Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Really Personal Note (& a bird update)

Hello again! It would be an understatement to say that I've been having a pretty hard time of it lately. I've hesitated to lay it out there but in the interest of promoting acceptance of mental health issues I've decided it would be a good thing to talk about it all. I have dealt with clinical depression most of my life. I didn't even know what that was or that I had it until about 25 years ago when a doctor handed me samples of Prozac and told me to try them. Thank you God for Prozac!! It changed my life and certainly that of my family in very short order.

For me the clinical depression, which is a total screw-up of brain chemicals, appears as irritability and constant anxiety. There is probably a lot more but that's the main thing I focus on. At the worst, when I can barely function, I can't eat, I can't sleep, I feel like I'm crawling out of my skin. I feel very brittle as if I could easily break and I liken it to being a raw, open wound in all of my being. It's a horrible place to exist. I'm not saying this is it for everyone, just that this is how I feel.

Recently I quit taking any meds (I've had a lot of variations over the past 25 years.) for various reasons and I did not follow up and find an alternative. I was doing so-so but basically okay until an event sent me into a spiral. I won't talk about the event but I did end up in the worst crisis of my life since being diagnosed. This was totally stupid on my part and I'm paying the price now. BUT there is help and I'm getting much better. My amazing husband called around and found an outpatient program right away. Just knowing I had somewhere to go for help calmed me down right away. So far I've completed nine days of this group therapy and I've have gotten back on Prozac. I already feel a lot better and anticipate feeling WAY better in another week or two.

I'm not looking for any sympathy here. The one most deserving of that would be my husband! 8^) I just want folks to know that there's no shame in an event like this (except maybe not taking the proper precautions when I obviously know better) and that there is help available. DON'T WAIT TO GET HELP!

And thank God for wonderful friends and family who have let me know that they care and are truly here for me. I have people I can call upon for support. This is a treasure that cannot be measured. Just having a number to call is a huge security blanket!

I am truly blessed.

And for a fun is that nest again!

They've hatched!

Obviously they are in a state only a parent could love at this juncture. I can't tell for sure but I think there are 4 babies and we are now sure it's a wren. We think a Carolina wren. It is a joy to watch the mom and dad continually going back and forth to feed the babies. They don't fly right into the nest but hop around and work their way up through our plant stand to the nest.

Nest just above the note

We are having our house painted so I put out signs warning the painters away from the nest. They have been great about following my wishes and the nest is still doing great. And here is my last photo taken today. You can't see much but I'm trying to bother them as little as possible. If you look closely you can see they have feathers now. According to our bird book they should be out flying around in another week! We'll see....

Feathered now

Many blessings,

Monday, May 27, 2013

Welcome Home

It's always a shock to look back at the date of the last entry when you've been lax for a while....a long while I guess! I just have not been in the mood to post. Maybe some sunny days will help soon. I sure hope so!

Meanwhile, we have been off to Florence, Italy but I'm still sorting photos. Instead I want you to see what we found on our patio! Little Momma has been busy, busy!

In the pot plant

Look at that nice little nest in the poinsettia plant! I would have totally missed it had I not noticed the momma bird flying in there. Closer inspection revealed....


....that there are four little eggs in there. I hope we are around to see when they hatch!! Here's an even closer look with a flash. I gave up after that. Don't want to scare momma away. That would be tragic!

Nicely done Momma Bird!

 Here's a blurry shot of the bird out of the nest.....

Momma Bird

Any guesses? I'm off to search the bird book!

Many blessings,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

End of TBWA 2013

Everyone had to get up and going on the last day, a Sunday. Since hotels generally insist you check out by noon everything had to get loaded in the car before class started around 8 or 9 AM. Oy! Not everyone took a Sunday morning class but I like to take advantage of every single opportunity and it was worth it to me to put off the drive until I was more awake! Mornings are not my best time of day.

My class was Wire Weave Earrings with Tammy Fabian-Southard. This time the reed was left behind for wire! Here are the supplies to get started on this project:

Wire and a tiny mold for shaping 

Really, a huge magnifying glass would have been handy to have at the moment. Tired, barely awake and TINY were quite a challenging combination!! That didn't stop any of us though. We got started on the first earring right away.

Looking like a copper spider web

The above beginning was thumb-tacked onto our little mold and helped with turning up the sides and shaping the final product. Even with the wooden shaper it was still pretty slippery and more than a little hard to hang onto. Perseverance pays because I finally got the first earring done. Yea!

One down, one to go

With a five hour drive ahead Sherryl and I decided to get started. The second earring could wait till after we got home. Off we went back down that wonderful toll road with speed limits I had never before reached. Sherryl wanted to stop in West, Texas for kolaches. ( or ). Far be it from me to stand in the way of having a kolache! Yum! I hear there are two places in West (I was surprised to hear there is actually a town called West, TX unrelated to the area referred to as West Texas!)  to buy said pastries. We chose this place.

Kolache side trip
Door to happiness

This shop was a delight. There were so many choices that I had to take a whole big box home and decide later which to eat first!

It's always good to be home again but NOT fun to face the unpacking chore. Ugh!

Stuff to store

The next day I got to work on the other earring because only one earring does not make a pair!

It's a pair!

Hope you enjoy the photos. I sure enjoyed making all the baskets. Next time I'll show photos of random baskets throughout the conference.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Third Basket

My third basket for the Texas Basket Weaver's Association was called Sonora taught by Marcia Balleweg. Sadly, I failed to get a photo of Marcia. She was a patient and attentive teacher, just what I like best so the class went very well for me. The basket started with 54 stakes of round reed placed in a slotted wooden base.

Beginning of Sonora

In the beginning it feels a little like a giant unwieldy spider that's hard to hold on to. Once all the stakes were placed there were two rows of 'triple weave' done with 3 weavers. After that it was just a plain over 1/under 1 weave to the top of the basket. I got so involved with this basket that I forgot to take a few pics here and there. I did get shots of folks around me though. Go figure. Do check out the teeny little basket necklace this lady is wearing. Those teeny baskets take a lot of patience and perseverance to weave!

Plain weave to the top

During the plain over/under weave it was important to pay attention to shaping. Ideally it would be about 6" in diameter at 2 1/2" from the base and then we were aiming for 5" in diameter at 5" up from the base. At the top we used the spokes to make a woven rim. Then we started weaving down the basket to make a double walled basket. Twice the work for ONE basket!!

Woven rim on Sonora

Now for some fun stuff. On the way down the outside we started with 6 rows of triple weave in a colored reed. I chose rust. (Is it bad to be so predictable? Nah!)  After the 6 rows of colored reed we started French randing with 27 pieces of cane. Don't ask me how it got to be called French randing. I have NO idea. When I googled it I got things like French fries, French toast and French kiss. Whatever.

French randing along with the colored reed

As you can see French randing goes in at an angle. It feels pretty weird to do at first. In the middle of the French randing there are 3 more rows of triple twining.

Maintaining basket shape

As the weaving progressed on the outside of the basket it became very important to pull the stakes back in to maintain the shape of the first basket wall. It helped a lot to tie up all the stakes into a sort of tepee effect. This is one of my fellow weavers in class. After the second section of French randing it was back to colored reed and more triple weave to the bottom of the basket which was then finished off with a woven rim. Marcia helped me modify the rim on my basket to make it actually be the foot as the basket sat a little off kilter on the base. Thanks for helping me fudge the outcome Marcia!!

Outside and Inside of Sonora

Ta Da!! Sonora is done!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Second Basket

Well, I got a little side-tracked since my last post. I wasn't feeling well (allergies hit me) and then we got news that our youngest daughter, all the way over in Japan, went into the hospital. Feeling a little sick AND being worried sick does not add up to any sort of blogging! Thankfully, she is much better now so here we go on basket #2 from the conference in January.

My second basket was called Oval Sampler designed by Debbie Hurd who was also my teacher for the Tidal Wave basket ( ) and again I must say that Debbie is an excellent teacher. Here we go with the beginnings of the basket on an oval wooden base....56 stakes inserted and weaving begun.

Beginnings of Oval Sampler

Getting those stakes to turn up at the beginning is a real challenge and is a constant battle for the first few rows of any basket. It's called 'upsetting' the stakes. I'm not sure of the origin of the term 'upsett' but there you go. One must be tough and just really let the reed know where it has to go! In this instance size is important because there is a handle that much fit the basket in the end. We had a choice of colors and I remained trued to those more earthy tones....

Stakes upsett at last 

Tidal Wave from the day before was woven over one, under two. Oval Sampler is over two, under two. It was hard to switch gears and I had to unweave and correct several times. I don't switch gears easily at all. VERY frustrating!!

Twining and French randing

I got so involved in my weaving that I forgot to take more photos of the progression. After the first bit of colored reed we switched to natural reed. This section has a row of triple twining, reverse triple twining, French randing, 4-rod wale, French randing, triple twining and reverse triple twining. You can see how I forgot about the camera! Triple twining uses three lengths of reed at the same time. By alternating the pieces you get that nice twisted bit just above the green reed. Then by twining under rather than over that nice 'arrow' design appears. This was repeated at the top which is really the same size as the first two rows of twining but the camera was a bit tilted. Oops. The center twisted bit is four lengths of reed twined together. That makes the twist a bit thicker but it is really accomplished in much the same manner as the triple twining. Now the French randing is another story altogether! Here's a photo of the inside of the French randing.

French randing from the back

If you look closely you will see that the weaving is actually short lengths at an angle. Each piece begins in front of one stake then under, over, under and ends in front of the fifth stake. That leaves a cut end behind every stake top and bottom but it looks really neat on the outside of the basket! 8^) The twining is important here because it helps lock the randing into place and keeps the basket a bit more sturdy. Next another section of color and then a 4-rod wale edge which was all new to me. Here I'm working on the second row of 4-rod wale.

4-rod wale edging

After that every other stake was cut away at the top and those left were tucked to the inside of the basket. The handle was inserted on each end. Yea!! It fits!

Handle inserted

An inner rim lashed to the basket holds the handle into place and poof! another basket is done! It only took all morning, all afternoon and into the first bit of the evening to make the whole thing. Next time you look at a basket don't assume it's as simple as it looks!!

Oval Sampler

At this point my hands were starting to feel pretty raw. In the shower the next morning it really stung when the water hit my hands. Bring on the lotion, a LOT of lotion, because there is more weaving to do!


Friday, January 25, 2013

TX Basket Weaver's Association Conference 2013

Oy!! I guess I should change the name of my blog to 'Pic of the Month'! Christmas, like always, was a busy time. Throw in my natural laziness and not feeling well lately and you get....NO POSTS! Sorry!! At least I have something to post today!

Last week on Wednesday I headed up to Mesquite, TX with my friend Sherryl to attend the 2nd Annual TX Basket Weaver's Assn. conference. (TBWA) Yes I took the toll road and yes I drove 85 mph. The traffic was light, the weather was perfect, and Sherryl was great company. Yea!!! The meeting did not actually start until Thursday but I didn't want to arrive exhausted from a 5 hour trip, check in and unload in time for the first class at 1 PM. Instead we had a very leisurely Thursday morning and got to visit a bit with others who also arrived early.

My Thursday class was titled 'Tidal Wave' taught by Debbie Hurd. This was my first time to meet Debbie and I was pleased to find her a GREAT teacher! She was knowledgeable, friendly, patient and low key.

Debbie Hurd, teacher extraordinaire!

There was a choice of color so naturally I chose rust. Here is what we started with to make our Tidal Wave basket. Yep, that big plastic bowl is to mold our shape. It could be woven without the mold but shaping is a LOT easier with the mold.

Basket mold  

First off I took all 50 (!) of those stakes and spaced them around the 6" base. There is a groove around the base just for this purpose. Sometimes the reed is too thick and you just smash it with pliers and it goes right in. If it's too thin you can just fold it over a bit. After all the stakes were placed I started twining with small round reed, three times around. Two lengths of reed are used and twisted around each stake. This locks the stakes into place and helps with even spacing....IF you do it well, of course. There's always that!

Stakes in place, beginning twining

As you can see it's a little unwieldy at first. There's no good place to hold on to the basket and you have to be careful to not break any of the stakes as they are the basis of the whole basket. After the twining was complete I started weaving with small flat/oval (FO) reed. It's flat on one side and rounded on the other. The rounded edge gives a nice smooth appearance. At the same time I started pulling in to give the bowl its shape.

Weaving has begun

The flat oval was followed by more twining and then the 'waves' came along....

Waves appear 

Next is the trickiest part...twining around the bowl leaving some open space between the waves. Everyone helped out by checking baskets across the way to see if the height was even all the way around. Then the base got untied to make way for the twining and then bending the spokes to make the rim. Gulp!

Tidal Wave

My bowl could stand to be a little more even but I'm happy with it. I learned some twining methods that were new to me and enjoyed working with everyone around me. It's a challenge sometimes because all the classes are in one huge room and there are people hammering, using hair dryers, talking, moving about, etc. It requires some concentration to stay focused and not get distracted!

Sherryl happened to be in this class too!

Here's a view of Sherryl's basket in progress. As you can see she chose a completely different color. It was really pretty too.

Sherry's Tidal Wave

Here's a peek over Stewart's shoulder to see most of the room. I met Stewart 2 years ago at the San Antonio Folk Life Festival. He's a well seasoned weaver and does great work.

Stewart making his Thursday basket  

One last view of my Tidal Wave basket designed and taught by Debbie Hurd.

Completed Tidal Wave

Now to find a place for my new baby! 8^)

More baskets to come!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Llano's Deer

My college roomie lives in Llano, TX. She recently shared photos of the 'deer' around town that have been dressed for winter by her knitting group. It looked like so much fun that I wanted to share with you! Here are the Llano, TX deer in all their finery!

Texas Buck  

Camo Deer

Deer in Aggie Colors

Barbecue Buck

Diver Buck

Native American Buck

Bluebonnet Buck

Jacket Buck

Llano Buck

Mardi Gras Buck

Marilyn Dressed This One

And I confess this is my favorite deer of all. It just makes me smile!

Jail Buck