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After the Floods

Living on the Gulf coast means hurricanes and tropical storms. Preparing for hurricanes is much like preparing for a blizzard in the Midwest,…stock up on nonperishable items, make sure you have all your medications and are prepared to stay in your home for at least a week without any outside resources …..or leaving with same to parts unknown.

We have evacuated twice—once with two vehicles–I had three little boys and a cat along with a few snacks and a few extra clothes; once to position myself for work with husband in a small hospital. It was nerve wracking to see the same videos posted by the national networks, the newspapers working on printing human interest stories instead of information.

Then came Rita, Humberto, and Ike—the loss of many of our wonderful old live oak trees and the slow recovery efforts despite hordes of swamp mosquitoes requiring the Air Force to spray and so many helicopters flying overhead.

And then the flooding with the torrential rains from tropical storm Harvey and now Imelda, Laura, and the two Greek storms. Although Harvey was in the fall of 2017, people are still not back in their homes, money for recovery is slowly trickling in—-and the same houses that some people just repaired have flooded again. Blue tarped roofs are everywhere and with the pandemic and its isolation, recovery has been difficult.

The local grocery store took on a foot of water, a car dealership the same or more. One business had the air conditioner fall through the flat roof–destroying everything inside.

This week has brought cool weather and rain—thunder and lightening. Toby hides under the knee hole of my desk, needs to be on a leash to go outside for her bathroom break, and we have been asked to reduce our energy usage due to power shortages. After our February freeze and our ‘rolling blackouts’ that lasted for hours here but days elsewhere, we were all more than a bit apprehensive.

While ‘climate change’ is a popular media topic subject to scare tactics, hurricane season is approaching. I begin to stock up in May—cases/gallons of bottled water, canned goods requiring little preparation other than reheating on the gas cook-top and a fresh cannister of ground coffee—-if there is coffee in the morning—life is good.

Self Portrait

This piece was completed as part of a challenge for our small group. My hair was quite short then having it cut for a donation for cancer patient wigs. That baby is now in school and my hair is quite long.

self20protrait20with20great20neice20ella-m

The original was taken by my husband as I sat on the floor of my nephew’s home and held Ella–his daughter—Eli her twin being sound asleep

I have never liked having my photograph taken and while self-portraits are something artists do—is it because they need a model and the one that is readily available is themselves?

I thought it might be interesting to make a self portrait that was not traditional. As I thought about it, I decided that everything around us reflected who we were as people—the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the books we read, the color of our living room, the holidays we celebrate.

I have now completed all the components and am thinking of how I want to display them—as words and books are perhaps as important as visual and auditory experiences, I think it needs to be a book—not a memoir.

Here are two ‘pages’— perhaps you can guess what they represent.

Obviously these are in the working stage—but the first one is my name and the second one is my birthday.

The finished pages/book won’t be complete for awhile—so please do not be holding your breath. I work slowly but think about the project while I am dealing with other tasks. When I figure out how I am going to put this together, I will post photos–and it might be a video—if our internet cooperates.

Serious Series Work

What did you do last summer? Always a good essay for back to school and I still think of summer as time off and September as the start of the working year–even though it has been a few years since I have been in school. And now we can add—what have you done during the pandemic to stay creatively active and to survive the isolation?

After the initial random restlessness of figuring out what I could/should be doing combined with a canceled long anticipated surgery to repair my back, I hung around the internet scanning for something interesting. Besides the new challenge of figuring out what we would have for supper and what series we would watch on Netflix, I decided I would clean up my photo site, revamp my website, and learn more about blogging. I wanted to do a series of ‘something’ but could not really settle on anything. In the past, I had put together a series of farm buildings–barn, milk-house, grainery, corn crib, farm-house, windmill—and that was absorbing–and fun.

My blog is still what it is. And my website is still not up-dated. I’ve done half of the lessons in WordPress and worked on re-organizing my photos—i have a lot—so many!  I’ve tried setting up schedules for the mundane in my life–cleaning the kitchen, workouts at the gym, art time–and so forth but it quickly falls to the wayside as someone calls me and asks me to work somewhere or it is raining that day and I can’t mow or it isn’t raining and so a good day to mow. And then there was the endless search for vaccinations coupled with the challenges of weather–floods, winds, and our big freeze a couple of months ago.

But all of that is not particularly news-worthy or interesting–other than as a historical notation.

I have always kept a file of images that appeal to me–color, shapes, lines, repetition–and now they mostly live on my photo site–but privately held as they are not meant to be good photos–but inspirational. My first series was farm buildings based on my photographs—finding an old fashioned corn-crib meant driving around rural Wisconsin and stopping at a farm, chatting with the farmer who gave permission for photography. While  I’ve worked on some pieces that I would consider sequential—a study of color or design and composition exercises, the next real series was the Stations of the Cross.

 

After completing a big project, there is always a sense of restlessness—wondering what should come next–a time of being not focused but aimless…..until the next challenge or inspiration occurs.

While I am waiting for that to happen, I can sort through more photos–do I really need ten photos of azaleas? I can sort through my sketchbooks, put bindings on quilts, and if really desperate–clean the kitchen and do the laundry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

farm buildings

Mom’s UFO’s

There may be one or two quilters who can claim no UFO’s. I certainly have my share—and I’m not divulging exactly how many that is—I will admit to working on shrinking that stack–they seem to glare at me with accusing eyes demanding to know when I will get to them.

Some of the quilt group I have belonged to have issued UFO completion challenges. We have traded UFO’s–I think that is fun—but I’m not volunteering to take on more. Some require a commitment at the beginning of each year writing down the names of the projects, some involve a random selection by drawing a number each month. Most require visible proof of completion–and that is always fun to see the line-up of the finished projects and the dates started.

Starting a new project is always exciting and fun—but then there are those accusing piles of bags and boxes—not to mention boxes of scraps demanding attention.

Most of us have found extra time on our hands–with no visiting or trips to museums, movies, restaurants, family gatherings, or even the grocery store or doctor’s office. I’ve worked on a couple of new projects but also worked on finishing up—including some of my mother’s unfinished pieces.

One thing I tried was quilting two pieces at one time. I am limited by the size of my frame; I can comfortably quilt a 72 inch wide piece…but using the wide backing fabric means i have about a hundred inches of length to work with—so that means several small pieces will fit.

I finished Mom’s little quilt top—it was a variation of a New York beauty and then worked on something I made featuring baskets and a variety of blocks combining it with some batik fabric I made with some tjaps from Thailand–and then a very old UFO of mine along with another new piece. They are quilted but not bound—good evening television projects.

Mom’s New York Beauty Variation
working on two at a time with one pantograph and the other custom
my birdhouse quilt meant to suggest looking out my kitchen window on a snowy wintery day
I think this is probably my oldest UFO dating from my life in Georgia
tthis is the basket quilt

If this last one makes you feel a bit dizzy–I rotated it in WordPress—usually I upload from my Smugmug account where I can manipulate the photos with greater ease–but to avoid neck strain on all of you I turned it. The plainish blue squares are from a length of fabric I batiked—and yes I like to use a lot of color in the quilting thread–it is a dark variegated blue/purple thread.

Revisiting the past

At some point in life, we tend to rely on our memories–some good and others more fun to remember than to live through.

One of my nieces dealt with a home renovation while they lived in a camper outside the house—and the weather at that time of year–was chilly at best. Water froze in the teakettle and they dressed like a cross between the Michelin man and Pillsbury Dough boy. We once lived in a trailer so cold at night we had to leave the faucet dripping with a pot placed under the drip to be sure the drain didn’t freeze.

But then I wanted a photo for a project. I remembered taking the photo but then I had to find it—-at one time my husband and I both shared a photo site. His interests are a bit different than mine and it took me some time to find my photos.

Next project was figuring out how to transfer all these photos to my smugmug account—and of course in the process review them all and relive the memories.

I have copied just one gallery–there are more to go.

Some think there is an end in sight to the pandemic. Like the events of 9/11, our lives will never be the same—and while others may post pictures of what might be considered vintage tools or a time when life was simpler and better—I still remember putting the pan in the sink so our drain wouldn’t freeze.

and this is the piece I made from the photo of the blurry windows outside my hotel room in Denver Colorado

Freezing Sunshine and Pink Snow

In February this part of Texas endured what seemed like a century of cold weather and limited power. My laptop has a battery and I was able to write some–but never posted it to my blog. As it is now time to ‘spring clean’ I thought I would clean up some of my drafts; adding to them in some cases.

I wandered around our yard this morning and took a few photos. It is once again the time of the pink snowfall; the azalea blossoms of pink and white falling to the ground and resembling small drifts of snow. It is later this year than previous years–probably because of the interlude of cold, stopping everything in its tracks.

pink snow

And here is one of those valiant pansies–we have purple and yellow–so cheery.

How can anyone not smile and be joyful when you see these pansies?

And then there is the amaryllis—we have two bulbs–both in full bloom with another flower stalk on one.

And now—here is what I wrote in late February. It is hard to believe we are wondering if we should turn on the AC; but we are all hunting up replacements for all our frozen shrubbery and citrus. We have not pulled up our satsuma or Meyer’s lemon–still hoping but fairly certain they did not survive.

February 2021

The sun is out today and the temperature outside is pleasant enough for folks to resume their daily walks. The chicken has been returned to her chicken coop although I must say she was not a particularly tidy house guest. Toby and Dora were curious about the closed downstairs bathroom door–as that was their favorite place to sleep. Although they both have nice thick fur, neither one wanted to stay outside for very long.

Our jonquils are sad wilted green leaves, the satsuma and lemon tree have brown crispy leaves and branches–we will have major pruning occurring soon. The arugula and peas also are sad wilted greenery.

But the pansies hiding securely under a dog-food bag and a hive body survived and are still blooming—a ray of hope for us all.

Empanadas

Empanadas filled with pineapple or sweet potato are usually on the shelf at the local Mexican bakery. But what if I wanted to give them a try myself? With pandemic still in full swing or maybe even an upsurge in recent months, cooking/baking has become a renewed past-time. If I can’t go out to eat, then maybe I can experiment in my kitchen……

Diligently I sought out a recipe/instructions on the internet. I could have called my daughter-in-law but although she speaks English quite nicely, I find it difficult to understand over the phone. But I found a nice tutorial complete with videos–I could almost smell it cooking. He made a meat mixture and given that it is almost Thanksgiving, I used ground turkey meat.

Some years ago, I found myself with some time to go shopping in a Crate and Barrel store. How can anyone resist walking out of there without some small treasure at hand? I found a small press—I thought for empanadas–but now I think it might be for Chinese dumplings.

I made the dough, chilled it, and then rolled out nearly three dozen sort of circles. The guy on the video made it look extraordinarily easy–but my edges were always ragged and the shape more like an abused oval that had been through a hurricane or two.

So here they are.

They were tasty; but I think I will try to find a larger press; and someone made reference to finding the dough/crust circles pre-made—or even using puff pastry.

Sunny Skies and a little Wind

A cold front moved in several days ago and the house is chilly in the mornings. Our tile roof absorbs heat from the sun during the day and then emits that heat during the night—but the last of it is always around 4 in the morning. With my arthritis, I dress warmly–although not fashionably with leg warmers, flannel and sweaters and a huge pile of quilts on my bed. I grew up in the Midwest in a house that was heated initially by a wood-burning pot-bellied stove in the living room and then a wood-burning furnace in the basement. Winters were long and chilly.

I thought by moving to the South, I could escape some of the cold—but alas, houses here are meant to get rid of heat during the summer but not retain heat during the winter. Hot tea and warm socks and sweaters and scarves and balaclavas—-and those face masks!

Yesterday was a bit windy but I did burn some of our financial papers, clip some weeds around the beehives, quilt a row on the pink crumb quilt I constructed last month in honor of breast cancer awareness month, and then stopped by St. Anthony’s Basilica in Beaumont.

I did not go inside as I think reservations are necessary but walked around the outside, sat on a bench and offered prayers for myself, my family, and a friend and his dogs. I used to think prayers had to use the right words and be articulate and grammatically correct. My prayer book has a lot of those and I use them at times. Today I offered up the simplest of prayers and felt heard.

not the best photographic image but it speaks to me

Working

One of my jobs involves doing disability exams for Social Security. I’ve done these for three years now in several locations. They are physically demanding as I have just 20 minutes to review charts, take a history, do a physical exam, document notes and then dictate a summary. The emotional toll is worse.

Many want disability because they do not have health insurance. The ACA and HIPPA regulations have not changed things for the better. I could express my opinion in more descriptive terms but I don’t use that language in public…or even in private. I wish Congress had to deal with the same health care rules and regulations as those of us who pay our taxes.

Most of the applicants this past weekend were high school dropouts. Some got their GED later; some spent time in prison despite going to trade school and having a good job; one was wearing an ankle monitor; some had associates degrees in business. Then there were some who missed out on a career in the theater.

Many had smoked, drank,drugged, or ate their way into their current physical problems. And some were just plain lazy.

But the bright spot of my weekend were these two. Bella is a 7 month old puppy and thought she was a lap dog although she weighed close to 50 pounds. Biscuit was a rescue and would sit by my chair with her chin resting on my leg gazing up at me.

Providing a little bit of joy was the job of these two wonderful creatures.

Bella
Biscuit

Wizard of Oz

My local quilt guild has chosen Frank Baum’s book as the inspiration for this year’s book quilt. Held in even years, this is the third book. The first time, people could choose their favorite book. the last one was Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The first requirement was to read the book–and not rely upon any movie or cartoon version.

There were many scenes to choose from, but I chose the chapter describing being caught under the ice of the Antartic and all the wonderful colors refracted by the blocks of ice.

This year’s selection of the Wizard of Oz was much more challenging. The movie version is very different from the book and while most people focus on the movie imagery, the challenge was to find something in the book to trigger a read of the book.

I started with the idea that Kansas is somewhat flat with golden wheat fields and blue skies. I thought a fisheye version of the fields would be a good starting point and of course, Kansas along with the Midwest have tornadoes during thunderstorms. I also had some hand-pieced blocks called Kansas Dugout. Here is my beginning:

that seemed a bit tame and not proportioned correctly. So I inserted the blocks at the side and bottom.

I thought that was better but then I found some more of those Kansas Dugout blocks.

So now I had a base and it was time to decorate.

Tomorrow I’ll show you the finished piece after it has been presented at the quilt guild