Monday, February 25, 2008

Listen and Watch

If you watched the Academy Awards last night, you'll know all about this song.

Here it is, unplugged, unmixed, outdoors, so honest, so rare...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

It's Snowing Again!

It never fails. My husband travels for business and we get a snow storm. To be fair, we've had more than one storm while he's been home, but there have been at least 4 or 5 times this winter that I've been dealing with the snow alone. It makes me crazy.

Anyways, we made it to and back from basketball, gymnastics, and the supermarket, so we can all hunker down for the evening. Kids' baths are on the agenda, and after that I might either 1) start house-cleaning for the social worker visit we have on Tuesday afternoon (our first post-placement report for China) or 2) start the rag quilt I've been planning for an auction donation. Here's the material (upside down!):

The "little piggies" will be the top, the blue flannelnette the backing, and the cream flanellnette will be the filling. It will be a simple quilt, but I think it might fetch a few dollars for the playground equipment at preschool if it turns out halfway decent. Oh, heck, the housecleaning can always wait!!

Those are the dogs at the patio door a few minutes ago, after a very quick trip to the backyard. When they don't want to stay out, you know it's nasty!

Here's hoping there's better weather somewhere....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

What a beautiful night it is to watch the total eclipse of the moon.

The evening is cold and clear, the moon having risen here in the east in its full-bodied glory while the sky was still streaked with shades of pale pink and blue.

The eclipse began only a half-hour or so ago. Here is a blurry photograph of what I saw just a few minutes before I sat at the laptop. We're just a little over an hour away from the full eclipse.

I've always been so fascinated by astronomical events. Looking up into the vast expanse of the night sky puts so much into perspective for me.

Excuse me while I go gaze some more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My New Scarf

I just finished sewing this scarf tonight. It's made from fabrics that I had purchased for quilt square swapping and had left over from DX's 100 Good Wishes Quilt. The burgandy taffeta-like material I got as a fabric end for $4.00! I used it for the backing as well. Here's what the scarf looks like on:

I was inspired to make the scarf when I stumbled upon the wonderful blog by Pink Chalk Studio. One of the patterns for sale there is the "Rubblework Scarf". I didn't actually use the pattern, but looked at some of the pictures of different versions of the scarf, and then used Amy Butler's free pattern for a "Cozy Scarf" to guide me.

I'm pretty happy with the results. It's a little bit intense, maybe, mostly due to the 'black & bright' Laurel Burch fabric (the cats and dogs)- but I dearly love that fabric. I bought it when we were vacationing in Ottawa a couple of summers ago. I made a special quilt shop trip to get some fabric for OHGWQ swaps, and I was totally drawn to the Laurel Burch fabrics. Sadly, I've heard that Laurel Burch passed away several months ago.

Anyways, the scarf was a quick little mini-project and I might even make another one in a totally different palette. Blues and creams, maybe.

But the next sewing project on my agenda is a "rag quilt". DX's not-for-profit preschool is having an auction to raise money for playground equipment, so if it turns out OK, then I'll donate it for that. It will be a couple of weeks before I get at it, I think.... as long as no other mini-projects pop up in the meantime. I've got to stop reading art blogs!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Thrice Tagged!

Oh my- I've been tagged for the "7 things you didn't know about me" meme twice. First by Deb and then by Sherri. SO, I guess there's no ignoring it! And, to my surprise, I was tagged ages ago by Tracey to do a different meme (sorry I missed that, Tracey).

Seven Things...Here's what I need to do: list 7 random things about me that many of you out in blogland may not know. The rules say I must link the person (or people) who sent this to me and leave a comment on their blog(s) so their readers can visit me. The rules have to be posted on my blog (that's why I'm writing this).

RULES: Share 7 facts about yourself. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, linking their blog. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

OK- in no particular order, here are 7 things about me that you might not know:

7) I'm a wannabe craftsperson. I've always loved arts & crafts, and my current obsession is learning to quilt. I also knit, embroider, & scrapbook. But- here's the thing- I can't cut a straight line!

6) I'm a wannabe goat herder! My retirement dream is to run a small hobby farm of mohair goats and/or alpaca, raised for their wool/fiber. I'd like to spin it, sell it, and create with it. Maybe I won't wait for retirement ;)

5) I'm an adventurous eater. I have not yet found a food that I won't try at least once.

4) I have always believed that I would have 4 children. We're in a holding pattern right now, with 3.

3) Part of my research program involves me living in seabird colonies for (brief) stretches of time. Apart from the fact it means I'm away from the kids, I absolutely LOVE it! No running water, toilet, central heating.... no traffic lights, appointments to make, or appearances to is THE LIFE!

2) My third name is Agnes.

1) From time to time, I hoard chocolate- just for myself. I'll sneak away while the kids are busy and eat it all before they find it. Today, I hid in my bedroom and ate a "Cherry Blossom" that I'd been carrying around in my purse for almost a week!

Now, who to tag?

How about: Kim, Tracey, Doreen, Krista, CA Momma, "M", Stephanie

Four Things
Here's Tracey's meme:

4 jobs I've had: 1) camp counsellor, 2) waitress, 3) Naval Reserve officer, 4)professor

4 movies I've watched over & over: 1) Cars, 2) A Fish Called Wanda, 3) all the Monty Python flicks, 4) Beaches

4 places I've lived: 1) Montreal, 2) Toronto, 3) Victoria, 4) St. John's

4 shows I watch (this is tough): 1) The Hour (George Stombolopolous), 2) The Border, 3) ... 4)... do The Backyardigans and The Suite Life with Zack & Cody count!?!

4 people who e-mail me regularly: 1) Libby, 2) Anne, 3) Doreen, 4) Debbie

4 favorite things to eat: 1) prime rib (with apologies to you vegetarians), 2) cheesecake, 3) chocolate, 4) turnip

4 places I'd rather be- nowhere, other than a short stint in Tuscany, I'm exactly where I want to be.

4 things I look forward to this year: 1) celebrating our son's first anniversary home with us, 2) the summer, 3) getting better at quilting, 4) taking the kids camping.

Now, I'm supposed to tag 4 others... but I won't since I just tagged 7 above. If any of the 7 of you want to do the "4 things meme", too, then go for it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Up Side of Being Down

I'm down today- home with a sort of flu-like thing. I haven't felt well since Wednesday, when I had a migraine. Then, on Friday, I started feeling the effects of a mild but annoying gastro virus that kept me busy. It's the "perfect virus" in terms of getting itself replicated, since it doesn't actually make you sick enough to keep you at home. I've been careful to try not to spread it.... lots of hand washing, copious use of cleaning products in the bathrooms, etc. But, this morning, my daughter woke up with it. Sigh. She went on to the great repository of all microbes- elementary school.

Today, I woke up with achey bones, headache, raging sore throat, so I decided to stay home, my husband took the kids to where they needed to be, and I fell back to sleep. So... now I'm up, feeling a little better, and I am SHOCKED to find out that Drew Carey is the host of The Price is Right!!! He's doing a pretty good job, too. And if I wasn't home sick, I would have never known that. I've always liked Drew Carey- he reminds me of my husband (who is more like a Drew Carey on too much caffeine).

Well, now that I've belly-ached about my belly aches, I want to show you this:

It's the quilt that I made as a birthday gift for one of my best friends in the world, Libby. I've been dying to post the pics, but I had to wait until I knew the postman delivered it to her (since I have the sneaky suspicion that she drops by here every now and then!). BTW, how do you like my new slippers? They are *so* comfy.

As far as quilts go, it's pretty simple. It's made from strips of African-inspired fabrics. The filler is a polar fleece blanket. The backing is a "ducky" flannel fabric remnant that I got for a bargain.

I machine-quilted the outline of the strips, and then I did some hand-quilitng (or maybe embroidery?) on the borders. Overall, I'm so happy with it. It's my FIRST completely finished quilt- so it will always be special, even if its not perfect ;)!

Well, time for another quick nap, I think. Hope you all fend off any germs heading your way better than I have!

Friday, February 1, 2008

China Update from Half the Sky

This is an e-mail from Jenny Bowen, Director of "Half the Sky". She has written a detailed message about how the severe weather in China is affecting the SWIs in various provinces. Read her news, and then think about whether you can help.

Hello again,

Welfare institutions in south and central China are having the hardest time dealing with the weather disaster. This part of the country is simply not equipped to deal with extreme cold or heavy snow and ice. The most common critical problems are power outages, lack of safe drinking and cooking water, lack of fuel, diapers and public transportation. In many places where buses have stopped running, our Half the Sky nannies have been walking hours (in one case, 4 hours) along icy roads to get to the children. As conditions worsen, our nannies and teachers are remaining at the institutions day and night. They have given up the idea of going home to their own families for the holidays. They need quilts. They need warm clothing. They need coal, water, disposable diapers and food.

Here are the reports I have thus far, while in-flight. I will send more soon. Where you don’t see a report, either all is well or I don’t yet have information. I will tell you when we’ve heard from everyone. We’ve also given all the directors an emergency number to call when/if the situation changes.

Hunan Province –

Chenzhou has had no electricity or water for six days. They are relying on coal for heat and cooking. The supermarkets and banks are closed. Staff is using personal money for baby food, diapers, coal and water. Costs are rising due to shortages. They have a natural well which, thankfully, is not frozen. Even the older children are helping to fetch water. They have perhaps six days of food remaining. The local government is overwhelmed by the disaster and is unable to help much.

Shaoyang has seen heavy snow every day for 20 days. There is sufficient water and, for the moment, there is power, so the children are warm. However, 5 of 6 power poles have been downed by weather. Only one stands and the institution fears it will fall as well, leaving them without electricity. Much of the rest of the city is already dark. Children and caregivers continue to work and play together. High school students are cramming for exams and trying to ignore the cold. Everyone prays that the power pole will continue to stand.

Yueyang also has no electricity. The one functioning power generator is being used in the children’s dormitory. They are relying on coal heat but the price has tripled in recent days. They are running out of food and have applied to the local Bureau of Civil Affairs for funds to buy more. Our HTS nannies have been walking for hours to get to work, often slipping
on the ice, “even though they try to be cautious.”

Xiangtan has had snow for the past 10 days. The main water pipe is “broken again.” There is no water for cooking right now but they do have electricity, coal and blankets. They are still able to buy food but prices have gone way up. Not all of the HTS nannies can get to work every day. They are keeping the programs going as well as they can and make sure that at least five nurturing nannies are there with the babies every day, along with the institution’s caregivers.

Jiangsu Province –

Changzhou has seen some heavy snows but the director reports that the children are fine. The director says that he’s doing his best to ensure that the children do not suffer. Public transportation is crippled by the snow and HTS nannies and teachers are waiting for hours to catch a bus for home or even walking home in the snowy dark.

Nanjing reports no problems at all despite the heavy snows. I tried to fly into Nanjing yesterday but it was not possible.

Anhui Province -

Chuzhou has both water and power. Only public transportation has failed. HTS nannies and teachers are walking to work. They are leaving home extra early to be there for the children.

Guangxi Province –

Guilin has two broken HTS heater/air conditioners in the Infant Nurture rooms and they’ve asked us to replace. The rooms are very, very cold. They ask for more soft matting for the floors and also snow boots for our HTS nannies who’ve been slipping and falling in the ice and snow as they come to work. They are so ill-equipped to handle severe weather.

Jiangxi Province –

Fuzhou lost power for a few days but now it is back to normal. The snow stopped a couple of days ago but now is falling again. The directors and HTS staff have gathered all the children into one big room to keep them warm. They’ve bought New Years clothes for the children and will have a party no matter how bad the weather. This year, however, the foster parents will stay home to keep the children safe. The institution has enough food and water. They want us to focus on those in more serious trouble and ask us please not to worry.

Jiujiang says they’ve never faced such bitter weather. They desperately need disposable diapers. Washable diapers cannot be dried. They need warm clothes, shoes, gloves hats quilts and warm mats for the floors. They need medicine for infant coughs and colds.

Hubei Province –

Wuhan suffers heavy snows but they still have power. Heaters are working but there is no water for bathing. The local community has offered to take children in for the Chinese New Year and the institution feels this may be the best decision to keep them safe.

Huangshi reports that the freeze is so severe that all heater/air conditioners have stopped functioning. They need quilts and warm clothes for the children. They need disposable diapers. Several HTS nannies have fallen on the ice on their way to work and they need medicine to treat cuts and bruises.

Gathering these reports together makes me think about how careful we have always been at Half the Sky to maintain our focus on nurture and education programs. Ours is not a medical or relief organization. There are many wonderful groups who do that work. Probably the primary reason we’ve been able to accomplish so much and reach so many children is because we’ve maintained our focus on our core mission -- providing nurturing care for children who’ve lost their families..

But a moment like this really cannot be ignored. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in the US taught us that no matter how wealthy a country might be, its vulnerable citizens (old, poor, ill, and orphaned children) are the ones who suffer most when disaster strikes. Even as China seems to be entering the first world, a disaster like this is quite simply crippling. We know that orphaned children will be among those who suffer the damage most.

I say this because I think we should break one of Half the Sky’s rules and, if there are sufficient funds raised in the Little Mouse Emergency Fund, we should offer relief (water, food, diapers, quilts, clothing) to any orphanage where children need help. Let’s see how this goes. If people are as generous as I think they might be, we will work with the provincial Bureaus of Civil Affairs in every hard-hit community, and offer assistance to all welfare institutions where there is need.

Please lend a hand, however you can. You can donate to the Little Mouse Emergency Fund by calling us in the US at +1-510-525-3377 or in Asia at +852- 2520-5266 or by visiting us at Once there, you can click on “Donate Now”
or go to to download a form to mail or fax. Donations are tax-deductible in US, Canada and Hong Kong.

Please forward this message and tell your friends and family.

I will be back with an update very, very soon.

Thank you!


Jenny Bowen
Executive Director
Half the Sky Foundation

Half the Sky was created in order to enrich the lives and enhance the prospects for orphaned children in China. We establish and operate infant nurture and preschool programs, provide personalized learning for older children and establish loving permanent family care and guidance for children with disabilities. It is our goal to ensure that every orphaned child has a caring adult in her life and a chance at a bright future.

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