Online workshop: Improv BOM

20 09 2020

Back in April I was meant to be in Texas for a week-long quilting workshop (a short detour on my way to Utah for my conference). Of course, none of that happened, but the teacher of the workshop, Sheila Frampton-Cooper, has now segued into online teaching and recently started her first improv quilting course, a block-of-the-month (BOM) course over 12 months. But these aren’t traditional blocks—they are improv blocks and the first lesson (over several 10-min videos) showed us how to do freeform curved piecing, WITHOUT pins, and the more usual straight pieced blocks. I’m familiar with straight pieced blocks as I’ve made a lot of improv quilt tops using scraps, and all have involved straight piecing.

With the lockdown restrictions in place in California where Sheila lives, she’s done it all herself—all the filming (3 cameras!), sound, lighting, mixing/editing, etc.—and the result is fantastic and super professional! I watched her first lessons for Month 1 on Friday and made my first blocks this weekend. My DH reckons they look like licorice allsorts, and I have to agree!

Sheila’s Improv BOM class is here: http://fiberartworkshops.art/.

blue, green, red, orange, yellow and navy/black fabrics

My colour palette; the ‘black’ is a very dark navy/black

My first two straight pieced blocks

 

My first curvy pieced blocks

Licorice allsorts! (Photo attribution: By Ali K – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12459893)





Community Quilts 484 to 496

24 08 2020

The latest batch of community quilts are now quilted and ready to go back to Perth for binding and distribution to charitable organisations. I’m NEARLY at 500!

(Apologies for the shadow lines through them. Unfortunately, the best place to hang them is on the clothesline outside and in full sun, but that means that the other lines cast shadows over the photos.)

Community Quilt 484

Community Quilt 485

Community Quilt 486

Community Quilt 487

 

Community Quilt 488

Community Quilt 489

 

Community Quilt 490

 

Community Quilt 491

 

Community Quilt 492

 

Community Quilt 493

 

Community Quilt 494

Community Quilt 495

 

Community Quilt 496





Dealing with Centrelink for the first time

21 08 2020

Unlike the US, Australia doesn’t have a Social Security Number system where you’re allocated a number early in life (at birth? on turning 18?). Instead, we get a Medicare card, but that’s not the same as the number you need for Centrelink (which is a federal government department looks after all sorts of social security programs for Australian citizens). We’ve been fortunate to never need any services provided by Centrelink, but my husband recently turned an age where he was eligible for a health card that dramatically reduces the cost of doctors’ visits, prescription medicine, and has added state and local government benefits (such as reduced drivers licence and vehicle registration fees, reduced shire rates, and reduced water and electricity charges). The benefits far outweigh the costs (there’s no actual cost for the card, but you must meet qualifying income criteria; assets aren’t considered). And from what I gather, once you have this card, you have it for life unless your circumstances change. I’ll be eligible for one in a few months too.

I knew we had two options for dealing with Centrelink and applying for this card—attend a Centrelink office in my nearest town, waiting in line potentially for hours to see a human, only to then be told he didn’t have all the required paperwork and having to repeat the process xx times until it was all done. Or to do it online. The problem with applying online is that you first have to have a MyGov ID, which my husband doesn’t have, so I had to apply for that for him first (and set up a new email address for him), then I had to apply for a Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN) before I could apply for this card. I did a lot of reading beforehand to see what documents I needed to prove my husband was who he said he was. And I kept putting this off, because there were so many places it could go wrong!

But I bit the bullet last weekend. I spent most of one afternoon navigating MyGov and trying to get a Centrelink CRN and set up accounts for him. I’m tech savvy (he’s not, which is why I was doing it), I’m not stymied by online forms, and for the most part it was pretty simple. BUT, the Centrelink website says you can only get a CRN via your MyGov account, so I set that up, then tried to link to Centrelink and picked the option that said I didn’t have an account with them, so then the form wanted a CRN, which of course I didn’t have. I thought I was destined for an endless loop but a quick Google showed me that if I click on the COVID message on the MyGov website, I could apply for and get a CRN. Once that was done, it was pretty easy. I needed his passport, drivers licence, last year’s tax assessment notice, bank account details, Medicare card, tax file number, etc. to set up his account. That was enough for one day!

A few days later I logged back in to apply for the card he needs. Because I already had the other stuff set up, this was actually pretty simple and I was impressed with how easy it was. I filled the specific forms for this card, uploaded the other documents required (yes, I spent some time offline getting all this together, so the process wasn’t completely painless). The next morning I got a text message telling me that the application has been approved and I should receive the relevant card within 14 days. That ended up being far less painful than I expected, considering a human likely had to look at the supporting docs.

So, it ended up being quite easy—for me. BUT, and it’s a BIG but… While it was easy for me, it doesn’t take away the dreadful feeling I had that those who need these sorts of services the most may be the least computer literate and thus have to attend a Centrelink office several times to get it sorted out, with the associated wait time to be seen by a human, and then to be sent away to find the relevant docs. I’m in the privileged position of being computer savvy, having a computer and mobile phone, and being well organised with my paperwork. What do those who are elderly, infirm, cognitively or physically impaired, poor (therefore no computer, mobile phone), who live in regional or remote areas, who don’t speak English, who are in dire situations at home, who can’t ‘prove’ their residence because they don’t have one or have to keep moving on, who are refugees/asylum seekers, or even who aren’t tech savvy etc. do? Those who MOST need Centrelink’s services are likely locked out because the designers of these systems design them for people like them—people with jobs, people who have a roof over their head, people who can read English, people who keep copies of bills, people who have a passport or drivers licence, people who have a computer/mobile phone/internet connection and know how to use it.

It must be hell for those on the margins to be forced to do this stuff online, assuming they had all the required information. Or maybe they just give up and drop off the edge into the abyss. One thing is for certain—you would have a very hard time trying to get a federal government concession card or pension of some sort if you had almost no documentation from at least the past few years (plus something to prove date of birth and residence). So those who say that undocumented people such as refugees can rort the system, need to take a long hard look at how hard it is for someone even with documentation to access these services.

Update: A friend mentioned that many public libraries and community resource centres in country towns may end up being de facto support people helping people make Centrelink claims because that’s often the only place where there’s free internet access. So kudos to all the library and resource centre staff who do this unpaid service.

I also discovered that there’s a service for seniors (4.8 star reviews) that will help you through it all—for a fee (~$200 on application and another ~$200 on success): https://retirementessentials.com.au/

 

 





Letter to my Splendid Fairy-wrens

21 08 2020

Dear Splendid Fairy-wrens

I love you, you are the cutest little birds, and the iridescent plumage on the male is to be seen to be believed.

But would you PLEASE stop fighting the reflection of yourselves in my windows. It used to be just one bird then two and only the kitchen window and back sliding doors, but now it’s EVERY. DAMNED. WINDOW. in the house. And there are more of you this year (yes, you’ve been doing this for several years now—I think you’ve trained your kids too!). You do this for hours on end (starting just before dawn), pooping nearly every time. It must be exhausting for your tiny little bodies—you’d be better off saving your energy for feeding, breeding, and rearing your young ones.

And you don’t want to know how hard it is to get your poop off the rough brick window ledges, the windows themselves, the flyscreens, and the concrete pad around the house. Or how annoying it is to hear ‘tap tap tap’ continuously for 12 hours a day.

Yours, annoyed home owner who loves wrens, but hates the constant tapping as you fight your reflection.

PS: You’re really cute… until you’re not.

PPS: Time to bring out the ‘owl eyes’ (I have a photo of some large owl eyes that I print off and laminate and put on the windows—it seems to keep the wrens at bay, but this year I might have to make lots of copies and put them on every window).





Knowing where I live

14 08 2020

Today I finally learned the name of the First Nations Australians whose land my house sits on. Yes, I knew it was Noongar land, which covers most the south-west corner of Western Australia. But I also knew that there were various named groups within the broad brush of ‘Noongar’. For example, nearby Bunbury is on Wardandi land. A couple of months ago, I asked a Noongar woman I know if she knew which specific people were the original inhabitants here, but she didn’t know—she just knew she was Noongar. But she did tell me that the mob up at Collie were different to her mob and that her people couldn’t marry anyone from that mob even though they were all Noongar (I think I got that right).

So today I had a bit of time to do some research and found out that the First Nations people on whose land my house stands are the Elaap, and officially they are the Elaap Wardandi Noongar people.

Our research shows that Elaap karlaboodjar – the home-place of the Elaap people – covers around 1250 square kilometres of coastal plain, estuary, bushland and foothills. It is the place that has very recently – only within the last 200 years – come to be known as the Leschenault Estuary district in the Greater Bunbury area of South West Western Australia. Its enduring name is Elaap and the Elaap Wardandi Noongar people are the traditional owners. People have continuously lived in the South West for over 45,000 years, but the Leschenault estuarine system is quite young, beginning as a coastal lagoon only around 8,000 years ago.

From: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321579306_Stories_want_to_be_told_Elaap_Karlaboodjar

(Random associated fact: The massive Eelup Roundabout at the entrance to Bunbury and where you turn off to head to Busselton and Margaret River is named after the Elaap people.)

And here’s the magnificent Wardandi Boodja sculpture at Koombana Bay in Bunbury: https://regionalartswa.org.au/stories/wardandi-boodja/





Solving the problem of bra straps slipping off shoulders

2 08 2020

For decades, I’ve had to hoist up my slipping bra straps, typically several times an hour. No matter how much I tightened the straps, the slope of my shoulders meant they still fell off. I tried the clasp things at the back, but someone else had to put them on or do them up for me, or they didn’t suit my wide back and couldn’t pull/connect the straps as the diagrams indicated. When wearing a t-shirt, I’d often tie some cotton tape between the straps at the front to pull them together, but that only worked for high-necked t-shirts and not for any garment that had a scooped or v-neck. Crossover straps at the back never seemed to reach either.

So when I was in the lingerie shop the other day getting a new bra, I asked if they had a solution. They suggested silicone cushions that your slip your strap into and said that women who’d had mastectomies etc. found they reduced the pain from shoulder straps. I bought some (they were pricey from the lingerie shop!), and they work brilliantly for me! I put them on with my bra in the morning and don’t have a slipping strap all day. Such a relief.

You can find them on Amazon, eBay etc. Just search for silicone bra strap cushions.





Fabric face masks

23 07 2020
A few Aussie friends outside Western Australia have reached out to me privately about the face masks I made for family oh so long ago back in mid-April. So, I’ll summarise it all here so that it’s in one place:
  • Pattern: This is the pattern I used: https://leahday.com/pages/how-to-make-a-face-mask-free-pattern. It makes a three-fold surgical style mask (with a pocket for a removable filter medium), with either tape ties (for kids) or elastic (for adults). She has two pattern sizes (kids and adults), and there’s a video as well as written instructions.
  • Fabric: If you’re making your own, quilting batik is best as it’s a high-weave cotton, followed by general quilting cottons, followed by everything else. When I say quilting batiks or cottons, I mean the good stuff, NOT the low-weave cheap fabric you can buy at the big store starting with S. Find your local quilt store/fabric shop and you’ll have a treasure trove of fabrics awaiting you! If you can’t find a quilting fabric store locally, then many do online orders, and I recommend two in Western Australia: Handcrafters House in Midland (https://handcraftershouse.com.au/; phone 08 9274 4955), who have an online shopping facility, and Craft Collections (Mummery Cres, Bunbury; phone: 0419 616 714). Further afield is Sew Gentle Era (Bridgetown), Cotton Rose (Vasse), and The Blue Box (Busselton)
  • Other bits and pieces: I used chenille pipe cleaners (available at the S store in the aisle where they have the kids’ crayons etc.) cut in half for the wire inside the mask over the nose area, but you can also use stretched out paper clips (just remember to fold the ends in on both so they don’t pierce the fabric; use pliers to make that job much easier!). Elastic can be any type, as long as it’s fairly narrow (again, the S store has elastic), and tape for kids masks can be made from woven cloth tape (typically about 12 mm wide; the S store calls it ‘header tape’ and it’s kept near the ribbons in my local S store) or fabric strips.





Bobbin tension not quite right

19 07 2020

I rarely have trouble with bobbin tension on my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen (I use Jamie Wallen’s method here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mRhcquZTM), but it was playing up a bit this morning. I was still getting good stitch formation, but found I was having to keep loosening the top tension. I checked the bobbin case and it was threaded correctly, but it was a bit too loose. I initially tightened the bobbin case screw, but then I noticed something—the outer tension ‘spring’ didn’t seem to be sitting flat and locked in.

I’d cleaned it out with a business card when I finished quilting yesterday (one of the things I do when I clean and oil the machine at the end of the day). On closer inspection, with my magnifying glasses on, I saw that the bottom ‘hook’ bit wasn’t quite in properly (see where the red arrow is pointing in the photo below). I gently pushed it with a small screwdriver and it snapped into place.

Bobbin tension issue solved!





Trying again with ‘no knead’ bread

15 07 2020

When I made blueberry muffins the other day, I also tried my first attempt at ‘no knead’ bread. It was a disaster!!! Just a hot glob of yucky dough. It seems that dried yeast has a shelf life—who knew?! So I bought some more yeast and tried again today. (And put the yeast container into the freezer afterwards to prolong its efficacy.)

So far, so good—my first loaf has just come out of the oven and it smells and looks great. The proof will be in the eating, of course, but that won’t happen for a few more hours. It’s quite a small loaf, so next time I may double the recipe.

Some tips for my future self: The dough mix was quite dry and didn’t bubble after 3 hours, as stated in the recipe and as shown in the video. So I put the bowl containing the dough in the oven on ‘warm’ (about 50C) for about 10 minutes to kick it along. I don’t know if this made any difference or not, but figured I should mention it in case this happens again. Otherwise, I followed the recipe and timings exactly.

Recipe is here: https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/faster-no-knead-bread/ (2-hour method: https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/2-hour-fastest-no-knead-bread/)

FAQs about the recipe are here: https://www.jennycancook.com/no-knead-bread-solutions/

YouTube video (with lots of comments/suggestions) is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0t8ZAhb8lQ

And pics just after it came out of the oven

Bread cooling down

Bread cooling down

Bread fresh out of the oven and still in the cast iron dutch oven I cooked it in

Bread fresh out of the oven and still in the cast iron dutch oven I cooked it in

The underside of the loaf

The underside of the loaf

I couldn’t resist and cut into it while it was still quite hot! Delicious—hubby loves it too! It’s a bit denser (similar density to sourdough) than bread you’d buy in the shops, but it has a lot of flavour. That said, if I make it again, I’ll try the recipe writer’s variation with more yeast and a shorter ‘proving’ time, and perhaps a tad more salt. Others have added rosemary, cheese, olives etc. but that’s for another day.

Sunday 19 July 2020: I made it again, but this time I used the 2-hour method, which uses more yeast and has a lot shorter proving time. Recipe and method here: https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/2-hour-fastest-no-knead-bread/

This time the dough rose nicely and went bubbly, as per her YouTube video (see link above). I wanted to add more salt, but based on the comment left after my first write-up, I didn’t know how to adjust the yeast to match the extra salt, so instead I scored the top of the load and shook over some chili flakes and a ground a bit of rock salt on top too. Hopefully that will add just that little bit more flavour. As usual, the proof will be in the eating, but it’s too hot to cut just yet! Because it had a better rise at the dough stage, I don’t expect it be as dense in texture as the first loaf.

Verdict? YUMMO!!!! As expected, the texture was much lighter. Still had that amazing crust. Tasted delicious!

Monday 27 July 2020: Attempt #3, but second with the 2-hour method, which will be the method I use from now on. Cut 8 slits across the top of the dough, sprinkled on chili flakes and a bit of coarse salt so that what you can see on the top of the loaf. The house smells AMAZING! Just out of the oven in the pics below.

Thursday 30 July 2020: Hint: If you keep your dried yeast in the freezer, take out the quantity needed about 30 mins before you start and put it on the kitchen counter to warm up. I did this for the loaf I made today and got the best rise I’ve had and a much better (less dense) texture after baking. For this attempt, I added nigella seeds (black sesame seeds) to the top instead of chili flakes and salt. (Yes, I also baked some more muffins.)





Cataract surgery

4 07 2020

The time had come… Back in February, I went in to the optician to get new glasses as mine had a scratch on the lens. He did an eye exam and advised me NOT to get a new script until I’d seen my ophthalmologist about my cataracts. Cataracts? What cataracts??? He said I’d had them for a couple of years now, but he only mentioned them now because I was only now mentioning that my vision was getting worse—didn’t want to scare me, or something like that. So off to my lovely ophthalmologist, Russell.

Russell confirmed the cataracts and said that they typically didn’t tell people they had them until the patient started to complain about vision loss. That’s to stop patients worrying unnecessarily about something that could take several years to manifest as an issue. I could see the logic in that, but still, I think I would’ve liked to have known earlier.

Anyhow, we booked my surgery for 2 July; it was originally going to be March before my planned trip to the US and Morocco in April and May, but as the recovery time before you can get new glasses would be about 6 weeks, I pushed the surgery back until after I was due back from my trip—I certainly didn’t want to be away and travelling and not being able to see properly! Of course, between February and March 2020 the world changed with COVID-19, and with it a whole lot of things that we could and couldn’t do. My trip was off, for starters. And in Western Australia, all non-urgent elective surgery was cancelled to free up medical staff, PPE, and hospital beds for the expected influx of COVID-19 patients. That didn’t happen in our state, so by May 2020 restrictions on elective surgery were lifted. I fully expected my cataract surgery to be pushed back to October or later, but the 2 July date was still OK.

I was scheduled to have both eyes done at once, under general anaesthetic. This is NOT the norm—typically, you get one eye done under light sedation, then the other eye gets done some two weeks later. But I freak out if any instrument comes near my eyes (long-lasting trauma from major eye surgery when I was 12), so Russell, who knew about this phobia of mine, suggested he do both eyes under general. He said it’s not the norm, but he was fine with doing that, and besides, he didn’t want me to have two lots of general anaesthetic a short time apart.

My surgery was to correct my medium- to long-distance vision and Russell said that I’d need about 1.5 magnification glasses afterwards for close work. I had originally opted for good short vision as I do a lot of computer work, sewing, reading etc., but then I thought about the long-term situation with glasses and realised that if I went for good short vision, then I’d forever be getting prescription glasses and sunglasses (at $400 a time) for driving, watching TV etc. However, if I went for good medium to long vision, I would only need to buy el cheapo magnifying glasses for close work from any pharmacy or other places that sell them (and there are a LOT of places that do); same for sunglasses. And I wouldn’t be restricted to special frames or styles as I was for my prism prescription lenses. So within days of my appointment with Russell in February, I called to change the request to be for good long-distance vision.

2 July 2020

Off to the hospital for day surgery… The first stage of prep was getting several courses of drops put into my eyes over about an hour; this was to dilate the pupils. One of them really stung, but the other was fine. Then into the very stylish (not!) gown for the operating theatre and into bed under the snuggly heated blankets. Next came the anaesthetist who had trouble finding a vein (I did warn him) and so he waited until I was in the very bright light of the anteroom outside the OR, and even then he had to try several places to get a cannula in. Then he left me in the very bright light (dilated pupils and bright lights really don’t do well together) while he went into the OR to discuss things with Russell.

He came back in to tell me he had to mark my eyeballs with some sort of marker while I was sitting up but that he’d give me a local anaesthetic first. It would’ve saved me a LOT of angst had he told me HOW he was going to administer this local anesthetic. Instead, he left me alone with that information for about another 10 mins, but which felt like a lifetime. I was already stressed to the max about this operation, so hearing about a local just added to that. I seriously considered getting up and doing a runner because the idea of a needle near my eyes was too much to bear! When he came back, I asked how he was going to do the local and he said via drops! He could have told me that right from the get go!!! The most difficult thing was trying to tame my brain from the terror and worry that if anything went wrong…. And my body was as tense as a board because I was so mentally stressed.

Once he administered the local anaesthetic drops and did the marking (no pain, though it was a bit perturbing having the marker coming at my eyes), I was wheeled into the OR and put under. Russell said he’d be putting in a Toric lens, which is hoped to reduce/eliminate my strabismus, and that’s why the marker.

Next thing I’m waking up in the recovery area. The lights were very bright but I was able to see out of both eyes so that was a massive relief. The plastic shields over my eyes were removed after about an hour and were no longer required. After some food and drink, my DH came to pick me up and we headed home. We watched TV that night and I could see everything clearly with NO GLASSES! First time ever, I think. But boy, every light in the house was certainly bright and all the LED lights had BIG halos around them. That night I slept semi-upright in the recliner as I didn’t want to sleep on my side in the bed in case that was an issue for my eyes.

3 July 2020

Day 1 with my new eyes: Everything is so white and bright! I was able to watch TV last night without glasses for the first time in probably forever. But now I have to wear glasses for computer work, reading, sewing, and quilting. I’d been using magnifiers for some reading for a while (e.g. newspapers, but not ebooks ‘cos you can increase the font size for that), so that’s no different, but wearing them for computer work is. Fortunately, I have a few magnifiers, so I just leave one pair near the computer. Today was a normal day other than getting used to the brightness outside the office window, and getting used to putting on my glasses for the computer or anything I have to read, like the fine print on the eye drop bottles.

My eyes seem fine, though they’re a bit weepy and feel like they are just brimming with tears for much of the time. I slept in the bed tonight, with no problems at all.

Some of the precautions I have to take:

  • two different types of eye drops 4 times a day for two weeks
  • NO water in my eyes from showering etc. for at least two weeks—I borrowed a friend’s diving mask to wear in the shower so I can wash my hair and it works a treat!
  • no bending over, unless you keep you head on a fairly even horizontal plane—I have a grabber tool I can use to pick things up off the floor if my DH isn’t close by, or for getting the newspaper from the driveway in the morning
  • no strenuous activity (that one’s not hard for me!!!)

4 July 2020

Day 2 with my new eyes: Everything is still very bright (I’m glad it’s the middle of winter here—it would be much worse in summer when the Australian summer light is so harsh), but I seem to have lost the big halos around the LED lights, which is good. We went for a 160 km drive today, but first I had to get some new sunnies from the pharmacy (and another pair of 1.5 magnifiers so that I’ve got enough to leave in all the places I need them). I had to wear the sunnies at lunch as the light coming from the bright sky and from the water outside the restaurant were too much to bear. I noticed that by mid-afternoon on the drive home the vision in my right eye was a bit blurry. I believe this is normal. In general, my left eye seems to have more clarity than the right eye (which was the case before the surgery too).

I also noticed when I was reading the paper this morning (head tilted down to the table, which probably wasn’t a good idea) that I was getting little flashes of light at the far corners of my eyes. I’ll have to hunt out an angled drawing board I have for reading the paper and doing the crosswords to see if that helps get rid of the flashes. Again, these are likely normal for the first few days/weeks.

One other thing I noticed is that because I can’t wash and splash my face in the shower, my eyelashes have got a bit matted from the ‘sleep’ and the drops. When I was at the pharmacy getting my new sunnies and magnifiers, I asked about something to gently clean my eye area, and they suggested eye wipes (a Murine product). They helped a lot in getting rid of the accumulating gunk!

The watery eye feeling seems to have gone, except after putting in the drops, of course.

My follow-up appointment with Russell isn’t for another few weeks yet, so I’m using this blog post to note down all the changes, differences, and variations of vision that I experience.

From here on, I’ll only update this post if I notice changes.

Bottom line: Am I glad I had the surgery? So far, after two days, a resounding YES. There has been no pain and no issues other than sensitivity to light as my new eyes adjust to their ‘new normal’.

Update 9 July 2020, one week after the surgery: I’m getting used to the brightness of everything, and it’s becoming my ‘new normal’. I still get the occasional white flashes on the outer corners of my eyes, but these are very intermittent and very seldom. I’ve had some ‘floaters’, again very seldom and very intermittent, and much smaller than the floaters that I had occasionally before the surgery. The wateriness has well and truly gone, and I’m getting used to wearing glasses for reading instead of distance.

Update 16 July 2020, two weeks after the surgery: As for 9th July. One eye has a bit more clarity/sharpness of vision than the other, but I’ll talk to the ophthalmologist about that when I see him for my post-op follow-up next Tuesday. It’s likely related to the type of lens used to correct the astigmatism (strabismus), and the slight blurriness is nowhere near as bad as the double vision I had before. I can stop the eye drops at the end of today too, and shower without eye protection!