Another Week of Doing

I am still at the gym five days a week and love walking in and seeing the painting I gave them a few years ago. It is across from the blood pressure machine and gives me something to look at and remember while the pressure on the arm gets tighter.

I wish I could find more places to give work to.

Our mornings together start here at the dam. I am able to walk in comfort thanks to someone we meet here about the same time each day. I complimented her colorful shoes and she spent a good time telling me how comfortable they were and how to find them online. So I went there and the only color in the size I needed was the same as hers….a bit over the top since I was hoping for black or grey.

She was right. They are the best support and feel like walking on clouds. Hoka brand runners with hardly any weight. Nice. Patches took over the box right away.

The small Australian sketchbooks are almost complete. The fourteenth and last one is half filled with the help of Sadie.

The messy paintbox is a magnet for her hair. Here are many of the ones finished since last week.

And a nod to the wonderful hosts over the years and their baskets, pets, etc.

Jude Walker and Barbara Rowe always had the most interesting things to sketch in their houses and would get me to places for finding just the right tools.

Anne Newton’s cat Boris is even shown in part here. Such a tall tail.

Whenever I use this bottle opener I think of Mike, the pilot who took me into the outback for a splendid five days of pure Australia.

When I finish the books I would like to go through my leathers and find simple covers for each before housing them with the pigments pages book. I think I will make a map of Australia to complete the memory satchel that will hold them all. I think the pods are my favorites, pods and leaves seem to be what my sketchbooks are mostly filled with. Someone down under said years ago that I just painted dead things. I told her that those things stayed still long enough for me to get them down.

Sadie has made her choice for favorite.

It was a good week for us. The meals get easier. Lee makes his own breakfast. I make a smoothie. At lunch it is hot dogs (his favorite) or a turkey sandwich with fruit and a shared beer. Dinner is at a time when I feel a bit more stressed. Lee does too. So I like to make a meal that will last two nights. His favorite is spare ribs. I thaw Smithfield baby back ribs earlier in the day. At three o’clock they are covered tightly with foil and go into a low oven at 325 degrees. Two hours later they are unwrapped and BBQ sauce is put on his half and covered again for another hour. Easy, and lately served with fresh heirloom tomatoes from his garden. And with the oven on I can toss in a pan of asparagus and seasoned potato wedges. A glass of white wine each and we have a good meal.

Another meal that works for two dinners is taking four meaty chicken thighs and sear them on each side in a cast iron fry pan. Remove. Place a bit of olive oil in there with some chopped celery and onion. Saute a bit then pour in about 2 – 3 cups of Pepperidge Farm stuffing and about a cup or so of water that has had chicken base stirred in. Toss in some dried sage and mix together before placing the thighs on top (skin side up) and baking at 350 degrees for about an hour. I like serving this with broccoli and a bit of hollandaise sauce.

Usually once a week we will make our own pizza halves (using bought thin crusts) that rescue anything that needs to be used up from the refrigerator.

So there is the week. Not so bad. I will get back to finishing the small sketchbooks about memories from Australia and clean up the studio.

Til later.

Coping – Doing Our Best

Light flickers a bit more for Lee now. Some times he can find the word, sometimes not. Confusion in why he went to a room, “What was I getting?” Instruction or ideas must come one at a time. I can not speak in paragraphs. A thing that would have been absolutely impossible for Marcel Proust, and I find hard to keep in mind. I get things done by doing more than one thing at a time and I get my ideas thought out by speaking them one after the other.

The one thing he does know for sure is that this thing is happening to his mind. And the one thing that I have come to realize is that it is something only we can deal with. When I read that there is a dementia support group meeting on Tuesday afternoons, I think, “And how does that happen?” Do you drag him along so he can listen to what we both are painfully aware of? No. That is not going to happen.  We stay to a routine that is familiar to him.

I have learned to accept the fact that I can no longer count on him to fix something. And it is a difficult conversation when he believes he can.  I have learned how few people there are to count on. It is me and will be me until we need to call on professionals who know what is needed and when. Until then we take it one day at a time. We find something to laugh about. We talk of what to have for dinner and what to buy from the grocery store. We try to get a walk in at the dam. We watch the news until we can’t take it any more and put in a Netflix cd of British mysteries and escape. We treat ourselves to a few pieces of Australian Darrel Lea Soft Licorice that we found we can buy by the case at a tractor supply store. And we talk. We change the subject if we get sad. We cope.

And one thing we did this week was leave the house for exactly twenty-three hours. We spent the night in Asheville at a friend’s house. Lee is familiar with them and their house. He loves their cat.

And while he napped there, I went shopping at three of my favorite clothing stores. Retail therapy they call it and I could very well have overdosed. It was great. We left their place well before dawn the following morning and were home before 8 am.  My new clothes are put away. We are back in the routine of being slower and more careful.

I have avoided reading the book titled, “The 36 Hour Day”. A friend thought it would help. If it helps, it will be later. Not now. Now I am just keeping things “normal”. I do not want to read other peoples’ experiences. We are busy living our own and keeping the cd movies, licorice and a cool glass of white wine close by. Cat videos on Facebook are something so silly and yet so good to brighten a mood. He likes those and soon forgets the ones he has seen so they can be seen over and over. I think our, or I should say my favorite is the cat in a shark suit riding a rumba machine around and around the kitchen. I identify with that cat in a lot of ways, not least of which is her shark suit.

There is still time in the day to work on those little books. Now I have only three of the fourteen left to fill with memories of all things Australian.

We have had our weekly breakfast out this morning. Lee is going in out the door upstairs, so I will need to see if he needs something. Maybe we will just sit on the porch for a while and talk about things. He will ask a question. I will answer. And he will ask it again. I will answer again and again until I change the subject to something else.

What would he like for dinner? That is a good place to start.

Til next time.

Completing Something

Sadie is such a helper when it comes to whatever I am doing on this table. Here she is all over my unfinished carry all bag and sorting the bits to make my own needles and pins case.

I wanted to make one using some cloth from friends in Australia. Aujke Boonstra had some lovely eco dyed wool blanket bits that I got several years ago. Scraps from Beautiful Silks looked promising. The inspiration for this little needle book was the ones made for me by Australians who seem to have a knack for putting things together with stitch and practicality. Jude Walker was the first one who said, “You can’t put your needles in that! I will make you a proper book for them.” And she did from an old blanket. Then there is the inspiring stitchwork and patching of Nonie Sudcliffe that I bought a small sample of years ago and used on the cover of a sketchbook. Another inspiring needle case I bought from Anne Newton to give as a gift but then couldn’t part with. Mine is pitiful by comparison…..but I like it.

Here it is closed.

First page opened to show pins and tapestry needles.

Some sharper needles and smaller tapestry ones.

Pocket sewn in to the back cover.

Sadie’s approval.

The scraps of heavy cotton canvas type material is what I used to make the outside of the carry all. That was really not such a good choice as it was so heavy. Then after I sewed all the zippers in I realized they were to heavy and long. They stuck out of the ends of what I thought was the right size bag. So I added more length to keep them inside more.

Here you can see that I did not follow the step that clearly states that the bag must be pinned in the center as well as the zipper so that things come out evenly. Also note that the longer zipper I was waiting for is olive green…..not the khaki of the ones inside. My excuse is the picture looked the same color so I ordered it.

I must say that refusing to go to Walmart for ethical reasons comes at a cost. And that is constant ordering from Amazon and taking what I can see on a computer screen.

Also when I added the extra length with these new ends I thought it should be “puffy”. My solution was to use some of the white felt from the trump pincushions and place a panel between the two layers of the outer bag and fold strips in half to shove into these added end panels. Looked like a great idea until I tried to shove it all under a zipper foot for this final stage of closing the whole thing off with the new zipper.

It was an amazing amount of work for something that looks pedestrian at best, don’t you think?

So I filled up  all the pockets with bits and pieces that I might just need to have handy. Today the UPS man brought the fading marker for cloth that I learned about watching those you tubes instructions over and over. And also the really clever little “wonder clips”…..tiny plastic clips for holding wads of cloth, felt, zipper and binding  all in one place while you locate the pins. I stuffed a bunch in that cane toad case.

Remember how I wanted to make this one bigger than the pattern because then I could put a 12 inch ruler inside? By the time I shoved seams into seams it became only 11” long at best. So I am using one of my favorite folding wooden rulers bought at a market in St. Andrews near Baldessin Press north of Melbourne.

Here is everything outside the carry all.

That’s a lot of things and I can still put a pair of scissors in as soon as I get a new medium size one from Amazon. I made those canvas tabs  to add to the zipper pulls because they frankly cover the section where the zipper does not make it to the end of the pocket….something to do with making the pockets fit into the end pieces used up more length. But it is a handy little thing.

And other than finishing this carry all I started back to work on the little Australian journals. Here is a few of the pages, etc.

I love this possum, goanna, kangaroo paw and yellow tailed cockatoo. I even sketched my latest sketchbook.

And some more urban things like gelato, the pedestrian walk sign of men’s legs and the sign for the “ladies” toilet. The hot pad is what I look for at the airports for Lee. He always wants kangaroos on brown backgrounds. They are not so easy to find any more. Mostly now it is oven mitts. Who uses those??!!

Enough for now….so glad that bag is finished. If you ever try to make one read the instructions very carefully, then go on you tube to watch the many, many episodes to get to the finish. Buy practical material and zippers and keep spare sewing machine needles handy along with very strong thread for hand sewing. You might want to make sure you have a zipper foot. Without that, there is no bag.

Til later.


Back on Track – Sort Of

I talked Lee into returning to our walks out at Chatuge Dam. Yesterday it was sunny at eight o’clock in the morning and I could make the foot go 2500 steps.

Today it was further in the fog.

And tomorrow we will go up this path through the woods before turning back.

We have not done this for about twelve years. We loved starting our day out here and walking at least 2.5 miles. Today I got more than 3000 steps in.

And that is after one half hour on my favorite bike here at the gym at 5:30 am.

No one is there that early…just me and some walkers out back.

I do some heavy lifting or pulling or pushing in here.

And wrap it up with a good punching on this…..500 hard jabs.

It is pretty beat up but still tries to wear me down before I give it a final whack.

Lee no longer goes to the gym. Keeping track of how many sets on different machines became too hard for him to keep track of…and he has a hard time getting the words for a conversation with the ones we worked out with. So I go off good and early while he showers, gets his breakfast and feeds the deer.

At home in the studio I have been spending days trying to figure out the pattern and following instructions on you tube to get this carry all sewn together.

Of course I chose my own fabrics from my stash, and I did not like the size so made it all bigger, and ordered the wrong kind of zippers (these seem to be some sort of industrial strength, but I liked the color), I broke a needle on the machine and because I do not know where I put the manual that goes with the sewing machine, I had to go online to see which of all those attachments was for sewing zippers. Now I am waiting for Amazon to send me another longer zipper to do the final steps. Anyone who makes these with the ease of the lady on you tube has my admiration. It was brutal getting this far.

The goal here is to have this cute bag made up of three lined and zippered pockets with additional storage between each pocket…then it all zips closed and you get to carry all your bits and pieces to workshops or at least find the things you need in one place. The problem in putting it together is that it is all sewn together…nothing is added later….each piece of the bloody thing has to go under the sewing machine needle and connect to a zipper and a lining piece and then a pocket lining piece, and so on. then once you have this length of pieces, you close off the pockets and hope the zippers still run along while you cram it into end pieces and the outer case piece. I would never, ever, want to do this again. Once is enough.

Also in the studio I am back at those little books. Two more of the fourteen finished so only five more to go.

An emu, May Gibbs’ little Cuddle Pie and Snuggle Pot and more Eucalyptus, etc. These are really fun and I will be sad to finish.

The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize show is about to close and I need to contact a friend over there to pick up my artwork. I will try to find a place to donate it before heading home next March.

Lee and I are going to the brewery for lunch today and watch a bit more of the Tour de France while there.

Tomorrow a hair cut after our walk then laundry and a bug guy coming and a repair guy coming and then more kindle time.

I look forward to a weekend of just working on the little books and wondering what to do next.

Til later.

PS My physical therapist called and loved the pop up card with vaginal floor muscles moving. She’d like me to consider making her several to have on hand. I said, “no”.