Archive for May, 2011

While son Geoff was here, he performed twice at Charlestown. Here’s the flyer I produced to promote his performances.

It says,

Geoff will demonstrate African, South American, and Caribbean rhythms and songs using traditional drums and the mbira (thumb piano). He will have you clapping, singing with him, and moving to the rhythms as he performs. Come and make music in a global song circle.

Everyone can do it.

On Thursday he performed at RGT, our assisted living facility where Ernie lives.

Here he’s playing the mbira and singing. More about the mbira later.

In the next two clips, he is playing the djembe, demonstrating what the instrument can do and showing off his skill with it.

One of the nursing assistants was dancing in the back of the room and Geoff encouraged her to come forward, for which she got a big round of applause.

Although I missed getting more video, here’s a shot of her being applauded.

What Geoff does is to encourage people to make music with him, to participate. This was too much for many of the assisted living residents, but some of them and all the staff present joined in. Here they’re singing

Kirinya          Kirinya, kirinya, ago kirinya

The next day, Friday, Geoff performed in our conference center. I had no idea how many people to expect. Although the flyer said that tickets were required, only about a dozen people had taken tickets. When I decided to cancel, the community resources director asked me to reconsider. She assured me that people show up; they just don’t like to commit themselves ahead of time. Sure enough, 45 people and maybe a few more were present.

Between drumming and singing, Geoff talked about the drums, the music, African and African diaspora history. Here’s he’s describing the mbira.

There was lively audience participation this time. Here we were singing

Solta Mandinga

Solta Mandinga Ay,     Solta Mandinga,

Solta Mandinga Ay Que Beleza,   Solta Mandinga accompanied by the conga.

Seated in the front row on the far right is grandson Matt, Michael’s son.

Making music was not our only way of having fun. On Thursday Geoff and I had dinner in the Refectory here with three resident friends, including Deb London, whose quilts you’ve seen. Phyl Lansing has traveled in India and Nepal and maintains connections there. Deb and Phil have lived in Japan. Geoff has traveled, studied, and spent time in all those places, so the conversation was lively.

On Friday we went to an Ethiopian restaurant with my two Nigerian friends, Ara and Yemi. They were the first Yoruba-speaking people Geoff has met, though he sings Yoruba songs. This conversation gave him a chance to learn about the intonations of the language. He wants to stay in touch with them.

On Saturday we went to son Pete’s house for a crab feast, and what a crab feast we had. The crabs were big and meaty.

Geoff with his dad, Skip.

And Geoff with his stepmother Cherie. You may remember them as the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts at their Halloween wedding.

Geoff had by far the biggest pile of crab shells when we cleaned up.

After the feast, the music continued. Grandson Noah played for us the repertoire he has prepared for his first recital.

He is being well-trained. I was impressed. But when he invited me to play the piano, I was embarrassed. I haven’t memorized anything yet and I really can’t play anything well enough except the hymns I play for the church service in the care center. I went to the keyboard and played chopsticks, which Noah promptly trumped by playing chopsticks with embellishment. More practice needed here.

I got something else I need, though. Between and around all the other activities, Geoff and I had lots of intimate conversation. Much needed here.

I left him at the airport at 6:00 this morning, thinking that there’s going to be another recovery “first” for me–a plane trip to Seattle

Read Full Post »

Though  I haven’t posted about it in a while, I am still stitching—on something very unplanned and unexpected.

A few weeks ago I saw one of the care center receptionists with whom I’ve had many conversations. When I saw the top Tangie was wearing, I exclaimed that I loved it. She said, “Oh, this is so old. I don’t even like it any more.” But I loved the colors. “When you’re done with it, don’t throw it away. Give it to me. I don’t want to wear it; I want to use the fabric to make something.”

“You may have it sooner than you think,” she replied. I thought we were just bantering, but then I thought, what if she’s serious?

Well, the next week, as I passed the front desk, Tangie handed me a bag with the top in it. OMG, she’s given it to me. Now what do I do?

I hung the top where I’d had Josh’s jacket hanging, so that I could see it all the time and hope for an idea to come. Here I show the back of it with some fabrics I was considering using with it. Unfortunately, I inadvertently deleted permanently the original shots I took of the front and back of the top. If you look closely, you can see sequins and beads on the ends of the sleeves and on the shoulder. The front had a yoke  of these clear glass beads on silver sequins.


The idea that came to me was to make a small shoulder bag of crazy patchwork. The first thing I did was to construct a mockup using a bit of an old bed-sheet to make sure I could do it.

Bag shapeFlap closing

It’s just two rectangles, the back longer than the front so it can flap over it, and stitching over the bottom to make square corners. It will be lined.

Then I began sketching some patchwork designs as thumbnails.


After settling on one,  I enlarged it on the computer and used it to make patterns for patches. This is for the front and back


and this is for the part of the back that will be the closing flap.


Next, because the fabric, though pure cotton, is thin and rippled, I fused part of it to fine Pellon interfacing. Then I traced the designs onto my foundation (old bedsheet remnant) using the light table. I also prepared stretcher bar frames.


Not necessary, but I like a firm foundation to work on when stitching, especially with beads. This goes back to the course I took in silk and metal thread embroidery where I learned to frame the piece for working.

I’ve repeatedly acknowledged my ineptness at piecing. Although I carefully pinned the paper patterns on to the fabric and cut leaving plenty of seam allowance, as I began to put the patches in place on the foundation, I wasn’t at all pleased with the effect, and machine stitching and flipping made it worse.

I wasn’t getting the parts of the fabric design and the direction of that design as I wanted them to combine.

In the end, I discarded a lot of patches and cut new ones.

Rejected patches

I cut them one at a time, making a paper pattern for each and pinning it in place before choosing the part of the fabric from which to cut the next one.

Pin piecing back

My worktable at this stage:


I returned to my method of last resort–hand basting the patches. Here’s the pinned and partly hand-basted front.

Partly basted

As you can see, I kept some of the beads-on-sequins. To do that, I had to secure them with my own stitching. Talk about fiddly work!

Here are some of the beads and sequins I had to remove to allow for seams. This took forever.


Both sides stretched and ready for seam treatments.

Stretched on frames

I was finally able to think about how to embellish the seams. I did that first on paper—a scan of the work on which I sketched some ideas.

Eventually I actually got to the fun part. Here’s the front of the bag with all the seams embellished. I don’t know whether this is enough, or whether I’ll add to these seams.

Front stitched

For now, I’m working on the back. I’m re-stitching all the beads-and-sequins to make sure none come off. As usual, this is slow going. It takes me so long to finish any project. So much unnecessary work because I don’t have the skills and experience to do what I want to do.  I wish I were more productive.

Read Full Post »

At 6:40 this Thursday morning  I left Charlestown and by 7:15 I was on the water off Nick’s Fish House. I spent 1 1/2 hours on the water.

Wednesday evening I met Michelle, with whom I had trained, at Nick’s Fish House, where she was going to paddle with Cliff from Canton Kayak Club. I was there to observe and pick up tips. Before Michelle and Cliff arrived, I had the chance to watch two men put kayaks in the water, and to talk with them about the experience.

It was well-worthwhile for me to be there. Cliff offered lots of information and recommendations. He told me which boat I should use and where it would be safe for me to practice by myself. He showed how he got the kayak into the launcher, which was different from the other two men I had watched. He also provided information about the Middle River docking station at Island View Café.

(Click on the pics to enlarge.)

Here’s Cliff testing his spray skirt for fit on this kayak:

(Notice the Hanover St. Bridge. Today I  paddled under it, through  it.)


The yellow kayak was for Michelle. Here she is, safely in the cockpit, ready for her paddle from Cliff and push-off.

In the cockpit

She wrote afterwards that she had had a great time.

Back to this morning. Of course I chose the little kayak Cliff had recommended. It was not up on the rack; it was on the ground under the rack. I had no difficulty getting it into the water. I slid it from the upper pier to the lower one where the launcher is located, as I had seen Cliff do.

To the launcher

My paddle and water bottle were already there.

It went easily into the launcher. It was just as easy for me to get into it, and I knew how to push off.


From there I paddled out under the Hanover Street Bridge and up toward the Patapsco. At first, I was hugging the shore, but it was immediately apparent how much easier this kayak was to handle. It also felt more stable, which may have been due in part to my having remembered to adjust the foot pegs before putting it in the launcher. I felt quite secure and confident and after 20  minutes or so, I headed out into open water. After turning around, I came back past the Nick Fish House marina and on to the other side of it. By 8:45 I was back at the launcher and on it with no problem. Getting myself out of the boat was somewhat difficult, as I was too far away from the pier, even in the launcher. I had to haul myself out chest down. Getting the kayak out of the water was easier than that! But…..

I could not get it back up on the upper pier where the racks are located.


So I dragged it to the ramp I had mistakenly used last time, and pulled it up.


Getting it secured under the rack was easy-peasy. Getting it there, however, after arriving back at the launcher, took me about 15 minutes. I was feeling a little shaky from the effort required. That quickly passed, though.

There’s  my boat—the little blue one on the bottom, returned and secured. By the way, Cliff had told me that this is a Venture Kayak, the brand recommended by the trainer. I hadn’t seen that last time. Instead, I had taken the largest, heaviest kayak from the third rack up! That kayak is now at  Tide Point docking station, where one of the men I talked with last evening had taken it.

My boat

The “ancient kayaker” after my second solo. Ready to head home at 9:10 a.m.

Boat secured_edited-1

And definitely ready to do it again!

Read Full Post »

On March 31st, grandson Patrick graduated from U.S. Army basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood.


(Sorry I can’t figure out how to enlarge the shots snagged from Facebook.)

Here he is with his mother, our daughter Patti, and his fiancee, Juliet Brines.


At present, Patrick is in training with Transportation where he is learning to drive these monster vehicles:

754px-Hemtt_iraqArmy truckDF-ST-92-05300

When I asked Patrick whether it was fun, driving these things, he responded: “Sort of. I always enjoyed just driving around so it kind of fits my bill. It is just a very different experience driving a huge truck that is not built for comfort.”

Before the end of this month, he will be driving with night vision goggles and infra red in convoys on and off base.

Patrick had some troubled times growing up. He was aimless, with no sense of direction or what he wanted to do with his life. We worried about him. But two years ago he told me that he had decided to enlist in the Army. He knew what he wanted to learn. Even after he enlisted, it took months for the Army to send him to basic training, months during which he worked out at the Y, preparing himself for the coming rigors. He now has a sense of purpose.

Since that conversation two years ago, he also met, fell in love with, and engaged himself to Juliet, who we all think is a great partner for Patrick.

Here’s Juliet with Patrick’s mother Patti, his sister Melissa, and his two nieces, Aly and Lilly.


Congratulations, Patrick. Love and best wishes to you and Juliet.

Read Full Post »

In my mailbox on Saturday I found a small padded envelope from Spain.

It could only be from Neki. Inside was this fabulous little card:

It is 4 1/4 by 3 3/4 inches. The ground fabric is needle felted. I’m sure Neki either painted or dyed the fibers she used to make it. I absolutely love these colors. Then she applied some gold metallic paint, machine-stitched circles and added hand-stitched herringbone lines. I’m not sure whether the zig-zag edging stitch was done by hand or machine. Finally, two pieces of net were layered on top. The bottom layer may have been fused, but the upper layer is attached by machine-stitched circles and an outline of blue straight stitches–like basting.

The back of the card is a red and blue fabric, like a tweed.

With this vibrant card was another tiny card

It is actually about 2 inches square and deeper red. When asked, Neki told me that it is “handmade paper made with sisal pulp, then painted and stitched”–just tiny blue straight stitches, sometimes called seeding stitch when used in this way to fill an area. On it she wrote, “Hugs.”

This sweet gift couldn’t have come at a better time, as I am struggling to adjust to Ernie being in assisted living, having relapses into symptoms I thought were gone for good.

One of the things about these pieces and about much of Neki’s work that appeals to me is that she leaves it unfinished. It’s raw, imperfect and at the same time strikingly original. Over and over I wonder, “how did she think of that?” And then I always wonder, “how did she DO it?”

Neki spins, dyes (often using natural materials as dyes), weaves, stitches, and makes all kinds of mixed media works. Go to her website and see what I’m talking about.

Read Full Post »


Josh posted this shot on his Facebook page with the caption “Gram’s Graduation Present :)”

Read Full Post »


This morning I was out on the water by myself in a kayak. For so long the days have been windy, Small Craft Advisory in effect, that when I saw there was no advisory until noon, I packed up at 8:30 and took off for Nick’s Fish House—12 minutes away.


I took this picture when I was there on Sunday with son Pete and his wife, mother-in-law and grandson Noah.


It was a gray and rainy day.

Today the sun was shining. I parked quite close to the Canton Kayak Club dock.

Kayak rack

My mission was to find out whether I could handle a kayak by myself. I found out that I couldn’t—at least this time. With experience, I may be able to do so.

I successfully opened the combination locks on the lock-box and the kayaks. I found a PFD that fit me.


This one was much less bulky than the ones used in training. I could move my arms freely and it was not nearly as heavy.

The paddles were marked with  numbers so that it was easy to find two ends that mated.

One end_edited-1Other end_edited-1

I got a kayak off the rack, choosing the brand that trainer Nick had recommended—Venture Kayak. It was third from the bottom on the rack. Surely it would have been easier to take the bottom kayak, but I had been alerted that some of the other brands were “tippier.” Notice the cables that secure the kayaks to the racks.

My kayak

Off the rack, I proceeded to drag it down this ramp:


When I had gotten a few feet beyond the ramp, a marina worker called to me and pointed to the place where I should launch the kayak.


It was close to the kayak rack, but I had failed to see it.

By this time the helpful man had already picked up one end of the kayak and we walked it to this site, where he slid it into the water, depriving me of the experience of doing it myself. He also held it while I got in, though I am sure I didn’t need that help.

I paddled for 15 minutes, staying within the marina. I went behind the boats docked here:

(Note the bridge.)


And into the open area beyond the end of the dock.

Paddle area

A man with a bicycle on the bridge overhead called to me that I was exceeding the speed limit.

Being out on the water felt wonderful. Although I realized that I had not adjusted the foot pegs and could not without tipping over, I was able to maneuver the kayak and to enjoy just sitting in it on the water on a perfect morning.

When I got back to the launching device, however, I could not get the kayak into it. The bow kept banging against it, instead of riding over it. For several minutes I tried to haul myself onto the dock. I tried several ways without success. It was too high. By this time, my arms were tired. I knew I couldn’t do it. I blew my whistle. The kind marina worker appeared again and pulled the boat into the cradle, or whatever it’s called. He said it was too high and that’s why the kayak wouldn’t ride into it. He held the boat as I got out. Then he helped me put it back on the rack.

After he left and I set about threading the cable through rings on all the kayaks on the rack to secure them, I discovered that the ring of my kayak was at the other end of the rack. I tried for several minutes to turn the boat over and get it off the rack to turn it around, but I couldn’t do it. So I walked to where several men were working and asked for help. Another man came back with me and told me that when a storm blew some of the kayaks off the rack, it took two men to get them back on it.

Unless I can learn a better way to do it, I cannot get a kayak back on the rack by myself. Not UP on the rack, that is.

This morning I went paddling after swimming 2/3 mile in our pool, as I do Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I went paddling instead of doing my usual workout after swimming and had a thorough workout. I’m feeling sore muscles all over. Just took Tylenol.

Okay. I needed help. But this was the first time at Nick’s Fish House and the first time alone. I didn’t capsize.

I soloed!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »