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 :-)