Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The other day I noticed on the Chumby that sunrise and sunset were exactly twelve hours apart. Day and night were balanced for a day or so. I realized that, in many ways, I am always striving to achieve eveness in my life. No highs, no lows .. just smooth sailing. The perfect balance between yin and yang, black and white, child and orphan.... where did that come from? Strangely enough I finished my scarf for the Orphan Project a few hours before I had heard that my Dad had died. Make a scarf for an orphan then become one? Even yes, but I'm still not ready for it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Operation Care Package - Update

What happens when you have two very different sewers on a mission? One of them slaps two pieces of fabric together and eyeballs the width of the seam allowance. The other matches seams carefully, pins then sews. Bring these skill sets together and you too can make a difference by stitching 50 stockngs together for Operation Care Package. Today we had our sew-in for the Christmas Stocking to be used as packaging for sending Holiday cheer to our troops overseas.

As a sew-in with lots of attendees busily sewing away, vying for door prizes and munching on lots of home-baked goodness it was a flop. Some how we had missed the fact that a hurricane would devastate our area when planning this event. We decided to keep the date and time and if no-one else showed up we would work on our own. So the indomitable Ms. S. and I cut, sewed, ate and chatted for about five hours today and this is what we came up with:
The careful sewer arranged them by the fabrics we used. The slap'n'sew sewer envisaged a huge pile of them on the floor for this photo. Can you guess which sewer I am?

Although there were only two of us, we managed to effectvely take up most of the room at the local community center.
We did get one visitor who stopped by to pick-up a patten. She has assured us that more stockings would be coming from her. Several individuals have also indicated that they would be doing some for us to be included in our shipment to Joliet on October 16th. Both of us are still culling our stash for more fabric ideas so there will be more from us as well. The project won't stop until we do the final mailing and 50 may become 100, my goal for today's work.

Hey, you never know!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


One of the things I keep hearing is that it is important for all of us to get back into our normal routines after Ike. My routine, at least in the morning, is centered around Alex and the Girls. Here's how it goes:

  1. All dogs rousted out of bed and put outside for morning ablutions.
  2. All dogs fed.
  3. All dogs watered.
  4. All dogs walked.
  5. All dogs take a nap waiting for MILK.
  6. The source of MILK (me) messes around with morning meds and food.
  7. All dogs rush to lap up every drop of MILK.
  8. All dogs take a nap.

Number 5 is not completely accurate. They are not really napping... more like leisurely waiting. Alex sits on his pillow, Kemora takes the high road and sits on the top of the comfy chair while Kelis snuggles under a quilt on the comfy chair. I think Kelis trusts the others to alert her to when milk is available. Here they are waiting for the milk from my cereal bowl.

Here they are getting up every last drop.

Here they are settling in for some serious napping. Alex is on top of the comfy chair while Kelis and Kemora go for snuggling together. That little black triangle is Kelis's butt.

And before anyone says it... I know dogs can be lactose intolerant. I did an experiment to see if the quality of the air here would change a lot by not giving the dogs milk for a week. Nope, it made no difference at all ... their sleeping quarters still came up stinky.

I hope everyone is having a good week especially for my fellow residents of the third coast.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hurricane Lessons Learned

When I was first approached about moving to Texas, I was given two choices. One was to locate in Arlington (between Dallas and Fort Worth) and the other to locate in Houston. The criteria I used was whether I wanted to die in a tornado with no warning (Arlington) or die in a hurricane with lots of warning (Houston). I chose Arlington thinking that no warning was a better way to go. After a couple of years I realized that most of my work centered in Houston so I moved to a burb just north of there (Kingwood).

I now know that my original criteria were slightly out of whack. My criteria should have been, did I want to be in small, self-contained, short, violent weather disasters or large, ragged, long, violent weather. After being subjected to both, neither is preferable as both include power outages in their aftermath. My tornado experience included three days without power while hurricanes have meant four (Rita) to ten (Ike) days without power. In the Texas heat, even one hour without power can seem like hell.

Next time, and there will be a next time, I hope to remember the following lessons I have learned from the most recent outage.

DO ALL THE LAUNDRY BEFORE THE POWER GOES OUT. When I came back from my Dad's funeral I came with a suitcase full of laundry and there were dirty clothes at home from before I left. Friends who knew this lesson did not end up wearing small, grey, elastic-less panties.

FILL THE ICE CHEST WITH ICE BEFORE THE STORM BEGINS. Finding ice to keep the milk and other perishables fresh after Ike visited was a small nightmare. Also, if someone offers you ice, (a friend, FEMA or a neighbor), take it but don't be greedy. You never have enough but too much is useless.

BUY, AND HAVE CHARGED, A SOLAR GENERATOR BEFORE THE STORM. The large, noisy gas generators used my most of my neighbors drove me crazy but after a few days without a light or fan at night I was contemplating buying one at the inflated prices from the wierd guys on the side of the road. I have seen solar powered ones sold for very reasonable prices previously and should have purchased one then. Basically its a solar panel attached to battery with a power inverter. They last about half a day before needing to be recharged so may not be good for running a freezer but that's fine by me.

AFTER TWO DAYS WITHOUT POWER, YOUR REFRIDGERATED FOOD SHOULD BE TOSSED OR COOKED IMMEADIATELY. 'Nough said. Also, ground coffee beans are a great freshener for an enclosed space.

BUY ALL SIZES OF BATTERIES. Not just the big D cells for the big flashlight but also the little AAs and AAAs needed for the little flashlight and radio. I was surprised at how fast these little ones ran out while the big flashlight just kept going and going and going.

KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. Mine were terrific in helping me get the yard cleaned up BUT just around the corner there was a house where no clean-up occured until the owners returned a couple of days ago. They had two medium-sized large trees down in their yard and all anyone had done was push them off the road onto the yard. It appeared to me that no-one around them cared about them. Another reason to know your neighbors is to make sure they are not in trouble. I hadn't seen a fellow dog walker for a couple of days and was getting worried. I learned from one of my neighbors that she had evacuated.. but what if she hadn't?

HAVE A STASH OF UNREAD PAPERBACK BOOKS. I had three and went through them in two days. Next yard sale I go to I will pick up an even dozen as eBook Readers need to be recharged after a couple of days of use.

LIBRARIES ARE OUR FRIENDS. My local Library offered free Wi-Fi service and let everyone recharge their phones and other electronic gadgets. The staff was terrific with helping newbies. I must admit that my favorite librarian and I had a chuckle over the number of people who couldn't even find the bathroom because they had never been in the Library before. Support their fundraisers as often as you can so they will be there for you when needed.

BUY BUG SPRAY AND USE IT. Next to water and ice, bug spray was the rarest of commodities Nasty, biting bugs love the aftermath of a storm like Ike as conditions are perfect for their little mating rituals with lots of offspring.

I am sure I learned other things but I can't remember them right now. I wonder if I will remember any of this when the next storm approaches? One can only hope.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Take that Ike!

I arrived back in Houston the night of the 15th. I was very lucky in that I got picked up from the airport by the people that were looking after the Girls. It was so good to see those wiggly, furry bodies (the Girls that is, not Tina and Shane!) Everyone on the plane had been apprehensive about what we would see when we landed and nothing we had heard could have prepared us for what I saw. On the way from the airport to home, I kept seeing... nothing... there were no street lights after the airport complex and the large business districts were also dark. No traffic signals and even the big gas stations were all dark. The roads were virtually empty. Crazy Houston traffic had morphed into sedate, mid-century Sunday driving.

We swung into the driveway to see it littered with lots of tree bits but nothig looked truly damaged. No lights at home but I had lots of candles and battery powered accessories so all I did was bring in the suitcases, let the Girls out for a pee and went to bed. I woke to see a very different landscape. One of the big Sumac tress in the front yard was leaning on the pine trees. The back yard was covered in dozens of tree branches. The little park across the street at the entrance to the Green Belt Trail was littered with large branches. I took the girls for a walk and was amazed at the number of large speciman trees in front yards that had been split, fallen or pushed over by this storm. I did not see any home damage, just trees down and fences crumpled.

When I got home I realized that my front yard was completely pristine. Even some of the driveway had been cleaned up. The neighbors on both sides of me had done a ton of clean-up for me. It only took a couple of more hours before the driveway was finished with one of my neighbors and I chipping tree limbs and other fallen tree bits. My neighbor on the other (actually his mother) came over to apologize for not completing the driveway as she had run out of bags to contain the mess. I am humbled by their generosity. When their own clean-up was massive, they still spent a lot of time working on my yard. Good people both.

Although I had to clean-up my own backyard, I felt paralyzed by the number of things I needed to do... so I did very little. There were notes to write from the funeral, people to call, clothing to wash, paperwork to be sorted ... but I spent most of my time listening to the radio report on the progress of the clean-up effort and tales of relief chaos. The incomparable Ms. S. and I spent a lot of time sitting on her front porch talking about genrators, family and friends.

By Friday, we were both stir crazy and did a wacky road trip to find an open post office, cruise Target, eat lunch and buy tamales. By Sunday I had had enough of the heat and humidity and decided to go to Paul's to wash clothes. He was working elsewhere and it was very strange to be in his home, doing laundry, charging electronics and playing with the dogs without him. As we were coming home, the alarm company called and said that my alarm was showing a break-in. The poor operator could not understand was a I was so happy.. if the alarm was on then the power was on. Yahoo!

Back to reality...

Later - lessons learned.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

John and Ike

I have not been blogging this week and may not be able for another week or so but I thought I would update you on what's happening.

Last Friday, September 5, in the morning, my Father died unexpectedly in his long term carm home in Canada. Athough he had been quite ill for more than a year, my brothers and I did not anticipate his passing for a couple of more years. He died while in his wheelchair, reading a book in the sunshine coming into his window. He went the way most of us would prefer but it was quite a shock to our systems. Technology has become so pervasive in our lives, my Dad now has a web page. Will wonders never cease!

Needless to say, I have been away from home dealing with what needed to be done so I have missed the brunt of Ike. It appears that Ike strolled right through my neighbohood and has knocked over a lot of trees and cut power to the area. I will be trying to get home to see if there is any damage to my home but I have already heard that a friend and her family in the neighborhood are safe although the roads are completly clogged with tree debris. Alex and the girls are being housed by two different sets of friends... the girls with my son's girlfriend's sister in the historic Montrose district and Alex by Paul's boss in Spring. We've heard from the sister that they are out of power, that the roof is leaking but that they are all safe. We have been unable to get in contact with Alex's caregivers. I hope they have managed to weather the storm with little damage as well.

Power may be out in my area for three weeks or more but I am hopeful we are only talking four days like it was after Rita.

I have watching live video feeds from local TV stations all night and most of the day and my heart is going out to all those who have been trapped through no fault of their own. For the fools who would not evacuate, especially those who wanted to be rescued from the Galveston fishing pier, I have no sympathy. Lets all hope that the number of people hurt by the storm remains low and that the damage is really not as bad as it looks.

John and Ike, two names that will be forever tied together for me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Into the Mail

I mentioned a while ago that I had worked with some purple leather for a Bag Ladies Swap challenge. As it has now been received by Nicola in Ireland I can now show you how it turned out:
(didn't know leather was so shiny until I took this picture!)

The exterior is purple leather, the applique is red suede. Can you see that I used both sides of the red, one is smooth and the other is fuzzy? The handle has the red suede on the interior of the strap. The interior is some dupioni silk with, of course, some lavender buds between the leather and the silk. I did not use any interfacing for stiffness because I think the leather is sturdy enough on its own. For the closure I used two little rare earth magnets sewn into two little pouches at the top of the bag. I did this because, I must confess, that with the lack of interfacing, a standard magnetic snap just would not work so I took the easy way out. This is the Grace handbag from the Making Vintage Handbags book I have used before. I understand that Nicola will be field testing this bag this week so I hope she will report back on how it stood up to her use.
For September it appears the challenge may be a man's bag...Yikes!

In the Mail

Today I got a woderful surprise in the mail. I received my Doll Quilt Swap IV quilt from Lynn. Isn't it wonderful!

Not only does it have wonderful colors but it was hand quilted. She mentioned in her note that there were a couple of errors. I don't see them but then again, if we were all perfect we would all be God and she hasn't given up her job yet. Lynn also included a couple of fat quarters. The red one is a wonderful flannel, perfect for Operation Care Package stockings. The other is a lovely cotton from Moda with Dachshunds (the ones in blue sweaters) on it. Not sure what I will do with it but I don't think it will age a long time in my stash before being used. She also included a couple of gourmet chocolate bars. They are now in my fridge as they had started to melt in our heat before I got the package inside. They will not last long once they firm up a bit.

Thanks Lynn!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Red Scarf Project

The Orphan Foundation of America has put out the call again this year for red scarves. These are distributed for St. Valentine's Day to orphans as an encouragment to continue pursuing their dreams. It must be hard, after high school, to head out into post-secondary education without any parental support. Not because you have had a falling out with your parents or there are other family trouble but because your parents don't exist. I can't imagine it.

Anyway, last year I used some beige wool and dyed it red with Kool Aid. This year, I think I will take the easy way out and buy red wool. I do think I will use the Yarn Harlot pattern I used last year as it was easy to keep track of where you are in the pattern. I see I finished it by the end of September but that was after a solid week sitting at my Dad's hospital bedside when he was recovering from his stroke. This year, that solid knitting time will need to wait until October when I visit him for a week at his long term care facility.

If you really like to knit for others I just read about a project sponsored by Carol Anderson of Cottage Creations knitting patterns. She is asking for mittens, caps, scarves, afghans, prayer shawls, baby blankets, dish cloths, socks, and sweaters for infants, children and adults affected by the Iowa floods. My favorite yarn store is gathering items so I am sure your local yarn shop is as well.