Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cleaning up

        The hallway carpet is thread-bare in places, and is also black.  As such, it could stand to be vacuumed daily—thought it isn’t.  This morning My Midnight Man dragged the Dyson Vacuum from the hall cupboard.  Whilst I’m eating a bowl of cornflakes, Midnight Man energetically sets the machine in motion.  After a couple of minutes he turns the Dyson off and says:  “All this thing is doing is making a bunch of noise.  It isn’t sucking up anything.”
        The sounds of the plastic device being turned over and operated on, drift into the lounge from the passage way.  “You weren’t expecting to do an engineering job today, were you?”
        “No, not really!”  I hear, along with his chuckle.  After a minute of two, I see him stand up.  “This could definitely stop it working.”  I look.  Midnight Man is holding a wad of lint and fuzz the size of a dead rat.  I can only nod in agreement.
        After depositing the matted culprit into the rubbish bin (trash) he proceeds to clean.  I hear him yell over the roar of the Dyson turbo engine:  “Now it’s sucking up like it’s going after tomorrow!”
        “It already took yesterday!  It can’t have tomorrow too!”

Friday, 25 March 2011

Tuesday's Aventure--AKA, Removing the Obstruction

                With My Midnight Man’s progeny living in their own abodes, I had this naive and silly idea that the days of needing to go to the A&E (English for Accident and Emergency—the American counterpart is the ER) had ended.  Not so.
                I begin the tale a few weeks back, when my ears were itching and I was giving the canals a good swabbing out with those famous instruments called “Q-Tips” or “cotton buds”.  The plastic and cotton tool I was using was not the high quality “Johnson & Johnson Q-tips”.  No, it was a “Just Baby” knock-off, with some of the cotton tips securely attached and others not.  As I was applying some much-needed friction, I felt the cotton tip loosen.  I pulled the blue wand out—but no cotton tip.  Hmmm...  This had happened previously, but the tip had never dislodged in my ear.  This time it DID.  However, I wasn’t really sure, so I asked My Midnight Man to have a look under his brightly lit magnifying light.  Unfortunately, he didn’t see anything.  About that time I decided that it was my imagination that the bud had not been deposited in my ear; it had actually fallen out and onto the floor—even though I couldn’t see it.
                Yet, my hearing was impaired.  And it felt as though there was something in my ear, close to the ear drum.  After about a week, I went in to see my doctor.  After peering into the left ear canal he said I have wax build-up.  I rather doubt this, as I do keep my ears rather clean.  But, he’s the doctor and so I ask him what to do.  He recommends a few drops of olive oil in the ear, twice a day for a few days to soften the wax and then to use a syringe bulb to wash them out. 
                Sometimes three times a day I dripped olive oil into my left ear—only to have the ear feel more stopped up.  On Tuesday,( 22n’d March) after 10 days of no relief, I go back to the doctor’s office.  I see a different physician, as Tuesdays are my regular GP’s day off. 
This time I am direct...I” think I have a cotton bud in my ear.”
The doctor sticks the little medical gadget into my ear and says, “Yes, I can see it.”  Well, it is a relief to know it IS there...but not a relief because it is still in there.  He schedules me for an appointment with the nurse, who will attempt to remove the cotton with a pair of tweezers. 
Two-and-a-half hours later, I reported back to the surgery (doctor’s office) to meet with the nurse.  As any good nurse would do, she scolds me for putting anything besides my fingers in my ears!  She makes an attempt, but the white, fuzzy obstacle is too far down.  She then calls the hospital. 
Armed with a letter from the doctor’s office, I am sent to the A&E (Accident and Emergency) at the local hospital and told to see the ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat doctor) who is on call. 
As it happens, My Midnight Man has already been into town and purchased an All-day bus ticket.  As I was going out, MMM was coming in—and he relayed the bus ticket to me.  We certainly got the value out of that ticket! 
Tuesday was sunny, almost warm and certainly clear.  I relaxed, read my book on the bus and giggled silently to myself.  I reported to reception at the A&E, and handed her my letter.  She told me to take a seat.  So I did, expecting a long, indeterminable wait.  Instead, I read about a page and a half when my name was called. 
Within a few minutes I was ushered into a room with a table and a surgical lamp above it.  The on-call ENT doctor gently held my ear open and the pleasant Nurse-Practitioner, armed with small forceps, gently pulled that annoying obstruction from my ear.   Sweet Relief!  Though there was no infection, I am prescribed a week’s worth of antibiotics as a preventative.  After getting my prescription filled at the hospital’s pharmacy, I make the trip home.
As I’m riding home, thinking about the whole episode, I couldn’t help pondering how it can mirror my spiritual life.  What have I been listening to that is blocking my ability to hear what God is speaking to me?  Have I been watching things on television that allows fear, doubt, and frustration to interfere with the reassurances of the Holy Spirit’s whispers?  What needs the tender attention of the Holy Spirit to remove the obstacles I’ve allowed into my mind and heart?  Yes, Glorious Healer, come and attend to the results of my silly and inept actions.  I want to hear you clearly.  I’m still Your child—no matter how old I grow to be. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Earning a Girl Scout Badge...1968

I sat on Mom's bed with the green book in front of me.  It was the Junior Cadet Girl Scout manual.  I flipped through the pages, looking specifically to badges to be earned.  I read the requirements of each one, and I found the one I wanted next. 
That little circle with the green background, and a little saucepan emblem on it stood out to me.  It was achievable.  After all, on my mother's side of the family my great-great grandmother taught my grandmother (who was orphaned) to cook.  My grandmother taught my mother and at 10 years old, I was ready to begin cooking.
I can still remember planning and cooking that first meal--round steak, with mashed potatoes, corn and green beans; a simple but filling meal.  I can't remember now if I fixed a desert.  I can still remember that square kitchen in the Castle Air Force Base family housing suburb.  The outside door was on the outside wall led to the breeze-way/carport.  Across the small room was the doorway to the dining area and rest of the house.  The window on the other outside wall faced the fenced-in back yard.  During the summer we had four-o'clock vines growing on wires and this shaded the kitchen and filled the air with a pungent, sweet perfume when the flowers swirled open their fragile blooms.  The stove sat next to the door way, with other cabinets across the room from the sink.  There was a work counter-top beneath cupboards on the wall.
And it was here that my love with the creative art of cooking was started.  Mom taught me to beat the steak with a meat knife to tenderize it.  I poured on garlic salt and black ground pepper.  Next was a dip into the flour.  It was ready for the grease.
"Mom, how many potatoes?"
"How many people are you cooking for?"  she asked.
"Five--you know, you, me, Dad, Bubby and Monkey Girl."
"Peel six potatoes--one per person and one for the pot." 
That is the guideline I've used throughout my life, no matter what I'm cooking.  If I'm preparing mashed potatoes, potato salad or boiled potatoes for a meal, it's one per person and one 'for the pot'.  This extra potato allows for second helping--especially in the case of growing teen-age boys.  It also covers you if an unexpected guest shows up.  Left over potatoes become potato bread, potato cakes or potato soup.
The corn of that first meal was out of the can.  So were the green beans.  But Mom taught me to put in some bacon and onion. 
I did achieve the scout badge, and I still have my sash and the badge--someplace.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Creativity and You

                The first chapter of Genesis, the first verse reads:  “In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned and) created the heavens and earth.”  There is a progression of the world’s creation which leads to mankind.  “God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] makes mankind in our image, after Our likeness...”  (Amplified Bible)
                Creator is one of God’s names.  Creating is a part of His character, one of the many things that is the essence of Who He is.  So, logically, if God is creative and creates, and we are made in His image, then each one of us has been endowed with a bent, a talent, a skill with which we also can create. 
                Most people know the story of Moses.  Whilst he had trouble articulating his message, Moses walked into Egypt and created a BIG stir—for the Israelites and the Egyptians!  Sometimes creativity is not about producing a tangible object.  Rather, it’s about providing opportunities and avenues for change.
Some people are gifted with great curiosity, the kind that leads them into researching mysteries in biology, chemistry, and space.  They aren’t applying colours to a canvas—they are the people who compound chemicals, minerals and substances that become new forms of paint.  For hundreds of years artists had to use oil based compounds with minerals, pigments and dyes to mix up paint.  In the 1970s and 1980s scientists developed a new type of medium—acrylic paints.  They had the vibrancy of oils, could be thinned down with medium or even water to the transparency level of water colours.  This same curiosity applies to the discovery of medications, treatments, developing plants that are resistant to harsh conditions, breeding new kinds of animals. 
                There is a kind of mindset that believes that Fine Artists, Performing Artists and designers are the “Creative People”; whilst engineers, accountants, scientists, and medical people are the “Intellectual/practical” people.  I suppose its because fields of mathematically and analytically based professions have structures, set rules of thinking, and it is more difficult to detect the aesthetic and esoteric aspects of these disciplines. 
                I believe creativity is about looking into a situation with new perspectives.  Doctors, scientists, engineers begin looking at a problem or project within the established structures—after all, numbers don’t lie!  They look at what has worked previously, taking their lead from a solid foundation of what is known.  Then at some point they ask themselves, “What if we did this?”  This unlocks the creative side of their minds.
                One of my favourite books of all time is Drawing on the Right side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.  Dr. Betty Edwards created the book as a course to help people “see” in a new way, then to draw what they saw.  She spent over ten years trying to unlock the door of the creative process.  This led her to research on right and left brain function.  Then she formulated the material in a book, which was first copy-written and published in 1979.  I have recommended this book to lots of people with surprising results. 
                Some people are blind to their own creativity—which amazes me.  When people find out that I have degree in Fine Arts (drawing, painting, and writing), they say: “I wish I were creative.”  Years ago, while I was spending half-days writing a book, a friend made the remark; “I’m not creative at all.”  Yet, she worked as a seamstress from her home.  One of her projects was to take pieces from five different dress patterns and fit them together into a wedding dress.  I spun the light on the issue, telling her that it took a great deal of creativity to successfully accomplish such a feat.  I asked what she would do if her sewing machine were taken away.  Her reply was that she would curl up and die. 
                Creativity is about having a passion within that demands expression, or the soul will die.  Athletes have to run, jump, swim, flex, lift, and play because doing so creates a joy in the performance.  Athletes are entertainers.  Their imagination and cleverness happens in their minds—finding ways to stay inspired during the hard slog of repetitive actions.  Pounding along a training track mile after mile doesn’t appear to be amusing, entertaining or original.  Yet, what is happening in the mind is—forming pictures of winning a race, or achieving a goal, finding ways to keep motivated when the muscles burn, the wind is cold, the rain is a deluge, snow is blinding or sun is scorching.   
                Not everything that has been created by man is good—but creativity is more than good.  It is divine.  Creativity is a link between us and the Amazing Heavenly Father Who chose to create us in His image.  We should never worship or revere creativity.  Rather, we should rejoice in Jesus Christ—the Creator Who stepped into His own creation.  We can show our devotion by giving expression to the talents we have, sharing the fruit of our imaginations, being good stewards of the inherent abilities we have. 
                Now, go be creative!
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A 2007 Wedding Project

My oldest step-daughter, "Lacy Chantilley" married "Mr Biz" on 14th July 2007.  Of course, there is a lot to organise for a wedding.  She looked and looked for ring bearer pillows.  She found something, but it was beyond the budget.  Since I can sew, I told her that I'd make some for her--as she wanted two.  Her colours were pink and white.  

I took inventory of what I had on hand, finding a pink sheet that would work--and  I set to work.  She wanted a heart-shaped pillow.  The great thing about a pillow is that there are very few tricky measurements needed.  

To make the pattern, I made a nine-inch square.  Then, using a 9-inch cake tin, I traced a circle.  I cut the circle in half, taped them onto two adjacent sides and "ta-da" a heart-shaped pattern.  

I decided that the best way to do things was to make two pillows, then make two covers.  That required making another pattern so that the cover would have a slit in the back in order to put the cover onto the pillows.  The partial pattern can be seen here at the top.

I cut out six heart-shaped patterns and four of the "split" heart patterns. 

I sewed the pillows together.  Then I nipped and trimmed the round tops of the heart so that the pillows would lie flat and smooth once they were turned.  I also cut the tip at the bottom for the same reason.  

I left a small opening on one side.  This opening is where I would pull it right side out and then place the stuffing in.

Before turning the cusion, I pressed the seams open.  

I placed my thumb into the opening, then gathered the pillow down to the point of the heart.  I chose to start by pulling out the tip of the heart, because it would be the hardest part to get tight and smooth in the turning process.  

I guess I would call this turning process "leading with the point."  Hopefully you can see the right side and point coming out.

Here is the pillow right side out and pressed.  At this point I filled the cushion with some polyester pillow/cusion filling fiber/stuffing.  I tried to make the pillows very firm, pushing in as much fiber as I could.
Since my machine is a basic zigzag machine, there are no attachments to put on embellishments.  This meant I had to find a solution to embroidering their names and wedding date onto the front.  Then I remembered that I had some iron-on transfer sheets.  

I went into Microsoft Publisher, typed the wording I wanted and then Flipped it.  This was important because without creating the mirror image, their names and wedding date would have been applied onto the pillow backward.  Iron-on transfer sheets allow a person to create personalised iron-on designs.  The sheets are then fed into a printer one at a time.  The sheets also come with instructions on how to apply the iron-ons, how long to use the heat and what temperature settings.  But always remember to use a dry iron.  

I also used iron-on adhesive to apply the lace to the front of the cushion covers.  I did this before I sewed the cusion covers together.  

The pattern for the split side/back of the cushion had to overlap to make sure the covers fits properly.  At this point I stitched the straight edges first.  

Then I attached the lace around the edges of the front, folding the lace inward, toward the right side.  Once it was all pinned, I pressed everything and then sewed the lace down.  

Then I attached the two-piece back onto the front, right sides together.  Then I sewed the back and front together.  Once again, I turned the covers and gave them a good pressing with the iron.

 And this is the finished result.  To make sure she had something blue on the day, I added a little blue ribbon for tieing the rings on--and also little bells.  "Lacy Chantilly" was very pleased with the results.  She told me that she'll keep them forever.  That is a true compliment, and is sincerely appreicated.  

These were fairly easy to make, and I hope to make more.  After all, I have two more step-daughters to get married!

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith--"Lady Helene"