Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Well that was unexpected, and so was that and...

G'day all!

I've been following the Takata airbag issue for a while now.  I drive a Honda, and Honda is particularly badly affected.  But no recalls had been issued for my car so onwards and upwards.

Until last Thursday, when I got the recall letter.... the letter that says people have died after deployment of the airbag and here, we will give you a loaner car until your car is fixed.

Daffodils and trout lilies in my garden
Well crap.  I rather like my little car - he is small and willing and zippy and has driven us on most of our adventures in this pretty amazing state.

And then on Saturday night, some mongrel ran into his wing mirror/side mirror and shattered the mirror and cracked the mirror housing.  Hope they get seven years of bad luck cos it wasn't me who was cretinous enough to hit a parked small car.  Nearly $500 to fix it and it needs to be fixed cos it is the driver's side and I use that mirror a lot!

So I took my car in to the dealer and arranged for him to get the mirror fixed and get serviced and get stored until the airbag parts come in.  That will be in summer some time.  Woecakes!  I already miss him.

My car, as I said is small and zippy.

Beauty shot of my baby when he was six or eight weeks old

I was offered one of three vehicles, all SUVs.  The smallest is a Jeep Patriot.  I may have made my dismay rather clear.

"Which do you want?"

"Umm, none of them?"

"Well that is all we have today.  We'll have sedans later in the week.  Oh also, pay the $14 a day for extra insurance on the vehicle or take the risk that they will charge you for damage to it."

$14 a day for the damage waiver for a car that I'm likely to have for a hundred days or more.  Gee, thanks for the "free" car.   Worst case scenario seems to be if the car is written off, we have to pay the difference between its appraised value and its salvage value.  I can not take the damage waiver insurance and hope that I (or anyone else) doesn't damage the car.


Cracking sunset!

So now I am driving around in Sluggy (not right now, I'm sitting at home typing this!), the Jeep Patriot.  I will say this much for it - it feels much more solid than the Hyundai I drove in California.  Both have about the same number of miles on them but the Hyundai felt like someone had installed sponges in the steering and suspension, plus it made alarming noises when it went up hills under load.  I cannot imagine why you would rent an SUV - you aren't allowed to drive it off road or on gravel/unmade roads or tow with it or have pets in it.  Maybe they are good for trips to the snow....

Tomorrow I ring the dealer up and annoy them to see if I can get something smaller and more suited to my very suburban lifestyle.  Also?  Gas mileage/fuel economy sucks.  When you drive less than 15 miles and can see the fuel needle dropping, that is scary!  Not like I was driving like a lunatic or anything either.

Green Lake

In other exciting news, I now have something in common with Larry Page, one of the founders of Google/Alphabet.  Alas it isn't millions and billions of dollars.

You might remember that I've been having voice and breathing issues for some time.  Over 2.5 years now.  The ENT I saw said my right vocal cord was paralysed but after six months or so had regained function.  Didn't explain the ongoing hoarseness and breathing problems and me occasionally choking on stuff and not being able to laugh or cough properly.  I kept going back to my GP and saying there's an issue, there's an issue but started to believe that maybe it was all in my head.

Love the lime green of new leaves (and flowers)

On Monday I saw a new-to-me otolaryngologist (we used to call them ear nose throat doctors).  He's one of the top dudes in the state.  I waited and waited and waited and then finally got into the testing room after going through my history with his resident.

They had a look at my vocal cords.  To do this, they first numb your nose and pharynx with a topical anaesthetic.  Apparently I'm sensitive to it or maybe the epinephrine that they use in some forms of it as I always get super nervous/anxious when I'm given an injection or have it sprayed up my nose.  Then a squirt of decongestant and they stick an endoscope into your nose.

It was fascinating.  I saw my insides!  Well the inside of my nose and then my pharynx and my vocal cords.  Alas my tremor came into play because of a) my reaction to the spray and b) the position I had to hold my head it was exactly wrong....  But anyway I had to say various things and do the usual eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and sing happy birthday and whistle happy birthday and they ummed and ahhed and made me do more things and asked me how things felt, then decided they'd done enough testing.

What I saw was my right vocal cord didn't seem to be doing much and my left was flapping in the breeze a bit.

What they saw was that my right vocal cord is stuck halfway open, halfway closed and not moving, whilst the left is still working a bit but not very well.  They asked over and over if I had problems swallowing water.  They said I was doing very well, all things considered.

Tulee-tulee-tulee-tulee-tulip time!

All things considered turns out to be a diagnosis of bilateral vocal cord paresis, ie my vocal cords are not up to snuff and not doing their job of either closing when I swallow or opening fully when I breathe in and out.  It explains why I feel that there is an obstruction in my larynx when I'm breathing (cos there is!) and why I can't sing or laugh or cough and why I choke on water sometimes and why my voice is generally pretty rubbish.

And you want to know what can be done about it?

NOTHING!   (cries)

I'm going to have a little bit of voice therapy and breathing therapy to give me some tips and tricks to help manage it but if they do minor surgery to help me breathe more easily, I'll lose what remains of my voice and if they help me talk more easily, I'll become even more breathless.  Neither option is palatable because I'm already socially screwed if we are in a noisy environment or if I need to project and if I get more breathless....  I'm getting a CT scan to see if there are any physical reasons for the paresis.

More tulip time

I can exercise but only within my limits.  I already knew that - anyone who has asthma and has trouble breathing knows the panic that comes with the feeling of not being able to get enough air into their lungs.  I know that panic well.  Even hurrying across the street can bring it on.  They actually said do not push yourself, do not see a personal trainer, these things will not be good for your continued life!  I have been slowly improving my fitness though, ever so slowly.  I just have to be slow and gentle about it, not force it to happen.

If the zombie apocalypse happens, I may as well just lay down and let them eat my brainz straight off.

At least it isn't all in my head, right?  It certainly won't be if the zombies get me.


Flowering cherries are amazing

I have to admit it is a bit hard to keep my end up.  I had hoped that there would be a solution for me but at this stage, no.  I'm hoping that I don't get worse (what if I have some degenerative disease?), that I will slowly creep towards better - I am much better than I was in November after getting some horrible virus that I seriously thought would land me in hospital because I had so much difficulty breathing.  I actually can sing about an octave of the tenor range now, as long as the phrases are short.  Between this and the car and having to deal with visa stuff and it being tax season... thank heavens it is Spring and the weather this week is fantastic because I can distract myself but in quiet times, the gnawing worry sets in.  And also the pity party.  I like singing.  I like making music with my voice, blending it with the voices of others.  I like laughing.  I like being able to be heard at social things.  Heck, I like breathing, especially when I've just had to run from the road to not get run over.  And I might never do these things again.  Even the breathing ;-)

Not slime or algae.  Pollen.  The trees are pretty enthusiastic
around here.

Pictures are supplied by the glory of Spring in Seattle.  Hope you like the pic of the pollen sludge in the water - no wonder we are having allergy problems!


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Two hours with Gwen Marston

G'day all!

A couple of weeks ago, I hopped on a ferry (with my car!) and took off to Port Gamble.  The Quilted Strait was hosting Gwen Marston, a luminary in the improv quilting scene and all-round quilting bad ass and enemy of the quilting police.

Did you know that she doesn't think that points need to match?

Can you hear the quilting police having conniptions?

Anyway, I had no idea what to expect.

Mammatus clouds - full of om!

The trip across was fun - there was a howling wind blowing up the Sound and the clouds and the wind and waves were magnificent.

In the calm of a bay

I may have had a little accident with the credit card in the quilt shop too... they had some excellent low volume fabrics.

What did I find?   A slim lady with an iron-grey triangle bob who was always in motion during her talk.  After the talk she had a sit down, but she did talk for two hours!   There was lots of humour during the talk - she's well aware of what the quilt police have to say about her work.

Gwen is constantly in motion
She grew up on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle - that's about two-three miles from where I live now.  After she married, she ended up in Michigan, and a collection of antique quilts in a museum there sparked her interest in quilting.  She was a tailor by trade and a crafty type.

After a move to Salem, Oregon, a Mennonite church there had a quilt show and Gwen's interest grew.  She eventually asked if they would show her how to quilt, and a monster was born!  They showed her how to construct quilts and how to hand quilt them.

Gwen took the lessons they taught her and ran with them.  It was an act of God if the applique worked.  Whoops, that block isn't quite right - it's mis-pieced.  What a shame.  It will work anyway.  Traditional quilters had a life and made quilts as they went with what they had to hand.   Their quilts were not predetermined and predictable.  One can see the hand of the maker in their quilts.

Traditional quilts did not follow The Roolz.   Points didn't match.  Lines weren't straight.  Appliques were uneven and not symmetrical.

They had no patterns.  The look of the quilt was not pre-determined (presumably beyond a certain idea of it must have an eagle and a rose on it).  And from that, Gwen started creating.

She played.  She sewed a triangle to a square and voila, a house!  Sew a square on top, a window!  But it's pretty low, that's a basement window.  She had no plan, she just sewed scraps together.

Scraps from a workshop

I notice a lot of these scrap quilts have bunches of red in them.  Gwen likes to collect scraps from the workshops she runs (she is finishing teaching this year) and sews them together.

Liberated stars are not even 

She developed the idea of liberated quilting - quilting that does not follow The Roolz.  Points do not have to match.  Squares, triangles, rectangles, hour-glasses, whatever shapes do not have to be exactly the same.  Having them inconsistent in size makes them more lively.  Having strips like the borders around the quilt above and below not fit perfectly, having the triangles cut in half adds movement to the quilts.  She doesn't do maths to make exactly the right length borders - traditional quilters didn't!  Having things not be symmetrical gives them interest.

Can you hear that funny sound?  That's the quilting police having heart attacks.

The angles!  Triangles don't run nicely to the corners
on this liberated medallion quilt

Block size not consistent?  We can still make that work with little bits and pieces added here and there or blocks sewn together and then bits added.  Run out of that colour?  Sub in another.  Rectangles in rectangles not all the same size?  That can still work.  Quick, where are the smelling salts?

Blurry but you get the idea of different size blocks

The "mistakes" make the quilts interesting.  She speaks with authority but is often wrong.

She doesn't like putting blocks for quilts in progress up on the design wall and critiquing them - oh that block should not be there, it should go... umm... to the third row over there.  NO!  Don't do this.

Antique quilts had screaming colours, not just brown.

She uses a ruler if she wants a straight line, it isn't all cutting out with scissors.  The shapes on her appliqued quilts were cut out with scissors and you can see where some repeated shapes, like a strip of triangles, were all cut out by folding and clipping the sides off the folded material.  This is how they used to cut the fabric!

She sees too much emphasis on precision.  The quilting police have many people convinced that it must be perfect.  (Have you ever heard me apologising because my points aren't perfect on my quilts?  Cos I do!  Now I realise my quilts are liberated ;-)  If quilts are too rigid they may as well be paint by number jobs.

Her publisher had a suitcase full of her appliqued quilts, which were of lesser interest to me, but there were still things to be learned from them, like how things were cut out, how borders were made (scissors and folding).

After the talk, I went for a little wander around Port Gamble, popped into the Artful Ewe and bought a braid of lovely top, then headed back home.

How has the talk changed my quilting?

Not much so far, but I've been working on pre-existing projects.  I'm less likely to be worried about making things perfect - as long as they go together and play together more or less likely, that's good.  I might play with some scraps more instead of chucking out anything under a certain size.  It's given me more confidence to go and play with things, but currently I don't have time to play - I've got a bunch of projects on the go.

Not scraps!  Piles of inspiration!

Speaking of which,


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

That was the winter that was

G'day all!

This was a winter for hibernating.

Green Lake sunset

What?  Winter has ended?, I hear Americans cry.  Meteorological winter has ended - it runs from December 1 to Feb 28/29 in the northern hemisphere.


And sunset from the same day

Anyway, I live in Seattle, and Spring arrived about two or three weeks ago here.  It pays no mind to dates.  The crocuses started blooming at the start of Feb, the odd daffodil showed up (though they are really getting underway now except in my yard where they are still making promises) and then the cherry plums started blooming.

Crocuses.  Croci?

Artful arrangement by nature

More crocuses

Now the magnolias are starting, if they haven't been blown away by today's atrociously windy weather.

It feels like I hardly did a thing in January.  I may as well have hibernated because it was not a good month.  It started well with lots of sun and then went to seed.  I would say pot but various of you would get the wrong idea.

Hey, I did do something in January!  I finished quilting this!
I also knitted a lot.

Normal winters in Seattle involve a lot of drizzle.  Lots and lots of drizzle.  Drizzle doesn't get you wet very easily, especially if you wear fuzzy clothes like wool or fleecy tops or (!!) a rain coat.  I expected not so much drizzle or rain because this is an El Nino year.  El Nino years are usually warmer and 20% drier than normal.

Green Lake contrail
We had only a handful of clear days

A big fat HA to that!

This year we had rain.  We had so much rain that we broke the record for rain from October 1 (the start of the water year and rain festival in Seattle) to March 1.  When it rained, it didn't bother with this drizzle rubbish, it persisted down.  Going outside was miserable - even with a raincoat you got soaked.  Staying inside was miserable.  It generally was just miserable all round.

Nifty mackerel skies

However, it was a little warmer than average.  So there is that.

February sees the start of Spring here.  I am starting to think that Spring is my favourite season here, though I'm not too impressed with how this one has started.  Hopefully in like a lion, out like a lamb.

Oh please won't you let me in?

I have much to talk about.  Lots and lots, if I can drag myself away from the weather.  I have been knitting.  I have been quilting.  I think I have to do a number of blog posts.  In the mean time, feast your eyes upon the pics I did manage to get in one month of a miserable winter.

New socks for DH

A new jumper for me
The start of a new quilt
I should've cropped this shot :-)

Sunday, January 03, 2016

New Year, new dreams

G'day all!

Who can believe that it is 2016 already?

Anyone?  Bueller?

Hooray, cast off the last FO for 2015 with 2 minutes to go!

How did it get to be 2016?  What happened to all the years previous?  How did they flit away so quickly?

Last sunset of 2015

Welcome, 2016.  I expect you'll be a pretty interesting year - if nothing else, I expect to reach a fairly momentous birthday.  I also wonder how on earth that happened and how things can be 20 and 30 years ago and I was an adult (of sorts) then....

Gorgeous yarn.  So pretty.

I have to say that 2015 ended beautifully - after a month where we had the second-highest rainfall ever and one of the most rainy months (aka days with measurable rain) ever, the last few days were superb.  Frosts overnight and then gloriously sunny days.

Last sunrise of 2015
 I even crawled out of bed early enough to catch sunrise at one of my favourite beauty spots.  Okay, so local sunrise is after 8am, but I'm a bit of a night owl and getting up at 7:45 was an effort!

Regrowth wilds at Fort Lawton/Discovery Park

Many people start the New Year with resolutions, but I've found resolutions are made to be broken.  Instead, I think a wish/want list is much more my style.

This year, I want to:

  • figure out what the hell I'm good at and what I should be doing with my life
  • go for a very long drive, probably to Yellowstone (please no forest fires this year, m'kay?)
  • go home for my birthday - we've been away nearly four years exactly now and I miss my home and want to take many many pictures of it
  • contribute something to society, something to volunteer at I guess, find some way to make a difference
  • go for more walks and see more sights, like we only just discovered Fort Lawton.  It is only a couple of miles away as the crow flies, but is a good 15 minutes by car and a solid 40 minute walk
  • blog a bit more
  • cut down the plum tree and replace it with either a shed or more fruit trees
  • get rid of the hedges.  I care not for them and they take up a huge amount of space, though the little whitter birds love them.  Little whitter birds would love fruit trees too
  • develop my photography further and get some pics onto places where they can be sold.

A wonky view over Fort Lawton to the Olympics

I need to organise myself a new passport and then do the visa stuff that will need to be done.  I need to make a quilt each for two friends.  There'll be a hundred, a thousand little things that need to be done but they can only be dealt with as they arise.

One of the few decent sunsets in December

Of course amongst this will be knitting and quilting and gardening and various other things.

I really really like this star

What are you planning to do this year?  What do you need to do?

An FO - Christmas socks for DH

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


G'day all!

I've been holding off blogging because I wanted to show you our newly repainted and with various leaking bits fixed bathroom but umm well it was meant to be done over a month ago and yeah....  It is getting there though, so that is good.

So what else do I have to say?

It is now six years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Six years.  I didn't expect to survive one, to be honest, after some family experiences with it.  I had my five year check up a few weeks ago - why five year?  Because they base survivorship off of when you have the operation, and I chose to have chemotherapy first so that I could tell if it was having an effect on the tumour.  Plus I got to be part of a study and got extra tests run because of it.  And because I moved to the States after a couple of years and the timing of various tests got mucked up, the check up that should've been in August got bumped to October and then November and once I believe December.

The end of the day.  It was only about 4pm!

Anyway I had my five year check up - manual exam and bloods and everything looks good!  I am discharged to the Well Woman clinic.

Isn't that nice?  Well Woman clinic.

Just a bit of water running.

Speaking of well, I am much healthier feeling than last I posted.  That wouldn't be hard.  That virus knocked me for six (American translation - knocked me out of the ball park.  Or maybe I was a quarterback that got sacked).  My voice is still pretty crufty, though recovering to some extent.  Can't sing anything other than tenor or low alto parts which is terrible given it is Christmas and I can't sing carols cos I don't know the tenor part (but I can sing the sop part an octave or so down). 

A scrub jay eyeballing the suet feeder

I set up some bird feeding stuff and it has been entertaining me for a good couple of weeks now.  A lot of juncos visit, two scrub jays, the local pair of crows (including Whitewing, so called for her white flight feather), a couple of Bewick's wrens, at least one goldfinch (which still excites me, I don't care if they are common as muck, they aren't common here!), a spotted towhee, various native sparrows...  I am enjoying watching them and getting pics on a big camera.

I've started going to the gym three times a week - DH is going five times a week and getting butchered by a personal trainer.  Admittedly I'm not doing much more than 2-3 miles on a bike and various of my rehab exercises but they are enough to knacker me some days, especially when I've been doing a lot of work in the bathroom.

Light!  If only!

I finished not just one but two lovely knits.  I really need to get shots of one of them - it is hard to get pics of yourself in a cardigan.  However, DH has some time off coming up so I'll get him to get some shots then.

I finished my Doodler.  It is such an amazing concept and pattern and so much knitting!  Soooo much knitting and more ends than I prefer but just look at the end result!   Stephen West is a genius.  And I suspect a bit insane.

The back side (it's hard to tell!)

I love the "suckers" or toes.

Oh I do love to be beside the (sound) side

I really really love the picots, aka suckers/toes

 I went to a quilting class and made some really cool blocks.  They will be cooler when there are more of them but I've had little time for sewing recently.  Can you see the blocks outline circles?  It will be super cool when I make more.  I'll also reference the pattern when I've got a bit more of it done.

Yes, I chose neutrals!  Me!

On the day I shot my Doodler at the beach I also got shots of a couple of quilts that haven't had beauty shots taken of them.

Chemo quilt - you can hardly see the wonk from here!

A quilt I started in Sydney FOUR years ago, finally finished!

You might get the idea from the pictures scattered through here that the weather has been pretty dreary.

One of the very few interesting sunsets

Well you would be right!  We had a lovely week at the end of November (great timing for Thanksgiving) and since then?  Over 250 mm of rain!  One day when I went to the Locks, all of the weir gates were fully open!  You could see daylight between the gates and the water rushing through underneath.  Plus the tide was super high.  I've never seen all the gates fully open before.  An older gent said he hadn't either, and I'm guessing he's lived here a lot longer than me.

Open weir gates

And on days where it hasn't been dumping an inch or two of rain, it's just been pretty dully cloudy.  We haven't even had any of the brilliantly sunny days that we usually get once a week - it's just been rain rain rain, clouds break up a bit for a few hours, then more rain!  It's not been as nice a winter so far as last year, but last year didn't dump enough snow.  This year is making up for it up in the Cascades!

Interesting sky
So apart from that, I've not much to report.  We had a visitor, which was lovely, always nice to catch up with old friends.  Christmas is almost here and I'm not ready, as always.  Haven't even got a tree yet, but that is mostly because the lounge room is still full of stuff for the bathroom, though I guess a lot of stuff can go out now that I'm in final prep before painting.  Hmm, yes, I think clearing stuff out of the lounge room is next on the list, after a bit more painting.

Reindeer!  Or caribou.  Take your pic.

Since I probably won't blog before it, have a Merry Christmas if you do Christmas and if you don't, Happy Holidays!  Wishing you a fab New Year too.