's Corps of Discovery who explored and gathered natural specimens of the new territory west of the Missisippi. It's a lovely native, loves akaline soil and good drainage. Alkaline soil I have in spades, the good drainage is provided by tucking it into a little raised bed at the edge of my goldfish pond. they also can tolerate some pretty cold temperatures.

Several different varieties of Lewisia exist, and I'll be darned if I can remember off the top of my head which one this is. I believe it is Lewisia cotyledon but which cultivar I am stuck on.

My brain isn't entirely functioning properly because tonight is Prom night in Troy and several other surrounding towns. Like any other mother of a teenager, I look at this evening with memories of my much simpler Junior prom and thinking that these are times they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

At the same time, I'm a little concerned that they will get home safely and that all of their memories are good ones, not bad. My daughter is going with a whole group. They rented a bus to take them to Dayton where they had dinner then went to the dance at the Masonic Temple. The gym here probably wouldn't accommodate them all, and from what I hear, they treat the gym floor like it were made of gold anyway. Even my prom was held at a banquet hall at a hotel in Battle Creek, but I'm afraid that our preparations merely consisted of having a computer generated banner with the theme of the prom taped to the wall.

And many proms in the 1970s and 1980s...the theme song was "Stairway to Heaven." I just hope that there aren't too many bustles in the hedgerows tonight. At least I got the hand applique done on my K.I.S.S. quilt challenge. Tomorrow is quilting it and deciding how I'm going to do the threadwork. Hmm...tomorrow is actually today. !

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Art Quilt Workbook: Pears

One of the things which has been keeping me busy is that I am leading a small group of quilters through Jane D'Avila and Elin Waterston's Art Quilt Workbook. I participated in this project with the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network in a group which Mindy Marik led, so when my local guild, the Batty Binders of Troy, had a group who decided they wanted to go on this journey, I offered to lead them as having done it once before and being involved longer with art quilting, I thought it would be easier for me.

One of the exercises that D'Avila and Waterston has you do is to take their pear pattern and make your own pear. Interestingly enough, almost everyone I've talked to, as well as me, have balked at this one. I think that part of it is that people who are interested in doing art quilts are somewhat mavericks. We don't want people telling us what to do and how to do it....or at least we'd like the option of doing it OUR way. One person pointed out that after having had long discussions on copyright etc., she didn't want to be doing someone else's pattern.

When I did the project, I balked. I snarled. But, understanding that the authors wanted us to learn to look at analyzing objects for values/shadow/light and dark, I did it. Begrudgingly, but I did it.

I explained this to the Twisted Stitchers (what we sort of decided to call ourselves as it was less objectionable to the general public that the Artsy Fartsy Quilters, which I fear we call ourselves more often than the former), Gwen grumbled that she didn't WANT to do someone elses pear....and that maybe she'd make it rotten.

Hmm..... The little piece at the top of the page here is Linnette's. It was very fun as it used checks, and plaids and all sorts of traditional quilting fabrics. I regret that I didn't take a picture of it as she showed it to us originally. The lightest piece, that which is on the far right, originally stood out like a sore thumb. The print was a pinkish flower outlined on a cream background, and given the rest of the choices, it was just too big of a jump. She knew she didn't like something about it, but couldn't put her finger on it. I explained what I thought it was, and she moaned that she couldn't fix it.

"Of course you can," I told her. "Take your colored pencils and color it." Coming from a traditional quilting background, that had never occurred to her. She immediately went to work and toned that piece right down. In reality, it is a little lighter than this, as when Linnette took the picture for me, it is a little darker than it is in real life. I do think that being given permission to change something with paint or colored pencils opened a whole new world for her.

Gwen did two pears, and here they are. The first was following along the exercise as she was instructed. The second, loose raggedy one at top is her own interpretation which I think is just marvelous.

I especially like her choice of fabric for the shadow.

We were a small group as about four of us were missing last week. I'm looking forward to our next meeting to see what others did when they completed their homework. I know it is going to be pretty exciting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Spring is fleeting. Indeed, these native wonders have actually already passed and are busy now making seed before they slip away. I've often wondered why the Dogtooth violet (Erythronium americanum) is so named. This particular yellow beauty is a cultivar named "Pagoda." I try to only obtain plants which have not been collected from the wild, but come from reputable nurseries.

Like so many of my plants, I brought this down from my garden in Connecticut. I wonder if any of them survived the new people there? Probably not. My neighbors tell me that it is gone, but since this was in a shady border there, there may still be hope.

At any rate, they seem to like it here and have been wandering even though this is only the 5th year they've been in. Another name for them is trout lily, although what we called trout lily has smaller, speckled leaves.

Ephemeral spring. Certainly here in south west Ohio that is the case. It seems like we go from having snow on the ground and very cold temperatures to several days in the 60s and 70s....and this spring, even into the 80s.

Another native, the pristine white of the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is another of my beloved spring natives. When it first pops up, it is closely wrapped in it's leaf. If you think the broad green leaf to the right of the flower belongs to this white beauty...think again. Look just beyond the flower and you can see the edge of the lobed leaf. The leaf will wrap around the flower to protect it should the weather turn cold. If you dig the plant and cut the root, it exudes a red sap, from where it gets its name.

Just a short one..I'm working madly on the garden and a couple of quilts, but I wanted to keep in the practice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Garden Etiquette

My garden, normally a place of great enjoyment has proved to be a place which has been giving me a bad hair day for the last couple of days. I guess it must be the Mercury in Taurus least my horrorscope said that it was going to be a rough several days.

I took a little break from struggling with my tax issue (which is really making my head spin) to kill some thistle and dandelions which are making their way at a gallop from my neighbor's yard.

While there, my other neighbor, who really is a sweet soul, hailed me. "Hey Lis! Can I borrow some of your vegetable garden? I've planted too much and need to have a little ground."

What do you have in mind?

"Oh, well, I have 8 zucchini plants, some lizard tongue beans, some black beans, peppers and stuff. Can I just put them in your garden?"

Hmm. Sounds like you need to open a patch. That's a lot of stuff!

"Well, that's one of the disadvantages of living on a corner lot. I don't want people to have to look at my vegetable garden."


My vegetable garden, dear readers, is all of 18' x 25'. I have been trying to figure out how I am going to get the amount of beans, carrots, beets (for me), garlic, onions, peppers and lots of tomatoes, lettuce and squash in for me....not counting gardenzilla's stock.

Being in my garden also made me see how the warm weather has made everything bound....and if I'm going to move, divide and transplant some of these things, it needs to be done now.

Now, I spend a lot of time and energy in my garden. I have things most people don't have, and I have had to break ground here for it all...the vegetable garden was a patch of sod. My multitudinous flower beds, not much more than that.

Since much of my material has now been in since 2005, I need to make some divisions. Last summer, I gave away quite a bit of plant material to a couple of people. Dividing and sharing is good. It's good for the plants, and it's good for the garden. If something happens and you lose something, then it is possible to borrow back a slip or two. Plus, it's just good garden manners.

Which brings me to a couple of items of garden etiquette. I don't know why it is, but I seem to have a lot of people asking me for starts. I'm happy to oblige, but it seems like some people have to have some gardening dos and don'ts pointed out.

I'm sure that none of you would do this, but don't ask a gardener for a division and then, after they have made the division and potted it up (which takes time and I have to say in my garden, anything but clay is a hardship to give my soil is so heavy), don't show up to pick it up. I snarled today as I looked at 7 pots of plants that someone "had to have" and they never came to get them.

Please, if you want divisions, come when it is good for the plant and good for the garden giver. That is to say, some things should be divided now. If you wait until June, then it will create holes in the gardeners beds, and it might not be the best time to move them. Three weeks ago, I told a woman "come now. Don't wait." I have yet to see her darken my garden gate.

Come prepared to wrap and take away your plants yourself. Don't expect delivery. Let the gardener dig them for you as they know what they want to give and how much they can spare. In my garden, what you think might be a weed, might just be a rare plant, so watch where you step. Be prepared with pots and damp newspaper. Soil is something which here is hard to replace. While I have lots of pots at present, it isn't always that way so make sure you know what you need.

Teach the small fry how to appreciate flowers. Don't let them pick them. Have them ask the gardener first, and have the gardener show them how to pick the flowers. I've had heuchera ripped from the ground from over zealous kids. Not all gardeners want their flowers picked...My friend Martha often repeats the story of the gardener who when asked why he didn't pick the flowers to take them into the house responded "I like children, but I don't cut their heads off and put them in a vase inside."

Come to my garden, enjoy it...but please have some sensitivity to the gardener.

The plants shown here are P asque flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris). True to their name, they usually bloom right around Easter. I have them in white, deep purple, and magenta. There is a soft pink, but I'm not really a pink person. I love the seed heads which you see as the first image here--they remind me of some sort of plant which Doctor Seuss would draw.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Health Care Bills and Health Care

I mentioned that I have been chasing my tail in my previous post. Part of this has been struggling with my health insurance. My husband works for a "small" company which employs approximately 250 people.

This year, we switched to a HSA, next year, the HSA will be mandatory for all employees. This is a cost saving move for his company as the rising costs of insurance have hit them even though they are doing a lot of things to reward people who try to safeguard their health by not smoking, keeping a good body weight and encouraging visits to the doctors office before things become problematic. Even so, I've been finding that the coverage isn't what it used to be.

Recently, I was switched to another drug and put on quarterly IV doses of Zometa to try to control my cancer as my tumor markers have been rising after 13 years of stability. The experience has been breath taking.

A three month supply of Aromasin costs me $937--that's with a co-pay. My cost for one infusion of the Zometa was $1,15.68 with the insurance deduction. I don't want to think about my upcoming P.E.T. scan as last year my portion was $1,000, and I'll likely need to have 2 this year as there is an area of interest. My daughter has to have a tonsilectomy.

When the mail order pharmacy called me to approve those high co-pays (and yes, I use a mail order pharmacy as part of the insurance in order to keep the costs down), I was stunned. I said to the intake person "Of course I'm going to approve it. What else can I do?" Her response? "Call your doctor and have him prescribe something else. " There is nothing else. This is an anti-cancer drug and this is the next level up--there is actually one above it, but they are holding this for the future if this doesn't work. I was disgusted that the assumption is that there is always a cheaper alternative. I suppose death is a cheaper alternative. I am also disgusted with the fact that the insurance company is playing the doctor. After all, the insurance company is a for-profit entity, it doesn't really care about my health and well being--it's primary concern is making money.

Shortly after this conversation, I got another call from the pharmacy. It seems that my daughter's asthma medications (she has a light case of exercise induced asthma, easily controlled and not a serious case) were going to cost a total of $600.00. This time, the conversation was a rather snotty one. Me: "Hello?" She: "This is the mail order pharmacy. I'm calling about your recent prescription. You're going to have to call the insurance company and see why your co-pays are so high." Huh? They are the ones working directly with the insurance company...I have no control over what they pay or what they don't. I am responsible for making my payment and keeping my daughter healthy.

Thus, when I got a Facebook invitation from one of my high school friends to join "I Bet I Can find 1,000,000 people who oppose the Health Care Bill," I really wondered. First, I support some kind of health care reform and a change in the way we take care of ourselves (and others). Is this bill the only way? I doubt it, but it is a start. Besides, I wonder exactly what all the provisions are. At 1,000 pages, I haven't read it, just the snapshots provided by the media. I doubt most of the congresspeople have read it front to back either. If anything, I am one of the people who believe that it doesn't go far enough, if what I have read is accurate.

First, ours system is one of the few, if not the only, which ties health insurance and health care to employment. If you have no health problems, then you don't realize the problems inherent in the system. In addition, the cost of the company providing health coverage is factored into the cost of the product. Since most of the other countries producing items have nationalized health care instead of requiring companies to kick in, they don't factor this cost in, potentially causing our goods to cost higher and therefore not making us competitive in the global market.

While some people complain about not wanting the Government to provide our health care, I'm guessing that most of those same people would complain if we took away their, or their parent's, Medicare and Medicaid--both programs sponsored by the Government.

I can also tell you that I was terrified when my husband lost his job. I was terrified that we would run out of Cobra before he was able to get a new job. If that happened, and our insurance coverage lapsed, I would not be able to get coverage or would have to pay astronomical amounts in premiums because of my pre-existing condition. I also know of people who were diagnosed with breast cancer only to have their husbands divorce them leaving them with no coverage (as they were not working at the time but were dependents either because they quit to handle the cancer or that they were at-home moms). I know of women who have stayed with abusive husbands because to leave them would mean leaving the insurance. These situations are intolerable and shouldn't exist.

I also know that there is nothing that I could have done to prevent getting cancer. I was sideswiped by this disease. I was a vegetarian for 7 years and even after that point, I didn't eat much meat and certainly ate more fruits and vegetables than most mid-western farm girls. I never smoked. I never used birth control pills. I was slender and active, riding my bike more than 150 miles a week during the summer months and swimming and running year round. I am lucky in that my husband has a good job. If I had remained in the museum field, I probably would only now be making in the vicinity of $45,000 per year if I were lucky and to be able to handle the co-pays etc. which I am facing now would be a stretch after paying for food, housing and transportation.

We also pay presently for the un-insured and under-insured, although most of us don't realize it as the costs are written into our insurance premiums. I was faced with this first hand when I lived in Connecticut and underwent my first cancer surgery. About six months after my lumpectomy, I received a bill for over $2,000 from the hospital. When I called they said that it was my portion of what I owed to cover the un/under-insured based on a percentage of my hospital stay. Evidently, insurance companies have agreements or exclusions with some states in order to cover this. Since I had my surgery in Connecticut where I lived, but my husbands insurance was with Blue Cross of Ohio (he worked for Goodrich at their Connecticut facility but the insurance was out of their home office in Ohio).

What do I want? I want a comprehensive, affordable plan which covers all Americans. I want us to have as good as a plan at the same price as our Congressmen are able to get through their position as Congressmen (they pay premiums to private companies--it isn't provided free of costs according to the website I looked at, but it is apparently affordable). I don't want to be excluded for pre-existing conditions.

I don't think that direct advertising for drugs should be allowed. This drives up the cost of the drugs (think about how much all the E.D. advertising during the Super Bowl cost, and how much the never-ending commercials must cost about the blood pressure, depression and ED drugs are over the course of a day). After all, why should I "ask (my) doctor if this drug is right" for me when ostensibly he/she IS prescribing the best possible for me without me having to ask?

It is said that a country is only as great as how it cares for it's poor and unfortunate. I don't know what the answer is, but it would seem that doing as much as we can to make it easy for people to find out when a problem is small and take care of it would be the best for all of us. I also know that if we don't take steps to take care of the cost and method by which we take care of our health, it will implode on its own and then we won't be able to make pro-active decisions with care and consideration, we will be re-acting and just trying to stop the deluge.

In the mean time, I'll be looking into getting drugs from out of country pharmacies and looking for another job.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pancakes, flapjacks, crepes

I've been chasing my tail lately....several things have been occupying my time. I've been thinking about posting, and just don't find the time. One of the blogs I follow, partly because I adore her illustrations and photographs is Jackie Morris' Drawing a Line in Time. Jackie makes lists of what she plans on doing, then crosses out what she accomplishes. I thought about doing this just to keep posting, but I know I would get carried away with it and I also have a tendency to think I'm Super Woman and can do more than humanly possible.

I still have a ton of stuff to catch up on, but I do have a little breathing room, and today I thought I'd share a little piece of the Midwest which I adored as a child.

About three years ago, I was looking through the newspaper and realized how many fund-raising events occur in Troy with dinners and breakfasts. I don't remember them happening so much in Connecticut, but I do remember growing up in Bronson, Michigan and going down to the Firehouse where some group was putting on a pancake dinner.

You could have all the pancakes you wanted. Thick, luscious buttermilk pancakes, served with ham, sausage or bacon, your choice of milk or coffee and orange juice. Back in those days, before I, or anyone else, was very health conscious, I would slather butter, first on the bottom layer next to the plate, then in between each pancake and the top. Life was good...until if you were unlucky enough to be there at about noon or if there was a fire called in as the fire siren would blast you into the next county.

Shortly after I was thinking about this, my neighbor Jim called and asked us if we wanted to go to the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. My eyes lighted up.

This morning was the yearly event, and I'm happy to say that it was the best attended, at least during the times we've been there. The top is my plate....Just a little butter, I splurged and put two pats on, usually I don't butter it at all. And yes...those cherries are red sour cherries with sugar added to make them sweet, but not cloying...and not much, if any thickener.
You can see that this WAS an event to attend...

Good thing too, as when I got home, my backyard neighbor had rented a rototiller and offered me the use of it....I wasn't planning on doing that today, I was planning on trying to clean the fishpond and find the leak as well as fixing my amended Tax return (OH WOE is Me! I made a mistake on my taxes which I discovered on April 15, AFTER I had submitted them on April 12....I will get more money back, but at present, I have spent 7 hours on the telephone with Turbo-Tax with a glitch I discovered in their program. I needed that extra large breakfast, even if that also meant I skipped lunch!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring sown seeds the painless way

Nutty as usual...that's how things are going. I'm madly trying to get the garden tidied up and the dandelions out before everything starts germinating. I'm also trying to get my daughter's quilt done and two smaller projects done before April 15. The ides of April are also tax time, and I have to have ours (including my Amazon business) done and in...and we're doing college visits for my daughter .

Time and tide wait for no man. Nature has a habit of coming along even if you don't have time to do what you want to do. I love the spring "minor bulbs" of scilla siberica, chinodoxa, and pushkinia. These little blue beauties are often overlooked but should be planted more frequently. They may even be planted in the grass as usually they are done blooming and die back before the grass needs to be mowed. We've had such warm weather here, however, that this year it would not be the case. The blue beauties are blooming and we've had to cut the grass this weekend.

When I was a child, my mother used to start plants in milk cartons and other things. I hated it as it seemed like the pots were taking over the house.

Through the wonders of the internet, I discovered a wonderful way to start seeds. This is "winter sowing" . Trudi Davidoff has a wonderful site which explains her method. I discovered Trudi on the Garden Web's winter sowing forum. It is the only method I have discovered that I am successful with poppy seeds and other plants which if I direct winter sow doesn't seem to work. Basically you take a container which is about 2 1/2" - 3" deep (the length of your thumb). Gallon milk cartons work well...but any clear or translucent container this deep will do. Juice bottles, containers which have had spring mix greens or whatever are great.

Cut the bottom of the container off. You can start it easily with a serrated knife, and finish it off with a pair of scissors...or whatever your favorite cutting implement is.

Put drainage holes in the bottom of the container. I use an exacto knife or a box cutter to stab it in. Usually about 16 slices works well. Be very careful not to stab your hand. This part can be really dangerous.

Fill the bottom of the container with soil-less mix, pro-mix or seed starting mix. Water it. Then sow the seeds on top. Follow the instructions for the depth at which to plant them.

Use a sharpie pen to mark name of the seeds on a piece of duct tape. Tape the label on the bottom of the container.

Tape around the sides of the container to hold it on. Do not put the lid back on the jug as it is how the hot air is vented out. Place the jug outside. If you live in an area where there are high winds, put it in a spot where they won't blow away. Some people put them in one of the hard kiddie swimming pools. Others tie several jugs together.

This is cheap, effective and has no need of lights, special stands, heating mats or anything.

In a couple of weeks, you'll see the baby plants start to come. Keep an eye on them. You can un-tape the container when the plants become larger, but don't forget, they are still at the mercy of mother nature and you could have a frost.

As long as the plants are in the jug, they are safe from frost. In essence, you've made a miniature cold frame. This is far better than having them in the house and the plants are sturdy little things.

You can start almost anything this way...The colder loving plants and perennials you can start planting in the winter. The warmer things you can plant later in the season. I'm madly trying to plant marigolds, zinnias, tomatoes and other plants which will need to go in the ground in mid-May. I've had great luck with this. You'll get a little forest of plants and you can break off a clump of them and re-pot them, or plant them directly in. I've been doing this for 5 years, and just love it. I hope you can take advantage of it too.

The Garden web's forum on this method may be found here .