Saturday, November 19, 2016

Blanket Owl

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Thankfully, there are blankets out there in the world other than the traditional stripe.  (I'm not complaining, but variety is good).

Here's anoher recent commission: an owl made from a pink and gray-blue striped blanket.  I took the basic pattern that I use for my sweater owls, enlarged it and added more detail, including felt wings, feet and beak, and embroidering the baby's name and birth date on the back (along with a little pocket, which they can maybe use some day as a tooth fairy pocket; I don't know, I just felt like it needed a pocket).

There are still 2 blankets in the works on my sewing table, including one printed all over with multi-colored elephants, and four more either in the mail or waiting to be shipped to me.  Looks like blanket-palooza won't be over until after the holidays.

Which is fine by me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The only way

Love the sentiment, not the candidate.
It's been a rough couple of days.  I'm going to try to stay off social media for a while (though I'll still be here, just talking about sewing and cats), but I do want to say a few words about the election, and its aftermath.

My candidate did not win Tuesday night. (Actually, my candidate was out of the running a while ago, but you know what I mean).

I know people who voted for Trump and who are happy about the result of the election. I believe most of these people do not actually think that women, gays, Muslims, people of color and other minorities are less than they are.  I hope that is true, and I hope they also realize that others will use this election as an excuse to fear and hate those who are not like them.

One thing I heard on Tuesday night's endless coverage was that liberals took Donald Trump literally, but not seriously, and his supporters took him seriously, but not literally. So maybe he won't build a wall, ban Muslims or do any of the other things I fear on behalf of people I care about.

Living where I do, near the University of Pennsylvania, in a neighborhood which is so multi-colored, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural it's difficult to visually decide who is a minority, with three mosques within walking distance of my house, I know a lot of people who could be affected by the negative rhetoric which was thrown around during the campaign.  Even if Trump walks back his remarks, or changes his tone, the genie of racism and misogyny and xenophobia has been let out of the bottle, and equal numbers of people are trying to stuff it back in while the rest are trying to break the bottle.

It's up to us. Obviously, voting isn't enough. If you care about something don't just tweet or post on Facebook or hash tag. Do something about the causes that matter to you. Because then even if the other candidate wins, you know that you are doing your best to be the change you want to see in the world. And sometimes that's the best you can hope for.

Also, if you know someone from the other side of the fence (and are still talking to them post-election), try to find at least one issue on which you share common ground.  We wouldn't have ended up quite so divided if we still talked to each other, instead of letting politicians and cable news tell us what the other side thought, and scaring us all senseless in the process.

I voted for Hillary on Tuesday, but I really wanted President Bernie Sanders.  I admit that I fear what could come from a Trump administration.  But there are still good, kind, rational people out there, willing to make a difference, talk to their neighbors (and their difficult relatives).  Sometimes a conversation can spur change.  Sometimes a person just needs to know someone to get another perspective on an issue they thought they completely understood.  It may not change their mind, but then again, it might.

I have a cousin that I love.  He voted for Donald Trump.  He is a good, kind man, who loves women and animals and America.  He's intelligent, he's college-educated.  He is pro-gun, but he grew up in a rural area, where they're a fact of life, not a criminal weapon (at least for the most part).  He chose to move to Philadelphia, so he can't have many issues with people not like himself.

We're having dinner soon.  I look forward to finding all the things we do have in common, and maybe even finding an issue we can work on together.  It's the only way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bunny Blankets

The receiving blanket animal orders are slowing down.

I'm not complaining about being busy, trust me, but I have to admit that sewing one after another of the traditional striped receiving blanket got a little bit . . . wearing.

Then these arrived.  Two different customers, two different locations (one CA, one FL), but the same unusual blanket.  It's not flannel, it's fuzzier, and it's printed all over with multi-colored bunnies and beach balls.

Interestingly, and I didn't notice this until after I'd cut the bunnies and constructed them, with the beach balls under the eyes so they looked spotted, it says "Hospital Property" in little letters around the circles.


I'd have taken my blanket, too, if it had been this cute.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Santa's Little Sweatshop

It's that time of year again.  The time when, despite all the work I've done during the year, I realize that the holidays are coming and I somehow have almost NO stock available for holiday shows.

I have shows on November 12, November 18-19, December 4, December 11 and December 18, plus a two-week-long in-house show in December at the Arts League where I teach, and I probably have enough things for this weekend and some leftover bits.

This is not a good situation.

The photo here is a load of stockings, dolls and bears dropped off at a local store.  They were the bulk of my stocking sales last year, so they got my entire stock, and I will (hopefully) get more done by the weekend.

I'm almost finished with my receiving blanket custom orders -- there are still two blankets left to ship to me, and other orders will come in, but the large quantity of orders brought on by the Babble and Scary Mommy features is slowing down.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

RIP Bear. And then there were five

Bear before she came in.  Even as a tiny kitten,
she had that "don't mess with me" face
Bear's surgery was scheduled for yesterday.  The orders were the usual: no food after midnight, no water after 6:00 a.m., so the night before, she got a big can of wet cat food.  She scarfed that down and then went to sleep on the arm of the big chair by the window.

In the morning, I put her in the carrier and walked her to the vet (I do love that this new vet is only 3 blocks from my house) and dropped her off.  The vet called about 15 minutes later.  He said that the swelling on her foot had doubled in size since he had seen her last week.  I told him it seemed to have mostly happened over the weekend, but that Monday was the first day she had seemed to notice it -- she was walking okay, but every so often she would stop and shake her foot, like she had stepped in something and was trying to shake it loose.

There's a foot in there somewhere
The rapid growth of the tumor made him doubt the lab reports.  He said if he did the surgery, he would most likely have to remove two toes, because the tumor had grown in between and around them.  It had also grown down and was swelling between her paw pads.  I asked if this would complicate the surgery, and he said even if he removed both toes, because of the rapid growth and the way it had spread in her paw, there was almost no likelihood of removing the tumor and getting wide enough margins to guarantee it wouldn't grow back.  And an aggressive cancer would probably grow back very quickly.  He also said with removing the toes and clearing away all the bad tissue, there wouldn't be enough skin to close the wound, and this would complicate recovery, make it longer, more painful and at serious risk of infection.

This was not the news I was expecting.  I was expecting surgery, recovery and related unpleasantness, but not this.

"Okay," I said.  "Give me your honest opinion -- knowing I might not take it.  Attempt the surgery, put her down now or bring her home and give her however much time she has until she gets uncomfortable?"

Sleepy Bear
He sighed.  "She's uncomfortable now.  Doing the surgery is only going to make it worse, and you'll have the same result, plus you'll have spent money you probably don't have to do it."

I told you this guy doesn't blow sunshine.

It wasn't even really a decision.  And it wasn't about the money -- I'd already spent more at Penn getting the initial round of tests than this vet had charged and was going to charge for the surgery.  But why put her through the surgery and recovery and pain, only to have it grow back before she was even totally healed?
I ent back to the vet's office and we did the right thing.  He was very good, gave her a tranquilizer shot and then she laid on my chest with her head under my chin until she fell asleep.  After that, he did the second shot, which took effect almost immediately.  I stayed with her for a little while, and then walked home with the empty carrier.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bear update

Bear's surgery is scheduled for Tuesday.

Her test results came back the other day -- her blood and urine were clear, and the fluid and tissue sample for the growth on her foot showed that it is a tumor.  Malignant, the vet said, but as malignancies go, not the worst kind.

He'll remove it Tuesday morning.  "It could come back," he said, "or it might not.  She's 11; you can hope that she'll die of old age before that happens."

This vet isn't everyone's cup of tea.  Most of the "cat" people in my neighborhood avoid him; I actually like him for the same reason they don't -- he doesn't blow sunshine, tells me what I need to hear (as opposed to what I'd like to hear) and his office is a 1970s-era dump, clean but worn.  So my hard-earned money isn't going into keeping up appearances.

I remember taking one of my cats to a cat specific vet in Philly years ago, and she spent 9 hours in the boarding area while they waited for her to decide to give them a urine sample.

This vet called me the other day, said that the lab had lost some samples and he needed another urine from Bear.  I brought her over, expecting to have to leave her for a while.  He popped her out of the carrier and onto the table, handed me a plastic cup, said, "Hold that, and raise her tail," and reached underneath and squeezed somehow, and she neatly filled up the cup.  He then put her back in the carrier while I moved the cup to the faded formica counter, and I took her home.  Total office time: 8 minutes.  Cost: $0.

He's pretty optimistic about Tuesday.  He said that potentially the most difficult part is the fact that the tumor is pushing her little toe out of alignment, and fixing that will probably cause her more discomfort than the actual removal.  I think that walking with her pinkie-toe permanently extended has probably already caused her more discomfort than the tumor, so it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Fingers, toes and paws crossed for a good result.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

London: Day 5

Roman wall 
Our last day.  Although we had crammed a lot into our trip thus far, we'd made an ambitious list for Tuesday.  And somehow, we accomplished it all.

We got up early and went out into the rain-wet streets toward the Tower.  I had done the tour years before and felt no need for another one, but I love getting off the Tube and encountering the Roman wall, 1000 years old and just sitting there in the middle of it all.

In the U.S., we 'd have cut it up into pieces and installed it in a museum, behind glass, where it wouldn't look like anything but a pile of rocks.

The skies had cleared and it was brilliantly blue, so sunny it was difficult to take pictures without the cooperation of passing clouds.

We walked for awhile around the Tower grounds and then crossed the bridge (which I'd never done before, for no particular reason) to get to our next stop, the marvel that is the Tate Modern.

Tower grounds with modern building in background

When I was last in London (fall 1995), there was only the Tate Gallery, which has now become the Tate Britain.  All the modern art has moved to this new location, a spectacularly renovated former power station with 20 foot ceilings that can dwarf even the most enormous artistic impulse and bring them down to human size.

This museum was Mario's choice, not mine; my taste runs more toward what we saw at the National Galleries, but I was very glad to have gone in the end.  Sometimes the setting really can determine how you see art, and this enhanced my experience tremendously.  I only wish we'd had time to go up to the viewing platform, but there was a line, and a schedule to keep to.

The tower (oldest building in center)
After the Tate, and a bacon roll from a street vendor (using up the last of our cash), we walked to Embankment and took the Tube to Westminster.

It was bright and sunny and we could have walked, but we were trying to fit a lot into a short period, so the train it was.  Getting off near the Abbey and coming up above ground to the push of the crowds is one of the "changes" I liked least -- having to stand in line at times to cross the street, being jostled constantly (albeit more politely) -- felt more like NYC than London.

Tower of London
This was my fifth trip to London, and my fifth visit to the Abbey (which is one of the few attractions in the city that has an admission charge).  I don't know why, but I always like to make that pilgrimage.  Even the crowds there don't bother me -- they're quieter, less camera-obsessed (since photography isn't allowed) and I can move at my own pace.

I stop in on Queen Elizabeth I and her half-sister, Queen Mary, entombed uncomfortably close together.  Hopefully in death these two sisters settled their many differences; otherwise, eternity is going to feel really, really eternal.

Traitor's Gate

 Mary of Scotland isn't too far away, adding insult to injury.  (I always did consider her a bit of an idiot).

We had visited the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery a few days prior, and agreed that the Abbey is where you get to visit all the people whose portraits you stared at a few blocks away.  

The bacon roll was wearing off, but we decided to get to our next destination before eating again.  Mario is a comic book/graphic novel fan, so we had to make a pilgrimage to Forbidden Planet for him.  Since this isn't as much up my alley, I required food and wine first to fortify myself.

Tower Bridge closer to - before we crossed
Topped off by a steak and ale pie and two glasses of wine (a happy accident in that the kitchen staff lost our order and we got a free round while we waited), we spent some time in Forbidden Planet, where Mario mingled with his people the way I do at fabric and garden stores.

A short walk brought back to Trafalgar Square, where we had an hour to kill before our last treat of the day -- and the trip.  I had bought us theater tickets to see Kenneth Branagh at the Garrick.

Kenneth Branagh is tied to London for me.  I was there in 1989, when his film of Henry V came out, and I saw it at the movies there, because I couldn't afford to go to the theater.  (I figured a Shakespearean movie was as close as I was going to get).

Modern London from the Tower area

Full circle 25 years later, grown up and with some money to spend, getting to see him live.  The whole experience at the Garrick was amazing, it's a white and gold wedding cake of a theater in the inside.  We had second tier seats, up but not too high, close enough that we could still see faces clearly, but inexpensive enough that we didn't think twice about buying tickets.  (That never happens at home).

We got in a little before midnight, having walked around London post-show, had a bit more wine, beer and the last of the cheese, and did our packing.  One thing to be said for not shopping on vacation -- packing literally took about 10 minutes for the two of us.

Recycled bottlecaps at the Tate Modern
Because we didn't feel like getting up at the crack of dawn, we treated ourselves to the Heathrow Express train the next morning from Paddington.  The Tube takes about 40 minutes from the airport and makes a lot of stops, plus since we were traveling during morning rush, it would have been packed.  But it's relatively cheap.  The Express is 20 pounds, but it's direct from Paddington to each terminal, takes 15 minutes, and runs every 15 minutes.  We decided that was the way to go.

Once again, we did online check-in, so we got through security pretty quickly, had breakfast at the airport (why are their airport restaurants priced the same as restaurants elsewhere, while U.S. airport restaurants hold you hostage and charge you double? Why?) and then only had an hour or so to wait at our gate.

Once again, the crowd was light, so after a little while, and a snack,  Mario moved up to watch movies and I read for a bit then tipped over in my seat and slept part of the way home.  I would have probably slept more, except the flight attendants were so unoccupied that they kept cruising the aisles, offering snacks, beverages, wine, facial wipes, etc., it felt rude to ignore them.

Tate Modern
Landing in Philadelphia, we waited in line at passport control and the security checkpoint, which was probably the most inconvenient part of the whole trip.  From there, we took the airport train right back to our neighborhood and walked home to greet the kitties.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern 

Tate Modern - mainly for scale.
This place is enormous.

Inside the Garrick Theatre

Understated neon at the Garrick