rocket tracking


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thermofax Workshop with Shelley Brenner Baird

 Today, Maxine Thomas, Deb Bentley, Sue DeSantis, Mindy Marik and I ventured over to Columbus to do a workshop on printing on fabric with thermofax screens with Shelley Brenner Baird.

Shelley had lots for us to do while we were there....Seeing Shelley is always great fun and her workshop just continued that fun.  Shelley made each of us small thermofax screens with images we provided so we could see the whole process.  Then, we went to town printing on various fabrics we had brought along.

The first image you see here is an interesting set that Maxine Thomas did.  She printed on gauze and had a layer of fabric underneath to get what when through the thin gauze.
Debra Bentley brought along some commercial prints which were "old" and not something she would use anymore.  One piece was a decorator weight, coarsely woven  material printed with a funny green print.  Deb's overprinting with the thickened dyes were just wonderful.

Mindy did some really fun stuff, and what she's working on in the last photograph shows a piece of vintage fabric (a slip I think which had lace inserted) which she had dyed a plain color, and now she was working up a print to go over the top.

I didn't take too many pictures, and didn't get any good ones of Shelley and Sue because I was too busy printing my own.

It's now batching under it's own electric mattress pad, all nice, warm and cuddly.  I won't be able to see what came out of it until tomorrow, but since I was only working with plain PFD cotton and a piece of burlap (all that I could really pull together this week) I will probably do some over-dyeing as well as adding extra stuff....whether it be foiling, or paint or....

Yes...thermofax....the old, out of date mimeograph machine which so many tatoo artists now use for making their stencils....only we use a different material.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thank Goodness there's no Smell-o-vision!

Our crazy weather has everything blooming and fading in spades. It was well over 80 degrees F. today...and I'm taking a beating from it.

One of the things which has made it particularly awful are the Bradford Pears and their only slightly better relatives, the Cleveland Pear. See all the white flowered trees? They're Bradford and Cleveland pears.  The whole neighborhood is full of them.  There's a mature one outside my bedroom window. Then my next door neighbor has at least three....and there's two directly across the street from me...and on it goes.

The result of so many of these trees is that there is an awful stench on my street.  Most people don't realize how bad they fact my next door neighbor thought that something somewhere had urinated a particularly vile stream of something....but's the sicky sweet pears....that smell more like carrion than fruit.

I detest these trees.  Nurseries push them.  People and developers plant them in groves.  They are brittle limbed, and while the cultivar the Cleveland Pear is somewhat better, it still has a lot of the negative aspects.  They seed in all over the place.  They are  not natives, but were introduced from Korea and China in 1963.  They have little tiny fruit that birds disdain, and are not edible for humans.  They sucker.  They have really shallow and rampant root systems....and they stink.

In addition, their leaves are leathery and they don't decompose well.  While the fall color is pretty, they hang onto their leaves until long after the last leaf pick up.  Their life expectancy is about 25 years...

There are so many native trees and ones with better habit which should be planted....and yet what goes in is the stupid Pyrus calleryana.    If you're looking for something different...or want to know the REAL skinny on a tree you're considering planting...I recommend Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs..anything Dirr writes is really fun and wonderfully insightful.  He also has written a larger tome which covers trees in detail, as well as one for warmer climates.  Another good resource for picking trees and shrubs, but much dryer than Dirr is William Cullina's Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines. It is a little more restrained than Dirr's work, especially because it doesn't have the non-natives, but it is still worthwhile checking into if you're going to plant a tree....I've been planning for when this tree's brother fell in 2008....and I'm still cutting suckers off the roots! BLECK.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Some notes About Dyeing

No....I am not least I don't think I am quite yet...and No, I am not turning my back yard into an homage to Christo and Jeanne-Claude.  

On Saturday, I will be going to a workshop with Shelley Brenner Baird with several of my Miami Valley Art Work Network cronies.  We are going to be working with thermofax prints using thickened order to do this we needed fabric prepared for dyeing.  

I bought bolt of 100 meters of PFD (prepared for dyeing) Pimatex as this would give us the best price and we almost had 100 meters spoken for.  Since one of our members who is going to the workshop couldn't be there to pick up her fabric, I pre-soaked it with soda ash for her today along with mine.

As I was speaking with a number of quilters, I discovered that there was quite a bit of confusion on dyeing.

I have been asked "If it's PFD, then why do I have to soak it?"  PFD (Prepared for Dyeing) only means it doesn't have any of the UV retardants, sizing, and other finishes which are regularly put on fabric at the company in order to make it last better, stay crisper, take the print better, blah blah blah.  You can prep fabric which has been printed for taking fiber reactive dyes by heating a pot of muratic acid and synthrapol to remove the finish, but I really hate doing that.  Some people just dye without doing it, and this will make the end product not as colorfast as going through whole process.

The steps are that you wash the fabric in hot water and synthrapol and a little soda ash (like 2 T) first.  This removes any oils or stuff which may have gotten on the fabric at the factory or at the distributors.  This is called "scouring" but you might just as well as thinking of it as washing.

Then, the material is soaked in the soda ash bath and removed and allowed to dry without rinsing, although it can be used wet. Soda ash is sodium carbonate... notice NOT sodium bicarbonate or baking soda.  It has a lot more alkalinity than baking soda.  It is also not washing soda...although washing soda can be used, it isn't as strong as sodium carbonate and so you use more of it.  In addition, sometimes washing soda has had optical brighteners added to it to make your laundry brighter.  An inexpensive source for smaller amounts is found in pool/spa stores as it is used to raise the pH of water.

 The Soda ash makes the dye bond better to the raises the pH (it is very alkaline...and thus is why one brand is pH Up and sold in pool stores to increase the pH of the water of the pool) and actually causes the plant fibers to "attack" the dyes.

It is important if you are prepping the fabric for dyeing NOT to rinse the fabric or get water on it after soaking it in Soda it will defeat the purpose.  The soaking in soda ash is done in a tub or a bucket...because you really don't want the extremely alkaline substance to get into your washer and dryer.  One issue with alkalines is that it actually causes some colors to fade....NOT what I fact, I'm still trying to figure out what my husband has started using in the wash as I now have spotty nightgowns which were once peach....Using the soda ash makes the dye more colorfast as well as a real dye, not using soda ash can mean that it is just stained and won't work well.

I'll also note that using commercially printed fabrics for over-dyeing without removing the finish and  not using soda ash can result in muckier, or muddied colors.  Temperature of the water and heat setting also results in color variation (usually hotter temps or curing in a microwave specifically used for that--not for food or steaming the dyed fabric results in brighter, more colorfast fabrics).

Another thing which sort of boggles me is that my little group have often been excited when they hear about dyeing with Kool-aid or some of the new dyes available which are used in plastic bags.  They are excited because handling the Mx dyes, or fiber-reactive dyes is dangerous.  The dyes are fine and many are known carcinogens and generally just really bad for your lungs.  I usually take a deep breath and say I'll look into it but I'm betting that it wasn't used on cotton.

Unfortunately, cotton and other vegetable based fibers such as linen, Rayon, and hemp, need a fiber reactive dye...Cushings dyes, acid dyes, and Kool-aid only work on protein based fibers (wool and silk).  

If you are working with synthetics such as polyester, then you'll need special dyes for that...Dylon and Rit, among others, make dyes specifically for polyester.

If you look at the deck, you'll notice white spots...this is where the soda ash solution dripped off the fabric onto the deck...and dried....I've got to hose it all down tomorrow or pretend I'm homesteading in Montana and have run across some alkali flats. 

Next time, I'll cut the lengths shorter to work with instead of working with a full 10 meters which is what this piece was....It fell off and got a bit dirty so now I have to cut an additional 4 1/2 meters. I wanted to make sure that the pieces I handed out were clean and ready to go.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hot Days

This is last year's shot of my little Bonfire Patio peach tree....I took this on April 9....However, it has started opening and I expect it will look like this tomorrow or the next day.

It's way too hot for this time of year.  Today, I was working in the asparagus bed trying to get it cleaned out so I could put down straw.  Yesterday, there wasn't any asparagus spears, there are.  While I was kneeling facing west, at about 3:00 was HOT.  I actually was sweating....

This is going to be a very scary tornado and hurricane season...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: The Art Quilt Collection

Yesterday, my husband I and drove to Athens, Ohio to pick up our daughter from Ohio University.  During the drive, I got the chance to read The Art Quilt Collection: designs & Inspiration from Around the World (Sixth & Spring Books by Penn Publishing, 2010 ISBN 10:  1936096-08-4 ISBN-13:   978-1-986096-08-04, 160 pages, suggested mfg. retail price: $24.95 US,  $31.95 CAN).

As you are probably aware, I have a lot of art quilt books.  I enjoy them a lot and I wondered when I purchased this if I was going to throw away my money.  I was actually delighted with this one.  Although it had several artists I was familiar with, this was not filled with duplicates as seen from other art quilt books such as 500 Art Quilts  or Art Quilt Masters.  I particularly liked how this was laid out.  Not only does it have an alphabetic index by artist's name, it has thumbnail prints of the images with the artist's name in the beginning of the book. Each quilt has an overall and a smaller detail.  On the left side of the page are the basics: artist, name of the work, materials, methods, and size.  On the right is a concise yet informative artist's statement about the piece.

I admit, I read every statement and the book from cover to cover.  I did not expect to find the 7 (or was it 8) step-by step instructions on the techniques used in some of the quilts.  While many experienced art quilters don't really care about this, for new art quilters, this would make it invaluable.  I sort of giggled as I could hear the people at one of the major publishers I had experience with telling me that art quilt books don't sell well and that you have to have techniques or this book managed to kill two birds with one stone.  It will be interesting to see how well this one holds up in value because of this small difference.

If there was one area in which I was disappointed, it was Linda Seward's introduction.  To me, it was pretty much "the same old same old".  The introduction was only 2 pages long, but the first page was given over to the history of quilts, a reference to the Whitney Museum of American Art's show in 1971....and the old saw "taking quilts off beds and hanging them firmly on walls." (p. 11).....Sometimes I really wish we could get over this....we get it.  Quilters get least most of them do today.  Only about 3 paragraphs of the introduction really got at the meat of art quilting, and even then it often stated the obvious.  This book features the work of artists from all over the world, proving beyond a doubt that quilt-making is truly international."  Linda, you can do better than this....

I enjoy it.  I intend to use it along with my other stable of art quilt books to show my colleagues and other quilters the breadth of quilting today as well as using them of examples of various points of design, technique and construction.  I intend to read it again...and in between times, just look at the photographs and enjoy them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Liebster Awards

Circle of Ravens, wool felt, felted specialty yarns, machine quilted.  Lisa Quintana I'm a little behind the times.  The other day, Lisa Ellis nominated me for a Liebster award.  Ordinarily, I'd hop right in and post right away...OK, so I'm fooling myself....I usually give things like this a lot of thought....Not because I'm a procrastinator, and I know I am and I'm working on that, but that I don't really take things like this lightly.

So...if you don't want to read on and find out my thoughts about internet memes, here's the deal:

This award is given to bloggers that inspire you and have less than 200 followers.  I admit, I had to look up the ones I first thought of and see how many followers they had...a few, I was very surprised to see that they didn't have MORE followers.  I love the name as Liebster has the connotation of an object of love.   

Here are the particulars:
As part of the tradition it is passed along to 5 bloggers that have motivated and inspired.
To accept the award you must:
1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.
2. Post the award to your blog.
3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value.
4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they have been offered this award.

1.  Sherrie Spangler from Sherrie Loves Color  Sherrie is a quilter from Gig Harbor, WA and like me, she DOES love color.  She also loves nature and she posts interesting things and photographs from her poking around Puget Sound.  I'd love to go tidal pool wading with her because I love those kind of things too.  In addition, if you have never been to the Pacific Northwest, you get a pretty good feel for it from her blog.  I do know the PNW as I often go out there to visit my sister.  She and her guild also have made gajillions of quilts for cancer patients...and they are really cool ones, not the dogs that no one could figure out what to do with.

2.  Del Thomas at Del Quilts.  If you follow my blog, you'll know Del.  She sometimes comments, but earlier this year I wrote a blog post about her.  Del is a great photographer and art quilter, but best of all, she has a heart of gold and has done a tremendous amount to further art quilting.  She has a collection of art quilts and she highlights them on  her blog as well as with photographs and observations she makes...particularly with her canine friend, Corky the Poodle Prince who borrows Del every once in a while to take on adventures. I quite frankly couldn't believe that Del didn't have more than 200 followers.

3.  Elizabeth Barton at Art, Quilts and Cogitations thereon.  Elizabeth is one of the best writers about design, theory and art quilting in general.  She is concise, thoughtful, and you can tell she's brilliant.  I really love her art quilts... Like Del, I was dumbfounded when I realized that she hadn't hit the 200 mark for followers.

4.  Terry Jarrard-Diamond at Studio 24-7.  Terry is another person who tips in at 174, but I thought surely would have more followers.  Terry offers great examples in art quilting, both from her own hand as well as shows she has frequented and people she knows.  She is very giving with evaluations of materials and in gathering information and disseminating it.  Thanks to her, I encouraged a friend to buy a Kalorik Steam center, and now I own one too.  Lots of good information and just good reading. 

5.  Vivien Zepf is a great person with a wonderful eye and she combines those in to some pretty cool art quilts and photographs.  Because she serves as an editor for the Studio Art Quilt Associates Journal, and is a busy mother to three kids, sometimes she's a little sporadic in her posts, but her blog Seven Pines Designs is one I really enjoy.  Sometimes I giggle as it sometimes seems like we lead parallel lives. 

6.  And I give you a bonus as I couldn't leave him out.  Mark Nofsinger has a blog called Shady Character. I've "known" Mark a long time....He is one of my buddies from the Orchid Forum on garden web.  Mark is an avid gardener and foodie who lives in Wisconsin....Mark shares thoughts on growing things, birding, and great recipes.  In addition, he's either a landscape designer, or a landscape architect....I forget which!  

I took a while to do this as I actually went through my whole list of blogs that I follow..considering all of them.  In addition, I remember someone once saying to me "I don't do memes."  Ok...I admit it, I didn't know what a meme was...and I was afraid it was Me! Me!...But, being the inveterate researcher, I looked it up.  
The Liebster Award, and other blog awards, are great examples of meme (pronounced "meem" ).  A meme is (according to wiki-pedia)  "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."[2] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.[3]
I think that's a pretty cool idea...and I can't really find a problem with it.  In fact....I think it has great potential for a series of art quilts!

Hope you enjoy...I have to get back to putting my sewing room back to rights after emptying it and re-furbishing it from top to bottom....and it has to be done ASAP as dear daughter needs her room back this Friday.  YIKES!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Etsy all the Way!

Beth Ann Miller modeling Jen Johnson's dress
Yesterday I had a maddening thing happen.  The belt I bought locally at a chain store which supposedly was leather...was BONDED leather and it de-laminated into two strips.  It was only about the third time I wore it....I'm irritated as after I bought it, I thought "Hey, I should look at Etsy."   There were belts there the same price which were hand-made and were ALL in NOT bonded pieces of gluck.

I keep on forgetting that people don't know about Etsy.  I've only purchased a few things on it, hand-etched wine glasses for my niece as a wedding present  (slight glitch as the artist didn't mail it until two and a half months after the event).  I've also ordered supplies.  I get Thermofax screens from a couple of sellers, and the other day, I ordered some Czechoslovakian glass buttons.

I need to list some of my own stuff there as well.  To sell on Etsy, it has to be art/craft supplies, objects MADE by the seller/artist or vintage stuff.  I have several things need to list, but I just have to get motivated.

Back of Jen's dress...with Jen in it!
At our retreat in late February, Jen Johnson, a member of Batty Binders (and the daughter of one of the members) worked on some skirts and dresses she sells on Etsy as PhunkyFashion.  These are her own designs and she makes them all herself.

You can find really cool stuff and like most other sales venues, you can read the purchaser's comments.  I'd highly recommend that.  I think most of the sellers are honest, but they are artists, and well....sometimes keeping creative sorts on task is like herding cats....

Hopefully, my sewing room will be back together soon...supposedly tomorrow I'll be able to start moving everything back in...which is a good thing because I have a bunch of projects to finish and even more to start!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quilting with Groups

 I'm really lucky to be in an area where there's lots of quilting of all types going least I think I'm lucky...I'm not sure my house and garden agree as it always seems like I'm buzzing off to do something quilty.

My local group is the Batty Binders.  Composed mostly of traditional quilters, we do have a small contingent of art quilters in the group.  All told we have about 50 members.  The guild was started in 1995, and every year we have at least two retreats. Traditionally, our retreat is held in February at the local girlscout camp.  However, when a mouse made it's appearance one time, some members thought it was time to find another place to quilt.  But, a few of us stalwarts don't mind mice and find that the inexpensive living quarters (we all divvy up food responsibilities....and I've never known any BB'er to go hungry), and about 20 of us continue to go to this retreat in addition to a retreat at a conference center where they clean they bathrooms and make the food for us.
Deb Neff with Gwen Brown's sunburst behind her.

Although small, the group does a lot of charity work, either with the group or on their own.   The first quilt is one made by Diane Littlejohn.  Diane makes a quilt each year for  a raffle to raise funds for the EMT/Volunteer fire department in her little town.

The retreats are always times when we can lay things out to figure out the best placement, get help in finishing projects and laugh. Lots of laughing...and staying up far too late.  (This quilt is going to be a wedding present for Glenda Tron's daughter this fall).
Terri Pyle's "stack and whack" fan quilt taught by Kitty Tomsic.
 In addition to the Batty Binders, every Thursday I meet with another group and we sew together....and that too is filled with lots of laughter and support of what we are doing....quilt wise as well as family wise.  It really is a great place to be.

Then, I also belong to the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network.  We meet monthly and try to have at least one exhibition every year.  Although I often miss it, there is also a class on design once a month.  There, we can also get help with critiques of our work.  I can honestly say that the group really has improved just by working through a design book together, doing exercises together and of course talking about what makes  a good art quilt.  We started out working on techniques and concepts illustrated in either Art Quilt Masters, or 500 Art Quilts (I've forgotten which one it has been so long!) which Lori Gravely graciously led.  From there, we went into Jane Davila and Elin Waterston's "Art Quilt Workbook" and Mindy Marik led the group.  For the last bit, they've been working through Lyric Kinard's Art + Quilt, with Ann Diller keeping us in line.

I also belong to the Miami Valley Quilters Guild...who will be having a show soon...and SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates).

All of these groups are slightly different, and I get something different from each one...but the best thing is the laughter.....and the help.

Can you believe that these three sunburst quilts were done from the same class?  Gwen Brown's is on the end, Glenda Tron's is the little 4 block one, and then the one with the blue ground is Deb Neff's.  My snowflake quilt is the one second from the right.

Yes...I've been blathering on here...and thinking about how theraputic and enriching having quilty friends is.  I haven't been getting out much because I hurt my back, and I've been madly working on repainting the sewing room ceiling and walls....and reflooring it.  Since hubby's home, the laminate I bought three years ago is now going down....sewing rooms with wall to wall carpet don't work too well....and all of this has to be put back before next Friday.  EEEK!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Snowdrops and photographs

I love snowdrops...even when I have a hard time seeing whether or not they are in focus or not.  This little clump has been blooming since the end of January.  At first, just one lonely blossom.  You can see the empty stalk on the left.  These guys are still hanging on even though we have had abnormally warm and windy days.

Over on the SAQA Yahoo group there's been the most recent kerfuffle going on seems like it is often the same thing....what is art...what isn't art.

The strange thing about this one is that it started out about design and learning the elements of design.  Someone made a comment which was a little disparaging about using didn't bother me at the time nor does it no because what I felt she was really saying is that taking a photograph and referring to it is one is a note taker.  But, one REALLY begins to see and understand a design element or image when you DRAW it.  Freehand.  As in not tracing a photograph.  You also then have time to think about it...observe....consider whether the lines are pleasing or not or whether another element might just be better in a different location.

Unfortunately, this was blown out of proportion.

I use photographs.  I can see the point which was being made.  I also think that sometimes we use photographs as a crutch....For instance, I'm notorious at biting off more than I can chew and thinking I have a superwoman cape which will make me faster than I really am.  Then, I fall prey to the thought that "Oh, I'll just trace the elements I want to use from the photograph rather than taking the time to draw it."  Yes, it gets the job done...but have I really learned and seen the whole piece? Considered all of the elements?  Considered what might make the composition better? I think that perhaps if I would take that time to do this, then perhaps my end product would be better than when I take the easy way out.

This isn't to say that using photographs as an element of design is wrong....but I just think that when we are drawing something from a photograph, perhaps it would be more enlightening if we actually DREW it and didn't trace it...perhaps if we actually drew the image THEN thread painted it, rather than printing a photograph on a piece of paper without manipulation and thread painted it from there rather than just stitching over the top with the same color of thread we might actually have something of more interest and strength.

I'm also frustrated at the fact that I once could draw well...I was once good at perspective, but after years of not using those skills, my drawings are not up to my standards...even if they are only mental standards!  It goes back to the "use it or lose it" and you have to practice....and then practice some more.

Yes, copying is a good starting point....and a good confidence builder.  I still copy master art works trying to learn or get the mental exercise of attempting to do something in a style I admire, but don't usually pursue.

Just a thought.   Maybe if we spent more time on actually doing art rather than arguing about what is art and what isn't then we'd actually make some inroads.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Another Tree by Ruth Treon

Several of the Batty Binder's Twisted Stitchers Art group made "practice trees".  These little pieces were ones which they made to try out the techniques before doing them on the exchange quilt.

Ruth made an exact image of the round robin quilt.  She did a great job with the fence.  I have to admit, the tree bugs me a little because of that one drooping limb on the left...very few fact none that I can think of off the top of my head grow downward like that while the rest move upward...

Can you think of any? I thought about all the willows I've seen....maybe that's it....

At any rate, Ruth did a great job, although she's not pleased with her evergreens.  She pieced them to do the innovative piecing part of the workbook.  we suggested that she maybe use a Shiva paint stick on it or something to add some more snow and some variation in the ground since the value of the snow and the value of the sky are very similar....they bleed into each other.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

...because that's what we do

As many of you probably know, the part of the country I live in has been hit by some severe weather on Thursday and Friday.  Tornadoes are something you have to deal with in the Midwest.  I grew up with them. I remember a really severe one when I was about 7 or 8 which jumped our house, but took out a wide swath in the woods, ripped off half of the Willigus' house so that it looked like it was a cross section....the bed on the second floor was still made and clearly visible from the road.  I remember the sound.  I remember being afraid for our animals....and I remember balking at going down into our dirt floored basement as it was night and I had my nightgown on but no shoes.  Mom scooped me up and carried me to the far corner of the basement.

I remember being in college in 1980 when a tornado swept through Kalamazoo, uprooting the majestic trees in Bronson Park and killing several people when a wall in a department store collapsed on the people inside.  I also remember the idiots who watched the tornado from their apartment balconies....and I remember running to the apartment to hide in the interior bathroom.

So, when we found we were moving to Ohio from Connecticut, I insisted on getting a house with a basement.  In Troy, because there are limestone shelves all through the area, some of the houses we looked at were built on slabs.  Not for this Midwesterner.

When you're raised in the Midwest, especially in rural areas or areas which still have strong ties to their agrarian roots, there's a mentality which is ingrained in you.  I admit, it is getting diluted, but it's still there.  The other night when I was watching the news, they had an old farmer on who had driven into one of the stricken areas from a nearby town to help clear the area and salvage what could be salvaged.  When asked why he did it, he said "Because that's what we do.  This year my neighbor needs my help, next year it might be me.  This is what needs to be done and we do it."

I was raised this way.  I believe in it.  I wish more people did and acted on it.  When I was in Connecticut and worked hard as one of three organizers of a neighborhood association which was dealing with some really tough problems, I had someone ask me why I was working so hard, particularly when I didn't stand to gain anything from it and I was taking a lot of grief.  I answered that it was my duty to work for the good of the neighborhood, even if it meant that it wasn't necessarily good for me.  The person indicated that I was crazy, and I said well, that's what we do where I come from.   He snorted and asked where was that, and I told him. "Oh, that's why.  You're about 20 years behind the times."  Well...quite frankly, I'm glad we are.  Maybe others should take a step back in time and treat their neighbors with respect and care.  Like the farmer said, you just never know when it will be your time to need help.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stinking Helebores and Lenten Roses

I went to the doctor's today because I hurt my back a week ago and am having trouble walking.   I picked up a Smithsonian Magazine that I didn't recognize...only to find it was 2010 vintage....That's OK, Smithsonian is one of those magazines which it really doesn't matter how old they are, they're still interesting.

They had an article on Helleborus foetidus, the "stinking hellebore."  Every year I post about mine....I just can't help it...and this article made me decide to do it one more time.  H. foetidus is a wonderful plant which blooms in the winter.   I giggle because they always caution that you MUST plant them in the shade....well, look at this one which grows in the full sun in the middle of my yard.

I was once told by a plantsman, I can't remember if it was Pierre Bennerup or Bob Iiames who told me that they grow on mountain sides on rocky the full sun.

They are tough plants and I love the leaves.  The cool thing about them that I learned today is that they have a yeast which grows in the nectar of the flower.  That yeast raises the temperature of the plant by as much as 13 degrees F...which makes it bloom long before anything else does.  The yellow crocus at the left is a Dutch crocus to give you an idea of size.

I must admit that I am seduced by the new varieties of Lenten Roses, Helleborus niger.  This one is Dark Prince ...also snapped in my garden today as I dodged the thunderstorms.

I've decided, however, that I won't buy any more of these dark beauties....I have three....because they just don't show up against the dark soil.
This one I think, is far more showy.  I did get a variegated Hellebore a couple of years ago at the Variegated Plant Farm in Connecticut.  Stan has fabulous plants....but like many variegated varieties, it didn't make it.  I'm not even sure if a green one came up on the same spot...but I can assure you, no white and green leaves ever re-appeared.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Extra Day....

 On February 28th, the American Cancer Society asked that we blog about what we would do with our "extra day."  I didn't blog about that....but decided maybe I would today.

You see, like most people in the world, it wasn't an "extra day" per se, but a day in which we still had responsibilities, appointments, jobs....

I got up late...and slowly.  I have been having severe back pain.  Of course, since I'm still fighting cancer, that brings all of its own it cancer? What is happening with my back anyway?

The biggie, though, was that I had to drive down to Kettering to get a Zometa treatment.  Zometa is an IV infusion of bone strengthening medication.  It is the same as Reclast....but with cancer patients with metastatic disease it actually helps decrease the bone cancer.  The bad thing is that it can cause osteo-necrosis of the jaw...where the bone dies and the skin pulls away from it.
I'm a little scared about that because I went from having the treatment once every 12 weeks, to monthly now.

It's hard to believe I have been in treatment for this bout this long....I really believed that when I finished last July, I'd be done with it.  Now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Tamoxifen continues to work.

I also sort of struggle because people see me, see that I have hair, and except for the fact that I'm doddering around because of the neuropathy in my feet and the back pain, I don't look like I have cancer.  But I do.  I'm still in treatment.  I'm still fighting.

I also cringe when I hear people say that they are cured of breast cancer after being "out" for 5 or more years .  I know you're never "cured."  It can come back at any time.

For the stage IV survivor, it is even scarier.  We are considered to have a chronic disease...but it is one which in all likely hood will eventually kill us.  The question is when.  My oncology nurse told me yesterday that one of the doctors is afraid to look in on one of his long term MBC survivors.  She's been fighting it for about 6 years....the cancer keeps on mutating and as one drug becomes ineffective, they switch her to another....and then they start all over again because the cancer sometimes is no longer resistant to a drug she had been on before.  The doctor is afraid to look at her and see where she might be that day.  Late stage breast cancer patients have a habit of going downhill suddenly.  I have lost two friends in the last year where they were doing well in March, but by July one had died, and the other died in the late summer.

The the side effects can be awful.  The side effects can be heart issues, neuropathy, liver damage and secondary cancers (cancers caused by the treatment of the primary cancer).

In addition, there are very few people who understand the position of a stage IV survivor.  Our drugs are expensive.  I am afraid that if my husband doesn't find a job soon with insurance which will cover me, then I won't be able to get insurance....or at least we won't be able to pay for it.... It is an insult to some degree to hear all of the cancer groups tout "early detection saves lives."  Yes it does.  But we don't qualify.

Not only do we not qualify, but very little research is done to develop cancer treatments for late stage cancers.  Basically, they throw stuff at us which has been tried on newly found cancers and see if it works.  Few drugs and protocols are actually looking at us.

Now to top that off, the whole national budget for cancer research has been cut....and thus, even less will come our way.

I'm grateful for an "extra day."  Even if it meant that part of it was spent driving down for treatment and sitting in a treatment room.  I still can see and smell the these orchids I managed to bloom.  I am amused as here in Ohio, I am able to get Cattleya's to bloom, where as in Connecticut, I could never bloom them, although I could phalaenopsis  and some members of the oncidium alliance.  Go figure.