Middle of October…. Already??

So much has been happening, I haven’t had much time to put a post together!  I just spent a few days up in Seattle with my daughter who took her state board exams to be a licensed cosmetologist.  She is moving home in a few weeks too.  Plus my husbands hip surgery is November 15th, so we are trying to get as much work done as possible before he is laid up for a while.

Amongst all of this, I still have been making at least a little time to sew.   For the next Modern Quilt Guild meeting there is a pin cushion swap… FUN!  I had a great time playing around with some smaller pieces of fabric and this is what I came up with:

It’s a little wonky… I didn’t use a pattern, just sort of wung-it.  Of course I HAD to use hexagons ~ I swear, I’m totally addicted to those little things!  The top is quilted with wool batting under the top circle, and there is a pillow of flax seeds and lavender on the inside in the bottom to weigh it down.  The rest is stuffed with poly fiberfill.  I found a really cute old button to use for the top too. 
If I have time, I will try a second one and make it a little more clean looking for the swap… we’ll see how that goes!

I’ve slowly been working on my squid quilt as well.  It does take a bit of time to sew the hexies together, usually I sew in my sewing room and listen to books on tape… but since this will take a while I came up with a way to move pieces around so that I can take it downstairs to the living room and spend a little time with the family too.  I found a lid to a container and flipped it over.  The divets around the edges hold my thread and needles fine and I can layout 8 hexies to take with me:

So far I have 7 lines of hexies sewn together and I’m working on the eighth:

At this point, I’m itchy to do some smaller projects… but I’m afraid if I do that, I will lose steam on this project ~ and I love it so much ~ I just have to follow through!  I wish I had WAY more sewing time.   Oh well, at least I’ll have something to keep me busy over the slow winter months.

Catching Up

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to think about sewing… but tomorrow night is the Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting and I’m excited to go.  I’m thinking about bringing my rooster quilt to show ~ but am not sure yet, most of the quilt work at those meetings is phenomenal!  For me, it’s like going to my favorite spot at any state fair:  the quilting booth.  So many different styles and techniques ~ it piques my curiosity and I end up coming home with all sorts of new projects in mind.  I’m never quite sure of my own abilities though, and sometimes it’s hard to show my work.

We had a great time last Sunday at the Belmont Street Fair… my daughter came down from Seattle to help set up and break down and it was so great just to be able to spend time with her.  Plus, she is really growing up into a bright, happy, self confident, compassionate, kick-ass human being!  Yep… I’m a proud mama! 🙂 

My daughter and her friend as Gorilla and Cockroach

Anyway… she really helped a lot and the whole thing went off without a hitch.  We sold quite a few T-shirts and even some posters… and Gregg had a great time doing screen printing demos.  We raised almost $500 that will go to Gregg’s Surgery Fund.  I only wish I had had more time to advertise and get more people down to our end of Belmont.  I had a couple friends showing their artwork with us, and they did not sell much and that made me feel bad.  We all still had a fun time and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year.

I think it’s hard being an artist and being financially dependent on those kind of events.  They are so exhausting to plan and set up and these artists still have to produce their artwork on top of it all.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people who sell at fairs and other events and the economy is definitely affecting sales.  Many say you used to be able to make a living on artwork… now you can only do it out of love because supplies and tools cost a lot, and it takes so much time to produce in a creative mode…  so artists are actually losing money on their crafts.

With this knowledge I am so happy I decided to sew for myself and not to sell.  And I’m thrilled to have found a group that I can share my work with.  Just getting acknowledgment from peers on a project you pour your soul into, goes a very long way in making me happy. 

Decreasing Stress

Something I’m currently working on is my anxiety and stress on a meditative level.  I guess when you’ve had a life like mine, things can go a little wonky physically.  I have a friend that I grew up with (age 17-25) and we were talking the other day,  and she is going through the same issues.  We were just talking about how hard it is to explain our pasts.  When we talk to Dr.’s, the same questions always comes up:  “have you ever had a traumatic experience?”  We both always laugh… because we could each write a whole book (or two) to cover our traumas in life… seriously. 

How do you explain to the average person what it was like to live your life?  It takes a long time… plus once I start, I’m always interrupted to get more info on one or two events that end up taking all the time of the appointment and we never even really get started.  Luckily for me, my life has really mellowed out since I was 28 ~ so all I really need to “deal” with are past issues.

One thing that happens when you live with high-constant stress, is that your adrenal glands just don’t know when to quit.  I feel like I’m excited/nervous/anxious ALL the time… and sometimes it can send me into a panic or anxiety attack.  For those who know, they are NOT fun at all!  The frustrating part of this is that my life is not that stressful anymore… so you would think my adrenals would get the hint!

To combat this my ND has started me on amino acids to help replenish neurotransmitters, and she started me on a hormone therapy that has two end purposes: 1) to re-balance my hormone levels…  my estrogen levels are high and my cortisol levels are off the chart; and 2) to lose a little weight to help the edema in my feet… and for me to feel better.  I’m also walking and doing yoga on a daily basis.

Because my ND is guiding me through the process, I feel it’s safe.  BUT… I’m a little skeptical of the purported results. Part of the protocol is an extremely restricted diet.  I’m just eating fruit, veggies, and lean chicken/fish/beef.  Not only that… but no starchy veggies/fruits and absolutely no extra fat.  Needless to say, it’s hard!  And this weekend we have 4 gatherings to attend… all with food involved.  I’m not sure how I’ll do… I have will power ~ but this might be tough!

I’m thinking I may take my box of hexagons with me to sew while I’m out… or at least when I’m wanting to eat stuff ~ I can find a corner and lose myself in the sewing.  Or so I hope!

Luckily for me, I only have to eat this way for about 2 months, then I can go back to my usual restrictions:  gluten, starch, sugar.  AND… I should be feeling MUCH better on a day to day basis which has been my goal since 2000 when I had my gall bladder removed ~ it’s been a long journey with many ups and downs.  I have been feeling better, but there are a few symptoms that just won’t go away.  So… I’m hoping this will trigger better health. 

In the meantime, I’m pretty much avoiding the kitchen, so no new recipes from me anytime soon… but I’ll probably get a buttload of sewing done! 

Stop To Smell The Roses

This past weekend my in-laws came to visit from New York City, and we really had a great time with them!  Sometimes family visits can be extremely stressful, but not with them ~ and I’m SO thankful!  We took them to the Rose Garden, and the roses were gorgeous… this one smelled like candy.  The next day we went to the Alberta Street Fair and had a great time walking around and seeing the sights.

It was really nice to take a little time off too.  It seems when you work for yourself and you work at home, work can become tedious and habitual… and we never usually take a day completely OFF.  So it was great to have 2 full days with absolutely NO thought of work at all ~ totally wonderful!! 

I’m still working on my squid quilt... I have almost 800 hexagons finished and only have about 300 or so to go!  In the meantime, I’m thinking of making a couple handbags.  We are going to have a booth at the Belmont Street Fair (for our T-shirts) but I may have enough room to bring some pillows that I’ve made ~ and I’m thinking if I make some bags, they might be more useful and popular than a pillow cover.  I always make my own patterns as I go, so we’ll see if I can make something decent or not.  I’m lucky to have found a bunch of nice fabric at a garage sale, so I have plenty of fodder to work with.

The Belmont Street Fair is only about 2 weeks away… so I have LOTS to do before then ~ but I’ll keep posting my progress!
**Update**  I was just about to post this when I found out we will be having our Phantom Chicken Booth in the parking lot of the Red Square Cafe at 45th and Belmont!!  Close to home and out of the big pile of booths down by 34th.  We may not have as many people walk by, but it will be much less stressful ~ and low stress is my main goal with everything these days. 

Working On Health

I’ve been working on my health pretty intensively this last year.   I’ve never felt really great, in fact… most of my childhood is clouded with nausea, head and tummy aches.  In 2000 I had my gall bladder removed and since then I’ve made a bunch of lifestyle changes trying to feel better.  Last year I was diagnosed with IBS and gluten intolerance by a ND and I’ve been avoiding gluten since.

While I DO feel somewhat better, there are things that just seem to never change, and I’m in a frustrated funk these days.  Most notably, my energy levels are plummeting, and I don’t know why.  This last week or so I’ve been feeling like I’m in a bowl of pea soup and can’t hardly move without great effort.  Even my daily walks are getting harder, and more painful.   I’m seeing my ND tomorrow, so we can discuss this… but I’ve been seeing ND’s often for over a year now and not much has helped.  They keep saying it takes time to heal, and I’m trying to be patient.  It’s just so frustrating to work so hard and drastically change your diet and lifestyle and still not have much improvement… 

I’ve been having other symptoms too ~ like the pigment of my skin is getting blotchy, my ears are ringing constantly, my back is tremendously achy, my joints are sore, I’m just plain tired all the time, my heart races sometimes, my tongue is swollen, my throat muscles are tight and prickly, I have bad acne, I gain weight regularly, I’m constipated, my eyesight is getting worse, and I have bouts of dizziness that I can’t explain.   None of this is life-threatening, so I’m usually brushed aside by doctors for people with “real” illnesses… or so it seems. 

All right, so I have gotten better in some regards too:  I’m not nauseas all the time, or dizzy all the time.  My headaches have decreased in intensity and I’m waking up feeling much better than in the past.  While these are great milestones, I feel I have so much more to work on… and I don’t know how to work on it.  If I could “give up” I probably would, but at this point that would mean more feeling crappy and less feeling good.  I just hope that what I’m doing will finally make a difference and I can wake up feeling good and stay feeling good all day.  Wish me luck!

Newfound Fascination: Hexagons

I attended my first Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting this week, and I’m really happy I went!  The topic was paper piecing hexagons.  Of course, I was late.  Even though I left early, I was unprepared for 20 minutes of looking for a parking space… so by the time I got there the meeting was in full swing.  There were over 40 people (all women I think), and many of them had brought AMAZING quilts using hexagons for a Show-and-Tell.

I was fully impressed and totally inspired.  I love that there are so many people who still actually hand stitch quilts!  Now, it’s one thing to be able to see so many beautiful works of art all in one evening… it’s a whole other thing when you get to learn how they were created.  After seeing quite a few quilts and other hexagon projects, Christina – from The Sometimes Crafter, gave a little presentation on her adventures in paper piecing hexagons and I found it very informative.

From there we split up into groups and were given some paper hexagons and thread and we gave this paper piecing a try.  Well… I should say I gave it a try ~ most people there already had experience with this technique and even had projects in process they whipped out and we all did a little stitching together.  All of a sudden it was 9:00 and time to go.

I came home and worked on a few more pieces (pictured above).  I think I’m becoming obsessed!  They are quick and fun and I can use all my scraps this way… so I had hexies on the brain before going to bed…. and I had a dream about them ~ of course.

I’ve been planning on a new quilt wall hanging project… and I wanted to use a squid image and make it skinny and long.  I’m really into the idea of poster style art in the form of fabric, using bright colors and basic shapes.  So I was going to create an appliqué like I did with the rooster… but in my dream I made one of hexagons!  After I woke, I got on the computer and laid out a design in 3/4″ hexagons and ordered 1500 paper pieces from Paperpieces.com.

I have no idea what colors I’m actually going to use… patterned fabrics look SO different than a solid color design like this.  This is going to be a long term project, one I can collect cool fabrics for and take my time with.   I’m so glad I went to that meeting ~ it’s fun to have a new fascination!

Honor… and other collages

honor, originally uploaded by RamonaX.

I’ve recently set up a flickr account and have just uploaded some paper collages that I made a couple years ago. All the imagery was from National Geographic Magazines. I had a lot of fun creating them. You can check out the other 7 collages in this set by visiting my flickr page here.
Let me know what you think!

Fireworks and Anxiety

While I try not to write anything negative on this blog, I felt compelled to write a little something here about fireworks. 
The 4th of July just passed, and we are left with a dog who will be traumatized for the next two weeks as the noise of these fireworks freak her out terribly.   I never realized it before we had this dog, that animals AND people can be negatively affected by this noise.  Especially those with PTSD: post traumatic stress disorder. 

Since we’ve had our dog (7 years) I’ve become more and more sensitive to the noise of fireworks myself.  When I hear some random firecracker go off, I jump… AND… I’ve never been to war myself.  I can only imagine what it would be like for a veteran, or someone who has been a victim of a gun crime! 

The actual holiday is not that bad since we all expect the noise, and we can medicate people and dogs for a night while very drunk people party and light fireworks all night… but it’s the 2 weeks before through 2 weeks after when random schmucks decide to light firecrackers in the middle of the day or night.  NO ONE is expecting those and those are the ones that seriously freak people and animals out.

So… that’s my rant for today:  Please be kind to those with pets, stress, anxiety, and PTSD and please stop lighting fireworks randomly.  Wait for the 4th and call it good. 

Who Knew…?

The last few weeks here in Portland have been rough due to the lack of sunshine.  The rain and chill in the air in JUNE is more like March weather… and it has a tendency to get me a little down.  On top of all the grey days, my health has dipped a little ~ raging headaches with nausea, sore lymph glands, bloating, sore throat, swollen ankles and tongue, achy joints – super achy back pain, heartburn and higher sensitivities to noises and smells. 

I just got back from my Naturopathic Doctor and we worked up a plan to retest for candida (I’ve been on an anti-candida regimen for 2 months) to see if that’s better, and then after that test is over, she is going to do a food allergy test on me for 111 foods.  She’s thinking there is something else I may be allergic to and this is the best way to find out.  The bad part is I have to wait a month before doing the test.  It’s okay though… I’m just happy to have found someone who doesn’t look at me all spacey-like when I talk about my symptoms, and then says something like “well, you have had stress in your life… maybe you’re just depressed ~ let’s put you on anti-depressants and see how you feel”… as if it’s ALL IN MY HEAD!

Since these symptoms started showing up again, I have been actively re-checking everything in my house for gluten.  Low and behold… most of my make-up had wheat derivatives in them!!  WHO KNEW!  So I tossed out a bunch of make-up and my eye oil and just ordered new Gluten-Free makeup from a company called Afterglow Cosmetics.  It’s much more expensive than I’m used to…  BUT it’s 100% gluten free, and I really don’t use that much make-up anyway.  I haven’t received my order yet… patiently waiting… but I will post my feedback when it gets here 🙂

The NEED For Chocolate

If you’re a girl, then I would bet you like chocolate… in fact, I bet there are times of the month where a piece of chocolate can be more satisfying than anything else!

Seriously though, there are times I NEED me some chocolate regardless of my food limitations.  I look online all over for treats ~ but they usually use some sort of sugar or high-carb alternative sweetener and hardly anything sugar-free is also gluten free.  SO… I came up with a yummy treat that even I can eat!! 

Gail’s Fudge

(sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free)

• 6 oz Unsweetend Bakers Chocolate
• 1/2 cup Almond Butter
• 1 16 oz can of Coconut Milk
• 1 cup Coconut
• 50 drops Liquid Stevia
• 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
• 1/2 cup ground Flaxmeal (use a coffee grinder to grind flax seeds so they are fresh for use)

Melt the unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler (I use a metal bowl over pot of water) use low heat until fully melted.  After the chocolate is melted add the Almond Butter and mix until smooth.

While the chocolate is melting heat Coconut Milk and Coconut in a large pot over low heat to a simmer.

Add the chocolate/almond butter mix to the coconut mix with a whisk.  Then add the Stevia.  Put the mixture in a colander and let the oils drain (I think the coconut oils are what are released… not really sure, this recipe is a work in progress).  Then put the mixture into a bowl and add the vanilla, mix well.  Then add the flax meal and mix well again.

I squish the mixture onto wax paper over a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning I cut the fudge into protein bar sized pieces and store in tupperware in the fridge for up to 2 weeks… although it usually doesn’t last longer than a week for me 😉

I’m happy to have a treat that I can freely eat without guilt (or sickness) that also has a good amount of fiber and protein.

Going For A Walk

One of the reasons I love Portland… and my little neighborhood within, is because it’s such a great place to live with plenty of stores and beautiful parks close by.  I can walk to my bank, the library, and the grocery store very easily, and Laurelhurst & Mt. Tabor Parks are walking distance as well!

In fact, here is the plot where they are building a New Seasons Market ~ my favorite place to shop ~ and it’s about a half mile from my house where the hub of other stores are at. When the sun is shining, I like to make each errand a separate trip… if I have time that is!

Speaking of time… and time flying… whew ~ it’s the middle of April already!  We got our taxes done on time, and I would like to thank President Obama for the extra tax breaks we received for being a working family close to the poverty line.  For working people like us, who are “treading water for life”, this was a huge help!  Especially this year since we’ve had to get high-premium insurance to help cover my husbands upcoming hip replacement surgery… and we’re helping my daughter go through cosmetology school… and I found out I’m gluten intolerant last year so my dietary needs are more expensive.  Our funds are as tight as they’ve ever been… and work has been slow at times, but those tax breaks really did help us. 

Time is speeding by, and it’s been so busy around here, I haven’t had much time to sew!  I’ve been working quite a bit ~ which is very good…  but, it leaves little time for my projects.  I plan on getting back to some stitching this weekend ~ YAY!  

Zucchini Pancakes – Gluten Free

Zucchini pancakes… Think potato latkes… only without potato (starch) or flour (gluten)!  I am really happy with this recipe… it’s the first one I figured out all by myself, and it’s really good! Perfect when you just need some comfort food.

So here’s the recipe:

Gluten Free Zucchini Pancakes
3 medium zucchinis
1 tsp. sea salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup pecan flour (I use a coffee grinder to grind pecans)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (grate yourself… pre-grated cheese is usually covered in flour to keep from sticking!)
1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt

First, shred the zucchini… either with a cheese grater or with a cuisinart.  Put into a bowl with 1 tsp. of salt mix and let sit for 30 mins. 

Mix eggs in a bowl and add ground pecans, grated cheese, onion, oil, salt, and baking soda.

After zucchini has sat for 30 minutes, squish out all the water/juice.  I just take handfuls and squish it out over the sink.  It is very important that most of the juices are removed before cooking or the batter will be too soft.

Add zucchini to the batter… and now you’re ready to cook!  Fry with a little butter on Med-Low heat.  It helps if the pan is well heated before putting batter on it.  Take a forkful of batter per pancake and flatten it out in the pan and cook 4-5 mins.

Let these cook for a real 4-5 minutes per side.  They are very delicate little things, so you need to wait before flipping them over or they will be too soft and you’ll end up with a zucchini scramble instead of pancakes! 

 I serve mine with a little applesauce on the side.  I eat these almost as fast as I can make them ~ THEY’RE SO GOOD! 

I’m so thankful I can still eat nuts and hard cheeses ~ there are some people out there with much worse afflictions with regard to food allergies.  It’s something I would have never considered… until it happened to me.  Amazing how much more a person can learn over time!

My Dinner Tonight

Lately I’ve had to be much more careful in what I decide to put into my mouth.  Last summer I was diagnosed gluten intolerant, and I am currently trying a candida cleanse.  That means my food is even more restricted… at least until the candida cleanse is over in 2-3 months.  Basically I’m avoiding all simple carbohydrates like grains, sugars and potatoes.

Here is a basic example of my dinners.  Chicken stir-fried with carrots, broccoli, onion and oregano in olive oil.  I serve almost all meals with a salad ~ today all I had was green leaf, but usually I prefer the spring mix that you can buy prepared from the store.  A little fresh parmesan cheese grated on top gives it a little tang.  This was a very excellent dinner and I fully enjoyed it!

I buy as much organic as possible, but sometimes my wallet makes me choose differently.  I love all the Portland Farmers Markets too ~ what a great way to keep veggies exciting!

Along with the food changes, I’m also taking a slew of suppliments (prescribed by my ND) hopefully just for 2 months, but I’ll go 3 if need be.  Since I changed to a gluten free diet last summer I have had good changes in my lab tests that just came back last week…  I got rid of 4 different bacterial overgrowths in my gut, and I raised my intestinal SiGA from 11 to 37!   I still have a ways to to because normal range is 400-800 ~ but I’m happy with any progress at this point!

After 2 months I’ll be doing more lab tests to see if I made any more positive changes in my lab numbers.  I’m very hopeful ~ and excited.  After years of feeling like I was always walking through water and bruised all over… I’m really starting to have a little energy!


Welcome to my new little blog space!

I’m excited to have a place to write about all the crazy things that are just spinning and spinning in my head.  Two things I’m most recently obsessed with are sewing, and cooking gluten free, so I have a feeling that’s what I’ll be writing most about.

I created this blog so I don’t have to deal with any business stuff… this is purely for fun.  I’m have a small business with my husband called Phantom Chicken Screen Printing.  If you are interested in getting shirts printed ~ go check out that site.  If you would like to read Gregg’s Rants, check out this link.  Now that that’s out of the way…  I can move on.

 Right now I’m heading to the kitchen to make some yummie gluten-free low carb crackers.  Want the recipe?  Here it is:

Crispy Almond Cheese Crackers (gluten free)

1 Cup Blanched Almond Flour
1/4 Cup Ground Flax Seeds (I use a coffee grinder for seeds and nuts)
1 Tbsp Dill
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tsp Sea Salt
2 Cloves of Garlic minced
6oz Cheddar Cheese grated
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Water

Mash all ingredients in a bowl with a fork.  Now you’re going to divide into little balls and pat this mixture as flat as possible on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.   Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 mins. or until golden brown.  Watch carefully as these can darken and burn quickly… but they need to be fully baked for “cracker” consistency.  After baking, cool on a rack fully.  ENJOY!